Sunday, July 31, 2011

Environmentalits Renew Pressure for Trapping Ban in Mexican Wolf Area

Mexican wolf

The state game officials in New Mexico had recently lifted the ban on trapping. But now, environmentalists are resuming the pressure by calling for the federal government to do more regarding the protection of the Mexican wolf. The U.S Fish & Wildlife Service and the Forest Service had received letters from WildEarth Guardians and its supporters asking the officials should reconsider a 2010 petition intended to ban trapping throughout the wolf area in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. Supporters say that trapping is a threat to the wolf recovery program, and agencies have a legal obligation to maintain individuals that can hunt their natural prey.

According to the letters, two wolves had their limbs amputated as a result of trapping. Environmentalists now want the Fish and Wildlife Service to mend the wolf reintroduction rule to ban the using of all traps in the range. They also want the Forest Service to set up emergency trapping enclosures on the Gila and Apache forests and change any planning documents to outlaw trapping in the future. Tom Buckley, a spokesman for the regional Fish & Wildlife Service, assured that they would keep an eye out and encourage any trappers to check their traps regularly so that no wildlife, including wolves, will suffer. He further added that the service is still trying to renovate the wolf recovery plan and is setting its new restriction program so that ranchers who lose their livestock to wolves have another place to find financial help.

I'm unsure about how this plan is going. Personally, I think what Buckley said may do little to help the Mexican wolf. That is, suppose a trapper checks his trap and finds a wolf trapped in it, how will he be able to help the animal such that it will not sustain critical injuries? By checking traps on a regular basis, I think that further contributes to affecting the wolf recovery plan. If the Fish and Wildlife Service wants to help in the wolf recovery program, then it should learn from conservation groups who have the knowledge in saving these magnificent creatures. However, I have nothing against this new restriction plan the service has set up. Hopefully, it will be something to ease the tension between the ranchers and wolves. But this idea of laying traps and snares in wolf area is different. It can easily be compared to when an indigenous tribe sets up traps intended to capture nuisance animals, but end up catching non-nuisance animal like a lion or a tiger. That's why, I firmly believe that trapping in parts of Arizona and New Mexico which happen to be hotspots for Mexican wolves would further hinder the recovery program and not help the population increase to hundred animals as hoped by biologists.

View article here

Vietnam's Tiger Population Hits Crisis Point

A dead tiger recovered by authorities

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has recently reported that Vietnam's tiger population consists of thirty individuals in the wild, compared to hundred from ten years ago. The leading conservation body further added that the global tiger population had decreased by 97 % since the beginning of the 20th century. According to Do Quang Tung, deputy director of CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) Vietnam, the main cause was deforestation. However, he further added that the increase in human population has put pressure on the tiger population along with poaching and wildlife trafficking. According to WWF manager of protected areas, species and wildlife trade Nick Cox, the nation was a major trading hub for tiger products. Global Tiger Initiative's (GTI) program director Keshav Varma reminded that if illicit activities continue, then Indochina's last remaining tigers would be gone within a few years.

This is an extremely critical and shocking news. It clearly highlights the major causes of threats affecting the world's tiger population, particularly in Vietnam. In my opinion, the news very much coincides with what Douglas Hendrie of Education for Nature Vietnam said about the growth in the nation's economic progress (it was primarily due to increase in wildlife consumption). Even though the facility he works for aims to encourage young children to turn away from consuming wildlife products, the lucrative trade still prevails. And now, the total tiger population in Vietnam is on the brink of extinction. My point of view is that not only is the situation critical, but the nation has become a ticking time bomb for tigers. Any further illicit activity, and the population will continue to fluctuate until Vietnam has permanently rid of its tigers. This calls for drastic measures, meaning double in action from law enforcement and efforts to crack down any rings specializing in the illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam.

View article here

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Environmentalists to Challenge Gray Wolf Delisting Case in Federal Court

Gray wolf

The gray wolf had been delisted as an endangered species by the U.S Congress. This action shocked environmentalists, who recently went to federal court with hopes to restore the species back to its endangered species status. Conservation groups stated the Congress had intentionally intervened in the ongoing case of removing wolves off the endangered species list without having to improve the law and by presuming to disallow its action from judicial review. According to Jay Tutchton, a lawyer representing several groups challenging the case, lawmakers took a "political shortcut" which violated the separation of powers between the Congress and courts. Government lawyers, on the other hand, believed the delisting helped amend the Endangered Species Act by making a special exception for the wolf population in the Rocky Mountains. The result made the wolf the first animal removed from the endangered species list by an act of Congress, instead of a scientific review.
A wolf pack in Yellowstone National Park

In centuries past, wolves were once hunted to the brink of extinction. Although their recovery in the Northern Rockies was deemed a success story, it did not sit well with farmers, ranchers, and sportsmen who viewed them as threat to both livestock and big game animals like elk. But environmentalists state that the impact wolves have on livestock and other local wildlife is exaggerated, and removing them as endangered species could push them back on the brink of extinction. It is estimated that there are 1,200 wolves in the states of Idaho and Montana. Many remain under the control of state wildlife agencies, who are conducting management plans in killing hundreds of individuals through public hunts. At the same time, about 300 wolves are federally protected in Wyoming for the time being.

I can only hope and pray that wolves will once again have a second chance. This battle between the conservationists, agricultural industrialists, sportsmen, and politicians has been going on for a long time. During this ongoing debate, U.S District Judge Donald Molloy denounced a similar plan in 2009 which was carried out by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. According to Judge Molloy, the agency had violating the Endangered Species Act by treating Idaho's and Montana's wolves separately from the ones in Wyoming. He again disallowed another delisting plan in April when it was shown as a negotiated settlement between the federal government and ten conservation groups. Unfortunately, it seemed the end result came when the Congress overrode Judge Molloy's decision which put the Fish and Wildlife Service's plan into action.

I strongly agree that the action made by the Congress was a clear violation of the constitution in terms of the separation of powers. As a wildlife expert, I also agree that the decision of either listing or delisting the gray wolf should be based on the process of scientific review and not from a political standpoint. There is also a similar situation in France recently, where a hunt was declared after wolves killed a significant number of sheep while recolonizing areas where they had disappeared. I personally think that this matter should be also be looked over by conservationists before anyone could just go out and kill a wolf. Then only would it be safe to say whether the animals are worth hunting or not. At the same time, as I had mentioned in my earlier posts, farmers and ranchers should come up with harmless alternatives in keeping wolves away from their lands. The best idea would be to have livestock guardian dogs to guard their livestock. If this technique worked for farmers in Catalonia, then should work for others living alongside wolves. These animals are crucial in both the European and American ecosystems for keeping the herbivore population in check. Without them, the forests in these two places would never be the same.

View article here

Ukraine's Wild Horses Under Threat of Poaching for Meat

Przewalski's horses in Ukraine

It is recently reported by scientists that a herd of Przewalski's horses in Ukraine's Chernobyl exclusion zone is under threat of poaching for their meat. Researchers say the population might be in decline because the poachers are removing them so fast the animals do not have a chance to breed. Przewalski's horses, which are native to the steppes of China and Mongolia, were introduced into the zone in the late 1990s. Scientists at Chernobyl's SSSIE Ecocenter stated that the idea to bring horses was to help in enriching the biodiversity surrounding the nuclear power station's reactor. According to Professor Tim Mousseau, a biologist from University of South Carolina, the herd he has seen during his visits has been shrinking in recent years. He further added that the people living around the area are very poor, and the supply of horse meat is desirable for them. However, Sergiy Paskevych, a researcher from Ukraine's National Academy of Science, stated that poachers only took carcasses to be sold. He further explained that a recent data showed there were thirty to forty individuals, which represented a severe decline in numbers from 65 animals in 2003. According to Paskevych himself, there may be other factors such as diseases or predation by wolves contributing to the decline besides hunting. But Igor Chizhevsky, a biologist from Chernobyl's Ecocenter, stated the threat of poaching could be affecting the horses. He confirmed that researchers had found several horses shot by poachers, and further added that it was hard to determine how many are now left. He suggested that zone should become a reserve with a research center specializing in studying nature and radio-ecological consequents of the nuclear disaster.

I'm very much shocked and appalled by this news. It very much coincides with the one about Ukraine's European bison population in it's current state. The Przewalski's horse is the only genuine wild horse left on the face of the earth. Both the bison and the wild horse are facing a bleak future as their numbers keep lowering more and more, as the human population continues to exploit their natural habitats. The reason is because the population around the Chernobyl exclusion zone is living in dire poverty, which means that exploiting the nature around them is a prime necessity for these people. Even if it means feeding on wild horse meat. I deeply believe that the people living around the exclusion zone are in a great need of help, and other than being provided with safer alternatives to basic necessities, they should be taught about the ecological importance about their land. As part of the learning procedure, they should be persuaded not to consume meat from wild horses and encouraged to help the authorities in bringing down poachers. At the same time, there should be a thorough investigation about the decline in Chernobyl's wild horse population. That is, to see what other factors, other than poaching, may be contributing to their downfall. The Przewalski's horse is the only genuine wild horse left on the face of the Earth. It is not to be confused with mustangs and other similar horses, which were all descended from the domestic stock. Without this horse, the Chernobyl ecosystem will never flourish as hoped.

View article here

Monday, July 25, 2011

Supreme Court Orders Reduction in Area of Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary

Great Indian bustard

Recently, the Supreme Court of India had reached its verdict on the issue of the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary. The court has ordered reduction of the sanctuary's area, which brought cheer to both local people and conservationists. In the case of conservationists, the reduction of area will mean more focus on the efforts to save the birds and will guarantee local support. The judgement was made last Friday when the Supreme Court proclaimed the sanctuary will have an area size of 1,222 square kilometers instead of 8,496 declared in 1979. According to bustard researcher Dr. Pramod Patil, the judgement will help better in conservation and monitoring of the bird. He further added that its long-term survival depends on the support of local community. And now, there is hope since the community itself is pleased by the court's decision.

I'm also very happy and proud to hear this news. At the same time, I'm hopeful that the great Indian bustard is on the road to recovery. The decision made by the Supreme Court has made both conservationists and the local community happy. This means that there is a good chance the local people will lend their support to help save the bustard. I think the reason why an area of 8,496 square kilometers would not work because it could cover various human settlements, and a decision like that would spark an outrage amongst the community. However, a reduction of 7,274 square kilometers is a reasonable amount and beneficial for both the locals and conservationists to work together in order to save this magnificent bird.

View article here

Sunday, July 24, 2011

China Teams Up with Regional Network to Fight Illegal Wildlife Trafficking

Seema, a Bengal tigress at a zoo in Ahmadabad

It has been recently reported that China has joined a regional network consisting of Southeast Asian nations to help in the battle against illegal wildlife trafficking. According to anti-trafficking groups, China has teamed up with the South East Asian Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN WEN) which will boost regional cooperation against the illicit animal trade. Kraisak Choonhavan, chairman of the Freeland Foundation, stated that China's decision to join was because of the network's support of CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species). This means it will have to start curbing down trafficking of endangered species such as tigers, and body parts of different animals.

The Freeland Foundation is well-known for establishing cooperation among regional governments, local police forces, and even the INTERPOL. It's members say that increased policing has led to increased actions of law enforcement over the past five years. According to the groups recent data, more than 190 actions occurred between April and September 2010, leading to a recovery of 16,000 live animals and fourteen metric tons of animal parts with a value of $6 million in black market. At the same time, police made over hundred arrests. Although this seemed like great news, Freeland's director Steve Galster says that leaders of such gangs continue to evade capture despite the arrests. This helps the trafficking business to continue functioning. And nations like Vietnam has been a prime target for traffickers. In September 2010, Hanoi police revealed ten tiger skeletons, hundreds of sacks containing "fake" gallbladder, and 600 kilograms of elephant bones. Bear skulls, elephant tusks, leopard skulls, and other animal parts were also uncovered. According to Douglas Hendrie of Hanoi's Education for Nature Vietnam, the spur in the nation's economic progress is due to increase in demand for wildlife consumption. However, he says that young children appear to get the message about the dangers to the wildlife from the trade. He further adds that efforts in enforcing laws are also encouraging.

This article not only brings hopeful news about China joining in the ongoing battle against wildlife trafficking, but also gives an important message about the business. That is, despite a number of increase in law enforcement in cracking down various activities, wildlife trafficking still persists as gang leaders evade capture even though they get arrested. I personally believe that in addition to tighter law enforcement, there should also be tighter incarcerations for the ringleaders of various activities. They should be prosecuted in a way that they cannot evade capture. Because of this evasion, Vietnam has witnessed its economic spur because of increased demand for wildlife consumption. I also believe that there should be an increase in community outreach, in order to battle this illicit business. Now that China has joined the battle, it should follow Southeast Asia's example in curbing wildlife trafficking. The nation has long been a major destination wildlife used in medicine and food. It is time that China should pull away from the benefits of wildlife trafficking, and start suppressing it.

View article here   

Saturday, July 23, 2011

New Mexico Game Commission Approves End to Ban Trapping

A Mexican wolf in motion

It has been recently reported that the game commission of New Mexico has voted unanimously in favor of the Fish and Game Department to end the ban of trapping in the state's southwestern side. The vote caused a great deal of disappointment for conservationists, who had sent thousands of emails and letters to the commission to support keeping the ban. The reason is because the southwestern part of the state has been used by federal officials to reintroduce the critically endangered Mexican wolf. Without this ban on trapping, the wolf is definitely off the road to recovery.

The ban on trapping was approved last summer by former Democratic Governor Bill Richardson, who was a strong supporter in the wolf reintroduction effort. Due to this, the commission extended the ban last fall which gave researchers more time to study the dangers of trapping and snaring to the wolves. Although they had done their work, a report summarizing their findings is still not yet made public. During this holdup, conservation groups suspected and accused the Fish and Game Department of collaborating with livestock and trapping groups in order to influence the game commission's decision-making process. They even claimed that the commission refused to provide information related to meetings the department had with the industry groups. According to Wendy Keefover, director of WildEarth Guardians' carnivore protection program, the commission had made up its mind. However, most of its members were appointed by Republican Governor Susana Martinez who had expressed her concerns about the wolf programs' impact on ranchers. Both the WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club claimed they had received documents, which indicate that the commissioners met with the Sportsmen and Landowners' Coalition regarding trapping rules on June 16th. The commission did not provide any records of the meeting, except emails that referred to it differently. The groups also claimed that the documents showed a department employee had issued a petition for the New Mexico Trappers Association in support of trapping.

I'm very disappointed by the fact that New Mexico's game commission has voted to end the ban on trapping. This type of action has put the Mexican wolves in jeopardy. Unlike their northern relatives, these wolves are in low numbers but this concept does not seem to sit well with ranchers and other industry groups. These people simply do not care about the animals' status, and would rather shoot them on sight for the fear of their livestock. But what really appalls me the most is that the Fish and Game Department decided to pull out of the project in reintroducing these wolves into the wild. Furthermore, conservation groups claimed that the department had been collaborating with livestock and trapping groups in order to influence the commission's decision-making. I personally find this as a scheme to hamper with the reintroduction project. People in New Mexico should first learn to understand about the status of these wolves before doing anything. Any form of killing will make the future look bleak for the animals. There should be strict laws imposed on either either trapping or killing of these wolves. They are vital in the desert ecosystem of the American Southwest. Without them, the desert region would never be the same.

View article here  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chain-link Fencing Blamed for Bandhavgarh National Park's Man-Tiger Conflict

A tiger in Bandhavgarh National Park

Recently, Bandhavgarh National Park has been brought to the news regarding two sub-adult tigers who were declared man-eaters and sent to Van Vihar Zoological Park in Bhopal. The two cubs were captured after a forest guard was killed in a tiger attack last week. His half-eaten torso was found near the Haradia Forest Camp in the national park's Tala range. Before that, two people were killed by the big cats but neither were eaten. The two cubs, aged about two years and five months, were born to a tigress named Mirchahani in 2009. Sources said they were learning to hunt and survive.
Bandhavgarh National Park with Bandhavgarh Fort in the back

According to Field Director C.K Patil, the cubs had to be taken to the zoo for fear of retaliation by villagers. However, tiger expert Belinda Wright pointed out the root of the problem. She stated that chain-link fencing is intensifying the man-tiger conflict in the reserve. She further added that it has severely restricted the passage for tigers and other wild animals within the reserve. And due to limited space in the area, sub-adult tigers are forced to move out into surrounding villages. In addition to that, wildlife experts argued that a juvenile tiger sent to a zoo would not be able to hunt for itself and locking up such animals for the remainder of their lives would be a huge blow for wildlife conservation. They further added that there was no proper evidence to conclude which tigers had killed and eaten the forest guard. They even pointed that according to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a tiger is declared a man-eater only after it has killed and eaten three people. Ms. Wright also stated that heavy presence of forest personnel within the national park has made it susceptible to attacks. Adding to that, wildlife scientist Raghu Chundawat said that there should be proper planning on how to handle such wild animals and that sending them to a zoo is not the solution. He felt that the problem of shrinking tiger habitat versus the increasing tiger population across India requires an immediate policy decision.
Shesh-Saiya statue in Bandhavgarh

I'm also very appalled and disgusted by the fact that these two tiger cubs were taken to a zoo without any proper proof to show whether they really were man-eaters or not. The question is if they had killed and eaten that one forest guard, why did they not eat the previous two victims? I feel that this matter should be thoroughly investigated, but at the same time, special attention should be turned towards Bandhavgarh. It has been pointed out that chain-link fencing is limiting the amount of space for the wildlife. In turn, many animals, including tigers, are forced to venture out to nearby village areas. I believe that chain-link fences should be removed from areas frequented by wild animals. However, it is important to set them up around the perimeters of villages in order to minimize any human-wildlife conflicts. Also, there should be a certain limit on the presence of forest personnel in the forests. This way, there would be less chances of attacks on forest guards. I also happen to agree with Dr. Chundawat that there should be proper methods in handling such animals. Just locking them up in zoos on suspicions of being man-eaters is not always the solution. One has to have solid evidence in proving whether the culprits really are man-eaters or not. Bandhavgarh National Park is said to have up to sixty tigers, making it one of the most successful places regarding tiger conservation. However, the shrinking of habitat combined with the ever-increasing tiger population makes the place prone to man-tiger conflicts where either humans or tigers could be killed one way or another. This why it is crucial to help conserve the tiger habitat, in order to avoid such situations.

View article here

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Women's World Cup- Musk Deer Glands Blamed for Failed Steroids Test

North Korean Women's Team

It has been recently reported that five North Korean soccer players at the Women's World Cup had tested positive for steroids. Officials blamed the traditional medicine using glands from musk deer for the shocking results. Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA, expressed his feelings that it was truly shocking after two players were caught during the tournament this month and three others were revealed after testing the entire North Korean squad. This was the second doping incident in the history of the Women's World Cup. The first one occurred in late June when Yineth Varon of Colombia was suspended after failing an out-of-competition test before the World Cup. According to the Colombian Football Federation, Varon had hormonal treatment which led to a failed drug test.
Siberian musk deer

FIFA had heard from the North Korean delegation that the steroids were taken accidentally with traditional Chinese medicines based on musk deer glands. The medicines were used to treat those players who had been struck by lightning on June 8th during a training session. Among the players who tested positive were defenders Song Jong Sun and Jong Pok Sim. They were suspended for the last match after North Korea's first two group games. According to Jiri Dvorak, FIFA's chief medical officer, this was the first case in which musk deer gland was discovered. The North Korean team mentioned the lightning incident after losing their opening match to the United States. But when the officials were asked about that, they refused to clarify on the circumstances.
Song Jong Sun was one of five women suspended on doping charges

I think this report clearly highlights one of the dangers of the illegal wildlife trade, and also contradicts that none of the body parts of different animals have medicinal purposes. In this case, it was the musk deer. Usually, its gland has been highly valued in the perfume industry which put the deer on the brink of extinction. However, in terms of traditional Chinese medicine, the gland is viewed as a medicinal source as with several other body parts of endangered species. According to the North Korean account, the gland was used in treating players that had been struck by lightning during a training session. During the process, steroids were taken accidentally. It appears that somehow the drugs were unexpectedly injected into the parts of bodies of those women who were being treated after the lightning strike. It seems that maybe they were under the impression that the liquid extracted from the musk deer would somehow shield the steroids from affecting the their bodies such that they would not fail the test. Unfortunately, it never worked as hoped. And that is why the officials blamed the musk deer glands for causing those players who tested positive for steroids. My theory is that no matter what type of medicine taken along with steroids to treat an abdominal wound, steroids will always affect the body and mind even after one is fully recovered from the wound.

View article here

Friday, July 15, 2011

Amazonian Indigenous Conservation Campaign Stops Deforestation

Cofan tribal instruments

Recently, a fundraising campaign called the Campaign for 5000 was launched by the Fundacion para la Sobrevivencia del Pueblo Cofan (FSC) and its branch the Cofan Survival Fund in order to support a Cofan Ranger Park Guard program. This program, established by the indigenous Cofan people of northern Ecuador, has successfully protected over one million acres of the world's most biodiverse forests in the world. Many of the Cofan ancestral territories, which range from 300 to 14,000 feet above sea level, had been targets for illegal logging, oil extraction, and poaching. In response to these threats, the Cofan Ranger Park Guard Program was established in 2002.

Currently, the program consists of sixty members who patrol and maintain hundreds of miles within these territories. In addition to that, the men and women perform duties such as monitoring and recording presence of endangered species such as the jaguar, tapir, and spectacled bear. They also maintain tabs on the health and integrity of the ecosystem. Interestingly, satellite imagery from the last decade has clearly shown that the rainforests under Cofan protection were fully intact. This maintenance has also prevented the release of CO2 emissions. In fact, a recent study sponsored by the Nature Conservancy estimated that the program has kept over 90,000 metric tons of carbon from being released into the atmosphere each year. The Cofan people have now set up a fundraising campaign called Campaign for 5000. This model's purpose is to create a partnership of 5000 members worldwide, who would contribute $10 or more per month to the program. This donation will sustain the conservation work by covering ranger salaries, food, transportation, training building, and field equipment. However, it will also help in reduction of CO2 emissions by 60 % and preservation of 2,000 acres of forests.
Spectacled bear

I'm extremely happy and proud to see what the indigenous people of Ecuador have been doing in order to help preserve the biodiverse forests. Not only do these habitats serve as places of rich diversity of wildlife, but are also an ancestral heritage to the Cofan people. I personally think that this is a clear example of how an indigenous group of people works together, in order to help the global environment. The Cofan people are a good example of indigenous people, who are helping make a difference in this world. However, there are also other indigenous people who live in biodiverse hotspots. These include various tribes in Africa. It is hard to tell which ones are conducting a similar strategy, but there are also those who live up to their traditional beliefs and commit acts which cannot be beneficial for either the local wildlife or the environment. For example, in the case of the Masai, killing a lion is perceived as an act of bravery but can also affect the wildlife significantly. In addition to that, they raise their livestock in areas which could have a significant number of wildlife. This is why I believe that indigenous people in other biodiverse places should follow the example of the Cofan, in order help protect their land, their local wildlife, and most importantly, the global environment.

View article here  

Monday, July 11, 2011

Shrinking Rabbit Population Affects Iberian Lynx Population

European rabbit

The Donana National Park in south-western Spain is famous for being the last refuge of the endangered Iberian lynx. This shy and beautiful cat has suffered several several types of threats, including shortage of its favorite prey: rabbits. The rabbit population had suddenly dropped during the late 1980s as a result of viral hemorrhagic disease (VHD). This disease not only affected the lynx, but also other carnivore species such as the fox, the Egyptian mongoose, the genet, and the badger. A team of Argentinian and Spanish researchers investigated this case, and found that the downfall in rabbit population has mostly affected the lynx which could not hunt any other prey.

The red fox; one of few carnivores to adapt following the collapse in rabbit population.

The team's data has shown that the biggest drops in rabbit consumption were observed among the badger and fox populations, from 71.8 % to 26.2 % and 20.2 % to 9.8 %. But despite the drop in rabbit population, the fox had substituted the animals for other prey like birds, small mammals, and even ungulates (in form of carrion). According to Dr. Pablo Ferreras of the Research Institute on Cynegetic Resources (IREC), the fox population had benefited during the last five following the disease's arrival. He further added that the population of genets and mongooses also sustained due to maintenance in rabbit consumption.

The Iberian lynx; a flagship species that prefers only rabbits and no other prey species.

The lynx, on the other hand, never substituted the rabbits for any other prey. Dr. Ferreras pointed out that the rabbit constitutes to 75 % of the cat's diet, making it a specialist. The researchers also pointed out that the disease changed the lynx's social system. That is, it became less territorial, and in the case of females, their home range size expanded. This meant that that the number of sub-adults stayed in areas where they were born. Based on the findings, the researchers said that the current rabbit populations are still feeling the aftershocks from the collapse. They also said that further predation is affecting the population recovery. This could lead to shortage in rabbit population, which would jeopardize the lynx population.

I'm very much shocked to see how the Iberian lynx population has been affected by the shortage of prey. These cats seem to prefer mostly rabbits, and not any other prey. I feel that some serious action is required in order to help reboost the rabbit population before it plummets down any further. According to the researchers, the recommendation is management measures with the options of habitat improvement and restocking programs. I believe that another solution would be reintroduce more rabbits from elsewhere in Europe where they were introduced. These cute and cuddly creatures were introduced as an exotic species in places like England. While the VHD has proved to be effective in Australia where the species is an exotic pest, in Spain it is a completely different story. I think, in order to reintroduce the species back, a useful tip would be to test individuals for the virus. At the same time, research on developing a vaccine should be undertaken. The population of the rabbits in Spain is at stake and so is the lynx. Without any action, both species' populations in Donana would be lost forever.

View article here     

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Thai National Arrested in South Africa for Illegal Trade of Rhino Horns

A Thai national was recently arrested by a joint operation conducted by the South African Revenue Service (SARS), the Hawks, and forensic investigator Paul O'Sullivan. The 43-year-old, believed to be a kingpin in the illegal trade of rhino horns, was arrested at a house east of Johannesburg in the town of Edenvale. He was previously searched by SARS officials at the OR Tambo International Airport upon his arrival on June 13. SARS spokesman Anton Fisher stated that the officials uncovered various documents, including an order for fifty sets of rhino horns, a computer, and a cellphone. He further added that the suspect allegedly used rhino-hunting permits under false pretenses. That is, such permits issued under CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) are for trophy hunting and not for the illegal trade. It is thought that once a rhino has been killed on a supposed hunting trip, its horn would be sent overseas by the suspect who pays an average of 65,000 rands per kilogram. Fisher also stated that an extensive investigation by SARS following the suspect's arrest led to his activities and a trading company based in Laos. A similar arrest was made yesterday following a successful prosecution of another Thai national named Punipak Chunchom, who was charged with the illegal possession of lion teeth and claws. Both he and this man worked for the same company.

Although I'm satisfied by the arrest of this national, this news article highlighted a key piece of evidence behind trophy hunting in Africa. That is, once the clients have successfully killed an animal of their choice, they would secretly export the body parts of that animal overseas to such import/export companies. In this case, the animal has been a rhino. However, other animals like lions also become victims of such secretive and illicit activities functioning within what may be a tool for conservation. Although I'm not an advocate in hunting, I feel that trophy hunting businesses should be closely monitored regarding the illegal trade of wild animals sought as big game. This method should especially be used in South Africa, which has lost a great deal of its rhinos to powerful criminal syndicates using sophisticated technology in exploiting the land and its wildlife.

View article here