Category Archives: Asia

Largest Dog Meat Market in South Korea Shut Down

On the morning of December 13, Seongnam, South Korea’s Moran Livestock Association, which kills around 80,000 dogs every year for their meat, announced they are entirely stopping the practice of confining, killing, and selling dogs. The shut-down was due in great part to the actions of Defense of Animals, an animal activist group who had heavily campaigned against MLA’s brutal slaughter of dogs and had petitioned the city of Seongnam to take action. Marilyn Kroplick, the President of IDA, made this statement following the group’s victory: “The closure of Korea’s most infamous dog meat market at Moran deals a significant blow to the heart of the dog meat trade. Moran market has run with the blood of hundreds of thousands of dogs for many years, so this is a step in the right direction in our fight to end the horrific dog meat trade.” Nevertheless, despite this step in the right direction for the dog meat trade, Kroplick noted that dog meat selling operations would likely just relocate, necessitating further activism by IDA until all such meat markets are eliminated.

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Photo: Emilian Robert Vicol

Source:  Starostinetskaya, Anna. “South Korea’s Biggest Dog Meat Market Shuts Down.” VegNews. 14 December 2016.

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Painting Sun Bears to Save the Species

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Photo: Tambako the Jaguar

In 2008, pet artist Suzi Chua learned about sun bears from biologist Wong Siew Te, founder of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center (BSBCC) in the Bornean city of Sandakan. Also called honey bears for their love of the sweet stuff, these endangered creatures live throughout South-East Asian tropical rainforests and on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Chua, who is passionate about animals and volunteers at local animal shelters, was saddened to learn that the adorable bears, the smallest bear species, typically weighing in at 100 pounds or less, are often hunted for their body parts or are poached to be sold as exotic pets.

Thus, she created a project to help save the sun bears: through free art lessons that would teach how to paint sun bears. “I wanted to raise awareness and save the sun bears,” says Chua. To date, she has painted five sun bears at the BSBCC, including Koko, who died in 2015 of respiratory failure and whose portrait has been placed in the organization’s visitor center. Chua donated 30% of sales from three other portraits to BSBCC and just completed her fifth painting of Debbie, a sun bear sent to BSBCC in 2012 after being rescued from captivity as a pet.

Chua’s friend, Stacey Chiew, an art teacher, helps Chua by promoting the “Saving Sun Bears, One Painting At A Time” project to her students, and feels the project will help raise awareness of this sweet, shy, threatened species. “Art can create a powerful voice for sun bears. The main objective of this project is to let the younger generation know that forests are home to the sun bears, not cages,” she says. “The students should know that we have the power to change and destroy habitats, putting sun bears on the ever-increasing endangered species list. More and more young people are waking up to the fact that the choices they make can have an impact on wildlife.”

Adds Chua of the impact on students: “They can also gain a general understanding of how profound the loss would be if we don’t take action now to protect them. One day, we may never see the beautiful sun bears except in a picture book.” On their August 26 art session, they had over 40 students show up to paint Si Kecil (the Little One), a rescued sun bear cub who had been raised by sun bear biologist Gabriela Fredrikkson until he was killed by another sun bear in 2000. They worked from a photo taken by Wong two months before the cub’s death. Wong told Fredrikkson he hoped the photo of Si Kecil would grow famous around the world to shed light on the fate of the sun bears, and Si Kecil has since become the center’s icon. “These paintings will be displayed at BSBCC’s visitor center for public viewing. In future, we may sell or auction some of these paintings during special functions or fund-raising events,” says Wong.

BSBCC currently houses 40 rescued sun bears, the youngest of which is Wawa (a nine-month-old cub) and the oldest of which is Amaco (a 23-year-old sun bear). Sun bear populations throughout South-East Asia, Sabah included, are suffering greatly. Says Wong, “They face tremendous threats from habitat lost across their distribution range. For the sun bears that manage to survive, their survival may be further threatened by poaching for body parts and the pet trade. Recently, the Sabah Wildlife Department prosecuted two separate cases of sun bear poaching within two weeks. These cases raised serious concern for wildlife poaching in the state. In addition, Facebook is being used as a platform for the illegal wildlife trade.”

Wong praises Chua and Chiew for their unique project, which increases the next generation’s awareness of this beautiful endangered species.

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Photo: Suzi Chua

 

Source: Chiew, Marjorie. “Care to paint a bright future for sun bears?” Star2.  16 September 2016.

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Vultures: Vilified but Vital For Healthy Ecosystems

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Picture a vulture and you’ll most likely have a hard time separating these gawky creatures with the social stigmas they hold, long being reviled as portents of death. Still, these ungainly birds play a crucial role in maintaining our ecosystems and well-being, so citizens should be as concerned as scientists are to know that vultures in some parts of the world are quickly disappearing, according to a recent University of Utah study.

Many vulture species are now declining or even close to extinction due to concentrated toxins in the carrion they eat. Such toxins often have widespread impacts on a vulture population, as dozens if not hundreds of vultures tend to swarm and feast on a single carcass. Once vultures grow scarce, they leave the field open for other scavengers to flourish, species that bring with them the potential to carry dangerous bacteria and viruses from carcasses into heavily populated cities.

88% of threatened vulture species are impacted by the presence of poisons within carrion. In North America, only 22 California condors remained by 1982, due to their consumption of toxic lead bullet fragments left in the bodies of hunted animals  However, intense conservation efforts have since helped the species grow to over 400 who inhabit California, Arizona, Utah and Baja California, Mexico.Similarly, more than 95% of India’s vultures had disappeared by the early 2000s, which was  traced to diclofenac, a drug that relieved pain in cattle, but proved deadly to vultures who flocked to cattle carcasses; fortunately, this drug was banned through international coordination efforts, and the birds have slowly increased.

Now, the vulture crisis is centered in sub-Saharan Africa, where pest-control poisons are so potent that they have been affecting birds, mammals and insects alike on a massive scale. For instance, in 2007 an elephant carcass poisoned in Namibia killed around 600 vultures. These vultures in Africa are also the direct victims of poachers who poison carcasses specifically to silence the birds who might give away the location of illegally killed animals.

Declining vulture populations will have negative consequences for human health as they make way for foragers like dogs, rats, and crows, all of whom have more frequent contact with humans than relatively-solitary vultures. Vultures are highly efficient carrion consumers, often finding and eating carcasses within an hour after death, before decay really sets in; plus, vultures’ stomachs are highly acidic, thus killing most bacteria or viruses present in carrion. In these ways, vultures help prevent diseases from dead animals spreading to human populations. However, other scavengers without these features could easily pass along those diseases to humans, as many are entrenched in cities. Following the decline of vultures, India feral dog count increased by around seven million and was linked to a rabies outbreak that killed 48,000 people from 1992-2006.

Vulture populations can be restored through careful and collaborative efforts by the international community, as evidenced by the story of California condor. However, it is important that these efforts start now if we want to retain a creature which, though vilified for its appearance and its eating habits, plays a vital role in regulating the spread of bacteria and viruses and in maintaining healthy ecosystems and human populations, whether or not we are aware of how beneficial these scavengers are.

Source: Buechley, Evan et al. “Why vultures matter – and what we lose if they’re gone.” Phys.org. 5 May 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.

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

 

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Wildlife Trade on Facebook

Illegally-imported orang-utan Cambodia

Social media’s ability to put illegal wildlife traffickers in touch with many potential buyers quickly, cheaply and anonymously is of great concern for threatened wildlife and enforcement agencies

From the Malayan sun bear to a blood python, Malaysians seem to have found a booming marketplace for wild animals on Facebook for primarily the illegal pet trade of protected species. Much of this online trade is carried out in closed Facebook groups, and involves live, high-profile and threatened species for which trade is strictly prohibited in Peninsular Malaysia.

During a four month period,  TRAFFIC’s team monitored the activity of 14 groups on Facebook. They found that more than 300 individual animals, belonging to 80 different species, were for sale in the “private/closed”groups.

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Most of the 14 Facebook Groups involved in the illegal trade of wild animals were “Closed Groups”, according to the report, and needed membership to view or trade within the group. These groups had close to 68,000 members

What was also found, 93% of the species that were put for sale on Facebook, have legal protection in Peninsular Malaysia.

Mark! FACEBOOK needs to put a STOP to this IMMEDIATELY.

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Would you kill for a hat?

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The raccoon dog Nyctereutes procyonoides,  also known as the mangut or tanuki, is a canid indigenous to East Asia.  It is the only extant species in the genus Nyctereutes. It is considered a basal canid species, resembling ancestral forms of the family.

Raccoon dog populations have declined in recent years due to hunting, loss of habitat and even more so the fur trade.

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Canadian clothing maker Kit and Ace, that use the fur of Raccoon dogs justify their decision that hats made out of the animals were “raccoon fur and not made from dogs.” Major retailers like Macy’s and Kohl’s have been caught selling products made out of raccoon dogs as “faux fur” in the past.

While some clothing companies can claim that they are raccoons and not dogs, it does not justify that millions of animals are killed each year for their fur each year. The fur from a raccoon dog is not “fake”.

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Do you absolutely need to wear real fur from an animal that suffers intolerable cruelty?

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World Rhino Day

Today is World Rhino Day. Wildlife conservationists and concerned individuals alike are celebrating the large, horned herbivores by spreading awareness about the vulnerable species.  World Rhino Day has grown into a global phenomenon to spread the word about both the beauty of rhinoceros and the dangers they are facing. Here are ten interesting facts about rhinos, as well as ways to contribute to World Rhino Day.

1. There are five species of rhino, which are indigenous to Africa and Asia: black, white, greater one-horned or Indian, Sumatran and Javan rhinos. World Rhino Day celebrates all five species.

2. Rhinos have been around for more than 50 million years. Some of the world’s first rhinos didn’t have horns and roamed through North America and Europe. But no known rhino species have ever inhabited the South American or Australian continents. The Sumatran rhino is the closest living relative of the ancient woolly rhino.

Black Rhinoceros 3

3. Rhino is short for rhinocerous, which means “nose horn.” The rhino’s horn is not bone and it’s not attached to its skull. In fact, its hollow and made from a protein called keratin, the same substance that makes up fingernails and hair. Just like our own hair and nails, a rhino’s horn continues to grow throughout the animal’s lifetime. The longest known horn was 4 feet 9 inches long on a black rhino, which on average has a 20-inch horn, according to Save the Rhino, a conservation charity based in the United Kingdom

4. Three of the rhino species are listed as “critically endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, which means they have a 50 percent chance of becoming extinct in three generations. With its headquarters in the United Kingdom, the IUCN is the leading world’s authority on the conservation status of species.

Sumatran Rhino 2

There are perhaps 95-125 Sumatran Rhinoceros left in the wild.
A “Last Stand is being made by multiple conservation and government agencies to offer more protection and save this
species from extinction.

5. The IUCN Red List identifies Javan and Sumatran rhinos, two species native to Asia, and the black rhino, which is native to eastern and central Africa, as “critically endangered.” The Indian or greater one-horned rhino, native to the Indian subcontinent, is identified as “vulnerable.” And the white rhino, which mainly lives in South Africa, is identified as “near threatened.”

6. Rhinos can grow to over 6 feet tall and more than 11 feet long. The white rhino is the second largest land mammal after the elephant, with adult males weighing up to a massive 3.6 tons. Thanks to conservation efforts, this rhino species was brought back from the brink of extinction. But a surge in poaching for their horns has seen a record number killed in recent years. There are 20,000 southern white rhinos living in protected areas and private game reserves, mostly in South Africa, and just four northern white rhinos living in captivity in Kenya and the United States.

7. The Javan rhino is the world’s rarest land mammal and less than 50 survive in Indonesia’s Ujong Kulon National Park, according to Save the Rhino.

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Perhaps as few as 50-60 Javan rhinoceros remain in the world. However recently three separate calves were seen via camera traps. This gives hope the species can be saved from extinction.

8. Rhinos have poor eyesight and have difficulty detecting someone only a hundred feet away. But they have a high sense of smell and well-developed hearing and can run up to 40 miles per hour.

9. Rhinos have thick skin that can be very sensitive to sunburns and insect bites. The animals wallow in mud, which protects their skin from the sun and bites when it dries.

10. Rhinoceros pregnancies last for 15 to 16 months and mother rhinos are very nurturing. Their young stay with them until they are about  3 years old, according to Save the Rhino

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The Wildlife Conservation Film Festival & Biodiversity Conference, October 16-25 in New York, NY will feature several speakers to discuss the conservation of rhino. Also will be the world premiere of HORN, produced by Dr. Reina-Marie Loader of the Cinema Humain and professor at the University of Vienna.

2015 WCFF Post Card