Saturday, January 31, 2015

Assam Requests Special Force to Protect Kaziranga's Rhinos

An Indian rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park

The government of Assam has recently sent a proposal to the federal government for obtaining a special rhino protection force with more than 1200 people and seek help from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to break the international rhino-poaching scheme. The action was taken in response to rhino poachers causing mayhem in Kaziranga National Park which has seen deaths of five rhinos so far this year while forty animals were killed last year. During a review meeting on anti-poaching measurements and other related concerns held at Kaziranga's Kohora Range, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi indicated that the government has sent a proposal to Union Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar and expected the new force would be augmented very soon. He further added that such a force would expedite use of modern technology for suppressing the threat of poaching. This includes deploying sophisticated equipment such as GPS, night vision tools, surveillance cameras, thermal scanners, etc. Minister Gogoi also requested Kazaringa's park authorities to take help from the NIA to tackle rhino poachers and break hidden rhino-horn trade roads across national and international borders. He even announced that he would shortly establish a development authority for the Kaziranga landscape under his chairmanship to discuss conservation and development issues. He stated that locals should be given environment-friendly opportunities and employment options balanced with wildlife conservation. He further added that a modern interpretation center and wildlife museum with 3D shows, tea museum, and tea tourism will be initiated in Kaziranga National Park and asked authorities to explore prospects of promoting off-season tourism through ecotourism and traditional activities.
Grassland in Kaziranga National Park

It is highly essential to have a special force with military background in protecting India's rhinos. These animals are continuously being targeted by poachers in Kaziranga National Park and a handful of other national parks in northeast India to satisfy the growing demand of rhino horns in China, Vietnam, and other countries infamous for selling body parts of endangered species to consumers. The action taken by Chief Minister Gogoi should also be implemented in other countries that contain rhinos. Indonesia is home to Sumatran and Javan rhinos which are labeled as "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and are severely threatened by poaching, habitat loss, and other human activities. This is why it is extremely crucial to have a special force committed to the conservation and protection of these majestic animals and that local people living alongside them should be provided with environment-friendly opportunities and livelihood options to minimize human encroachment into their habitats. Furthermore, Indonesia should also promote ecotourism in order to help make minimum impact on its wildlife. Similarly, African countries housing black and white rhinos should take this step in order to save their individual rhino populations from such threats.

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Protected Habitat Being Constructed for Nepal's Blackbuck Conservation

Blackbucks in Nepal's Blackbuck Conservation Area

Action has been recently taken to safeguard blackbucks by building a protected habitat for them at the Blackbuck Conservation Area (BCA) in Nepal's Khairapur district. Narayan Rupakheti, a conservation officer at the BCA, indicated that they were convinced to take such an initiative after forty blackbucks were swept away by floods in mid-August last year. As part of the effort, the habitat area covering a three-hectare area will be raised by three meters from the surface using mud deposits. Mr. Rupakheti further added that tree saplings will be planted in those parts of the conservation area located near the Babai River. Similarly, the road passing through the conservation area will be moved 25 meters east from its current location since the movement of local people and vehicles through the road has forced the blackbucks to migrate in large numbers looking for safer fields for grazing. The Hariyo Ban (Green Forest) Program has allotted Rs. 4.17 million and is anticipated to be finished within the current financial year. The government of Nepal had previously built a ten-kilometer long fence around the area at a cost of Rs. 20 million two years ago and officially proclaimed Khairapur district as Blackbuck Conservation Area on March 16, 2009. Covering an area of 479 hectares, the area is home to 245 blackbucks. Although conservation efforts have been obstructed due to lack of adequate infrastructure, care and habitat for blackbucks, the main problem authorities face for the animals' conservation is how to relocate 93 local families living in the area since 1971. Adding to their anguish, 49 families of illegal settlers have established temporary houses by trespassing in over seven hectares of land belonging to the BCA since 2006.
A male blackbuck

Although it is excellent news that protected habitat is being established for Nepal's blackbucks, there is still a current problem of local people settled in the conservation area and the problem of relocating them. It is crucial to work towards finding adequate substitute land for these people who have been living within the vicinity of the Blackbuck Conservation Area since 1971. This includes coming up with a compromise that would benefit both the local people and authorities working to ensure the survival and well-being of blackbucks. For now, the local residents should live alongside the blackbucks and it is important to ensure that they respect the antelopes by giving them their space and not attempt to retaliate against them when some problem arouses involving blackbucks. These magnificent antelopes are regarded as sacred animals in Hinduism. That is, they represent vahanas of the wind deity Vayu and lunar deities Anumati and Chandra. In order to help protect them, the local residents and authorities should form a joint partnership in looking after these animals and protecting them from poachers.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rhino Deaths Suggest Doubts About Effectiveness of Conservation

Indian rhinoceros

Jaldapara National Park in West Bengal's Alipurduar district lost three rhinos in the last few days and the incidents raised doubts about the effectiveness of rhino conservation. While the forest department put the blame on a section of villagers for being accomplices of poachers, forest gram sabhas accused a section of the department's employees for the ongoing poaching of rhinos. On Saturday morning, members of Mendabari gram sabha reclaimed a decomposed rhino carcass under Mendabari beat of Jaldapara's Chilapata forest range. The animal was missing a horn which indicated that it was killed by poachers. Before that, two rhino carcasses were discovered under Mayurdanga and Sisamara beats in the national park. Foresters stated that one of the two rhinos died as a result of fighting and another of natural causes. The recovery of the three rhino carcasses occurred at the time when a rhino census was being conducted. On Sunday, members from five forest gram sabhas gheraoed forest officials at Chilapata and interrogated them on how the rhinos were killed when the census was going. According to secretary of Mendabari gram sabha Pabitra Rava and secretary of Kurmai gram sabha Sunder Singh Rava, the deaths of the rhinos were a result of the forest department's "lackadaisical" attitude towards continuous poaching. They further added that the forest officials were not ready to accept the death of a rhino recovered from Mendabari gram sabha as an incident of poaching. A senior wildlife official, however, suspected that some forest officials were involved in poaching.
Jaldapara National Park

It is very disturbing that forest villagers and wildlife officials are locked in an intense state of hostility towards one another as to who is responsible for the continuation of rhino poaching in Jaldapara National Park. This national park is one four national parks that are home to India's rhinos, but has been regularly hit by poaching bids numerous times. One incident occurred on the night of October 6 2014 when members from a forest gram sabha thwarted a poaching attempt at Chilapata range and captured one person from the town of Kokrajhar in Assam. The arrest and thwarting of the poaching attempt came in less than two months of the poaching of a male rhino inside Jaldapara by poachers. Although twelve gram sabhas have established a joint committee as per the Forest Rights Act to protect the forests and its wild animals, the forest department is yet to expand cooperation to the committee. The committee even presented letters to senior forest officials about the need for the forest department and gram sabhas to join forces to protect rhinos from poaching. It is highly essential that the forest department and forest villagers must team up to stand up against the threat of poaching instead of accusing one another for the ongoing poaching of rhinos in Jaldapara National Park. This national park has been frequently hit by poaching and one should not wait for another poaching incident to happen in order to protect the rhinos and other wildlife. It is time to start acting and fast.

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Hoh Xil's Tibetan Antelope Habitat to be Nominated as UNESCO World Heritage Site

A young Tibetan antelope interacting.

The Tibetan antelope habitat of the Hoh Xil area in China's Qinghai Province is set to be nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017. According to Jia Yingzhong, director of the Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, preparation work on the effort began in late 2014. She estimated that preparations would be finished in 2017 in time for a vote at the annual World Heritage Committee meeting. As of now, China has 47 places listed as World Heritage Site and if Hoh Xil is added, it would be the first for Qinghai Province. The history of Hoh Xil dates back to 1995 when it was nominated as a national nature preserve in the border area of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Covering an area of 45,000 square kilometers and situated at an elevation of 4,600 meters, this is the largest area of desolate land that has long been a haven for wildlife. More than 230 species of animals call this stretch of land home. In addition to the Tibetan antelope, other animals include the Himalayan brown bearkiang, Thorold's deer, and the wild yak. Despite the abundance of wildlife, Hoh Xil has been targeted by poachers towards the end of the 20th century. Among the most targeted animals was the Tibetan antelope due to the popularity of shahtoosh. As a result, the population of the Tibetan antelope dwindled from 200,000 to 20,000 by 1997. One of the most extraordinary and brave stories behind the success of Hoh Xil revolved around a local official named Jesung Sonam Dargye, who spent his entire life trying to save the Tibetan antelope. His dedication and sacrifice helped awaken the public's awareness of Hoh Xil's ecosystem and even became immortalized in the film Kekexili: Mountain Patrol. As a result, the area's environment improved significantly. The Hoh Xil Nature Reserve Administration Bureau indicated that no poaching has been carried out since 2006 and the Tibetan antelope population increased to approximately 60,000 animals.
Hoh Xil landscape

This is an extremely amazing news that the Hoh Xil area will be nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not only is it home to some breathtaking features, including the wildlife, but is an example of remarkable success in protecting the wildlife. This was due to an extraordinary courage and bravery of Jesung Sonam Dargye, who sacrificed his life in saving one of Hoh Xil's most iconic treasures: the Tibetan antelope. The Hoh Xil area is now home to about 60,000 of these magnificent antelopes and other amazing species of animals as well. Although the Tibetan antelope's population is relatively stable in Hoh Xil, the demand for shahtoosh has not ceased. This is especially seen in Pakistan where the demand remains high. It is essential to reduce the demand for shahtoosh through behavior change and awareness campaigns in Pakistan, as well as targeting poachers operating in areas that function as prime Tibetan antelope habitat. The goal is to ensure the survival of these antelopes and that includes conducting conservation efforts to possibly rebound their population higher than 60,000.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Opposition Against Legislation that Allows Fenced-In Hunting Preserves in Indiana


Several hunters and wildlife advocacy groups recently expressed opposition to a legislation that would allow fenced-in preserves around the state of Indiana for hunting deer. The legislation, which is backed by Republican Sean Eberhart, would need reserves to cover at least 100 acres, have fences at least 8 feet high, and have the Indiana Department of Natural Resources license. A small quantity of such preserves have functioned without state approval for many years, with courts arguing on whether the Department of Natural Resources could force their closing. Efforts in current legislative conferences to authorize them have failed to win permission. One of the supporters of legalizing hunting preserves is Gary Jacobson of the Indiana Deer and Elk Farmers Association, who stated that the legislation was a step that would help Indiana's almost 400 deer farms have customers for their animals. He further added that the farms are small businesses which are able to perform at a smaller rate than is required nowadays for raising livestock such as cattle, chickens, or pigs. Opponents of this legislation included the Hoosier Environmental Council, the Indiana chapter of the Humane Society, Indiana Deer Hunters Association, and the Indiana Wildlife Federation. These organizations called the hunting preserves "canned hunting" and pointed out that they increase the danger of spreading chronic wasting disease (CWD) to Indiana's wild deer population. One of the opponents, Doug Allman of Indiana Deer Hunters Association, argued that the deer in the preserves are raised in captivity which indicates they are used to being around people and that the preserves did not offer normal hunting. According to Mr. Eberhart, who is the chairman of the Indiana House of Representatives committee, he would contemplate probable changes to his legislation in the approaching days and that the committee would not enact the proposal until at least next week. He further added that he was trying to set up legitimate rules for license fees, land, fencing, surveillance, and record-keeping.

This legislation supported by Mr. Eberhart clearly spells danger for deer trapped inside these so-called "hunting preserves" with nowhere to run. Even worse is that the animals were raised in captivity and have lost the fight-or-flight response, which separates them from their wild counterparts. These are the components that define canned hunting. Wild animals are captive-raised and have lost their fear of humans, making them very easy to hunt and are trapped with no chance of escape. This brutal practice of hunting eliminates the concept of fair chase. In other words, it is a stark contrast of regular sport-hunting which presents real challenges to hunters and a chance for deer and other wild animals escape and live another day. In addition, deer raised in such hunting preserves are prone to spreading chronic wasting disease which is fatal to wild deer. Such preserves and similar facilities infamous for conducting canned hunting should be banned by any means necessary. It does not matter whether they are state-approved or not. Canned hunting is a form of animal cruelty that should be eliminated and there should never be a legislation granting permission to establish and run hunting preserves that spell doom for deer and other wild animals.

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Utah Experiences 30% Increase in Number of Poached Animals

A wildlife officer holding up a skull of a poached deer.

State wildlife officials have recently stated that Utah has recently experienced a 30 percent increase in the number of animals poached over the last two years. Authorities indicated that more than 1,287 animals were illegally hunted last year, compared to 958 two years ago. The figure from 2014 is anticipated to increase as officers found more kills from last year, but officials said that poaching still highly underreported. According to Captain Mitch Lane, most poaching cases begin with an animal either reported of found dead by officers. He further added that although authorities can conclude that an animal did not die of natural causes, it is difficult to determine how the animal was killed or who did it. In addition, ballistics tests are not much use without a firearm to compare bullets and other evidence collected at a scene of the crime. Instead, investigators depend on information from the public and people who either witness and animal killed or talk to someone bragging about poaching. Mike Kinghorn, a wildlife officer from Box Elder County, indicated that deer were among the most poached animals last year. These animals are primarily targeted for their antlers and carcasses are often left decapitated. In addition to deer, other animals targeted by poachers last year included bears, bison, eagles, elk, a desert tortoise, and a pelican. The pelican case is under investigation by Mr. Kinghorn, who indicated that a motorist reported hearing a gunshot and seeing the bird fall down from the sky in the city of Harrisville. However, evidence was lost after animal control officers responded and got rid of the body before a wildlife officer got there. While it is unclear why the number of animals poached animals has skyrocketed in recent years, Captain Lane stated that the total changes from year to year. The increase could be due to more wildlife officers patrolling the areas and investigating cases.

It is extremely disheartening to see that Utah has experienced such a spike in poaching of its native wildlife. But what is even more disturbing is that wildlife officers lack the necessary tools and resources to help them with poaching. For example, they are unable to perform ballistics tests without firearms to compare bullets and other evidence collected at a scene of the crime. Instead, all they are doing is relying on the public for vital information about poaching activities. This does little to help in combating poaching. Just as law enforcement has access to essential tools and resources as well as information from general public to help in crime investigations, wildlife officials should also have access to these two components vital for fighting poaching and other wildlife crimes. Another disturbing fact about this ongoing issue was the pelican poaching case in which animal control officers disposed of the evidence before any wildlife officers got to the scene. This was an extremely outrageous act, especially when it involves groups of people fully committed to the cause of ensuring the well-being of animals. By disposing of the pelican carcass, the animal control officers involved are a complete and utter disgrace to their organization and should be prosecuted under full extent of the law. Furthermore, Utah's wildlife officers need to join forces with the state's law enforcement agencies in tackling this ongoing poaching issue. Just working alone as a wildlife organization does little to make a difference to the natural environment and its inhabitants.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Namibia Begins Moving Rhinos to Combat Surging Threat of Poaching

A black rhinoceros mother and calf in Etosha National Park

Africa, with its ongoing and ever-rising poaching epidemic claiming countless lives of elephants and rhinos, has been struggling to carry out measurements to prevent further losses of these majestic endangered animals. One of the methods implemented is relocating rhinos from poaching hot spots to undisclosed locations. This method has recently been started by Namibia which is home to about 1,750 black rhinos, out of the global population of 4,800 animals, making it home to the world's largest populations of black rhinos in Africa. These rhinos are being relocated to privately-owned ranches around the country as it battles to protect the animals from poachers who want to satisfy the rising demand in rhino horns used in traditional Asian medicine. Namibia lost 23 rhinos last year in the Kunene Region and Etosha National Park, a famed tourist attraction. That same year, 76 elephants fell victim to poachers. According to Pohamba Shifeta, Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, part of this safety measurement is considering efforts by farmers based on area security, grazing, and other causes before carrying out a relocation. He further added that dehorning rhinos is also being carried on and a projected anti-poaching unit comprised of 400 members will be ready once it ensures financing from the government of Namibia. In addition, a plan to use aerial drones to improvise surveillance in badly policed and isolated parks will be carried out once legal issues have been settled. Namibia's neighbor, South Africa, indicated that a record 1,215 rhinos were ruthlessly massacred by poachers last year.
A pair of black rhinos in South Africa
Africa has been struggling to combat the ongoing threat of poaching which is decimating its elephant and rhino populations at cataclysmic levels. One of the methods being implemented is transferring rhinos from areas labeled as hot spots for poaching to undisclosed areas in order to protect them from poachers. Namibia is one of the most recent countries that has begun relocating its rhinos to such areas. Earlier, South Africa had been engaged in transferring its rhinos from places like Kruger National Park to hidden areas. Just recently, the country has relocated 100 rhinos. But relocating animals and directly poachers are not the only ways of ensuring the survival of elephants and rhinos. It is also essential to establish and conduct conservation programs to guarantee that local people receive benefits from wildlife, increase law enforcement efforts, and that governments should take action at an international level. Furthermore, it is also crucial to work to reduce the demand for rhino horns and elephant ivory through change in behavior and awareness campaigns. People around the world, especially in Africa and Asia, need to wake up and understand that poaching of elephants and rhinos can seriously impact the socio-economic development of each other's countries. For example, African national parks which contain elephants and rhinos are major tourist attractions and the flow of tourists contribute significantly to the countries' economies and socio-economic developments. When poachers slaughter these animals at cataclysmic levels, it would greatly affect the national parks' status as tourist attractions and the decline in tourism would have a tremendous impact on the economies and socio-economic developments of countries that contain such parks. Mozambique is infamous for having majority of rhino poachers who are known to cross the border into South Africa to conduct their illegal activities. Pressure is especially needed on this country to take necessary steps to steer people living in poverty away from making a living by poaching or other illegal means and encourage them to make a living through honest means. Furthermore, governments in Asia, especially in China and Vietnam, need to encourage their people to refrain from purchasing rhino horns and elephant ivory. This means addressing to the public that there is no scientific proof whatsoever that rhino horns and products made from other endangered species can cure a wide-range of illnesses, including cancer. In addition, governments of China, Vietnam, and other countries should permanently shut down factories manufacturing such wildlife products, along with stores and pharmacies selling the merchandise and the so-called "medicine". But most of all, governments around the world must take essential steps to bring down powerful global criminal syndicates that are conducting and overseeing illegal poaching of rhinos and elephants. These organizations are known to use the money made through manufacturing, distributing, and purchasing of rhino horns, elephant tusks, and other endangered wildlife products to finance other illicit activities like arms trafficking, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and terrorism.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

India's Tiger Population Rises by 30% from 2011 to 2014

Bengal tigress in Jim Corbett National Park

The tiger population of India has recently been reported to have increased by 30 percent from 1,706 animals in 2011 to 2,226 animals in 2014. The new tiger census, which was conducted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, was released by Union Minister of State Prakash Javadekar. The new census report indicated that the tiger population in India had increased to an estimated 1,706 animals from 1,411 in 2008. The outcomes included numbers from seventeen states across India with Karnataka having the highest number of tigers (408) aged 1.5 years and more. In addition, 167 tigers have been recorded in Assam, 136 in Kerala, 190 in Maharashtra, 308 in Madhya Pradesh, 229 in Tamil Nadu, 340 in Uttarakhand, and 117 in Uttar Pradesh. The tiger census from 2008 also categorized India's tiger-populated forests into six landscapes: the Central Indian Landscape Complex, Eastern and Western Ghats, Brahmaputra Plains and Northeastern Hills, Shivalik-Gangetic Plains, and the Sundarbans.
Bengal tiger in Ranthambore National Park

This is great news for wildlife conservationists that the tiger population in India is rising. However, in other parts of Asia, it is a different story. This is especially seen in the case of South China and Sumatran tigers which are listed as "critically endangered." In addition, other remaining tiger subspecies which include the Indochinese, Malayan, and Siberian tiger number around 300 to 400 individuals. Therefore, it is highly crucial to undertake necessary measurements to ensure the survival of these remaining tiger subspecies. In the case of South China and Sumatran tigers, steps should include intense captive breeding and reintroduction efforts in order to revive the global populations of these critically endangered tigers before they are pushed further towards the brink of extinction. The world should never, for any reason whatsoever, wait for any animal species to be extinct in the wild in order to save it. Furthermore, captive breeding and reintroduction efforts should also be implemented for Indochinese, Malayan, and Siberian tigers. This is particularly essential in countries where their population numbers are critically low. These countries include Burma (85) Cambodia (20), China (45), Laos (17), and Vietnam (20). By combining captive breeding efforts in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world and identifying essential habitat areas, tiger populations in the following five Asian countries would likely increase. However, it is crucial to act fast before any tiger population in either one of those countries ceases to exist in the wild.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Report- Rhinos Could Become Extinct in Over a Decade If Poaching Continues

A rhino horn (left) and a mother white rhinoceros with calf (right)

The National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit of South Africa has recently reported that 1,215 rhinos were poached in the country last year. This disturbing figure is double the number that were heavily poached in South Africa three years ago, and it has risen to a shocking 9,000 percent in only seven years. Nowadays, there are less than 30,000 rhinos remaining in the wild and there are concerns that they will be annihilated from this planet by 2026 if the illegal and bloodthirsty slaughter continues at a speedy rate. An international wildlife charity called Save The Rhino indicated that the growing demand for rhinos' horns in Asia has led to 2014 being the "worst poaching year on record." The official statistics of rhino poaching for 2014 are hoped to be released this month by South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), but the number which the National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit has already documented shows that more rhinos are being slaughtered year after year. For example, in 2010, a total of 333 rhinos were massacred in South Africa and that figure increased to 448 in 2011. In 2012, a total of 668 rhinos were slaughtered and in 2013, a disastrous 1,004 rhinos fell victim to poaching. According to Katherine Ellis of Save The Rhino, the major factor that has contributed to the rise in rhino deaths is the increasing demand for their horns, especially in Vietnam, where the horns are used in traditional medicine.
A white rhinoceros grazing

Although there are essential moves underway such as efforts to foil poachers and conservation programs to help protect rhinos from both natural and unnatural danger, Save The Rhino emphasized that attitudes need to be changed through awareness movements in order to diminish the demand for rhino horn. Ms. Ellis indicated that a wide variety of strategies are required, which include well-trained and outfitted anti-poaching units on the ground, community conservation programs to guarantee that local people receive benefits from wildlife, heightened law enforcement efforts, and government action at an international level. She further added that pressure is especially needed on Mozambique, where most of the rhino poachers come from and it is also crucial to continue work to lessen the demand for rhino horns through behavior change and awareness movements in countries of Asia, especially Vietnam. In other efforts to protect the rhinos, current figures from the DEA indicated that more people are being detained in affiliation with rhino poaching than ever before. For example, approximately 367 people were arrested in connection to rhino poaching last year compared to 343 in 2013 and 267 in 2012.
White rhinoceros browsing

Out of roughly 29,000 rhinos remaining in the world, over 20,000 of these - particularly the white rhinoceros, of which there are 20,045 remaining - are found in southern Africa. In addition, there are also some 5,000 black rhinos left on the continent. However, two of the three species of Asian rhinos, which include the Javan rhino and Sumatran rhino are critically endangered. Furthermore, there are supposed 3,333 Indian rhinos in India and Nepal but their numbers stay threatened by increased risks of poaching. Other threats to Asia's rhinos include loss of habitat and challenges when breeding due to low levels of populations. This is especially seen in the case of Javan rhinos which number approximately 50 to 58 animals surviving in a hidden population in Indonesia and Sumatran rhinos with less than 100 individuals surviving on the island of Sumatra and the state of Sabah in Malaysia.
A black rhinoceros; there are roughly 5,000 of these rhinos left in the wild

When is the world ever going to wake up and realize that the global population of rhinos has been and continues to be in jeopardy with the growing demand of the animals' horns fueling the bloodthirsty slaughter of hundreds of these majestic creatures in Africa and Asia? Statistics have shown that Africa's rhino population continues to decline year after year due to poaching and, combined with the threats affecting Asia's rhinos, the global rhino population could become extinct in over a ten-year period. It is highly essential that attitudes need to be changed through awareness campaigns to reduce the demand of rhino horns. That is, pressure needs to be put on countries such as Vietnam where the demand remains high and Mozambique where majority of rhino poachers come from. Furthermore, governments from these two countries and other countries that house remaining wild rhino populations need to take serious action on an international level to combat rhino poaching and reduce the demand of rhino horns by any means necessary. Otherwise, they would risk losing their rhinos to poaching which would tremendously affect their countries' socio-economic development. This is especially true in the case of African countries, where tourism contributes to the countries' economies. In other words, poaching does not only affect the wildlife but also has a negative impact on a country's economy. Without rhinos, the wildlife tourism in Africa would greatly fluctuate. Furthermore, Javan and Sumatran rhinos continue to face habitat loss and challenges of breeding because of low numbers in populations. It is extremely crucial to save these rhinos through intense captive breeding and reintroduction efforts, along with identifying crucial habitats where these animals have been reported through the use of camera traps. When such areas have been identified, they should be fully guarded against poaching and habitat destruction.

A rare glimpse of the Javan rhinoceros; it is believed that between 50 and 58 of these rhinos remaining in the wild 
Other strategies that are critical in reversing the world's decline in rhinos are establishing well-trained and outfitted anti-poaching units in countries rife with poaching activities, increased efforts in law enforcement, and community conservation programs that ensure local people receive benefit from wildlife. The false belief that rhino horns can cure a wide range of illnesses, including cancer, has led to countless numbers of rhinos being ruthlessly massacred in their native homelands to feed the growing demand of mindless consumers in countries like Vietnam. These brainless people need to wake up and realize that there is absolutely no scientific proof that a rhino's horn can provide cure for such illnesses. The money used to purchase rhino horns and body parts of other endangered species is known to be used by organized criminal syndicates to finance other illegal activities such as arms trafficking, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and even terrorism. This is why it is extremely crucial to target these syndicates that monopolize in such vices that claim both human and animal lives and severely prosecute the members of these criminal organizations. The world cannot just have its human inhabitants view and learn about wild animals in captivity; there should be adequate amounts of  natural habitat for animals, especially endangered species, to roam freely without any form of human disturbance.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Cases of Illegal Fishing in Singapore's National Parks and Reserves Increasing

A group of people supposedly fishing illegally in Singapore's Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

Singapore has reported increasing cases of illegal fishing in its national parks and reserves with several notices distributed by the agency National Parks Board (NParks) growing from 96 in 2012 to 271 in 2014. The threat of illegal fishing makes up the bulk of poaching cases in the country. There were only two incidents poaching that did not involve fish last year and ten in 2012. NParks, which manages four nature reserves and more than 300 parks, associated the rise in the number of illegal fishing and poaching incidents to increased enforcement. The figures were given in response to media inquiries over the most recent case of supposed illegal fishing at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve last Sunday. According to Ben Lee, founder of nature group Nature Trekker, he saw a group of people on a raft in the reservoir pulling in a large net to check for fish. He immediately notified the park's authorities. Sharon Chan, the reserve's deputy director, indicated that officers were set up on the reserve and the people involved were interrogated at the scene with the help from the police. She further added that there are few cases of illegal fishing at the reserve because of deterrent measurements put in place. For example, there were two instances of illegal fishing at the reserve last year, none in 2013, and one in 2012. Since illegal poaching is one of the main problems affecting the management of Singapore's nature reserves, NParks is known to carry out consistent enforcement patrols with the help from a volunteer group known as Nature Wardens. Each volunteer plays an able role and is trained on how to approach and communicate with those who carry out illegal activities. However, Mr. Lee feels that authorities should act more quickly to apprehend poachers when an incident is reported. He pointed out that fishing with nets causes more damage to the environment since more fish are captured, compared to other fishing methods such as hook-and-line fishing. He further added that the loss of fish in Singapore's waters would impact the food supply for other animals like birds and rare species such as oriental small-clawed otters and saltwater crocodiles.
The threat of illegal fishing in Singapore's waters could affect the populations of rare species like this saltwater crocodile.

The threat of illegal fishing in Singapore should be publicly addressed, in order to help save the country's national parks and reserves from being over-exploited of fish. These animals are crucial as a major food source for not just birds, but oriental small-clawed otters, saltwater crocodiles, and other rare species of animals. Some of these animals play a major role as keystone species and keep the fish population in check. If the fish population declines, it would tremendously affect the populations of otters, crocodiles, and other rare species. This is why it is extremely essential that the public should jointly collaborate with authorities in curbing any illegal fishing or poaching activities occurring in Singapore's protected areas. This joint collaboration should be established so that the public and authorities can exchange information regarding the whereabouts of potential poachers suspected of causing damage in the country's national parks and nature reserves. That way, the efforts to put a stop in poaching and other illegal activities within the vicinity of Singapore's protected areas can be carried out much faster.

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Study Shows California's Illegal Ivory Sale has Increased in Eight Years

A Maasai boy near a skeleton of an elephant killed by poachers in Arusha, Tanzania.

A recent study examining the trafficking of Africa's illegal ivory revealed that as much as 90 percent of the ivory analyzed in the markets and stores of Los Angeles was illegal under state law. It also found identical numbers in San Francisco and confirmed that the magnitude of illegal ivory for sale in California has increased in eight years. The study's report, authorized by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), shined light on the illegal importation and sale of African ivory. Despite conspicuous public awareness campaigns and heightened international enforcement, poaching and illicit trafficking of ivory are on the rise with more than 100,000 elephants slaughtered in the last three years, adding to the species' cataclysmic fall. Conservationists are expecting that a new bill before the state legislature will help stop the flow of illegal ivory. The projected bill, written by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, would more closely reflect federal law that prohibits all ivory imports, closing an escape in present state laws that permit the sale of ivory brought into California before 1977. The legislation would also ban the sale, purchase, and possession for sale of basically all elephant ivory and rhino horns. However, it would allow some exceptions for educational or scientific purposes or if ivory is part of a musical instrument. Named AB 96, Ms. Atkins attached the number 96 to the bill to indicate that it is the number of elephants killed in Africa each day. The report's author, Daniel Stiles, examined more than 100 dealers in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area in the months of March and April and analyzed more than 1,250 items. He estimated that roughly 50 percent of ivory for sale in California is illegal. The study confirmed that approximately 90 percent of ivory for sale in Los Angeles was illegal under state law and roughly 60 percent was illegal under federal law. The report hypothesized that customers are confused about which ivory is illegal and which ivory pieces, found in some antique items, for example, are legal. Mr. Stifles stated that customers assume that if ivory is for sale, it must be legal. Since 1989, the federal law has prohibited the sale of African ivory, but that law has also been strengthened and no longer permits the importation of antiques. According to Craig Hoover, chief of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service's International Affairs Wildlife Trade and Conservation Branch, federal enforcement attention has moved to ivory dealers, demanding them confirm the legality of each item. Conservationists also expect the stronger state and federal laws will also diminish the number of illicit ivory making its way to California markets.

It is highly essential that tougher state and federal laws be put into effect in this ongoing war against the poaching of Africa's elephants and the illegal trade of ivory. Increased enforcement is not the only solution to deal with this catastrophe. Decreasing the demand of ivory is a more effective way of controlling illegal imports of ivory. At the same time, high-profile public awareness campaigns should not only be carried out in countries like China or anywhere else where the demand for ivory remains high, but also in Africa where the poaching of elephants and rhinos has been occurring and continues to occur. The threat of poaching does not only affect the population of elephants and rhinos, but also harms the tourism industry and socio-economic growth in Africa. Furthermore, the money made from dealing elephant ivory and rhino horns also funds crimes against people such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, weapons trafficking, and terrorism. Therefore, it is essential to combat the illegal trade of ivory and rhino horns by both diplomatic and military means.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sindh High Court Abolishes Hunting Licenses of Arab Dignitaries

Houbara bustard

The Sindh High Court (SHC) of Pakistan has recently abolished a federal government proclamation that permitted distribution of licenses to Arab dignitaries for hunting endangered species such as the houbara bustard in the country. The demand came on a petition registered by Lal Khan Chandio and Rahib Kalhoro. The claimants complied that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had allotted districts of Baluchistan, Punjab, and Sindh to dignitaries from Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar for hunting endangered animals. Their legal representative, Ghulam Hyder Sheikh, acknowledged that the federal government had allowed sixteen permits to Arab princes, sheikhs, and sovereigns to hunt the houbara bustard and granted them a limit of 100 birds per bag. He also complied that defendants Abdul Khaliq Al-Khoory, Mohammad Shahbaz Khan, Naseer Abdullah Hussain, Nawab Sardar Gaib Khan Chandio, and Nawabzada Burhan Khan Chandio were the agents and organizers of a private department belonging to Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the Sindh Province. The department is known to maintain illegal hunting on private lands of the claimants and villagers. He further asserted that the defendants, in connivance with bureaucrats, illegally seized the petitioners' and villagers' properties for hunting the bustard and other protected animals such as the chinkara, ibex, markhor, marsh crocodile, nilgai, urial, etc. They established hunting stations, cruised the area in their vehicles, and did not allow peasants, proprietors, residents, shepherds, and workers to come into the area to care for their cattle, crops, and land. The petitioners and villagers were said to be banned from farming on their lands from November 2014 to February 2015. Mr. Sheikh pointed out that the proclamation was illegal and violated court orders and international conventions. He also alleged that illegal acts had been conducted by other organizers, specifically Arbab Ghulam Rahim, Sardar Ali Gohar Khan Mahar, and Sardar Malik Asad Sikandar in Pakistan's national parks, protected areas, and wildlife sanctuaries. They were greatly reimbursed by Arab dignitaries.

It was a very bold and wonderful move the Sindhi High Court made in revoking hunting permits of Arab dignitaries. Not only has the distribution of hunting permits threatened Pakistan's endangered species, but it also negatively affected the local villagers. That is, organizers of private departments belonging to royal dignitaries had illegally seized land belonging to villagers in order to carry out hunting expeditions. This meant that villagers could not go about their duties of caring for their land which includes tending their crops, cattle, and other livestock. In other words, the issuance of hunting permits had been affecting their livelihood. But with this revocation of issuing hunting permits for Arab dignitaries, the local villagers can continue with their daily routine without any possible interference. In addition, Pakistan's endangered species are safe from poaching. Although Arab dignitaries cannot go on hunting expeditions, they can help in ensuring the survival and protection of endangered species in Pakistan, the Middle East, and North Africa. For example, in November 2014, it was announced that 500 scimitar-horned oryx will be steadily introduced to Ouadi Rime-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve in Chad marking the first ever plan of reintroducing this magnificent antelope which is currently extinct in the wild. The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) is said to play a key role in conducting efforts to reintroduce the oryx to its former home range in collaboration with the government of Chad. If dignitaries from other Arab countries join forces with governments of Chad and other North African countries, it would further help in bringing the scimitar-horned oryx back from extinction and hopefully to other parts of its home range where it once thrived. The Arabian oryx successfully made a comeback from extinction after several years due to series of conservation efforts that are a result from a joint collaboration between Middle Eastern governments and international organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Similar efforts should be implemented to return the scimitar-horned oryx to its former homeland in North Africa. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Iberian Wolves Causing Havoc to Spanish Farmers

Farmer Jacinto Serranos with a calf killed by either a wolf or a feral dog

The Iberian wolf, which is protected in Spain, has moved southwards from the country's northwestern corner in recent years and threatening farmers through livestock predation. One of the unfortunate farmers suffering from such losses is Jacinto Serranos, who lives near the small village of Mengamunoz in the province of Avila. Mr. Serranos tried using a wide range of deterrents such as leaving a transistor radio on at full volume next to his cattle at night and installing a flickering police siren in the field. However, the wolves continue to arrive generally targeting the smallest or weakest animals in a herd. In the past few years, Mr. Serranos lost eight cows which constituted up to 10 percent of his livestock and indicated that other farmers living nearby have experienced livestock predation by wolves. For example, one farmer lost a calf to the wolves a few days after the attack on Mr. Serranos' livestock. The psychological impact of predation by wolves has also led to another dilemma and that is it caused several of Mr. Serranos' heifers to experience miscarriages.
Iberian wolf

A local farmer's association indicated that Castile and Leon saw over 2,000 domestic animals killed by wolves this year with a quarter of those in the Avila area. Figures compiled by the region's government revealed that more than 20,000 calves, foals, goats, and sheep have been either killed or wounded by wolves over the past ten years with the flow increasing considerably in 2008. According to wolf expert Juan Carlos Blanco, the animals have bolstered their numbers and are frequenting areas occupied by farmers especially in Avila. He further added that farming methods were used to the wolves several decades ago with more enclosures and livestock guardian dogs. However, he also pointed out that a political confusion is related to the issue. That is, in 2013, the chief political parties in Avila disproved of a regulation granting wolves protection from hunting in all areas south of the Douro River by supporting a proposal to make the province "wolf free". In the meantime, the government of Spain is pressing the European Commission to lower the wolves' protection so that they can be hunted. Conservationists fear that the political attitude is turning against the wolves. One of them is Luis Suarez, who oversees the biodiversity program of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Spain. He accepts that even though some farmers suffer from repeated attacks on their livestock by wolves, it is not a large-scale problem for the agricultural part as a whole. He further added that wolves have been used as scapegoats for other matters affecting Spain's major farming industry, such as decreasing subsidies and red tape. As the attacks implemented by wolves have soared in recent times, so have the incidences of animals being poisoned in retaliation with over 130 wolves killed in the past ten years. Mr. Suarez stated that the actual number could be hire and pointed to farmers as apparent suspects. Both Mr. Suarez and Dr. Blanco think that the solution to the threat of wolves lies in farmers changing their techniques of keeping livestock. Although they admit that this solution costs money as does granting farmers more sufficient compensation in the aftermath of attacks, the relationship between people and wolves is difficult.
A Maremma sheepdog guarding a flock of sheep. Livestock guardian dogs are an effective, yet non-violent way of reducing livestock losses from predators like wolves. 

It is extremely disturbing to see how the farmers' livestock are being lost to wolves. These incidents of livestock predation has been affecting the farmers' livelihood. However, Iberian wolves are not only subject to retaliatory killings by farmers but are also threatened by the Spanish government which is currently requesting the European Commission to strip the wolves of their protection status so that they can be hunted. This method would not help since wolves are keystone species that play a major role in maintaining the ecological balance of their native habitat. If these animals disappear, the herbivore population in Spain would increase dramatically and this would lead to further problems for the country's farmers. One of the wolf's prey, the wild boar, is infamous for causing destruction on agricultural land and the wolf is credited for keeping Spain's wild boar population in check. So if the Iberian wolf disappears from Spain, then the wild boar population would explode reaching agricultural land and posing serious threat to farmers and their livestock. Instead of turning against the wolf, the Spanish government should turn to helping farmers coexist peacefully with wolves. This can be done by setting up stronger barriers around farmlands, providing livestock guardian dogs to keep wolves away, encouraging farmers to change their methods of keeping livestock, and granting them more sufficient compensation in the wake of any attack. Three years ago, the government of Catalonia developed a plan to reduce livestock predation from wolves by providing farmers with livestock guardian dogs. The government of Spain should implement similar tactics without having to simply killing wolves. As part of the efforts in dealing with the ongoing problem between wolves and farmers, Spain should also look into its feral dog population. Apart from wolves, Spain has a larger issue of feral dogs preying on livestock. However, most farmers would not acknowledge this because Spain, like most countries, would not compensate livestock losses to feral dogs. This could explain why whenever there is a loss of livestock, the blame is immediately put on wolves and not feral dogs due to the fact that dogs are domestic by nature and lack the predatory insticts their wild ancestors use to survive. Therefore, it is extremely essential to help Spain's farmers by not only providing them with proper necessities to ensure their livestock is safe from wolves but also focusing on the situation regarding the country's feral dogs and acting upon it to prevent any further blame being put on wolves without any solid proof.

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Decision on North Carolina's Red Wolf Recovery Program On the Horizon

A red wolf at the Red Wolf Education and Health Care Facility in Columbia, North Carolina.

It has been 27 years since federal wildlife officials reintroduced the critically endangered red wolf in the wild through a recovery program which gathered approximately 100 of the animals in few counties in the state of North Carolina. A decision on whether to continue the efforts to protect the only wild population of red wolves is expected to come in early 2015. According to Tom Mackenzie, a spokesman for the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, the decision on the future of the program is predicted in the first three months of 2015 but could not be more specific. As part of their assessment, federal officials instructed an independent review in late 2014 that revealed faults in how the program is operated. These flaws range from poor understanding of population movements to inadequate coordination with local managers. The review also advised that red wolves be reintroduced in other areas. An assistant regional director for the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service named Leopoldo Miranda indicated that the agency tried to catch all wolves and return them back to captivity when a program to bring them back to the Great Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina ceased in 1998. In November 2014, conservation groups won a court battle to enforce tougher rules for hunting coyotes in eastern North Carolina's five counties in order to protect red wolves. These rules include banning nighttime hunting. The groups alleged that gunshots are the prominent cause of death for wolves, even though it is illegal to kill them in most situations. However, a settlement agreement allows for hunting coyotes during daytime hours on private land by permit. Tara Zuardo, a lawyer for the Animal Welfare Institute, stated that she hopes daytime hunting will satisfy landowners and decrease political pressure that wildlife officials might be feeling. She is also hopeful that federal officials will decide to continue or reshape the red wolf program and maybe reintroduce the wolves in other sites.

It is absolutely essential to take necessary measurements to bring the red wolf back from the brink of extinction. When a recovery program is found to contain flaws that could affect the species' survival, then it is crucial to improvise the program by any means necessary. The red wolf has long been decimated throughout its historical home range in the southeastern United States. Currently, the last remaining populations of this magnificent species of wolf are found mainly in few North Carolina counties. Although these animals number around 100 individuals, they are still under tremendous threat from human hunters who mistake them for coyotes and these intentional or unintentional killings hinder the efforts to revive the red wolf. The red wolf is not the only wolf in the U.S that is struggling to make a comeback in its historic range; its relative the Mexican wolf is also fighting to successfully thrive in the American Southwest. Recently, a wolf sighted near the Grand Canyon was said to be shot down by a hunter who thought it was a coyote. Most news sources indicate that this act was done by accident. But whether this is true or not, it is a clear indication that wolves require a great deal of adequate protection because they are keystone species that play a major role in maintaining the ecological balance in their native ecosystems. The Mexican wolf is a dominant predator in the American Southwest after the puma and has played a significant role in keeping the desert ecosystem in balance before the arrival of early European settlers in the region. Similarly, the red wolf is an apex predator in southeastern United States before being virtually wiped out throughout much of its historical range. Therefore, it is essential to take necessary measurements to bring these wolves back from the brink of extinction before either one completely disappears in the wilds of the U.S. Such steps should include educating sport hunters about differences between wolves and coyotes to prevent any further accidental or intentional killings and providing ranchers with livestock guardian dogs to prevent livestock predation from wolves and coyotes. Last but not least, any recovery program found to contain any faults should be thoroughly improvised and additional sites should be looked into in order further expand recovery efforts of Mexican and red wolves in the country.

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