PETA pressures SeaWorld to send their Orcas to Sea Sanctuaries

Fans of the documentary film Blackfish will becaptiveorca pleased to learn of the latest actions that animal rights group PETA is taking to end the cruelty of SeaWorld’s captive killer whales. SeaWorld has recently vowed to end breeding programs in their parks, but PETA is further demanding that the orcas be moved outside of the parks and into sea sanctuaries.

Blackfish first brought attention to the issue of captive killer whales in 2013 when the film displayed an intense criticism of the marine-park SeaWorld’s history of inhumane treatment of killer whales, which tragically resulted in the death of three individuals. The film focuses on one 12,000 pound orca, Tilikum, who after being captured off the coast of Iceland and spending the majority of his lifetime in confinement lead to his hostility. The documentary observes the behavior of killer whales in the open ocean compared to those in captivity, and blames parks like SeaWorld for the aggression of whales like Tilikum.

orcinus_orca-ferop_4After going public in 2013, PETA bought a number of SeaWorld’s shares in order to influence the actions of the entertainment park such as ending breeding programs, and now the movement towards sea sanctuaries. SeaWorld collaborated with another animal rights group, the Humane Society, to end orca breeding in their parks. This decision was essential for the fate of SeaWorld after Blackfish threatened the park’s future.

PETA’s encouragement for the use of sea sanctuaries allows for the captive killer whales, most who have only ever lived in confinement, to enjoy the open ocean without being fully released into the wild.

 

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Source: Mosman, Josh. “SeaWorld’s orca plan doesn’t go far enough: PETA” New York Post, 15 April, 2016.

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This Earth Day, Let’s Talk About the Pangolin…

cute_baby_pangolinEstablished April 22, 1970, Earth Day serves to raise awareness of the state and well-being of our planet. One important measure of that well-being is the health and stability of Earth’s more than 8 million known species, from little-known bacteria and fungi to well-loved and long-championed megafauna like elephants and whales. Yet, though all these species serve important roles within their ecosystems and environments, lesser-known species face added challenges for conservationists.

Just look at the pangolin: sadly, the most-trafficked animal in the world is one that most have never even heard of. The highly-endangered animal is trafficked for their scales, boiled for use in traditional medicine, for their meat, a delicacy in parts of Asia, and for their blood, used as a healing tonic. From 2006 to 2015, nearly one million animals were poached. In addition to Asia, the US has a huge demand for pangolin parts, so conservation groups must work to raise both local and global public awareness of pangolins to curb this dangerous market before it’s too late. If current trends continue, the pangolin will likely become extinct before the world takes notice.

10abb2b50Docile and nocturnal, pangolins make their homes in savannahs, tropical forests, and brush, with four species known to live in Africa and four in Asia. The insectivores feed mainly on ants and termites and have highly acute senses of  smell and hearing to make up for poor vision. The solitary creatures have rarely been studied in the wild, but  have been known to live up to 20 years in captivity.

This March the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced a positive development for the pangolin: they will consider including it in the Endangered Species Act.  “The Endangered Species Act is among the strongest conservation laws in the world, and listing all pangolin species under the Act will be a dramatic and positive step in saving the species from extinction,” said Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and Born Free Foundation.

So, though conservation efforts and individual awareness of endangered species are vital every day of the year, Earth Day 2016 is the perfect chance for people to learn more about this gentle and fragile animal and to consider steps necessary to prevent its extinction.

pangolins

 

Source: Swan, Carol Ann. “Earth Day 2016 is for Endangered Species Like the Pangolin.” BlastingNews, 22 April 2016.

 

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Saving the Invisible Balkan Lynx

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The Balkan Lynx (a subspecies of the Eurasian Lynx) retains a mythic quality to locals, an unsurprising fact given that their current population is estimated at 19-36. Last year, the Balkan Lynx showed up on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered, reflecting the subspecies’ fragility and potential for extinction: none of the animals are currently in captivity, and their only known breeding grounds are Mavrovo National Park in Macedonia and the Munela Mountains in Albania.

Sadly, the Balkan Lynx has faced significant threats for years, from illegal poaching and hunting to shrinking habitats and prey populations. In 2006, Germany’s EuroNatur and Switzerland’s KORA founded the Balkan Lynx Recovery Program (BLRP), to track and collect conservation data on the population. After four years of tracking, camera trapping, and interviewing locals, BLRP field biologists spotted their first Balkan Lynx: “One of the most exciting days in my entire life has to be the day we saw the first photo of a lynx from the camera traps. Can you imagine how it felt… to finally have confirmation that the lynx does live in Macedonia?” said BLRP team member  Aleksandar Stojanov.

Recently, regional scientists and volunteers have joined the efforts to research and preserve this lovely yet relatively unknown creature, with support from regional and international conservation organizations (MES in Macedonia, PPNEA in Albania, ERA and Finch in Kosovo and CZIPin Montenegro, as well as EuroNatur, KORA and NINA from Norway). “Our cooperation with many stakeholders – especially hunters – opened the doors to more detailed research and conservation attempts for this cat and its prey. Our next step will be to downlist the Balkan Lynx to the category of Endangered; this means raising the population from the current 19-37 individuals to more than 50,” said Dime Melovski, another member of the MES BLRP team.

This collaborative effort has produced significant data, but scientists say there is much more to be done: “While this is an amazing scientific achievement for us, we have no time to celebrate, the Balkan Lynx needs even more visibility and dedicated support. However, we are encouraged because the IUCN Red List provides ‘political’ recognition and global publicity,” Melovski added. In fact, Albania and Kosovo have gone so far as to create new national parks to protect the Balkan Lynx’s breeding grounds. However, Macedonia has not taken the same steps, increasing MES’s efforts to raise national awareness and support and to lobby for the establishment of protected areas in Macedonia. In the end, it will take support on both local and large-scale levels to save the rare beauty of the Balkan Lynx.

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Source: Putilin, Kenija. “How do you save a species that is almost impossible to track?” BirdLife, 12 April, 2016.

 

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3-D Printed Sea Turtle Eggs:Will Poachers Know the Difference?

Conservationists have been putting technology to good use, creating artificial eggs with wireless transmitters that can trick and track black market traders.

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Each year, hundreds of eggs from endangered sea turtles are dug up from the beaches of Nicaragua and other countries and carted off to restaurants across the globe. Each egg can be sold anywhere from 20 cents at local bars to $150 apiece in the US or China, where the eggs are seen as rare delicacies. However, the process by which these eggs wind up on the black market is still murky, giving rise to nonprofit group Paso Pacifico’s new plan to shed light on the eggs’ journey.

Using 3-D printing technology, the organization is developing fake sea turtle eggs, each the size of a ping-pong ball, containing GSM transmitters which will track egg-smuggling routes across the globe. This innovative idea won the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, sponsored by U.S. Aid for International Development, National Geographic, the Smithsonian Institution, and wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC. Paso Pacifico and its partners were awarded tech support along with $10,000 to bring the concept to fruition. “The plan is to start testing them in the next nesting season, which will start in July,” said Eduardo Boné-Morón, the organization’s managing director.

Right now, a few improvements are still needed. Though initial prototypes were revealed at this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, Paso Pacifico is still seeking out the best quality transmitters and is working with an art studio near Hollywood to perfect the shell’s texture and color. The eggs will then be placed in Nicaragua to test their success in tricking poachers. Said Boné-Morón of the plan’s next phase: “Our rangers will locate vulnerable active nests that are more likely to be poached, for example, nests that are closer to trails. We will plant as many eggs as possible in the beach to increase the possibility of poachers taking the artificial eggs.”

Sea turtle nest

Because the smugglers have to transport their precious goods immediately after poaching (the eggs spoil within 15 days), the tracker eggs may quickly reveal a wide web of illicit trade networks. “If these guys have the capacity to send an egg from a beach in Central America to China in 15 days, it’s a well-structured network,”  Boné-Morón said. He believes the eggs may implicate several rounds of middlemen passing the eggs along, as well as the initial poachers. He also hopes that some smugglers may be deterred by the knowledge that some eggs could be bugged: “Eventually the poachers will learn there is something wrong with the beaches. That is totally fine with us. The reason they’re poaching right now is because it’s so easy. If they see that we’re watching them, we may be able to discourage them.”

Once development and successful testing has been carried out, Boné-Morón wants to expand the use of artificial eggs to wherever sea turtles lay their eggs around the globe. “We want to have eggs that are cheap enough that any nonprofit or any government agency can buy them and plant them on the beaches all over the world,” he said.

Source: Platt, John R. “Faking Out Poachers With 3-D-Printed Sea Turtle Eggs. ” Takepart, 24 March 2016.

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500 White Rhinos Up for Bid at South Africa’s Kruger National Park

White Rhinoceros5

South Africa’s Kruger National Park plans to make 500 white rhinos available for private bidders hoping to protect the animals and their highly-prized horns. The park asked potential investors to “make a written offer to purchase white rhinos in batches of 20 or more”.

Ideally, this measure would remove the animals from the rampant poaching that occurs at the park: over 1000 were poached in South Africa last year alone, more than three times the number in 2010. Rhino horn is used as a traditional medicine and a mark of wealth in growing consumer markets China and Vietnam.

As many as 5,000 of South Africa’s 20,000 rhinos are already owned by private ranchers, marking the expansion of a vast game farming industry that caters to eco-tourism and big-game hunting. Rhinos attract tourists for game viewing and legal trophy hunts, and some ranchers hold out hope that the horn trade will eventually be legalized.

Still, the risks and costs of keeping rhinos safe from poachers, even on private ranchers, may dissuade potential buyers from investing in the rhinos. “You are asking someone to put a large amount of money on the table in a speculative venture,” Pelham Jones, chairman of the Private Rhino Owners Association, told Reuters.

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This article was first published by The Guardian on 06 Oct 2014.

 

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Wildlife Conservation Film Festival Names DDB New York Agency of Record

logo_wcff_regular   ddb-logo

Wildlife Conservation Film Festival Names DDB New York Agency of Record

New York, NY (March 28, 2016) – Wildlife Conservation Film Festival (WCFF) today announced that DDB New York will serve as its pro bono agency of record, effective immediately. WCFF is an organization that creates public awareness programs that inform, engage and inspire audiences about the need for and importance of global biodiversity protection. In this new agency relationship, DDB New York will be responsible for WCFF’s creative campaigns to increase understanding of WCFF as an organization, as well as encourage attendance to WCFF’s flagship event in New York City, October 2016.

“WCFF is excited and honored to work with DDB New York,” said WCFF Founder and Chief Executive Officer Christopher Gervais. “This partnership will give the WCFF increased exposure and attract a larger audience.”

WCFF’s premiere event features the finest independent films from around the world, which cover topics across natural history and conservation of biodiversity. In addition, the organization promotes programs throughout the year that contribute to the protection of biodiversity and sustainability to facilitate the realizations of inspiration as committed  action to ensure that biodiversity will be permanently protected on a global scale.

“The work that Christopher has been doing with WCFF is so important and we are humbled by the opportunity to help WCFF expand and reach bigger audiences,” said Icaro Doria, Chief Creative Officer of DDB New York.

DDB New York launched its partnership this month with WCFF’s rebranding, including a new logo, as well as social presence. The next ad campaign is slated to break in April 2016 and is focused on raising awareness of deforestation’s impact on endangered species and  on promoting wildlife procreation.

About Wildlife Conservation Film Festival (WCFF)

 The Wildlife Conservation Film Festival (WCFF) produces signature events to showcase the finest independent films from around the world, which cover topics across the fields of natural history and the conservation of biodiversity. The Festival’s films connect the dots between saving species from extinction and preserving the Earth’s precious resources of food, water  and clean air. The WCFF is the first organization of its kind to present an issue that has widespread public support in a powerful visual forum, showing how wildlife preservation impacts our day-to-day lives.

Founded in 2010, the Festival attracts international audiences of all ages. It is a must-attend event  for thought leaders in biodiversity, film and major conservation organizations, providing a unique setting to interact directly with conservation experts and filmmakers, often via one-on-one conversation.

ABOUT DDB U.S.

DDB U.S., part of the Omnicom Group (NYSE), is one of the country’s leading and most influential advertising agencies, with offices in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. DDB has been named Agency of the Year numerous times by the industry’s leading
advertising publications and has been recognized by top awards shows including Effie, Cannes, CLIOs, The One Show, New York Festival and more. The agency’s U.S. clients include McDonald’s, Unilever, Mars, Johnson & Johnson, Qualcomm, Capital One and State Farm, among others.

Founded in 1949, the agency is part of DDB Worldwide and consists of more than 200 offices in over 90 countries with its flagship office in New York, NY.

About Omnicom Group Inc.

Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE-OMC) is a leading global marketing and corporate communications company. Omnicom’s branded networks and numerous specialty firms provide advertising, strategic media planning and buying, digital and interactive marketing, direct and promotional marketing, public relations and other specialty communications services to over 5,000 clients in more than 100 countries.

For further information on Omnicom and its brands, please visit www.omnicomgroup.com.

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