Posts Tagged With: antelope

Possibly the biggest conservation blunder ever

What would we give for rhino poaching to stop? Is there a cost too great? What about sacrificing another species?

That is exactly what the WWF did in the early 1990s. In a desperate attempt to stop Chinese from utilizing rhino horn, they recommended the use of Saiga antelope horns instead. At the time, the population was in the millions.

saiga antelope by darwin initiative

        Saiga antelope photo: Darwin initiative

But the spike in Saiga hunting between 1993 and 1998, resulted in the decimation of half the species. As only the males have horns, the loss has resulted in an unbalance of the sexes. With so few males left, the population has continued to steadily decline, with the birth rate continuing to drop.

saiga antelope range wwf

                              Saiga antelope range via WWF

In an area with one of the most endangered herds in central Kazakhstan, aerial surveys  revealed no adult or juvenile males, only females. Time is of the essence to bring in males, as the animals normally only live for three to four years, according to leading expert Eleanor Milner-Gulland of Imperial College, London.

In May of 2015, there was another devastating blow to the species, with over 200,000 killed by a mystery illness in just two weeks. Before the mass die off, there were thought to be only 250,000 left.

saiga antelope dieoff

Bodies were counted and buried in Kazakhstan. Photo: Washington Post

Conservationists met at the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) to develop a five year plan to address threats facing the species, including disease, habitat encroachment and poaching. With the combined factors of nature and man at work, it’s difficult to imagine the species making a comeback.

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Indiscriminate Wildlife Killer

Poaching, an ongoing global threat to wildlife, usually brings to mind bad guys with guns and machetes intent on stealing rhino horns and elephant tusks.

snare 1

Generally nature doesn’t make circles, this is a good rule of thumb in detecting snares in the bush.

But another poaching method, silent, yet just as deadly are snares. Relatively easy to come by telephone or cable wire is used to trap whatever comes into its path.

While some animals caught in snares will end up in the cooking pot, as many as an estimated 90% will be left to rot in the bush  -Nick Tucker: Horror of Snares, Africa Geographic.

The majority suffer a painful, lingering death.

baby ele in poach snare dswt

This baby elephant was found with a snare around its leg, cutting to the bone. Thankfully rescued in time by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, this little one was lucky. photo: DSWT

Rangers spend precious time and energy on snare detection and removal on a daily basis. While they may remove a number of snares from a given area, it is not uncommon they will find new snares in the same area the very next day. It is an ongoing battle to locate the snares before they do damage.

One poacher can set as many as twenty snares a day.

snare removal team

The Kibale National Park in Uganda employs an entire team to snare detection and removal 26 days a month. The team finds hundreds of snares a year. photo: Kibale Chimpanzee Project.

The damage is more expansive than typical elephant and rhino poaching, as it indiscriminately kills zebras, giraffes, lions, antelope, bushbuck, etc. It is problematic all across the dark continent as well as other parts of the world.

According to Nikela, no one really knows how many animals and birds are trapped and killed by snares for bushmeat and illegal trading.  We do know it ranks in the thousands, if not millions each year.

snares by ranger maxwell, photo nikela

This ranger and his team found 60 new snares in one month of patrolling their area, and 17 snares with trapped wildlife. photo Nikela

warthog wire art painted dog conservation fund

Some groups have turned recycled snare wires into an opportunity for awareness and funding for conservation through creating jewelry and art. This warthog was made via Art Center for the Painted Dog Conservation.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ebola: the wildlife connection

Ebola: stemming from the depths of West Africa, spanning the oceans, now creeping into America. What does Ebola have to do with wildlife? Everything.

chimps infected with ebola

In the last 20-30 yrs, Ebola has killed tens of thousands of apes, like the chimp seen here.

*75% of recently emerging infectious diseases affecting humans are diseases of animal origin

It is contracted through contact with infected wildlife; i.e. through handling of or ingesting of infected animals. Chimpanzees and bats are the animals most often cited as carriers, but they are not the only animals.

The disease has taken hold of human populations largely because of our exploitation of wildlife. The illegal trafficking of wildlife out of Africa is a dangerous trend, threatening wildlife populations, and posing health risks to humans as well.

slow lorises rescued in la airport-smuggled in underwear

Hidden in a man’s underwear, these slow lorises were confiscated in Los Angeles Airport, destined to be sold as pets.  Photo: LA U.S. Attorneys Office/U.S. Department of Justice

Chimps, slow lorises, monkeys, parrots and sloths are highly sought after in the illegal pet trade. It is a $15 billion business in the US alone. As a result smugglers will try anything to sneak them across the borders. (For more on the illegal pet trade, see: When Dogs and Cats Aren’t Enough)

This trade results in considerable potential contact between infected animals and people, including traffickers, collectors, drivers, airport cargo handlers, airline passengers and the wider public in destination countries. It would only take one sick chimpanzee trafficked through a major airline hub to spawn a new Ebola outbreak. (Tennyson Williams/New Scientist)

But even more pressing perhaps is the persistent use of bushmeat. The poaching and consumption of “game meat” such as apes, porcupines, elephants, antelope, hippos, etc, can have dire consequences, not just to the wildlife populations, but to human health.

bushmeat over grills

Bushmeat is a delicacy not just in parts of Africa, but worldwide.

Ebola is only one of the diseases transmitted through infected meat. Researchers have found the first case of HIV originated from the consumption of infected apes. In addition; smallpox, chicken pox, tuberculosis, measles, rubella, rabies and yellow fever have also been contracted this way.

smuggled bushmeat

Bushmeat is not just an African problem. Between 2009 and 2013, US customs confiscated 69,000 items of bushmeat. Photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Humans’ insatiable appetite for meat, their all-consuming ego in owning or hunting animals, and their  general disregard for wildlife has taken its toll. Now we’re paying the deadly price.

For more info on the bushmeat crisis see: On the menu: Bushmeat

 

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Paving Paradise: the Road to Disaster

The Serengeti is a National Heritage Site, home to one of the most highly diverse groups of animals and habitats on the planet. The majestic serengeti mapecosystem stretches from Tanzania to Kenya, and 80% of it is currently protected by both governments.

The Serengeti is an infamous tourist destination, giving ample opportunities to view the Big Five, and of course the Great Migration. The Migration is an annual phenomenon, during which time hundreds of thousands of wildebeests, zebra and antelope move in herds from one grazing area to the next, spanning approximately 1800 miles.

Tourism is a significant part of Kenya’s economy, and it has emerged as the top foreign exchange earner in Tanzania last year as well.  According to Africa Travel and Tourism, basing on its great potential, the sector has much to be confident about in 2014.

Paving Paradise

construction in serengetiIn 2010, the Tanzania government announced a plan to construct a paved commercial highway across the Serengeti.  They believe this will more easily facilitate trade and travel, linking the country’s coast to Lake Victoria and countries to the west, including Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The group Serengeti Watch conducted a survey of over 300 scientists from varying countries who all concluded this would have adverse effects on the Migration. The annual routes of millions of animals would be disrupted, the area would become fragmented, and obviously the human-wildlife conflict would become an urgent concern. (Not to mention, making life “easier” for the poachers and game hunters.)

wildebeests migration

This photo taken during the Migration, in nearly the exact place where the proposed Serengeti highway would bisect this part of Serengeti and Loliondo. Not far from this spot there are survey ribbons hanging on trees.

Since then, there has been international public outcry, as obviously this disturbs one of the most precious ecosystems in the world. Serengeti Watch has brought attention to this devastating  proposal and last year a legal case was filed by Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW). In addition, on Tanzania’s behalf, Serengeti Watch contacted dozens of organizations and more than three hundred experts in an attempt to find expert witnesses. Sadly, no one came forward, out of fear of serious repercussions in their ability to enter, work or remain in Tanzania in the future.

yes to the southern routeAlternative Plan: the Southern Route

In addition to the Serengeti Watch, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, African Wildlife Foundation and many other conservation groups and NGO’s are pushing for a route AROUND the Southern end of the park. This will accomplish the goal of connecting Arusha with the Lake Victoria region which is one of the “purposes” of the highway.

It would help five times as many people and would cost less. The Frankfurt Zoological Society estimates that it would only take 1 HOUR longer to drive!

Although this seems a feasible compromise, protecting both the wildlife and the opportunity for further development, it is still not decided.

The Way It Stands

Currently there will be paved roads on both sides of the Serengeti, connecting Arusha with the Lake Victoria region, things are in the final stages of planning. Contractors have been selected and the government of Tanzania has funds in its  2013-2014 Budget.

The roads will not be built within the Serengeti National Park itself, but they will border it and cross areas where large numbers of wildebeest and zebras migrate. Wildlife will be forced to cross tarmac roads with commercial traffic, including the Wildlife Management Area in Loliondo.

For updates,  join Serengeti Watch on facebook: STOP THE SERENGETI HIGHWAY

Please sign and share the petition to:  Protect Tanzania’s wildlife.

mandela save environment

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

America: Land of the Free, Home of the Arrogant

rhino with US flag

Saving the rhino in Africa, from China and Vietnam is a familiar scenario. But another disturbing piece of the equation lies within the US. American hunters have long been drawn to the thrill of “big game”, hunting down rhino, elephant and lion in Africa.

Recently the US Fish and Wildlife Services set a new precedent, giving permission to a hunter to bring back his rhino kill from Africa. This has not been allowed for 30 years. Opening the door to wealthy Americans to slaughter endangered species in the wild for trophies is a dangerous trend to start.

Of course it takes two to tango. Shame on the Namibian government for allowing the hunt, and shame on US Fish and Wildlife for encouraging  the hunter with incentive to keep the trophy.

According to Fish and Wildlife, “The Service cannot and will not allow the importation of sport-hunted trophies of species protected under the Endangered Species Act unless a comprehensive review determines that those trophies are taken as part of a well-managed conservation program that enhances the long-term survival of the species.”

What is well-managed? It seems if any of us had well-managed a species, they wouldn’t be endangered. And what  is the point of cartoon trophy huntrecognizing and labeling a species as threatened, vulnerable or endangered if we’re going to allow them to be hunted down? Is it because if they seem more rare, the price tag on their heads rises, and in the end both governments make more money?

Pro-hunting groups will have you believe by paying to hunt a species, the funds go toward saving them, therefore making conservation sense. However, in this particular case Namibia made $175,000 for their “conservation fund” which in reality is a general fund used for multiple purposes, including rural development; hardly a benefit to the rhino.

However to satiate American hunters’ needs to “bag the big one”, they can also kill endangered species closer to home.  In Texas alone, there are 500 ranches that in recent years have switched from raising cattle to the multi-million dollar industry of “exotic hunting”. There are species here thriving in Texas, that are almost extinct in Africa (i.e three species of endangered antelope and Grevy’s Zebra). Yet they survive only to be killed.

Not only is it illogical and seemingly unethical to breed endangered species simply to exterminate them, but the other part of the issue is the method of the hunt. Many of these hunts are canned hunts, which some within the hunting community even see as unethical.  (See previous post: Shooting Fish in a Barrel)

Endangered animals need protection. Not just from the country they’re in, not in a ‘save by killing’ method, there are no exceptions. They need to be encouraged to breed, given space to do it in, and given the every chance to survive.

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.