After the Taliban surrendered control over Afghanistan last month, many Afghan Christians have gone into hiding in order to avoid persecution and death from the Islamic regime.
Release International, an international organization which monitors and reports on Christians across the world, notes that there are less than 10,000 Christians in the country as many have fled into more remote areas to stay out of sight from the Taliban.
“We’re hearing that Christians are trapped in Afghanistan, we don’t know how many, it was a small church to begin with,” Andrew Boyd of Release International toldPremier Christian News. “Quite a few have left while they could. But there are others who are trapped, they can’t get out.”
While the Taliban have control over the airfields and the country’s borders, Boyd says that some Christians have dispersed from Afghanistan into nearby countries…
Big step forward in WildEarth Guardians’ decades-long battle to protect imperiled species
WASHINGTON—Yesterday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the “Service”) announced its proposal to provide Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections to the lesser prairie-chicken, a charismatic grassland bird that now occupies approximately 15% of its historic range. The Service’s proposed rule was submitted as the result of a settlement agreement between the federal government and WildEarth Guardians and partner organizations finalized in 2019, following failure to act on a 2016 listing petition.
The proposed rule includes listing the lesser prairie-chicken in two distinct population segments (“DPS”), with the Northern DPS—encompassing Kansas, Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma—proposed to be listed as “threatened” and the Southern DPS—consisting of birds in New Mexico and Texas—proposed to be listed as “endangered.” All populations face severe threats of habitat loss and fragmentation caused by oil and gas development, cropland conversion, livestock grazing, roads, and power lines.
“WildEarth Guardians has been fighting for more than two decades to get ESA protections for the lesser prairie-chicken and we are encouraged that the Service has finally recognized the need for federal listing status,” said Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. “For far too long, this iconic dancing bird has seen its numbers dwindling towards extinction and we are hopeful this is the first step towards rebuilding populations and preserving habitat.”
Federal listing petitions for the lesser prairie-chicken date back to the mid 1990s. For two decades, voluntary state agreements were relied upon to protect the species in lieu of federal government protections. In 2014, the Fish and Wildlife Service listed the lesser prairie-chicken as threatened. But protection was overturned on procedural grounds after a lawsuit from the Permian Basin Petroleum Association and four counties.
“The lesser prairie-chicken and its habitat have been absolutely trashed by unchecked oil and gas extraction,” said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director at WildEarth Guardians. “This proposed rule means that the ESA finally stands to provide the safety net desperately needed to protect the lesser prairie-chicken in the face of rampant fracking in the Permian Basin of southeast New Mexico and west Texas.”
The lesser prairie chicken—an icon of the Southern Plains—once numbered in the millions but has declined to just roughly 38,000 birds across less than 17 percent of its original range. Experts estimate the population of lesser prairie chickens at 3 million birds before the beginning of Euro-American settlement on the Great Plains.
The Service will be accepting comments on the proposed rule for 60 days once the proposal is published in the Federal Register before issuing a final decision.
Tell House Appropriations: Protect Wild Horses & Burros!
Appropriations season is officially upon us, when Congress begins the process of deciding what will be included in the budget bills that fund agencies and federal programs like the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Program.
AWHC has worked with several members of Congress on language that would ensure that a significant portion of funding for the Wild Horse and Burro Program would go to the implementation of humane birth control, the prioritization of public private partnerships with nonprofit organizations, a permanent ban on barbaric mare surgical sterilization, and a requirement that the BLM evaluate and report on formerly zeroed out wild horse areas for relocating horses as an alternative to holding facilities. It’s a big deal.
It’s an important step toward ending the current costly and cruel practice of rounding these animals up with helicopters and incarcerating them in holding pens for life. So please, contact your federal legislators right now, and urge them to support important language.
Please Contact Your Two Senators and One Representative Today
1. Call the Capitol Hill Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Representative. You will likely be asked to leave a message. Simply say:
“I’m a constituent, and I’m calling to ask that you please support and do all you can to ensure passage of language in Interior Appropriations that was offered by Reps. Titus and Cohen to promote humane, cost-effective management of wild horses and burros in the wild where they belong. This language would allocate $11 million of the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program budget to fertility control.”
2. Personalize and send the email below to your Representative:
Ken Canning Wolves across the US are again being persecuted under state management. The State of Idaho has adopted legislation that allows for the killing of 90% of the wolves statewide including newborn pups and nursing mothers in their dens. The State of Montana has adopted a bounty system similar to the one that led to the eradication of wolves from the West. The State of Wisconsin opened a hunting season without adequate regulations in place and hundreds of wolves were destroyed within days. Wolves need to regain the protection of the Endangered Species Act NOW! Please take action to restore vital protections to prevent the eradication of wolves from states that are unable or unwilling to manage wolves responsibly.
To: US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland From: [Your Name]
Please Act Now to Save America’s Wolves!
I’m writing to ask you to help save our wolves in the United States. I care deeply about the plight of wolves in our country and wolves across the US are again being persecuted under state authority. The State of Idaho has adopted legislation that allows for the killing of 90% of the wolves statewide including newborn pups and nursing mothers in their dens. The State of Montana has adopted a bounty system similar to the one led to the eradication of wolves from the West. The State of Wisconsin opened a hunting season without adequate regulations in place and hundreds of wolves were destroyed in days. Wolves need to regain the protection of the Endangered Species Act now! Please take action to restore vital protections to prevent the eradication of wolves from states that are unable or unwilling to manage wolves responsibly.
There is no excuse for the persecution of wolves in our country. Wolves are an essential species in helping to maintain healthy elk and deer herds by culling diseased animals and encouraging dispersal of large herds into smaller herds that are more sustainable to their habitat. Livestock losses to wolves remain low – less than 1 percent of cattle in wolf range are lost to wolves – and there are highly effective nonlethal deterrents that can better protect sheep, cattle, and wolves.
These states are changing their state wolf legislation to the point they are no longer sufficient to protect wolves from eradication. You have the ability to restore their protection under the Endangered Species Act before it’s too late. Please take action now. Our nation’s wolves must be protected from this Old West approach that is nothing more than an archaic and brutal campaign to eradicate their numbers.
We call upon the European Commissioners Stella Kyriakides (DG SANTE) and Valdis Dombrovskis (DG Trade) to immediately suspend the importation of Kangaroo body parts and flesh. Statistics have disclosed more than 70% of Kangaroo flesh derived from the Australian “harvests” is exported to Europe.
The slaughter of Kangaroos for export of body parts and flesh for human consumption, under an Australian Commonwealth Government approved “wildlife trade management plan”, does not comply with the Legislation of the European Union namely Regulation 1099/200910, Killing of animals. Under the regulation, stunning animals before killing, ( to ensure the killing is humane and not cruel) is compulsory. This regulation applies to animals “culled” for “depopulation, disease control” or “other purposes” “and farmed animals”. This is not happening. Further, the regulation requires products imported into the EU, to be accompanied with an attestation, certifying that requirements at least equivalent to those of the EU have been met. Investigations have revealed this cannot be certified.
Due to the remote locations where commercial kangaroo shooting takes place, there is no control or policing. Nobody is present to ensure animal welfare practices are complied including whether Kangaroos are stunned. No statistics are available for the animals who are wounded and escape.
Kangaroos have been found, with blown-apart jaws from mis-shooting, but survived to endure a long and painful death from starvation. ‘In pouch’ joeys of shot mothers are either decapitated (if very small) or killed with a blow to the head. Quite often dependent ‘at foot’ joeys escape, and suddenly face a life alone, often falling victim to predators, exposure or starvation. Eastern and Western Grey Kangaroos are not weaned until they are nearly 18 months old. “A Shot in the Dark’ — a report on kangaroo harvesting, a 2009 report commissioned by Animal Liberation (NSW) estimates some ‘440,000 dependent young kangaroos are either clubbed to death or left to starve after their mothers are killed’. (Source:Animals Australia)
Not only is the EU Legislation not complied with, the Australian Kangaroo industry Code of Practice requires that animals be killed by a single shot to the head, but even conservative estimates suggest that more than tens of thousands of the adult Kangaroos for commercial processing each year, are not killed in this manner. (Source Animals Australia).
Commercial Trade in an Australian Emblamatic and Iconic Native Kangaroos must stop.
The Australian Governments’ support for a Commercial Trade in Kangaroo Body Parts and Flesh for human consumption is being challenged, and there are calls for it to be banned. It has been asserted State and Commonwealth Legislations designed to conserve and Protect Native Wildlife and habitat, does not support a commercial slaughter, particularly a demand for trade in flesh for human consumption on a commercial scale.
State Governments rely on claims of “overabundance” and alledged consequential damage to farming land, to justify “culling” or “harvesting” Kangaroos, in order to satisfy local Wildlife Legislation and the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth). This is to obtain a permit to remove or cull protected Native Wildlife for a commercial industry.
There are allegations that the population numbers of Kangaroos have been grossly exaggerated to justify a claim of “overabundance” and that in fact in some States, Kangaroos may face extinction as a consequence of “harvesting”, or the push to supply demand for the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos.
The intention of Legislations is not to support the commercialisation and trade in commerce of Australian Native Wildlife for human consumption, but rather the preservation and conservation of Australian native wildlife and habitat.
Ministerial approval is under the microscope.
There is a Call for a Ban on Killing Kangaroos and an immediate ban on the commercial “harvesting” of Kangaroos, and to ban any further killing of Kangaroos; to revoke all current Permits and Plans for trade in Kangaroos for local and export markets.
Kangaroos are not and have never been “farmed animals” in Australia, nor were Kangaroos “farmed” by Australia’s First Nations’ peoples. To some indigenous Australians, Kangaroos are totemic. Kangaroos are protected Native Wildlife.
We call upon the European Commissioners Stella Kyriakides (DG SANTE) and Valdis Dombrovskis (DG Trade) to immediately suspend the importation of Kangaroo body parts and flesh for human consumption as the EU Regulations are not being complied with.
Photo Credit: Red Box Wildlife Sanctuary Elphinstone, Victoria Australia
Four draconian wolf killing bills are incredibly close to becoming law in Montana. The bills would allow trappers to snare wolves, extend the wolf trapping season, place a bounty on wolves, and allow every individual with a wolf hunting or trapping license to kill an unlimited number of wolves, allow the use of bait while hunting or trapping wolves, permit the hunting of wolves at night on private land with the use of artificial lights or night vision scopes.
Whether you’re a Montana resident or a Montana visitor who values wolves in the wild, please sign this petition urging Montana Governor Greg Gianforte—who violated state hunting regulations when he trapped and shot a collared wolf near Yellowstone National Park in February—to veto these backward, disgraceful, and outrageous bills.
I am demanding that Botswana reinstates their ban on elephant hunting. Botswana is a conservation hub and has been a beautiful success story. The elephant population in Botswana ranges form 130,000 to 160,00, the most in Africa. Botswana is home to 1/3 of the decreasing elephant population. Mokgweetsi Masisi, the president, has just lifted the ban on elephant hunting today on May 23rd 2019. This will result in large elephant culls and decrease the population quickly and quietly. We need to call for action, and be the voice elephants don’t have. Elephants are animals capable of grief and love and they mourn like humans. We cannot be the generation that lets these magnificent, prehistoric creatures, go extinct in front of our eyes. PLEASE SIGN! Every voice counts.
Today: katia is counting on you
katia goldberg needs your help with “Mokgweetsi Masisi: GET BOTSWANA TO REINSTATE THE BAN ON ELEPHANT HUNTING!”. Join katia and 17,164 supporters today.
Reverse the Damage the Trump Administration has done to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
Executive Branch decisions have all but neutralized the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the last few years, despite a court ruling that its position is against the law and will increase preventable bird deaths. A final blow to the MBTA was dealt by a rule that allows companies and individuals to kill migratory birds as long as “they didn’t mean to1.”
Any industrial activities, including oil waste pits, oil spills, power lines, tailings ponds, and others, will now be exempt from the law1.
This rule comes at a time when scientists have raised alarm over the loss of 3 billion North American birds during the past 50 years. It would end enforcement against incidental take of birds–the predictable and preventable killing of birds by industrial practices–even though last summer a federal judge struck down the Interior Department legal opinion that the new rule seeks to codify2.
The MBTA covers more than 1,000 species, some which are already dwindling to the point of becoming endangered. This measure could lead to billions of bird deaths as they crash into power lines and buildings, or get trapped in oil pits3.
National Audubon Society President David Yarnold said the potential fallout from this decision is largely being ignored at an already trying time in U.S. history.
Birds are being harmed as nesting grounds are destroyed to make way for new developments. In Virginia, 25,000 shorebirds were displaced to make way for a road and tunnel project. State officials had ended conservation measures for the birds after federal officials advised such measures were voluntary under the new interpretation of the law3.
The National Audubon Society and chapters across the country helped pass this bird protection law in 1918. Since then, innumerable species have been saved from extinction. But climate change and habitat destruction have made it even harder to conserve North American bird species. Since 1970 more than 3 billion birds have disappeared, while two-thirds of our bird species are at risk of going extinct4.
Without the MBTA, we could lose many more birds, and if the Trump Administrations’ changes to the MBTA are withheld, we surely will.
Sign the petition below and tell the Administrator of the EPA to restore the MBTA in full, reinstating penalties for companies and individuals who violate this important law.
Dear, Aurelia Skipwith, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
Three billion North American birds have vanished since 1970 and many more will soon disappear forever if the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is not restored.
The Audubon Society and many others were responsible for writing the MBTA back in 1918. It’s helped bring many birds back from the brink of extinction. Rule changes administered by the Trump Administration have rendered it ineffective, however.To Top
If you think baby elephants love to cuddle people you’re stupid & very naive. Note the cord around the calf’s neck. A slave elephant ‘taught’ to do this for money. Tourists pay because THEY want the cuddle, the calf does it to avoid a beating. 🤦🏻♀️🤬 🙏🏼RT 👇https://t.co/7LrgffHbORpic.twitter.com/biv1f46v0S
On September 27, 2011, in a dank and filthy circus camp in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, a 24 year old female elephant named Chanda gave birth to her second calf, a tiny baby girl named Suman. Suman’s father Bijli – a magnificent bull despite his missing left tusk – was also at the circus. Further off, her older sister stood restrained uncomfortably by both her feet, her head swaying monotonously.
That night signaled the beginning of Suman’s story, one that has been riddled with terror, suffering and fear – despite just being 6 years old.
In 2013, two years after she was born, Suman, Chanda and Bijli were illegally sold by the Moonlight Circus to the father of a man named Sameer ‘Ballu’ Khan, and illegally trafficked across state borders to the city of Jaipur in Rajasthan. The transfer of ownership of the elephants was done without any of the requisite paperwork, those involved being wholly aware of the illegality of what they were doing.
Today, Sameer Khan, who inherited the elephants from his father is widely regarded as the most cruel of all the elephant owners in Jaipur, a city widely regarded as the most cruel place in the country to the over 100 elephants that are held captive and exploited there. Horrifying footage and stories of him mercilessly beating his elephants with weapons including axes, burning the delicate footpads of their feet and of the number of his elephants that seem to die early, unnatural deaths emerge constantly, leaving us in no doubt of the authenticity of the claims of his evil disregard for the lives of the gentle giants he exploits for money.
A year passes, and the cruelty baby Suman experiences over these days is only an initiation into what she is going to go through in the coming years, and possibly the rest of her life. She is being indoctrinated into captivity, undergoing a brutal process aptly called ‘breaking the spirit’ of the elephant, to prepare her for a life of subservience to cruel human masters. Then, in 2014, Suman finds herself being transported to the state of Gujarat to star in a TV show. The process of training her for the show, and the conditions she is forced to live in during shooting result in animal welfare groups campaigning for the shows end and Suman being relieved from her exploitation. Abruptly, the show is taken off-air and the baby elephant is returned back to Jaipur.
Chanda(Elephant 112) carrying tourists at the Amer Fort
Another year passes, Suman is housed near her mother, but restrained so tightly she can’t reach her. Her father Bijli is rented out to weddings and processions, much in demand being one of the only two bulls in the city. His missing tusk is camouflaged with a heavy false tusk, fixed awkwardly onto him and hidden under heavy, uncomfortable and gaudy decorations. Chanda, the mother, also spends her days garishly caparisoned at the Amer Fort, slowly and excruciatingly making her way up the arduous climb to the top of the fort with a heavy carrier pressing down on her protruding spine, filled with tourists and a handler that keeps a sharpened stick always at the ready to punish her for any steps out of place or exhausted resistance.
TheNut Herd rescued & moved to the WSOS ECCC from the ‘Moonlight Circus.’
In 2015, the three elephants’ original home – The Moonlight Circus – is shut down on grounds of legal violations and the four elephants still in the circus, including Suman’s sister, are rescued by Wildlife SOS and taken to our rescue centre in Mathura to live out the rest of their lives surrounded by people that care for them, and other elephants, receiving medical care, and every amenity they need to thrive in their new home. The elephants are nicknamed the Nutherd, and the youngest of these four elephants, the first daughter of Bijli and Chanda, is named Peanut – the much adored baby of the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre.
Shortly after we rescued the Nutherd, and Peanut, we found out she had a sister, and that her parents were in captivity too – we investigated the claims, and followed multiple leads till dead ends, before stumbling upon the three elephants in Jaipur – exploited, tortured and denied everything, including each other’s company. It broke our hearts. Peanut’s rescue, her gradual development into the naughty, wonderful and gleeful young calf she is today gives us so much joy, but in the back of our hearts, Suman’s story – and that of her parents – casts a depressing shadow. We have to get her out.
Last year, we introduced Suman tentatively to our supporters – but use the name Hazel and cropped pictures of her to avoid risking the lives of our sources and jeopardizing her rescue. All the while we struggle to gather intelligence on the elephant – she is hidden away now, chained in a basement that she is never allowed to leave. We hear heartbreaking stories of how she is no longer allowed to see her mother because they both get so overwhelmed and cry when they see each other. We hear she ran amuck when she was taken out last, she’s a baby elephant so it isn’t at all surprising that she still has a little spirit left in her – but that ever since then, she isn’t even taken out anymore, just tightly restrained by two feet in the dungeon that is her home now.
Chanda, mother of Suman and Peanut.
She sways her head miserably, monotonously. She’s stressed, bored and scared – worst of all she is alone, except for humans that hurt her. At the fort, and at tourist spots across the city, Chanda lugs tourists around on her back in the blistering heat, her footpads searing on the hot tarred roads and rocky streets. She must be in unimaginable anguish, but the pain of losing her babies – twice – must be infinitely worse. As a bull, Bijli is hidden away, likely being beaten regularly to keep him submissive, despite all the anguish humans have imparted him.
Bijli, father of Suman and Peanut.
Their status in Jaipur is never legalized, since their sale and transport was illegal, but the government, the Forest Department, everyone entrusted with ensuring their welfare, seems oblivious to their existence. Attempts are made to sell them which we manage to put a hold on, even as attempts are made to obtain false documents for the three.
Just as the authorities turn a blind eye to the plight of these three elephants, they turn a deaf ear to our repeated attempts to reach out to them for help. Tourism drives the city of Jaipur, and the elephants drive tourism – a government that takes a stand to actually enforce the law for the welfare of these animals also stands to lose favor amongst the locals, and a lot of tourism money.
We feel helpless, but we cannot give up on Suman and her family. As a baby, she is faced with an uncertain future – either 50 years of abuse, beatings, neglect and fear or 50 years of safety, kindness, veterinary care and love from people and other elephants at our rescue centre. Five decades of cruelty, or five decades of care. We are reaching out to our supporters, and elephant lovers across the world to stand strong for Suman and ensure her future is safe with us – please join us in imploring the authorities in Jaipur to save Suman and her family and reunite her with her sister in ECCC.
The information we have shows that we can’t wait any longer for the authorities to take action and we need international pressure to speak out on behalf of Suman and her family. Their freedom will come with international pressure.
Stay informed- we will be doing regular updates with new ways you can help.
Boycott elephant attractions in Jaipur like the Amer Fort and report to your travel agent/guide that the reason you don’t want to go is because of the cruelty inflicted upon the elephants there.
However, if you or someone you know is visiting Jaipur- tell them to keep an eye out for elephant 112 carrying tourists up to the fort, a baby elephant and male elephant with one tusk missing (although he is sometimes fixed with a prosthetic tusk.). Very few male elephants live in Jaipur so there is a high likelihood that any males could be Bijli. Send information to us at email@example.com
We will be doing everything we can to keep an eye on these elephants. We will be spending what we can on a public awareness and pressure campaign to help these elephants get freedom.
Speak up, push hard, and raise your voices against this injustice – bring Suman and her family, a family that has already suffered so much pain and loss, out of the darkness and towards a better, kinder future!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
“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