Ivory lust wanes in China, elephants rejoice
A mere 35 years ago some 1.2 million majestic elephants in Africa roamed the wide-ranging continent. With the inexplicable taste for ivory responsible for their demise, now fewer than 500,000 remain. Tanzania’s elephant population fell by 60 percent in five years; at this point Central African forest elephants could be extinct within 10.
While poaching has declined a bit as of late, some 20,000 African elephants are still slaughtered for their tusks each year, much in part to meet ivory demand from Asia, particularly China, notes Simon Denyer in The Washington Post.
“Reducing demand from China, the world’s biggest ivory market, is probably the single most important factor that could help end the widespread poaching of elephants in Africa,” writes Denver. And it looks like demand is not just being reduced, but plummeting.
The country is closing 67 ivory carving factories and retail shops this week, accounting for 30 percent of all, in preparation to stop all domestic ivory sales by the end of 2017.
And now a report has been released from the conservation group Save The Elephants, noting that the average wholesale price of tusks in China has fallen from $2,100 per kilogram in early 2014 to $730 this February. “The news is likely to foster hopes for an eventual end to the elephant poaching crisis in Africa,” writes Denver.
It’s easy to question the efficacy of government action given the strength of the black market, especially when it comes to illegal wildlife trade, but remarkably, the new direction seems to be taking hold here.
“These closures prove that China means business in closing down the ivory trade and helping the African elephant,” says Peter Knights, chief executive of WildAid, a non-profit that has been advocating against the ivory trade. Noting that the drop in price indicates that ivory has become “a very bad investment,” he expects further declines throughout the year.
Interestingly, the legal ivory trade in China – which relied on stockpiled goods collected before the global ban – has inadvertently worked to harbor a booming illegal trade that has fueled poaching. But with the government decision to end the trade, demand all around is dropping. The economic slowdown, an official anti-corruption campaign, and growing public awareness have all contributed to the wane as well, explains Knights.
Even before the ban has officially begun, confiscation of illegal ivory flooding into the country has dropped by 80 percent in 2016, and poaching has declined in Kenya, Knights says. Now if Hong Kong, Britain and Japan would only climb aboard the ivory ban bandwagon, the future of the planet’s beautiful regal elephants could become even more secure. But for now, China is a start – and big one at that.
Europe’s last remaining wild reindeer herds roam the beautifully stark mountains of Norway – Viewpoint Snøhetta is where to watch them.
While Lloyd and Kimberly usually cover the architecture beat, somehow this lovely structure never made it to the pages of TreeHugger. And seeing as how I have a background in design as well … and I have a country-crush on Norway … and I seem to write about animals every single day … well I thought “shhh, don’t pass this on to the design writers, save it for yourself, because … reindeer.”
Then again, it was built in 2011 so it’s not like it is new news – but that doesn’t keep me from thinking that it’s not still relevant. Because Norway and herds of wild reindeer and mod-organic wildlife observation buildings will never go out of style, in my humble opinion.
Officially known as Viewpoint Snøhetta, the structure is located at Hjerkinn on the edge of Dovrefjell National Park. It was designed by the architecture firm Snøhetta – who took their name from Dovrefjell’s highest peak, Snøhetta – it was commissioned by the Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre North. (TreeHugger covers a lot of projects by Snøhetta, by the way, like the impressive “energy positive” office building Powerhouse Telemark, the Zero Energy House, and the latest addition to the Treehotel.)
© Ketil Jacobsen
I think Viewpoint Snøhetta is just about perfect. Its simplicity of lines – it is a rectangular box, basically, made of raw steel and glass – doesn’t compete with the stark landscape the way that something more ornate would. And in fact, the reflective surface gives the front a constantly changing camouflage skin, of sorts, to blend right in.
Which is important, because it’s a landscape to revere. The Dovrefjell range creates a border between northern and southern Norway – and crucially, it hosts Europe’s last wild reindeer herds, as well as providing habitat for an array of rare plants and animals. Reindeer are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), thanks to a 40 percent decline in population over the past 21 to 27 years. And while there are still a few million reindeer on the planet, most of them are domesticated, rather than the wild ones that roam the Dovre.
Enra/CC BY 2.0
And on that note, the mountains themselves garner fond esteem. According to Snøhetta, the Dovre mountains hold a “significant importance in the Norwegian consciousness. National legends, myths, poetry (Ibsen) and music (Grieg) celebrate the mystic and eternal qualities of this powerful place.”
© Ketil Jacobsen
© Ketil Jacobsen
Within the rigid shell, however, it is all warmth; curves and comfort. Visitors must hike for a mile from the parking lot, so naturally it should have an inviting interior. The “bleachers” were made by Norwegian shipbuilders from 10-inch square pine timber beams, which were assembled using wood pegs as fasteners. The result is a part sauna, part driftwood, part Gaudi seating area that mimics the mountains and is likely as good for seating as it is for kids to climb around. The back of the building offers outdoor wooden seating as well. There is also a big Scandinavian fireplace for extra warmth and glow. (I know that wood-burning fireplaces have their problems, but for a seasonal-use, public building like thi
© Ketil Jacobsen
And of course, the glazing on the cake: the floor-to-ceiling windows that afford visitors a view of the landscape and wildlife. Because no matter how beautiful the pavilion is, the real star here is Mother Nature and her herds of wild reindeer.
For information on visiting, go to the Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre site –
(photosTags: Animals | Norway
COPYRIGHT © 2017 NARRATIVE CONTENT GROUP. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Contact your U.S. senators and politely urge them to OPPOSE S.J. Res. 18! This dangerous legislation could be acted on anytime, so your voice is urgently needed today!
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on March 02, 2017 at 4:36 PM, updated March 02, 2017 at 4:57 PM
A gray wolf was killed on private land in Wallowa County by a controversial cyanide device used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, wildlife officials confirmed Thursday.
The male, 100-pound wolf was a member of the Shamrock Pack in northeast Oregon and believed to be less than 2 years old. Officials had just placed a tracking collar on the animal Feb. 10. The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife and the USDA acknowledged Sunday’s…
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El Jefe the Jaguar Is Also Not a “Bad Hombre”
Another reason to oppose President Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico: It would be devastating for wildlife.
February 15, 2017 Clara Chaisson
Just about a year ago, a YouTube sensation emerged from an unlikely place: the rugged wilderness of Arizona’s Santa Rita mountains. He made just one video, but those 41 seconds of footage—compiled from remote motion-sensor cameras—were enough to solidify his claim to fame as the only known wild jaguar living in the United States. A group of Tucson schoolkids won a nationwide naming contest, christening the big cat El Jefe, Spanish for “The Boss,” a nod to his apex predator status and Mexican heritage.
El Jefe, however, has recently become headline worthy for another reason. On January 25, our newly elected president signed an executive order calling for “the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border.” Now our beloved boss cat represents the threat that barrier would pose to wildlife.
President Trump’s clamorous demand to build a wall along the nearly 2,000 miles we share with Mexico has, of course, sparked a litany of objections—it’s offensive, for one, and it would be costly, ineffective, and infeasible, to name just a few more. Individuals and organizations ranging from the mayor of the border town of Laredo, Texas, to the American Civil Liberties Union to the pope have spoken out against the order. Clearly, the wall’s negative impact on wildlife is only one of many legitimate concerns, but it’s significant nonetheless.
Trump’s wall could affect anything from bighorn sheep to wolves to javelinas, but El Jefe’s story is a powerful case study. A hundred years ago, a jaguar’s stealthy presence in Arizona would have been unremarkable. In the United States, the species’ historic range included a swath from California to Texas—possibly stretching as far east as Louisiana. But by the mid-1900s, federal predator-control programs had pretty much eliminated jaguars from the country. A hunter in 1913 could collect a $5 bounty per jaguar, equivalent to about $123 today. Mexico is still home to some 4,000 individuals, including 50 to 100 in the northern state of Sonora, from where El Jefe likely hails.
Walking for just a few days, a male Sonoran jaguar can easily wander into Arizona. Conservationists haven’t given up hope that the cats might come back and restore their ranks north of the border. “The landscape really is not whole without jaguars,” says Randy Serraglio, a southwest conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “They belong here.” After several sightings of the spotted cat, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) added it to the Endangered Species List in 1997. Hunters first spotted El Jefe in November 2011.
Female jaguars, however, don’t typically have the same level of wanderlust. El Jefe hasn’t been seen in recent months, and it’s possible that he has returned to Sonora to find a Señora El Jefe (or La Jefa?) to mate with. Because males alone can’t reestablish a breeding population—the future is female, if you will—biologists treat the possibility of a jaguar comeback on U.S. soil with varying degrees of optimism. “If there’s going to be a population recolonized in the States, then we really have to expand the population that’s south of the border,” says Howard Quigley, executive director of the jaguar program at Panthera, a big cat conservation group.
One thing is certain, however: As slim as the chance for jaguars to reestablish themselves here may be, a wall would prevent it entirely. “If somehow Trump is able to realize his fantasy of walling off the U.S.-Mexico border, it would be the end of jaguars in the United States,” Serraglio says. “They would never have a chance to recover here.”
A border wall could also be devastating to the survival of northern Mexico’s fragile jaguar population. Habitat fragmentation, development, and hunting threaten the long-term survival of the species both in Sonora and throughout its range, which extends south to northern Argentina. Throughout the Americas, an estimated 30,000 remaining wild jaguars occupy just 46 percent of their historic range.
In fact, those threats in northern Mexico were part of the reasoning behind the FWS’s decision to designate 764,207 acres of critical jaguar habitat in Arizona and New Mexico. Its 2014 rule reads, “Critical habitat in the United States contributes to the jaguar’s persistence and recovery across the species’ entire range. . .therefore, maintaining connectivity to Mexico is essential to the conservation of the jaguar.”
Trump’s great divider would hurt many other endangered species that straddle the border, too. The recovery plan for the ocelot, which has been under federal protection since 1982, includes connecting the populations in Texas and Mexico. And after rebounding from the brink of extinction, an estimated 160 Sonoran pronghorns remain in the States, with 240 or so more living in Mexico. They need to get together to make more pronghorns, the speediest land animals in North America. Our two countries have also been working together for years to recover the Mexican gray wolf, the most endangered subspecies of wolf in the world.
Many wildlife populations depend on the ability to roam, whether to find a love connection, to migrate, or to mix genes between isolated populations. Serraglio cited one particular herd of bison that crosses the border nearly every day to go between a preferred pasture on one side and a favorite watering hole on the other. “There are all kinds of reasons why animals need to move around on the landscape in order to be biologically healthy,” Serraglio says. “And all that would be disrupted by the border wall.”
Crosses adorn the Mexican side of the wall dividing Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico
Federal projects usually require an extensive environmental impact statement before they can get the green light, but there’s reason to think that the Trump administration might skip that step. Before signing the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which allowed the United States to build 700 miles’ worth of barriers along the Mexican border, then-President George W. Bush enacted the REAL ID Act. Section 102 of that legislation allows the secretary of homeland security to waive all local, state, and federal laws deemed an impediment to construction along U.S. borders. The former secretary, Michael Chertoff, subsequently used it to override the Endangered Species Act and other environmental protections.
As a result of these waivers, the existing walls have impinged on communities that don’t want them and triggered environmental problems experts could have foreseen—if they had been consulted. The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, one of the most biologically diverse areas in the country, is now home to two miles of border fencing in addition to hundreds of species of birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, and reptiles. According to the Sierra Club, in addition to blocking wildlife, construction there desecrated 69 Native American burial sites and accelerated erosion and sedimentation in the riverbed.
Even winged animals could feel the effects of fragmentation. A 2009 study found that the ferruginous pygmy owl, which got off the FWS Endangered Species List only 11 years ago, rarely flies higher than 4.5 feet off the ground; the average height of the fencing now bisecting its habitat is 13 feet.
“One of the big issues in wildlife conservation is to prevent fragmentation,” Panthera’s Quigley says. “As soon as you start fragmenting populations—whether it’s with a road, or with a huge plantation of oil palm, or whatever it is—then you start seeing the demise of not only that species, but the system and its multiple interactions.”
A month after the election, the Arizona Game and Fish Department and FWS announced that a trail camera in the Huachuca Mountains had snapped a shot of what seems to be a second male jaguar on U.S. soil. With such uncanny timing, it’s almost as if this big cat showed up to remind the president-elect that he’s not the only new boss in town.
At Fort Huachuca trail camera recently captured a photograph of a jaguar
I have exciting news to share with you on this World Wildlife Day! Today has been set aside by the United Nations to celebrate the many ways in which wild animals enrich our lives. They provide valuable ecosystem services, play vital roles in our cultures, and are worth protecting in their own right. As such, it seems appropriate that news just broke of a third jaguar photographed in Arizona.
Until November of 2016, El Jefe was thought to be the only wild jaguar in the United States. However, during that month another male jaguar was photographed near Fort Huachuca in Arizona. Now, a third individual has been confirmed in that state. This jaguar was photographed approximately 60 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border – and…
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A city voted to trap and kill numerous coyotes. Not only is this incredibly cruel, but mass killings are an ineffective method of population control. Sign this petition and demand the city reverse its decision.
Source: Stop Coyote Killings
Feral pigs could be killed in a barbaric manner by a deadly poison should a plan proposed by a Texas legislator come into effect. Sign this petition to denounce his “hog apocalypse” as both reckless and inhumane.
Petition at Bottom. Please Sign….Let’s make this happen!
February 1, 2017
The amount of waste people throw away every day is quite obviously a huge cause for concern. With no concern for what their actions may bring about, people throw away all kinds of trash in places that should be respected and taken care of – like forests, where trash is a serious hazard for the woodland animals.
Recently, a deer whose head was stuck in a plastic pretzel container was found in Bel Air, Maryland. The container had been stuck on the deer’s head for several days before the Maryland Department of Natural Resources managed to capture and free the poor animal.
The Wildlife Response Team tranquilized the deer, released him from the container, and, once he was recovered from the tranquilizers, returned him to the wild.
This deer was incredibly fortunate, but many animals don’t have such luck. One of the many harmful effects of littering is the risk it poses for wild and homeless animals. Let us remember that and take care never to act carelessly when it comes to things that may seem trivial to us but in reality are terribly serious to the animals around us and often turn into matters of life and death.
KATHMANDU, Nepal – A new project to identify and dismantle the organized crime networks making billions in illicit profits behind wildlife trafficking between Africa and Asia has been launched by INTERPOL.
Targeting high profile traffickers in Asia sourcing wildlife from Africa, the project will provide a strengthened law enforcement response in source, transit and destination countries, particularly those linked to the illicit trade in ivory, rhinoceros horn and Asian big cat products.
With environmental crime estimated to be worth up to USD 258 billion and linked to other criminal activities including corruption, money laundering and firearms trafficking, the project led by INTERPOL’s Environmental Security programme will draw on the expertise of other specialized units.
These include the Anti-Corruption and Financial crime unit, the Digital Forensics Lab for the extraction of data from seized equipment, the Firearms programme for weapons tracing and ballistics analysis and the Fugitive Investigations unit to assist countries locate and arrest wanted environmental criminals.
INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said the project embodied the added value of INTERPOL to help countries more effectively target specific crime threats.
“Protecting the world’s wildlife heritage is our collective responsibility, as global citizens and as international law enforcement,” said Secretary General Stock.
“It is essential that decisive action is taken to combat environmental crime and this project targeting the organized crime links between Africa and Asia will enable all involved actors to unite in their efforts, and provide a blueprint for future actions elsewhere in the world,” added the INTERPOL Chief.
A recent INTERPOL-UN Environment report showed 80 per cent of countries consider environmental crime a national priority, with the majority saying new and more sophisticated criminal activities increasingly threaten peace and security.
Supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and in collaboration with the International Consortium on Combatting Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), the INTERPOL initiative will draw on the intelligence gathered from existing projects including Wisdom, Predator and Scale.
In addition to expanding the level of investigative cooperation between the involved countries, the project will also provide increased analytical support for activities both in the field and for online investigations.
Fisheries crime will also be targeted as part of the project. Due to the increasing value of fish as a commodity, the last decade has seen an escalation of transnational and organized criminal networks engaged in this type of crime.
In addition to undermining the sustainability of marine resources, illegal fishing is also often linked to human trafficking with crews subjected to labour and human rights abuses, fraud in regulatory systems and corruption, damaging legitimate businesses and economies.
© INTERPOL 2017. All rights reserved.