Twenty thousand live bullfrogs from China that will be cooked and eaten as frog legs. Forty green monkeys from St. Kitts and Nevis for biomedical research. Three hundred giant clams from Vietnam and 30 stingrays from the Brazilian Amazon for home aquariums. null
That motley assortment is a miniscule glimpse of what the legal international wildlife trade might look like on a given day in any of the 41 ports of entry staffed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inspectors. I routinely saw consignments like these—alongside crates filled with shampoo bottles, cucumbers, and freshly cut roses—at the Port of Newark, New Jersey, when I was a wildlife inspector, from 2004 to 2010.
At airports, seaports, and land border crossings in 2019, $4.3 billion of legal wildlife and wildlife products was imported into the U.S. Approximately 200 million live animals are imported to the U.S. annually, according to a five-year trade report: 175 million fish for the aquarium trade, and 25 million animals comprised of an array of mammals, amphibians, birds, insects, reptiles, spiders, and more. On top of that, thousands of illegally traded shipments of wildlife are intercepted each year. In 2019 alone, the agency opened more than 10,000 illegal wildlife trade investigations.
The diseases that hitchhike into the country on legally imported wildlife continue to go largely unnoticed.
But along with such a diversity of wildlife, a kaleidoscope of pathogens is also entering the country. My experience with the Fish and Wildlife Service, where I worked for 10 years, first as a wildlife inspector and most recently as a policy specialist regulating and managing the international wildlife trade, showed me that although many controls have been implemented to combat illegal trade, the diseases that simultaneously hitchhike into the country on legally imported wildlife continue to go largely unnoticed.
Importing any live animal brings with it the risk of disease—to native wildlife, to livestock, and to people. The outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China, theorized to have jumped from bats into humans and then spread at a wet market in Wuhan, possibly through an intermediate host, has shined a spotlight on how easily zoonotic diseases can emerge from wildlife. Indeed, an estimated 60 percent of known human diseases originated in animals, according to the World Organization for Animal Health.
Much of the public discussion around COVID-19 has focused on the potential role of the illegal wildlife trade in spreading pathogens. But as a wildlife trade specialist and conservation biologist—I studied the spread of disease among imported frogs—I’ve learned that we need to think just as critically about the risks and vulnerabilities presented by the massive legal trade, which continues to place both ourselves and the world at risk of more pandemics. null
With few exceptions, the U.S. has no laws specifically requiring disease surveillance for wildlife entering the country, and the vast majority of wild animal imports are therefore not tested. Inspectors with the Fish and Wildlife Service are the first to set eyes on an imported shipment of animals, and they’re charged with enforcing a variety of national and international laws, regulations, and treaties that focus on preventing illegal and unsustainable trade. But its mandate doesn’t extend to monitoring animal or human health. Its only responsibilities related to disease are the enforcement of rules limiting trade in certain fish and salamander species, which have the potential to spread devastating disease to other animals of their kind.
In fact, no federal agency is tasked with the comprehensive screening and monitoring of imported wildlife for disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulates the importation of wildlife and wildlife products known to “present a significant public health concern,” focusing primarily on bats, African rodents, and nonhuman primates, Jasmine Reed, a CDC spokesperson, wrote in an email. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) intervenes only if there’s a disease risk to poultry or livestock animals of agricultural importance.
This leaves millions of animals that come into the U.S legally each year unchecked for diseases that have the potential to spill over to humans or other animals. null
The CDC insists it’s keeping an eye out. “CDC works closely with other federal agencies to ensure animals and animal products that present a public health concern are regulated,” Reed says. “Through our partnerships with international agencies, we are constantly evaluating and assessing what we and the international public health community do to detect, prevent, and control zoonotic disease threats.”
“I’m confident that our authorities are doing the best they can with the resources they have,” says Catherine Machalaba, a policy advisor for EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit focused on the connections between human and wildlife health. “But I’m not confident that’s a good enough benchmark when we’re talking about leaving the door open [to potential diseases that are] a threat to our health and security.”
About two million American bullfrogs are imported live to the U.S. from factory farms abroad each year to be eaten. Legally imported frogs have been found to carry the devastating chytrid fungus at high rates, putting all North America’s amphibians at risk. With no government agency responsible for comprehensive pathogen screening and monitoring of imported wildlife, scientists have little understanding of the range of diseases being imported.Photograph by Jonathan E. Kolby
The problem isn’t unique to the U.S.—most countries do not have a government agency that comprehensively screens wildlife imports for pathogens. “The absence of any formal entity dedicated to preventing the spread of diseases from the wildlife trade is such a chronic gap around the world,” Machalaba says. “When multiple agencies have to be called in for any given shipment, personnel is limited, and coordination is lacking, there’s bound to be gaps—a false sense of security that another agency has it covered.”
Outbreaks from legal trade
Many recent zoonotic outbreaks affecting people sprang from trade that was allowed at the time, says Lee Skerratt, a wildlife biosecurity fellow at the University of Melbourne, in Australia. null
In 2003, for example, people in six U.S. states became ill from exposure to the monkeypox virus after it entered the country in a pet trade shipment of 800 rodents from Ghana. In that shipment, African giant pouched rats, rope squirrels, and dormice carried the virus. It spread to prairie dogs held in the same pet trade facility, which were then sold to the public, starting the animal-to-human outbreak. Luckily, although human-to-human transmission of monkeypox can occur, no cases were confirmed.
Three months after the infected animals had been imported, the CDC banned the import of all African rodents into the U.S. That gave the Fish and Wildlife Service the legal power to detain shipments in violation of the ban and alert the CDC, which could choose to require quarantine, re-exportation, or euthanization of the animals.
Although this outbreak led to an import ban on African rodents, the government stopped short of doing any risk assessments to consider whether rodents from other places might also carry diseases that would require regulation, Machalaba says.
“Wildlife coming into the U.S. are sourced from many countries that are ‘hot spots’ for emerging diseases—of potential concern for human health but also posing threats to other sectors via our food systems and ecosystems,” Malachaba says.
Warnings about shortcomings
Officials have long known about the gaps in the U.S.’s regulatory system. In 2005, the National Academies of Science published a report that found a “significant gap in preventing and rapidly detecting emergent diseases” from imported wildlife.
Five years later, the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which audits government spending and operations, published a report on live animal imports and diseases. It found that the Fish and Wildlife Service “generally does not restrict the entry of imported wildlife that may pose disease risks.” Furthermore, the report says, the CDC doesn’t use its full power to prevent the import of live animals that pose a risk of zoonotic diseases.
The 2010 report recommended that the CDC, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and USDA develop and implement a coordinated strategy to prevent the import of animals that may be carrying diseases. But a follow-up assessment in 2015 found that the agencies did not take action. There simply weren’t the economic or staffing resources to make it happen, it says. null
The ability to prevent and control emerging zoonotic diseases requires an understanding of the diversity and abundance of pathogens being imported. But without monitoring and surveillance of imported wildlife, we don’t have this information, Skerratt says. “This is a problem for the wildlife trade as there is much that we don’t know, especially for diseases that could affect other wildlife,” he says.
The CDC also acknowledges the lack of research. “We need more data through risk assessments and basic research before adding any new regulations,” Reed says.
But it’s a Catch-22: For an agency to systematically collect pathogen data from wildlife imports, it would need a legal mandate from the government. But the government is only likely to do that once it has pathogen data to guide its decisions.
Pathogens passed from animals to humans aren’t the only cause for concern. Amphibian chytrid fungus, the aquatic fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, is the first disease known to infect hundreds of species simultaneously and drive many of them toward extinction. It’s so dangerous because it can jump between nearly any amphibian—a class with more than 8,000 species. It has already spread to remote protected areas around the world. From my Ph.D. research, I discovered that imports of factory-farmed American bullfrogs—nearly 2.5 million a year, more than any other live amphibian species—introduce frighteningly high numbers of chytrid-infected animals into the U.S.
The deadly amphibian chytrid fungus, introduced to the U.S. through the legal wildlife trade, has spread to native frog species across North America, even in protected areas like King’s Canyon National Park, in California. The U.S. continues to allow the import of species known to carry the disease. Photograph by JOEL SARTORE, Nat Geo Image Collection
Humans have never been part of a pandemic on the scale of that now affecting amphibians. Even tragedies such as the Black Death, in the mid-1300s, and the 1918 influenza pandemic devastated only one species of mammal: humans. By contrast, emerging wildlife diseases, notably chytrid, have been much less picky in the diversity and numbers of animal hosts they infect and kill. Imagine what it would be like if the next pandemic could infect hundreds of the world’s 5,000 species of mammals—including humans—causing many to become extinct.
The best way to minimize risk
An enormous variety of plants and animals are involved in the international wildlife trade, and many are a regular part of our daily lives: Imported seafood for dinner; timber for building homes and musical instruments; pet birds and frogs and aquarium fishes; mother-of-pearl buttons on dress shirts; medicinal plants like ginseng; cosmetic essential oils such as argan and frankincense; and even many of the orchids and cacti for home decoration. This is why ending the legal trade in wildlife seems unlikely, and why, Skerratt says, controlling disease at the source is the best way to minimize the risk to public health.
There seems to be a lack of economic incentive to create a wildlife health law in the U.S. to regulate the pathways of spread of wildlife pathogens.
Priya Nanjappa, Director of Operations, Conservation Science Partners, Inc.
Key to reducing the spread of pathogens is a “clean trade” program, in which private industry and government officials work together to implement safer strategies, according to Matthew Gray, associate director of the University of Tennessee Center for Wildlife Health, in Knoxville.
Gray says that clean trade could involve testing either before transport or at the border, so that animal health certificates could accompany wildlife—similar to what’s required for livestock. “If clean trade is not economically sustainable, government subsidies could be provided, as done often with agriculture,” he says.
It shouldn’t be too difficult to develop a program in the U.S. to monitor imported wildlife for pathogens and develop risk assessments, says Peter Jenkins, senior counsel for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an environmental nonprofit. “We have a very good model of this, and it’s the U.S. livestock trade.” The USDA’s Animal Plant and Health Service implements a comprehensive system of veterinary services and trade controlsto reduce the risk of importing pathogens that can harm animals, including cattle, sheep, poultry and others.
Jenkins estimates such a program could be implemented for a reasonable cost, with just $2 million and six full-time government employees, a figure developed with Congressional staff in 2015 when Jenkins was lobbying to expand the Fish and Wildlife Service’s “injurious wildlife” program. “We’re not talking about a Cadillac program. We just need people doing the research, making risk-based predictions, and then operationalizing those predictions to reduce risk.”
Yet it hasn’t happened.
“There seems to be a lack of economic incentive to create a wildlife health law in the U.S. to regulate the pathways of spread of wildlife pathogens, but the COVID-19 disease highlights the consequences of our lack of understanding of these pathogens,” says Priya Nanjappa, director of operations at Conservation Science Partners, Inc., a nonprofit that provides research and analysis for conservation projects.
The lack of incentive, Najappa says, seems to stem from the false belief that if an imported disease doesn’t immediately threaten public health or agricultural animals, it’s not a major threat to economic interests. But take white-nose syndrome, a fungus that has decimated millions of bats, across several species, in the U.S. Some of these bat population crashes led to Endangered Species Act protections, which in turn place restrictions on economic activities such as logging within the species’ habitats.
The CDC, Fish and Wildlife Service, and USDA did not comment on what kinds of resources the agencies would need to do additional risk assessments, implement monitoring for diseases in the wildlife trade, or whether the pandemic would prompt them to push for increased disease surveillance.
With COVID-19 aiming a spotlight on long-existing deficiencies, now is the time for the best minds in the Fish and Wildlife Service, CDC, USDA, industry and academia to come together and consider what steps can be taken to sew this hole shut, before the next animal-origin pandemic is thrust into our daily lives.
Wildlife Watch is an investigative reporting project between National Geographic Society and National Geographic Partners focusing on wildlife crime and exploitation. Read more Wildlife Watch stories here, and learn more about National Geographic Society’s nonprofit mission at nationalgeographic.org. Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to email@example.com.
A North Atlantic right whale swims in Cape Cod Bay.
Peter Flood In a ruling that could have a major impact on the region’s lobster fishery, a federal judge ruled Thursday that the National Marine Fishery Service violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to reduce the risk of North Atlantic right whales becoming entangled in millions of lobster lines. The lines, which extend from traps on the seafloor to buoys on the surface, have in recent years been the leading cause of death for the whales, whose numbers have declined by about 20 percent over the past decade to a population of just 400. Without significant changes to the lobster fishery, right whales could go extinct within two decades, scientists say. The ruling by Judge James Boasberg of the US District Court in Washington, D.C., found that the agency’s failure to follow the law, after its scientists found that the lobster fishery was threatening the viability of right whales, was “about as straightforward a violation of the [Endangered Species Act] as they come.”
Environmental advocates who filed the lawsuit said they hoped the decision would lead to greater protections for right whales. “This decision confirms that even the federal government is not above the law,” said Erica Fuller, a senior attorney at the Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation, one of four groups that filed the lawsuit. “We must do whatever it takes to ensure right whales are here for future generations, and that starts with obeying the Endangered Species Act.” Scientists at the agency have said that the species can’t sustain more than one unnatural death a year. Over the past three years, 30 right whales have been found dead, and when a cause of death was determined, all of them were found to have died as a result of entanglements or vessel strikes.
In a 20-page ruling, Boasberg called the agency’s failure to produce what is known as an incidental take statement — a requirement of the Endangered Species Act when the government finds that an industry or other actor has been threatening the sustainability of an endangered species — a “signal omission.” Buoy lines pose “an especially grave danger to the species,” he added. The judge noted that in 2014 the agency estimated that lobster lines would lead to more than three whale deaths a year, on average. “The figure was well over the … maximum number of animals, not including natural mortalities, that may be removed from a marine mammal stock, while allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population,” he wrote.
Boasberg called the agency’s arguments for why they failed to comply with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act “a novel interpretation of the law.” “Defendants cannot rewrite the statute just because they do not agree with its consequences,” he said. Agency officials declined to comment on the potential impact of the judge’s ruling. “NOAA Fisheries is currently reviewing the court’s decision,” said Allison Ferreira, a spokeswoman for the fisheries service. Beth Casoni, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, said she was “carefully” reviewing the ruling.
“The MLA expects to submit a briefing to the court during the remedy phase of this proceeding to protect the rights and livelihood of the lobstermen it represents,” she said. Jane Davenport, a senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife, a Washington-based advocacy group and another plaintiff, called the ruling “timely,” noting that just 10 calves were born this year, about a third of the number needed to prevent the species from going extinct. “Low calving rates are directly linked to the chronic stress of fishing gear entanglements,” she said. In his decision, Boasberg didn’t say what the agency must do now. But he said he would seek briefings about potential remedies soon. Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, another plaintiff, said the decision “should send a clear signal that federal officials must take immediate action to protect these amazing animals from suffering more deadly, painful entanglements, before it’s too late.”
Researchers at the New England Aquarium also welcomed the ruling. “We have seen firsthand the trauma this species has suffered from fishing gear entanglements,” they said in a statement. “It has been incredibly challenging to witness their suffering and decline while also getting pushback from fishing industry representatives who remain resistant to considering changes to how they presently fish.”
In a Saturday afternoon press conference, the White House coronavirus task force warned that Americans should consider avoiding leaving their homes this week as the deadly outbreak, which has so far infected more than 300,000 and killed nearly 9,000, is expected to reach its peak.
“The next two weeks are extraordinarily important,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Saturday. “This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store, not going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe.”
Although the White House coronavirus team was reticent to put a timeline on the virus itself, at least three regions of the United States — the midwest, the northeast, and the areas surrounding New Orleans, Louisiana — are projected to reach peak infections within the next seven days, according to the New York Post. Other areas of the United States, like the south and west, are expected to see their numbers rise until they hit a peak within the next fourteen days.
“Asked when the worst day of the outbreak will be, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, talked about the three hotspots being watched most closely: Detroit, Louisiana and New York. She said each are on the upside of their curve of mortality, and that officials anticipate them hitting their peaks in the next six to seven days,” per NPR.
“This will probably be the toughest week – between this week and next week,” President Donald Trump told the press conference, grimly. “There will be a lot of death, unfortunately…there will be death.”
“We are coming up to a time that is going to be very horrendous,” Trump added. “We probably have never seen anything like these kind of numbers. Maybe during the war, during a World War One or Two or something.”
New York governor Andrew Cuomo expressed similar sentiments during his own press conference Saturday, noting that the peak appears to be approaching in his state: “We’re not yet at the apex, we’re getting closer … Our reading of the projections is we’re somewhere in the seven-day range.”
Sunday morning, administration officials were no more rosy. The Surgeon General, appearing on Fox News Sunday, compared the coming seven days to a terrorist attack.
“This is going to be hardest and the saddest week of most American’s lives, quite frankly. This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment,” Vice Admiral Jerome Adams said.
The president was, at least, bullish on the idea of the country reopening within the foreseeable future, suggesting on Saturday that he is pursuing the possibility of bringing together a second coronavirus team, this one tasked with laying the groundwork for an economic recovery, and plotting how to slowly return Americans to the workforce, while balancing the threat of a second outbreak.
“At a certain point,” the president said, “some hard decisions are going to have to be made,” referencing the idea that risk management efforts, designed to contain the virus, are having an unprecedented impact on American businesses. “Social distancing” policies and state-mandated lockdowns have created an unemployment crisis; millions of Americans have now applied for unemployment and millions more are facing slowdowns and pay reductions.
Stop 5G Sean Benham started this petition to President Donald J. Trump and 16 others According to studies, 5G is a dangerous technology that undermines and destroys the health of all living material including humans. We demand a stop to the implementation of 5G in the United States and Europe until it has been proven in several, unaffiliated studies and in court, that this technology does not cause health issues in any way shape or form.
Every year billions of animals are inhumanely captured and killed to provide for your entertainment, and to make products for you to buy here and around the world. It’s called the international wildlife trade, and you can help stop it by avoiding products and experiences that come from these abused animals.
African elephants are brutally slaughtered for their tusks, used to make expensive ivory trinkets.
Rhinos face the same fate – their horns are used in traditional medicine, even though it has no proven value. Polar bears and lions are shot in their tracks, only to become wall trophies and rugs.
Whales and dolphins are taken from the wild to perform tricks for humans, spending the rest of their lives in concrete pools or netted pens.
It’s tragic- You can help: don’t buy products that come from wild animals, or patronize establishments that exploit them.
Dont buy a ticket to Zoo, Animalcircus, Marinepark, Rodeo, Bullfighting , Horseracing!
Federal counterterrorism officials are warning police departments across the country to maintain a heightened state of awareness for the potential for ambush-style attacks against officers. https://t.co/d1koQI8Clo
LANCASTER COUNTY — The Manheim Township Police Department is reminding Central Pennsylvania residents to beware: with the approaching holidays, Porch Pirate Season is upon us once again.
As holiday shoppers begin having online purchases shipped to their homes, this time of year is traditionally when police departments see an increase in activity from “porch pirates” — nefarious suspects who troll neighborhoods looking for unattended packages left on front porches. They then steal the items, leaving the victims with no gifts.
Manheim Township Police have created the following tips for residents to protect themselves from porch pirates:
Have packages delivered to where you are, not to where you aren’t. Consider having packages delivered to your place of employment instead of your home.
Use tracking numbers and delivery notifications. Most major shipping companies offer this service for free, and may also send you a text or email when your package arrives.
Ask family members, trusted neighbors, and/or friends to accept deliveries on your behalf or ask them to pick up your packages for you.
Request packages to be placed in a less conspicuous spot, such as a side door, or behind a planter or garbage can.
Many shipping companies now allow you to request a delivery time or time-frame. Schedule packages for when someone is home.
Install a smart security camera or doorbell camera, like Ring® or Nest®, at your front door. Our police agency has solved numerous residential property crimes using these systems and collaborating with our citizens.
Request signature on delivery of packages, if possible. Some companies and shippers offer locker services for packages to be held at the distribution center for pick up by the customer. Similarly, you can have an item shipped directly to an area store where you can safely pick it up.
Keep an eye out for suspicious vehicles and people in your neighborhood. Be sure to report suspicious activity to your local police department as it is occurring. Calling after the fact makes it much harder to thwart potential criminal activity.
Additionally, residents should be aware of a secondary scam where thieves will order items and have them shipped to unaware third parties and use their front door as a drop location. If you received a package you did not order, please call the shipping company and your local police department to file a report.
New York Congresswoman Nita Lowey has reintroduced a bill that would prohibit body-gripping traps in the National Wildlife Refuge system.
Lowey, Democratic chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, reintroduced the Refuge From Cruel Trapping Act Friday, that would ban from public land traps where animal endure hours or even days of pain. Lowey says that, each year, thousands of bobcats, otters, foxes, beavers and other wild animals are trapped in this manner across the nation’s refuges. She says more than 50 percent of the 566 refuges allow trapping. Steel-jaw leghold traps; conibear traps: and neck snares would be banned if the measure is enacted. Lowey says it’s time to restore the true meaning of “refuge” to the National Wildlife Refuge system
They are shot, stabbed, beaten, and sometimes killed for doing their jobs. Law enforcement service animals endure a dangerous existence and little reward for their sacrifices. Ensure justice for these brave animals harmed or felled in the line of duty.
Gorilla habitat is shrinking day by day, and one of the main drivers is the chocolate industry. In Nigeria, cocoa farms are penetrating the last refuges of the endangered primates, driven by demand from chocolate lovers the world over. We can’t let the last remaining tiny patches of gorillas’ forests be trashed for candy.
Call to action
To: Governor Ben Ayade, via the Cross River State Forestry Commission (Mr Ogbang Akwaji)
Cocoa plantations are endangering the last rainforests in Cross River State. Strengthen nature conservation and fight illegal deforestation by cocoa producers.
Nigeria gives rise to despair and small glimmers of hope: 96 percent of the country’s forests are gone. One remaining bright spot is Cross River State in the southeast – its forests, which are among the world’s most biodiverse, are still home to gorillas.
Yet Cross River’s forests are also dying by a thousand cuts: More than 16,000 hectares were destroyed in 2017 – four times the previous year’s toll. The main causes of deforestation are illegal logging, palm oil plantations and the production of charcoal. Increasingly, cocoa plantations are encroaching on protected forests.
The ultimate driver of destruction, however, is the sweet tooth of consumers in the global North. Nigeria is the third-largest cocoa exporter in the world. The country is responsible for ten percent of the EU’s imports. Exports have grown by 65 percent over the past three years to 248,000 tons in 2018, with the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium being the largest importers.
In Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana – the world leaders in cocoa production – the destruction of forests has reached extreme proportions. Nearly all of Côte d’Ivoire’s protected areas have been plundered, and Ghana holds a sad world record for its rate of deforestation in 2018. The close link between cocoa cultivation and deforestation makes us fear the worst for Nigeria.
Chocolate companies buy whatever cocoa they can get, no questions asked. While environmentalists in Brussels are in fact pushing for the EU to regulate the market, the gorillas can’t wait that long.
The governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, has it in his hands to protect the gorillas and their habitat. Please sign our petition to the governor – we can’t let the last remaining tiny patches of gorilla habitat be trashed for candy.
Cross River State is already taking first steps toward preventing further deforestation for cocoa. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is currently expanding an ongoing project to villages in Afi, Mbe and Okwangwo. Its aim is to produce cocoa in an environmentally sound way. The EU is supporting the project financially.
The state government is planning a cocoa processing plant in the city of Ikom. The impact that this will have on the expansion of the plantations is currently unclear.
Cocoa in Omo Forest Reserve
Cocoa plantations are also a problem in Omo Forest Reserve. Thousands of smallholders have planted fields in the protected area in the state of Ogun. The reserve is home to at least 80 forest elephants and a crucial source of drinking water for the Nigerian metropolis of Lagos. Some settlers have already been there for decades, and the government would rather not evict them, as it would destroy their livelihoods and compensating them would be very costly. Rangers patrol the forest to stop others from encroaching, but the ranger units are too understaffed to protect the forest effectively.
To: Governor Ben Ayade, via the Cross River State Forestry Commission (Mr Ogbang Akwaji)
Rainforest Rescue is a nonprofit organization based in Hamburg, Germany. We are dedicated to preserving rainforests, protecting their inhabitants and furthering social reform.
Cross River State brings Nigeria – a country which has already lost 96 percent of its forest cover – to prominence in global discussions on the environment because it is home to some of the most biodiverse forests of Nigeria, and habitat of endangered species such as gorillas, chimpanzees and forest elephants.
It is therefore very worrisome that in Afi River Forest Reserve – a biodiversity hotspot – forest is being cut illegally for the production of cocoa. The reasons for this are manifold, amongst them the search for alternative livelihoods to replace logging for timber by local communities and a lack of knowledge about sustainable cocoa farming systems. We also observe that law enforcement within the protected areas seems ineffective.
To prevent further destruction, we call on you to implement the following measures:
Strengthen the protection and management of forests in Cross River State in collaboration with local communities.
Educate small-scale cocoa farmers in sustainable cocoa farming systems.
Neil Aldridge’s image of a blindfolded young white rhino, which was sedated for transport to preserve it from poachers, features in the book. The price of rhino horn on the black market is more valuable by weight than gold, diamonds or cocaine, according to a study NEIL ALDRIDGE/photographersagainstwildlifecrime.com
At the beginning of the 20th century, half a million rhinos roamed Africa. Today, there are fewer than 5,000. In 2007, 13 rhinos were poached; since 2013, more than 1,000 have been killed each year. Overwhelmingly, their horns end up on the Chinese and Vietnamese market, where a burgeoning elite views rhino products as an elixir for all manner of ills, or as an ornamental trinket—the ultimate status symbol.
Rhinos are the most iconic of a host of endangered species driven to extinction by such rampant black markets. Pangolins, the only mammal with scales, are frequently found roasted and served in restaurants across East Asia. Black bears are farmed for their bile, which is extracted for use in traditional medicines, while shark fins and turtles are turned into soup. More than 6,000 tigers are held in captivity in China today—before their skeletons are soaked in rice wine and sold to the elite.
This has posed a challenge to some of the world’s most celebrated wildlife photographers. Should their practice and livelihood change as the animals they spend their careers capturing teeter on the brink of extinction?
“Magazines shy away from publishing such imagery. It doesn’t sell well”
A new collective, Photographers Against Wildlife Crime, has formed to address this question and to confront the nation primarily connected to this horrific rise in poaching: China. Co-founded by the award-winning photographer Britta Jaschinski, the group includes some of the most renowned wildlife photographers in the world, including Adrian Steirn, Brent Stirton and Brian Skerry. It was formed in part due to wildlife crime’s lack of visibility in Western publications, Jaschinski says.
“Millions of animals are caught and harvested from the wild and sold in China as food, pets, tourist curios, trophies and for use in traditional Chinese medicine,” she says, adding that the issue doesn’t get the column inches it deserves. “The subject is so upsetting for a lot of people that magazines shy away from publishing such imagery,” Jaschinski adds. “It doesn’t sell well.”
Reaching the target audience
Together, Jaschinski and her colleagues crowdfunded and self-published a collection of their photographs alongside contemporary reporting on the issues behind wildlife crime. The book was initially published in English and quickly sold out. “But we realised we weren’t reaching the target audience that really mattered,” Jaschinski says.
Working in conjunction with a Chinese printer based in London, Jaschinski and her team have translated the book into Mandarin. After months of negotiating with the authorities, they are now in the process of distributing the book across the Chinese mainland.
The book is the first of its kind to be created specifically for a Chinese audience, and explicitly sets out to end the demand for wildlife products in China. It will be launched across the country in July and August, actively targeting the Chinese wildlife consumer market, the trading nucleus for one of the biggest black markets in the world.
The illegal wildlife trade is the world’s fourth biggest criminal trade after drug smuggling, illegal firearms trade and human trafficking. The price of rhino horn on the black market, Jaschinski points out, is more valuable by weight than gold, diamonds or cocaine, according to a study by Science Advances. Rhino horn is estimated to fetch up to $60,000 per pound on the black market, and the illicit industry as a whole is estimated to be worth $20bn. Andrea Crosta, the director of the Elephant Action League, has called ivory the “white gold of jihad”, pointing out that al-Shabaab, an Islamic terrorist organisation, is funded directly by the illicit ivory and rhino horn trade in China.
Ban is barely enforced
In 2017, the Chinese authorities announced that all trade in ivory and its products would be made illegal. But the ban was barely enforced, Jaschinki says. The trade in rhino and tiger has been prohibited since 1993, but in October 2018, China alarmed conservationists by announcing that products from captive animals are authorised “for scientific, medical and cultural use”.
“I’ve worked on wildlife crime for 25 years—and I don’t distinguish between legal and illegal wildlife crime,” Jaschinski says. “China is becoming the economic leader of the world; I wanted to look at the horrendous treatment of animals and nature in the country, and especially at the link between poaching and trade in the country, and the mistreatment of animals in captivity in China.”
While the images are often appalling, they have artistic merit, for each photographer involved has approached the subject from a different perspective, and by employing a different style. In the introduction to the book, Roz Kidman Cox, the chair of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year jury, writes: “Some set out to highlight injustice through statement art, creating images that are unforgettable through their power—fury expressed beautifully. Others take dismembered beauty and reincarnate it in a haunting arrangement, turning evidence into art. Or they use the iconography of classical art to give their compositions human resonance, echoing a crucifixion, a deathbed repose or the spoils of war.”
Feinstein Calls for Enhanced Safety Reviews at All California Horse Racing Tracks
Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) this week sent letters to California Governor Gavin Newsom and the owners of the Del Mar and Los Alamitos horse racing tracks urging an expansion of the enhanced safety review the governor implemented at Santa Anita Park.
“The extra layer of review you established to examine each horse’s medical records and racing history is a prudent step to ensure racehorse safety. I urge you to implement it at racetracks throughout California for the remainder of the year,” Senator Feinstein wrote.
Full text of letter to Governor Newsom is below.
June 18, 2019
The Honorable Gavin Newsom
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Governor Newsom,
I write in support of your agreement with The Stronach Group to require an enhanced safety review of horses before they race at Santa Anita Park. While this policy is currently limited to Santa Anita, I ask that you extend the protocol to all horse races and tracks in California for the remainder of 2019.
The 29 fatalities experienced at Santa Anita this year have brought into focus the danger horses face when competing at a high level. Statistics show that most horses who suffer a fatal injury while racing are found to have had a preexisting condition that may have contributed to their breakdown. We should pursue any reasonable measures to detect those preexisting conditions and prevent horses from racing when they are at-risk of catastrophic injury.
The extra layer of review you established to examine each horse’s medical records and racing history is a prudent step to ensure racehorse safety. I urge you to implement it at racetracks throughout California for the remainder of the year.
The beloved kākāpō parrot faces possible extinction as several die from a fungal disease, leaving only 142 adults left. Help prevent future deaths by ensuring the protection of these parrots from the disease.
by: Care2 Team
recipient: Manasseh Sogavare P.M. of the Solomon Islands, Xiang Lin
To most people, the Solomon Islands may seem like small specks of land in the huge expanse of the South Pacific. But to its more than 600,000 residents, it’s home. And they will do anything to protect it. The nation’s forests face the very real threat of disappearing in the coming years due to overexploitation spawned by the voracious demand for timber in Asia.
Since 1990, for example, Solomon Islanders have seen more than 20% of their forest disappear, putting both their livelihoods and their native species’ existence at risk. Now some residents are fighting back, but if the government has their way, they will spend years in jail for their resistance.
Sign to demand justice for the Nende Five.
There are many logging concerns now toppling old-growth forests throughout the archipelago, but according to activists, one company’s operations — Malaysia-based Xiang Lin SI Ltd — showed up on their southern island of Nende and started their operations illegally. But even though it is Xiang Lin Si Ltd that is accused of breaking the law, the government has decided to prosecute the brave activists that are trying to stop them.
According to villagers, Xiang Lin didn’t go through the proper steps and channels in order to acquire a license. They didn’t consult the locals, they didn’t give them the obligatory 30 day period to raise any grievances and — perhaps most troubling of all — there are signs that the previous provincial premier, Baddley Tau had accepted bribes that might have allowed logging companies like Xiang Lin to start operations without going through the correct channels.
With all the uncertainty into the illegality of the Xiang Lin’s practices, it’s no wonder that so many Nende Islanders have started fighting back. Some of them, now known as the “Nende Five” have been arrested and face serious jail time if they are found guilty.
Xiang Lin has encroached on the livelihood of an entire island of people, their culture, their ecosystem and their way of life. They have bulldozed and destroyed. And now, after all that, they are about to be the cause of unfair incarceration of people who were just want to protect their lands.
Sign the petition and ask the Solomon Islands to drop the charges against the Nende Five and tell Xiang Lin to cease operations on Nende immediately.
Tropical fish and turtle swim in the Red Sea, Egypt, an inlet of the Indian Ocean. vlad61 / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Saturday, June 8 is World Oceans Day, a chance to honor and celebrate our blue planet. Ocean lovers around the world will attend beach cleanings and other events or join a March for the Ocean to call for an end to activities that harm marine life, like offshore oil drilling and plastic pollution.
The oceans generate most of the oxygen we breathe, provide food and medicine and help keep our climate stable, according to the day’s organizers. They are also home to amazing animals and ecosystems, like whales and coral reefs, that make the earth a more wondrous place to live. But the world’s marine environments face unprecedented threats. Here are five things to know about the state of our oceans in 2019.
1. Ocean Plastics Are on the Rise
It’s well-known that eight million metric tons of plastics enter the world’s oceans every year. But a study published in April gave new insight into how plastic pollution has proliferated in the past six decades. Researchers found that equipment used to collect plankton had increasingly been disrupted by plastic since it first got entangled with fishing gear in 1957.
“The message is that marine plastic has increased significantly and we are seeing it all over the world, even in places where you would not want to, like the Northwest Passage and other parts of the Arctic,” Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, England researcher Clare Ostle told The Guardian.
2. Plastic Pollution Threatens Marine Oxygen Production
All that plastic floating in the ocean kills one million birds and more than 100,000 marine mammals every year, according to the UK government. But a study published in May found it could have a disturbing impact on some of the ocean’s smallest life forms as well. Scientists exposed the ocean’s most abundant photosynthetic bacteria to chemicals that leach from plastic bags. The chemicals made it harder for the bacteria to grow and produce oxygen. This is scary because these bacteria are responsible for 10 percent of the oxygen we breathe.
“This study revealed a new and unanticipated danger of plastic pollution,” paper co-author and Macquarie University research fellow Lisa Moore told The Independent.
3. Global Warming Is Already Putting Fish in Hot Water
The oceans and the creatures in them are also threatened by climate change, and a groundbreaking study published in March found that rising ocean temperatures are already shrinking fish populations. A University of Rutgers-led team discovered that sustainable fish populations had declined by an average of 4.1 percent over 80 years. That might not sound like a lot, but it actually amounts to 1.4 million metric tons of fish lost between 1930 and 2010. And in some regions the decline was more extreme: sustainable fish populations fell by 34 percent in the northeast Atlantic and 35 percent in the Sea of Japan.
“We were stunned to find that fisheries around the world have already responded to ocean warming,” study co-author and Rutgers’ Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources associate professor Malin Pinsky told Rutgers Today. “These aren’t hypothetical changes sometime in the future.”
4. Marine Heatwaves Act Like Underwater Wildfires
Ocean warming doesn’t just damage individual species. It devastates entire ecosystems. A first-of-its-kind study published in March found that the number of ocean heat wave days per year is surging: The number has increased by more than 50 percent between two 29-year time chunks compared by the scientists. This has particularly harmed coral reefs in the Caribbean, Australian sea-grass beds and California’s kelp forests.
“You have heatwave-induced wildfires that take out huge areas of forest, but this is happening underwater as well,” lead author Dan Smale at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, UK told The Guardian. “You see the kelp and seagrasses dying in front of you. Within weeks or months they are just gone, along hundreds of kilometres of coastline.”
5. Ocean Acidification Makes Life Even Harder for Coral Reefs
Marine heat waves threaten coral reefs by causing coral bleaching, in which corals expel the algae that give them color and nutrients. But the greenhouse gasses we are pumping into the atmosphere also endanger coral in another way. They cause ocean acidification, which is what happens when carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater and changes its chemical makeup. This reduces the amount of calcium carbonate that animals like corals use to repair themselves after stressful events like bleachings. In research published just last week, scientists found that some corals and algae they studied were not able to adapt to more acidic waters. This could alter the composition and function of reefs.
“We found that corals and coralline algae weren’t able to acclimatize to ocean acidification,” study author Malcolm McCulloch said.
The Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act would permanently ban oil and gas leasing off the coast of the Pacific and Atlantic
Washington, D.C. – Keeping his promise to make sure there is never offshore drilling on South Carolina’s coastline, today Rep. Joe Cunningham introduced the Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act. This bipartisan legislation would permanently ban oil and gas leasing off the coast of the Pacific and Atlantic.
“I’ve been clear from the very beginning that our beaches, businesses, and way of life should not be for sale. South Carolinians want nothing to do with offshore drilling and the devastating threat it poses to our vibrant natural resources,” said Congressman Joe Cunningham. “I am proud to have the support of a bipartisan group of lawmakers, advocates, and organizations up and down South Carolina and across both the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to lead this bipartisan bill across the finish line to ban offshore drilling off our coast once and for all.”
“The Administration is trying to further oil and gas interests at an alarming rate, including major expansions of offshore drilling in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. This is nothing more than a hand-out to the oil and gas industries and runs counter to health, safety, and environmental safeguards we know must be in place to protect our coastlines. These actions also run counter to the will of the citizens in these coastal communities. I am proud to join with my colleagues in making it perfectly clear to this Administration – there will be no new drilling off our coasts,” said Rep. Alan Lowenthal.
“The Trump administration’s drill-everywhere plan has run into a wave of public opposition. Americans from coast to coast have made it very clear that they do not want to see more oil rigs in their oceans,” said Rep. Jared Huffman. “The Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act will halt Trump’s oil and gas drilling spree in its tracks, protecting coastal communities and fragile ecosystems from environmental catastrophe. In California, we know that our coastal economies would be placed at unacceptable risk by offshore oil and gas drilling, which threatens the tourism, recreation, and fishing industries. I’m glad to work together with Joe Cunningham on this ongoing effort to block offshore drilling on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and to shield both of our coastlines from dangerous exploitation.”
“From Congress to the Governor’s mansion to City Council chambers, bipartisan leaders across South Carolina have said time and time again they oppose drilling off our coast. Now Congressman Cunningham is leading the charge in Congress to ensure this threat never comes to be,” said John Tynan, Executive Director of Conservation Voters of South Carolina. “Voters in the Palmetto State have told their elected leaders to prevent drilling off our coast, and we’re proud to stand beside Congressman Cunningham as he leads the way in the fight to protect our coastline, tourism economy, and quality of life.”
“This smart measure responds to communities and leaders all along our Atlantic and Pacific coasts who strongly oppose offshore drilling. It would protect those coastal waters and wildlife from the risks of another BP-style disaster, as well as industrial ruin and ongoing harm. This bill deserves the support of everyone who cares about healthy oceans, marine life, our coastal economies and all they support”, said Alexandra Adams, Legislative Director, Nature Program, Natural Resources Defense Council.
On behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife, today Earthjustice filed a notice of intent to sue the Trump administration for failing to protect oceanic whitetip sharks and giant manta rays from being killed by longlines and huge nets used by U.S. fishermen in Atlantic fisheries.
Defenders petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to list the oceanic whitetip shark and giant manta ray under the Endangered Species Act in 2015. The agency listed the shark and ray as threatened last year, triggering the agency’s obligation to consider conservation measures to protect the species from federal actions when authorizing U.S. fisheries.
Today’s notice letter to the Fisheries Service says officials have not completed required consultations when authorizing fisheries managed under the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan. The Endangered Species Act requires consultations to ensure that federal actions do not unduly harm protected species.
The agency has not completed these consultations on the pelagic longline (which targets tuna, swordfish and other species), shark drift gillnet or shark bottom longline fisheries — all of which harm oceanic whitetip sharks and giant manta rays and have contributed to the species’ declines.
“These sharks and rays won federal protection, but they’re still being slaughtered by reckless fishing practices,” said Catherine Kilduff, a Center attorney in a statement. “The Trump administration has to follow through by regulating the deadly Atlantic longline and gillnet fisheries. Giant manta rays and oceanic whitetip sharks will keep declining if our government doesn’t do its moral and legal duty to protect them.”
The giant manta ray, with a wingspan that can reach 29 feet, has suffered population declines of up to 95% in some places due to commercial fishing. Similarly, scientists have estimated substantial declines in oceanic whitetip sharks in the Atlantic Ocean, including an 88% decline in the Gulf of Mexico due to commercial fishing. Reducing the primary threat to these species, commercial fishing, is key to their survival and recovery.
Giant manta rays and oceanic whitetip sharks are intentionally hunted in other countries — the sharks for their large fins and the manta rays for their gills, both prized for Asian medicines and cuisine — and are often swept up as bycatch by U.S. fisheries. Gillnets have been called “walls of death” for the harm they do to a variety of marine species. Atlantic longlines can be up to 45 miles long, with hundreds of baited hooks.
“These horrific fishing practices are outdated,” Jane Davenport, a Defenders attorney, said. “We can’t keep fishing indiscriminately while sharks, manta rays and other accidental victims move toward extinction. As the agency charged with both conserving these imperiled species and managing U.S. fisheries, the National Marine Fisheries Service is under a double obligation to comply with the Endangered Species Act’s mandate to ensure the survival and recovery of the oceanic whitetip shark and giant manta ray.”
“The law requires these species to be given meaningful protections in the water, not just on paper,” said Earthjustice attorney Chris Eaton. “NMFS can’t allow these fisheries to continue harming the oceanic whitetip and giant manta ray unchecked. It needs to put some safeguards into place.”
A peer-reviewed study by Center scientists released in January found most marine species listed under the Endangered Species Act are recovering. Listed species with critical habitat protections and those listed for more than 20 years are most likely to be rebounding. In February 2019, Defenders and the Center also sent a detailed technical letter to the agency urging it to designate critical habitat for the giant manta ray in U.S. waters.
The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) strongly opposes Iceland’s decision Tuesday to establish a base whaling quota of 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales annually from 2019 to 2023. Due to this misguided regulation, Iceland’s image as a nature tourism destination could face irreparable damage.
Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries Kristján Þór Júlíusson based his decision, in part, on a macroeconomic review of Icelandic whaling released by the University of Iceland’s Institute of Economics in late January 2019. This review is an unsound document that does not provide a complete or accurate assessment of the impacts of whaling on Iceland’s economy, image and fisheries.
Iceland’s base whaling quota remains unchanged from last year, but it is still unclear if a carryover quota will increase the overall quota moving forward.
“Minister Júlíusson has failed not only Iceland’s whales but also the people of Iceland in making this decision,” said Susan Millward, AWI’s Marine Animal Program Director in a statement. “The deeply flawed macroeconomic review of whaling did not consider the welfare implications of whaling, nor did it accurately portray the negative impacts whaling has had on Iceland’s image and economy.”
Icelandic whaling quotas are not approved by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the only appropriate international organization responsible for the conservation and management of whales. Furthermore, commercial whaling is inherently cruel, unsustainable and impossible to regulate. AWI advocates for an end to commercial whaling, including Iceland’s unprofitable and unnecessary whaling industry.
"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