Tag Archives: endangered

1.29 million voice their opposition to the ivory trade in a petition to the EU


1.29 million people around the world have voiced their absolute opposition to the ivory trade in an online petition aimed at the EU, ahead of the major United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conference this month. At this roundtable, politicians, wildlife experts and conservation groups from 182 member countries will assemble to discuss, amongst many other things, which species will fall into Appendix I- that is, which species will be classified as endangered.

While populations of the African elephant are rapidly plummeting and are expected to become extinct in 25 years, they are not listed in Appendix I in all countries. If they are, they will be afforded the highest protection across the board, and the ivory trade will be outlawed worldwide. Currently, however, the EU, WWF and a number of African states are voting to enable the trade which will trigger both an increase in the supply and demand in ivory.

These proposals come at a time when the recent findings of the Great Elephant Census have revealed there are far fewer elephants than originally thought. In the 18 countries that participated in the survey, the count shows 352,271 elephants. Namibia refused to participate in the count, and South Sudan and Central African Republic could not be assessed due to the current instability and conflict, though with the estimated these 3 countries, the total African African elephant population sits at less than 400,000 (Namibia, 20,000+, South Sudan, less than 2,500, Central African Republic, less than 3,000).

Looking back at historical figures of populations, the chances of the African elephant becoming extinct within a couple of decades is becomingly frightening realistic. In the late 1970s, when Ian Douglas-Hamilton, the renowned Kenyan elephant conservationist, counted 1.3 million. He recounted again in the 90s and found that elephants had halved in number to 600,000. The recent Census, led by Dr Mike Chase, has revealed the population has fallen by 30% in 7 years and we are now sitting at under 400,000 elephants. Governments must look hard at these glaring numbers and understand what this means.

The countries that back the trade have populations that are increasing, and have purported that the trade can provide lucrative economic returns in order to better manage elephant populations. This case however, fails to take into consideration that the elephants are free to roam across borders. The proposal also adopts the premise that you need to kill some to save some.

At a time when elephants are hanging dangerously on the precipice of extinction, now is not a time to gamble with policies that could push this species off the face of the earth within 25 years. Allowing ivory sales under any circumstance will reinvigorate the demand-supply mechanism and trigger more poaching, more elephant deaths, as it has happened in the past.

The ivory trade forms a significant part of the US$20 billion illegal wildlife trade and results in the loss of an elephant every 15 minutes. We need to share intelligence, improve the judicial systems on wildlife protection laws, strengthen training of law enforcement agencies, and increase the drive to crackdown on people along the chain, from poachers to traders through smarter undercover operations and forensic science. We need to talk about this issue as it relates to human development- about people, society, in order for it to gain more support at world roundtables. None of this is new news- but for any of this to make a difference, it needs to backed by unified political will and support from all governments, worldwide- and the CITES conference is the best platform to show this.

As the next conference of this kind will not take place until another 3 years’ time, it is the best opportunity for countries to make a concrete change in international law to save the African elephant from extinction. We’ve lost 100,000 elephants in a 3-year timespan before. There just isn’t any time to lose and immediate action must be made.

To join 1.29 million others on the Avaaz to sign the petition and tell the EU that the ivory trade must be banned entirely, in all countries and circumstances, please click here.

Keeping the savannah clean- but they’ve only 100 years left on this planet

bee-elle-6049Botfly larvae, rotting skin, anthrax and rabies- you name it. They will clean it all up. If it weren’t for them, the savannah would be ridden by all sorts of bacteria and disease. But we might lose them all in under 100 years.

The largest vulture in Africa is the Lappet-faced, pictured here. They will aggressively swoop, pounce and caw at anyone getting in their way- including hyena and jackals- of a tasty meal of rotting flesh. Anyone except for humans, who are, ironically, the very reason why they are on the verge of extinction.

Vultures are reportedly the most threatened bird group in the world. About 2/3 of deaths of vultures are by poisoning by pastoralists protecting their livestock, and ivory poachers who don’t want vultures circling above their activities, which will give away their location. About 1/3 are killed for traditional medicine, which some locals believe can provide man with Superman powers. The remaining deaths are caused by them flying into power lines and wind turbines.

Back to the main reason for their deaths. A cheap, generic brand of Furadan, a pesticide, is being used by pastoralists to lace carcasses to lure in the lions to protect their livestock. Lions eat the poison, lions die, vultures eat the lion, vultures die.

A cow can fetch up to US$30- an understandably prized and necessary asset for pastoralists. But if proper management plans are not implemented immediately to address these issues, this will spell the end of vultures within the next century. If that happens, anarchy will ensue: ecosystems will be ridden with disease, the balance will be upset, and many other creatures will be killed in its wake.

Measures must be ramped up and implemented now to ensure humans can live peacefully and sustainably alongside wildlife. For this much is clear: Africa cannot live without vultures.

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The Forgotten Ones

Giraffes becoming extinct? Yes.

The news comes as a surprise to many- after all, they’re ‘always around’, and on safari, not many usually stop for yet another giraffe that comes walking by. Which may be part of the reason why their plight has been overlooked and largely unnoticed. These beautiful creatures are in serious and rapid decline, with populations having fallen by 40% over the last 15 years due to habitat loss and poaching for their meat.

There are 9 subspecies of giraffe, two of which are classified as endangered by IUCN. The other 7 are classed as ‘of least concern’. Well, there’s a concern alright. Reportedly they still have this classification as nobody has bothered to conduct any proper monitoring and evaluation for some time. And until something is done, the population, which is sitting at 90k as we speak, will continue to plummet as sure as the sun sets every day.

Here’s to the giraffe- head always held high, elegant, and more now than ever, truly a limited edition.

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The decline of the Red Colobus Monkey

In 1868, Sir John Kirk, the British Resident to Zanzibar, stumbled across this beautiful reddish, leaf, fruit and flower-eating primate and had it named after himself. I’m sure Sir John wouldn’t have thought that 100 years later, it would be endangered.

Classified as endangered by both IUCN and CITES, and with an estimated 1000-1200 left in the wild, the Kirk’s Red Colobus Monkey has been at a critical low for the last few decades due to commercial logging, charcoal production, agriculture, cutting trees down for firewood- the typical laundry list of things that lead to habitat loss.

While those that live in this forest of Jozani are protected by the authorities and are no longer shot for food, sport, or ‘pest eradication’, their highly fragmented distribution does not help their fragile existence. The rest of the population live outside the forest and on Pemba island, where they do not enjoy such protection and could, on any day, fall prey to a disgruntled farmer who faces an everyday battle to protect his precious crops and livelihood.This monkey needs and deserves full legal protection across all of Zanzibar to ensure numbers do not drop any further, and better management plans to ensure sustainable solutions to mitigate human-wildlife conflict and habitat loss.

I am hopeful that this can one day happen. If the monkeys knew they were trending towards extinction- I’m sure they’d be hopeful too.

The largest zebra of them all

The largest zebras around: the Grevy’s zebra. These beauties have thin vertical stripes and almost completely white bellies, bar a thick black stripe down its middle, a distinctive brown muzzle and round ears that are often floppy.

Beautiful, and endangered.

Their population fell by 50% over an 18 year period, and currently, there are only an estimated 2000 of these guys left. They once roamed the wilds of Somalia, Eritrea, and Djibouti, but of the few that remain, they hang around small patches in the northern parts of Kenya and southern Ethiopia. Their endangered status in Ethiopia is directly attributed to hunting. Elsewhere, habitat loss is due to overgrazing and farming, as usual.While their zebra counterparts are in good healthy numbers, if due care is not taken, these guys will be wiped off the face of the earth in the next few generations.

Turning our backs

Six days ago, 17 wild elephants were flown out of Swaziland to the U.S. to be placed in zoos for exhibit and breeding purposes, despite last-ditch legal attempts to prevent the transfer. Swaziland, a landlocked country, is currently experiencing severe drought and creating the usual food insecurity and malnutrition issues for humans and wildlife. The rationale for the move was that the elephants would be ‘saved’, as they were due to be culled to reduce competition for food and water for the rhinos who share the same space. Whether this claim is true can never be proven. However is this the solution? Was there an alternative? The move means significant health risks caused by long sedation, high stress of long-haul transport, artificial environments and separation from families, and no freedom to roam the miles that they usually do. It has been well documented that elephants in captivity have the tendency to exhibit abnormal behaviour, including depressive behaviour, become dissociative and sometimes aggressive. Infant elephants die in zoos approximately three times as much as in the wild. And it’s well known that elephants have killed their zookeepers due to frustration from a life of confinement. Swaziland is not known to have the most transparent of governments, and the 6-figure funds from this transaction will go back to the state. And while the majority of the population is suffering from poverty, the King of the land has purchased a new jet. Wild creatures belong in the wild.

Let’s not turn our backs on them. May these beautiful elephants have the best lives that they can inside 4 walls.