A grizzly bear mother and her two cubs are at risk for relocation or even death after making their home near a Wyoming highway.
The bear, known as “Felicia” by Jackson Hole residents poses a threat, wildlife officials say, for her family’s proximity to a 55-mile highway in the Togwotee Mountain Pass.
People have also been spotted approaching and feeding the bears.
“Human-conditioned behavior,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a news release, could lead to aggressive bear behavior.
If park rangers aren’t able to scare the bear off the road using rubber bullets or loud noises over the next 10 to 14 days, U.S. Fish and Wildlife service says Felicia and her cubs will likely be relocated or euthanized.
Wildlife advocates, including Savannah Rose Burgess, say euthanasia shouldn’t be an option. Burgess launched a petition on June 11 to save Felicia and her cubs that has more than 34,500 signatures as of Thursday.
With her team, Burgess is also working to launch a bear ambassador program where a person or multiple people would ensure visitors are following appropriate guidelines in the presence of bears.
“We have the opportunity here to make a really impactful change,” Burgess told USA TODAY. “It is absolutely horrible to try to think of removing this animal. She’s important and she’s vital, and not just vital to her species in the reproductive sense.”
She has been in contact with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who are open to her efforts and are working with her.
Felicia, according to Burgess, has never been aggressive or charged anyone. Award-winning wildlife photographer Thomas Mangelsen, who has documented Felicia for over six years, also says that she is very calm and collected.
“This is more of a people management issue than a bear management issue. We need more people on the ground who are trained and educated,” Mangelsen told USA TODAY.
Mangelsen and his assistant, Susan Cedarholm, are working with different entities such as the forest service and the wildlife service to come up with a solution to keep Felicia alive and other bears that may come along.
“We are all working for the same cause,” Mangelsen said.
Jack Bayles, owner of Team399 that helps fund grizzly bear education and protection, says that it is up to the person to be informed on bear guidelines. An incident happened in Yellowstone National Park where a woman disregarded park rules to stay 100 yards away from bears, and it ended up charging her.
“I think the bear ambassador program can be really effective. The wildlife brigade in Grand Teton National Park, for example, has been highly successful in managing people around these situations,” Bayles said.
Bayles said that part of keeping bears alive is respecting their boundaries.
“The bears have done nothing wrong. There just happens to be a road that goes through her territory,” Bayles said. “I think it’s incumbent upon the public to understand what their role is when they come into a grizzly habitat.”
By Chelsea Pieterse and Kara van der BergADVERTISEMENTnull
The police have confirmed the fatal shooting of Petros Sidney Mabuza, also known as ‘Mr Big’ or ‘Mshengu’.
He was allegedly shot in Hazyview earlier today and reportedly died on his way to Kiaat Hospital in Mbombela this afternoon.
Mabuza has been in and out of the courts since 2018 on charges of rhino poaching.
In 2018 he was arrested and charged with crimes ranging from rhino horn theft to the illegal possession of rifles and live ammunition. Family of Petros Mabuza gather in the Kiaat Hospital parking lot following the news of his death earlier today.
This is a developing story. Lowvelder will keep you updated.
Poachers masquerading as rangers, magistrates allegedly taking bribes from kingpins and lenient sentences handed out to ruthless criminals – this is the current state of South Africa’s rhino crisis, according to campaigners.
Strict limits on travel due to coronavirus, imposed last year, had a positive effect on keeping poachers and smugglers at bay, with just 394 rhinos poached in the country in 2021, 30 percent fewer than the year before and the lowest yearly tally since 2011.
But with gates open again, the onslaught on rhinos and corruption inside courtrooms is once again rising, according to Jamie Joseph, head of the environmental charity, Saving the Wild.
Speaking from an undisclosed location in Africa, Joseph told the Standard: “For the last decade corruption has been driving rhinos into extinction, and it’s just getting worse.
The kingpins call the shots; we run the intel, they get arrested, but then they always get bail and never go to jail
Ms Joseph alleged that kingpins were able to “rule” because of the “dirty officers and magistrates on their payroll.”
Following the campaign’s expose on how the UK’s red list could pose a threat to African conservation efforts, campaigners have told the Standard that corruption in South Africa needs serious attention as Covid restrictions continue to ease.
The country is home to 80 per cent of Africa’s rhino population, but there are only about 25,000 rhinos left and roughly 1,000 are killed every year for their horn.
But the violent and deadly trade has brewed in the country for decades–in 2007 the country lost just 13 rhinos to poaching, the next year, that number jumped to 83. By 2014, a total of 1,215 had been killed in one year and deaths are still high.
The horns are made of keratin, the same substance as fingernails, which means they can grow back. They are considered to be worth more by weight than cocaine, and so traffickers go to great lengths to smuggle it out of, or around, Africa.
Ms Joseph, a dedicated conservationist originally born in Zimbabwe, first launched what she describes as the “Blood Rhino Blacklist” in 2017 – a list of allegedly corrupt magistrates and lawyers who she claims have taken bribes on rhino poaching and other crimes.
Her Blacklist investigations led the Ministry of Justice to suspend KwaZulu Natal Court President, Eric Nzimande.
Nzimande, who was responsible for, among other things, the appointment of presiding officers to the province’s regional courts was suspended in October 2018.
He now he faces 112 disciplinary charges, including appointing acting regional court magistrates in return for payments.
Other cases of alleged corruption in courts include the case of alleged kingpin Dumisani Gwala, who is accused of running a trafficking ring.
He was arrested with rhino horn, but has pleaded not guilty to charges of dealing in protected wildlife parts.
Donate to the stop the illegal wildlife trade, here: / ESI Media
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An eight-month intelligence-driven operation led to Gwala’s arrest in December 2014.
It was hailed a significant bust as he had been caught several times before, but the cases had either been withdrawn, or the dockets “suspiciously” went missing, according to Joseph.
The case of Gwala is still ongoing but the campaigner said his trial at Mtubatuba Court is “long overdue.”
It has been mired with controversy and back in 2017 several wildlife campaigners argued that the case needed to be moved to a different court.
The trial is now scheduled for June 28 this year after it was delayed 30 times, Joseph told the Standard.
Jean-Pierre Roux, the former police endangered wildlife detective, who arrested Gwala, said: “We faced corruption in all facets from police involvement in criminal activities, the robbery and corruption that comes after people are confronted or arrested to the corruption with the magistrates and prosecutors.
“We had to deal with all of that.”
Mr Roux, who has faced death threats for getting too close to information, claimed that some police officers left or retired from forces due to the state of the alleged corruption.
I think proper vetting should be implemented as well as background checks. But then you must take into consideration as well, that not all criminals or corrupt officials start off corrupt but they change when they come in.
“But another issue is that those good officials or rangers are afraid of speaking up out of fear of losing their lives because they might live in the same area as the criminal. They could get killed,” he added.
On the field
Ms Joseph claims that corruption doesn’t just lie inside courtrooms in South Africa but it also takes place on the fields, where rangers should be protecting the wildlife.
Ms Joseph alleged that the greatest challenge the Kruger faces “is the enemy within.”
One bust includes that of Phineas Dinda, who is a former Sanparks full corporal in the Rangers Corps.
He was arrested in Tshokwane section in May 2019 and was found in possession of trespassing the Kruger National Park, conspiracy to commit a crime, and possession of an unlicensed firearm, live ammunition and an axe, reported the Times Live.
Dinda was convicted for 16 years.
Three other SanParks employees were arrested for poaching in October 2020, according to Ewn news.
The two security guards and another worker from the technical services division were arrested during an operation between the park and the police.
In a statement published by Gareth Coleman, the managing executive of the Kruger National Park, at the time, he said: “It is always disheartening when colleagues from Sanparks are involved in criminal activities.
“It breaks down trust amongst employees which impacts our responsibilities to act as an effective conservation authority serving the people of South Africa,” it added.
Joseph, however, argues much more needs to be done as “rangers are being forced to work with poachers masquerading as rangers.”
“The thing is, you can have all the money and all the technology and all the weapons and all the soldiers in the world. But if you lose the war on corruption, you lose the war on everything,” she added.
It’s nesting season for snapping turtles.Be on the lookout for them crossing the road, stop if you can so they can safely cross the road and if you’re a warrior like me, park your car in a safe zone, walk up behind them and wait for them to go into their shell and pick them up close to they’re back feet and be prepared for them to poke their head out and try to snap at you, but they won’t be able to reach you if you keep your hands close to their back feet, and if you come across one that’s been hit by a car, call your local wildlife sanctuary, they’re several places I can drop them off in my area, I keep an old bath towel and gloves in my trunk and gently place them on the towel, grab the ends of the towel and carry them to your car.
About 3,000 elegant tern eggs were abandoned at a southern California nesting island after a drone crashed and scared off the birds, a newspaper reported Friday.
Two drones were flown illegally over the Bolsa Chica ecological reserve in Huntington Beach in May and one of them went down in the wetlands, the Orange County Register said.
Fearing an attack from a predator, several thousand terns abandoned their ground nests, according to the state department of fish and wildlife.
Now, during the month when the birds would be overseeing their eggs as they begin to hatch, the sand is littered with egg shells.
It’s one of the largest-scale abandonments of eggs ever at the coastal site about 100 miles (160 km) north of San Diego, according to the reserve manager, Melissa Loebl.
With the pandemic driving more and more people to outdoor spaces, last year saw about 100,000 visitors to the Bolsa Chica reserve – up from about 60,000 the previous year, Loebl said told the newspaper.
That’s contributed not only to increased drone activity, but also to more dogs and bicycles on the trails – all of which are prohibited.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in dogs, particularly off-leash,” Loebl said. “That’s devastating for wildlife and this is prime nesting season. The dogs chase the birds and the birds abandon their nests.”
Another problem is the development of multimillion-dollar homes on the hillside at the north end of the reserve overlooking the wetlands, said Nick Molsberry, a fish and wildlife warden. While most residents respect the sensitive nature of the estuary, there are a few scofflaws, he said.
“It’s residents that sometimes feel entitled, that feel they should be able to use the land as they like,” Molsberry said. Authorities are ramping up enforcement and citing people who break the rules.
At nearly 1,500 acres, the reserve is the largest saltwater marsh between Monterey Bay, just south of San Francisco, and the Tijuana River Estuary in Mexico. About 800 species of plants and animals live at or migrate to Bolsa Chica.
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A new study in Wisconsin suggests the predators keep prey away from roads, reducing crashes by 24 percent
Each year, nearly 20,000 Wisconsin residents collide with deer each year, which leads to about 477 injuries and eight deaths annually. (Photo by Ken Mattison via Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
smithsonianmag.com May 26, 2021
Research published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences highlights an underappreciated benefit of wild wolf populations: the large predators frighten deer away from dangerous roadways, saving money and lives in the process.
According to the analysis 22 years of data, a county’s deer-vehicle collisions fall by about 24 percent after wolves take up residence there, Christina Larson reports for the Associated Press. Nearly 20,000 Wisconsin residents collide with deer each year, which leads to about 477 injuries and eight deaths annually. There are 29 counties in Wisconsin that have wolves.
“Some lives are saved, some injuries are prevented, and a huge amount of damage and time are saved by having wolves present,” says Wesleyan University natural resource economist Jennifer Raynor to Ed Yong at the Atlantic.
The study estimates that wolves save Wisconsin about $10.9 million in losses each year in prevented car crashes, which is far greater than the compensation paid by the state to people who lose pets or livestock to wolves.
“Most economic studies of wolves have been negative, focusing on livestock losses,” says wolf expert Dave Mech, who works at the U.S. Geological Survey in Minnesota and was not involved in the study, to the AP. “But wolves also reshape ecosystems in many ways, although that’s hard to measure economically.”
Most of the reduction in collisions was due to the “landscape of fear” that wolves create. Wolves tend to follow clear paths through the landscape, like streams. In an area that has been developed by humans, wolves follow roads, trails and pipelines. Deer adapt to the wolves’ presence by staying away, which would reduce the chance that they would get hit by a car.
“The icing on the cake is that wolves do this work all year long at their own expense,” says Western University ecologist Liana Zanette, who was not involved in the study, to the Atlantic. “It all seems like a win-win for those wolf counties.”
Wolves killing deer only accounted for about six percent of the drop in deer-vehicle collisions, reports Jack J. Lee for Science News. The drop in collisions didn’t just happen because wolves kill deer, so culling deerduring hunting season wouldn’t necessarily limit car collisions to the same extent as having wolves present.
The deer that the wolves do manage to kill would likely be the least risk-averse, and most likely to run in front of cars. But a detailed understanding of wolf and deer behavior would come from research that tracks the animals with collars, which was not a part of the new study, says University of Wyoming ecologist Matthew Kauffman to the Atlantic.
The research stands out from other studies of wolves’ impact on the environment because it highlights a benefit that wolves bring to the humans that live nearby. The regions that support wolf reintroduction tend to be urban, while rural communities generally oppose it. That was the case in Colorado, where wolf reintroduction narrowly passed in a vote in November. In sharp contrast, the Idaho state government recently passed a law to kill 90 percent of its wolves.
“The most interesting thing to me about choosing Wisconsin as a case study is that this is a human-dominated landscape,” says Raynor to Science News.
The estimated savings to Wisconsin are about 63 times higher than the cost of compensating people for losses caused by wolves. Raynor adds to Science News there are economic factors that weren’t taken into account in the new study, like the cost by deer to agriculture and through Lyme disease.
Adrian Treves, a conservation biologist at the University of Wisconsin, tells the AP that the study “adds to growing awareness that scientists should consider both the costs and the benefits of having large carnivores on the landscape.”
Great Falls, Montana (AP)– Montana wildlife officials said Tuesday that state bear management specialists killed a pair of grizzly bears near Whitefish that had been involved in numerous livestock attacks, just a week after a bear was shot and killed for preying on cattle near Dupuyer.
An adult female grizzly bear was captured on Monday and its yearling captured on Tuesday in the Haskill Basin area, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials said.
The bears were euthanized because of a history of killing livestock including sheep, llamas, chickens, and a goat.
An adult male grizzly bear in the Dupuyer area was killed last week after it was suspected of attacking calves across numerous ranches.
The 450-pound bear in that case was shot after repeated attempts to trap the animal failed. The bear had been seen in photos from game cameras set up where the calves had been killed.
The bear killed near Dupuyer will be provided to the Blackfeet Tribe fish and wildlife agency for distribution to tribal members for cultural purposes.
Grizzly bears are protected as a threatened species under federal law and hunting of them is not allowed. But since their populations have rebounded in Montana grizzlies have run into frequent conflicts with humans and can be killed by government wildlife agents following livestock attacks.
Help Mexican gray wolves by showing your support for translocating the Negrito Mexican gray wolf family to Ladder Ranch, where they can be safe and free! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USWFS) plans to move the bonded wolf family (M1693, F1728, and their young pups) onto the excellent habitat – away livestock grazing – that Ladder Ranch offers.
Currently, Mexican gray wolves within the wild population are as related to one another as full siblings. The captive population, however, is more genetically diverse. So, to address the genetic bottleneck facing the wild wolf population, the Mexican wolf Recovery Team selects captive wolves for release to capitalize on the remaining genetic potential available in that population.
Since 2016, USFWS excessively reliant on just a single strategy to release captive wolves to the wild – their cross-foster initiative. Cross-fostering is a coordinated event where captive-born pups are introduced into a similar-aged wild litter to be raised by surrogate parents. But cross-fostered pups can only eventually spread their genes to the greater population if they survive to adulthood and have wild pups of their own.
With the translocation of the Negrito pack, USFWS is allowing this family to establish a territory where there will be fewer threats presented by livestock grazing. They are also giving Mexican gray wolf M1693, a cross-foster wolf himself (from 2018) who has unique genetics, a chance to fulfill his potential in aiding in the genetic rescue of endangered subspecies!
Please join us in thanking the USFWS for doing the right thing for this wolf family and ensuring they have a chance to raise their pups in the wild where they belong!
Anyone can submit a comment to USFWS Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator Brady McGee, regardless of geographic location! The deadline for public comments is May 24, 2021.
Tell USFWS you support the Ladder Ranch Reserve 2021 Wolf Translocation Plan for the Negrito Pack (M1693, F1728, and their young pups)
Thank them for helping this wolf family return to the wild where they belong! Tell them you support the release of bonded family groups to aid in the genetic rescue of endangered Mexican gray wolves.
Tell them this wolf pack will make a positive genetic contribution to the wild population.
Tell them the Ladder Ranch offers excellent habitat for wolves and will ensure that this young wolf family can thrive in the wild away from human activities and livestock grazing.
Please personalize your message. Nothing is as effective as speaking from the heart!
Support for the Ladder Ranch Translocation Proposal
Dear [Decision Maker], As a lifelong supporter of Endangered Species Act (ESA) and someone who cares deeply for our nation’s wolves, including endangered Mexican gray wolves, I am writing to express my support for the Ladder Ranch Reserve 2021 Wolf Translocation Plan for the Negrito wolf family (M1693, F1728, and their young pups). * Personalize your message
I applaud USFWS for taking these steps, and look forward to cheering USFWS on as you proceed with your full authority to translocate this wolf family onto the excellent habitat – away from livestock grazing – that Ladder Ranch offers.
Agreement with USDA’s Wildlife Services curbs killing of cougars, bears, and other native species
SANTA FE, NM—In a major win for New Mexico’s wildlife, WildEarth Guardians settled its lawsuit against USDA’s Wildlife Services after the federal program agreed to stop its reckless slaughter of native carnivores such as black bears, cougars, and foxes on all federal public lands; cease killing all carnivores on specific protected federal lands; and end the use of cruel traps, snares, and poisons on public lands.
The settlement additionally requires public reporting of Wildlife Services’ activities in the state, including documenting non-lethal preventative measures employed by the program. These protections will remain in place pending the program’s completion of a detailed and public environmental review of its work.
The settlement agreement comes after WildEarth Guardians sued Wildlife Services in October 2020 over the program’s reliance on severely outdated environmental reviews of its work. The agreement, filed with the federal district court of New Mexico, ensures that Wildlife Services will no longer conduct any wildlife killing in New Mexico’s specially protected areas such as designated Wilderness, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, and Wild & Scenic River corridors. The program will cease using sodium cyanide bombs (M44s) and other poisons on all public lands within the state. Additionally, the program will no longer kill beavers, which are increasingly seen as critical to mitigating the effects of widespread drought.
Notably, the agreement also mandates that a program district supervisor reviews all wolf depredation investigation reports before a livestock depredation determination is made in an effort to ensure appropriate safeguards for the endangered Mexican gray wolves that inhabit southwestern New Mexico.
“It’s past time for Wildlife Services to start grappling with 21st century science showing killing wildlife in hopes of preventing livestock losses doesn’t work, is often counterproductive, horribly inhumane, and robs native ecosystems of critically important apex carnivores,” said Jennifer Schwartz, staff attorney at WildEarth Guardians. “We’re glad our settlement kickstarts this process, while affording New Mexico’s wildlife some reprieve from the government’s archaic and cruel killing practices.”
The settlement agreement, finalized on March 11, 2021, includes multiple temporary provisions that will soon become permanent parts of New Mexico law as the result of the enactment of the Wildlife Conservation and Public Safety Act (“Roxy’s Law”) earlier this month. Roxy’s Law—championed by WildEarth Guardians and its allies in the TrapFree New Mexico coalition—bans the use of traps, snares, and poisons, on all public lands in the state of New Mexico. While Roxy’s Law is set to go into effect on April 1, 2022, the settlement agreement ensures that Wildlife Services refrains from using these devices on public lands immediately.
“The past several weeks have seen incredible wins for New Mexico’s native wildlife,” said Chris Smith, southern Rockies wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “With the climate crisis, drought, and human expansion all taking a toll on our state’s biodiversity, it’s time we stop seeing wildlife as something that needs to be killed and culled and instead see it as something that deserves protection and respect.”
Wildlife Services is culpable of killing thousands of animals in New Mexico each year including coyotes, cougars, prairie dogs, several varieties of fox, and even endangered Mexican gray wolves. Per federal law, Wildlife Services must use up-to-date studies and the best available science to analyze the environmental impact of their animal damage control program on New Mexico’s wildlife and native ecosystems. Under the agreement, Wildlife Services must provide an environmental analysis of the effects and risks of its wildlife-killing program in New Mexico by December 31, 2021.
The settlement agreement also requires Wildlife Services to significantly increase its overall transparency with the public by documenting and releasing—via its state website—detailed yearly reports of its wildlife “damage control” practices. This includes the number and type of animals captured and by which method, the number of requests for assistance and the reason given (livestock protection, health and safety, nuisance, etc.), and types of non-lethal preventative measures employed by Wildlife Services or the party requesting lethal control. This type of detailed information has previously only been available through formal Freedom of Information Act requests, which typically take many months, if not years, for USDA to fulfill.
“A public reporting requirement will compel Wildlife Services to be held accountable to the general public for its actions,” said Schwartz. “We hope that this motivates Wildlife Services to employ practices in line with the values of the public and embrace the use of scientifically verified non-lethal conflict prevention.”
BackgroundWildlife Services is a multimillion-dollar federal program that uses painful leghold traps, strangulation snares, poisons and aerial gunning to kill wolves, coyotes, cougars, birds, and other wild animals. Most of the killing responds to requests from the agriculture industry.
The program reported killing more than 433,000 native animals nationwide in 2020. Nontarget animals, including pets and protected wildlife like wolves, grizzlies and eagles, are also at risk from the program’s indiscriminate methods.
Over the last five years, litigation by WildEarth Guardians and partners against Wildlife Services has resulted in settlement agreements and legal victories in Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and New Mexico, all curbing the program’s slaughter of native wildlife and making the program accountable for its activities.
Each spring, hummingbirds return to our gardens, farms, and parks, bringing their sparkle and activity. Birders and non-birders alike are excited to see these birds return. The hummingbird species we see vary depending on location, but these colorful birds brighten up any backyard with their beauty. Their majesty is not without mystery, though — especially when it comes to their nesting habits. Hummingbirds are masters at camouflaging their nests, making them almost impossible to spot, even when you are looking.
To shed some light on how hummingbirds breed, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide. So, if you’ve ever wondered about the size of hummingbird nests, what time of year these tiny birds build these natural structures, and what to look for, read on!
Where do hummingbirds nest?
Hummingbirds can be picky about where they nest. While some species like the Ruby-throated Hummingbird have adapted to urbanization, sometimes even nesting on wires, plant hangers, and other human-made items, most prefer the cover of deciduous trees growing near water. Tree foliage provides shelter for the parents and their chicks, while the water helps to keep the area cool. Hummingbirds also need to live near food sources, including nectar-rich flowering plants — another reason why sites near water are important for hummingbirds in dry regions.
Due to the small size of hummingbird nests, you’re not likely to find one in the crook of a large branch. Instead, hummingbirds tend to “set up shop” on thinner branches roughly one foot from tree trunks, often at a fork.
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird and chicks. Photo by Agnieszka Bacal/Shutterstock
How can you attract hummingbirds to nest?
Unlike some other popular backyard birds, hummingbirds do not nest in birdhouses. However, there are a number of good ways to tempt them to your yard. You can maintain or plant native flowering plants, provide reliable water sources, and avoid chemicals that harm birds and other wildlife, including the insects hummingbirds prey upon. Properly maintained feeders can also supplement hummingbirds’ natural diets and attract them to your property.
How big is a hummingbird nest?
In general, hummingbird nests only measure a little over one inch in diameter! Their size depends on several factors. Different species, of course, build different nests. In general, larger species build larger ones than smaller species do. Construction materials and location can also affect the shape and size of nests.
Hummingbird nest and eggs. Photo by Wellington Nadalini/Shutterstock
What are hummingbird nests made of?
Hummingbirds like their nests to be soft and flexible. To construct them this way, they use a variety of natural materials. Like most birds, hummingbirds start with twigs and other bits of plants, using leaves for a base. However, hummingbirds will also use moss and lichen to camouflage their nests and to make them softer. The secret to a successful hummingbird nest, however, is spider silk. More about that directly below.
How do hummingbirds build their nests?
Female hummingbirds spend up to seven days building their flexible, bowl-shaped nests. First, they create a base layer. Then, they incorporate spider silk by rolling it over the unfinished structure. The silk, which holds the nest together and anchors it to a foundation, is inserted into nooks and crevasses to ensure attachment. Construction requires several hours each day.Video Player
WATCH: Hummingbird arrives with spider silk to reinforce her nest. Video by Freebilly Photography/Shutterstockes-at
What does a hummingbird nest look like?
Because it is adorned with compacted green lichen, moss, and spider silk, a hummingbird nest can appear like a small knot of wood. Its shape and coloring work as camouflage to keep hummingbird eggs and chicks safe.
When do hummingbirds nest?
The time of year that hummingbirds nest and lay eggs varies by location. In the southern U.S., hummingbird breeding begins as soon as March. In contrast, the process may not start until July in cooler, northern or montane regions. Some western species, such as the Anna’s Hummingbird, may start nesting with the first winter rains in November.
Hummingbird chick. Photo by Damsea/Shutterstock
How do you find a hummingbird nest?
Hummingbird nests are extremely hard to spot. As noted above, they are both well-hidden and camouflaged. The best places to look are on thin, forked branches and in dense shrubs. As mentioned above, these nests often look like tree knots. If you spot an oddly placed knot, you might have gotten lucky!
Carefully observing hummingbird behavior is usually key to finding their nests. Watching from a distance, you might be able to spot a female repeatedly visiting the same site during the process of nest construction. During incubation, females leave their nests only for brief periods to forage. If you are lucky enough to spot a female during this phase of breeding, and luckier still to be able to follow her flight path, she may lead you to her nest.
Can I touch a hummingbird nest?
You should not touch hummingbird nests. In the United States, it is illegal to touch, relocate, or remove an active nest. If you discover one, it is best to observe it from a distance. Binoculars will enable you to view the female or young from afar. This will minimize disturbance and avoid inadvertently tipping off a predator, such as a jay, to the location.
Hummingbird chicks. Photo by F Armstrong Photography/Shutterstock
Do hummingbirds leave their nests at night?
Hummingbirds use the night to sleep. In most cases, they will sleep on or by their nests, but not always.
Do hummingbirds reuse their nests?
No. Because hummingbird nests are flexible and expand as chicks grow, they eventually stretch, losing their shape and becoming unsuitable for new use. This means that every new set of eggs requires a new nest!
What can you do to help hummingbirds?
We all can do our part to protect hummingbirds.
American Bird Conservancy and our Joint Venture partners have improved conservation management on 6.4 million acres of U.S. bird habitat — an area larger than the state of Maryland — over the last ten years. This is a monumental undertaking, requiring the support of many, and you can help by making a gift today.
Policies enacted by Congress and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have a huge impact on America’s birds. You can help shape these rules for the better by telling lawmakers to prioritize birds, bird habitat, and bird-friendly measures. To get started, visit ABC’s Action Center.
Finally, don’t overlook the impact you can have in your yard. Creating and improving habitat for hummingbirds can be easy. Check out our “Hummingbird Paradise” post to learn more. For a complete list of daily activities you can take to help birds, visit our Bird-Friendly Life page.
Anna’s Hummingbird. Photo by Feng Yu/Shutterstock
How does American Bird Conservancy help hummingbirds?
ABC works with conservation partners and local communities to ensure the survival of the world’s most endangered hummingbirds, as well as many other rare, declining bird species and their habitats.
With partners in Latin America and the Caribbean, we have created 93 reserves spanning more than 1 million acres, where 234 hummingbird species find protection.
Habitat restoration is another hallmark of our work with hummingbirds. To date, ABC has planted more than 6 million trees and shrubs to revitalize key habitats, and we’re planning to plant 70,000 more.
115 Top U.S. Wolf Experts, Scientists Urge Biden Administration to Restore Federal Protections for Gray Wolves
State Wildlife Agencies Reject Science, Demonstrate Inability to Sustain Wolf Populations
WASHINGTON— More than 100 scientists today called upon Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reinstate federal protections for gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act.
Wolves lost their federal protections when the Trump administration finalized a national delisting rule in January. Since then, management of wolves has fallen to state wildlife agencies. The letter explains that “state governments have clearly indicated that they will manage wolves to the lowest allowable standards.”
Under the Endangered Species Act, all decisions about the listing of imperiled species must be based solely on the best available science. The scientists’ letter calls upon the federal officials to reinstate federal protections for wolves and “reverse recent and broad trends that have disregarded best-available science with respect to the ESA.”
The letter is endorsed by 115 scientists with expertise in areas related to wolf conservation, such as ecology, population dynamics and genetics. The letter is led by John Vucetich, a professor at Michigan Technological University, and Jeremy Bruskotter, a professor at Ohio State University.
“It’s very clear. The best-available science shows that gray wolves in the lower 48 states do not meet the law’s requirements for recovery,” said Vucetich. “Not being recovered, combined with hostile treatment of wolves by states such as Montana, Idaho and Wisconsin, indicates the need for federally guided conservation of wolves.”
“Emerging science and our experience with wolf conservation indicate there is far more suitable habitat for wolves than was once believed,” said Bruskotter. “Recovering wolves in other suitable areas depends critically on wolves dispersing from existing recovery areas. The recent politicization of wolf management in states like Idaho and Montana puts long-term recovery of wolves in jeopardy by reducing the probability of such dispersals.”
On his first day in office, President Biden ordered a broad review of the Trump administration’s anti-wildlife policies, including the decision to strip Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves. Since then, hundreds of wolves have been killed under state management. The Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to issue any official review of the gray wolf delisting rule.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
The Endangered Species Coalition’s mission is to stop the human-caused extinction of our nation’s at-risk species, to protect and restore their habitats, and to guide these fragile populations along the road to recovery.
Proposal called for 4,600 acres of clearcuts, bulldozing up to 56 miles of roads on public lands just outside of Yellowstone National Park
WEST YELLOWSTONE, MONTANA— Following a challenge by multiple conservation groups, the U.S. Forest Service announced Thursday that it was halting a plan to clearcut more than 4,600 acres of native forests, log across an additional 9,000 acres and bulldoze up to 56 miles of road on lands just outside Yellowstone National Park in the Custer Gallatin National Forest.
In April, the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council challenged the South Plateau project, saying it would destroy habitat for grizzly bears, lynx, pine martens, and wolverines. The logging project would have destroyed the scenery and solitude for hikers using the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, which crosses the proposed timber-sale area.
“This was another one of the Forest Service’s ‘leap first, look later’ projects where the agency asks for a blank check to figure out later where they’ll do all the clearcutting and bulldozing,” said Adam Rissien, a rewilding advocate at WildEarth Guardians. “Logging forests under the guise of reducing wildfires is not protecting homes or improving wildlife habitat, it’s just a timber sale. If the Forest Service tries to revive this scheme to clearcut native forests and bulldoze new roads in critical wildlife habitat just outside of Yellowstone, we’ll continue standing against it.”
In response to the group’s challenge, the Forest Service said it was withdrawing the South Plateau project until after it issues a new management plan for the Custer-Gallatin National Forest this summer. Then it plans to prepare a new environmental analysis of the project with “additional public involvement” to ensure the project complies with the new forest plan.
“This is a good day for the greater Yellowstone ecosystem and for the grizzlies, lynx and other wildlife that call it home,” said Ted Zukoski, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Forest Service may revive this destructive project in a few months, but for now this beautiful landscape is safe from chainsaws and bulldozers.”
The project violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to disclose precisely where and when it would bulldoze roads and clearcut the forest, which made it impossible for the public to understand the project’s impacts, the groups said in their April objection. The project allowed removal of trees more than a century old, which provide wildlife habitat and store significant amounts of carbon dioxide, an essential component of addressing the climate emergency.
“The South Plateau project was in violation of the forest plan protections for old growth,” said Sara Johnson, director of Native Ecosystems Council and a former wildlife biologist for the Custer Gallatin National Forest. “The new forest plan has much weaker old-growth protections standards. That is likely why they pulled the decision — so they can resign it after the new forest plan goes into effect.”
“The Forest Service needs to drop the South Plateau project and quit clearcutting old-growth forests,” said Mike Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “Especially clearcutting and bulldozing new logging roads in grizzly habitat on the border of Yellowstone National Park.”
Ted Zukoski, Center for Biological Diversity, (303) 641-3149, email@example.com, Michael Garrity, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936, firstname.lastname@example.org, Dr. Sara Jane Johnson, Native Ecosystems Council, (406) 579-3286, email@example.com
The rose-red male Summer Tanager is the only completely red bird in North America — the male Northern Cardinal has a black mask; the closely related Scarlet Tanager has black wings and tail; and the duller-red Hepatic Tanager has grayish flanks and cheek patches. The female Summer Tanager is a warm orangish-yellow, and first-spring males have an interesting intermediate plumage patched with yellow and red.
This chunky, thick-billed songbird is surprisingly difficult to spot in the treetops, but it can be easily detected by its burry song and chuckling call notes.
The Summer Tanager’s stout, pointed bill allows it to easily capture and neutralize its preferred prey, bees and wasps and their larvae. Its predilection for stinging insects earned this songbird the nickname “Bee Bird.” When foraging, the Summer Tanager darts out from a perch to snatch a bee or wasp in mid-air, then subdues the insect by beating it against a branch. Before eating its catch, the tanager first removes the stinger. Summer Tanagers also rip into wasp nests to eat the larvae inside.
Many beekeepers consider the Summer Tanager a pest, but it rarely takes enough insects to pose a significant threat to a hive.
Northeast by Southwest
The Summer Tanager breeds across much of the eastern and southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Eastern and southern populations prefer open oak, hickory, and mixed oak-pine woodlands, and western populations breed in riparian woodlands of cottonwood and willow.
Like the closely related Western Tanager, the Summer Tanager is a long-distance migrant, moving south to winter from central Mexico into South America, as far south as Bolivia and Brazil. It migrates during the night, with eastern populations making the long flight directly across the Gulf of Mexico.
On its wintering grounds, the Summer Tanager also favors open woodlands, but can also be found in second-growth forest and edge, on plantations, and even in urban parks and gardens.
There are two widespread Summer Tanager subspecies. The western group is duller and paler-plumaged than the brighter-red eastern subspecies. A third subspecies is only found in northwestern Arizona.
The Summer Tanager’s distinctive call is a staccato “picky-tuck-tuck.” Its song is similar to that of the American Robin, but slower and more variable.
Although Summer Tanagers specialize in hunting bees and wasps, they also take a wide variety of other invertebrates, such as beetles, dragonflies, cicadas, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and spiders. While foraging, Summer Tanagers stay in the mid- to upper levels of the forest canopy, often repeatedly sallying out from the same perch like a flycatcher.
This versatile tanager also feeds on small fruits and berries, particularly on its wintering grounds. It may also visit backyard feeders for jam and suet.
Male Summer Tanagers arrive on the breeding grounds first, then stake out a territory that they defend against other males through singing duels and frequent chases. They continue to defend their nest site and a feeding territory throughout the breeding season. After females arrive on the breeding grounds, males court them with more singing, calling, and chasing.
Female Summer Tanager with insect. Photo by Agami Photo Agency, Shutterstock
After mating, the female builds a cup-shaped nest of stems, leaves, and grasses high up and well out on a horizontal branch, often over a clearing or stream. There, she lays two to four eggs. The male feeds the female as she incubates, and both parents feed the hatchlings as they mature. A Summer Tanager pair usually raises only one brood per season.
Summer Tanagers seem to recognize the threat posed by brood parasites such as Brown-headed Cowbirds, chasing them away from their territories whenever possible. Nevertheless, their nests are often parasitized.
Keeping the Bee Bird Buzzing
Although Summer Tanager populations are currently considered stable, the species is still vulnerable to habitat loss, particularly the clearing of riparian habitat in the western United States. There, the Summer Tanager shares habitat with several threatened birds, including the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and western race of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo.
ABC works to preserve riparian habitat throughout the Southwest. We have advocated for the San Pedro River, one of the last major undammed rivers in the American Southwest. The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, which protects important habitat for the Summer Tanager and many other species, including the Elf Owl and Costa’s Hummingbird, was the first site designated by ABC as a Global Important Bird Area.
Migrating Summer Tanagers are vulnerable to collisions with communications towers and other human-built obstacles along their journeys. ABC offers a variety of solutions to this problem, both for interested birders and businesses.
Even some hunters, don’t like this wholesale slaughter of wolves. A group called Hunter for Wolves have put up billboards in Wisconsin saying ‘Real hunters don’t kill wolves’. We hope the majority of silent hunters agree.🤞🏻 https://t.co/qHG0oUfZhM
Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) this week signed a measure that would eliminate most limits on hunting wolves in the state.
Under the law, which will take effect in the months ahead, private contractors and hunters in the state will be authorized to kill more than 90 percent of wolves in Idaho. The measure also nearly triples the budget for the state Wolf Depredation Control Board from $110,000 to $300,000.
The bill passed the GOP-dominated state legislature largely along party lines. Under a 2002 conservation agreement, the state is required to allow at least 150 wolves and 15 packs to live in the state. The current number of wolves is estimated at around 1,500. Wolves were delisted from the state’s endangered species list in 2011.
State House Majority Leader Mike Moyle (R), a co-sponsor of the bill, called the measure necessary for preventing wolves from having a detrimental effect on other wildlife in the state.
“We have areas of the state where the wolves are having a real detrimental impact on our wildlife,” he said in April, according to The Associated Press. “They are hurting the herds, elk and deer. This allows the Wolf (Depredation) Control Board and others to control them, also, which we have not done in the past.”
Environmental groups have blasted the decision and called for Little to veto it before he signed it Wednesday.
“Backed by an array of misinformation and fearmongering, the state legislature stepped over experts at the Idaho Fish and Game Department and rushed to pass this horrific wolf-killing bill,” Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.
“And Republican lawmakers have promised that this is just the beginning, even though the new measure would doom 90% of Idaho’s wolves. We’re disappointed that Gov. Little signed such a cruel and ill-conceived bill into law.”
Amanda Wight, program manager of wildlife protection for the Humane Society of the United States, called the bill “a death warrant for hundreds of Idaho’s iconic and beloved wolves.”
“This bill, which has no grounding in science or public values, demonstrates that Idaho can no longer responsibly manage its wolves,” Wight told The Hill in a statement. “The time has come for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to step in and abide by their obligations to review and relist these imperiled animals under the Endangered Species Act now that Idaho is allowing unlimited killing.”
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has also spoken out against the measure, saying it could undermine the commission’s authority, according to the AP.
Rothschild’s giraffes used to wander across Kenya, Uganda, and southern Sudan in massive herds. But that was three decades ago.
The situation looks a lot different now, as the Rothschild’s giraffe population has dropped by around 80% in the last three decades.
Because of this, experts say they’re “arguably one of the most imperiled giraffe subspecies.” Sadly, only about 3,000 of them remain in Kenya and Uganda today.Facebook
A small herd of Rothschild’s giraffes has lived on Longicharo Island in Lake Baringo, Kenya, since 2011. However, as climate change worsens, the lake’s waters continue to rise, causing the island where these giraffes live to slowly start to sink.
This cuts the herd off from food sources and leads to repeated flooding in their habitat.
Animal activists knew they needed to act before these critically endangered animals further dwindle in numbers. So, 15 months ago, Save Giraffes Now, the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Ruko Community Conservancy, and the Northern Rangelands Trust came together to craft a rescue plan.
Their brainstorming resulted in creating a customized barge known as the “GiRaft,” which is a barge with very tall walls that would be kept afloat by 60 empty drums and towed by boats.
Of course, the giraffes had to get acquainted with the barge first to make the relocation process easier. So, rescuers filled it with treats and left it afloat on the shore for days, allowing the mammals to get comfortable walking in and out of the barge independently.
Then, they started luring over the giraffes one by one and trapping them aboard. After securing them into the raft, the animals are floated 1 mile across the lake toward the Ruko Community Conservancy, a 44,000-acre sanctuary located on higher ground.Facebook
In December 2020, a female giraffe named Asiwa made the journey to her new home.
Gradually, seven giraffes were brought to the sanctuary. The last pair left was a mother named Nkarikoni and her calf, Noelle, born on the flooded island around Christmastime. The rescuers waited until she was strong enough to make the trip.
Finally, on April 12, 2021, the rescue mission came to an end when mama giraffe and her little one were floated to their new home!
Save Giraffes Now shared the happy news on their Instagram:
“We are thrilled to announce that all 9 #RukoGiraffe have been floated safely to the mainland! They are safely off their flooding island and at their new home, a 4,400-acre sanctuary at Ruko Community Conservancy, where they have been reunited and will live happily ever after!”Facebook
Efforts like these are crucial if mankind hopes to save endangered species like the Rothschild’s giraffe.
According to Save Giraffes Now president David O’Connor, giraffes are going through a “silent extinction,” so each one that can be saved matters.
This rescue operation is also significant because it united two communities in Kenya—the Njemps and Pokot—that have been locked in conflict for generations. Despite their differences, they were able to work together toward the common goal of saving the Rothschild’s giraffes.
Now, rangers say the giraffes are looking happy and healthy in their new habitat.
“The management of Ruko Sanctuary, in collaboration with the local community, has done a commendable job in efforts to conserve this rare species. Indeed, Ruko Sanctuary is a model conservation initiative worth replicating elsewhere,” said Dr. Isaac Lekolool, senior veterinary officer for Kenya Wildlife Service.Facebook
According to Dr. Lekolool, this project also marks the reintroduction of these giraffes to the mainland for the first time in 70 years.
The long-term goal of the rescue group is to introduce other Rothschild’s giraffes from other places in Kenya to those living in the Ruko Community Conservancy. This will help create a genetically healthy population of giraffes that can eventually be released into another environment outside the sanctuary.
If you want to learn more about Save Giraffes Now and its partners in this rescue operation, you can visit the organization’s project website.
Please share this story with your family and friends.
Explore context Environment and Natural Resource Security
A diverse range of mammals once roamed the planet, but this changed quickly and dramatically with the arrival of humans.
Since the rise of humans, wild land mammal biomass has declined by 85%, writes Hannah Ritchie for Our World in Data.
For the first time in human history, we can produce enough food from a smaller land area, making it possible for wild animals to flourish again.
Travel back 100,000 years and the planet was rich with a wide array of wild mammals. Mammoths roamed across North America; lions across Europe; 200-kilogram wombats in Australasia; and the ground sloth lounged around South America.
They’re now gone. Since the rise of humans, several hundred of the world’s largest mammals have gone extinct.
While we often think of ecological damage as a modern problem our impacts date back millennia to the times in which humans lived as hunter-gatherers. Our history with wild animals has been a zero-sum game: either we hunted them to extinction, or we destroyed their habitats with agricultural land. Without these natural habitats to expand into and produce food on, the rise of humans would have been impossible. Humans could only thrive at the expense of wild mammals.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. This century marks a pivotal moment: for the first time in human history there is the opportunity for us to thrive alongside, rather than compete with, the other mammals that we share this planet with.
In this article I want to take a look at how the world’s mammals have changed in the past, and how we can pave a better way forward.
As we’ll see, our long history with the other mammals is really a story about meat. Humans have always, and continue to have, a strong drive to eat meat. For our hunter-gatherer ancestors life was about plotting a hunt against the giant 200-kilogram wombat. This later became a story of how to produce the equivalent of a giant wombat in the field. Now we’re focused on how we can produce this in the lab.
The decline of wild mammals has a long history
To understand how the richness of the mammal kingdom has changed we need a metric that captures a range of different animals and is comparable over time. We could look at their abundance – the number of individuals we have – but this is not ideal. We would be counting every species equally, from a mouse to an elephant and this metric would therefore an ecosystem taken over by the smallest mammals look much richer than one in which bigger mammals roam: if the world’s mouse populations multiplied and multiplied – maybe even to the detriment of other animals – then this abundance metric might suggest that these ecosystems were thriving.
Instead, ecologists often use the metric biomass. This means that each animal is measured in tonnes of carbon, the fundamental building block of life.1 Biomass gives us a measure of the total biological productivity of an ecosystem. It also gives more weight to larger animals at higher levels of the ecological ‘pyramid’: these rely on well-functioning bases below them.
I have reconstructed the long-term estimates of mammal terrestrial biomass from 100,000 BC through to today from various scientific sources.2 This means biomass from marine mammals – mainly whales – is not included. The story of whaling is an important one that I cover separately here. This change in wild land mammals is shown in the chart. When I say ‘wild mammals’ from this point, I’m talking about our metric of biomass.
If we go back to around 100,000 years ago – a time when there were very few early humans and only in Africa – all of the wild land mammals on Earth summed up to around 20 million tonnes of carbon. This is shown as the first column in the chart. The mammoths, and European lions, and ground sloths were all part of this.
By around 10,000 years ago we see a huge decline of wild mammals. This is shown in the second column. It’s hard to give a precise estimate of the size of these losses millennia ago, but they were large: likely in the range of 25% to 50%.3
It wasn’t just that we lost a lot of mammals. It was almost exclusively the world’s largest mammals that vanished. This big decline of mammals is referred to as the Quaternary Megafauna Extinction (QME). The QME led to the extinction of more than 178 of the world’s large mammals (‘megafauna’).
Many researchers have grappled with the question of what caused the QME. Most evidence now points towards humans as the primary driver.4 I look at this evidence in much more detail in a related article. Most of this human impact came through hunting. There might also have been smaller local impacts through fire and other changes to natural landscapes. You can trace the timing of mammal extinctions by following human expansion across the world’s continents. When our ancestors arrived in Europe the European megafauna went extinct; when they arrived in North America the mammoths went extinct; then down to South America, the same.
What’s most shocking is how few humans were responsible for this large-scale destruction of wildlife. There were likely fewer than 5 million peoplein the world. 5 Around half the population of London today.6
A global population half the size of London helped drive tens to hundreds of the world’s largest mammals to extinction. The per capita impact of our hunter-gatherer ancestors was huge.
The romantic idea that our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived in harmony with nature is deeply flawed. Humans have never been ‘in balance’ with nature. Trace the footsteps of these tiny populations of the past and you will find extinction after extinction after extinction.
Hunting to farming: how human populations now compete with wild mammals
We’re now going to fast-forward to our more recent past. By the year 1900, wild mammals had seen another large decline.
By this point, the pressures on wild mammals had shifted. The human population had increased to 1.7 billion people. But the most important change was the introduction of farming and livestock. We see this in the top panel of the chart. This shows the per capita agricultural land use over these millennia – a reflection of how humans got their food.7 Before the agricultural revolution around 10,000 years ago, our food came from hunting and gathering. Agricultural land use was minimal although as we’ve already seen, per capita impacts were still high through hunting. We then see a clear transition point, where agricultural land use begins to rise.
The rise of agriculture had both upsides and downsides for wild mammals. On the one hand, it alleviated some of the direct pressure. Rather than hunting wild mammals we raised our own for meat, milk, or textiles. In this way, the rise of livestock saved wildlife. Crop farming also played a large role in this. The more food humans could produce for themselves, the less they needed to rely on wild meat.
But the rise of agriculture also had a massive downside: the need for agricultural land meant the loss of wild habitats.
The expansion of agriculture over millennia has completely reshaped the global landscape from one of wild habitats, to one dominated by farms. Over the last 10,000 years, we’ve lost one-third of the world’s forests and many grasslands and other wild habitats have been lost too. This obviously came at a large ecological cost: rather than competing with wild mammals directly, our ancestors took over the land that they needed to survive.
We see this change clearly in the bottom panel of the chart: there was a first stage of wild mammal loss through hunting; then another decline through the loss of habitats to farmland.
This shift in the distribution has continued through to today. We see this in the final column, which gives the breakdown in 2015. Wild mammals saw another large decline in the last century. At the same time the human population increased, and our livestock even more so. This because incomes across the world have increased, meaning more people can afford the meat products that were previously unavailable to them. We dig a bit deeper into this distribution of mammals in a related article.
The past was a zero-sum game; the future doesn’t have to be
Since the rise of humans, wild land mammals have declined by 85%.
As we just saw, this history can be divided into two stages. The pre-agriculture phase where our ancestors were in direct competition with wild mammals. They killed them for their meat. And the post-agriculture phase where the biggest impact was indirect: habitat loss through the expansion of farmland. Our past relationship with wild animals has been a zero-sum game: in one way or another, human success has come at the cost of wild animals.
How do we move forward?
Some people suggest a return to wild hunting as an alternative to modern, intensive farming. A return to our primal roots. This might be sustainable for a few local communities. But we only need to do a simple calculation to see how unfeasible this is at any larger scale. In 2018 the world consumed 210 million tonnes of livestock meat from mammals [we’re only looking at mammals here so I’ve excluded chicken, turkey, goose, and duck meat]. In biomass terms, that’s 31 million tonnes of carbon.8 From our chart above we saw that there are only 3 million tonnes of wild land mammal biomass left in the world. If we relied on this for food, all of the world’s wild mammals would be eaten within a month.9
We cannot go back to this hunter-gatherer way of living. Even a tiny number of people living this lifestyle had a massive negative impact on wildlife. For a population of almost 8 billion it’s simply not an option.
But the alternative of continued growth in livestock consumption is also not sustainable. In the short term, it is saving some wild mammals from hunting. But its environmental costs are high: the expansion of agricultural land is the leading driver of deforestation, it emits large amounts of greenhouse gases, and needs lots of resource inputs.
Thankfully we have options to build a better future. If we can reduce agricultural land – and primarily land use for livestock – we can free up land for wild mammals to return. There are already positive signs that this is possible. In the chart we see the change in per capita agricultural land use from 5,000 years ago to today.10 Land use per person has fallen four-fold. The most dramatic decline has happened in the last 50 years: the amount of agricultural land per person has more than halved since 1960. This was the result of increased crop yields and livestock productivity. Of course, the world population also increased over that time, meaning total agricultural land use continued to grow. But, there might be positive signs: the world may have already passed ‘peak agricultural land’. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports a decline in global agricultural land since 2000: falling from 4.9 to 4.8 billion hectares. A very small decline, but signs that we could be at a turning point.
I’ve tried to capture what the future could look like in this final chart. It shows the rise in global agricultural land use over these millennia and the decline in wild biomass that we’ve already seen. But looking to the future, a decline in agricultural land alongside a rise in wild mammals is possible. How can we achieve this?
What’s the World Economic Forum doing about deforestation?
Halting deforestation is essential to avoiding the worst effects of global climate change.
The destruction of forests creates almost as much greenhouse gas emissions as global road travel, and yet it continues at an alarming rate.
In 2012, we brought together more than 150 partners working in Latin America, West Africa, Central Africa and South-East Asia – to establish the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020: a global public-private partnership to facilitate investment in systemic change.
The Alliance, made up of businesses, governments, civil society, indigenous people, communities and international organizations, helps producers, traders and buyers of commodities often blamed for causing deforestation to achieve deforestation-free supply chains. null
Some people are in favor of a switch to traditional plant-based diets: cereals, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Because the land use of plant-based diets is smaller than meat-based diets this is definitely a sustainable option; those who adopt such diets have a low environmental footprint. But many people in the world just really like meat and for those that can afford it, it’s a central part of their diet. For many of those who can’t aspire to be able to do so; we see this when we look at how meat consumption rises with income.
With new technologies it’s possible to enjoy meat or meat-like products without raising or consuming any animals at all. We can have our cake and eat it; or rather, we can have our meat and keep our animals too. Food production is entering a new phase where we can move meat production from the farm to the lab. The prospects for cultured meat are growing. In 2020, Singapore was the first country to bring lab-grown chicken to the market. And it’s not just lab-grown meat that’s on the rise. A range of alternative products using other technologies such as fermentation or plant-based substitutes are moving forward: Beyond Meat, Quorn and Impossible Foods are a few examples.
The biggest barriers – as with all technologies in their infancy – is going to be scale and affordability. If these products are to make a difference at a global scale we need to be able to produce them in large volumes and at low cost. This is especially true if we want to offer an alternative to the standard ‘wild animal to livestock’ transition for lower-income countries. They have to be cheaper than meat.
It’s going to be a challenge. But it’s an incredibly exciting one. For the first time in human history we could decouple human progress from ecological degradation. The game between humans and wild animals no longer needs to be zero-sum. We can reduce poaching and restore old habitats to allow wild mammals to flourish. Doing so does not have to come at the cost of human wellbeing. We can thrive alongside, rather than compete with, the other mammals that we share this planet with. null Share License and Republishing
It’s great news for wildlife as Minister Barbara Creecy of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) today announced crucial and long-awaited steps towards changing the status quo of the commercial captive lion breeding industry in South Africa.
Speaking at a stakeholder’s feedback meeting in Pretoria, Minister Creecy said that South Africa will no longer breed captive lions, keep lions in captivity, or use captive lions or their derivatives commercially.
Minister Creecy has instructed her Department to put processes in place to:
halt the sale of captive lion derivatives (including the appropriate disposal of existing lion bone stockpiles and lion bone from euthanised lions);
halt the hunting of captive bred lions;
halt tourist interactions with captive lions (including, so-called voluntourism, cub petting, etc).
“The [High-Level] Panel identified that the captive lion breeding industry poses risks to the sustainability of wild lion conservation resulting from the negative impact on ecotourism, which funds lion conservation and conservation more broadly, the negative impact on the authentic wild hunting industry, and the risk that trade in lion parts poses to stimulating poaching and illegal trade”, said Minister Creecy in her announcement today.
The Department will be initiating processes to implement these majority recommendations by the High-Level Panel (HLP), established by the Minister in October 2019, in order to mitigate these risks and shift away from this abhorrent industry.
“We commend the Minister in her decisive leadership” – Dr Louise de Waal, Blood Lions
“Blood Lions has campaigned against this cruel and unethical industry and its spin-off activities for many years, and we are extremely happy by the Minister’s decision to bring an end to the commercial captive lion breeding industry”, says Dr Louise de Waal (Director and Campaign Manager of Blood Lions).
“We commend the Minister in her decisive leadership, and we would welcome the chance to play a role in assisting her, the various Departments and entities in the phasing out process to come.”A subadult male lion with possible mange, kept in captivity. Photo: Blood Lions
Currently, 8,000-12,000 lions and thousands of other big cats, including tigers and cheetahs, are bred and kept in captivity in more than 350 facilities in mostly the Free State, North West, Limpopo and Eastern Cape provinces. These predators are bred for commercial purposes, including interactive tourism, “canned” hunting, lion bone trade and live exports.
Blood Lions and the World Animal Protection together with many other stakeholders in the animal welfare and conservation sectors made a wealth of compelling science-based evidence available to the HLP in written and oral submissions in 2020.
Reasons provided to phase out the commercial captive lion breeding industry in South Africa included among others:
the risk of zoonosis,
animal welfare concerns,
the unregulated nature of the industry,
the fragmented policies pertaining this sector, as well as
damage to South Africa’s tourism and conservation reputation and
threats to the wild lion population from poaching.
“By working together, we can ensure that lions remain where they belong – in the wild. We stand ready to offer our expertise, working collaboratively with governments, NGOs and the tourism industry to find practical solutions”, says Edith Kabesiime (Wildlife Campaign Manager (Africa) for World Animal Protection.
DFFE taking lead towards a greener, more responsible South Africa
By implementing a ban on the use of captive lions and their derivatives, in conjunction with a breeding ban and an immediate end to all activities involving captive bred lions, DFFE will effectively take the lead towards a greener and more responsible South Africa.
These are the first steps in shifting away from commodifying SA’s wildlife, while moving towards a true “ecologically sustainable…use of natural resources”, as described in Section 24 in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution.
“Opposing this brutal industry has been a long journey. Our ultimate objective has always been to end the captive lion breeding industry, and after so many setbacks, we sense an important change in attitude. We applaud the Minister, her department and the HLP. Going forward, we hope to be of assistance to them in closing down the industry”, say Ian Michler and Pippa Hankinson (Directors of Blood Lions).
Given the considerable scale of farming and trade of captive lions in South Africa, the recommendations that came out of the HLP consultations concur with the views held amongst the global conservation community, welfare organisations, hunting bodies and the general public, who all condemn the industry.8,000 to 12,000 lions are kept in captivity in South Africa. Tourist interactions with captive lions are to be stopped. Photo: Blood Lions
“The only effective way to safeguard both people and animals throughout this industry is to conduct a phased shift away from commercial captive predator breeding operations”, de Waal states. “These steps will not only ensure improved welfare conditions for captive lions and other big cats, health and safety of the public at large, but also the protection of wild lions and the safeguarding of Brand South Africa from reputational damage, as the Minister acknowledged in her statement this morning.”
“Thousands of farmed lions are born into a life of misery in South Africa…”
Kabesiime adds: “Thousands of farmed lions are born into a life of misery in South Africa every year in cruel commercial breeding facilities. This latest move by the Government of South Africa is courageous – taking the first steps in a commitment to long-lasting and meaningful change. This is a win for wildlife.”An emaciated lion, in captivity. The risk of zoonosis is one of the compelling reasons to phase out commercial captive lion breeding in SA. Photo: Blood Lions
Blood Lions and World Animal Protection say they congratulate the Minister on these bold steps and offer their full support in developing and implementing a responsible phase-out plan in order to ensure that the commercial predator breeding industry is successfully closed down in South Africa, once and for all.
Just 20,000 lions remain in Africa according to multiple experts, meaning that hunting them, no matter how +/- impactful it is, shouldn't be happening with such dangerously low populations. https://t.co/XuZQKg2TaC
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