The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Mendocino announced it will now be conducting inspections seven days a week for invasive mussel species, with help from the Sonoma County Water Agency, an increase from the current weekend inspections. The inspections will start every day on Sunday, March 1, and the inspectors will be looking […]
DNA profiling, a technique where investigators compare the base pair order of DNA found at the crime scene to a suspect’s DNA. Now, another type of genetic analysis – DNA barcoding – is being used to combat illegal wildlife trading.
Illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be right behind drugs and weapons in terms of size and profits, with experts estimating a yearly wildlife black market of $70 billion. Wildlife is sold as exotic pets, trophies and souvenirs, luxury items, religious items, and alternative medicines. High profits and low risks attract transnational criminal syndicates to this business. Because illegal wildlife trading funds and strengthens these criminal networks (networks that are also involved in human, drug, and weapon trafficking) it is considered a threat to global and national security. Wildlife trafficking can also have a long term negative effect on local communities. Finally, there is the very real environmental impact.
Animals and plants that are illegally traded are put under enormous stress. Sadly, endangered species are often targeted because their rarity increases their market value. The decrease/disappearance of these species can affect the health of the entire ecosystem. Accessing these animals provide an additional layer of ecological damage. In 2010, 179 nations came together to form the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to combat illegal wildlife trade.
A major challenge in enforcing CITES and other wildlife trade laws is that poachers will often disguise their product. For example bones, horns, and medical plants are often ground into powders before transport. This is where DNA barcoding proves a valuable tool. DNA barcoding uses a combination of genetic, taxonomic, and computational analysis to rapidly identify the species of a confiscated sample. Briefly, DNA is extracted from the confiscated sample and then sequenced at one or more pre-established genetic locations. These sequences are then searched against a database of sequences from voucher specimens. A match between the sample and several voucher specimens allows the sample to be classified down to genus or species.
An example is the 2003 case against Joao Migel Folgosa. Mr. Folgosa was apprehended at the Recife Internal Airport of Brazil when police discovered him hiding 58 eggs under his shirt. Based on egg morphology – and Mr. Folgosa history as an exotic pet trafficker – officials suspected that the eggs were parrot. However, they were unable to specify the species. Because Brazil has 21 endangered parrot species but 83 species overall only limited charges could be brought against him. The case was further weakened by Mr. Folgosa claim that the eggs were from quails.
Twelve years later Dr. Miyaki and colleagues picked up this cold case. They retrieved tissue samples from the 58 eggs/embryos and isolated DNA from each. Then, using a combination of primers, they amplified and sequenced the DNA at two locations in the mitochondrial genome. Finally, they compared their results to publically available records in BOLD (Barcode of Life Data System) and Genbank. Through this process they were able to positively identify 57 of the eggs. All 57 were parrot eggs. More specifically fifty belonged to Alipiopsitta Xanthops (a IUCN vulnerable species), three belonged to Ara ararauna, and four were either Amazona aestiaval or Amazona ochrocephala.
This research illustrates how DNA barcoding could be used to prosecute criminal traffickers. However, the connected case also emphasizes an obstacle that still need to be overcome, making the DNA technology affordable and available to law enforcement in many countries. Many hope that new developments in nanopore sequencing will enable this. Equally important to the use of DNA barcoding in criminal investigations is developing a robust database. This database must (a) have all possible taxa are represented, (b) be readily accessible and searchable, and (c) be able to withstand the scrutiny of a legal investigation. Two organizations working towards these two goals are the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge and the Barcode of Wildlife Project.
To explore DNA barcoding with your students check out kit #338 – Exploring Plant Diversity with DNA Barcoding.
SLOTHS AT A GLANCE
NUMBER REMAINING IN THE WILD
Dependent on species
HOW ENDANGERED ARE SLOTHS?
There are two different types of sloth and six different species. Of those, the pygmy sloth is critically endangered and the maned sloth is vulnerable. The other species are all classed as of least concern, but unless action is taken sooner rather than later this could change as deforestation continues to accelerate in the regions within which the sloths live.
Pygmy sloth numbers are thought to be as low as 100 and this is an indication of what could happen to the other species if action is not taken now.
THREATS SLOTHS ARE FACING
The health of the world’s sloth population is entirely dependent on the health of the world’s rainforests and this symbiotic relationship could prove disastrous to the sloths if deforestation continues at its current rates.
Sloths need forests full of trees to survive, and without them they become exposed to the forest floor where they are vulnerable to the many predators that share the forests with them. Sloths are defenceless to fend off predators when this happens, and that is why trees are so crucial to their survival.
- Even though the two different types of sloths are named the two-toed sloth and three toed sloth, they all actually have three toes! Their names are actually in reference to the claws on their front limbs!
- We all know sloths move very slowly, but did you know that on land they move at just 2 meters per minute? They are slightly faster up in the trees where they can move at 3 meters a minute!
- Sloths have very long tongues, and some can stretch up to 10-12 inches out of their mouths!
B.C. Conservation officers captured a 600-pound grizzly bear on the Sunshine Coast Thursday.
BOZEMAN, Mont. — A black bear was spotted walking down the hallway at a high school in Montana on Wednesday morning, according to multiple media reports.
The bear entered the school through an open garage door in the back of the building at around 7:30 a.m.
The bear exited the school through an open door after about a minute of walking the hallways.
Officials forced the bear out of the school but it was not captured.
This poor fox cub was almost strangled in a football net. He struggled a lot and ended up with the net tightly wrapped all around his body. All of this could have been avoided by, simply, rolling up the net or putting it away.
Thanks to the gentleman who spotted him so quickly, the cub was safely freed and released.
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Related: The Pope Visits Cuba via Time.com
Illegal fishing drives species toward extinction
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Illegal gillnet fishing in the northern Gulf of California continued to take a toll on endangered vaquita porpoises the past few years, according to a new report suggesting that as few as of 50 vaquitas remain.
The report, from the Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), is based on acoustic detection surveys, which is the best way to count the small porpoises. Based on the most recent survey, the scientists concluded an apparent 42 percent drop in the vaquita population from 2013 to 2014, when scientists estimated the population at less than 100.
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This baby sloth is advocating for the creation of a park in the Paramaribo, Suriname! The park would be a safe haven for sloths and other animals, and would also provide ecotourism opportunities.
Monique Pool, founder of Green Heritage Fun Suriname, rescued many sloths after an area of forest within Paramaribo was cut down. Learn more about her sanctuary and advocacy efforts in our full video:
HELP SAVE OUR LIONSWAKE UP WORLD WAKE UP .VERY URGENT ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE AN AMERICAN CITIZEN,TO SAVE THE LAST FEW ENDANGERED WILD AFRICAN LIONS THE WORLD NEEDS YOUR GOVERNMENT TO ACT ,WHICH IT ISNT AT THE MOMENT,99% OF ALL LIONS TROPHY HUNTED KILLED IN AFRICA IS BY AMERICAN TROPHY HUNTERS THE LIKES OF AARON NEILSON,KENDALL JONES ,MELISSA BACHMAN,AMERICAN TROPHY HUNTERS ONE OF THE TWO MAJOR CAUSE OF LION EXTINCTION IN AFRICA WITH POPULATION GROWTH.WAKE UP WORLD WAKE UP BEFORE ITS TOO LATE.
To all Americans.
Attention;All US citizens that want a ban on Lion hunting trophies entering the US please read and please take action below the article.
While our African counterparts are working hard to lobby the Australian Environmental Department and our European counterparts the European Environmental Affairs to implement a restriction on Lion hunted trophies we seem to be hitting brick walls here regarding the banning or restriction of Lion hunted trophies from Africa into the US.
Telephone communications, meetings, emails. petitions and lobbying doesn’t seem to be in any way shape or form budging Dan Ashe to restrict Lion hunting trophies.
Why should Lion hunting trophy imports from Africa into the US be banned?
Again lets go over the facts.
Kenya has long since abolished trophy hunting in favour of protecting its wildlife and has opted for ecotourism instead. Last December, for the first time, the Maasai Olympics were held as a competitive replacement for traditional lion hunting; yet another Kenyan stride to preserve its precious ecosystem. Zambia and Botswana took a united stand against hunting and have both issued laws against the trophy killings. As of 2014, lions in these countries will be safe from the legal hunt for their heads – a hugely important step in conserving the species and maintaining the sheer magnificence of some of Southern Africa’s most premier wildlife areas.
Conversely, Tanzania’s wildlife authorities steadfastly support its ‘sustainable’ hunting practice, claiming their stronghold lion population can be attributed to its hunting industry. South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe also sell their wild lions to trophy seekers in the name of income and conservation, the argument being that the millions of US$ brought into the country through big game hunting is what is sustaining ecosystems and local communities. What needs to be understood is that we are no longer living in an Africa that is overflowing with wildlife, we are no longer on prime hunting ground; we are now the keepers of a land that is losing its enchantment at a rate of knots. Lions are declining at a rapidity of 5-8% per year, according to renowned filmmaker and founder of Big Cats Initiative, Dereck Joubert. Over the last 50 years, we have lost almost all of Africa’s lions – 95% have died due to human ignorance and greed. This fast decline calls for change. We cannot carry on hunting lions in the face of a crisis that is screaming towards the ultimate extinction of Africa’s biggest cat.
I asked Dereck what he believes is the most destructive force against lions in Africa and his simple answer succinctly pinpointed humans. He continued, “Roughly 25% of the lions killed today are from trophy hunters. I pick them first because this is something we can restrain ourselves from doing and in a stroke, save 556 male lions of the possibly 2500 males left.” It’s as straightforward as a mathematical equation, which should mean that it is not up for debate. Aside from the numbers and the studies that have traced the reasons behind the hurtling demise of this irreplaceable species, there are such saddening truths about where these lions have come from and how they land up on hunting ranches. If the facts don’t get to you, the unethicality of this practice should.
An article published in the Times Live revealed that at least five South African farmers had been accused in an inter-border lion smuggling case in order to benefit their hunting businesses. Wildlife smuggling and the trade in exotic animals happens in Southeast Asia, Thailand and Laos according to reports, but this was a blood-curdling tale of farmers receiving lion cubs that had been stolen from Bostwanan lionesses after having shot the suckling mothers. The Problem Animal Control Group is in place to deal with predators causing problems in Botswana, but have instead contacted South African farmers who, for a price, can benefit from this undercover dealing. The mother lioness is shot and her body buried, while her cubs are smuggled into a life of captivity until they are earmarked for a hunt in which they will be shot 48 hours after being released into the veld for the first time in their stunted lives. The buried mother? Well, she’s dug up and taken apart to sell to Vietnam because ill-informed (or determinedly ignorant) people are not only after her cubs, they’re after her skin, claws and bones too.
The approach of ‘sustainable hunting’ has been knocked down by the best of the conservational thinkers and leaders in the field. Adam Cruise, philosopher and author of ‘In the Pursuit of Solitude’, addressed my question on the topic: “The problem with the hunting-as-conservation argument is that it is often thrown up as the ONLY alternative to conserving wild lions. This is simply not the case. Besides, even as an alternative it is questionable whether such practices do in fact conserve wild lions. Those that are in favour of hunting point to the obvious economic benefit, but a benefit for whom? The lions? The property owners? The rangers? Local government? Local community? The real issue here is that there are other alternatives.
Here’s a novel one: let’s not kill lions at all. If we were to prevent the killing of lions absolutely and completely, whether from poaching or hunting, would that not conserve them too?”
Due to the fact that we are facing a tragedy of irreversible proportions should we allow lions to become extinct, it is necessary to bite the bullet and look at conservational methods that might save the species, but that also speak volumes of the greediness and corruption that has leaked into our humanness. The notion of farming a population of lions to be hunted is based on the assumption that the wild lions will be left alone to breed and regrow the population, while hunters will still get their fix. Dereck eloquently explained to me precisely why this won’t work: “If you speak to hunters, there are two distinct kinds of people who hunt lions. Those that want the real experience and those that want the trophy. Wild versus Canned. There is no overlap between the two. Canned lions will not substitute for wild lions for hunting, and do not alleviate the pressure on wild populations.”
In addition to this, he pointed out that, “Botswana has shut down hunting because it wants to protect its wildlife, but also because hunter’s gunshots mask poaching activity, making it difficult to follow up.” The fact that poaching is systematically wiping out hundreds of rhinos and elephants every year means that we cannot afford to miss the signals. To risk mistaking a gunshot for a hunter’s is an insult to the anti-poaching troops that tirelessly track and trace the signs that more often than not lead to the most horrific and demoralising crime scenes.
David Bristow, author of ‘Africa’s Finest’ among other environmental masterpieces, puts into perfect words exactly what ‘farmed’ lions means: “For me, farming lions is as sick as farming battery chickens, or cow factories that are so prevalent today. The appeal of lions is their wildness, their untameability. To tame them is to make a mockery of their lion-ness.”
Aside from David’s passionate perspective on the immorality of a practice such as this, there is a perfectly good economical reason for why we cannot sustainably hunt these sought after creatures. Dereck responded to my hypothetical proposal with the following:
“1 Billion People sized market, 6,000 lions in captivity. Captive bred lions (or rhinos) will never keep up with the demand of this market. What legal, farm-raised lions and rhinos will do is feed and grow the market (who would commercially farm with the intention of flooding the market anyway?), but also create a grey market of confusing, legal trade masking the illegal trade … 100 Years ago, maybe farmed tigers or rhinos might have been an option when the world’s population of humans was 1.5 billion and the rhinos numbered 3 million. Today the scales are wrong.”
The idea of ‘sustainable hunting’ as conservation is not merely rejected, it is countered by the far stronger, entirely ethical, supportive structure of ecotourism. The revenue that is said to carry so much weight in the tourism industry in Africa is matched and beaten by the income that is brought in through community involvement, local employment and eco-safaris. It overrides the monetary benefits that hunting farms are basing their arguments on. David explains, “What is needed most is for safari operators to enter into partnerships with their neighbouring communities to make things work, to share equitably in the spoils of tourism and make wild habitat and lions included. It is really up to the safari industry, simple as that.”
When we weigh hunting and ecotourism against each other in a contest vying for conservational credit, it is not simply a matter of a moral code, it is a matter of saving a species. In this case, it is the lion. The leader of the African ecosystem, an icon; or, a desired wall-trophy and a lifeless reminder of a bullet shot, once, in Africa. It is essential that we do not lose this remarkable species, and the facts are that using lion farms for product trade and hunting purposes poses unconquerable risks.
Adam emphasises, “Can we afford to risk tempting the insatiability of the exponentially burgeoning market from Asia? Do we and will we ever have enough lions to satiate this demand? It’s a move that’s simply too risky to make. Being wrong means that lions may never avert extinction. ‘Farmers’ of lions charge top dollar to hunt a lion – this is out of reach of most local Africans who would still succumb to the temptation to poach, especially if the demand for lion products remains. Poaching will not cease because of professional hunting, and in fact may even increase accordingly.”
We cannot afford to have lions readily available for the public’s consumption and for hunters’ satisfactions, because those desires are, as Adam said, insatiable. Developments in ecotourism are proving to be a flying success, and people living rurally in Africa are being approached by initiatives promising to employ them and incentivise their communities in order to conserve the wildlife that this continent’s health and wealth depends on. How hypocritical does it seem, then, to want to provide captive-bred lions just to satisfy people’s desire to kill? Lions, elephants and rhinos are out of the question – it is not sustainable; there are not enough numbers for trigger happy humans to mount their taxidermy art on their walls. It is a shock to realise that the greed of people has led us to a point where we are scrambling to save a species, so much so, that we breed lions just so we can kill them.
The input I received from Dereck, Adam and David on this topic could not have been more eloquently summarised than by the following:
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
That, of course, was Gandhi.
So what do we do?
International Animal Rescue Foundation America is calling on all her citizens against hunting to now stand with us and help us “restrict” Lion hunted trophies into the US.
Here’s how you can help;
1. Contact Dan Ashe and all partners and lobby them hard;
People to Contact in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:
Director, Dan Ashe: Telephone 202-208-4717, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: U.5. Fish & Wildlife Service, 1849 C. Street, NW, ROOM 3331 Washington, DC 20240
Assistant Director, David Hoskins: Fish and Aquatic Conservation
Telephone 703-358-1715 Email: email@example.com
Address: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS-ARLSQ 770, Arlington, VA 22203
Chief of Hatcheries, Mike Weimer, Fish and Aquatic Conservation
Telephone 703-358-1715, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS-ARLSQ 770, Arlington, VA 22203
Southeast Regional Director, Cynthia Dohner Telephone 404- 679-4000, Email: email@example.com Address: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 1849 Century Blvd., Suite 400,
Atlanta, GA 30345
2. Contact your state leader and demand they please lobby Dan Ashes and the USFWS to now implement a restriction and/or ban on all Lion hunted trophies. Please note that if any such ban should be imposed “some very few” trophies that are 1. hunted for educational reasons 2. sustainable reasons or 3. museum artefacts can/will still be allowed to be imported. However – 4. Trophy hunted Lions hunted for sport will not be allowed should we as a peoples organisation and environmental company win this battle.
CONTACT YOUR US STATE HOUSE REPRESENTATIVE HERE TODAYhttp://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
To locate your House Representative please input your Zip Code into the search engine on the site within the link..
WAKE UP WORLD WAKE UP BEFORE ITS TOO LATE.
To all Americans.
All US citizens that want a ban on Lion hunting trophies entering the US please read and please take action below the article.
While our African counterparts are working hard to lobby the Australian Environmental Department and our European counterparts the European Environmental Affairs to implement a restriction on Lion hunted trophies we…
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