Category Archives: Canada

Both Caribou and Monarch Butterflies in Canada Threatened

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On December 4, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (Cosewic), a group of scientific experts, classified both Canada’s caribou and its monarch butterfly populations as endangered. “Caribou are, sadly, very sensitive to human disturbances, and we are disturbing caribou more and more,” said committee member Justina Ray. “These stressors seem to be interacting in complicated ways with rapid warming in the North.”

The committee’s report notes that: “Many of the great northern caribou herds have now fallen to all-time lows, and there is cause for concern that they will not rebound in the same way they have before.” The group is responsible for classifying wildlife species at risk of extinction, and recommending potential protective actions to the Canadian government.

In order to determine whether caribou herds were at risk, Cosewic examined two different caribou populations: the tundra herd, deemed to be “threatened,” as well as the smaller population of Torngat Mountain caribou which dwell in northeastern Canada, and which were found to be at an even greater risk of extinction. This group was thus labelled “endangered,” and was noted to be facing “imminent” extinction. The report also highlights both habitat encroachment, due to increased forestry and mining, and Arctic global warming as grave threats to Canadian caribous’ continued existence. This October the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) rang alarm bells over Canadian caribou herds’ rapid decline over the past thirty years, and the committee’s findings sadly lend support to this conclusion.

In the same report, Cosewic classified monarch butterflies as endangered, noting that the “remarkably tiny wintering grounds where monarchs congregate continue to be chipped away by habitat loss.”

These migratory creatures regularly fly 4000km south from Canada to Mexico to remain warm as winter approaches. The committee strongly recommends that the butterfly’s habitat in Canada, the United States, and Mexico, all be proctected to ensure the insects have a place to rest each step of their migration.”Otherwise, monarch migration may disappear, and Canada may lose this iconic species,” it concluded.

Lending support to this call, this June, 200 American, Mexican, and Canadian scientists, artists, and academics appealed to the leaders of the three nations to ban illegal logging and mining in the Mexican reserve where monarchs outlast the winter. They also called for a ban on pesticides used to diminish milkweed, which serves as the only food source for monarch caterpillars. For its part, Cosewic called out the use of an herbicide used on genetically modified corn and soybean, which has been detrimental to monarchs as well.

Actions such as those recommended by the committee will go a long way in helping preserve two Canada-dwelling species that rely heavily on diminishing habitats.

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Source: “Canada caribou and monarch butterfly ‘endangered’”. Phys.org. 6 December 2016.

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A High Price to Pay: Are Queen’s Guard Bearskin Caps Worth the Toll on Wildlife and Taxpayers?

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Thousands of Britain’s traditional Queen’s Guard soldiers have been laid off in the past several years, yet spending on the soldiers’ expensive bearskin Busby hats has soared 500% since 2008. That year, animal activists met with Labour Defence Minister Baroness Taylor to review new designs for the age-old caps, including the possibility of creating them from synthetic materials. However, the government recently revealed that real bearskin is still being used and that the cost to taxpayers has ballooned from £31,000 in 2008 for 35 new hats to £149,379 in 2015 for 122 hats, which each cost around £1,224.

The announcement sparked triggered fresh outrage and calls for the hats to be phased out. Shadow Environment Minister Alex Cunningham, who investigated the caps’ cost, said: “The British public will be horrified that Canadian black bears are being slaughtered, often indiscriminately, to provide fur headgear for British soldiers. The Government have admitted spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on fur headgear over the last few years but despite escalating costs, and evident animal welfare issues, have no plans to research alternatives. With leaders in the British fashion industry prepared to develop alternatives, it’s time to think again.”

Unbeknownst to them, British taxpayers have footed the bill for the 925 caps purchased over the last decade, with a total cost around £880,000, an average of £951.53 per cap. In 2009, the 195 hats bought cost £148,891, averaging £763.54 each. Then in 2010, Tories gained power and cut 20,000 soldiers from the army, nevertheless increasing new hat spending, with 695 purchased since 2010.

PETA UK director Mimi Bekhechi said: “Fur farming has been banned in the UK for more than a decade and PETA has shown how shooting bears in the Canadian forest, often orphaning their cubs, is even more cruel than farming, so it’s an outrage for the Ministry of Defence to source real fur for ceremonial attire. For each of The Queen’s Guards’ caps , a bear is cruelly killed either by being shot or ensnared, possibly for days, in a painful trap. British taxpayers – a good 95% of whom object to killing animals for fur – are unwittingly paying for it. With the resources, science and technology at the MoD’s disposal, it’s inexcusable that the same Army which is capable of building some of the most sophisticated equipment and machinery in the world claims that it’s unable to find a cruelty-free replacement.”

The Ministry of Defence also admitted that 55 coney skin Busby hats (made from rabbit fur) were purchased between 2005 and 2015, at a total greater than £25,000, and six fox fur caps were bought at a total cost of £5,499. In a statement, Defence Minister Philip Dunne responded: “The Ministry of Defence does not buy bear pelts; it buys ceremonial caps direct from suppliers who source pelts from animals culled as part of a programme to manage the wild population licensed by the Canadian government. Animal welfare standards relating to the bear cull are a matter for the Canadian government. The MoD also purchases coney skin (rabbit fur) for the Royal Engineers’ and Royal Signals’ Busby and fox fur for the Royal Horse Artillery, Kings Troop Officers’ Busby. The current contract requires a commitment to sustainable procurement. Depending on usage and maintenance, bearskin Busbys can last for up to 50 years. The coney skin and fox fur Busbys have indefinite life spans if properly maintained.”

Looks like animal activists and British taxpayers will have to continue to fight to end the unnecessary and exorbitant sourcing of Queen’s Guard caps from bears, rabbits, and foxes, defending wildlife as well as protesting profligate government spending.

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Source: Glaze, Ben. “Spending on British Army’s bearskin hats soars by 500% in seven years.” Mirror. 14 January 2016.

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5 Years in Prison for Canadian Turtle Smuggler

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On April 12, Kai Xu, a Canadian man caught in 2014 attempting to smuggle 51 live turtles in his pants, was sentenced to fifty-seven months in prison by a US federal judge. According to prosecutors, Canadian border guards had found “41 turtles taped to his legs and 10 hidden between his legs”, and he had already sent over 1000 turtles to Shanghai in suitcases via a co-conspirator.
Since his arrest in September 2014, the 27-year-old has spent his days in prison. He has admitted he’s tried to smuggle over 1600 turtles, ranging in species from Eastern box turtles and red-eared sliders to Diamondback Terrapins, from the US to China between April 2014 and his arrest. The Associated Press reported that Xu entered Michigan multiple times to buy and ship turtles to China without a federal permit. Assistant US Attorney Sara Woodward noted his wildlife smuggling crimes to be among the largest in recent years.
Xu, who claimed in a letter to US District Judge John Corbett O’Meara to be selling the turtles in part to fund his college degree, thanked agents “for stopping the darkness of my greed and ignorance”, and expressed remorse for his actions. The sentencing marks a victory against the dangerous and widespread global trend of wildlife trafficking.
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Source: Dasgupta, Shreya. “Turtle smuggler sentenced to five years in prison.” Mongabay, 18 April, 2016.

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Great Bear Rainforest

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An agreement was reached last week to protect the vast majority of Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, one of the largest old-growth temperate rainforests left in the world.

The deal is between First Nations governments, the provincial government of British Columbia, and the forestry industry that fulfills commitments first made a decade ago as part of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements.

With the agreement, some 3.1 million hectares (7.7 million acres) of the Great Bear Rainforest, over 85 percent of the temperate rainforest in the remote coastal region will be permanently off-limits to industrial logging. The remaining 15 percent (550,000 hectares or 1.2 million acres) of the forest will be subject to “the most stringent legal standards for commercial logging operations in North America.

The agreement requires a 40 percent reduction in logging compared with 2006 levels — or 2.5 million cubic metres (88.2 million cubic feet) per year — for the next 10 years. After that, logging will be done on a “conservation trajectory.” Logging companies will have to make annual progress reports to the public to ensure they meet the required conservation targets.

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The agreement also solidifies First Nations governments’ shared decision-making powers with the B.C. government within their traditional territories and establishes measures to improve the wellbeing of First Nations communities.

This is a  victory for the global climate, as well, as B.C.’s coastal old-growth rainforests are known to store large amounts of carbon, meaning that increased protections will result in an immediate reduction in carbon emissions from deforestation.

Just over half of the region known as the Great Bear Rainforest, which encompasses about 6.4 million hectares (15 million acres) of coastal B.C., is covered by forest ecosystems (around 3.6 million hectares, or 8.9 million acres). It is the traditional territory of 26 First Nations.

The Great Bear Rainforest provides habitat for a number of iconic species, including towering, ancient trees as well as grizzly bears, orcas, salmon, wolves, and the unique, white-furred black bear known as the Spirit bear that the rainforest is named for.

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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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British Columbia Wildlife Hero

 

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British Columbia conservation officer Bryce Casavant has been suspended without pay for refusing to kill two black bear cubs. He was reportedly asked to destroy the cubs, as well as their mother, after the mother repeatedly raided a freezer full of meat and salmon. The cubs — a brother and sister — returned to the property looking for her.

Despite an order to kill the cubs too, Casavant took them to a veterinary hospital. They are now at a recovery centre run by the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington which, like Port Hardy, is on Vancouver Island.

According to CBC’s Robin Campbell, the recovery centre’s manager said that the conservation officer did the right thing as the cubs are not habituated to humans and can be reintroduced to the wild. “The mother bear was a problem, but these cubs did nothing.”

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B.C. conservation officer Bryce Casavant

The conservation service was called by a concerned homeowner whose freezer had been repeatedly raided by the cubs’ mother, The incident was then reported by a community paper, the North Island Gazette, an online petition was started to reinstate the conservation officer. (North Island Gazette). “In 30 years, this is the first time we’ve ever had an issue like this,” said the paper. “There has to be some kind of misunderstanding. Hopefully somebody will come to their senses.”

The B.C. Ministry of Environment hasn’t said what it plans to do about the cubs now, but in a statement said the Conservation Officer Service is investigating “this situation, including the actions of its members.”

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