Archive for the ‘Africa’ Tag

Hunters Say Trophy Hunting Helps Animals. Here’s Why They Are Wrong.   2 comments

October 05, 2015 Source

Ever since the death of Cecil the lion, the world’s been looking at trophy hunting a bit more closely. While many people have condemned the practice as cruel, ardent big game hunters have stood up to defend it, arguing that it’s a selfless act of conservation and that both animals and local people benefit from the hobby.

But with wildlife populations in Africa continuing to plummet — and with iconic species at risk of disappearing in our lifetime — these defenses don’t hold up. Here’s why.

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“The money goes to local communities.”

Big game hunters say they help support local communities and conservation efforts by paying for big game hunts. However, while hunters pay roughly $200 million each year for big game hunts in Africa, only around 3 percent of those funds go to local communities, and the amount dedicated to conservation efforts is nearly negligible. The overwhelming majority of hunting fees ends up lining the pockets of middlemen, large companies and local governments.

“Hunting helps wild populations.”

Big game hunters argue that killing can help a species by removing older animals from the population, or say that they trust governments to set sustainable hunting quotas.

Unfortunately, in practice these arguments don’t hold up. For one, some governments are more interested in how much a dead lion can bring them than in establishing sustainable hunting limits. For example, there are around 20,000 to 35,000 wild lions left in Africa, depending on whom you ask, and big game hunters legally kill around 600 each year. That’s an annual population loss of 2 to 3 percent, which is entirely unsustainable, even if you don’t add in deaths due to poaching and livestock protection.

And while nature likes to pick off the weakest members of a population, big game hunters target the largest, strongest members of a population. For lions, that means the male pride leader; for elephants, the oldest elephant with the biggest tusks. Killing these animals, who play a crucial role in their societies, puts the rest of their families at risk.

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For example, killing a male lion with an impressive mane leaves his fellow pride leaders open to challenges from other males. If a new male does come in, they could kill an entire generation of cubs, which means that the permit for one lion hunt leads to the death of several animals.

And the loss of older elephants means leaving male or female youngsters without guidance — which can actually lead to so-called teenage delinquents who are more likely to have negative interactions with humans, and therefore be killed.

The loss of any animal also means the loss of any offspring they could have parented, a knock to conservation that goes far beyond taking just one animal out of the population. And while some proponents of big game hunting advocate for only killing animals who have already contributed their genes to the population, most animals will continue to propagate until they die.

Of course, the biggest rebuttal to the hunting-helps-populations argument is in the numbers. Lions have lost 95 percent of their population since the 1940s. The African elephant population has dropped from several million at the turn of the century to roughly 500,000 today. During the past century hunting has been the primary — if not only — method of conservation, but the perilously low numbers of these animals proves that hunting is ineffective as a conservation method.

And even with these reduced populations, trophy hunters still kill around 105,000 animals in Africa every year, including 600 elephants and 800 leopards, at a time when every individual is crucial to the survival of the species.

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“Canned hunting helps repopulate animals.”

Some hunters tout canned hunting — an unsportsmanlike practice in which lions and other animals are bred in captivity then released into pens where they can’t escape so hunters can shoot them — as a sustainable alternative, arguing that canned hunting incentivizes captive breeding, which can be used to repopulate wild populations.

But animals bred at canned hunting facilities are completely unsuitable for release. Taken away from their mothers at just a few days old and raised by humans, the lions are incapable of surviving on their own. Many of them are inbred, which means breeding with wild lions could weaken the species’ gene pool. And releasing a captive-bred lion into wild lions’ territory could lead to fighting, upsetting the delicate balance — and the safety — of existing prides.

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“Hunting helps protect locals.”

Local communities often find themselves at odds with African wildlife. Elephants destroy crops; lions and other predators can target people or livestock. These animals are often killed — and tourism hunting is often encouraged — in the name of protecting humans from African wildlife.

But as human lands continue to increase, animals continue to be pushed into smaller and smaller territories. In many cases these negative interactions are the result of animals simply trying to survive. Iconic African wildlife is at risk of disappearing, and the solution is to learn to live with animals, not keep killing them.

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“It’s an industry that Africa couldn’t do without.”

While trophy hunting does bring in some capital to African countries, it makes up as little as 1.8 percent of tourism revenues. The majority of tourists come to see Africa’s wildlife, not kill it. And if big game hunting continues to deplete that wildlife, it could take down the other 98 percent of Africa’s tourism income.

An individual animal, particularly if it’s a member of the more iconic species, is worth far more to a country alive over the course of his lifetime than dead. Need proof? Look at Botswana. Beginning in January 2014, the country banned almost all hunting after comparing the conservation cost of big game hunting with the income generated from photo tourism: The photo tourism season is longer, makes better use of animals and employs significantly more locals. In the first year of the ban, the country brought in around $344 million from nonlethal tourism.

Of course, changes can take getting used to, but in an age when iconic species are at risk of being lost forever, killing any individual animal for sheer pleasure — especially in the name of conservation — is highly counterproductive.

To find out more, watch Blood Lions on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 10 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

The views expressed here are The Dodo’s and do not necessarily reflect those of MSNBC.

By Ameena Schelling – Email: ameena@thedodo.com – Twitter: @amschelling

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Letter: Stop trophy hunting in Canada   Leave a comment

From Montreal Gazette August 10, 2015

A grizzly bear is seen fishing for salmon along the Atnarko river in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park near Bella Coola, B.C.

A grizzly bear is seen fishing for salmon along the Atnarko river in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park near Bella Coola, B.C. JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Given the current outrage regarding Cecil the lion in Africa, the time has come for Canadians to address the issue of trophy hunting here in our country.

For too long, Canada has allowed locals and attracted tourists from around the world to pay large sums of money to hunt grey wolves, cougars, grizzly bears and other species purely for sport.

Many may have heard how Air Canada and other airlines have banned carrying trophy hunting animals from Africa. While at face value this news appears to be something to be encouraged about, the reality is that it is a sadly disappointing gesture.

They have only banned what they call the Big 5. These are animals considered on the at-risk list: rhinos, elephants, lions, leopards and cape buffalo.

So all other animals from Africa and around the world are free game.

How we treat our animals is a reflection of our society’s values and morals and as Canadians we must ask ourselves if we want to be defined by allowing the hunting of animals for sport.

Stephan Graf, St-Colomban 


Patricia Randolph’s Madravenspeak: Killing Cecil the lion: A tipping point in exposing hunting’s rape of wildlife   1 comment

From Wisconsin Wildlife Ethic – Vote Our Wildlife on August 04, 2015

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“The revulsion about the lion Cecil’s death is an indication of changing times.” — Thom Hartmann

Walter Palmer, Minneapolis area dentist, paid some guides to tie a carcass to their vehicle to bait a protected lion, a beloved mascot for Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. He shined a spotlight on Cecil to shoot him at night, bow-hunting. What is not widely known by non-hunters is that bow-hunting, like trapping and hounding, causes an extremely cruel and torturous death. Palmer and his guides wounded the lion, but he was left to die slowly, killed 40 hours later by rifle. It is common once an animal has been wounded with an arrow to allow him or her to bleed out slowly, to weaken that animal for an easy kill a day or more later. Baiting, killing using lights, killing a father with a pride — this is extremely sick behavior. The Wisconsin DNR avidly promotes much of this in hunting, adding in packs of dogs, traps, and snares. Shining is not promoted, but there is little oversight.

Bow-hunting has not always been considered an ethical way to kill large animals. But now bow-hunting seasons are the longest in any hunting category. Deer season in Wisconsin was extended from nine days to four and a half months for bow-hunters.

“The 13-year-old big cat was known to the park’s visitors and seemingly enjoyed human contact, according to reports.” He brought in millions of wildlife watcher dollars annually.

Trophy hunters, as all hunters, kill under the guise of “conservation.” Rare and endangered species are highly prized. Hunters’ claims that “killing is for conservation” is like BP claiming that they devastate landscapes for oil to promote renewable energy. BP oil money goes into making more oil profits. Hunting money goes into providing more hunting targets, recruiting more hunters and trappers to keep their power base, and creating more hunting opportunities. The Pope and Young Club touts: “Components of the Club’s Conservation Program include wildlife research, education, pro-bow-hunting activities, partnerships, wildlife conservation projects and kids programs.” They are not conserving wildlife. They are conserving their killing access.

Jimmy Kimmel quipped that Palmer “has killed half of the animals that were on Noah’s Ark.” Learning to kill wildlife at age 5, he has killed all but one of the 34 species indigenous to North America measured by Pope and Young trophy killing standards. Palmer had a conviction for killing a black bear illegally in Wisconsin in 2008. The penalty was a paltry $3,000 and one-year probation. Head hunters like Palmer also travel to kill exotic species in other countries — even endangered species like the leopard and rhino he killed.

Ironically the skull-measuring and antler-points mentality is framed on the Pope and Young site as “a poignant opportunity to honor each individual outstanding big game animal, for posterity and throughout all of time.” Poignant: “keenly distressing to the feelings.” Poignant for whom? Certainly not the dead animal. Certainly not the braggart killer.

Johnny Rodrigues, head of Zimbabwe’s Conservation Task Force, said it is likely that Cecil’s 12 lion cubs have been killed by rival lions since Palmer killed Cecil on July 1: “When two males fight over a pride, the winner kills all the cubs and introduces his own bloodline.” Lack of funding and sanctuary for the cubs inhibit any action to save them.

The arrests of the local poachers hired by Palmer is unusual and due to negative publicity. Rodrigues said that 24 radio-collared lions have been lured from the park to be killed, adding, “Most of the hunters are unethical.”

Rodrigues says that a moratorium on all lion hunting is the only way to protect lions from extinction within a few decades, if not sooner. Fifteen lion breeders now breed lions for canned hunts in fenced enclosures.

The Born Free organization estimates that lion populations have declined from 80,000 in 1980 to 25,000 today. Killing this lion is proportionate to killing 400,000 humans out of a population of nearly 8 billion. The 12 cubs killed because of Cecil’s death compares to killing 5 million people and their potential offspring.

The goal to keep lions from extinction depends on putting high value on the remaining lions. With cheap poisons being used to protect cattle from lions, their lives depend on money getting to these farmers. Although hunters proclaim that trophy killing brings a high price, a 2013 analysis by Economists At Large exposes that only 3 percent of that money reaches communities adjacent to hunting grounds. Most of it goes to government agencies and elites in positions of power.

We are allowing the few to terrorize and kill dwindling wildlife on dwindling habitat. Ultimately it must be stopped by changing the funding of wildlife agencies to give a value to life, not death. Jeff Flocken from the International Fund for Animal Welfare is calling for protection of world wildlife, with even highly endangered species “being killed in mass numbers we have not seen in half a century.” He says that many buy package deals that are perfectly legal.

Brent Stapelkamp, researcher with the Oxford University lion project, working from his office in Hwange National Park, realized that Cecil’s radio collar had stopped transmitting data on July 3. The next day his team found Cecil’s carcass, stripped of his skin and beheaded.

He said that the one positive thing about Cecil’s death is that it will raise questions about conservation and hunting. “People have got away with so much nonsense, going on for years,” said Stapelkamp. “I have no faith in hunting and it needs to be cleaned up.”

“I was trained and taught that hunting was good for conservation.”

“But it is no longer the case.”

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Sign the petition to help protect lions by putting them on the U.S. endangered species list.
https://www.causes.com/posts/959161?conversion_request_id=307515283&ctag=9471d827cfbb7486770b3655b881e8d35c&ctoken=lJBkTNoKGUNQ78LGhpBezq2AMUMT0WC-nzZRkMQMfCi-LszbtFDYCzoX11HpJb3BDmPZeWt8Ni4w9DejYEPqu3lf8Mqzw0-W&message_id=a1185797136961325b2dc7796b46f8a6%40causes.com&uid=181411883&utm_campaign=user_post_mailer%2Fcampaign_leader_picked.cb_67368&utm_content=preview_article&utm_medium=email&utm_source=cause

Ban trophy lion body imports into the USA:http://www.thepetitionsite.com/516/100/136/ban-lion-trophy-imports-to-the-us/

Please network the column to network the petitions and raise awareness of the suffering caused by the massive expansion of killing, bow-hunting and trapping.
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Patricia Randolph of Portage is a longtime activist for wildlife.madravenspeak@gmail.com or http://www.wiwildlifeethic.org orhttp://www.facebook.com/wiwildlifeethic?fref=ts

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

Read more: http://host.madison.com/columnist/patricia-randolph-s-madravenspeak-killing-cecil-the-lion-a-tipping/article_8b05c1c3-21b0-5698-b029-80a91367cb87.html#ixzz3hu9fQFPR

New wolf species discovered in Africa   Leave a comment

From treehugger on July 31, 2015 by Melissa Breyer

African golden wolf

© D. Gordon E. Robertson

Named the African golden wolf, the discovery increases the overall biodiversity of the Canidae family from 35 living species to 36.

What lurks in the DNA of East Africa’s golden jackal? Researchers took a look and discovered that in fact, although it looks remarkably similar to the Eurasian golden jackal, the African golden jackal isn’t a jackal at all.

Inspired by reports that the African animal was actually a cryptic subspecies of gray wolf, a new study was hatched by Klaus-Peter Koepfli of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Robert Wayne of the University of California, Los Angeles.

To further explore the DNA evidence in the new study, they relied on frozen DNA samples of golden jackals from Kenya as well as samples from golden jackals in other parts of Africa and Eurasia. From all of the DNA evidence they collected, a different story of the canids’ evolutionary past emerged.

“To our surprise, the small, golden-like jackal from eastern African was actually a small variety of a new species, distinct from the gray wolf, that has a distribution across North and East Africa,” Wayne says. They named the newly recognized species the African golden wolf, bringing the overall biodiversity of the Canidae family (which includes dogs, wolves, foxes, and jackals) from 35 living species to 36.

“This represents the first discovery of a ‘new’ canid species in Africa in over 150 years,” says Koepfli.

The researchers think that earlier zoologists had mistaken African and Eurasian golden jackals for the same species because of the close similarity in their skull and tooth shape. But the genetic data suggests that the two separate lineages have actually been evolving independently for at least a million years – so much so that they aren’t even closely related. The African species is more closely linked to gray wolves and coyotes than jackals.

Koepfli says that the discovery is a good reminder that, “even among well-known and widespread species such as golden jackals, there is the potential to discover hidden biodiversity.”

Poacher survives buffalo attack   2 comments

From:  Nehanda Radio.com

Jan, 01, 2015 by admin

A 36-year-old man, Given Ndlovu from Jambezi under Chief Shana in Victoria Falls has been admitted at Mpilo hospital after he was attacked by a buffalo.

Poacher survives buffalo attack

 

Zimbabwe Parks and Wild Life Management Authority, Caroline Washaya Moyo said it has since been established that Ndlovu and three other people who are at large were poaching buffaloes when he was attacked at night.

The accused and his accomplices are alleged to have met a group of buffaloes which they tried to fight using spears leading to his attack by the animals.

Ndlovu faces charges of contravening the Parks and Wildlife Act chapter 20.14 and will appear in court when he recovers.

 

Increased giraffe poaching in Arusha region   7 comments

From:  WANTED in AFRICA

Maasai Giraffe, Lake Manyara, Tanzania

Maasai Giraffe, Lake Manyara, Tanzania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Giraffe killing highlighted in the Manyara lake district

Poachers are turning their attention to giraffes in the Manyara lake region, south-west of Arusha, according to reports in local media.

Tanzania‘s national symbol, the giraffe, is a protected species but is coming under increasing attack from poachers keen to take advantage of the booming illicit trade in giraffe meat.

The killing of the animals is also fuelled by the mistaken belief that the consumption of giraffe brains and bone marrow is an effective cure for HIV/AIDS.

Giraffe meat is allegedly transported around Tanzania as well as being smuggled to restaurants in neighbouring countries where it can command a high price. The animals’ skin and hair is also used to make illegal bracelets, necklaces and fly swatters.

Some local wildlife rangers acknowledge the killing of giraffes in the Manyara area but claim that poachers do not target giraffes specifically – often killing gazelle, antelope and zebra as well.

Environmentalists say that giraffe poaching has become a problem across Africa, as the sedentary animals are easy prey for their attackers, often staring at a poacher before running away. Giraffes can also be killed with one shot and are easily trapped using leg and neck snares.

 

ISS: Poachers without borders   2 comments

From:  Airbus Defence & Space

Written by ISS Africa, Wednesday, 19 November 2014

A poached rhino.

Worldwide, the value of organised environmental crime is estimated to be between US$70 and US$213 billion annually. Global development assistance, by comparison, is estimated at US$135 billion per annum.

Developing states are losing much-needed revenue and opportunities to environmental crime, and this crisis should be at the heart of the both the development and security debates in Africa. Central to this is the often transnational nature of environmental crime.

The recent indictment in the United States (US) of the infamous Groenewald brothers has again shown how criminal networks and syndicates often use multiple countries to further their trade in wildlife, particularly in Africa.

The brothers, whose syndicate was made up of a number of professional hunters and veterinarians, tried to use loopholes and fraud to circumvent South African and US laws. One of their methods was to have American hunters kill rhinos (which the hunters were told was legal), after which the brothers would sell the horn to lucrative markets in Asia. Multiple countries and nationalities were therefore involved in the supply of the horn to Asia.

While the brothers’ syndicate already faces numerous charges in Pretoria, US lawmakers have initiated additional charges against them, including wildlife crime, mail fraud and money laundering, using the Lacey Act of 1900. The Lacey Act is a powerful piece of legislation that prohibits violations of US and foreign wildlife laws, and can enact harsh penalties as well as financial restitution.

Environmental crimes are notoriously difficult to prosecute across borders given the manner in which crimes are legislated. Environmental crime law is made up of international treaties and conventions, national laws, provincial laws and even city and district by-laws. Unlike, for instance, the trafficking of drugs, it is far harder to separate the legal from illegal in environmental crimes. For example, abalone caught in South Africa has, in several cases, easily been passed off as legal abalone from a neighbouring country.

Diplomatically, South African government officials have experienced a mixture of successes and failures in investigating and prosecuting such crimes. While some governments, such as the US, have been accommodating, the reception from many East Asian countries and other African countries has been less than welcome, as environmental crime is not seen as a priority issue.

Furthermore, the level of interaction between different governmental institutions has been notably low. The signing of memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between the governments of South Africa and Mozambique on biodiversity protection, as well as previous MOUs with countries such as Vietnam, are a step in the right direction. However, South African officials continue to lament the lack of international cooperation in wildlife crime.

The failure of governments to act may, in part, be due to corruption. Equally, a lack of state capacity and political will could also contribute. Yet, environmental crime ought to be placed at the centre of both the development and security debates in Africa. Failing to respond effectively to these crimes may have a host of disastrous consequences.

One example is illegal fishing and the dumping of hazardous waste being linked to the growth of piracy on the east coast of Africa. It has been argued that fishermen, unable to survive due to rampant illegal overfishing and water pollution, had to turn to piracy as a means to survival. Another significant example is the reliance of many African militias and armed groups on environmental crime such as illegal logging, resource theft and poaching. Armed conflicts like those in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are heavily funded by the proceeds of environmental crime.

Making environmental crime a priority area in diplomacy, and developing legislation similar to the Lacey Act, must be treated with urgency across the continent. Taking the profit out of crime and providing embattled countries with restitution for the exploitation of natural resources is an essential step.

Importantly, legislation should be expanded and harmonised to support prosecutions. A recent Africa Prosecutors Association workshop on environmental crime also recommended that specific environmental crime legislation, in line with the African Union Model law on Universal Jurisdiction and international guidelines, should be promulgated.

While these steps will not cover all stages and locations in the supply chain, it is an important phase in prioritising environmental crime and framing this crisis as part of a broader debate on development.

Written by Khalil Goga, Researcher, Transnational Threats and International Crime Division, ISS Pretoria

Republished with permission from ISS Africa. The original article can be found here.

 

Black rhino horns and elephant tusks for auction: activists outraged   1 comment

From:  The Sydney Morning Herald – New South Wales

 

By  Esther Han

 

A rhinoceros in the wild.

 

A rhinoceros in the wild. Photo: Greg Newington/AFR

WARNING: Some readers may find picture below disturbing

Conservation groups have joined forces to stop the auction of black rhinoceros horns and elephant tusks in Sydney on Friday, saying the sales will increase demand and consequently poaching, which is decimating the species.

Auction house Lawsons, based in Leichhardt, expects the bidding war for the black rhino horns to hit $70,000; the pair of unmounted African elephant tusks to reach $70,000, and the embellished elephant tusks with a gong  to reach $16,000.

A white rhinoceros killed by poachers for its horns in 2012.

A white rhinoceros killed by poachers for its horns in 2012. Photo: Humane Society International

Humane Society International (HSI), with backing from the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Greenpeace, is demanding Lawsons pull the items from auction and change its policies to prevent similar items from surfacing in the future.

“The pressure on the remaining wildlife populations of rhino in Africa, India and [south east] Asia is such that all efforts must be made to stop rhino horn being trafficked,” wrote Alexia Wellbelove, senior program manager at HSI, in a letter to Martin Farrah, managing director at Lawsons.

“Even the export of one antique horn from Australia onto south-east Asia markets further promotes and encourages trade, perpetuating this devastating cycle of killing.”

 

A pair of elephant ivory tusks expected to fetch up to $70,000 at an auction on Friday

A pair of elephant ivory tusks expected to fetch up to $70,000 at an auction on Friday Photo: Lawsons Auctioneers

Ms Wellbelove said two letters expressing concern were ignored, and in a follow-up phone call last week Mr Farrah told her: “We have nothing else to say.”

The world rhino population has dropped from 500,000 at the start of the 20th century to just 29,000 because of poaching, according to the Save the Rhino organisation based in London.

The price of rhino horns has skyrocketed in the past decade because of rising demand from Chinese and Vietnamese people who believe it can cure cancer and be used as an aphrodisiac.

In March, Lawsons sold a pair of rhino horns mounted on a wooden plinth for $92,500 – a figure that shocked antique and auction experts across the country.

Simon Hill, general manager of Lawsons, said the black rhino horns belonged to a Cairns woman who inherited them from her father who migrated from Africa to Australia in 1950.

He said the auction house has contacted the federal environment department to obtain approval for Friday’s sale of the 4.6 kilogram rhino horns set and elephant tusks.

Under Australian law, the import and export of rhino horns dated from 1950 is banned and, since July, anyone wishing to export vintage rhino horns must conclusively prove its age through radiocarbon dating.

A department spokesman confirmed to Fairfax Media that investigators had assessed the specimens and were satisfied of their lawful origins. The department granted approval for the domestic sale of the three items only.

Mr Hill said it was only the third time since 1999 that he had seen rhino horns up for auction at Lawsons.

“I understand [the conservationists’] concerns and we have them equally. We take it very, very seriously and that’s why we go through the relevant bodies to make sure we’re doing the right thing,” he said.

“I would not know if there is any direct correlation of the selling of antique items and increasing in poaching. If there was, I’d love to see the hard data on it.”

So far this year, 969 rhinos have been poached in South Africa, according Save the Rhino. It claims poaching is “dramatically increasing”.

The Western black rhino was declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2011. All five remaining species are listed on its threatened species Redlist, with three classified as critically endangered.

“Elephant populations are also in big trouble in Africa and elsewhere. By continuing to sell elephant ivory, we’re continuing to create demand and therefore increase poaching the populations can’t sustain,” Ms Wellbelove from HSI said.

On Tuesday, Greenpeace rallied its 400,000 supporters via email, urging them to contact Mr Farrah to demand he pull the horns and ivory from Friday’s Natural History, Taxidermy and Science auction and change Lawsons’ policies.

An International Fund for Animal Welfare report released this year revealed the number of products derived from endangered animals offered for sale on Australian websites has more than doubled since 2008.

A pair of black rhinoceros horns expected to fetch $70,000 at Lawsons auction on Friday.

A pair of black rhinoceros horns expected to fetch $70,000 at Lawsons auction on Friday. Photo: Lawsons Auctioneers

English: A Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)...

English: A Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) in Tanzania Deutsch: Spitzmaulnashorn (Diceros bicornis) in Tanzania Français : Rhinocéros noir Nederlands: Zwarte neushoorn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Male Diceros bicornis (Black rhinoceros or Hoo...

Male Diceros bicornis (Black rhinoceros or Hook-lipped rhinoceros) at the Saint Louis Zoological Park in Missouri Français : Rhinocéros noir (Diceros bicornis) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gorillas in the crossfire   Leave a comment

From:  The New York Times

by Orlando von Einsiedel on November 7, 2014

VIDEO:   http://nyti.ms/1Eby3GM

In a national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a caretaker struggles to save gorillas from the violence of a brutal civil war.

This Op-Doc video profiles Andre Bauma, who takes care of the orphaned mountain gorillas of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In two decades of civil war, more than 140 of his fellow rangers have been killed while protecting their park, which has been home to armed rebels. They risk their lives for Virunga’s gorillas not only because they believe it is right, but because they know that the forest and its animals are the key to the region’s stability.

The threats facing the park are tremendously complicated. Dueling military forces, who have been fighting in the surrounding areas, and sometimes within the park, have used Virunga as their pawn. An oil company, SOCO International, has searched for oil in the park. Violence, poaching and human encroachment have pushed the gorillas to the edge of extinction. Accordingly, the logistics of filming this documentary were daunting: We were working in an active conflict zone with an ever-shifting front line, managing the opposition of a major oil company and its arsenal of lawyers, and of course trying to keep our equipment from being carried away by a crew of curious mountain gorillas.

For us, the gorillas lay at the heart of this story. Not only are they a mirror in which we can view ourselves, but they also represent a better future for Congo and the hopes of the thousands of people living around Virunga National Park. Through tourism to visit the gorillas (now welcomed in a period of relative stability) and other development projects, hundreds of millions of dollars can be generated from the park, as happens next door in Rwanda. Yet the mountain gorillas’ future remains in question.

This video is part of a series by independent filmmakers who have received grants from the Britdoc Foundation.

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Poaching and Civil War Aren’t the Only Threats to Africa’s Dwindling Population of Mountain Gorillas   1 comment

From:  Vice News

By Elaisha Stokes

November 5, 2014 | 8:35 pm

Wildlife poachers and the African continent‘s seemingly perpetual civil wars were long thought to be the greatest threats facing the last remaining population of mountain gorillas in the world. Now, say conservationists, disease transmission from humans to primates might pose an even greater danger to their existence.

“Gorillas are not immunized against a lot of the viruses we get as humans,” explains Eddy Kambale, a veterinarian with Gorilla Doctors, a group founded in 1986 and dedicated to treating sick or injured gorillas in the wild. “One virus can kill an entire population.”

Mountain gorillas are critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Fewer than 900 of them remain in the lush forests that straddle the borders between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda. Kambale and the Gorilla Doctors aim to ensure that the population remains healthy and stable.

VICE News caught up with Kambale in the Virunga National Park in the DRC. He was checking up on a family of gorillas, but was particularly anxious to locate an injured adult male named Mawazo, who he treated two weeks previously.

Eddy Kambale, a veterinarian with Gorilla Doctors, records data on a family of mountain gorillas. (Photo by Elaisha Stokes)

Gorillas share about 95 percent of their genetic make up with humans. This makes disease transmission between the two species particularly easy. The recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, which may have originated from infected bushmeat, is just the latest instance of how the health of humans and wildlife are sometimes intimately connected.

But the problem cuts both ways.

“The most common illness we see in gorillas is respiratory disease, like influenza,” Kambale told VICE News. Gorillas, he adds, are most likely to pick up the virus from visiting tourists. Because of this, wildlife enthusiasts, who want to catch a rare glimpse of a gorilla in its natural habitat, must wear a face-mask covering the mouth and nose. The stakes are high — infectious disease accounts for about 20 percent of gorilla deaths in the wild.

Kambale has worked with gorillas since 2004 and is accustomed all sorts of setbacks. He’s been charged by angry primates and detained by rebel armies that patrol the contested eastern region of the DRC. But, standing in the lush Virunga National Park, a different sort of problem has frustrated his search for the injured gorilla — bush elephants, which cut a huge path through the jungle, obscuring the mountain gorillas’ tracks.

South African Environment Minister: We appreciate western help against poaching but we need Asia’s. Read more here.

“It’s difficult to find the real trail, the one that belongs to the gorilla,” he told VICE News, as the roar of several elephants echoed through the trees. “Not to mention, elephants are very aggressive. They can kill you.”

Park rangers tasked with tracking the gorillas join Kambale on each of his expeditions, providing assistance and security. They’re armed in case of stumbling upon angry elephants, or worse, a poacher.

Kambale says that with so few gorillas remaining in the wild, national park officials check up on the animals every day. But the daily interaction between trackers and primates, like the presence of tourists, comes with the risk that the trackers might infect gorillas with some sort of sickness.

After hours of trekking through towering groves of bamboo and avoiding vicious army ants and thorny bramble, Kambale and his team locate Mawazo and the family over which he presides. The group has eight gorillas, most of which are males. Mawazo and another silverback named Kidogo, says Kambale, are at war over the few females in the group. While Mawazo had consistently emerged the winner, the fights are taking a toll. On Kambale’s last visit, a chunk of skin hung from above Mawazo’s left eye, making him more susceptible to infection.

Mawazo suffered a wound when fighting with another silverback, making him more susceptible to illness. (Photo by Elaisha Stokes)

When an gorilla gets sick, Kambale and his team might administer an injection of antibiotics using a dart gun. In critical cases, the team sometimes separates an injured gorilla from the rest of the group in order to suture wounds. It’s risky work — family members often become enraged when one of their kin is isolated, sometimes becoming aggressive and charging at the veterinarians.

“It’s hard to make the decision to intervene,” Kambale told VICE News. “In life, there is never zero risk, anywhere.”

Kambale takes notes on the health of each individual. He monitors the pace of their breaths and scans their eyes and nose for any liquids that might indicate the onset of illness. Everyone seems healthy, says Kambale, snapping a few photos of the group, particularly Mawazo, whose wound seems to be healing well.

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An hour has passed since finding Mawazo and his group and the sun is beginning to slip behind the mountain. It’s time for Kambale and his team to make the trek back home. The gorillas too must start to build their nests where they will sleep for the evening.

Kambale will return in a couple weeks to check upn on Mwazao. By then, he may have lost his fight to Kidogo. Either way, Kambale says he will be there to help keep the family healthy.

In the last 25 years, Gorilla Doctors has performed over 400 medical interventions. This year alone they have treated two outbreaks for respiratory disease among mountain gorillas. Neither resulted in casualties. With the right approach to veterinary care and a well-managed tourism program, Kimbale remains hopeful that these animals will continue to inhabit Virunga National Park for generations to come.

“Our job is to save the gorillas, one at a time,” he said.

Elaisha Stokes is a 2014 International Women’s Media Foundation reporting fellow in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Follow Elaisha Stokes on Twitter: @ElaishaStokes

Image via Flickr

 

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