A UK government-backed project – FluMap – aims to help understand how bird flu is evolving and finding its way into poultry farms Environment 20 June 2022
Scientists have embarked on a one-year, £1.5 million research project to combat the highly pathogenic strain of bird flu wreaking havoc on UK seabirds and heaping pressure on poultry farming.
With reports last week of growing numbers of seabirds – from gannets and guillemots to razorbills and skuas – being found dead on UK beaches, the risk is growing of the disease spreading to and from poultry. A record 122 poultry cases have already been recorded in the UK last winter, up on 26 the winter before. Meanwhile, more than 1100 cases have been detected in wild birds, compared with about 300 the previous winter.
Ian Brown at the UK Animal and Plant Health Agency hopes the government-backed project, dubbed FluMap, will help researchers fill knowledge gaps about how the H5N1 influenza is evolving and precisely how it is finding its way into poultry farms.
Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Date: Thursday, June 16, 2022 Add to my CalendarTime: 09:00 AM Location: Longworth House Office Building 1324 Presiding: The Honorable Jared Huffman, Chair
On Thursday, June 16, 2022 at 9:00 a.m. ET, in room 1324 Longworth House Office Building and via Cisco WebEx, the Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife will hold a hybrid legislative hearing on the following bills:
H.R. 4768 (Rep. David Joyce, R-OH) To require the Secretary of the Army to initiate at least 5 projects to reduce the loss and degradation of Great Lakes coastal wetlands, and for other purposes. Detrimental Erosion Forcing Enhanced Needs to Defend (DEFEND) the Great Lakes Act.
H.R. 6936 (Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY) To provide for the issuance of a semipostal to benefit programs that combat invasive species. Stamp Out Invasive Species Act.
H.R. 6949 (Rep. Dwight Evans, D-PA) To amend the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act to reauthorize Delaware River Basin conservation programs, and for other purposes. Delaware River Basin Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2022.
H.R. 7398 (Rep. Steve Cohen, D-TN) To prohibit wildlife killing contests on public lands, and for other purposes.Prohibit Wildlife Killing Contests Act of 2022.
H.R. 7792 (Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-NM) To provide for a national water data framework, and for other purposes. Water Data Act.
H.R. 7793 (Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-NM) To provide for the water security of the Rio Grande Basin, to reauthorize irrigation infrastructure grants, and for other purposes. Rio Grande Water Security Act.
H.R. 7801 (Rep. Mike Levin, D-CA) To amend the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 to allow the Secretary of Commerce to establish a Coastal and Estuarine Resilience and Restoration Program, and for other purposes.
For hearing materials and schedules, please visit U.S. House of Representatives, Committee Repository at http://docs.house.gov/.
North Carolina legislators have filed a bill that will delay – and could ultimately stop – the brutal hunting of black bears in the state’s long-established bear sanctuaries.
Rep. Pricey Harrison and Rep. Becky Carney have introduced into the state General Assembly HB 1072, or the Prohibit Killing Bears in Bear Sanctuaries.
If passed, the bill would reverse a recent ruling to re-designate the state’s 22 bear sanctuaries instead as “bear management units” and to allow hunting in an additional three of them: Panthertown, Pisgah, and Standing Indian.
HB1072 went through a first reading on May 27 and has been referred to the Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House.
The filing is the result of public outrage at a February decision by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to approve the hunts and designation changes, despite strong opposition from more than 86 percent of the public who weighed in on the proposal.
Lady Freethinker also sent the Commission our petition, signed by more than 800 North Carolina residents and more than 40,000 people overall, denouncing the proposed killings.
The Commission’s decision kicked off 439 pages of written comment sent to the North Carolina Rules Review Committee, which by state law has to send on to the General Assembly any rule change that receives 10 letters requesting a legislative review.
While the Commission noted in its decision an increased number of human-bear conflicts, news reports have noted that human actions have contributed to those conflicts, and also that they could be prevented by less-than-lethal means – including public education and awareness campaigns and also people taking common-sense steps, like securing their garbage if they live in an area with bears.
We are now going to reroute our petition to legislators, urging them to support and pass HB 1072 and so halt this horrific plan to destroy black bears pushed already into the backcountry by human encroachment.
If you haven’t already, please sign and raise your voice for these innocent bears, who don’t deserve to die simply for existing.
While giraffe populations dwindle, products made from their skins and bones are flooding into the United States. The good news is that the U.S. government has agreed to consider giving giraffes Endangered Species Act protections, which would curb these imports and save countless giraffe lives. The bad news is that the decision deadline is all the way in 2024. We must encourage the U.S. agency to act quickly before the iconic species’ numbers dwindle beyond recovery!
Sign the petition now to demand the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service list giraffes under the Endangered Species Act well before the November 2024 deadline!
Giraffes, like so many Savanna animals, have been at heightened risk in the past few decades. From poaching and habitat loss to climate change, the beloved long-necked mammals have had a dwindling population since the 1990s. Only 69,000 mature individuals remain in the wild – a whopping 40% reduction in the past three decades. And unfortunately, Americans have played a big role in those plummeting numbers.
The United States is a top importer and seller of giraffe parts, including heads, feet, tails, legs, and skins. This greed has led to rampant trophy hunting and poaching of giraffes all across sub-Saharan Africa. That means that it is the job of the United States, a country primarily responsible for giraffe trade and trafficking, to institute protections for the species before it is too late.
Conservationists and related organizations have been pushing to increase giraffe protections for years. In April 2017, the Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society International, and the Humane Society of the United States filed a petition to request giraffe protections, but the agency missed the legal deadline for a decision. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cannot continue to delay this decision, but instead must act quickly to protect all remaining giraffe lives, which are precious and still at high risk. Sign the petition now if you agree! more
A bison grazes among blooming arrowleaf balsamroot on the Bison Range nature preserve on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon
Over three days the Salish and Kootenai celebrated the restoration of the Bison Range to tribal ownership allowing them to manage the resources and wildlife for the first time in 112 yearsBy Micah DrewMay 25, 2022
Red Sleep Mountain rises 2,000 feet above the floor of the Mission Valley, one of the best vantage points to take in the dramatic expanse of the Mission Mountains that form the valley’s eastern border. The top of the mountain is only accessible via a one-way dirt road that winds through 18,524 fenced-off acres in the heart of the Flathead Indian Reservation.
That swath of land is home to deer, elk, bears and approximately 455 bison, a herd of animals whose history is intricately bound to the Salish and Kootenai people.
However, for more than a century that parcel of land was federally owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as a National Wildlife Refuge known as the National Bison Range (NBR). Tribal members were cut off not only from their ancestral land and the herd of bison they helped bring back from the brink of extinction, but from their ability to leverage generations of resource conservation knowledge to protect the landscape and habitat within the fence line.
For decades, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) actively sought to restore ownership of the NBR to allow the Salish and Kootenai to resume full management responsibilities of the range.
The Bison Range nature preserve on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon
Rich Janssen, head of the CSKT’s Natural Resource Department (NRD), said in a 2015 interview with Montana Public Radio that he believed the range would be returned in his lifetime.
“I just had that feeling back when I was 45, I felt in my heart that I thought it was going to happen,” Janssen said last week. “You know we just weren’t going away until it was done, and when I turned 50 it happened.”
Legislation to restore the Bison Range was included in the 2020 annual omnibus spending bill, known as Public Law 116-260, which was signed on Dec. 27, 2020, transferring the land to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to be held in a trust for the tribes, effectively restoring the land forcefully taken more than a century ago.
“The range was always a postage stamp of pink, which is the federal land color, on our land status map for so long,” said Whisper Camel-Means, division manager of fish, wildlife, recreation, and conservation for the tribal NRD. “Now it’s green, the tribal ownership color, and we don’t want this hard border anymore. Yes, we have a fence to keep the bison in. But as much as we can I want to see that line blurred, making the bison range holistic with the rest of our management and the rest of our reservation.”
Dancers march to the dance floor during the powwow portion of the Bison Range Restoration Celebration on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon
While the legislation restoring the Bison Range was signed in late 2020, it wasn’t until January of this year that the transfer was completed. As a culmination of decades of work, as well as to commemorate the opening of the range under full tribal management for the first time, the CSKT held a three-day celebration last week that began with prayers, dances, and a powwow on Friday, May 20 and ended with half-price admission to the Bison Range on Sunday, May 22.
The ceremonies reached a peak on Saturday afternoon inside the gym of the Salish Kootenai College in Pablo. A multigenerational crowd packed the venue and, after songs by Flathead Nation singers and opening prayers by tribal elders, the first Native American Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland took the stage, tearing up as she started speaking.
“I cannot help but imagine what this area looked like before European contact with vast herds of bison roaming the plains, when our Indigenous ancestors lived on this land alongside the plethora of animals and each respected their place in the balance of nature,” Haaland began. “With the loss of tribal homelands and the depletion of the buffalo herds, Plains tribes lost traditional connections with this beautiful animal; but in spite of that tragedy and loss, we are still here. You are still here, and that’s something to celebrate.”
Former Interior secretaries expressly opposed the restoration of land ownership, making Haaland’s presence an important affirmation of the reunification. As the first Native American in the presidential Cabinet, Haaland’s position also prompted emotional reactions from many attendees who congregated around her for handshakes and photos.
“When our wildlife management and conservation efforts are guided by Indigenous knowledge developed over millennia, we all succeed,” Haaland said. “The return of the bison range to these Tribes is a triumph and a testament to what can happen when we collaboratively work together to restore balance and ecosystems that were injured by greed and disrespect.”
Deb Haaland, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, speaks at Salish Kootenai College in Pablo May 21, 2022. Micah Drew | Flathead Beacon
Throughout the celebrations, tribal elders relayed the history of the Tribes’ relationship with the buffalo, both in person and through screenings of the short documentary film, “In the Spirit of Atatice: The Untold Story of the National Bison Range,” which was commissioned by CSKT to explain how members of the Tribes were responsible for initially bringing buffalo to the Flathead Indian Reservation from across the Continental Divide when the animals were at the brink of extinction, a narrative that was fractured by the creation of the Bison Range.
The idea to restore bison to the Flathead Reservation dates to the 1860s when a tribal member named Atatice, or Peregrine Falcon Robe, was on a buffalo hunt across the Continental Divide and asked the tribal chiefs if they could bring some bison back with them, but the chiefs were at an impasse.
His son Latati, or Little Falcon Robe, was able to realize his father’s vision while on a buffalo hunt by bringing some orphaned calves across the Divide. A small herd began to flourish on the Reservation, but in 1884, Latati’s stepfather sold the herd to tribal members Michel Pablo and Charles Allard without Latati’s consent.
The Allard-Pablo herd continued to grow and, in 1901, a portion of the herd was sold to Charles E. Conrad in Kalispell. Three years later, the Flathead Allotment Act opened land to non-Indian homesteaders, effectively ending free range on much of the Reservation and allowing the federal government to force Pablo to sell the remaining head of his herd.
When the American Bison Society began scouting land to establish a bison range to preserve the species, the organization contracted with the ecologist Morton J. Elrod, a professor at the University of Montana who recommended the Flathead Indian Reservation as a fitting landscape, where the species could return to its native land. In 1908, the federal government seized 18,524 acres of land to establish the National Bison Range.
Flags fly over the Bison Range Visitor Center on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon
In a wrenching twist of irony, the 36 animals that made up the initial herd for the range were purchased from the Conrad family — the same animals (or their direct descendants) that formed the Allard-Pablo herd prior to the federal government’s forceful removal.
The establishment of the Bison Range continued the fragmentation of the reservation, which was reflected in the Salish translation for the range: “fenced-in place.”
“It was common knowledge that the fence was as much to keep the Indians out as it was to keep the buffalo in,” former CSKT councilman Leonard Gray said over the weekend. “I remember growing up driving down [U.S. Highway] 93 heading toward Ravalli and knowing this was the Bison Range but that it was federal land and I just didn’t feel welcome.”
For decades, tribal members were prohibited from working for the Bison Range; as recently as the early 2000s, only one tribal member, Darren Thomas, was employed there.
“There’s so many things you can learn from a buffalo — from how they act, how they behave, their strength, their kindness, their wiseness, how they run in a herd,” Thomas said. “So as a Flathead Nation, now we are truly a buffalo nation.”
Salish elder Johnny Arlee folds his hands over his hat and cane during a prayer at the Bison Range Restoration Celebration on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon
Rich Janssen has worked for the NRD for more than a decade, helping to steer conservation and restoration work across the 1.25 million-acre reservation, protecting habitat for everything from grizzly bears and bighorn sheep to trumpeter swans and bull trout.
That meant managing thousands of acres abutting the imaginary ecological boundary of the Bison Range, including shared wetlands, watersheds and wildlife habitat, without being able to complete the same work on the other side of the fence.
Now conservation work can continue unfettered by jurisdictional divides, an efficient, but subtle difference. Day-to-day management of the range and bison hasn’t changed much since the transition from federal to tribal management, though Janssen said one difference is how the annual bison roundup is conducted. The roundup allows biologists to monitor the health of the herd, as well as cull some animals to send to other herds or auction off to raise funds for the range. Starting last fall, staff implemented a low-stress handling procedure, doing away with the use of whips and horses and cattle-like treatment.
“The roundup took a little longer than normal,” Janssen said. “It was an extra day to gently move them through the corrals and handle them with the respect they deserve and we’re already seeing the changes in the bison. They’re really taking to our way of caring for them.”
The most visible change to the Bison Range is at the visitor’s center in Moiese, where a newly renovated wing of exhibits details the history of the Tribes’ relationship to the bison and the land. There are also plans for a cultural center and a second entrance to the range at the top of Ravalli Hill, located directly off U.S. Highway 93, which will make access easier for travelers.
“We’re getting a lot of traffic and it’s only getting larger,” Janssen said. “We’re inviting the public to come out and enjoy the Bison Range, especially if they can’t get into Glacier and can’t get into Yellowstone.”
Rich Janssen, Department Head of Natural Resources for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon
Preparing for a greater number of visitors means addressing a backlog of deferred maintenance on the Bison Range that has piled up through the years. Janssen said the Tribes are working on improving the roads, making the visitor’s center ADA accessible and upgrading technology to make both staff and visitor experiences smoother.
“Some people have been worried about the transition, but we’ve already got our feet on the ground, and I don’t worry about this place failing,” said Camel-Means, the NRD’s division manager of fish, wildlife, recreation, and conservation. “We can manage wildlife and we can manage places and now we get to manage this land in the same way. Failure isn’t a term that’s part of my vocabulary anymore because we don’t have to worry about other people ruining things for us for a political agenda.”
If there was one entity that didn’t seem to understand the magnitude of the weekend’s celebration, it was the dozens of buffalo lounging hillside across the Bison Range, unfazed by the procession of cars driving past, visitors snapping photos through open windows.
Just over the summit of Red Sleep Mountain, a few bison were grazing among the blooming yellow arrowleaf balsamroot. Standing out in stark contrast to the adult’s dark brown shapes were a few diminutive reddish baby buffalo, a few of the 20 calves born this spring, which Secretary Haaland fittingly referenced in her closing remarks.
“Today represents a return to something pure and sacred,” she said. “I am confident that the future is as bright for the little calves just learning to walk in the spring as for the generations of CSKT members who will be reconnected with their ancestral traditions over the decades.”A cow bison rests with her calf on the Bison Range nature preserve on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon
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Author, illustrator and Flathead resident Jonathan Fetter-Vorm reflects on the 10-year anniversary of his debut book, a graphic history of the first atomic bomb
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U.S. Congress – Ban trophy hunting imports and end elephant slaughter. Support the CECIL and Protect Acts
The Botswana government announced it will restart elephant hunts this year. A quota has been issued of 272 killings starting in April and will go through September during their dry season when the bush is thinner and elephants are easier to locate.
Foreign hunters will be allowed to kill 202 of the elephants and 70 will be reserved for local people. Most of the hunters that go to southern Africa are from the U.S. The average cost for a foreign trophy hunter the right to shoot an elephant is anywhere between $21,000-$60,000 or more.
Now is the time to pressure the U.S. government to take action to prevent the pending elephant slaughter.
Sign this petition asking our members of Congress to support two bills that are moving against trophy hunting elephants from Botswana and ask for lawmakers to defund trophy hunting import permits sold here in America:
CECIL Act H.R. 2245; Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies This will restrict the import and export of trophies of any species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Protect Act, H.R. 4804; Prohibiting Threatened and Endangered Creature Trophies Prohibit trophy hunting of ESA species in the US and import of any trophy of a species listed under the ESA. Lastly there is an Appropriations Bill For Fiscal Year 2021
The appropriation bill is a spending bill that authorizes the expenditure of government funds. We would like to see language for the Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2021 to defund U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s trophy import permits of elephants from Botswana.
To help make a bigger impact, you can call your House of Representative asking him/her to support the Cecil and Protect Acts as well as the Appropriations Bills for Fiscal Year 2021. To find your House of Representative, go to http://www.house.gov
How did we get here?
One hundred years ago, the global elephant population was approximately 3-5 million. After decades of poaching and hunting, the current elephant population is estimated at 415,000. Elephants are critically endangered and protections for them in certain regions, like Botswana, has recently diminished.
In 2014, the government of Botswana put a trophy hunting ban in place. Due to this ban, elephants from bordering countries such as Namibia and Angola came to Botswana seeking refuge. Today, one third of the African elephant population reside in Botswana.
In 2019, the government made another decision to lift the hunting ban on elephants. Last year, there were 358 elephant hunting permits allotted and a further 386 elephants were poached. Such a large- scale loss of bull elephants in what was once their greatest refuge is unsustainable.
Elephant hunting only hurts us in the big scheme of life. In fact, since the elephant is a keystone species that actually supports ecosystems, their sheer existence helps to maintain biodiversity that supports the health of our planet. We actually benefit from the elephants’ presence without even realizing it.
Elephants contribute more to the ecosystem per capita than we do. Elephants are known as the Gardeners of the Forest. Elephants spread the seeds from the plants they have eaten which helps to disperse the plant life to other areas. This new plant life gives off oxygen for us to breathe. Elephants dig water holes in dry river beds that other animals use as a water source as well as creating trails that serve as fire breakers.
To take this one step further on how detrimental commercial elephant hunting and poaching is, we are currently in the world’s sixth mass extinction. The first 5 mass extinctions were all-natural phenomena. This current extinction is almost exclusively due to humans. Dozens of species are going extinct every day and it is predicted by 2050, 30-50% of all species will be extinct. Losing species at this rate will break down ecosystems that we rely on for the health of the planet. This is another reason why it is critical we help conserve and protect the elephants and all wildlife.
Elephants also help the local economies through eco-tourism. According to an article by All Africa research indicates eco-tourism is a $2 billion-dollar industry and reintroducing hunting contributes to only 1.9% of tourism.
Please sign and share this petition to help end trophy hunting and protect elephants and other incredible wildlife.
Recently Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland visited the isolated Aleut community of King Cove on the Alaskan Peninsula southwest of Anchorage, Alaska, to see and hear firsthand whether to approve the construction of a road across the Izembek Wilderness and National Wildlife Refuge. Recently, a federal court approved a Trump Administration land exchange proposal to facilitate the road right of way through the refuge.
The Izembek Refuge is one of the blue areas is on the Alaskan Peninsula which connects the Aleutian Islands to the main part of Alaska.
The debate about a road pits Alaskan Aleuts against the legal mandate of the Wilderness Act to preserve wildlands and protect wildlife. The 315,000-acre Izembek Wildlife Refuge is a critical stopping ground for migratory waterfowl. Its eel grass lagoons are considered of International Importance.
The road would connect the King Cove community to an all-weather airstrip (built during WW11) 37 miles away in Cold Bay, Alaska. The airport was initially operated as a military base before being transferred to the state of Alaska.
The 10,000 foot airstrip in Cold Bay was built by the Army and can easily service jets. Photo American Airlines
Currently, access to the Cold Bay airport is either by air from a strip in King Cove or by boat.
Roads are prohibited in wilderness areas. The Izembek Refuge Wilderness was designated in 1980 as part of the expansive Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).
Henry Mack, the major of King Cove, Stanley Mack, the mayor of Aleutian East Borough, and Della Trumble, a member of the King Cove Corporation and Agdaagux Tribal Council, suggests in an editorial Anchorage Times, opponents put wildlife ahead of humans.
As they wrote in a commentary about opposition to the road by former Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt and former Fish and Wildlife Service Director Jamie Clark, “It’s easy for highly paid former federal officials like Bruce Babbitt and Jamie Clark to pretend that the lives of nearly 1,000 indigenous Aleuts in King Cove, Alaska don’t really matter.”
Some 98 percent of all black brant spend part of the year feeding among the eelgrass lagoons of the Izembek NWR.
Izembek is particularly important for Pacific Black Brant; 98 percent of those small geese spend part of the year there, slurping up the world’s most extensive eelgrass beds, their dietary staple. The area also supports about half the world’s Emperor Geese and a substantial percentage of the threatened Steller’s Eider population. The refuge supports one of the denset population of grizzly bears on the Alaskan Peninsula, as well as wolves, foxes, caribou, and even walruses.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that allowing a road through the refuge would “degrade irreplaceable ecological resources.” It also would jeopardize the global survival of a migratory sea goose, called the Pacific black brant, and the emperor goose and other waterfowl.
A 2013 Record of Decision on a Final EIS that reviewed the potential impact of the road concluded: ” Construction of a road through the Izembek NWR wouild lead to significant degradation of irreplaceable ecological resources.”
The document went on to note that the proposed land trade between the Aleuts and federal government would compromise the ecological integrity of the refuge. “The Service has determined that increased acreage would not compensate for the overall values of the existing Izemeck REfuge lands and Wilderness that would be removed. Nor would the offered lands compenstate for the anticipated impacts that the proposed road would have on wildlife and the habitat that surround the road corridor.”
Therefore, in 2013 Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell decided to preclude road construction from protecting the wildlife and wilderness values of the area. But the Trump administration, under the Secretary of Interior, approved a land exchange between the Aleut natives of King Cove and the Department of Interior that would permit the road construction to proceed.
Jewell found ” Increased human traffic and noise, changed hydrology of the wetlands, pollution runoff, and introduced contaminants and invasive species would despoil the isthmus.” She further concluded there were other modes of transportation available to address emergency medical transportation and pledged to work to implement them.
The King Cove villagers contend they need the proposed road for “medical emergencies.” Although King Cove has an airport, planes and helicopters cannot operate in extreme weather, which frequently closes the King Cove facilities. The Cold Bay airport can operate in more inclement weather. A road connecting the two communities would also permit villagers to fly more frequently to Anchorage and other destinations for shopping and other purposes.
The mountains along the Alaskan Peninsula in an unusually good weather day. Photo George Wuerthner
I have some sympathy for the situation of the villagers. I have experienced the horrific weather typical to the Aleutian Islands and Alaskan Peninsula. I was once trapped for days without food other than the fish I caught while camped at Ugashik Lake because aircraft could not fly to pick me up. Other times I was delayed for days by bad weather while trying to fly out of the villages of Port Moller and Meshik. I’ve been out numerous times on trips to the Alaskan Peninsula in the rain with 50 mile per hour winds, so I know how difficult the weather can be at times.
Villagers have latched on to the idea that a road would provide safe passage between King Cove and Cold Bay. However, a doctor who oversaw medical evacuations in King Cove for 15 years said traveling almost 40 miles on the gravel road during 60 mph winds and blinding snowstorms would be “suicidal” for patients and rescue teams.
“Should the road happen, I foresee all sorts of calamity,” said Dr. Peter Mjos, who was the Eastern Aleutian Tribes’ medical director until 2002. He retired from practicing medicine in 2015.
The original justification for the road was more pecuniary. “In 1994, King Cove passed a resolution saying the road would “link together two communities having one of the State’s premier fishing ports/harbors (including North America’s largest salmon cannery) in King Cove with one of the State’s premier airports at Cold Bay.”
But twenty years later, the justification was changed to the medical emergency rationale.
Izembek NWR. Photo Audubon.
To find an alternative to the road, the federal government contributed $37 million (a taxpayer subsidy of over $56,000 per King Cove resident) for an improved medical clinic in King Cove and the purchase of a hovercraft and improved dock facilities that could link both communities by water. The hovercraft only operated for three years before the Borough shut it down, arguing it was too expensive to operate and failed to work in high winds. However, during the three years it operated, the hovercraft successfully transported 22 medical evacuations.
In addition, of the original $37 million allotted by Congress for the hovercraft purchase and operation, villagers chose to spend $26 million to construct part of the road they hope will eventually link the two communities. In other words, they spent $26 million on a road to nowhere which could have paid hovercraft and other alternative transportation like Coast Guard transport for many years.
Community leaders admitted they used part of the federal grant to construct a partial road because they believed it would make it harder for the federal government to deny its completion.
However, some suggest the real purpose of the road is related to money. The Peter Pan Processing plant in King Cove is Alaska’s biggest salmon and seafood processing operation. The route would make getting workers in and out of King Cove easier. But it would also reduces costs for shipping fish. Currently, Peter Pan must load fish on a boat, transport it by sea to Cold Bay, where it is loaded on another truck to be transported to the airstrip.
The transport of fresh fish to markets is another justification for the road. However, the land exchange approved by the Trump Administration has specific language that precludes large companies like Peter Pan from using the road to transport fish.
The agreement says explicitly: “The road shall be used primarily for health, safety and quality of life purposes (including access to and from the Cod Bay Airport) and generally for non-commercial purposes. The commercial transport of fish and seafood products, except by an individual or small business on any portion of the road shall be prohibited.”
The term “generally”and “small business” opens a big loophole. Not surprisingly, the local Aleut leaders of King Cove all support road construction. Since they own fishing boats, including in 2019, the mayor of King Cove and five out of six city council members, all considered small business owners, would not be prohibited from using the road to transport fish.
It is important to note that the US Small Business Administration defines a firm engaged in “seafood product preparation and packaging” to be a small business if it has no more than 750 employees. Though Peter Pan is owned by a fortunte 500 Maruha Nichiro Corporation in Japan. The Peter Pan currently operates with 500 employees. So all Maruha would have to do is spin off as a separate company, and it would qualify as a “small business.”
Another important issue is that such an exemption to Wilderness Act prohibition against roads could easily become a precedent for new roads in other parts of Alaska where many villages are not part of any road network. In this instance, apparently, the Izembek Refuge is not part of the traditional “sacred” lands of the Aleut.
Many villages in Alaska have no road access to year-round air service. People choose to live in these places. While I might support the road if I thought there were no other viable alternatives, as former Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell concluded, viable (if not expensive) alternatives do exist including emergency transport from the U.S. Coast Guard. It seems to me that “medical emergencies” is a red herring. While there may indeed be a few times when alternative means of transport are not available, I do not believe this is the real reason for the road. The main motive is to create economically viable alternatives for seafood transport. This is about advancing economic desires rather than satisfying the “needs” of King Cove residents.
Many Alaskan communities face the same limitations on transportation due to weather, terrain and other constraints. People choose to live in these places. While the Indigneous Aleuts living at King Cove have other alternatives, the Indigenious wildlife that depends on the Izembek Refuge lands do not.
Secretary of Interior Haaland has stated she wants to represent the interests of Indigenous people. It will be interesting to see whether she agrees with the conclusion of former Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell that other options exist to meet the desires of King Cove residents while protecting globally significant wildlife and wilderness values.
WildChoices assists local and international tour operators, agents, and individual travellers to make informed, ethical choices about captive wildlife tourism facilities in South Africa.
HOW IT WORKS
WildChoices identifies the captive wildlife facilities* in South Africa that offer tourist attractions and activities including interactions and volunteer programs, and assesses them by applying the publicly available SATSA Captive Wildlife Attractions & Activities Decision Tool published in 2019, to publicly available online information about the facilities and their activities.
The Tool is in the form of a decision tree (see below) that guides the user through the rapid assessment of a facility against a series of qualifying and disqualifying criteria to help decide which captive wildlife tourism facilities to support and which to avoid.
The assessment process results in one of three possible outcomes: Support, Support with Caution, or Avoid.
Neither the list nor the assessment results are static and are updated with any new information to keep the list and assessment result current. No online information prior to 2018 has been considered in the assessment process.
For the full SATSA Captive Wildlife Attractions & Activities Guidelines click here.
For the full SATSA Captive Wildlife Attractions & Activities Decision Tool click here.
**Captive wildlife facilities are defined as facilities that keep wild animals in a human-made enclosure that is of insufficient size for the management of self-sustaining populations of the species and designed to hold the animals in a manner that prevents them from escaping and facilitates intensive human intervention or manipulation in the provision of food and/or water, artificial housing and/or healthcare.
The Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) is a non-profit, member-driven association representing the Southern Africa region’s tourism private sector. It has over 1,000 members including accommodation establishments, airlines, attractions, transport operators, conference organisers, marketing organisations, tour operators and destination management companies.
At SATSA’s annual conference in August 2017, members raised concerns about the proliferation of captive wildlife attractions and activities in South Africa, and the negative impact that unethical facilities might have on tourism and brand South Africa.
In 2018 SATSA established a Board Committee on Animal Interactions and commissioned BDO South Africa, an independent consulting firm, to:
Define the types of entities that fall within the ambit of captive wildlife interactions including standardising definitions and terminology;
Develop an ethical framework to evaluate operations that involve captive wildlife interactions to underpin the debate and establish the principles upon which the ethicalness of animal interaction operations may objectively be evaluated;
Develop a set of guidelines for the self-regulation of captive wildlife tourism experiences.
In November 2019 SATSA published their Captive Wildlife Attractions & Activities Guidelines and Decision Tool.
In 2021 Brett Mitchell and Gavin Reynolds, both members of the 2018 SATSA Board Committee, founded WildChoices.
WildChoices launched in March 2022 with a list of 219 assessed facilities.
The Sonoran desert tortoise is found south and east of the Colorado River, in the central and western parts of Arizona, and into northwestern Mexico. The habitat of this rare reptile is threatened by invasive species, livestock grazing, increased fire risk, housing developments, off-road vehicles, and increased predation facilitated by human activities.
In 2015, WildEarth Guardians and allies challenged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ (USFWS) decision not to protect the Sonoran desert tortoise under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). As a result of that lawsuit, in August 2020 USFWS agreed to reconsider the tortoise for ESA protection.
USFWS must now go back and take a new look at the imperiled animal’s status in Arizona and has 18 months to make a new determination about the status of the species. Sonoran desert tortoise are known for moving slowly, but without full federal ESA protections, they will continue racing toward extinction. Please raise your voice today!
This undated photo provided by the Memphis Zoo shows Honey Bunch, the wallaby. The wallaby who went missing at the Memphis Zoo after storms passed through Tennessee this week, has been found hiding in plain sight. “It was an area right behind the exhibit that was a service area that had been searched multiple times in the past 36 hours, but he was camouflaged really well and hidden very well under a bush,” said Jessica Faulk, the zoo’s spokesperson, Friday, April 15, 2022. (Memphis Zoo via AP)
UNDATED (AP) — Honey Bunch, the wallaby who went missing at the Memphis Zoo after storms passed through Tennessee this week, has been found hiding — nearly in plain sight.
“It was an area right behind the exhibit … that had been searched multiple times in the past 36 hours, but he was camouflaged really well and hidden very well under a bush,” said Jessica Faulk, the zoo’s spokesperson.
A curator happened to see some tracks Friday morning and followed them to Honey Bunch, Faulk said.
“We suspect he was there the whole time,” she said.
Honey Bunch was taken to the zoo’s hospital and was being evaluated by a veterinarian, who gave him a clean bill of health, Faulk said.
A creek in the KangaZoo exhibit overflowed during storms Wednesday night, and the exhibit was evacuated, with the animals moved to the hospital. Honey Bunch and three other wallabies will move back to the exhibit together in a day or so probably, Faulk said.
Honey Bunch is 21 months old and one of the largest of the four, she said.
Faulk said no one knows how he was able to get out of the exhibit’s fencing but that zoo officials are looking into it so they can prevent it from happening again.
Memphis police had assisted in the search for the missing animal, a smaller relative of the kangaroo.
The Smithsonian National Zoo celebrates its 50th Anniversary of their Giant Panda conservation. (WJLA)
WASHINGTON (WJLA) — The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is celebrating the golden anniversary of its achievement in the care, conservation, breeding, and study of giant pandas.
The Smithsonian National Zoo celebrates its 50th Anniversary of their Giant Panda conservation. (Video: WJLA)
Zookeepers rolled out a special fruitsicle cake for the in-residence panda family to honor the special achievement.
Over the past five decades, the Zoo’s bears have become international icons, beloved both for their adorable antics and their ability to bring colleagues from the United States and China together to collaborate for a common goal of saving the species from extinction.
Ever since their arrival, giant pandas have symbolized cross-cultural collaboration between the United States and China. In 1972, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai gifted two giant pandas to the American people as a gesture of goodwill following former President Richard M. Nixon’s groundbreaking state visit.
The President and First Lady Pat Nixon selected the Smithsonian’s National Zoo as female Ling-Ling and male Hsing-Hsing’s home in the United States. Then-Zoo director Theodore Reed personally escorted the bears from China, and they arrived in Washington, D.C., on April 16, 1972.
The Smithsonian National Zoo celebrates its 50th Anniversary of their Giant Panda conservation. (Photo: WJLA)
Zoo visitors will get to enjoy lion dance performances, panda-shaped bao buns, and calligraphy demonstrations and see the pandas receive special enrichment treats. The world premiere of the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary on the Zoo’s giant panda program, “The Miracle Panda,” will be screened for a limited time at the Zoo’s Visitor Center Theater at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service informed some hunters last month that it would allow the import of six elephant trophies into the United States from Zimbabwe. The African elephant carcasses will be the first allowed into the country in five years.
The decision reverses an agencywide hold on processing elephant trophy import permits that was put in place during the Trump administration in November 2017, and has since prevented any elephant tusks, tails or feet from being brought into the country.
The reversal is the result of a September 2021 settlement with the Dallas Safari Club, a big-game hunting organization that sued the Trump administration in December 2019 for pausing trophy permit processing. The environment and tourism ministry of Namibia was also a plaintiff in the case. The Fish and Wildlife Service is required under the settlement to process the permits of the 11 hunters named in the suit, as well as 73 other outstanding permit applications. That could potentially lead to additional trophies being brought into the United States from countries that allow limited hunting of elephants for sport.
According to a Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson, both parties “negotiated a settlement they consider to be in the public interest and a just, fair, adequate and equitable resolution of the disputes set forth in the plaintiffs’ complaint.”
They point out that the move goes against President Biden’s commitment on the campaign trail to limiting hunting imports. The critics also say it is the latest in a series of confounding steps by the Biden administration to acquiesce to lawsuits leftover from the Trump administration and a failure to invest in more protections under the Endangered Species Act, like conserving more gray wolves. They argue these actions show that Mr. Biden hasn’t kept his word on environmental priorities.
“We expected the Biden administration would have halted everything and taken a hard look and made some tough decisions that maybe this isn’t something we should be doing given the biodiversity crisis,” said Tanya Sanerib, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “So to have the reality be the exact opposite of that, it feels like whiplash.”
For trophy hunters and big game groups, the reversal came as a long delayed win.
“It’s a victory for conservation because in a lot of these places where elephants reside, the habitat is only made available because of hunting dollars,” said Lane Easter, 57, an equine veterinarian in Texas whose trophy permit was approved under the settlement for a Zimbabwe hunt he did in 2017.
The majority of trophy hunters are from the United States. Under the federal Endangered Species Act, hunters must prove before they import a trophy that killing the animal aided in the “positive enhancement” of a species.
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s perspective, which predates Mr. Biden’s election, is that trophy hunting can qualify as species enhancement if it’s “legal, well-regulated hunting as part of a sound management program,” the agency spokesperson said.
Big game hunters say that the money they spend on hunts is later invested in the rehabilitation of the species and economically benefits nearby communities, preventing poaching. They also say that hunting certain animals like elephants and lions can benefit overall herd health.
Hunters can spend upward of $40,000 on an African hunt in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia and Namibia, and many of them win the rights through bidding wars held at national conferences like the Safari Club International’s annual convention.
But groups like Humane Society International say that hunting a species does not benefit its survival and that the Fish and Wildlife Service should not allow paid hunts to qualify as a method of species enhancement, especially on animals the United States considers threatened. The International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2021 revised its listing for both species of African elephant to highlight that both are at greater risk of extinction.
Critics also say there is little proof that money paid for a hunt ultimately helps the species recover, especially when corruption has been found to be rampant in several of the countries where African elephants reside.
“There is no evidence that trophy hunting advances conservation of a species,” said Teresa Telecky, a zoologist and the vice president of wildlife at the Humane Society International.
When Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, big game hunters expected it would be easier to import elephant trophies. The week before Thanksgiving in 2017, the Fish and Wildlife Service reversed an Obama-era ban, allowing hunters to import elephant trophies from several African countries. The news set off a storm of disapproval and criticism, with even staunch allies of Mr. Trump warning the move might increase the “gruesome poaching of elephants.”
“Because the president found trophy hunting distasteful he essentially abrogated the law with a tweet,” said George Lyon, the lawyer who represented the Dallas Safari Club, “and that’s not how the administrative process is supposed to go.”
So far, the wildlife service said it had processed eight permits. In addition to the six it allowed, it denied two, and it is expected to rule in coming months on more. Mr. Lyon estimated that as of last September, close to 300 elephant trophy permits from various African countries were awaiting processing.
Mr. Easter says he’s not wasting any time to bask in his legal victory. His elephant’s tusks are already being prepared for shipment to his home in Texas.
“They are going to hang in the living room of my house, and I will remember that elephant for the rest of my life,” he said.
He has another trophy hunt in Africa booked for August.
The @USFWS is allowing the import of 6 elephant trophies into the US from Zimbabwe. Trump banned elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe in 2017. The decision is a compromise in a court case re the Trump ban. Disappointed Biden admin has done nothing! 🤬https://t.co/FtbTEGXfK6
Photo Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Game Commission
What a shot! Game Warden shoots antler off buck to free it from net
by CBS 21 NewsThursday, March 24th 2022
BERKS COUNTY, Pa. — One buck in Berks Co. is an antler lighter, but safe, thanks to a PA State Game Warden.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission posting this amazing story on it’s Facebook page.
A concerned resident called the Game Commission when they saw a buck with it’s antler stuck in a net.
State Game Warden Ryan Zawada was nervous that chemical immobilization was not a safe option because of the distress level of the deer.
So, he decided the best option was to shoot the antler off.
Pennsylvania Game Commission
🦌 This buck recently shed an antler in a nontypical way.
State Game Warden Ryan Zawada recently responded to quite the call when a concerned citizen reported a buck had it’s antler stuck in a net in Berks County.
Given the deer’s state of distress upon arrival, SGW Zawada was nervous that chemical immobilization was not a safe option to remove the deer from the net. He decided the best option was to shoot the caught antler off. After the shot, one antler lighter, the buck ra… See more
Lack of action puts the Sonoran desert tortoise on a collision course with extinction
TUCSON, ARIZONA—The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that the iconic Sonoran desert tortoise does not warrant the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Conservation groups remain concerned that the habitat of Sonoran desert tortoise is degraded by invasive species, livestock grazing, increase fire risk, housing developments, off-road vehicles, habitat fragmentation, and increased predation facilitated by human activities. Residential development has created artificial barriers to the tortoise’s movement and its natural genetic mixing. Continuous overgrazing in the desert has depleted the vegetation on which the species depends. Cattle are also known to trample and crush tortoises in their burrows.
“A decision to forego ESA listing must be based on the best available science, and we will make sure the Service complied with that duty here,” said Joe Bushyhead, Endangered Species Policy Advocate for WildEarth Guardians.
“It’s hopeful news that the Service thinks the future is rosy for the Sonoran desert tortoise based on the agency’s modeling scenarios, and we certainly hope they are right,” said Cyndi Tuell, the Arizona and New Mexico director for Western Watersheds Project. Tuell expressed her concerns about the 12-month finding that the tortoise is not warranted for protection. “For those of us who have visited Arizona’s public lands, we can clearly see that the species’ habitat is still gravely threatened by livestock grazing, off-road vehicles, abandoned mines, invasive species, and fires.”
The Service’s announcement asserts that 29 percent of the species’ range in Arizona is on publicly-owned lands managed specifically “for the benefit of wildlife.” This includes the Sonoran Desert National Monument where the Bureau resisted conducting a thorough or adequate analysis of the impacts of livestock grazing on natural values, including the tortoise, and simply forged ahead to authorize expanded livestock use in 2020. The Service failed to acknowledge the many uses of most public lands that will continue to affect the species habitat. The Service also relied on predictive modeling and other information not yet available to the public.
More than 8,500 square miles (over 5 million acres) of tortoise habitat is managed by the Bureau of Land Management for livestock grazing and over 77 percent of those grazing allotments have 10 year permits that have been renewed at least once without any analysis of the impacts to species like the tortoise. “We worry that the Service has put the tortoise on a collision course with extinction by minimizing the threats from livestock grazing throughout the tortoise’s habitat,” said Tuell.
Timeline of Sonoran desert tortoise protection efforts:
2008 Western Watersheds Project (WWP) and WildEarth Guardians (Guardians) file a petition to list the species under the Endangered Species Act
2009 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues a 90-day finding that the tortoise should be considered as a Distinct Population Segment (DPS)
2010 Service determines that listing is warranted as a DPS, but precluded by higher priority species
2011 Service reaffirms this finding
2012 Service reaffirms this finding and determines the Sonoran desert tortoise is a separate species, which moves it up the priority list for the Service
2013 Service reaffirms this finding
2014 Service reaffirms this finding and starts preparing the proposed listing rule (formal process for listing the species under the Endangered Species Act)
2015 Service enters into a voluntary “candidate conservation agreement” with state and federal agencies to theoretically protect the tortoise and reaffirms in this agreement that the tortoise warrants listing under the Endangered Species Act
2015 Service uses a “very coarse model” based on elevation, vegetation type, and slope to assess the status of the tortoise.
2015 Service reverses its previous findings and issued a “not warranted” determination on the petition to list the tortoise and concludes the tortoise does not qualify for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
2019 WWP and WildEarth Guardians file a lawsuit seeking to overturn the “not warranted” determination as arbitrary and capricious and for failing to use the best available science in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
2020 Service agrees to revisit the 2015 “not warranted” determination.
2022 Service issues a “not warranted” determination for Sonoran desert tortoise.
An Alaskan woman training her dogs for the Iditarod race was attacked by an angry moose with her dogs trampled on and left seriously injured.
In a Facebook post, Bridgett Watkins shared her experience of the day a moose charged at her and her dogs while she was training them through a 52-mile run on 3 February.
While moose sightings in Alaska aren’t that uncommon, they rarely attack humans unprovoked.
Ms Watkins, a 38-year-old musher, initially thought when she spotted the moose that it would go way, she told local media outlets.
Ms Watkins, along with her friend and handler Jen Nelson, was running her sled dogs in the interior Alaska’s Fairbanks area. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is an annual long-distance sled dog race run in early March from Anchorage to Nome in which 14 dogs run for miles for 15 days or more to reach the finish line.
She was midway through the training run when she noticed a moose along the Salcha River trail system which had shed its antlers. Her dogs were tied to the snow machine.
“I had given this moose lots and lots of space,” Ms Watkins, who has lived in Alaska all her life, told Outdoor Life.
However, soon the large bull hid amidst the trees and reappeared, eventually coming just a few feet away from the team. This triggered Ms Watkins to take out her gun and fire a few shots to startle the animal.
“I was like, Well, he left again. I guess I’m just going to sit here and wait. We have to wait a while and make sure he’s gone. It wasn’t 10 seconds later that I looked up and he was charging full speed right at me,” she told the outlet.
“I even said to myself, Take a deep breath. Steady yourself. I was aimed and waiting – hoping he’d deflect – just steady. I let him get close,” Ms Watkins told Outdoor Life.
However, the moose didn’t stop. Ms Watkins, a part-time emergency room nurse, fired five times at the charging moose which became entangled with the sled dogs, the report says.
Ms Watkins said she quickly cut six dogs loose and they managed to flee. However, the dogs hooked to the sled were trampled by the moose.
The bull stood over them, stomping them for hours, she said.
“I have never felt so helpless in my life,” she said in a Facebook post. “He would not leave us alone and he even stood over top of the team refusing to retreat.”
Ms Watkis said a friend then reached them and killed the animal. But many of her dogs suffered serious injuries and are fighting for their lives.
The animal was fairly distant, she told local media outlets, so it didn’t worry Ms Watkins, who has been an Alaskan all her life and owns Kennel on a Hill.
With a foreword by the world-renowned chimpanzee conservationist, Dr. Jane Goodall (DBE), Gods in Shackles: What Elephants Can Teach Us About Empathy, Resilience, and Freedom is a moving memoir that follows a biologist, journalist, and award-winning wildlife filmmaker Sangita Iyer, who finds her purpose in advocacy for the Asian Elephants in her childhood hometown of Kerala, India. Gods in Shackles book touches on themes ranging from conservation and climate change to religion, philosophy and emotional well-being and how Elephants relate to each of these. The book is slated for release on February 8, 2022, and will be available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and everywhere books are sold.
Elephants are self-aware, conscious beings. They can feel and grieve the loss of both Elephants and humans. Elephants are supremely intelligent, with a…
On a warm spring morning in 1976, when Beth Pratt was 7 years old, she noticed a “For sale” sign posted in the woods near her home just north of Boston.
“I asked my mom what it meant,” she recalled. “She said the land was up for sale and would soon be flattened by bulldozers.”
The next day, Pratt went door to door in her neighborhood of old elms and deep porches asking for donations to save one of her favorite outdoor playgrounds. Then she called the phone number on the sign and made an offer: $5.
After several seconds of silence, the person on the other end of the line said, “Wonderful. Just $40,000 more and that property is all yours.”
Today, Pratt is still raising money for causes she believes in. At 52, Pratt heads the nonprofit National Wildlife Federation’s #SaveLACougars campaign, which seeks to raise funds to build an $87-million bridge that will allow isolated clans of cougars to cross a 10-lane stretch of the 101 Freeway at Liberty Canyon Road in Agoura Hills.
To get a full measure of her dedication to the cause, start with the campaign’s poster puma, P-22. A likeness of the lone mountain lion prowling the chaparral-covered slopes in Griffith Park is tattooed on Pratt’s upper left arm.
Groundbreaking is just around the corner. The thought of it brings a proud smile to her face.
“When I took on this assignment I thought, well, how hard can it be?” Pratt said, shaking her head. “I didn’t dream it would grow into a nearly $100-million project that would consume almost 10 years of my life.”
An artist’s rendering of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, set to break ground in late January.
(Living Habitats and National Wildlife Federation)
When it is completed, the 200-foot-long, 165-foot-wide bridge will be the largest and most expensive of its kind in the world — and the only one designed to save a species from extinction.
It is crucial, scientists say, to restoring gene flow among small, isolated populations of cougars trapped south of the freeway that roars with 300,000 vehicles each day in the Santa Monica Mountains and cougars confined to the north in the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains.
Recent scientific studies suggest there’s an almost 1 in 4 chance that Southern California mountain lions, which have the lowest genetic diversity documented for the species aside from the critically endangered Florida panther, could become extinct within 50 years.
The next few months are vital for those cougars and for Pratt, regional executive director in California for the federation. As of early December, the effort still needed $5 million to meet deadlines and contractual obligations.
Beth Pratt works in her office at her home in Midpines, Calif., near Yosemite National Park. Her ability to raise considerable amounts of money owes, in part, to a group of connected L.A. Westsiders.
(Gary Kazanjian / For The Times)
Yet Pratt looked pleased on a recent morning, writing grant proposals and soliciting donations over the phone in her home near Yosemite National Park. Her living area is filled with artistic renderings and life-size cardboard cutouts of mountain lions.
She had reason to be pleased. Future historians may look back on the second decade or so of 21st century American architecture as the Age of Wildlife Crossings. Congress in November passed a national infrastructure package that for the first time sets aside $350 million in federal funding for wildlife crossings to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions in all 50 states.
This would not have been the situation most people would have predicted when Pratt took on the tricky fundraising job. Wildlife bridge proposals, she quickly learned, come with a hitch: You need money to get past the blueprints, but you need blueprints to generate donations.
It’s rare these days — and almost impossible — to see a big-bucks urban wildlife project survive such long odds, particularly in a region that is home to unbearable traffic jams, smog and cookie-cutter planned developments.
Her ability to raise money in breathtaking amounts owes, in part, to a group of connected L.A. Westsiders — celebrities, corporate leaders and philanthropists — who have ready cash and enjoy throwing elegant private fundraisers for progressive causes.
Beth Pratt, a self-described “goofy, loud, middle-class Boston Irish woman” who dresses in blue jeans and worn tennis shoes, relaxes at her home in Midpines, Calif.
(Gary Kazanjian / For The Times)
While the Westside may not be the natural habitat of a self-described “goofy, loud, middle-class Boston Irish woman” who dresses in blue jeans and worn tennis shoes, Pratt learned that she could successfully coax the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Barbra Streisand without changing habits.
Pratt carries a backpack instead of a purse. At one Beverly Hills fundraiser, the host asked, “Are you going hiking after this?”
“I discovered that mountain lions are a great icebreaker when you don’t have much else in common,” she said. “For example, when I met my favorite actor, Viggo Mortensen, at a Santa Barbara film festival, I only talked about cougars and not about my 20-year crush on him.” Pratt shoved a furry P-22 figurine under his arm as a reminder.
Her other gifts are patience, energy, ambition and what Cinny Kennard, executive director of the Annenberg Foundation, described as “relentless competence.”
Between solicitations to prospective donors, Pratt has partnered with photographer Robb Hirsch to publish the first in-depth account of the wildlife in Yosemite in almost 100 years.
She also promotes the Liberty Canyon project during visits to local elementary schools and annually retraces the 20-mile odyssey that P-22 braved from the Santa Monica Mountains to Griffith Park. The cat’s route took him over concrete and backyards, commuter traffic and culverts.
A 2014 photo provided by the National Park Service shows a mountain lion known as P-22 in the Griffith Park area near downtown Los Angeles.
(National Park Service )
“Some of her supporters have been moved to tears,” said Paul Edelman, deputy director of natural resources for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, “seeing Beth emerge from the brush near the carousel at Griffith Park looking bedraggled, dusty and sunburned.”
When asked about her heroes, she quickly gives credit to Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp, who wants to bring healing hikes and what she calls the “outdoor Black experience” to more Americans.
A selfie taken by Beth Pratt with Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp, right, who wants to bring healing hikes and what she calls the “outdoor Black experience” to more Americans.
Pratt sensed a kindred spirit in Mapp after they met about a decade ago. They both have great faith in the transformative power of the outdoors, and they both were struggling through personal issues while launching unprecedented projects that would define their careers and nurture new cooperative relationships between the urban and the wild.
“We became professional confidants who bonded in our own brand of sisterhood,” said Mapp, 49, a former Morgan Stanley analyst whose Outdoor Afro has expanded into a nonprofit with chapters in 36 cities across the nation. “For us, it was like Stars Wars’ Yoda says, ‘Do or not do. There is no trying.’”
The #SaveLACougars campaign kicked off in 2014 after the National Wildlife Federation and the Santa Monica Mountains Fund joined forces to raise money for the project at Liberty Canyon, about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
“Normally, the majority of funding for projects of this scale comes from government agencies and not private donations,” Pratt said. “But the incentive was powerful to act quickly and reach out to visionary private investors or the lions of L.A. County would vanish within our lifetime.”
One of Pratt’s first donors was veteran rocker David Crosby. “This has always been a very uphill project and Beth is a very brave, focused and strong girl,” he said. “I plan to be there when they cut the ribbon on that wildlife bridge.”
Beth Pratt’s home in Midpines, Calif., is filled with artistic renderings and life-size cardboard cutouts of mountain lions.
(Gary Kazanjian / For The Times)
Since 2020, wildlife biologists have discovered the physical manifestations of extremely low genetic diversity among several of the dozen cougars that roam the 275 square miles in and around the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area — a tail kinked like the letter “L,” only one descended testicle and abnormal sperm.
In the face of such a dire prognosis — what biologists call an extinction vortex — conservationists are stepping up calls for construction of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing at Liberty Canyon.
As envisioned by architects and Caltrans, cougars would move unseen by humans over a reinforced concrete-and-steel wildlife crossing landscaped with native vegetation — including oak and willow trees — and irrigation systems, and shielded with sound walls and light deflectors to dampen the noise and glare of headlights below.
Fencing up to 12 feet high would funnel wildlife including mountain lions, bobcats, deer, coyotes, skunks, badgers, squirrels, mice and lizards over the passage. To reduce roadkill, fencing would also extend several miles in both directions from the project footprint.
Project partners include the California Department of Transportation, the National Park Service, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, and the National Wildlife Federation.
Because the bridge crosses the freeway, Caltrans will oversee design and construction — but the agency is not providing funding. Instead, most of the funds come from more than 3,000 private, philanthropic and corporate donors around the world, including a recent $25-million challenge grant from Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation.
Mountain lions as a species are not threatened in California, but the state Fish and Game Commission has granted cougars in six regions from Santa Cruz to the U.S.-Mexico border “candidate status” to be listed as threatened sometime next year.
The action came in response to a petition co-sponsored by the Center for Biological Diversity and the nonprofit Mountain Lion Foundation. It argues that six isolated and distinct cougar clans within those regions make up a subpopulation that is threatened by extinction.
“In car-centric California, what we do with our roads is critical to the future of mountain lions,” said Brendan Cummings, the center’s conservation director. “A new, more hopeful relationship is breaking ground on the side of the 101 Freeway at Liberty Canyon.
“This project is significant not just because it will directly benefit our endangered Southern California cougars,” he added, “but also because of what it represents: the most important step toward reimagining and rebuilding our infrastructure to ensure a continuing place for them and other wildlife in 21st century California and beyond.”
Not everyone is a believer, however. Critics ask why we should willingly share more space in our crowded world with stealthy, 140-pound predators who kill livestock and might menace us if we walk down a trail at night.
Pratt has answers. And there is an edge of impatience mixed with her self-effacing humor as she delivers them.
“I don’t want to see people hurt, but it’s important to put the risk in perspective,” she says. “Over the past century there’ve been less than 20 mountain lion attacks in California, six of them fatal. Yet, 3,000 to 4,000 people die every year on California’s highways.
“So c’mon,” she adds, “ask yourself when was the last time you helped pull an endangered lion back from the edge of extinction?”
There have been tumultuous years. But by perseverance and a generous measure of personal charm, Pratt has become California’s most recognizable promoter of wildlife crossings.
“Beth rocks,” said Fraser Shilling, co-director of the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis. “I’d like to see her apply her considerable organizing powers to other roads driving local lions toward extinction.”
2 young Asian elephants die days apart at US zoo. Jazmine and Thorn are seen playing and feeding in this video prior to their deaths. (Albuquerque BioPark)
The calves died after being diagnosed with elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus, known as EEHV, the zoo said. The virus also killed a 5-year-old Asian elephant calf named Daizy in 2015.
“While not much is known about EEHV, the disease can progress rapidly, and early detection is critical,” the zoo said.
The zoo shared video of Thorn, and said that since he was a baby, “Thorn was trained to be active in his health care and voluntarily participate in medical exams, including presenting his ears to allow for a weekly blood draw. This behavior, along with weekly testing, allowed the biopark’s animal care team to discover the virus in Thorn’s blood at a very low level. The BioPark staff immediately began working around the clock to treat the illness. Treatments started with antiviral medications and fluids. As Thorn’s disease continued to progress, the team shifted to twice-daily sedated treatments to ensure he was getting everything he needed, in addition to the non-sedated fluid and antiviral treatments. He also received regular infusions of plasma, whole blood and stem cells.”
The National Elephant Herpesvirus Lab at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., provided bloodwork services and EEHV expertise, the zoo said, and additional assistance came from other accredited zoos.
“Thorn’s short life had a great impact on the lives of other elephants,” the zoo said. “His birth was significant because he was born in the presence of his sister, Jazmine, and grandmother, Alice. This natural herd birth was a huge advancement in the care and socialization of elephants in human care.
“He was also raised in a multi-age herd that includes his sister, grandmother, mother Rozie, adult male Albert and adult female Irene. The zoo’s practices that allowed Thorn and the rest of the herd to use their natural behaviors are leading the way for elephant care across the United States and the world.”
In the case of Jazmine, “the zoo’s elephant experts and veterinary teams did everything in their power — and then some” to help her, said the park’s director, Stephanie Stowell. “Jazmine matched their efforts every step along the way. True to her strong-willed nature, Jazmine fought valiantly against the disease.
“Adding to the anguish of losing a beloved animal, Jazmine’s death marks a considerable loss to the future of Asian elephants. Jazmine was on a carefully planned path to become an elephant matriarch.
Had Jazmine survived, the zoo said, “her skills and experiences would have enabled her to raise her own calves and lead elephants in her own multigenerational herd.
“Jazmine’s short life will have a long-term impact on other elephants in human care as well as in the wild.”
Stowell said all elephants can carry EEHV in a latent state throughout their entire lives without negative effects.
It is not known why the virus sometimes comes out of latency, she said.
“Elephants are most susceptible to EEHV from 18 months to 8 years of age. EEHV causes hemorrhagic disease that can be fatal for young elephants. It is the leading cause of death for Asian elephant calves and can strike elephants in the wild and in human care.
“Each case of EEHV hemorrhagic disease, while tragic, does provide us with more information on its causes, transmission, and treatment. The elephant community rallied around Albuquerque BioPark to provide support with husbandry, treatment, and testing.
“We are devastated by these latest two deaths, and we hope that the incredible cooperation amongst our colleagues will continue to provide answers on how best to prevent these deaths,” said Erin Latimer, a spokesperson for the EEHV Advisory Group that dedicated their time to administering the EEHV treatment regime.
In Pakistan, a snow leopard in captivity highlights the plight of her species.
Our 4×4 truck bumps over boulders and splashes through streams as it drives further into the deep forest of Naltar Valley in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region. This area is popular for its alpine ski slopes, mountain glaciers, green meadows, and vibrant lakes. But today, our guide has promised us a view of one of the Himalaya’s more hidden natural wonders.
We’re on our way to see a snow leopard.
Our bumpy ride comes to a halt in a clearing of trimmed grass scattered with pine cones. Tall trees cast shadows on the hot summer day and wave in an intermittent breeze.
We get out of the car, stretch our limbs, and make our way to a caged enclosure, where a bearded man named Ghulam Rasool greets us. He then turns toward the cage, makes kissing noises, and calls out, “Meri Lovely (My Lovely.)” Lovely, known locally as Lolly, looks away uninterested, her spotted black and white back towards the crowd. “She’s well fed at the moment,” says Rasool. “She growls and responds when she wants food. She’s a good girl.”
As more tourists arrive and the chatter gets louder, Lovely lets out a low rumble. It’s a faintly audible growl from deep within her body — nothing like the roar seen and heard in popular media. She turns her head and briefly scans the commotion, opens her mouth to show sharp canines, and then looks away again, back into her own world.
Lovely is a nine-year-old snow leopard who spends day and night alone, with no other animals of her kind. The only change in her life are her two habitats. In the winter, when snow blankets the valley and snow leopards look for food and mates, their fur keeping them warm and broad paws working as snowshoes, Lovely is kept in a cage near a ski resort. When the snow melts away, she’s brought into the lush green valley where tourists visit her. She has never hunted or mated. Nor will she be able to.
“Lovely’s only utility at the moment is recreation,” said Hussain Ali regional program manager of the Snow Leopard Foundation. “Since she didn’t receive the early days training of hunting and survival from her mother her chances of survival on her own are nil.”
As I watch Lovely in her cage, I’m struck by the paradox this big cat represents. Snow leopards belong in the wild, but Lovely’s captivity affords tourists the ability to see a snow leopard up close, to learn about this predator’s plight. This cage is also her blessing, in a region where snow leopards are losing habitat and the mountains they call home are becoming more and more inhospitable. As Ali says, without her captivity, Lovely would likely be dead.
Snow leopards populate the mountain ranges of 12 countries across Central and South Asia. Scientists estimate that fewer than 6,400 snow leopards inhabit an estimated area of 1.8 million square kilometers. Their habitat is threatened by development and land degradation. Snow leopards are also killed by pastoralists who see the big cats as predatory threats to their livestock. According to a report from the World Wildlife Fund, an estimated 450 snow leopards are killed each year.
In Pakistan, as part of a recent habitat sampling, it has been estimated that there could be as few as 40 snow leopards, far fewer than previous estimates of around 420 cats. However, experts believe that more than 70 percent of the world’s snow leopard habitats are still unknown — and many of these habitats may be situated in Pakistan. Either way, saving and conserving every snow leopard is important.
But in Lovely’s case, saving her meant taking her from the wild. In December 2012, volunteers from the Khunjerab Villagers Organization (KVO), a community-based nonprofit working for wildlife conservation, were on a routine stroll around Khunjerab National Park, more than 100 kilometers from Lovely’s present location. Upon reaching the Khunjerab River, the volunteers spotted a female snow leopard perched against the backdrop of the snowy mountains, gazing into the far distance.
The volunteers instantly took out their camera and began to film. After all, these elusive big cats rarely showed themselves. In the footage shared by the volunteers, the snow leopard sits still, her translucent gaze mirroring the breathtaking views around her. She looks below the line of the camera facing her and then switches her gaze upward on her left. Then, for a split second, she looks squarely into the lens of the camera.
While the volunteers watched her make these repeated motions, they heard a low cat-like whimper from below. They looked down to find a cub by the riverbank, its foot stuck in the icy slush. The cub, hardly a month or two old, appeared to be frozen.
“The mother snow leopard was watching the cub from atop,” said Mubat Karim Gircha, office manager at KVO. In the video, the mother snow leopard starts climbing up hill, looks one last look behind, and disappears from sight. “The mother was crossing the river along with her two cubs. One of the cubs made it across and went its way climbing up. The other one, Lovely, was left frozen along the bank,” he said.
After the mother left, torn between her concern for the two cubs in opposing directions, the volunteers, along with representatives from the provincial wildlife department, took the cub to a nearby wildlife check post. A small fire was lit and goat’s milk was fed to the cub.
The next evening, officials from the Snow Leopard Foundation, including Hussain Ali, visited the site and inspected the snow leopard’s condition. “It was in good health,” said Ali. “We scanned the area and tried locating the tracks of the mother. The cub [inside the cage] was left outside for four to five hours in the hopes that the mother may come looking for her,” he said, adding that it didn’t work. “The local community and volunteers were extremely anxious that the cub would die if left on its own in the wild. Hence, there was no option but to keep it in captivity inside a sanctuary.”
Lovely isn’t the only case of a captured snow leopard living a lonely life. One prominent case is Leo, who currently resides in the Bronx Zoo in New York City. In 2005, Leo was recovered from a shepherd in Naltar Valley and moved temporarily to New York as part of a memorandum of understanding signed between the World Conservation Society and the Gilgit-Baltistan administration.
Another case is the tragic tale of snow leopard, Sohni, who died in captivity three years ago in a zoo in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Sohni was originally gifted to the son of Shahbaz Sharif, brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and had been living a life of isolation and neglect.
Lovely isn’t neglected, but she could be taken care of in a better way. If anything, her presence is a reminder that we have work to do when it comes to learning how to coexist with these big cats. As excited kids poke their fingers through the cage to get a reaction from Lovely and adults gather against the enclosure to pose for a selfie with her in the background, one can’t help but think about how circumscribed this beautiful creature’s life is here. When the numbers of her species are depleting for so many reasons, and little is known about those very numbers due to unchartered areas of research, Lovely stands as a reminder of the wild leopards we should strive to protect.
Haniya Javed is an independent reporter from Pakistan covering the environment, human rights, and labor migrations. She tweets @haniyajaved1.
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The colorful, reclusive Agami Heron is a coveted sighting for birders visiting flooded lowland forests and slow-moving waterways of Central and South America. This long-billed, medium-sized heron is so distinctive that it occupies its own genus, Agamia. Its species name, “Agami,” comes from a Cayenne Indian word for a forest bird.
In Brazil, the Agami is sometimes called Soco beija-flor, “hummingbird heron,” for its vivid plumage. It’s also commonly known as the Chestnut-bellied Heron.
The Agami Heron’s retiring nature and preference for dense vegetation makes the species difficult to study, and its total population is still unknown. Although resident throughout its range, it moves seasonally, abandoning nesting areas for deeper forest after the breeding season.
This heron specializes in fishing from river banks or branches overhanging the water. Its long neck and dagger-like bill — the longest of any New World heron’s — gives the Agami a significant striking range, while proportionally short legs confine the bird to shallow water. Agami Herons rarely wade in the open, preferring to forage for small fish, snails, and insects while stalking along under dense cover.
Unusual for birds, both male and female Agami Herons flaunt colorful courtship plumage during the breeding season. Both sexes also show heightened color in the lores (the fleshy area between the base of the bill and front of the eyes), which turn an intense red during displays.
The Agami’s spectacular courtship display begins when a male chooses a display site, then starts to “dance” with shaking plumes, rocking movements, and bill-snapping. An interested female will approach the site and perform similar displays until the male accepts her presence. This process may go on for several days, as the male may aggressively repel the female at first. After some persistence on the female’s part, the birds form a pair-bond, mate, and begin to build a nest.
Agami Heron in its swanky breeding plumage. Photo by Kyle C. Moon
Recent fieldwork has found that Agami Heron, like Reddish Egret and many other waterbirds, nest in colonies. The birds hide their nests, a loose platform of sticks, within the forest canopy.
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