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The Good, the Bad and the Endangered: Wildlife Wins and Losses at CITES Standing Committee

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.

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Palm oil survivors. Wildlife Photographer of the Year / Aaron Gekoski

The Palm Oil Industry Promises Reform, But There’s Still No Sign of Change

It was 10 years ago that Greenpeace first published an investigation into Indonesia's palm oil industry.

We showed that the world's biggest brands got their palm oil from companies destroying Indonesia's rainforests—threatening local people as well as tigers and orangutans.

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Snow Leopards Still Threatened by Consumer Demand for Skins and Body Parts

Today is International Snow Leopard Day, a global observance commemorating the signing of the Bishkek Declaration on the conservation of snow leopards in 2013.

The snow leopard has been listed on the IUCN Red List as "Endangered" since 1986, although it recently had its threat status downgraded to "Vulnerable."

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The Amur tiger is the extinct Caspian tiger's closest living relative. Mathias Appel / Flickr

After a Half-Century, Tigers May Return to Kazakhstan

Wild tigers may be on their way back to Kazakhstan.

This news is surprising for a few reasons. First, most people associate tigers with the jungles of India or Sumatra, even the snowy slopes of eastern Russia—not the dry landscapes of Central Asia. But Iran, Turkey and Kazakhstan were once home to thriving populations of Caspian tigers. Unfortunately, sometime between the 1940s and '70s, this subspecies went extinct due to widespread trapping, hunting, poisoning and habitat degradation.

Second, Kazakhstan isn't a nation that often comes up in conversations about conservation. In fact, if Americans recognize the world's largest landlocked nation for anything, it's probably the movie Borat.

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4 College Football Teams Take on 'Moral Responsibility' to Protect Wild Tigers

It's a good year to be a Clemson Tigers football fan, but a bleak time to be an actual tiger in the wild. A loss of habitat and population has pushed tigers to the brink of extinction.

Clemson, and three other universities with tiger mascots—including Auburn, Louisiana State University and the University of Missouri—are teaming up to save the world's remaining tigers.

Check out the video above from Newsy to see how the U.S. Tiger University Consortium is taking on "a moral responsibility" to protect and double the tiger population by 2022.

After all, having an extinct species mascot would be nothing to cheer.

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World's Last Remaining Tigers Live Under Severe Threat of Extinction

The world's last remaining tigers are living under severe threat of extinction, having lost 93 percent of their historical range and suffered a population crash of 95 percent during the past century.

The major threat to their continued existence on Earth is poaching to meet the high demand in Asia for their parts and derivatives.

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One of the 27 Siberian tigers known to range into northeastern China. Photo credit: Beijing Normal University

Tigers and Leopards to Get New National Park in China, 60% Bigger Than Yellowstone

China approved a new national park this month in northeast China in Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces to save two endangered species—the Siberian tiger and Amur leopard.

Only nine wild Siberian tigers were estimated to be living in this area in 1998, increasing to 27 by 2015 thanks to conservation efforts including a logging ban. The global population of Amur leopards was less than 30 in 2007, but almost doubled by 2015.

The sanctuary, to be completed by 2020, will border Russia and measure 5,637 square miles, an area 60 percent larger than Yellowstone National Park.

The current habitat for the Siberian tiger and Amur leopard is too small an area to provide enough prey for the carnivores, whose wide search for their usual elk, wild boar and deer has recently led them into residential areas. It has even been reported that tigers have been wandering into Jilin Province and eating dogs and cattle.

Governmental officials expect the national park to ease some of this conflict. "Local government plans to relocate some existing communities, factories from inside the national park area, so as to avoid conflicts between wildlife and human activities," a spokesperson for Jilin's Forestry Department told Xinhua.

China is using the success of Yellowstone, the world's first national park and one of the most popular U.S. destinations for recreational visitors, as a model for environmental and economic progress.

The Chinese government in 2015 declared its intention to develop a world-class national park system, and a partnership with the Paulson Institute. The self-described "non-partisan, non-profit 'think and do' tank" hosted Chinese government officials in 2016 for tours of U.S. national parks, trainings and advice.

China is seeking to evolve from what Science Magazine called a "mishmash of national reserves, semiprotected forests and provincial parks."

As reported by Mongabay:

"China boasts approximately 10,000 protected areas covering about 18 percent of the country, a proportion higher than the global average. But weak management and insufficient funding are threatening most of the protected areas' conservation efforts. To revamp the management of all of China's protected areas, in late 2013 Chinese President Xi Jinping included the development of a true national park system into the central committee's official plans for deeper reform. Nine pilot parks across the country were announced in June 2015."

The World Wildlife Fund calls the Amur leopard the "world's rarest cat" and describes the park's location, Amur-Heilong, as containing "one of the most biologically diverse temperate forests in the world, vast steppe grasslands and the unbroken taiga biome."

The Jilin forestry department said it will set up a monitoring and rescue center for wild tigers and leopards, along with scientific and research facilities to complement the national park.

Animals

100 Years Ago 100,000 Tigers Roamed the World, Now There Are Fewer Than 4,000

Discovery Communications and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) announced Wednesday a partnership to conserve nearly 1 million acres of critical tiger habitat in India and Bhutan in hopes of doubling the world's population of tigers by 2022.

The big cats are known to have once roamed much of Asia. Poaching and habitat loss slashed the 100,000 tigers that existed just 100 years ago by 96 percent and led to the extinction of four subspecies. As top predators, they are crucial to the ecosystems where they live. The current tiger population is estimated at under 4,000.

"Not on our watch will we let these beautiful animals disappear from the world," David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Communications, said when making the announcement.

The effort, dubbed Project C.A.T. (Conserving Acres for Tigers), will improve security measures for this protected habitat and maintain land corridors for better wildlife movement. To reduce conflict between tigers and people, the project will provide community education and engagement. More camera-trap installations will increase tiger monitoring and assessment.

Just recently, a camera trap in the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary of Bhutan recorded a tiger in a forest where they have not been seen for almost two decades. "Tiger populations are rising for the first time in a century," said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF. "We need even more of a movement to accomplish these goals."

Discovery plans to use its worldwide media platforms to reach 3 billion cumulative viewers. The network has put into development a new documentary on tigers from the Academy Award nominated producers of Virunga. The documentary is set to air globally in 2018. Discovery will also produce public service announcements and in-program content tied to Project C.A.T.

In a Facebook Live presentation hosted on Dr. Jane Goodall's Facebook page, John Hoffman, Discovery Channel's EVP of documentaries and specials, said, "In our core, we understand that we are not apart from our fellow species. I think that at the end of the day we as humans will do the right thing."


Discovery and WWF will also provide ways for viewers and those who care about tigers to get involved. Discovery's Saving Species page enables people to show their support for legislation to combat illegal wildlife trafficking, and WWF's Adopt a Tiger program accepts donations in support of the organization's work.

"The global movement to protect tigers just got 1 million acres stronger," said Zaslav.


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