Botswana is under pressure to find out what killed hundreds of elephants | Citypress

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Poloko Tau

What killed at least 275 of these giant mammals remains a mystery three months later. Picture: Sizwe Ndingane / The Republic Production / Nikon

What killed at least 275 of these giant mammals remains a mystery three months later. Picture: Sizwe Ndingane / The Republic Production / Nikon

NEWS

Elephant bodies lay strewn over the vast Okavango Delta bushes north of Botswana. Their tusks were still intact and no gunshots or other physical wounds were detected.

What killed at least 275 of these giant mammals remains a mystery three months later.

After post-mortems and laboratory analyses failed to reveal the cause of death, Botswana sought assistance from laboratories in South Africa, Zimbabwe and the US.

The discovery of the wildlife disaster, according to the Botswana government, was on April 25 in areas around the Okavango Delta. Government has so far verified the 275 elephant carcasses of the 356 that were reported to its wildlife and national parks body.

Botswana says it cares about elephants

Botswana, which has considered culling to deal with the elephant-human conflict, said the impression had been created that it had no interest in the mass elephant deaths.

“It is not true that the Botswana government has not been keen in finding out what has been killing our elephants. These allegations that we have not been showing keenness, seriousness and promptness in attending to this issue is a concern for us in that we are now wrongly reduced to a government that is irresponsible and not protecting its wildlife which is our treasure and the backbone of our economy, that is not true,” said Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism Minister Philda Kereng.

“We do not want to rule out any human factor or anything that has to do with toxicology but investigation is ongoing to find out what exactly has been killing our elephants”

Philda Kereng

Government’s action so far

Kereng said they sprang to action the moment the first case was reported to the department.

“A search was launched to locate the carcasses and get the numbers and when we realise mortality cases were increasing, an investigation team of wildlife veterinarians and biologists was put together to start a wider investigation. Post mortems were done on some of the elephants and we did not find any definitive cause of deaths,” she said.

Read: There are less harmful ways to ensure people and elephants can live together

Tissue samples were taken to veterinary laboratories for analysis and a detailed investigation was done with veterinarians, epidemiologists, pathologists and biologists.

“We also took the samples to laboratories in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Canada and the US. There have been delays due to the Covid-19 restrictions in terms of transportation and travel but we are expecting the last analysis from the US this week.”

The possibilities and suspicions

Earlier this month, Botswana announced that there was no evidence of poaching, especially because the elephants were found with their tusks still intact.

Wild animals such as elephants have been put down in Botswana after they attacked and killed people. Farmers and community members have killed elephants after they attacked them or destroyed their crops. These human wildlife conflict incidents pushed Botswana to do something about its high population of elephants.

The department revealed that the elephants were dying in the Okavango region covering Seronga, Beetsha, Gunutsonga and Eretsha villages.

Government has also warned communities near the areas where dead elephants were found not to touch them or consume their meat.

“It is not true that the Botswana government has not been keen in finding out what has been killing our elephants.”

There are suggestions that the animals might have been poisoned. However, government has maintained that despite the increase in human wildlife conflict cases, Batswana have lived side by side with the wildlife animals and would not just kill them for no reason. But pressure is mounting for Botswana to establish what killed the elephants.

“We do not want to rule out any human factor or anything that has to do with toxicology but investigation is ongoing to find out what exactly has been killing our elephants,” she said.

The minister said the mysterious deaths were a first in Botswana.

Read: ‘Should we rather kill people?’ – Botswana defends elephant hunting decision

She said the only time Botswana elephants died in large numbers was during an anthrax outbreak about a year ago.

“It’s true that this has never happened, the only disease we have had was anthrax. What we have now appears to be a pandemic that has never been an issue for us before,” she said.

Kereng added that not other deaths had been discovered recently but said aerial patrols were continuing to ascertain this.

Her department said work was ongoing to remove tusks from dead elephants and then destroy carcasses close to communities.

https://www.news24.com/citypress/news/botswana-is-under-pressure-to-find-out-what-killed-hundreds-of-elephants-20200725?fbclid=IwAR0CPovvoeET5s8ioHm-C21HWL2bjFXCAOQKgvArsQsDjnFUejV3T1lHwS4

Shots were fired at this illegal street race

Tragic photos can change the course of history—but not always

api.nationalgeographic.com

By Susan Ager

PUBLISHED July 24, 2020

The body of a suspected covid-19 victim lies in an Indonesian hospital. After the patient died, nurses wrapped the body in layers of plastic and applied disinfectant to prevent the spread of the virus. Photograph by Joshua Irwandi

The image is frightening. A corpse lies stiffly on a hospital bed, wrapped in plastic—a modern mummy. The room is dark, sterile, impersonal. No one sits with the body to mourn the life that was lost.

A suspected victim of COVID-19, the person died in an Indonesian hospital. Nurses, fearful of infection, wound plastic around the body and sprayed it with disinfectant. Now it’s utterly anonymous—physical characteristics shrouded, name and gender unknown, an object waiting to be discarded.

Photojournalist Joshua Irwandi made the image while shadowing Indonesian hospital workers as part of a National Geographic Society grant. The photograph ricocheted through the nation of 270 million people, which has been slow to fight the global pandemic.

“It’s clear that the power of this image has galvanized discussion about coronavirus,” Irwandi said from his home in Indonesia.

But is it enough to change the trajectory of the pandemic in Indonesia, where the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Tracker reported 4,665 deaths and 95,418 cases as of July 24—a toll believed to be vastly undercounted?

This sort of question arises every time a photograph seems to distill a current catastrophe. Can an image of death or suffering change public policy or popular sentiment? Even if images from the past have done so, do photographs retain this power in our image-saturated world? And if images can make a difference in the 21st century, what’s taking so long?

On the other side of the world, a photograph by Julia Le Duc provoked such questions a year ago. A young man lies face down in murky water, his child beside him in red pants, dead too, still tucked under his black T-shirt, her arm around his neck as if he were carrying her into the ocean for a refreshing swim. Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, a refugee from El Salvador, drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande into the United States with his daughter Valeria, who was not quite two.

Photographer James Rodriguez, who has documented the aftereffects on Guatemalan families of Donald Trump’s Zero Tolerance policy on immigration, said not long after the photo went viral: “This is beyond what we’ve seen so far. You have a sort of crescendo, so much coverage, so many images. But then comes something like this, that pops. The head inside the T-shirt. You don’t see faces. You don’t see blood.”

“We who work on this issue hope that with the narrative, there is eventually a straw that breaks the camel’s back, to affect public opinion and impact public policy.”

Yet he and others wonder why images of “dead foreigners,” as he put it, appear far more frequently in American media than do images of dead Americans. “With all the gun deaths in the U.S., have you seen a single photo of a child killed?”

Rodriguez has two children of his own. An image like this one makes him ache with grief, as did a photograph five years ago of a limp three-year-old Syrian refugee, washed up on a Turkish beach.

To this day he remembers the boy’s first name: Aylan.

Back then, in 2015, predictions were that such a powerful image, photographed by Nilufer Demir, could change opinion about refugees, who were and remain widely distrusted and resented.

Pictures of death or suffering do become iconic, in ways that both hurt and help. Two days after the photos of little Aylan went public, then British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his nation would take in thousands more Syrian refugees.

But other news emerges after photos grab our hearts. The little girl crying in a renowned photo by Getty photographer John Moore, who was documenting family separations at the border, turned out to be just a photo of a little girl crying. Her mother picked her up two minutes afterwards, and all was well.

A year after another image of a Syrian boy became famous—he looked beaten and bloody, forlorn in an orange chair—its subject appeared on the news in Syria in support of the government. He had become a symbol of the government’s terror against its citizens, but now his hair, shaggy and dirty before, was tidy, his face pudgy and smiling. Mohamad Kheir Daqneesh, the boy’s father, criticized Syrian rebels in the TV interview, saying that he feared for his son’s safety after the image received so much publicity. “I changed Omran’s name,” he said. “I changed his haircut, so no one [would] film him or recognize him.”

As I worked on this story, I reported this to a photo editor at National Geographic. “Oh, that’s great news,” he replied. “I think about him every now and again. Good to know he’s ok.”

Images scorch us. The feelings they evoke plant themselves in our hearts like the photographs we take of our own beloveds. Can one person’s fate, captured by a camera, change the world or at least capture its grief? ( See Nat Geo’s best photos from this spring that reveal moments of turmoil and grace. )

‘Protests all over the world’

It has happened before. In 1972, at the height of the Vietnam War, Associated Press photographer Nick Ut, Vietnamese himself and just 19, had just finished photographing a skirmish when a plane sprayed napalm.

In a 2012 interview he replayed the moment: “I saw her left arm burned and the skin peeling off her back. I immediately thought that she was going to die…. She was screaming and screaming, and I thought, ‘Oh my God.’”

His editors debated whether the photo should be sent out. The girl was naked, and they were concerned about offending readers. But one editor insisted, and newspapers around the world published it.

“The next day,” Ut said, “there were anti-war protests all over the world. Japan, London, Paris…. Every day after that, people were protesting in Washington, D.C., outside the White House. ‘Napalm Girl’ was everywhere.”

The girl survived after Ut drove her and other children to a hospital and threatened media exposure if the overwhelmed workers refused to care for them. Now a middle-aged woman, Kim Phuc calls the photographer “Uncle Nick.”

Unknown subjects

After the 2008 hurricane in Haiti, Miami Herald photographer Patrick Farrell won acclaim for an image of another naked child, this time a boy, pushing a filthy and broken baby stroller, apparently reclaimed from the muddy rubble around him. Again, one boy, leading viewers to wonder about his story, his future, and contrast it with their own.

Farrell, still with the Herald, told me in 2015 that the image was among the first published after the initial Haiti storms. It, along with others, won him a Pulitzer. “They were striking and graphic and painful to look at,” he said, “but they opened people’s eyes, especially in Miami, two hours away by plane. It brought them out of their very comfortable lives.”

More than $4 billion was pledged or donated after the earthquake. Nobody knows what happened to the boy, with whom Farrell never spoke. He believes the image is compelling because “everything is destroyed, but this kid has piled a few things in a stroller and he’s pushing it somewhere. We don’t know where.”

The face of another refugee also captured a crisis and captivated those who saw it. Photographer Steve McCurry’s image of a young Afghan girl at a refugee camp in Pakistan appeared on the cover of the June 1985 issue of National Geographic and remains etched in millions of memories: a girl with tousled hair draped in a rusty red cloth, her eyes huge and fiery with …. what? Fear? Defiance? Determination?

McCurry returned to Pakistan 17 years later to find her, worn and weary. Sharbat Gula had never seen her iconic photo. She had not been photographed since. But her blue-green eyes are recognized and remembered for having cracked open hardened hearts around the world.

Waiting for change

Photographers are inclined to believe that searing images will surely rip others’ hearts so much that they will shred old policies that hurt people so badly. Farrell was certain the image of the drowned Syrian boy would force action on the decades-old refugee crisis.

“People in the States have been breezing through these stories. It’s like a noise you hear but tune out.”

But, so far, Syria remains under siege in every way, its people wounded and dying.

The crisis continues at the U.S.-Mexican border, and in the scrabbling nations south of it.

And in Indonesia, reactions to the image of the COVID-19 victim have been hostile, with the head of the government’s coronavirus taskforce questioning Irwandi’s ethics for taking the photo. In response, the nation’s photojournalism association determined that the photo met journalistic standards,

If powerful photographs can indeed change history these days, history is taking its sweet time.

Susan Ager, a freelance writer based in Michigan, has previously covered the power of photographs for National Geographic.

https://api.nationalgeographic.com/distribution/public/amp/photography/2020/07/can-tragic-pictures-change-history?__twitter_impression=true

Petition to End toxic waste dumping that threatens Cook Inlet belugas

act.defenders.org

Cook Inlet belugas are on the brink of extinction – but we can help them right now by keeping toxic waste out of their home.

These belugas are declining, and as a small population, every loss severely impacts the group’s chance of survival. Experts believe that pollution could be one of the barriers standing between these whales and recovery.

But the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the agency responsible for issuing Clean Water Act permits, hasn’t stood in the way of toxic waste dumping in Cook Inlet. One corporation, Hilcorp, has been allowed to dump waste in Cook Inlet for years – the only place in U.S. waters where this kind of dumping is allowed.

With the survival of endangered belugas on the line, we can’t wait to act. 

Send a message to the ADEC: Stop permitting toxic waste dumping in Cook Inlet that threatens marine wildlife!

https://act.defenders.org/page/20219/action/1?supporter.appealCode=3WDW2000ZEXX1&en_og_source=FY20_Social_Donation&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=action-ADECtoxicbelugas-061820

Now who’s the bird brain 😱

Lenticular Clouds

Oceans

defenders.org

Earth’s oceans, covering two-thirds of the planet, are so vast and so deep that it’s easy to take their importance for granted.

They provide us with oxygen and regulate our climate by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — important functions for both humans and wildlife. Unfortunately, the world’s oceans — home to whales, sea otters, seals and sea lions, dolphins, manatees, seabirds, sea turtles, sharks, fish, corals, and countless other species of marine life — are in a sea of trouble. The oceans are overworked; they cannot remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere quickly enough to keep up with how much we create, leading to ever-increasing ocean acidification.

The Arctic Sea is now warming at twice the rate than in past years, reducing sea ice — a growing threat to threatened marine mammals such as polar bears and ice seals. Over a third of the Great Barrier Reef is dead, harming commercial and recreational fish stocks and impoverishing Australia’s iconic biodiversity. We are killing off marine mammals, sharks and rays, and fish stocks faster than they can replenish themselves. The health of the Earth’s oceans are indicators of our planet’s overall health; when they’re in trouble, so are we. It’s important to keep our oceans healthy not just for marine life, but also for the future health of the entire planet. 

Threats

Myriad threats face our oceans and marine wildlife. Climate change causes ocean acidification, warming temperatures, changing ocean currents, sea level rise, and stronger storms. A warming planet makes it more likely for temperature-dependent species like sea turtles and manatees to face cold stress or venture past their usual habitats. Increased shipping traffic and offshore seismic blasting and drilling also increase noise pollution, threatening marine mammals and species at every level of the food chain. Shark finning, bycatch, overfishing and fisheries entanglements endanger sharks and rays, marine mammals, sea turtles, sea birds, and many other species. Contamination from pollution and plastics and the toxic effects of red tide and other harmful algal blooms caused by fertilizer runoff sicken and kill vulnerable marine species. To top it off, habitat loss and the loss of protected areas reduce the spaces already-vulnerable marine species need to forage and reproduce. 

Defenders’ Impact

Defenders is fighting for ocean habitats and ocean protection off all our national shores and around the globe. We defend marine national monuments and national marine sanctuaries from administrative attacks. We are opposing seismic blasting and offshore drilling in the courts and in Congress.

We are working to develop best management practices for responsible wildlife-friendly offshore wind siting, construction and development. We defend the Marine Mammal Protection Act from legislative and regulatory rollbacks and work to protect individual marine species through the MMPA and the Endangered Species Act. We worked to gain international protections for sharks and rays and have worked to translate those protections into protections at the domestic level through the ESA.  

In Washington State, we are actively engaged in the governor’s Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force, working to protect the dwindling southern resident orca population and restore the Salish Sea.

In 2017, Defenders joined forces with the National Marine Fisheries Service, state agencies, local and national organizations and hundreds of local residents to redirect community science efforts into a new program called ‘Belugas Count!’ to help monitor Cook Inlet beluga whales in Alaska.

We advocate for North Atlantic right whales and humpback whales as a conservation member of the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team, a stakeholder group under the Marine Mammal Protection Act that advises NMFS on how to implement fishery management measures to minimize or avoid the risk of deadly entanglements. 

Read More About the Oceans

https://defenders.org/wild-places/oceans

Coasts and Intertidal Zones

defenders.org

The United States has a total coastline of around 95,471 miles, and 23 states and all five major territories have coasts of their own.

The mainland U.S. has the Atlantic Ocean on the east, the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Arctic Ocean to the north of Alaska, and the Gulf of Mexico towards the southeast.

Coastal areas are some of the most important habitat for migratory birds, nesting sea turtles, kelp forest-loving sea otters, sea ice-dependent seals and polar bears, anadromous fish like salmon, Florida manatees and many other species.

Intertidal zones are areas of the shore that are above the water at low tide and below at high tide, like some estuaries and rocky tide pools. These areas are important habitat for invertebrates like abalone that often form the base of the food web along coasts. 
 

Threats

Coasts and intertidal zones are facing a barrage of threats, but climate change-related impacts are decimating coasts around the country. Sea level rise, erosion, strengthening storms, ocean acidification and rising temperatures are just some of the threats facing coastal and intertidal zones.

When storms rip through coastal areas, they destroy important habitat and deposit silt and debris across the coast. Intense pollution is running down river systems from agricultural areas, cities, and mining and coal ash plants, creating dead zones and spreading disease in estuaries and coastal areas.

Massive conversion of coastal wetlands and shoreline has destroyed important estuaries and nearshore habitat that serve as nurseries for fish and wildlife.  Millions of tons of plastic pollution are clogging our oceans, drowning and choking marine mammals and breaking down into microplastics so fine that they are showing up in the tissue of fish and in zooplankton.

Offshore drilling threatens cetaceans with seismic testing and the risk of an oil spill is omnipresent. As we saw with Exxon Valdez and BP, it’s not a matter of if, but when, another spill will occur. When oil spills, no wildlife or habitat is spared, and the effects are felt decades later. 

Defenders’ Impact

In our field offices and in the national and international arenas, we fight every day to ensure the survival of iconic marine species. By protecting these charismatic species, we also protect their marine and coastal habitats, as these species cannot survive and thrive except as interconnected parts of healthy and vibrant ecosystems.

Our experts work with the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as other federal, state, tribal and private entities to restore and protect fragile systems to provide marine and coastal species with the habitat they need for their continued survival in the face of climate change.

We also work with local and coastal communities to increase awareness and understanding of wildlife coexistence tools and to oppose offshore drilling. Where necessary, we use our legal tools to ensure that federal, state and local governments comply with their obligations to protect marine wildlife species and their habitats. 

Coasts and Intertidal Zones Blog Posts

Read More About the Coasts and Intertidal Zones

https://defenders.org/wild-places/coasts-and-intertidal-zones

Engineering Coastal Communities as Nature Intended

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D. Rex Miller All PostsHear From Our ExpertsDefenders in ActionWild FeaturesPresident’s Corner May 17, 2020 Andrew Carter

People love to live by the water. For centuries, cities like New York, Miami, Honolulu and San Francisco have attracted residents and tourists from around the world. In fact, almost half of the U.S. population lives in counties on the coast, and that percentage is growing in footprint, density, number and population, reshaping and hardening coastlines in the process. 

Coasts also provide habitat for great numbers of plants and animals and are typically biodiversity hotspots. But all this coastal development is reducing the amazing biodiversity along our shorelines. 

Oregon coast as seen from Ecola State Park

Sristi Kamal

Coastal Defenses

Development has also reduced our coasts’ natural ability to resist and recover from natural disasters and has removed habitat that provides shelter for wildlife and ecosystem services for humans. Traditional coastal defenses like sea walls and levees are widely used to protect communities, but these artificial coastal barriers can lead to significant erosion or unwanted sediment deposition and negatively impact water quality. They are also time-consuming to build and cost billions to construct, maintain and repair.

Increasingly, engineers and planners are starting to pay more attention to the potential of “Nature and Nature-Based Features” (NNBFs) as environmentally friendly solutions—like mangrove forests, beach dunes, coral reefs and wetlands—that fulfill the same roles as an important weapon in the fight against coastal storms and flooding. 

Pea Island NWR dunes Cape Hatteras

D. Rex Miller

NNBFs include natural defenses and human-built features that mimic them. Using NNBFs in coastal development decisions can therefore mean constructing new ones or protecting existing natural ones. NNBFs are often cheaper and require less maintenance and management. They can also make communities more resilient to climate change by adapting to changes in the environment. They are part of the larger concept of “green infrastructure,” or attempting to harness nature’s resilience to solve human problems. And its not all-or-nothing – NNBFs can complement artificial coastal infrastructure. 

NNBFs like wetlands are essential to protect coasts from storm surges because they can store and slow the release of floodwaters, reducing erosion and damage to buildings. One study found that salt marshes can reduce wave height by an average of 72%. Coral reefs can serve as a barrier and reduce wave height by an average of 70%. These reefs protect coastal cities near them such as Honolulu and Miami, saving lives and preventing monetary damage.

Downtown Honolulu and Waikiki from Diamond Head

Megan Joyce/Defenders of Wildlife

 
When Superstorm Sandy slammed the Northeast in 2012, homes on beaches fairly near to sand dunes were protected by these natural buffers, which can blunt the force of waves and wind. In many cases, homes on beach areas where dunes had been removed (often to improve ocean views) were completely destroyed by Sandy. Removing many of the mangroves that lined Biscayne Bay in South Florida may have helped spur economic development. However, it also removed another natural barrier against storm surge. This increased vulnerability of homes and businesses to the hurricanes that frequently hit Miami. Coastal communities in Indonesia hit by the devastating 2004 tsunami that had removed their mangrove forests suffered more damage and more lost lives than areas where mangroves had been allowed to remain. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently working on a number of projects that look at features like mangroves and their ability to protect coasts.

Hurricane Sandy damaged Cape May National Wildlife Refuge

Image Image Credit David Bocanegra/USFWS

Breach at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge (DE) after Hurricane Sandy

Image Image Credit Lia McLaughlin/USFWS

Aerial photo of damaged homes along New Jersey shore after Hurricane Sandy

Image Image Credit Greg Thompson/USFWS Damage from Hurricane Sandy at Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, homes on the Jersey Shore

Bringing Wildlife Back 

People are not the only ones who can benefit from NNBF. Restoring or protecting habitat can bring back habitat for wildlife and provide space for wildlife to live alongside coastal human communities. This includes imperiled species.

For example, coastal dunes restoration can improve habitat for threatened species like the piping plover, red knot and seabeach amaranth. Restoring mangroves can help protect species like the wood stork and American alligator, and the endangered hawksbill turtle. Protecting coral reefs can help threatened elkhorn and boulder star corals, and ensure habitat remains for the hawksbill sea turtle. People and wildlife can both have space.

Red knots and horseshoe crabs

Image Image Credit FWS

Alligator Okefenokee NWR

Image Image Credit Steve Brooks

Hawksbill sea turtle

Image Image Credit Michele Hoffman

NNBFs can also improve water quality. Much of the rainwater and flood water that goes on vegetation or sand will sink into the ground where it is cleaned. Healthy coral reefs and healthy mangroves help improve marine waters. And by avoiding artificial coastal defenses, polluted runoff can be avoided. Improving water quality can help marine imperiled species. For example, manatees in Florida have been devastated by red tide in recent years. Similarly, water quality issues can stress or kill threatened corals that need clear water for photosynthesis. Even species far offshore, like orca, can be hurt by contaminated runoff from development. Creating habitat for wildlife can even have additional economic benefits beyond coastal protection. It can offer opportunities for economic activity like kayaking, fishing and birding.

Corals at Barren Island, Palmyra Atoll

Image Image Credit Andrew S. Wright/USFWS

Scenic Mangroves on the Bear Lake Canoe Trail Everglades National Park

Image Image Credit NPS

The Future of NNBF

In recent years, the U.S. Congress has become interested in the potential of NNBFs, instructing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to incorporate NNBFs into coastal defense projects where appropriate. The Corps’ research and development center has taken a leading role in researching NNBFs. Through its engineering with nature initiative, it has developed numerous projects exploring NNBFs’ potential. However, the regional offices have made less progress in taking advantage of NNBFs in their coastal defense projects. NNBFs should be a priority for the Corps and coastal communities around the country – and the world. 

Advocating for NNBFs is part of Defenders of Wildlife’s mission to protect habitat and we believe they are a strong tool for addressing the overall biodiversity crisis faced by the planet. 


More information:

To learn more about NNBFs generally, check out the Army Corps’ Engineering with Nature website. If you’re interested in learning more, Defenders of Wildlife’s Center for Conservation Innovation will be hosting a talk on NNBFs given by an Army Corp’ expert. Click here to sign up to watch it. To learn more about green infrastructure generally, check out ESRI’s Green Infrastructure story map. There are a lot of green infrastructure projects that you can help with at home, such as Defender’s Orcas Love Raingardens project in the Pacific Northwest. 

Author(s)

Andrew Carter

Andrew Carter

Senior Conservation Policy Analyst Andrew works on wildlife conservation policy at the Center for Conservation Innovation, where he researches and analyzes conservation governance strategies and emerging policy issues, and works with other CCI members to develop innovative approaches to habitat and species protection.

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https://defenders.org/blog/2020/05/engineering-coastal-communities-nature-intended?utm_source=stories&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=blog-engineeringcoastalmangroves-072420

Democrats push environmental policies in $259.5B budget package

thehill.com

By Rebecca Beitsch

The House added a number of environmental measures to the budget Friday, voting to block the Trump administration from drilling in the arctic or rejecting grants for projects and studies tied to climate change. 

The measures were included in a $259.5 billion spending package that passed with a 224-189 vote.

Lawmakers voted on a series of amendments to the budgets for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Interior on Thursday and Friday, seeking to block funding from being used to implement a number of Trump administration rollbacks.

The language includes measures to block a new policy allowing hunting tactics that make it easier to kill bear cubs and wolf pups in Alaska.

Another measure would block the administration from implementing its changes to the National Environmental Policy Act, a bedrock environmental law that green groups have said President Trump is gutting. Trump rolled back the law last week, calling the act, which requires a thorough environmental review of major projects, the “single biggest obstacle” to construction.

The legislation passed by Democrats also blocks drilling in both the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA).

The Trump administration has sought to open more than 80 percent of the NPRA to drilling, while the wildlife refuge was opened for drilling through the 2017 tax cut legislation.

House Democrats have repeatedly worked to block drilling in the ANWR, passing legislation in September that was never taken up by the Senate. 

The legislation includes other measures with a more bipartisan agenda, including an increase in funding to replace lead pipes and language to ensure the EPA will continue with its plans to regulate cancer-linked PFAS chemicals in drinking water.

Lawmakers also voted down a Republican effort to allow importation of elephant or lion hunting trophies taken in Tanzania, Zimbabwe or Zambia. 

https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/508915-dems-push-environmental-policies-in-2595b-budget-package?amp&__twitter_impression=true

The BIG LIE about lion trophy hunting – Africa Geographic

africageographic.com

About Simon Espley

lion skin, trophy hunting

So often we hear from the pro-hunting lobby that by killing free roaming lions, trophy hunters are actually saving lions.

Well, if my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle.

That term “sustainable offtake” often creeps into the justification. The trophy hunting of free roaming lions is about as sustainable as putting ice cubes in a mug of steaming coffee. Let’s dig deeper into this issue of sustainable, shall we? A lion skin as a trophy from a hunt in Namibia ©Ton Koene/Alamy

Consider the following six examples of why the trophy hunting of free-roaming lions is NOT sustainable – from the very countries held high by the trophy hunting industry itself as being paragons of sustainable hunting practices:

1. The Namibian government does not know how many breeding-age desert-adapted lions are left, how many territory/pride males there are, or even how many of each sex are killed during human-lion conflict. They told me so – see this article written by me. And yet each year they set trophy hunting quotas for large male desert-adapted lions. The awarding of trophy hunting quotas off the back of no relevant statistics is NOT sustainable.

2. Namibian laws permit rural livestock owners to request for the lethal removal of predators targeting their livestock – so-called ‘problem animals’. Fair enough. BUT trophy hunters are often used to perform the execution, and we know that trophy hunters want to shoot big male lions. And communities benefit financially when ‘problem animals’ are identified and taken down by hunters. Is it coincidence then that there is a large bias towards male lions amongst those lions reported as being ‘problem animals’, and consequently executed by trophy hunters?

In the last scientific research report on Namibia’s desert-adapted lions, published in 2010, the author states, when referring to six collared male lions killed by trophy hunters as ‘problem animals’: “In all six cases, however, it is arguable whether the adult males that were shot, were in fact the lions responsible for the killing of livestock.”

This gap in legislation – empowering the two beneficiaries of ‘problem animal’ execution to act as witness, jury, judge and executioner – is NOT sustainable.

3. The above report concluded: “The long-term viability of the desert lion population has been compromised by the excessive killing of adult and sub-adult males. There is an urgent need to adapt the management and utilisation strategies relating to lions, if the long-term conservation of the species in the Kunene were to be secured.”

Since then the situation has worsened as regards male lion offtake, with some areas now almost devoid of male lions. Even the last known adult male lion in the Sesfontein Conservancy was earmarked to be shot – again conveniently classified as a ‘problem animal’ – until international pressure forced the Minister to change his mind. A rapidly reducing male/female lion ratio is NOT sustainable.

4. Craig Packer, director of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota, has led a series of studies identifying over-hunting as the major reason for the steep decline in lion populations in Tanzania, the lion hunting mecca. Packer was banned from entering Tanzania for exposing corruption with regard to lion trophy hunting.

Being tagged as the cause of crashing lion populations makes trophy hunting of lions in Tanzania NOT sustainable, and the widespread use of fraud and corruption as a business tool suggests a morally bankrupt industry.

5. When 13-year-old Cecil the lion was shot in Zimbabwe, the over-riding justification was that he was ‘too old’ to breed or to successfully hold a territory (as if those are the only uses of a mature lion). Then, Cecil’s son, Xanda, was also shot by a hunter, at the age of six – and the professional hunter Richard Cooke knew that Xanda was a pride male with cubs, and lied about the situation. In fact, Cooke also led the hunt that killed Xanda’s other son – at the age of four.

So, lions of all ages are being shot, and the trophy hunting industry lies and re-invents the justifications each time to suit their need to keep the business model rolling. That is NOT sustainable.

6. Rural communities living amongst wild lions have to see meaningful and sustainable benefit from having lions in the area. Lions are often a threat to lives and livelihoods and these people have the right to expect to be compensated to behave differently. After all, the rest of the world has mostly sanitised itself of large predators.

Surely for trophy hunting to be truly sustainable, these communities must receive a significant portion of the trophy fee? A 2013 study by Economists at Large, an Australian organisation of conservation-minded economists, found that on average only 3% of money generated by trophy hunting winds up in the hands of local people.

During research for my article referred to in point one above, Namibian government officials told me that the relevant community only receives about 12.5% of the trophy hunting fee for a quota lion (US$10,000 of the ± US$80,000 fee) – and only about 1% in the case of a ‘problem animal’ hunt. The rest goes to the professional hunting operator. This is NOT fair or sustainable.

This is what we do know about lions: Populations have crashed from about 450,000 in the 1940’s to about 20,000 today – mostly due to human-wildlife conflict, habitat loss, prey base loss and trophy hunting (US Fish and Wildlife Services).

The remaining pockets of lions are increasingly isolated from other populations, and no longer able to disperse and so maintain population genetic diversity and stability. When young males flee from dominant pride males, and seek out other lions, they leave protected areas and are picked off by hunters and livestock farmers – thus preventing the vital dispersal of young lions to other areas.

The surgical removal of big male lions by trophy hunters within the context of the above is NOT sustainable in any way, shape or form – regardless of what the other causes of lion population reductions are. The trophy hunting industry claim of sustainable practises is nothing but a lie. It’s a fiercely protected justification to continue the senseless and outdated fetish for killing off Africa’s big male lions for fun and ego. The fantasies of a few rich people are taking precedence over the survival of an African icon, over the proper functioning of Africa’s wild places and over the tourism industry which brings in many times more revenue, jobs, skills enhancement and societal benefits.

The trophy hunting of Africa’s wild, free roaming lions is NOT sustainable and has to stop.

https://africageographic.com/stories/trophy-hunting-wild-lions-big-lie-sustainability/