Sunday, February 18, 2018

Exotic Pet Trade Needs to Be Stopped

A two-month-old tiger cub found inside a plastic container in Mexico.

The exotic pet trade is infamous for illegally smuggling endangered species from around the world to meet consumer demands. These animals come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, including youngsters. This was the case in Mexico when a two-month-old Bengal tiger cub was found inside a plastic container in a sedated state at the New Tlaquepaque Central Bus Station in Jalisco. The cub, which was found by a sniffer dog at the postal center, was said to be transported from Jalisco to the state of Queretaro in central Mexico. Mexican Federal Police took photos of the cub and posted them on Facebook. Although the cub appeared sedated and dehydrated, it had not been hurt in any other way. It has now been given to the animal management center and the case is being investigated.

The discovery of this tiger cub goes to show how the exotic pet trade continues to be the most lucrative and life-threatening business in the world. Endangered wild animals are smuggled on a large-scale and this includes youngsters like this Bengal tiger cub. I really think that intensive efforts need to be put to combat the exotic pet trade, in order to prevent such animals from being separated from their parents and their natural habitats. It is extremely disheartening that young animals are taken away from their parents and transported overseas to meet the demands of public consumption. People should understand that if they love wild animals and care so much about them, then they should not keep them as pets. It is a very miserable life for the animals, compared to their natural habitats. In addition, when young animals, especially carnivores, grow up into adults, they become to difficult to manage and there is always a chance that they end up getting killed in the hands of human beings.

View article here     

Monday, February 12, 2018

Listing or Delisting Animals as Endangered Species Should be Done on Scientific Basis

Grizzly bear

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) recently announced that it will not ask the state's Fish and Wildlife Commission to allow a hunting season for the grizzly bears from Yellowstone National Park this year. The bears were protected from hunting for more than four decades under the Endangered Species Act until 2017 when those protections were ended, opening the door for a possible hunting season. According to FWP director Martha Williams, the decision is meant to strengthen the state's obligation to the bears' everlasting survival. The removal of protections from the Endangered Species Act for the bears provided more management responsibility to not just Montana, but also Idaho and Wyoming. Before the delisting, each state had to create a plan for a possible hunting season, which was also added in the final conservation strategy. Part of this strategy is to restrict the number of bears killed by people. It made a degree of "discretionary mortality" based on the population estimate. A mediation lined out before delisting separated the acceptable bear deaths between the three states. The official government estimation of Yellowstone's grizzly bear population is roughly 700 bears. Greg Lemon, a spokesman for FWP, stated that 17 bears are allowed to be killed in the three states.

Although it is good that Montana is not going to allow hunting grizzly bears this year, I find it unacceptable to remove the protection of the bears under the Endangered Species Act. Grizzly bear numbers may have rebounded over the years since they were listed as "endangered species" in the late 1970s, but that does not mean they should be immediately stripped of their status. These animals are still facing threats from climate change and changes in their diets resulting in more human-bear conflict in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. I firmly believe that listing and delisting wild animals should be based on scientific reasons. You cannot just assume that when an animal population recovers over a period of time while under protection as an endangered species then people are allowed to hunt those animals. It is extremely important to consider various factors before delisting such animals, and the only way to do that is by consulting with environmental and conservation groups. Members of these organizations are experts in understanding the conditions of animal populations and can be helpful on how to protect or manage them. I really think that Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho should consult with these organizations in order to better manage Yellowstone's grizzly bear numbers, so that they can have a better understanding on the conditions of the animals' population. This can help in the states' decision-making process of whether to list or delist the bears as endangered species.

View article here

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Red Pandas- Newest Victims of the Exotic Pet Trade

One of the three red pandas rescued in Laos.

A recent rescue in Laos of three red pandas smuggled from China has raised concerns of the exotic pet trade targeting the rare animals. Six pandas were found on January 12 in northern Laos during an unplanned stop of a van traveling from China. Three had died during the journey, while the remaining three were sent to a sanctuary run by an organization called Free the Bears in the town of Luang Prabang. According to the organization's regional communications director, Rod Mabin, the three pandas finished their first two-week quarantine period and were shifted to larger enclosures with more room to climb. The organization shared latest footage of the animals eating leaves and fresh fruit while infrequently staring up at the camera. Mr. Mabin further added that the confiscation of the pandas was very unusual since Laos, which is a major transit hub in the illegal international trade of endangered wildlife, had never before seen the animals as victims of the illicit trade. Ang Phuri Sherpa, Nepal country director for the Red Panda Network, indicated that a primary investigation showed that the pandas were either being purchased for the pet trade or on the way to Thailand. He also urged the need for countries to utilize "extra effort curbing the illegal trade." In addition, discussions are currently going over where the pandas will live once they are fully recovered.

I believe this news goes to show that the illegal wildlife trade continues to operate with impunity, where every single animal becomes a victim of human consumption. This not only includes animals such as tigers, elephants, rhinos, pangolins, orangutans, and other endangered animals that wildlife-monitoring organizations are familiar with, but also newest victims of the trade. In this case, the victims turned out to be red pandas. Normally, these animals are threatened by loss of habitat in China and the eastern Himalayas making them highly susceptible to infectious diseases. However, their small size and adorable appearance made them ideal for the exotic pet trade. An evaluation from the IUCN Red List showed that the interest in red pandas as pets must have grown partially. But that does not mean the animals are under little to no threat from the illegal wildlife trade. I really think it is highly essential to step up efforts in combating the illegal wildlife trade, especially when new animals like red pandas become victims of this ongoing illicit business. In addition, it is highly crucial to boost up efforts to protect red pandas and several other endangered animals that are indiscriminately being targeted to feed the global criminal empire.

View article here 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

To Battle Poaching and the Illegal Wildlife Trade, Corruption Needs to Be Fought

A pair of white rhinos in Kruger National Park

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge recently demanded the shipping industry to suppress the illegal ivory and rhino horn trade. He indicated that the devastation of animal populations was an "almost unthinkable" ridicule which, if continuing at current rates, would result in no rhinos or elephants left on the planet by the time his children, Princess Charlotte and Prince George, are grown up. While speaking at the 140th anniversary of the UK Chamber of Shipping Annual Dinner, the Duke said he was thankful for the "continued support" of the industry in cracking down on the illegal wildlife trade. However, he stressed that shipping has an essential part to play in restricting transport routes for ivory smugglers and criminal organizations, with "containerized shipping" comprising almost three-quarters of the substantial ivory seizures by weight since 2009. Setting up the rate of the problem, the Duke laid out research showing record-numbers of substantial ivory seizures, poaching, and smuggling of elephant ivory as being in the highest level in 25 years, and the seventh year in a row of growing rhino-poaching in Africa. He further added that when it comes to poaching, one ranger is killed every week while trying to protect the animals but the illegal trade continues. In addition, he stressed for more collaboration saying that the evidence not only marks the importance of the shipping industry but the huge impact it can have on the trade.

I really think it is very essential that shipping industries around the world should take action in cracking down on the illegal wildlife trade. They should close down transport routes for smugglers of ivory, rhino horns, and other products of endangered species. The illegal wildlife trade not only threatens security and sustains organized crime, it also deprives developing countries of a "natural resource that will contribute to their future prosperity." Prince William, in his speech, stated that one ranger is killed every week when battling poaching. However, that is not always the case. Just recently, renowned wildlife trade investigator Esmond Bradley Martin was killed in Nairobi. Although the motive is unclear, it clearly indicates how the illegal wildlife trade is as dangerous as trafficking of drugs, firearms, and human beings where anyone fighting it could end up getting killed. That does not mean that the world should give up battling this ongoing war against poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. The world needs to step up its efforts in combating poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, especially when investigators and other specialists who play a key role in battling these atrocities end up getting killed somehow.

In my opinion, the biggest hurdle in battling poaching and the wildlife trade is corruption. One example was recently seen in South Africa where even though the number of rhinos poached in the country was lower in 2017 than 2016, corruption is slowing down the progress. There are so many loopholes in the justice system, that the poachers either end up with lighter sentences or are acquitted of any charges brought against them. In addition, the process of prosecuting major kingpins of rhino-poaching is repeatedly delayed due to incompetence in the justice or lack of enthusiasm from law enforcement. This is not only limited to South Africa, but it is also happening in other countries that are rife with poaching and illegal wildlife trade activities. Corruption, in general, is hindering the battle against poaching and illegal wildlife trade in several ways, including deaths of prominent investigators of these crimes against nature. It has a negative influence on politics, the justice system, and many other aspects of the global society. This is why it is highly crucial to fight and suppress corruption, in order to put a stop to poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.

View article here   

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wildlife and Non-Wildlife Groups Should Work Together to Save Endangered Species

A female gopher tortoise

In the state of Georgia, it was recently reported that a joint collaboration has been formed between wildlife agencies, environmental groups, private foundations, and even the Department of Defense on a project to save the gopher tortoise. The project is called the Georgia Gopher Tortoise Initiative and it is hoped that enough animals will be protected so that federal control will not be needed. One of the companies involved in the project is the state's largest electric company, Georgia Power, whose power plants are said to be occupied by the tortoises. One of these plants is Plant Hatch, a nuclear facility in south Georgia. According to Jim Ozier, a wildlife biologist with Georgia Power, the company is ensuring the tortoises are not affected by power upkeep and also reconstructing their longleaf pine forest habitat. It is said that Georgia, private foundations, and the federal government are raising $150 million for the project.
Jim Ozier of Georgia Power standing under transmission lines running from Plant Hatch.

The collaboration has resulted in positive reactions from members of both wildlife groups and business groups. For example, Georgia field supervisor Don Imm of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service stated that gopher tortoises will be protected by the federal government if science says so and further added that doing something to avoid conflict is a "much better result." Doug Miell, a consultant with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, called the partnership a "good example" of various groups coming together to show that they are able to achieve the same goal, despite looking at the problem in different ways. Tracey Tuberville, an associate scientist at University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Lab, also praised the partners working on rebuilding the land but pointed out that it is better to seriously reintroduce rare species in some cases. Nonetheless, she has hope for the tortoises with what the initiative is doing.
Savannah McGuire of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources deploying a camera down into a gopher tortoise burrow.

I greatly applaud the efforts Georgia is putting in which both wildlife and business groups come together to save an endangered species, which in this case are gopher tortoises. This joint partnership should be seen as a model for other states in the U.S when it comes to implementing efforts to save endangered species. Wildlife conservation should not be seen as work that can only be performed by scientists, researchers, conservationists, and various wildlife and conservation groups. It should be implemented through joint partnerships between both wildlife and non-wildlife groups, including various businesses, companies, government agencies, and other such organizations. Although these groups differ from wildlife, environmental, and conservation groups in terms of ideas and views towards conservation-related issues, both sides should be able to reach the goal of ensuring the well-being and protection of endangered species without conflict. If businesses and companies in Georgia are able to work together with wildlife and environmental groups without resorting to conflict, then so can other similar organizations in the U.S and other parts of the world. I firmly believe that joint cooperation between wildlife and non-wildlife groups is highly essential to deal with issues related to wildlife conservation and the global environment. This includes climate change, global warming, and the illegal poaching and trade of endangered wildlife.

View article here  

Friday, January 26, 2018

Pollution Must Not Be Ignored

Two plastic bottles in a coral reef

It is said that millions of tons of plastic waste end up in the ocean every year and stays there. But a recent four-year study has found that 159 coral reefs in the Pacific, namely Australia, Burma, Indonesia, and Thailand, are heavily polluted with plastic. It adheres to the coral, particularly branching coral. And when it adheres, it sickens or kills the coral. According to Dr. Drew Harvell of Cornell University, there are two ways plastic could be harming coral: One way is that there are bacteria and other destructive microorganisms on the corals and when the coral is scraped, that might bring pathogens into the coral. The second way that plastic can obstruct sunlight from reaching coral. In addition, Dr. Harvell's group found heightened risk of four diseases in coral in connection with plastic. The study showed that plastic, particularly in Asian waters, came in a variety of forms such as bottles, diapers, food wrappers, and cotton swabs. Furthermore, the coral that had plastic did not appear healthy. The researchers believe that over 11 billion plastic items could be tangled in coral reefs of the Asia-Pacific region. However, their survey did not include China which is one of the largest sources of plastic pollution. While coral reefs in Australia were found to have minimum amount of plastic due to a more extensive waste control system, other countries do not have much control over what ends up in the ocean. Matthew Savoca, a marine scientist from University of California, Davis, who specializes in studying the effects of plastic in the ocean, indicated that ocean waters with tons of plastic waste might also carry other contaminants that could also be contributing to growing rates of coral disease. But Joleah Lamb, one of the researchers of the survey, stated that corals with plastic were much more inclined to be diseased. It is unclear how the plastic is causing disease, but the number of plastic getting into the oceans is increasing.
Coral reef littered with plastic

I find it very disturbing that vast amount of plastic is ending up in oceans and in some parts, destroying the coral reefs. It clearly highlights that pollution, in general, is not being given full attention on a global scale. While some countries like Australia are taking comprehensive measurements to ensure that coral reefs are not tremendously affected by plastic pollution, others like China, Burma, and Thailand do not have much recycling and have dumps located either next to the ocean or waterways that run into the ocean. This explains why coral reefs of such countries are found to contain higher concentrations of plastic and that their waters are most polluted. The public needs to really step up to take comprehensive measurements to combat pollution in any form. Plastic alone is not the only harmful pollutant that is destroying the world's coral reefs and other ecosystems. It was recently reported that lab waste was allegedly dumped in the IIT Madras campus. Even though the institution denies having done such a thing saying that the photos of the lab waste are old, it is still no excuse that such harmful material was carelessly dumped in a place which is surrounded by forests and its inhabitants. The presence of lab waste which includes toxic chemicals can endanger the wildlife which many people see on the IIT Madras campus and is a clear sign of environmental neglect. I really think the public should change its mindset about managing various types of waste material and properly dispose them. Furthermore, all the governments should implement policies directed at suppressing any type of pollution. Just recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ended the Clean Air Act under the Trump administration much to the relief of fossil fuel companies. This will result in more pollution and it clearly shows that the federal government is not in good terms with the environmental groups and governments of other countries who are very big on the well-being of the global environment. I believe it is highly crucial that the world needs to come together as a one big community in order to put an end to pollution on a global scale. Staying hostile to one another because of difference in opinions related to the world environment will not make any difference. It is essential that the international public should never turn a blind eye on pollution and act upon the matter.

View article here          

Friday, January 19, 2018

Changes in Weather Patterns Can Spell Disaster to Animal Populations

A vast number of saiga antelopes lying dead in central Kazakhstan in May 2015.

In 2015, it was reported that more than 200,000 saiga antelopes suddenly died in central Kazakhstan as a result of a bacteria called Pasteurella multocida type B. But now, a new study has indicated that the bacteria was already present in the antelopes and was provoked due to a period of strange weather. The mass mortality event was witnessed by Dr. Richard Kock, a professor of wildlife health and emerging diseases at the Royal Veterinary College, who indicated that the animals died as a result of hemorrhagic septicemia which was caused by the bacteria. However, only 30,000 of the antelopes survived such a catastrophic event. This indicates that the bacteria itself was not enough to explain the die-off. A recent paper published in Science Advances showed that majority of the adult antelopes already had the bacteria in their bodies and a ten-day period of strange heat and humidity triggered the bacteria to breed rapidly and ultimately kill the antelopes at the same time. The authors of the paper created models that looked two other extinction events - one in 1981 and another in 1988 - where the antelopes are also thought to have died because of hemorrhagic septicemia. It analyzed environmental factors such as rainfall, temperature, wind, and vegetation state. According to Dr. Kock, the ten-day period consisted of extremely high levels of humidity per day and because the bacteria is concentrated in the animals' tonsils, they are quite close to air and therefore respond to that change in atmosphere by increasing rapidly. He further added that the 30,000 antelopes which survived mass fatality event was because they were out of the "climate envelope." That is, male bachelor saigas moved further up north where humidity levels were lower, while some females stayed in smaller groups in desolate areas. Although the antelopes are now rebounding and breed quickly, it is unclear whether they could survive a similar event.
A newborn saiga calf

I think this mass catastrophic event in 2015 may be related to climate change. That is, climate change is known to cause changes in weather patterns and often these changes can have a life-threatening impact on various species. These saiga antelopes succumbed to climate change when the bacteria in their bodies responded to the change in weather patterns by rapidly multiplying and ultimately killing the animals. I really believe that the public should wake up and put the issue of climate change into great consideration and take action. Saiga antelopes are not the only animals that have become victims and casualties to such an environmental catastrophe. Dr. Kock pointed out that there is proof that changes in weather patterns could be having similar effect on other animals, such as musk ox and reindeer. I really think it is highly crucial that scientists and researchers should thoroughly study Pasteurella multocida, in order to come up with some kind of a solution to combat this bacteria so that the world's remaining saiga antelopes do not fall victims to such environmental catastrophes. This includes determining what percent of the global population has the bacteria and what percent doesn't. Similar measurements should be implemented to save other animals which are found to be affected by unusual weather patterns.

View article here