How Our Mortal Remains Could Save Every Endangered Species on the Planet – But Wildlife Can’t Wait

Don’t panic. No-one is suggesting when we die our bodies should be scooped up and fed to hungry polar bears. Nothing quite that ghoulish. Though come to think of it, it’s not actually such a bad idea. I’d happily donate mine, if mama bear and her cubs could find enough meat on my skinny bones. But we’ll come to the what-to-do–with-our-dead-body bit shortly.

First the good news. Last week Professor Chris Thomas told us we should be cool about climate change and every other way humans are messing up the planet. Kick back and go with the flow. It’s just evolution taking its natural course. He also suggested we could be wasting good money trying to save endangered species that with the best will in the world, are headed inexorably for extinction. Well Prof Chris, maybe you should cast your eye over this –

“This paper sends a clear, positive message: Conservation funding works!”

So says John Gittleman, senior author of a new report about the effects on biodiversity of funding put into conservation projects around the world since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. The results from the global study are in, and it’s looking good:

  • The $14.4 billion spent on conservation 1992-2003 reduced expected declines in global biodiversity by 29%
  • 109 countries signatory to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity saw a significantly reduced biodiversity loss
  • 7 countries – Mauritius, Seychelles, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Poland and Ukraine saw their biodiversity improve between 1992-2008
  • 7 other countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, China, India, Australia, and Hawaii in the US are the locations where 60% of the world’s loss of biodiversity occurs

That last statistic doesn’t sound like good news, but it sort of is. If there are only 7 countries where most biodiversity loss is concentrated, then a little money in the right places goes a long way. Or, as Prof Gittleman puts it, “The good news is that a lot of biodiversity would be protected for relatively little cost by investments in countries with high numbers of species.”

“From this study, we know approximately how much a conservation dollar buys and where in the world it is best spent.” 

Now, the study’s method of data analysis will provide policy-makers in every country of the world a fantastic new tool for setting accurate conservation budgets. And that in turn will help them achieve internationally-agreed conservation goals.

Study’, ‘findings’, ‘statistics’, ‘report’ – those words have a pretty dull and clunky sound to them. But in fact, it would be hard to overplay the importance of this research work – it’s a godsend for the entire international community in our attempts “to balance human development with maintaining biodiversity….[and achieving] true sustainability.All of which equals more animals saved.

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Now that’s what I call good news – and who’d have thought data analysis could be so exciting!


Where to put to rest our mortal remains

Now we have the proof that conservation funding delivers results, where to find those funds?

We don’t like to think too much about the end of our days, but wouldn’t it be brilliant if there was a way to continue helping animals from beyond the grave? Well now there is, with Dr Matthew Holden’s genius idea. We could call it ‘Green Burial Plus‘.

Green burials are gaining in popularity, I’m glad to say. No pollutants like the formaldehyde and non-biodegradable materials used in traditional burials. And no trees cut down to create the traditional coffin – no waste of Earth’s precious resources reduced to ashes and releasing greenhouse gases. Instead we get to help provide a natural habitat for wildlife, with the satisfaction of knowing all the stardust in our bodies is returning to the earth. For once, a human life and death can nourish the planet rather than deplete it. This has to be the be-all and end-all, literally, of recycling.

So what could be better than a green burial?

Dr Holden’s idea, that’s what: Use burial fees to buy and manage new land specifically for wildlife habitat. Is that it? Yes, that’s it. It’s that simple. “The nature reserve [where our bodies would be buried] could be placed in an area that specifically maximises benefits for endangered wildlife.”

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Isn’t that the best?

How would this work? Well, take the US as an example. With 2.7 million folk reaching the end of their days each year, roughly $19 billion is being spent annually on funerals. Compare that huge sum with the mere $3-$5 billion the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) reckons are required to protect every threatened species on their lists.

And in the US conservation burial reserves are already a thing. There aren’t enough though. We need many many more in the US, in the UK – in every country if this way of conserving wildlife is to have any impact.

If we could get the powers that be to actually care enough about conservation, national registers on the model of organ donor registers could be set up for those of us who wish to donate our bodies and our funeral expenses to wildlife reserves. What a difference it would make. If we could…

Sadly, nothing is ever that plain sailing, is it? These are black times and conservation has serious opposition.


The Backlash – the Deadly Rise of Populism

“The recent trend toward populist politics has occurred, in part, as a result of a cultural backlash, where select segments of society have rallied against progressive social changes of the later 20th and early 21st centuries. This trend includes the Brexit vote in England, [and the] election of Donald Trump as U.S. President.”

Q. What has this got to do with conservation and wildlife? A. Everything.

Are you a populist? More likely a mutualist, I imagine. Mutualists see wildlife as “fellow beings in a common social community” – as opposed to populists who still cling to traditional ideas of human dominion over nonhuman animals, and view wildlife as either vermin to be exterminated, or quarry for their so-called sport.

Millennials swept forward on a tide of progressive ideas, mutualism for one. Just look at the incredible rise of veganism over the last couple of decades, matched by an ever-expanding interest in conservation and green issues. A survey in the millennial year 2000, found that 20 million Americans were registered members of the top 30 environmental organisations.²

But – and there’s always a but, isn’t there – Newton’s 3rd Law, “For every action force there is an equal and opposite reaction force”, is as true in society as it is in physics. Backlash was inevitable. In the US, the explosion between 2000 and 2016 of ballot initiatives to protect hunting rights is one sign of the pushback. This War on Wolves infographic exemplifies America’s populist backlash against conservation.

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‘America First’ puts wildlife last

Donald Trump, the epitome of populism. To say he is an enemy of wildlife is an understatement. More like the grim reaper.

“With President Trump at the helm of our nation’s wildlife ark, we are setting an irreversible collision course toward an environmental catastrophe of epic proportions.”¹

Here are some of his proposals for the 2018 federal budget:-

  • Funding for the agencies involved in combating wildlife poaching and trafficking, cut by more than half from $90.7 million to $40.9 million
  • Funding for USAID’s biodiversity program which in 2017 aided conservation projects in 50 countries, cut from $265 million to $69.9 million
  • USFWS’s International Species program for African and Asian elephants, great apes, migratory birds, tigers, rhinos and sea turtles, cut from $9.15 million to zero
  • Funding to protect new species under the Endangered Species Act cut by 17%
  • Funding for the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, cut $34 million, a 64% reduction
  • Funding for the State Department’s International Conservation Program giving financial support to the most important wildlife organisations including the IUCN, cut to zero

The savings made are less than a flea bite in a total federal budget of $1.15 trillion, but will spell the death sentence to thousands of animals all over the world.

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Who will benefit?

Poachers and criminal trafficking cartels

Who will suffer?

Poor communities in Africa and Asia. Elephants, pangolins, lions, giraffes, snow leopards, great apes, migratory birds, tigers, rhinos, sea turtles and many many more.

That’s just abroad. At home, the Environmental Protection Agency has become the Environmental Pulverisation Agency under Trump’s appointee Scott Pruitt.

And as for That Wall at a cost of $1.6 billion – what a long way $1.6 billion would go protecting wildlife! Trump’s border wall will imperil at least 93 endangered and threatened species, including jaguars and ocelots, and cut its malignant swathe through several important wildlife refuges.

The POTUS’s war on wildlife will decimate many of America’s iconic species, and could see wolves for just one, after 20 years of tireless conservation efforts to save them from the brink, pushed once again to the cliff edge of extinction.

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Wonderful as Matthew Holden’s vision is of reserves paid for by our burial fees, the clock is ticking for precious wildlife. The animals can’t wait for our demise. They need us now.

Congress has yet to sign off on Trump’s life-butchering budget. So if you are a US citizen, now is the time to let Congress hear your voice for wildlife.

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Join the Center for Biological Diversity    Join Defenders of Wildlife

A petition for everyone

Stop Federal Budget Cuts that Endanger African Wildlife

Petitions for US citizens:

Stop drastic budget cuts that devastate wildlife habitat

Protect the Endangered Species Act

Protect the Environment – Tell President Trump We Won’t Back Down

Stop Federal Budget Cuts that Endanger Africa’s Wildlife

More petitions

Sources

¹It will take a nation to combat Trump’s war on wildlife – Jeff Corwin in The Hill

²Environmental Movement – Encyclopedia.com

Investing in conservation pays off, study finds

We now have proof that conservation funding works

Spooky conservation: saving species over our dead bodies

Rise of populism affects wildlife management in US

Trump Budget Undercuts U.S. Commitment to Global Wildlife Conservation

Related posts

What Trump’s Triumph Means for Wildlife

Good job Mr President – Your Action Plan for the Environment is the Best

Half for Us Half for the Animals

 

 

 

 

 

Giving a Voice to the Voiceless – Meet the ‘Art-ivists’ For Animal Rights

This eye-opening piece by freelance journalist Peter Yeung is from Dazed & Confused magazine, Jan 2015

Animal rights and art have not always been easy bedfellows. Belgian artist Jan Fabre got into hot water for a performance in which he threw several cats up a flight of stairs, who let out pained meows in response. Damien Hirst, meanwhile, is famed for works featuring a formaldehyde-soaked shark, a pig’s head, and even a piece that required the killing of 9000 butterflies. The most recent example, however, was at Colorado’s Aspen Art Museum, where – as part of the show – turtles were made to amble around an art exhibit with iPads attached to their shells.

(More recently the Guggenheim Museum pulled works involving live animals from Chinese Art Survey. Now terrified mice are being used in ‘art’ installation in NY gallery. Plse sign petition)

But there are also plenty of examples of animal rights being championed by the arts. Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney are well-known for their anti-fur and anti-leather stances, whereas Morrissey is outspokenly meat-free, once writing the memorable lyrics: “It’s not “natural”, “normal” or kind/ the flesh you so fancifully fry/ the meat in your mouth/ as you savour the flavour, of murder”. Then, of course, Rembrandt, one of the greatest painters of all time, was a pioneering vegetarian. Here, we look at some of the most compelling animal rights artivists.

JACQUELINE TRAIDE 

Performance artist Jacqueline Traide, sickened by cosmetics testing on animals, wanted to convey the cruelty of it to the public by having the procedure done to herself. She was tortured for 10 hours in the performance, which was done in a vitrine in the Oxford Circus branch of Lush, as shocked pedestrians looked on. Amongst a number of activities, Traide had her mouth held open with a vice, was force-fed, had a strip of her hair shaved off, and was given two injections.

(Further info about the EU ban on animal testing for cosmetics here

Email your MP to support global fight against cruel cosmetics here)

ZOE BIRRELL

Portuguese artist Zoe Birrell once made an art installation consisting of 420 dairy cows, each made from vegan fair-trade chocolate, and each equalling her body weight of 53kg. The life of a modern dairy cow is marked by the emotional stress of the loss of her baby calf, combined with the hormonal effect of being kept perpetually pregnant. It inspired Birrell to respond to these psychological and physiological issues, considering the ethical alternatives, as well as, how it related to her own femininity.
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Birrell’s installation was part of her school’s degree show in Glasgow via prweb.com

(Step by Step Guide to Help You Give Up Dairy)

JONATHAN HOROWITZ

Jonathan Horowitz stopped eating meat at the age of 12, after his parents took him to a bullfight when on holiday in Mexico. The artist’s heavyweight Go Vegan! exhibition at a former New York meat-packing plant, LaFrieda Meats, aimed to normalise the idea of meat-free living. Horowitz compiled a portrait gallery of more than 200 celebrity vegetarians, as well as a video installation featuring Paul and Linda McCartney, arguing for veganism through the medium of modern living: commodity culture.
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These billboards featured as part of Horowitz’s Go Vegan! campaign via biennaleonline.org

(Help to Go Vegan here)

BANKSY

Banksy, the king of street art, made a return to the road with his puntastic project Sirens of the Lambs. Making appearances around the world, such as New York City and Glastonbury, the piece was a “moving sculpture”, in which a truck full of shrieking cuddly animals being taken to slaughter, drove around. The work is designed to highlight the issue of animals being farmed for their meat, but without the usual, depressing consequences.

SUE COE

Sue Coe grew up hearing the rattling of chains and screaming from the local abattoir at her home in Hersham, England. The normalisation of mass slaughter, which she also saw at abattoirs from Liverpool to Los Angeles, became the inspiration for her graphic paintings and drawings. These works are imbued with a mind-warping darkness and death, that the viewer can hardly ignore.
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Coe’s work is certainly a damning indictment of capitalism’s influence on the food industry via http://www.graphicwitness.org

ALICE NEWSTEAD

Artist and animal rights activists Alice Newstead once painted herself silver and suspended herself from hooks to protest the fishing of sharks, who are threatened with extinction (around 100 million sharks are caught in commercial and sports fishing every year. Piercing the skin of her shoulder blades, she was hung for 15 minutes, as blood streamed down her back.

(Sign petition to Ban Shark Fin Sales in Florida)

ASHER JAY

Asher Jay uses her digital graphic skills innovatively to inform the world about animal abuse. In Africa, Jay made screensavers of a poached rhino horn dripping with blood. In China, she integrated elephant tusks into Chinese language characters to encourage a halt in ivory buying while her enormous images of elephants killed for their tusks were projected in New York’s Times Square. “I wanted to visualize the scale and brutality of the crisis and use art to tell the blood ivory story,” she says. “Each year, 35,000 elephants are slaughtered; that’s one every 15 minutes.”
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Originally trained in fashion at the New York School of Design, Jay has gone on to become a conservationist artist via asherjay.com

(Born Free’s Blood Ivory petition)

ROCKY LEWYCKY

Rocky Lewycky’s project Is It Necessary? addressed the problem of factory farming in a violent new way. The work was comprised of hundreds of ceramic animals – pigs, cows, turkeys, fish – neatly positioned together. Each day Lewycky would enter the gallery space, elect an animal, and brutally smash it to pieces, leaving the white sculptures to reveal their blood-red interiors.
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Each sculpture was coated red on the inside and then either smashed or ‘liberated’ via rocksart.com

DAN WITZ

New York artist Dan Witz came over to east London to create his project Empty The Cages. For it, he placed chicken claws and pigs heads in 30 different locations around the streets of Shoreditch, in order to subtly raise the issue of animal consumption, and its dire consequences. Witz explained: “Climate change, deforestation, wildlife extinction, water waste, air pollution and ocean dead zones (among other things) are all directly attributable to meat, dairy and egg production.”
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Witz was part of a PETA campaign that also involved Sir Paul McCartney via danwitz.com

(I urge you to check out what Dan has to say about some other work he did with PETA, and how it made him feel)

GALE HART

Different societies and cultures always tend to draw the line of what sort of animal is okay to eat differently. Elephants, dogs, and silk worms are all consumed in places around the globe. Sacramento-based multimedia artist Gale Hart tackled this issue with her project Why Not Eat Your Pet? It juxtaposed images of devastating animal cruelty with pets that have sinister, child-like innocence.
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Other paintings in Hart’s collection included Pinocchio on his first caged hunt via galehart.com

Source: The Artists Pushing Animal Rights Further

Bits in brackets, mine


Art is not a mirror to reflect reality, but a hammer with which to shape it

Berthold Brecht

There is power in the hammer of these 10 art-ivists – let us hope they succeed in shaping us a kinder world


Related posts

Anger & Beauty – Inspiration for Artist Andrew Tilsley

The Art of Compassion for the Animals

Humans Schizoid View of Animals Exposed in Subversive Art

Vegan Artist’s Surreal Vision of Animals & Our Planet

Shooting Goats on the Rooftop of the World

“To protect a rare Central Asian goat—and the snow leopards that depend on it—conservationists are turning to an unlikely ally: trophy hunters,” writes wildlife reporter Jason G Goldman

Goldman is tracing the footsteps of avid trophy hunter Bill Campbell, a doctor with his own private psychiatry practice. Several months before, Campbell had made the 5,000 mile journey from the US to the ‘rooftop of the world’, the remote Pamir mountains of Tadjikistan with the single purpose of adding a rare markhor goat to his extensive trophy collection. He paid $120,000 for the privilege of shooting it.

“It’s probably the most expensive hunt in the world,” Campbell says. “This is basically where my income goes.”

This is what a markhor looks like (alive) with its characteristic twisted horns, and this is where they live.

 

By the early 90s in spite of their nigh-on inaccessible habitat, markhor were close to extinction, the inevitable result of local poaching for meat and a certain amount of illegal trophy hunting. In 1994, in stepped the IUCN, placing the goats on the Red List of species that are Critically Endangered. Over the following decade numbers rose sufficiently for the species to move up a level (or down, whichever way you look at it) to Near Threatened.

Goldman asserts that during his trip to Tadjikistan, I learned that wealthy hunters like Campbell are the main reason that Bukharan markhor still exist at all—despite how uncomfortable that truth may be.

“Some hunters, of course, are almost certainly engaged in a vainglorious pursuit of power. But after spending time with dozens of Tajik hunting guides and wildlife biologists on two markhor hunting concessions in southern Tajikistan, I discovered that painting the entire hunting community with such a broad brush ignores a reality: the trophy hunters who attempt to engage honestly with the thorny ethical quandaries underlying their pastime, who go out of their way to have their fun in an ecologically and socially responsible manner.”

Seriously? Who is he kidding? Is he really expecting us to feel for the mental and emotional turmoil the poor hunters suffer while they are ‘having their fun’, rather than for their innocent victims, trying to survive and rear young in a harsh environment, suddenly confronted by a man with a gun?

Goldman continues to embellish the myth of the sensitive soul that is the trophy hunter. He quotes the reflections of another of the super-rich, this time from South Africa, who trekked for days over inhospitable mountain terrain to get within shooting range of a markhor: “You’re faced with sadness and joy. Joy that you achieved what you did, but there’s a sadness associated with it. It’s a very emotional time when you look at an animal you’ve just killed.”

O  –  M  –  G

Sadly Bill Campbell’s hunt too was ‘successful’. “It was a beautiful animal in a beautiful setting. It was the most exciting hunt of my life.”

Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the US is also a man who knows how to hit his target, but his weapon is words: “Cruel, self-aggrandizing, larcenous, and shameful,” is his judgement on trophy hunting.

The concession where Campbell bagged his markhor issues only one hunting licence per year. As Tadjikistan is an exporter of gold, the argument goes that selling licences to rich hunters like him enable privately held lands to be managed for wildlife, when they might well otherwise be despoiled by mining.

But licence money alone is not enough to halt the decline of these rare goats. Not unless villagers are incentivised to stop poaching. The goats’ value is not in some (illegal) internationally tradeable commodity like elephant ivory or rhino horn. Their value is as a local source of food.

The long-established Torghar Conservation Project in neighbouring Pakistan that both pays the locals as game guards and also turns over to them the ‘lion’s share’ of the meat from licensed hunting suggested a possible model for Tadjikistan.

Enter Panthera, the only organization in the world devoted exclusively to the conservation of the world’s wild cats. Panthera gives support to the local communities in the form of wildlife monitoring training, as well as hardware such as binoculars and vehicles. The organisation’s interest in conserving markhors however, is only as the preferred prey of snow leopards. More markhors mean more snow leopards.

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To this end they are happy to assist the local people not only to interface with their government and the IUCN, but also international hunting organisations. Not just WWF, then.

This is the official version of what happens to the $120,000 Campbell and his ilk hand over for their licence to kill:

  • $41,000 to the Tadjiki government
  • Of that money, $8,200 is channeled into national government coffers
  • According to the Mamadnazarbekov, Deputy Chair of the Committee for Environmental Protection, ‘a fair amount’ of that $8,200 is used ‘to benefit wildlife and the public’
  • The remaining $32,800 is split between regional and local authorities
  • ‘Most’ of what is left of the $120,000 after the government takes its cut stays with the private hunting concession and pays for the markhor’s protection, as well as community projects like water pipes and funding for schools

Even Goldman though, the hunters’ apologist is forced to admit:

“It’s hard to determine how much of what Mamadnazarbekov describes is true. Several sources told me that some money must also be spent making various payoffs that aren’t legally justifiable, and that the government doesn’t necessarily spend its share of the revenue as they are supposed to. In a country with a per capita GDP of just 804 U.S. dollars, it’s not hard to imagine why many people here would want a piece of the action. Bribery and corruption may simply be part of the cost of doing business, even when that business is wildlife conservation.”

How easily ethical concerns are dismissed when it comes to justifying trophy hunting.

Goldman continues, “It’s difficult to argue with the results, at least so far. More than 10 years of intense effort have allowed the markhor population in Southern Tajikistan to flourish.”

Well, as a matter of fact, we could argue with the results. Describing the markhor population as flourishing might be over-egging it. Remember that in 2015 the markhor graduated from Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List to Near Threatened? Well, this is how IUCN defines Near Threatened:

A taxon [species] is Near Threatened when it has been evaluated against the criteria but does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable now, but is close to qualifying for or is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future.”

Not quite out of the woods yet.

But Tanya Rosen, Panthera’s director of snow leopard protection, reckons to have seen a welcome rise in the cat’s population – we’re talking small numbers here, from 6 to 10. Nevertheless, the highest density of these rare and elusive creatures seen anywhere in the world.

Goldman concludes, Isn’t it better to sacrifice a few old animals [markhors] in order to maintain an entire functioning ecosystem?” Many of us would answer “NO, absolutely not”. The markhor may not be as iconic as the snow leopard, but its life counts just as much.

In a country with such amazing scenery, wildlife and culture (the ancient Silk Road from India to China runs right through the Pamir mountains), there is much for any visitor that does not come to kill.

BirdLife International has designated a large area around the famously beautiful turquoise Iskanderkul Lake in the Fann mountains an IBA (Important Bird & Biodiversity Area).

Migrant bird visitors and residents include Himalayan  snowcocks, saker falcons, cinereous vultures, yellow-billed choughs, Hume’s larks, sulphur-bellied warblers, wallcreepers, Himalayan rubythroats, white-winged redstarts, white-winged snowfinches, alpine accentors, rufous-streaked accentors, brown accentors, water pipits, fire-fronted serins, plain mountain-finches, crimson-winged finches, red-mantled rosefinches and white-winged grosbeaks.

The dramatic rugged terrain makes it a mecca not just for birders, but for all wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers, as well as trekkers, climbers and photographers.

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Karakul Lake – Wiki Creative Commons

Moreover, Pamir Mountains Ecotourism is ready and waiting to put together your own tailor-made tour. It wouldn’t be cheap, but I doubt it costs $120,000. And isn’t that a much better way to conserve the majestic landscape and all that call it home, human and nonhuman?

Yet no qualms about killing goats on the rooftop of the world trouble the conscience of psychiatrist/hunter Bill Campbell.  “I feel good about it in my heart because I feel like I’m promoting really effective conservation,he says.

Well that’s all right then.

It’s little surprise to find that Campbell is a buddy of dentist Walter Palmer, the infamous killer of Cecil the lion. “I feel sorry for him,” Campbell says. “I think that the people who lynched him [online] don’t realize how much he has done for conservation. I wouldn’t be surprised if Walt spends $250,000 to $500,000 a year hunting. And the people who are lynching him donate 25 bucks to the Sierra Club. Who’s done more for conservation? There’s no comparison.”

Spitting feathers anyone?


Meanwhile, in Tadjikistan’s neighbour Kyrgystan, trophy hunting and corruption go hand in hand.

The Focusing on Wildlife poll: Should trophy hunting in Kyrgystan be banned?

 “The hunting of ibex and argali sheep has had a knock-on [effect] on the snow leopard – the situation is so bad we only have three breeding populations of snow leopard in Kyrgyzstan. Hunting and wildlife conservation cannot coexist.”

Emil Shukurov, one of the country’s leading ecologists. Read more


Petitions:

Please sign & share as many as you can – unrelated to Tadjikistan and the markhor, but  important nonetheless

BAN Breeding, Trading and Trophy Hunting of Wildlife in South Africa

Mr Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa: Ban ALL Forms of ‘Canned’ & ‘Trophy’ Hunting In South Africa

EU Please Ban The Import Of Wildlife “Trophies” into Europe

Yolanda Kakabadse WWF: End YOUR Trophy Hunting Safaris in Partnership with USA TH Dallas Safari Club

Stop trophy hunting giraffes

More to be found here. Some are closed, but many are not.

Sources

Shoot to Save – bioGraphic

Iskanderkul – Wiki

Related posts

Shooting lions (and other things that move)

What’s in a Name?

Endangered Animals As You’ve Never Seen Them Before

Man, Money & Rhinos – Unravelling the Tangled Knot of Poaching

 

 

Shooting Lions (and other things that move)

Shooting lions has never been easier. We can all have a go. No need even for long flights and safaris into the wilds of Africa. Thanks to modern technology, we can slay the King of all creatures without even leaving the couch.

And I mean, for real. This is no VR, no video game. This is a genuine option offered by canned hunting venues to maximise our ease and comfort while we exploit and inflict suffering upon our fellow creature – for fun. All that is needed is a camera and a gun on a mount at their end. At ours, an internet connection  – and a few thousand dollars.

I learn something new everyday, and mostly I wish I didn’t.

There are over 1,000 captive mammal hunting ranches in the US offering up lions, zebras, giraffes as quarry – at least some of them do. The animals that are bred there are accustomed to humans and unafraid. If we prefer getting off our couch and shooting them face to face (actually, we see theirs but they don’t see ours), we simply lay out bait, sit in a hide with our guns and wait. Like taking candy from a baby.

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The Ox Ranch Texas for example, on its 18,000 acres, offers a choice to hunt: no less than 14 different species of deer, 24 species of antelope, 11 of sheep, 3 of goat, and buffalo, wild boar, javelina, kangaroos, zebra, emu, ostrich, rhea, alligators and more. 72 species in all. So many to go at. No chance of our ever getting bored.

When we’ve had our fill of killing, we can leave the ranch staff to “process” our bag while we reward ourselves for a day well spent with a drink at the bar followed by a taste of Cordon Bleu fine dining, before retiring utterly replete to our luxurious cabin.

Well honestly, if you were a rancher in the US, why would you bother raising cattle for meat when canned hunting delivers an non-ending deluge of dollars.


A hunter is a hunter is a hunter, right?

Wrong. ‘True’ hunters distance themselves from the likes of the visitors at Ox Ranch who are despised, undeserving of the name. They are mere ‘shooters’.

Real hunting, say the hunters, means patient days tracking in the woods, and nights under the stars, drinking beer, telling stories and playing cards. Hunting is deeply-rooted in the American psyche. It’s a hangover from the days of the pioneers when ‘the West was won’, forging their way through the wilderness, living from the land, armed with their wits and their guns.

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“There’s this idea that being out in the woods is recreating the pioneer experience that they [the hunters] see as being the basis of America” – Simon Bronner, ethnologist.

Shoot to save?

For Bronner, hunting is a positive. Licensed hunting brings revenue to individual states and, he believes, ensures stewardship of the land. “Anyone who spends time in the woods and watches wildlife would demand that we do more work on improving habitat.”

No less a man than President Theodore Roosevelt is the hunter/conservationist icon of the US hunting fraternity: at one and the same time passionate, even obsessive hunter, and also creator of national parks and protector of the magnificent landscapes of the USA.

The incumbent president does not emulate his predecessor in either respect. Donald Trump Jr though, seen online in many a photo proudly posing next to his latest trophy corpse, advocates culling wolves in the western States because “they deprive hunters of moose,” and believes the US Fish and Wildlife Service “should be encouraging American hunters legally and ethically hunting abroad, not hindering them.”

Of course hunting is not exclusive to Americans. Far from it. Our own royals have in the past done their share of big game hunting, and still enjoy shooting birds, deer and boar, pursuing wildlife on horseback, and hooking fish out of the water, so-called traditional field sports. Translation: blood-letting for fun.

And as with Teddy Roosevelt and the ‘true’ hunters of America, our royals combine their love of hunting with an anomalous patronage of conservation. Prince Philip’s total ‘bag’ over the past 30 years stretches over continents, species [including an Indian tiger] and runs into mind-boggling numbers… in Britain alone he has shot deer, rabbit, hare, wild duck, snipe, woodcock, teal, pigeon and partridge, and pheasant numbering at least 30,000.

“On one occasion he and Prince Charles are said to have killed 50 wild boar in a single day. In 1993, out shooting for up to four days a week during his seven-week stay [at Sandringham] he hit his target of 10,000 pheasant.”

Quite the rate of slaughter – and nearly all during the 35 years he acted as the first president of the World Wildlife Fund UK, and then president of WWF International.

To those of us who flinch at any thought of harm to a living creature, this bloodlust is incomprehensible.

So why do they do it?

Well, our royals follow a long historical precedent – 4000 years of it in fact. It dates back at least to the Assyrian empire.

“Ancient hunts were spectacular displays of royal power and dominance, and always took place with the king’s public watching from the sidelines,” says Linda Kalof, professor of sociology at Michigan State University.

The same is true today. Trophy hunting remains a display of power, an activity rooted in colonialism and patriarchy, the participants predominantly white men. And, since you need very considerable funds to cover the costs of travel, accommodation, equipment, guides and licences, it also tells the world you are well able to support a lavish lifestyle.

“Men use hunting to send signals about their fitness to rivals and potential mates,” according to a study published last year in Biology Letters. That makes perfect sense in evolutionary terms.

(This evolutionary impulse is quite likely the unconscious propellant towards prominence of most who achieve it: whether rock stars or racing drivers, marathon runners or mountaineers. Fortunately, few other ‘display’ activities require fear, pain and untimely death to be inflicted on innocent animals.)

Today of course, the hunting fraternity no longer has need of an on-the-spot crowd of lesser beings to impress. Today we have the wonder that is the internet. “Hunters can now trumpet messages about their personal wealth and social status to a global audience.” Darimont in Biology Letters

Trophy hunting is about spending lots of money killing rare animals for instagram likes,” is US comedian Jim Jefferies’ pithy epigram on the subject. I don’t see the lions laughing.

So, showing off. This may well be the real motivation behind hunting, attracting women and p***ing off their rivals. But how many hunters are going to admit to that? Instead they justify their ‘sport’ by claiming it is not just good for conservation, but vital. (Being cruel to be kind?)

Is their claim true? Is hunting good for conservation?

hunt-2169805_960_720

The USA legally imports no fewer than 126,000 animal trophies every year, and the EU 11,000–12,000, of 140 different species  –  everything from African elephants to American black bears. That’s without counting the animals that remain in the countries where they were shot.

So we really need to know: is this helping or harming?

As with most controversial topics, there’s black, there’s white and there are varying shades of grey.  Sometimes the answer depends on whether you are viewing this critically important question through the crosshairs of a rifle.

Professional hunter Nathan Askew, owner of an American company that leads hunting safaris for “dangerous game” in South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana and Mozambique claims: “The positive economic impact brought about by hunting incentivizes governments, landowners and companies to protect the animals and their habitats.” Well, he would, wouldn’t he?

And no surprise (in view of its choice of former royal patron) that the WWF comes up with this: “In certain limited and rigorously controlled cases, including for threatened species, scientific evidence has shown that trophy hunting can be an effective conservation tool as part of a broad mix of strategies.”

More surprising perhaps is the conclusion of the UK government-commissioned report (after the death of Cecil the lion in 2016) conducted by Oxford University Wildlife Conservation Research Unit: “The most fundamental benefit of trophy hunting to lion conservation is that it provides a financial incentive to maintain lion habitat that might otherwise be converted to non-wildlife land uses.” 

Another point made for the shoot-to-save argument is that hunting (supposedly) pumps cash into local communities, not only providing work and lifting them out of poverty, but making them less susceptible to involvement in illegal activity like poaching.

Wilfried Pabst of the Sango Wildlife Conservancy has no doubts of the positive link between hunting and conservation. Sango is donating money to bring thousands of elephants, giraffe, African buffalo, zebras and more, back to Zinave national park in Mozambique, whose wildlife was decimated by 15 years of civil war. Pabst says,

“In remote places and countries with a weak tourism industry and a high unemployment rate, it is very difficult – or almost impossible – to run a conservancy like Sango without income from sustainable utilisation.

Sustainable utilisation is the preferred euphemism for trophy hunting.

Sounds good in theory, but is it working?

Masha Kalinina (Humane Society International) calls the Sango scheme misguided and potentially deadly:

“Mozambique continues to have one of the highest rates of poaching in southern Africa,” she said. Mozambique lost nearly half of its elephants to poachers in five years. Now both South Africa and Zimbabwe are transporting their own animals to this park just so that they may die at the hands of either trophy hunters or poachers. Is that what we are calling conservation?”

A report last year from the US House Committee of Natural Resources casts doubt on the shoot-to-save argument in general. “In assessing the flow of trophy hunting revenue to conservation efforts, we found many troubling examples of funds either being diverted from their purpose or not being dedicated to conservation in the first place.”

Some estimate that the hunting elite and corrupt government officials siphon off as much as 97 per cent of hunting licence fees. Is it over-cynical to suspect Swiss bank accounts?

Jeff Flocken, for the International Fund for Animal Welfare doesn’t just cast doubt on the claim that hunting aids conservation, he asserts that in the case of lions, trophy hunting adds to the problem.” The most prized trophy kills are young healthy males. Their deaths destabilise lion prides and diminish the gene pool, both of which weaken the already dwindling and endangered population.

Born Free spells out the very direct way in which trophy hunting works counter to effective conservation: Trophy hunting is not about preserving wildlife. Trophy hunters covet the spectacular and rare, and the Safari Club International’s World Hunting Awards specifically reward hunters who have killed animals belonging to species or groups of species that are threatened, and some of which are critically endangered. In January 2014 wealthy American trophy hunter Cory Knowlton bid US$350,000 to shoot a critically endangered black rhinoceros in Namibia. 

What is more, it undermines public support for conservation work, and de-incentivises donations. Jeff again: “Why should anyone spend money to protect an animal that a wealthy American can then pay to go kill?”

And economic arguments are not all on the hunter’s side: hunting licence fees while yes, very lucrative, are one-off payments. Once an animal is shot, it’s gone. Whereas if not a target for hunting, a lion or rhino can earn money for the community from ecotourism for many years.

But let’s leave the last word to Jeff Flocken. And this is the real crunch in my opinion, the most important argument against trophy hunting in any shape or form, the undeniable truth:

“Legalized recreational hunting derails conservation efforts simply
by devaluing the lives of the hunted animals.

 

This is by no means exhaustive coverage of the topic. Next post will take a more detailed look at one particular ‘shoot-to-save’ project.

Petitions

United Nations: BAN Trophy Hunting. STOP Poachers. END Imports.

Hunting Is Not Conservation – Ban Trophy Hunting

Stop Canned Hunting

Sources

Royals’ shooting passion draws bad blood – The Independent

Hunting Big Game: Why People Kill Animals for Fun – LiveScience

POLL – Should trophy hunting be banned? – Focusing on Wildlife

Mozambique: 6,000 animals to rewild park is part-funded by trophy hunting – The Guardian

Trophy hunting can ‘help lion conservation’ says Government commissioned report – Daily Telegraph

Everything you need to know about Trophy Hunting – Discover Wildlife

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Man, Money & Rhinos – Unravelling the Tangled Knot of Poaching

 

 

 

Endangered Animals As You’ve Never Seen Them Before

How do these animals strike you?

Doesn’t their majesty and power just shine out from this incredible artwork? Don’t they seem to have an almost god-like aura? Wondrous creatures as they are in the flesh. In their own right.

March 3 is UN Wildlife Day. 3 months ago I posted on Instagram that I wanted to create something for Charity. In just few days, a startup called AOK (Acts Of Kindness) contacted me and said they want to collaborate and turn this into reality. I will talk more about @aoklife and @wwfphilippines during the course of this project which I created 15 big paper cut of endangered animals. To start of, let me talk about the first of 15, the Polar Bears :) The reason why I picked them as the first animal for this series, due to the fact that the destruction of their habitat has a strong effect not just to the environment, but to you and me. We all have to realise, we are all connected to nature and #weareallendangered You can purchase this artwork at https://www.aoklife.com/auctions/25/Patrick-Cabral/Polar-Bear 50% of the proceeds will be donated to @wwfphilippines ———— (More info. via http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/polar-bear) Polar bears are classified as marine mammals because they spend most of their lives on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean. They have a thick layer of body fat and a water-repellant coat that insulates them from the cold air and water. Considered talented swimmers, they can sustain a pace of six miles per hour by paddling with their front paws and holding their hind legs flat like a rudder. Polar bears spend over 50% of their time hunting for food, but less than 2% of their hunts are successful. Their diet mainly consists of ringed and bearded seals because they need large amounts of fat to survive. The total polar bear population is divided into 19 units or subpopulations. Of those, the latest data from the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group show that three subpopulations are in decline and that there is a high estimated risk of future decline due to climate change. Because of ongoing and potential loss of their sea ice habitat resulting from climate change, polar bears were listed as a threatened species in the US under the Endangered Species Act in May 2008. The survival and the protection of the polar bear habitat are urgent issues for WWF.

After the first shock of awe, we’re left gasping at the breathtaking level of craftsmanship and artistry. It’s miraculous.

Did you know that the Snow Leopard has no relation with the leopard? - it is closer to a Cheetah The snow leopard’s powerful build allows it to scale great steep slopes with ease. Its hind legs give the snow leopard the ability to leap six times the length of its body. A long tail provides balance and agility and also wraps around the resting snow leopard as protection from the cold. For millennia, this magnificent cat was the king of the mountains. The mountains were rich with their prey such as blue sheep, Argali wild sheep, ibex, marmots, pikas and hares. Snow leopards are found in 12 countries—including China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, and Mongolia—but their population is dropping. Climate change poses perhaps the greatest long-term threat to snow leopards. Impacts from climate change could result in a loss of up to 30 percent of the snow leopard habitat in the Himalayas alone. You can purchase the artwork at https://www.aoklife.com/auctions/40/Patrick-Cabral/Snow-Leopard or follow the link on my profile. I’m donating 50% to @wwfphilippines Find out more about WWF’s initiative on Rhinos at https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/snow-leopard Follow @Aoklife to find out how you can help Charitable Institutions raise funds. Let me know what other endangered animals you want to see on paper cut on the comments.

Patrick Cabral, a Filippino art director is the man responsible for these masterpieces in the art of paper-cutting. And as if these jewels were not enough in themselves, Patrick is donating half the profits of their sale to the World Wildlife Fund, specifically to help conserve each of these endangered species.

What’s scaly from tip to tail and can curl into a ball? Pangolins! These solitary, primarily nocturnal animals, are easily recognized by their full armor of scales. A startled pangolin will cover its head with its front legs, exposing its scales to any potential predator. If touched or grabbed it will roll up completely into a ball, while the sharp scales on the tail can be used to lash out. Also called scaly anteaters because of their preferred diet, pangolins are increasingly victims of illegal wildlife crime—mainly in Asia and in growing amounts in Africa—for their meat and scales. Eight species of pangolins are found on two continents. They range from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered. Four species live in Africa: Black-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla), White-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis), Giant Ground pangolin (Smutsia gigantea) and Temminck's Ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii). The four species found in Asia: Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata), Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis), Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) and the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla). All eight pangolin species are protected under national and international laws, and two are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. You can purchase the artwork at https://www.aoklife.com/auctions/64/Patrick-Cabral/Pangolin or follow the link on my profile. I’m donating 50% to @wwfphilippines Find out more about WWF’s initiative on Pangolin at https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/pangolin Follow @Aoklife to find out how you can help Charitable Institutions raise funds. Let me know what other endangered animals you want to see on paper cut on the comments.

It’s almost weekend in my side of the world, but before I get some rest, here’s another paper cut for my @wwfphilippines and @aoklife collab. Here’s a fun fact I didn’t know about gorillas. Around the nose, there are a few wrinkles unique to each gorilla, a fact used by scientists to quickly identify them in the wild. All species (and sub-species) of gorilla are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.[12] Threats to gorilla survival include habitat destruction and poaching for the bushmeat trade. In 2004, a population of several hundred gorillas in the Odzala National Park, Republic of Congo was essentially wiped out by the Ebola virus.[67] A 2006 study published in Science concluded more than 5,000 gorillas may have died in recent outbreaks of the Ebola virus in central Africa. The researchers indicated in conjunction with commercial hunting of these apes, the virus creates

“I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of representatives from WWF. They were very passionate about saving these endangered species, and at the same time helping the communities around the habitat of these species. I wanted to help more than by just making these artworks in the safe confines of my home,” explained Patrick
For the opportunity to purchase one of Patrick’s works, visit his auctions on acts of kindness
The pic below is not one of his paper cuts, nor a work to share with WWF, but I reckon it says a lot about Patrick’s outlook on life. I like it!

Sources

This Incredible Artist is Using Paper to Save Endangered Species – One Green Planet

patrick cabral’s breathtaking papercuts raise awareness for endangered species – designboom

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Through Artist’s Eyes – The Wondrous Web of Life & Death

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Extinction Is Forever: Why We Need To Change To Save Animals

We’re running out of time. It doesn’t matter what we know, if we don’t get the message out.

This is a heartfelt plea from Dana Hunnes, expert in conservation, nutrition, and climate change. Our dietary choices play a huge role in sustainability, climate change, saving animals as well as our personal health. But she says simply being vegan is not enough.

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.

Dana writes:

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. 

Read more

Please share, and take as many of the actions she suggests as you can. Nothing could be more important.

 

Source: Extinction is Forever: Why We Need to Change Our Consumption Habits to Save Animals | One Green Planet

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How Drones Might Just Save Our Endangered Animals – & the Planet

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.

the-drones-1134764__180Drones 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.

300x200xnews-160830-1-3-antarctic-two-whales-img_0285-1000w-jpg-pagespeed-ic-xtrw0jhrcNo-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 –

  • Chimpanzee conservation in Tanzania
  • Tree cover analysis also in Tanzania
  • The Jane Goodall Institute’s conservation work in Congo
  • Forest monitoring in Suriname
  • Monitoring seabirds in North Australia
  • Monitoring illegal fishing of totoaba in the Gulf of California which is driving vaquitas to extinction
  • Herding elephants away from areas where they are in danger from poaching
  • Mapping tree diversity in the Amazon basin

alarm-clock-1274239__180Not 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.

elephant-1049846__180With 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?”

drone-1538957__180What 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

  • Unmanned Aerial Systems for surveillance and rapid response
  • Digital monitoring systems that monitor high-risk areas and boundaries of protected areas
  • Affordable wildlife/patrol tracking devices connected through mesh networks
  • Rifle shot recognition software in portable devices with real-time connectivity
  • Data integration and analysis through the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART).

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.

nature-conservation-480985__180And 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.

binary-1414317__180“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

Sources

What’s Better Than Lego? Drones Made of Lego! – Wired

A Dutch company is training eagles to take down drones – Science Alert

The Flying Sensor Network That Could (Finally!) Save Our Planet – BackChannel

Facts on Animal Farming and the Environment – One Green Planet

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Why Today Really Matters

Biodiversity across the world is no longer within the “safe limit”

according to a major new study published in the journal Science on 15 July 2016.

That is why today, September 24 2016, is a day of supreme importance for the world’s wildlife.

At a time when we are facing the planet’s 6th Mass Extinction, it marks the opening of COP17 in Johannesburg, South Africa – the time and place where the 183 countries that are signatories to CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, are meeting to discuss how best to protect our endangered animals and plants.

“Annually, international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and to include hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens. The trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including food products, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist curios and medicines. Levels of exploitation of some animal and plant species are high and the trade in them, together with other factors, such as habitat loss, is capable of heavily depleting their populations and even bringing some species close to extinction. Many wildlife species in trade are not endangered, but the existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important in order to safeguard these resources for the future.” CITES COP17

The 17th Convention of Parties will last from 24 September – 5 October

A few facts:

  • CITES governs the trade in over 35,000 species of plants and animals
  • It is estimated by TRAFFIC which monitors the black market wildlife trade, that billions of dollars worth of plant and animal species are traded illegally each year,
  • At COP17 it will consider more than 200 proposals, some of which arise from the IUCN World Congress in Hawaii that took place earlier this month
  • 62 of the proposals are aimed at either loosening or tightening trade restrictions on certain species

Here are a few of the main proposals:

  • A permanent ban on international trade in elephant ivory
  • A ban on the trade in pangolins and pangolin parts
  • Swaziland’s proposal to legalise international trade in rhino horn
  • Protection for more species of sharks and rays
  • Proposal to move the African grey parrot from Appendix II to Appendix I, the strictest Endangered category

For more information on these proposals see Take Part

All you need to know about COP17 here

Sign petition here to tell CITES not to legalise ivory & rhino horn trade

Sign petition here to tell CITES ban the taking of elephants from the wild

Update

28 September 2016 CITES today banned the international trade in all 8 species of pangolin by transferring them to Appendix 1 – the strictest protection available under international law – NRDC

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Nations of the World Step Up for Elephants & Rhinos

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Saving Wildlife on the World Wide Web

Ten Fascinating Ways Technology is Saving Animals

Endangered 13 – A Mural Project Raising Awareness of Endangered Species

Saving Wildlife on the World Wide Web

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:

  • Approximately 100,000 African elephants were killed for their ivory between 2010-2012
  • Rhino poaching increased by 9300% in South Africa from 2007-2014
  • Tiger populations have plummeted by 97% in the last century, leaving only approximately 3,900 left in the wild
  • And more than 1 million pangolins have been poached from the wild in the last decade alone

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.

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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.

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Update

August 21st 2016 Namibia and Zimbabwe have filed petitions to CITES to lift the international ban on the sale of ivory – Focusing on Wildlife

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Ten Fascinating Ways Technology is Saving Animals

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.

Number 1

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.

Number 2 

Next up, and going from thrilling experiences of animals ‘in the wild’, to watching them in horrible confinement: Animal Equality’s iAnimal

iAnimal 360 degree interactive immersive video headset

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.

Number 3

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.

beyond-burger-fwx_0

Find out more here

Number 4

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.

Number 5

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?rhino-936288__180

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.

Number 6

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.

drone wildlife poaching habitat environment informationDrones 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.

Number 7

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

  • Unmanned Aerial Systems for surveillance and rapid response
  • Digital monitoring systems that monitor high-risk areas and boundaries of protected areas
  • Affordable wildlife/patrol tracking devices connected through mesh networks
  • Rifle shot recognition software in portable devices with real-time connectivity
  • Data integration and analysis through the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART).

Already in use in Namibia, Kenya and Nepal to combat poaching and wildlife crime.

Number 8

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.

www kenya innovative camera and surveillance system infrared poaching elephants rhino wildlife crime rangers rapid response

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.

Number 9

And we’re still in the same neck of the woods, geographically speaking. Advances in genetic sequencing and forensics.

elephants mate tusks poaching genetic sequencing forensics lab wildlife crime Kenya
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.

holly pony prosthetic shoe laminitis 3D printing

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 tortoise 3D prosthetic shell Canyon Critters' Rescue Colorado

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.

grecia toucan costa rica Rescate Animal ZooAve prosthetic beak

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 😀

 

The Dodo

Tech Daily Times

 

 

 

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