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Jan 132014
 

The Guardian optimistically reported over the weekend that Asia is starting to share the West’s disgust with shark-finning, a change that could be very good for the millions of sharks who face slaughter at sea every year just so someone can enjoy shark-fin soup.

John Vidal writes:

Shark, Discovery

(Photo: Discovery Channel)

“Six months after China banned the soup from all official banquets, the price of fins has fallen by 20-30% in Hong Kong, Macau and other major fishing markets. Some specialist restaurants in Beijing have changed their menus or closed down, and airlines and hotel chains have stopped serving the soup. Meanwhile, in Europe, California and elsewhere, loopholes that allowed shark finning to continue have been closed.”

All this represents major progress, because even though shark-fin soup is considered a delicacy, a dish reserved for celebrations and the upper classes, there’s been plenty of demand for shark fins. An estimated 75 to 100 million are believed to be killed each year just for their fins, which are sliced off at sea while the rest of the shark is left to die.

This brutal practice has been outlawed by countries around the world, including the oft laissez faire United States. Now that China is signing on to shark-conserving practices, the apex predators may have a chance to recover.

Dozens of environmental groups have been working to save sharks, many species of which are now critically endangered.

The group WildAid launched a “I’m FINished with Fins” campaign in Mainland China this past fall, recreating an effort that had already begun in Hong Kong, to raise awareness about the dire impacts of finning. The group signed up local celebrities and dignitaries to publicly pledge that they will refuse to eat shark fins, including the members of “Happy Camp,” a popular TV show in China, He Jiong, Xie Na, Li Weijia, Wu Xin, and Du Haitao.

WildAid reported in the fall that the South China Morning Post and the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong say that shark fin imports have declined from 10,292 tons to 3,087 tons from 2011 to 2012.

Sales of shark fin were down in 2013 by 50 percent, according to the chairman of the Hong Kong-based Shark Fin Trade Merchants Association, who was quoted in the South China Morning Post .

 

Jan 102014
 

From Associated Press

Schools and restaurants closed, grocery stores sold out of bottled water, and state legislators canceled the day’s business after a chemical spill in the Elk River in Charleston shut down much of the city and surrounding counties.

The chemical that spilled into the river, contaminating drinking water, is 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, which is used as a foaming agent in processing coal. It is considered harmful if swallowed or inhaled, though it may not be lethal.

It’s believed that at least 5,000 gallons of the toxic chemical escaped into the river.

On Friday, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency for the Charleston-area counties affected.

He earlier issued an order to customers of West Virginia American Water: Do not drink, bathe, cook or wash clothes with tap water.

“I don’t know if the water is not safe,” water company president Jeff McIntyre said. “Until we get out and flush the actual system and do more testing, we can’t say how long this (advisory) will last at this time.”

 

Jan 102014
 

Across Africa, the mighty lion is in decline. Under pressure from illegal hunters and loss of habitat, the lions’ population has slipped to less than 35,000 across territory that represents only 25 percent of its historic range.

The picture’s even worse for lions in West Africa, according to a study published this week.

Lion_in_masai_mara Wikimedia

Lions are in decline across Africa, and on the verge of extinction in West Africa. (Photo: Wikimedia)

There, researchers found that lions have dwindled to critically endangered levels with only an estimated 400 still roaming what was once a a well-populated territory for lions. Only 250 or so of that number were considered to be of breeding age.

In the study, experts sought to define the lion’s modern range and take their census in West Africa. They had hoped to find them living in 21 areas across 11 nations, areas called out for the study because they represented the West African lion’s historical range. But after five years, lions could be confirmed to occupy only four of the study areas, in pockets in Niger and Senegal, leaving the study team bitterly disappointed.

“When we set out in 2006 to survey all the lions of West Africa, the best reports suggested they still survived in 21 protected areas,” explained Panthera’s Lion Program Survey Coordinator, Dr. Philipp Henschel, who led the study, The lion in West Africa is critically endangered, published in PLOS One.

“We surveyed all of them, representing the best remaining lion habitat in West Africa. Our results came as a complete shock; all but a few of the areas we surveyed were basically paper parks, having neither management budgets nor patrol staff, and had lost all their lions and other iconic large mammals.”

The team determined that the West African lion has characteristics that make it distinct from lions in Eastern Africa, and called for stronger conservation programs.

“We encourage revision of lion taxonomy, to recognize the genetic distinctiveness of West African lions and highlight their potentially unique conservation value,” they wrote in their findings. “Further, we call for listing of the lion as critically endangered in West Africa, under criterion C2a(ii) for populations with <250 mature individuals. Finally, considering the relative poverty of lion range states in West Africa, we call for urgent mobilization of investment from the international community to assist range states to increase management effectiveness of PAs [protected areas] retaining lions.”

Lions status in West Africa

Dark areas show the few remaining areas occupied by West African lions.

The survey received funding from National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative (BCI), as did an earlier study by Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. The Duke study determined that lions had lost 75 percent of their habitat across the African savannah.

Learn more about Panthera’s lion conservation efforts in Project Leonardo.

Jan 082014
 

Polar Vortex in U.S. May be Example of Global Warming (via Climate Central)

By Andrew Freedman Follow @afreedma While the ongoing cold snap is breaking records from Minnesota to Florida, it will not go down in history as the most significant Arctic outbreak in U.S. history, not even by a longshot. Scientists said the deep freeze…

Continue reading »

Jan 082014
 

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Midwest Jan 6 White Out 2014

A NASA satellite captured this Midwest “white out” on Jan. 6, 2014, showing us what the polar vortex and biggest storm of 2014 so far looked like from above Earth. You can make out the Great Lakes, or at least two of them.

Our current blast of extreme cold weather doesn’t seem to fit into the “global warming” story, except that it’s quite likely that the polar vortex visitation is a function of the warming Arctic circle.

Essentially, warmer air over the northern arctic regions forces new wind patterns, in this case, the shift is sustaining a deep dip in the jet stream that crosses North America. The result, well, you’re living it. Kentucky meet Canada. Brrr.

In fact, this phenomenon is no surprise to climate scientists; it’s part of the changing air currents that also are bringing heavy precipitation, deluges even, during all seasons to the US Midwest and Northeast. Hence, this area of the US has been experiencing big snow events and heavy summer storms and flooding.

Read more from Climate Central, which has one of the most complete stories explaining the current polar vortex phenomenon.

Dec 182013
 

Center for Bio Endangered Species Condoms - Leatherback-preGreen Right Now Reports

The Center for Biological Diversity would appreciate a little less human fecundity.

But it’s not asking. The Center is offering direct assistance. This year it will again distribute 25,000 free, colorful Endangered Species-branded condoms to raise awareness about how the runaway human population threatens all other populations.

With more than 200,000 people added to the planet every day, wildlife is being squeezed out of habitat and left with diminished food resources. Young people could help if they thought more about their own population plans. At least that’s the message. Make merry! But show restraint.

The CBD, which advocates for endangered and threatened wildlife and plants, has been celebrating the holidays with this unique campaign since 2009.

This year’s, um, packages feature six endangered species, the polar bear, snowy plover, leatherback turtles, panthers, hellbender lizards and the dwarf seahorse. They are being distributed by hundreds of volunteers around the country at holiday parties, churches, doctors’ and dentists’ offices, skate parks, health clinics and yoga studios.

“The Earth’s population now tops 7 billion people, and that has a huge impact on wildlife, climate and the resources we all need to survive,” said Taralynn Reynolds, population and sustainability organizer at the Center, in a statement.

“These are big issues that need to be talked about, and the Endangered Species Condoms give people a fun, unique way to start the conversation.”

Dec 062013
 

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Hunters have killed 299 wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, as the trophy hunting season approaches its rough midpoint later this month.

Wolves in Lamar Canyon (Photo: Marc Cooke, Wolves of the Rockies)

Wolf in Lamar Canyon (Photo: Marc Cooke, Wolves of the Rockies.)

Even more have been killed in the Upper Midwest, where trophy hunting of wolves also is underway. But one ecosystem at a time. First, the Rocky Mountain gray wolves.

Trapping is beginning in the three states and will add to those kill totals in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming (tallied through Dec. 6). One can envision that if the season proceeds apace, 500 to 600 wolves will be killed, perhaps more. Last year, the total “harvest” for the season was 611 wolves in the three states. Some pups were born in the interim, but now another 600 wolves are facing the bullet (or a leg trap) in the 2013-2014 hunting.

That would mean that more than one-third of the estimated 1,600 wolves (+ an unknown number of pups) in the three-state region will be gone. (That 1,600 population estimate is the number believed to be alive at the end of 2012, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).)

It doesn’t take a mathematician to see that pretty soon state wildlife officials could get their wish of managing the wolf population down to about 400 animals in the three-state region. Their justification for keeping the wolf numbers low: wolves prey on livestock. It’s a real problem. At their peak, wolves killed hundreds of cattle and calves annually in the three states, according to federal officials.

Wildlife experts say the predation is exaggerated, with some cattle deaths attributable to other factors. In addition, wolf kills of livestock, they say, could be reduced by better managing grazing on public lands and through the use of fladry to frighten the wolves away from herds. Oregon, which passed a coexistence law, is trying to establish a more tolerant approach that provides for wolves and ranches.

But there’s another facet to the wolf debate. Hunters are worried that wolves may be the reason elk herds have declined in some areas. The reasons for the periodic dips, though, are likely multi-faceted, with elk herds suffering from disease and bad weather.

For hunters, this third wolf season is a big victory, except for that Catch-22 that the aggressive wolf killing may extinguish the opportunity for more of the same in the near future. But for the moment, the wolf is a new trophy animal to pursue. Like other trophy targets, such as the black bear and the mountain lion, wolves are killed for sport, for bragging rights, as compared with deer or elk hunting, which fills freezers with meat.

Conservationists are worried about the Rocky Mountain wolves. The Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, The Center for Biological Diversity and the National Wildlife Federation are all fighting to restore protections for the wolves, or at least stop the pending removal of protections nationwide.

Wolves in Yellowstone, NPS photo

Wolves in Yellowstone (Photo: National Park Service)

Many don’t believe the Rocky Mountain wolf population, which might have reached about 2,000 at its peak three to five years ago, was sufficiently recovered to sustain the bombardment of hunters. They think hunting will at best drive the wolves into remote regions, where they may or may not survive and will lack important genetic breeding connections to other packs; at worst, bring on a second extinction of the wolves in the lower 48 states. In the latter scenario, history would repeat itself, with hunters and trappers annihilating the wolves in the lower 48 states as they did in the first half of the 20th Century. (A sliver population survived in Northern Minnesota and Michigan.)

Most importantly, the conservation groups say the focus on killing predators overlooks their importance in healthy ecosystems. Sierra explains this on their website:

Wolves are vitally important to maintaining the natural balance, culling out weak and sick animals to keep populations of elk and deer healthy and in check. The rippling benefits of wolf reintroduction can be seen throughout the region– from the reappearance of willow and aspen trees, to the return of beavers, and increased populations of red foxes.

Managing the wolves “down” also ignores that this wild animal once counted the entire country as its native range, notes the Center for Biological Diversity, which is fighting the Obama Administration proposal to lift protections for wolves across the rest of the U.S. (In addition to the three Rocky Mountain states, the FWS has delisted the wolf in Minnesota, Wyoming and Michigan, where hunting also has commenced.)

The Center maintains that wolves are entitled to more space and also that a more tolerant policy toward them would benefit many species.

Since the original wolf recovery plans were written in the 1980s, we’ve learned much more about wolves’ behavior, ecology and needs. We know, for example, that returning wolves to ecosystems sets off a chain of events that benefits many species, including songbirds and beavers that gain from a return of streamside vegetation — which thrives in the absence of browsing elk that must move more often to avoid wolves — and pronghorn and foxes that are aided by wolves’ control of coyote populations.

After their mass extinction in the 20th Century, the gray wolves were placed on the Endangered Species List in 1973 and reintroduced into the Rocky Mountain West in the mid-1990s.

Within a decade it was clear the animals were thriving in the wild spaces of Idaho, Montana and to a lesser extent Wyoming. The habitat was perfect. The wolves were able to live off their preferred natural prey, the elk.

But as the wolves recovered, ranchers experienced their presence as a nuisance or deadly threat, depending on the situation. The wolves preyed on cattle, though environmentalists noted that often lethal encounters took place on public lands  near wilderness, and during calving season, drawing the wolves into a situation that could have been obviated by keeping the cattle on fenced or guarded private property.

Wolf pups (Photo: Larry Allen)

Wolf pups are expected to regenerate the population, but will they? (Photo: Larry Allen)

Federal and state game officials decided the wolves had become too successful and after several years of trying, they succeeded in removing the wolves from the ESA list, clearing them for hunting. Environmentalists protested, saying the rugged mountain landscape needed this apex predator, who had fit neatly back into the wild ecosystem. But by 2011, the wildlife conservationists lost their last court challenge. The wolves were returned to state management and transitioned from sheltered to trophy animal status, with a number or quota on their back.

The hunts began and even Yellowstone Park quickly lost radio-collared wolves that had been studied by biologists and photographed by tourists for years. The wolves were fair game when they stepped out of the park, where hunting is not allowed. Rifle fire brought down the legendary ’06, a beloved Alpha female that had been the pride of the park.

Meanwhile, in another ecosystem, the Upper Midwest, wolf hunts also began as the FWS lifted wolf protections for Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. At this point in the 2013 season, 27 wolves out of a quota of 132 have been killed in Minnesota; 219 out of a quota of 251 in Wisconsin and 19 out of a quota of 43 in Michigan, where there are many fewer wolves. Grand total in the Upper Great Lakes wolf hunting territories: 370. (The hunting quotas have been less aggressive relative to the total population in Minnesota, but wolf hunting has been controversial with conservationists questioning, and sometimes protesting, game officials.)

With wolf hunting underway in the states where the wolves mainly reside, the Obama Administration officially proposed lifting ESA protections for all wolves in the lower 48 states (except for a small section of AZ and NM where the Mexican wolf struggles near extinction). This proposal has been hugely upsetting to environmentalists, who had hoped the animals would be allowed to randomly reestablish themselves in states like California, Utah and Colorado or New York, where wooded, mountainous areas offer ideal habitat, but which have not had wolf populations for decades. Wolf migration into potentially “friendly” states would give the wolves a foothold on survival, they say.

The public has until Dec. 17 to comment on the plan to lift protections across the U.S. The Center for Biological Diversity has set up a protest letter for use by those who support wolf conservation.

Copyright © 2013 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

Dec 062013
 

With much of the U.S. under snow, it’s time to make sure your bird feeder is filled.

Snow Day 10

An assertive Blue Jay, first at the trough.

Even if you don’t have an official feeder, no worries. Just get the seeds or suet out there somehow.

We have a bird feeder that’s often raided by squirrels, and so this morning we supplemented the offerings in our yard with simple pie tin of black oil seeds. We placed it beneath a tree where the birds have been sheltering. Within minutes, it had visitors.

The squirrels will eventually find this food too, so it could be a free-for-all later on. Still, we’ve counted four species of birds — the Blue Jay, cardinals and a couple varieties of nuthatches – that are staking turf nearby and taking turns at the seeds.

Here are a few tips from the Audubon Society to best assist the birds:

  • Provide a variety of quality seeds and also fresh drinking and bathing water (the latter is more for warm months).
  • Make sure there’s ample cover, preferably provided by native plants. Native plants also provide potential nesting sites and a source of natural food.
  • Be mindful that windows present a hazard; keep feeders a safe distance away.
SNOW DAY 12

Cardinal waiting his turn.

Audubon also has posted a list of the seeds that birds like, explaining what works best for different species and how to handle suet and peanut butter so these needed fatty foods are digestible.

Here are some short recipes from Audubon for creating hearty winter bites for birds:

Peanut butter pudding: Peanut butter is a good substitute for suet in the summer. Mix one part peanut butter with five parts corn meal and stuff the mixture into holes drilled in a hanging log or into the crevices of a large pinecone. This all-season mixture attracts woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, and occasionally warblers.

Fruit for berry-eating birds: Fruit specialists such as robins, waxwings, bluebirds, and mockingbirds rarely eat birdseed. To attract these birds, soak raisins and currants in water overnight, then place them on a table feeder, or purchase blends with a dried fruit mixture. To attract orioles and tanagers, skewer halved oranges onto a spike near other feeders, or provide nectar feeders.

Nectar for hummingbirds: Make a sugar solution of one part white sugar to four parts water. Boil briefly to sterilize and dissolve sugar crystals; no need to add red food coloring. Feeders must be washed every few days with very hot water and kept scrupulously clean to prevent the growth of mold. (Many hummingbirds over winter in Southern states, so people in Austin and Phoenix and similar locales should consider keeping their feeders up year round.)

 

 

 

 

Nov 292013
 

The holidays are a time to give back, not just to each other, but to the world that sustains us.

With that in mind, here are seven unique gift ideas that help rescue wildlife, curb global warming and foster an appreciation of the natural world.

Monarch 2

Monarch butterfly (Photo: Aidan Kessler)

1 – MONARCH BUTTERFLY KIT – from Native American Seed $29.95

You can help save this endangered species by planting the native plants the butterflies eat. This gift includes three seed bags, containing Antelope Horns (20 seeds), Green Milkweed (20 seeds) and Butterfly Weed (20 seeds.) The kit comes with printed planting instructions & growing tips from the NAS farm as well as vermiculite material for “cold-stratification” to enhance vigorous seed germination.

Butterfly kit

The kit and instructions will help you become a committed monarch supporter.

While butterflies can feed on many flowering plants, these plants are the monarchs preferred food, providing them just the right nutrition as they migrate from Canada to Mexico and back annually. This great and storied migration is unlike any other, as the Native American Seed catalog explains:

“No single individual makes the entire trip. Along the way, when timing is right, female monarchs lay their eggs onto native milkweeds that quickly hatch in 4 days. Larvae feed on milkweed for about three weeks before the final caterpillar stage molts into a chrysalis or pupa. In two or three more weeks, depending on temperature, the pupal case becomes transparent and the new adult butterfly’s folded wings can be seen. Within a day or so, the pupal case cracks and the Monarch emerges. After several hours, the wings dry and it flies away… continuing the migration in search for nectar.”

Monarchs have been in decline for many years, killed and starved by three main factors: Pesticides that poison them via the pollen of GMO plants; loss of habitat as cropland subsumes wild lands and chemical farming kills the milkweed that used to surround fields; and finally, they find no respite in urban areas, which have been paved and planted with non-native plants, shrubs and trees, a trend that many people are working to turn around.

This year, the monarchs experienced a precipitous decline that has many people worried if they’ll even survive.

Read more about the plight of the monarch in this New York Times article,  The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear.

Ranger Rick Mag

2 – RANGER RICK AND RANGER RICK JR. – $19.95

These are great time-tested magazines for kids (pre- and elementary school age) that will satisfy their curiosity about animals and cultivate an appreciation for nature. (Though we wish they were a little more girl friendly, Ranger Lucy?)

Published by the National Wildlife Federation, they are affordable at $19.95 for an annual subscription. And the bonus: Interested kids will be reading them, picking up sentence syntax and grammar cues, that just aren’t so much a part of so many digital fun-and-learn programs. A great way for parents or grandparents to pass along a gift that goes beyond.

Nature Adoption Moose

3 – ANIMAL ADOPTIONS (NWF and WWF) – $35 and up

Animal Adoptions – Chances are you’re familiar with this routine of donating and getting a plush toy or “adoption certificate” as a thank you. The stuffed animals will certainly delight young recipients, while parents can deduct a portion of their donation. Several groups offer these symbolic adoptions, including:

  • National Wildlife Federation focuses on many North American species in need, such as the gray wolf  and the moose.  But they also are helping sea turtles and offer a wide array of “baby animals” with stuffed animals for tots that include exotic wildlife from around the world. You can get a bundle for a large donation,  or pick your child’s favorite animal to support.
  • World Wildlife Fund offers a huge selection of animals for “adoption.” A $50 donation gets you a plush animal for that kid in your life, plus info cards, an adoption certificate and a reusable gift bag.  There are options to give more. WWF works in more than 100 countries to save a wide array of beautiful animals worldwide that are facing a dire future, such as the critically endangered snow leopard  and the smart, peaceful and imperiled bonobos.

WWF Tshirts 2013

4 – WILDLIFE DONATIONS YOU CAN WEAR – $30

World Wildlife Fund, we noticed this year, has managed to clear the T-shirt fog that seems to befuddle so many non-profits, keeping them from finding good designs. We thought these WWF Ts were wearable and good conversation starters. They’re also eco-consciously made out of bamboo and organic cotton. For a $30 donation, you can pick one.

WWF also offers graphically pleasing hoodies with its iconic panda bear as a gift  for those donating $100 to the non-profit, which is well rated on Charity Navigator.

shop the frog

5 –RAINFOREST ALLIANCE-CERTIFIED FOOD — Various prices

If you like giving food gifts, and you’re interested in saving the planet, you should know about the Frog.  Shop the Frog is a finder tool that can help you locate Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee, cocoa and other products. Buy these and you’ll be supporting tropical reforestation, conservation and indigenous farming methods.

Rainforest Alliance-certified producers follow eco-friendly, humane and fair labor practices. The Rainforest Alliance, which has been around for 25 years, has a top rating on Charity Navigator because it spends 93 percent of what it takes in on program expenses and operates transparently.

So say you want to buy Uncle Richard a bag of ethically raised coffee. Check the long list of certified brands here, then buy the product locally by selecting your state to find vendors, or shop online. You’ll find many familiar brands, Caribou Coffee, High Grounds Coffee, The Republic of Tea and Yogi Tea, as well as many boutique roasters and packagers.

NRDC Wild Spaces Donation program WhaleNursery

6 –WILD SPACES (NRDC and SIERRA) – $25 and up

For grownups, who don’t necessarily require a plush toy as a gift kickback, the Natural Resources Defense Council, provides a variety of animal-supporting or forest-restoring options through its Protect Wild Places gift program. Here you can make reasonable donations ranging from $15 to $50 targeting the rainforest, whales, old growth forests, Utah’s wildlands, New York’s natural spaces, Patagonia and more. Your recipient will get a card explaining the gift. (The NRDC, the largest environmental group in the U.S., and has a solid Charity Navigator rating of 3 stars.)

Sierra Club also offers a wild spaces donation program, asking for donations of $15, $50 or $100 to support the Everglades, Yellowstone, the Adirondacks or many more, though they send back a bunch of goodies, a plush, backpack and written material, pertaining to the place you choose. (This is a double-edged sword. The goodies are nice, especially if there’s a kid around, but they also cut into the donation dollars.)

Forest Foundation

7 –ENCOURAGE SERIOUS TREE HUGGING – $25 and up

The American Forest Foundation may just be the best supporter of U.S. trees and woodlands you’ve never heard of. But if you want to donate to a group that developed an enduring tree education program and myriad hands-on stewardship efforts there may be no one better. The American Forest Foundation helps protect both wild forests and privately owned woodlands. It has certified thousands of tree farmers and is well rated by Charity Navigator, a charity watchdog that exposes groups that mishandle money and upholds those that are spending effectively on their stated missions.

Supporting trees helps restore the landscape, fight carbon pollution, save habitat for woodland creatures, preserve outdoor recreation areas and provide a livelihood to those who work in tree-related industries — a quintuple win. There’s no kickback gift for donating, but you will get a weekly enewsletter all about trees, and for the earnest tree lover in your circle, you could order Woodland magazine.

 

Nov 212013
 

The Pacific island nation of Kiribati looks like a paradise but its days are numbered. As global climate change causes the oceans to rise, these low-lying atolls are losing ground with each passing year…but Kiribati faces a more immediate crisis: the encroaching saltwater is poisoning the freshwater supply, which could turn Kiribati’s mostly impoverished citizens into refugees within a few years. Bloomberg reports.

Nov 152013
 

Green Right Now Reports

Hunters opened fire on Michigan’s wolves today, the first day of the first wolf hunt in the state since the animals were delisted from the Endangered Species Act protections.

Michigan Wolves huntedMichigan is following Minnesota and Wisconsin in setting up trophy hunting of wolves, following their delisting across the Upper Midwest, a traditional stronghold for gray wolves. Wolves also have been delisted and are being bounty hunted in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, where their population was restored over the past two decades.

The hunting of wolves, which led to their virtual extinction in the U.S. in the mid-20th Century (a small population remained in the Northern woods of Minnesota), has been controversial in both the Rocky Mountain and Midwest regions, and not the least in Michigan.

In Michigan, wolf advocates say that the high livestock predation figures that were used in one region to justify the wolf hunt were the result of problems at a single ranch where caretakers failed to properly dispose of livestock carcasses. The situation invited scavenging and predation by the wolves; they were essentially baited.

Here’s how Nancy Warren of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition explained the situation in a guest column in Michigan Live:

The stated goal of Management Unit B is “to reduce chronic livestock depredations” and DNR [Department of Natural Resources] used statistics from 2010 to defend the hunt. But, close examination of the records show that from 2010 through the present, livestock depredations were confined to 10 farms within Unit B with a total of 113 individual livestock animals were killed by wolves during this period.

One farm, with known poor animal husbandry practices and a record of not properly disposing of carcasses accounted for 87 of those losses (77%). Only one other farm recorded losses in double digits with 10 verified livestock deaths (9%). Two producers each lost three animals the rest lost one or two animals over the 3 ½ year period. When livestock losses are put in perspective, it is evident that a wide scale hunt spread across Unit B is not warranted.

Warren and many other wildlife advocates say that remedying predation of livestock by inaugurating recreational hunting is overkill because livestock operators have always had rights under the law to shoot predators. This protection for ranchers has been virtually universal, across the Midwest and Mountain states, with ranchers given the right under the law to shoot known predators on their property.

Still, the US Fish & Wildlife Service has determined that the wolves’ rising population requires their removal from special protection under the ESA, and has returned authority for managing the wolves to the states. In essence, the wolves’ rebound has been their undoing.

Last night in the Michigan peninsula, members of the Saginaw Indian Chippewa Tribe gathered to honor the wolves with a candlelight vigil. As reported in Michigan Livetribe members recalled their shared history with the wolves and retold stories about how wolves and humans once hunted together.

“Wolves are a part of our creation story and an intrinsic part of our culture,” said Frank Cloutier, a spokesman for the tribe.

Michigan’s trophy hunters can kill or “harvest” 43 wolves this season across three regions, where a cumulative estimated 650 wolves reside. A license is $100 for residents, $500 for non-residents.

 

 

Nov 142013
 

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Today, US officials will crush a stockpile of six tons of confiscated ivory items in an attempt to make a statement about “blood ivory.”

Some of the carved, confiscated ivory that is being pulverized.

Some of the carved, confiscated ivory that is being pulverized. (Photo: USFWS)

At first blush, this may seem like the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is taking a bold stand against the illegal ivory trade. The pulverized ivory, representing thousands of elephant tusks, will be donated and put on display at some future date.

“This is a way to say to people we are not putting a value on ivory. We’re putting a value on the lives of the elephants,” said Azzedine Downes, president of the International Fund for Animal Welfare told Al Jazeera.

But what if people don’t take the point?

What if the US yells really loudly, like the tough kid on the playground — ‘Take that ivory smugglers! We took your toys and stomped on them! — and the smugglers don’t listen?

The more I consider this ivory crushing “solution”, the dumber it sounds. Crushing valuable carved ivory art pieces worth millions of dollars won’t curb the appetite for ivory that drives the smuggling and poaching. That powerful, illegal market claimed claimed the lives of more than 30,000 elephants last year alone. (The ivory trade was banned in 1989.)

Why not sate the dark market ivory consumers by selling the confiscated stash and using the money to better protect living elephants? That’s a bold idea too, and it has more upside.

Call me a pragmatist, but this seems like a far better solution. Imagine the handsome conservation fund that could be used to help save elephants from poachers. It’s well-known that preserves in Africa and Asia are underfunded. Why not funnel millions of dollars from the sale of the ivory to them, while simultaneously sopping up some of the demand?

Elephant (Photo: Michelle Gadd)

Elephant (Photo: Michelle Gadd)

This could provide the elephants with a respite, and it’s not just my crazy idea. I recently heard about a similar proposal to help the endangered rhinos of Africa. This may seem untoward to some, but it’s supremely practical: Harvest the horns from selected aging rhinos, which can be done without harming the animals, to satisfy the traders. Legalize the whole process, tax it and pour the profits back into rhino conservation. It makes sense.

Instead, the USFWS has unilaterally decided to crush the ivory — and the artwork — a move that reeks of an imperialist attitude; the US assumes that the message it sends will be the message received.

Having read the press release, I know US officials are proud of their plan, which they see as a principled approach to contraband, and presumably, they consulted with others before coming up with it. Other nations have taken a similar approach, they report in their release. Furthermore, they say that selling the ivory would increase poaching, though their logic is a little hard to follow:

“Our criminal investigations and anti-smuggling efforts have clearly shown
that legal ivory trade can serve as a cover for illegal trade. Therefore, selling the ivory stockpile and allowing it to enter
the marketplace could contribute to increased elephant poaching and
stimulate even more consumer demand for ivory.”

And so we will be left with a museum exhibit that amounts to a pile of crushed biowaste that hopes to devalue ivory. A few people may grab on to that concept and it will cause them to think. Meanwhile, those driving the illegal ivory trade will likely remain impervious to such messaging. The buyers of illegal ivory tend to congregate at the top of the socioeconomic ladder, existing in a world apart, and mostly in Asia. Will they step down from their high rises for the special privilege of being castigated by the US with its traveling, anti-art pulverized ivory exhibit?

Pity the elephants.

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