Posts Tagged With: lions

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

 

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Pay to Play

There are two sides to every story, and two sides to the lives of animals in the tourism industry. Many of the baby animals we find so irresistibly adorable and pettable, live a life or torment.

petting lion cub 2

This is the canned hunting industry.

The opportunity to pet, hold, bottle feed, and play with cute orphan lion cubs sounds irresistible to animal lovers.

Captive lion cub 2

Farmed cubs often show signs of stress like hair falling out and diarrhea.

Well-meaning visitors pay big bucks for the privilege of “helping rear motherless cubs.”  Many of these people are led to believe they are playing a part in conservation efforts, that these little tykes will live to be returned to the savanna one day.

But the reality is much darker. Shortly after birth, the babies are taken from their mothers, causing extreme stress to the cubs and the mother alike. This is done to facilitate immediate breeding again for the mother.

Unlike in the wild when lionesses produce a litter every 2-3 years, in the lion “industry”, they are forced to produce 2-3 litters a year!

Once the “cute factor” has worn off and they become a bit larger, they either move on to the next stage of the tourism industry-walking with tourists, or go straight to the breeding stage to perpetuate the cycle.

canned hunting overcrowded

Overcrowded enclosure on captive lion farm.

Finally, the females are used for continuous breeding (no different from puppy mills). The males are catalogued-their photos taken and displayed in a brochure or in an online list for hunters to choose from. They spend their final moments in small, crowded enclosures awaiting their death.

Is this conservation? Is this how the most majestic creature in Africa meant to live?

With lion numbers in severe decline from habitat loss, disease, and hunting, they should be afforded protection, not treated as a commodity.

Please note, there ARE genuine sanctuaries dedicated to the protection and conservation of the species. NONE of them allow the perpetuating of the species for human entertainment (i.e. petting, picture-taking, hunting).

Please read, sign and share the following petition: President Zuma: Banned Canned Hunting

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No Vacancy?

Kruger National Park, South Africa: A tourist couple were following a bull elephant, attempting to get pictures. At one point, he turned and charged the car, turning it over into the bushes. The woman was seriously injured, and had to be transported to a nearby hospital.

car from elephant attack

Car attacked by elephant in Kruger.

The bull was in musth, which is a time in which their testosterone is extremely high, they are sexually active and quite aggressive. It is obvious by their swollen temporal glands which emit a fluid that runs down their cheeks.

The couple have survived, the elephant was not so lucky. Officials at the park had decided to put him down, due to his aggression.

There has been outrage expressed by some on behalf of the elephant. Afterall, the elephant was doing what elephants do. It is up to people to educate themselves on animal behavior, and it is a known risk they take by entering the park. Surely, this could have been avoided.

Unfortunately this is only one of multiple incidences, not just in South Africa, but globally. With 7 billion people on the planet, and dwindling habitats for animals, everyone is running dangerously short on elbow room.

Kenya

Kenya fights these battles as well. The country loses 100 lions a year due to human conflict. Most of this is in retaliation of villagers for their goats or cattle being killed. This epidemic, coupled with disease,  could well lead to no lions in the country within just 20 years. This dismal disappearance is seen throughout the dark continent, with lions gone from 80% of their original African range.

Elephants are players in the conflict here as well. Crop farming, charcoal burning and human settlements have attributed to just some of the casualties on both sides. 35 people are killed from elephants each year, yet at least 100  elephants are killed daily.

beehives near elephants

Kenyan farmers are using beehives as a natural elephant deterrent, which has proven 97% effective in thwarting attacks.

There are individual stories from people for whom the elephants create havoc on their crops, on their daily lives. David Kimita, a 45-year-old farmer and father of four, blames elephants for the breakdown of his marriage. Every time he plants crops, elephants raid his farm, leaving him with nothing for his family.

“My wife depended on me for food, so when there was none, she decided to go – four years ago,” he said

In 1994, Kenya began a Problem Animal Management Unit (PAMU) due to the challenge. The unit is composed of an elite ranger response team and responds to  interaction hotspots in the country. Villagers who lose crops or livestock are paid compensation. Without this intervention, too many animals would be lost in retaliation (more than already are).

Javan leopard in W Java killed after it invaded a house (CIFOR)

A rare Javan Leopard was killed after she invaded a house
photo courtesy of CIFOR

Bangalore, India:

Since April of 2013, there have been 30 human deaths due to human/animal conflict.  23 of the attacks were from elephants , with the rest from tigers, leopards, wild boars and bears.

With an increasing number of people within the area and less forests,  more occurrence of human/animal contact is inevitable. In India alone, hundreds of people die from elephant attacks annually, and  an estimated 10-12,000 people a year are killed by venomous snakes.  Forest officials expect this number to climb even higher in 2014.

It’s not just people who are harmed. All over India  elephant/train accidents are becoming all too common, as the tracks intersect common elephant corridors (see: Growing Pains and Speeding Trains)  Decreased habitat and illegal trade contribute to approximately four leopards killed every week. Tigers are also under the gun, literally. At least 39 tigers were poached in 2013, the highest in seven years.

So what’s to be done?

Clearly lions and leopards do not know the difference between livestock and wild animals-prey is prey. Elephants have been taking the same routes in grazing and everyday activity for decades, without anyone giving them notice that villages and train tracks are now being built in their paths.

By 2024 with the human population expected to hit the 8 billion mark, this is an issue that is not going away.

Humans are the more “intelligent”,  reasoning creatures (supposedly). If we are to prevent extinction of animals, and preserve flora and fauna, it is imperative to act now. Unity between communities and conservation organizations, as well as land and resource management are key. For just as we are the destroyers, we need to be the saviors.

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
Mahatma Gandhi

no vacany

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South Africa Tourism: A Catch 22

international rhinoOf the world’s most popular travel destinations, South Africa ranked #21. Tourism supports 1 out of every 12 jobs in South Africa,  in total contributing 9% to the total GDP (gross domestic product).

Among the top ten travel hot spots within the country, half are eco-tourism destinations, including the #1 ranked Kruger National Park.

Understandably, the government aims to increase its tourism industry,  in turn fueling the economy.

According to the S.A. tourism director, Ambassador Kingsley Makhubela, “Going forward, we would like to contribute half a trillion rand into South Africa’s economy and create 225,000 jobs (in tourism) by 2020.”

With that being said, “Why doesn’t the government take a stronger stand on poaching and conservation?”

Canned Hunts

The cover page on the South Africa tourism site shows “The Big Five” under the photo of a lion.  Ironic considering that although lions are listed as threatened,  SA is home to  the shameful atrocity of canned hunts. (see: Shooting Fish in a Barrel)

There are now officially more lions in captivity than in the wild. From 2006 to 2011, canned hunts of lions increased by a whopping 122%, with no signs of slowing. In the last 6 years, the number of farm lions has grown by 250%.

Is anything being done to stop this? It would appear not.  In 2010 the South African Supreme Court struck down a law which would have restricted the practice.

bachmanIf the recent outcry of protests against Melissa Bachman (the US hunter shown in a photo with a dead lion after her hunt) is any indication, the majority clearly do not favor or support this practice.

Poaching

With South Africa being home to 83% of the world’s remaining rhinos, the country is holding all the cards when it comes to saving the rhino from extinction. There has been an escalation in poaching over recent years to the toll of 2-3 rhino being killed per day.

rhino poaching stats 2013

In 2013, although there have been 310 arrests,  how many are actually convicted? The justice system seems inadequate in handing down speedy or consistent sentences. Those who are sentenced, are often released with a minimal fine, only to go out and poach again.

Granted, poaching is a multi-faceted issue which needs to be combated through combined routes of education, economy, and the justice system. But time is not on the rhinos side.

With the lack of action, and decrease of wildlife, some in the tourism industry are fearful of negative repercussions.

Chris Roche of Wilderness Safaris said “Tourist boycotts are harmful and have adverse effects contrary to their intentions,” says Roche. “We would not advocate any real consideration of this as a mechanism in exerting influence on governments. Rather, we believe that the opposite is a far more meaningful action; that tourists actually travelling to locations where poaching, especially of ivory and rhino, is prevalent is the best possible contribution.”

While that is true, it is a catch 22.  No one will pay for wildlife safaris to see grass and trees. Tourism is the jewel of South Africa’s economy. If the tourism industry is to survive, then so must the rhinos, elephants, and lions.

A conservation agency will spend Sh7 million to install new technology to fight poaching in the Maasai Mara.
Read more at: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/thecounties/article/2000099996/conservation-group-to-spend-sh7m-on-anti-poaching-drive
A conservation agency will spend Sh7 million to install new technology to fight poaching in the Maasai Mara.
Read more at: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/thecounties/article/2000099996/conservation-group-to-spend-sh7m-on-anti-poaching-drive
A conservation agency will spend Sh7 million to install new technology to fight poaching in the Maasai Mara.
Read more at: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/thecounties/article/2000099996/conservation-group-to-spend-sh7m-on-anti-poaching-drive
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Be Wary Animal Lovers

Tourism is helping save wildlife. That’s what we’re told. If this is true, where you spend your next holiday could be the most important decision you make, the world is counting on you.

Cuddling baby lions sound endearing? As cute and cuddly as they seem , you might as well shoot them. This is the first part of the circle of “life” for lions in canned hunts. The cubs are used to entice you there, and ultimately to use your money to help fund the whole operation You feed them, hold and coddle them, sometimes even bottle feed. But ask yourself “Where’s mom?”  (For more on canned hunts, see: Shooting Fish in a Barrel)

lion cubs in cageElephant rides? Not unless you enjoy knowing they are beaten, starved and tortured in order to “train” them to comply. What about the sweet baby elephants rolling on the beach, splashing in the waves? Surely they are enjoying themselves. Sadly no. Once again ask “Where’s mom?” They are torn from their families and enslaved in the name of entertainment. (For more, see: The Dark Side of Thailand Tourism)

elephant trainingA photograph next to a tame tiger in a buddhist temple? Buddhist monks must be peaceful and enlightened. Here tourists unknowingly play into the larger exploitive scheme of the illegal tiger trade. Slight of hand, babies coming and going, tigers seeming drugged, lethargic and often in need of medical help-all part of the famous “Tiger Temple”. Ask yourself “What tiger in the world would willingly let you pet him, let alone get anywhere near him?”  (See: The Tiger Temple…)

chained tiger 2A family trip to Sea World…if you haven’t seen Blackfish, please watch. Psychosis, food depravity, stolen from their families is just a part of the torture the Orcas are subjected to.

Bottom line: please educate yourself on where you’re going. If something doesn’t seem natural for an animal, it’s probably not! Don’t give your hard earned money to people who torture or enslave them.

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Lifestyles of the Rich and Heartless

Trophy hunting is big business. The industry employs ranchers, outfitters, professional hunters, gun manufacturers, and taxidermists alike. People with time, money and a propensity for killing, keep the business going at the rate of 200 million a year.

rhino hunt55% of trophy hunters bring home an annual salary over $100,000. This makes it easy for them to afford the hunt. Here’s a breakdown of one camp’s cost for an average hunt:
*$450 per night for accommodations
*$200 per night for non-hunting day(s)
*$550 per gun per day
*$14,500 for a buffalo or $22,000 for a lion (trophy fees vary according to animal)
*Air transport, taxidermy, trophy packing and shipping EXTRA

SCIIn addition some hunters have group memberships ($1500 membership fee) to elite clubs such as Safari Club International. (These clubs sponsor killing competitions. There are awards given to the most animals slaughtered.  and they even keep a record book listing names of who killed what animal, when.)

Good news if you make a living out of dead animals, bad news for the environment, for the safari/tourism industry, and the animals.

Each year tens of thousands of animals are killed by US hunters in foreign countries. The body parts are legally imported back into the US. (While the Endangered Species Act only allows importation of endangered species for scientific research, there are loopholes allowing trophy imports.)

Pro-trophy hunters argue this is GOOD for conservation. Their stance is that the money spent on the hunt is poured back into the community for conservation efforts.

In reality, research published by the International Council by Game and Wildlife Conservation (a pro-hunting group), shows only 3% of revenue from hunts goes back to the communities.

In contrast, ecotourism is a $77 billion global industry; employing tour operators, guides, lodge and restaurant employees, vehicle drivers, park guards and people who benefit from the sale of souvenirs.

elephant tourismConservation is about protecting a species and environment. Killing seems a complete contradiction. Serious about conserving?  Put the money toward donations or a safari trip where the only shooting is with a camera.

Taking conservation seriously is the only way to protect the rhino, lion, and elephant among others, is to ban hunting of endangered species all together, at least until trade in parts is under control. With poaching so widespread, it is too difficult to distinguish so-called legal horn or tusk from illegal.

The Safari Club International protects the hunter via lobbying the US Congress to weaken the Endangered Species Act and petitioning the Fish and Wildlife Service not to list certain species as threatened or endangered.

But with the Endangered Species Act open to thrill seeking hunter lobbyists, who protects the animals?

disregard for species cartoon

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On the Lighter Side…Happy Halloween

halloween cheetahsDakima-Chester Zoo black rhinohalloween meerkats againMaggie, a giraffe plays with a carved pumpkin during a Halloween-themed media event at the London Zoohalloween lions

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When Cats and Dogs Aren’t Enough

 

This is Little Mo. She was just a few months old when poachers killed her mother and stole her from the wild. These ruthless wildlife traffickers wanted Born Free Foundationto sell the cheetah cub as a ‘pet’ in Somaliland, East Africa.

Mo is one of millions of countless big cats, and other endangered animals who are part of the exotic pet trade.

US Exotic Pets

The illegal trade is a $15 billion dollar business in the United States alone, with breeders and dealers selling animals over the Internet or in trade magazines. It is estimated that approximately 20,000 exotics live in “backyards” all across the US.

While some exotic pets have been bred in captivity, many are plucked directly from their natural habitats. The stress of being violently removed from their homes causes some animals to die before they ever reach a private residence.

pet tiger

Amazingly, the Endangered Species Act does not prohibit domestic trade in captive-bred wildlife. A grave oversight, considering that although tigers are endangered, more tigers reside in private residences in Texas, than in all the wild.

People purchasing these animals believe them to be cute and manageable until of course they grow, their wild instincts still intact, and become uncontrollable.  In 2013, there have been 1,969 incidents (anything from quarantine violations to deaths of animals and/or people) in the US alone.

Middle Eastern Trend

Of course this is not just problematic in the US. Big cat pets in the Gulf region is a growing trend. It is seen as a status symbol. Yemen is becoming the hub for this lucrative trade in the Arabian world. Although the numbers are not available, it is believed this is the reason for the dent in the wild cheetah populations in Somalia.

man riding lion

Several clips have surfaced on the Internet showing the absurdity and ignorance of owning these big cats; i.e. a  riding a lion and a group of men with a leashed cheetah.

Worldwide Smuggling

Authorities around the world suspect they’re intercepting under 10% of all wildlife smuggling, with many saying it’s actually only 1%.

african greys rescused

3 of 108 African Grays released into the wild after a failed smuggling attempt in Bulgaria.

The vast size of most wilderness areas and the limited number of enforcement officers virtually guarantee poachers and smugglers free access. The only way to get a definite conviction is to catch them in the act.

otters

11 otters found alive in unclaimed baggage in Bangkok.

Although smuggling of endangered species is an international violation of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), the penalties are stipulated by individual countries and vary greatly. CITES protection does not apply to exotic animals who are born in captivity.

Root of the Problem

As with rhino and elephant poaching, the root of the issue is to stop the demand. So it is with exotic pet ownership.

*Do not purchase endangered species.

*Do not patronize circuses and roadside zoos who use or showcase exotic animals.

Please read and sign the petition to : Ban exotic pet ownership in the US

Born Free FoundationWhat happened to Mo the cheetah?

She was rescued by the Born Free Foundation. She’s living the good life, with a spacious area and her medical and nutritional needs cared for.

After slowly introducing her to other cheetahs, she is happily living as part of a new family unit.

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On the menu: Bushmeat

What is the Bushmeat Crisis?

Bushmeat is the term used to describe any wild animal used for food, living in the “bush”. It is most common in reference to the area of Western and Central Africa. This can be apes, lemurs, rhino, elephant, antelope,etc.

endangered lemurs killed for bush in mada

Endangered lemurs in Madagascar killed for bushmeat.

Today bushmeat is important both as a food source and a trade item for poor families in rural and urban areas in Western and Central Africa. It is also often a status symbol for urban elites trying to retain links to the “village”, and often commands a high price in city restaurants.

The commercial bushmeat trade is in direct competition and threatens the livelihoods of rural communities dependent on these resources to meet their basic needs.

“People in the Congo Basin eat as much meat as do Europeans and Americans; approximately 80% of animal protein is derived from wildlife.”

While wildlife has been hunted and used for food since the beginning of time, things have changed considerably. The population density in these areas is greater than the animal population, in addition, factoring in the number of threatened and endangered species, the wildlife can no longer be viewed as a free, sustainable resource.

forestry road

Forestry road through Gabon.

The Logging Industry’s contribution

The growing problem of the bushmeat industry is exacerbated by the construction of new roads to facilitate logging and mining operations, allowing poachers easy access to remote forests. Truck drivers also get involved, as they are routinely bribed into carrying loads of up to 200kg of bushmeat, including gorillas and chimpanzees, out of the forests.

Why not raise cow, chickens and goats?

Domestic “farm” animals are raised in the rural and urban households, but they are viewed as savings and insurance, since inflation is high and access to banks or credit is extremely limited. Even if they wanted to use their animals for a protein source, the area is plagued by tsetse flies which cause the disease, animal trypanosomiasis, making it unfeasible.

Of course hunting in the short-term yields immediate benefits, yet in the long run, this damages their economies in the future.

What does this mean for the environment?

While deforestation is also a  threat to wildlife, over hunting is comparable, if not  worse to the Western and Central African areas. Even in places where there is intact forests, there are no large animals, This is known as Empty Forest Syndrome.

     “Experts estimate that the bushmeat trade could eliminate all viable populations of African apes       within the next five to 15 years.”

Loss of wildlife means a loss of seed dispersing animals that play a key role in determining tree composition and distribution. Over time this will potentially cause irreversible global damage.

Human health jeopardy

gorilla hands

Gorilla hands are considered a delicacy in the Congo.

In addition to environmental and economic consequence, the increased contact between humans and wildlife populations raises the risk of people transmitting animal-derived diseases. Consumption of bushmeat has been linked to zoonoses, including anthrax, ebola, monkeypox, HIV, SARS and foot and mouth disease. Additionally, there is also risk of transmitting human diseases to apes and other species.

Global Concerns

Not just an African issue, thousands of pounds of primate parts, antelope, and other bushmeat are smuggled annually into the United States and Europe. The environmental concerns, the health risks and the responsibility are ours to share. From Lion meat tacos in Florida to  Rat meat in London it’s becoming a black market pandemic.

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The “Con” in Conservation

Lions live behind fences and cages, waiting to be killed.

Lions await their fate at breeding farms.

Recently SABC: Special Assignment aired an expose on lion breeding facilities in South Africa.

The lioness’ are forced to breed more repetitively, not unlike puppy mills. They make money by tempting tourists to pay for being a “caregiver” to the cubs, leading them to believe they are helping with conservation of the lion. In reality these same cubs who become accustomed to people, are sold to the highest bidder to be shot and killed.

This is an eye-opening, must-see for everyone concerned with animal conservation.

THE CON IN CONSERVATION

Cubs start their lives off being doted on by well-meaning tourists.

Cubs start their lives off being doted on by well-meaning tourists.

Ultimately they are all shot and killed by humans who they do not fear.

Ultimately they are all shot and killed by humans who they do not fear.

Avaaz: Please sign the petition to ban the Lion trade in South Africa

To Donate: Four Paws: South Africa…saving lions from canned hunts

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