Posts Tagged With: Asian

Aspirin, Keratin or Herbs: Better than Horn

In attempts to reduce demand for rhino horn, researchers and conservationists have tried various methods of replacement; the thought being similar substitutions would give our rhinos a break.

In the early 1990s, conservationists encouraged use of Saiga antelope horn as an alternative. At the time their numbers were in the millions, overpopulating some areas. But the plan backfired, and sadly the animals declined to fewer than 30,000 due to rampant poaching. Ultimately the antelope wound up on the same endangered species list as the rhino.

Saiga antelope by: Darwin Initiative

Saiga antelope by: Darwin Initiative

The horns of Buffalo, Yak and other bovine have also been used as options to rhino, both knowing and unknowingly. (As the number of rhino plummet, more counterfeit product are flooding the market.)

In the search for a more ethical replacement, there have been powders and elixirs  advertised as “rhino horn alternatives”most of which essentially contain keratin (the main ingredient in rhino horn).

One recent group has a product they’ve touted as “biologically identical material” made of New Zealand sheep wool. Claiming health benefits from the concoction, the Vietnamese-Americans hope was to curb poaching and benefit rangers from the sale of their product. Rhinoceros Horn alternative

In a 2007 study listed by CITES, several herbs were tested on the same ailments rhino horn is used to treat. The following tables show there was a positive effect of the herbs on the listed ailments.

Table 12: Distinct traditional attributes of rhino horn identified by TCM doctors, Bell and  Simmonds (2007)

Table 12: Distinct traditional attributes of rhino horn identified by TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doctors, Bell and
Simmonds (2007)

Potential substitute herbs  from TCM literature with similar properties

Potential substitute herbs from TCM literature with similar properties

Options with both Eastern medicine (use of herbs) and Western medicine (as simple as aspirin) exist. With such viable proven remedies, there simply is no “medicinal” need for rhino horn.  Through educational campaigns, TCM users are being shown these alternatives are better than the decimation of a species. Their choices will directly effect the outcome of our fight for rhinos.

One of the signs in the education campaign in China.

One of the signs in the education campaign in China.

 

 

 

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

China’s Expanding Middle Class Fuels Poaching

Vendors hawk animal wares, including a bull's head for decoration, in a market stall in Mong La. In this shop and others, customers can buy porcupine quills, tiger claws and penises, horns from deer and mountain goats, and other items from wild and often endangered species for use in traditional Chinese medicine.

Vendors hawk animal wares, including a bull’s head for decoration, in a market stall in Mong La. In this shop and others, customers can buy porcupine quills, tiger claws and penises, horns from deer and mountain goats, and other items from wild and often endangered species for use in traditional Chinese medicine.

Shortened article taken from: Hereward Holland, Photos by Minzayar
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

MONG LA, Myanmar—In this gaudy mecca of eroticism and greed on the eastern border with China, the cuisine isn’t for the squeamish: Many items on the menu, including the drinks, are derived from poached endangered animals.

At one riverside bistro a tiger skeleton marinates in a dark alcoholic tonic in a 12-foot aquarium, its vacant eye sockets gazing down on patrons. The elixir is believed by its many aficionados to be a potent aphrodisiac that imparts the animal’s muscular vitality.

“The tiger wine is good for both men and women,” says a Chinese businessman who has lived in Mong La for a decade, grinning maniacally and flexing his arms like a bodybuilder. “It makes a man strong in the bedroom.”

The wine, like its grape-based relative, must steep, preferably for at least a year. Then, discerning sex tourists can quaff it for 1,000 yuan ($163 U.S.) per bottle.

“Most people just take one or two glasses,” says a giggling waitress.

The drink is just one of many enticements that lure hundreds of Chinese across the border every day to Myanmar’s city of sin. As a taxi driver ferried us through the darkening jungle toward the neon-lit valley in the country also known as Burma, he summed up the destination’s decadent attractions:

“There’s not much in Mong La. Just prostitutes, gambling, and rare animals.”

Mong La is a smaller, seedier, anarchic version of Las Vegas—a collection of casinos and their associated vices in an unlikely, out-of-the-way place, though one where the rare animals are not for show, but for consumption. From humble market stalls to high-end boutiques, the town is a macabre menagerie where Chinese tourists can scoop up a bargain. A framed tiger tail goes for 30,000 yuan ($4,890), a tiger skin for 100,000 yuan ($16,300), and a prized rhino horn for 280,000 yuan ($45,640).

In the kitchen of a popular wildlife restaurant, meat hangs on hooks. Outside, snakes, turtles, pangolins, and other animals live in cages until they are turned into entrees that some Chinese gourmands consider delicacies.

In the kitchen of a popular wildlife restaurant, meat hangs on hooks. Outside, snakes, turtles, pangolins, and other animals live in cages until they are turned into entrees that some Chinese gourmands consider delicacies.

The city is the capital of Special Region No. 4, a largely lawless, 1,911-square-mile realm in a remote area. This territory is typical of Myanmar’s porous borderlands: a blind spot beyond government writ or regulation where local authorities apply national laws with caprice. In this crack between the paving slabs of statehood has sprouted the largest rare animal market in Southeast Asia—a poacher’s paradise.

“The rate of poaching in Southeast Asia is unbelievable. It’s being vacuumed out,” says Chris Shepherd, Southeast Asia regional director of TRAFFIC, a group that monitors the global trade in plants and wild animals.

During the past couple of decades, China’s extraordinary economic expansion has created a vast cohort of nouveau riche, eager to spend cash on totems of wealth and prestige.

A shop displays tiger bone wine, sold in ornate bottles, and a tiger pelt hung on a wall. To make the liquor, thought to distill the vitality of wild tigers, skeletons are marinated in tanks filled with alcoholic tonic. In Mong La, Chinese men imbibe it as an aphrodisiac and then head to the many bordellos.

A shop displays tiger bone wine, sold in ornate bottles, and a tiger pelt hung on a wall. To make the liquor, thought to distill the vitality of wild tigers, skeletons are marinated in tanks filled with alcoholic tonic. In Mong La, Chinese men imbibe it as an aphrodisiac and then head to the many bordellos.

China’s Middle Class Drives Demand

Today China’s middle class (those earning $10-$100 per day) number some 150 million, a little less than half the population of the United States. During the next decade that figure could more than triple, ratcheting up demand for Mong La’s unrestrained hedonism, bourgeois trophies, and traditional Chinese medicine.

Up to one-third of the global trafficking of wild tiger parts may pass through Myanmar, estimates Thomas Gray, the World Wildlife Fund’s manager of the Greater Mekong Species Programme.

“Poaching and wildlife trafficking of large mammals in Asia have increased exponentially over the last two or three decades, but also in Africa in the last ten years,” he says. “The driving force is the increased number of middle-class or affluent people involved in conspicuous consumption in Asia, particularly in China.”

Left: Dried elephant skin, tiger penises and paws (which might be fake or from rare animals raised on farms), and pangolin scales are sold in a Mong La market. Right: Peppers and tomatoes are displayed next to animal parts.

Left: Dried elephant skin, tiger penises and paws (which might be fake or from rare animals raised on farms), and pangolin scales are sold in a Mong La market. Right: Peppers and tomatoes are displayed next to animal parts.

It’s a similar story with the array of other endangered animals hawked in Mong La’s open-air apothecary: bear bile and claws, elephant hide and ivory, leopard and jungle cat pelts, as well as live pangolins, turtles, and monkeys.

In Mong La’s main market, a woman sells four-inch squares of dried elephant hide. She explains that they are ground into a paste and applied to wounds to help them heal. As she talks, a giant, blue-eyed husky saunters past, sniffs her goods, and then tries to befriend a monkey chained to a post.

“I sell all my products to Chinese tourists,” says the woman, who asks not to be identified. Like most of those interviewed in Mong La, she fears retribution for speaking openly from people involved in the illicit trade or local officials.

Continuing her sales pitch, she proffers what she claims are tiger claws, for talismans, and dried tiger penises, for extra sexual vim.

Menus across town feature turtles, lizards, and pangolins, the most heavily trafficked mammal in the world, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Several pangolins sit in cages outside one restaurant, like anteaters in chain mail, awaiting the pot. The meat of this small armored creature is considered a delicacy; its scales are used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ills, including poor circulation.

In recent years an international trade in pangolins has sprung up from African countries to Asian markets, driven by China’s new affluence.

Animal Trafficking Replaces Opium Smuggling

It’s difficult to establish firm origins for the animals sold in Mong La. Of a dozen vendors queried by National Geographic, all said their tiger products came from Myanmar, although it is unclear whether they first had been smuggled in from another country.

Most locals, though, point to the surrounding jungle of Myanmar’s Shan State as the source. “In the past the business was drugs and heroin, but now it’s animals, mostly from southern Shan State,” says Abraham Than, an 88-year-old retired bishop, neatly condensing two decades of the history of the area known as Special Region No. 4.

Over a glass of local wine, Than talks about how Mong La’s fortunes have changed since he arrived in 1969.

“There were no buildings; it was a jungle village,” he says.

To reach Mong La, Chinese visitors drive through a dramatic landscape. The neon-lit city is a garish sight in the remote, largely lawless jungle of eastern Myanmar. Since 1989, the city has been controlled by a former rebel army and has become a mecca for gambling, prostitution, and the wildlife trade.

To reach Mong La, Chinese visitors drive through a dramatic landscape. The neon-lit city is a garish sight in the remote, largely lawless jungle of eastern Myanmar. Since 1989, the city has been controlled by a former rebel army and has become a mecca for gambling, prostitution, and the wildlife trade.

At the time, Shan State was overrun by rebel groups, far too many for Than to recall. In 1989, the army, which ran the country, reached a cease-fire agreement with the militants, including the National Democratic Alliance Army in Mong La. The NDAA, with about 3,000 troops, has controlled the region ever since, even as Myanmar has taken significant steps toward democracy.

Than built a Catholic church on a hillock overlooking the town in 1996, hoping to spread the Lord’s word in a new era of peace, but the word mostly fell on deaf ears. “I say to myself, ‘I have made a mistake coming here.’ I wanted to come here to be a monk in the quiet, but it’s so messy,” he chuckles.

In the 1990s the NDAA became heavily involved in the drug trade in the area, which is in the heart of the Golden Triangle. Along with Laos and Thailand, Myanmar once produced most of the world’s opium. It is now second behind Afghanistan.

Feeling the heat from the U.S. State Department, Myanmar’s ruling junta pressured the NDAA’s leader, Lin Ming Xian, to quit narco-trafficking, and by 1997 he proclaimed his fiefdom opium-free, but his reputation stuck.

One U.S. diplomat wrote in a leaked 2005 embassy cable that Mong La “is patrolled not by the Burmese army or police force but by a James Bondian private police force funded by regional leader and drug trafficker Lin Ming Xian.”

Mong La quickly turned to substitute vices: gambling, the sex trade, and rare animals culled from the jungle.

“It’s not regulated. Special Region No. 4 has been basically allowed to do what they like as long as it isn’t opium. There’s a real Wild West element to the place,” says Richard Horsey, a Yangon-based political analyst.

.

As night falls, traffic slides through the center of Mong La, which is bisected by a caramel-colored river. The town, in an area that is mostly jungle, has grown as China's middle class has expanded and sought out its illicit pleasures.

As night falls, traffic slides through the center of Mong La, which is bisected by a caramel-colored river. The town, in an area that is mostly jungle, has grown as China’s middle class has expanded and sought out its illicit pleasures.

 

 

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Which is Your Favorite Rhino?

rhino sizes 45 species of rhinos used to exist in the world, dating back 50 million years. Today there are 5 remaining species. They are all endangered.

Indian Rhino

Indian or Greater one-horned Rhino

The largest is the Indian or Greater one-horned Rhino.  Living in India and Nepal, they are the “big guys”  in the Asian group, rivaling only the White Rhino for size; about 2 meters high and weighing in at 1800 to 2700 kg. They live near bodies of water, and are actually very good swimmers and can run up to 40mph (64 km) Both species of Asian rhinos use their incisors, not their horns, to defend themselves.

Javan Rhino

Javan Rhino

The Javan (or lesser one-horned rhino) is the “little brother” of the Asian rhinos. They are 1.4-1.7 meters high, weighing in at 900-2300kg, similar in size to the Black Rhinos of Africa. There are only approximately 37-44 left in Indonesia. They are the least vocal of the 5 species, and highly dependent on the forests for their survival.

black rhino 3

Black Rhino

Black rhinos are one of two species found in Africa, they are the slighter smaller, shyer and more aggressive than the White Rhinos. They are approximately 1.6 meters tall, the males weigh in at 1350 kg, while the females are about 900kg. They can be quick- running up to 34mph (55km) an hour. Like their White cousin, they are often seen with Oxpeckers on them; the birds remove ticks and parasites, helping keep them clean.

White Rhino

White Rhino

White Rhinos are the “big guys” on the African savanna, 1.5-1.8 meters high, they weigh in at 1800-3000 kg. They are distinct from the black rhinos, as they have a square head, which is lower to the ground. Unlike  other rhino species, they do not have a prehensile hooked lip for browsing and picking at bushes and branches,  instead they are built for grazing. They are the more docile of the two African species.

Sumatran Rhino

Sumatran Rhino (by: Johannes Pfleiderer)

Sumatrans have been on earth longer than any living mammal, but sadly there are less than 100 left. Living in parts of Borneo and Sumatra, they are the smallest of all the rhino species (1-1.5 meters high, weighing just 600-950kg). They have a unique reddish-brown coloring, with bristly hair. They are the most vocal of all rhinos, and quite agile, able to climb mountains and maneuver steep riverbanks.

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Rhino Horn Cures Asians, But What Cures Ignorance

horn not medicine 1

We’ve seen advertisements and pleas targeting Asian communities to stop using rhino horn.   Famed Chinese NBA player, Yao Ming and Chinese stuntman and actor, Jackie Chan have used their star power to bring awareness to the plight of the rhino in China.

WWF and TRAFFIC are sponsoring adverts being displayed through many different communication channels, including newspapers, television, and social media platforms like Facebook. They have placements in hundreds of offices and residential buildings, airports, corporate offices and universities throughout Vietnam.

But how well is it working? Is anyone out there paying attention?

           China

Journalist Craig Simons who lived in Beijing for eight years wrote about his time there in “The Devouring Dragon”.  Simons says “N.G.O.s (non-government organizations)  have had a limited ability to influence the decisions of average Chinese consumers. Advertisements have been successful but their benefits are offset by millions of Chinese just now becoming rich enough to buy exotic ingredients and medicines.”

He claims the campaigns may ultimately prove more important by putting pressure on the government. “A government ban is more efficient than trying to get 1.3 billion people to change deep-rooted beliefs and traditions, but both are key in the long term.”

jackie with rhino

Jackie Chan with rhino

Vietnam

According to Do Quang Tung, the Vietnam director of CITES  (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), “Demand for rhino horn in Vietnam has already declined thanks to government’s efforts in raising public awareness and preventing smuggling operations.”

South Africa and Vietnam governments  have signed  a memorandum of understanding on increasing cooperation to prevent smuggling of horns throughout the countries, but a representative from the Vietnam Customs General Department said “Vietnam faces challenges in preventing rhino horn smuggling because of the differences in the laws of the two countries.”

obvious rhino

Cures & Status

Using rhino horn for medicinal “cures” has been going on in China since the 16th century AD. An obvious cultural difference that’s hard to understand when you consider how far western medicine has come. (In the 16th century in Europe, patients who had contracted the bubonic plague were told to perform penance and anesthetic was made from a concoction of lettuce juice and vinegar.)

Yet the place of traditional Chinese medicine has a stronghold on much of the population. So how can truth (via education) overcome tradition?

Perhaps more of an uphill battle is rhino horn being viewed as a symbol of social status. Just as with furs, it’s becoming a mark of affluence in the Vietnamese community.

So how do you combat ego?

Since the beliefs in the power of the horn are based on untruths, and Asian horn-users seem to readily believe the tales as fact, perhaps the answer is to tell equally potent lies. Maybe the truth isn’t what will set the rhino free..

My fellow blogger Fred Clark knows this-
Mayo Study: Rhino-horn extract killed Michael Jackson

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Agam, the Sumatran Elephant Orphan

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At only 3 months of age, Agam was found trapped in a well. Alone, scared, abandoned, he was rescued and placed in the PLG Saree in Indonesia where he is being rehabilitated.

At 10 months old, Agam is still being fed milk supplements around the clock to make up for the nutrients he’s missing from his mother’s milk. In the wild, babies nurse 4-5 years, until the birth of the next calf.

In Aceh, Indonesia, Agam is one of three orphan elephants who have required emergency care in the area. The other two orphans, Raja and Raju, sadly did not survive. Motherless elephants have a high mortality rate. It is a long, uphill battle to successfully raise and rehabilitate them.

These orphans are the outcome of the human-elephant conflict present in Indonesia. In fact in most countries across the Asian elephant’s range, it has replaced poaching as the major human cause of elephant mortality.

Under pressure from higher population densities and lack of fodder, elephant populations are increasingly turning to crop raiding for sustenance. Interestingly, it’s not just the search of food that attracts elephants to villages, but alcohol. When they smell alcohol brewing, they have been known to attack and destroy villages to get to it.

This overlapping of territory, and fragmenting of their usual space and routes, is pushing the Asian Elephant into the brink of extinction. The population is estimated to have dropped 50-75% in the last 60 years.

An iPledge campaign is up and running to enable the purchase of Agam’s life-saving supplements.                        Support Agam here.

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

The Greatest Hoax on Earth

Circus elephants in the 1800s.

Circus elephants in the 1800s.

elephant circus modern

Circus elephants modern day.

A lot has changed in 200 years. We have been through two world wars, slavery was abolished, women are allowed to vote, the animal welfare act was enacted, and now there is a recognition of gay rights. Yet the circus and circus practice remains unchanged. The commonality in the above photos-dominating people with bullhooks in hand. Bullhooks are tools used to punish and control elephants.

FACT: Elephants are extremely intelligent and social creatures. In the wild, they live in families, roaming up to 25 miles per day. They do not stand on their heads, carry people around, walk in endless circles or ride in boxcars. In order to get them to do these things, they are forced by being beaten, chained whipped and tortured into submission.

*FACT: Animals in the circus spend 11 months a year traveling.

*FACT: They are caged or chained, forced to stand in their own waste and are often subjected to extreme temperatures.

*FACT: Every major circus that uses animals has been cited for violating the minimal standards of care set forth in the United States Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

The following video was made based on information from the RIngling Bros Circus trainers. Please watch: Training/Breaking a baby elephant for the circus

If you buy a ticket...

If you buy a ticket…

How You Can Help

The circus only exists because people pay money to go. Don’t go, and educate and encourage others not to. It’s really THAT easy!

There are websites devoted to helping animals that can help you protest and educate others to the realities of circus life for animals. Go to Peta or ADI (Animal Defenders International)

Start petitions, sign petitions. When the circus comes to your area, write to the venue that will be hosting them and ask them not to.

Michael Cotterman

You are supporting this!

Please sign and share the following: Stop Ringling Bros from coming to Grand Rapids Michigan!

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Mixed Messages on Worldwide Wildlife Trafficking

TOP 5  Illegal Activities in the World:

1)Drugs
2)Human Trafficking
3)Counterfeiting
4)Arms
5)Wildlife Trafficking

Finally someone has brought serious attention to the public eye on the lucrative illegal wildlife trade, the 5th biggest avenue of corruption and criminal activity in the world. Upon his visit to parts of Africa, President Obama announced his wildlife initiative plan.

THE U.S

Obama’s new campaign to fight wildlife trafficking includes an executive order, $10 million in funding, a task force and a presidential advisoryobama wildlife init council. The campaign will focus on helping affected countries establish and enforce better trafficking laws;, supporting regional cooperation; training their police and rangers; and beefing up their law enforcement and intelligence-gathering capacities. It will also use a new “Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program” to offer bounties for poachers and push for more modern technologies to identify and capture them.

The issue has also been presented with China in an effort to address the demand side of the trade in animal parts, primarily rhino and elephant. Both President Obama and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton have discussed this with them.

 SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

It means the U.S is publicly going on record to show no tolerance for the continued decimation of  animals on our planet, as well as putting emphasis on the seriousness of the criminal syndicate. Now valued between $7 billion to $10 billion a year, the lucrative trade funds many  corrupt operations i.e. drugs, human trafficking, weapons, and gang activity.

The U.S is  second only to China in partaking in the black market of wildlife trade. This admittance and commitment will step up regulations here, as well as setting the bar for the rest of the world.

The President stated “The survival of protected wildlife species … has beneficial economic, social, and environmental impacts that are important to all nations. Wildlife trafficking reduces those benefits while generating billions of dollars in illicit revenues each year, contributing to the illegal economy, fueling instability, and undermining security.”

The Philippines Contribution

In a monumental move to battle the illegal wildlife trade, the Philippines were the first Asian country to publicly destroy it’s stockpile of ivory. On Friday it started the destruction of 5 tons of seized ivory.A road roller crushes smuggled elephant tusks at the Parks and Wildlife center in Quezon City

Ramon Paje, Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said “The Philippines will not be a party to the massacre and we refuse to be a conduit to this cycle of killing,”

Although on the surface, they are sending a strong message, according to DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, there are still 8 tons unaccounted for. There is currently an investigation to determine its whereabouts.

What about South Africa?

Shortly after Obama’s’ visit, South Africa announced plans for a one-time selling of its stockpile of ivory. Ironic this should come on the heels of the President’s visit. The debate on legal horn trade rages on, but the timing of this decision seems to undermine the seriousness and conviction of the statement from the U.S.

With the U.S. and even the Philippines stepping up,  it seems momentum is on the side of wildlife. So why wouldn’t S.A. simply destroy theirs as well?

History has proven legal trade does NOT work. In 2008 the ban was lifted on ivory, which opened the flood gates and escalated elephant poaching , which they are still being massacred for.  Repeating this for the rhino would be the same disaster.

no to trade

Please let your voice be heard.  South Africa’s move toward petitioning CITES to legalize the rhino horn trade will decimate the species..    

Please write! #-SayNoToRhinoHornTrade
Email: info@cites.org

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