The Department of the Interior (DOI) has disbanded a controversial council that promoted big game hunting after a judge ruled that environmental groups could challenge the legitimacy of the council in court, as The Associated Press reported.
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A Florida man has been allowed to import a Tanzanian lion's skin, skull, claws and teeth, a first since the animal was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, according to US Fish and Wildlife Service records uncovered by the Center for Biological Diversity through the Freedom of Information Act.
The documents show that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a permit in May for hunter, Carl Atkinson, to bring home the lion trophy which was taken from a game preserve in July or August, according to Courthouse News. The hunter's attorney, John Jackson III, is a member of the Interior Department's own International Wildlife Conservation Council, which Ryan Zinke created as Secretary of the Interior to highlight the "economic benefits that result from US citizens traveling to foreign nations to engage in hunting," as CNN reported.
"This is tragic news for lion conservation, and it suggests that the Trump administration may soon open the floodgates to trophy imports from Tanzania," said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. "Tanzania is a lion stronghold, but it's been criticized by scientists for corruption and inadequate wildlife protections. Opening the U.S. market to these imports doesn't bode well for the lion kings of Tanzania."
Tanzania is thought to be home to 40 percent of Africa's lions, though exact populations are difficult to count. It has a history of mismanaging populations of lions, elephants and other threatened animals. By allowing hunters to bring their trophies back to the U.S. there are ripple effects. Hunters often seek out mature male lions, which make desirable trophies. Yet, killing one lion often leads to the death of many more. Since those mature male lions are usually pack leaders, a new pack leader will move in and assert dominance by killing the hunted lion's offspring, resulting in the loss of many lions, as the Center for Biological Diversity noted.
There is no evidence in the acquired documents acquired that the Fish and Wildlife Service considered this in assessing Atkinson's permit application. However, Sanerib said the occurrence is so well-documented that she has absolute faith the agency is aware that the import authorization results in the death of more than just one lion. The outcome is not only harmful because of the death of additional lions but because it diminishes the genetic pool, she said, as Courthouse News reported.
Sanerib also fears that the Fish and Wildlife Service will start to ramp up the speed with which it processes these applications, opening the door for big game hunting. The Trump administration has already lifted an Obama era ban on elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe. The Trump administration also recently allowed a Michigan hunter to import the skin, skull and horns from a rare black rhinoceros he shot in Namibia, according to the Independent.
The rhino hunter was also represented by Jackson who says his group Conservation Force is protecting animals, claiming that hunting promotes healthy populations in the wild.
"I'm working to save wildlife from animal protectionists," Jackson said, as CNN reported.
Sanerib worries that the influx of money into Tanzania from wealthy hunters will imperil more than just lions.
"We're waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it may land on Tanzania's elephants," said Sanerib, in statement. "This administration reversed course and lifted the ban on elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe. I'm worried Trump officials will do the same for Tanzania. In the face of the global extinction crisis, we shouldn't let rich Americans kill imperiled species for fun."
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
"I'm so pleased that this image did well because it illustrates the emotion and feeling of animals and emphasizes that this is not limited to humans," Lloyd said in a press release.
"It is something I think more people need to be aware of for the sake of all animals," he added.
Lloyd, who is from New Zealand and based in London, talks about how he caught the heartwarming scene here:
The public chose Lloyd's photo out of 25 pre-selected images by the Natural History Museum. The museum made its shortlist from more than 45,000 submissions across 95 countries.
Museum director Michael Dixon praised the photographer for capturing a tender moment between the wild animals.
"Lions are individuals with complex social bonds, and David's winning picture provides a glimpse into their inner world," Dixon said in the release. "A truly stunning photograph, this intimate portrait reminds us that humans aren't the only sentient beings on this planet. I hope the empathy and wonder garnered by this image will inspire more people to become advocates for nature."
These two adult males, probably brothers, greeted and rubbed faces for 30 seconds before settling down. Most people never have the opportunity to witness such animal sentience, and David was honored to have experienced and captured such a moment. The picture was taken in Ndutu, Serengeti, Tanzania. Bond of Brothers by David Lloyd, New Zealand / UK
Lloyd's photograph can be seen at an exhibition at the Natural History Museum until June 30 along with other "highly commended" entries, including the four shown below.
These include Matthew Maran's shot of a fox walking towards graffiti art of another fox in north London; Bence Mate's picture of three painted wolves playing with the leg of an impala; and Wim Van Den Heever's photo of three king penguins on a beach in the Falkland Islands.
One of the most striking pictures in the top five is Justin Hofman's devastating photo of an emaciated polar bear in the Canadian Arctic. According to the image caption, the American photographer's "whole body pained" while watching the starving bear at an abandoned hunting camp.
"With little, and thinning, ice to move around on, the bear is unable to search for food," the caption states.
"Highly Commended" Photos
Matthew has been photographing foxes close to his home in north London for over a year and ever since spotting this street art had dreamt of capturing this image. After countless hours and many failed attempts his persistence paid off.Fox Meets Fox by Matthew Maran, UK
Wim came across these king penguins on a beach in the Falkland Islands just as the sun was rising. They were caught up in a fascinating mating behavior—the two males were constantly moving around the female using their flippers to fend the other off.Three Kings by Wim Van Den Heever, South Africa
Justin's whole body pained as he watched this starving polar bear at an abandoned hunter's camp, in the Canadian Arctic, slowly heave itself up to standing. With little, and thinning, ice to move around on, the bear is unable to search for food.A Polar Bear's Struggle by Justin Hofman, USA
While adult African wild dogs are merciless killers, their pups are extremely cute and play all day long. Bence photographed these brothers in Mkuze, South Africa—they all wanted to play with the leg of an impala and were trying to drag it in three different directions!One Toy, Three Dogs by Bence Mate, Hungary
By John R. Platt
At first glance rhinos, pangolins and jaguars don't seem to have much in common.
But there are a few things that link them. For one thing, they're all targets of poachers and smugglers, who traffic in their body parts and threaten the species with extinction.
From her home base in Tucson, Ariz., Cota travels around the world in her quest to protect these and other species from wildlife trafficking. She's pushed for improved enforcement of existing laws and helped to educate the public about issues related to imperiled species. Cota has also authored hundreds of articles about conservation, as well as a special field guide to help customs agents and other enforcement issues identify pangolins and their body parts, which have become the most heavily trafficked animals in the world.
As Cota prepared to leave for Geneva for this month's meeting of the Animals Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), she spoke with us about her latest efforts to protect imperiled wildlife and what the world needs to do better to prevent these species from falling into extinction.
You organize the annual World Pangolin Day. How far do you feel pangolin awareness has come since you launched this in 2012, and how much further do we need to go?
I have a soft spot for the underdog and so launching World Pangolin Day has been one of the most rewarding projects of my wildlife career.
It is fantastic to see that World Pangolin Day has grown into a global event which is now recognized by pangolin people all over the world—local on-the-ground conservation programs, schools, artists, big international NGOs , as well as high-profile institutions such as the United Nations (CITES), USAID and the IUCN.
Pangolins are listed on CITES Appendix I, which bans international trade, and of course are protected by national laws throughout their range. In my opinion, providing education and training to help "first responders"—law enforcement and customs officers—work collaboratively is critical for protecting pangolins. Additionally, the courts need to treat wildlife crime cases with the utmost seriousness. Wildlife crime is organized crime, not an "animal rights" issue.
You also recently launched plans for World Jaguar Day, to be held June 11, 2019. What inspired this, and what do you hope to accomplish in the nearly one-year lead-up to the first event?
I have been following the global wildlife trafficking crisis for about 10 years now. I can't say I was at all surprised when illegal trade in jaguar teeth and bones surfaced and was linked to the famously insatiable Chinese demand for big cat body parts.
As a resident of the Tucson, Arizona, area, the jaguar's in my backyard. I believe if we shine the spotlight on the jaguar—let the rest of the world know that the biggest cat in the Americas is facing the same threat as tigers and lions and leopards—maybe we can get ahead of the situation before it gets out of control, like it has with tigers.
Plans for the 2019 launch of World Jaguar Day were hatched in April of this year, actually. Then in May, I attended the Madrean Conference here in Tucson and spent a day immersed in the state of the jaguar.
What really struck me is the approach of treating jaguars throughout their range as one population—including the United States. We need to stop saying "a few remnant individuals in the U.S." According to the jaguar experts at the Madrean Conference, where there is one male jaguar, there is a female jaguar.
In the lead-up to World Jaguar Day, we will be profiling innovative jaguar conservation programs and educating the public and the media about jaguar issues. We will be digging into the unsavory issue of jaguar trade and publishing our findings.
We're looking forward to providing a launching pad for jaguar conservationists, wildlife enthusiasts, big-cat fanatics, NGOs, zoos, schools, the private sector and individuals to celebrate the iconic jaguar.
What other species are you focusing on at the moment?
Like I said, I go for the underdog and as such, I'm taking a very close look at opportunities to help freshwater turtles and tortoises.
Looking at the broad world of wildlife trafficking, what progress or potential progress excites you the most lately?
Wildlife crime needs to be dealt with on par with other types of organized crime. I think that is starting to happen. Meaningful jail sentences are handed down more frequently than say five years ago, and I know that there are multiple law-enforcement training initiatives happening in Asia and Africa that are focused on wildlife crime.
What do you wish more people understood about the impacts of trade in wild species?
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, the media still runs with stories about "legal trade will save the species" and "farming wildlife to meet demand" and "selling stockpiles to fund conservation" without doing proper research, particularly on the law-enforcement challenges. The notion of supplying captive-bred species to commercial markets has been proven time and again to have a disastrous effect on wild populations, including tigers, bears, crocodiles and ivory stockpiles, to name just a few disasters. There is an abundance of literature on this topic, and certainly no shortage of wildlife trade policy experts—real experts, not wildlife breeders or pro-trade advocates—available for interviews.
In my opinion, when media outlets publish information that suggests legal trade, wildlife farming or selling stockpiles are options for saving wildlife, it can harm the efforts of legitimate wildlife conservation organizations. When we are dealing with something as delicate and finite as wildlife, media and communications professionals should strive to educate the public, not confuse or hoodwink for the sake of a headline or more clicks.
The Good, the Bad and the Endangered: Wildlife Wins and Losses at CITES Standing Committee https://t.co/xKnam4nL63… https://t.co/SZMcxTNfnF— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1512501498.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.
- Threatened Big Cats in the Spotlight for World Wildlife Day ›
- I Know Why the Caged Songbird Goes Extinct - EcoWatch ›
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued more than three dozen permits for hunters to bring back lion trophy parts from Zimbabwe and Zambia between 2016-2018, according to copies of the permits obtained by a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
The documents were obtained by Friends of Animals and reported by Huffington Post on Thursday. Thirty-three hunters received a total of 38 lion trophy permits, according to the animal advocacy nonprofit.
More than half of those hunters donated to Republican lawmakers or have ties to hunting advocacy group Safari Club International, Friends of Animals said.
"The permits show that the current administration, not only has loosened restrictions on lion hunting, but is rewarding supporters," the nonprofit said in a press release.
#BreakingNews: FoA has learned that U.S. #hunters with connections to #Trump received FWS permits to hunt African… https://t.co/AgSSx9xmjO— Friends of Animals (@Friends of Animals)1532455606.0
The report follows the
Trump administration's move in March to allow elephant and lion trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia on a case by case basis, a reversal from President Trump's previous statements that his administration would keep the Obama-era ban on imports of the animals.
Last year, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke created an advisory committee called the International Wildlife Conservation Council that is mainly comprised of trophy hunters and members of Safari Club International.
Fish and Wildlife Service did not respond to HuffPost's request for comment.
Among the hunters who received a permit was Steven Chancellor, a wealthy Indiana businessman and major GOP donor who raised more than $1 million for Republican candidates at a fundraiser at his home headlined by Donald Trump in 2016, Friends of Animals said. Chancellor—an avid hunter who has registered 482 confirmed kills, including 18 lions, between 1980 and 2008, the Courier & Press reported—is an appointee on Sec. Zinke's International Wildlife Conservation Council. He was allowed to import lion parts from a July 2016 hunt in Zimbabwe, according to the FOIA request.
Another hunter who received permits was Virginia resident Kent Greenawalt, who has donated more than $100,000 to Republican candidates and committees and $5,400 to Trump. He was allowed to bring back lion trophies after a hunt in Zambia in 2017 and another hunt in Zimbabwe in 2016, Friends of Animals revealed.
Big game hunters say their sport provides a service through game management and the trophy hunting fees provide revenue that directly funds conservation and contributes to African economies.
However, opponents say that killing the animals is wrong and endangers vulnerable populations.
"If African wildlife is to survive the next few decades in their homelands, these elephants, lions and other animals—coveted by hunters for their strength and beauty—must be worth more alive than dead," said Friends of Animals President Priscilla Feral in the press release. "That means safeguarding habitat along with photographic safaris and ecotourism must outpace blood-drenched trophy hunting expeditions. Trophy hunting must expire and collapse from its own dead weight. Let's press for an administration that stops catering to an industry that has actually been in decline with a dwindling number of hunters."
The New York Times reported that Fish and Wildlife Service previously made determinations about trophies publicly available, but under new rules, interested parties must file a FOIA request to see details of the permits.
Lion 'Trophy' Importation Ban Was Quietly Lifted by Trump Administration in October https://t.co/BmbXUk6MJi @WWF… https://t.co/eQ131tMxeD— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1510932469.0
- Why Trump's New Trophy Hunting Council Is a Disaster ›
- Showdown Expected as Japan Plans to Resume For-Profit Whaling ›
By John R. Platt
April, goes the old saying, is the cruelest month, so perhaps it should be no surprise that one of the most anticipated books being published this month is about the infamous death-by-dentist of Cecil the lion. But that's not all, and the rest isn't necessarily cruel—April will also see the publication of fantastic new books about living a zero-waste lifestyle, taking back our public lands, how fossil fuels hurt indigenous peoples and a whole lot more.
Honestly there are more environmental books coming out in April than any one person could read, but we've tried to pick what looks like the best of the bunch for you. The full list—14 amazing titles—includes books for just about every reader, from dedicated environmentalists to Earth-friendly kids. There's even one for poetry fans. You can check them all out below—links are to publishers' or authors' websites—and then settle down in your favorite reading chair for a month of great page-turning.
Wildlife and Endangered Species:
Lion Hearted: The Life and Death of Cecil & the Future of Africa's Iconic Cats by Andrew Loveridge — Advance word on this book is already reigniting the complex emotions around this case. Written by the scientist who studied Cecil the lion for eight years until the big cat was shot by American dentist Walter Palmer, Lion Hearted is about more than just Cecil and Walter; it's about the plight faced by all of Africa's disappearing lions. This gets our vote for the book of the month.
The Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search of the World's Rarest Species by Carlos Magdalena — It's a sad fact in conservation that endangered plants often don't get enough attention, whether it's from the general public, governments or even researchers. Maybe this impassioned memoir from Magdalena, a globe-trotting horticulturalist who spent his life saving endangered plants, will help to turn that around a little bit.
Back From the Brink: Saving Animals From Extinction by Nancy Castaldo — Here's one for younger readers, the true stories of how humans came close to killing off species like wolves, alligators and the California condor, as well as how we kept them from disappearing forever. Good lessons if we want the next generation to succeed in saving the species around them.
Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution by Menno Schilthuizen — Wildlife and cities don't mix, right? Well, not so fast. Some species are adapting to live in urban environments, either by changing their behavior or by evolving new physical characteristics. It's never going to be as good as living in natural habitats, but for some species life goes on, as this book reveals.
Oceanic by Aimee Nezhukumatathil — Poetry about a planet in peril. This isn't strictly about wildlife—it covers a lot of environmental topics—but many of the poems in this thought-provoking volume are about animals, including Bengal tigers, bees and a whole lot more.
Why Good People Do Bad Environmental Things by Elizabeth R. DeSombre — An academic book, but one that asks some important questions we should all be considering if we hope to change our own behaviors or those of the people around us.
Trash Revolution: Breaking the Waste Cycle by Erica Fyvie— What's the impact of the stuff around us, and how can kids make informed decisions about the products they buy? Fyvie and illustrator Bill Slavin provide the answers in this book, which comes our way from the delightfully named publisher, Kids Can Press.
Zero Waste: Simple Life Hacks to Drastically Reduce Your Trash by Shia Su — Did you know the average American produces 4.4 pounds of garbage a day? Yikes. Well, here are 168 pages of tips on how to reduce your trash footprint all the way down to zero. Not a bad goal!
The Parents' Guide to Climate Revolution: 100 Ways to Build a Fossil-Free Future, Raise Empowered Kids, and Still Get a Good Night's Sleep by Mary DeMocker — Sleep is a good thing, as is having a planet on which to sleep. Bill McKibben provides the foreword to what sounds like an essential book.
This Land Is Our Land: How We Lost the Right to Roam and How to Take It Back by Ken Ilgunas — The perfect book for the times we live in, when public lands are increasingly under assault and even national monuments are at risk of disappearing.
Energy Development and Indigenous Rights:
Life in Oil: Cofán Survival in the Petroleum Fields of Amazonia by Michael L. Cepek — For half a century, the indigenous Cofán nation of Ecuador has struggled under the ecological destruction of the fossil-fuel industry. Cepek, who has worked and lived with the Cofán for more than 20 years, tells their story, revealing how oil extraction has threatened these marginalized people but also how they have remained resilient.
Damming the Peace: The Hidden Costs of the Site C Dam by Wendy Holm (editor) — A massive, $10 billion hydroelectric dam project on British Columbia's Peace River could threaten the First Nations peoples who live nearby. This volume dives deep into the potential impacts and decades of governmental cover-ups related to this long-planned project.
Brave New Arctic: The Untold Story of the Melting North by Mark C. Serreze — We all know now that the Arctic is melting, but how did we come to find that out? Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, provides a firsthand account of how scientists first observed and understood these changes and how they will affect the planet.
Lyme: The First Epidemic of Climate Change by Mary Beth Pfeiffer — Ticks like warm places; climate change is making more places warmer. That's already causing tick-borne illnesses like Lyme to travel to new areas and hurt more people, a situation Pfeiffer explores. (For more on this topic, check out our article and interactive maps, "Climate Goes Viral.")
Looking for even more new eco-books? Check out our previous "Revelator Reads" columns for dozens of additional recent recommendations.
18 Great New Books About Climate Change, Sustainability and Pioneering Women Environmentalists… https://t.co/RQ6NEk6Cdc— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1520253170.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.
By Elly Pepper
In early November—the same week the Trump administration announced its disastrous decision to allow elephant and lion trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia—the administration decided to create an advisory committee, the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), to advise Trump on how to enhance trophy hunters' ability to hunt internationally.
Yup, that means the administration now has a council dedicated exclusively to promoting the killing of more imperiled species, like elephants and lions, for sport. The council's mandate includes counseling Trump on the economic, conservation, and anti-poaching benefits of trophy hunting, of which there are very few. Sadly, Trump doesn't want advice on the many drawbacks of trophy hunting.
The committee's duties are similarly biased. They include "educating" the public about trophy hunting; ensuring that federal programs support hunting; making it easier for U.S. citizens to import trophies; ending trophy import bans and suspensions (despite the fact our country heavily favors them, as shown recently), and using the pretext of "regulatory duplications" to eviscerate protections for foreign species under both the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (even though the U.S. law and the global treaty do different things).
Many conservation groups—including Natural Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund, Humane Society, Center for Biological Diversity, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare—urged the administration to abandon this dangerous proposal. Many also urged the council to, at the very least, include members from the conservation community. Instead, the Department of Interior went ahead with this flawed idea.
Even more shocking, all but one of the 16 discretionary members the administration chose hunt foreign species that are subject to import permits, represent an organization that promotes hunting of such species, guide hunts for such species, or is a "celebrity hunter" who glorifies hunting of such species. Yes, I'm talking about people that head the NRA and Safari Club International. This insanely biased membership ensures that all committee decisions will benefit hunters at the expense of iconic species already on the brink.
Oh, did I mention that we, the public, will pay for these members to travel to Washington, D.C. twice a year for meetings?
The IWCC was created under a statute called the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which was promulgated to ensure that advice by the various advisory committees is "objective and accessible to the public." The law states that advisory committees must also be "essential," "in the public interest," "fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented" and "not be inappropriately influenced by . . . any special interest." Clearly, the administration forgot to read the law when they formed this committee as it violates each and every requirement!
The first meeting of this council was scheduled for March 16 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. While advance RSVP was required—the council is clearly trying to shield its actions from the public eye—we will keep everyone posted on what occurs.
Unfortunately, there's one thing we all know without attending: this council spells disaster for elephants, lions and other imperiled foreign species that we all treasure.
[email protected]: The Planet's Most Dangerous Predator Is Us https://t.co/3e9jXPPzjG @DavidSuzukiFDN @QueenofGreen @CenterForBioDiv @NWF @NRDC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1473779763.0
Three conservation and animal-protection organizations sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Thursday for funding a Colorado Parks and Wildlife plan to kill hundreds of mountain lions and dozens of black bears without analyzing the risks to the state's environment.
The multi-year plan to kill black bears and mountain lions in the Piceance Basin and Upper Arkansas River areas of Colorado is intended to artificially boost the mule deer population where habitat has been degraded by oil and gas drilling. The killing plans were approved despite overwhelming public opposition, and over the objection of leading scientific voices in Colorado.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Colorado by the Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States and WildEarth Guardians. The lawsuit faults the Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to adequately analyze the impacts of these lethal predator-control experiments under the National Environmental Policy Act.
"It's appalling that the Fish and Wildlife Service bankrolled this killing without bothering to truly examine the environmental risks," said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Reckless oil and gas drilling has destroyed mule deer habitat, and outdated predator-control techniques can't fix that. Slaughtering bears and mountain lions will only further damage these ecosystems."
The Piceance Basin Plan will last three years. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will use specialized contractors, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services program, to kill mountain lions and black bears using inhumane traps, snares and hounds. The killing will be focused on and around the Roan Plateau, considered one of the most biologically diverse areas in Colorado. Up to 75 black bears and 45 cougars will be killed for a cost of approximately $645,000—75 percent of which will be paid for with federal taxpayer dollars.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorizing the use of millions of public dollars meant to promote wildlife restoration to kill Colorado's bears and mountain lions is outrageous," said Stuart Wilcox, staff attorney for WildEarth Guardians based in Denver. "Scapegoating species key to ensuring Colorado's ecosystems remain resilient—because the state wants to ignore the true impacts of the filthy fossil fuel industry—adds insult to injury."
The Upper Arkansas River Plan will last nine years, during which time Colorado Parks and Wildlife plans to kill more than 50 percent of the mountain lion population in the area. Colorado expects the killing of up to 234 mountain lions will cost nearly $4 million, 75 percent of which will be federally funded.
"The Fish and Wildlife Service has an obligation under federal law to evaluate the environmental implications of its actions, relying on the best available science, and to allow the public to review that analysis," said Anna Frostic, managing attorney for wildlife and animal research at The Humane Society of the United States. "The agency has failed to comply with these statutory duties, ignoring potentially devastating impacts on black bears and mountain lions."
Rather than provide an independent analysis disclosing the environmental impacts of the Piceance Basin and Upper Arkansas River plans, the Fish and Wildlife Service tried to adopt an environmental assessment prepared by Wildlife Services, a wholly separate agency, whose purpose is to kill so-called "nuisance" animals nationwide.
Mountain lions and black bears are critical to their native ecosystems. Mountain lion predation produces carrion that feeds more bird and mammal scavengers than that of any other predator on the planet. Black bears' diverse diet of fruits results in broad dispersion of seeds, and their foraging behavior creates disturbances that allow sunlight to reach plants below the forest canopy, making them "ecosystem engineers."
Bears and cougars are vulnerable to persecution and could be extirpated from these two regions as a result of the plans. The Fish and Wildlife Service failed to consider the many substantial environmental harms that are likely to result from the plans, such as the harm to the local ecosystem of this potential extirpation and the suffering and deaths of orphaned cubs and kittens.
Battle Begins to Restore Protections for Greater Yellowstone Grizzly Bears https://t.co/X8DQxHLNQ6 @greenpeaceusa @Sierra_Magazine— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1504645511.0
By Debbie Banks
I recently had the privilege of being one of the preliminary judges for the International Big Cats Film Festival, the winners of which will be announced on March 2. What a luxury—to indulge my passion for big cats and watch hours and hours of some of the most amazing footage of tigers, snow leopards, jaguars and lions in the wild, coupled with stories of extraordinary courage, tenacity and innovation from those seeking to protect them.
It was truly inspiring and an absolute celebration of these magnificent animals.
Moreover, it made up for the regular onslaught of bad news to which we are often subjected at EIA, bombarded with poaching news from the field, with images and video of parts and products of tigers, leopards, snow leopards, clouded leopards, lions and jaguar—either seized in trade, offered for sale in well-publicized but persistent trade hubs or offered for sale on social media.
paul bass / Flickr
The end uses for these big cats are more or less the same in the melting pot of an unchecked and growing demand in Asia, primarily among Chinese consumers in China, Laos and Myanmar and among Vietnamese consumers.
Skins are used as luxury home décor, taxidermy and in some cases clothing, purchased by those with disposable income for themselves or as non-financial bribes. The skins of the different cats are easy to differentiate and have a different market price from each other based on perceived value, and depending on market location.
It is a different story when it comes to big cat canine teeth and claws, which are easy to conceal and command increasing sums as they are set in silver and gold, worn as pendants and sold as status symbols. The ease with which big cat teeth and claws are advertised for sale and displayed by wearers via social media suggests a lack of fear of enforcement.
Worryingly, in the absence of sustained enforcement or targeted demand reduction campaigns, there appears to be a casual social acceptability of the use of teeth and claws. Since it is not so easy for consumers to tell the teeth and claws of the big cats apart, even jaguars are being poached on commission by Chinese traders in Latin America.
Big cat bones are used to make "bone strengthening wine," sold variously as a virility product or a general health tonic. Huge volumes of African lion bone are being marketed as tiger in Asia, along with the bones of captive-bred tigers. Far from relieving pressure on wild populations, consumers of bone used in traditional Chinese medicine have a preference for wild tiger bone—so wild tigers and leopards in Asia are still being poached for their bones.
In addition to the need for increased investment in intelligence-led enforcement to disrupt the criminal networks profiting from demand and illegal trade in big cats, there is an urgent need for far greater action from world leaders to eliminate the market for big cat parts and products.
While China's President Xi has taken steps to ban domestic ivory trade, there has not been an equally high level of attention on more endangered species such as tigers. If he is serious about the fight against illegal wildlife trade, he will launch a campaign calling for an end to all trade, in all tiger and other big cat parts and products, from all sources, wild and captive-bred.
Additionally, President Xi will ensure this is reinforced through law reform to phase out tiger farming and trade in captive-bred tiger parts, the destruction of stockpiles of tiger and other big cat parts, effective cooperation with law enforcers in source and transit countries and by working with other governments to invest in demand-reduction campaigns that address all uses of big cat parts and products.
This World Wildlife Day, you can help to get the big cats on President Xi's agenda. Write to your country's prime minister or president and urge them to call upon President Xi and the government of China to end demand and trade in tigers and other big cats.
After a Half-Century, Tigers May Return to Kazakhstan https://t.co/VFPSKvOaec @environmentca @ImageOfWildlife— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1508205004.0
Debbie Banks is the campaign leader for tigers and wildlife crime at the Environmental Investigation Agency.
The victim's remains were found over the weekend at a private game park near Hoedspruit in the province of Limpopo. The lions ate most of the body but left the head behind. A loaded hunting rifle was also found nearby.
"It seems the victim was poaching in the game park when he was attacked and killed by lions. They ate his body, nearly all of it, and just left his head and some remains," Limpopo police spokesman Moatshe Ngoepe said in a statement.
The Daily Mail reported that the hunter was heard screaming for help as he was being attacked.
"A scream was heard and the lions were scattered by the sound of gunshots but it was too late to do anything for him. He was eaten," said a local worker quoted by the publication.
Police are now trying to identify the dead man. "The process of identifying this body has already commenced and it might be made easier as his head was amongst the remains found at the scene," Police Lieutenant-Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe said.
Between 1993 and 2014, populations of African lions declined by 43 percent, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said. The IUCN classifies lions as "vulnerable to extinction," one step away from endangered. The IUCN classification is propped up by a 12 percent population increase in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. However, outside of these four countries, lion populations have fallen by an average of 60 percent.
Lion 'Trophy' Importation Ban Was Quietly Lifted by Trump Administration in October https://t.co/mAGVsfPLoZ @environmentca @WWFSouthAfrica— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1510959314.0
The decline is due to indiscriminate killing in defense of human life and livestock, habitat loss and prey base depletion, the IUCN said. Other causes include poaching and bushmeat trade, as well as an emerging trade in bones and other body parts for traditional medicine, both within Africa and in Asia.
The story has since gone viral and Twitter users have commented on the poacher's death by lions as an act of karma. See below:
Karma is a bitch. https://t.co/IkKlhvldyR— Jillian Barberie (@Jillian Barberie)1518479018.0
I'd be lion if I said I felt bad for the poacher. https://t.co/0DQjvBVsX8— Ben Collins (@Ben Collins)1518466691.0
Nothing makes me happier than the headline: “Poacher eaten by lion.” This must be what it feels like to enjoy football.— Mike Stanley (@Mike Stanley)1518461690.0
Suspected poacher eaten by lions in South Africa -- Lion told the media the man tasted like irony. https://t.co/HohRqjQasE— Sarah Burris (@Sarah Burris)1518437075.0
me upon hearing the news that a poacher was mauled to death by a lion https://t.co/w9W7ra49eF— 🦚 (@🦚)1518457532.0
By Brennan PetersonWood and Adam C. Stein
The Great Ruaha River in southern Tanzania is the lifeblood of Ruaha National Park, one of the last strongholds of major elephant and lion populations in Africa. Flowing through Ruaha National Park before emptying into the Rufuji River, the Great Ruaha and associated river systems also provide a massive economic service to the whole of Tanzania.
Unfortunately the benefits received from the river diminished rapidly nearly 30 years ago. Starting in 1988, with a loan from the African Development Bank, the 3,000 ha Kapunga private rice farm was built in the Usangu wetland catchment area of the Great Ruaha River, upstream of Ruaha National Park. The goal was to improve agricultural livelihoods of farmers in the region. Prior to construction, an environmental impact assessment was not completed but was included in a project completion report where impacts were identified retrospectively. Chief among these were the drying of the Great Ruaha, loss of wildlife habitat in the wetlands downstream from the project and pollution from agricultural chemical run-off.
The Great Ruaha River in September.Viktoria Kalinina
Poor design and management of the rice farms means that diverted water is not returned to the river system, and satellite farms that have grown around Kapunga farm divert a far greater amount of water than the originally intended 20 to 30 percent. Heavy use of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides has led to unknown levels of these chemicals in downstream water sources. It has also been reported that wetlands below the rice farms have lost 77 percent of their former surface area.
An elephant digs in the sand to look for water. When the Ruaha stops flowing, large mammals struggle to find drinking water. Brennan PetersonWood
Formerly, the upstream wetlands would act as a giant sponge and supply the Great Ruaha with water that had accumulated during the rainy months. Now, with the loss of 77 percent of wetland habitat and severely reduced inflow, the wetlands do not contain sufficient water. Since 1993 the Great Ruaha River has stopped flowing during the dry season, usually from September through the end of November. Alarmingly, an outbreak of the bacterial disease anthrax killed more than 40 hippos in September with the drying of the river cited as a contributing factor by the chief park warden of Ruaha National Park. A 2003 study showed that the drying of the Great Ruaha creates a 60 percent loss of dry season habitat within the park. The drying particularly affects large mammals such as elephants and buffalo, possibly causing a decline in buffalo populations in the Ruaha ecosystem. These species are now forced to venture out of the park and into farmers' fields looking for water. Communities surrounding the park have recently been experiencing unprecedented levels of crop-raiding by elephants, putting humans and elephants in close contact and leading to multiple deaths on both sides.
A lion feeds on a cape buffalo. Ruaha National Park is an important ecosystem for the last remaining lions in Africa. A staple prey for lions, cape buffalo are declining in the park as a result of the river drying. Viktoria Kalinina
In addition to the environmental impact, the economic losses of the drying of the Great Ruaha have been astronomical. Wildlife driven tourism in Tanzania contributes around $2 billion annually and 12.2 percent of employment to the country. The Great Ruaha powers two hydroelectric dams, Mtera and Kidatu, which generate 80 percent of Tanzania's electric power. In 2006 water levels dropped so low that the Mtera hydroelectric dam had to be fully shut down. Tanzania's national utility company reported losses of 2 to 9 million dollars each day with total losses likely ranging from 360 million to 1.6 billion dollars. Even if the rice farm project had achieved full production success, which to date it has not, its profits are dwarfed by the losses sustained from the electrical power losses alone.
Recognizing the potential for massive economic loss and environmental degradation, the government of Tanzania formed a committee of minsters in early April 2017 to address the problems facing the river. Headed by Yusuf Makamba, the minister of state in the office of the vice president (union and environment) and including three other ministers, the committee was to meet for one month to seek solutions. Makamba announced on April 24 that the government would not shy away from addressing the drying of the river.
The Great Ruaha is not Tanzania's only environmental catastrophe at the hands of development aid and as the government pushes forward another river project that will cause damage to the ecology of a world heritage site, conservation fingers are crossed that the push to restore the Great Ruaha won't dry up like the river itself.
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EIA campaigners were at the 69th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee (SC69) in Geneva, Switzerland, last week.
A packed agenda saw a wide range of issues raised for discussion, from tiger farms and domestic ivory markets to management of seized timber stocks and guidance for demand reduction programs. Throughout the meeting, EIA were busy preparing and making interventions, lobbying delegates and coordinating with other NGOs, trying hard to maximize the effectiveness of CITES in preventing over-exploitation of wildlife worldwide.
Below is a short summary of some of the key issues EIA was working on, along with some major wins, losses and indications of high-stakes debates due up at the 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) in Sri Lanka in 2019.
While we wanted to see Japan and Singapore commit to more robust actions to address their role in the ivory trade, we were happy to see that they continue to remain under the spotlight at CITES. Both countries will have to report on actions taken to reduce their role in ivory trade for the next CITES Standing Committee meeting in October 2018. In the coming months, we need to keep up the pressure to encourage Japan to close its domestic ivory market and for Singapore to take action against the individuals and businesses that use its port as a major transit point in the illegal ivory trade chain.
Netsuke, ivory ornaments and jewelery on sale in Tokyo, Japan EIAimage
Several CITES Parties, including Kenya, the EU and the U.S., stressed the need to continue to prioritize the fight to combat ivory trade in light of the high levels of poaching and ivory trafficking that remain a serious threat to elephants. The EU called on all parties to submit timely samples from large-scale ivory seizures for forensic analysis so it is possible to identify the source of the ivory concerned.
We are pleased about the adoption of a proposal submitted by African elephant range states calling on CITES Parties to report to the next standing committee on efforts to close their domestic ivory markets. EIA and other NGOs jointly made an intervention highlighting our expectation that by this time the UK and the EU would have adopted stringent action to close their own ivory markets. More information on how you can contribute to the ongoing public consultation on the closure of the UK ivory market is available here.
At CITES CoP17 last year, several Decisions were adopted directing the secretariat to work with parties and other members of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) to scrutinize illegal trade in Asian big cats, including in captive-bred animals. Implementation of those decisions is in large part dependent on funding for consultants to undertake reviews and analysis and for the secretariat to undertake special missions. The desired outcome will be a report to the next standing committee presenting a series of time-bound, country-specific recommendations.
At SC69, the official documents clearly illustrated that there hasn't been any real progress in initiating those reviews. There was no official information of substance to discuss so no working group was established. Instead, parties and NGOs made interventions from the floor, expressing concern at the lack of urgency with which this issue is being addressed.
The EU has provided funding for the review and missions to examine tiger and other Asian big cat farming, and urged other parties to provide funding for the wider review of Asian big cat conservation and illegal trade. EIA and others echoed the comments of India, the EU and the U.S., which noted there is sufficient information already available in previous CITES reports. We pointed out that NGOs have sufficient information on tiger farming and trade for the secretariat to easily identify countries of concern.
We also drew attention to the fact that trade in farmed tigers is not just sustaining and stimulating demand for wild tigers but is driving poaching and trade in leopards, snow leopards, clouded leopards and, increasingly, jaguars and African lions.
It was encouraging to hear that not just India but Thailand and Russia have also been collating stripe pattern profile images of tigers using camera traps and, in Thailand, of captive tigers—all the more reason for any and all parties that have seized tiger skins to share images with these countries. Since India's database holds camera trap images dating back to 2006, images from historical seizures should be shared. We were disappointed that despite this being recommended by the Global Tiger Forum and NGOs, SC69 did not adopt such a practical measure.
We and every other organization that has information on illegal trade in Asian big cats, including farmed specimens, and information on trade in jaguar and African lion entering the same physical and online markets (where they are often sold as tiger) should ensure the secretariat has all the evidence it needs to make some hard-hitting calls to action ahead of the next standing committee.
EIA had also prepared a CITES Appendix I Asian big cat pocket guide on behalf of the CITES secretariat, which was distributed to parties only at the meeting. The guide offers a quick reference to distinguish the different cat skins and other body parts from fakes, as well as quick reference checklists for officials dealing with poaching and trafficking incidents.
EIA was initially frustrated by the lack of teeth in recommendations to tackle illegal fishing and trade in totoaba, which is responsible for the imminent extinction of the vaquita. On behalf of nine NGOs, we called for a high-level mission to be conducted, with timebound actions to be enacted by the U.S., Mexico and China.
Totoaba maws openly on sale in Guangzhou, China EIAimage
In the final moments of the meeting, there was a turn in the tide when the Mexican delegation supported EIA's intervention. We will be closely following the high-level mission in February 2018, working to ensure it includes meaningful actions to fully protect the last remaining handful of vaquita. Read more about this last-minute glimmer of hope here.
A heated debate on Monday saw Japan criticized for hunting sei whales, an endangered species listed on CITES Appendix I. Taking Appendix I species from the high seas for commercial benefit is prohibited, but since 2002 Japan's 'scientific' whaling program has repeatedly been exposed as a commercial operation, with a government-endorsed program to boost demand for whale meat.
While many parties and NGOs noted there was already enough evidence to take action on the grounds of non-compliance, SC69 ultimately decided more information is needed and requested that Japan invite CITES to undertake a technical mission to gain more insight into the situation.
International commercial trade in all eight pangolin species was banned by CoP17 last year following proposals submitted by 18 pangolin range states. However, a controversial document presented to SC69 implied the possibility of continued international trade in stockpiles of pangolin, a situation which would seriously undermine the ban and goes against both resolutions adopted by previous CoPs and a long-standing CITES precedent.
Live pangolin outside restaurant, Kings Romans complex, Laos EIAimage
While the vast majority of countries opposed this possibility, including several African pangolin range states which spoke passionately in opposition, China pushed hard to keep the option open. An amended document, which clarified that stockpiles cannot be traded, was ultimately adopted by vote, with China, Russia and Kuwait voting against.
EIA was disappointed to see China acting against the express wishes of the CITES community to undermine the ban, strong enforcement of which is sorely needed to save the world's most trafficked mammal.
The government of Laos has been under suspensions of trade in particular species for several years, but despite this there has been little progress from the government in addressing the corruption and governance issue that have left the country a wildlife criminal's paradise.
At SC69, Laos' non-compliance was the subject of a working group in which EIA and other NGOs participated. The U.S. called for Laos to face full trade suspensions now, while the EU favored a warning and a time-bound process for specific remedial action to ensure Laos sets up proper CITES authorities and takes action to stop trade in parts and products of tigers (including farmed tigers), elephants, rhinos, pangolins and other wildlife.
Laos' representatives agreed to a schedule that requires them to submit a time-bound action plan with indicators to implement the CITES recommendations by June 30, 2018. If there is no substantive progress, the secretariat has been given the mandate by the standing committee to recommend trade suspensions across the board.
With all the millions of dollars of aid flowing into Laos, and the steady flow of information from EIA and other NGOs regarding illegal wildlife trade, there is now little excuse for no further progress.