Infrastructure and wildlife conflict all too frequently as human populations explode around the planet. India is taking measures to stop the tragic deaths of elephants as they cross rail lines and become victims of speeding trains following the loss of 70 elephants since 2013. When you think about it we have a responsibility to give animals safe passage doing what we can to stop unnecessary deaths. Restricted speed limits have been put into place where there are elephant corridors and ramps are being built to allow the animals a way across the lines safely. Elephants have known routes they follow all their lives that can lead to tragedy as they unwittingly walk straight into disaster so it's up to us to find solutions to this carnage as we surge across and into just about every space on the planet squeezing animals into ever decreasing spaces.
Emerging as a growing threat to wildlife in recent years is the obsession people have with the selfie. The increasingly popular selfie with wild animals creates all kinds of risks to both animals and people who will stop at nothing to get the perfect selfie so they can impress their 'friends'. So shallow to not care anything at all about the welfare of the animal and to put it at risk just for the instant gratification of getting as many likes as possible. Recent news of kangaroos attacking tourists in NSW show the ugly side of feeding wildlife in an attempt to get them closer for a photo. Kangaroos can be dangerous animals that can inflict serious wounds if they are aggravated which has been the case when food has been withdrawn or not given after people have been feeding them. How stupid can these people be I wonder ? Some serious fines need to be handed out to people who ignore signs not to feed wildlife.
Plastic is fast becoming an environmental catastrophe of massive proportions. Tons and tons of it every day dumped into and washing from some of the largest rivers in the world that end up in the ocean. Marine life suffers of that there can be no doubt but we suffer from it too by eating the fish that have ingested small particles of plastics. What can be done to curb the rate of this shocking problem ? For one thing I question the amount of plastic in the packaging of many of the goods and foods that we buy. Why does there have to be so much when there wasn't before ? It's absurd how much has to be cut away layers of it peeled back to actually unpack the item you've bought. Foam food trays covered with plastic wrap sometimes several layers of it. Then there are all the containers of food and drink that once came in glass bottles and the list goes on. We need to start using a lot less of it. Much of the time it's completely unnecessary anyway. Perhaps we as consumers have to start rejecting items with excessive plastic wrapping but ultimately governments of some countries need to address waste control at the very least. Manufacturers also need to be made to use less plastics in the goods they distribute and perhaps the oceans will look less like a tip.
This is the face of the illegal wildlife trade that seems an almost insurmountable problem to overcome. A massive cultural shift is needed to slow it down and eventually manage it but currently it is such a huge problem it is difficult to believe it would ever be eliminated.
There appears to be no limit to how animals are exploited for profit. The growing use and promotion of leopard bones is a worrying trend in China that must be stopped. Lion bones, tiger bones, now leopard being used in wines that are promoted as a tonic for all sorts of stupid beliefs that have absolutely no basis in fact, it's all just myth and nonsense. When will some of these countries so something serious to end the suffering and plundering of wildlife ? Only a total ban on the importing and exporting of body parts is good enough.
African wild dogs are endangered in many countries within Africa due to persecution snaring and habitat loss. In a remarkable effort these amazing highly intelligent animals have been part of a reintroduction program to reestablish their species in Mozambique after decades of absence. One of Africas most successful predators the large packs that once existed have been shrinking but in war ravaged countries like Mozambique these wonderful animals have disappeared altogether. It is so encouraging to know that efforts to reintroduce animals at risk of extinction are being made.
The rarest cat in the world probably is the Amur leopard and certainly it is one of the most beautiful. That these magnificent animals are making a comeback is genuine cause for celebration considering that their numbers plummeted to around 30 not that long ago proving that conservation efforts are making a tremendous difference. This amazing big cat is without a doubt truly a wonder of nature with it's gorgeous patterned dense coat and extraordinary long tail. Living in some of the most hostile environments on earth in south east Russia this cat has to be a survivor and it makes my heat sing to think that with dedication and effort we can make a difference to the wild world by protecting it for creatures like these.
Britian has just announced it's toughest legislation to ban the trade in elephant ivory in a bid to show a serious committment to ending the wretched trade. If elephants are to have a chance other countries must follow including Australia and ban the trade in absolutely anything made of ivory. This should include antiques rare and unique old items regardless of their worth if we are really serious. Even Kenya has announced life sentences to anyone caught trading in ivory but it also gets down to people on holidays visiting foreign countries and being tempted to buy some trinket made of ivory. That a beautiful huge animal has been slaughtered for it should make anyone think twice.
Sudan is gone. We should mourn his loss as ours and feel great sadness that we allowed this to happen. How is it that we allowed a species to dwindle because of disregard to the huge threats these magnificent animals faced. That he was the last of his kind the Northern White Rhino should be a sobering thought and a wake up that we need to do more for other species facing the same fate, too many to count. That these giants and their ancestors walked the earth for more than 5 million years and that we have seen them decimated by exploitation and greed should be a source of great shame to us.
There seems to be no end to the dismantling of valuable conservation efforts of endangered species by the Trump administration. Now this dreadful excuse of a human and the worst president I have ever seen elected in America is moving to remove the North American lynx from the endangered list effectively removing protection for this beautiful cat. Without protection in place these animals become targets of hunters killing them indiscriminately. It's a tragedy for the civilised world that America is being 'led' by such a vile person who clearly has no interest in conservation wildlife or the beauty of the natural world. How much more damage will this egocentric pathetic excuse of a man do in the years of his presidential reign I dread to imagine.
The Major Mitchell cockatoo is one of Australia's remarkable birds but it is in serious decline in Victoria. The slender cypress pine trees these birds depend on have all but vanished from the Victorian landscape taking with them valuable nesting hollows. How has this happened ? With only 20 breeding pairs their future looks pretty bleak. Early settlers used slender cypress trees for building houses and fencing and overgrazing has led to a serious loss impacting on the lives of the distinctive Major Mitchell who has to compete with other birds such as galahs for space to nest. Millions of trees have been planted to re vegetate devastated areas so maybe there is hope that this amazing bird will survive.
When there are no words to describe the horror. What are we doing to this planet ?
Leopards are adaptable animals and new studies are showing they are exploiting urban life in India. There is evidence that the leopards are feeding on populations of rabid stray dogs in the crowded cities.
Interestingly thousands of people die each year from rabies after being bitten by infected dogs so the study has shown that the leopards preying on dogs is actually helping to reduce the numbers of people being bitten in the first place. Of course the leopards take a huge risk going into urban environments where people naturally fear them but it's an intriguing that they could actually be doing the human population a favour. Most of the dogs are starving and unhealthy and a real risk to health. It must be noted that leopards are opportunistic so dogs may not be the only animals on the menu.
More wonderful news about ivory. This time it's Hong Kong voting to increase penalties for trafficking in ivory and passing a new bill to end local trading. This is wonderful and another positive in the ongoing fight to end the relentless killing of elephants.
How can there be any legitimate argument to support canned hunting ? I can't think of anything more inhumane cruel or gutless than to shoot a captive animal. What kind of people are they that can engage in such appalling behaviour that gives an animal no chance whatsoever ? My only conclusion is that they are people who have serious psychopathic personalities and that canned hunting gives them the freedom to express this. That a well respected US hunting organisation The Dallas Safari Club has come out and criticised the practice speaks volumes about the awfulness of it all. Their argument that it deprives the concept of hunting of a fair and level playing field does little for me however. All hunting is an atrocious pastime that has no value on any level I can see. We as humans can surely find it in our hearts and minds the respect that animals deserve by treating them more like we would expect to be treated ourselves and not as a form of murderous entertainment.
Good news from Zimbabwee that the new president Emmerson Mnangagwa has banned the live trade in baby elephants and also made truly positive commitments to protect other wildlife that has seriously suffered under the Mugabe regime. A lot of work will need to be done to put right 30 years of suffering created by Robert Mugabe who had no interest in working with conservation organisations or doing anything to protect the precious wildlife of Zimbabwee now there is definite hope.
Great news just in that a major player in the smuggling racket involving ivory and body parts of African animals has been arrested in Thailand. It's a huge event catching these people especially the ones at the top of chain and Boonchai Bach is a ringleader of a major smuggling syndicate known to authorities. He has been active for at least 10 years in the poaching and supply of animal parts into South East Asia. This is wonderful news and a further step towards a safer world for animals without trash like this poacher predating and getting rich off the numerous animals that have died for nothing.
There is no doubt that the environment and the wildlife within America will suffer at the hands of Trump who clearly doesn't care about it. Yet more news of his dismantling of protection for animals and this time it's removing the Canada lynx from the endangered list. Anyone watching this president would have no doubts about his sentiments to the natural world, he quite simply doesn't think it has any value which shouldn't come as any surprise, all he cares about is money and his own enormous ego. I only hope that his term as president is short. The fragile wildlife of American faces just so many problems in surviving, mining exploration, busy roads, lack of protection and of course the appalling hunting groups notorious for their total disregard for animals. How the people of America voted this disgrace of a man as their president totally mystifies me when he had so clearly shown not just a disregard for wildlife but women and disadvantaged groups as well. A man so clearly out of touch with so many important issues in the world impacting on environments and the wild world, when he could do so much and chooses not to. It makes me feel incredibly sad that so much of the good work of conservationists that was supported by Obama is just being dismantled and eroded.
An interesting experiment with a mirror in the Gabon forest shows two leopards investigating. The cub far more curious than the mother but their behaviour makes me ponder the intelligence of animals. How do we guage that ?
From Sunday 31st December 2017 it will be by law illegal in China to trade in or buy ivory. What a momentous and wonderful thing for elephants and such a happy start to 2018. China has been one of the biggest dealers and markets for elephant ivory so this step is hopefully one that will make a difference. It can only be a good thing for elephants.
Moyo wa Kiburi (Swahili for Heart of the Pride) African lioness
acrylic & mixed media on canvas Diptych 120cm x 60cm
Just finished this diptych close to my deadline of end of December but only just ! It has been one of the most challenging paintings I have attempted. It's a work I wanted to show as a portrait of the fierce nature of the lioness as protector and provider of the cubs. Her life is not an easy one often fraught with danger from the large prey such as buffalo that fight back, from marauding males intent on takeover that threaten the lives of the cubs as well as the lionesses. The larger the pride the more successful they are in providing for the young and themselves.
How is it that a species can be as few as 50 ? That is is the sad number of Asiatic cheetah estimated to be left in Iran. Conservation funding has been withdrawn leaving this extremely vulnerable animal at the mercy of human settlement with roads to cross that are certain suicide. Not very different from it's African cousin the Asiatic cheetah is a little smaller with a lighter coloured coat. It's the usual conflict story of farmers versus the wild animal that predates and kills livestock. Success has come in other countries where people have been educated about protecting their animals by keeping them safe at night and the revolutionary idea of keeping Maremma dogs that live with the herd. Why can't that be done for the Asiatic cheetah ? How much of a challenge will it be to save this amazing animal from extinction if the powers that be in Iran or elsewhere aren't motivated enough to help this animal survive. Inevitably it comes down to economics but once the cheetah has gone it's gone.
Bringing back the extinct Thylacine to the Australian mainland is a possibility now that scientists have managed to sequence the genetic material of these strange animals. Just because we can should we ? How would the animal survive anyway in the very different landscape and environment it disappeared from in the 1930's ? I'm not convinced it's a good idea any more than bringing back to life the woolly mammoth. If we can't keep the animals alive and in healthy numbers that already exist what would be the point of bringing one back long dead ?