Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Electronic Shark Deterring Devices Gain Popularity on Maui

A surge in shark attacks in Maui has spurred sales of devices, such as the Electronic Shark Defense System, that claim to keep sharks away by emitting an electric pulse.
A special device believed to prevent shark attacks through emission of electric pulses. 
The island of Maui in the state of Hawaii has experienced a rise in shark attacks over the past year, including two fatal ones, but did not prevented people from entering the warm ocean waters. It has also sparked sales of special electronic devices that are believed to keep sharks away by discharging an electric pulse. Some of these unique gadgets are the size of a bulky wristwatch, while others are as big as a wallet. They can be strapped to the users' ankles, wetsuits, or even surfboards and vary in price from $399 to $469. Some shark experts believe that these devices may help prevent attacks from sharks, but it is uncertain whether they will keep away large ones such as bull sharks, great white sharks, and tiger sharks. One of these experts who is skeptical about the gadgets is George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research. He stated that people should remember that they are taking a risk of attacks when entering shark-infested waters, with or without the devices. He further added that the only people who are eligible to need these devices are those whose jobs involve direct contact with sharks. These include people who dive for abalone or sea sponges in places where sharks are commonly seen. In addition, shark researcher Carl Meyer of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology stated that the devices may minimize the risk of a shark attack but not eradicate it, warning that no independent peer-reviewed studies have been carried out on their effectiveness.  
Rudy Aguilar models the Electronic Shark Defense System, a shark deterrent device that attaches to his ankle and surfboard, in Honolulu, Oahu.
A man modeling the electric shark repellent in Honolulu.
The surge in sales of these shark repelling devices came as there had been eight shark attacks in Maui's waters last year. Statewide, there were fourteen attacks in 2013, eleven in 2012, and three in 2011. Among the fatal incidents included the death of a German tourist, who perished a week after a shark bit off her arm in August and a man fishing on his kayak in December after a shark bit his foot that was dangling in the water. The last time anybody was killed by a shark in Hawaii was in 2004. One of the examples of the gadgets' usage was demonstrated by Sterling Kaya, owner of a Honolulu fishing supply store named Hana Pa'a Fishing Company, who stated that he used this device once while spearfishing in the Marshall Islands. He explained that sharks ate the catch attached to a float without the device, but stayed away when the device was attached to the catch. Mr. Burgess added that spearfishermen may also benefit since they dive with bloody fish that can attract sharks, but there is also a question of whether the electric pulse will scare the fish they are trying to spear.
Hot item ... Dennis O'Donnell shows the Shark Shield shark deterrent device at his Maui store.
A store owner showing the shark deterrent device in Maui.
This news is a clear demonstration of how technology plays an important role in the daily lives of people when in contact with animals. A similar example was seen in one news about a special collar which helps prevent any wolf attacks on sheep. Now, there is news about similar devices which prevent shark attacks on humans. However, it has also been found in this news that these devices had not been studied by scientists and researchers in order to understand their effectiveness. In addition, it is also unclear whether these devices are effective against attacks by great white sharks and other sharks that are infamous for claiming hundreds of lives every year. I think it is extremely important that these shark repellent devices must be closely examined by scientists, in order to see whether they are effective against attacks by large sharks. This way, everyone will know whether these devices will protect them against shark attacks or not. However, that does not mean people should stop using them as of now. It is important to note that even with these devises strapped to one's ankle, surfboard, or wetsuit, people should be aware about the risks they take when entering the ocean water. Furthermore, beaches should still be patrolled for sharks and closed upon any sightings for the safety of people going swimming or surfing.

View article here        

Monday, January 27, 2014

New Species of River Dolphin Discovered in Hundred Years

Araguaian river dolphin

A recent scientific expedition in the Araguaia River Basin in central Brazil led by Tomas Hrbek of the Universidade Federal do Amazonas in Manaus has resulted in the discovery of a new species of river dolphin. This species was found to be separated from its relatives, the Amazon river dolphin and the Bolivian river dolphin, in the adjoining Amazon Basin to the west by an array of rapids and a small canal thus resulting in its given name: the Araguaian river dolphin. According to Howard Rosenbaum, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Ocean Giants program, the discovery is "amazing" because scientists and researchers are beginning to get inside information as to how these animals become distinct species. The team, which discovered the species, conducted their study on the dolphin and concluded that its DNA is adequately different from that of other river dolphins indicating that it is a new species. The amount of difference seen in physical and genetic levels advocates that the Araguaian river dolphin probably separated from other dolphin species more than two million years ago. In addition, the dolphin also demonstrated significant size differences in cranial features and in its number of teeth.
Range map of South America's river dolphins

This newly discovered species also marks the first new discovery of a true river dolphin since 1918, when the Yangtze river dolphin was identified in China. However, the Yangtze river dolphin was declared "functionally extinct" in 2006 after scientists could not find even one individual. With the Araguaian river dolphin discovered, scientists warn that it faces the same threats as its relatives which include dam construction and local fishermen who kill them fearing that they compete with them for fish. The recent study revealed that the Araguaia River Basin has been experiencing a great deal of human pressure since the 1960s through agricultural and ranching activities, and the development of hydroelectric dams which have negatively impacted several abiotic and biotic aspects of the river's ecosystem. Dr. Rosenbaum stated that more research needs to be conducted on exactly how these threats may affect the survival of these animals. He further added that as such threats are being addressed, these astounding discoveries are very crucial because they will lead to better protection for the river dolphins.
Skull and mandible of the Araguaian river dolphin

It is extremely amazing to know what unexpected surprises are found in continents like South America, which house some of the richest diversities of wildlife in the world. These ecosystems contain such an abundance of different species, that some had been recently discovered and others are still hidden. The Araguaian river dolphin is one of the most recent discoveries not just in South America, but in the world. While its discovery is a major highlight for researchers and scientists, it is also an indication about how these fragile ecosystems that contain such high abundance of wildlife are being tremendously affected by human encroachment. The Yangtze river dolphin has been declared as "functionally extinct" since 2006, due to the continuous impact of threats ranging from construction of dams to pollution. The Araguaian river dolphin must be fully protected by any means necessary to prevent suffering the same fate as its Chinese counterpart. These magnificent animals play a key role in helping maintain the balance of the rivers' ecosystems. Without them, South America's rivers would undergo severe ecological changes such as overpopulation of prey species.

View article here         

Sunday, January 26, 2014

South Africa Employs Retired Racehorses in Battle Against Rhino Poaching

Rangers on horseback patrol South Africa's Kruger National Park.

It has been recently reported that former racehorses are being enlisted in the continuous fight against rhino poachers in South Africa. These animals are being used in riding patrols to track down poachers in the midst of an ongoing war, which has put the nation's rhino population on the brink of a disastrous decline. According to ranger Tim Parker, who oversees an anti-poaching unit on a wildlife reserve west of the famed Kruger National Park, the horses allow his team to traverse through terrain inaccessible by foot or vehicles. The horses were brought to South Africa from Zimbabwe by champion racehorse trainer Lisa Harris more than a year ago to help an organization called the Rhino Revolution in its fight to protect rhinos in the area. Since the establishment of the anti-poaching campaign and the introduction of racehorses to help in the battle against poachers, no rhino had been killed which indicated that the plan of using horses appears to be working. Mr. Parker and his team were initially concerned about how the horses would adapt in a reserve that houses some of the most dangerous species of animals including the Big Five, but indicated that poaching is difficult to stop and combating it is a versatile approach. He further added that the only answer to help cease the poaching of rhinos is by legalizing the horn trade. One key figure who agrees with the idea is Pelham Jones, chairman of the Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA). He stated that if the trade in rhino horns is legalized, the government would use the profits to help in rhino protection and preservation. However, not many people agree with this idea. For example, Mary Rice of the Environmental Investigation Agency stated that legalizing would not put an end to poaching and illegal wildlife trade, drawing on the risks of the ivory trade. She argued that increasing the availability of a product such as a rhino horn in a market triggers and bolsters the demand so that markets expand. She further added that both legal and illegal traders regularly take advantage of the system and that there is more illegal ivory than legal ivory on the market place in China.
Authorities help a white rhinoceros attacked by poachers.

It is absolutely amazing to see what new methods wildlife officials implement in the battle to protect endangered species, such as rhinos. The use of horses would most certainly help anti-poaching units to track down poachers through terrain that cannot be accessed through by foot or vehicles, and so far it appears that the plan is working. However, the biggest and most crucial steps in this ongoing war against rhino poaching are not just the methods in battling poachers in the field but the implementation of laws to make it difficult to illegally hunt rhinos and distribute their horns overseas. The idea about legalizing the rhino horn trade would allow the government of South Africa to provide income to help in protecting the animal, but others argue that implementing such a plan would result in growing demand of the product and even result in abusing the market system by both legal and illegal traders similar to how the ivory trade has been functioning. In order to put a stop to poaching and illegal trade of rhinos or other endangered species, it is highly important to treat these crimes the same way as other horrendous criminal activities such as drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering, prostitution, etc. Furthermore, the methods used in battling organized crimes should also be applied to crimes against wildlife. This way, the threat of poaching and illegal wildlife trade would probably and hopefully come to a stop.

View article and video here    

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Two Lionesses Killed by Goods Train Near Gir Forest

One of the two lionesses killed by a train outside Gir Forest.

It has recently been reported that two lionesses had been hit and killed by a train carrying goods near Gir Forest National Park. The accident took place on the Surendranagar Pipavav port rail line, where a lion cub and a leopard were killed last year on separate incidents. This train which killed the two lionesses was bound for Port Pipavav between Dehra and Pasada villages in Amreli district's Rajula taluka. The site where the accident occurred is around 35 to 40 kilometers from Gir Forest. According to divisional forest officer J.K Makwana, the train's driver could not stop the train once the lionesses dashed in front of it. He further added that the forest department will look for solutions to this problem by consulting with all the people involved. This latest incident has also raised questions about the lions' safety in the state of Gujarat. Villagers who reported the accident blamed growing development in the lion corridor for the accident. One of them was Mangabhai Thapa, who was among the first to reach the site of the accident. In his own words, he stated that he had personally seen lions close to such areas where heavy vehicles are moving in. Another key individual who has noted the continuous development in the area surrounding Gir Forest is Dinesh Goswami of the Prakruti Nature Club. He warned that the area is home to close to sixty lions and the development has led to establishment of mines and ports, which will eventually result in human-lion conflict. He further added that the area is not patrolled by forest officials compared to Gir Forest, and as long as no solid methods are taken, such tragic incidents will continue to happen. Mr. Goswami also indicated that lions have moved to coastal areas, which have also undergone rampant development consisting of mining and urged to do something before any potential conflict takes place.

This is accident is an explicit example of the dangers posed by development implemented on wildlife corridors in surrounding areas of national parks where wildlife is known to spread. Gir Forest is an ideal example since its lion population has in recent times dispersed beyond the boundaries, and has been coming into conflicts with people. Majority of these cases result in both people and lions suffering as a result of such conflicts. This recent incident is the reason why wildlife corridors should remain free of human encroachment of any sort by any means necessary. In addition, forest officials are not patrolling such areas indicating that they feel wild animals living within the boundaries of national parks should deserve the most attention regarding protection. However, once these animals begin to disperse beyond the national parks' boundaries, then it seems that forest officials feel they have no responsibility whatsoever about protecting the animals from the dangers they face when coming into conflicts with people. This was exactly seen in the case of lions suffering from the impact of development outside Gir Forest and tigers killing people in some parts of India and being labeled as man-eaters. It is extremely crucial that wildlife officials in India and around the world must be fully aware about wildlife populations dispersing beyond national parks or other protected areas, and should implement actions in an effort to keep them protected. Otherwise, incidents resulting from human-wildlife conflicts will prevail and raise tensions between regular people and those committed to conservation and protecting wildlife.

View article here  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

United Arab Emirates and Kazakhstan Sign a Pact to Protect the Houbara Bustard

Houbara bustard

It has been recently reported that the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E) and Kazakhstan have signed an agreement to collaborate for the protection of the endangered houbara bustard. At a special function held in Abu Dhabi, the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) and the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan formed an agreement to "protect, breed, and restore" the houbara bustard population. Under the leadership of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and in alignment with his plan of action to provide viable future for the bustard at the core of local culture and tradition, the pact counts on an everlasting and successful relationship between the two nations. The focus of the agreement deals with preparations for the Sheikh Khalifa Houbara Breeding Center-Kazakhstan (SKHBC-KZ), which is the fourth in the world to be run as part of the IFHC's international efforts to protect the houbara bustards. The ultimate goal of the center is to breed and release up to 10,000 bustards every year. In addition to arrangements for breeding the bustards, the agreement will also help in the development protection zones and habitat preservation. In addition, it also emphasizes current principles of conservation partnership such as protecting diversity and wild species, and respecting cultural values, particularly the heritage stature of falconry.
Houbara bustard displaying

This article gives a model example about saving and protecting an endangered species through joint cooperation between countries. It elaborates on what measurements the U.A.E and Kazakhstan will be taking, in order to ensure the survival of the houbara bustard. This example should be followed by other countries around the world, who are looking for ways to guarantee full-scale protection of their local wildlife. The houbara bustard may appear to have a hopeful future, particularly in the wilds of Kazakhstan due to this joint agreement, but it in other countries of its native range, the situation might be grim. For example, in Pakistan, the houbara bustard population was threatened when the government issued 25 hunting permits for the 2012-2013 season. Each permit allowed 100 birds to be hunted by the holder, and majority of the permits were provided to the royal dignitaries from Arab states. Ironically, one of these states were the U.A.E while others included Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. This indicates that while the houbara bustard may be protected, it is still being targeted for hunting like it was thousands of years ago. If any of the Arab states are keen on protecting the bustard and want to see it flourish, they should refrain from hunting it or providing permits to each other to hunt it. They should focus on conservation efforts comprised of breeding, releasing, and protecting the bird, along with establishing protection zones and preserving its natural habitat. However, this does not mean that Arab states should abandon the practice of falconry. Instead of targeting bustards and other birds, falconers should use lures in order to encourage their falcons to do what they do best.
The great Indian bustard, a relative of the houbara bustard, is a critically endangered species.

While the houbara bustard seems to be in good hands regarding its conservation, the situation is unknown for its relative the great Indian bustard which is still listed as "critically endangered" with no more than 300 birds remaining in India. Much of the threats the great Indian bustard has faced and continues to face are human encroachment and habitat destruction of grasslands. This concept has been emphasized by ornithologist Pramod Patil of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), who pointed out that grasslands are some of the most ignored ecosystems in India and urged for the drafting of a conservation policy for grasslands at both state and national levels. He further added that much of India's conservation efforts have focused mainly on the tiger population, which explains why forests are the only ecosystems being preserved and not the grasslands. This is a clear indication how conservation is limited to just one endangered species, and ignoring others. Conservation efforts should not be implemented based solely on the status of an endangered species and the type of habitat it occupies. Just because the tiger is India's national animal does not mean that it should be the main focus of the country's conservation. The Indian subcontinent is home to a rich variety of endangered species and natural habitats, and they should all be treated equally in terms of conservation. Conservationists should look at India's and other countries' biodiversities as a whole, and not focus on one particular habitat and its inhabitants. Furthermore, all countries must form joint partnerships in order to preserve and protect the world's wildlife. This, in turn, entails promising future for all endangered species.

View article here    

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rise in India's Tiger Attacks Leads to Hunt for Man-eaters

A tiger in Ranthambore National Park

Over the past few weeks, India has been shaken by a surge in tiger attacks claiming lives of twelve people across the country leading to forest officials on the verge of tackling this issue. One example was seen in the town of Ooty in Tamil Nadu, where a tiger had killed three people since January 4. The incident spread fear across the area leading to a cease in tea harvesting, schools being shut down, and tourists keeping away. The state government reacted with a system of camera traps, along with numerous elephant-mounted patrols to hunt down the tiger with hopes of tranquilizing it. Camera footage indicated that its pugmarks were smeared with blood pointing out that it might be injured in some way. On Friday, forest officials proclaimed that they had confined the tiger within a 500-meter space. In Uttar Pradesh's Sambhal district, the forest department is searching for another man-eating tiger that has killed seven people since late December. Among its victims included a 65-year-old man, who was attacked on December 29 marking the beginning of its killing spree. In response, three hunters were summoned to track the tiger down and capture it but there has been no success so far. A forest official named Rupak De stated that the animal has been going without rest and proper food. Furthermore, the Western Ghats of southern India has witnessed a death toll of at least people attacked and killed by tigers in the past seven weeks, out of which two of them were eaten.
A tigress in Corbett National Park

According to Bangalore-based wildlife conservationist Dr. Ravi Chellam, the attacks are an indication that India's conservation efforts are flourishing. He further added that the rise in tiger attacks coincides with the increasing population, which is due to lack of space for the animals forcing them to wander outside their natural habitat and coming into contact with human settlements almost immediately. In addition, villages are drawing closer to the edge of forests at an increasing rate, trespassing into the tiger's habitat. Dr. Chellam also demanded more everlasting planning to prevent future attacks from tigers, pointing out that nobody is considering the need to expand habitat areas to keep up with increasing population of tigers. Daleep Akoi, who owns a tourist lodge in Corbett National National Park, stated that limiting tourism in national parks where there are tigers is not the solution. The reason is because removing tourism would resulting in loosing hundreds of thousands of income for villagers, and force them to turn to hunting and poaching. Instead, he called for more ironclad enforcement of current regulations. He also revealed that several hotels were being constructed illegally in the corridors of nature reserves where tigers are known to meander, in turn increasing the chances of human-tiger conflicts. Mr. Akoi further added that these corridors run through areas where national parks constantly meet unprotected land, and forest officials are not protecting them as they should be. For this reason, India's tiger populations have been spreading outside the boundaries of national parks and into the outer fringes where they are coming into conflicts with people.
A tiger on the banks of the Kabini River 

This article clearly indicates why it is highly crucial to protect various areas on the outer fringes of India's national parks where tigers are known to thrive. India had done an excellent job in increasing its tiger population by taking various necessary measurements to guarantee the animals' survival through combating poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. However, at the same time, many forest officials and others involved have failed to consider the need to increase the tiger's habitat as its population expanded. This has led to incidents of human-tiger conflicts resulting in deaths of several people in parts of India. In addition, many of these national parks consist of corridors that are being used as locations to construct hotels and similar facilities for tourists which further add to the growing concern of human-tiger conflict in the country. A wildlife corridor is designed specifically to allow animals access to lands where they had once disappeared. Furthermore, villages are also being established closer at the forests' edge which in turn puts the villagers in a vulnerable position of human-tiger conflict.
A tiger in Mudumalai National Park

It looks like all the forest officials, over the years, have simply paid attention to primarily protecting the tiger to guarantee that its population would rise but never gave second thoughts about extending its natural habitat outside the national parks. This is why everybody involved in the protection of wildlife must take crucial steps to not just allow populations to increase, but also expand their natural habitats to prevent incidents of human-wildlife conflicts. In the case of India's tiger population, one of the methods should be complete annihilation of tourist hotels illegally built in the wildlife corridors. Furthermore, villagers seeking to establish new settlements must be advised to never, under any circumstances, set up villages near the edges of forests that are part of the tiger's habitat. They should be encouraged to settle in areas that are not known to be frequented by tigers. If suppose a village has been established in an area that has an abundance of wild predators such as tigers, the villagers should be provided with some sort of security to keep them and their livestock safe. The best possibility would be to construct a barrier around the whole perimeter of the village that is strong enough to prevent any wild animal from entering in any way. In addition, entry outside the village boundaries during dawn and dusk should be strictly forbidden since these are usually the times when animals are most active. Had any of these possible methods implemented before, then chances are there would have been little or no panic concerning human-tiger conflicts in India. This is now the time to act against this situation in which both people and animals are coming into conflicts with one another resulting in life-threatening consequences.

View article here

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tibetan Antelopes Threatened by Pakistan's Demand for Shahtoosh Shawls

Tibetan antelopes in the Gansu Province in northwest China.

The Tibetan antelope has long been considered a favored target for poachers thanks to its soft and fine underwool, which is woven into shawls known as shahtoosh. The demand for such material had decimated the world's population of this magnificent antelope from nearly a million to less than 75,000 at the turn of the twentieth century. The depletion in the Tibetan antelope population led to the implementation of substantial measurements to ensure the species' protection and combat the trade of shahtoosh in Asia. One of the countries that played a major role in the protection of the Tibetan antelope is Pakistan, where manufacturing or wearing of shahtoosh is punishable by law resulting in prison sentences of up to two years and a fine of up to one million rupees. However, despite these measurements, the possession of a shahtoosh shawl is still regarded as a symbol of status among Pakistan's rich upper class. During the winter months, men and women would wear brown-beige shawls which can be seen draped over salwar kameez and saris at luxurious dinner parties and weddings. Shahtoosh shawls have traditionally been given as wedding gifts in both Pakistan and India. Although most Kashmiri handcraft stores in the capital city of Islamabad are aware of the law, they are known to sell shahtoosh shawls for "serious buyers" which are often wealthy mothers eager to buy these shawls for their daughters' dowries.
Pakistani women wearing shahtoosh shawls of the "Toosh Collection."

The issue recently came into the picture when a young designer named Nida Azwer broadcasted a collection of shahtoosh shawls across the country. However, she was quoted saying of her "Toosh Collection" that it is "not completely shahtoosh, it's mixed with pashmina." She has since been admired for "seeing a gap in the market" with the "intent to make something this valuable readily available." She also told the Guardian that even though her shawls used the name "shahtoosh," they were made from sheep wool and pashmina and not from the wool of the Tibetan antelope. She further added that out of the thirty shawls she had bought, she sold only five of them after doing her "own brand of embroidery work" on them and that she has not broken any laws. Two years ago, WWF-Pakistan had sent Azwer a complaint letter and alerted the provincial wildlife society because she was promoting fox furs and other kinds of fur from wild animals. Biodiversity director Uzma Khan stated that the organization plans to "fully investigate this case as well."
Carcasses of Tibetan antelopes killed by poachers for their fur.

This article clearly demonstrates how the manufacturing and selling of wildlife products for public consumerism can have a dramatic impact on the wildlife. In this case, the wool from the Tibetan antelope has been in focus as a major source of shahtoosh shawls which are greatly favored among the wealthy elite in Pakistan. These shawls were traditionally given as wedding gifts in the country, and that tradition still prevails nowadays in which wealthy people would purchase the products for weddings even though they are aware about the laws against the selling and wearing of shahtoosh. It seems that in spite of strong measurements imposed to discourage selling and possession of shahtoosh, the elite upper class of Pakistan is still driven by traditional values and therefore do not abide by the strict laws intended to protect the Tibetan antelopes. By wearing and presenting shahtoosh shawls as wedding gifts, these people are simply promoting the merciless slaughter of these magnificent antelopes without realizing it. Therefore, it is extremely crucial that the wealthy society of Pakistan should refrain from this traditional aspect of presenting clothing made from the fur of an endangered species as wedding gifts and look for better alternatives. These include gifting clothes made from regular sheep wool, pashmina, or other materials. Furthermore, fashion designers should also refrain from advertising and promoting clothing made from wild animals. This way, it would help maximize the chances of providing protection for not just the Tibetan antelope but other endangered species as well.

View article here           

Saturday, January 18, 2014

European Parliament Takes Dynamic Action Against Illegal Wildlife Trade; Demands Moratoria on All Ivory Sales

Confiscated ivory from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service storehouse that was crushed on November 14, 2013.

The European Parliament recently took strong action against the illegal killing of elephants through the approach of a pioneering resolution on wildlife trafficking that demands moratoria on the illegal ivory trade and other measurements against wildlife crimes. The decision indicates that the Parliament views the trafficking of wildlife as a serious economic, environmental, and national security threat. It entails improved action by the member states of the European Union to halt the crisis through restraints on the trade and trafficking of illicit wildlife goods. Among these measurements includes a request for the European Commission to organize a European Union action plan against the illegal wildlife trade and advocates improved measurements for the prosecution of criminals of wildlife crime and on-the-ground protection for elephants, rhinos, tigers, and other endangered species.
Roughly 35,000 elephants were killed last year with some 96 animals killed per day.

The resolution was introduced by M.E.P Gerban-Jan Gerbrandy and passed through the Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety (ENVI) in November. It refers to the statement of eleven African elephant range countries at a September meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, an assemblage of global leaders intended on addressing the world's most urgent challenges, which encouraged countries to assert national moratoria on any trade in ivory because of the crisis. In that vein, the resolution calls upon European Union Member States to propose their own moratoria on all commercial imports, exports, and domestic sales and purchases of ivory tusks and products until the populations of wild elephants are no longer threatened by illegal poaching. The momentum in Europe will continue next month with a London summit on the illegal wildlife trade hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron that will engage wildlife experts and heads of state from around the world.
South Africa has lost a total of 1,004 white rhinos to poaching in 2013.

It is absolutely astounding to see what decision the European Parliament has made regarding the crisis concerning the illegal killing of African elephants and the trade of their tusks. This article indicates that the parliament has recognized the illegal wildlife trade as global threat not just in terms of the environment, but also at economic and national security levels. Furthermore, it calls for all the countries that are part of the European Union to take action by placing restrictions on the trade and trafficking of ivory and other wildlife goods. I feel that this is a huge step for the entire continent of Europe to bolster up its efforts in the battle against the illegal trade of endangered wildlife. The world has seen enough mass slaughter of endangered species, especially elephants and rhinos. In fact, 2013 has witnessed one of the worst cases of rhino deaths consisting of around 1,000 animals ruthlessly massacred for profit. This is why it is absolutely crucial for not just developed countries, but developing countries to increase their efforts through joint collaboration in order to ensure the survival of endangered species worldwide.

View article here     

Monday, January 6, 2014

Canine Distemper Virus Killing Lions, Tigers, and Red Pandas

A dog infected with canine distemper

It has recently been reported that lions, tigers, and red pandas in India are falling victim to infection caused by the canine distemper virus (CDV). Scientists at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) in Bareilly discovered the presence of the virus in blood samples collected from dead animals. According to A.K Sharma, principal scientist and in-charge of IVRI's Center for Wildlife, the team has found many blood samples of lions, tigers, and red pandas since last year. The disease has been found in Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, the Patna Zoo, and many areas of Darjeeling and West Bengal. He further added that the disease is known to damage the brain, which badly affects the animals' decision-making power. This, in turn, results in animals venturing outside their natural habitat and into human settlements making them vulnerable to poachers. The main source of CDV transmission among lions, tigers, and red pandas is direct contact like licking and predation in which lions and tigers kill and eat the dogs infected with the virus. In addition, the disease is also spreading through infected material such as drinking water from the same source.
Red panda

This article clearly indicates about the dangers of contact between wild animals and domestic animals in India and other parts of the world. In places where there are stray dogs roaming around, there is a great chance that these animals are infected with canine distemper and transmit the disease to wild animals by means of direct contact. This spells major trouble for endangered species such as lions, tigers, red pandas, etc. whose decline in numbers due to CDV combined with poaching, habitat destruction, and other man-made threats can greatly hinder the conservation efforts aimed at saving them. This is why it is absolutely essential to vaccinate dogs that are known to frequent the buffer zones of forests. Furthermore, stray dogs should be given a second chance in which they can be provided shelters in the care of their potential human adopters instead of being left out to roam the streets in various areas making them prone to disease and abuse. This way, lives of both domestic and wild animals can be saved.

View article here          

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Study- Africa's Elephant Poaching Linked to High Rates of Infant Mortality and Poverty

African bush elephant

Africa's elephant poaching in recent times has resulted in hundreds of elephants being ruthlessly massacred in the barbaric hands of poachers, due to the ongoing demand of ivory around the world especially in Asia. While one could easily see that elephants have been the ones suffering, the process has even been associated with corruption, poverty, and high rates of infant mortality. This concept has recently been studied by researchers in an attempt to create some strong evidence in hopes to shine some light on the negative results of the illegal ivory trade. The study, which was presented at an African elephant summit in Botswana last month, showed explicit connection for the first time between elephant poaching and child deaths in poverty-stricken areas. The research was finished by several conservation groups such as the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and TRAFFIC. Reuters reported that most of the places with highest rates of infant mortality and poverty are also rife with elephant poaching, but poverty-stricken villagers often do not benefit from the illegal industry. The illegal ivory trade has been described in the report as "similar to other extractive industries in Africa, which have been exploited to meet demand elsewhere with few rewards for local people." The report also measured infant mortality rates by counting the number of child deaths under the age of one per every 10,000 live births. The researchers found that the highest rates of infant mortality in Africa include the city of Bangassou in the Central African Republic, the Niassa Province in Mozambique, and Ziama in Guinea with estimates ranging from 1,240 to 1,400 per 10,000 births and even had extremely high poaching rates.

This article is a clear and explicit representation of why poaching should never ever, under any circumstances, should be taken lightly. In addition to affecting the lives of wild animals, the illegal practice also affects the lives of local people living in poverty and tremendously affected by corruption. This has been seen especially in the case of Africa's elephant poaching, which has been connected to high rates of infant mortality and poverty. That is, the places where elephant poaching has and continues to grow rampant are very much rife with overwhelming levels of infant mortality and poverty rates. To make matters worse, many villages stricken by poverty often do not benefit from poaching. In other words, we may think that one of the reasons poaching occurs in developing countries is so that local people affected by poverty have found a way to survive and support their families through illegal and dishonest means. But instead, they are exploited by the traders to whom they are selling the illicit merchandise of ivory or other body parts of endangered species. This is also why corruption in Africa and other third-world places has and continues to be a major threat for people living in dire poverty, and often fuels the process of poaching. In addition to combating poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, I also feel it is absolutely necessary to put an end to corruption so that people stricken with poverty would be able to survive and support themselves and their families without being exploited in any way.

View article here            

Police Announce Full-scale War Against Elephant Poachers to Save Tanzania's Tourism Industry

African elephants

The police in Tanzania's Katavi region have recently declared constant surveillance following reports of poachers working closely with local citizens to sneak into the Katavi National Park to kill elephants. Information obtained from different sources indicated that corrupt local associates work closely with poachers by providing them information regarding locations of law enforcement officials and places where elephants can be easily spotted. Dhahiri Kidavashari, commander of the Katavi Regional Police, has vowed that serious patrolling and investigating by the police in partnership with other shareholders to reveal operators behind poaching. The pledged patrol by the police came in the wake of troublesome reports by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism about chaotic killing of hundreds of elephants in 2013. The ghastly situation convinced establishing of an anti-poaching operation titled "Tokomeza" in September. However, the operation got suspended due to violation of human rights. Commander Kidavashari remembered one incident that occurred on Christmas Eve, in which two suspects believed to be hard-core poachers barely escaped arrest during a police chase. The suspects carried a 19-kg black bag while riding a motorcycle on the Mpanda-Kigoma main road. When they came close to the Kabungu village in the Mpanda District, they were met by a police patrol coming from an opposite direction. Commander Kidavashari further added that the suspects ignored the police when they stopped them. This resulted in a chase and when the suspects were convinced that their attempt was going to fail, they abandoned the motorcycle with a registration number T113 AVJ and the black bag containing seven pieces of elephant tusks worth $45 million. Unfortunately, the police could not provide the suspects' identities who were still at large.

Although I'm proud of the way the Tanzanian police have made it official to keep a sharp, yet constant lookout for poachers, I'm also deeply troubled by the fact that many of the local people had been collaborating with the poachers in providing them valuable tips and information. This includes where elephants can easily be spotted and where law enforcement officials are known to frequent. This also indicates that the local citizens in the Katavi region are impacting Tanzania's tourism industry. One local resident explained that as part of this illicit partnership, well-positioned poachers are known to give heavy artillery to local people in return for a token. I feel that Tanzanian police should also establish another strategy, which involves a community outreach program which engages locals of the Katavi region in the education about the dangers of poaching and what they can do to help prevent the practice. One way is to persuade the public to collaborate with the police and other authorities, and keep them informed about any suspected poaching activities in the region.

View article here