Tag Archives: endangered species

Celebrating World Elephant Day Through Pictures

Today we celebrate the third annual World Elephant Day.

The holiday was created in 2012 by Canadian filmmaker and elephant advocate Patricia Sims, along with the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation in Thailand.

Elephant activist and filmmaker Patricia Sims with an older female elephant. Click to enlarge

The holiday was started to draw awareness to the plight of elephants around the world.

Asian elephants are an endangered species, with only about 40,000 left in the wild.

A 6-day old newborn Asian elephant meets some of the other elephants in its herd at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park in England. Click to enlarge (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Europe)

In their traditional home of Thailand, only about 4,000 Asian elephants remain today, down from over 100,000 at the beginning of the 1900s.

In the past 50 years alone, their range has shrunk by nearly 70%:

Asian elephant range. Click to enlarge

African elephants are considered threatened, with a little under 400,000 remaining.

Other than habitat loss, one of the main threats facing African elephants is the extremely lucrative worldwide ivory trade.

July, 2011: Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki lights a bonfire of confiscated illegal ivory at the Tsavo East National Park in southeast Nairobi. Kibaki destroyed some 335 tusks and 42,553 pieces of ivory carvings. Click to enlarge (Tony Karumba / AFP – Getty Images)

Ivory is extremely valuable, meaning that modern day poachers are often very well-funded by wealthy ivory traders.

This high level of sophistication allows them to target even some of the most famous and well-protected elephants in the world.

Satao, one of the world’s last great tuskers (elephants with tusks weighing 100+ pounds each), was killed by poachers in Tsavo East National Park early in June of this year.

Satao had a reputation for being highly intelligent, and was even known to hide his massive tusks in bushes, seemingly aware of the danger that they brought upon him. Click to enlarge

But the news isn’t all bad.

In February of this year, the Fish and Wildlife Service banned all imports and exports of elephant ivory within the U.S. (with extremely narrow exceptions).

The U.S. actually has one of the largest illegal ivory markets in the world, second only to China.

Most ivory passes through Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong and the Philippines before ultimately ending up in China. Click to enlarge

And just last month, we got to hear the touching story of Raju.

This asian elephant spent 50 years being tortured and mistreated, all while sharp chains and spiked shackles cut painfully into his legs.

But in early July, a group of animal charity workers pulled off a daring rescue, freeing Raju from his nightmare. He was visibly emotional during the rescue, and even wept.

Raju the elephant wept when he realized he was being rescued. Click to enlarge

They delivered Raju to an elephant sanctuary in India, where he is already making new friends.

Raju is clearly enjoying his new home, friends and life. Click to enlarge

There are plenty of things to be optimistic about, but we have to keep reminding ourselves that the illegal ivory trade is still a big problem, and one that is actually getting worse.

More ivory was confiscated last year than in any of the previous 25 years. The problem is that poachers can get anywhere between $100-000 to $200,000 for a single tusk, which is a massive incentive to any would-be poacher.

The graphic below shows the relationship between elephant poaching in Africa and ivory seizures in Asia. Click to enlarge:

The problems facing elephants are serious indeed, but today is a celebration of the majestic creatures.

In light of that, I think it’s only fair that I finish this post off with three of the cutest baby elephants ever.

Should People Be Outraged By A Texas Tech Cheerleader Hunting Big Game In Africa? (Poll)

Don’t forget to voice your opinion by answering the poll questions at the end!

Kendall Jones is a 19-year-old from Cleburne, Texas, a small town about 45 minutes southwest of Dallas. When she was nine, she started following her father on his big game hunts in Africa.

Kendall quickly took a liking to the hunts, and at the age of 13, she shot her first animal: a White Rhino. From her Facebook:

“Although I had many other opportunities to shoot animals I wanted to save it for the Big 5, so the first animal I ever shot was a White Rhino with a .416 Remington!!”

Kendall poses with her White Rhino. Click to enlarge

The Big 5 Kendall mentions refers to the five African animals coveted most by hunters: the rhino, the elephant, the Cape buffalo, the leopard and the lion.

Since then, she has checked off the other four, as you can see in the pictures below.

Kendall with a Cape buffalo. Click to enlarge
Kendall, who describes her hunts as “fair chases”, with the near threatened African leopard. Click to enlarge
Kendall poses with a male lion. Click to enlarge
When this photo of Kendall with a large bull elephant sparked outrage, she defended herself by pointing out that the meat helped feed hundreds of families. Click to enlarge

Kendall’s “About” section on her Facebook page says that she’s, “looking to host a tv show in January 2015” about her hunting adventures through Africa.

Ironically, she has gained the public spotlight because of a recent online petition that has asked Facebook to, “Remove the page of Kendall Jones that promotes animal cruelty!” The petition, posted just over a week ago, has already garnered over 45,000 signatures (its goal is 50,000).

Another petition, posted to the website change.org a few days later, calls her out for using her hunting to expand her social media influence and adavance her entertainment career and asks that she be banned from hunting in Africa completely. It has nearly 3,500 signatures.

Kendall with a white springbok. She captioned this photo: “Another harvest for today. White springbok, it’s 1 of the 4 color shades of this animal! And let me tell you it’s one of my favorite kinds of meat so far!”

In her defense, Kendall argues that her hunting is about conservation. She writes,

“Controlling the male lion population is important within large fenced areas like these… Funds from a hunt like this goes partially to the government for permits but also to the farm owner as an incentive to keep and raise lions on their property.”

So while many may find what she’s doing distasteful, it’s actually not illegal. Big game hunters pay the government’s of African countries for special permits which allow them to hunt the animals.

These permits are often auctioned off, with a large portion of the proceeds supposedly going to help wildlife conservation efforts in the region. I say “supposedly” because anyone who knows Africa knows that a lot of money never gets where it’s supposed to go.

One of the biggest problems with illegal poaching is that many wildlife agents, customs officials, and government leaders are already being paid-off by wealthy and powerful mafia-style poaching rings, so it would be extremely surprising if this corruption doesn’t also exist in the extremely lucrative permit auctions.

Satao, one of the world’s most iconic elephants who was recently poached for his massive tusks. Click this image to read that story

Personally, I think killing any animal (especially one as rare and majestic as the great beasts of Africa) so you can pose with it for social media attention is a pretty selfish thing to do. Sure, certain populations (like feral hogs in Texas, for example) do a lot of damage to the environment and ought to be controlled.

And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people wanting to document their kills for themselves, but parading the dead bodies of some of our most threatened species doesn’t send a message of conservation and protection, in my opinion.

However, as I said earlier, it’s perfectly legal. And I’m not sure whether people being offended by the pictures is a good enough reason to remove them from Facebook (which is full of offensive content), let alone ban her from Africa.

Let me know what you think by answering the three poll questions below.

Read the original story from the Daily Mail here.

If you’re interested in knowing just how threatened these different animal species are, you can look them up on World Wildlife Federation’s Endangered Species Directory.

A New WikiLeaks-Style Website Is Taking Some Huge Bites Out of Wildlife Crime

WildLeaks is a new website using the internet to target and investigate the kingpins of illegal wildlife activities, such as poaching, the illegal trafficking of tropical pets and deforestation, among other things. The website utilizes Tor technology to ensure anonymity.

WildLeaks’s first major revelation was the story of how Somalian terrorist group Al-Shabaab had been smuggling ivory to fund their operations.

Founder of WildLeaks Andrea Crosta

“We had our first tip within 24 hours and the response has been beyond our wildest imagination,”

says founder Andrea Crosta, who is also the director of the Elephant Action League. Crosta explains that since many of the major wildlife crime operations rely on corrupt law enforcement officials, the site provides whistleblowers a safe avenue to report the crimes:

“You can’t, for example, export containers full of ivory from Mombasa without bribing people left, right and centre… We definitely feel we are filling a gap.”

In the three months it has been operating so far, the site has yielded 24 major tip-offs of wildlife crime, including:

• elephant poaching in Africa and illicit ivory trading in Hong Kong;

• killing of Sumatran tigers, of which there are just 400 left in the wild;

• illegal lion and leopard hunting in South Africa;

• chimpanzee trafficking in Liberia;

• illegal fishing activities in Alaska, including alleged mafia involvement;

• importing of illegal African wildlife products into the US;

• illegal logging in Mexico, Malawi and Siberia

According to Interpol, the illicit wildlife trade makes $10-$20 billion dollars every year. Read the full story from The Guardian here.

New Study: Species Are Going Extinct 1,000 Times Faster Since People Arrived On the Scene

“We are on the verge of the sixth extinction… Whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions.”

These are the words of Stuart Pimm, a well-known biologist and conservationist from Duke University. Pimm is the lead author of a new study which looked at the rate of extinction for plant and animal species, and how it has been affected by the rise of the human race over time.

Pimm has spent years researching how species emerge and disappear from our planet. He was less interested in the exact number of species that disappear every year, choosing rather to study the rate of disappearance for all species every year.

Stuart Pimm (Photo: Alex di Suvero/New York Times)

This “death rate” is simply the number of species that die out every year per million species. In 1995, Pimm had calculated the pre-human extinction rate to be 1, but further research and observations prompted him to refine this number to closer to 0.1 (meaning that only about 1 species per every 10 million total died out every year before humans emerged).

According to Pimm, that rate is between 100 and 1,000 today. There are lots of reasons for this, but it seems that by far the biggest factor is habitat loss.

Click to enlarge

The exponential growth and spread of humans has encroached on the historical habitats of countless species, crowding many of them out.

Also, the introduction of foreign invasive species into new habitats (almost always caused by humans, whether intentionally or unintentionally), have posed another major threat to many species that were already struggling with declining habitats.

Click to enlarge

Five times during Earth’s history, a large portion of all the plant and animal species have died out in what are known as mass extinctions. The last one, around 66 million years ago, wiped out all the dinosaurs, as well as 75% of the other species on Earth at the time.

Pimm and co-author Clinton Jenkins of the Institute of Ecological Research in Brazil believe that the rapid advancement of humans in modern times may be causing the 6th mass extinction.

Click to enlarge

They do note, however, that modern technology has also given us invaluable tools to fight the trend, including scientific advances that help breeding programs and social media campaigns which can quickly raise awareness.

Whether we choose to actually use these tools to reverse the trend of extinctions remains to be seen.

Read more from the Post Bulletin here.

The Lion Whisperer Plays Soccer With Some of His Majestic Furry Friends (Video)

Kevin Richardson is a zoologist and conservationist who works with orphaned lions in the southern parts of Africa. Kevin takes in orphaned cubs, raises them to adulthood and then releases them back into national parks and game preserves where they are protected.

Kevin uses the amazing bond he has with these lions to promote awareness of their declining numbers by making mind-blowing videos of him interacting with the animals as if he were one of them.

Most recently he released the video above in conjunction with Van Gils, the official tailor of the Dutch national soccer team, whose mascot is a lion.

If you enjoyed this clip, make sure to check out this video that we posted in January, where Richardson takes a bunch of GoPro cameras with him while visiting his lion companions and a pack of hyenas who he has befriended as well.

Awesome! US Bans ALL Trade In Elephant Ivory Within Its Borders

The Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week that it will be banning all imports and exports (with extremely narrow exceptions) of elephant ivory within the US.

Conservationists are optimistic that the movie will help to curb the illegal poaching of elephants in Africa, as the United States is home to the second largest ivory market in the world.

Sales of ivory across state lines will be strictly prohibited unless the ivory in question can be shown to be at least 100 years old. Sales of ivory within states will be prohibited unless the seller can prove that the ivory was legally imported before 1990 (the year after the US signed the UN’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora agreement).

However, the move is only as good as its enforcement. If the US isn’t willing to adequately fund the program and aggressively pursue those who violate it the move will have little real impact.

Read the full story from the New York Times here.

5 Beautiful Animals That Have Disappeared in the Last 25 Years

1. West African Black Rhinoceros 

Hunted for its horns, which are sold on the black market as aphrodisiacs in countries like China and Yemen, the last of these rhinos disappeared from Cameroon in west Africa in 2006.

2. Po’ouli

This bird, native to Maui island in Hawaii, inhabited the southwestern slope of the Haleakala volcano on the island. It wasn’t discovered until the 1970s, and immediately its numbers began to decline.

By 1997 there were only 3 left in the wild, and they were officially declared extinct in 2004.

2. Zanzibar Leopard 

The zanzibar leopard was a unique leopard species only found on the island of Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania in east Africa. As the island evolved during the 20th century, people began coming into contact with the leopards more and more.

Locals also believed that the leopards were kept by witches and actively sought to exterminate the cat. Conservation attempts in the 1990s were unsuccessful.

4. Pyrenean Ibex

This species of wild goat lived in the Iberian peninsula until being hunted to extinction in 2000. Skin samples from the last pyrenean ibex were used to clone one in 2009, but it died from lung complications shortly afterwards.

5. Golden Toad

This boldly colored toad was found high in the mountains of Costa Rica. Pollution, habitat loss, and a fungal virus all contribute to its extinction in 1989.