Monday, December 23, 2013

Conservation Groups Call for a Ban on Coyote Hunting to Save North Carolina's Red Wolves

A radio-collared red wolf in a facility on St. Vincent Island in Florida.

It has been reported last week that three conservation groups in North Carolina have urged a federal court to put a stop to coyote hunting in five coastal counties, indicating that the practice is killing red wolves. News about alleged deaths of North Carolina's red wolves date back to mid-October in which five animals had been shot since, and only a cut-off radio collar of the sixth animal has been found. Rewards amounting to $26,000 had been offered for information about the shootings. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is known to allow an open hunting season on coyotes, which have flourished across the state in recent decades. The petition filed Monday asked that a U.S District Court judge halt coyote hunting in Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell, and Washington counties which include 1.7 million acres on the Albemarle Peninsula where about hundred red wolves roam free. Filed on behalf of the Animal Welfare Institute, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Red Wolf Coalition, it states that coyote hunting allows illegal killing of red wolves which are protected by federal law. Last month, the Wildlife Resources Commission denied violating the federal law and stated that its rules regarding coyote hunting are "in the best interest of the public, the environment and agricultural community." The Southern Environmental Law Center, which represented the three conservation groups, argued that the wolves are being mistakenly shot as coyotes and this is affecting the breeding success of the recovery program. The law center further added that five alleged shooters in the past two years stated they wrongly killed wolves thinking they were coyotes. According to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, eleven breeding pairs of red wolves have decreased to eight.
The coyote bears somewhat resemblance to the red wolf, but has a smaller stature and more narrow skull and snout.

This article is a clear wake-up call for the communities of North Carolina, indicating how licensed hunting has been hindering the breeding program in reviving one of the state's most iconic animals which also happens to be the most highly endangered species in the U.S. The red wolf has been suffering immensely in the hands of human hunters in recent times not due to persecution, but due to mistaken identity in which they are seen as coyotes. This year has seen fourteen red wolves having died due to this belief that they are coyotes and not wolves. Eight gunshot deaths were affirmed and two more were suspected. I very much feel that the U.S District Court judge should consider the evidence and facts gathered by the three conservation groups in order to put a stop to coyote hunting in North Carolina, otherwise the red wolf will be pushed to extinction as it did many years ago. Furthermore, I also feel that the people of North Carolina, especially those who feel concerned about the current fate of red wolves, should voice their concerns in order to provide support for these conservation groups in an effort to help save the wolves. A similar practice is being implemented by opponents who are against a proposal to strip the gray wolf of its federal protection. In addition, the efforts to revive the Mexican wolf populations in the American Southwest are also prone to various forms of hindering such as persecution from ranchers who simply do not care that these wolves are critically endangered. This why it is extremely crucial that the American public should consider the fate of the country's wolf populations, and provide its undivided support to conservation groups dedicated to keep the wolves safe from human-related harm.

View article here

Saturday, December 21, 2013

U.S Donates Forty Arabian Oryx to the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi

A herd of Arabian oryx

The Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi (EAD) has recently received a donation of forty Arabian oryx from the U.S, which will be part of its ongoing Arabian Oryx Breeding Program under the Arabian Oryx Breeding and Reintroduction Project. The animals, which recently arrived in Abu Dhabi, consist of 15 males and 25 females. They have been transported to the Delaika Conservation and Breeding Facility in the Al Khanza area in the southern part of the emirate, where they will breed with the oryx that are native there and currently living in that facility. The goal of bringing the oryx into the facility serves as a continuation of the facility's breeding program, and is also directed at intensifying the gene pool for the oryx in Abu Dhabi to produce more healthy, diverse, and strong population. The purpose of the EAD to bring these forty oryx for breeding is to guarantee the species' genetic diversity and population sustainability for future generations. According to executive director Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri of EAD's Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector, the agency will now further protect the population from negative impacts of longstanding inbreeding. Once the process is successful, the agency strives to release a number of these oryx into the wild.
Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan played a crucial role in saving the Arabian oryx from the brink of extinction.  

I'm very proud to see the progress being made by the Arabian Oryx Breeding and Reintroduction Project, which has over the past few years played a tremendous role in keeping the Arabian oryx population sustainable. The history of this success story dates back to the late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan whose action played a crucial role in conserving the oryx and saving it from extinction after noticing a dire decline in population. Following in his legacy, the United Arab Emirates have the largest population of Arabian oryx in the world. The Arabian Oryx Breeding and Reintroduction Project, which is comprised of breeding and release programs, has the approval and support of General Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the U.A.E Armed Forces. The Delaika Conservation and Breeding Facility, on the other hand, was formed by the EAD in 2010. It covers an area of 3.5 million square meters, and is home to 5,000 animals consisting of not just the oryx but also mountain and sand gazelles. The EAD has managed a number of oryx releases in Abu Dhabi with 98 animals released into the Arabian Oryx Protected Area in Umm Al Zamool in 2007, and 87 in 2010. The agency's conservation efforts resulted in Abu Dhabi becoming a home to 3,000 oryx today, increasing the oryx population in U.A.E to 4,000. In addition to managing oryx releases in the U.A.E, the EAD has also conducted a number of releases in Wadi Rum in Jordan by collaborating with Al Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority during 2010-2012.
A scimitar-horned oryx in the Werribee Open Zoo in Australia. The scimitar-horned oryx, unlike the Arabian oryx, is still considered "extinct in the wild" since 2000 and thrives mainly in captivity as of now. 

The following facts above indicate that the U.A.E have, for many years, played a crucial role in helping revive the Arabian oryx population in the world through breeding and releasing the animals into the wild. This two-step process is also conducted through joint collaboration with countries such as the U.S and a few Arab countries. The Arabian oryx is one of the most outstanding examples of global conservation in bringing a wild animal back from the brink of extinction. However, the situation is not the same with its relative the scimitar-horned oryx which has been labeled as "Extinct in the Wild" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 2000. Today, the global population of scimitar-horned oryx consists of captive individuals in zoological facilities and fenced-in protected areas outside their historical range. These individuals number somewhere in thousands, and have never been reintroduced into the wild like their Arabian counterparts. Although there is a global captive breeding program for this species, it is not known how it is being carried out in order to ensure the survival of the scimitar-horned oryx. My main concern is how the captive individuals are being managed. What will anyone involved in the conservation of the scimitar-horned oryx do if any of the captive populations exceed the carrying capacity of whatever facility they are being held in? How will they prevent the negative impacts of inbreeding within a captive population? These are the two questions conservationists, researchers, and anybody involved in the scimitar-horned oryx conservation should consider when conducting their program. Furthermore, they should also consider the possibilities of reintroducing the scimitar-horned oryx back in its historical range in an effort to repopulate the species in its natural habitat.

View article here

Nepal Uses Satellite to Follow the Snow Leopard

A team of scientists and researchers fitting a snow leopard with a collar  to keep track of it, in order to discover how climate change and human encroachment is affecting its natural habitat.

It has been recently reported that wildlife experts in Nepal are tracking the elusive snow leopard by using a collar with a satellite connection to determine how climate change and human encroachment are affecting its habitat. A five-year-old male was captured in a snare trap just a while ago at the foot of Mount Kangchenjunga on the India-Nepal border last month and fitted with the collar which uses a GPS tracking system. Experts stated that climate change is causing a rise in temperatures, forcing snow leopards to move further up the mountain slopes, where prey is limited. In addition, they also face threats from poachers killing them for their extravagant coats and livestock owners who view them as a threat to their animals. Furthermore, the leopards' body parts and bones are used for traditional Asian medicine. The male leopard, which has been fitted with the collar, was named Ghanjenjwenga after a 7,774-meter mountain in northeastern Nepal. The collar is providing scientists with data on the leopard's location and activities every four hours. According to national parks ecologist Maheshwar Dhakal, three more leopards will be fitted with the collar by next year.

It is very beneficial to see what measurements scientists and researchers in Nepal are doing to study the impact of climate change on the snow leopards, which are believed to number at 300 to 500 in Nepal alone. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that the global snow leopard population is at 4,080 to 6,590 listing the animal as an "endangered species." The threat of climate change is forcing these magnificent cats to high mountain slopes, which are scarce in prey species making them prone to starvation. Furthermore, the threat of poaching and persecution by local livestock owners adds to the mortality rate. I think that, in addition to studying the affect of climate change, special attention is also required for those two issues. This includes educating the local people living alongside snow leopards about the ecological importance of these cats, and what they can do in order to help save them from poachers. One exemplary possibility would be to be in contact with authorities, and notifying them of any suspected poaching activity in the areas. Most importantly, they should also be educated about the impact and dangers of climate change and how it affects not just the mountain wildlife but also the local communities.

View article here

Friday, December 20, 2013

Iberian Lynx Threatened by a New Strain of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease

An Iberian lynx kitten and a European rabbit

It has been recently reported that the Iberian lynx is facing a threat of prey loss caused by a new kind of rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD), which is affecting Spain's rabbit population. One notable place that is severely affected by the disease is the natural park of Sierra de Andujar, which is also a major lynx preserve in the Andalusian province of Jaen. The park has been recorded to contain 53 fertile females last year, while Donana National Park has counted only 25 females. The lack of prey spells major trouble for the lynx's reproduction, especially during mating season which takes place in December. In addition, the disease could also impact species recovery plans such as the Life Iberlince program which was able to triple the lynx population in the last ten years. A census in 2012 recorded 305 individuals. Last year, 44 newborn kittens survived the affect of the disease. This year's figures will not be definite until the end of December, but sources secretly said that there are no more than ten youngsters.
The European rabbit is one of several prey species that forms the staple diet of the Iberian lynx

Researchers are also worried that if the Iberian lynx does not find its prey, it may travel outside its natural habitat exposing itself to the risk of being road-killed which accounts to 33 percent of its mortality. This year so far, thirteen lynxes had been killed by vehicles. It is said that the regional government of Andalusia is working fast on special measures to halt the decline of the rabbit population. According to Miguel Angel Simon, coordinator of the Iberlince program, the plan will be to return fencing which was implemented in 2002 to repopulate the area with rabbits and assure that the food is not affected. However, the real effects of prey shortage will not be felt until March 2014 when the breeding season begins. In the last few months, the Andalusian environment department has been observing the rabbit populations and affirmed a major decrease in density. Several resources stated that the new brand of RHD has been found in twelve of the thirteen samples collected in Donana and Sierra de Andujar. In 2010 and 2011, two other onsets of the disease resulted in a large population drop. This new disease type now adds to the old one, which primarily affects adult rabbits. The most latest form of disease was first noted in the wild at rabbit farms about a year ago.
A cryoEM reconstruction of  the RHD virus

This article clearly indicates that it is a race against time to save both predator and prey from a disease epidemic that is affecting both organisms. This new type of RHD has been ravaging Spain's rabbit population for quite sometime. Earlier, this disease affected only adult rabbits but now this new type has placed itself with the old type affecting young rabbits less than thirty days old. The disease is known to cause jaundice and nasal hemorrhaging in rabbits. In addition, I feel that this disease would not only affect the lynx population in Spain but other carnivores such as weasels, martens, badgers, foxes, bears, wildcats, and even the endemic Iberian wolf. The Environment Ministry of Spain will be meeting with the flora and fauna and hunting committees in January, along with animal health specialists to find ways to combat this new disease type. In addition, Andalusian authorities have also scheduled another meeting in February 2014 as part of the Iberlince project which functions on a budget of 34 million euros over the 2011-2016 period. I certainly hope that various groups involved in efforts to fight the disease will come up with some kind of solution, but in the meantime, the focus should be on monitoring the lynxes to see where in Spain they are going and what measurements should be conducted to ensure their survival as they wonder about in parts of the country.

View article here   

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

India- Tiger Poaching at its Highest in Seven Years

A tiger in Corbett National Park

It has been reported that the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) has gathered data indicating that the poaching of tigers in 2013 has been recorded as the highest in the past seven years. A recent seizure of two or more tiger skins from Corbett National Park's Bijrani area in the state of Uttarakhand has increased this year's figure to 39 from 31 last year. While a total of 76 tiger deaths had been recorded this year compared to 89 last year, the number of poaching cases has skyrocketed much to the disappointment of conservationists. In 2005, India had recorded 46 cases poaching while 2006 saw 37 poaching incidents, but this year's figure is deemed as the highest. Interestingly, the data gathered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in association with TRAFFIC-India showed that the number of tiger deaths is much less than the WPSI figure. The NTCA record indicated that there had been 66 tiger deaths so far for 2013, even though the number of seizures stood at only five. However, a senior NTCA official claimed that several cases of tiger deaths this year were still under investigation. Ironically, the NTCA announced a message stating that all tiger deaths in India would be treated as poaching unless proven otherwise. According to prominent wildlife conservationist Valmik Thapar, the task of gathering figures on tiger mortality should always be deployed to NGOs and organizations who have the crucial expertise. He further added that figures given by such organizations like the WPSI are more reliable. WPSI program coordinator Tito Joseph stated that the organization's figures were based on accurate on-field investigation, and that it always determines seizures and body parts with experts and field officers before making any claim.

I believe that regardless of what the figures compiled by various organizations and NGOs say, illegal poaching remains rife in India as it does in other parts of the world. Despite numerous efforts to intensify protection measurements, poachers are always looking for ways to get an upper-hand in the continuous battle between them and conservation groups. This is why I feel that it is always essential to combat poaching by means of community involvement. That is, educating both rural and suburban communities about the dangers of poaching and what they can do in order to help put a stop to the practice. In addition to simply refusing to purchase animal body parts, people in both rural and suburban environments should play their parts in notifying the authorities about any would-be activity that could be related to poaching. Furthermore, authorities should never, under any circumstances, deny that they have a major problem concerning poaching in a certain area especially when conservation groups provide sufficient data indicating hardcore evidence of poaching activities.

View article here                

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Gir Forest's Lions Caught in Battle Between Farmers and Crop-raiding Herbivores

Asiatic lion

It has been reported that the state of Gujarat has been witnessing recent incidents in which lions are getting killed as a result of walking into traps laid by farmers to protect their crops from nilgais (blue bulls) and wild boars. A recent arrest of two farmers in connection to the death of a lioness has revealed that the regions where lions live is experiencing a rise in its herbivore population. The census in 2013 indicated that the herbivore population in Gir Forest National Park had increased by 18% in the past three years, along with 25% growth in wild boar population. This method of protecting fresh produce is resulting in growing man-lion conflict with the lions becoming accidental victims. Activists say that farmers are greatly affected by the problem of nilgais and wild boars destroying their crops although they are uncontested in their opinion that lions are simply accidental victims and not intended targets. An activist named Dinesh Goswami stated that he had seen farms that have been completely eradicated by these herbivores, and that farmers prefer having lions and leopards near the fields which promises protection from such crop raiders. He further added that there is no compensation for crops being destroyed by herbivores, compared to livestock predation by lions.

This article clearly indicates that a safer alternative is absolutely crucial to protect the farmers' crops from nilgais and wild boars. According to Ukabhai Vasa, a native of the Dhamraj village in Gir Somnath district's Sutrapada taluka, farmers are spending 25% of their income in protecting their farms by setting up solar lights, laying boundaries, and hiring watchmen. He further added that even if the government succeeded in fencing the forest area, then the situation could be avoided. I very much feel that fencing is an ideal alternative in keeping both lions and other wildlife, including crop-raiding herbivores, safe from farmers. The method of setting up traps against animals infamous for invading farms and destroying fresh produce is known to have its drawbacks. In this case, lions becoming accidental victims of farmers intending on targeting nilgais and wild boars for devastating their crops. This is why I firmly believe that fencing the forest area from village areas is a strategy that should be greatly considered, in order to keep both villagers and their livelihood and wildlife safe from each other. In the meantime, I also feel that it is necessary for the government of Gujarat to consider providing compensation for devastation of crops to the farmers. Compensation for livestock predation alone is not always sufficient for farmers in Gujarat or anywhere else in India.

View article here     

Monday, November 25, 2013

Experts Warn that Poaching of Rhinos Nearly Surpasses Births

A sedated white rhinoceros at a ranch near Johannesburg

International experts have recently warned that the ongoing poaching of rhinos is nearly outpacing the number of births. The International Rhino Foundation (IRF) stated that South Africa is the core of the continuous bloodshed with a record of 827 black and white rhinos killed this year, compared to last year's record of 668. According to IRF executive director Susie Ellis, the levels of poaching threaten to destroy decades of conservation advancement and that it is crucial to take action. However, the IRF also stated that despite the ongoing poaching activities, birth rates of black rhinos continue to increase slowly. In addition, the white rhino population is also slowly on the rise. Nonetheless, the situation is almost certainly unsustainable on the long run. Representatives of the IRF met with international conservation leaders in the city of Tampa, Florida to discuss new tactics to put a stop to the crisis. Dr. Ellis stated that the ultimatum is "whether rhino countries like South Africa and consumer countries like China and Vietnam will enforce their laws and whether countries like Indonesia will take the bold actions to save Sumatran and Javan rhinos." In addition, the IRF also warned of increase in rhino poaching activities in northeast India. Furthermore, while specifying steps in the global effort to save rhinos, the organization confirmed some successes in Botswana, India, Indonesia, and Zimbabwe, and implored officials to heighten their efforts to save rhinos and their habitat.

This article is a clear and explicit indication that strong measurements needed to save the world's rhinos are crucial in this time of suffering and carnage attributed towards these majestic animals. While the numbers of black rhinos are currently at 5,000 and white rhinos number roughly 20,400 in Africa, the onslaught of poaching and growing demand for their horns remains inevitable despite the recent news indicating that the birth rates of these animals are steadily increasing. Indian rhinos, which number about 3,300, are also at tremendous risk of poaching in spite of the success stories of forest guards and wildlife officials sacrificing their lives to protect the animals. While Indonesia has also seen its share of success in protecting its local wildlife, the numbers of rhinos are critically low with as few as hundred Sumatran rhinos and around 44 Javan rhinos remaining in the wild. As a whole, both species are considered to be on the brink of extinction. Furthermore, there has not been any evidence (at least to my knowledge) of Sumatran and Javan rhino birth rates being on the rise, diminishing, or remaining stable. This is why it is extremely crucial to take drastic action regarding the protection of the world's rhinos by any means necessary or the threat of poaching and the illegal wildlife trade will gain upper-hand resulting in widespread loss of the world's rhino population, along with other endangered wildlife.

View article here   

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Kyrgyzstan Aims to Save the Snow Leopard

A snow leopard in Kyrgyzstan's Tian Shan mountain range. 

In Kyrgyzstan, it has been found that the snow leopard population has been dwindling prompting the nation to look for ways to keep the species growing. In October, the capital city of Bishkek hosted the Global Snow Leopard Conservation Forum attracting participants from twelve countries making up the snow leopard's habitat along with biologists and environmentalists. One of the major topics of concern was the animal's situation in Kyrgyzstan. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that roughly 4,080 to 6,590 snow leopards remain in the wild, with 150 to 500 in Kyrgyzstan. According to Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, the population in Kyrgyzstan has dwindled by half in twenty years. At the end of the forum, participants agreed to a 2014-2020 global program with a planned budget of $190 million for conserving the snow leopard's habitat in the twelve countries. The countries are hoped for donating more than half of the financing with the remaining coming from international organizations. The project will take multifaceted approach, which includes establishing a future Khan-Tengri National Park next to the Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve which is home to about 25 snow leopards. In addition, Kyrgyzstan has approved a national strategy which considers changes to the law, cooperation with local communities that exist together with snow leopards, establishment of reserves and sanctuaries, and even hunting regulations. Bishkek environmentalist and WWF consultant Azat Alamanov pointed out that it is necessary to administer a legal moratorium on hunting prey species which snow leopards consume. He further added that hunters are allowed to take seventy Marco Polo sheep per year which provides 3.6 million KGS ($72,000) in hunting license fees. The threat of poaching is another major issue, since the snow leopard's habitat is immense, mountainous, and hard to patrol making it an ideal place for poachers to carry out their illicit activities.

I'm very proud to see that Kyrgyzstan and a handful of other Asian countries where the snow leopard lives have come up with an agreement to protect the cat and ensure its survival. This upcoming project will aim at preserving the snow leopard and its habitat through a multitude of approaches. While the establishment of different nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries are crucial to the survival of the cat, I also feel that it is equally essential to work with local communities and educate them about the ecological importance of the snow leopard. In addition, these communities should also be educated about the dangers of poaching and what they can do to help. One simple way is to inform the authorities about any suspicious activities related to poaching in the mountains. This method was implemented by villagers in Pakistan, which recently witnessed a rise in its snow leopard population. Similarly, if local villagers in Kyrgyzstan follow the example of their Pakistani counterparts, it would help ensure the survival of the snow leopard and other local wildlife in the country.

View article here          

Report: Malaysia's "Lizard King" Returns to Work

Wildlife smuggler Anson Wong being escorted at the sessions court in Sepang, Malaysia in 2010.  

It has been recently reported that the infamous Anson Wong, also known as the "Lizard King", has returned to work despite his conviction in 2010 for illegally smuggling endangered reptiles. He was apprehended in August 2010 at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport for attempting to traffic 95 boa constrictors to Indonesia, and was sentenced to five years in prison. However, a Malaysian appeals court freed him in 2012 resulting in public outcry. Authorities stated that in the followup of Wong's arrest, his licenses for legal wildlife trading were eliminated. But this time, an Al Jazeera reporter Steve Chao, who went undercover to talk with Wong's colleagues and wildlife dealers, revealed that he and his wife Cheah Bing Shee were assumed to be trafficking albino pythons and other animals from their base in the northern state of Penang. The report indicated that trade in pythons demands a permit, and that Wong is using shell corporations to shield his activities. Furthermore, the report also stated that several off Wong's former colleagues claimed that corrupt customs officials in Indonesia, Madagascar, and Malaysia were assisting his activities. In a press release, Al Jazeera stated that Mr. Chao and his team worked with anti-trafficking groups to trace Wong's operation. According to Malaysia's wildlife department enforcement director Kadir Hashim, Wong's permits remained eliminated and added that the "department is investigating both Wong and Cheah" in an email response to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) inquiry.

This article clearly represents of what major figures in the illegal wildlife trade do once they are freed through court appeals. In this case, it is Anson Wong who is described by many wildlife groups as one of the most active smugglers of endangered wildlife. Despite his charges consisting of smuggling 95 boa constrictors from Malaysia to Indonesia three years ago, Wong was able to walk away a free man when an appeals court granted him freedom last year. The result sparked a public outrage, and showed no sign of hope for the protection of endangered species not just in Malaysia but in other parts of the world. Now, it has been found that this infamous trader has returned to his illicit business along with his wife. This can definitely spell trouble for both endangered wildlife and conservation groups worldwide. At this moment, investigations regarding Wong and his activities is still pending and I certainly hope that when he is arrested again, the courts will reconsider their verdicts based on whatever evidence gathered from law enforcement agencies and the media that can help in Wong's prosecution and sentencing.

View article here        

Monday, November 11, 2013

Bollywood Actor Aamir Khan Might Make Film on India's Rhinos

Aamir Khan (right) and his wife Kiran Rao (left)

It has been reported that Kaziranga National Park in the state of Assam received an unexpected surprise. Renowned Bollywood actor Aamir Khan recently visited the national park while on a week-long vacation in the state with his family and friends. Among the notable figures from Bollywood included his wife Kiran Rao and well-known director and producer Karan Johar. During his visit, Mr. Khan received a proposal from Assam Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain to consider making a film on the national park and the significance of the conservation of the Indian one-horned rhinoceros. In his own words, Mr. Khan stated that he will "definitely give it a thought." He further added that he would also discuss the potential with Karan Johar. In addition to touring, Mr. Khan also interacted with the frontline forces who are responsible for the protection of the rhinos and other wildlife of Kaziranga. After meeting with the members of Kaziranga's staff, the actor, who is an avid birdwatcher and wildlife lover, praised the forest guards and other staff members for their dedication and commitment in keeping the wildlife safe from poaching.
Director and producer Karan Johar accompanied Aamir Khan during his visit to Kaziranga National Park.

I feel extremely happy that Mr. Khan stated that he would give thought in making a film about India's rhinos and their conservation, and I hope this idea will be put into effect. Kaziranga National Park is one of the few success stories in this world regarding wildlife conservation. Although the national park is currently home to over 2,300 rhinos due to intense conservation efforts, it is still and continues to be prone to rampant attacks by poachers. This year alone, 24 rhinos were killed by poachers in Kaziranga and the war against poaching and the illegal wildlife trade continues to be a never-ending one. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial to implement more steps in an effort to prevent further destruction from these two threats. One of these steps is through public outreach by making films highlighting the significance of wildlife conservation, the dangers of poaching and wildlife trade, and what to do in order to put an end to these ongoing atrocities that continue to decimate the world's wildlife. And when such films are made by notable faces like Aamir Khan, they would be guaranteed to receive worldwide public attention which would later result in taking action against the issues of poaching and illegal wildlife trade.

View article here                

Sunday, November 10, 2013

British Troops Enlisted to Protect Kenya's Elephants from Al Shabaab

A mother elephant and calf

It has been recently reported that elite British troops are being recruited to help Kenya's frontline forces battling the Al-Shabaab militant group, which has been ruthlessly massacring elephants and rhinos to finance their wars in Africa. These troops, which are from the 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, will assist Kenya's wildlife rangers in trying to halt the illegal ivory trade. Al-Shabaab, which is linked to the Al-Qaeda, is known to finance its terrorist activities by selling elephant ivory and rhino horns in the black market. The illegal merchandise is believed to earn the Somalia-based terrorist group 400,000 British pounds. The profits allow them to pay jihadist fighters 75 pounds per week to conduct bloodshed such as the horrific attack in Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall. In the coming weeks, 25 British troops will provide Kenya's rangers much-needed expert training since at least sixty had been killed in the line of duty.
Prince Charles and Prince William

This article gives an excellent example of a nation helping another nation by providing help from its military to a team of individuals who sacrifice their lives in protecting endangered species that have been drastically suffering from rampant poaching. Britain has even recently launched a campaign titled "If They're Gone", which aims to tackle poaching and highlight global impacts of wildlife crime and habitat destruction. Prince Charles and Prince William disclosed the growing threats to some of the planet's most iconic animals when they hosted a summit at Clarence House earlier this year. During the summit, governmental representatives were told that the illegal wildlife trade was now worth 12 billion pounds per year. On the platform was British Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who visited Kenya last week to authorize British military support to Africa in its battle to protect its wildlife. Reports indicate that poaching of rhinos has gone up by 3,000 percent in recent years with one animal being killed every eleven hours. The price of ivory has seen poaching gangs apply desperate strategies such as poisoning waterholes to kill elephants. It is estimated that as many as 38,000 will die this year. I strongly believe that this news should be seen as an inspiration for governments in other developed countries to draft their military in parts of Africa that has seen a surge in poaching activities in recent years. Britain has set an ideal example of helping a country in a continent which is in a dire need of help concerning its conservation efforts. Similarly, other non-African countries should pitch in to provide Africa with much-needed help to save its wildlife which is plays a critical and crucial role in the continent's tourism industry.

View article here 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Texas Hunting Club Auctions Endangered Black Rhinoceros for Hunting

Black rhinoceros

The rhino has been suffering drastically over the past few years in its African homeland due to poaching and the demand for its horn in Asia's black market. Across Africa, hundreds of these majestic beasts have fallen victim in the bloodthirsty hands of poachers who are infamous for being part of global criminal syndicates that function in a similar way as organized crime. This ongoing and rampant bloodshed even led to the extinction of the western black rhinoceros two years ago in Cameroon. In addition, South Africa has seen some of the highest casualties of rhinos than any where else in Africa. But now, there appears to be another threat looming on the horizon that could further contribute in the continuous decimation of Africa's rhinos. It is a Texas-based hunting group known as the Dallas Safari Club. This international organization, which is comprised of hunters and wildlife enthusiasts, has recently been reported auctioning off a hunting permit to hunt the critically endangered black rhinoceros from the government of Namibia. According to the organization's executive director Ben Carter, the purpose of this movement is about saving the black rhino, of which there are roughly 5,055 animals. The group further added that hundred percent of the profits made from the sale of the permit, which is estimated to be auctioned off for $250,000 to $ 1 million, will go towards the conservation trust fund for the black rhinos of Namibia. However, conservation groups argued that the organization's claim to benefit the rhinos was based false logic. According to Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), it would make more sense to wildlife enthusiasts to bestow money only for the rhino conservation than to kill one of the animals. He further added that the Humane Society is planning to implore the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service in an effort to prevent them from distributing an extra permit that would allow a hunter to bring back a rhino carcass.
A pair of black rhinos in the Mkuze Game Reserve in South Africa

It is absolutely appalling and disheartening beyond belief that as Africa's rhino population continues to suffer from the rampant poaching crisis, new individuals respond to this message in much the same way as poachers do. That is, instead of helping the rhino in jeopardy by either donating money to conservation groups or joining forces with them on the front lines in an effort to save the species, they do the opposite by providing bidders an opportunity to hunt the rhino for sport and donate the money they acquired to the conservation trust fund aimed at saving the species. My view on the Dallas Safari Club is that it is claiming to help the black rhinoceros, but in reality, it is further contributing to the downfall of its population along with poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. While it has been reported that the Humane Society is going to petition the Fish and Wildlife Service to prevent them from issuing permit to hunt the black rhino, I strongly believe that the Namibian government should also disallow the Dallas Safari Club for carrying out this method of "conservation" if they are to protect their local rhino populations. Similarly, other countries that individually house Africa's rhino populations should bar this hunting organization from allowing international hunters to hunt rhinos and other highly endangered species. Furthermore, a rhinoceros labeled as "counterproductive" should not be taken out of a population by hunting. Instead, it should rather be kept separate until it dies of natural causes.

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Zimbabwe Looses 91 Elephants to Poaching

A park ranger walks by an elephant carcass in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park

Africa is drenched in bloodshed stemming from rampant poaching that has diminished and continues to diminish its elephant population at an alarming rate. All over the continent, elephants fall prey to the greedy and murderous hands of poachers for the purpose of profit. This wave of bloodthirsty carnage has not only been helping to fund the black market, but also finance Africa's militant groups in their efforts to carry out civil wars across the continent. Among these ruthless and barbaric organizations include Al-Shabaab, Janjaweed, and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) who for many years have terrorized Africa and its people. Al-Shabaab has gained international notoriety as an ally of Al-Qaeda, and has recently been in the spotlight for allegedly conducting a horrendous attack at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi. These facts indicate that the threat of poaching not only intends on thriving to profit from Africa's wildlife, but also instill fear and terror in the hearts of innocent people everywhere in the continent and negatively impact the tourism industry which is one of the major contributors to Africa's economy.
A lion in Hwange National Parks. Lions and other predators, particularly hyenas,  perished as a result of  cyanide poisoning.

Recently, this ongoing bloodbath has claimed lives of 91 elephants in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. Officials indicated that poachers had spread cyanide used in gold mining over natural, mineral-rich salt licks which draw elephants and other animals for access to essential mineral nutrients. They further added that the poisoning also claimed lives of lions, hyenas, and vultures after feeding on the contaminated carcasses and drinking nearby. Reports indicate that the elephants had died last month, and that nine suspected poachers have arrested this month. Out of the nine suspects, three were sentenced to sixteen years in prison. According to Saviour Kasukuwere, the newly appointed environment minister following President Robert Mugabe's victory in the 2013 Zimbabwean presidential election, the nation will strengthen its efforts to campaign among other nations around the world to repress the illegal ivory trade. In addition, the State Environmental Management Authority has made a plan to burn elephant carcasses and call for detoxification of areas affected by cyanide, starting with delving out the salt licks and removing top layers of soil tainted by cyanide particles. Officials believe that at least two deeply dug wells providing the waterholes may also be polluted and will possibly have to be shut. New wells will likely be dug away from the contaminated ones.
Elephants drink at a waterhole in Hwange National Park

This article indicates that elephant poaching continues to take its toll on Africa's wildlife by spreading into other countries of the continent, which were not considered as focal points of poaching in recent times. Earlier, it was believed that Central Africa and parts of East Africa, most notably Kenya, were considered to be major hubs of elephant poaching. Now, it has been found that Zimbabwe has become affected by this continuous bloodshed. Although the response to tackle poaching came swift, Zimbabwe's environment and wildlife authorities are said to be underfunded, understaffed, and poorly outfitted due to a troubled economy. This means that authorities cannot afford to care for helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft spotter patrols in an effort to battle poaching. Environment minister Kasukuwere stated that the Hwange National Park only has about 150 rangers and few fully functional off-road vehicles for an area that impeccably should have a staff of 700. He further added that officials have started working with local village communities on the peripheries of Hwange National Park to notify any presence of cyanide, and that eight pounds of (four kilograms) of the poison have been recovered so far. However, I feel that Zimbabwe is in a great need of help to protect its wildlife. I believe that, in order to help Zimbabwe protect its wildlife, it is highly essential to help its economy so that the authorities would not be underfunded and understaffed and provide them with access to helicopters and similar resources to bolster up their efforts to prevent poaching from further taking its toll of the nation's wildlife.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

United States to Demolish Stocks of Ivory in Effort to Halt Global Elephant Poaching

Congolese park ranger with a skull of an elephant killed for its ivory

The Obama Administration has recently announced that it would destroy six million tons of confiscated ivory stocks, in order to boost up efforts to curb an illegal ivory trade that has brought wild elephants to the brink of extinction. The destruction, which was announced by U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea, was part of a large effort by the administration to levitate illegal wildlife trafficking from a paltry conservation interest to serious national security concern. Officials stated that the destroying of ivory would indicate that President Barack Obama was dedicated to halting the illegal trafficking of wildlife that has ravaged species such as elephants and rhinos. They further added that the destruction is scheduled to take place on October 8th. U.S Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that a new advisory council, which consists of former administration officials, and business and conservation leaders, will help direct the clampdown on criminal poaching syndicates. She also added that wildlife trafficking had increased over the past five years into an international trade worth $10 billion. The poaching of elephants had doubled by a factor of eight in Tanzania, while the slaughter of rhinos had been elevated by a factor of fifty. In response to the United States' decision to destroy ivory stocks, conservation groups felt that the move would hurt the contraband market. A similar action was conducted by governments in a number of other countries, including the Philippines where fifteen million tons of confiscated ivory were crushed by industrial rollers earlier this year. The recently seized ivory in the U.S included raw tusks and carved ivory apprehended by authorities in the last 25 years.

This article is a clear representation that the U.S is committed to the battle against the threat of illegal wildlife trafficking. This can be seen through the response of U.S State Department officials towards the issue, referring it as a national security crisis. One of the notable political figures who plays a prominent role towards the issue is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who stated that as many as 35,000 African elephants were killed last year, accounting to 96 elephants killed in a single day. At this pace, Africa's elephants will become extinct within ten years. She further added that the profits from the illegal trade of ivory were also inciting extremist groups, including associates of Al-Qaeda in Somalia. In the end, she stated that the only way to stop wildlife trafficking is by using a zero-tolerance strategy. In my opinion, this is an absolutely crucial component in the battle against the illegal wildlife trade. By implementing a zero-tolerance policy against the poaching and trade of the world's wildlife, the criminal syndicates monopolizing in these illicit activities would not stand a chance. One of the methods mentioned in this article is imposing tougher penalties on the perpetrators, which the Obama Administration is thinking of introducing. I also feel that a joint partnership among several countries worldwide in targeting and prosecuting these syndicates is also vital in the ongoing battle. This way, the illegal trafficking of wildlife will most likely cease to function.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Climate Change Threatens the Iberian Lynx

Iberian lynx

It has been recently announced that the Iberian lynx is under threat from climate change. A new international study has found that the critically endangered cat could be driven to extinction within fifty years, despite important continuous conservation efforts. Researchers stated that the impact of climate change must be included in strategies to reintroduce the lynx to new habitats, in order to save the species. Present-day management efforts could be pointless if the linked effects of climate change, land use, and prey abundance on population changes of the Iberian lynx are not taken into consideration. Despite the evidence of increase in lynx numbers in the past decades due to intensive management, researchers warn that current conservation strategies could buy just a few ten years before the cat becomes extinct. They stated that the study is the most absolute conservation-management model yet cultivated of the effects of climate change on predator and its prey. They further added that the present increase in numbers of the lynx indicates that accelerated management of habitat and rabbit populations have worked as effective temporary conservation strategies. However, a small population size means that the species is still under threat and prone to future declines in population. This also means that the species is very vulnerable to changes in habitat quality or changes in prey abundance due to climate change.

I very much hope that various conservation groups involved in an effort to save the Iberian lynx will take into consideration about the threat of climate change, and incorporate that into their methods in order to save the species from extinction. The current methods that are being used are only temporary solutions to ensure the survival of this critically endangered cat. Most of these strategies included habitat management, reduction in human activity, and recently reintroduction of the lynx in appropriate areas where it has lived. But now, with climate change in focus, the conservation efforts in saving the Iberian lynx are going to change in some degree. For example, studies by researchers have shown that habitat in the southwestern part of the Iberian Peninsula, which houses two existing populations of Iberian lynx, is most likely to be unfavorable by the middle of this century. In order to ensure the survival of the species on the long run, it has been suggested that peninsular regions at higher altitudes and latitudes would be suitable for the lynx.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Kenya Unveils its Inter-Agency Anti-poaching Unit

Confiscated ivory

It has been recently reported that Kenya has revealed its inter-agency anti-poaching unit, which consists of officers from specialized aspects of the Administration Police, General Service Unit, and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in an effort to bolster the fight against poaching. According to Paul Muya, spokesperson for the KWS, the establishing of this organization shows the government's obligation in guaranteeing that the wildlife is safe. He stated that the KWS was working with other conservation stakeholders to confirm that the war against poaching is won. He further added that the increasing poaching crisis has become both an economic and national security issue. In addition, he also pointed out that the KWS requires more resources for it manages roughly eight percent of the country's total landmass which includes 22 national parks, 29 national reserves, and four national sanctuaries including six national marine reserves and four parks. Furthermore, Muya noted that the number of active rangers has decreased significantly due to natural abrasion and retirement. He stated that the government has however made an obligation during this financial year to advocate the enlistment and disposal of at least 1,000 new rangers, in phases, to bolster KWS's capacity to conduct their authority effectively. Muya also indicated that the KWS will continue working with other law enforcement agencies, particularly the Customs, Immigration Department, Interpol, Kenya Airports Authority, Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), and the police in making sure that international and local laws on wildlife crimes are carried out.

This article gives a clear demonstration of a nation's tough stand against poaching. This is seen through joint collaboration between a wildlife agency and other law enforcement agencies such as the police department, customs, and immigration department, among others, in an effort to put a stop to the ever-increasing threat of poaching. Kenya had earlier lost 384 elephants and 29 rhinos to poaching last year. This year, the country has lost 190 elephants and 34 rhinos. Furthermore, the government is enthusiastic on the quick execution of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Bill, 2013, which suggests inflexible and preventative punishments against poaching. In addition, there is even a genetics and wildlife forensics laboratory being built at the KWS headquarters and is set to be installed later this year later this year to support prosecution of wildlife crimes. Although this is promising news regarding wildlife protection, I also feel that Kenya could further bolster its stand against poaching by forming alliances and helping other African nations that do not appear to be taking a similar stand against the threat. For example, Tanzania has recently been in the news where senior officials within the nation's government are behind elephant poaching. Many of these officials come from key government departments responsible for wildlife conservation. The news indicates the threat of corruption is looming large in the nation, and is ultimately responsible for depriving Tanzania's wildlife of its safety. Therefore, I believe that those African countries whose individual governments have made a commitment to take decisive action against poaching and other wildlife-related crimes should provide help to the ones that are not standing a chance in the battle.

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Federal Plan to Increase Range for Mexican Wolves in Arizona

A Mexican wolf inside a holding pen in New Mexico's Sevilleta Wildlife Refuge.

It has been recently reported that the U.S government is providing a plan that would allow Mexican wolves to roam freely across the state of Arizona for the first time. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service published a draft of the proposed changes last month that, if enforced, would let wolves roam from western Arizona to eastern New Mexico between Interstates 40 and 10. The draft contains likely wolf reintroduction sites in northern Arizona on the Tonto National Forest, all over the Sitgreaves National Forest and other public lands, as well as private lands where there is a cooperating landowner. In addition, the proposal also demands expansion of an area where the wolves could wander to add parts of central New Mexico's Cibola National Forest. As a whole, there would be a decennial increase in the area where biologists are working to restore the population. Environmentalists accepted the possibility of expansion, but also expressed concerns about provisions that could create schemes that would increase situations in which the wolves could be killed for livestock predation or other reasons.

I'm very proud and grateful that the federal government has given the consideration about the conservation of Mexican wolves, and acted upon it by proposing a plan that would allow them to flourish in parts of the American Southwest where they had disappeared. This proposal has received a great deal of support from groups, especially the Apache tribe, who has an agreement with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service that has let the wolves to roam on their lands in eastern Arizona. In addition, wolves have been sighted in the past in northern Arizona as close to places like Mormon Lake and the city of Flagstaff and Holbrook along Interstate 40. This has led scientists to choose the Grand Canyon as principal wolf territory. They stated that the region could support as many as 200 animals. However, this proposal has also received negative opinions from ranchers in Arizona who feel that the program to reintroduce wolves back into their former haunts has been unsuccessful and that they cannot afford any loss of livestock from these animals. I firmly believe that the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and other groups actively involved in this project should identify particular areas in Arizona and New Mexico that do not include any ranches. If these areas happen to be close to any ranch lands, then the groups should take the initiative in educating ranchers about the ecological importance of Mexican wolves and provide them with safe measurements to keep wolves off their ranch. One possibility would be to erect fencing high enough to keep the wolves out, and another would be to provide ranchers with livestock guardian dogs to prevent the wolves from attacking their livestock.

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