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First-Ever World Wildlife Day Focuses Attention on Illegal Poaching and Trafficking
The United Nations' inaugural World Wildlife Day kicks off today with events around the world, as global attention turns to a $19 billion USD illicit trade—the fourth largest in the world—that includes elephant poaching, great ape theft and the illegal transport of timber.
The third of March was also the day of adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973.
"The United Nations' first World Wildlife Day coincides with renewed attention being paid to the escalating crisis of wildlife poaching," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner. “While providing us with an opportunity to celebrate the fantastic diversity of life on earth it also reminds us of the urgency and responsibility to care for and protect it."
"While governments have a key role to play, we as citizens of countries across the globe have a vital role to play in shutting down the markets that sustain this illegal trade which threatens the survival of iconic species such as elephants and rhinos, but also of other threatened animal and plant species.
For the past four decades UNEP has worked to support nations to establish legislation at both the national and the global level to combat poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife. This has helped countries to more effectively protect our wildlife heritage. Environmental crime continues to undermine these efforts. World Wildlife Day is an opportunity for all of us to reconnect to this vital and urgent cause," Steiner added.
In its resolution designating World Wildlife Day, the General Assembly requested the CITES Secretariat, in collaboration with relevant organizations of the UN system, to facilitate the implementation of the day.
Among other things, the resolution recognized the intrinsic value of wildlife and its many contributions to human well-being and sustainable development, including ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational and cultural.
Estimated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) at $19 billion USD, the illicit trade in wildlife denies humanity of these essential services, and contributes to the rapid decrease in the numbers of thousands of species worldwide. It is estimated that current trends of species extinctions are between 100 and 1,000 times higher than the naturally expected levels.
"Wildlife is cherished in its own right and for the contribution it makes to our personal well-being—from food to medicine—from culture to recreation," said CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon.
"Our wildlife is suffering from illegal trade. Let's do all we can, as citizens and consumers, to bring illegal wildlife trade to an end. In doing so we will secure the future for wild plants and animals, as well as for ourselves," Scanlon said.
In addition to the illegal trade, climate change—which is linked with the burning of fossil fuels—is also impacting many animals and plants and in myriads of ways.
Polar bears in the Arctic are threatened by thinning ice, baleen whales must make longer journeys between their feeding grounds, and many migratory birds that rely on wetlands and lakes for food are increasingly facing water shortages. These changes could spell decline and even extinction for some species without an urgent transition of our economies and our lifestyles towards a low carbon economy.
Meanwhile, wildlife crime continues to threaten the lives of rangers in their fight to stem the illegal tide. It is also often linked with the exploitation of disadvantaged communities, human rights abuses and other challenges to inclusive, sustainable development—including by jeopardizing livelihoods around the world.
Such theft of natural resources is rapidly emerging as a new challenge to poverty eradication, sustainable development and a transition towards an inclusive Green Economy.
The illegal trade in wildlife—considered the fourth largest in the world after narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking—also has major implications for international peace and security. Wildlife is now trafficked internationally much like drugs or weapons, with criminals operating largely with impunity and little fear of prosecution.
A recent INTERPOL report reveals that large-scale ivory seizures—which reached an all-time global high in 2013, with 18 seizures accounting for some 41.6 tons of ivory—typically indicate the participation of organized crime, with trafficking syndicates operating in multiple countries simultaneously. In recent years, international action to combat the illegal trafficking in wildlife has accelerated rapidly.
In Dec. 2013, a French-government-hosted Summit for Peace and Security in Africa highlighted that the establishment of terrorist and criminal networks—including poachers and traffickers in endangered species—were a direct threat to peace and security in Africa and worldwide.
Most recently, the UN Security Council has, in two separate and unanimously adopted resolutions, recognized the direct link between the illegal exploitation of wildlife and ongoing conflicts in central Africa. It noted specifically that the illegal exploitation of natural resources—including poaching and the trafficking of wildlife—was linked to the proliferation of weapons and was one of the "major factors fueling and exacerbating conflicts" in the Great Lakes region of Africa.
In 2010, the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Bank and the World Customs Organization joined forces to create the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), which works to ensure that perpetrators of serious wildlife crimes face a formidable and coordinated response.
In 2012, Project Leaf (Law Enforcement Assistance for Forests)—a consortium of forest and climate initiatives that aims to combat illegal logging and organized forest crime—was established.
In January 2014, the European Parliament approved a motion on a Resolution on Wildlife Crime—which called for measures that would place it on the same level as human and drug trafficking—and which called for the establishment of an EU plan of action against illegal wildlife trade.
In Feb. 2014 the U.S. government took a decision to work to "protect iconic species like elephants and rhinos by prohibiting the import, export, or resale within the U.S. of elephant ivory" as part of a National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking.
Also in Feb. 2014, at the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, 46 countries agreed on a declaration containing a series of commitments, including addressing corruption, adopting legislation for tougher penalties against poachers, and recruiting more law enforcement officers.
These moves have been echoed around the world as countries from France to Chad to China have destroyed national ivory stockpiles in a symbolic show of solidarity with the anti-poaching movement.
However, it is widely acknowledged that more action is urgently needed. Fast-track measures should be implemented to address the current poaching crisis, taking into account the diverse socio-economic, legal and market dynamics across range, transit and consumer states. Such measures must include strengthening law enforcement, building adequate human and financial capacity, raising public awareness, and fighting collusive corruption, as well as supporting national legislation and curbing demand for wildlife products that are illegally sourced or unsustainably harvested.
In addition, longer-term considerations need to be given to natural resource management and sustainable economic development, based on sovereign priorities and choices. Implementing nationally and internationally agreed biodiversity strategies and targets must be at the heart of such action.
Finally, for such mechanisms to become truly effective, adequate political and appropriate financial support is needed.
Elephants in the Dust
According to a recent study by UNEP and partners, Elephants in the Dust, the number of elephants killed illegally in Africa has doubled, while the ivory trade has tripled, over the past decade. Increasing poaching levels, as well as loss of habitat, are threatening the survival of African elephant populations in Central Africa as well as previously secure populations in West, Southern and Eastern Africa.
Demand for illegal ivory remains highest in the rapidly growing economies of Asia, particularly China. Large-scale seizures of ivory destined for Asia doubled between 2009 and 2013. Weak governance in source, transit and destination countries is also contributing to the problem.
Data from the CITES monitoring program "Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants" showed that 17,000 elephants were illegally killed in 2011, in areas home to around 40 percent of African elephants, meaning that the true findings may well be even higher. The number of African elephants illegally killed in 2012 is estimated at 22,000, and preliminary indications show that the number may be even higher for 2013.
Besides illegal killings, elephants are also threatened by the increasing loss of habitat in around 29 percent of their range areas—primarily as a result of human population growth and agricultural expansion. According to Elephants in the Dust, this figure could rise to 63 percent by 2050, posing a major threat to the long-term survival of the species.
A new mini-documentary, On Elephants and Ivory Poaching, featuring the renowned Chinese actress and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Li BingBing,will be launched at UN Headquarters in Nairobi today. View On Elephants and Ivory Poaching, which was filmed in Kenya, below:
Rhinos Facing Extinction
CITES estimates that the number of rhinoceroses poached in South Africa rose from 13 in 2007 to 448 in 2011, with a demand that continues to grow. Such demand comes principally from Asia, with the major destination appearing to be Viet Nam. According to CITES, increasing levels of demand have been fueled by rumors of rhino horn being a cure for cancer. The horn is also used as a recreational drug in the form of "rhino wine," which is rumored to improve male sexual performance, and to clean the body of toxins. None of these uses of rhino horn are recognized in traditional medicine.
There are five specifies of rhino. The Javan, Sumatran and Indian rhinos are found in Asia; the first two are considered critically endangered and Indian rhinos are considered vulnerable by the IUCN's Red List. The Javan subspecies of rhino in Viet Nam was declared extinct by the WWF in Oct. 2011. In Africa as of 2012, the number of black rhinos in the wild is estimated at 5,000 individuals and that of white rhinos at 20,000. The western black rhino was also declared extinct in Nov. 2011.
A UNEP study showed that almost 3,000 live great apes are being taken from the forests of Africa and Southeast Asia each year, with main markets including the tourist entertainment industry, disreputable zoos and individuals who wish to buy great apes as exotic pets.
According to the report, Stolen Apes: The Illicit Trade in Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Bonobos and Orangutans—which was produced by UNEP through the Great Apes Survival Partnership—a minimum of 22,218 great apes have been lost from the wild since 2005, either sold, killed during the hunt, or dying in captivity. Chimpanzees comprise about 64 percent of that number.
The report also estimates that, over the past seven years, a minimum of 643 chimpanzees, 48 bonobos, 98 gorillas and 1,019 orangutans are documented to have been captured from the wild for illegal trade. These figures are just the tip of the iceberg, and extrapolating from this research the report estimates that at least 2,972 great apes are lost from the wild each year.
Research by UNEP and INTERPOL estimates that between 50 and 90 percent of logging in key tropical countries of the Amazon basin, Central Africa and South East Africa is being carried out through organized crime, threatening efforts to combat climate change, deforestation, conserve wildlife and eradicate poverty.
Globally, illegal logging—worth between $30 - $100 billion USD annually—accounts for between 15 and 30 percent of the overall global trade, according to a recent report released by UNEP and INTERPOL.
The transnational nature of illegal logging raises difficulties for law enforcement and regulators, who are often limited in their ability to work outside of their jurisdiction
Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.
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By Tom Duszynski
The coronavirus is certainly scary, but despite the constant reporting on total cases and a climbing death toll, the reality is that the vast majority of people who come down with COVID-19 survive it. Just as the number of cases grows, so does another number: those who have recovered.
In mid-March, the number of patients in the U.S. who had officially recovered from the virus was close to zero. That number is now in the tens of thousands and is climbing every day. But recovering from COVID-19 is more complicated than simply feeling better. Recovery involves biology, epidemiology and a little bit of bureaucracy too.
How does your body fight off COVID-19?<p>Once a person is exposed the coronavirus, the body starts producing <a href="https://www.mblintl.com/products/what-are-antibodies-mbli/" target="_blank">proteins called antibodies to fight the infection</a>. As these <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/27/serological-tests-reveal-immune-coronavirus/" target="_blank">antibodies start to successfully contain the virus</a> and keep it from replicating in the body, symptoms usually begin to lessen and you start to feel better. Eventually, if all goes well, your immune system will completely destroy all of the virus in your system. A person who was infected with and survived a virus with no long-term health effects or disabilities has "recovered."</p><p>On average, a person who is infected with SARS-CoV-2 will feel ill for about seven days from the onset of symptoms. Even after symptoms disappear, there still may be small amounts of the virus in a patient's system, and they should stay <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html" target="_blank">isolated for an additional three days</a> to ensure they have truly <a href="https://health.usnews.com/conditions/articles/coronavirus-recovery-what-to-know" target="_blank">recovered and are no longer infectious</a>.</p>
What about immunity?<p>In general, once you have recovered from a viral infection, your body will keep cells called lymphocytes in your system. These cells "remember" viruses they've previously seen and can react quickly to fight them off again. If you are exposed to a virus you have already had, your antibodies will likely stop the virus before it starts causing symptoms. <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.5114%2Fceji.2018.77390" target="_blank">You become immune</a>. This is the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK27158/" target="_blank">principle behind many vaccines</a>.</p><p>Unfortunately, immunity isn't perfect. For many viruses, like mumps, immunity can wane over time, leaving you <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160421145747.htm" target="_blank">susceptible to the virus in the future</a>. This is why you need to get revaccinated – those "booster shots" – occasionally: to prompt your immune system to make more antibodies and memory cells.</p><p>Since this coronavirus is so new, scientists still don't know whether people who recover from COVID-19 are <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/faq.html" target="_blank">immune to future infections of the virus</a>. Doctors are finding antibodies in ill and recovered patients, and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/clinical-guidance-management-patients.html" target="_blank">that indicates the development of immunity</a>. But the question remains how long that immunity will last. Other coronaviruses like <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/jmv.25685" target="_blank">SARS and MERS produce an immune response</a> that will protect a person at least for a short time. I would suspect the same is true of SARS-CoV-2, but the research simply hasn't been done yet to say so definitively.</p>
Why have so few people officially recovered in the US?<p>This is a dangerous virus, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is being extremely careful when deciding what it means to recover from COVID-19. Both medical and testing criteria must be met before a person is <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/disposition-in-home-patients.html" target="_blank">officially declared recovered</a>.</p><p>Medically, a person must be fever-free without fever-reducing medications for three consecutive days. They must show an improvement in their other symptoms, including reduced coughing and shortness of breath. And it must be at least seven full days <a href="https://health.usnews.com/conditions/articles/coronavirus-recovery-what-to-know" target="_blank">since the symptoms began</a>.</p><p>In addition to those requirements, the CDC guidelines say that a person must test negative for the coronavirus twice, with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/care-for-someone.html" target="_blank">tests taken at least 24 hours apart</a>.</p><p>Only then, if both the symptom and testing conditions are met, is a person officially considered recovered by the CDC.</p><p>This second testing requirement is likely why there were so few official recovered cases in the U.S. until late March. Initially, there was a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/health/coronavirus-test-shortages-face-masks-swabs.html" target="_blank">massive shortage of testing in the U.S.</a> So while many people were certainly recovering over the last few weeks, this could not be officially confirmed. As the country enters the height of the pandemic in the coming weeks, focus is still on <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/hcp/clinical-criteria.html" target="_blank">testing those who are infected</a>, not those who have likely recovered.</p><p>Many more people are being tested now that states and private companies have begun <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/testing-in-us.html" target="_blank">producing and distributing tests</a>. As <a href="https://www.dispatch.com/news/20200406/coronavirus-in-ohio-from-its-rocky-start-testing-for-covid-19-slowly-ramping-up" target="_blank">the number of available tests increases</a> and the pandemic eventually slows in the country, more testing will be available for those who have appeared to recover. As people who have already recovered are tested, the appearance of any new infections will help researchers learn <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/24/we-need-smart-coronavirus-testing-not-just-more-testing/" target="_blank">how long immunity can be expected to last</a>.</p>
Once a person has recovered, what can they do?<p>Knowing whether or not people are immune to COVID-19 after they recover is going to determine what individuals, communities and society at large can do going forward. If scientists can show that recovered patients are immune to the coronavirus, then a person who has recovered could in theory <a href="https://www.vox.com/2020/3/30/21186822/immunity-to-covid-19-test-coronavirus-rt-pcr-antibody" target="_blank">help support the health care system</a> by caring for those who are infected.</p><p>Once communities pass the peak of the epidemic, the number of new infections will decline, while the number of <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/china-says-passed-peak-coronavirus-epidemic-covid-19-1491863" target="_blank">recovered people will increase</a>. As these trends continue, the risk of transmission will fall. Once the risk of transmission has fallen enough, community-level isolation and social distancing orders will begin to relax and businesses will start to reopen. Based on what other countries have gone through, it will be <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00154-w" target="_blank">months until the risk of transmission is low</a> in the U.S.</p><p>But before any of this can happen, the U.S. and the world need to make it through the peak of this pandemic. Social distancing works to slow the spread of infectious diseases and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/what-you-can-do.html" target="_blank">is working for COVID-19</a>. Many people will <a href="https://www.yalemedicine.org/stories/2019-novel-coronavirus/" target="_blank">need medical help to recover</a>, and social distancing will slow this virus down and give people the best chance to do so.</p>
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
The future for the world's oceans often looks grim. Fisheries are set to collapse by 2048, according to one study, and 8 million tons of plastic pollute the ocean every year, causing considerable damage to delicate marine ecosystems. Yet a new study in Nature offers an alternative, and more optimistic view on the ocean's future: it asserts that the entire marine environment could be substantially rebuilt by 2050, if humanity is able to step up to the challenge.
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By Zulfikar Abbany
Bread has been a source of basic nutrition for centuries, the holy trinity being wheat, maize and rice. It has also been the reason for a lot of innovation in science and technology, from millstones to microbiological investigations into a family of single-cell fungi called Saccharomyces.
Chemical leavening<p>If you like a little heft in your loaf, you will need a leavening agent.</p><p>For those short on time, you can use baking soda. That's a chemical compound of sodium bicarbonate mixed with potassium bitartrate, or cream of tartar.</p><p>Soda breads have their traditions in parts of eastern and central Europe, and in Ireland and Scotland, with Melrose loaves and "farls."</p><p>They can taste a bit bland, though, and are often considered only as an emergency solution on Sundays. No disrespect intended: They taste just fine fresh from the oven.</p><p>Whether it's chemical or more "natural," leavening relies largely on the production of carbon dioxide.</p><p>When you mix an acid, such as vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt or apple cider, with an alkaline compound like baking soda, you get CO2. That CO2 creates bubbles, which in turn capture steam in the oven and allow a bread to rise.</p><p><span></span>But it's better with yeast. Tastes better, too. It just takes more time. </p>
What is yeast?<p>There are yeasts all around us — on grains, in the air, in biofuels. It even lives inside us, but that's not always a good thing.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1090575/pdf/1471-2334-5-22.pdf" target="_blank">Candida yeast</a> can cause infections of the skin, feet, mouth, penis or vagina if it builds up too much in the body.</p><p>One of the most common yeasts, however, is <em>Saccharomyces cerevisiae</em>. That's <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/an-early-beer-archaeologists-tap-ground-at-worlds-oldest-brewery/a-45480731" target="_blank">"brewer's"</a> or "baker's" yeast.</p><p>You can get fresh baker's yeast, often in 42-gram (1.48-ounce) cubes, or as dried yeast (quick action or active, which requires rehydration) in a sachet of 7 grams.</p><p>There's little difference: One is compressed and the other is dehydrated and granulated. But they do the same thing, essentially. </p><p>Some commercial yeast producers add molasses and other nutrients. But natural yeast has plenty of useful nutrients in it anyway, including B group vitamins, so who knows whether it's good or necessary to add them. </p>
How does yeast work?<p>When you mix flour, yeast and water, you set off a veritable chain reaction. Enzymes in the wheat convert starch into sugar. And the yeast creates enzymes of its own to convert those sugars into a form it can absorb.</p><p>The yeast "feeds" on the sugars to create carbon dioxide and alcohol. The yeast burps and farts, releasing gases into the mix, and that creates bubbles to trap CO2. </p><p>It's a vital fermentation process that breaks down the gluten in the flour and helps make your bread more digestible.</p><p>The yeast cells split and reproduce, generating lactic and carbonic acid, raising the temperature and ultimately adding flavor to the mix.</p><p>The longer you leave the yeast to do its thing, the better for your bread. Time is more important than the amount of yeast. </p><p>In fact, that's an enduring question — how much yeast? I'll use 20 grams fresh yeast for 500 grams of flour. Others say that's enough yeast for 1 kilo. If you are converting a dry-yeast recipe to fresh yeast, some bakers advise tripling the weight. So, if a sachet of dried yeast is 7 grams, your fresh yeast is 21 grams.</p><p><span></span>But that also depends on the flours you are using, temperatures in the bowl and the room, and a host of other things. You'll just have to experiment and see. No number of books (and I've read a stack on bread) will help as much as trial and error.</p>
Wild yeast: Sourdough<p>So, good bread needs time. If you have a lot of time, why not move it up a notch and grow wild yeast — a sourdough starter — in your own home?</p><p>A sourdough starter is not to be mistaken (as it often is) for the leaven, or "mother," "sponge," or <em>levain</em>. That's more a second stage, a descendant of the starter. You take a scoop from your starter and add it to another flour and water mixture when you prepare the dough for a new loaf. </p><p>The sourdough process utilizes yeasts naturally present in flour and … yet more time. A longer fermentation process allows a richer lactic acid bacteria <em>lactobacilli</em> or LAB to evolve, and that can be healthy for your gut microbiome.</p><p>It's simple enough to start a sourdough starter. All you need is flour, warm water and time.</p><p>Some suggest equal measures of whole-grain flour and water at 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit), some say room temperature — just don't let the water exceed 40 C or the yeasts will die. Some suggest two parts flour to three parts water. But it's up to you whether you want a drier or wetter starter. You will know only through experimentation. </p><p>Some say you should filter tap water to remove chemicals like fluoride and avoid using water that's boiled and then cooled. Others say that really doesn't matter.</p><p>The main thing is, keep it clean and give it time. Days, weeks, months and years.</p>
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