Category Archives: North America

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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Manatees may lose Endangered status

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The West Indian Manatee will lose their status as endangered species under a proposal announced by federal wildlife managers, who say the marine mammals have made a robust recovery since first receiving protection in 1967.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to reclassify the manatee from endangered to threatened in response to a review initiated by a petition from the Pacific Legal Foundation, a free-market legal advocacy group that represents property owners on the Gulf coast. The petition was submitted on behalf of Save Crystal River, a group of property owners concerned about boating restrictions in King’s Bay in Citrus County.

“It’s really a success story,” said Jim Valade, Florida Manatee Recovery Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, on Thursday. “They still need our attention without a doubt, but they are no longer in intensive care per se.”

The agency said the species, one of the first in the nation to be classified as endangered, has increased in numbers over the past few decades and appears robust enough to face a very low risk of going extinct. “Current population estimates are 6,350 manatees in the southeastern continental United States and 532 manatees in Puerto Rico,” the wildlife service wrote in a notice to be officially published Friday. “These numbers reflect a very low percentage chance of this animal going extinct in the next 100 years.”

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A species classified as threatened retains virtually the same protection against being killed, harmed or harassed as one classified as endangered. Government agencies must take them into account in approving construction or other activities that could affect them. No-wake zones and fines for boaters who ignore them will remain in place.

The agency said the reclassification would not affect conservation measures that it credits with the manatee’s rebound, such as the establishment of more than 50 protected areas and restrictions on the construction of docks. But the reclassification would be a step toward removing the manatee altogether from the protected list, which would cost it much of its legal protection. Threatened means the species can become endangered in

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans a public hearing and will accept public comments before announcing a final decision. The 90-day comment period begins Friday. Conservation groups denounced the decision, saying the same threats that landed manatees on the endangered species list persist today.

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Manatee’s have come a long way, but is still threatened by boat strikes, cold stress and undiagnosed mass die-offs in the Indian River Lagoon. An estimated 60% of the state’s manatees rely on artificially warm water generated by power plants to survive.

There are fines for boaters that hit manatees and while these fines would remain  who speed through a “manatee protected area” , most are never caught. 87 manatees were killed in 2015, that is 14 more than in 2014. The record number of manatees killed by boats is 95 back in 2009.

This female manatee seemed to be checking on this young male manatee and having some social interaction. She isn't the mother, but possibly the young one's mother left him up in the springs while she went to feed. He looked bored and forlorn. Is this female manatee a friend of the family?

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Governor of Montana gives Christmas gift to Bison

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Wild bison will be allowed to migrate out of Yellowstone National Park and stay in parts of Montana year-round thanks to Governor Steve Bullock. The governor agreed on 12/12/15 to expand year-round habitat protection for wild bison in Montana outside Yellowstone National Park.  Historically, thousands of wild bison have been hazed or killed as they migrated from Yellowstone into Montana during the winter and spring months. This will allow hundreds of wild bison to live without the fear of being killed as the search for food in lower elevations in an area 400 square miles north and west of the park.

Wild bison have largely been blocked from staying in Montana year-round like other wildlife due to a concern by cattleman and ranchers that their livestock could contract brucellosis, an introduced disease that can cause infected pregnant animals to miscarry. This disease may spread to domestic livestock from the migrating wild bison and elk.

The chances of infection are small and there are management tools available to prevent such a transmission from happening. In fact, no documented transmission from wild bison to livestock has ever occurred.

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The governor did ad that he plans to continue to pressure the National Park Service to reduce Yellowstone population of nearly 5,000 bison. Yellowstone has one of the largest wild bison herds remaining. Since the 1980’s more than 6,300 wild bison have been killed to “cull” the species in response to the fear of brucellosis spreading.


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Why is Government killing Wild Horses?

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The American Wild Horse, also known as “Mustangs” descended from Spanish horses and were brought to North America in the 16th century by Spanish explorers. Their name in Spanish, mustengo, means “stray horse.”

In November of 2015, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) completed a roundup of roughly 1,400 wild horses in the state of Oregon, in Beaty’s Butte, historically known as the area of the Kiger mustangs.

According to a Pacific Standard report, there were five deaths on November 19, including “one 8 year old mare with old break in right hind leg and one 4 month old colt with old break in left hind leg.” Two days later, 16 horses were dead. According to another report published in the same article, “The most heartbreaking [scene] of the day involved the foals. The helicopters are running these horses from very long distances, and often foals just can’t keep up for as long as the rest of their herd.”

Once 2 million wild horses roamed across the United States during the in the 19th century. By the time the wild horse received federal protection in 1971, it was officially estimated that only about 17,000 of them roamed America’s plains. More than 1 million had been conscripted for World War I combat; the rest had been hunted for their flesh, for the chicken feed and dog food companies, and for the sport of it.”

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In response to public outrage over the horses’ annihilation, the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse & Burro Act was passed, protecting wild horses from capture and death. The BLM and the U.S. Forest Service were responsible for implementing the act and ensuring protections were in place for the wild horses while they also issued grazing permits to cattle ranchers on public land.

While they were once considered iconic and majestic, wild horses are now deemed nothing more than a nuisance by ranchers who use federal land for subsidized grazing. And we’ve let them down. Big time.

When the BLM deems wild horse numbers to be in excess of manageable levels, today there are roundups where helicopters along with men on horseback chase down fearful and frantic herds. These frightened animals are often wounded in the process, many are trampled by their fellow horses and many die. Numerous captured horses are sent to long-term holding pens. Some even end up being adopted. Others end up at slaughter. Although the BLM states firmly that they do not send horses to slaughter, among other claims, others say the horses they “manage” meet grim fates. A recent investigative report by the Office of Inspector General found unsettling information about the BLM selling horses to a Colorado rancher who in turn sent those horses to Mexico for slaughter.

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These violent culls happen all too often. Many cattleman seem to consider wild horses a nuisance. Many cattleman and ranchers who are opposed to wild horses say they are destroying the habitat and reproduce too quickly.  The almighty dollar is the root of the problem, with the beef industry at the center of it. The Department of Interior’s ‘multiple-use’ principles, allow only so much cattle, wildlife, and wild horses on federal lands.  The cattleman and United states government see that each horse removed  frees up space cattle or sheep.

Unfortunately there is nothing illegal with these culling’s. I believe it is immoral, but in the eyes of federal “law” it is not illegal. It is legal to buy horses in the United States and transport across country to sell for slaughter in Canada and Mexico.

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1,000 Bison to be killed in Yellowstone

 

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The National Park Service has announced that Yellowstone National Park intends to cull as many as a thousand of the park’s genetically unique and only continuously wild herd of bison. This annual slaughter has no basis in science, is unethical and is corrupted management precipitated by cattle ranching interests. The killing of bison is an annual event. Since 1985 some 8,634 Yellowstone bison have been “culled” to appease the livestock industry.

The main justification given for this killing is the fear of brucellosis transmission to domestic livestock. The Montana Dept. of Livestock and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) have worked together to perpetrate the idea that brucellosis poses a threat to the livestock industry. As a consequence the state and federal agencies, including the National Park Service, more or less restrict bison to Yellowstone Park (although there is a small area where bison are permitted outside of the park for a short period of time—but they are then killed by Native Americans and Montana hunters).

A BISON WALL EXISTS

Unfortunately for the bison, the urge to migrate in winter to find accessible food under shallow snow cover puts them in the cross hairs of the Montana livestock industry. A“bison wall” (analogous to the Berlin Wall) effectively confines them to Yellowstone National Park.

The main justification given by the livestock industry for its continued support of slaughter or hazing of wild bison is a disease known as brucellosis. There are reasons to believe that brucellosis is a Trojan Horse.

First, only infected pregnant bison cows  can potentially transmit brucellosis during the last trimester of pregnancy (February – April), bison bulls and calves are regularly slaughtered, so the killing of these animals demonstrates that brucellosis is not the primary reason for the containment of buffalo in the park.

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There are other animals that carry brucellosis. Some elk in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) are also infected with brucellosis. Predators and scavengers, such as coyotes, crows, vultures, and bears, are rarely infected as well, though they are not at high risk for shedding the bacteria.

Though there has never been a single documented case of brucellosis transmission to cattle from wild bison, all the instances of cattle infection seem to be the result of elk transmission.  Despite these well-known facts, bison are still singled out for control and death.

YELLOWSTONE BISON ARE UNIQUE AND THREATENED

The wild bison in Yellowstone are not just any bison herd. They are the only continuously wild bison left in the United States. They are the most  significant bison herd free of cattle genes. They are a national and international heritage. Most of the bison in the Untied States are managed as commercial livestock and selection is for traits favorable to domestication.

Both the Buffalo Field Campaign and Western Watersheds Project have petitioned to have Yellowstone’s bison declared a threatened distinct population segment under the Endangered Species Act. An earlier attempt to get the bison listed in 1999 resulted in the Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to consider the listing, however, they did acknowledge that the Yellowstone population may be discrete and may meet the criteria for Distinct Population Segment.

To treat Yellowstone’s bison in this matter is a national disgrace and crime against the environment. The fact that this killing has been on-going for decades without resolution is also a scandal and sheds light on the corrupt power the cattle industry has on American politics.

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A Call to Preserve Our Predators

A call to preserve our predators

By Cyril Christo / Wildlife Documentarian

The recent decision by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to increase the bear, wolf and mountain lion hunting quota dishonors New Mexico as a maverick gun-toting renegade state. Recently an appeals court opened the door to Wildearth Guardians to end the mercenary and cruel wildlife killing program that Wildlife Services had waged against wildlife. Game and Fish’s stated mission is to preserve wildlife for future generations. Heartlessly murdering the innocent is not part of its stated mission.

We are surrounded by states like Colorado and Arizona that outlaw trapping. We call ourselves the Land of Enchantment, but our acts of murderous folly conspire against this title. As recently stated by the Guardian, a paper written by a group of 14 leading ecologists and biologists from the U.S., Europe and Australia and published in the journal Science, calls for the establishment of an international initiative to conserve large carnivores and help them to coexist with humans. Failure to protect our top predators could soon have devastating consequences, they warn.

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“Globally, we are losing our large carnivores,” said William Ripple, the report’s lead author. “Many of them are endangered and their ranges are collapsing. Many are at risk of extinction, either locally or globally. And, ironically, they are vanishing just as we are learning to appreciate their important ecological effects.”

Ranchers abetted by certain political appointees want to maximize their profits. Never mind the lupophobia, the fear of wolves, that still exert its power over people’s imaginations. Cows that have run roughshod over a once magnificent continent full of forests may have their creditors, but it should not be in place of beings like bears who do not covet cows and mountain lions whose impact on livestock is less than negligible.

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Would you rather see this ?

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Or this ?

As a documentarian I blew the whistle on this generation of the elephant slaughter in the tremendous “Agony and Ivory”(written by Alex Shoumatoff) article launched by Vanity Fair in August 2011. The article went viral and galvanized the world. Initially, even the New York Times said it was not interested in elephants. Now the entire world is mobilized to stop the greatest mammalian genocide of our time.

Predators, too, need salvation or the children who are being asphyxiated with video games and Disney movies of Bambi and Nemo will wonder what adults did to the life force. In a time when a remarkable Love Song to the Earth created by singers from Paul McCartney to Sheryl Crow and others are pleading for the planet, it behooves us come to terms with what is at stake, a potentially lifeless planet. Why do we even consider slaying the irreplaceable? For money? For pride? For greed? We can never afford to tell the children “This is where the wild things were.” The masses of nature-deficit-afflicted kids will become a swarm of half children who will be deprived of the meaning of life, playing video games and adding to the tenor of the already most violent country on earth. As an elder in East Africa once told me, “The only thing left will be to kill ourselves!”

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Fish and Game must become an agency not for the execution of life but its maintenance, not so called management, a euphemism for outright murder. In The Great Gatsby, the author remarks that this country, the great sweep of its forests, was once commensurate with our ability to wonder. What indeed has happened to our ability to wonder? We are persecuting existence to the point where, if we are not very, very careful, we may well have nothing but a high-tech slum as Edward Abbey once warned us. Let us choose life!

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Teaching your children well?

Cyril Christo is an Academy Award-nominated documentarian who has published three books on wildlife and is working on a feature documentary on the elephant and a new book on Africa, Lords of the Earth. He lives in Santa Fe.

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The 2015 WCFF is October 16-25
New York, NY

Rescued Bears Roam Free

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Fours bears were forced to perform tricks and kept in tiny cages at a roadside zoo in Pennsylvania for nearly 20 years.  Even when the zoo was shut down in 1995 because of violations of the Animal Welfare Act, Fifi, Bruno, Pocahontas and Marsha were never allowed to leave their enclosures, not even for humiliating bicycle-riding for small crowds. The bears paced restlessly in their cages, had nowhere to hibernate, suffered from severe arthritis and another of other medical conditions.

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Thanks to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), all four of these bears got a new lease on life in 2014. The  bears have been brought to The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. There they will recover from their plight, learn how to be wild and live their remaindering days in dignity. The fours bears now live in two vast 15-acre permanent habitats. They can now ample space to climb and roam and bathe in pools. They can even hibernate in underground dens.

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Bruno in his new home, living a life with dignity.

PETA has now rescued 41 bears from roadside zoos and backyards across the country. I commend PETA for taking this action and rescuing these animals from a life of misery.

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