The lucrative but illegal trade in exotic pets is of epidemic proportions and leading almost certainly to the demise of some species. The cheetah is a highly prized animal in the illegal pet trade and at great risk of extinction anyway but the trade in these animals is driving them to the brink. Taken from the wild as tiny cubs most don't make it anyway but it doesn't stop the ones making the money. This fastest of all land animals needs to be able to run, to have adequate exercise to be healthy and have the right diet. As a status symbol for wealthy Arabs these animals have a bleak future in captivity without a doubt.
More good news from CITES that the taking of baby elephants from the wild for zoos will be banned. There will be very tight restrictions meaning that the babies can only be taken to captive facilities under 'exceptional circumstances'. This is truly momentous for elephants. Babies taken from their mothers suffer terrible stress and anxiety so it is to be applauded that these bans have been supported.
At the 18th Cites conference in Switzerland a proposal to loosen the restrictions on a ban put in place in 1977 protecting southern white rhinos has been rejected. This ancient species has been and continues to be under immense pressure from poaching of it's horn to service the asian medicine trade despite the understanding that it cures nothing. These iconic African creatures continue to die at the hands of greedy poachers suffering the most agonising death for absolutely no reason at all. We must protect them and never open up or relax any of the laws designed to help them survive.
It's good news for a change that the recent findings in India on tiger populations show a definite increase. Since 1972 bans and protections brought about by global pressure from conservationists have shown it's worth the effort and that tigers can rebound if given a chance. India should be applauded for what they have achieved and can set an an example to other countries where big cats are in peril. The loss of these beautiful creatures would be incredibly sad and reason for all humanity to feel shame that we let it happen but thankfully the populations are currently growing to almost double what they were only 4 years ago.
It would be difficult to believe that a wild animal kept in captivity actually thrives.Some animals seem to fare better than other in captivity while others exhibit behavioural problems and live shortened life spans. It seems that the larger and more intelligent they are the less they cope with a captivity we give them but it's often thought that somehow they are better off for having been rescued. Orcas have demonstrated quite clearly they grow to be very unhappy animals in confinement after being taken from family pods as babies then reared in a man made pool. Highly intelligent they grow frustrated and show aggression and are miserable while they are made to perform for the benefit of human entertainment. Elephants also very intelligent can't get the opportunity to be elephants, to roam, to forage and interact with their own kind when they are kept in artificial enclosures. Many rescue animals are kept this way but is it really the best thing to do I wonder if the animals are stressed and unhappy. While zoos are important if they promote better protection and understanding for wild animals, the way these animals live their lives is a dubious substitute for a wild life.
There is huge debate around African elephants a lot of it conflicting and confusing in the face of the poaching crisis. What to believe in all the emotional outpouring about elephants and human conflict is difficult to decide but they can be dangerous destructive animals to the people who live among them. A balanced approach seems to be a hard thing to find in all the rhetoric. Regardless of varied opinions surely these animals deserve respect and a place to live. Surely it's up to us to make solutions to enable this and minimise danger and conflict.
It is interesting how people power has the power to make change. More recently young adults and children have taken to the streets to protest and raise awareness of what is happening to the world we all live in. Climate change and the enormous and destructive forces threatening our world have reached a crisis point while so called leaders debate endlessly about it and even cast doubt that it exists at all. There is scientific proof that it exists so why has nothing real been done to address the catastrophic consequences that will impact on the future generations ? While oceans of plastic litter our seas and wholesale land clearing and degradation continue to destroy the earth young people have every right to wonder what kind of future they face.
Yet another blow for wildlife with the news of the death of Tam the last male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia. Is this be a species that can be saved ? It seems a remote possibility with only 30 - 100 of the animals left in the wild. Deforestation, poaching, habitat loss and encounters with humans have decimated once healthy populations that roamed through much of South East Asia but are now confined to a shrinking habitat of fragmented forests. It's a stark reminder of how important habitat diversity is to healthy reproduction leading to proper populations of animals. As always these ancient animals have been hunted and predated for their horn and so called medicinal benefit to the absolute brink of extinction.
Climate change must be one of the most controversial topics of our age showing us that unless we as individuals start to make changes in the way we live the consequences for our future will be very worrying. But what can we do ? Many of us think that it's all about big manufacturers and their activities that pump out undesirable gases into the environment, that as individuals we actually don't have to do anything or that our changes won't make a difference. Wrong, we can make changes to our daily lives that lessen demand for goods and foods that contribute to climate change. Our consumption of meat and dairy foods contribute to the gases in the environment from the animals that create the food for us. Trying to limit food wastage is an important aspect of contributing as an individual. With a global population of 7.7 billion people who all have to be fed and housed and powered the demand and pressure on our planet is enormous so lessening demand will make a difference.
What is biodiversity ? it's a word we hear a lot but what does it mean ? A balanced natural environment of plants, water, insects, birds and animals all interacting with one another to form a wonderful wild place where all of nature is thriving. Human activities are impacting on the natural biodiversity of the planet that we in fact need to survive which is a loss of biodiversity that sadly will impact on all of us. In a modern age of technology rapid human population growth and huge demand on natural resources this biodiversity is at risk of collapsing which would have catastrophic implications for humankind.
It's no surprise that on a global scale 1 million animal and plant species are facing extinction due to the activities of humans according to a UN report carried out over 3 years. Our oceans are decimated from over fishing our rain forests are being burned to make room for cash crops and food and wild animals are being harvested for food and profit at unprecedented levels. All of this is catastrophic for the very survival of humans themselves so what can be done ? It seems plenty if we are willing to make sacrifices and different choices that lead to better outcomes for nature. Our whole world is driven by the need for economic growth which is a key factor in the exploitation of the natural world so perhaps we as individuals need to reassess and value a different way to live and support the policy makers willing to support that idea.
Emperor penguins must surely have one of the toughest existences. After watching the new David Attenborough DVD Dynasties I was again reminded of just how tough it is to survive for some animals. New research has found that there has been a 'catastrophic' failure of these amazingly resilient animals to raise chicks for three years in a row, that no chicks had survived. These penguins need the sea ice to breed and without it the new generations of Emperors won't exist. For the creatures relying on the cold and ice to survive it's a bleak future at the rate that it's all melting.
Without camera traps so much would remain unknown about the wild animals that inhabit our world. The traps provide invaluable information about animals that can help conservationists and biologists set up plans to protect the many endangered and vulnerable species that exist on the fringes of humanity struggling to survive. In Russia's far east some of the most fragile are the Amur tiger and the Amur leopard the latter critically endangered. Both of these animals were captured recently by cameras in the same place with the silhouette of Vladivostok in the background which shows how precarious their existence is so close to human civilisation where so many dangers exist. Often driven by hunger into dangerous areas too close to people they take great risks to survive and it shows that far more needs to be done to give these creatures the space they need to live as they should.
The epic journey of a Bengal tiger into territory where Asiatic lions live is truly impressive and ultimately tragic but one of hope too. The young tiger in his prime travelled a distance of 186 miles looking for his own patch being observed by wildlife officers tracking his journey. Leaving his birthplace where 34 other Bengal tigers live he headed towards another reserve where tigers had been extinct for at least 34 years. Ultimately he died of starvation although it was at first thought he had been poached. It's sad he died but the story is also one of hope that if he made it that far other tigers may follow in his footsteps.
After watching the film Blackfish it was clear that Orcas are very unhappy animals kept in captivity. It could hardly be surprising considering their size and intelligence. Capable of living up to 80 years not one has lived past 30 in captivity which is very telling. They live complex social lives in pods of families with important connections to one another that does not exist when they are kept in small enclosures with other unrelated animals. Aggressive attacks on their trainers are well documented and a clear indication the animal is experiencing great stress in an unnatural environment where they are made to do silly tricks for a paying audience. How can we justify keeping these huge intelligent animals in misery just for human entertainment. It is truly appalling that they are still kept in captivity when we know how miserable they are.
I love cats and own two but they never get to roam outside. Surely we now know that cats have accounted for the devastating loss of so many small defenseless marsupials in Australia ? So why is it that cat owners still have to be encouraged to keep their cats from wandering ? There seems to still exist some notion that it is the nature of a cat to wander and explore therefore we should let them. A safe cat is one contained, one that won't die from snake bite or tick paralysis. So it's not just about the wildlife being kept safe from cats it's also about your precious cat being kept safe from danger. It is estimated that there are 2.7 million domestic cats in Australia and about 18 million feral cats. It's not hard to imagine how many native animals are being eaten on a daily basis. It seems that the population is out of control. We as cat owners can act responsibly and keep our cats inside. The laws around cat ownership are still not strong enough. Feral cats originated from domestic cats and have proliferated to populate all parts of Australia leaving a trail of death and destruction behind them.
It's a good question.....how many people bother to ask where the exotic pet they want comes from and under what circumstances ? Do they even care. Beautiful birds, spiders, fish and lizards are all popular pets inspired by multi media and You Tube but some of these creatures come from countries far away that have very different laws if any about taking animals from the wild. We have a responsibility to make informed choices and do everything we can to avoid supporting the illegal pet trade.
Stories of animals adapting to conditions within their environment to survive fascinate me so reading about the desert lions of Namibia was another example of animals adapting in the face of hardship. The landscape is harsh and dry but has a coast which attracts sea birds and seals along with other marine creatures sometimes washed up on the beach that the lions are learning to exploit. They have been observed feeding on carcasses and actively hunting seals along the beach as well as the birds that inhabit the area showing just how smart lions are and adaptable. I think it also shows that lions have a great instinct to survive even when they have been persecuted, that if we give them a chance to live that they will.
Yet again the sickening news that an American hunter has paid $100,000 to kill a precious animal reaches us. This time it's a Markhor goat an endangered animal and national symbol of Pakistan. Not only that permits were issued to kill other horned species in the Himalayas with the claim that the money is used for conservation. How could any intelligent person believe that by killing a rare and endangered animal you aid conservation ? It's is ludicrous and shameful. There are only about 6000 of the Markhor left and not only that these animals along with Baral and Blue sheep form the diet of the snow leopard one of the most endangered big cats on the planet. This cat already has enormous obstacles to survival and finding enough food is one of them. How can Pakistan continue to justify issuing permits to kill these animals is beyond me.
Nature will always amaze....and the story of a lioness in Gir Forest India adopting a leopard cub is one of the more astounding ones. As supreme predators and competitors in the wild these two species usually don't tolerate each other. Lions generally kill leopards any chance they get. It's intriguing to speculate on the outcome of this unusual arrangement that foresters have no idea about how it occurred. Observations of the family group of lion cubs with the leopard cub nursing show a lioness caring for the leopard cub as if it was one of her own. What happens when they join the pride will be even more to wonder about, will the cub be accepted or singled out and killed as you would expect ? It is a leopard with a whole other way of living as a solitary cat rather than part of a pride like the lions so it really is fascinating to think about. I hope the little guy gets accepted but the chances are probably slim.
In 2017 a lioness was spotted nursing a leopard cub in Tanzania but no one knew how that had happened or what the outcome was. What is understood is that the lioness accepts the foreign cub because she is nursing cubs or has perhaps lost her own just as a domestic cat will adopt kittens that are not her theirs.
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.