Category Archives: Illegal Wildlife Trade

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.


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


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


Costa Rica Bans Sport Hunting


Costa Rica just became the first country in Latin America to ban sport hunting. Costa Rica’s Congress voted unanimously on Monday to approve the ban, which will protect the country’s wildlife – including several species of native big cats. Any hunters caught breaking the new law will face jail time or hefty fines.

Hunters from around the world travel to Costa Rica to hunt the country’s jaguars and pumas for sport and to capture these species of cats and sell them on the black market as pets.  Illegal hunting tours bring in a pretty penny for tour leaders, and their popularity helped spur the newly announced ban. Parrots are also a target, since they can be captured and smuggled out to be sold as pets around the world.

Kinkajou climbing on branches in Costa Rica. ca. 1980-1997 Costa Rica

The Costa Rican people started the initiative to protect their wildlife  it began as a grass-roots campaign that brought over 177,000 signatures to the national Congress. Now that the bill has been approved, violators of the hunting ban will face up to four months in jail and fines up to $3,000.

Earlier this fall, an amendment was made to the country’s Wildlife Conservation law. The new hunting ban strengthens this reform. Costa Rica is a very environmentally conscious country, and it has placed a major focus on conserving its rich biodiversity.


 Wildlife Conservation Film Festival
& Biodiversity Conference
Christopher J. Gervais, FRGS
Founder & CEO
Twitter: @WCFF_org
Instagram: @wcff_2014
LinkedIn: Wildlife Conservation Film Festival

Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, Inc.

Three toedsloth

Pangolins and the illegal wildlife trade


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).


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.


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



Wildlife Conservation Film Festival
& Biodiversity Conference
Christopher J. Gervais, FRGS
Twitter: @WCFF_org
Instagram: @wcff_2014
LinkedIn: Wildlife Conservation Film Festival