Victory for great gray owls and forests in Oregon! We won a recent victory for forests and great gray owls in Oregon. The Griffin Half Moon timber project would have logged more than 900 acres home to perhaps the largest and most well-known population of great gray owls in southwest Oregon. We successfully argued the Bureau of Land Management’s assessment did not consider the effects of logging on this at-risk owl. We are elated to have protected not only the forest, but also this iconic owl.
Opposing the Biden administration’s plans to offer 734,000 acres of public lands to oil and gas We filed formal legal objections to the Biden administration’s plans to offer 734,000 acres of public lands for oil and gas leasing. Oil and gas in the proposed leases contain up to 246 million tons of climate pollution, as much as 62 coal-fired power plants emit in one year. Public lands should be off limits for leasing because of the government’s failure to assess and avoid harm to land, water, communities, and endangered species from the fossil fuel industry’s climate pollution. In January, the Biden administration paused new oil and gas leasing pending a review of the program, yet since then has approved more than 2,800 new permits to drill. Learn More
Fossil-fueled hydrogen in New Mexico is a climate threat, not a solution WELC and other New Mexico community, environmental, and justice organizations warned state and federal lawmakers of the risks of diving head-first into fossil-fueled hydrogen projects. Our letter provides guidance on the safeguards that must be enacted before hydrogen projects are considered in the San Juan Basin, and New Mexico more broadly. Hydrogen from fossil gas presents significant climate and health dangers. New Mexico must prioritize climate legislation to light the pathway to benefit all of New Mexico’s workers and families. We cannot drill our way out of the climate emergency. Further, hydrogen is a risky bet of taxpayer resources that would further entrench the power of fossil fuel corporations. Learn More Your support makes all our work possible. Thank you!
Western Environmental Law Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to defending the western U.S. Donations are tax-deductible as allowable by law. WELC does not rent, sell, or trade your contact information. Photo credits iStock.com: Owl by /mirceax, Colorado by /AndrewSoundarajan, New Mexico by /Dean_Fikar.
Today (Oct. 10, 2021) gorilla Ndume turns 40 and we are sending him birthday wishes and love. We are happy to report that recently he is forming close bonds with females Chewie and Mara in his family group at the Cincinnati Zoo. For us, this is a big bright spot in the many changes he faced by being moved from The Gorilla Foundation sanctuary to a zoo.
He has been deemed to be in good health by the team there which is great news to all of us who cared for him for close to 30 years.
We know he is well-loved by his caregivers at the Cincinnati Zoo, and we miss seeing, interacting and communicating with him every day.
We wish there could have been a way to create a natural family group for him here at the sanctuary with his human friends, familiar surroundings and greater autonomy too, but that proved impossible to arrange. He continues to receive excellent care, and we get to visit him twice per year to let him know we love and remember him.
This pro-hunting council defends his decision here. Watch or listen you be the judge but he sounds very excited as if it was all, rather thrilling to me. As for this ‘council’ describing mountain lions/cougars as overpopulated is just ludicrous.😒@SARA2001NOOR@LiftForever67pic.twitter.com/YfanonsAQg
Black bears have been spared from violent deaths in New Jersey! The bloody, highly controversial annual hunts will not take place this year, and signs point to non-lethal management techniques moving forward.
The New Jersey Fish and Game Council updated the state’s Comprehensive Black Bear Management Plan (CBBMP), which required a signature of approval from the Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner, Shawn M. LaTourette. Without his signature on the updated plan, the Fish and Game Council could not schedule a bear hunt. The updated CBBMP expired on June 21, 2021, therefore no bear hunts are allowed in the state in 2021.
DEP Commissioner LaTourette was appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy, who has publicly denounced the killing of bears for sport, and has emphasized “developing a new black bear policy that promotes public safety and welfare while protecting important wildlife with a focus on non-lethal management techniques.”
We applaud New Jersey for this shift toward the humane treatment of bears, and hope this decision serves as an example for additional states. Congratulations, New Jersey!
Show captionA white-lipped tree frog. Scientists are trying to unravel the cause of thousands of frog deaths in eastern Australia. Photograph: Liam Driver/Newspix / Rex FeaturEnvironmental investigations
After asking for public help with their investigations, scientists have received thousands of reports and specimens of dead, shrivelled frogs
In the middle of Sydney’s lockdown, scientist Jodi Rowley has been retrieving frozen dead frogs from her doorstep.
Occasionally one will arrive dried and shrivelled up in the post.
She’ll pack them in ice in an esky to be taken to her lab at the Australian Museum, where even more samples – green tree frogs, striped marsh frogs and the invasive cane toad among them – are waiting in a freezer for genetic testing.
Rowley and her team, along with scientists at the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health at Taronga zoo and a forensic unit in the NSW department of planning, industry and environment, are trying to solve the mystery of what is killing Australia’s frogs.
Since late July, they’ve collected 1,200 records of dead or dying frogs, about 70% of them in New South Wales and 22% in Queensland.
“I know we’re dealing with our own pandemic but frogs are also dealing with a pandemic and whatever is going on right now is awful,” Rowley said.
“It’s like nothing in my lifetime that I’m aware of.”
One of the shrivelled frogs Australia Museum researcher Jodi Rowley has been sent. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian
‘It’s really broken our hearts’
Rowley, a conservation biologist specialising in amphibians, is the lead scientist at the Australian Museum’s FrogID, a citizen science project that for the past four years has focused largely on recording the calls of Australia’s many frog species.
But its work shifted after Rowley did an ABC radio interview in late July to talk about dead green tree frogs that were being found around Scotts Head on the NSW mid north coast.
After that, Rowley started receiving emails about frogs in similar condition being found in other parts of the country.
A week later she and Karrie Rose, the head of Australian Registry of Wildlife Health, wrote a piece for the Conversation that asked people who spotted sick or dying amphibians to make a report through the FrogID email.
They received 160 emails in 24 hours. That’s grown to more than 2,000 since.
“It’s been quite devastating to be at the receiving end of some of these emails. I can only imagine how hard it is for the people out there who are seeing these frogs.”
Rowley at work in her lab. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian
One of those reports came from Yvonne Hulbert, who runs a bed and breakfast on an acreage on Macleay Island near Brisbane, where there is a thriving frog population.
Over the past few months they’ve found browning and dead frogs along their properties.
“They go a fawny beige colour then turn brown. They seem to get dry and they become emaciated and then shrivel and become skeletons,” Hulbert said.
“We recognise the same frogs and they just decline in health and size and eventually their eyes dull and they just die. It’s really sad.”
Gail Wilson-Lutter and her husband have lived in Meerschaum Vale in the NSW northern rivers for 36 years. Every night frogs would come into the kitchen via a gap in the roof.
“We keep what we call the frog-cuzzi, a little pool for them to swim in, and we love having them here because they kill spiders and pests.”
But in recent months, Wilson-Lutter noticed frogs were leaving loose skin in their little pool and others were changing colour or turning up dead.
“It’s really broken our hearts, because we love our frogs,” Wilson-Lutter says.
Too early to draw conclusions
Over the past two-and-a-half months, the scientists have collected reports of 31 different species affected in almost every state and territory.
Of those, 30 species are native – including endangered frogs such as green and golden bell frogs, southern bell frogs and the giant barred frog. The one invasive species is the cane toad.
Sixty per cent of the frogs found are green tree frogs, something likely explained by the fact they are a common species found in and around people’s homes.
The frogs that are found alive are often lethargic and emaciated, with red bellies and coloured patches on their skin.
When frogs die, they shrivel up quickly, so many have been found dark brown and withered.
Jane Hall at the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health at Taronga zoo. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian
“It’s exquisitely difficult to work with frogs because they decompose so quickly and are a cryptic species – meaning they’re difficult to find,” says Jane Hall, who works with Rose at the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health at Taronga zoo.
The two scientists have been conducting necropsies on frog carcasses at a pathology facility at Taronga zoo that acts as a morgue and a lab.
They dissect the frogs, looking for any indicators of disease, and take samples from their liver, kidneys, blood and stomach content if they have any.
Over at the Australian Museum, Rowley and her team are looking at the animals on a molecular level.
Much like a Covid-19 test, they swab the frogs – usually on their belly and legs – and also take a small skin sample. They then run DNA tests looking for pathogens that might indicate a virus or a fungus.
At present, the number one candidate for what has caused the mass mortality event is chytrid fungus, which has been responsible for declines of more than 500 amphibian species globally.
It is more likely to take hold during winter months, when frogs’ immune systems slow down.
Some of the tests have returned a positive result, but Rowley and Hall both say it is too early to draw conclusions.
Covid-19 lockdowns have also hampered the ability to do investigations in the field.
The freezer containing some of the samples Jodi Rowley has been sent. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian
The researchers are working with a network of vets around Australia, some of whom are storing frozen frogs until they can be delivered after the lockdowns.
Others will conduct a basic necropsy and keep the rest of the carcass in a fixative to be examined microscopically later on.
Friends and family members are also storing frozen frogs that have been dropped in mailboxes by people from their communities.
Separately, a forensic team is running toxicology tests looking for things like pesticides, heavy metals or other environmental toxins.
There has been widespread pesticide use as a result of the recent mouse plague. Hall says it is unlikely to be the cause, but it needs to be ruled out.
When the lockdowns end, the scientists will have more access to more samples and locations to expand their work, do targeted surveys, and build a larger syndromic picture to work out what the common threads are.
If it is chytrid fungus, Rowley says it would be the largest such mortality event in Australia in more than a decade.
“The question then becomes why would it be impacting so much more now?” she says.
“Whether it’s to do with climate, the very cold winter, or it’s interacting with another stressor such as not enough food or pollution. It could be a new strain or something from overseas.”
Hall says there is no better example of how a pathogen can change than the current pandemic.
“Pathogens are always looking for ways they can improve how they work and move in animals,” she says.
“Chytrid can change, so we want to see if it’s the chytrid our frogs are used to being exposed to or if it’s a different kind of chytrid.”
She says another important and still to be answered question is whether the animals are dying of or withthe disease – that is, if it is just a contributing factor and other environmental stressors of recent years such as droughts, fires and climate change have played a role. Alternatively, the cause could be something else entirely, like a novel pathogen.
“Once we get more of an understanding of these things we can go to the next level and see how far it’s spread and what long-term effect it might have on vulnerable amphibian populations across Australia,” she says.
“They’re probably the best indicator of environmental health. It’s important we don’t ignore them.
“They absorb the environment through their skin so if something is off … the frogs will let us know.”
Anyone who spots an unwell or dead frog is encouraged to contact the FrogID project email on firstname.lastname@example.org with the location and photos if possible.
The zoo said there’s no evidence the #gorillas can pass the virus back to humans & that visitors are too far from the gorillas to be infected. Keeping wild animals in captivity & in close quarters is a risk to public health. Help end the #wildlifetrade: https://t.co/rkCMcjV3MW
Show captionThe Tasmanian devil is among 200 endangered species and habitats that would lose their recovery plan under Coalition proposal. Photograph: Michal Čížek/AFP/Getty ImagesConservation
The Morrison government has proposed scrapping recovery plans for almost 200 endangered species and habitats including the Tasmanian devil, the whale shark and the endangered glossy-black cockatoo populations on Kangaroo Island, one of the worst-affected areas in the 2019-20 bushfires.
Environment groups have decried the move as a backward step less than 12 months after a statutory review of Australia’s national environmental laws found successive governments had failed to protect the country’s unique wildlife.
Recovery plans are documents that set out actions needed to stop the extinction of species. Ministers are legally bound not to make decisions that are inconsistent with them.
Since changes were made to legislation in 2007 they have been increasingly replaced with what’s known as a conservation advice, a similar document but which does not have the same legal force under national law.
Guardian Australia has previously reported that fewer than 40% of listed threatened species have a recovery plan. A further 10% of all those listed have been identified as requiring a recovery plan but those plans haven’t been developed or are unfinished. Even more plans are out of date.
The federal environment department revealed last year it had not finalised a single recovery plan for threatened species in nearly 18 months and more than 170 were overdue. All listed species, including those requiring a recovery plan, have a conservation advice.
This year, the government asked the independent threatened species scientific committee (TSSC), which advises it on endangered wildlife, to review recovery plans for 914 threatened species and habitats to determine which should continue to have a recovery plan and which could just have a conservation advice.
The committee provided advice that 676 no longer required a recovery plan.
The government is responding to the committee’s recommendations in stages and on Friday published for public consultation the first tranche of 157 animals and plants and 28 ecological communities for which it proposes scrapping recovery plans.
They include the vulnerable green and golden bell frog and the spectacled flying-fox, which had its threat status upgraded to endangered after heatwaves in 2019.
Among the ecological communities is the critically endangered Cumberland plain woodland, one of the most under pressure woodlands in the country as a result of urban development in western Sydney.
It has been identified as requiring a recovery plan since 2009 but no plan has ever been finalised.
Labor’s environment spokeswoman, Terri Butler, said on Friday “Scott Morrison has given up on saving iconic Australian species.”
“The 2019-20 bushfires killed or displaced 3 billion animals and his response now is to cut 157 recovery plans.”
The Greens’ environment spokeswoman, Sarah Hanson-Young, said the government was seeking to rewrite its obligations and was “putting up the white flag on saving our wildlife and native plants”.
“Downgrading the level of obligation on the minister is downgrading the protection of our native animals and species,” she said.
“This is all about letting the minister off the hook – the Morrison government has dropped the ball on protecting our environment and wildlife and now they want to change the rules and responsibilities.”
Helene Marsh, the chair of the threatened species scientific committee, told Guardian Australia that the species and habitats the committee had assessed were those for which recovery plans had expired, were due to expire or were overdue.
She said the committee had carefully considered every plant, animal and habitat and determined that overall about 13% of the country’s wildlife required a recovery plan.
Marsh said recovery planning had been ineffective, with plans often unfunded and actions not implemented.
She said a conservation advice could be as detailed and useful a tool, could be developed more quickly, and rapidly updated after an emergency such as the bushfire disaster.
“We’ve looked at whether a recovery plan will make a difference or not and we’ve looked at every single one in great detail,” she said. “A conservation advice can be updated and in these times of fires and climate change is a much more nimble instrument.”
Marsh told Guardian Australia that the most important reforms the government could make for Australia’s wildlife would be to implement legally binding and detailed national environmental standards that were recommended by the former competition watchdog head, Graeme Samuel, in his review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
She said the committee’s recommendations on which species and habitats should not have recovery plans were based, in part, on whether they were regularly affected by development and therefore triggered the need for a development to be assessed under Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
She said the committee had recommended that species that regularly triggered the act retain a recovery plan.
However, the Cumberland Plain woodland, the golden sun moth and the striped legless lizard, which all regularly trigger the need for assessment under the act, all appear on the list of proposed habitats and animals that would no longer require a recovery plan.
Samantha Vine, of Birdlife Australia, said a conservation advice was a good foundational document but was not a robust plan to get species off the path to extinction.
The organisation is concerned about the 19 threatened birds that may no longer require a recovery plan, including the glossy black cockatoo populations of Kangaroo Island and South Australia, the northern masked owl and the Abbott’s Booby.
“We completely see where the threatened species scientific committee is coming from because they are overwhelmed,” Vine said. “But walking away from recovery plans because they’re not functioning as well as they should be is not the right approach in an extinction crisis.”
Brendan Sydes, a lawyer and policy adviser at the Australian Conservation Foundation, said recovery plans were not working as well as they should but the answer was not to abandon them all together.
“Conservation advices are not an adequate replacement for recovery plans, as they are much less rigorous in what they require and don’t have the same legal clout,” he said.
“To virtually give up on recovery planning would be a terrible admission that there is no political will to tackle Australia’s extinction crisis.”
A spokesperson for the environment department said the recommendations were based on “the best planning outcome for the individual threatened entity, and are subject to public consultation prior to any final decision being made”.
“This is the first tranche of public consultation which invites the public to provide feedback on proposed subsequent recovery plan decisions for 185 species and ecological communities,” the spokesperson said.
“Subsequent public consultation periods for lists of other species and ecological communities will be held.”
A spokesperson for the environment minister, Sussan Ley, said: “The proposed changes have been recommended by the independent Threatened Species Scientific Committee and are now available for public consultation.”
Raptors are on the move. Now is a great time to get out and see the birds of prey as they migrate south for the winter (click here for a list of 10 awesome places to watch the spectacle).
Seeing the birds on the wing is thrilling—particularly when there are large numbers of them—but it can also be frustrating to try and identify them at various angles and distances.
The challenge: Identify and age these common raptors. Some species appear more than once. Scroll down for a list of all of the species shown, and keep going for the answers.
HINT: Below are all of the species pictured.
SCROLL DOWN FOR ANSWERS
1. Sharp-shinned Hawk, immature: Note short, stocky wings and body, long slim tail that is short for an accipiter, and small head. Plumage is difficult to see on distant birds, but 1st-years lack a rufous tone underneath.
2. Bald Eagle: Very distinct white heads and tails and dark overall. Very large with long, broad wings and yellow legs and bill.
3. American Kestrel: Note pale underside with orangey chest, black spots on belly two black “sideburns” on head, and blue upperwing coverts, orange tail with black tip.
4. Northern Harrier: Very distinct brilliant white underside with a black border on flight feathers. Note long, slim wings and tail, and small head.
5. American Kestrel: Note pale underside with orangey chest, black spots on belly two black “sideburns” on head, and blue upperwing coverts, orange tail with black tip.
6. Turkey Vulture: Blackish overall; reddish head can be difficult to see at a distance but white bill usually glows. Note long, broad, squared-off wings, broad tail, and modified dihedral when gliding.
7. Sharp-shinned Hawk, adult: Note short, stocky wings and body, long slim tail that is short for an accipiter, and small head.
8. Broad-winged Hawk, immature: Stocky pointed wings, large head, and short, narrow tail. Pale underside with dark streaking on sides of breast, and indistinct tail pattern with darker tip denote 1st-year. Some (like this bird) have streaks on belly similar to red-tailed.
9. Red-shouldered Hawk, adult: Note somewhat stocky squared-off wings with translucent “commas” along the primaries. Adults have bold black and white bands on wings and tail and a warm reddish underside.
10.Red-shouldered Hawk, immature: Note somewhat stocky squared-off wings with translucent “commas” along the primaries. Pale underside with buffy underwing coverts, and dark, evenly spaced streaking on body denote 1st-year.
11. Northern Harrier: Very distinct brilliant white underside with a black border on flight feathers. Note long, slim wings and tail, and small head.
12. Merlin, adult: Merlin has stockier, more sharply pointed wings, broader, shorter tail, and is “chesty” compared with kestrel. Juvenile and adult female are pale below with heavy, dark streaking, heavily “checkered” underwings, and distinct tail bands.
13. Northern Harrier, immature: Pale underneath mostly brown flight feathers. Note long, narrow wings and tail (showing bands when spread). Head is small with owl-like facial disc.
14.Red-tailed Hawk: Quintessential broad-winged, short-tailed buteo shape. Plumage is pale underneath with dark patagial bars and bellyband.
15.Cooper’s Hawk, immature: Pale underneath with dark streaks throughout underbody, and brown head denote 1st-year. Note long wings for an accipiter, large head, and long tail with white tip.
16.Cooper’s Hawk, immature: Pale underneath with dark streaks throughout underbody, and brown head denote 1st-year. Note long wings for an accipiter, large head, and long tail with white tip.
17. Peregrine Falcon, adult: Pale underneath with heavily streaked body, heavily “checkered” underwings, and dark head. Note very long, pointed wings, heavy body, and broad tail and head. Wingtips are less sharply pointed in a full soar.
18. Osprey: Note the dark stripe through the eye, long, dark brown wings, white underside, and a black bill with sharp hook.
19. Sharp-shinned Hawk, adult: Note short, stocky wings and body, long slim tail that is short for an accipiter, and small head.
Dear Brian Roodt, Owner of Quality Hunting Safaris, Purveyor of Fine Animals,
I read in the Sunday Mirror that you have rhinos and leopards on special. That’s fantastic news. There’s a special on braai packs at my local Spar, but your deal sounds way better. I could do with a juicy leopard kebab right now!
You told the paper that the idea behind the promotion is to lure hunters back to Namibia. Windhoek must be overrun with animals since global travel fell off the back of the bakkie. Can I shoot them from my hotel window? More importantly, is the 20% discount just for overseas hunters or can anyone with a weapon take up your generous offer? I only have a speargun but if I can get close enough it shouldn’t be a problem. I might need help reeling in a buffalo.
You told the Mirror that hunting is vital if Namibian wildlife is to be protected from poachers. This makes perfect sense. I bet animals often run towards you begging to be shot by a decent, God-fearing white man rather than some swarthy heathen from Mozambique.
You also said the animals always have a chance of “escaping the sights” of the shooter. It’s very kind of you to give them that option. And those that can’t dodge a bullet fired from 500m away by a man disguised as a silwerbossie only have to outrun the Land Cruiser until it runs out of fuel. Can’t get fairer than that.
You say on your website that “leopard hunting is largely an exercise in patience and can last as long as 12 days”. That can’t be right. I’m not courting a woman, you know. I’d want to get in, shoot one in the face and be back in the bar for sundowners. Couldn’t you just tie one to a tree for me? Oh, right. You say you practice “ethical hunting”.
Actually, twelve days might not be so bad. I thought it involved walking. “This time is spent quietly waiting inside the pop-up blinds located near the bait drop.” Is the bait ethically sourced? Never mind. If you left the bait right outside the hide, we could just grab him while he’s snout down, bring him back to the lodge and kick him to death around the braai. Would something like that cost extra?
“If you have what it takes,” says your website, “bagging your monster tom will be an experience you won’t soon forget.” By “what it takes”, do you mean a good aim, a high-powered rifle or the requisite sociopathic tendencies? I love that you refer to a leopard as a “monster tom”, as if he’s some huge murderous ginger tomcat with an impressive set of testicles and a penchant for roaming the neighbourhood looking for fights and casual sex.
I do like the look of your rhino special. Even though your prices are only in dollars and euros, I have a good brain and with a little help managed to convert everything into rands. So, R337 000. I don’t know what this comes to after you factor in the 20% discount. I’m not that clever. Do you do returns? I might find my rhino has a grumpy face and then I’d like to shoot another at no extra cost.
I see the fee includes five days’ accommodation in the lodge. Are drinks included? I can easily finish off a quarter of a million rand’s worth of beer in five days and wouldn’t want to be charged for that as well.
Your leopard special is a bit steep at R366 000, but if it comes with chips and a complementary cocktail, I’m in. It would mean travelling to Namibia, though, so maybe not. At least the rhino special is available in South Africa.
My favourite, though, is your combo deal. I’m a big fan. When I go to a seafood restaurant, I always have the hake and prawn combo. Your hippo and croc combo sounds delicious. Do you pair it with Jägermeister? At R242 000, it’s a pretty good deal for these violent water-based creatures, even though a visually impaired toddler would be able to shoot a croc. It’s their own fault for being so lethargic. Would I be responsible for cutting off their heads and shipping them back to my place? I hope not. It looks like messy work.
Hold on, I see you also offer five of the Tiny Ten for R136 000. That’s R27 000 apiece for something small enough to fit into a Woolies bag. Now there’s a good deal! My speargun would be perfectly suited to reeling in a steenbokkie or two. This is definitely more my thing. No heavy lifting. A klipspringer will come right up to you and eat out of your hand. You could strangle him without even spilling your drink.
Bird CallsBlack-and-White Warbler, Dennis W. Donohue/Shutterstock
Perched on the brink of extinction, lost birds are among the most intriguing enigmas in the bird world. Unseen for decades or more, the existence of these birds — known only from outdated photos, drawings, or a museum specimen or two — remains a source of lingering question and doubt.
Sometimes they remain hidden in unsafe or remote areas. In other cases, the birds are overlooked, considered part of a closely related and more widespread species until scientists, in a taxonomic twist, declare them separate species. Whatever the circumstances, these birds are among the rarest of the rare. In the Western Hemisphere, at least two dozen bird species have been classified as “lost.”
Despite needle-in-a-haystack odds, researchers have rediscovered birds five times in the Americas in the last five years. These finds offer deeper insights into the lives of these mysterious birds — and a fresh opportunity to protect them from the brink of extinction.
Blue-eyed Ground-Dove. Photo by Ciro Albano
Number One: Blue-eyed Beauty
In Brazil, a combination of skill and luck led to the July 2015 rediscovery of the spectacular Blue-eyed Ground-Dove, which had been lost for 75 years.
This lost bird was known only from a few scattered records in the Brazilian savanna, referred to locally as the cerrado. Over the 75 years, much of the area’s value as bird habitat was lost due to burning and agricultural encroachment, raising further doubts about the ground-dove’s existence.
That changed when a researcher, Rafael Bessa, heard a bird call he did not recognize while conducting a bird survey far to the east of the dove’s suspected range. By recording the call and playing it back, Bessa was able to photograph the bird and confirm its survival.
More recently, ABC supported a conservation planning workshop orchestrated by SAVE Brasil to determine the next steps for the ground-dove. Proposed actions include additional searches and studying nesting success with camera traps. SAVE Brasil is also considering starting a captive breeding population.
With fewer than 20 birds in separate areas known, the Blue-eyed Ground-Dove’s future is not yet secure, and sustained conservation efforts are still needed to increase its population.
Táchira Antpitta. Photo by Jhonathan Miranda
Number Two: Song from the Shadows
Roughly 60 years ago, the stubby, short-tailed Táchira Antpitta was last observed within the forests of South America. Then, in 2016, a search team supported by ABC and the Smithsonian Institution and led by Jhonathan Miranda of the Red Siskin Initiative and Provita, located the lost antpitta in Venezuela.
To find this bird, searchers consulted the notes of the collector who discovered the first one. Those descriptions led the party to the original area of discovery.
They knew the easiest way to find the Táchira, or any antpitta, was to listen for its far-carrying song. But no one knew what the Táchira Antpitta sounded like. It was only known from the collector’s notes and a few museum specimens — making the quest to find this elusive bird even more difficult.
In the field, the team heard what sounded like an antpitta, so they got to work, returning to the area again and again until, elated, they took good photographs and made sound recordings – enough evidence to confirm that this bird remains among the living.
Now, with the knowledge of the bird’s vocalizations, researcher Jhonathan Miranda and others hope to find more birds elsewhere in Venezuela and across the border in Colombia.
Blue-bearded Helmetcrest. Photo by Sebastian Ballesteros Caro
Number Three: Mountaintop Marvel
The flashy Blue-bearded Helmetcrest long languished in taxonomic obscurity, lumped with other helmetcrest species. It was last observed in 1946. During much of the time this bird remained lost, it was considered part of another, more widespread species, which meant less attention from conservationists.
Searches conducted in the 1990s and early 2000s failed to encounter the species in what’s now known to be its small range. In 2013, a scientific paper advocated splitting helmetcrest species. Shortly after, in March 2015, ABC partner Fundación ProAves launched a search and rediscovered this bird.
The Blue-bearded Helmetcrest inhabits high-altitude shrublands known as páramo, where it is closely associated with frailejón plants growing on the high peaks of Colombia’s Santa Marta Mountains.
While this area is remote, it is not untouched. Fires set to manage pastures for cattle frequently degrade the habitat. However, since the bird’s rediscovery, a nonprofit organization called the Amazon Conservation Team, has begun working with local indigenous groups, and has initiated an app-based monitoring system to better understand the distribution of this hummingbird.
Despite its rarity, the Blue-bearded Helmetcrest continues to be seen in the Santa Marta Mountains, including, most recently in January 2018, when it was spotted by a visiting birder.
Number Four: The Biggest Lost Bird Re-found
The turkey-sized, curly-crested Belem Curassow inhabits one of the most deforested regions in Brazil’s Amazon region, and had last been spotted in the wild in 1978.
Thirty-eight years later, the curassow suddenly re-appeared, when three were found in a small Brazilian zoo. The following year, in 2017, something even more exciting happened: Scientists working with local indigenous people found a pair of Belem Curassows — known as the Mytunxi in the local Tupi language — in the wild.
Although curassows are highly vulnerable to deforestation and hunting pressure, their populations can recover — even in degraded forests — if provided relief from hunting. And, fortunately, the rediscovered birds are protected within the Gurupi Biological Reserve in northeastern Brazil.
Researchers used sound recordings and photos to document the rediscovery, as reported online in the Brazilian environmental journal ((o))eco. Check out the curassow’s alarm call, which sounds like a high-pitched, space-movie laser.
Bahama Nuthatch. Photo by Tom Benson
Number Five: Bahama’s One-Island Wonder
Grand Bahama island was but one island hit by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, but it was the only remaining home for a brown-capped passerine, the Bahama Nuthatch, which was last spotted before the hurricane’s arrival. Subsequent searches of its pineland habitat were unsuccessful, and it looked as though the hurricane might have claimed the species.
That changed in May 2018, when a field crew led by Zeko McKenzie, a researcher at the University of The Bahamas-North, found, photographed, and videotaped the lost nuthatch, documenting the species’ continued survival. McKenzie was part of a search team that was supported by American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the Bahamas National Trust, and others. Another team, led by ornithologists from the University of East Anglia, was looking as well. After a short while, both teams confirmed the presence of the nuthatch.
So far, at least five individuals have been counted, and ABC is considering actions to protect the rediscovered Bahama Nuthatch and, hopefully, find more of these rare birds.
Stresemann’s Bristlefront. Photo by Ciro Albano
UPDATE: “World’s Rarest Bird” Sighted in Brazil
An individual Stresemann’s Bristlefront, one of the world’s most endangered birds, was observed in Brazil in December 2018, after months of searches had come up empty. Sightings of the bristlefront on December 12th and 14th in fragments of habitat in Bahia, Brazil, have renewed hope that there is still time to save this remarkable, ground-nesting songbird from extinction. With only one currently known individual, this may well be the world’s rarest bird — although researchers do hope to find more individuals in the near future.
Coming Soon: Rediscovered Hummingbirds
If you want to read about other rediscovered birds, check back in the coming weeks: I plan to post another blog focused on hummingbird rediscoveries from prior decades.
Daniel Lebbin is the Vice President of Threatened Species at American Bird Conservancy. He completed his Ph.D. dissertation at Cornell University in 2007 on habitat specialization of Amazonian birds. f you have an interest in searching for any of the species mentioned in this blog, or supporting expeditions to look for them, contact Dan at email@example.com.
Reddish Egret conservation efforts may help conserve an entire ecosystem. It’s a warm, humid spring evening on South Padre Island, a thin, 34-mile-long barrier island sheltering the southernmost tip of Texas. The skies are filling with the sharp silhouettes of birds — wings, beaks, tails of all shapes and sizes — as they make their … Read More>>Next postBird News Roundup: Week of 1/14/19
Still catching up from the holidays and New Years? Take a break with our latest roundup of notable bird and bird conservation news. We’ve got updates about some of your favorite species, from Whooping Crane to Lear’s Macaw. 1. “Feisty hummingbirds prioritize fencing over feeding,” Science Daily Hummingbirds are more complicated than we thought. Their … Read More>>
We need your help to protect ALL big cats in South Africa!
Minister Barbara Creecy has recently released a draft Policy Position on the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros. We are encouraged by the Department’s decisions, but there is no doubt that more needs to be done in South Africa to end the farming and commercial trade in all big cat species.
This change in legislation is more important than ever. The exploitation of big cats in South Africa continues to grow and includes not only indigenous species like lions, but also exotic species such as tigers and jaguars. All big cats deserve protection.
How can you make a difference?
We’re asking you to voice your support of the Government’s decision to close the captive lion industry and furthermore ban ALL breeding and commercial trade of big cats. This is your chance to speak up for the welfare of all captive big cats. You can help with only a few clicks, which will submit a letter to government supporting our recommendations – which you can review in the message to government window..
YOSEMITE, Calif. – A Yosemite National Park ranger has shared a heartfelt, heartbreaking story about a young bear that was struck and killed by a vehicle and her grieving mother that spent hours by her side hoping to wake her up.
“From behind me there’s a deep toned but soft sounding grunt. I immediately know what it is. It’s a vocalization, the kind sows (female bears) make to call to their cubs,” the ranger shared in a Facebook post on Friday, along with a powerfully moving photo of the bear standing over her cub, which the ranger estimated was just months old.
“This bear is the mom, and she never left her cub,” the ranger continued.
In a Facebook post on July 16, 2021, a Yosemite park ranger shared a moving account of responding to a dead bear cub and learning it was hit by a vehicle. The ranger said that the mother had been by its side for hours trying to wake her cub. (Yosemite National Park)
The post began with the ranger acknowledging how common bear killings were and how hardened rangers’ hearts have become to these calls, due to the frequency of these events. Vehicle-bear collisions have been identified as one of the leading causes of death for black bears in Yosemite.
“‘Bear hit by vehicle, dead on the side of the road.’ Sadly, it’s become routine,” the ranger wrote.
The post went on to explain the process of going into the “routine” of responding to the call, which had come in some five hours earlier.
Once on scene, the ranger went through the steps of taking care of what was expected to be the latest in a string of similar cases.
“My job here is easy, really: find the bear, move its body far away from the road to prevent any other animals from getting hit while scavenging on it, fill out a report, and collect samples and measurements for research,” the post said. “Then I’m off on my way again with another number to add to the total of bears hit by vehicles this year—data we hope will help prevent future collisions. Pretty callous,” the ranger wrote, adding, “However, the reality behind each of these numbers is not.”
To the ranger, this case would prove to be a painful reminder that each killed bear logged into the system was more than just a number, more than just data as part of a report.
The ranger surveyed the scene, inspecting the surroundings, looking for the usual signs and scanning the road for blood that might reveal where the animal’s body was.
“I try to remember how many times I’ve done this now and, truthfully, I don’t know,” the writer pondered, while going through the motions, and noted, “This is not what any of us signs up for, but it’s a part of the job nonetheless.”
And then a clue caught the ranger’s eyes: a vehicle part, presumably something that was once a section of an undercarriage. The training and vast experience prompted the ranger to the next move, to search the immediate area for a bear’s still body.
Two San Francisco brothers claim highline record at Yosemite
Two brothers from San Francisco say they have set a record for the longest highline ever walked in both Yosemite National Park and California. Earlier this month, they and a group of friends spent nearly a week stringing a single, 2,800-foot-long line from Taft Point west across a series of gulleys that plunge 1,600 feet. Highlining is high-altitude slacklining, in which a narrow strip of strong, nylon webbing — usually an inch wide and a few millimeters thick — is strung between two anchor points and serves as a kind of balance beam.
“I turn my gaze from the car part down the embankment on the side of the road and there it is,” the post explained.
What the ranger found next, prompted a pause as the animal was much smaller than expected. “A cub,” the ranger shared, describing the discovery. “Its tiny light brown body laying just feet from me and the road, nearly invisible to every passerby. It’s a new cub—couldn’t be much more than six months old, now balled up and lifeless under a small pine tree.”
This call may have hit the ranger a little harder than the others, as the lifeless body was so small. “For a moment I lose track of time as I stand there staring at its tiny body,” the writer explained, noting it didn’t take long to snap out of it and remember what needed to be done next. “…the sound of more cars whizzing by reminds me of my place and my role. I let out a deep sigh and continue on with my task.”
But first, the ranger explained of being compelled to place the small cub in a different location before getting to the “task” of the job.
“I pick up the cub—it couldn’t be much more than 25 pounds—and begin carrying it off into the woods. I have no certain destination; I’m just walking until I can no longer hear the hiss of the road behind me,” the writer recounted. “The least I can do is find it a nice place to be laid. I lay it down in the grass protected by one of the nearby logs and sit back on the log opposite of it, slightly relieved that it looks far more in place now than when I found it earlier.”
As the ranger started getting to work, there in the quiet of the woods came a sudden and startling sound of a snapping stick. The ranger looked up to find a dark figure, its dark eyes staring back.
“It’s another bear. Surprised, I stand up quickly and the bear runs off into the brush,” the ranger wrote, noting that the animal took a moment to look back once more before leaving completely.
The bear did eventually get out of sight, prompting the ranger to chalk it up to being just a coincidence and speculate that the bear might have been looking for food or perhaps the area was a common crossing for others of its kind.
But within minutes, the ranger would know that it was not just a coincidence, that the bear had intentionally and with purpose found her way there, seeking and hoping for only one thing. And the animal would return as part of that pursuit. The scene that unfolded was a powerful reminder of the important work Yosemite rangers and other conservationists do to try and protect the iconic park and its inhabitants.
When the bear returned, the ranger would be notified of her presence by the sad, heart-wrenching sound that she made as she called for her cub.
“I turn and look in its direction and there she is, the same bear from before intently staring back at me. It’s no coincidence. I can feel the callousness drain from my body,” the writer recalled. “My heart sinks. It’s been nearly six hours and she still hasn’t given up on her cub. I can just imagine how many times she darted back and forth on that road in attempts to wake it.”
The ranger detailed the emotional scene, explaining how the mother’s calls to her cub continue, “sounding more pained each time.” The ranger watched on saying it was impossible not to hope that in some miraculous event, the cub would wake up and respond back to her mama. “…but of course, nothing,” the writer shared. “Now here I am, standing between a grieving mother and her child. I feel like a monster.”
And the ranger decided it was time to leave. “I get up, quickly pack my bag, and get out of there… even though my task is not done.”
But before leaving the mother bear and her dead cub, the park worker took out a camera to document the grim scene, with hopes of turning this moment into one that would educate visitors to the park and teach them that this moment could have been prevented.
“Every year we report the number of bears that get hit by vehicles, but numbers don’t always paint a picture,” the writer shared. “I want people to see what I saw: the sad reality behind each of these numbers.”
And the ranger made an urgent call to those who came to the park to take in the majestic world it had to offer.
“So please, remember this,” the ranger pleaded, “we are all just visitors in the home of countless animals and it is up to us to follow the rules that protect them. Go the speed limit, drive alertly, and look out for wildlife. Protecting Yosemite’s black bears is something we can all do.”
File of bear crossing the road.
Visitors to Yosemite National Park can learn more about how to prevent vehicle-bear collisions by clicking here.
GUWAHATI: Over three-fold increase in the number of adult tigers in the Manas National Park in a decade that has created a national record in tiger conservation in the country, may also result in infighting inside the park.
Such fear and apprehension are seen among renowned wildlife activists and NGOs.
“Better management and protection measures have increased to tigers in Manas, which is a positive sign. But in coming years, the focus should be given on the management of the prey base, so that deaths due to infighting do not take place”, said Dr Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, CEO of Aaranyak, leading wildlife protection and conservation NGO said.
The National Park once ravaged by the problem of insurgency can now boast of having 38 adult tigers. The park had only 10 adult tigers in 2010.
The 12th annual camera trapping survey conducted this year has revealed the presence of 48 tigers, of which 38 are adults, 3 sub-adults and 7 cubs in Manas. Among the adult tigers, 21 are females, 16 males and 1 unidentified sex. The extensive systematic camera trap survey was carried out for the first time in Manas Tiger Reserve covering Manas National Park, First Addition to Manas National Park and Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary-together covering a total area of 876 sq. km approximately.
The annual survey in Manas using camera-traps is led by the Field Director of Manas Tiger Reserve and supported by Aaranyak and WWF India and has been continuing since 2010 in Manas for monitoring the tigers, co-predators and prey animals, with constant support from various donors and collaborators. This year Manas is celebrating the 12th year of collaboration with Aaranyak and WWF India for the annual camera trapping survey dedicated to assessing the population status of tigers in the area.
Dr M Firoz Ahmed, scientist and head of Tiger Research and Conservation Division, Aaranyak said, “Manas is a unique landscape that offers tremendous scope for conservation of Tigers and another biodiversity in a transboundary conservation landscape. The future of conservation of the landscape lies with both India and Bhutan as the forest on either side of the international boundary complements with each other, which was proved by new understandings how individual tigers share transboundary space.”
Any Teslas round here? [image credit: Edal Anton Lefterov @ Wikipedia]
A bit of light relief perhaps, unless you’re already one of the victims or could soon become one. Are electric cars more appealing than combustion-engined types to hungry rodents? Check those brake cables.
– – –
Elon Musk may have a rat problem, says The New York Post.
Fans of the South African billionaire’s electric cars say rats, mice and rodents are chomping down on their Teslas.
And despite having dropped tens of thousands of dollars to buy the pricey vehicles, Tesla refuses to cover the damage.
Sarah Williams, a 41-year-old physician who lives in Manhattan and uses her Tesla to commute to work in the Bronx, told The Post of an alarming incident when she took her 2018 Model 3 into Tesla’s Paramus, NJ, dealership in mid-May after her air conditioner had stopped working.
When Virginia McKenna was asked to star in the film Born Free with her husband Bill Travers she knew it might be career-changing, but she could never have guessed it would transform her life.
Virginia has always had an affection for animals, but it was getting to know the lions in the film that made her and Bill give up their Hollywood careers and dedicate their lives to conservation.
The 1966 film was based on the true story of wildlife conservationist George Adamson and his wife Joy, who had taken in three orphaned lion cubs and raised one of them, Elsa, to adulthood before releasing her into the wild.
It was the most popular movie at the British box office that year and won two Oscars, but for Virginia and Bill, who played the Adamsons, it changed everything.
‘Before Born Free we knew almost nothing about lions or the wider conservation world,’ Virginia, 90, tells me from her cottage in the Surrey Hills. Virginia McKenna, 90, speaking from her cottage in the Surrey Hills, said starring in 1966 film Born Free with husband Bill Travers transformed her life. Pictured Virginia with lioness, Girl
‘So on the three-week voyage by ship to Kenya we spent almost all our time reading every book or article about lions we could. But it was the constant presence of George, who was the technical advisor on the film, that taught us so much – how to interpret lion behaviour, how to tell when one was unsettled or relaxed.
‘We learned about the challenges facing wildlife, although in those days it seemed as if the natural world went on forever. I think I’m right in saying that when Born Free was made there were 100,000 to 200,000 wild lions across Africa. Today there are just 20,000. Making Born Free was the spark for us.’
Bill had starred in films with Ava Gardner and Jean Simmons while Virginia, nine years his junior, was a stunning up-and-coming actress when they first met as the leads in the play I Capture The Castle in 1954. They met again two years later after Virginia had split up with her husband Denholm Elliott and were married within a year. They went on to star in a number of films together before Born Free made them global stars. When filming finished Virginia and Bill were horrified to learn that most of the 20 or so lions used in the film would be taken to zoos and wildlife parks around the globe. Pictured: Virginia and Bill as Joy and George with some of the adorable cubs in 1966’s Born Free It made her and Bill (pictured) give up their Hollywood careers and dedicate their lives to conservation
But when filming finished Virginia and Bill were horrified to learn that most of the 20 or so lions used in the film would be taken to zoos and wildlife parks around the globe. ‘This was terrible,’ she says. ‘But we managed to save three of them, including a brother and sister and a big lion who was saved from an animal orphanage in Nairobi.’
George persuaded Virginia and Bill to stay with him and the lions in Kenya’s Meru National Park instead of returning to Hollywood, but they soon found that living with big cats could be unpredictable. ‘One day we were out walking with two young lions, Boy and Girl,’ recalls Virginia.
‘They started to stalk a group of gazelle, and Boy kept snagging our ankles to get us to join them in the game. On our hands and knees we crept closer, but it was painful and at one stage I stood up. The spell was broken and Boy leapt at me, not in anger but more with a sense of regret that the game was over. Soon they were campaigning for an end to wildlife in captivity, but it was an experience with Pole Pole the baby elephant that made Virginia come to the conclusion that all zoos should be shut. Pictured: The powerful Mail photo of Pole Pole reaching out to Virginia and Bill at London Zoo
Click here to resize this module One of several features the Daily Mail ran in 1983 supporting Virginia and Bill’s Pole Pole crusade, pictured
AN ELEPHANT NEVER FORGETS ITS REAL HOME
We called her name and she stretched out her trunk to us: Virginia and her husband Bill Travers (pictured) visiting Pole Pole in 1983
The phone call I received from Virginia McKenna to my office at the Daily Mail in Fleet Street on 18 October 1983, in which she sobbed uncontrollably at the death of a much-loved elephant, will be forever etched on my mind. I wasn’t to know it at the time, but it was a moment that would play a significant role in igniting the global conservation movement, helped by a Daily Mail photograph.
The Mail was supporting Virginia in her battle to have Pole Pole the elephant moved from her desolate enclosure at London Zoo to a large leafy space at Whipsnade, and had published several moving features about the elephant’s plight. From time to time Virginia and her husband Bill Travers visited Pole Pole, taking her a big bag of oranges, her favourite fruit. As soon as Pole Pole heard Virginia calling, she would stop pacing her pen, walk to the moat and extend her trunk to touch Bill and Virginia’s outstretched hands in recognition of her old friends.
As Virginia shed tears at this poignant moment, Daily Mail photographer Ted Blackbrow took what has become one of the most powerful images ever in the campaign against locking wild animals up in zoos. The photo hung on the wall of the features department at the Mail and I was looking at it when Virginia, weeping, told me the shocking news. ‘Pole Pole’s dead. They’ve killed her. And London Zoo must take the blame.’
Despite her distress, Virginia wrote a moving article about Pole Pole for the Mail which was published all over the world alongside Ted’s photograph. Thousands of messages of sympathy reached Virginia, and the zoo sustained such a bombardment of criticism it eventually closed its elephant compound in Regent’s Park and began a revolutionary reorganisation of the animals’ living spaces.
It was Pole Pole’s death that led Virginia to set up the campaign group Zoo Check, which began with an auction of personal possessions from friends in a room above the Queen’s Elm pub in Chelsea, conducted by Ronnie Corbett, that raised £2,000. Today, 37 years later and now known as the Born Free Foundation, it has 200 employees and an annual income of £5m.
‘There is no doubt the Daily Mail photograph was a catalyst for change,’ Virginia tells me now. ‘How could people fail to respond to such a deeply poignant image. An elephant never forgets… and it never forgets it was born free. It was wonderful the paper was there to record the moment, and we are grateful for it.’
‘I heard a sickening snap in my ankle when I landed with Boy on top of me. Bill took off his shirt and wiggled it through the grass to distract Boy, and he managed to get the lions into the back of the Land Rover before taking me to hospital. I was in plaster for weeks, but who was the first to greet me when I came back? Boy! He came straight up to the Land Rover and stuck his massive head through the half-open window to say hello.’
Soon Virginia and Bill were campaigning for an end to wildlife in captivity, but it was the traumatic experience with her ‘adorable little friend’ Pole Pole the baby elephant while making the 1969 film An Elephant Called Slowly that brought Virginia to the conclusion that all zoos should be shut.
In the film Bill and Virginia played themselves, house-sitting in Kenya, when three elephants turn up in the grounds and ‘adopt’ their new humans before returning to the wild when they leave.
After filming Pole Pole was due to make the long journey from Nairobi to a concrete enclosure at London Zoo. Virginia begged the government to let her buy the elephant and take it to a safe place, but they would agree only if they could take another elephant from the wild for the zoo.
‘It was shattering,’ she says. ‘We couldn’t endorse another elephant being taken from its family to go into captivity, we just couldn’t.’
A decade later, she and Bill mustered the emotional strength to visit their imprisoned friend a few times at London Zoo. ‘We called her name and she stretched out her trunk to touch our hands,’ she recalls. ‘It’s a moment I shall never forget. I suppose it was then that we became activists, and we campaigned for Pole Pole to go back to Africa.’
But the story gets worse. In 1983 Pole Pole was due to be transferred to Whipsnade in Bedfordshire, which would have more space and a herd for her to join. First she was darted with tranquillisers, but part of the needle was left in her skin and turned septic.
‘They then kept her standing in her travelling crate for many hours and she collapsed,’ says Virginia, her voice cracking. ‘They examined her and said she’d lost the will to live. Her death is what caused all this to start.’
Sitting around their kitchen table in Surrey, Virginia, Bill and their son Will set up Zoo Check to hold zoos to account and ensure they treated wild animals properly. Zoo Check (which evolved into the Born Free Foundation) sent out a survey to investigate 340 zoos on the continent, but it was found that there were actually 1,007, meaning only just over a third were registered.
This led to the 1999 EU Zoos Directive, requiring registration as well as adherence to conservation, welfare and education criteria. ‘Our purpose was to look at what was going on in zoos and the consequences for the animals,’ explains Virginia. ‘If no one agreed with us we would have disappeared without a trace. But we’ve just marked our 37th birthday.’
Pole Pole’s death also led Virginia to lead a campaign to stop London Zoo housing elephants, and in 2001 the zoo shut its elephant enclosure after more than 170 years.
And just last month it was announced that legislation is being prepared that would prohibit the importation of any new elephants to UK zoos, with the existing population being allowed to die out naturally.
It is also proposed that zoos will lose their charitable status if they fail to prove they’re doing sufficient conservation work.
‘Zoos will never be acceptable,’ says Virginia. ‘Of course, if an animal becomes injured in the wild it has to be looked after, but you can’t then keep a wild animal out of the wild. I don’t believe in people being locked up unless they’ve done something terribly wrong. These animals haven’t done anything wrong and they’re being locked up anyway. The zoos are saying, “Hooray, the visitors are coming back,” after lockdown, but I wonder if the visitors realise that lockdown for these animals is permanent.’ Virginia (pictured) remains an irrepressible activist at 90, saying, zoos will ‘never be acceptable’ as ‘lockdown for these animals is permanent’ Virginia pictured paying her respects at the grave of the real lion, Elsa, in Kenya, which the film Born Free was based on
Virginia, Bill and Will have been one of conservation’s most influential families, with the Born Free Foundation changing the lives of millions of creatures in captivity. Ironically, it was Born Free the film, Bill’s most successful ever, that made him turn his back on stardom and concentrate on animal documentaries.
CARRIE’S FIGHTING VIRGINIA’S CORNER
Virginia has an ally in the prime minister’s wife Carrie Johnson. Pictured: With Damian Aspinall
Virginia has an ally in the prime minister’s wife Carrie Johnson, who runs communications for the Aspinall Foundation and shares the belief that all wild animals should be returned to their natural habitat.
Although Damian Aspinall and his family own two wildlife parks in Kent, Howletts and Port Lympne, they say that all their animals are earmarked to return to the wild. They breed populations of endangered species in large numbers so they can be released in Africa, and are responsible for the successful reintroduction of gorillas to Gabon.
Carrie has been a vocal campaigner against the neglect of animals in zoos, recently steering the Aspinall Foundation to petition for help for a sick lion languishing in Tehran Zoo. Pictured: The sick Tehran lion
Kamran, a rare Asiatic lion, was moved there from Bristol Zoo in 2019 but contracted a disease called feline viral rhinotracheitis. The Aspinall Foundation has called for urgent medical help for Kamran, and a move to a more suitable enclosure.
Virginia is sympathetic to their views, but remains unconvinced that animals should be bred away from their natural habitat. ‘Damian Aspinall has certainly done more than most,’ she says, ‘but it’s very expensive and fraught with difficulties. I’m still in two minds.’
‘He did acting off and on but documentaries were what he wanted to do,’ Virginia recalls. ‘And Hollywood was all a bit too contrived for me. George’s little camp was so real. Every day was a beautiful, simple, authentic challenge. We once went with our four children for Christmas. It was surreal sitting in his mess-hut eating Christmas lunch wearing paper hats, with lions resting quietly just outside the perimeter fence.’
It was while Bill was filming documentaries about zoos in Europe that he coined the word ‘zoochosis’, to describe the unnatural behaviour exhibited by captive animals. ‘We saw great apes smearing faeces on the walls, giraffes compulsively licking the bars of their enclosure and an elephant smashing its trunk on the side of its face,’ says Virginia. ‘That’s the sort of behaviour seen by prisoners in solitary confinement.’
Realising the impact Born Free had on the public, Virginia, Bill and Will renamed their charity after the blockbuster in 1991. Virginia has coaxed celebrity friends into joining the cause, including Martin Clunes, Bryan Adams and Joanna Lumley, who was their first patron. Born Free has since led a successful campaign to ban the use of wild animals in circuses in this country as of January last year, and played a part in ending the UK’s dolphinarium industry – there were once more than 30 aquariums with dolphins here but the final tank was drained in 1993.
Yet while Born Free makes convincing arguments, the general consensus is still in favour of zoos. Proponents argue they give people a chance to become concerned about endangered species they would otherwise not know about. They have also saved many animals from extinction, including the Brazilian Spix’s macaw, star of 2011 Disney film Rio, which was declared extinct in the wild in 2018 but is now due to be returned to the wild after a successful breeding programme. All regulated zoos in Europe have to dedicate a portion of their takings to conservation, and London Zoo has improved habitats for animals across the globe, from angel sharks off the coast of Wales to the Sumatran tiger in Indonesia.
But Virginia’s son Will thinks zoos do more harm than good, and believes it’s wasteful to spend millions of pounds on state-of-the-art enclosures when the wild is crying out for investment, pointing out that some enclosures cost more than the entire wildlife budget of some African countries. ‘As an example, they built a new elephant house at Los Angeles Zoo seven or eight years ago. The old one was just under two acres, the new one is just over two acres, and it cost $14 million,’ he says. ‘That’s close to the entire annual operating budget of the Kenya Wildlife Service, which is responsible for 6 million acres of land, 35,000 elephants, 1,000 rhino and 2,500 lions. Born Free can’t accept this is the best we can do, because it clearly isn’t.’
So what would happen to the animals if all zoos were shut? Born Free’s position is that zoos should be phased out over time, giving the animals in captivity a chance to live out their natural lives or be rehomed in more humane conditions. ‘We started campaigning on circus animals in the mid-90s, and the use of wild animals in circuses was eventually ended in 2019, 25 years later,’ explains Virginia, who hopes her plans for the closure of zoos will be her legacy. ‘It’ll be challenging and we’ll need to be brave but if we truly want what’s best for the world’s wildlife then, in my opinion, zoos are not the answer.’
Agreement with USDA’s Wildlife Services curbs killing of cougars, bears, and other native species 6
SANTA FE, NM—In a major win for New Mexico’s wildlife, WildEarth Guardians settled its lawsuit against USDA’s Wildlife Services after the federal program agreed to stop its reckless slaughter of native carnivores such as black bears, cougars, and foxes on all federal public lands; cease killing all carnivores on specific protected federal lands; and end the use of cruel traps, snares, and poisons on public lands.
The settlement additionally requires public reporting of Wildlife Services’ activities in the state, including documenting non-lethal preventative measures employed by the program. These protections will remain in place pending the program’s completion of a detailed and public environmental review of its work.
The settlement agreement comes after WildEarth Guardians sued Wildlife Services in October 2020 over the program’s reliance on severely outdated environmental reviews of its work. The agreement, filed with the federal district court of New Mexico, ensures that Wildlife Services will no longer conduct any wildlife killing in New Mexico’s specially protected areas such as designated Wilderness, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, and Wild & Scenic River corridors. The program will cease using sodium cyanide bombs (M44s) and other poisons on all public lands within the state. Additionally, the program will no longer kill beavers, which are increasingly seen as critical to mitigating the effects of widespread drought.
Notably, the agreement also mandates that a program district supervisor reviews all wolf depredation investigation reports before a livestock depredation determination is made in an effort to ensure appropriate safeguards for the endangered Mexican gray wolves that inhabit southwestern New Mexico.
“It’s past time for Wildlife Services to start grappling with 21st century science showing killing wildlife in hopes of preventing livestock losses doesn’t work, is often counterproductive, horribly inhumane, and robs native ecosystems of critically important apex carnivores,” said Jennifer Schwartz, staff attorney at WildEarth Guardians. “We’re glad our settlement kickstarts this process, while affording New Mexico’s wildlife some reprieve from the government’s archaic and cruel killing practices.”
The settlement agreement, finalized on March 11, 2021, includes multiple temporary provisions that will soon become permanent parts of New Mexico law as the result of the enactment of the Wildlife Conservation and Public Safety Act (“Roxy’s Law”) earlier this month. Roxy’s Law—championed by WildEarth Guardians and its allies in the TrapFree New Mexico coalition—bans the use of traps, snares, and poisons, on all public lands in the state of New Mexico. While Roxy’s Law is set to go into effect on April 1, 2022, the settlement agreement ensures that Wildlife Services refrains from using these devices on public lands immediately.
“The past several weeks have seen incredible wins for New Mexico’s native wildlife,” said Chris Smith, southern Rockies wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “With the climate crisis, drought, and human expansion all taking a toll on our state’s biodiversity, it’s time we stop seeing wildlife as something that needs to be killed and culled and instead see it as something that deserves protection and respect.”
Wildlife Services is culpable of killing thousands of animals in New Mexico each year including coyotes, cougars, prairie dogs, several varieties of fox, and even endangered Mexican gray wolves. Per federal law, Wildlife Services must use up-to-date studies and the best available science to analyze the environmental impact of their animal damage control program on New Mexico’s wildlife and native ecosystems. Under the agreement, Wildlife Services must provide an environmental analysis of the effects and risks of its wildlife-killing program in New Mexico by December 31, 2021.
The settlement agreement also requires Wildlife Services to significantly increase its overall transparency with the public by documenting and releasing—via its state website—detailed yearly reports of its wildlife “damage control” practices. This includes the number and type of animals captured and by which method, the number of requests for assistance and the reason given (livestock protection, health and safety, nuisance, etc.), and types of non-lethal preventative measures employed by Wildlife Services or the party requesting lethal control. This type of detailed information has previously only been available through formal Freedom of Information Act requests, which typically take many months, if not years, for USDA to fulfill.
“A public reporting requirement will compel Wildlife Services to be held accountable to the general public for its actions,” said Schwartz. “We hope that this motivates Wildlife Services to employ practices in line with the values of the public and embrace the use of scientifically verified non-lethal conflict prevention.”
BackgroundWildlife Services is a multimillion-dollar federal program that uses painful leghold traps, strangulation snares, poisons and aerial gunning to kill wolves, coyotes, cougars, birds, and other wild animals. Most of the killing responds to requests from the agriculture industry.
The program reported killing more than 433,000 native animals nationwide in 2020. Nontarget animals, including pets and protected wildlife like wolves, grizzlies and eagles, are also at risk from the program’s indiscriminate methods.
Over the last five years, litigation by WildEarth Guardians and partners against Wildlife Services has resulted in settlement agreements and legal victories in Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and New Mexico, all curbing the program’s slaughter of native wildlife and making the program accountable for its activities.
Large male black bear feeding on hawthorn berries during the fall. Photo by Sam Parks.
PETITION TARGET: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
American horses bound for slaughter often endure a grueling journey to international kill floors before they’re hustled into chutes, butchered, and sold as meat.
As part of this cruel and deadly pipeline, the United States ships horses to Canada and Mexico, where it is legal to butcher them for human consumption.
Every week, hundreds of horses are sent to Mexican slaughterhouses, according to official USDA export reports.Over 6,800 have been sent to slaughter in the last six months alone. This number doesn’t include the horses sent to Canada who suffer the same horrible fate.
Americans have increasingly spoken out about the grisly demise of these iconic animals, but the United States is still sending innocent horses to slaughter, despite a temporary ban on killing these precious animals for meat. But there’s new hope for these wild horses.
The Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act would ban the live export of horses to Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses for sales overseas. This bipartisan bill — sponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) — would also permanently ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the United States.
We must end this senseless killing.
Sign the petition urging Congress to support and pass the SAFE Act to permanently ban transporting, killing, and eating horse meat in the United States.
Agrizzly bear nicknamed Felicia and her two cubs could be killed just for living near a highway in Jackson Hole, Wyo., according to USA Today.
Wildlife Advocate Savannah Rose Burgess said the bear family has no record of acting aggressively, charging, or taking food from humans who have been spotted approaching them. Felicia also caught the attention of award-winning photographer Thomas Mangelsen, who has documented her for more than six years and said she has always been calm and collected.
But wildlife officials are saying that “human-conditioned behavior” — through no fault of Felicia’s or her family’s– could lead to human-wildlife conflict. They propose relocating or killing the bear family as the only possible solutions.
If park rangers fail to scare the bears off with “targeted hazing operations” — which could include loud noise or rubber bullets — these innocent wild animals could pay with their lives, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) statement.
Killing an entire family of bears who have no history of acting aggressively must not be allowed. Felicia and her cubs must be protected.
Sign this petition urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to find an alternative solution for Felicia and her cubs that does not involve killing them.
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!
We, the nature-loving people of Namibia and like-minded international friends:
Record our utter dismay at the intention of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia to re-instate international trade in ivory over the clear objections from the other 14 elephant range countries in Africa;
Are shocked and disappointed at their threat to break away from CITES , should their demand the right to auction off their official ivory stockpiles;
Are dismayed at their strong-arming tactics that are tantamount to political blackmail of CITES , especially after their trade proposal was overwhelmingly rejected at the last COP meeting;
Remind the responsible officials that the past two ivory auctions were a complete failure because the Asian buyers colluded to keep the prices ridiculously low;
Remind them that this led to increased trade and speculation that saw a massive surge in elephant poaching since then;
Object to Namibia’s plans to remove and sell off 170 elephants from their natural habitats in Namibia to Chinese and other buyers for US$5,500 apiece , while an elephant is worth US$1.6 million in eco-tourism opportunities it generates in its life-time;
Object to the continued falsification and gross inflation of Namibia’s resident elephant population data by the Min of Environment, Forestry and Tourism to keep justifying unsustainable levels of trophy hunting ;
Express our deep concern over the true state of our wildlife heritage and key protected species such as elephants, black rhinos, giraffes and other endangered wildlife, the loss of which will destroy our country’s tourism economy which contributes one-third of the national GDP and thousands of direct and indirect job opportunities;
Caution that these reckless actions by Minister Pohamba Shifeta and MEFT management officials amount to wilful acts of environmental and economic despoliation , and are in violation of the legal imperatives imposed by Art. 95 of the Constitution to maintain and protect bio-diversity;
Caution the responsible officials that we reserve the right to hold them liable in their personal capacity for financial losses caused by their reckless mismanagement of a priceless resource.
Background: Namibia’s wildlife is its single-biggest tourism asset, attracting thousands of with visitors flocking from all over the world to see especially iconic big-game species such as elephants, black rhinos, lion, giraffe and other game.
One of the most unique attractions is the opportunity to see elephants in their natural environment outside of the national parks in the surrounding communal areas, managed by the MEFT under the communal conservancy model.
Under this model first implemented in 1996, rural conservancies are granted the right to issue tourism and/or hunting concessions. Because trophy hunting generates large annual fees to the government and the communal conservancies, this led to a proliferation of the hunting conservancy model in rural areas, an approach widely lauded by the WWF as an example of an African conservation success story.
These concessional rights includes elephant trophy hunting rights within the boundaries of the KAZA trans-frontier park, located along the elephants’ seasonal migratory route between the Okavango Delta and the Quito floodplains in Angola.
From 1996 to 1999, the new 500 km-long Trans-Caprivi Highway was constructed across the length of the West Caprivi, further interceding the trans-frontier elephant herd’s seasonal migratory routes.
In late 1999, the Angolan Army used the new highway to launch an attack on their former rebel foes UNITA, using local recruits to conduct a scorched earth campaign along the common border. This influx of weapons triggered a surge in poaching in especially the West Caprivi, with armed gangs running rampant in the area and on one occasion, gunning down an entire herd with automatic weapons in full sight of shocked tourists at a lodge on the opposite Namibian side of the Kavango river border.
From the early 2000s, the over-concentration of elephants in Botswana was becoming evident in Chobe Park as the increase in heavy road traffic and human settlement along the Trans-Caprivi Highway scared away especially breeding herds with small calves.
In order to prevent the spread of bovine lung-disease, Botswana erected a 700km-long game-proof fence along their north-eastern and northern border with Namibia to replace the collapsed old Namibian fence in 2009.
Two 15-km-wide openings were left in the fence on the western and eastern end to allow for the elephants’ seasonal migration, both located opposite elephant hunting concession areas in Namibia.
The combined impact of the Trans-Caprivi Highway and the fence thus stopped any seasonal migration between Botswana, Namibia and Angola, with tracking data showing only the odd bull occasionally crossing the border at those gaps in the fence. This led to the MEFT allowing trophy hunting operators to hunt elephant cows in 2017 to recover their trophy fees paid in advance to the communal conservancies.
By late 2020, elephants have all but disappeared from the West Caprivi and adjacent communal areas. Elsewhere in north-western Namibia, a severe drought and increased poaching has also taken a severe toll, with only an estimated 250 elephants left in the arid Kunene and Erongo regions.
In 1999 and 2008, the MEFT held two CITES-sanctioned auctions of the best ivory in the official stockpile in misguided attempt to flood and depress the black market demand for ivory and generate income for conservation efforts.
This proved to be an abject failure. The Chinese and Japanese buyers colluded to keep prices low, paying only USD$100 and US$157 per kilogram respectively, and instead of releasing the stocks into the carving markets, drip-fed their new stock at USD$1,500 per kilogram over the following years.
This triggered a 66% surge in elephant poaching and 71% increase in ivory smuggling over the following decade that saw elephant herds decimated in East and central Africa. As result, the African savannah and forest elephant species were declared as endangered and critically-endangered earlier this year.
Meanwhile, the communal conservancy model had started to fail. Due to their tendency to inflate annual game counts and so justify high, cash-generating hunting quotas and a disastrous shoot-and-sell permit system that allowed them to sell off entire herds for cash to local butchers, the once-abundant wildlife in communal areas have all but disappeared.
The elephants’ Appendix I status also thus became an obstacle to the demand from conservancies for ever more cash from elephant hunting due to the limitations it imposed on the number of trophies that may be legally exported.
Because CITES has thus far allowed and facilitated the export of live elephants to Chinese buyers, the MEFT therefore is now resorting to auctioning off entire herds of elephants in order to generate cash to the conservancies, as well as re-open the ivory trade that has historically wiped out over 95% of Africa’s elephant herds over the past 100 years.
This reckless and short-sighted humans-first approach by the Namibian authorities and their colleagues in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe poses a dire threat to the last surviving elephant herds in the KAZA Park.
The MEFT continues to falsely claim that there are 22,000 – 24,000 elephants in Namibia, based on a 1995 base count of 7,000 animals that they claim grew at a biologically improbably and mathematically impossible exponential rate of 3.3% since then.
This fraudulent claims of a huge increase in numbers is immediately obvious from the fact that none of the factors outlined above are in any way reflected in their purported official elephant counts. Claims by Minister Pohamba Shifeta of a rampant rise human-elephant conflict is flatly contradicted by the fact that just one case of human-elephant conflict was reported in 2020.
The official elephant population estimates, inflated by over-counting and systematic inflation of population density factors, are clearly only intended to keep the trophy hunting in business and the ruling party’s rural support base appeased with regular cash hand-outs.
The fact is that Namibia is losing the battle against organised crime and syndicated poaching, with 80% of all rhino poaching since 2005 occurring over the past five years. This largely due to the MEFT’s humans-first conservation policies and poor management of resources, not to mention their obvious ignorance of their own Ministry’s track record in respect of past ivory auctions.
We remind these authorities that they are merely custodians, not the private owners of our common wildlife heritage and that the elephants are not theirs to dispose of as they see fit.
Their plan to resume ivory trading, combined with their poor management, poses a dire threat to the last elephants left in the sub-region and the tourism industry that is an economic mainstay in all four countries involved in this deplorable and reckless attempt to cash in on the elephants for what will likely be one last and final time.
We, the nature-loving people of Namibia and like-minded international friends therefore demand that:
CITES immediately commission an independent audit of all official ivory stockpiles held by Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe;
CITES demand an independent and verified elephant census in all four countries before granting any further export permits for live elephants;
CITES and the IUCN conduct a full Environmental Impact Assessment on the impact of the Trans-Caprivi highway and the Botswana border fence on the elephants’ seasonal migratory routes and patterns;
CITES and the IUCN require that Namibia and Botswana implement measures to re-establish migratory routes and wildlife corridors across the West Caprivi;
CITES and the IUCN suspend all elephant hunting in the KAZA area until such time that the elephants can freely and without impedance regain access to all their historical range areas within the KAZA Park.
Trapping is a cruel and dangerous activity threatening native wildlife, biodiversity, humans, and companion animals.
Traps are also indiscriminate, which means nearly any animal whose feet touch the ground can trigger them—whether it’s an endangered species like the Mexican gray wolf, a bald eagle, or even a family dog.
WildEarth Guardians is campaigning against the vicious practice of trapping on public lands—both on our own and in coalition with partners. By ending trapping on public lands, we will make public lands safe and enjoyable for recreationists and wildlife, so please raise your voice today and sign our petition.
Legal appeal cites failure to consider new research documenting key role that wild burros play in desert ecosystems
Riverside, CA (June 23, 2021) — This week, the American Wild Horse Campaign, the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, filed a legal challenge to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) plan to eradicate federally protected wild burros from three Herd Areas in the Mojave Desert in California. In an appeal to the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA), AWHC challenged the legal basis for the eradication plan and said that the agency violated federal law by failing to consider new science documenting the critical role that wild burros play in the desert ecosystems where they live.
“Wild burros are icons of the West and protected under federal law. They are also important ecosystem engineers whose removal from other desert areas has led to species extinction,” said Brieanah Schwartz, AWHC’s Director of Policy and Litigation. “We are appealing to the Interior Department Board of Land Appeals to overturn the decision to exterminate wild burros from the Centennial, Slate, and Panamint Herd Areas because it is inhumane, unscientific, and violates several federal laws.”
The BLM’s decision to set the Appropriate Management Levels (AMLs) to zero wild burros in the Centennial, Slate, and Panamint Herd Areas was implemented in the 1980s and has not been re-evaluated in the decades since. Now new research on the benefits of wild burros to the desert ecosystem, published in Science, illuminates the need for re-evaluation, the AWHC’s appeal alleges. The research shows how wild burros are boosting the availability of water in desert landscapes across the American West and how the removal of burros from similar ecosystems has caused the extinction of rare fish species.
AWHC’s appeal alleges that by not considering the new research, the BLM is violating the agency’s obligations, under federal law, to periodically review land use planning documents and meaningfully analyze all new information instead of using the environmental review process to support a foregone conclusion to eradicate the burros.
The BLM plan calls for removing all of the approximately 1,000 wild burros living in this one million+ acre public lands area over ten years. The first in a series of helicopter roundups aimed at removing the burros was conducted earlier this month, with 290 burros, including 39 foals, captured so far. The captured burros were sent to the BLM’s Ridgecrest holding pens where they will be sold or adopted through the BLM’s Adoption Incentive Program, which the New York Times exposed as a pipeline to slaughter for hundreds of wild horses and burros.
AWHC is asking the IBLA to vacate the BLM’s decision record and direct the agency to instead meaningfully analyze the Herd Areas for redesignation as actively managed habitat for a permanent population of wild burros.
The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. In addition to advocating for the protection and preservation of America’s wild herds, AWHC implements the largest wild horse fertility control program in the world through a partnership with the State of Nevada for wild horses that live in the Virginia Range near Reno.
Skydog Sanctuary started this petition to Animal lovers and wildlife rescuers
Skydog is a Wild Horse Sanctuary with ranches in California and Oregon for the rescue, rehabilitation and re-wilding of mustangs who have been rounded up from public lands across the American West. One year ago the Government Agency charged with managing and protecting these wild horses introduced an incentive plan offering people one thousand dollars for each horse or donkey they adopted.
One year later as the Bureau of Land Management heralds this program a success in press releases, we are seeing the same wild horses they paid people to take away, being dumped in Kill Pens in record numbers. These mostly young horses are being shipped to slaughter in Mexico and Canada one year after being rounded up from America’s public lands. This wild horse and burro program is broken and is complicit in sending wild horses to their deaths. The BLM is not doing any real tracking or follow-up to ensure the safety of our wild horses. This is one failure of their mandate under the law.
Please sign our petition urging the Bureau of Land Management to disband this terrible ADOPTION INCENTIVE PROGRAM – which is paying people to dump wild, untrained, young horses in Kill Pens. These horses and burros are federally protected and they need to be PROPERLY AND SCIENTIFICALLY managed on public lands by the BLM and the Department of the Interior. Current wild horse roundups should be halted until there is a successful program in place to adopt out the 50,000 horses already sitting in holding pens. Having lost their freedom and families they should not now also lose their lives.
STOP THE BLM ADOPTION INCENTIVE PROGRAM BEFORE ONE MORE HORSE SHIPS TO SLAUGHTER.
NOTE – Please do not donate on this page – the donation goes to Change.org not to help us fight this cause.
The Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge is seeking public comment on its recreational hunting and fishing plan found here. This plan impacts the Nulhegan Basin Division in Bloomfield, Brunswick, Ferdinand and Lewis, and the Putney Mountain Unit in Putney. Please sign this petition and let the Refuge know that you oppose hounding on the Refuge—this activity is not compatible due to its indiscriminate and disruptive nature. We are also asking that the Refuge ban all lead ammunition due to the secondary effects it has on wildlife, including bald eagles that scavenge on animal remnants left in the field by the hunters.
Hounders unleash packs of powerful, radio-collared hounds on a lone bobcat, bear, coyote and other wildlife. This occurs not only during the legal hunting seasons, but throughout the year during hound “training” season. The hounds often chase the animals for miles until the exhausted wild animal either collapses, climbs a tree (where they’re often shot), or decides to stand its ground and fight back. This places both wildlife and the hounds in danger since the hunters are often miles away with only their handheld GPS tracking device. We consider this activity akin to animal fighting, which is illegal in Vermont.
Hounding is not a compatible use on wildlife refuges, since the activity places non-targeted animals and visitors at risk. A retired couple and their leashed puppy were attacked by bear hounds in Ripton, VT in Oct 2019 on public land. You can read about it here. Between hound training season and hunting season, the activity may take place all year, placing nursing mothers like bobcats and their kits in danger. The Refuge Plan lists Canada lynx as a threatened species, but lynx may be mistaken for bobcat, which would be an illegal method of “take.” A Refuge manager shared her concern about lynx being disturbed by hunting hounds in a Feb 2014 email to VT Fish & Wildlife, but they disregarded her concern. You can read our letter to Fish & Wildlife on that here. Other non-target animals include ground nesting birds, deer fawn, moose calves, and other wildlife.
The unsupervised hounds also place Refuge visitors at risk. The general public should be able to birdwatch, hike, and partake in other activities without the fear of running into a pack of frenzied hounds.
The plight of elephants in Africa is widely recognised, but far less is known of the even more desperate threats facing Asian (or Asiatic) elephants, whose surviving population is barely 5% that of African elephants, with numbers of Asian elephants declining from estimates of a million or more in the late 19th Century to scarcely 40,000 today.
Save The Asian Elephants (STAE) is a not for profit association which aims to raise awareness of the plight of the Asian Elephants; working to end the terrible cruelty and brutal conditions suffered by this wondrous and ancient species. Young elephants are snatched from their forest homes to supply tourist attractions, temples and festivals. Capture from the wild often entails slaughtering the mothers and other herd members who attempt to protect their young.
PAJAN – THE BRUTAL ‘BREAKING IN’ PROCESS The captured calves are isolated and then forced into a pen and tied with ropes to prevent them moving. They are deprived of water, food and sleep. Terrified, they are brutally, often fatally, beaten with rods, chains or bullhooks (a rod with sharp metal hooks at the striking end) and stabbed with knives and nails. This practice – “pajan” – is designed to break their spirits and brutalise them into submission.
We respectfully urge:
1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi to end pajan and ensure the proper treatment of captive elephants. These magnificent creatures should either be released into the forests or kept in genuine sanctuaries.
2. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Former Prime Minister David Cameron to urgently fulfil their Government’s Manifesto commitment to “support the Indian Government in its efforts to protect the Asian elephant”.
3. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) to press its members including Virgin Holidays, to remove elephant attractions from their itinerary in India and the rest of Asia. Only visits to genuine sanctuaries and wildlife reserves where tourists observe elephants at a respectful distance (and do not ride them) should be permitted.
Save The Asian Elephants now before it’s too late by signing our petition.
A grizzly bear mother and her two cubs are at risk for relocation or even death after making their home near a Wyoming highway.
The bear, known as “Felicia” by Jackson Hole residents poses a threat, wildlife officials say, for her family’s proximity to a 55-mile highway in the Togwotee Mountain Pass.
People have also been spotted approaching and feeding the bears.
“Human-conditioned behavior,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a news release, could lead to aggressive bear behavior.
If park rangers aren’t able to scare the bear off the road using rubber bullets or loud noises over the next 10 to 14 days, U.S. Fish and Wildlife service says Felicia and her cubs will likely be relocated or euthanized.
Wildlife advocates, including Savannah Rose Burgess, say euthanasia shouldn’t be an option. Burgess launched a petition on June 11 to save Felicia and her cubs that has more than 34,500 signatures as of Thursday.
With her team, Burgess is also working to launch a bear ambassador program where a person or multiple people would ensure visitors are following appropriate guidelines in the presence of bears.
“We have the opportunity here to make a really impactful change,” Burgess told USA TODAY. “It is absolutely horrible to try to think of removing this animal. She’s important and she’s vital, and not just vital to her species in the reproductive sense.”
She has been in contact with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who are open to her efforts and are working with her.
Felicia, according to Burgess, has never been aggressive or charged anyone. Award-winning wildlife photographer Thomas Mangelsen, who has documented Felicia for over six years, also says that she is very calm and collected.
“This is more of a people management issue than a bear management issue. We need more people on the ground who are trained and educated,” Mangelsen told USA TODAY.
Mangelsen and his assistant, Susan Cedarholm, are working with different entities such as the forest service and the wildlife service to come up with a solution to keep Felicia alive and other bears that may come along.
“We are all working for the same cause,” Mangelsen said.
Jack Bayles, owner of Team399 that helps fund grizzly bear education and protection, says that it is up to the person to be informed on bear guidelines. An incident happened in Yellowstone National Park where a woman disregarded park rules to stay 100 yards away from bears, and it ended up charging her.
“I think the bear ambassador program can be really effective. The wildlife brigade in Grand Teton National Park, for example, has been highly successful in managing people around these situations,” Bayles said.
Bayles said that part of keeping bears alive is respecting their boundaries.
“The bears have done nothing wrong. There just happens to be a road that goes through her territory,” Bayles said. “I think it’s incumbent upon the public to understand what their role is when they come into a grizzly habitat.”
“He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God’s providence to lead him aright.” - Blaise Pascal. "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" – George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. We live in a “post-truth” world. According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. Truth will never go away no matter how hard one might wish. Going beyond the MSM idealogical opinion/bias and their low information tabloid reality show news with a distractional superficial focus on entertainment, sensationalism, emotionalism and activist reporting – this blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." – George Orwell “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Soren Kierkegaard