Monday, January 31, 2011

Craigslist Helps Florida Wildlife Officials Capture Reptile Dealers

An American alligator

The state of Florida is famous for being one of the warmest places state year-round in the U.S. With its sunshine, sandy beaches, and tropical weather, it is a paradise on earth for anyone looking for a place to go on a vacation. But beneath the sunny skies lies a dark secret. Florida has been known to be a gateway for the illegal trafficking of drugs flowing into the U.S from as far down as South America. In addition to being a superhighway for bringing in narcotics onto the U.S soil, the Sunshine State has also been a hotbed for the trade of exotic pets. This illegal, yet lucrative business dates back as early as 1979 when the first python was found along the fringes of the mighty Everglades. This vast network of subtropical wetlands is known to house a rich variety of native wildlife, such as alligators, crocodiles, manatees, and even the elusive Florida panther. However, due to the major impact of the pet trade, the Everglades and the surrounding regions have since been overrun by pythons, monitor lizards, and giant pouched rats. This has led to the local wildlife being put to the brink of conquest, as the invasive species do whatever they can to take over the native lands as the Spanish conquistadors had done hundreds of years ago.

With the rise of exotic pets breaking into the corridors of Florida's wild lands, wildlife officials have been doing whatever they could to slow down the process of the pet trade. Recently, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has taken its strategic steps to the internet; most notably on Craigslist to bust illegal reptile dealers. The department established the Internet Crime Unit (ICU) last year as a way of running sweeps across the cyberworld for dealers illegally selling reptiles. Many of these dealers operate without licenses or permits, which explains why non-native species like pythons and monitor lizards are often seen slithering free amongst the neighborhoods often showing up in people's backyards. In order to capture the culprits, the officials would respond to advertisements by posing as ordinary customers. Since the beginning of January, the FWC has been involved in several cases dealing with reptile dealers illegally selling reptiles online. The most recent case occurred earlier this week when officials responded to an ad listing an eighteen-inch alligator on sale for $100. However, the biggest seizure took place on August 2009 when a reptile dealer's plan was foiled after he was caught attempting to sell two nine-foot-long Burmese pythons, four reticulated pythons, and six juvenile albino Burmese pythons.

I think it is amazing to see what tactics wildlife officials would use when dealing with these types of situations. When one thinks about tackling a problem concerning wild or domestic animals, it is usually where a team of dedicated individuals would respond to a call regarding those animals' lives and go down with a warrant to a house or some other building housing them with hopes of bringing them back safely. However, that usually is not always the case. These individuals have been relying on modern technology, in order to get their job done. But what really surprises me is to see that among the unfortunate victims include alligators, which are native to Florida's wild places. These gigantic relatives of dinosaurs are a keystone species to the Everglades. Why would anyone want an alligator for a pet? Anyone who would own an alligator or even a python would be putting his/her life at risk of fatal injury or death. Furthermore, the animal itself is deprived of its natural habitat and is confined to a life of misery. I personally feel that the best strategy would be to reconsider Florida's laws regarding pets, in which no exotic pets would be sold in local pet stores. Otherwise, the people of the Sunshine State and the local wildlife would be further threatened by these alien species.

View article here      

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tibetan Antelope Numbers Rise to 200,000

Tibetan antelopes

Recently, the Tibet Autonomous Region has witnessed some very good news. The numbers of the Tibetan antelope have risen to 200,000 animals from critically low numbers in the past years. This magnificent species of antelope was once threatened to extinction due to poaching for its prized coat which is made into shatoosh, along with habitat destruction. But now, it appears that it has made a comeback from the brink. According to Liu Wulin, president of the Forestry Survey and Planning Institute in Tibet, the result of this growth in population was due to an eighteen-year study focusing on the animal's distribution, habitat, and growth rate completed by a team of 119 researchers. The first calculation was done in 2006, in which figures showed that there were 150,000 antelopes in the 710,000 square kilometer-area in Tibet and numbers were increasing by a rate of seven percent. However, even though it appears the Tibetan antelope has bounced back from the extinction's brink, conservationists still believe the animal's survival depends on tougher measures to ensure its protection. According to Yang Xin of an environmental NGO (non-governmental organization) Green River, the region's economic development has had a major impact on the animal's population. He further added that nomadic herdsmen may expand their farming areas to lands untouched by people. Furthermore, the construction of highways and the Qinghai-Tibet Railway also had an impact on the animals' lives.

I'm very happy for now that the Tibetan antelope numbers have increased to 200,000. However, I also feel that even though it seems like good news, the animal is still under threat of poaching and habitat destruction. These animals had once been pushed to the brink, and are now in the process of making a comeback. This means that stronger measures in their protection must be endured. One of the strategies would be to have the Chinese government to place a ban on human activities in Tibet's reserve areas where the antelopes roam freely. In addition to that, cooperation with international community should be strengthened. This way, the Tibetan antelope will continue to flourish in the wild and mysterious lands of Tibet.

View article here 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Study- Egypt's Jackal is Actually a Wolf

The African wolf, originally thought to be a jackal subspecies

When most people think of the jackal and Egypt, what comes to their mind is Anubis. This jackal-headed deity had been highly revered during the ancient times as a god of mummification. This can be seen in illustrations depicting the god placing his hands over a coffin. The idea probably stems from the fact that jackals would be seen prowling around cemeteries at night, often stepping on graves. It is no doubt that Egypt was one of the places in the world deeply associated with these cunning scavengers. Its dry and arid landscape makes an ideal jackal habitat. However, recent genetic research from PLoS ONE has found that the Egyptian jackal is not a subspecies of the common and widely-distributed golden jackal. Instead, it turns out to be a member of the gray wolf clan. This wolf, dubbed by researchers as the African wolf, appears to be closely related to the Himalayan wolf. The research also pointed to the early origin of this unique wolf. Researchers say that the animal is older than the wolves of the northern hemispheres. According to the study, the Indian wolf, Himalayan wolf, and the African wolf broke off from the gray wolf before it moved up north to Europe, northern Asia, and America. This process led to a further subdividing into different subspecies. Currently, the study has not made any recommendation whether this wolf should be considered a new species or another gray wolf subspecies. There is still a continuation in debate over a distinction between the species and subspecies of wolves.

This is indeed a very unique and interesting discovery. But it is also a discovery which raises several questions. If Egypt's jackal turned out to be a member of the wolf family, could it have been this particular animal that was worshiped as the descendant of Anubis? This creature, in my opinion, is one of the animals whose ancestors must have migrated either from Europe to the north or the Near East. These creatures include the Atlas bear, which had long since became extinct in North Africa. The only ones that are still flourishing are the Barbary stag, the wild boar, and even the red fox. The discovery of the African wolf is truly a big moment for wildlife experts, researchers, and scientists worldwide. But in its native home, it is persecuted for livestock predation just like other wolves and jackals. I personally feel that a creature like this should be protected at all costs for further study. That way, scientists will learn more about this animal and what roles it plays in Egypt's ecosystems.

View article here

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh Favors India's Lion Relocation

Asiatic lion

Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, who recently visited Gir Forest National Park, stated that the lions should be relocated to Palpurkuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. According to Minister Ramesh, the lions in Gir Forest are under threat of inbreeding. He further added, saying that scientists had written to him about this threat and provided evidence that thousands of lions in Tanzania had died because of this. Minister's proposal is nothing new. The Palpurkuno Wildlife Sanctuary was selected as a reintroduction site because it was where lions had once roamed before being hunted to extinction in 1873. However, Gujarat has always been in the front line to resist these efforts because it would strip Gir Forest of its status as the lions' current and only home. The issue is now before the supreme court.

I personally feel that before anything happens, there should be a study of lions in Gir Forest to see if any are suffering from inbreeding. I think what Minister Ramesh should do is talk with scientists studying lions in Gir Forest, and listen to them and not those who study lions in Africa. Just because a lion population in Africa is being affected by a threat like inbreeding does not mean it should affect India's lions. In order to find out, one must run a study of a lion population(s) in a particular location and see if there are any cases of inbreeding. That way, everyone would know what to do. Jumping to conclusions would not help. Furthermore, lions have been making their home in Gir Forest for generations. Without them, the national park would definitely lose its status and its tourist industry would be deeply affected.

View article here

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Africa's Rhino Poaching Crisis 2011

White rhinoceros

The rhinos of Africa are beginning to face a bleak future it seems. Poachers have been mercilessly massacring large scales of these majestic animals for their horns, which are believed to contain supernatural powers against various illnesses. Among the countries badly hit by this ongoing crisis is South Africa. The nation has lost a total of 333 rhinos in the hands of poachers. Recently, five more were killed in the first weeks of 2011. Zimbabwe, on the other hand, has lost a total of seven rhinos from early December to January 19th. Many of these poachers are well-organized and well-funded, according to wildlife officials, and work for powerful syndicates which provide them with light aircrafts to carry out their dastardly deeds. There have even been cases reported far up north in Kenya, which had lost six to 21 rhinos from 2008 to 2009. According to Kenya Wildlife Service official Patrick Omondi, twenty rhinos were killed in 2010. He further added that a temporary lift of an international ban on rhino poaching in 2007 opened a window of opportunity for poachers to smuggle rhino horns into Southeast Asia, rather than stopping them. Vitalis Chidenga, a Zimbabwe-based wildlife chief, stated that world efforts to persuade the public about rhino horns having no medicinal properties failed to show results in Asia.

The news about Africa's ongoing rhino poaching crisis have been making headlines continuously. Based on these reports, it appears the poachers have become more powerful in this battle to save the rhinos. What is worse is that despite the temporary ban in 2007, these ruthless and sophisticated poachers never backed down. I do not know what may be the best solution in dealing with this threat. But all these countries that have been plagued by this crisis should team up with each other, along with other African countries known to have rhinos. They all should keep in contact with each other, and help each other out in intercepting the poachers and smugglers. However, I also feel that people in Southeast Asia should open their eyes and come to their senses that rhino horns, as with any body part of an endangered wild animal, contain no medicinal properties. It is all an illusion. And due to this bizarre and untrue belief, rhinos and other endangered species have become victims of poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.

View article here

Monday, January 24, 2011

Kaziranga National Park to Place Restrictions on Tourism

Wild water buffaloes in Kaziranga National Park

The Kaziranga National Park in Assam is one of the most biologically diverse hotspots in India. It is home to a rich variety of wildlife found nowhere else, but in India's northeast corner. One of the flagship species found there is the Indian one-horned rhinoceros, which makes its home in the park's lush swamplands and succulent grasslands. Other animal species endemic to the region include the wild water buffalo, the swamp deer, the hog deer, and the gigantic Indian elephant. With such abundance of wild creatures, Kaziranga has become popular in India's tourist industry. However, the impact of tourism can also have a negative effect on the wildlife just as illegal poaching and habitat destruction does. Which is why authorities have now began to impose regulations on the tourist flow. This idea has brought them into conflict with business ventures such as luxury resorts, whose owners oppose the move fearing that it would affect the tourism. According to park director Surajeet Dutta, the wild animals have been under tremendous pressure because of tourists flowing every year from November to April. He stated that in order to prevent further pressure, the park has banned the construction of new hotels and restaurants near it. However, he further added that as well as imposing restrictions, the authorities made other plans for tourists. These include introducing jeep and elephant safaris in newly-added areas, and not in the park's core area.

I'm very happy to see how the authorities of Kaziranga are imposing such restrictions, in order to prevent further pressure on the wild animals. I personally feel that this strategy should also be used in other national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across India. One particular national park, Gir Forest, had recently witnessed a massive flow of tourism because of an advertisement featuring Amitabh Bachchan promoting tourism in Gujarat. With so many tourists pouring in, it was easy to say that the local wildlife was deeply disturbed due to increasing pressure. Just because a powerful celebrity in the Indian film industry shoots for an advertisement promoting tourism of a wild place does not mean people should rush down to that place in large swarms. They should understand the importance of their local wildlife, and harmless tourism itself can also have a negative impact as well as poaching and habitat destruction. India is one of the few places in this world for having a rich variety of wildlife found nowhere else in the world. In order to protect the wildlife, it is important that besides establishing national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, there should be limitations in the flow of tourism. This way, the wildlife can continue to flourish without any such disturbance.

View article here

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Black Kites Decorate Their Nests with Human Rubbish as Warning to Intruders

A black kite nest decorated with plastic
A black kite with its young one in nest

In Spain's Donana National Park, scientists recently documented black kites using human rubbish to decorate their nests. The study showed that the kites would use plastic strips from old bags as a warning to other birds wanting to move into their territories. Among the people who documented this interesting behavior was Dr. Fabrizio Sergio, who stated that besides plastic, the birds would use other materials such as cloth and paper. He and his colleagues observed this behavior for five years, and found that the strongest birds were the ones having most plastic in their nests while the young and the elderly had less. The team stated that individuals with most plastic were the best at defending their territory and monopolized the food bait laid out by researchers. The white plastic functioned as a warning similar to a "KEEP OUT" or "NO TRESPASSING" sign. The team even tried to test this idea by making additions to the nests that hardly had any plastic at all. In response, the owners of those nests stripped out the plastic which showed that they would not risk any fights they could not win.

This is a really interesting and unique article, documenting an unusual behavior among birds of prey. Usually, birds like magpies and bowerbirds have earned the reputation of collecting unnatural materials. Magpies are one of the few species of birds that are attracted to shiny objects, which is one explanation why some people end up losing their valuables such as car keys, coins, and even expensive jewelry. Bowerbirds, on the other hand, collect such materials when building their bower-like nests in order to attract females. Each species decorates the nest based on a series of colors. For example, the satin bowerbird is known to decorate its nest with anything that is blue. But these kites collect plastic as a way to fend off any intruders. In my opinion, this behavior could also be a way for these birds to benefit their own natural ecosystem by clearing up plastic. However, that does not mean they will not be affected by any environmental hazards affecting their homeland. The Donana National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for wild residents such as the highly endangered Iberian lynx. With such abundance of wildlife, it is a treasure which should be protected at all costs.

View article here    

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Conservation Plan for Indian Bustards Underway

Great Indian Bustard

Recently, it has been announced that a state of emergency conservation plan for great Indian bustards is underway by state experts. The plan's objectives include preventing disturbance of breeding sites, encouraging traditional farming in buffer areas, compensating farmers for taking up organic farming, collaring a bustard to monitor its movement, and creating awareness among the locals. According to the procedure, six states that contain the birds will come up with separate plans. Among the people on the front lines is Conservator of Forest Pune M.K Rao. As of now, a total of 300 bustards remain in India.

At its current stage, the plan is formulating. The experts are working on it, and taking suggestions from Bombay Natural History Society director Asad Rahmani. The deadline for submitting the report to the state government will be on February 11th. Then, it will have to be approved by the ministry of environment and forests, who will fund the work. Pramod Patil, who has been researching bustards and working for their conservation and protection, stated the plan will focus on conservation and research of the birds as well as tackle issues. He further added that the plan will also support captive breeding of the birds. Also, the areas of research in Maharashtra (Nashik, Ozar, Vidharba, Solapur, and Ahmednagar) will look into pattern of pesticide usage and understanding the movement and distribution of the birds.

I'm very happy to see that a plan is underway to save the bustard from the brink of extinction. These magnificent species of birds were once considered a delicacy among Mughal emperors and British officials. But now, they have been suffering from issues like disturbance by humans and habitat destruction. By looking at the objectives of this plan, I have a good feeling that the future of the Indian bustard is bright. However, it is also important keep alert for any unexpected surprises. But for now, I'm pleased to see that state experts are currently working up on plans in order to bring the bustard back from extinction.

View article here

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dam Construction Plans Threaten China's Rarest Fish

The Chinese sturgeon

Conservationists recently warned that plans on constructing a dam is threatening the last refuge of China's rarest and most economically important fish, the Yangtze sturgeon. The alarm was raised after authorities in Chongqing redrew the boundaries of a crucial freshwater reserve on the Yangtze River, which was supposed to have been a hotspot for nature conservation. Known as the Upper Yangtze Rare and Endemic Fish Reserve, it was established in the early 1990s as a sanctuary for aquatic species threatened from the Three Gorges Dam. Among the species include four types of wild carp, which are essential to the nation's food security as they provide a diverse genetic stock which fish farms depend on for healthy breeding. In addition to the sturgeon, other critically endangered fish include the Chinese paddlefish and the Chinese sucker. Now, it seems that the Three Gorges Project Development Corporation and local officials want to build another hydroelectric plant which would lead to further decimation in the river life. According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the developers appeared to have gained upper hand which led to redrawing the reserve's boundary. In addition to that, the public does not even know that the fish really exist in the river's waters. Although the local government insisted that no decision has been made, but records from the past say that the construction will begin before the environmental assessment will be made. According to Nature Conservancy's Guo Qiaoyu, Yangtze River project manager, the carp population crashed by 90 % since the development of the Three Gorges.

In my opinion, this article gives a clear representation of why it is extremely important to consider China's aquatic species. Rampant development in hydroelectric dams has had a major impact on the species, including the Yangtze river dolphin which has been declared to be "extinct." Now, it appears that this sturgeon and other critically endangered species of fish are next in line. I personally feel that public attention should be directed towards these fish, rather than further development in dams. In addition to that, the construction of such hydroelectric dams has also affected the local carp population which the people of China rely deeply on for food. If further damming continues, than the carp population will collapse further and the people will be left with no fish to eat. I feel that it is vitally important to reach out to the public, and educate them about the importance of these fish including the sturgeon as a first step in saving the Yangtze. Without the fish, the people of China, especially the fishermen and those who work in the fishing industry, would be forced to search for new jobs.

View article here  

Sumatran Tigers on the Verge of Extinction in Indonesian National Park

Sumatran tiger

Recent estimates have shown that the population of the Sumatran tiger in Way Kambas National Park has decreased as a result of poaching and habitat loss. The latest issue submitted by the park's authorities in Lampung has shown that numbers have dwindled to the brink of extinction. According to Sumianto, coordinator of the Sumatran Tiger Rescue and Conservation Foundation, the current number found in the 125,000-hectare national park is estimated to be at less than thirty animals. He further added that the population data from 2000 was estimated at 36 to 40. Sumianto also stated that unless serious efforts made by the government to preserve the forests and stop the poachers will be taken, the tigers may become extinct. The Way Kambas and Bukit Barisan National Parks, along with the Lampung Forest Ministry, had high hopes in increasing the tiger population due to a drop in poaching between 2004 and 2007. However, they never showed any valid data on the populations in those national parks.

This article, in my opinion, gives a clear idea about how accuracy and data should always be maintained in order to save a critically endangered species. In this case, it is the Sumatran tiger. Because of their carelessness, both of these national parks and the Lampung Forest Ministry have ended up with a further drop in their local tiger populations. In other words, they let the poachers take advantage which is something nobody in any national park would want. I feel that these two national parks are in a great need of help in reviving their tiger populations. Indonesia had made a committment last year along with twelve other nations at a global tiger summit in St. Petersburg to help each other, in order to bring the tiger back from the greedy hands of the illegal wildlife trade. I sure hope that in the future, Indonesia will never make a similar like this again. But now, the time is critical for its tigers.

View article here  

Monday, January 17, 2011

Stray Dogs Threaten India's Prey Animals

An Indian pariah dog

The jungles of India have been ruled by some of the most powerful and majestic predators in the world. Out of them, the most undisputed is the tiger. Others include the Asiatic lion, the leopard, the snow leopard, the wolf, and the wild dog. But now, there is a new breed of predators lurking amidst the nation's natural ecosystems: stray dogs. There have been recent cases of these tamable animals hunting animals which lions, tigers, and other powerful predators normally prey on. One was reported near Chandigarh's Sukhna Lake when a sambar deer taken down by a pack of these seemingly efficient hunters. The dogs have also been seen preying on fawns and females in the wildlife reserve of Manimajra forests. Other cases have been reported in the lower Shiwalik foothills of Punjab and Haryana, where the dogs have targeted animals such as peacocks, junglefowl, nilgai, and even a goat-like antelope called the goral. In Punjab's Abohar Wildlife Sanctuary, the dogs prey on the magnificent blackbuck. Even though these animals are unnatural predators in the food chain, they are protected by law and animal rights groups which has made the management difficult for the authorities.

Although it is interesting to see these domesticated hunters go after wild prey rather than feed on food scraps, there are some dire consequences to be considered. In places like Punjab and Haryana, lions, tigers, and other apex predators have long since disappeared. However, the numbers in prey species in those places are relatively stable. But with stray dogs running loose, the populations of blackbuck, sambar, and other herbivores would fluctuate sharply. In addition to that, the local wildlife could also be prone to disease transmission from these animals. I personally think the best way to solve this problem would be to safely capture the dogs and place them in animal shelters for adoption. That way, the wildlife will be safe and there would be no public outrage from the animal rights groups. Killing is not always the answer. These dogs share the same biology as purebred ones kept in people's homes.

View article here

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Yellowstone's Bison to be Moved Up to Montana's State Lands

Bison in Yellowstone National Park

Recently, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission (FWP) had approved proceeding with consideration of moving Yellowstone's bison onto state lands. The agency will conduct an environmental analysis, and will also include an extended comment period before any decision is made. Several bison, who were waiting to be relocated were tested negative for brucellosis at the U.S Department of Agriculture's quarantine facility north of Yellowstone National Park. Although this seemed like a joyous moment for bringing an animal that had once disappeared back to its ancestral range, it became a source of debate between conservationists and representatives of the state's cattle industry.

Cattlemen and two Montana state legislatures stated that the cost of having bison on public lands would be expensive, a threat to public safety, and would harm the relationship between the state and landowners. Stan Frasier, a vice president of the Montana Wildlife Federation's board of directors, made his statement concerning the impact of brucellosis and that whether the bison will be allowed to graze on public lands or not. In addition to that, tribal representatives emphasized that their lands should be considered as relocation sites for the animals. In their statement, moving bison onto their lands would be equal to privatization of public wildlife. According to Joe Maurier, director of FWP, the commission had identified reservations as possible sites. However, he had to change his thinking due to a lawsuit challenging last year's relocation of 86 bison on Ted Turner's ranch. In his testimony, Mr. Turner agreed to take the animals in exchange for 75 % of their offspring. This led to opponents suing, saying that the bison should be on public lands and not part of some private enterprise. Similarly, Mr. Maurier was worried that a similar complaint would be filed if bison would be relocated to tribal lands. He stated that the lands will be considered once the lawsuit is dropped. Commissioner Ron Moody of Lewistown stated comparing this bison relocation and the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone is wrong. He added that having bison in Montana would be a step to avoid another wolf problem, saying that the state needs to be in the front of the change and master it rather become a victim.

I'm happy to see that some groups of people are taking this consideration of bringing the bison back into its ancestral lands where it once roamed centuries ago. In my opinion, it also shows how the Yellowstone National Park is managing its bison population and preventing it from suddenly breaking from its borders. However, I also feel that the best strategy would be to relocate the animals in lands that are not used by cattle for grazing. If bison and cattle rub shoulders with one another, the consequences are severe (brucellosis). I also hope that conservationists and representatives of Montana's cattle industry would come up with some sort of agreement, which allows the bison to share their habitat with cattle safely and peaceably. The reason is because the cattle industry has experienced major problems from wolves attacking cattle. Bringing the bison back to Montana would be beneficial for the wolves such that they will not go after cattle and cause further trouble to both the citizens and the industry. In addition to that, the idea of bringing bison on the state's Indian reservations goes to show how these people have relied on the animals for food for generations. I think this idea would be fair, knowing that it would help keep the balance in bison population in Montana. I also hope that, according to this plan, the bison will be brought to the state's local national parks and state parks. This way, it will boost Montana's tourist industry as everyone in and out of U.S will have a chance to see one of the nation's most iconic animals in other interesting places as well as Yellowstone.

View article here         

Villagers Beat Leopard to Death in Orissa

Forest guards with a leopard beaten to death by villagers outside of Bhubaneshwar

Recently, a wild leopard had strayed into the village of Gandarpur in the outskirts of Bhubaneshwar, Orissa. The animal was spotted by a group of children, who saw the animal while playing cricket and raised the alarm. At that moment, all the villagers rushed to the spot where the animal was and began pelting it with stones. At that moment, the leopard started running and launched a counter-attack injuring four people. However in the end, the villagers got the upper-hand and mercilessly beat the animal to death with sticks, iron rods, and cricket bats. According to sources, a team from the Nandankanan Zoo were notified to tranquilize and safely relocate the leopard. But alas, the frightened and naive villagers allegedly did not allow that. After the incident, the chief wildlife warden of Orissa ordered an inquiry from the divisional forest officer and file a report as soon as possible.

This report coincides with the one where a leopard was killed by villagers in Gujarat's Banaskantha district. When wild animals like this stray into a human settlement, chances are that they would either be left unharmed and released back into the wild by forest officials or they would be killed right on the spot. In both of these reported incidents, the result was death without question. It goes to show how villagers living amidst wild animals are vulnerable and vigilant. India has already lost around 130 leopards over the years. Majority of these deaths have been poaching, illegal wildlife trade, and human-leopard conflict. I deeply feel that, in order to put an end to this bloodshed, villagers living in the outskirts of major towns and cities should be educated in the importance of leopards and what roles they play in the jungle ecosystems. Forest officials in Bhitarkanika National Park had helped villagers learn about what makes saltwater crocodiles important in the park's wetlands, and provided them with safe alternative solutions in living together with their reptilian neighbors. Similarly, villagers living outside Bhubaneshwar should be taught about leopards and be provided with a safe alternatives which would minimize the chances of either side falling in the hands of another.

View article here

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Decline in Yellowstone's Elk Population

A female elk (called "cow")

Recently, government scientists pointed out that the elk population in Yellowstone's northern range have declined steeply due to predation by grizzly bears and wolves. The population in the national park's northern section have been prized by local hunters, who hunt them outside its boundaries and by millions of visitors pouring in each year to see the wildlife. Statistics from the latest survey have shown that the population had plummeted rapidly by more than seventy percent since the reintroduction of wolves in 1995, decreasing from 6,070 animals in December 2009 to 4,635 last month. Although bears and wolves were initially blamed for the downfall, biologists also say that two other factors had played a major role in the process. The Northern Yellowstone Cooperative Wildlife Working Group stated that hunting and a drought that plagued the national park in the early 2000s reduced the number of forage for the elk, and lowered the reproduction rate. The group further added that a decline in the numbers of wolves and bears in recent years had also contributed to the decrease in the elk population. The wolf numbers, which once numbered up to 94 animals in 2007, had fallen down to 37 last year as a result of a public hunt in 2009 and diseases like canine distemper.

This article, in my opinion, gives a clear representation of why populations of keystone species should be deeply considered. In the case of Yellowstone, wolves are the keystone species. They keep the ecosystem in balance by preying on the herbivores. But now, it appears their numbers are critical. The decrease in predator population had resulted into a decline in the prey population almost like a domino effect. I feel that Yellowstone's wolves and bears are in a great need of help, and should be firmly protected in order to maintain the elk population. I also feel that scientists and researchers should be prepared for situations such as droughts, and rehabilitate animals in the need of help amidst such crises. In addition to that, they should also investigate the causes of such environmental catastrophes and come up with solutions to prevent further damage to one of America's most treasured lands. While there has been no report on any drought in the national park recently, it is time to consider helping the wolves and the bears. Without them, the park's ecosystem would turn upside-down.

View article here 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Assam Calls for Ban in Pesticides Around Kaziranga National Park

An elephant died as a result of eating grass contaminated with pesticides

The Kaziranga National Park in India's Assam state has been renowned for its wildlife protection. That is, forest guards would sacrifice their lives in protecting the national park's iconic endangered species such as tigers, elephants, and rhinos. But recently, a new threat has taken the national park's fringes by storm: pesticides. Forest officials have called for a no-pesticide zone around Kaziranga after the following deaths of two pregnant elephants and other animals in tea estates. They say that animals and birds died as a result of eating grass contaminated with pesticides, which were intended to kill red ants. According to senior forestry official Anurag Singh, the pesticides also killed dozens of cows whose contaminated meat took toll on large numbers of vultures. He further added that the estates' managements should turn to organic farming, fearing that the chemicals will also affect the local communities. In addition to that, he said the forest department is contemplating prosecution of some estates if Kaziranga's endangered wildlife are killed by the pesticides.

I'm very proud to see that Assam has taken a step forward in addressing the issue that is affecting Kaziranga's wildlife, and calling for a ban. Not only are the wild animals at risk, but domestic animals and people as well. I feel it is necessary for Assam's tea estates to switch to organic farming if they were to manufacture and sell good tea to its consumers. I also hope that the managements of these estates would come up with an alternative solution in dealing with its red ant population. There are several species of birds and other opportunistic animals in Kaziranga, who can keep the ants in check. Furthermore, it is important to remember that such animals cause benefits to people. Vultures, for example, eat the dead and the diseased. In India, their overall population state is critical. Without vultures, our motherland would be a one massive landfill. That is why it is important for India to turn to organic farming as one way to sustain the vulture population, along with populations of other wild animals who play a key role in the nation's ecosystems.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ukrainian Faces Deportation for Selling Sperm Whale Ivory

Charles Manghis

Recently, a Boston federal judge ordered a 39-year-old Ukrainian man to be deported after he admitted guilty to illegally selling sperm whale teeth to a scrimshaw artist in Nantucket. Andriy Mikhalyov, who had spent the last nine months in federal prison, was responsible for smuggling large amounts of whale teeth in the U.S. He was also charged with conspiring with a Nantucket-based commercial scrimshaw artist named Charles Manghis, who was convicted last year on six felony charges of wildlife smuggling, one count of conspiracy to smuggle wildlife, and two counts of lying to federal agents. Between 2002 and 2005, Mikhalyov had allegedly earned thousands of dollars from selling whale ivory to Manghis, who has been continuing Nantucket's age-old tradition of etching designs on the animals' teeth. Currently awaiting his sentence, Manghis had been commissioned to carve the presidential seal into whale teeth for former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. According to Mikhalyov's lawyer, John H. Cunha Jr., his client was lured into the nation by federal agents who promised him a job as a translator of Russian and Ukrainian languages. He was then arrested on March in Seattle after getting of his plane. As part of his order, Mikhalyov will not be allowed to reenter the U.S for ten years.

This is an extremely interesting article, in which a foreign national convicted on counts of wildlife smuggling be deported back to his homeland. Normally, powerful criminals who specialize in endangering lives of innocent people would meet a fate like this. A classic example was seen in the case of a Russian mobster named Ludwig "Tarzan" Fainberg. After his arrest by federal authorities in Canada during the beginning of the 21st century, he was declared a threat to national security and deported to Israel where he has been living since then. A criminal found guilty on crimes related to wildlife would either end up behind bars, or dead in the hands of authorities. I think it usually depends on the country's laws in protecting its local wildlife. In some countries, especially in Africa, wildlife laws are so strict and dangerous that forest guards are given an order to kill the poachers on sight. In U.S and other nations, however, such laws tend to be more civilized when dealing with wildlife-related crimes. But even with someone like Mikhalyov facing deportation, one can never be sure if he will continue his wildlife smuggling ways or not. That's why I feel that it is important that these people who specialize in smuggling wildlife should be kept under the federal government's radar to prevent them from any further illegal activities.

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

"Dolphins Should be Treated as Non-Human People." Scientists Say

Bottlenose dolphin breaching

Recently, scientists and researchers had found that dolphins are so bright and intelligent that they should be treated as "non-human people." Studies of the animals' behavior have shown that their communications are similar to those of humans, making them brighter than chimpanzees. The studies were backed up by anatomical research indicating that dolphins' brains have several key features affiliated with human intelligence. Based on their findings, researchers even argue that it is morally inhumane to keep dolphins in amusement parks, or even hunt them for food. According to Lori Marino, a zoologist at Atlanta's Emory University, a dolphin's brain is second in mass to a human brain. Initially, dolphins were placed below chimpanzees in terms of intelligence levels. Studies had shown that they have the intelligence of a three-year-old child. But recent studies have suggested that dolphins, especially the bottlenose species, have distinct personalities: a strong sense of self and can think about the future. A study by Diana Reiss, a psychology professor at Hunter College, showed that bottlenose dolphins could recognize themselves in a mirror and use it to check various parts of their bodies. Another study found that they had the ability to learn a rudimentary symbol-based language. Such observations also led to questions on what makes the dolphins' intelligence unique. The major factor is the brain itself. Marino and her colleagues had found that the cerebral cortex and neocortex of a bottlenose dolphin were so large that the anatomical ratios place the brain second to humans. The brain's cortex was also found to have the same convoluted folds strongly linked to human intelligence.

It is absolutely amazing to see how a mammal species completely different from us can actually possess certain similarities unknown before. This news, in my opinion, is a clear representation of how we are closely related to a mammal species in terms of intelligence and not by appearance. Earlier, it was believed that people had evolved from monkeys and apes which is true. That is, they have opposable thumbs and are similar regarding their skull structures and other evolutionary physiological factors. However, in the case of dolphins, their brains have recently found to have physiological similarities which makes them closely related to humans. A similar story like this was when a photographer from Chicago captured an image of a wolf in Alaska catching salmon like its distant relative, the grizzly bear. Though both of these animals are distinctly related, it appears that they do share some behavioral similarities. I feel that what was found in the case of dolphins and humans would be a great topic for scientists and researchers to study and learn more about what makes both of the species closely related to each other

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ohio Governor Orders Ban on Ownership of Wild Animals as Pets

Ted Strickland

Recently, current Ohio governor Ted Strickland ordered a ban on exotic pets in one of the few states without such a restriction. Governor Strickland's new executive order called for a ban on future breeding, sale, trade, barter, and ownership of wild animals. This order not only meant that people will not be allowed to keep wild animals as pets, but also those who already own the animals will be barred from breeding or selling them to clients. Governor Strickland, in his statement, also added that it will keep the state's agriculture industry profitable while appropriately updating standards for animal care. But most importantly, the ban will protect people from serious injuries and deaths caused by captive wild animals. The most recent case occurred in August 2010 when an animal trainer was mauled to death by a black bear in Lorain County. Strickland, who will be completing his term as Ohio's governor by Monday, stated that that this executive order will only be effective for three months. However, governor-elect John Kasich stated that he supports this ban, which will be carried out by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife.

I'm very proud to see that Governor Strickland has issued this order before the end of his term. Also, I'm happy to see that Mr. Kasich, who will soon be Ohio's next governor, is supporting this order. In my opinion, this article shows that Ohio has finally put its foot down in order to prevent further conflicts between people and wildlife. Many of these animals are deprived of their freedom, and are kept confined in cages with hardly any space to move around. This confinement causes them to turn against their "masters." This explains why that animal trainer was unfortunate enough to be attacked and killed by his bear. I also hope that with Mr. Kasich as Ohio's governor, the state will place stronger restrictions on ownership of exotic pets. This is because it is not just animals that are at risk, but people are too from injuries, death, and even diseases.

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Study- Israel's Wildlife Conservation Efforts Successful


Recently, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority released data showing that the nation's wildlife conservation efforts have proved to be successful in reintroducing the oryx, the fallow deer, and the roe deer in the nation's wild places. Among the key ecological hotspots include the Galilee and Negev. The animals play a key role in reducing excess vegetation in areas at risk of fires, and scattering of seeds in desert areas. Last week, the Parks Authority had held a conference to present its activity in these areas. During this conference, Prof. David Saltz of Negev's Ben-Gurion University showed results of a years-long project involving the reintroduction of animals that were once native to Israel and became extinct. These include wild ox, deer, and even the magnificent oryx. The authority raised these creatures in facilities on the Carmel and in the Arava, gradually returning them into the wild over a twenty-year period. Prof. Saltz claimed that the efforts have been successful. His presentation showed that there are currently 200 onagers in Negev, and are multiplying healthily. Fallow deer have returned to the Achziv region, and there are currently some 200 of them living there. But attempts to bring them to the Nahel Sorek region in the Jerusalem Hills were unsuccessful, due to attacks by stray dogs. Recently though, there were reports of this kind of disturbance in the Achziv region.

Although I'm proud to see that Israel has done everything it could to bring its local wildlife back, there are some considerations to be taken. One of the threats just mentioned in this article is conflict with domestic animals. In this case, stray dogs. Not only do these dogs attack the animals, but they also spread disease which can be catastrophic for deer and other wild species. I think that one possible solution would be to handle the stray dog situation, in which the animals would be rescued, receive special attention, and be adopted as pets. That way, the wildlife population in the Achziv and Nahel Sorek region will stay safe. Also, the deer and oryx play an important in their ecosystem in maintaining the balance by feeding on excess vegetation. Without them, the Israeli wild lands would change dramatically.

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Indian Forest Tribe Members Receive Quota as Forest Guards

Corbett National Park Welcome Sign

Recently, members of the Van Gurjar tribe have been given thirty percent reservation as forest guards in Uttarakhand's Corbett National Park. The Van Gurjar are a Muslim counterpart of an indigenous tribe native to the forests of northern India. It has been estimated that over 25,000 have been living in the region for over a century. They are also a nomadic tribe, migrating to the higher elevations of the Himalayas in search for forest patches during the summer months. Many are vegetarians, feasting on nothing but fruits and honey gathered from the forests of Corbett and Rajaji National Parks. However, despite this clean lifestyle, many had been forced to settle on government land in Hardwar during the mid-1990s upon suspicion of collaborating with tiger poachers. Fortunately, the approving by the central government of setting up a Corbett tiger force last year opened up a window of opportunity for this tribe. The reason was because members of the tribe were familiar with the national park's land, which made it useful in monitoring poaching activities. According to forest officials, this project will first be carried out in Corbett National Park but will also extend to other forest areas including Rajaji National Park.

I'm very happy and proud to see what the government of Uttarakhand is doing, in order to help save the tiger population in the region. To do this, many members of the Van Gurjar tribe that used to live in the forests of Corbett and Rajaji National Parks are being employed in this battle to save the tiger as they have the knowledge of their forest homeland. However, there is also a Hindu counterpart of this particular tribe in Rajasthan who are mostly farmers. They have been agitating for nearly fourteen days over the job quota demand. I personally feel that it would be helpful for the members of this tribe to be employed as forest guards in Ranthambore and Sariska National Parks as well. That way, it will make it easier for the authorities to battle poachers and prevent them from interrupting any conservation efforts to revive the tiger population in these wildlife sanctuaries.

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