Category Archives: Christopher J. Gervais

The “Triple A”

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Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos has proposed to establish the largest nature preserve on the planet. The “Triple A Corridor” would go from the Andes to the amazon to the Atlantic. This massive environmental corridor would stretch across Brazil, Columbia and Venezuela, protecting 135 million hectares.

Amazon rainforest

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Christopher J. Gervais, FRGS
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Wildlife Criminal Arrested

Vast Haris Nasution

A prominent Indonesian wildlife trafficker who was arrested while trying to sell a baby orangutan was sentenced last week to two years behind bars and ordered to pay a Rp10 million ($752) fine. The trafficker, Vast Haris Nasution, admitted to running a trading network that stretches from Indonesia’s westernmost provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra, where he illegally sourced a variety of protected species and animal parts from local hunters and dealers, to Java in the center of the country.

Besides the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii), Vast Haris sold golden cats, porcupines, slow loris, siamangs, gibbons, hornbills and baby crocodiles, as well animal parts like hornbill beaks and the skins, claws and canine teeth of Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae). His capture followed the arrest and conviction of one of his staff, Dedek Setiawan. In April last year, conservation authorities found Dedek in the North Sumatran city of Medan with two golden cats, a siamang and a gibbon. He had been using the Internet to connect with buyers. A few months later he was sentenced to 16 months in prison and fined Rp5 million.

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Indonesia is a hotbed of illegal wildlife trading, but traffickers often escape significant punishment, so the verdict constitutes a win for Indonesia’s biodiversity. It is hoped this firm decision from the judge and prosecution today will have a deterrent effect among the community, sending a clear message that wildlife crimes can and will be punished.

Since the early 70s there have been over 3,000 confiscations of illegal pet orangutans in Sumatra and Borneo but only a handful of actual prosecutions, and all of them only in the last few years. Effective law enforcement and the threat of serious consequences for those involved is an essential component of the conservation arsenal if there is to be any hope of preventing the extinction of orangutans, and many other heavily traded and persecuted species here.

Wildlife Conservation Film Festival
& Biodiversity Conference
Christopher J. Gervais, FRGS
Founder & CEO
Christopher@WCFF.org
http://www.WCFF.org

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Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, Inc.

World Orca Day

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Today is World  Day. Keep these magnificent and majestic marine mammals where they belong, the world’s oceans, not in aquariums to perform in shows.

Surfing culture

Wildlife Conservation Film Festival
& Biodiversity Conference
Christopher J. Gervais, FRGS
Christopher@WCFF.org
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Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, Inc

The Vaquita: Desert Porpoise of Mexico

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The vaquita, is the smallest members of the porpoise family and found only in the waters of Mexico’s northern Gulf of California. The marine mammal, whose name means “little cow” in Spanish is rapidly becoming extinct as they accidentally drown in the gill nets local fishers deploy for fish and shrimp. According to a new report, their numbers have declined by more than 40 percent in just a single year. Now, only around 50

Vaquitas are shy creatures, and rarely seen, except when they are pulled to the surface, usually dead in fishing nets. They have been known to science only since 1958, when three skulls were found on a beach. At the time, it was thought that they numbered in the low thousands. Scientists and fishers alike say the animals, with their pretty facial markings and sleek bodies, are endearing.

There’s danger now that the porpoises will become the second cetacean (the first was the baiji, or Chinese river dolphin) to succumb to human pressures, most likely disappearing forever by 2018.

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Indeed, the government of Mexico established a presidential commission on vaquita conservation in 2012, when scientists estimated the porpoise’s population at 200. In 2005 Mexico created a refuge for them, banned all commercial fishing in the refuge’s waters, beefed up enforcement, and invested more than $30 million (U.S.) to compensate fishers and encourage them to switch to other fishing methods.

It also established the international scientific team to monitor the porpoise’s population, reproductive rates, and habitat. Its members hail from such august conservation bodies as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the International Whaling Commission, the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, and Norway’s Institute of Marine Research.

All were optimistic then. “We thought we were going to see the vaquitas’ numbers increasing by 4 percent a year,” said Barbara Taylor, a marine biologist with the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in San Diego, California, and a member of the team. “Instead, they’ve had a catastrophic decline of 18.5 percent per year.”

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The decline is due to illegal fishing that is out of control. In the past three years, illegal gillnetting for the totoaba, a critically endangered fish that can grow to more than six feet long (1.8 meters) and 300 pounds (136 kilograms), has surged. Unfortunately, the Vaquita and the similarly sized totoaba live in the same parts of the gulf.

The totoaba’s swim bladder, highly prized as a traditional health food and medicine in China, can fetch thousands of dollars. Few fishers can resist the temptation.

Scientists estimate that about 435 miles (700 kilometers) of legal nets are in the water every day during the fishing season, from mid-September to mid-June. That number is not counting the illegal nets for the totoaba,” Taylor says.

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Because of the vaquita’s timid nature (a sighting at 300 feet [90 meters] is considered close), scientists are not able to make visual counts of the animals. They rely instead on an array of special acoustic devices, deployed every year before the fishing season begins (they too are easily tangled in the nets), to record the sounds of the animals as they forage in the murky waters they favor. From these sounds, the researchers are able to estimate the vaquitas’ numbers.

Because the animal’s population is so low, the team says there is only one solution: Ban all gillnetting in the gulf’s upper regions, including the waters surrounding the vaquitas’ refuge. The ban must be strictly applied, even to the legal shrimp and fin fish fishery, and enforced with more police patrols on sea and land.

“It’s a hard choice,” Taylor acknowledges. Such a ban will hurt all the fishers, including those who aren’t engaged in the illegal fishery. But, she said, if Mexico doesn’t do that, it “will lose the vaquita.”

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Mexico, China, and the United States governments need to work together to control—if not end—the trade in totoaba swim bladders. The dried bladders are often smuggled across the U.S. border before ending up in the Chinese marketplace.

There is a modicum of hope. Even at only 50- 97 animals. the species can still be saved. Most marine mammals, including other cetaceans, that have been taken down through hunting have come back, so it’s not too late. But if nothing is done, they can also go extinct rapidly, as happened with the baiji. They can be gone before you know it.”

The commission will meet again at the end of August to discuss what to do next to save the vaquita.

greenpeace

 Wildlife Conservation Film Festival
& Biodiversity Conference
Christopher J. Gervais, FRGS
Founder & CEO
Christopher@WCFF.org
http://www.WCFF.org

Facebook.com/WCFForg
Twitter: @WCFF_org
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The forgotten Dhole

Dhole

The Dhole (Cuon alpinus) is a wild canid that are efficient predators and communal pack hunters. These rust-coloured carnivores roam the jungles and montane forests of Central and East Asia.  They are the only species in the Cuon genus.

According to the  IUCN Red List, there are only 949 to 2,215 breeding dholes left in the wild. This number is less than the world’s breeding tigers. Dholes have been mostly ignored by conservationists, researchers and the global public. They are a forgotten predator. Dhole’s are surprisingly small. At just 12-18 kilograms, dholes are 30 to 50% the size of your average wolf, making them smaller than many medium-sized dogs.

“Compared to a tiger, a dhole is not very ‘sexy,’” said Kate Jenks, a conservation biologist with the Minnesota Zoo who has spent nine years trapping, collaring and studying dholes in Thailand. “They tend to get overlooked by scientists and conservationists that are more interested in tigers and leopards that live in the same area.”

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The species roams regions inhabited by tigers, snow leopard, bears, wolves and leopards. Competition for prey and space can bring dholes into encounters with these other apex carnivores. Observers have captured videos of dholes harassing and holding their own against tigers. 

Dholes inhabit some of the most threatened, degraded and disconnected forest landscapes on the planet. The rainforests of Southeast Asia have seen unprecedented destruction over the past fifty years for palm oil, paper, rubber, timber, mining and other commodities. Where forests haven’t been destroyed, they have been fragmented by booming human populations, roads and ever-expanding development projects.

In addition to forest loss, dholes have suffered from a decline in their prey. Because dholes are hyper-carnivores that need relatively high prey numbers to raise litters and sustain large pack sizes. Overhunting and snaring has decimated many prey species across southern Asia. In fact, the region is known for so-called empty forests syndrome. Here, forests are largely emptied of any large-to-medium-sized mammal or bird, wiped out by hunting both for food and the Traditional Chinese Medicine industry.

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There are very few conservation programmes focusing specifically on dholes, but one of them is Ambika Khatiwada’s in the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA). in Nepal. Khatiwada is working with locals to live more peaceably with wild canid neighbors.

Khatiwada is also working with the local council on implementing a community managed livestock insurance scheme. Under this program, herders pay to have their livestock insured against attacks by predators, in this case dholes and snow leopards.

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As one of the region’s top predators, dholes have a potent ecological influence all the way down the food chain. While this has been largely unstudied in regards to dholes, research on other top predators – like wolves – has shown how these animals actually create more biodiverse and productive ecosystems by keeping prey species in check and in hiding.

Wildlife Conservation Film Festival
& Biodiversity Conference

Christopher J. Gervais, FRGS
Founder & CEO
Christopher@WCFF.org
www.WCFF.org

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Pangolins and the illegal wildlife trade

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Pangolins, or scaly anteaters, are nocturnal, ant- and termite-eating mammals found in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa whose bodies are covered with overlapping scales made of keratin, the same protein that forms human hair and finger nails, and rhino horn. Thought to be among the most trafficked mammals in the world, pangolins are threatened by unsustainable and illegal international and domestic trade of their scales, which are used in traditional Asian medicine, and their meat, which is considered a luxury food in many cultures, as well as by habitat loss

There are eight pangolin species worldwide. Four of the species can be found in 17 range states across Asia, and four in 31 range states across Africa. Pangolins occupy a diverse array of habitats; some are arboreal or semiarboreal and climb with the aid of prehensile tails, while others are ground-dwelling. Some pangolin species sleep in underground burrows during the day, and others are known to sleep in trees. Pangolins dig burrows with their strong front legs and claws, using their tails and rear legs for support and balance.

A BABY PANGOLIN SITS ON THE BACK OF ITS MOTHER AT A ZOO IN BHUBANESHWARA BABY PANGOLIN SITS ON THE BACK OF ITS MOTHER AT A ZOO IN BHUBANESHWAR. A baby pangolin sits on the back of its mother at a zoo in the eastern Indian city of Bhubaneshwar February 22, 2001. The Nandan Kanan Zoological Park is believed to be the only zoo in India that houses such pangolins, and has been doing so since 1971. There are seven pangolins in the zoo. - RTRENDQ

Pangolins are insectivores. They use their claws to break into nests of ants and termites, and they use their long, sticky tongues to lap up the insects. A juvenile pangolin will remain with its mother for three to four months and cling to its mother’s tail as she forages for insects. Pangolins have few defenses beyond their scaly exterior. While their habit of rolling up in a ball is an effective response to predators, the behavior actually makes it easier for poachers to collect and transport these toothless mammals.

Despite protections under CITES and domestic laws, poaching and illegal trade in pangolins continue at a high rate. Recent IUCN Red List of Threatened Species assessments indicate that all eight species are declining and at risk of extinction. One species of pangolin, the Temminck’s ground pangolin, is also listed as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).

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Experts estimate that more than one million pangolins have been traded illegally in the past decade, making them one of the most trafficked mammals worldwide. At the 65th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee in July 2014, the CITES Secretariat stated, “illegal trade in pangolin specimens is escalating at an alarming rate” (SC65 Doc. 27), and gave a number of examples of seizures of large pangolin shipments including 10 tons of frozen pangolins on a Chinese fishing vessel that ran aground while returning to China from Malaysia.

Pangolins in general do not thrive in captivity, and their slow reproductive rate and low natural population density in the wild suggest that current trade levels are unsustainable. As Asian pangolin populations have become increasingly hard to find and are now subject to zero export quotas by CITES, traders have turned to the African pangolin species to meet market demand. Meanwhile, African species are under additional pressure from local and regional demand for bushmeat and other traditional uses, as well as from habitat loss. While live and whole dead specimens usually can be identified to the species level based on size, number of scales, and other morphological characteristics, commonly traded non-living specimens, such as scales and meat, are difficult for non-experts to identify to the species level, which complicates enforcement.

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First Pangolin Range States Meeting Co-hosted by Vietnam, the United States, and Humane Society International, June 24-26, 2015. Delegates from African and Asian pangolin range countries joined together for the first time to develop a unified conservation action plan to protect pangolins at the First Pangolin Range States Meeting. The governments of Vietnam and the United States co-hosted the meeting, which was organized and facilitated by Humane Society International.

Pangolins live in 48 countries: 17 Asian countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam.  31 African countries: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Pangolins perform important ecological roles such as regulating insect populations. It has been estimated that an adult can consume more than 70 million insects annually. Pangolins also excavate deep burrows for sleeping and nesting. Burrowing animals are sometimes referred to as “ecosystem engineers” as their burrows may be used by other species; for example new research shows that giant armadillos, South American mammals that fulfill a similar ecological niche to ground pangolins, dig burrows that are used for shelter by at least 25 other species

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Wildlife Conservation Film Festival
& Biodiversity Conference
Christopher J. Gervais, FRGS
Christopher@WCFF.org
www.WCF.org

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Lions Return to Rwanda

 

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Seven lions in top breeding condition will be translocated this week from South Africa to Akagera National Park in Rwanda in a ground-breaking conservation initiative.

Lions became extinct in Akagera 15 years ago when the species was poisoned by cattle herders in the years following the 1994 genocide when the park was unmanaged. The lions destined for Akagera include five females donated by &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, and two males that have been donated by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife from Tembe Elephant Park.

The Rwanda-bound lions have been selected based on future reproductive potential and their ability to contribute to social cohesion. They are sub-adult females and young adult males from different genetic stock. They will be fitted with satellite collars which will enable the Akagera park management team to monitor their movements and reduce the risk of the lions breaking out into neighboring community areas.

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“The return of lions to Akagera is a conservation milestone for the park and the country, says Peter Fearnhead, the CEO of African Parks, the organisation that has planned and is executing the translocation. “Restoring national parks to their former biodiversity state is a key deliverable of the African Parks conservation model and we, in conjunction with our Government partner, the Rwandan Development Board, are delighted to have been able to reintroduce one of the key species to this beautiful national park.”

Ambassador Yamina Karitanyi, the Chief Tourism Officer at the Rwanda Development Board says: “It is a breakthrough in the rehabilitation of the park under the public private partnership between the Rwanda Development Board and African Parks. Their return will encourage the natural balance of the ecosystem and enhance the tourism product to further contribute to Rwanda’s status as an all-in-one safari destination.”

Ambassador Yamina KaritanyiAmbassador Yamina Karitanyi


Wildlife Conservation Film Festival
& Biodiversity Conference

Christopher J. Gervais, FRGS
Founder & CEO
Christopher@WCFF.org
http://www.WCFF.org

Facebook.com/WCFForg
Twitter: @WCFF_org
Twitter: @CJGERVAIS
Instagram: @wcff_2014
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