Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tigers Discovered at High Elevations in Bhutan

Bengal tiger

A BBC camera crew had recently made an astonishing discovery high up in the foothills of Bhutan: Bengal tigers. The crew had set up cameras at a range of 4100 meters above sea level during a three months' period, hoping they would find and film some of the most fascinating wildlife calling Bhutan home. Among the animals the crew filmed included monkeys, leopards, Himalayan black bears, and some highly endangered and rare species like the musk deer and the red panda. But what really amazed the crew were tigers. Their footage showed a male tiger marking his territory and a lactating female, which suggested that there was a breeding population.

With the discovery of tigers making home in Bhutan's majestic alpine foothills, the crew are safeguarding the spot where they captured the animals on film. This has also given hope to conservationists and zoologists that more tigers may be found in the country. According to Michael Baltzer, head of the World Wildlife Fund's Tiger Network Initiative, Bhutan has done an outstanding job in conserving its environment and this particular tiger habitat could become a hotspot for the species' repopulation. Also, tiger expert Dr. Alan Rabinowitz who came with the crew, will be favoring the creation of protected land areas joining isolated tiger populations known as "tiger corridors." However, his first step will be to identify and protect the existing groups of tigers.

I'm also amazed to find that tigers have been seen and filmed at such high elevations in the Himalaya region. As it turns out, these majestic cats are sharing their habitat with another rare and beautiful resident of such harmonious land: the snow leopard. This news is kind of a throwback to what I had learned about the Bengal tiger in terms of its range. The animal inhabits nearly every corner of the Indian Subcontinent, including Bhutan. The only likely place in Bhutan where it has been seen is Manas National Park along the India-Bhutan border. However, in a PBS television program series called The Living Edens, one of the episodes which was about Bhutan's wildlife featured the tiger and showed that it had made tracks as high as 10,000 feet in the Himalayas. Now, it seems like that hypothesis has been proven to be somewhat true.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Abalone Poacher Killed by Great White Shark in South Africa

A great white shark in action

A group of twelve poachers were illegally harvesting abalone in the waters of South Africa near Gansbaai when suddenly, a great white shark came out of nowhere! One of the dozen, Khanyisile Momoza, was unfortunate enough to be attacked and killed by the 25-foot-long terror of the deep. His friends were so terrified, that they could not save Momoza and frantically swam ashore with their catch. After that, they alerted the authorities about the tragedy. According to news reports, this was the second death by shark attack in South Africa this year. The last one had taken place in January, which involved a tourist named Lloyd Skinner who was killed when he swam a few meters away from the beach in Fish Hoek near Cape Town. Rescuers did not recover his body, except his swimming goggles.

South Africa has been a primary hotspot for shark attacks for years. Most of the victims have been surfers and other beach goers. However, humans do not fall under the sharks' menu like what is seen in the movie Jaws. The reason is because our flesh is not high in fat, compared to other animals that sharks feed on. Usually when a shark bites someone, it will simply let go of that person and then swim away. It is often referred to as an "exploratory bite," in which a shark bites something to see if it's worth eating or not. A common example is when a shark attacks a surfer from underneath, mistaking it for a seal which happens to be the animal's preferred choice of prey. In my opinion, this attack on an abalone poacher was one of the rare cases in which the victim does not have time to swim to safety. Because once the shark has made its attack, it will retreat back underwater and wait for its prey to die. This helps prevent injury to the animal from its wounded victim. And I guess Mr. Momoza appeared to have been too exhausted and injured to swim to his safety. A classic example in which the hunter becomes the hunted!

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Police Arrest Eleven Suspected of Rhino Poaching; Suspects Granted Bail

White rhinoceros mother and calf

The South African police had arrested eleven people suspected of having links to the ongoing mass poaching of rhinos in the nation. The suspects included a game farmer named Dawie Groenewald and his wife Sariette. Even more shocking was that the other suspects included veterinarians Karel Toet, and his colleague Manie du Plessis. All eleven suspects have recently been granted bail in the Musina Magistrate's Court. It was stated that the suspects' families had written checks to values of thousands of rand for their bail before they were scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday. The case has been postponed until April 11 next year. This has caused grave concern to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), fearing that the accused might flee the country. According to Joseph Okori, head of the WWF's African Rhino Program, it is an extremely long lag of time and that the suspects might have resources to jump bail. He has known from past experience in Zimbabwe where poachers have been known to skip bail. In addition to that, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has urged prosecutors to seek maximum sentences for the eleven suspects until their next appearance. The wildlife monitoring group TRAFFIC estimates that South Africa and its northern neighbor Zimbabwe are responsible for 95% of illegal poaching.

I feel the same worries as the World Wildlife Fund towards the fate of these eleven suspects. Even though they are only suspected of having connection to this massive onslaught of South Africa's rhinos, I'm afraid of what they might do later before their next court appearance. I just hope that South Africa's authorities will do whatever they can with collaboration from the WWF and other wildlife organizations to further tighten the security for the nation's wildlife as a way to prevent any further destruction. I also hope that South Africa and Zimbabwe will somehow work together in a similar manner as Kenya and Tanzania in further reducing the amount of poaching that has been ravaging the land and the wildlife of the two neighbors.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Uttar Pradesh to Have First Special Force to Protect Wildlife

Bengal tiger

The forest department of Uttar Pradesh has planned to set up an armed force (for the first time) to combat poachers and investigate wildlife crimes in the state. Known as the Wildlife Protection Force (WPF), it is being established under the guidelines of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). The main focus of this conservation security force will be to investigate crimes against wildlife, particularly tiger poaching. However, its personnel will also investigate other nature-related crimes such as illegal cutting of trees. A senior forest department official recently stated that a proposal has been sent to the state home department seeking training support. Once the proposal is finalized, then the recruitment process will begin. According Fateh Bahadur Singh, Minister for Forests and Wildlife, illegal poaching has affected Uttar Pradesh's tiger reserves like Dudhwa and Kartaniya Ghat. He stated that the forming of this wildlife special force will be the second step after declaring the area as critical tiger habitat. He even stated that the personnel will be embattled across the India-Nepal border. The personnel will undergo police training, and will also be taught India's wildlife Acts. They will also be provided equipment such as firearms, ammo, communication tools, and satellite tracking devices.

I'm very proud to see that Uttar Pradesh has taken a step further in combating illegal poaching by having a special force operating in the jungles. A similar example would be in South Africa, where private security firms have set up military-trained forces after the staggering numbers in rhino deaths. I feel that just like in the military, it is beneficial to have special forces serving to protect the endangered wildlife of our world. This way, poachers and all the criminals who make their living by destroying the world's wildlife will likely to not stand a chance. And that is what Uttar Pradesh is doing. There is even further progress that this special force's personnel will be sent across the Indo-Nepal border for further protection. This goes to show how India and Nepal have formed a joint partnership in the protection of each other's wildlife. I'm hopeful that this way, both India's and Nepal's wildlife will be securely protected.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Decline of Human-Wildlife Conflict in Kenya's Masai Mara National Park

Tourism in Kenya's Masai Mara National Park

The Masai Mara National Park of Kenya is one of the two well-known national parks in East Africa. The second one being the majestic Serengeti National Park, which lies along the Kenya-Tanzania border. Both of these national parks boast a bountiful of wildlife, attracting thousands of tourists from all around the world just to view the animals that make home in the vast stretches of savanna grasslands and forests. But despite the serene beauty of nature, these natural wonders of the world have always been hot-beds for illegal poaching activities and human-wildlife conflicts which have put both people and animals in danger. However recently, things have changed as the incidents of poaching and human-wildlife conflicts came to a decline.

According to one conservationist, the reduction of poaching and human-wildlife conflicts in the Masai Mara were due to joint surveillance patrols between Kenya and Tanzania. The patrols were conducted by an organization known as Mara Conservancy. It is a private company that manages an area known as the Mara Triangle, which is the North Western part of the national park. Its chief executive officer, Brian Heath, stated that the numbers of tourists have increased as a result of the patrols. He also said that poaching activities and human conflicts with wildlife had a negative impact on tourism, as many visitors connected the issues to insecurity. The poachers, who used to prowl the grasslands and forests of Kenya and Tanzania, have now found it difficult to commit their crimes in one country and hide in another thanks to the ties between the two nations' security personnel. In addition to that, Mr. Heath even made it clear that the conflicts between people and wild animals have also reduced by the anti-poaching unit personnel and sensitization campaigns on the need for neighboring communities to peacefully coexist with the wildlife. Mr. Heath also stated that efforts have been made to keep the wild animals inside Masai Mara to minimize the chances of them wreaking havoc in any of the communities.

I'm very glad and proud to see that Masai Mara National Park has taken a big step in protecting its local wildlife and the tourist industry. The game reserve, where popular BBC nature series Big Cat Diary was filmed, has also joined forces with its neighbor the Serengeti National Park as a way to diminish any poaching activities. Part of the reason for this partnership I think has to do with the annual migration of herbivores, as they migrate from Masai Mara to the Serengeti and back depending on the season. And wherever the animals go, the hunters follow. But the main reason for these two famous national parks to join hands is to protect their wildlife and keep tourism going. The Masai Mara is also making further progress in minimizing the chances of any conflicts between the wild animals and people, both local and international. All I can say is "keep up the good work," and hopefully this plan in Masai Mara can be an inspiration for other national parks in Africa.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

United Nations and Central Asian Governments Agree in Saiga Antelope Conservation

Saiga antelope

The United Nations Environment Program and several Central Asian governments have recently made an agreement on the conservation measures of the endangered saiga antelope. An international conference was held in Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, where representatives from the nation itself, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Russia and U.N bodies assembled under the prognostics of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and agreed to include the saiga antelope in an international conservation deal. Even representatives from intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and local communities attended the meeting. Also, the experts at the meeting shared a report commissioned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and compiled by a wildlife trade monitoring network known as TRAFFIC. This report showed alarming levels of the illegal trade in the antelopes' horns even before this year's deaths. The report even contained information on the antelope horn trade from interviews with experts and government officials, along with market surveys in Malaysia and Singapore, where the horns are available. It is expected that the new measures in conservation will modulate surveys and monitoring to keep track of the antelope populations. Surveys will be done both at ground and aerial levels to determine population changes, with emphasis on rutting, calving and two migration areas.

I'm very happy and proud that the United Nations and several Central Asian governments have agreed upon the protection of the rare saiga antelope through some new conservation measures. This odd-looking antelope once numbered around one million in the early 1990's, but later declined to between 60,000 and 70,000 animals in 2006. Threats included illegal hunting of meat and horns, but also disease, habitat loss from overgrazing by domestic livestock, disturbances of oil and gas extraction work and possibly climate change. The animal's population, however, managed to stabilize thanks to conservation efforts. But now, these antelopes are going to have a greater chance of hope for survival from these new methods of conservation. According to Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, CMS Executive Secretary, the key to the success in the conservation of the saiga antelope has been the involvement of the local people in the region. Even more good news is that the local governments are seeking to involve local communities in the conservation of these magnificent creatures. Many people have been living in poverty and suffering from unemployment, which is why they turned to illegal poaching for a better livelihood. But now, it seems that they will be given a second chance and provided a better alternative for their livelihoods and that is combating poaching.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Crocodile Sanctuary Operator Vows to Rebuild the Facility

Cherie Chenot-Rose with a rescued American crocodile

 A non-profit crocodile education sanctuary in Belize, which was recently burned down by a mob of superstitious Mayan villagers, will later undergo some serious rebuilding. One of its operators, Cherie Chenot-Rose, has made a vow to rebuild the sanctuary which was designed to protect two species of endangered crocodiles in the country. One of them is the American crocodile, which is also native to the Florida estuaries as well as Central America. Ms. Rose and her husband have been rescuing crocodiles since the facility's establishment in 2004. Everything had been going according to plan, until a mob of Mayan villagers stormed the sanctuary and burned it down out of superstition, fearing that the couple were holding two missing children hostage. The couple have stated that they know nothing about the children's disappearance, but hope and pray for their safe return. They have even made a statement, saying they do not believe Mayan people in general are savages and believe that only those who mobbed their property should be held accountable. Even more good news is that the psychic who "predicted" the missing children's future has been arrested and charged for inciting the attack.

I'm very happy to see that Ms. Rose has not lost hope in helping save the crocodile populations in Belize. This goes to show that she has shown some strong determination, despite the recent attack on her facility. With the reconstruction of the crocodile sanctuary underway, the populations of Belize's crocodiles will have a bright and shiny future (hopefully). I also hope that the native Mayan people will be educated on making right decisions, and not always rely on superstitions in order to solve problems. This could lead to performing deeds that can be viewed as heinous and atrocious. But for now, what is more important is the sanctuary's rebuilding.

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Big Trouble in Maharashtra's Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary

Great Indian Bustard

The Indian Subcontinent is home to many endangered species such as lions, tigers, leopards, elephants, rhinoceroses, etc. But one of the most striking species is the great Indian bustard. This magnificent bird lives out in the wide open spaces of western and central India, which consist of arid and semi-arid grasslands with thorn scrub and tall grass. It is also a highly endangered species in all of India. The species has been savored for its meat since the days of the Mughal Empire, in turn leading to a catastrophic drop in population all over the country due to extensive illegal poaching. Habitat loss has also contributed to its decline. It has been estimated that less than a 1,000 of these birds exist in India.

One recent case of the downfall in bustard population occurred in Nannaj Bustard Sanctuary of Solapur in the state of Maharashtra. What began as a record of 33 birds in 2007 has now dropped to nine. An annual census carried out on August 29th showed drastic results: two male birds, six females, and one sub-adult. According to chief wildlife warden D.C Pant, no conclusions could be made on what caused the sudden drop in the sanctuary's bustard population. Also, the sanctuary was undergoing the period of monsoon making the visibility poor. He did promise to mark the areas for the birds.

One man, however, who has been working for the great Indian bustard conservation has a different opinion. He is veteran bird expert Gopal Thusar and according to him, the decimation in the population is not a good sign. He warned that the recent sightings could indicate that people have no longer become friendly. In his words, the great bird has only managed to survive thanks to the efforts by friendly farmers living in the region. However, it may seem now that the farmers have changed their attitudes toward the birds. Mr. Thusar also stated that the bustard is suffering from the threat of mines and power plants encroaching in its habitat. He and another partner of the bustard conservation, Dr. Pramod Patil, felt that it is time the state of Maharashtra and the forest department should work together in order to save the bird.

It is very saddening to see a wildlife sanctuary lose its flagship species down to just a small number of individuals. But at the same time, I'm shocked to see that the only way the bustard was able to survive until this day was when the farmers in region made sure the species was kept alive. Now, it may seem that they have changed the way they see the birds. This could be one reason to why the bustard population in this wildlife sanctuary plummeted dramatically. I feel that the forest department should have played the part of helping maintain the record number of bustards, instead of letting the farmers to do all the work. Otherwise, this tragedy would not have happened. But now, the time has come for the Maharashtrian government and the forest department to join hands together in order to prevent any further depletion in the bustard's population. And one of the tactics, according to Dr. Patil, to ensure that the great Indian bustard's future remains bright is captive breeding.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Nine Tourist Lodges in the Sunderbans Receive Demolition Notices

Sunderbans National Park

The Sunderbans National Park of India and Bangladesh is renowned for its remote and mysterious delta consisting of several forested islands with some of the Indian subcontinent's rich variety of wildlife. One of the prime species native to this delta is the Bengal tiger. Despite it's name meaning "beautiful forest" in Hindi, Sunderbans has been and still is infamous for its tiger attacks on the local people who rely on the waters for fish and forests for firewood. In recent times, it had been found that one of the factors contributing to an increased number of tiger attacks in the region is the rise in water levels due to global warming.

In order to prevent further increase in water levels and reduce pollution levels, the government of West Bengal has taken a step in issuing demolition notices to nine tourist lodges in the region. According to Arijit Mitra, block development officer of Gosaba in South 24-Pargans district, the lodges had no papers stating government permission and had been set up in and around the embankments. This could lead to flooding, which is why their owners were asked to demolish them. In addition to that, State Minister for Sunderbans Affairs Kanti Ganguly stated that several other buildings such as houses and schools had been set up in different parts of the region and their owners will receive show-cause notices. Biswajit Mukherjee, law officer of the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB), said that it is mandatory to get approval from the Coastal Regulatory Management Authority (CRMA) while constructing any building. If that building is built without approval, then it should be pulled down.

I'm very impressed to see how the West Bengal government has come up with a new way to solve the problems in the Sunderbans concerning the lives of both people and the environment. In this case, it has to do with establishing of different buildings in the region. By constructing various buildings in different parts of the Sunderbans, it appears that people are further contributing to the rise of pollution levels which could also lead to attacks by tigers and deaths by flooding. Thanks to the idea of having buildings demolished in and around embankments, the government is helping save lives of people in the Sunderbans from flooding. This could also lead to less attacks from tigers, which has been the goal of the national park. This sure is something to feel proud about.

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Four Chinese Nature Reserves Team Up in Protection of the Tibetan Antelope

A Tibetan antelope pair in China

Recently, four nature reserves in western China have banded together to work in protecting the rare and highly endangered Tibetan antelope on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The four reserves, which includes two in the northwestern part of the Qinghai Province, one in Tibet Autonomous Region, and one in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, have vowed to carry out joint patrols in the animals' habitats to protect them from illegal poaching. According to Tseten Druk, director of the Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve Administration in Qinghai Province, they will carry out joint research and personnel exchanges as part of the protection. The problem is that every Chinese nature reserve has lack of funds, manpower, and facilities. For example in Hoh Xil, there are only nineteen forest guards to patrol a 45,000-square meter reserve. Because of this, the population of the Tibetan antelope had been decimated over the years from extensive illegal poaching.

I'm glad to see that these nature reserves are teaming up together, in order to protect one of their prized treasures. However, it's also very sad to see based on their individual experiences in the past how poaching easily took advantage of them due to lack of essential necessities. The Tibetan antelope, also called chiru, has been labeled as an endangered species since 1979 and has been ruthlessly poached for its hide which is made into shahtoosh shawls that are considered a luxury items. I hope that these four reserves where the antelope lives will be able to make good progress in curbing down poaching by working together as one team. And I also hope that maybe they will receive some additional help for further improvisation in case matters worsen.

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Belizean Maya Villagers Burn Down Crocodile Sanctuary Out of Superstition

American crocodile

A mob of angry Maya people recently destroyed and burned down a crocodile conservation sanctuary in Belize, fearing for the disappearance of two children. On August 7th, 9-year-old Benjamin Rash and his older sister Onelia were sent out to sell limes and were never seen or heard from again. The villagers, fearing for the two children's lives, visited a local psychic who predicted that the operators of the sanctuary had fed the kids to the crocodiles. According to deputy police commissioner James Magdaleno, the indigenous Mayan people have their own beliefs and because of them took the matter into their own hands. However, no arrests have been made and the site is still under investigation. Belizean police even questioned the sanctuary's operators about the missing children, but no connection was made.

In my opinion, this is truly an extreme case of taking evasive action by local people towards an animal which has been highly regarded as dangerous by the human race for generations. These people, the Mayans, have committed an act out which turned to be out of superstition and no other reason. They did not have any real proof regarding the two children's disappearance. Because of this, all the crocodiles in that sanctuary ended up being senselessly massacred. Even worse is that the event shattered the  sanctuary's operators' hopes of helping to save and conserve the local crocodile population. I think that the Mayan people in Belize are sticking to their cultural beliefs to such extremes, that they end up committing such an act which other people see as senseless and without strong evidence. I can only hope that they will one day come to their senses, and realize what important roles crocodiles play in their native habitat which also happens to be their ancestors' for generations.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Six Months Jail Time for Wildlife Smuggler in Malaysia

Anson Wong's briefcase crawling with snakes

A notorious wildlife smuggler named Anson Wong has recently pleaded guilty on charges of illegally smuggling exotic reptiles from the Malaysian island of Penang to Jakarta. Wong, nicknamed the "Lizard King", was arrested on the 26th of August at the Kuala Lumpur airport when his suitcase burst open on the conveyor belt exposing the victims. They included 95 boa constrictors, two rhinoceros vipers, and one matamata turtle. The Lizard King has had a brush with the law before. He was once convicted for wildlife smuggling in 2001 in the U.S and sentenced to 71 months, according to the Department of Justice. However, he has recently been sentenced for six months in prison and fined 190,000 ringgit (an equivalent of $61,000). This led to several criticisms by several Malaysian wildlife groups. A wildlife trade monitoring organization known as Traffic Southeast Asia stated that the sentencing was disappointing, and showed that wildlife smugglers have little to fear from the law. According to the regional director of TRAFFIC, William Schaedla, the organization hopes that the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment will appeal for a stiffer penalty. Another conservation group known as WWF-Malaysia called the nations government to revoke Wong's license in the wildlife trade.

I'm very much in support of Malaysia's wildlife groups and their opinions towards Wong's sentencing. The illegal smuggling of wildlife is a major environmental catastrophe that has been plaguing the regions of Southeast Asia for decades, and yet most of the perpetrators involved are never given tough penalties. Wong's case is a classic example of this. These criminals should be convicted in a same manner as regular felons like murderers and robbers. Instead of months, they should be sentenced to some number of years behind bars depending on how serious their activities turn out to be to the authorities.

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Some American States are Easy in the Exotic Pet Ownership

Capuchin monkeys are often victims as exotic pets

Recently, a black bear had fatally mauled and killed its caretaker in a Cleveland suburb. This became a latest example of animal violence in Ohio, which has some of the weakest laws in restrictions in owning wild exotic pets and even having the highest number of injuries and deaths caused by them. State officials are now setting up strong restrictions on ownership of dangerous animals after a standoff between the Humane Society and agriculture interests. According to Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, the issue is a free-for-all in Ohio and is a disaster waiting to happen. In addition to Ohio, there have been other similar incidents across the nation. One example was seen in Connecticut in 2009 when a woman was fatally blinded by her friend's pet chimpanzee. Another was in Florida when a family suffered a terrible loss when their two-year-old daughter was squeezed to death by their pet python. Both of these states have voted to ban the ownership of dangerous animals. But elsewhere, other states also impose few or no restrictions in owning non-native animals. These include Alabama, Idaho, Missouri, and Montana. Many owners of such animals believe that they are keeping the animals safe from the dangers of habitat loss and illegal poaching. They see themselves as conservationists, but instead, they are exposing the animals in an inhumane environment. One database highlighting the numbers of escapes and attacks by exotic pets collected by an an animal rights group Born Free USA since 1990 showed that Florida ranked first place with 43 incidents. It was then followed by Texas with 19 cases, New York with 18, California with 16, and Ohio and Alabama with 14 cases.

I'm glad to see that Ohio has put its foot down and take action against the ownership of exotic pets after its latest incident. However, four other states do not impose such restrictions the way Ohio is doing. I can only hope that they will follow Ohio's example, and one day the chances of any attacks by dangerous exotic animals in those four states will eventually cease. Owning an exotic wild creature as a pet is not as same as owning a domestic animal of any type. According to Adam Roberts, chief executive vice president of Born Free USA, it is inhumane to keep large wild animals in captivity. He even stated that exotic pet ownership results in several problems such as the risk of infectious disease, damage to the native environment from escapees, and financial burden on rescue groups that operate sanctuaries for abandoned sanctuaries. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums provides an in-depth information at the lethal diseases carried by wild animals. These include distemper and rabies in carnivores, herpes in primates, and salmonella in reptiles. It even notes that vaccines used on domestic animals do not work on wild animals. In my opinion, this seems like enough proof to persuade a state infamous for providing citizens a free right in owning exotic pets to take assertive action against the ownership.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

130 Leopards Killed in India This Year

An Indian leopard in a residential area in Shimla, India

The year of 2010 has recently marked the deaths of 130 leopards in India. Many experts have described the figures as "alarming." Among the states, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Maharashtra have the highest count of leopard deaths. The issues varied from illegal poaching, man-leopard conflicts, road accidents, and even death by forest departments. Some have even died during rescue operations. This is truly an appalling situation, especially when the forest department does the unthinkable: shoot the animals on sight, rather than safely trap them and relocate them away from human settlements. Another issue involves an indigenous tribe native to the state of Haryana known as the Bawaria. According to Paramjit Singh, chief conservator of forests in Uttarakhand, some members of this tribe have been known to be involved in organized poaching as they happen to be expert. It is their area of expertise, and have nothing else to do. Therefore, the leopard population in India has dropped dramatically along with other known issues.

I'm deeply appalled by the factors that have been contributing to the downfall of India's leopards. But out of all of them, I personally find the forest departments' actions in eliminating the animals to be horrendous. Instead of trapping and relocating the animals, they are doing the opposite. In my opinion, it seems like a shocking case of desperate times calling for desperate measures in which forest officials are left with no choice but to simply shoot the animals on sight. This really creates a bad impression on the forest department, in general. The departments work for top organizations such as the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), who oversee all the dirty work of exploiting the nation's wildlife. And when the WPSI sees one of its partners kill a wild creature, especially an endangered one, it is almost as if they are betraying that partnership of helping save and conserve India's natural heritage. I hope that some solutions can be done, such as giving up the idea of shooting leopards on sight by forest departments and move to new alternatives. I also hope that this tribe, the Bawaria, can somehow be persuaded to give up the practice of hunting and be introduced in new safer areas to help make living. This way, the chances of India's leopard population plunging further will most likely be reduced.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

China and India to Work Together in Curbing Tiger Poaching


Recently, China and India have made an agreement to work together in putting a stop to illegal poaching of tigers. The two neighboring nations have made a commitment in sharing intelligence on the illegal trade of tiger body parts between them. The Chinese officials were paid a visit from Indian officials at the nation's State Forestry Administration, and assured them that they were willing to exchange actionable intelligence on wildlife crimes. They also acknowledged that illegal poaching and trafficking of wildlife were "the biggest threat" to conservation in the region. In addition to that, India and China have also agreed to set up nodal officers to boil down real-time information sharing as well as instigate collaborative information into "backward and forward linkages of wildlife crimes" and well-organized criminal syndicates functioning in the region. The Chinese officials even promised their Indian partners that they did not have any immediate plans to raise the ban on domestic trade in tiger parts. According to conservationists, lifting the ban would further increase the demand for poaching.

I'm very happy to see that China has made a decision to cooperate and work with India in the battle against one of the most catastrophic environmental issues affecting our world. According to Indian officials, the talks with their Chinese counterparts showed real progress between the two nations on a subject neither have been seeing eye to eye. In the past, China had rejected India's concerns that much of the nation's poaching was originated from the growing demand for tiger parts in traditional Chinese medicine. This time, however, things are different as the two nations have partnered up and are seeing the problem eye to eye. Another interesting fact is that China has expressed deep interest in joining the Global Tiger Forum, an inter-government conservation led by India which also involves seven of fourteen tiger countries. This is truly something to be proud about.

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