Category Archives: asia

Vultures on verge of extinction

BIKRAM GIRI – MY REPUBLICA

MAHENDRANAGAR, Jan 18: The rampant use of diclofenac and ketoprofen is putting vultures here on the verge of extinction, according to a study.

The study conducted by Nepal Bird Conservation Association says vultures are dying after consuming carcasses of cattle that were treated with diclofenac when alive.

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The study says that diclofenac use has reduced the population of vultures by 99 percent in Nepal and India.

The association has initiated a campaign in 10 districts in the tarai to raise awareness for vulture conservation and to ban the use of diclofenac and ketoprofen. The campaign has been initiated in districts including Kanchanpur, Kailali, Bardiya, Chitwan and Nawalparasi, among others, according to veterinarian Dr Surya Poudel of the association.

“Conservation of vultures is necessary to maintain biodiversity,” said Dr Poudel. “Vultures are natural cleaners as they keep the environment clean,” he added.

While diclofenac has been used in Nepal for decaces, ketoprofen, which is also contributing to reducing vulture population, has also been used in recent times. The production and distribution of both these medicines has been banned in Nepal and India. However, their use continues through illegal channels.

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Extinction threatens Vietnam tigers

VietNamNet Bridge – On the endangered species list since 1960, the country’s tiger population is still falling prey to poachers. The number of wild tigers in Vietnam has dropped to around 100, half the figure less than a decade ago, a recent report released by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has revealed.

In 1999, the Big Cat Specialist Group reported an estimated 200-300 tigers were living in the country. The animals have already been added to the Viet Nam Red Book of endangered species. According to MARD, the major reason for their dramatic decline is poaching.

Selling wild animals such as tigers is a hugely lucrative business, raking in illegal profits only topped by weapons and heroin dealing, director of the Asian Animal Fund (AAF) Tuan Bedixen says.

Tiger skins, teeth and bones can be readily purchased in major cities. Last year Ha Noi police seized two live tigers and pieces of frozen meat from four tigers as they busted a smuggling ring in the city, one senior officer at Unit 2, says the Environmental Protection Division of the Ha Noi Police. Other rare animals were also discovered in the raid. “This was the first time that live tigers were smuggled through an urban area. It indicates that the perpetrators knew what they were doing and had done it before.”

Later the same year, police found two butchered Indochinese tigers in a freezer in an apartment in Ha Noi’s Thanh Xuan District. One tiger had been cut in half and the other skinned with its meat and bones diced for rendering. Each tiger weighed about 250kg.

But smuggling isn’t the only problem. Illegal tiger breeding is also on the rise across Viet Nam. Although Government policies encourage individuals and organisations to breed and protect rare animals such as tigers, this must be done according to strict guidelines, says Tran The Lien from the Forest Protection Department in Ha Noi.

“Government decisions No 18, 32 and 48 say people can breed wild animals but it’s important that the animals’ genetic origin is clearly stated as well as where the creature was procured,” he says.

Providing genetic information to help breeding wasn’t the only issue, according to the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The organisation states that the animals’ environment must mimic their natural habitat to ensure they can survive in the wild.

These regulations may be in place, but enforcing them is another matter. A recent report by forestry inspectors revealed that breeders are still not being prosecuted for failure to follow IUCN regulations. The report also raises concerns that these animals are being bred for commercial purposes, not for conservation.

Extensive troubles

Vietnamese tigers are from the Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) species. In the past, they were widely distributed in great numbers across the country’s forests and mountainous areas. Today they are only found in 24 of the 87 established nature reserves and national parks, according to MARD’s Forest Protection Department. But some reserves are quite large, and a comprehensive census is currently underway to establish an accurate count.

Despite falling numbers, the Thua Thien-Hue provincial Forest Department has reported evidence of three or four tigers living in Phong Dien Forest, an area previously feared to be tiger-free.

Nguyen Van Muot and Nguyen Van Mua of the Co Tu ethnic group in Phong My Commune reported that tigers had killed two buffalo in Rot Forest and Ma Canyon in March 2003. Ho Van Bong of the Van Kieu ethnic group also said he had spotted a tiger of at least 100kg drinking water in a stream while he collected honey in the forest. Earlier in the month, a 60kg tiger was seen in the Phong Dien Natural Reserve.

Also in that year, a team of scientists found tiger prints near an animal carcass in the forest’s wet lands. “We are so happy to find evidence to prove the existence of such a rare animal in the area,” one member of the study team says. “But the dry weather hindered our search a lot because it was difficult to find fresh footprints.”

Department Head Hoang Ngoc Khanh says his department will devise a detailed plan to protect the newly-found tiger population. With the support of the World Wildlife Fund, he says, the country will build a web cam system to keep a close eye on the animals to help research them and protect locals from attacks. “Such a system could help us crack down on poachers,” he says.

Red alert

As well as the formal consensus on tiger numbers, MARD’s Forest Protection Department has worked out a plan to protect and conserve tigers until 2010.

Under the project, scientists will be trained on conservative and biological research techniques to help them create a safe environment for the animals. A public awareness campaign will also target people living near or around forests, national parks or other protected areas where tiger populations survive. Special attention will be paid to protecting virgin forests, areas believed to be top tiger habitats.

Protecting tigers from extinction is an international issue and Viet Nam will also boost co-operation with Cambodia, Laos and China to protect and maintain tiger habitats, especially in national parks Pu Mat, Chu Mom Ray, Chu Yang Sin, Bu Gia Map and the Pu Luong Natural Protection Zone, according to an official from MARD.

Tigers have been on the rare species list in Viet Nam since 1960. So far, many forests that provide a natural habitat for tigers have been classified as nature reserves in a bid to protect the animals. The country became a member of the Global Tiger Forum in 1997 and signed a host of international conventions on natural preservation, including the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species, and the Convention on Bio-diversity.

But as the trade in wild animals continues to boom, only time will tell if Viet Nam’s tigers can be rescued from the brink of extinction.

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Modern world encroaches on endangered antelope in Mongolia

 ASSOCIATED PRESS

BANGKOK, Thailand: A rare antelope species already under threat from poaching in Mongolia is facing a new danger — worsening traffic.

As affluent residents acquire motorbikes and cars in parts of western Mongolia, they are clogging roads that run along a key migration route for the saiga which, if not addressed, could reduce their already low numbers, Kim Murray Berger, an ecologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, said Saturday.

“As we get more and more traffic through the corridor, it would potentially discourage the saiga from using it,” she said, adding that could lead to the reproductive isolation of the species, reducing its genetic diversity.

The saiga — an odd animal which has a deer’s body, a camel’s head and a bulbous nose — has seen its numbers drop from 1 million in the 1980s to as low as 50,000 in its range, which includes Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and the Russian Republic of Kalmykia.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the saiga in Mongolia have come under threat from poachers who were encouraged to substitute rhino horns with those of the saiga for medicinal purposes, said Berger. The animals, which number around 5,000 in the country, have also faced competition from herders for good grazing areas and seen their numbers decimated by as much as 70 percent since the 1980s by droughts.

Berger set out in 2005 with her WCS colleagues and researchers from the Mongolian Academy of Sciences to better understand the movements of the saiga. Using radio collars equipped with global positioning system on adult females, the researchers were able to determine that the animals frequently traveled along a 5-kilometer- (3-mile-) wide corridor through a narrow valley. The route is also the location for a dirt road that serves as the only link villagers in the valley have with the outside world.

Berger said she hoped the study, which has been accepted for publication by the peer-reviewed publication The Open Conservation Biology Journal, would spur authorities to consider incorporating the saiga into any development plans for the area.

L. Undes, the deputy chairman of the Sustainable Development and Strategic Planning department in Mongolia’s Ministry of Natural Environment, said authorities planned to expand a nature reserve for saiga, limit herders use of the corridor and step up efforts to ban hunting of the saiga.

Berger previously helped identify a key migration route for the antelope-like pronghorn in and out of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

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Associated Press writer Ganbat Namjil contributed to this report from Mongolia.

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Sumatran tigers being sold into extinction, report reveals

 Jessica Aldred  – The Guardian

Laws to protect the Sumatran tiger are failing to prevent body parts of the critically endangered animal from being sold openly in Indonesia, according to a report released today.

Body parts including canine teeth, claws, skin pieces, whiskers and bones were found on sale in one in 10 of the 326 retail outlets in 28 cities and towns across Sumatra that were surveyed during 2006 by the wildlife trade monitoring body, Traffic.

Its report, The Tiger Trade Revisited in Sumatra, found tiger parts being sold in goldsmiths, souvenir and traditional Chinese medicine shops, and shops selling antique and precious stones. Trade was concentrated in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province, and Pancur Batu, a smaller town nearby, the report found.

Based on the number of teeth on sale, the survey estimates that 23 tigers were killed to supply the products found.

Traffic says this figure is down from its last survey in 1999-2000, which estimated that there were 52 tigers killed per year for the trade in body parts.

“Sadly, the decline in availability appears to be due to the dwindling number of tigers left in the wild,” said Julia Ng, programme officer with Traffic south-east Asia and lead author of the report. “The Sumatran tiger population is estimated to be fewer than 400 to 500 individuals. It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that the Sumatran tiger will disappear like the Javan and Bali tigers if the poaching and trade continues.”

The Sumatran tiger is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN-World Conservation Union’s “red list” of threatened species – the highest level of threat that a species may become extinct in the wild.

Indonesia’s only wild tigers are found on the island of Sumatra. Wild Bali and Javan tigers became extinct last century due to habitat destruction and hunting.

Despite international and domestic bans preventing trade of the animal, a thriving black market for tiger skins and bones is threatening to wipe out the world’s remaining wild tiger population.

Traffic says that despite providing Indonesian authorities with the details of traders involved, it is not clear whether any serious enforcement action has been taken.

“Successive surveys continue to show that Sumatran tigers are being sold, body part by body part, into extinction,” said Heather Sohl, wildlife trade officer at WWF, which runs Traffic as a joint programme with the IUCN. “This is an enforcement crisis. If Indonesian authorities need enforcement help from the international community they should ask for it. If not, they should demonstrate they are taking enforcement seriously.”

The report recommends that resources and efforts should concentrate on effective enforcement to combat the trade by arresting dealers and suppliers. It says trade hotspots should be continually monitored and all intelligence should be passed on to the authorities for action. Those found guilty of trading in tigers and other protected wildlife “should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law”, it says.

“We have to deal with the trade. Currently we are facing many other crucial problems which, unfortunately, are causing the decline of Sumatran tiger populations,” said Tonny Soehartono, the director for biodiversity conservation for Indoneia’s ministry of forestry. “We have been struggling with the issues of land use changes, habitat fragmentation, human-tiger conflicts and poverty in Sumatra. Land use changes and habitat fragmentation are driving the tiger closer to humans and thus creating human-tiger conflicts.”

Sumatra’s few remaining tigers are under threat not only from the illegal wildlife trade in their body parts, but from loss of their habitat due to deforestation. Unless tackled immediately, these combined threats will be the “death knell” for Indonesian tigers, Traffic says.

“The Sumatran tiger is already listed as critically endangered,” said Jane Smart, the head of the IUCN’s species programme. “We cannot afford to lose any more of these magnificent creatures.”

At last year’s climate change summit in Bali, the Indonesian president launched a conservation action plan to protect the Sumatran tiger. As it chairs this year’s Asean Widlife Enforcement Network, Traffic is urging Indonesia to show leadership in south-east Asia by taking action against the illegal wildlife trade.

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‘Vulture population declining alarmingly’

Nepal News

Four out of eight species of vulture found in Nepal are included in endangered list of the IUCN- the world conservation union. They are White Rumped (Gyps beldgalensis), Slender Billed (Gyps tenuirostris), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopteros) and Red headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus). Additionally, the first two are termed ‘critically endangered’.

White rumped Vulture (Photo Courtesy: BCN)

Following the warning from the IUCN over the possible extinction of vultures from Nepal, Birds Conservation Nepal (BCN) took several initiatives to increase the population of the birds here. Latest estimation show the number of nests found in west of Narayani River Chitwan National Park Buffer Zone Area and east Nawalparasi District  has doubled. President of BCN Shree Ram Subedi talked to Indra Adhikari of Nepalnews on the ongoing conservation efforts, causes of extinction and initiatives taken to increase their population. Excerpts:

What evidences show vultures are the endangered species of birds in Nepal?

We don’t have exact data to show how many vultures are found in Nepal. Practically it is impossible to maintain a reliable record. Yet there are few instances that show the number is declining at an alarming rate. In 2001 we counted 50 nests in Koshi Tappu. Next year it dropped to three and one in the following year. Since 2003, we have not found any nest in that wetland. Likewise, we had found 24 nests in Pokhara in 2004. This number dropped to 17 till 2006. Similarly, in the middle of the 1990s, these carnivorous birds could be seen in big flocks. This hasn’t been witnessed in recent years. IUCN conservationists have warned that population has decreased by 90 percent since 1990.

What are the causes of declining population of vultures?

Only in 1999, scientists came know that vultures are decreasing in this sub-continent. Since then, they explored to various studies and concluded in 2003 that diclofenic – a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) – caused the death of these birds. Carcasses of the NSAID-fed animals were the major cause of death. When its complement – Maloxicam — was discovered, we lobbied for government ban on the use of diclofenic in 2006.

(Photo Courtesy: BCN)

Besides, use of pesticides by farmers, confinements of the nest colonies, lack of adequate food because people started burying dead animals and cutting down of the trees led to extinction of these birds. The practice of cattle rearing has decreased, causing scarcity of food, specifically safe food. The government lacks initiative to stop destroying forests where vultures live. All these are the major factors for decreasing population.

What is BCN doing for saving these birds from extinction?

We started ‘vulture restaurants’ in some nesting areas. This was meant to feed the vultures with safe food since this has become scarcer in recent years. We asked the villagers to provide us with old cattle. We rear the cattle and on their death keep in open places where the vultures can feed on. Similarly, we have improved coordination with the community forest user groups to protect the forests where the vultures nest. We successfully campaigned for ban in use of the diclofenic. Within a year, the use has dropped to 10 percent. Now, we have begun a new project to increase the vulture population – a breeding centre. To be located at an isolated place inside Chitwan National Park, a natural cage will be prepared where we project to keep 10 pairs each of the two critically endangered species.

Are the local communities cooperative to conservation?

(Photo Courtesy: BCN)
Slender billed Vulture (Photo Courtesy: BCN)

With efforts of BCN, WWF, IUCN and many forest user groups, awareness on importance of vulture among the villagers is increasing. In Nawalparasi where we have vulture restaurants, villagers supply us with old livestock. In few instances, we also bought animals. Many farmers have reported us about the chopping of big trees where vultures have nested. As we communicated the issue with ministry of forest, many vulture colonies have been saved from being destroyed.

Are conservation efforts for this endangered bird satisfactory?

Not much. Though the responses to our approach were positive, the government has not shown seriousness at par with the graveness of the situation. The government must be proactive. Since most forests have been handed over to the communities, the local communities have to be made proactive towards protection issue and increase their involvement. Derisory resources available with us also hindered conservation efforts. nepalnews.com Jan 17 08

(Editor’s Note: Nepalnews will continue this column by talking to officials, professionals, politicians, businessmen, diplomats, those who make outstanding achievements in their chosen field and newsmakers. Please post your suggestions/comments to feedback@mos.com.np)

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Japanese Golden Eagle: Critically Endangered

 Japanprobe

The Asahi Shinbun reports that the Japanese Golden Eagle is in trouble:

The outlook is grim for Japanese golden eagles, designated a national natural treasure. Breeding rates have plunged in the Tohoku region, home to the endangered bird of prey, according to researchers.

Loss of habitat and hunting grounds is to blame.

Raptor researchers in the volunteer Mokin-rui Chosakai group said that only 10 young inuwashi eagles left the nest among 61 breeding pairs surveyed in 2006 in the six prefectures of the Tohoku region.

Either eggs were not laid, or if laid, did not hatch. Many of those that hatched soon died, the researchers said.

In Iwate Prefecture, only two young eagles grew to adulthood and set out on their own, among 32 adult breeding pairs this year, researchers said.

[…]

The Japanese golden eagle is on Japan’s Red List as a critically endangered species–one step away from becoming extinct in the wild. The Red List was revised by the Environment Ministry in December 2006.

The majestic bird is one of the largest raptor species in Japan, with a wingspan of about 2 meters. It is protected under the Law for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Only about 500 to 650 golden eagles survive in mountainous areas across the nation, from Hokkaido to Kyushu.

For more information on the Japanese Golden Eagle, check out this article from the Japanese Society for Preservation of Birds. You can also download, print out, and create a folded paper craft eagle from this site.

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Cambodia considers plan to save endangered Irrawaddy dolphin from extinction

Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia’s endangered Irrawaddy dolphin could be saved from extinction by a plan to reduce villagers’ dependence on fishing and promote tourism near the animal’s habitat in the Mekong River, officials said Tuesday.

The plan — funded by US$100,000 (€68,185) from the government and US$600,000 (€410,110) from the World Tourism Organization — will introduce alternative means of livelihood to villages along the river in two northeastern provinces, Tourism Minister Thong Khon said.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, an estimated 80 to 110 dolphins remain in Cambodia’s stretch of the Mekong River, but about a dozen die each year. The WWF has classified the species as “critically endangered.”

“The main cause of dolphins’ deaths is fishing. So we want to encourage people to grow vegetables, raise fish in ponds or pilot boats to take tourists to see dolphins instead,” Thong Khon said.

While many of the dolphins have died from being trapped in villagers’ fishing nets, fishing is also depleting their food supply, he said.

The conservation plan, called the Mekong River Discovery Trail Project, will promote poverty alleviation through tourism development, the WTO said in a statement.

Thong Khon said dolphin conservation and tourism development are closely linked to improved living conditions for people. “No dolphins means no tourism. No tourism means no development,” he said.

The plan is supposed to draw visitors to view the dolphin, which lives in 10 natural deep-water pools in a 190-kilometer (120-mile) stretch of the Mekong River, mostly between the capitals of Kratie and Stung Treng provinces, the WTO said.

The project will begin community-based tourism and training for villagers this month, it said.

Harsh Varma, director of the WTO’s Development Assistance Department, described the project as “sustainable pro-poor tourism.” The organization said about 30 percent of households in Kratie and 50 percent in Stung Treng live on less than US$1 (€0.68) a day.

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