There can be no doubt that the trade in wild animals is disasterous for the environment but it's a threat to human health too. The recent outbreak of coronavirus proves that without a doubt. How can centuries of cultural beliefs and ways of surviving be changed soon enough to save so many species of almost certain extinction is the question. It's in the hands of a younger more progressive generation with more awareness of the world around them, that they may reject the old traditional ways of their culture particularly in Asia. Young people who are connected to social media in a way never before exposed to information about the wild and it's creatures are I think our only hope that the demand may decrease. But it will take time that the wild animals don't have on their side. With human populations exploding around the globe what hope is there for nature.
In a groundbreaking move two captive bred cheetah brothers are to be sent to Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve South Africa in a move to rewild the 14,000 hectare area in Karoo. What an amazing thing to watch unfold, how these two animals will adjust to living as wild creatures. At 2.5 years of age they will have a lot to learn but will first go to Ashia's Cheetah Centre in South Africa's western cape before going to a wild life. The aim is to rewild the area and return it to a pristine wildlife wilderness area with the cheetahs playing a pivotal role to boost the numbers of these critically endangered animals. The brothers will leave Canterbury UK where they were born on the 6 Feb 2020 for their new life as wild cats and I wish them well and hope they thrive.
Deadly virus outbreak in China
The trade in exotic animals in China has led to a coronavirus outbreak with a death toll of 17 and the probability of more in Wuhan province.These poor animals, not just endangered wildlife such as pangolins but foxes, rabbits, badgers, rats and snakes are kept in dreadful conditions and crowded conditions that harbour and cause the spread of disease to humans. The spotlight is well and truly being shone on the barbaric unacceptable way wild animals are being harvested without any regard to the potential dangers this practice poses for humans. Hardly surprising that a virulent disease has jumped the species barrier to humans but it should make this countries decision makers take decisive action to stop the awful impact this pillaging of wildlife has on biodiversity and the environment as a whole.
China produced a staggering 60 million tonnes of plastic waste in 2010 so it's about time the country started to do something for the planet by dealing with it's problem. In a major move to address their waste issue the country announced a total ban on non degradable bags by the end of 2020 in the cities. As one of the worlds largest users of plastic they have a huge responsibility to address the problem for the sake of the world. Single use straws will also be banned by 2020. China has also been the biggest user of illegally obtained wood that contributes to the devastation of important habitats for animals. The amendment of laws is underway to address this crisis which sounds very promising but long overdue.
2020 and Australia burns
As Australia burns in the grip of one of the most catastrophic fire seasons ever the devastation not only affects people and their communities. Animals, many millions of them are dying in the face of one of the worst events to hit this country. Even if the wildlife survive the country is burned beyond recognition leaving food sources razed to the ground so that many will probably die of starvation. Many threatened species will disappear altogether in the wake of this disaster scientists predict and it's not hard to dispute given how widespread the fires have become. The fires have claimed countless lives already and the threat is far from over. This dreadful situation is of course being linked to climate change that so far our government has offered no adequate response to. What will it take before something meaningful is announced, how many more millions of burning animals, people and environment ?
Rare Amur leopard filmed
A rare Amur leopard has been filmed by an intrepid Korean photographer in it's natural habitat in Far East Russia. With less than 100 of these striking and very beautiful cats left in the wild every sighting is something to be treasured. The male leopard looks to be in good condition as it cautiously investigates the area around where the photographer is hidden in his hide. Thanks to the efforts of Russia to protect these magnificent cats.
Hope for the Javan Rhinos
Any good news about wildlife is worth sharing and particularly if the entire population of an animal is less than 100 individuals. Camera traps have recorded new Javan rhino calves boosting their numbers to 72 which is incredibly encouraging. Poaching and habitat loss have created a critically endangered situation for these remarkable animals that now exist only in Ujong Kulon National Park on the island of Java. These precious babies offer hope for a species on the edge of extinction.
California bans fur products
For a change something good to report from the US that California has moved to ban all fur products. The governor of the state has also signed a bill banning most animals from circuses except cats dogs and horses excluding rodeos. This is progress and must be seen as a forward step in protecting animals whose fur has traditionally been used in everything from clothing to furniture. We simply do not need to use real fur taken from an animal that has been killed for the purpose. What is wrong with faux fur anyway ? By 2023 it's official and heavy fines will apply to those breaking the law.
An ocean of waste strangling animals
Our garbage covers beaches and fills the oceans strangling the creatures that live in the sea. Everything from seals to turtles and whales. As if it wasn't bad enough that our waste is metres deep on land floating island of plastic rope and discarded fishing lines are responsible for countless animals dying slow painful deaths as they struggle to survive against the terrible weight around their necks cutting into their skins. Humanity should be ashamed.
The greatest risk to planet earth is humans. Biodiversity and the survival of every living creature is at risk from the human animal that at 7 billion is showing no sign of abating. Climate change and the growing list of extinctions of not just animals but birds plants and fish are the outcome of our greed and rampant population that seems out of control. Unless something is done about our population it doesn't seem to matter what we do to save animals there seems no hope. All the efforts by biologist and science studying environmental factors rescuing animals trying to safeguard areas for animals to live isn't going to work if humans just keep multiplying. And yet I never hear of anyone with an idea of actually addressing this obvious issue.
How can it be in this day and age of huge concern over the ability of wildlife to survive in the face of human population growth that a magpie can be shot because it swooped a cyclist ? Magpies are synonymous with the Australian urban landscape and we all love them I thought. Apparently not everyone after a cyclist complained to a Sydney council after being swooped by an aggressive one. It is known that they are very territorial at breeding time so surely we can make some adjustments. It seems shameful to me that a bird going about it's normal life should pay with it's life because it swooped a cyclist. What is wrong with the people making these decisions anyway ? It's a scary precedent to start 'removing' problem animals in this way which seems so dark ages in thinking. I thought we had moved on from this approach to wildlife and if not then we need to.
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.
Tigers on the rebound
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.
Elephants and people
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.
Can you help stop climate change
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.
The meaning of Biodiversity
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.
More space for wildlife
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.