Wildlife matters

Illegal bear trade still persists in Vietnam

The illegal market for bears and bear parts is still strong in Vietnam despite the introduction of legislation to ban their sale in 2006. This revelation stems from the latest research by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network. Released on the sidelines of the Ha Noi Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade and titled An assessment of the trade in bear bile and gall bladders in Vietnam, the report analysed data from surveys of shops in six cities across Vietnam in 2012 and 2016. The report has provided evidence of a range of bear products still being put on offer. Of the 70 traditional medicine and other outlets surveyed in 2016, 40 per cent had bear products for sale, down from 56 per cent in 2012.

Giraffe under threat – IUCN Red List

The iconic giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), one of the world's most recognisable animals and the tallest land mammal, is now threatened with extinction. The species, which is widespread across southern and eastern Africa, with smaller isolated subpopulations in west and central Africa, has moved from Least Concern to Vulnerable due to a dramatic 36-40% decline from approximately 151,702-163,452 individuals in 1985 to 97,562 in 2015. The growing human population is having a negative impact on many giraffe subpopulations. Illegal hunting, habitat loss and changes through expanding agriculture and mining, increasing human-wildlife conflict, and civil unrest are all pushing the species towards extinction. Of the nine subspecies of giraffe, three have increasing populations, whilst five have decreasing populations and one is stable. A resolution adopted at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in September this year called for action to reverse the decline of the giraffe.

New Zealand’s dirty ivory trade exposed

Last April Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta set fire to a stockpile of confiscated elephant ivory that amounted to the tusks of about 6,700 illegally killed elephants. He did so in an effort to show his country’s commitment to saving Africa’s elephants, stating: “No-one, and I repeat no one, has any business in trading in ivory, for this trade means death of our elephants and death of our natural heritage.” Kenyatta is not alone in his resolve. More than 20 other ivory producing and consuming countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe, as well as the United States, have destroyed ivory at public events to send a clear international message of zero tolerance to ivory poaching and smuggling. China and the U.S., with two of the largest ivory markets, made a pact in 2015 to tackle wildlife crime and protect elephants. China has halted ivory imports and promised to close its domestic ivory market altogether, while the U.S. has tightened its ivory trading laws to the point where commercial trade has been practically completely squeezed out. Just a few months ago the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) passed a historic resolution calling for the closure of global domestic elephant ivory markets where they contribute to illegal trading or poaching. Despite these international commitments and actions, it appears that New Zealand, a party to CITES, considers ivory trading to be an acceptable business. And it’s a business made up of far more that just a few old ivory-handled cutlery sets, billiard balls, or antique ivory inlay furniture. Story: Fiona Gordon / National Geographic

Traffic: Thailand failing to stop illegal trade in apes

Two new reports have raised concern about Thailand’s inability to stop its illegal trade in orangutans and other non-native apes. One report, produced by the wildlife trade monitor TRAFFIC and based on a survey of 57 wildlife attractions across Thailand, recorded 51 orangutans on display but found records for only 21 in the 2014 International Studbook of the Orangutan. The numbers of non-native apes observed were also much higher than those recorded as being legally imported. The database of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has only five orangutans being imported into Thailand since 1975 and no records of the Western Gorilla or 14 crested gibbons found during the survey.
According to the study, Apes in Demand, “at least some of these animals arrived in captivity illegally.” Thailand’s laws, it says, are failing to protect wildlife from outside the country. According to a separate analysis of Thai legislation produced by TRAFFIC, which is run jointly by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), “Anyone found in possession of such wildlife does not currently have to show how they acquired it; rather the State must prove that the animals were illegally imported in order to be able to take any subsequent enforcement action.” Source: Traffic

Sime Darby foundation committed to save Sabah's remaining wildlife

The Sime Darby Foundation (SDF), set up in 1982 to provide philanthropic support to Sime Darby has a serious mission to save the Malaysia's remaining wildlife including the orangutan in Sabah. SDF chairman Tun Musa Hitam said the foundation realised the dire need to rehabilitate the Ulu Segama Malua, now known as Bukit Piton Forest Reserve by collaborating with the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) and Sime Darby Plantation to reforest 5,400 hectares of the reserve for the orangutan and other wildlife. "The foundation has committed RM25 million towards the project over a period of 10 years by planting trees that forms crucial habitat and results in food sources to foster wildlife.

New study highlights significant discrepancies in live animal exports from Indonesia to the Netherlands

Wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, issued a report on wildlife trade between the Netherlands and Indonesia indicating that there is a large discrepancy of animals being traded between the countries which remain unaccounted for. According to the study, Indonesia reported that it exported 456,658 animals to the Netherlands between 2003 and 2013. The study also indicated that the Netherlands reportedly imported 343,992 species in that time. This also differed from the data provided by the United Nations Environmental Program World Conservation Monitoring Center, where almost 550,000 species were reportedly exported to the Netherlands, according to its trade database.
Of the 550,000 species, 98 percent comprised of coral specimens and the remaining were birds, fish, mammals, molluscs and reptiles. “Transactions not tallying between exporters and importers is a perennial problem seen in reporting of trade worldwide: in this instance the discrepancies indicate poor compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) requirements for accurate information on the actual numbers of wildlife traded, and impedes proper understanding of wildlife trade dynamics,” Chris Shepherd, TRAFFIC’s Southeast Asia regional director, said in a statement.

Vietnam seizes 446 kilograms of ivory smuggled from Nigeria

Vietnamese authorities have seized 446 kilograms of ivory illegally shipped from Nigeria after finding 3.5 tons at the same port last month. The ivory seized had been hidden in timber in a container at Cat Lai port in the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City. Authorities seized 3.5 tons of ivory in three shipments smuggled from Africa at the same port last month. State media say 1 ton of ivory costs US$1.8 million on the black market. Vietnam will host an international conference on illegal wildlife trade in Hanoi later this month that is expected to be attended by Britain’s Prince William, a vocal critic of the trade.

Wildlife populations plunge almost 60% since 1970

Worldwide populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have plunged by almost 60 per cent since 1970 as human activities overwhelm the environment, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) conservation group said on Thursday. An index compiled with data from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) to measure the abundance of biodiversity was down 58 per cent from 1970 to 2012 and would fall 67 per cent by 2020 based on current trends, the WWF said in a report. The decline is yet another sign that people have become the driving force for change on Earth, ushering in the epoch of the Anthropocene, a term derived from “anthropos”, the Greek for “human” and “-cene” denoting a geological period. Conservation efforts appear to be having scant impact as the index is showing a steeper plunge in wildlife populations than two years ago, when the WWF estimated a 52 per cent decline by 2010.
Download report: Living Planet Report 2016

South Asian countries want to collaborate wildlife crimes

High-level delegations from South Asia recently met to further promote and enhance collaboration with regional and international organisations to combat wildlife crimes, China's Xinhua news agency reported. The Bangladesh Ministry of Environment and Forests organised the 3rd meeting of South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) with the assistance of the World Bank's Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Wildlife Protection project. Apart from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, representatives from a large number of local and foreign organizations including CITES, Interpol, GTF, TRAFFIC India, UNODC, WWF, World Bank, USAID and GIZ also attended the two-day meeting.
Download press release here
“Wildlife is disappearing within our lifetimes at an unprecedented rate,” Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International, said in a statement of the group’s Living Planet Report, published every two years. “Biodiversity forms the foundation of healthy forests, rivers and oceans,” he said in a statement. “We are entering a new era in Earth’s history: the Anthropocene,” he said.

World's only brown panda gets ready for mating

Qizai is the world's only living panda with a coat of brown and white, instead of the usual black and white. But the seven-year-old male panda from China may not be alone for much longer, as keepers are preparing it for mating. Qizai was found as a two-month-old cub in the Qinling mountains of central China. It is thought to have been abandoned by its mother. Researchers took it to a wildlife reserve where it was kept alive with milk harvested from other pandas. Its keeper He Qin told The Daily Mail that when Qizai was a cub, it was rejected by the other pandas in the reserve, who would steal its food. Qizai subsists on a diet of about 20kg of bamboo a day and has since grown to a healthy weight of more than 100kg.
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The Malayan Tiger is in danger

Malaysian Wildlife Department rescued 30 endangered and exotic animals in five raids

The Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks rescued 30 endangered and exotic animals, including a tiger cub, in five raids nationwide under Op Taring 4. Natural Resources and Environment Minister Junaidi said five people were arrested during the raids conducted in Kedah, Selangor and Kelantan.
Among the animals seized were a dwarf caiman, an owl, a Mollucan Cockatoo and a bearcat. "These animals are endangered and they have their own crucial roles in keeping the balance of the ecosystem,” Minister Junaidi told reporters at a press conference to announce the success of Op Taring 4. But he said most of those caught could easily come up with the money to pay fines even as high as the maximum RM500,000. Wan Junaidi said that a mandatory jail sentence could be an effective deterrent that would make anyone think twice before committing the crime. "We can consider making it an (offense punishable with a) mandatory jail sentence for those caught with endangered species by amending the relevant laws," "Animals do not like to be caged. I believe the perpetrators will not like (to be jailed) too," he said. Junaidi said the female tiger cub rescued during a raid at a private residence in Hulu Langat could fetch a handsome price of between RM150,000 and RM200,000. The authorities also detained a foreigner at KLIA yesterday allegedly trying to smuggle out body parts believed to be from a tiger. The Wildlife Department had conducted a three month-long surveillance based on information gathered from social media before carrying out the raids.

Hunting biggest threat to Southeast Asian biodiversity

Deforestation and forest degradation are typically considered to be the most significant threats to tropical biodiversity, but a new study finds that hunting is “by far” the most severe immediate threat to the survival of Southeast Asia’s endangered vertebrates. The authors of the study, published last month in the journal Conservation Biology, examined the impacts of hunting on vertebrate populations in the region by conducting an extensive review of scientific papers in local journals and reports of governmental and nongovernmental agencies. They found evidence that animal populations have declined sharply at multiple sites across Southeast Asia since 1980, with many species now completely wiped out in substantial portions of their former ranges. “Tropical Southeast Asia (Northeast India, Indochina, Sundaland, Philippines) is experiencing a wildlife crisis,” the authors of the study write. Large areas of natural forest across the region are nearly devoid of large animals, except for a few hunting-tolerant species, they add. Previous estimates have held that only one percent of the land area in tropical Asia still supports an intact fauna of mammals, but the authors write that their findings suggest that “In reality the situation is far worse.” Full article published by Mike Gaworecki (Mongabay)

World's only brown panda gets ready for mating

Qizai is the world's only living panda with a coat of brown and white, instead of the usual black and white. But the seven-year-old male panda from China may not be alone for much longer, as keepers are preparing it for mating. Qizai was found as a two-month-old cub in the Qinling mountains of central China. It is thought to have been abandoned by its mother. Researchers took it to a wildlife reserve where it was kept alive with milk harvested from other pandas. Its keeper He Qin told The Daily Mail that when Qizai was a cub, it was rejected by the other pandas in the reserve, who would steal its food. Qizai subsists on a diet of about 20kg of bamboo a day and has since grown to a healthy weight of more than 100kg.

Conservationists doubting vietnamese claim that local demand for rhino horn has dropped

According to Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Tuan, Vietnam has succeeded in cutting the demand for rhino horn, with a reduction of 38 per cent over the past three years, but several conservationists have doubt about these figures. To answer the question whether the demand for rhino horn had cut by 38%, it requires a robust monitoring program that consists of repeated, standardized surveys of consumers on the one hand and an assessment of policies, poaching rates, and enforcement measures on the other – facilitated by coordination between government and non-government groups. It is still premature to say whether there has been a genuine behavior change among consumers towards buying rhino horn in Vietnam and even more so to suggest what may have caused it. But it represents no setback to acknowledge that. In wildlife conservation victories come slowly and methodically. When the fate of a species hangs in the balance we owe it to ourselves to rigorously scrutinize our efforts before declaring victory.

China accused of defying its own ban on breeding tigers to profit from body parts

China has been accused of deceiving the international community by allowing a network of farms to breed thousands of captive tigers for the sale of their body parts, in breach of their own longstanding ban on the trade. The Chinese government has allowed about 200 specialist farms to hold an estimated 6,000 tigers for slaughter, before their skins are sold as decoration and their bones are marinated to produce tonics and lotions. Campaigners say this has increased demand for the products and provoked the poaching of thousands of wild tigers, whose global population is now down to just 3,500.

China is expected to come under pressure at this week’s Johannesburg conference of nations who have signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). The Guardian has found that Chinese delegates have tried to obstruct debate at the conference by rewriting a critical report and questioning the wording of a key decision. The Chinese say their domestic market is nobody else’s business since Cites covers only international trade. They also point out that by breeding 6,000 tigers in captivity they have significantly increased the population of the species, and question why western countries should be allowed to breed cattle and pigs for their own markets if they are to be criticised for doing so with tigers. The argument gets to the heart of the debate about whether endangered species have an inherent right to exist in their own habitat, or should be allowed to survive only if they have some commercial value – “if it pays, it stays”. Some poorer nations are pushing hard for a legal right to kill and trade the parts of elephants, rhinos and tigers.

China’s State Council introduced its tiger breeding ban in May 1993 under intense pressure, with the Clinton administration in the US and Cites separately threatening trade sanctions. They closed down 200 factories that had been producing wine from marinated tiger bones. Chinese delegates told a subsequent Cites meeting that it had “banned all internal trade in tiger parts.”

This story was first published in The Guardian

New plan to prioritise rhino population

The newly launched African Rhino Conservation range States Action Plan aims to ensure that continental rhino increases over the next five years. Speaking during the launch of the plan, Chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission's African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG), Dr Mike Knight, said it was important to protect the rhino and the range states needed to make sure that funding was available to deliver on rhino conservation as it does not come cheap.

Hunting restrictions will cause economic losses for namibia

The loss of economic incentives for conservation through trade restrictions or pressure on hunting will lead to significant economic losses and an increase in poverty in Namibia, says Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta. He expressed these sentiments during the ongoing 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) being held in in Johannesburg, South Africa. "I strongly believe that a call to ban sustainable [trophy] conservation hunting or new unreasonable measures that would unduly restrict hunting will reduce the value of game species to their meat value and private landowners will have to reduce their game numbers in order to increase cattle numbers in an attempt to substitute the loss of income," he noted in a media statement.

Africa's elephant population fell around 20 percent between 2006 and 2015 because of poaching

Africa's elephant population fell around 20 percent between 2006 and 2015 because of a surge in ivory poaching, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said in its latest report. Switzerland-based IUCN is regarded as the most authoritative source on wild fauna populations and the report's release at a UN conference on the global wildlife trade will lend a sense of urgency as some countries seek to keep the global ivory trade shut while others want to reopen it. Read more

Red list: hunting pushes eastern gorillas close to extinction

Illegal hunting in Democratic Republic of Congo has wiped out 70 percent of Eastern gorillas in the past two decades and pushed the world's biggest primate close to extinction, a Red List of endangered species showed. Four out of six species of great apes are now rated "critically endangered," or one step away from extinction, by threats such as hunting and a loss of forests to farmland from West Africa to Indonesia, according to the annual list by wildlife experts. Eastern gorillas, revised from a lesser category of "endangered," join their sister species, the Western gorilla, and both species of orangutan which were already on the list as critically endangered.

The other two species of great apes, chimpanzees and bonobos, are rated endangered. "To see the Eastern gorilla — one of our closest cousins — slide towards extinction is truly distressing," said Inger Andersen, director general of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) which compiles the Red List. Millions of people died in fighting in the mineral-rich east of Democratic Republic of Congo from 1996 and 2003 and militias and miners often hunted gorillas for food.

Too soon to take giant panda off the endangered list

It is too soon to downgrade the conservation status of China’s giant pandas as they still face severe threats, a leading conservationist said, after the International Union for Conservation of Nature took the species off its endangered list. The giant panda has emerged as a success story for conservation in China whose cause has been championed right up to the highest levels in Beijing, where leaders often give the animal to other countries as a sign of friendship. As of the end of 2015, China had 1,864 giant pandas in the wild, up from about 1,100 in 2000, with 422 in captivity, according to the government. But on Sunday, the International Union for Conservation of Nature reclassified the species as “vulnerable” rather than “endangered“, citing growing numbers in the wild due to decades of protection efforts.

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