Saturday, April 30, 2011

Alarms Raised Over the Future of the Philippine Monkey Eagle

Philippine Monkey Eagle

Recently, conservationists in the Philippines expressed major concern and distress over the future of the archipelago's near-extinct monkey eagles after several maimed and diseased birds were taken from captivity in recent months. According to the Philippine Eagle Foundation, it had rescued four birds since last December. These eagles are some of the largest raptors in the world, and yet conservation laws have not protected them from being poached. The foundation further added that the retrieved birds, which were all recovered from Mindanao, included a female missing two toes on one foot when she was rescued in December. In January, the government handed over a year-old male eagle to the foundation. This month, the foundation received a year-old bird with just two remaining feathers on its right wing. Tragically, at the same time, a juvenile bird died from fungal infection. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that there are 180-500 of these eagles in the islands of Mindanao, Luzon, Leyte, and Samar. Majority of their threats consist of poaching and habitat loss.

I'm extremely shocked at the numbers of eagles rescued during the recent months. Many were mutilated and diseased, which indicated that they are still vulnerable to the threat of poaching. According to this article, it is believed that the captive breeding program in saving these magnificent birds has failed so far. Among the examples included when an eagle was electrocuted on a transmission line nine months after it was released into the wild in 2004. In 2008, a captive-bred eagle was killed by a poacher four months after its release. I have a feeling that the program in saving these eagles is in a great need of help. The reason is because this bird is the national bird of the Philippines. It is also an apex predator in archipelago's rainforest ecosystems, keeping the monkey population in check. Without the eagle, the number of monkeys would increase dramatically leading to intense competition for space, food, etc. In turn, the ecosystems' would be turned upside-down. This is why I feel that these eagles must be protected with strict vigilance, and one way is by having the villagers collaborate with the authorities. That is, reporting any suspicious or illegal activity in the jungles. This way, the birds will be able to flourish. Also, there should be efforts to help establish habitats for these birds before releasing them from captivity; habitats without any obstacles like transmission lines.

View article here  

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Blackbucks on the Verge of Decline at Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary

Blackbucks in Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary
Point Calimere's feral horses

Last week, a wildlife census conducted at Tamil Nadu's Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary was likely to show that the numbers of blackbucks are on the verge of decline. Although the figures have not been officially released yet, it is believed that a large number of feral horses in the sanctuary's grasslands is responsible for the decline. According to one wildlife expert, who was also a member of the census team, the number of these horses has gone up to 150. And while the feral horse population is small compared to the blackbuck population, it still poses a threat in competition for space. The horses, being larger in size, tend to force the antelopes in search of new territories.

This was not the first observation made in the sanctuary, which is famous for having the second largest concentration of migratory birds in India. A similar one was made during a census exercise last year by S. Balachandran of the Bombay Natural History Society. In his report, Balachandran stated that the blackbuck population was at around 1300 compared to an earlier census which showed it to be closer to 1600. He further added that three feral horses first came to the area a few decades ago after being abandoned by their masters. They had been roaming wild ever since. A forest official further added in addition to horses, the blackbucks face competition for food from stray cattle. However, there have been no conclusive studies to prove it. Dr. Rauf Ali, a researcher for Feral, gave his opinion based on a study he had conducted on Point Calimere's blackbucks in 2005. He stated that an invasive plant called prosopis is the real threat to the antelopes. This plant started growing in the sanctuary as a result of human influence, and was consumed by horses who would disperse its seeds which led to further growth. This process of seed dispersal has been reducing the amount of grassland area for the blackbucks.

My opinion on this article is that it is filled with some key facts and evidence of what threats are contributing to the decline of Point Calimere's blackbuck population. One of them is the spreading of the prosopis plant. This plant was brought by humans, and has started spreading in the sanctuary's grassland area which is the only home for the antelopes. With so many plants sprouting, the antelopes are loosing space for living. I feel that the best solution would be to uproot/cut down these plants in large quantities, and clean up the dung of horses which is known to contain the seeds. This way, the seed dispersal process for this alien plant will cease. At the same time, there should also be a removal of these horses and the best option would be to put them up for adoption. This type of method helped in the regulation of America's mustang populations. These animals were once beasts of burden for some people, who later abandoned them and then they started living in the wild. But while living, they started using Point Calimere's land to their own advantage and forced one of its flagship species (blackbuck) to search for new land. Similarly, cattle that are often seen in the sanctuary should also be kept in facilities and put up for adoption. Point Calimere does not have powerful predators like tigers keep the horse population in check. There should even be a strict vigilance against any form human interference, and one of the methods would be to learn about which plants and animals are native and not native to Point Calimere. This way, the sanctuary stay safe from any threat.

View article here         

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Nepal's Rhino Population on the Rise

A one-horned rhino in Chitwan National Park

A recent census in Nepal has shown that the population of rhinos have increased significantly over the last few years. It stated that the overall rhino numbers have risen to an astonishing 99 percent in Bardiya, Chitwan, and Shuklaphata National Parks. In the famed Chitwan National Park, rhino numbers increased by 95 percent from 408 to 503 animals. Similarly, two more have been sighted; each in Bardiya and Shuklaphata. In turn, taking the total number in these national parks to 24 and seven from 22 and five respectively. The result of this remarkable achievement was a well-coordinated state-sponsored program intended to save endangered species such as rhinos and tigers. Nepal even received support from the World Bank and international animal welfare organizations in its fight to save these magnificent creatures from extinction. Last year, the nation received an international laudatory notice for its national campaign and the role played by its vigilance agency, Army, and government. There was also a large scale use of radio collaring devices on the rhinos.

I'm very proud and happy at the progress Nepal has made in protecting and helping its rhinos. This is truly a remarkable achievement since Nepal has been known to act as a route for storing and smuggling animal body parts. But now, it appears that image is changing as Nepal put in a lot of its effort, energy, and money to fight this ongoing threat to its local wildlife. In the last couple years, the police, in partnership with NGOs and INGOS, have busted large illegal trade rackets. However, this does not goes to show that rhinos and the rest of Nepal's wildlife is safe. The threat of wildlife trade, with its network all over South Asia and in other parts of the world, is still looming. And as long as the demand in the black market stays, poaching will go on. I personally feel that the Nepalese Government should take this step in protecting its wildlife to a whole new level, where it should work together with its neighbors China and India. Last year, all three neighbors signed a memorandum of understanding but now the plan should be to actively communicate with one another concerning any poaching or wildlife trade activities. At the same time, each one should establish a state-sponsored program dedicated to involve local people in an effort to help save endangered species through education and collaboration. This way, it will further help each of the three nations' wildlife to flourish.

View article here

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lion Carcass Found in Bhavnagar District; Cause of Death a Mystery

A young Asiatic lion

Recently, a carcass of an Asiatic lion was found mutilated in the coastal areas of the Talaja range in Bhavnagar District. It was reportedly discovered by a team of forest officials in the outskirts of a village. To wildlife activists and some sources, the death of this lion was suspected to be of poaching, but forest officials say that it is too early to make any conclusion. They, on the other hand, suspect the incident was a result of man-animal conflict where the lion was may have died of shock received from an electric fence put up to guard crops from wild animals. However, these fences are now illegal. Instead, the carcass is thought to be of a five or seven-year-old lion which could have died four-five days ago. According to wildlife warden in-charge and additional principal chief conservator of forests H.S Singh, the carcass was eaten away by hyenas which made it difficult determine the actual cause of death. He also pointed out that the bones were intact which might indicate that this was not a case of poaching. However, he further added that he and his team are still determining other vital body parts which may lead them to conclusions. In other words, the investigation is still on.

I'm very surprised and shocked at the death of this lion. At the same time, I'm perplexed because no one really knows what may have caused the death of this creature. In this article, all I saw were hypotheses on the lion's death. Some sources claim it was because of poaching, while forest officials suspect it to be the case of man-animal conflict where the lion died as a result of shock from an electric fence. Mr. Singh further added to this theory that the local villagers may have thrown the carcass away and did not inform the officials since electric fences are illegal. Whatever the cause, I feel that this lion's death is a sign of danger in obstacles the lion population is facing in Gujarat. These animals have been spotted roaming freely outside their home in Gir Forest in recent times. It is estimated that as many as 53 lions have made their way up to the areas of Savarkundla, Amreli, and Bhavnagar. With lions spreading beyond the borders of Gir Forest, I feel that locals should take extra precautions with the help of forest officials and collaborate with them in an effort to prevent any poaching activities. The reason is these lions are not just moving out of Gir Forest due to lack of space, but because the surrounding areas were their ancestral homes during the 19th century and are now recolonizing those areas where they once roamed for generations.

View article here

Saturday, April 23, 2011

India's Famed Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary to Go Solar

Painted storks in Keoladeo Ghana National Park

The Keoladeo Ghana National Park is one of the most spectacular bird sanctuaries in India. Its roots date back to late nineteenth century when the maharajah of Bharatpur created this approximately 29 square kilometer wetland to attract birds for shooting. By 1971, it was declared a protected sanctuary and is also a World Heritage Site. In present day, Keoladeo is a haven for bird-lovers and ornithologists. It is not only a home for the native bird populations, but also for winter visitors migrating from as far as Siberia or the Arctic Circle.

But now, there is a new miracle in the making. The bird sanctuary will soon go solar, and will be the only national park to be free of conventional energy sources. This means that everything in it will run on solar power, from lighting to air-conditioners in guest houses and offices. R.N Mehrotra, the principal chief conservator of forests and head of Rajasthan's forest forces, says that the movement will help in the reduction of carbon footprints. He further added that the project will be implemented by the Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation Limited (RRECL). The corporation has floated tenders for ten solar power plants of 200 wattage power at all the guard posts in the park, an 8-KW (kilowatt) grid-solar hybrid power plant at the Dr. Salim Ali Convention Center and another such plant near the park's entrance. There will also be solar lanterns, searchlights, and even three six-seater battery-operated cars for tourism. Officials also said that the Nature Interpretation Center within the park will be redone, and will feature an internet cafe for tourists. They further added that the park's main entrance will have closed circuit cameras to monitor any suspicious activities. The work is expected to be complete within the year.

I'm very proud and happy to see what an initiative Keoladeo Ghana has taken, regarding not just its own local environment but the environment of the world as well. In addition to protecting the wildlife from the encroachment of poaching and other threats, the national park is taking action against a far greater threat: global warming. And I have a very good feeling that the work being put will show that this bird sanctuary is further helping its wildlife to flourish. The reason is because it is where migratory birds have been flocking there for generations every winter. The change in climate would affect their annual migration in a way that they might choose not arrive every winter. This would be a huge shocker for both tourists and ornithologists. However, with this tremendous project underway, I have a strong feeling the migratory birds' biological clocks will not be affected. I also feel that Keoladeo Ghana is a perfect example of a national park that focuses on other more greater environmental issues, and not just poaching and other smaller threats. I strongly believe that other national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India should follow Keoladeo's example, and this would lead to further reduction of India's carbon footprints.

View article here    

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Great Indian Bustards Suffering from Poor Genetic Diversity

Great Indian bustard

A recent study has shown that the great Indian bustard population is suffering from poor genetic diversity, and consists of a small population of breeding adults. This is an extremely terrible news for the scientists and researchers involved in the battle to save the bustard. The reason is because poor genetic diversity increases  wild animals' vulnerability to extinction, especially when they are faced with catastrophic issues as they do not have the genetic strength to fight against their threats. A team of four scientists of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) conducted a year-long study which was published in an international journal called Conservation Genetics early this year. Their findings showed that the birds have poor genetic diversity and even a low population size of effective females.

There are about 350 to 300 birds in six states, according to director of Great Indian Bustard Foundation Pramod Patil. And they are fighting a stiff battle for survival. He further added that habitat protection and captive breeding are a must in raising their numbers. This statement was backed by the scientists of WII. Suchitra Dutta, one of the researchers, told that the birds have very low life history traits. This means that although they have a long lifespan, they have a slow growth rate and can lay a less number of eggs. Farah Ishtiaq added, saying that continuous destruction of habitat will greatly affect the birds' survival. The team also compared the genetic variability of India's bustards to those in Europe and the Middle East. The results showed that the ones in India suffered a population bottleneck. It is believed that the distribution of fragmented habitat caused by agricultural development and disturbance by livestock grazing, along with restricted gene flow between populations may have contributed to low genetic diversity. In addition to that, experts have stated that satellite tracking techniques must be used in order to understand the birds' migration routes.

I very much feel that this article is a clear reminder about how and why the bustard population in India is facing a bleak future. The ongoing process of agriculture development and livestock grazing combined with illegal poaching has brought their numbers down to critical levels. Much of their habitat is fragmented as a result of these destructive issues. They have also interfered with their migration routes such that scientists and researchers are finding it difficult to understand their nomadic movements. I happen to agree with the experts, and hope that satellite tracking will help give a clear picture of how much of the birds' migration routes are affected. But at the same time, I personally feel that serious action must be taken regarding the threats of agriculture and poaching. The bustard population has plummeted from 1,260 birds in 1969 to 300 in 2010, and any further encroachment will keep pushing the current population to the brink of extinction. I had earlier heard that local villagers are becoming involved in the fight to save the birds, but there plenty of those who are not paying attention to what they are doing. These people should be taught about the threats the birds are facing, and educated about their ecological importance. Furthermore, it would really help if the villagers help the law enforcement by keeping vigil in reporting any poaching activities. That way, the bustard population will be saved.

View article here

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Study- West and Central Africa's Lions Maybe Related to Asiatic Lions

A typical lion from either West or Central Africa  

A recent study has shown that lions in West and Central Africa maybe remarkably different from their cousins in eastern and southern parts of the continent. Researchers analyzed a region on the mitochondrial DNA of lions in Africa, including extinct subspecies like the Atlas lion, and India. The results indicated that those in Central and West Africa seem to be more related to their Asiatic brethren. A previous research had already shown that lions in Central and West Africa are smaller in size and weight, have smaller manes, live in smaller prides, feast on smaller prey, and perhaps have a different shape in skull. However, there is no conclusive scientific evidence to prove these lions' relationship with the ones in India. The current research findings show that difference is also seen in the genetic makeup.

Another difference between lions in West and Central Africa, and those in eastern and southern parts can be partially explained by their geographic locations which are separated by barriers such as the Central African rainforests and the Great Rift Valley. There is even an aspect of climatological history explaining West and Central Africa's lions' genetic position. It was scientifically thought that a local extinction had occurred, followed by periods of severe droughts 18,000 to 40,000 years ago. During that period, lions ranged east into Asia where conditions in the Middle East were sufficiently favorable to sustain their populations. The data showed that West and Central African regions were recolonized by lions from areas close to India, which explains the genetic similarities between lions from those two areas.

I'm extremely surprised to see that some African lions happen to very much resemble their Asiatic counterparts. In fact, the picture above of the lion from either West or Central Africa really does resemble an Asiatic lion at first glance. Its mane is definitely shorter, but the only difference is that its belly skin is not hanging loose like its oriental cousin. This, in my opinion, goes to show that West and Central Africa's lions still count as subspecies of the African lion. While it seems like a success story for scientists and researchers, the current state of the lion population in Central and West Africa is different. It is thought that there are about 1700 of these magnificent beasts left in those regions, which is less than ten percent of the estimated total lion population in Africa. According to the article, the numbers are still diminishing; largely due to persecution by farmers, habitat loss, and loss of natural prey. I feel that, in order to further study these lions, strict protection must be enforced. At the same time, farmers should be helped such that they do not lose their livestock to these animals and anti-poaching patrols must be put into action to protect the local wildlife. Furthermore, the locals should be educated on the ecological importance of these lions and what makes them special in Africa.

View article here

Monday, April 18, 2011

India's Environment and Forests Ministry Lays Out Man-Leopard Conflict Guidelines

Indian leopard resting

India is home to four major big cats: the tiger, the lion, the leopard, and the snow leopard. Out of the four, the leopard is the most successful of the felines. It's range covers nearly every square-inch of the subcontinent. From forests, to deserts and mountains, this silent and secretive creature is a real role model when it comes to adaptation. It is even said to be found close to human habitations, which has led to various incidents of man-leopard conflicts and has even resulted to some individuals turning into man-eaters. Even with the idea of relocating problem leopards rather than just killing them has led to more conflicts between the animals and people. However, it now appears that this ongoing catastrophe is about to change thanks to a series of guidelines recently introduced by the nation's ministry of environment and forests.

The guidelines state than man-eating leopards should not be released into the wild, and ensure reduction in the risk of people killing every leopard when it ventures into human habitation. In India, the number of leopard attacks have grown over the past ten years. Records show that these ghostly cats have attacked more than 560 people in Uttarakhand, while about 240 people have been attacked in Maharashtra. When leopards enter rural areas, they are usually drawn to the abundance of livestock. However, the number of attacks on people, particularly children, is growing. Some wildlife officials say that this behavior is due to decreasing numbers of natural prey. The guidelines say the best option in dealing with man-eating leopards is euthanasia. But in the case accidental attacks, such as when a leopard follows a person into a house or when a person is in a crouched position, the solutions are different. The guidelines do not recommend trapping the animals and trans-locating them in such cases. According to wildlife biologist Meghna Krishnadas, trans-locating a leopard elsewhere will only take the problem elsewhere. Instead, the guidelines suggest to have certain problem leopards transferred either to zoos or special care facilities. However, they further dictate that an animal should not be returned to the wild after spending more than a month in captivity. They even discourage the idea of releasing cubs that had been reared in captivity, since it would worsen the existing conflict situation. In addition to that, the guidelines also call for response teams specializing in crowd management. Forest officials say that these teams have often encountered crowds with the intention of killing trapped wild animals.

I'm somewhat unsure about how these guidelines will help minimize any chances of man-leopard conflict. At least the idea of crowd management will prevent obstructive people from intentionally killing a problem leopard on sight. In addition to that, I like the sound of transferring problem leopards to special care facilities. But I do not understand why a captive leopard should not be returned to the wild after spending more than a month in rehabilitation. Is it because the action would make the conflict situation worse, or is it because the animal has spent so much time in captivity that it will have lost its natural ability to survive out in the wilderness? The reason is because, in addition to man-leopard conflict, India's leopard population is also under tremendous threat of poaching and wildlife trade. And by simply rehabilitating leopards in captivity without the intention of releasing some into the wild would be like letting the population stay in fragments. These beautiful and widespread cats play a major role in keeping our motherland's ecosystems in balance, especially where there are no lions or tigers. As of now, I can only wait and see as these guidelines will be put to the test, and hopefully will help in protecting both people and leopards from each other.

View article here

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Wisconsin's Wolf Population on the Rise

Gray wolf

The state of Wisconsin is famous for being the dairy capital in the U.S. Its tradition in dairy farming and cheese-making dates back to the last half of the nineteenth century when farmers looked for ways to make more profitable and sustainable use of land. This, combined with the state's geography and research in dairy, helped Wisconsin earn its reputation as "America's Dairyland." At the same time, there was also reestablishment of its forests during the early twentieth century. This meant that wildlife was able to flourish at a slow and steady pace. And one of the animals to make a successful comeback was the wolf. Wisconsin's wolf population was initially estimated to be 24 animals in 1980, but gradually increased to 248 over a twenty-year period. Since 1993, Wisconsin's wolves have increased not just in number of individuals but also packs. According to state biologists, the population is now estimated to be around 825 animals in over 200 packs. That includes at least 207 packs, with 32 in central Wisconsin and 175 in the northern part of the state. During the latest assessment, several packs of ten or more were recorded including one consisting of twelve animals in Douglas County. This estimate, which was conducted in winter, came the day after the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service announced plan to remove the animals off the Endangered Species List in Wisconsin and the neighboring states of Michigan and Minnesota. Adrian Wydeven, a wolf ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, stated that the animals have shown a substantial increase in both population and range over the last ten years. He further added that wolves are capable of exploiting habitats which were not thought to be suitable for them.

Although I'm satisfied to see the growing numbers in Wisconsin's wolf population, I'm also disturbed at how much damage in livestock predation they have caused over the years. Records have shown that 47 farms have experienced livestock predation from these animals in 2010, compared to 28 in 2009. There were even fourteen cases of attacks on pet dogs near residencies. Thankfully, there was no report of a wolf attacking a person. Instead, they have shown dangerous tendencies. This has led to the animals being shot on sight, concerning human safety. In 2010, the U.S Department of Agriculture and state officials shot and sixteen wolves. Of the 72 documented cases of wolf mortality in Wisconsin, 26 were due to vehicle collision and fourteen from illegal shooting. I feel that the people of Wisconsin should use more harmless tactics regarding safety from wolves. A good advice for dog owners would be to never let their dogs out at dawn or dusk when the animals are most active. And in the case of farmers, the best bet would be to employ livestock guardian dogs to minimize chances of livestock predation. There should also be a high vigilance for any potential wolf poachers. These wild beasts are crucial in keeping Wisconsin's ecosystems in balance. Furthermore, whenever a wolf shows aggression towards a person, the first priority would be to have it relocated somewhere faraway from human habitation. But I personally feel the best idea would be to relocate some numbers of Wisconsin's wolves to Michigan's Isle Royale National Park, which has recently experienced a shortage in females. By bringing wolves back to Isle Royale, it would be a major success to the national park's wolf population and at the same time a relief to Wisconsin's residents.

View article here

Friday, April 15, 2011

China's Scientists Sequence Crested Ibis Genome

Crested Ibis

It has been recently stated at a press conference in Xi'an that a team of scientists have sequenced the genome of the crested ibis in an effort that could help protect the endangered bird. One of the members named Li Shengbin of Xi'an Jiaotong University stated that researchers could explain the species' birth and mortality rate by understanding its genetic makeup. The team consisted of researchers from the university and the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) in Shenzhen, who sequenced a two-year-old bird's DNA that was separated from 1.5 milliliters of its blood. They discovered that the ibis' genome contained 1.37 base pairs, which is about half of what is found in humans. When comparing the bird's genome to an egret's, the team found that the ibis' genome is far more fertile. According to BGI President Wang Jian, the sequencing process was precise and has moved up to international standards. He further added that there are still more ibises, whose DNA samples need to be collected for genetic and evolutionary studies before reaching any conclusion. This process of mapping crested ibis DNA has been part of BGI's 1000 plant and animal reference genome project, which was launched in January 2010. The institute hopes to establish one of the most comprehensive genome databases by 2012.

I'm very happy and proud to see what this group of scientists has done, in order to help revive the crested ibis population. This magnificent bird has been considered a symbol of good luck, and is the fourth to have its genome sequenced after the chicken, the turkey, and the zebra finch. During the 1930s and 40s, the population of the ibis was rapidly decimated and was even believed to be extinct by the late 1950s. However, in 1981, a group of scientists found seven of these birds in Yangxian County of Shaanxi. The discovery raised hopes saving the species. The latest count in China's ibis population shows 1,617 birds, which includes 997 in the wild and 620 in captivity. It is estimated that 1,814 of these birds exist in the world, with smaller populations in Japan and South Korea. I sure hope that this project in sequencing the ibis' genome will help in repopulating the species, and will one day be brought back to places where it once perished.

View article

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Catalonian Government Employs Livestock Guardian Dogs Against Wolves

Italian wolves

The wolf has been sought throughout the western world as a cold-blooded killer for generations. Many stories abound of its bloodthirsty reputation as a stuff of nightmares, preying on the weak and the faint-of-heart. These include fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs. There were even frightful tales of superstition concerning people themselves turning into these shaggy beasts. Much of these beliefs had always been affiliated with Europe, and had led to several thousands of wolves to become almost exterminated. However, relief came in coming years when conservation efforts were put into action to save the wolf from extinction. But although conservation efforts helped revive the remaining populations, many farmers and shepherds still lived in discomfort, fearing that the animals will one day prey on their livestock after their numbers grow exponentially. This prediction came true when wolves entered southern France after migrating outside Italy's Abruzzi area in the early 1990s. They eventually moved into the Pyrenees Mountains along the France-Spain border. This then led to a sharp increase in livestock killings in recent years. Records showed that at least 85 heads of livestock, mostly sheep and some young calves, were killed in 2004. The most recent record was last year when ten attacks were reported in the Barcelona municipal area. Based on the statistics, it seemed that the wolves' future was bleak. But this all changed when the Catalonian government offered Pyreanean mountain dog puppies to farmers as an alternative to prevent wolves from further preying on their livestock. The idea of having the dogs present would keep the wolves out of the farmlands, and encourage them to go after their natural prey as explained by Jordi Ruiz of Catalonia's Animal Protection unit.
Great Pyrenees

I'm very proud of the solution the Catalonian government came up, in order to help the region's farmers from further devastation by wild wolves. This is definitely a safe alternative, where neither the predator nor the unnatural prey is harmed. Based on what the government of Catalonia has done, I have a strong feeling that the future of the region's wolf population is bright. These animals will spend the remainder of their lives away from farmers' properties, and be out in the forests and meadows searching for regular prey like deer and wild boar. While it seems that Catalonia's wolf population is a success, it is not the same situation in the U.S. The state of the wolf population there has been a subject of debate for quite sometime, and there have been numerous considerations of stripping the animals of the endangered species status. This makes the species a vulnerable target to humans as an object of sport hunting. There have even been complaints of these animals preying on livestock at a large scale. I personally feel that the U.S government should follow the Catalonian government's example of coming up with a safer solution in preventing the animals from further predation on the livestock. This way, both cattle ranchers and wolves will benefit. Wolves may be associated with our nightmares, but in reality, they are a top predator whose population numbers are crucial in keeping the prey numbers in control. Without wolves, the world's ecosystems where they once thrived would be thrown off balance.

View article here

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Egyptian Animal Rights Activists to Hold Protest Outside the Giza Zoo

A captive lion in Giza Zoo

Egypt is widely known as the birthplace of an ancient civilization that has long been popular amongst archaeologists and historians for generations. The nation still proudly boasts with signature monuments such as pyramids and the sphinx, but many treasures that once belonged to ancient pharaohs were dug out since long and brought to museums worldwide. Nonetheless, Egypt's monuments and ancient ruins still draw millions of tourists from all around the world to learn about its fascinating history. However, this all changed in January 25th 2011 when a revolution ignited in the nation's capital of Cairo where thousands of protesters expressed their grievances towards a wide range of political and social issues.

But now, there is another issue to become a subject of protest: animal cruelty. A coalition of Egyptian activists and organizations have teamed up together to demand the overall treatment of animals at the Giza Zoo. Among the participants include the Egyptian Society for the Mercy to Animals (ESMA), the Egyptian Society of Animal Friends (ESAF), and the Animal Welfare Awareness Research (AWAR), who hope that a citizen demonstration will help bring focus to issues that have plagued the nation. It has been announced that a protest will take place outside the zoo on the 16th of April to address matters ranging from the state of the zoo itself, illegal trades in wildlife, to unregulated pet breeding. There is even a controversial issue of the government's ability to either poison or shoot homeless animals, in order to control the population. These issues were identified by Mona Khalil, co-founder of ESMA. She further added that policy failure is at the root of all this misery, along with systemic corruption and that Egypt lacks even basic animal welfare legislation that would prosecute violators.

This news report is in a sense parallel to the one about countless lives of animals lost in Ukraine's Kiev Zoo, and gives a clear picture about what secrets are hidden behind Egypt's doors. For generations, Egypt has been renowned for its ancient history and breathtaking monuments. But early this year, a revolution changed the way people look at a nation that is popular amongst tourists and historians. Now, there is another threat in the midst which involves the lives of animals at stake. Animals had been widely revered during the days of ancient Egypt, and just like people, they were also mummified and given proper burial. They even played an important role in the Egyptian mythology in the form gods and goddesses. These include the jackal-headed deity Anubis, the crocodile-headed Sobek, and the sky god Horus. Nowadays, however, it is very different. I sure hope that the remaining lives of animals at Giza Zoo will be saved, and all would be relocated to rehabilitation centers for proper care and treatment.

View article here 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

World Bank to Help Set Up International Forest Training Center in Jaipur

World Bank logo

It has been recently heard that the World Bank and the Indian government will help the state government of Rajasthan in setting up an international-level center for training forest staff and tiger conservationists in Jaipur District. A meeting was held Tuesday, and was attended by World Bank officials, the state government, and wildlife experts. One of the attendees was forest minister Ramlal Jat, who described the center's goal in conducting research on various issues related to wildlife conservation and near-extinct species found in Rajasthan's semi-arid region. Among the animals in focus of research and training include blackbucks, Indian gharials, the caracal, the great Indian bustard, and the tiger. Going into details, Minister Jat said the center would collect all types of data for such species and help gather records on them. He further added that it will have facilities in training personnel, research, and other related facilities. In addition to the World Bank, the center will receive help from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), industrialists, and others. It's another intention is to train park rangers and lower staff not just in India, but twelve other tiger-range countries as well.

I'm very happy and proud to see that the Indian government, in alliance with the World Bank, will be helping to establish such a prestigious center dedicated to wildlife conservation. Apart from just helping India's tiger population, the center is keen in helping with the conservation of other Asian nations known to have these majestic big cats. In addition to that, I'm proud to see that this international-level establishment is focusing on the conservation of Rajasthan's local endangered wildlife such as the blackbuck, the bustard, and the caracal. But what really struck me about this article is the fact that there are many other species in Rajasthan's semi-arid region. Some of these animals may not be endangered, but they do play an important role in the desert ecosystem. These include jackals and hyenas, which keep the desert clean of rotting carcasses, and honey badgers which help maintain the ecological balance thanks to their omnivorous diet. I have a good feeling that this center will help in conservation of India and other parts of the world.

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Monday, April 4, 2011

Concern Over Hunting of Crocodiles in Pakistan's Lakes

A water pond outside Pakistan's Chotiari Reservoir

Pakistan is one of the places in this world infamous for violence related to terrorism. But there is also another threat looming in the nation: the threat of poaching. Just recently, there had been reports about the killing of crocodiles in the nation's water ponds outside the Chotiari Reservoir in Sanghar District. The reports have shown that the reptiles were killed in lakes consisting of a thirty kilometer area from Makhi Weir to the Bakar Lake, where farmers sow fish seed for commercial purposes. This area was once thought to be a safe haven for crocodiles, but according to author Amar Leghari, the animals were being killed by certain influential people. He further added that there were once two famous lakes: the Dogrion and Kahkaro. Each consisted of small but scenic ponds south of the Chotiari Reservoir. The ponds were considered to be ideal habitats for three species of crocodiles, including the marsh crocodile and the Indian gharial. However, tragedy struck in 1960, when the gharial became extinct and the building of the reservoir stopped the flow of water into the these ponds, thus leading them to dry under the desert sun. As a result, the crocodiles and other species of wildlife either perished or moved to other locations.

According to Maulah Bux Mallah of the WWF's Indus for All Program, he had initially received information about a crocodile killed at a fish farm last year. However, he later realized the fact that many animals were under threat of extinction was due to construction of roads, electrification, and transportation in the desert. He further added, saying that poachers would use searchlights at nighttime to lure their prey to their deaths. He even stated that the thick forests, rich vegetation, and trees at the reservoir's embankment have been destroyed. Wildlife officials, on the other hand, stated that the government does not have a plan for the conservation of the area's endangered species. As of now, the Chotiari Conservation Forum (CCF), which represents nine organizations of herdsmen, farmers, and fishermen, has recently started a campaign to save the natural resources, forests, and fertile lands of degradation.

I have a deep feeling that the area surrounding the Chotiari Reservoir is in the great need of help, concerning its habitat degradation. And it is not just the wildlife that is being affected, but also the farmers and fishermen who rely on the water bodies for fishing and irrigation. Without these ponds, many farmers and fishermen will lose their commercial livelihood. But what really concerns me is the threat of poaching in this area. The area has already lost the gharial, but it cannot afford to lose the marsh crocodile. Unlike the gharial, the marsh crocodile's diet varies from fish to larger animals. This makes it an apex predator to Chotiari's ecosystem. The loss of this crocodile will have deep impact on the ecosystem's balance. Although I'm satisfied that a campaign is launched to save the habitats, I also feel it is important to create some changes in the reservoir which will allow the water to flow in the surrounding ponds. This way, both people and wildlife will benefit. Furthermore, I personally feel the government should also play it's part in the conservation of Chotiari's wildlife.

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

U.N Meeting Calls for Stronger Measures in Africa's Gorilla Protection

Mountain gorilla

A recent meeting backed by the United Nations in Rwanda concluded with a call for stronger law enforcement to protect gorillas in ten African countries. This two-day meeting was organized by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) of the U.N Environment Program (UNEP). It was the first gathering of U.N agencies, regional governments, local wildlife authorities, NGOs, and global experts to handle the wildlife crime that threatens the lives of Africa's gorillas. During the meeting, participants reviewed current conservation activities affecting four gorilla subspecies in East and West Africa and discussed solutions in curbing the major threats of poaching for bushmeat and live trade in these great apes.

A news release by the UNEP/CMS stated that local, national, and international laws are crucial in protecting gorillas and their jungle habitats. The U.N is working closely with the INTERPOL and national governments to stop the trade in live apes and bushmeat, as well as illegal harvesting of timber. The INTERPOL even offered its global network of national offices to help combat wildlife crimes. According to Bernd Rossbach, INTERPOL's Specialized Crime Unit Director, a global response is required to battle environmental and wildlife crime. He further added that it is important for all countries to work through a multi-disciplinary approach that uses INTERPOL's National Central Bureau network and its Environmental Crime Program to communicate intelligence and provide support in capacity-building efforts.

The meeting also stressed the need to tighten the collaboration between governments and coordination with missions such as MONUSCO, which is stationed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In July 2010, MONUSCO helped in transferring orphaned gorillas to a sanctuary to combat illegal cross-border trade in young gorillas. In addition to that, there is also the CMS Agreement on the Conservation of Gorillas and their Habitats. Since taking effect in 2008, this agreement provided the framework for regional cooperation in the long-term protection of gorillas in the ten countries of the Congo Basin. As of now, the treaty has been signed by six countries: the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Nigeria, and Rwanda.

I'm very happy and proud that the U.N is considering that the protection of gorillas in Africa should be taken seriously. But what really pleases me about this report is the idea of regional cooperation between nations where gorillas live. So far, only ten nations that are part of the Congo Basin have agreed to work side by side and help one another in the battle to save these gentle giants. There are four more countries in that region where gorillas live. I just hope that these four nations will collaborate with their neighbors, and help put a stop in the illegal poaching and trading of gorillas in Africa. There are some good news where in Rwanda, the mountain gorilla population is on the rise long after the genocide in the 1990s. However, there are other countries whose gorilla numbers are not progressing the way Rwanda's are. This is why I firmly believe that it is very important that all African countries where gorillas live should team up, in order to end this ongoing threat of poaching and bushmeat trade.

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