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« Reply #225 on: Jan 12, 2014, 06:09 AM »

Dallas Safari Club raises $350,000 in controversial auction for permit to kill Namibia black rhino

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, January 12, 2014 6:41 EST

A Texas hunting club auctioned off a permit to kill a black rhinoceros in Namibia, raising $350,000 towards conservation efforts for the animal, but not without controversy.

The Dallas Safari Club, which on Saturday said all money would be given to Namibia for “anti-poaching patrols, habitat protection, research and other measures crucial for protecting populations of endangered black rhinos,” has nonetheless sparked the ire of some wildlife groups.

A government-approved annual quota, in place in Namibia since 2012, gives permission for the killing of five black rhinos per year.

“Science shows that selective hunting helps rhino populations grow,” the club said in a statement released after the US auction.

“Removing old, post-breeding bulls, which are territorial, aggressive and often kill younger, breeding bulls, cows and even calves, increases survival and productivity in a herd.”

Namibia wildlife authorities on Friday defended the auctioning of permits, saying the kill was aimed at conserving the endangered species.

But Dallas Safari Club director Ben Carter said he has received more than a dozen e-mailed death threats against his family and members of his staff.

“It is some pretty crazy stuff,” he told NBC News.

“A number of the emails said, ‘For every rhino you kill, we will kill a member of the club.’”

The Texas-based group sought help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which told AFP it is taking the threats “seriously.”

According to the club, Namibian wildlife officials will accompany the auction winner through Mangetti National Park where the hunt will occur, “to ensure the correct type of animal is taken.”

The Dallas Safari Club also stated that meat from the rhino will feed “a nearby community,” if the hunt is successful.

Carter defended the hunt in a recent press release in which he insisted that the auction will help increase the size of the herd by removing an old “post-breeding” male.

Several months ago, the Humane Society of the United States described the news of the auction as “disturbing” and vowed to campaign against the issuance of a US permit to return the trophy.

“The world is seeing a concerted effort to preserve the very few black rhinos and other rhinos who are dodging poachers’ bullets and habitat destruction,” Wayne Pacelle, president of the HSUS, said.

Black rhinoceroses are internationally considered an endangered species and the World Wildlife Fund says there are less than 5,000 remaining in Africa.

Namibia, a semi-desert southern African country, has a black rhino population of nearly 1,800.

Namibia is less affected by rhino poaching compared with its neighbour, South Africa, with only 10 killed since 2006, according to the international wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic.

Rhino poaching has reached crisis levels in South Africa, with nearly a thousand killed in 2012.

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« Reply #226 on: Jan 17, 2014, 05:29 AM »

All That Remained of 100 Elephants: A Ton of Ivory, Turned Into Trinkets

JAN. 16, 2014
NYT

About New York

By JIM DWYER

On a winter day in 2012, a man named John C. Fitzpatrick made his way to the fourth floor of 7 West 45th Street, to the offices of Raja’s Jewels, where he expected that he would find a cache of ivory.

Shopping in the diamond district over the previous two weeks, Mr. Fitzpatrick had learned that Raja’s, operating from a suite of offices, supplied a few retail stores. This was valuable information: Mr. Fitzpatrick was actually a lieutenant for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, its chief investigator in New York City. So he arrived at Raja’s with a search warrant, accompanied by investigators from the Manhattan district attorney’s office and the federal Fish and Wildlife Service.

Before the day was out, they had to send for a pickup truck. One of the investigators ran out to Staples to buy boxes. There was ivory in filing cabinets, piled on a floor in a back room. Close to a ton.

So much ivory, it filled 72 banker boxes.

That is: The contents of 72 boxes were essentially all that remained of more than 100 elephants that had been poached for their tusks — their incisor teeth, now transformed into beads and chess sets, bone-white animal figures, bangles and toys, charms and earrings, pendants and bracelets.

And that is: The largest land creatures on earth, slaughtered for trinkets, to the point where the African forest elephant could be extinct within a decade, according to Elizabeth Bennett, a species conservation scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society.

This dire situation exists even though international commercial trade in ivory has been outlawed by treaty since 1989, according to Dr. Bennett and other witnesses who testified on Thursday at a hearing held by the State Assembly.

“New York City has, by far, the largest market for ivory of any major U.S. city,” Dr. Bennett said. “In a 2008 study of the U.S. ivory trade, researchers found 124 outlets that sold more than 11,300 ivory products. This was in Manhattan alone.”

The city is a hub of trade for international poachers, who sell to both American and foreign markets. A man who lived as a hoarder in a tiny apartment in Flushing, Queens, bought $1 million in rhinoceros horn from an auction house in just one day. The rhino horn is prized in Asia as an aphrodisiac. The man was used as a straw purchaser for foreign buyers. Bear gall bladders are also heavily traded.

The hearing was called by Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney, chairman of the Committee on Environmental Conservation, to ask experts how to improve the state’s law on the ivory trade.

It turns out that despite the 1989 ban, ivory can be legally sold if it was “harvested” before then. (While many animals can grow new horns, an elephant is killed in the removal of its tusks.) In theory, the state regulations require proof that the person selling ivory can show that he or she owned it before the ban. In practice, a permit can be obtained in perfunctory fashion, with a statement by an appraiser that the ivory is of the proper age.

There is no easy, inexpensive way to determine the age of a piece of ivory, according to Maj. Scott Florence, director of law enforcement for the Department of Environmental Conservation.

“I’ve seen pieces of ivory that have been stained to make them look as dark as this table,” Lieutenant Fitzpatrick testified, tapping on a table top that seemed to have a maple color.

One scientist testified that it might be practical to gauge the age of the animal that was the source of the ivory by testing for the presence of radioactive ions that were fallout from nuclear bomb tests in the late 1950s. That might provide an enforceable boundary line for sales, he suggested.

The illegal sale of ivory worth more than $1,500 is a Class E felony, the lowest felony there is, and is almost never accompanied by prison time. During the 2012 investigation in the diamond district, caches were found at three businesses: one worth $30,000; another worth $120,000; and the largest, at Raja’s, worth more than $2 million.

“You had three orders of magnitude, but all were charged with the same E felony,” Lieutenant Fitzpatrick testified. “It’s often the case that their lawyers tell them that they don’t have to talk to us because they are not going to jail anyway if they are tried and convicted.”

The owner of Raja’s, Mukesh Gupta, pleaded guilty. He was fined $45,000 for his ton of ivory.

He also forfeited the ivory, which is now being used for law enforcement training. New York City — the largest illegal-ivory market in the country — has a grand total of three state investigators.


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« Reply #227 on: Jan 19, 2014, 08:01 AM »

Japanese fishermen capture at least 250 dolphins ahead of annual Taiji Cove slaughter

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, January 18, 2014 7:57 EST

Fishermen and divers caught at least 250 dolphins in a controversial Japanese fishing village Saturday, according to environmentalists, who said the process was captive selection ahead of a mass slaughter.

Activists from the militant environmental group Sea Shepherd streamed live footage of the dolphin capture in the village of Taiji, which drew worldwide attention in 2010 when it became the subject of the Academy Award-winning documentary “The Cove”, a hard-hitting film about the annual dolphin hunt.

Every year the fishermen of Taiji corral hundreds of dolphins into a secluded bay, select a few dozen for sale to aquariums and marine parks, and stab the rest to death for meat.

The town’s fishermen defend the hunt as a cultural tradition, and “The Cove” was met by protests from right-wing activists when it was screened in Japan in 2010.

Sea Shepherd said Saturday that at least 250 dolphins were taken away from their pods for possible sale to aquariums, and that the selection is likely to continue Sunday.

“Those taken captive are forced to watch as the remaining members of their family are brutally killed for human consumption,” the environmentalist group said in a statement.

The slaughter had not begun by the time the selection process ended Saturday afternoon, and it was unclear when it would.

The Taiji Fisheries Cooperative Association, which is in charge of the dolphin hunt, was not immediately available for comment.

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« Reply #228 on: Jan 19, 2014, 08:04 AM »


Birds' migration secrets to be revealed by space tracker

Icarus, a wildlife receiver circling above Earth, will monitor the epic journeys of tiny birds and insects, helping to warn us of volcanic eruptions and to protect us from diseases

John Vidal   
The Observer, Sunday 19 January 2014    

Small birds, butterflies, bees and fruitbats will be fitted with tiny radio transmitters and tracked throughout their lifetimes from space when a dedicated wildlife radio receiver is fitted to the International Space Station next year.

The ability to follow the movements of very small organisms hour by hour from space will revolutionise our understanding of long-distance bird migrations, and give advance warnings of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. And it should also help protect human populations from animal-borne diseases like Sars, bird flu and West Nile Virus, say conservationists.

Many animal species migrate continuously but biologists know the exact movements of only very few, mostly large ones. But the low-orbit Icarus wildlife receiver circling 200 miles (320km) above Earth should allow even butterflies to be followed, said Uschi Müller, co-ordinator of the €40m project, which is backed by the German and Russian space agencies and 12 scientific groups.

"To start with, Icarus scientists will use 5g transmitters but in the future we will use much smaller ones, under 1g, which will allow us to follow insects. It will be used for conservation, health and disaster forecasting", she said.

Because animals are known to sense imminent tectonic activity, she envisaged birds and other animals living near disaster-prone zones being fitted with the transmitters. "It could give people an extra five hours warning of a disaster," said Müller.

Rapidly developing miniature telemetry using satellites has already helped ornithologists understand the start of the British spring. Transmitters the size of a three-amp fuse have been fitted for three years to 13 British cuckoos. Last week scientists could see they were on their way back from the Congo rainforest.

The birds, given names like Whortle, Patch, Ken and David by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), which started to tag them in 2011, will not finish their 4,000-mile annual journey until mid-March at the earliest. But the tiny 5g transmitters show that one cuckoo called Skinner flew nearly 800 miles north last week, stopping briefly in Gabon, and is now in southern Cameroon. Others are on their way back from lakes and rivers in Congo-Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Equatorial Guinea.

The mystery of exactly where the world's 10-20 billion migratory birds go and how they navigate perilous journeys across continents and oceans without experience or guidance from parents has long puzzled people.

"All we knew until we attached the tracking devices to cuckoos was that British birds left in a south-easterly direction and that there was one record of a ringed bird found in Cameroon in 1938. It was a very big surprise when we found that nearly half were leaving in a south-westerly direction and migrating via Spain and west Africa," said Chris Hewsom, research ecologist at the BTO.

Moreover, Hewsom has found that Welsh, Scottish and English cuckoos all take different routes to and from Africa. Some make 1,850-mile detours, others zig-zag across the Sahara and some have found several ways to navigate the Mediterranean.

One Welsh cuckoo, David, reached Somerset last April but turned back possibly to wait until the weather warmed up or because he found his favourite caterpillars had not emerged from a particularly long winter.

"Every time we put a tracking unit on a bird we find something incredible. Our knowledge is exploding. We are getting answers to questions which have been around for years. We are now able to precisely identify the routes they take, where they stop to feed, even how high they fly," said Bryan Watts, director of the Center for Conservation Biology at William and Mary college in Virginia, US.

Watts, who tracks whimbrels, which breed in the high Arctic and winter in Venezuela, says satellite tracking has opened up a new world. "We were astonished to find the first bird that we tracked made a 3,500-mile nonstop flight from Virginia to Alaska, flying 35-40 mph for five solid days. We don't know how they're capable of these types of flights."

Others, he has found, take a massive detour towards Africa to avoid "hurricane alley", an area of warm water in the Atlantic stretching from the west coast of northern Africa to the US Gulf Coast where most hurricanes start. "They went right off the continent unexpectedly. It was amazing," he says.

Until 10 years ago, satellite tracking was used only on large animals which could be fitted with powerful transmitters with long lives, but the new solar-powered devices only switch on when a satellite passes overhead, and are getting smaller every year.

"By next year we hope to have devices that weigh just 2g, which will be small enough to place on songbirds like wood thrushes, warblers and finches," says Hewsom. "These will allow us to track birds like nightjars, too. We are getting to the stage we could do swifts, which would need devices that weighed no more than 1g."

"Icarus and the miniaturisation of telemetry means we are going to be able to monitor the natural world for the first time. We know hardly anything about bird migrations. We can now see that in evolutionary terms birds must know when it's a good time to migrate. We knew it was something like this but not at the individual level. This is answering questions and posing more," says Kasper Thorup, a bird migration researcher at Copenhagen university.

Being able to track birds, and eventually very small insects, is now seen as vital tool for conservation as well as a benefit for human health, which is increasingly linked to the movement of animals and people. About 70% of worldwide epidemics, like Sars, West Nile virus or bird flu, result from animal-human contact.

More knowledge about migrations is needed because populations of migratory birds like wood warblers, spotted fly-catchers and nightingales are declining fast, says the RSPB's Graham Madge. "Understanding the routes they take can help us preserve them and prevent higher than normal rates of infection among wildlife populations. We still don't know where they go and many are only here for a few months. Without knowing exactly where they go and when we can not understand how to conserve them."

"We are getting close to a full life cycle understanding of birds," says Watts. "We used to see birds at different places at different times, but we did not know they were the same ones. What we are seeing now for the first time is the way birds connect places. We are reducing the size of the world."


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« Reply #229 on: Jan 19, 2014, 09:17 AM »

Corey Knowlton, who won auction to kill endangered black rhino, now fears for his life

By George Chidi
RawStory
Saturday, January 18, 2014 18:16 EST

The winning bidder in a $350,000 auction for the right to kill an endangered black rhinoceros now says that death threats from the public have left him in fear for his life.

Corey Knowlton, a “hunting consultant” and co-host of the Outdoor Channel’s Jim Shockey’s The Professionals, was outed through social media as the winner of the Dallas Safari Club’s auction. The hunting club has said that all of the money would be given to Namibia for “anti-poaching patrols, habitat protection, research and other measures crucial for protecting populations of endangered black rhinos,” but nonetheless sparked the ire of some wildlife groups … and the denizens of the Internet.

Knowlton told Dallas’ ABC affiliate WFAA that he stepped up to bid at the club’s request after other high-dollar bidders backed away in the face of the controversy. Immediately after winning the bid, he began receiving threats to himself and his family, he said.

“The fact of the matter is, we raised $350,000 for the black rhino. It’s the most that’s ever been raised. It’s absolutely going to conservation. We’re not just going … here’s have a beer, find a rhino. It’s a scientific process to find the one that’s causing the most problems.”


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« Reply #230 on: Jan 20, 2014, 06:28 AM »


Thumb-sized bat crosses English channel

Conservationists herald journey by Nathusius’ pipistrelle as proof bats migrate between UK and mainland Europe

Steven Morris   
theguardian.com, Monday 20 January 2014 00.01 GMT    

It may not have the grandeur of the greatest animal migrations such as the Arctic tern's epic trip from the Southern Ocean to northern Europe or the leatherback turtle's 12,000 mile staggering swim across the Pacific.

But a bat's journey from a lakeside in south-west England to a seaside farm in the Netherlands is causing excitement among conservationists, who herald it as the first proof that the creatures can – and do – move between the UK and mainland Europe.

The bat in question, a male adult Nathusius’ pipistrelle, was ringed on the shores of Blagdon Lake, near Bristol, in October 2012.

Just before Christmas the bat – or rather its body, for it had sadly died – was found 370 miles away in the Netherlands by a member of the Friesland mammal working group, which monitors the roosting site.

Experts have long suspected that bats do fly across the English Channel and the North Sea and they have been found on oil platforms and boats. It is also known that the Nathusius’ pipistrelle can cover impressive distances – more than 1,000 miles over land and as much as 50 miles in a single night.

But until bat A4030 – the number on his ring – touched down, experts say there was no solid proof that bat do migrate between the UK and Europe. The theory is that bats like A4030 spend the autumn and winter in places like Blagon, mating and hibernating there, before migrating to summer feeding grounds on mainland Europe.

Lisa Worledge, of the Bat Conservation Trust, said British bat lovers were thrilled at the bat's journey. “The timings of peaks in Nathusius’ pipistrelle recordings in spring and autumn, as well as records from North Sea oil platforms, have suggested that some of these bats migrate. But this discovery provides the first direct evidence that a British bat migrates over the sea between the UK and continental Europe.”

The bat is a small creature about the size of a human thumb. Worledge said it would have needed the right weather conditions – including a favourable wind – to make it from Bristol to the Netherlands.

Daniel Hargreaves, who ringed the bat, said: “It’s incredible to think that this little bat has flown a distance of at least 373 miles, avoiding hazards like roads and wind turbines and safely crossed the sea.”

The finding is also a triumph for old-school identification methods. The Nathusius’ pipistrelle is too small to carry devices such as satellite trackers used to monitor bird migration but had been tagged with a miniature identity ring.

Conservationists say the finding may have implications for the siting of offshore wind turbines. Fiona Mathews, a senior lecturer in mammalian biology at the University of Exeter, said: “Nathusius’ pipistrelle is one of the species most at risk from land-based wind turbines throughout Europe. We now urgently need to identify the migration routes they use to cross the sea between the UK and continental Europe. Offshore windfarms in the wrong place could be very bad news.


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« Reply #231 on: Jan 21, 2014, 06:26 AM »

Dogs and cats removed from deplorable conditions at outdoor Kentucky puppy mill

By Travis Gettys
RawStory
Monday, January 20, 2014 14:24 EST

Sheriff’s deputies arrested a northern Kentucky man accused of locking nearly two dozen dogs and cats outside in filthy, wet kennels.

Campbell County Sheriff Jeff Kidwell said his deputies were sent Friday afternoon to the home of Dennis Kramer to ask questions about a suspected puppy mill and found them in deplorable conditions.

“When we got there we were just going to do a knock and talk, but … the smell was so bad that it would just knock you down,” Kidwell said. “We then saw the kennels, and these dogs were covered in their own feces and urine.”

The shivering dogs were found standing in two inches of caked feces and pooling urine in sub-freezing temperatures, and some of their paws had begun to bleed, authorities told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

“It was terrible,” Kidwell said. “I don’t think you are ever ready to see that. I don’t know how these dogs have survived.”

One of the cats was missing an eye, the sheriff said, and the other had a seriously injured leg.

The 55-year-old Kramer was arrested and charged with 20 counts of animal cruelty after investigators spotted outdoor kennels in satellite images they examined after receiving a tip.

“We were looking for physical evidence that some animal breeding was going on,” Kidwell said. “After some interviews, we gathered enough information that we could tell that there was definitely enough smoke to check it out.”

All of the injured animals were taken to two nearby animal shelters, but authorities left some other cats and three litters of puppies at the property.

The puppies and their mothers had been living in a heated barn, Kidwell said.

Most dogs were golden retrievers, English retrievers, great Danes, poodles and dalmatians.

A sign at the end of the home’s driveway advertised puppies for sale.

Each count of animal cruelty carries a possible one-year jail term and $500 fine.


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« Reply #232 on: Jan 21, 2014, 06:28 AM »

Japan defends annual dolphin hunt amid U.S. criticism

By Ben Quinn, The Guardian
Monday, January 20, 2014 20:43 EST

Country responds to criticism from US ambassador as Yoko Ono calls for an end to the practice

Stung by rare criticism from the U.S. ambassador, the Japanese government has defended a controversial annual dolphin hunt as international criticism of the practice gathered pace.

A government spokesman said on Monday that dolphin fishing in western Japan, which has come under the spotlight in the wake of an Oscar-winning documentary, was carried out appropriately in accordance with the law.

“Dolphin fishing is a form of traditional fishing in our country,” said chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, responding to a news conference question about criticism from Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Japan.

“We will explain Japan’s position to the American side.”

The hunt in the fishing village of Taiji in western Japan has come under international criticism and was the subject of the Academy award-winning 2009 film The Cove.

The fishermen in Taiji say the hunt is part of their village tradition and call foreign critics who eat other kinds of meat hypocritical.

Yoko Ono, the Japanese artist and peace activist, has added her voice to calls for an end to the practice, publishing an open letter to the people of Taiji on Monday in which she urged them to halt the cull for the “future of Japan.”
“I understand how you must feel about the one-sidedness of the West to be angry at your traditional capture and slaughter of dolphins,” she wrote.

Ono called on the locals in the area to “think of this situation from the point-of-view of the big picture” and claimed that the hunt was damaging the reputation of Japan and “will give an excuse for big countries and their children in China, India and Russia to speak ill of Japan.”

She called on the people of Taiji to consider the future of Japan: “I am sure that it is not easy, but please consider the safety of the future of Japan, surrounded by many powerful countries which are always looking for the chance to weaken the power of our country. The future of Japan and its safety depends on many situations, but what you do with dolphins now can create a very bad relationship with the whole world.”

Kennedy tweeted on Saturday: “Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing.” She said the U.S. government opposed such fishing.

Drive hunt involves herding the dolphins into a cove, where they are trapped and later killed.

© Guardian News and Media 2014

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« Reply #233 on: Jan 22, 2014, 06:29 AM »

Florida cop not disciplined after shooting family dog dead in front of 2-year-old

By Arturo Garcia
RawStory
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 17:15 EST

A Florida family intends to take legal action after a local sheriff’s deputy shot and killed the family dog while the family’s 2-year-old child sat dangerously close by.

WKMG-TV reported on Monday that a deputy from the Brevard County Sheriff’s Department arrived at the unidentified family’s home after a neighbor reported seeing the boy unattended.

Officials said the dog, Brownie, behaved aggressively toward the deputy, forcing him to fire. But neighbors and relatives rejected the department’s story, saying the child’s mother was sitting 15 feet away in a car port. They also accused the unidentified deputy of being the aggressor.

“The dog’s first thought is, Hey you’re walking up to me with a gun,’ and the dog growls,” one family member, Robert Gringas, told WKMG. “The dog didn’t lunge at him, the dog didn’t do anything. The dog just growled and then he put two bullets in him.”

The boy, who was in his stroller at the time of the shooting, was not injured. The deputy finished his shift and has not been disciplined as of Tuesday evening.

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« Reply #234 on: Jan 22, 2014, 07:56 AM »


Giant rats put noses to work on Mozambique's landmines

Landmine-detecting rats weigh as much as a domestic cat and are light enough to cross terrain without triggering explosives

SciDev, part of the Guardian Development Network   
theguardian.com, Wednesday 22 January 2014 11.37 GMT   

Giant rats put noses to work on Mozambique's landmines

Click to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IxU-MZ12VE

A small army of landmine-detecting rats is to be redeployed in Mozambique in a push to meet a deadline to have the country declared free of mines this year.

Belgian non-governmental organisation Apopo trains African giant pouched rats to sniff out the explosives in landmines by conditioning them to associate the scent with rewards of food.

The rodents, which weigh about as much as a small domestic cat, are light enough to move over terrain without setting off the mines. They are followed by a team of mine-removal experts with metal detectors.

Last year, Apopo received international funding of $4.5m (£2.7m) from various donors and cleared 618 acres of mined land in Mozambique. This year it is redeploying 78 rats to continue the work.

Eradicating landmines from the country this year would mean Mozambique would fulfil its obligations under the Ottawa treaty, an agreement it signed in 1997 and which came into effect in March 1999. Signatories were required to clear all mines from their land within 10 years, but Mozambique was given a five-year extension in 2009. In December, the country requested a further 10-month extension, which would allow it to complete the work by New Year's Eve 2014.

Tesfazghi Tewelde, manager of Apopo's mine-clearance programme in Mozambique, says he hopes the country will meet this latest deadline, since there is only an area the size of 1,400 football pitches left to clear.

Mozambique is in a strong position to complete the demining operation, he says, thanks largely to the country's National Institute for Demining, which co-ordinates the efforts of several mine-clearing organisations.

Mozambique experienced 16 years of civil war between 1977 and 1992. Although the fighting has stopped, the tens of thousands of landmines left behind continue to claim lives.

"Although the number of accidents drops as we get closer to the end, where there are landmines, the threat is real as people are still being killed or maimed," Tewelde says.

Apopo has discovered and safely destroyed nearly 2,500 landmines in the country as well as more than 14,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance, small arms and ammunition, and returned approximately 2,001 acres to local communities.

"The target is not the number of landmines, rather it is to clear the contaminated area and give back to the people," Tewelde says. "Whether [landmines] are few or many, the threat is the same."

The rats undergo nine months of training, learning to sniff out the explosives in old landmines buried underground. They scratch the ground to alert their handlers to mines.

The rodents are quick learners and easy to work with, according to Alson Majanzota, leader of one of Apopo's rat handling teams. The animals can check 200sq m of land for mines in 30 minutes; a human armed with a metal detector could take up to three days to do the same job, he adds.

Rats have also been shown to be able to detect tuberculosis, and have been trained to do so in Tanzania.

Click to read: http://www.scidev.net/global/health/news/tanzanian-study-confirms-rats-ability-to-detect-tb.html


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« Reply #235 on: Jan 22, 2014, 08:31 AM »

Japan Proceeds With Largest Taiji Dolphin Massacre in Years

By David Neiwert
January 21, 2014 10:28 am
CrooksAndLiars

Watching yet another massacre of hundreds of dolphins -- and the capture and removal for aquarium display another hundred or more -- by Japanese captors in the town of Taiji is difficult to stomach. Those of us who have seen The Cove know what is going on behind their walled-off zone.

Watching yet another massacre of hundreds of dolphins -- and the capture and removal for aquarium display another hundred or more -- by Japanese captors in the town of Taiji is difficult to stomach. Those of us who have seen The Cove know what is going on behind their walled-off zone.

But they are by God intent on doing it anyway:

    Japanese fishermen have finished killing some of the 250 dolphins trapped recently in what environmental activists claim was the biggest roundup they have witnessed in the last four years.

    Sea Shepherd, best known for its anti-whaling activities, said the fishermen first selected 52 dolphins to keep alive for sale to aquariums and other customers. They included a rare albino calf and its mother.

    Of the rest, about 40 were killed, one became stuck in a net and drowned, and the others were released, it said.

    A video released on Tuesday by Sea Shepherd shows dozens of fishermen on boats surveying the dolphins after they were confined to a cove with nets. Divers can be seen holding the dolphins selected for sale and guiding them to nets hanging off the boats.

    While other dolphins have been killed since the hunting season began in September, Sea Shepherd said the 250 herded into the cove last Friday represented the largest group it has seen since it began monitoring the hunt.

And their official excuses are disgusting and pitiful; utterly devoid of any ethical awareness:

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters at a news conference Monday that marine mammals including dolphins were "very important water resources."

    "Dolphin fishing is one of traditional fishing forms of our country and is carried out appropriately in accordance with the law. Dolphin is not covered by the International Whaling Commission control and it's controlled under responsibility of each country."

    Taiji mayor Kazutaka Sangen echoed the sentiments.

    "We have fishermen in our community and they are exercising their fishing rights," he said. "We feel that we need to protect our residents against the criticisms."

Mostly, we have been hearing how these are just animals and not any different from, say, rounding up cows and pigs. That, of course, is baldfacedly untrue: We know that dolphins are highly sentient and intelligent animals, at least as intelligent as chimpanzees and gorillas.

And there's little doubt that if there were some benighted government somewhere in Africa that actively enabled people to hunt and slaughter chimpanzees and gorillas, they would be under pressure from animal ethicists around the world to end the practice.

Thank goodness that this year around, Caroline Kennedy was brave enough to stand up to the Japanese. They remained, predictably, defiant and unmoved, despite the growing stain on their national honor the hunt is coming to represent.

As Tim Zimmerman observes, there is at least the chance that economics will change these practices -- though the shift may move from slaughtering the dolphins to selling them live to aquariums around the world, including the United States:

    In recent years, however, concern over mercury levels in dolphin meat has raised questions in Japan about the use of dolphin meat as a food source, especially in school lunches. And dolphin meat is no longer a primary source of food, reducing the practical value of the drive hunt as a food source.

    At the same time, the sale of dolphins captured in the Taiji drive hunt for marine park display (via brokers such as the Taiji Whale Museum) appears to be a steadily growing profit source for the hunts. From 2000-2005, an average of 56 live dolphins annually were sold for captive display. From 2006-2012, the annual average has more than doubled to 137, with a total of 247 sold for captive display in 2012-2013, according to marine mammal advocacy groups.


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« Reply #236 on: Jan 23, 2014, 06:16 AM »

Report: Animal Planet’s ‘Call of the Wildman’ show mistreated animals it was rescuing

By Arturo Garcia
RawStory
Wednesday, January 22, 2014 22:50 EST

A popular Animal Network “guided reality show” allegedly chronicling animal rescue efforts actually inflicted harm on several different types of animals for the sake of the production, Mother Jones reported on Tuesday.

“It’s a damn bullsh*t show,” one local animal park owner said after confirming the show, Call of the Wildman, actually used a zebra from his business during an episode. “You know it, and I know it. It’s just entertainment, cheap entertainment. It gives everybody a job or something to do.”

The show follows star Ernie “Turtleman” Brown Jr. as he supposedly rescues animals that have made their way to homes or businesses. Brown is licensed in the state of Kentucky as a Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator (NWCO). He is allowed to trap animals for pay but required to report his captures to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. A disclaimer mentioning that the show contains “some dramatizations” was added to the program on its 13th episode.

“We take pride in the fact that many of these nuisance animals in the state of Kentucky would be exterminated when caught, but the animals featured in Call of the Wildman are relocated,” Sharp senior vice president Scott Alder told Mother Jones. “And that’s an important part of the show for us.”

In one episode, Brown is seen grabbing and wrestling the zebra to the ground with his bare hands. But unidentified sources involved in the production told Mother Jones that the animal was “unstable,” with one saying it had been sedated, a violation of federal animal-handling laws. Clay denied sedating the zebra but did confirm that he drugged it. Animal Planet and the show’s production company, Sharp Entertainment, also said that the animal had been sedated before filming the encounter, without their knowledge or consent.

Another episode, featuring Brown’s encounter with a female raccoon and her three offspring, was criticized by Kentucky Wildlife Center director Karen Bailey, a certified rehabilitation specialist. Bailey said producers informed her they had already acquired the three younger animals days before they were filmed being “rescued” by Brown.

She told Mother Jones that when she volunteered to help, producers said they would only let her care for the raccoons if they they could film their delivery. After she refused, Bailey said, she arranged for them to be taken to another facility, the Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary. But they were so “dehydrated” and “emaciated” that Broadbent asked her to take over their care. One of the three raccoons later died.

“If these animals were somehow subjected to somebody’s production schedule, somebody’s convenient timeline, then that’s wrong,” Bailey said in a video accompanying the report.

Sharp Entertainment told Mother Jones it has been investigating the treatment of animals during the production of the Wildman series since May 2013. Officials also said they have instituted new rules for the staff of the show in the wake of the report, yet it will not pull the episodes in question from the Animal Planet website.

Sharp specializes in what it calls “guided reality shows” following a variety of characters, including Doomsday Preppers. 26-year-old Tyler Smith was arrested earlier this month after saying he planned to rob neighbors in a November 2013 appearance on the show.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund ranked Kentucky as the worst state in the country regarding animal safety laws.


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« Reply #237 on: Jan 25, 2014, 06:44 AM »


Macedonian zoo investigates unexplained death of young giraffe

Male giraffe called Orka, who was star attraction at Skopje zoo, is found dead with no obvious injuries

Associated Press in Skopje
theguardian.com, Friday 24 January 2014 17.04 GMT   

Zoo officials in Macedonia's capital are investigating the unexplained demise of their star captive, a young male giraffe named Orka that was particularly popular with visiting children.

Skopje zoo officials told local media that Orka was found dead late on Thursday and had displayed no earlier signs of illness or injury. The three-and-a-half-year-old giraffe arrived at the zoo in September 2012, the first in decades to be displayed in Skopje.

It quickly became the main attraction, featuring prominently in zoo promotion campaigns.

Orka was bought with a donation from a businessman who has arranged for another three giraffes to be shipped to the zoo later this year.

Zoo officials said on Friday they should know why Orka died in about 10 days. The animal protection group Anima Mundi urged a full investigation.


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« Reply #238 on: Jan 25, 2014, 07:36 AM »

Angry Japanese protesters demand a stop to indigenous dolphin hunting

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, January 24, 2014 10:23 EST

Activists protesting against Japan’s indigenous dolphin hunting held a rally in Tokyo Friday, calling on officials to stop sales of the marine mammals to aquariums and as meat.

Some two dozen campaigners, mostly Japanese, congregated in front of the Fisheries Agency with banners and pictures, urging the government to ban dolphin catching.

“Most Japanese people do not know about dolphin hunting,” said Noriko Ikeda, who organised the rally and a member of Action for Marine Mammals.

“The government has argued the practise is part of the Japanese tradition and food culture.

“But reality is that it is extremely rare to find Japanese people who wish to eat dolphins. The real problem is that hunt is driven by demand for live dolphins among aquariums to put on dolphin shows,” she said.

The US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy recently tweeted her concern at the “inhumaneness” of a Japanese village’s traditional dolphin hunt.

“Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. USG (US Government) opposes drive hunt fisheries,” she said in an online post.

Every year the fishermen of Taiji in western Japan corral hundreds of dolphins in a secluded bay, select a few dozen for sale to aquariums and marine parks and kill the rest for meat.

Activists from the international militant environmental group Sea Shepherd have streamed live footage of the dolphin capture in Taiji, which drew worldwide attention in 2010 when it became the subject of the Academy Award-winning documentary “The Cove”.

Defenders of the hunt say it is a tradition and point out that the animals it targets are not endangered, a position echoed by the Japanese government.

They say Western objections are hypocritical and ignore the vastly larger number of cows, pigs and sheep butchered to satisfy demand elsewhere.

The Japanese activists who gathered Friday said dolphin hunting was tarnishing Japan’s reputation as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 summer Olympic Games.

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« Reply #239 on: Jan 25, 2014, 09:20 AM »


Feds want endangered status for captive orca Lolita

It’s not clear how or if protection under the Endangered Species Act will affect the decades-long campaign to have the former member of L pod — captured in Penn Cove in 1970 — returned to Washington waters.

By Craig Welch
Seattle Times
01/24/2014

Lolita has lived more than 40 years at Miami Seaquarium. Activists urging she be returned to the wild are hopeful, but including her under the Endangered Species Act would likely be no more than a first step.
Lolita, the small killer whale in the middle, was captured with other orcas at Whidbey Island’s Penn Cove in 1970.

The federal government wants Lolita — the orca snared 44 years ago in Penn Cove by whale hunters who sold her to a Florida aquarium — protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Friday reversed itself and recommended the killer whale held by the Miami Seaquarium be governed by the same law that protects Puget Sound’s wild southern resident killer whales.

The move could have implications for other endangered species held by zoos and aquariums and almost certainly will lead to a re-evaluation of the conditions of Lolita’s captivity, which activists have complained about for years.

But it’s not clear how or if this will affect the decades-long campaign to have the former member of L pod returned to Washington.

Howard Garrett of Orca Network, which has led the charge for Lolita’s release, said that killer whales are such social animals he can’t see how NOAA would allow an endangered female orca to remain isolated from other southern residents.

“I think this is a very huge first step in the fantastic adventure of returning her to her home waters,” Garrett said. “You can’t put an endangered species into a circus act.”

Miami Seaquarium, in a statement, disagreed, pointing out that NOAA thus far maintains that releasing the whale into the wild after 40 years “has the potential to injure or kill not only the particular animal, but also the wild populations of that same species.”

Lynne Barre, branch chief for protected resources at the National Marine Fisheries Service, acknowledged that the agency’s proposal currently states that reintroducing Lolita back into the wild would be considered a violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

But she said the agency will accept public comment about the proposal until March 28 and then will start a months-long evaluation of just what coverage under the act would mean.

“We won’t really have an answer to those kinds of questions until we do a full analysis,” Barre said.

What’s clear, Barre said, is the decision is part of a trend within federal resource agencies to rethink the way the government oversees captive endangered animals, from sturgeon to elephants, sawfish and monk seals.

Already this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service moved to protect captive chimpanzees under the ESA. That proposal recommended institutions relying on the primates for research be required to get permits that show the animals’ captivity helped enhance or restore wild populations.

“It does raise some of larger questions about overall consideration of captive animals under the ESA,” Barre said. “We are looking, along with Fish and Wildlife and our general counsel and headquarters, at how we handle that.”

Rallying symbol

The battle over Lolita has raged for nearly 44 years*, since whale wranglers in 1970 herded 60 squeaking Puget Sound orcas into a 3-acre net pen. The men loaded seven of the whales onto trucks and transported them to marine parks.

*Click to read: http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19941023&slug=1937350

Lolita, presumed to be about 6 years old at the time, wound up in Miami and became a rallying symbol for orca activists who have spent decades decrying whale captivity. Through the years, Washington governors, senators and newspaper columnists have urged the Florida aquarium to bring her back.

“We keep hoping that she will live long enough to come and rejoin her pod — or at least get back to Northwest waters,” said Olympia’s Karen Ellick, who witnessed a whale roundup in south Puget Sound in 1976.

Killer whales in the wild can live about as long as humans.

It was Ellick who, in 2011, joined with the Animal Legal Defense Fund and others to sue the federal government for excluding Lolita from the protections of endangered species. NOAA had determined in 2005 that the number of southern resident orcas was plummeting so quickly the animals needed protection, but didn’t include Lolita.

Since the ESA makes it illegal to “harass, harm, pursue, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect” an animal under its protection, the groups argued that keeping Lolita alone in a small tank thousands of miles from her pod mates was a violation.

Ellick lost the suit, but it opened the door for NOAA to reconsider its decision.

Barre said that Lolita’s living conditions are covered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Miami Seaquarium maintains that it has far exceeded that agency’s regulations. Animal-rights groups have a lawsuit pending in federal court in Miami challenging those claims.

Barre conceded that while the Agriculture Department will continue to be responsible for overseeing Lolita’s living conditions, an endangered listing could require a new look at whether her conditions — and the rules governing them — are adequate for an endangered species.

“She’s the only orca in America kept without a companion,” said Jenni James, a litigation fellow with the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Seaquarium officials declined to answer any questions.

Garrett and other orca activists don’t dispute that after decades in a tank where she didn’t hunt for food or swim 100 miles a day, Lolita is not ready for the wild. They admit she might never be. But they say they’ve developed detailed plans for a far larger net pen in Washington waters that would allow Lolita to see and communicate with other family members.

“We know there will be more court battles,” Garrett said. “It could still take years, but she’s healthy, very energetic and responsive. I have high confidence that this is a significant step to her being reimmersed here.”

Barre said the agency has until next January to decide if it will finalize Lolita’s ESA protections. But it’s likely that even if the agency makes that decision, it will take longer before all the questions are resolved about what that means for where and how she lives.


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