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Illegal Hunter Mauled to Death by African Lion
Over the past few years, there’s been no lack of news items involving poachers and trophy hunters killing endangered animals for profit or sport. But in South Africa last week, there was a rare role reversal: two lions attacked a group of poachers, mauling one to death.
The UK’s Daily Express reports the group of five illegal poachers were hunting on at private game farm when two lions gave chase. A spokesperson for the police, Colonel Ronel Otto, told the outlet that “[t]hree men managed to climb into a tree and another managed to escape, but the deceased and two dogs were mauled to death." The dead poacher, Matome Mahlale, was 24-years-old.
Even more incredibly, the incident took place at a private game farm just over the border from the Zimbabwe site where American dentist Walter Palmer killed Cecil the Lion. The incident comes just weeks after Zimbabwean officials announced that Palmer would not face criminal charges in the lion’s death.
There has been a precipitous rise in poaching and trophy hunting of Africa’s most threatened species over the last several years. This year alone there was an 18 percent rise in illegal rhino killings in South Africa, and a 2013 study found poachers had slaughtered a staggering 100,000 elephants. Cecil’s death made national headlines, but the lion was one of more than 600 killed every year by hunters bearing legal, pay-to-play licenses. Estimates place the number of lions remaining in Africa at around 30,000.
The Daily Express spoke to a local who said, “There won't be many people feeling sorry for him. This is seen as poetic justice for the death of Cecil."
Police spokesman Otto, interviewed by the Washington Post, discussed the enormity of the poaching issue in the area where the poacher’s death took place.
“We have a big problem with people doing illegal hunting,” he told the outlet. “It’s difficult from the police’s side because the problem is vast. We do work together with the rural communities—if we learn that there’s a problem, we get there as soon as we can.”
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Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
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