Monday, April 23, 2012

Possible Minnesota Wolf Hunt Sparks Controversy

A gray wolf in Minnesota

The gray wolf has recently been delisted as an endangered species in the United States due to its population size that is well over 1,000 animals. This means that hunters are given the opportunity to hunt down these misunderstood carnivores for concerns ranging from livestock predation to competition for hunting other big game animals. However, the rule of delisting the wolf has also sparked outrage among several animal rights groups and one example was seen in the case of a proposed wolf hunt in the state of Minnesota. While most farming and hunting groups support the the proposed hunt slated slated to begin in November, a good deal of animal rights groups and other people say that the hunt will cause bigger problems. Among the protesters are a group called Howling for Wolves and some members of the native Ojibwe tribes of Minnesota.

In the late 1990s, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) held a meeting called the Wolf Management Roundtable which included participants from all sides of the issues. It was initially decided that when the gray wolf was delisted, there would be a five-year moratorium on hunting. Unfortunately, the legislature decided that wolves may be hunted this year, just months after being delisted. According to Robert Shimek, an Ojibwe tribal activist and member of the Red Lake tribe, the American Indian story states that a wolf is a brother and that both wolves and people are spiritually bound. He further added that when the wolf has not done well through history, neither have the Native Americans. DNR Commissioner Tom Landwher, on the other hand, argued that even with hunting and trapping, Minnesota will have a great population of wolves. He also added that the hunt would take 400 animals which is not much more than 200 problematic wolves that were being killed by federal authorities. In spite of Mr. Landwher's argument, Mr. Shimek still felt that the bill is more about sport-hunting. Although he is not against controlling problem wolves, Mr. Shimek stated that his main concern centers around wolves living in highly social family units called packs. He believed that taking out the alpha male and alpha female from a pack results in making wolves more problematic as juveniles are left to fend for themselves.

This article gives a clear representation of what will happen once the gray wolf is removed from the Endangered Species List in North America. The result has led to a public outcry among several animal rights activists and other people, which in this case, Native American people. As a lover of wildlife, I truly admire Mr. Shimek's statement about the consequences of wiping out the alpha male and alpha female wolf in a pack. Without the alpha leaders, a wolf pack would be vulnerable to not just factors from outside the pack but also factors within the pack which could be anything from battle for leadership to any form of reckless behavior that could cost young wolves their lives. In other words, destroying an alpha leader of a wolf pack could result in having more problematic wolves running about making lives more difficult for people. This is why I strongly believe that a better alternative should be sought, and this five-year moratorium is seems like just the right option. In addition to that, the people of Minnesota and the surrounding region should also pay attention about the plight of wolves in Michigan's Isle Royale National Park who are suffering from inbreeding due to shortage of females. With populations on the mainland consisting of approximately 3,000 animals, it is more than enough to reintroduce individuals on the island in order to revive its population. Without wolves on Isle Royale, the national park could lose its prestige and status within a number of years.

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Experts Warn that Arabian Oryx Herds are Threatened from Inbreeding

Arabian oryxes

The Arabian oryx has recently made a successful comeback from the brink of extinction. The current estimate indicates that the total world population of these spectacular antelopes is about a 1,000 individuals. Although this seems like good news, experts have recently warned that privately owned herds are at risk of inbreeding. This is especially in the case of herds in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E), which has around fifty percent of the world's oryx population. According to a paper published in the Conservation Genetics Journal last month, researchers stated that there was a "genetic bottleneck" developing in some captive herds in Abu Dhabi. Dr. Rob Ogden, the co-author of the report and a researcher at Scotland's Royal Zoological Society, explained how historically zoos in the West specialized in very intensive management by controlling and logging every single mating. In the U.A.E, however, the animals were split into lots of different collections and breeding was unmanaged. He further added that genetic diversity in a reintroduced herd is far healthier than a captive herd. Declan O'Donovan, director of wildlife services at Dubai's Wadi Al Safa Wildlife Center, stated that the problem was first discovered about ten years ago. He also added that herds with a low genetic diversity are prone to novel infections, and have a drop in fertility.

In my opinion, this report gives a clear idea about the future fate of the Arabian oryx. Just because its population numbered around 1,000 does not mean it is a sigh of relief. There are many privately owned herds in parts of Arabia that are prone to inbreeding. Dr. Ogden explained how the animals' mating were carefully controlled and recorded in zoological institutions in the west, but were unmanaged in their native homeland. For this reason, I firmly believe that the Middle East and the West should once again team up to help each other in properly managing Arabian oryx herds in the region. The Wadi Al Safa Wildlife Center, which has around 300 animals, is just one case in which there is a constant effort to improve the animals' genetic diversity. Founders from different places come to make sure the populations are pretty diverse. However, there are several other privately owned herds in the Middle East where the situation is critical. This is why, it is crucial to help the Arabian oryx before its global population once again fluctuates like it did decades ago.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bihar to Set Up Asia's First River Dolphin Research Center

A Ganges River dolphin being measured

It has been recently reported that the Indian state of Bihar is planning to establish Asia's first research center dedicated to the Ganges River dolphins. An official at the chief minister's office stated that it would be set up in the capital city of Patna, where dozens of these unique aquatic creatures can still be seen in the stretch of the Ganges River near the city. The man behind the idea is R.K Sinha, a Ganges River dolphin expert and chairperson of a working group for dolphin conservation formed by the central government. The state government of Bihar gave approval to the suggestions brought by the nation's apex planning commission of setting up a dolphin research center near Patna University. Mr. Sinha, who showed Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia the dolphins this February, acknowledged to move the proposal forward offering financial assistance to build the center. When came Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, he applauded the proposal and suggested the planning secretary to advance with the project. According to Gopal Sharma, a scientist for the Zoological Survey of India, the two river dolphin habitats around Patna are an assemblage of rivers Ganges and Gandak near the Mahatma Gandhi Setu and near the pontoon bridge at Danapur. He further added that around thirty dolphins can be seen in these two locations, between which Patna University is located. Thus, making it an ideal location for such a research center. Among the objectives of the research center include carrying out research activities related to biological aspects and dolphin census in all rivers.
A river dolphin in Bihar's Vikramshila Gangetic River Dolphin Sanctuary

I'm extremely proud to see what measures India is taking to help its river dolphin population. Recent findings have shown that only about 2,000 of these magnificent marine mammals left in the nation, out of which 1,000 are in Bihar. The state is famous for being home to the Vikramshila Gangetic River Dolphin Sanctuary, the fourth largest dolphin sanctuary in Asia. I feel that this establishment of the river dolphin research center is a major step in conserving and protecting the last remaining populations of the Ganges River dolphin. However, it is uncertain what might the future be for the Indus River dolphin which makes its home in Pakistan. This is why I also believe it is important that India and Pakistan should work together, in order to revive the river dolphin populations in both of their rivers. This way, both species will be saved from the brink of extinction.

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Grassland Area Included in the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary

Great Indian bustard

It has been recently announced that the Gangewadi grassland area on the boundary of Maharashtra's Solapur and Osmanabad districts has been notified and included in the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary. The 198-hectare grassland is now added to the 1,222.61 square kilometer area of the sanctuary. The goal is to conserve and protect these critically endangered birds numbering around just 300 individuals. A census last year recorded eleven bustards in the sanctuary. According to M.K Rao, chief conservator forest of Pune, the addition of this grassland area will help in habitat management, monitoring, and lead to better conservation and protection of the great Indian bustard. He further added that the area will be restored just like the sanctuary itself.
Tropical grassland habitat in Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary

Pramod Patil, director of the Great Indian Bustard Foundation, stated that the grassland is an ideal habitat for these birds and can be used as a core breeding area. He further added at that around 148 species of birds have been seen in and around the area. Among them are painted storks, Oriental darters, white ibises, and pallid harriers. In an area adjoining Gangewadi is the Kumbhari Reservoir, which has breeding colonies for birds like the storks, Eurasian spoonbills, little cormorants, and the white ibises. In addition to that, a percolation tank inside the area is a foraging site for these for these birds during the breeding season. There is also a good deal of mammalian species in this area too. These include the Indian wolf, fox, jackal, black-naped hare, jungle cat, blackbuck, four-horned antelope, gray mongoose, Indian pangolin, wild boar, and the northern palm squirrel. Among the reptile species include the fan-throated lizard, Oriental garden lizard, many-keeled grass skink, Oriental rat snake, Russell's viper, and the common Indian monitor.
The painted stork is one of many birds in the Gangewadi area included as part of the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary

I feel very proud by the fact that the Great Indian bustard sanctuary is being expanded with the inclusion of this grassland area. In addition to that, this area is home to several other species of India's birds, mammals, and reptiles which will contribute to the biodiversity of the sanctuary. However, I also feel that it is important to focus on the conservation of the critically endangered bustards in the sanctuary. Mr. Patil stated that action is needed to conserve these birds in the Gangewadi area. This includes habitat restoration, uprooting of trees, habitat protection, monitoring and researching throughout the year, waterhole census, increase in bustard census points, and community involvement in the conservation efforts. These birds number around 300 individuals in India, and are in a great need of help.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Study- Toxic Ingredients Found in Traditional Chinese Medicine

An Asian black bear

It has been recently reported that researchers from Murdoch University have found potentially toxic ingredients in samplings from traditional Chinese medicine with the help of a new DNA sequencing technology. The samples were found to contain allergens which the consumers would not be aware of because they were not included on the labels. Among the traces of endangered species discovered in the samplings included the Asian black bear and the saiga antelope. Research leader and Australian Research Council Future Fellow Dr. Michael Bunce stated that the findings prove that consumers "need to be aware of the legal and health safety issues before adopting them as a treatment option." He further added that they found 68 different plant families in the samplings, including those of the genus Ephedra and Asarum which contain chemicals that are toxic if wrong dosage is taken. The Ephedra plants were found to have stimulating effect on the nervous system, while the Asarum plants were recently discovered to be connected to a type of bladder cancer.
A saiga antelope

I feel that the discoveries made by this research team are clear indications about the dangers of the illegal wildlife trade. It is not just the plight of the animals that the world should know about, but also the potentially harmful side-effects of the various body parts of these animals can have on the consumers. Thanks to this new DNA sequencing technology, most consumers will be kept safe and the illegal trade of animals will be ground to a halt. In addition to that, Dr. Bunce and his team are planning to use a similar approach to study herbal medicine. For me, the use of herbal medicine would likely be a best alternative to consuming body parts of endangered species. However, I also believe that inspecting such samplings is crucial for the safety of consumers all over the world.

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