By Alicia Graef
Romania's government has taken action to protect its large carnivores from trophy hunters.iStock
These species are protected under both Romanian law and the European Habitats Directive, but loopholes have allowed for the killing of dangerous animals who have caused damage, or threaten humans and livestock.
Unfortunately, deciding how many dangerous animals there are is up to those who stand to make a lot of money from the continued killing of wildlife.
The Guardian explains that every year, hunting associations would submit two numbers, including the total population of each large carnivore species and the total number which they believed to be likely to cause damages. The second number is used to set quotas for each species, which are then sold by hunting outfitters as permits to the public.
"Hunting for money was already illegal, but it was given a green light anyway," environment minster, Cristiana Pasca-Palmer, told the Guardian. 'The damages [clause in the habitats directive] acted as a cover for trophy hunting."
The system used raises a lot of questions about a serious conflict of interest, yet hunters have taken advantage of it, spending thousands to take home a trophy and the number of animals killed has continued to grow over the years.
In 2016 alone, the quotas set allowed for the killing of 550 bears, 600 wolves and 500 big cats. ZME Science puts that in perspective by likening it to killing "the entire brown bear population in Slovakia, the population of wolves living in France, Norway, and Sweden, and four Poland-worths of lynxes—in one country, in a single year."
Now, the animals will be getting a much-needed reprieve. The decision is expected to divide rural and urban dwellers, but supporters hope other measures will help reduce potential conflicts with wildlife. So far this includes creating a special unit that will deal with conflicts and animals who have caused damage individually, in addition to setting up a working group of experts to study populations of wildlife and come up with solutions for effectively managing them.
For now, it's an epic step in the right direction when it comes to protecting large carnivores from being needlessly killed for sport and entertainment, and it's hopefully one that will send a message to other countries that continue to allow this deplorable practice.
Not only are these species vital to maintaining healthy ecosystems, but studies continue to show that the science being used to justify killing them isn't good, and in many cases continued slaughter has backfired and caused more conflicts, instead of reducing them.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.
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The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)