Saturday, May 21, 2011

China Fails in its Commitment to Save Tigers

A Malaysian tiger

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has recently stated that China has fallen short of commitments in tiger protection. The agency has also written a letter to Premier Wen Jiabao expressing concern over China's State Forestry Administration's handling of tiger protection. Jiabao had initially made a pledge during a Global Tiger Forum held in St. Petersburg last fall that China would vow to work with other Asian nations to end the global trade of tiger parts. But during a series of meetings on the illegal wildlife trade held in March, it was pointed out that a representative of China's law enforcement was unaware of any arrests or prosecutions related to the tiger trade or even the seizures of tiger products since the forum. EIA also showed that China relies heavily on NGO-generated intelligence to keep track of the illegal trade in tiger parts.

In addition to commitment, the agency also revealed that the nation lacks the capacity to address its promise to increase its tiger population within its borders and end the trade in tiger parts. According to EIA, the capacity is further combined by the Chinese policy which undermines the nation's commitments to its tiger protections. The agency recommends that China should establish a zero tolerance policy for the trade in tiger parts, and further forbid all such illegal activities. EIA even encouraged Premier Jiabao to give responsibility to a full-time unit of police officers for crimes in the wildlife trade, and work to intensify the capability of the State Forestry Administration to respond to wildlife crimes. throughout the nation.

I'm very much shocked and surprised to hear these news about China's role in the tiger protection. Earlier before the Global Tiger Forum, China had made a vow to help put an end to the illegal trafficking of tiger parts. These include signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with India, and working with it to curb such illegal activities. However, as early as 2007, China had adopted an agenda which would allow the sale of tiger skins of "legal origin" which violates its commitments under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). These commitments state that tigers should not be farmed like livestock for their body parts. I'm very proud to see what flaws the EIA has revealed in China's position in the world's tiger protection, and very much agree with its recommendations. If China wants to help save the world's tigers, it should rely on more than just NGO-generated intelligence.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Anti-Poaching Efforts to Protect Tibetan Antelopes Announced

Tibetan antelope in its natural habitat

It has been recently reported that four nature reserves covering 550,000 square kilometers of western China will be joining forces together to protect highly endangered Tibetan antelopes through anti-poaching operations. The operations are scheduled to start in late May. According to Tseta, party chief of the Hoh Xil National Reserve Administration, the operations are expected to last for one to three months and will be an annual routine. He further added that it will be the first time the four reserves reserves will be working together and is the largest protection campaign since Hoh Xil's establishment in the 1990s. The campaign was an outcome of a meeting held last September in Xining, which concluded with an agreement on joint protection of the antelopes.

Ever since the Tibetan antelope gained its status as an endangered species in 1979, poachers continuously went after it driven by the smell of profits from its pelt. In 1994, a man named Sonam Dargye was killed while protecting these graceful creatures in Hoh Xil. Two years later, a protection program was set up and in 1997, it was established as a nature reserve. Since then, more than 400 patrols had been carried out in which over 3,500 people patrolled one million kilometers to protect the antelopes. Tseta stated that while illegal poaching has not been reported in the past five years, new problems came to the reserves which forced them to unite. Shira, director of Changtang Nature Reserve's Forest Public Security Bureau stated that poachers have started hiring local herdsmen to help them in hunting the animals. He further added saying the area is too broad and barely populated, which gave poachers a greater chance in succeeding and brought difficulties to the authorities. Luo Yanhai, the director of Hoh Xil Administration's Forest Public Security Bureau who had ten years' experience on patrol, said that even though the antelopes migrate across the four reserves, no law can be imposed across the border. This is why a new system of joint patrolling will be established. This new system's key aspects are information sharing and cross-zone manhunts, which will be carried out annually. The four reserve administrations will report information and work results to each other every three months, which will give them more power.

I'm very happy and proud to see what strategies the administrations from all four nature reserves came up with to protect the current populations of the Tibetan antelopes. Statistics have shown that the population of these magnificent creatures rose from 60,000 to 120,000 in the Changtang Reserve, those in Hoh Xil grew from 20,000 to 70,000 animals. While it appears the overall antelope population is healthy, the threat of poaching still looms over the horizon. And Shira of the Changtang Reserve pointed it out that local herdsmen are secretly helping the poachers by doing small-scale hunting. I believe that the best solution to tackle this problem would be to educate the locals about the importance of the Tibetan antelope, and encourage them to collaborate with the authorities in reducing any further poaching on these reserves. This will help the global population of the Tibetan antelope to flourish further in good numbers.

View article here

Saturday, May 7, 2011

America's Gray Wolves Taken Off the Endangered Species List

Gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service recently issued a final rule to strip the gray wolves off the Endangered Species List in the Northern Rocky Mountains. This rule will allow management of these magnificent creatures in the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Utah. This rule was required by a rider, which was attached to a federal budget bill by Senator Jon Tester of Montana and Representative Mike Simpson of Idaho and it marked for the first time where a plant or animal has been taken off as endangered species by the Congress. It was recently challenged by the Center of Biological Diversity in a federal court in Missoula, Montana. There, the center's argument was that the removal of wolves as endangered species is unlawful because it violates the constitution's separation of powers. According to the center's director Noah Greenwald, the rider is also a disaster for any other endangered species which a politician does not like and not just wolves. Defenders of Wildlife president Rodger Schliekeisen expressed a similar opinion where the action taken by Congress and the Obama administration was "unwarranted and extremely disappointing." However, he further added that wolves in the northern Rockies may still have a bright future with proper management in their home states. But this statement did not sit well with Mr. Greenwald, who expressed his concern about the threat of planned hunts, illegal poaching, and aerial shooting by state agencies. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, on the other hand, praised the delisting of wolves as another success story of the Endangered Species Act after the bald eagle and the whooping crane. He further added that wolf populations in Oregon and Washington have only begun to recover, where small pack numbers have established and only individuals have been sighted in Utah.

Hunters in Idaho over their kill of the day

However, in Idaho and Montana, the numbers of wolves are strong and both the states had expressed their interests in reducing the populations in a misguided attempt to increase the local elk populations and minimizing livestock predations. This idea reflects back when Idaho governor Butch Otter signed a bill declaring the federal introduction of wolves in the state a disaster. The legislation allowed the governor use his powers to lessen the threat of 800 animals. There is even news from Wyoming where the state would like to declare that wolves could be shot on sight in large portions of the state. In addition to removing wolves in the northern Rockies off the Endangered Species List, the Fish and Wildlife Service also proposed implementing the same rule for those in the western Great Lakes area. As part of this rule, the Service will revise the animals' range by removing all or parts 29 eastern states with new taxonomic information indicating that the wolf did not historically occur in those states. It is also going to look at status reviews of wolves in the Pacific Northwest and the American Southwest to determine their listing status, and will be seeking new information about the newly-discovered eastern wolf.

Gray wolf in northern Minnesota

After reading this article, I very much felt the same way as various conservation groups involved in this fight to prevent America's wolves from being stripped of their endangered species status. And frankly speaking, I happen to agree with them that the decision whether to keep them as endangered species or not should be the job for scientists and researchers; not politicians. People like Mr. Greenwald of the Center of Biological Diversity gave strong points in support of his group's arguments that the removal of wolves violates the separation of powers in the nation's constitution. That is, the judicial power of the U.S lies strictly in the hands of federal courts and not the Congress. And it turns out that this principle was violated even after a federal judge in Montana declared the delisting of wolves as unlawful.

Furthermore, even though it appears that the wolf population in the U.S is healthy and steadily increasing, a study in Michigan's Isle Royale National Park gives a different story. The study has shown that the wolf population has suffered a shortage of females, which puts them at a brink of extinction. And at the same time, wolves in the same area (Western Great Lakes area) have been removed as endangered species. This could mean that the ones in Isle Royale are headed to extinction, unless plans to reintroduce wolves from the surrounding region will be put into action. This strategy should help in further reduction of wolves in mainland Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin in a safe and harmless way. At the same time, cattle ranchers and other people in the agricultural industries should be provided with livestock guardian dogs to keep wolves off their lands. This type of technique has helped farmers in Catalonia when the government provided them with Pyrenean Mountain Dog puppies against the threat of marauding wolves. I personally believe that the U.S government should follow this example in helping such people in distress. Just hunting will not always do any good, as Mr. Greenwald put it, saying that there will always be a threat of poaching and aerial shooting. In addition to that, the federal government should put its trust in various conservation groups because it is only they who can really determine a plant or animal's status. This way, the wildlife of North America will hang in balance.

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