Monthly Archives: July 2008

Eagle eater faces 12 years in jail

THE AUSTRALIAN – AFP

A FARMER faces 12 years in prison if found guilty in the Philippines of killing and then eating one of the world’s largest and rarest eagles, the government said today.

The three-year-old juvenile male Philippine eagle, which weighed more than four kilograms, was shot with an air rifle on the northern slope of the country’s fourth highest mountain, on July 10.

Brian Balaon, 22, will be charged for violating the wildlife protection act after he confessed to shooting the giant raptor and then eating its meat with his friends, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Joselito Atienza said.

“The killer of the rare eagle must suffer the consequences of his dastardly act to serve as a notice to everyone that we are serious in enforcing environmental laws,” Atienza said in a statement.

The government considers the shooting of the bird as a major setback in attempts to save the critically endangered species from extinction.

Just 250 such eagles are estimated to remain in the wilds of Mindanao island. The slain bird had been a fledgling with a pellet wound on its neck and kept in a cage as a pet when it was rescued by wildlife officials near 2,899m Kitanglad mountain in September 2006.

The bird was nursed back to health, fitted with satellite and radio transmitters, and in March released near the towering peak where it was shot.

The farmer who attacked it 12 days ago told police he did not know the bird was one of the country’s endangered eagles. It had perched on a tree at his upland farm.

Wildlife officials tracked him down six days later through the transmitters, which he buried on his land.

As well as a possible 12-year prison sentence, Balaon faces a fine of up to one million pesos ($23,035) if found guilty.

Leave a comment

Filed under wildlife

Many birds left flying close to extinction

LISA JONES – WALES ONLINE –

PESTICIDES were last night blamed for a dramatic drop in the numbers of the nation’s birds.

A report reveals that almost half are struggling to breed, with a marked decline in species inhabiting farmland and woodland.

Species such as curlews, willow warblers, skylarks and pied flycatchers are among those deserting the Welsh terrain.

John Wilson, chairman of the Glamorgan Bird Society, said breeds such as skylarks, reed buntings and lapwings were in peril in farmland areas and pied flycatchers and spotted flycatchers in woodland.

He added: “Lapwings used to be a reasonably common breeding species in Glamorgan. I’m not sure there are any breeding pairs now. They breed on rough ground and with brownfield sites being developed, they are being pushed out.

“We’ve put out 30 nest boxes in Coed y Bedw, at the base of the Garth Mountain, and only one pied flycatcher used them last year. I don’t think there have been any this year.

“For farmland birds, it’s down to cleaner farming, using pesticides and herbicides to kill off weeds. There are not enough weeds going to seed for the birds to feed on and insecticides kill off the insects the birds rely on to feed their young.

“If you affect the bottom of the food chain, it has a knock-on affect on everything else.”

The Welsh Assembly Government report, using surveys by the British Trust for Ornithology and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, found that out of 124 bird species in Wales over the last 40 years:

16.9% had increased in number;

40.3 % had remained stable;

42.7% had fallen.

Over half the species of farmland birds had decreased in range over 20 years. The report said: “In Wales, the short-term abundance of all groups has declined from 2005 to 2006. The indicator shows no sign of recovery for those groups with long-term declines in range.”

But it added: “The loss of biodiversity has been halted and we can see a definite recovery in the number, range and genetic diversity of wildlife, including those species that need very specific conditions to survive.”

Agri-environment initiatives such as Tir Gofal were put in place to help farmers maximise populations, protect sensitive areas and continue running viable businesses. But they only represent 29.7% of the land in Wales.

Approximately 121,000 hectares of Welsh woodland were certified – managed to agreed environmental standards – in March 2008; 42.5 % of the total woodland area, which is a slight decrease from a peak of 43.6% in March 2005. But the report says woodland has remained fairly stable over the last few years.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said, “Farmland birds continue to decline in the short-term and their range declines over the long-term. Evocative birds such as yellow- hammers and curlews have declined markedly.”

Leave a comment

Filed under animals, biodiversity, conservation, endangered, environment, environmentalism, extinction, nature, wildlife, zoology

Newly Discovered Monkey Is Threatened With Extinction

SCIENCE DAILY – PRESS RELEASE

Just three years after it was discovered, a new species of monkey is threatened with extinction according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, which recently published the first-ever census of the endangered primate. Known as the “kipunji,” the large, forest-dwelling primate hovers at 1,117 individuals, according to a study released in the July issue of the journal Oryx.

ding to a study released in the July issue of the journal Oryx.

 

The population estimate was the result of more than 2,800 hours of field work by WCS scientists in the Southern Highlands and Udzungwa Mountains in Tanzania where the kipunji was discovered. The team found that the monkey’s range is restricted to just 6.82 square miles (17.69 square kilometers) of forest in two isolated regions.

The authors also discovered that much of the monkey’s remaining habitat is severely degraded by illegal logging and land conversion. In addition, the monkey itself is the target of poachers. Because of these combined threats, WCS proposes that the kipunji should be classified by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as “critically endangered” – which means it is threatened with extinction in the wild if immediate conservation action is not taken.

“The kipunji is hanging on by the thinnest of threads,” said Dr. Tim Davenport, Tanzania Country Director for the Wildlife Conservation Society. “We must do all we can to safeguard this extremely rare and little understood species while there is still time.”

Along with the IUCN designation, WCS is investing in the protection and restoration of the kipunji’s remaining habitat and local conservation education of local people to help safeguard remaining populations.

The kipunji first made headlines in 2005 when a team of scientists led by WCS announced its discovery. Then in 2006, the monkey made news again when DNA analysis revealed that the species represented an entire new genus of primate—the first since 1923.

###

The Wildlife Conservation Society is working throughout Tanzania to save wildlife and wild lands.

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit: www.wcs.org


Adapted from materials provided by Wildlife Conservation Society, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

1 Comment

Filed under animals, biodiversity, endangered, environment, environmentalism, extinction, nature, wildlife, zoology

Endangered Gangetic dolphin sold in market

EXPRESS INDIA

A Gangetic dolphin, which got entangled in a fisherman’s net, was sold at a local market in Behrampore on Tuesday. This in complete violation of the Wildlife Protection Act since the Gangetic dolphin is an endangered species.

During fishing in Bhagirathi river, Naresh Haldar found the dolphin in his haul. Instead of releasing it back into the water, Haldar took it to the local Gorabazar market. Locals alleged that the police did not take timely action against Haldar.

“When the policemen arrived at the market, the dolphin was still alive. They did not do anything and even failed to arrest the fisherman. The dolphin may have survived had the police intervened on time,” a local said.

Later, forest department officials also reached the spot. A case has been registered against Haldar, who is absconding. The dolphin’s body has been sent for the postmortem.

Leave a comment

Filed under wildlife

Rare Plants And Endangered Species Such As Tigers At Risk From Traditional Medicine

PRESS RELEASE – WORLD WILDLIFE FUND

Two reports from TRAFFIC, the world’s largest wildlife trade monitoring network, on traditional medicine systems in Cambodia and Vietnam suggest that illegal wildlife trade, including entire tiger skeletons, and unsustainable harvesting is depleting the region’s rich and varied biodiversity and putting the primary healthcare resource of millions at risk.

The results of field studies carried out between 2005 and 2007 found a significant number of Cambodians and Vietnamese rely on traditional medicine. Relaxation of international trade barriers, the impact of free market economies and complex national government policies have led to an increase in the demand and supply for flora and fauna used in traditional medicine. The growing illegal wildlife trade in the region is fuelled by the difficulty of sourcing prescribed ingredients, including parts, from globally threatened species.

“The supply of many wild animals and plants for medicine in Cambodia and Vietnam is becoming scarce due to overexploitation,” said Crawford Allan, TRAFFIC’s director in North America. “Some of the trade is illegal and threatening endangered species. In Vietnam, we estimate between 5-10 tiger skeletons are sold annually to be used in traditional medicine. With each skeleton fetching approximately $20,000, there is a strong incentive to poach and trade tigers that we must address from the grassroots up.”

“An overview of the use and trade of plants and animals in traditional medicine systems in Cambodia” examined the use of wildlife products in Traditional Khmer Medicine and its possible impacts. Over 800 types of plants–approximately 35 percent of the country’s native species–are used in Traditional Khmer Medicine. Eight of those plants species are considered high priority for national conservation.

The second report “An overview of the use of plants and animals in traditional medicine systems in Vietnam” presents the findings of traditional medicine market surveys conducted in north and south Vietnam where more than 3,900 species of flora and 400 species of fauna are used in traditional remedies. Seventy-one of the animals traded and used for medicinal purposes in Vietnam are listed on the IUCN Red List of globally threatened species.

“Traditional medicine systems in Cambodia and Vietnam are important components of both national healthcare systems, and are often the only means of healthcare for rural communities,” said Dekila Chungyalpa, manager of the Mekong Ecoregion Program at WWF-US. “Understanding which animal and plant species and products are used and traded, and their underlying trade mechanisms, can provide a useful tool to assess the sustainability of such trade, and provide an ‘early warning’ for species that are threatened.”

3 Comments

Filed under biodiversity, environment, extinction, nature, wildlife, zoology

Vandals hurt endangered frog wetland

ABC AUSTRALIA

Vandals have damaged a sensitive wetland on the New South Wales far south coast that is home to one of Australia’s most endangered frogs.

National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers found the previously pristine area in Ben Boyd National Park, near Eden, churned up by four-wheel drive vehicles.

The wetland is home to the green and golden bell frog.

Ranger George Malolakis describes the damage as “malicious”.

“We’ve had some four-wheel drives come into an area of national park where we’ve got some very important wetlands and they’ve just vandalised it,” he said.

“They’ve driven in and churned up the whole area of wetland, they’ve done donuts, they’ve driven along the edge, damaged vegetation, the area’s green and golden bell frog habitat. It’s also an area which is a unique wetland which is only found in that part of our region.”

1 Comment

Filed under biodiversity, environment, extinction, nature, wildlife, zoology

South China tigers teeter on brink of extinction

REUTERS – JAMES POMFRET

YIHUANG, China (Reuters) – Dragging on a cigarette between his wrinkled lips, Hou Fengqi fingered a dusty bamboo bow and rusty iron-tipped arrows, before recounting his days as a “tiger hunting hero” in the rugged hills of southern China.

 

“The first tiger was the largest, around 150kg, and when we carried it back to the village, everyone ran out and cheered,” said Hou with a gap-toothed grin, casting his mind back to 1959.

 

Hou, now 69, is one of China’s last living tiger hunters — as rare a breed as the striped beasts he used to track in the misty, bamboo clad forests of Yihuang county in Jiangxi province.

 

“In the old days life was hard, so killing a tiger made me happy as it helped improve my family’s livelihood,” he said, sitting outside his wooden home beside verdant rice paddies.

 

While Hou bagged six South China tigers in his youth; hunting and deforestation have driven this keystone Chinese species close to extinction — with none seen or captured in the past 20 years.

 

Historically revered as an archetypal Chinese cultural symbol, the tiger’s decline was accelerated by poaching for traditional Chinese medicine and “anti-pest” campaigns instigated by Chairman Mao Zedong from the 1950’s, to rid the countryside of the cattle-raiding “vermin.”

 

Thousands of tigers were killed off with hunters praised by the Communist Party and paid a 30 yuan bounty per tiger pelt.

 

Now one of the world’s rarest and most elusive of mammals, the South China tiger is fully protected by the Chinese government, with no more than 10-20 wild individuals estimated to remain along the remote border areas of China’s rapidly developing provinces of Guangdong, Jiangxi, Fujian and Hunan.

 

CAPTIVE TIGERS

 

While the wild status of Chinese tigers remains uncertain, there remain around 70 captive individuals, derived from just six wild-caught founders in the 1950’s.

 

The last of their kind — these tigers have nevertheless suffered inbreeding, dismal caged conditions, low birth rates and a tainted lineage from hybridization with other tiger subspecies.

 

In 2003, the sluggish, ill-funded and fragmented tiger conservation scene took an unexpected twist, with a scheme to “rewild” South China tigers in a South African game reserve.

 

The radical concept of transplanting Chinese tigers to the African bush drew fire at first from experts, but its aim of rehabilitating tigers to hunt wild prey in a secure, fenced off wilderness — has led to the birth of five cubs, three of which have survived — giving the species vital new impetus.

 

The tigers will eventually be reintroduced back to the wild in China, with a site already earmarked in Zixi county in Jiangxi province.

 

“We want to release the tigers back into areas where they’ve been roaring for millions of years,” said Quan Li, the head of Save China’s Tigers, the conservation body behind the project.

 

Tiger conservation initiatives in China however, have never enjoyed much state support, a far cry from the abundance of funding and nature reserves devoted to China’s other flagship indigenous mammalian species — the Giant Panda.

 

The tiger’s fearsome reputation and its need for extensive territory in which to roam has made reintroduction of the species a major challenge in China’s highly populated south.

 

“The panda and man can exist peacefully together, but an element of danger separates the relationship between tiger and man,” said Xu Guoyi, the mayor of Zixi who is seeking financing of around $24 million to build a 20 square kilometer fenced eco-tourism reserve for “rewilded” South China tigers.

 

“This project is of course more difficult than the panda project, because pandas are a national conservation priority,” Xu added, saying he was now lobbying the government for funding, without which the project might not get off the ground.

 

“If the (South China) tiger can help preserve wild habitat as opposed to being simply a source of conflict right now … that’s going to be positive for tigers and biodiversity,” said Philip Nyhus, a tiger expert from Colby college in the U.S. who advises the Chinese government on tiger conservation.

 

PAPER TIGERS?

 

Unlike the cuddly Giant Panda, an icon for the upcoming Olympics, the Chinese tiger’s plight had been far less prominent in the public eye, garnering few headlines or attention.

 

Last October however, public sentiment flared when a poor farmer took what he claimed were the first photos of a wild tiger in decades, his story backed by local forestry officials.

 

The photos sparked an Internet and public frenzy, as euphoria at the rediscovery turned to anger, with bloggers and citizens dissecting the images to expose them as digitally altered fakes.

 

Public outrage at the “Tigergate” scandal led to the eventual sacking of 13 provincial officials in a rare show of people power in communist China.

 

Another recent video of a purported wild tiger in Hunan was exposed as a scam of a domesticated tiger plucked from a circus.

 

“It’s so gratifying to see so many people paid attention and wanted to contribute money to our fund,” said Quan, who has battled public indifference and bureaucratic redtape for years.

 

“China needs a tiger, a national symbol to resurrect its cultural value and its biological values,” she added.

 

Despite the hoaxes, villagers in some of the remoter areas of south China, still believe tigers still exist against the odds.

 

Hou Fengwen, a teacher in a Jiangxi village, says he heard a growl on a mountain trek with his family two years ago.

 

“We heard a tiger calling, the sound wasn’t loud, but the three of us felt the ground trembling slightly,” he said, adding a subsequent search of the surrounding hills showed up nothing.

 

“There are tigers here, we just can’t find them.”

2 Comments

Filed under wildlife