Like most people who care deeply about wildlife I can only be happy to see animals living as they should wild and free. But what about the animals that have been rescued from captive situations ? Animals are like us, they learn key survival skills from their mothers and living in a natural environment so how do they learn those skills if they have been reared in captivity with human contact ? They realistically only have a chance of surviving in the wild if they are not habituated to humans so if they have grown up captive how would that be possible. Since our attitudes to wild animals are changing so are laws about keeping them and it's not before time but there are a lot of animals kept as pets or entertainment in the world. Some have a better chance of being rehabilitated than others which depends on the way they live in the wild. One of the most astounding success stories was Christian the lion bought at Harrods in the 1970's by two young guys then taken to Africa to begin the long process of learning how to be a lion. It was an amazing story that isn't always going to end well for most animals but I'd like to think that conservationists are putting more time and resources into tackling what was once thought almost impossible but it's costly and time consuming. The other issue is the obvious, that they also need safe places to live. In a world where so many wild animals have nowhere to live I wonder how space can be made for those from captive situations.
This heart wrenching image is the real face of poaching. An unborn baby rhino cradled by a photographer that has been taken from its mother killed for her horn is the price paid by wildlife for human greed. Not just one animal but two lose their lives. Could we hope that 2019 might be a year where this suffering may see an end ? I hope so.
The vulnerable Pangolin is now one of the most trafficked animals on the planet. This shy and reclusive animal is poached for it's extraordinary scales and used in a variety of asian medicines as well as regarded as a delicacy to eat. Tragically and as usual there is absolutely no medicinal evidence to support the beliefs that it cures any of the ailments it is poached for. Pangolins are also taken from the wild for bush meat. This endearing little animals doesn't stand a chance of survival unless we humans do something to save them. Their only defence when under threat is to roll into a ball exposing all their scales to the outer thereby foiling a predator. Naturally this is no defence against human predators so they are very easy to pick up and take from the wild. These defenseless creatures must be helped.
As the end of the year approaches it's good to focus on what good has been done what changes have occurred to benefit wildlife and our environment especially in the face of so much bad news. Pressure has been brought to bear on the trade in rhino horn and ivory so that some of the key countries driving sales now have bans in place. Of course it's sobering to consider how it will be policed but small steps first I guess. It's so easy to think all is lost that the worlds beautiful creatures have no hope of a future as we as a species pillage all that is the natural world with apparent disregard. I applaud those conservationists film makers photographers and rangers who risk so much to bring awareness of the plight of so many species and the threats they face.
Only 68 Javan rhino exists in remote and inaccessible forest. That these peculiar almost prehistoric looking animals have been reduced to such small numbers is very sad. Poached as most rhino are for their horn these animals face an uncertain and probably bleak future without our help.
I love to hear about the successful rehabilitation of wild animals after rescue. Mulisani is an orphaned male elephant named after David Shepherd who contributed so much to the wild world through his art patronage and support. Mulisani means shepherd in Zambian language. This 3 year old elephant is doing so well that he has been transported on a 10 hour journey to meet his new family of older elephants so he can learn from them the ways of elephants. One day he may even be living as a wild elephant the way he should.
More sad news from the Trump administration.......to allow the import of body parts from elephants killed by trophy hunters into the US. Can this president get any worse in his decision making ? Turning on it's head the previous bans by the Obama administration, Trump seems determined to destroy all the good that has been done to protect wildlife. It is a shameful regression and another blow to the future of elephants. It is of little consolation the the cost of a trip to hunt elephants is as much as $50,000 because there are plenty of rich heartless Americans that can afford what would be a drop in the bucket of their wealth. It's a great pity they can't fund a worthwhile cause with their money instead of spending it on self gratification in the form of killing precious wildlife that one day may not grace the wild places in the world simply because people in power like Trump did nothing to protect them. It's well known that Trumps sons enjoy trophy hunting in Africa so clearly he did nothing to teach them to appreciate animals which is then reflected in his decision making because he simple doesn't care about it. Shame shame on you Trump for helping to spell the death knell to elephants for no other reason than to satisfy wealthy influential blood thirsty creeps that the world would be better off without.
Just when you think it couldn't get any harder for wildlife to survive comes the news that China has lifted the ban of decades on the trade in tiger bones and rhino horn. Defending the move as ' in line with the needs of reality ' is unbelievable, what reality ? The only reality is that it has been scientifically proven there is absolutely no medicinal benefit in either tiger bones or rhino horn, that is purely a cultural idiosy. These are highly endangered animals that even with bans in place face extinction so how can China justify this appalling decision. Conservationists around the world are condemning the decision saying this move has doomed these animals to certain extinction and I believe it's true. For what ? the insane idea that their body parts somehow help mankind is a proven totally misguided idea. In a global community how can one country decide to expose these precious animals to the persecution and extermination that would surely see them wiped off the planet and for what ? It's a terribly distressing and sad outcome.
The harshest penalty yet has been handed down to two Indonesian wildlife poachers caught trying to sell a Sumatran tiger pelt. In Aceh Province the two men each received a 4 year jail sentence as well as $3300 fines or more jail time if they can't pay. The Sumatran tiger is highly endangered with only about 400 tigers left in the wild so the harsh sentences represent a system getting tougher on traffickers than in previous times. Sadly the penalties need to be more of a deterrent than the maximum of 5 years considering the huge prices gained from the sales of body parts and pelts. The loss of just one animal when there are so few left brings them closer to inevitable extinction unless dramatic intervention occurs and the harshest of penalties are brought into law. Somehow 5 years just doesn't seem nearly enough for taking the life of such a magnificent animal.
Rare footage from a concealed camera trap have revealed extraordinary pictures of the Chinese Mountain Cat in it's natural habitat for the first time. This extremely elusive and little known cat lives in remote China and is the only cat indigenous to the country. Almost nothing is known about it but this discovery could be the beginning of a study to gather more information about their behaviour.
Two small lion cubs were rescued in the South African bush after their mother died from a snake bite. Against the odds they survived after being found starving but the challenge of how to rear these cubs without human interference was a big one. South Africa's policy is non rearing of wild animals in captivity however it was decided to hold them in a secure place and allow them to grow up as wild. The story of the success of these two cubs shows that it's important to interfere sometimes to help wild animals and what better proof is there to know that both these females have grown up to have cubs of their own after being paired with two rescued males that now form a successful wild pride.
The catastrophe of plastic is obvious in our oceans floating like islands in the sea where creatures eat it and die. The same is happening on land to elephants who can't differentiate between plastic and appropriate food. They have been found dead with huge quantities of plastic in their stomachs in Asian countries that have not disposed of their waste in a proper way. China has the most appalling levels of waste followed by Indonesia and then other countries where Asian elephants live. Sadly rubbish being dumped in huge quantities is being scavenged by elephants looking for food so many of them are dying with plastic in their systems unable to digest this toxic substance. Our world is literally being destroyed by the use of plastic and so much of it seems utterly unnecessary. Those asian countries that head the list of waste need to take decisive action and responsibility for the waste they shed on the world and now.
One of the greatest threats to elephants is the encroachment of human activity within the environment that they live. More and more land is being taken over for crops housing and various tourist activity which has had a catastrophic impact on the migratory routes that elephants travel in search of food and water. The growing casualties attempting to cross rail lines is another worrying outcome. That finally India has made a truly historic judgement to safeguard the welfare of elephants is cause for real celebration. No less than 39 resorts and hotels directly in or on the elephant corridors in the Nilgiri Hills have been ordered to close within 48 hours ! What a stunning decision to make. The decision was made in the Supreme Court where the view expressed regarding elephants was that they are part of the national heritage......at last the respect and protection these gently giants deserve.
The captive lion industry is a sickening one that sees thousands of lions bred for the purpose of our entertainment. Cub petting and walking with lions hides the ugly ultimate fate of these animals which is to then be passed on to the canned lion hunting industry a disgusting exercise in human predation if ever their was one. Lions kept contained that can't fight back shot as entertainment for those rich and immoral enough. This completely abhorrent practice has no place in a so called civilised world where animals have no choices about where they go. We do and it's time we as a race decided to stop supporting accepting or allowing this horrible industry to continue. Making money from the suffering and misery of these magnificent animals is the worst kind of cruelty carried out for the entertainment of people too stupid to question what they are paying for. The idea that these animals have to pay with their lives ultimately for their existence is a miserable commentary on human attitudes to wildlife and it's right to live and be left alone to exist as they should. Now that the industry has been exposed for what it is a growing concern about it's future is being examined as it should be. I just hope it is shut down as soon as possible.
In the fight against wildlife crime sniffer dogs are making amazing headway in the confiscation of illegal ivory and rhino horn. Mombasa airport in Kenya a gateway out of Africa is the focus of the ambitious plan to help stop ruthless smugglers from transporting the fruits of their criminal activity particularly ivory from leaving the country. Dogs with their incredible sense of smell are being used more and more in various ways such as checking cars at check points as well as airports in a determined attempt to get control of the rampant poaching of elephants for their ivory and rhino horn.
Another blow to the ghastly trade in captive lion bones and body parts from Singapore Airlines. The airline has made a decision in the face of ongoing dismay and condemnation of the trade around the world to stop carrying this awful cargo. It's a hugely important step interrupting the easy flow of bones to Asia where so much of the demand for body parts of animals go. Airlines have a massive role to play and by adopting policies to distance themselves from what is an unacceptable trade in the body parts of a vulnerable species make it more difficult for those who make money from it. Three cheers to Singapore airlines for doing this and perhaps adding another nail in the coffin of this horrible crime against animals all over the world.
Repopulating the parks in Africa that have been crippled by years of war and civil unrest has become an increasingly common practice to encourage wildlife diversity. Malawi a small country sharing it's borders with Tanzania Mozambique and Zambia recently transferred 9 lions into Liwonde National park to help bring back the populations wiped out by hunting and poaching. In a bid to boost tourism dollars by introducing animals that have long been gone the country hopes to create a wildlife haven to attract tourist all over the world wanting to experience the amazing animals of Africa. The income it generates is enormous and worth cultivating as well as creating a wonderful and balanced environment with top predators. The idea that hunting these animals attracts dollars is a short lived idea. Far better to nurture the living that go on to birth new generations of unique animals.
Do animals feel grief at the loss of their offspring ? I think that they do and there have been many instances of what appears to be grieving when their baby dies. The story of a killer whale off the coast of Vancouver Island carrying the body of her baby for 16 days is a heart rending one that clearly is about loss. It may not be the same as our grief and mourning but still is a sense of loss that the animal is exhibiting without a doubt. Other animals such as elephants have been documented clearly in grief mourning their dead ones, hovering around body nuzzling it and touching gently obviously aware of death. To think that we are the only species capable of grief is impossible to accept.
India is a good example of what can happen when decisions are made to make an effort to conserve the wildlife. Tiger numbers are stabilising with protections and enforcement in place but their survival continues to depend on how human activities such as farming and hunting are managed. Balancing the needs of human populations with the wildlife continues to be a complicated juggling act. Tiger numbers have the capacity to grow if prey species exist however the challenges is dealing with people hunting deer and other tiger prey for food. These prey species are critical for the survival and growth in tiger populations along with the right habitat.
A proposed hunt of up to 22 grizzly bears in Wyoming has been derailed by a determined group led by the likes of Jane Goodall. The group are buying up the tickets in the hope of winning one and enabling a bear to live instead of being shot by a trophy hunter. America seems to be controlled by gun loving animal hunters that appear to believe it's some god given right. It isn't and what they do is wrong on every level. To kill animals that cause no threat just for pleasure is an awful crime against nature. I hope the group is successful in garnering support and awareness of the brutality of trophy hunting.
Eastern quolls have bred on the Australian mainland for the first time in 50 years ! wow how good is that. I love good news wildlife events and this is one of them. So many of Australia's small creatures have been decimated by feral animals such as foxes, cats, wild dogs and the list goes on. Following a reintroduction of 20 captive bred animals in Tasmania into Booderee National Park in NSW there has been successful breeding.
As wildlife traffickers get more devious so must those who fight the miserable trade. Australia is leading with some innovative new ways to determine if an animal is wild caught or captive bred. By studying the nutritional value of the food that has sustained the animal it becomes clear what it's origins are. Since there is a significant loophole in the laws around export of wild species in Australia this new technology will help close the possibility of claims that the animal is captive bred when in fact it has been taken from the wild. The new technology will have major importance further afield in trafficking other species that are at huge risk of being exploited to extinction such as the pangolin in Africa. The huge financial gain for just a single animal is enough to make the traffickers continue to take risks and exploit any weakness in the law so maybe this will make it harder for them.
Sudan the last of his kind a Northern White Rhino male died earlier this year. With only two remaining females left of the entire species the only hope now of preventing the demise of this ancient species is science and technology. It is truly sad that it has to come to this and that we have let it happen and now are madly scrambling through the aid of IVF technology to bring a species back literally from the dead in a test tube. These animals symbolise what could happen to so many other precious animals that walk our planet trying to survive in a world of ballooning human populations, where they are regarded as a commodity or a means to make money and even to fund terrorism. We cast out into space looking for new frontiers, why ? Perhaps we should be using that vast bank of funds to care for and prevent the ultimate end of our precious wild and the animals in it.
Cheetahs are shy and fragile creatures not at all like their more robust cousins such as lions or leopards. They face many challenges to survive especially conflicts and exploitation with humans. Sought after in the Middle East as pets for wealthy Arabs the stolen cubs often die and fail to thrive in captivity. That this beautiful cat is threatened with extinction is indisputable with their population having plummeted to around 4,000 from 100,00 in just 100 years thanks to persecution and loss of habitat. Many of the cubs are killed by other big cats and all cheetahs would rather run away from a conflict than fight simply because they aren't built for it. Their long legs and a body purpose made for legendary speed is their greatest attribute but they also need a huge territory to live in. With expanding human populations this is a great problem for the survival of the Cheetah but the least that can be done is to crack down hard on the traffickers who steal the vulnerable animals from the wild almost assigning them to a certain death.