Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gabon Burns Ivory Stocks in Protest Against Elephant Poaching

Gabon has become the second African country to burn ivory stocks in response that poaching will not be tolerated.

In 1989, Kenya became famous for burning a massive pile of elephant tusks indicating that it will not tolerate the trade of illegal ivory trade. Now, that idea has recently been implemented in Gabon making it the fist Central African country to show support for the fight against the ongoing threat. The move was applauded by many conservation groups, including TRAFFIC, which stated that it was intended to prevent the government's ivory stocks which were thought to have been acquired through police seizures from falling into the wrong hands. According to TRAFFIC's Tom Milliken, seized ivory had been continuously going back to the illegal ivory trade because of corrupt government officials. Therefore, the nation had to come up with a solution which was simply to burn the contraband. Mr. Milliken further added that Central Africa needs ivory stock management systems, so that government-seized ivory does not fall again into the trade. In addition to Gabon, Mozambique and Zambia also had some of their government ivory stocks stolen earlier this year. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) stated that 2011 was the worst year for elephant poaching in the last ten years. Researchers estimate that as many as 12,000 elephants- both bush and forest - are killed for their tusks. Earlier this year, more than 400 forest elephants were brutally slaughtered in a remote national park in Cameroon by poachers on horseback. In response, rights groups stated that they were using loans from ivory sales to finance operations by a small-scale militia in Chad. According to Stefanie Conrad of WWF's Central Africa Office, the act of burning ivory was symbolic in a region where thick forests make wildlife monitoring difficult.
Anthropologist Gustave Mabaze of WWF Gabon holds up an ivory tusk.

I'm also very proud to see what message Gabon gave as part of its effort to combat the illegal ivory trade in Central Africa. However, I also feel that just burning government-seized ivory will not prevent the poachers from carrying out their evil deeds. There also has to be a community outreach program, in order to educate the public about the dangers of poaching and encourage the local communities to help out in the battle against this ongoing threat. Furthermore, I also feel that programs to help people find alternative jobs to selling ivory and other animal products should be implemented in the region where unemployment rates remain high. With nearly 85 percent of land covered in forest and large populations of chimpanzees, hippos, and about 1,500 elephants, Gabon stands out as one of the best places in wildlife preservation. Unfortunately, like many of its neighbors, Gabon is prone to poaching and illegal wildlife trade. This is why it is crucial to help out in an effort to put a stop to these threats, battle corruption, and help the local communities find alternative methods to their livelihoods which do not consist of making use of the wildlife.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Luxury Hotel in Kruger National Park Upsets Conservationists

An artist's impression of Kruger National Park's first luxury hotel

It has been recently announced that the Kruger National Park in South Africa is set to get its first luxury hotel, in an effort to attract the growing black middle class. However, the move made by South African National Parks (SANParks) had upset ardent nature lovers who argued that the establishment would demoralize the national park's ecology and environment. However, authorities insisted that the development is part of a plan to shed the park's image as a condescending destination for white South African people and foreigners looking for an escape. SANParks stated that white South African people are the largest group out of more than one million people visiting the park annually. The organization estimated that 26 percent of the total number of visitors are black, and only six percent of them stay overnight. It is said that the goal for the hotel is to have middle-class black people, who officials hope would help make South Africa's national parks more commercially feasible. The hotel is planned to be built on the southern part of Kruger National Park near the Malalane Gate, which is the most appropriate entrance from Johannesburg and an airport in the nearby town of Nelspruit. It is described to be a single-story complex with 119 rooms, overlooking the Crocodile River.
Impalas sparring in Kruger National Park

The guarantees made by SANParks saying that "the development would be line with our mandate to conserve nature" failed to convince conservationists, setting off a heated debate and even allegations of racism. SANParks had to answer to stereotypes, such as online comments and letters to local newspapers saying that black people would abuse the park's setting with loud music and luxury cars, rather than enjoy the serenity of the wild. One adversary of the hotel named Allan Eccles, a Johannesburg-based operator for Falcon Africa Safaris, who accused SANParks of commercializing the national park and "attempting to turn it into a Disneyland." In his own words, Mr. Eccles stated that the hotel "should have been built outside the park." He further added that "there has been no evidence suggesting that the black middle class wants the hotel there," and that the proposed building site is "environmentally sensitive." Another opponent to the hotel is Salomon Joubert, a retired park manager of Kruger National Park, who described the proposal as a "dramatic deviation from national park philosophy". He told one television news show called Carte Blanche that national parks are established mainly for "scientific, spiritual, and educational values." In contrast, another former Kruger park manager named Harold Braack voiced his support to the hotel saying that it would benefit the park and local communities.
A spotted hyena in Kruger National Park

I'm extremely shocked by what SANParks has proposed without any approval from conservationists or any conservation groups. The plan of establishing a luxury hotel resort in Kruger National Park being met with intense criticism clearly indicates how important it is to understand that certain areas are crucial for the survival and benefits of the wildlife. In addition to that, I'm also stupefied to learn that this proposal to build a luxury hotel has sparked accusations of racism, based on the statistics showing the number of visitors Kruger National Park receives every year. Just because there is a small fraction of black people visiting Kruger National Park does not mean that they do not like the place. Also, the fact that these people wanting to ruin the park's atmosphere with loud music and luxury cars is incredibly preposterous. That is like saying in India, national parks and such places should be open mainly to foreign tourists and not the local people because they might create some kind of a ruckus. In South Africa, any resident regardless of what skin color he or she is, can work in a facility designed to provide tourists with accommodations and visit any interesting place. When I visited Africa last summer, I did see a great deal of other foreign tourists in Tanzania's national parks. But that does not mean that only foreigners are supposed to visit Africa's national parks. The reason why I saw so many foreign tourists is mainly because Africa is known worldwide as a place famous for its wildlife, which everybody from different parts of the world want to see. Once in Lake Manyara National Park, I had seen a school bus with several local children inside. This concept goes to show that a tourist attraction, no matter where in the world, is established for both domestic and foreign tourism.
Landscape of Kruger National Park

Furthermore, national parks are created not just for tourism but also educational purposes. When people want to travel and visit such places, they want to capture those moments and cherish them. A national park is one of those places, but like many attractions, its purpose is also to educate people in addition to providing them a chance to see sights which they had never before. This is why it is important know that Africa's national parks provide tourists an opportunity to learn about what makes the continent famous for its wildlife, how do these animals play a crucial role in the ecosystem, and why it is important to preserve these wild places and protect them from the ongoing threats of poaching and habitat loss. In my opinion, South Africa's national parks are an ideal example of what makes a national park a place of learning and not pure entertainment. The nation has been suffering a loss of its rhino populations due to poaching in recent years, and with an establishment of a luxury hotel in Kruger National Park proposed it is like hindering South Africa's opportunity to helping its wildlife to flourish and survive. This is why I feel that SANParks should reconsider its proposal, and find a location somewhere outside the national park that seems relevant to put up this hotel. That way, South Africa can continue its crusade in saving its wildlife and maintain its tourism.

View article here

Monday, June 25, 2012

Kenya's Lion Attacks Raise Concerns on Human-Animal Conflicts

The six lions speared to death for livestock predation on the edge of Nairobi National Park.

A recent attack by eight lions on the edges of Kenya's Nairobi National Park resulted in a massive retaliation by some Masai men, who speared six animals to death. The deceased included two lionesses, two sub-adults, and two cubs. The six lions, along with two others, had launched an attack on the village of Ilkeek-Lemedung'I on Wednesday in which they killed eight goats, each worth about $60. The attack highlighted the increasing threat to Kenya's wildlife posed by the active expansion of its capital city. The rise in Nairobi's apartment and road construction is reported to put pressure on the wildlife, especially the big cats. This is especially seen in the case of Nairobi National Park, which is the only national park in the world that lies in a nation's capital. The demand of low-cost housing from Nairobi's working class fuels the expansion in the development of small towns on its outskirts. This leads to several new residents living in close contact with the wildlife. According to Peter M. Ngau, a professor of Nairobi University's department of urban and regional planning, such settlements are sprouting up on traditional migratory routes that the wildlife had long used to get access either to the southern plains around Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania or to the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya's southwest corner. Julius Kipngetich, director of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), stated that the annual migration of the wildebeests from Nairobi National National Park to the Athi plains in the east has been affected by human encroachment. He further added that human population in the Kitengela area where the six lions were killed had increased dramatically since an export processing zone opened there.

This article gives a clear representation about the effects of human encroachment onto a wild place, in which both people and animals live in an intense state of uneasiness. This condition was put to the test when a pride of lions took their toll on the local livestock, igniting a merciless retaliation despite the fact that killing a lion is considered a crime in Kenya. The nation is said to lose about hundred lions each year due to such retaliatory killings, and has dropped to about 2,000 animals. Many lions and other animals are not fenced in, which in turn results in these conflicts. With these six lions killed, the KWS estimates that the lion population in Nairobi National Park has gone down to 37 animals. In addition to this recent attack, the national park has also witnessed similar incidents. A week earlier, a leopard was killed by villagers for killing a goat. Last month, wildlife service agents shot and killed a lion that was seen wondering around Karen, a suburb of Nairobi. On Thursday, three lions were chased back to the park by rangers after killing three goats. As part of the effort to minimize any human-wildlife conflict, the government of Kenya would compensate the people who have either lost their livestock or had their livestock seriously injured as a lure to spare the predators. However, this plan can only be implemented if the parliament agrees. The reason, according to KWS spokesperson Paul Udoto, is because the compensation program had been blown off by the locals in 1987. I feel that the idea of compensation must be implemented, in order to prevent any further killings of wild animals in the national park. In addition to that, I also feel that certain areas that are migratory corridors need to be treated as eco-sensitive zones meaning that no settlement of any sort should be established. Those people who have already settled in such areas should be encouraged to settle on better lands without any activity from wildlife. Furthermore, I strongly believe that many of the villages close to Nairobi National Park must be well-fortified with barriers to prevent the wild animals from entering and taking toll of either livestock or a human life. If the human-wildlife conflict continues to escalate, it would have dramatic effects on Kenya's tourist industry.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

India- $30 Million Loan Sought for Wildlife Protection

Tiger cub

It has been recently announced that India's environment ministry has made a bid to seek U.S $30 million from the World Bank to investigate poaching in around 600 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. The action could mean making the nation's wildlife laws agreeable with the bank's norms. The Environment and Social Management Framework (ESMF) for the proposed project made known by the ministry talks about the need to review appropriate environmental and land acquisition legislation accede with the World Bank's environmental and social safeguard policies. India is inquiring a loan of U.S $30 million from the World Bank acquire a comprehensive international and natural approach to investigating poaching. It is said that Bangladesh and Nepal have taken matching funds from the bank to acquire a similar approach. The World Bank is stressing on complete wildlife protection for South Asia, which counts for 13-15 % of the world's biodiversity and is a lucrative target for the illegal wildlife trade. Within the region, Nepal has become a core for the illicit trade bound for China. Burma is another important route for transporting the illegal contraband to Laos and Vietnam, which are two major global transit centers for the trade. The ministry is also seeking funds to intensifying measures for wildlife protection across India's national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, many of which share borders with neighboring countries. The loan is likely to be used for cross-border landscape management approach between the countries, relocation of people living in parks and sanctuaries to create pure areas of wildlife, and satellite-based monitoring approach. In addition to that, the funds would also be used to bolster the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, establishing of Virtual Regional Center of Excellence (VRCE) for wildlife conservation, and research projects in wildlife conservation.

I sure hope that the World Bank will provide India with the loan, in order to combat the wildlife crimes plaguing its natural ecosystems and strengthening its protection measures. Poaching and wildlife trade is on the rise in South Asia, as numerous animals fall victim in the murderous hands of poachers and other operators of such illicit activities. Among the victims include tigers, elephants, snow leopards, Indian leopards, rhinos, pangolins, brown bears, and several species of deer and reptiles. The perpetrators are also known to target marine animals such as sea horses and corals. Based on the numbers, it is absolutely crucial to conduct measurements against the ongoing threats of poaching and the wildlife trade in South Asia. However, the article clearly dictates that the funding could affect the implementation of environmental laws such as the Environment Protection Act of 1986, the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy of 2007, and the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. This could probably mean that some actions implemented as part of India's wildlife protection effort could be met with problems regarding issues such as the relocation of people from a wildlife area to some other place. I also hope that India will prepare for such situations, and take the initiative in solving such problems while focusing on the efforts of helping save and protect the wildlife. An ideal example of human relocation done in recent times is the one that had been carried out in Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, as part of the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project. During that time, hundreds of local indigenous Sahariya people were encouraged to settle on the fringes of the wildlife sanctuary where the land is parched and infertile. Although there has not been any report of lions being brought into the sanctuary lately, many resettled members of the Sahariya tribe have been living in dire poverty despite the implementation of measures in providing them with basic necessities such as access to roads, schools, and a hospital. I hope that any effort in relocating people will not result in a similar situation like the Sahariya people. The goal is to have both people and animals to live in peace equally.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

More Than 200 Arrested in Africa's Biggest Ivory Trade Crackdown

Police seize a python skin as part of an operation that resulted in more than 200 arrests in fourteen African countries.

A recent crackdown of what happens to be the biggest seizure of elephant ivory in fourteen African countries has revealed a prosperous trade in the illegal contraband by international crime syndicates. According to the Interpol, more than 200 people were arrested and almost two tons of ivory was seized across Africa in a series of raids. Officials say that the rise in poaching is connected to the increasing presence of Chinese investors and workers in Africa, with Kenya being the biggest passage for smuggled ivory where about ninety percent of traffickers arrested at airports are Chinese. A new study by a wildlife conservation group indicates that vast majority of smuggled ivory goes to China, and has redoubled in the past six years. Interpol stated that a recent wildlife operation dubbed Operation Worthy was carried out by more than 320 law enforcement agents over the past three months at border crossings, markets, ports, roadside inspections, and shops across Africa. This operation was bolstered by Environment Canada, which provided the local police with training in wildlife law and investigative techniques. The intelligence assembled in the operation will find connections between poachers, and the global smuggling syndicates that are gathering millions of dollars from wildlife smuggling. In addition to ivory, police also uncovered cheetah and lion pelts, crocodile and python skins, live tropical birds, turtles, and more than 20 kilograms of rhino horns. The raids even revealed an array of weapons used by the syndicates. Among them were AK-47 and M16 automatic rifles,which indicated the sophisticated firepower of these well-armed groups. A similar operation in China this year resulted in a seizure of thousands of endangered animals. Study of the Chinese ivory market by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) showed that majority of Chinese ivory traders are illegal, and even legal dealers are violating the rules in ivory control. It concluded that smuggled ivory is easily concealed through China's organization of licensed dealers. The group also added that the rising strength of the Chinese currency, combined with the rapidly growing price of ivory, has allowed traffickers to make colossal profits by purchasing ivory in Africa and selling it in China.
Uganda customs and revenue authority with ivory tusks seized at the Entebbe International Airport.

I'm deeply overwhelmed by the number of seizures carried out in all these African countries. They are a clear indication about the rise in the demand of ivory and every other animal body part in China. But what truly shocks me is the fact that the battle against the threat of poaching and the wildlife trade is a losing one on the side of the authorities. According IFAW spokesman Adrien Hiel, the penalties against these crimes are much smaller compared to arms trafficking, drug trafficking, and human trafficking. This makes me feel extremely appalled and disgusted that wildlife crimes are not taken seriously like regular crimes which endanger the lives of the general public. The governments of the various nations need to come together, and impose stricter and more stronger penalties against wildlife crimes they want to make the world a better place to live in. Just recently, Prince William had expressed his feelings towards the trade in rhino horns calling the business "ignorant, selfish, and utterly wrong." I used to think that whenever these world-renowned people, whether they were government officials or even famous celebrities, would voice their concerns towards any such catastrophe, it would motivate and inspire the general public to take action against any issue related to either the environment or the wildlife. However, the public should not always rely on such figures in order to act up against such issues. Education in the dangers that these issues pose and how to help in an effort to fight them is the main key, in order to help keep the world's natural environments and its inhabitants safe. Unfortunately, there are probably very few such countries notorious for these illegal activities where the public is educated and has taken a step to advocate for stiffer penalties. Kenya is one of them. But there are several other countries where these illicit acts of violence and bloodshed operate virtually with impunity. Mr. Hiel stated that most people in China do not realize the harsh truth behind the ivory products they purchase. The public in such nations really need to wake-up and smell the reality. They should not wait for another series of such seizures to realize their ignorance. My opinion is that these recent seizures should be taken as a wake-up call in a fight against poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. Otherwise, the extinction of the world species would be a result of public ignorance and carelessness.

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TRAFFIC Raises Public Awareness of Poaching in Malaysia


The world's leading conservation group TRAFFIC has recently raised awareness of illegal poaching and wildlife trade near an important protected area during its three-day exhibit. The message was reached out to over a thousand residents in the area, where the activities were taking place. The program witnessed TRAFFIC setting up booths at night, and markets in towns bordering the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex in the northern Peninsular Malaysia. The complex is home to a wide variety of endangered species such as elephants, gaur (locally known as seladang), sun bears, and tigers; making it an ideal place for poachers and wildlife traders to conduct their illicit activities. The complex also shares a border with Thailand, and is one of Malaysia's three tiger priority sites. As part of the initiative, TRAFFIC staff and volunteers addressed to the local residents about the penalties and provisions under the nation's new Wildlife Conservation Act of 2010 for illegal possession and trade of wildlife, poaching, and the use of snares and other forms of trapping. The team also spoke about the ban on hunting the barking and the sambar deer, which are an important prey species for tigers and among the most commonly poached animals in the area. Due to poaching, the populations of Malaysia's sambar deer has seriously decimated. In addition to addressing the locals, the team also advocated the Wildlife Crime Hotline which is administered by the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT), of which TRAFFIC Southeast Asia is a member. Residents were urged to contact the 24-hour hotline and report any information on poaching, the use of snares, or the illegal wildlife trade.

This article gives a perfect example of community outreach directed towards local residents about the dangers of illegal poaching and wildlife trade being carried out in the wild places renowned for their rich abundance of wildlife. In this case, the location is Malaysia which has long been a major center for the illegal trading of endangered and exotic wildlife. Although I very much admire the steps TRAFFIC has taken in order to spread awareness about the threats Malaysia's wildlife is facing, I also feel that similar initiatives must be conducted in other countries where these threats continue to plague their local wildlife.  One of the ways to carry out these initiatives would be to have different conservation groups, including TRAFFIC, to form alliances with the governments of these nations in order to address the issues to the general public. And just like in Malaysia, there should also be an establishment of a similar hotline which people can contact to report any suspicious activities related to poaching and the wildlife trade. This way, it will further help the world in the battle against wildlife crimes.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sea Shepherd Provides Help to Protect Coral Sea Marine Reserve

One of the Sea Shepherd's vessels: the MY Steve Irwin.

When most people think of the Sea Shepherd, what comes to their mind is a conservation society made famous in the Animal Planet series Whale Wars. While it is true that this society is known to save lives of marine mammals such as whales, it is also committed to the protect other types of wildlife in the world's oceans. One recent example is seen in this article, in which the society is providing help to patrol and protect the waters of Australia's new marine reserve in the Coral Sea. The announcement came last week by the Australian government, which is establishing the marine reserve to fight the dangers fragile marine ecosystems are facing. Conservation groups believed that it is crucial to prevent threats such as poaching and overfishing, which would damage the reserve. But the problem, according to former M.P Peter Lindsay, was that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority needed help such as being provided proper funding in order to patrol and police the reserve. That was when the Sea Shepherd stepped in, saying that it would help protect the marine sanctuary from foreign vessels functioning illegally at the Coral Sea. This meant that Australian taxpayers would have to pay nothing. The conservation society also stated that it would allow members of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, or other proper authorities to use vessels and go onboard during patrols. In addition to that, it will also work with different Australian authorities to formulate strategies that would result in prosecution of illegal fishing activities.
Yellowfin goatfish in the Coral Sea.

I'm very proud to see what a renowned conservation society like the Sea Shepherd is doing, in order to help Australian authorities in an effort to protect a newly-established marine sanctuary as part of the majestic Coral Sea. This vast stretch of water covers an area of more than half the size of Queensland, and is known to have green sea turtle nesting sites along with various species of sharks and other predatory fish. With such an abundance of marine life, it is not uncommon for the Coral Sea to be prone to threats ranging from poaching to overfishing. For this reason, the Sea Shepherd announced that it would participate in the protection of the marine reserve whose roots date back to November 2011. This conservation society is known to have a strong track record of defending and preserving marine ecosystems and their inhabitants worldwide. The group has in-depth sources and experience, which includes worldwide awareness and support, media relations, and vessel identification systems. In addition to that, it also known for using direct-action strategies when necessary to reveal and stand up to illegal marine activities. The group's founder, Captain Paul Watson, explained that it is "prepared to work with any government or local agency to protect their waters." Before Australia, the Sea Shepherd had helped the government of Ecuador protect the shark population and marine ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands. As part of their effort to help Australia, the Sea Shepherd spent more than $4 million to buy a patrol boat, set up vessel identification systems, conduct training, and introduce a team of sniffer dogs to sniff out shark fins and other illegal marine contraband. The actions have been applauded by the Australian government, the Navy, and the officials of the marine reserve. Overall, I feel that this marine reserve has a bright future with the Sea Shepherd helping in its protection and preservation. I also believe that based on the group's qualifications, any government of a nation bordering any of the world's oceans or other similar water bodies should depend on joining forces with the Sea Shepherd in order to protect their local marine life.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Tanzania's Poachers Turn to Poisoning Elephants

An African bush elephant in Tanzania

It has been recently reported that poachers in Tanzania have developed a new strategy in bringing down elephants: poisoning. It is said that poachers have been taking lives of close to 24 elephants for their tusks through this gruesome method. According to reports, suspects were arrested at the Mbulumbulu Village in Karatu District while supposedly scheming to kill elephants through poisoned pumpkins and watermelons near the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Shaddy Kyambile, an acting conservator of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), described the incident as being third in which suspected poachers would use poison to kill the animals. He further added that game rangers set a trap and arrested a suspect at the Sahata River while out on patrol. In addition to that, he also mentioned that it takes an elephant five hours to die after eating a pumpkin or watermelon laced with chemicals. Another official named Amiyo Amiyo said that an elephant, believed to be poisoned, collapsed and died near the authority gate last month. A recent case was reported near Lake Manyara National Park, where fourteen elephants were found dead upon suspicions that they were poisoned. Earlier in April, eight elephants were allegedly poisoned near Tarangire National Park in western Arusha which increased the death toll to 87 in four months.
Elephants in Lake Manyara National Park

Wildlife officials stated that a well-organized group of poachers were running amok in different national parks for about four months, butchering elephants for ivory to sell in Far Eastern markets. Acting Director of Wildlife Ms. Nebo Mwina said that a total of 776 elephants had been killed off between 2008 and 2012 in various national parks. Statistics showed that 104 elephants were killed in 2008, while 127 and 259 were slaughtered in 2009 respectively. 2011 saw deaths of 276 elephants in the hands of poachers, and finally in mid-April of this year the body count surged to 87 animals. The figures, according to Ms. Mwina, give a clear indication about a sharp rise in the "appetite for wildlife trophies, particularly elephant ivory in Vietnam and China." John Saleh, executive director of the African Wildlife Foundation, stated that the wave of killings is a reminder from the 1970s during which poachers decimated elephant populations with impunity. He further added that it is crucial for local communities to engage in the protection of wildlife, and the war against poaching. According to Khamis Kagasheki, minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, the reason poaching had exceeded to such overwhelming proportions is due to limited resources on the government's part. An expert with the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) stated that around $77 million in budget funds are needed per year to be able to guarantee that all national parks are faultless. However, the current budget is at $38 million annually. The dean of Tumaini University Makumira's Law Faculty named Elifuraha Laltaika said that militarizing wildlife protection would be more expensive and short term. In his own words, he stated that a community living in and around protected areas would fight poaching at a cheaper and more sustainable manner if it knowingly benefits from the resources. The ongoing slaughter has grown so worse, that last year Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikiwete called to sanction the arrangement of army units to investigate poaching in game reserves.
Men posing with ivory tusks in Dar es Salaam.

I'm very much shocked to see the numbers of elephants butcher as a result of this sadistic technique of poisoning implemented by the poachers in order to conduct their illicit business in and around Tanzania's protected areas. The figures mentioned above are just staggering, indicating that a silent slaughter had been taking place over a four-year period from 2008 to 2012. It goes to show that the demand in ivory from China and Southeast Asia is the driving force behind all the poaching activities occurring in Tanzania and elsewhere in Africa. I personally feel that this is a crucial time to reach out and encourage the local communities to lend their hands in helping protect the wildlife and battle poaching. In addition to that, involving both the law enforcement and the military to collaborate with the national parks' staff is also necessary if Tanzania is to protect its elephants from any further poisoning. Putting up fences around some game reserves, as put by African lion researcher Dr. Craig Packer, is not the only solution to prevent poaching, since the perpetrators are capable of cutting their way into the areas. Furthermore, different international wildlife organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) should be involved in order to provide the nation with funds for its budget. As long as the threat of poaching prevails, the tourist industry would be greatly affected as well. Overall, this article indicates how crucial it is to combat the ongoing threat of the ivory trade which has been plaguing Africa's wild places for decades.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Iberian Lynx Protection Extends Beyond Andalusia

Fontana, a three-year-old female Iberian lynx spotted across the border in Castilla-La Mancha.

The Iberian lynx is one of the most fascinating, yet highly endangered of wildcats found nowhere else but in small pockets of the peninsula of the same name. Although much of its range is limited to Andalusia, it has been recently reported that the population of this lynx has spread beyond that area towards Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y Leon, Extremadura, and even far away as Madrid. While this appears to be good news for the species, it has been said that proper monitoring systems are essential to ensure the cats are safe away from Andalusia where they had been historically confined following years of poaching, habitat loss, road casualties, and poisoning. Some possible protective tactics include regulating the use of herbicides, putting a stop to rabbit-hunting, and making sure that new infrastructure does not destroy the lynxs' habitat. One natural history expert named Ramon Grande Del Brio, whose research found four or five lynx populations in Salamanca. A recent lynx sighting occurred in April this year when a three-year-old female named Fontana was sighted 150 kilometers away in Ciudad Real, over the border in Castilla-La Mancha after coming near a log covered with lynx urine; a technique used by specialists to attract the animal. Born in the Andujar-Cardena mountain range in 2009, she had not been photographed since 2010. A study by a natural history scholar named Luis Garzon has also found lynxes in Castilla y Leon and Extremadura, where the population is estimated to be up to fifty individuals. As part of his study, Garzon interviewed farmers and shepherds, collected feces, looked for lynx tracks, and listened to the cats during their breeding season between December and February. An excrement found in 2006 in Madrid confirmed that it belonged to a lynx.

I'm also very happy to see that the Iberian lynx population has been expanding over the years, and has dispersed beyond Andalusia and into areas where they had historically disappeared. However, I also feel that it is crucial to conduct monitoring systems to guarantee that these cats are safe. Currently, there is no such system in Madrid due to lack of proof that lynxes are living in the area despite the tracks being spotted in the surrounding mountains of the city. In addition to that, it is also said that the feces are known to deteriorate quickly which makes it hard to conduct an analysis as to whether they belonged to a lynx or some other animal. I think in order to carry out a successful monitoring system, there should be community involvement where local people can be educated about the Iberian lynx and help by taking pictures of any strange creature that looks like a cat and presenting them to the authorities. In addition to that, it is also crucial to conduct protective measurements such as stopping hunting, controlling the use of poisons, and preventing any further habitat loss to ensure the lynxs' survival. This way, the conservation of the Iberian lynx will further improvise in an effort to save this mysterious cat.

View article here

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

South Africa's Animal Rights Activists Demand Justice Against Rhino Poachers

White rhinoceros

The nation of South Africa has so far lost a total of 245 rhinos to poachers since the beginning of the year, according to the Department of Environmental Affairs. Last year, amidst the bloodshed, authorities were able to arrest eight people, including two veterinarians and one professional hunter on charges relating to distribution and possession of a tranquilizing drug used by rhino poachers. As the three suspects were brought to the North Regional Court in Pretoria on Wednesday, several animal rights activists followed. Among the accused included Dr. Douw Grobler, an animal conservation expert and former head of wildlife capturing and veterinary services of Kruger National Park. The other two charged were private veterinarian Dr. Johannes Gerhardus Kruger, and professional hunter and animal farmer Hugo Ras. It is declared that the trio contributed to the poaching of rhinos by providing a poaching syndicate with tranquilizer darts. The drug, known as M99 or etorphine, was assertedly used to dart the animals before removing their horns. The case has been postponed until June 19th. However, the activists stated that they would follow the case until its conclusion. Among the participants present were the Outraged South African Citizens Against Poaching (OSCAP), a Pretoria-based animal rights group whose members stated that the government had to crucially improve public awareness on poaching.

This article gives a clear representation of the public's reaction against the ongoing massacre of South Africa's rhinos. Over the past few years, the numbers of these majestic creatures has been diminishing as poaching syndicates consisting of professional hunters and veterinarians who would supply the poachers with tranquilizing drugs in order to hunt down the rhinos. The two veterinarians mentioned in this article were among eight suspects arrested last year on charges relating to the distribution and possession of this drug. The remaining five suspects included Dr. Buti Chibase, a state veterinarian from Klerksdorp, followed by Matthys Christoffel Scheepers, Riaal Booysen, Boksburg Veterinarian Dr. Johan Hendrik Meyer, and Christoffel Francois Naude. All eight of these suspects appeared in the Pretoria North Magistrate's Court in March, but the charges against them were withdrawn in April because of insufficient evidence. What truly shocks me about this ongoing catastrophe is that the people involved did not only include poachers, but also veterinarians whom the public perceives as individuals committed to helping save lives of animals rather than kill them. This really goes to show that poaching is South Africa has reached an all-time high, and it needs to be addressed by the government through public awareness in order to help put a stop to it. Furthermore, the threat of poaching has tremendously affected the tourist industry such that people visiting the national parks may not get to see a rhinoceros about. This is why it is extremely crucial to combat poaching of rhinos and other animals in South Africa, otherwise the problem will continue to spread rapidly across the nation and would exceed beyond the borders and into surrounding regions.

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Zero-Tolerance Declared Against Illegal Online Wildlife Trading

Tigers, leopards, and pangolins seized in Thailand.

It has been recently reported that fifteen leading e-commerce companies based in China have signed a declaration saying that they have a zero-tolerance policy towards their services being used to carry out illegal trading of wildlife. The statement states that buyers and sellers must abide by all aspects of China's Wild Animal Protection Law, and rules under CITES (Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species) governing in trade of such illicit goods. The declaration was allotted following a workshop on regulating the illegal wildlife trade online by the National Forest Police Bureau of the State Forestry Administration (SFA) in alliance with TRAFFIC earlier this month. The workshop was attended by more than thirty participants from the National Forest Police Bureau, Network Security Bureau of Ministry of Public Security, Wildlife Conservation Department of SFA, China's CITES Management Authority, e-commerce websites, and TRAFFIC. During the workshop, representatives from all e-commerce companies read and signed the "Commitment to Zero-tolerance of illegal online wildlife trade. Among the companies that signed the declaration included Alibaba, Taobao, and Tencent. Due to the popularity of the internet, the availability of illegal wildlife products online has been making progress as a number of websites are illegally offering "high profile" animal species or body parts such as elephant, rhinoceros, sea turtles, and tiger. In April, TRAFFIC discovered 3,389 advertisements for elephant ivory, hawksbill turtle, rhino horn, and tiger bone products being offered through fifteen Chinese-language e-commerce websites and affiliated auction sites and chat rooms.

I'm very proud to see what different China-based e-commerce companies have done, in order to help combat the illegal wildlife trade. The recent discovery made by TRAFFIC in April is a clear indication of how the wildlife trade has been flourishing thanks to technology. For this reason, such companies have adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards being used to conduct illegal activities. However,  there are also thousands of other such e-commerce companies across China that are specializing in selling wild animals and their body parts. This is why it is extremely crucial to tackle this issue of illegal online wildlife trade, and one of the ways would be to form alliances with other nations from where such animals come from. In addition to that, there should also be community involvement to combat the issue with educational awareness conveying the message to never buy illegal wildlife products online.

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Wyoming Seeks to Remove Grizzly Bears as Endangered Species

Grizzly bear

It has been recently reported that the governor of Wyoming wants the federal authorities to remove grizzly bears as endangered species, in order to open the door for hunting opportunities in the future. Wyoming Governor Matt Mead recently wrote to Ken Salazar, secretary of the Department of Interior, asking to withdraw federal protection of the bears under the Endangered Species Act. The letter, which was written on May 24th and is being reviewed by Salazar's office, said grizzly bears have "unquestionably recovered within the Yellowstone Ecosystem." Steve Farrell, Governor Mead's policy adviser, agreed that managed hunts may be required to keep the population under control. However, Mr. Farrell claimed that the effort to strip the bears of their status as endangered species is not entirely "driven by this need to hunt them." Since 2007, grizzly bears were removed from the Endangered Species List but were placed back in 2009 after a conservation group took legal action. Some of these groups stated that the species has not bounced back enough and faces a threat in which its main food source, the seeds from the whitebark pine tree, is becoming scarce due to a tree infection. One such group is the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, whose spokesperson Jeff Welsch stated that scientists needed more time to understand why Greater Yellowstone's grizzly populations are leveling off and to further study the hypotheses of the demise in whitebark pine trees.
Whitebark pine trees

In the last two years, the famed Yellowstone National Park had suffered four fatal attacks by grizzly bears. According to Chris Servheen, a grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, the rebounding population which is estimated to be at least 600 in the area, partially explains the rise in fatal attacks. While there has not been any finalization of removing the bears off the list, some groups are already advocating the hunting of the animals. One of them is the Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, whose executive director Bob Wharff stated that the hunting of grizzly bears would "maintain the overall health of the population." Another is the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), which believes that the goals with respect to population have been met through the federal recovery plan. However, some wildlife conservation activists still insist that the bears need protection from hunters until scientists more accurately study the effect of disease-causing whitebark pine trees could have on the population.
Grizzly bear

My opinion is that the public should maintain contact with the scientists studying the whitebark pine trees, whose seeds are said to be the major food source for the grizzly bears. It is said that these trees need protection before they become extinct, and this is something I believe is crucial for not just the bears but also the entire Yellowstone ecosystem. In addition to that, I also believe that the state of Wyoming should try to identify corridors which the grizzly bears use when dispersing beyond the borders of Yellowstone National Park before proposing an open hunting season for them. Furthermore, while the grizzly bear population appears to be improving in terms of population growth, further up north in Alberta, Canada it is a completely different. There, the grizzly bear population has been fluctuating dramatically with recent deaths of five bears. One possible technique I suggest is that the U.S could reintroduce its grizzly bears to Alberta in order to help revive the population. This can also help in maintaining the health of the grizzly population in the U.S, especially in the case of "problematic" bears which are normally killed off by wildlife officials. I personally believe that U.S and Canada should join forces together, in order to help each other with respect to their local grizzly bear populations.

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

MoEF to Act Against Illegal Industries Around Kaziranga National Park

A dead Indian one-horned rhinoceros

It has been recently announced that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has been asked by the National Green Tribunal to take action against illegal industrial units operating in the "No Development Zone" around Assam's Kaziranga National Park. However, the Tribunal also asked the ministry to acquire permission before taking any "coercive action" against three tea processing units functioning within the zone near the Numaligarh Refinery near the national park. Earlier, a bench had held back the ministry from granting any approval to stone-crushing or other industrial units in the area of the park. Now, that same bench has asked the ministry to take action against other units in the zone. The tea processing units approached the Tribunal to be made a party, and to have their testimony in a case filed by Rohit Chaudhary, an Assam-based activist who is looking for directions to halt quarrying and stone-cutting units around Kaziranga. In July 5, 1996, Mr. Chaudhary had asserted large-scale violation of a ministry notification which declared an area within a radius of fifteen kilometers from the Numaligarh Refinery near Kaziranga as No Development Zone. He also asserted unlimited mining and quarrying activities in the No Development Zone around Kaziranga and the Karbi-Anglong Elephant Reserve. The Tribunal had earlier instructed all industrial units to maintain a status quo, and on February 15th, prevented the ministry from allowing approvals to industries or renewing the licenses of existing ones functioning there. But on April 22nd, the Tribunal inquired a report from the ministry on industries operating in the park's vicinity and asked the ministry to carry out a survey. Mr. Chaudhary has inquired directions to the MoEF and the government of Assam to pinpoint stone-crushing and other industrial units functioning without approval in the No Development Zone, and to take necessary action against them. The answers to Mr. Chaudhary's inquiries under the RTI (Right to Information) Act showed that there are nineteen stone-quarrying units in the area and ten of them are within five kilometers of Kaziranga, while the remaining are situated between five and ten kilometers away from the national park.

I sure hope that the MoEF will do whatever it can, in order to prevent these industrial units from further exploiting the region near Kaziranga. I also think that part of the effort to put a stop to these units is to investigate whether they have any connection with the Mafia Raj. The reason is because this network of criminals are known to own various mining and stone quarries across India wherever there is a rich abundance of minerals. And from what is seen in the case of stone-crushing units and quarries around Kaziranga National Park without approval, that just might be the possibility. This is why it is very crucial to address the problem of industrialization operating without permission around Kaziranga, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If such destructive activities continue, then it would loose that prestige and the impact would also affect the tourist industry in the national park.

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Friday, June 8, 2012

New Hope for Central Africa's Wildlife

A forest elephant calf

It has been recently reported that countries in Central Africa have signed a pioneering plan to strengthen the law enforcement, and improve the battle against poaching of elephants and other species in danger of the illegal wildlife trade. This plan was set up by ten member states forming the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC), as the region experienced increasing rates of wildlife crime. Wildlife ministers from each of these ten countries promised to carry out causative levels of cooperation with law enforcement agencies, such as the police, customs and the judiciary, to combat the issues. They also declared plans to hold a head of state conference next year to address the issues of wildlife loss and maintaining the biodiversity of Africa. This conference would not only bring together African leaders, but also government officials from key Asian trading partners and intergovernmental supporters such as the African Development Bank and the United Nations to look into operations for cooperation. The law enforcement action plan includes arrangements to boost up anti-poaching efforts in each of these ten countries and to allow joint-country patrols in some trans-border areas. In addition to that, customs controls are also ready to be prepared at international transit centers. The countries also plan to boost up investigations and carry out more accurate prosecutions, in order to make sure that criminals involved in the illegal wildlife trade would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law after being arrested. Such cases will also be examined for corruption, and action will be taken against those attempting to obstruct justice. The finalization of the plan came after Dr. Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank spoke about the desperate need to tackle the ongoing threat. In his own words, the increase in large seizures is "evidence of the involvement of well-organized criminal networks in illegal wildlife trade." At an event held in N'Djamena, Chad, the nation along with the Central African Republic and Cameroon signed a tripartite declaration to team up together and increase transboundary alliance to fight poaching. In addition to that, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), along with TRAFFIC and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, has provided both financial and technical support toward the formulation of the plan and is offering ongoing support for utilization.
Black rhinos

I'm very proud to see what the countries in the Central African region have done, in order to help save and protect their local wildlife. The region has experienced some of the most tragic moments in recent times, including the massacre of more than 200 elephants in Cameroon's Bouba N'Djida National Park. In addition to that, the region had also lost the Western black rhinoceros to extinction. Both of these stories are a clear indication that the region has been and still is prone to poaching and the illegal wildlife trade devastating its ecosystems. This is why it was absolutely crucial for the countries forming the Central African region to collaborate together, in order to combat these ongoing threats. Among the strategies implemented include high levels of cooperation with different law enforcement agencies, and more accurate prosecutions such as investigating for corruption in such cases. I think this is a huge step for Central Africa because the region has been affected by corruption over the years, and it looks like the region is taking a stand against corruption by combating poaching and the wildlife trade through this plan. However, I also believe that Central Africa should also remain alert for any strategy the operators of the wildlife trade will use in order to keep their illicit business flowing. For example, if they cannot transport their illegal merchandise from one central African country to another, they may opt for an alternative route which could cover a nation that is not in Central Africa. This type of strategy was seen in the case of ivory tusks seized in Sri Lanka. For this reason, I also believe that Central Africa could further improve their plan by forming alliances with their neighbors in the east, west, north, and south which would make it even more difficult for the perpetrators to carry out their evil and illegal deeds. Furthermore, this forming of a plan is an important milestone for Central Africa and it very much highlights that the region's wildlife have a new hope for survival.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

High-speed Ferries Threaten Hong Kong's Dolphins

Dolphin-watching from a ferry

It has been recently reported that a Hong Kong-based conservation group has found that an increase in high-speed ferry traffic is contributing to a dramatic decimation in the Chinese white dolphin population in the city's waters. A research by the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society indicated that catamaran and jetfoil ferry traffic is removing the dolphins from their natural habitats in the mouth of the Pearl River Delta. According to the Hong Kong Marine Department, high-speed ferry traffic between Hong Kong, China, and Macau has increased by 76 percent from 1999 to 2011. The society stated stated that the numbers of dolphins has plunged dramatically in the North Lantau waters since the opening of six ferry services at the Hong Kong International Airport's Skypier in 2003. Figures show that dolphin numbers in Hong Kong's waters decreased from 158 in 2003 to 78 in 2011, with about 2,500 in the Pearl River Delta. According to Samuel Hung, the society's chairman, the dolphins would hear a high-speed ferry until it is as close as 100 meters away which gives them only 10 seconds to react. As a result, the animals were leaving the area in search of safer waters. Dr. Hung further added that there have been plans to build a third runway on a reclaimed land at the airport, which would increase the ferry traffic and put more strain on the dolphin population.
Chinese white dolphin, also called pink dolphin

This article gives a clear idea of what happens to an animal population, due to the ongoing encroachment of humans. In this case, dolphins in Hong Kong's waters are being pushed out of their natural habitats in search of safer waters as a result of ferry traffic. This is an issue that needs to be addressed to both the government and the public, and call for efforts to prevent any further depletion of dolphins in Hong Kong. This unique marine mammal was the official mascot of the Hong Kong handover ceremony in 1997. In addition to that, dolphin-watching is a favorite tourist attraction in the city. If the traffic in high-speed ferries increases, then the dolphin population would deplete to the point in which the tourist industry will be greatly affected. This is why it is crucial to address this issue, and carry out efforts to save the dolphins from wandering off into areas where they might be met with some other danger of some sort. One of the ways I would recommend is to limit the number of ferries from Hong Kong to either China or Macao, and back. Also, the number of tourist ferries heading out into the waters should be limited as well. This would help keep the remaining numbers of dolphins in Hong Kong's waters to some degree. But the best way would be to consult and maintain contact with the dolphin conservation society. That way, Hong Kong's dolphins may remain in their habitats and continue to draw tourists from around the world.

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