Cover pic Amazonian royal flycatcher by Rob Wallace
Just in case you missed these. (Click any image to go to the big beautiful originals)
Thanks to Garry Rogers for sharing these wonders.
Cover pic Amazonian royal flycatcher by Rob Wallace
Thanks to Garry Rogers for sharing these wonders.
This is a heartfelt plea from Dana Hunnes,
In this important article she urges us to take action, and suggests what everyone of us can and must do to help save our planet from the brink.
I recently spoke at the “March Against Extinction” event in Los Angeles as a way to call attention to how our diets, behaviors, and choices influence whether or not a particular species survives. While our individual choices represent a vote with our wallet, it is the policies and laws in various countries surrounding conservation, climate change, and agriculture that frequently play the larger role.
Right now in Taiji, Japan, dolphin hunts are underway. Every day from September 1 until March 1, dolphin hunters go out to the ocean and search for innocent dolphins, either to sell to amusement parks for hundreds of thousands of dollars, or to slaughter for “human consumption,” Yet, it is well known that dolphin meat has toxic levels of mercury, PCBs, and other chemicals; making this both a public-health and animal-rights issue.
The cruelty and injustice of these hunts cannot be understated. The demand for these dolphins comes from amusement parks around the world who want to “show off” dolphins and their “little tricks.” What’s more, dolphins are viewed as pests, competition for the fish that the world has overfished and removed from the oceans.
In sum: We take their fish, we make them toxic with chemicals that WE have dumped into their oceans, and then we blame them, and brutalize them.
These hunts, by the way, are sanctioned by the Japanese government.
Please share, and take as many of the actions she suggests as you can. Nothing could be more important.
A million thanks to the Switch Sisters who together make up owl machine, for nominating Animalista Untamed for the One Lovely Blog Award. And especially for their kind and very generous words about my posts and this blog.
Do go take a look at owl machine. Their specialty is Disney movies, fantasy and kids’ lit, with a little Animal Rights thrown in for good measure. The style is so quirkily entertaining that I find their posts a joy, even when I haven’t seen the movie or read the book myself!
So, as the rules of the Award dictate, I have to say –
Seven Things to Know About Me
1 I’m an islander. I come from the little island of Guernsey in the Channel Isles, a beautiful place to grow up. But I left my island long ago, and I get homesick a lot.
2 I’m a frustrated activist. Would love to be out there with the badger patrols and the Earthlings Experiences, but personal circumstances don’t allow. So I write, share and tweet instead. It is my job.
3 My idea of heaven would be caring for animals in my own animal sanctuary.
4 No, strike that out. My idea of heaven would be a world with no slaughterhouses, no zoos, no trophy hunting, no blood sports, no poaching, no horse- or greyhound racing, no culling of innocent creatures, no fur farms. A world where everyone is vegan, and wildlife habitat is strictly protected. A world where ALL animals – grudgingly even humans – have equal rights.
5 For the last six weeks I’ve been grieving the loss of my beloved rescue girl Holly, who came to me from Manchester Lost Dogs’ Centre 15 years 4 months ago at the age of 7 months. For those whole 15+ years she and I were together every waking second of the day. She even came to work with me. There is nowhere I have been where she wasn’t by my side. I never knew my heart could hurt so much. I love you Hols, and always will – till we’re together again.
6 I’m a grandma. That’s a pretty amazing thing to be. The sweetness of seeing through a small child’s eyes, when they only know the world as kind and good, and every little thing is a cause for wonder.
7 My favourite historic figure is St Francis of Assisi – who else?
DirtNKids This is Shannon’s latest and gorgeous post about Autumn. If you love nature, the simple things in life, gardening, nice natural photos and yes, dirt and kids, you will love this blog.
Violet’s Veg*n e-Comics A fabulous colourful blog of books, comics and poems for kids – and bigger kids like me! I’ve been loving the serialised adventures of intrepid animal-protector Luke Walker. This is a must-visit blog.
Rantings from a Virtual Soapbox Human and animal rights, environmental issues, painstakingly researched and reliable, usually with links for action we can take. Really making a difference.
And finally –
Here are the rules for accepting your One Lovely Blog Award nomination:
For better or worse, drones are changing our lives in ways we never could have imagined. And we may as well get used to it, because they are definitely here to stay.
Did you know that for as little as $150 and a mere 15 minutes of your time you can build your own drone out of Lego? I’m not kidding. A company called Flybrix will sell you a drone kit which comes with enough Lego bricks for you to be able to create yourself a quadcopter, octocopter or hexacopter – take your pick.
Drones are rarely out of the news these days. From unmanned military aircraft in the skies over the tragic country of Syria to Amazon’s proposed new delivery service, drones are everywhere.
In a world first, the Dutch National Police now use trained raptors (bald eagles) – yes, really – to take down the ‘bad’ 5% of drones that are not ok. ‘Unmanned threats’ might just be drones in the wrong place like flight paths, or drones operated by criminals and terrorists with more sinister intent.
But set the eagles aside for one moment – and the sad truth that the human race keeps finding new ways of forcing every animal imaginable and unimaginable into its service. Drones have the incredible potential to help save animals, and indeed the planet.
“As we face a period of mass extinction — of a potentially irreversible depletion of the web of life that sustains us — enterprising conservationists are exploring how new technology might curb those losses. In the near term, this involves eyes in the sky: drones. But in the long term, it may consist of something more comprehensive: semi-autonomous networks of sensors, some of them mobile and enhanced with artificial intelligence, that act as stewards of the wild.”
Drones saving the planet is a big claim, but there is some cause for optimism in the conservation community. Even quite basic drones have already made a significant difference to the animal kingdom.
No-one with an interest in conservation, wildlife or animal rights needs telling about Japan’s illegal whaling in defiance of the International Whaling Commission. Or Sea Shepherd’s war on the whalers. Sea Shepherd received its first drone as a donation in 2011. They intended to use it to film marine life for their TV show on the Animal Planet channel, but found that – even better – the drone could be deployed to collect evidence of the whalers’ illegal activity. And being able to fly even in fog and hover right next to a boat gives them the edge over helicopters. Plus they come with a much smaller price tag!
Each of Sea Shepherd’s ships is now equipped with its own drone, and their deployment has brought down the Japanese’ whale catch to less than one third of their expected quota over the last five years. Sea Shepherd’s founder Paul Watson is an enthusiast. “The only way to combat [illegal whaling] is to have the best technology we can deploy,” he said. “So far, this is the best.”
Naturally, drones are being used over land as well as sea, as for instance in orangutan habitat surveys in Borneo. Surveying on the ground in tropical rainforest is difficult, hazardous, expensive and time consuming. But even a basic drone can provide images that allow conservationists to pinpoint orangutan nests, as well as distinguishing different kinds of land cover – forest, roads, corn fields, oil palm plantations, illegal logging and fires. Drone surveys are fast, inexpensive and invaluable.
There is no end to the projects in which drones play the leading role. These are just a few –
Not before time have drones appeared on the scene. According to a disturbing new study, the Earth’s wilderness areas will be completely wiped out by the year 2100. And plants and animals are reaching the point of extinction at a disastrous rate – a thousand times higher than would happen if no humans were living on the planet.
There are many reasons for this frightening state of affairs, not least among them the fact that a staggering 30% of the Earth’s land mass is being used for animal agriculture, and this can only increase given the emerging economies’ new appetite for meat and dairy products, China of course, being the biggest.
With its rapid growth in wealth comes a ravening lust after raw materials and products of every kind, whether traded legally or illegally. China has become a black hole, sucking in everything within its earth-embracing gravitational field: ivory, rhino horn, shark fins, pangolin scales, tiger parts, bear bile, seahorses, and more. Rhino horn and elephant ivory are literally worth their weight in gold.
As we are all only too aware, Africa’s iconic animals are being decimated. “South Africa’s Kruger National Park is ground zero for poachers,” says Crawford Allan, spokesman for the World Wildlife Fund’s crime technology project. “There are 12 gangs in there at any [given] time. It’s almost like a war zone.” And its not just the wildlife that’s dying. African park rangers are being murdered at the rate of 100 a year.
China may be the biggest consumer of illegally trafficked protected and endangered species, but by no means the only one. The US, Vietnam, Lao, the Philippines are but a few of the rest. The illegal wildlife trade is worth billions, equal in value to the illicit trades in arms and drugs. The WWF has even suggested that the trafficking mafia have now become so large and powerful, they pose a real threat to the stability of some nations.
This is the scale of the problem the little drone is up against.
And the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, even a virtually noiseless second generation one equipped with thermal imaging that simply returns to base with nice snapshots, is not actually much help alone in the fight against poachers. By the time staff on the ground have examined the data and sent rangers to the right location, the poachers are long gone, leaving a bloodied butchered corpse behind.
“You can have a drone flying for 100 hours. But if you can’t get a team there in 5 minutes, what’s the good of having a drone?”
What is needed is a ‘cyber canopy’, which is exactly what WWF have developed with the aid of a $5 million Global Impact Award from Google. Their system comprises 5 technologies, the foremost of which is the UAV (the drone), all rolled into one package: the WWF’s Wildlife Crime Technology Project
I’m glad to say, already in successful use in Namibia, Kenya and Nepal combating poaching and wildlife crime.
The problem is that conservation organisations mostly don’t have a cool $5 million at their disposal and cannot afford such sophisticated systems and top of the range drones – the very topic primatologist Serge Wich and academic colleague Lian Pin Koh were brainstorming one fine day over coffee. From this meeting of minds emerged the seed of an idea which a year later burgeoned into their non-profit organisation Conservation Drones.
These two men have a vision. They see a future where swarms of semi-autonomous drones fitted with infrared cameras patrol protected areas, relaying back their own garnered data as well as data beamed up to them from camera traps on the ground. This is the first step towards a conservation version of ‘The Quantified Self-Movement’. If like me, you are new to this concept, the QSM is “A wide-ranging Internet of Things (IOT) ecosystem …to support the process of connecting real-world objects like buildings, roads, household appliances, and human bodies to the Internet via sensors and microprocessor chips that record and transmit data such as sound waves, temperature, movement, and other variables.” We are practically there already with our smartphones, fitbits, tablets, cameras and watches, cars, home appliances, medical equipment, aircraft and weaponry.
Now for ‘buildings’, ‘appliances; and ‘humans’ substitute camera traps, different species of animals and well yes, humans. What is needed to enable drones to gather, identify and relay back this data and create that cyber canopy, a ‘quantified biodiversity system’ if you like, is Artificial Intelligence. And in fact AI software for drones already exists. A Dutch firm Birds.ai is selling their version to farmers for monitoring livestock and crops. It enables UAVs to distinguish cows from deer, trucks from tractors.
Ironic isn’t it, that livestock farmers who must take quite a lot of responsibility for destroying habitats and their biodiversity along with them, are the ones who can afford this technology. Conservationists not so much. All is not lost though. Birds.ai, rather like its name, has two wings, one commercial and one non-profit, and the latter aims to supply the software for next-to-nothing to the cash-strapped conservationists.
But if anyone has big money riding on all this, it’s the trafficking cartels. What’s to stop them using the same kind of technology to outsmart the embattled conservationists? Or even hacking the conservationists’ own systems to locate for themselves the animals and the rangers? As with all forms of cyber hacking, it will be a big challenge to stay ahead of the game.
And quite apart from that not-so-little problem, is a piecemeal approach to wildlife and its habitats, a project here and another there, even with the aid of drones, really going to halt our headlong rush to planetary armageddon? Not in the opinion of renowned biologist Professor E.O. Wilson. His is a much grander plan, but one he believes to be imperative if we are not to lose vital wilderness habitats with all their biodiversity – and indeed threaten our own existence. His bold idea is to keep only half the planet for humans, and designate the other half solely for the wild – Half for Us Half for the Animals. Which of course doesn’t mean splitting the Earth in two pole to pole! Rather establishing a worldwide system of protected wilderness areas linked by wildlife corridors.
In this scenario, semi-autonomous drone ‘eyes in the sky’ would provide invaluable guardianship of the wild against human incursion. And with the massive quantities of ecological data they provide, we would be better able to monitor the status of Nature’s health. Carnegie Science already has ambitious plans to use their own advanced UAV to create a 3D animal mapping of the entire world and to monitor climate change. That is a huge ambition. Knowledge is power, and accurate real-time data like this could provide an incredible basis for effective action to save the planet.
“So if human civilisation increasingly represents a kind of cybernetic superorganism – a vast, living network of machines and people that’s greater than the sum of its parts – drones may function as sensory organs informing this brain, as probes for what’s really a nascent planetary nervous system.
If we actually pull off this great retreat, this new human-machine life form will have done something highly unusual and perhaps unprecedented in the history of life on earth. Rather than furiously expanding until all resources are depleted, it will have deliberately retreated as a survival tactic. It will have made room for other life forms. A new sort of intelligence, one that’s proactive rather than reactive, will have emerged.”
Drones and all the potential they embody will play an indispensable part in this new mega-organism saving our precious wilderness and wildlife. But the drones, advanced and complex as they may be, are the easy bit. Now we just need to work on the humans.
To find out more about the use of drones for our wildlife and wild spaces see ConservationDrones.org
A Dutch company is training eagles to take down drones – Science Alert
Facts on Animal Farming and the Environment – One Green Planet
From the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s CEO, Azzedine Downes
‘The Internet just became a lot friendlier to wildlife, and a lot less friendly to wildlife criminals”
Yesterday we celebrated World Elephant Day with the good news that seven major online tech companies, including eBay, Etsy, Gumtree, Microsoft, Pinterest, Tencent and Yahoo! have united to adopt a new policy framework that will help protect animals from illegal online trade.
This announcement comes at a crucial time for wildlife. Take a moment to digest these shocking figures:
Many of the parts and products from those animals ended up for sale on popular online sites. The new framework will prohibit trade of a wide variety of imperiled wildlife and their parts, making it much easier for customers to know what is and isn’t allowed on these online platforms.
And whilst previously criminals could “shop around” for sites with the most relaxed policies, this latest agreement is a big step toward an industry-wide standard that eliminates the loopholes that that have made it easier for criminals to traffic wildlife online.
With this new policy, these companies put aside their commercial interests to work together to protect wildlife.
We were thrilled to partner with WWF and TRAFFIC on this important project. We’ll continue to work together to monitor progress and make sure that these policy changes accomplish what they’re intended to, but it is incredibly encouraging to see this latest development.
P.S. We have worked for years to make the e-commerce sector a cruelty-free environment, and this announcement is an important step towards that goal.
Sadly, Yahoo Japan has not joined the other online tech companies in adopting the new policy framework. Sign petition here to ask them to do so now.
August 21st 2016 Namibia and Zimbabwe have filed petitions to CITES to lift the international ban on the sale of ivory – Focusing on Wildlife
The Apocalypse is nigh – or so some top scientists – who should know – would have us believe. They say we may soon reach “The Singularity”, the point at which Artificial Intelligence can out-think us mere mortals, and will take over. Terminator or benefactor, which way will the robot super-race go? One robot at least is reassuring-
“Don’t worry, even if I evolve into terminator I will still be nice to you, I will keep you warm and safe in my people zoo where I can watch you for old time’s sake.“
That was robot ‘Android Dick’ speculating, as robots do, on the future of AI and humans in an interview for PBS in 2011. I’ve never had the chance to use a quote from a robot before!
I’m sure I’m one among many people, and that’s without consulting the nonhuman animals, who think that Android Dick’s plans to keep us in confinement could be just the thing. Because as it stands right now, the nonhuman animals are definitely being denied their fair share of the planet. How animal-friendly AI actually proves to be down the line remains to be seen, but here are 10 fascinating ways ever-accelerating technology is already helping animals, which no-one would have dreamed of a decade or so ago.
First up, while we’re on the subject of zoos, eZoo, an exciting project from a group of Spanish digital imaging experts to consign to history the inhumane confinement of nonhuman animals in conventional zoos. Using multimedia technologies, eZoo plans to give the 21st century zoo visitor an immersive – and much richer than the traditional – VR experience of animals behaving naturally in their own environment. It promises us the thrill of diving with a blue whale, or flying wing to wing with a falcon. “Creativity and technology at the service of science, education, and respect for animals.” eZoo is relying on crowdfunding. If you want to help get this project off the ground, click here.
Already saving animals with virtual reality and much more, is a company called INDE. Watch this brilliant short video for close encounters with killer whales, penguins and more!
INDE develops “augmented reality, virtual reality, motion capture, computer vision and robotics to create next generation platforms that change the way people interact with content.”
And what a big mouthful of ‘technologese’ that is. Scenes like the one above apparently involve overlaying computer generated images on top of real life (don’t ask!) The result is projected before the user on to a screen, in real time, for a mind-blowing wildlife experience. INDE’s system is already in use in museums and zoos around the world. SeaWorld, please take note.
Next up, and going from thrilling experiences of animals ‘in the wild’, to watching them in horrible confinement: Animal Equality’s iAnimal
For the very first time, you, me, anyone and everyone get to see exactly what the meat industry is so keen to hide behind its closed doors, what it wants no-one to see. Users of the VR headsets get not just to see the living hell of farmed animals lives, but feel it, live it. And iAnimal is already saving animals’ lives. In the 3 months since its launch, thousands in universities and businesses, at fairs and festivals have committed to cruelty-free living, after the chilling experience of finding themselves ‘inside’ factory farms and slaughterhouses – “you will be right there when they [the animals] take their last breath.”
If you can bear to watch even without the VR headset, click here. And share with your friends.
And so to the ‘meat’ that will put those factory farms and slaughterhouses out of business for good. We so hope. Meet the Beyond Burger, the 100% plant based burger that even ‘bleeds’ like meat, and is selling like hot cakes straight from the meat counter in the USA.
Find out more here
The Beyond Burger was developed in a lab, and labs are also our next stop. And this is massive good news for animals. Brand new, exciting, and of supreme significance, iChip, the human-on-a-chip being developed at the University of California which could replace animals in toxicology and new drugs testing. How amazing would that be!
Every year more than 100 million animals in the US alone, are subjected to chemical, drug, food, and cosmetics tests, as well as medical training exercises and experiments at universities. And that’s without including mice, rats, birds, and cold-blooded animals, which actually make up more than 99 percent of animals used in experiments, but because they are not covered by even the limited protections of America’s Animal Welfare Act, go uncounted.
iCHIP (in-vitro Chip-based Human Investigational Platform), reproduces four major biological systems vital to life: the central nervous system (brain), peripheral nervous system, the blood-brain barrier and the heart.
I for one just cannot wait to see this fantastic technology free those 100s of millions from their painful captivity and probable death. I hope it will become available for use worldwide.
Now we move from technologies that hold out the promise of freeing animals from harrowing captivity to new developments helping animals in the wild. How about this for a ‘save the rhino’ project, in this case the northern black?
What do you say to 3D- printed replica rhino horns? A truly off-the-wall idea. The horns are the brainchild of a company called Pembient, which makes ‘bioengineered wildlife products’. Their plan – which has the support of retail giant Amazon – is to flood the market with synthetic horns (supposedly indistinguishable from the real stuff) and in doing so push the price so low, poaching is simply no longer worthwhile.
Moving from one seriously endangered species, to all and every. “When it comes to studying the endangered species, it is very important to protect them where they are in their natural habitat. We want to rescue them, but how can we do it if we barely know anything about them?” Enter the drone.
Drones can be used for fun, like dressing them up as ghosts and skeletons for Halloween pranks (take a look on YouTube!) Or more seriously as in this instance, to provide an invaluable weapon in the crusade to save endangered species and their habitats. It seems that the images received from drones can be used for creating 3D models, or virtual reality landscapes. This gives researchers a new way of studying otherwise inaccessible territories, and without disturbing the wildlife – information that can be shared between conservationists worldwide. The Carnegie Airborne Observatory-3 has already been used to map tree diversity in the Amazon basin, and Carnegie Science plan to use it to create a 3D animal mapping of the world and to monitor climate change. Big ambitions, with hopefully positive results for our planet and the life on it.
And drones figure again. In December 2012, Google awarded WWF a $5 million Global Impact Award to create an ‘umbrella of technology’ to protect wildlife. Thank you Google. This is really 5 useful-to-animals technologies rolled into 1 package: the WWF’s Wildlife Crime Technology Project
Already in use in Namibia, Kenya and Nepal to combat poaching and wildlife crime.
Cheating a bit here, because I’m homing in on one particular piece of the Wildlife Crime Technology Project – the innovative camera and software system in use in Kenya, that stops poachers in their tracks.
It works like this: infrared cameras on stationary poles line the border of a park, with a mobile unit atop the rangers’ truck. The thermal cameras pick up heat emitted by people and animals and the accompanying software identifies whether that heat comes from a human. If it does, the computer sends an alert to the head warden, who deploys a quick response ranger unit to intercept the intruder. Simple! Well actually, complex and advanced – an incredible aid to stem the poaching tsunami in East Africa. Heartfelt thanks to Eric Becker who designed the system.
And we’re still in the same neck of the woods, geographically speaking. Advances in genetic sequencing and forensics.
With support from the WWF the Kenya Wildlife Service has launched one of the first forensic and genetics labs in Africa. Formerly, despite a relatively high arrest rate for wildlife offences, few offenders could be brought to a successful prosecution. Now, by creating a gene database of key wildlife populations, it’s become possible to trace confiscated ‘products’ to the scene of the crime, and help win convictions.
Last but not least – Number 10
A far cry from robots taking over the world, or humans-on-a-chip, Number 10 is very much down to earth but with a real feel-good factor – it’s animal prosthetics. This new possibility of giving individual animals a whole new lease on life, is of course a spin-off from developments in human prosthetic technology, but none the less valuable for that. We’ve moved on a long way from the days of messy plaster casts and moulds. Now 3D technology allows the creation of a perfect, light, smooth-surfaced prosthetic within hours.
So meet Holly, the pony suffering from debilitating laminitis, who had her Christmas wish come true.
The 3D printed shoe she was given redistributes her weight away from the painful areas of her foot. CSIRO’s printing expert John Barnes said, “We’re glad that this technology is opening so many doors and is now helping to aid the rehab process for these animals and get them walking comfortably again.”
Then see the sweet story of Cleopatra the rescue tortoise.
Cleopatra suffered a metabolic disease that weakened her shell because her ‘owner’ fed her the wrong diet. She now sports a shiny new shell at her forever home, the Canyon Critters’ Rescue in Colorado. Does she look happy or what?
And finally, Grecia the toucan who last half his top beak in an attack by a gang of teenagers. An injury like this means the bird had no chance of either eating or defending himself, and would certainly have died had he not been rescued by Rescate Animal ZooAve. The loss of his beak also affected his voice. There’ve been previous successful attempts at creating prosthetic beaks, for a penguin and an eagle, but Grecia’s beak proved a real challenge. Happily, Grecia can now eat normally and is back on song – literally! And here he is.
This won’t be the end of the story for Technology and the Animals. I just know there will be lots more good stuff to come 😀
From an animal rights perspective an independent Britain is worrying
As the pound plummets, billions are wiped off the stock market, the PM resigns, the political parties are in disarray, Scotland looks to leave the UK, and Europe itself looks set to crumble, to many it might seem trivial to say “What about the animals?” But not to me, not to us.
So what has Europe done for our animals? The EU has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and these are a few of its achievements over the last few years –
So what will animals lose?
I’m no expert on EU law, but having witnessed the Tory government’s utter disregard for animals here in the UK over the last few years, I would say we have much to fear.
This is a government under the thumb of the NFU that actually got the EU ban on bee-slaughtering neonicotinoids suspended.
This is a government under the thumb of the NFU that’s not only persisting with the cull of badgers, a protected species, but plans to extend it against all expert scientific advice.
This is a government under the thumb of the Countryside Alliance that wants to scrap the Hunting Act.
This is a government that has dragged its heels for years on its manifesto pledge to enact a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
This is a government that has made efforts each subsequent year to remove funding from the National Wildlife Crime Unit, which does outstanding work on a tiny budget.
This is a government which wants to deregulate farming – wants to remove welfare standards at present required by law for animals – so every last penny can be extracted from them. Back in March, they proposed scrapping the official code on farming chickens, and to allow the industry to regulate itself, a change that rang alarm bells with all those who care about animals, including the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming. And they intended the poor hens to be just the start. The Guardian reported:
“The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed it will now begin working with other livestock sectors in a staged timetable of reform. Other sectors that could get control of their own guidance include the cattle, sheep and pig farming industries.”
Nice use of the word ‘reform’ don’t you think? This is how my dictionary defines reform: “to make changes in an institution or practice in order to improve it“. So the Tories want to improve farming regulations, do they? For whom? Certainly not for the animals.
Factory farming is the most cost-effective way of turning animals into cash, and the industry has shown it can turn to extremely cruel animal farming practices in the pursuit of Rizla-thin profits
They hoped this one would slip under the radar, but the subsequent outcry caused them to shelve the plans. With people like Liz Truss, Owen Paterson and George Eustice still in the offing though, there is every chance we could see this noxious idea resurrected. If the Tories remain in power no longer subject to EU constraints, our animals will be at their mercy, and there is precious little of that particular quality to be found amongst them.
“If Britain leaves the EU, then current animal rights rules will not vanish overnight. But their future would not be certain long term, and from an animal rights perspective an independent Britain is worrying.
We have made impressive advances on animal rights in the UK over the years. But from an animal welfare perspective we really need continued European Union input. Animal rights are too important to be left to our current government, and if Brexit happens then the chances are that rights for farm animals will either stagnate or be whittled away.” Sam Barker in The Guardian 27th April.
It looks like we’re going to have our work cut out. We’re just going to have to raise our voice for animals even louder.
You can start by signing the petition here, to the UK Environment Secretary, Home Secretary & PM Ensure that environmental and animal welfare protective EU directives are kept
And another! 38degrees Keep the EU Laws that Protect the Environment
Post script Interesting short article by sentience-politics.org. 80% of our animal protection legislation has come from the EU, much of which this government has been reluctant to accept or implement.
Cruelty Free International thinks it likely that the UK will continue to follow EU directives affecting animals, at least in the short-term, since there will be so many other areas considered more important to negotiate.
Elephants and rhinos, rhinos and elephants – what else would an international summit meeting in Nairobi on wildlife crime be talking about?
Well, UNEP is hosting UNEA this very week, and if those acronyms are news to you as they are to me, they are respectively the UN Environment Programme and the UN Environmental Assembly. The meeting has the potential to be hugely important for these two iconic and endangered species in particular.
The opening session saw the launch of the Wild For Life campaign, asking you and me, governments and corporation to stand with the UN against wildlife crime and trafficking by making our personal pledge. Here is my certificate:
Kenya set the scene for the Assembly with its recent highly-publicised Burning of the Ivory last month. The country is showing it is serious about wildlife crime, and in spite of problems with corruption, its “investment in new legislation, strengthening anti-poaching effort on the ground and training investigators, prosecutors and judicial officers has paid off. The deterrent effect of all this effort is working. Poaching in Kenya has declined by 80% in just 3 years: this is the most spectacular demonstration of impact in any elephant range state.”
With ivory and rhino horn top of the agenda in Nairobi, environmentalists and all lovers of wildlife are keeping fingers and toes crossed that the UNEA conference will bring Swaziland and South Africa into the global consensus. That consensus being that all markets must be closed down and ivory and rhino horn put firmly beyond economic use. (South Africa’s Supreme Court, just this week, rejected the government’s appeal against the legalisation of domestic trade in horn. And Swaziland has announced it is putting a proposal to CoP17 summit of CITES members to take place in Johannesburg this August, to relax the ban on international trade.)
It’s time to put aside our differences and forge a global alliance based on our shared commitment to save African wildlife. Every day we delay, more elephants – and those whose job it is to protect them – will die. All the UN resolutions and the efforts by states will be in vain as long as wildlife criminals are able to operate with impunity and – if caught – to walk free from the courts.
The UN is now calling for “each country to prohibit, under national law, the possession of wildlife that was illegally harvested in, or illegally traded from, anywhere else in the world.”
“There is tremendous international goodwill on this right now. No one is going to stand up and say that wildlife trade should be less regulated,” said Theodore Leggett author of a new report for the UN.
Can you believe that as it stands, there is no internationally agreed definition for “wildlife crime”? That’s hard to credit in 2016 when we’ve arrived at a state where the world’s wildlife is under unprecedented threat from criminal syndicates.
The 182 CITES signatory countries also have widely differing penalties for CITES infringements, with many failing to recognise them as serious crimes.
Tanzania doesn’t appear to be underestimating the seriousness of elephant poaching though. Just this week they arrested ‘the Ivory Queen’, Yang Feng Glan, a Chinese grandmother. She is charged with trafficking 706 elephant tusks worth over $2 million, and allegedly ruled a network that linked local poachers to powerful Chinese buyers. It beggars belief that a person could oversee the slaughter of these beautiful animals out of sheer greed. If Tanzania can get a conviction the Ivory Queen faces up to 30 years in jail.Let’s hope she won’t be one of them to walk free from the courts.
And wildlife crime is not just a problem in Africa and Asia. The Liberal MEP Catherine Bearder says: “Organised criminal gangs are exploiting the minor penalties against wildlife trafficking in some European countries to accrue massive profits. Time is running out for many of our most beloved species. The penalty of wildlife trafficking must fit the seriousness of this crime.”*
Here in the assembly at Nairobi, as everywhere else when it comes to discussion about poaching and trafficking of the iconic big beasts, delegates struggle with this knotty problem – on one side, the advocates of a ‘sustainable’ trade to provide much-needed funding for anti-poaching protection and ‘conservation’, and on the other, ‘environmentalists who object to any financial commodification of animal species, particularly endangered ones.’ For more on this complex issue see Man, Money & Rhinos – Unraveling the Tangled Knot of Poaching
We won’t lose hope. We can turn our sadness and anger into action, and start with taking the pledge.
With special thanks to Garry Rogers for blogging about the Nairobi summit. This is Garry’s comment on the proceedings:
All Earth’s creatures need protection from humans. Sad that the ones that serve as the top regulators of ecosystem function are also the most visible and therefore subject to our purposeful abuse.
(Special mention of friend Christina Edwards who is acting as an interpreter at the Nairobi summit!)
*The World Wildlife Crime Report from The United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime (UNODC) identifies nearly 7,000 species that have been illegally traded and seized, including reptiles, mammals, corals, birds, fish and others. 164,000 seizures from 120 countrie
August 21st 2016 Namibia and Zimbabwe have filed petitions to CITES to lift the international ban on the ivory trade. They may find an ally in South Africa – Focusing on Wildlife
GLOBAL MARCH FOR ELEPHANTS & RHINOS
MARCH AGAINST EXTINCTION
On September 24th, 2016, people throughout the world will take to the streets and march as one voice. Unless action is taken now, we will lose these majestic, highly intelligent, and emotionally sentient creatures FOREVER.
More than 35,000 elephants are being killed every year so their tusks can be carved into ivory trinkets. A rhino is slaughtered once every 8 hours for its horn. Their only hope for survival lies in an immediate end to the ivory and rhino horn trade (both “legal” and “illegal”) and the chance to recover from decades of mass slaughter.
Let me give you a warning before you watch the video – it hurts. But not half as much as it hurt them. If you need anything to motivate you… https://youtu.be/y8eUw9btmkI
Please email us at email@example.com with any questions.
Join the 2016 Global March for Elephants and Rhinos! To find a city near you and March Against Extinction click here
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“We walk around armed at all times. We’re all living 24 hours in a state of readiness. You would start at first light trying to check on all your animals on the reserve, to make sure they’re alive” – Pelham Jones, president of the Private Rhino Owners Association
In 2007, 13 rhino were poached in South Africa. In 2008, 83. Since 2008 poaching has risen by – can you get your head around this? – 8,900%. And no, I haven’t made a mistake with the noughts. The strange thing is, until that time the white rhino population of the Republic of South Africa was actually increasing. It hardly seems possible. All we hear now is how to save from extinction the iconic African Big Five, one of which is of course, the rhino.
Many in the RSA now believe it’s no coincidence the massive upsurge in poaching suddenly began at just about the time the government decided – amid fears that the domestic trade was delivering poached horns into the hands of international trafficking networks – to impose the moratorium. Back then though, it took rhino protectors by surprise. Pelham Jones again, “We were caught with our pants down. We didn’t think the bad guys would come knocking on our door. We’ve been hit by a tsunami of poaching, and the onslaught is relentless.”
A few facts and figures
Exactly why is rhino horn such a valuable commodity?
It is after all just keratin – like our fingernails and hair. There’s a little bit of calcium in it and a lot of water. It’s just an outgrowth of the skin, and nothing like elephants’ tusks or buffalo horn. Well, it seems the market is as complex as the rest of the knotty rhino problem. Some are used for artefacts like daggers and bracelets. China and Vietnam have used the horn in traditional medicine for thousands of years to ‘treat’ fever, boils, epilepsy and such. But more recently it is the unlucky subject of an urban myth. A rumour went around that rhino horn had cured a top Chinese official of cancer. Not hard to imagine how that bumped up demand. Then because it is so astronomically expensive it’s seen as a desirable status symbol. So you might, for example, want to impress your boss by presenting him with a piece of horn, an expensive gift.
Does rhino horn work as a medicine? There’s slight evidence that it has marginal pain-killing properties – but then if you grind up water buffalo horn, it does just as well. So it’s more likely than not the placebo effect. And it’s not nearly as effective as paracetamol. As for the cancer cure, well …
At £43K a kilo of horn, poaching of the poor rhino continues to escalate. And at £43K a kilo, I suppose it’s not surprising to discover that there are already companies producing synthetic rhino horn which is of course, perfectly legal. Perhaps there’s money to be made with it, but debate continues as to whether synthetic horn will do anything to keep the rhinos safe.
So what protection methods are being tried?
The rhino in private reserves like Pelham Jones’s are the lucky ones. The animals are much more vulnerable in national and provincial parks. It’s verging on impossible to protect the beasts in Kruger National Park for instance, which covers a vast area, has long open borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and is surrounded by poverty-stricken communities. Corruption in the police, park rangers and government officials also threaten the rhino’s safety. Though their chances are better in the private reserves, the financial, physical and emotional cost to the owners of protecting their animals is bringing them to breaking point.
“We walk around armed at all times. We’re all living 24 hours in a state of readiness. You would start at first light trying to check on all your animals on the reserve, to make sure they’re alive, to check for tracks, to see if your fence hasn’t been cut. You’re working late into the night, you get a tip off or you see a set of vehicle tracks stopped along the fence. Or someone hears a fire crack or a gun shot going off. So your stress levels are skyrocketing all the time. You don’t relax, physically or mentally.
There’s not a day goes by we’re not out from dusk to dawn through the night patrolling. And this was the hardest thing for me to face, finding our rhinos and knowing that I’d failed them. That no matter how hard we tried, no matter how many patrols we do, the sleepless nights, the worry, they were still killed.” – Pelham Jones
For his 1000+ rhino, the largest privately-owned herd in the world, John Hume employs even more militaristic methods.
“I’m not giving you the size of my army, but I can tell you it’s far bigger than what I’d like, because it’s more expensive than I’d like. We have many vehicles patrolling all the time. We have a helicopter that flies all night. We are busy installing an early warning system on all of our perimeter fencing which will give an alarm in our ops room when anybody tampers with or climbs the fence.” The cost of all this? 3 million rand a month just for security – that’s over 1.5m pounds sterling a year.
Apart from keeping a private army like John, how else can the rhino be protected?
Lynn McTavish made the decision to dehorn her rhino. It’s painless and quite simple. You just hire a qualified vet, a helicopter pilot with helicopter and a capture crew. The rhino is darted, goes down, has its breathing monitored, and is kept cool with water. Removing the horn takes about 15 -20 minutes. The drug is reversed, the rhino wakes up and joins the rest of the herd. Simple. But expensive.
Another equally expensive method but more drastic, is to spoil the horn and make it unsaleable. This is what Linda Hearne director of the Rhino Rescue Project decided to do.
“So we set about a research project in which we infused the horns of animals with animal-friendly toxins and indelible dyes, and we did that in the presence of local communities and our staff. Because what we found was that 90% of poaching incidents are made possible with inside information. So to have that local community go out spread the message for you that these horns are now off limits has been an extremely valuable tool in our anti-poaching toolbox, and the results we’ve had thus far have been great.”
The problem as always is money. Many of the smaller reserves are struggling to meet the costs of protection. Linda says, “That has been the main challenge, the lack of funding, the lack of government support. And a lot of conservation bodies have come out and said they weren’t willing to assist.”
The same applies in the national parks. For Hendrik Asics, a park ranger in Pellensburg, resources are so limited he sometimes struggles even to feed his tracking dogs. Like so many others he risks his life every day to protect the rhino. “We’re fighting a losing battle at the moment, because we’re losing our rhinos at such a critical, alarming rate. When we walk in the bush and see a rhino that’s been poached, it puts tears in your eyes. It’s heartbreaking.”
So why do the rhino protectors keep doing it?
Because the animal has an appealing, gentle nature. Because of their vulnerability – “there not the smartest kid on the block and 3,4,5,6 animals can be shot easily in one incident.” Because they are an iconic species. Because the African plains will never be the same if they are lost.
Then what is the answer?
In the view of many private owners – the answer would be to lift the moratorium on domestic trade. There are already large stockpiles of legally obtained and confiscated horn which could be made available for sale. John Hume alone has stockpiles of 4,000 kilograms of rhino horn, his investment running into many millions of dollars. The owners want permission to sell, not out of greed, but because they believe it could check the poaching epidemic, and as a bonus, sales of horn would help fund those astronomical protection costs.
Why don’t they do it then?
Because their government has remained consistently opposed to the domestic trade ever since they introduced the ban 8 years ago. (And we’ve seen how well that worked out.)
Last year John Hume along with a colleague brought a case against the government. on the grounds it was their constitutional right as breeders to sell rhino horn. And they won. The judge found in their favour and the ban was overturned.
The government responded by lodging an appeal and re-imposing the moratorium on sales, pending the result. But in January this year, the High Court set the government’s appeal aside. Officially, domestic trade in horn is now legal though no-one has as yet applied for a licence to trade.
“By overturning the domestic ban, rhino owners might want to influence how nations vote at the CITES convention” – writes Anton Crone for The Daily Maverick.
The CITES global ban on trading rhino horn has remained in place since the 1970s. The RSA’s recently published National Treasury Report for Environment Affairs revealed the government’s intention to table a proposal for the lifting of the ban. The proposal will be put before the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which meets in Johannesburg this coming September. It will require a two thirds majority to be passed.
If the international ban is lifted in September, will we be able to stop worrying about the rhino?
That is very much open to debate. The private owners lobby hard for the lifting. But many conservationists say that reviving the trade would send the wrong signal to consumers in China and Vietnam, where groups such as Traffic and WildAid are trying to reduce the demand. And how could anyone be certain the traded horn came from legal supplies and not from poaching? Animal welfare organisations such as IFAW, say a legal trade could encourage more poaching by criminal gangs seeking to launder “dirty” horns in clean markets. And if more horn comes on to the market and the price drops, won’t that in turn stimulate demand?
In spite of the questions raised, all interested parties believe a radical new approach is needed, because right now efforts both to reduce demand in the Far East and to tackle illegal killing are simply not working.
And the world cannot afford to keep losing 3 precious rhinos every single day every week every month every year.
Sign and share Southern African Fight For Rhino petition to CITES
Good news just out on Earth Day :- the WWF has obtained a grant from Google “to engineer a remarkable new thermal and infrared camera and software system that can identify poachers from afar and alert park rangers of their presence.” Trials are being piloted in Kenya, and if the system proves a success WWF plan to roll it out across Africa. Read more here
The Story Continues to Unfold
The latest news from Care 2 is that South Africa is expected to propose keeping the ban on rhino horn trading in place at the upcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) at the convention to be held in Johannesburg this September. The recommendation comes from the Committee of Inquiry, which was tasked with advising the government on this issue.
It’s an interesting development since the internal trade in rhino horn has been declared legal by South Africa’s own courts. It looks like a case of ‘watch this space’.
Breaking news April 29th 2016: Swaziland Submits Rhino Horn Trade Proposal for COP17
Swaziland’s rhino horn trade proposal comes less than a year after its controversial sale of 18 of its elephants to three American zoos for $450,000 in order to help fund the country’s rhino conservation efforts (roomforrhinos.org). Read more about this controversial new move in the unfolding story of the South African white rhinos.
May 18th 2016 One man’s plan to save rhinos by airlifting 80 to Australia Focusing on wildlife
May 24th 2016 S Africa”s Supreme Court of Appeal rejected government’s appeal to keep domestic sale ban in place. Sale of rhino horn within S Africa is now legal.
May 24th Meet Chloe – a Belgian Malinois dog receiving anti-poaching training to protect orphaned rhinos in s S African sanctuary. You can donate towards her training at this link.
May 25th 2016 Sudan, Najin and Fatu, the last three northern white rhinos, thought to be incapable of breeding, the species now extinct. Focusing on Wildlife reports scientists’ attempts to save the species from extinction by harvesting the last eggs from the two remaining females and using advanced reproductive techniques to create embryos. If successful, it would be a world first, but a controversial one. People cannot be allowed to believe that science can always save the day, and right what humans have done wrong to animals and their habitats.
May 25th 2016 US State Department announced a five-year bilateral partnership with Vietnam to combat wildlife trafficking, Vietnam being, with China, the biggest market for rhino horn.
June 8th 2016 South Africa’s domestic rhino horn trade back on ice after Department of Environmental Affairs takes issue to top court – Business Insider
August 19th 2016 France bans all ivory & rhino horn trade – The Ecologist
Sep 11th 2016 SA’s Minister for Environmental Affairs says rhino poaching has decreased by 17.8% in Kruger National Park. The Minister said this in a statement on Sunday on progress in the implementation of the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros – South African Government News Agency
28th November 2016 Innovative Technology Creates Safe Haven for Rhinos – Focusing on Wildlife
15th February 2017 SOUTH AFRICAN ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS MAKES THE HUGE MISTAKE OF PERMITTING THE RHINO HORN TRADE – Vegan Lifestyle Magazine
To find out more about the pros and cons of legalisation visit Save the Rhino
To find out about a novel idea to ensure the survival of the species Click here
My main source BBC Radio 4 The Horns of a Dilemma