Saturday, June 27, 2015

Mother Red Wolf Legally Shot and Killed in North Carolina

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

A mother red wolf was recently shot and killed legally on a private property last week and now wildlife protection advocates are demanding federal authorities to care for her offspring. This ruthless and senseless killing was done by a landowner in North Carolina's Hyde County, who then reported to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service on June 17. According to Pete Benjamin, a Raleigh-based field office supervisor for the wildlife service, the female showed signs of nursing, but it is not known how many pups there are or where they might be. He further added that the offspring would have been almost weaned by now. The wolf had left the boundaries of Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, where fewer than 100 people live as a preliminary effort to preserve the rare and critically endangered species in the wild. Before resorting to shooting and killing the wolf, the landowner unsuccessfully tried to capture and return it to federal land. Mike Senatore, vice president of conservation law for the Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement that the landowner did not permit federal biologists on his property to help capture the wolf. He further added that the wildlife service should not have allowed a wolf to be killed in this situation.

How can a critically endangered species like the red wolf be killed legally? What kind of a law allows landowners to kill such animals persistently living on their property? Since 2013, the red wolf population has fallen to fewer than 100 animals in more than a decade and that figure is continuously dropping as the animals are killed upon being mistaken for coyotes and seen as a threat to livestock and pets. This relationship between people and red wolves should not persist on the long-run. The main focus in the conservation of the red wolf is to conduct captive breeding, in order to repopulate the species and reintroducing it into the wild. The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is probably one of the handful of protected areas where the red wolf currently lives. But when the species starts to leave the vicinity of a protected area, it becomes a helpless victim of human persecution like most of its kind. This is especially appalling when the victim turns out to be a female with young. By killing the mother red wolf, the landowner who committed this horrendous act not only took a life but also shattered the hopes of conservation groups regarding the survival of the species. In addition, he did not even allow federal biologists to help capture the animal safely. The landowner simply had to take matters into his own hands by killing the mother wolf and depriving her offspring of parental care. This man should be tried and prosecuted severely for this ruthless killing and the law which permits people like him to persistently kill red wolves on their property should be annihilated.

Some landowners insist that red wolves leave the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge to breed with coyotes resulting in hybrids which makes it difficult for ordinary people to distinguish a true red wolf from a hybrid. This can be prevented by providing and conducting education programs to the general public about the difference between coyotes, red wolves, and coyote-wolf hybrids before anyone attempts to go out to kill a coyote. Furthermore, a new law should be implemented in which violators would be imposed with a stiff fine and prison sentence for illegally killing a red wolf. Most importantly, private landowners should be strictly advised to contact wildlife authorities and other professionals if they find red wolves or anything that looks like red wolves on their property and never attempt to return the animals to a protected area. This can result in serious injury or worse to both people and wild animals. The red wolf is one of the most iconic animals in the U.S, along with the bald eagle, American bison, grizzly bear, and other majestic creatures. It is also a keystone species in its native habitat of the southeastern U.S and its role as a predator helps maintain the balance in the ecosystem.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Jane Goodall Applauds United Arab Emirates' Conservation Efforts

Dr. Jane Goodall and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed

Renowned primatologist and environmentalist Dr. Jane Goodall has recently applauded the United Arab Emirates' conservation efforts and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed's insight in laying the basis for the country's environmental protection. She stated that she was fascinated by Sheikh Zayed's foresight in captive breeding and reintroduction programs of the iconic Arabian oryx and Abu Dhabi's oak forests in Sir Bani Yas. Dr. Goodall also praised the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund's conservation efforts, which she indicated bred and reintroduced 500 scimitar-horned oryx to their native habitat in Chad. In addition, she also shared her childhood and how she went to Kenya where she met acclaimed anthropologist and paleontologist Louis Leakey. This meeting resulted to an opportunity for her to study chimpanzees in Tanzania's Gombe Stream National Park. The significance of Dr. Goodall's study of chimpanzees in Gombe indicated how there are so many ways they are like humans. That is, she further emphasized by talking about the chimps' communication, family structure, gestures, postures, and even their darker side. Dr. Goodall told the audience that she never lost hope "despite the huge number of problems we face," asserting that she strongly believes that there is still time. Other reasons for her hope are the human brain's power, which includes what is occurring in Abu Dhabi with solar/wind power and the electric aircraft project which demonstrates the pioneering spirit and modernization that can change the world.

The praise Dr. Goodall gave to the UAE's conservation efforts indicates how the country is in the forefront of preserving its local environment and the global environment. This was seen in the captive breeding and reintroduction programs of the Arabian oryx, which was once declared "extinct in the wild" in the early 1970s before making a successful comeback decades later. But what was particularly striking about her speech was that she pointed out that the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund bred and reintroduced 500 scimitar-horned oryx to a game reserve in Chad. These relatives of the Arabian oryx used to inhabit the deserts of central and northern Africa and are currently extinct in the wild, but this recent release marked the first ever reintroduction of these magnificent antelopes into the wild. This is because majority of them in North Africa and the Middle East are held in special enclosures for the purpose of breeding and reintroduction. The latest move by the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund has shed light on the future of the scimitar-horned oryx. That is, as long as conservation groups continue to breed and reintroduce this antelope into the wild, its populations would rebound like the Arabian oryx and eventually not be declared "extinct in the wild." Such efforts can be further improvised through local community outreach programs, especially in central and northern Africa. The scimitar-horned oryx cannot stay extinct in the wild forever. If the Arabian oryx was able to successfully return from the brink of extinction thanks to serious conservation efforts, then so can the scimitar-horned oryx.

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New York City Destroys Illegal Ivory

African bush elephant

At a USFWS-sponsored event in New York City, more than one ton of illegal ivory was destroyed in Times Square in an effort to increase awareness about the continuous plight of elephants, particularly in Africa where as many as 35,000 are illegally killed every year. The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), which is completely focused on the continent's conservation issues, provided its full support at the event. Its officials indicated that Times Square is one of the most well-known and exemplary intersections of the world, and by crushing the ivory there, the U.S is giving the global elephant crisis the kind of attention it deserves. According to AWF's program director Jimmiel Mandima, the destruction of ivory in New York will show that the U.S is taking forceful action against poaching and the illegal ivory trade. Furthermore, the Congress is contemplating several bills to ban the sale of ivory and halt poaching. He further added that the battle against poaching is improvising. For example, there is a growing number of countries around the world that are taking action throughout various phases of the supply series, including the buying and selling of and demand for ivory. He also pointed out that poachers in elephant range areas are becoming more cautious in their illegal activities.
Female forest elephant with calf

New York City has just joined host of other major cities around the world to express its intolerance towards the illegal ivory trade. This was shown in one of its most iconic landmarks, Times Square, where more than one ton of illegal ivory was crushed in order to send a message that nobody should sell and trade ivory and that the U.S will not tolerate the illegal ivory trade setting foot on its grounds. Mr. Mandima pointed out that as more and more countries take action towards different stages of the illegal ivory trade, the poachers in elephant range areas become more cautious in their activities. This is why it is extremely crucial to stay one step ahead of the poachers by identifying and analyzing every secretive tactic they come up with ensure the illegal ivory trade goes according to plan. One method would be to raise public awareness about the trade and encouraging the general public to refrain from purchasing ivory products and help law enforcement agencies by reporting any stores suspected of selling ivory or other products made from endangered species. Furthermore, anyone suspected of operating the global trade in ivory and other endangered species products should be given the stiffest sentence and if necessary, the death penalty. The world needs to put the fear of God in people engaged in activities related to poaching and the illegal trade in endangered wildlife. Otherwise, more and more numbers of endangered species will drop teetering to the point of extinction.

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Elephant Ivory DNA to Help Authorities Hunt Down Poachers

A KWS security officer near a burning pile of 15 tons of ivory confiscated in Kenya.

A team of researchers from the University of Washington and Interpol have recently discovered through genetic proof that an astonishing part of the illegally hunted ivory was taken from only two comparatively small regions in Africa. They analyzed 1,500 DNA samples from the tusks found in 28 large ivory shipments confiscated by law enforcement officials in Africa and Asia between 2006 and 2014. Nearly all of the ivory matched elephant populations in and around Central and East Africa, indicating that most of the animals were killed in national parks, game reserves, and other areas that are created to protect wildlife. According to Sam Wasser, one of the researchers who conducted the study, the confiscations account for 70 percent of all ivory taken by law enforcement making them useful for understanding the trade as a whole. He further added that researchers know if poachers will move to a new location now that the results have been issued. A large confiscation is known to weigh about half a ton and normally worth at least $1 million or more. One of the study's co-authors and an officer with Interpol, Bill Clark, pointed out that the illegal ivory trade is a "criminal enterprise" complete with supply and demand, framework, transport of shipments, expediting, factories, and mediators. He also added that all components of any significant asset is found in the ivory industry, including banking. That is, money is known to be laundered through banks. It is hoped that the information will help African governments and international organizations direct their attention to protecting the elephants.
Elephant family with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background.

The illegal ivory trade has and is continuing to wreak havoc on the world's population of elephants. In addition to being a major ecological problem, it is also an economic problem and a threat to national security. Africa's elephants are known to be one of the prime attractions for tourists coming to the continent to view its incredible wildlife. With tourism comes foreign income which benefits Africa's socio-economic development. But as elephants and other wild animals fall victim to poaching, the tourism industry in Africa becomes heavily affected and could not benefit from international income as the numbers of tourists start to deplete. Researchers indicated that Central Africa has lost 95 percent of its elephant population to poaching. This not only means that the region's tourism industry is badly affected, but also its socio-economic growth with more and more people being pushed into living in dire poverty. The same situation is seen in Tanzania which has lost 10,000 elephants to poaching prompting organizations like the African Wildlife Foundation and WildAid to establish an anti-poaching campaign with the country's government. It is highly crucial that majority of African countries and other countries need to take serious action to stem the trade of illegal ivory. This not just means banning or restricting the sale of ivory, but more urgent measurements need to be implemented to suppress the supply of illegal ivory. Elephants are known to function as a keystone species in the overall health of Africa's forests and other habitats, which in turn provide resources for a region and oxygen for the planet. Hopefully, this research will help law enforcement agencies track down poachers and be one step ahead in the battle against the illegal ivory trade.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Study- Increasing Palm Oil Prices Could Help Save Indonesia's Tigers and Orangutans

A wild Sumatran tiger caught on camera.

A study has found that supermarkets could help save Indonesia's endangered species like the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger by raising the prices of palm oil products providing the money boosted went to the conservation of forests. Scientists indicated that by placing a price bonus on palm oil components, which equal to about half of all supermarket products, would have a major effect on protecting the surviving forests that have not been completely annihilated by palm oil plantations. The study discovered that customers would be prepared to pay between 15 and 56 percent extra for palm oil products if they knew it would help protect natural habitats in Indonesia and Africa, where palm oil plantations have spread quickly over the past twenty years. Scientists found in research on customers and a palm oil company on the island of Sumatra that the higher prices people were ready to pay for "conservation grade" palm oil more than created for the extra costs the company acquired when protecting nearby forests. The study, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, evaluated palm oil plantations, nurseries, forests, and cleared land in Sumatra where large areas of virgin forests have been taken over by palm plantations due to the high expedience of the oil crop. The researchers discovered that establishing conservation efforts on areas near current forests produced the best results, with priority on land that was away from current roads which minimized the impact on company profits. They used this data to establish rules for optimum habitat conservation. According to Brendan Fisher from the University of Vermont, the study indicates how necessary it is for the palm oil industry and scientists to work together to find possible win-win solutions. Chris Carbone of the Zoological Society of London added that habitats surrounded by palm oil plantations still maintain a number of threatened species, and that it could be likely to protect and even restore wildlife in such areas at comparably low and viable economic costs without massively impacting palm oil production.

Palm oil production is one of the major threats to Indonesia's biodiversity. How is increasing the price of palm oil products going to help save the country's most iconic, yet endangered species? That is like raising the price of ivory, rhino horns, or other products made from endangered species that had already been killed in order to discourage the public from purchasing them and encourage them to save the remaining populations of the animals targeted by poachers to satisfy the growing demand of such animals. The palm oil production has and continues to push Indonesia's endangered species closer and closer to extinction. In fact, scientists have recently warned that the Earth has entered the sixth mass extinction. That is, non-human animal species are disappearing 100 times faster than the normal rate due to ongoing threats humans impose on the world's wildlife. These include, but not limited to the palm oil production in Indonesia. The country is famous for being one of the few biodiversity hotspots in the world, but is also home to some of the most critically endangered species such as the Bawean deer, Sumatran elephant, orangutan, tiger, rhino, and the Javan leopard and rhino. These animals live under constant fear of palm oil production and there has never been any news of either of these following species' populations making a comeback from the brink of extinction. It is highly crucial to take necessary action to prevent Indonesia's palm oil production from further decimating the country's forests and the animals inhabiting them. The eradication of any remaining forests in Indonesia would not just result in extinction of the animals, but would also increase the possibility of human infectious disease-spreading. This is because vectors like mosquitoes, sandflies, and other carriers of diseases are sensitive to small changes in temperature, humidity, and availability of breeding sites. This means that clearing forests for palm oil plantations would expose humans to these insects and the diseases they carry. This is why it is extremely crucial to take action in preventing Indonesia's palm oil production from rapidly decimating the country's wildlife.

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Himachal Pradesh Forest Department to Launch Human-Leopard Awareness Campaign


The Forest Department of Himachal Pradesh has planned to launch a crucial awareness campaign in gram panchayats, schools, and other organizations. The department plans to provide tips on how to avert chances of human-leopard conflict. Representatives have already begun the campaign in some schools in the capital city of Shimla. In addition to providing information through brochures and posters, children are being taught how to avoid and react when seeing a leopard. The process of leopard conflict outlining initiated all over Himachal Pradesh is coming close to completion. The shared boundary of Bilaspur, Hamirpur, and Mandi districts has shown the highest incidents of conflict, although it is yet to be determined if the leopard population in the region is equally high. The evaluation process of the state's leopard population is yet to be attempted ever since the previous exercise undertaken in 2004 showed the population number estimated to be roughly 785. According to Divisional Forest Officer Satpal Dhiman, majority of attacks have occurred during dusk between 6 and 9 pm which means people can be instructed to not venture out during those hours or take necessary steps while stepping out of their homes. He further added that provisional studies of the high and low-conflict areas would be accomplished to see the reasons of the conflict. Depending on the results of the studies and reasons of the conflict, the forest department will take some measures to deal with the problem. Steps will include monitoring the leopards' movements and studying their behavior patterns to see why they were attacking the people. The state government had earlier associated Mumbai-based biologist Dr. Vidya Athreya who is working on leopards to initiate the studies. In order to attempt the assignment of a scientific leopard survey, the forest department will be needing more camera traps since there are only 200 set up all over Himachal Pradesh. Furthermore, majority of these traps are set up inside national parks and sanctuaries, although there are ten in and around Shimla.
Leopard attack figures and total compensation granted

The Forest Department of Himachal Pradesh is indeed taking a major step in tackling the state's human-leopard conflict problem through an awareness campaign. This includes educating the public about what to do to avoid a fatal conflict with a leopard. In the last ten years, Himachal Pradesh saw 306 leopard attacks on people with majority of incidents taking place in districts like Shimla. Earlier, it was generally believed that Mumbai was where majority of leopard attacks are known to occur. However, because of the big cat's extensive range across the Indian subcontinent, attacks take place in any part of India. Such incidents are known to result in retaliatory killings of leopards which brings villagers and ordinary townspeople into conflict with wildlife officials. This type of hostility should not go on forever. Wildlife officials and regular people must join forces together in preventing leopard attacks or any other attacks from wild animals by coming up with safe alternatives to avoid having either the animal or human seriously injured or killed. In Mumbai for example, leopard attacks on people are a result of mismanagement of garbage which attracts stray dogs in search for food scraps. The dogs, in turn, attract leopards and when people get in the way, the outcomes are devastating. This is why it is essential to improvise the management of garbage in the Mumbai area and remove stray dogs to prevent any lethal encounters with leopards. In addition, the public should be thoroughly educated on how to avoid and react when seeing a leopard like their counterparts in Himachal Pradesh. Awareness campaigns concerning wild animal attacks should be implemented around the world in order to maintain a steady relationship between people and dangerous animals. Predatory animals like leopards perform a crucial role in maintaining the balance of nature by preying on herbivorous animals. Without their existence, ecosystems where they used to live would be changed dramatically with tremendously negative effects.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

France Raises its Wolf Cull After a Debated Attack on a 16-Year-Old Boy

An Italian wolf

In France, after twenty years since the wolf gained its foothold, there has been an ongoing dispute between farmers and environmental groups concerning the animal's impact on the country folks' livelihoods. Now, the country has been reported to increase its official cull of wolves after a rise in sheep deaths and a supposed - though contested - attack on a sixteen-year-old son of a farmer. One senior pro-wolf defender implied that the surrounding of the sixteen-year-old in the French Alps last Saturday by a wolf pack was a "hoax" executed by anti-wolf activists. However, whatever the truth, the French government is scheduled this week to announce the increase in culling of wolves by fifty percent in the next twelve months. The agriculture and environment ministers are also anticipated to lessen the rules which dictate when farmers can shoot the wolves. Environmental advocates called such a decision "grotesque", claiming that the wolf attack had been orchestrated with dogs (without the boy's knowledge) to bring refreshed pressure on the government. The supposed attack took place in the village of Seyne-les-Alpes, which is seventy miles north of Nice and close to where Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed. The farmer's son, Romain Ferrand, stated that he was surrounded by a pack of nine so-called wolves and four pups late at night when he went to check on his family's cattle. In response, he fired a shotgun in the air and the attackers retreated. He further added that they were wearing collars. According to Jean-Francois Darmstaedter, secretary general of a wildlife protection association called Ferus, the attack sounded like a hoax because the animals were wearing collars and that no wolf pups are born at this time of year.
The village of Seyne where the alleged attack on a 16-year-old son of a farmer.

The hatred towards wolves has really moved up to a whole new level through what appears to be in a devious and sinister way. A sixteen-year-old son of a farmer is allegedly attacked by a pack of "wolves" whom he described as wearing collars. Since when do wolves wear collars like their domestic descendants? Also, Mr. Darmstaedter indicated that wolf pups are not born at this time of year. These facts clearly indicate that anti-wolf activists, including farmers, probably came up with a dishonest way of pressuring and convincing the French government to allow them to hunt down wolves to protect their livelihoods. This hostile relationship dates back decades and in the 1930s, the last "native" wolf was killed in the Massif Central. However, the early 1990s saw a few Italian wolves which settled in the French Alps and are now believed to have increased to roughly 300 animals and forty packs, stretching as far west as the Auvergne region and north as the Vosges Mountains. Since then, farmers have always complained about the wolves' attacks on their livestock and wanted to retaliate by killing. A law established in 2004 only allowed government sharpshooters or licensed shepherds to shoot the animals. The shepherds were permitted only if they proved that their flocks were attacked two times in three years. Last year, the official cull was nineteen out of 24 allowable animals. But now, that figure has increased following this alleged attack with no solid proof whatsoever that wolves were either responsible or not on the attack of a farmer's son.
Livestock guardian dogs like this Great Pyrenees are a much safer alternative in protecting domestic livestock from wolves.

France needs to improvise its efforts in ensuring its farmers' well-being by coming with safer alternative solutions in dealing with wolves. The best and straightforward method should be to employ livestock guardian dogs to protect the shepherds' flocks. Shooting wolves would not help on the long run, especially when farmers and government marksmen kill what could be alpha members which would cause a pack to go into disarray resulting in wolves continuously attacking livestock with no signs of stopping. Furthermore, this matter of an alleged wolf attack needs to be thoroughly investigated in order to determine if wolves were responsible for attacking the sixteen-year-old or it was a ruse to pressure the government to allow farmers and shepherds to shoot wolves indiscriminately. And if this incident happens to be a gimmick, then the perpetrators should be severely prosecuted and given a stiff prison sentence. Wolves are apex predators and their main function is to ensure the balance in an ecosystem by keeping prey populations in check. Without their existence, the natural ecosystem of France and rest of Europe would be negatively affected.

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