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150 of America’s Last Wild Buffalo Now Trapped in Yellowstone, All Destined for Slaughter
[Editor's note: For an update on this story, click here.]
Park rangers have begun capturing wild bison in the Stephens Creek trap within Yellowstone National Park. Since Feb. 20, approximately 150 of America's last wild buffalo have been trapped. According to park officials, all are destined for slaughter.
"Yellowstone's slaughter of wild bison is as lacking in scientific reason as it is in public support," said Buffalo Field Campaign's Stephany Seay.
The National Park Service claims that they are reducing the wild bison population due to the threat of brucellosis, a livestock disease originally brought to North America by Eurasian cattle. There has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting brucellosis to livestock. Elk, who also carry brucellosis and have transmitted the disease to livestock numerous times in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, are free to migrate from Yellowstone and are managed by hunting based on sustainable populations in available habitat in Montana.
Buffalo Field Campaign habitat coordinator Darrell Geist says the state of Montana and Yellowstone National Park refuse to manage wild buffalo like wild elk, an alternative that would put the government out of the buffalo capture for slaughter business.
"Montana is blessed with an abundance of public lands but cursed by a statute that stands in the way of managing migratory buffalo as a wildlife species," said Geist. “Few people know that MCA 81-2-120 is almost entirely funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to back Department of Livestock management of wild buffalo. Without American taxpayer funding, Montana and Yellowstone National Park would have to changes their ways."
Yellowstone and the other Interagency Bison Management Plan (IMBP) partners have stated that they want up to 900 wild bison killed this year. More than 400 have already been killed by hunters. The agencies aim to kill hundreds of wild bison every year until they drive the population—now estimated at 4,400—down to just 3,000 animals. This population target is a result of livestock industry pressure to address unfounded brucellosis fears and Yellowstone's false premise that there are “surplus" wild bison.
Buffalo Field Campaign executive director Dan Brister questions the faulty science that Yellowstone and IBMP partners are operating under.
"There is no such thing as 'surplus' wild bison," said Brister. "Yellowstone's target population cap of 3,000 animals is nothing more than a politically derived number that has nothing to do with carrying capacity."
Yellowstone's capture for slaughter operations adversely impact the wild population's natural immunity to introduced diseases, including brucellosis and increases the risk of more virulent and persistent strains arising in the wild population. Cumulative impacts of management actions pose a significant threat to the viability of wild buffalo remaining in Yellowstone.
Under the voluntarily agreed to IBMP, Yellowstone National Park and the other IBMP agencies continue to operate under faulty assumptions and outdated information, in contravention of the agency's mandate to use the best available science to inform decision makers and the public.
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A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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