Category Archives: Wildlife Activists

Your Favorite Big Mammals Are in Deeper Danger Than You Thought

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A report in the journal BioScience recently revealed that some of the world’s most beloved large mammals could disappear forever if action isn’t taken soon to protect their habitats. Threatened megafauna, which typically inspire more public sympathy and concern than similarly endangered species of plants, bacteria, or smaller animals, in this case include bears, rhinos, and gorillas. In the report, titled “Saving the World’ Terrestrial Megafauna,” a global team of conservation scientists laid out issues of particular concern to these animals’ well-being, including vast deforestation, the expansion of land used for livestock and farming, illegal hunting, and rapid human population growth.

“The more I look at the trends facing the world’s largest terrestrial mammals, the more concerned I am we could lose these animals just as science is discovering how important they are to ecosystems and to the services they provide to people,” said William Ripple, an ecology professor at the College of Forestry at Oregon State University and the report’s lead author. “It’s time to really think about conserving them because declines in their numbers and habitats are happening quickly.”

The 43 scientists note that large mammals have widespread impacts on their ecosystems, and affect everything from regulating disease risks for humans and maintaining healthy populations of animals lower down in the food chain, to preventing wildfires and spreading seeds. The experts examined global trends confronting lions, rhinos, wolves, zebras, tigers, elephants, and other animals, concluding that “Most mammalian megafauna face dramatic range contractions and population declines.In fact, 59 percent of the world’s largest carnivores and 60 percent of the world’s largest herbivores are classified as threatened with extinction on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List. This situation is particularly dire in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, home to the greatest diversity of extant megafauna.”

The scientists finished the report with a call to action for world leaders: “We must not go quietly into this impoverished future. Rather, we believe it is our collective responsibility, as scientists who study megafauna, to act to prevent their decline. We therefore present a call to the broader international community to join together in conserving the remaining terrestrial megafauna.” Hopefully their voices and research will not fall on dull ears, but will help leaders and the public come together to take measures to save these large creatures, beautiful and vital for our planet’s health.

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Source: Silva, Christina. “Humans Cause Animal Extinction: Large Mammals Including Elephants And Gorillas Are Under Threat, Study Finds.” International Business Times. 27 July 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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NOISE POLLUTION THREATENS MARINE LIFE

We frequently hear about warming ocean temperatures, waste pollution, and habitat loss in marine environments, but little attention is given to another large issue affecting marine life: noise pollution. Noise pollution is beginning to show a major physical and behavioral affect on marine species ranging from whales, sea turtles, and sea birds to carbs, shrimp, and invertebrates. The pollution is mainly coming from the explosive sounds made by cargo ships, sonar guns, and air guns used by the U.S. Navy and during gas exploration. One species in particular, the Blue Whale, is drawing more attention to the issue because of how they’re affected by the noises.

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Noise pollution can be harmful in multiple ways. Species of whales and dolphins rely heavily on sounds while communicating with each other, hunting prey, escaping predators, and finding mates. The loud noises made during human activity can mask the sounds made by the marine organism, causing it to become lost or separated from its family, or interrupting its role in the food web. Noise pollution can also physically harm marine organisms depending on the size of the vibrations caused by the sound.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has attempted to eliminate this issue on a case-by-case basis, preventing the use of the sonar guns or cargo ships when an organism is present in the nearby distance to the source of the noise. NOAA has now spent 6 years drawing an Ocean Noise Strategy Roadmap to deal with noise pollution and bring more attention to this issue. Not only are endangered species being watched closely, but also the entire effect from noise pollution is being researched to determine how whole marine environments are being altered.

Source: Goldman, Laura. “A Plan to Mute Ocean Noise for Marine Life.” Environmental News Network. 15 June 2016.

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Christopher J. Gervais, F.R.G.S.

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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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Christopher J. Gervais, F.R.G.S.
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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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Christopher J. Gervais, F.R.G.S.
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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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Wildlife Conservation Film Festival
Christopher J. Gervais, F.R.G.S.
Founder & CEO
Christopher@WCFF.org
http://www.WCFF.org

Facebook.com/WCFForg
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Twitter: @CJGERVAIS
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