COVID-19-the coronavirus has caused historic lockdowns of access to countries, states and communities around the world.
And while the human risk should be the first priority, there is huge concern for an impact on wildlife. This is the first in a series of podcasts on this topic as we see how the loss of hunting and ecotourism dollars in Africa could spell disaster for rhinos, elephants and many other species.
Please share this message. It needs to get out there. This podcast is a must listen and so is this series.
A research project operated by Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Clemson University scientists is showing shocking and increasing poaching of Asian elephants in one of their last strongholds.
Myanmar is one of the most forested countries in Asia and has the second largest population with around 5,000 animals.
In the video below you will see that poachers in that country are not killing them chiefly for ivory but for their skin. And that means they are killing males, females and babies. One of the quickest ways to deplete a population of anything is to kill breeding-aged females which makes this skin trade particularly deadly.
Hopefully this will get major mainstream news attention. Kudos to Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Clemson University for their discovery and exposure of this terrifying new trend.
With that said I doubt the big players in the wildlife conservation world will take notice and do much if anything. This is why I most often support small, focused conservation groups.
African elephants have been at the forefront of international wildlife conservation efforts for the last 30 years. When ivory poaching was brought to the public’s consciousness in the mid 1980s, the world was rightly appalled and millions of dollars have went toward their cause.
Currently there are an estimated 400,000 African elephants throughout the continent. That’s a huge drop from at least two million in the 1940s but it is large in comparison to the Asian elephant with a best estimate standing at around 35,000 animals scattered throughout Asia. Think about that.
There are less 1/10 Asian elephants in comparison to African.
Why is little said about Asian elephants?
For starters, big conservation is big bureaucracy and the public’s fascination with the African elephant helps generate funding. Lots of it. The largest threat to Asia’s elephant has been habitat loss with poaching also a factor but showing elephant carcasses stripped of tusks raises funds.
Showing palm oil plantations and villages taking up space for Asian elephants not so much.
People have a fascination with African game and there is always a greater interest there from the public than issues in other parts of the world.
I am all for helping African elephants but shouldn’t a bigger focus be on Asian elephant populations which stand at 1/10 of that in Africa?
According to the Great Elephant Census Tanzania alone has nearly four times the elephants than all of Asia does with 131,626.
If those who deal in international conservation want a new project to really sink their teeth into this one could be a game changer. It’s not too late to make a difference but if the elephant skin trade catches on throughout Asia it will not take long to decimate their numbers either.
If ivory-stripped bull elephants images raise funds, then cows and their babies stripped of their skin should do the same thing. Send down a film crew and get to work. The Asian elephants in Myanmar need help. Quickly.
For the first 10 people to email email@example.com and say you shared this blog I will donate $10 to Elafantasia. I know $100 is not much but if we all could contribute a little this group could do a lot. This is one of those smaller groups I mentioned that is focused and doing great work.
Share away and message me.
Together we can raise awareness and generate funds to help Asian elephants.
When I had an opportunity to review Austin Steven’s new book Running Wild I was legitimately excited.
Stevens is my favorite ever outdoors television host and I have followed his career closely since seeing his Austin Stevens Snakemaster on Animal Planet in 2004.
Having previously read his other action-packed books I was not sure how many stories were left untold but I found myself thoroughly entertained, informed and inspired while reading Running Wild.
The very beginning with Stevens facing off with an angry chimpanzee escaped from a zoological facility set the tone for many tales of harrowing danger, ridiculously funny situations and poignant tales of life’s many struggles.
The thing that initially made me a fan of Steven’s television programs is his sincerity. When he crawled into a cave to find wintering rattlesnakes, his claustrophobia showed. On many episodes, he shared fears and trepidations where many others are all about shock value.
The same sincerity shines through in his frustrations over changes in African culture as his wife experienced a terrifying night at the behest of burglars and seeing the effects of spousal abuse on a friend.
He also shares great emotion in describing meeting his new wife Amy and their many adventures together.
And adventures abound in Running Wild.
Stevens is known chiefly for his work with snakes but his interaction with hyenas, rhinos, elephants and hippos are just as educational and intriguing.
His penchant for shooting wide angle photos of dangerous animals in super close quarters allows him to experience things about these creatures that most would never see. His description of pursuing the extremely dangerous and highly endangered black rhinoceros in particular held my attention and made me want to learn more about the species.
Now don’t think for a second that snakes are not part of the book. There are plenty of truly engaging serpent encounters and reflections on the kinds of interactions perhaps only Austin Stevens dares to seek.
This book is not about snakes or wildlife but how Austin Stevens made them part of his life and through his work in media made them part of ours.
Whether you want to know more about the man or the creatures he pursues, Running Wild is a fast-paced, fun read that only slows down enough to give reflective incite from a man who has a unique perspective on wildlife and has become one of its truly great ambassadors.
April 1 is rife with prank stories with the ending tagline “April Fool’s Day”.
Dinosaurs have been rediscovered on remote islands, chimpanzees have been found using iPhones and that mermaid special on Discovery Channel was real-all according to various satirical sources on April 1.
That is why I was at first suspicious of a Jakarta Post headline that read “Wonogiri residents claim sightings of extinct Javan tiger.”
A number of residents in Nguntoronadi district, Wonogiri regency, Central Java, claim to have seen tigers that have been declared extinct in the Mount Pegat area. The local office of the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), however, was quick to dismiss the sightings as Javan leopards.
“I have seen Javan tigers on Mt. Pegat and forests around the mountain. I saw a tiger playing with her three cubs,” Mt. Pegat juru kunci (mountain attendant) Suratno, 58, said on Sunday.
The Javan Tiger was declared extinct decades ago although reports have been off and on through the years and increasingly recently.
A photo from Ujung Kulon National Park purporting to be a Javan tiger looks more like a leopard to me but it is inconclusive.
Still, reports of people who live in the forest and would know a leopard or other wildlife saying they have seen tigers-even with cubs is hopeful. Maybe the reports are not an April Fool’s gag after all.
I have a source who revealed recent reports of tigers in remote areas of Turkey. That would be the Caspian tiger another allegedly extinct subspecies that once roamed across forested areas of the Middle East.
There is even an effort to reintroduced tigers into Kazakhstan which was once home of the Caspian variety. The plan would be to release Amur (Siberian) tigers which are the closest relative.
As a longtime advocate of tiger conservation, I must say all of this is very positive considering the immense decline in tiger populations over the last 100 years.
Technology is allowing us to get a deep glimpse at tiger habitat and is revealing things we never knew about the species. It is also letting us know that they are perhaps more resilient than we thought.
It is time to take bold steps to save tigers. We have laid out a plan for removing livestock killing tigers and placing them on remote islands. You can read that entry here.
Re-wilding captive cats should also be put on the table.
The most beautiful animal on the planet needs a win and if Javan tigers are proven to still exist or if Turkey reveals a hidden number of Caspian tigers or the restoration effort in Kazakhstan happens it will be a huge win.
Be on the look out here for many entries on tigers. The world needs to know the problems they face and that hope for these great cats still exists.
Feb. 11 this video of a huge wild boar started cycling around Facebook
I normally do not share social media videos here but this one is deserving of commentary. While the details of this particular clip are sketchy there is no doubt this is an absolutely monstrous hog. The post was shared by a woman in Hong Kong and there is some sort of Asian script on the dumpsters.
This is not a domestic strain of hog.
It is a Eurasian boar and it is the largest one this author has ever seen on video.
A 2016 story at wideopenspaces.com shows photos on alleged 1,179-pound boar killed in Russia. And while the photos there are impressive, the author admits there is no way to tell if they had been manipulated.
Video is harder to fake.
So, how big of a hog are we dealing with?
Judging by the dumpsters, the other hogs and various items in the photo I am going out on a limb and saying this hog is easily over 700 pounds.
Could it be in the 1,000-pound range?
In North America, feral hogs weighing more than 500 pounds are rare but they do exist. Various sources say in parts of Asia Eurasian boars can top 650 pounds.
To give scale for exactly how big a hog this size would be look at this illustration. In my opinion it is easy to see this hog would be bigger than the average grizzly here.
The biggest wild hog I have gathered evidence of in the U.S. was this one captured on a game camera by Richard Trahan in Tyler Co. TX
My estimates on size for this one judging from the size of that particular brand feeder which I investigated is 700 pounds.
“The bottom of the motor on this feeder is five feet, six inches from the ground,” Trahan said.
That hog is touching it standing flat-footed.
The one in this video is at least that big and likely much bigger.
The question is this a pen-raised Eurasian boar? If so, that would make a difference in terms of its rarity. A 650-pounder in the wild could easily get to 800 plus being overfed in captivity.
Most records of wild hog sizes come from hunters and there is very little hunting besides for food in many countries in the Eurasian boar’s native range. The only people worried about how big boars get are hunters who want bragging rights.
Most locals could care less.
Stories of true monster hogs have circulated for years and have always been a source of intrigue for me. I have encountered two 500 pound plug hogs in my home state of Texas and found tracks of one that was likely bigger.
We can debate the size of this beast and many likely will as it makes its rounds on social media.
One thing however is for sure.
Encountering such a beast would be an unforgettable experience and hopefully I would see it before it saw me.
There is no animal more stunning than an Amur or Siberian tiger.
Weighing up 600 pounds and measuring as long as 12 feet from nose to tip of tail, their size almost overrides the beauty of a striking pattern and piercing eyes.
According to an article at atimes.com Russian scientists using trail cameras have captured images of three and a half month old cubs showing there is hope for this highly endangered species.
Watch the video above to see the incredible images.
According to officials with the World Wildlife Fund there are around 500 of these majestic cats left in the wild and that is up from the nearly extinct level of the 1940s.
By the 1940s, hunting had driven the Amur tiger to the brink of extinction—with no more than 40 individuals remaining in the wild. The subspecies was saved when Russia became the first country in the world to grant the tiger full protection.
I will never forget standing next to a Siberian tiger for the first time. When I first worked with captive cats at a sanctuary during my college days, I was absolutely blown away with the size of these animals.
I was shocked that their size and rarity was not a key point in virtually any conservation programs I had heard of at the time.
They are after all the world’s largest cat, weighing up to 200 pounds more than Africa’s largest lion.
Yet, few in the mainstream know anything about them. In fact, during the dozens of lectures I have conducted on the world’s great cats, I have come to believe most people outside of the hardcore wildlife lovers believe the white tigers they see in zoos are Siberian tigers.
Those are of course white Bengal tigers and the white color has nothing to do with living in snow. That is however the correlation people often make.
Education is a vital key to conservation because it makes people aware of problems with wildlife and its habitat. The Siberian tiger definitely needs an overhaul in that department.
Who wouldn’t want to help the world’s largest cat survive? What great opportunity lies ahead if someone is willing to make a concerted effort to let the world know about this great cat that survives in one of the harshest environments in the world?
When I saw the images of the gorgeous cubs in the video above, I could not help but feel a warm sense of hope.
If we let the world know what is happening with tigers in the Russian Far East then we might just have a crack at long-term survival for the world’s largest cat which was almost wiped out of existence 80 years ago.
With all of the doom and gloom constantly being bantered about in the wildlife community that is something to celebrate.
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Recently I received news that one of the most mysterious and beautiful creatures on the planet was being taken off the endangered species list.
I am talking about the snow leopard.
Listing and delisting a species can come with a lot of confusion as subjects like this one deal with everything from extremely difficult population analysis to its interpretation.
In this special case I turned to someone I trust and respect my friend from the other side of the world Dr. Natalie Schmitt who as you will see is doing some great work that will benefit snow leopards and other wild felines.
Here is the transcript of the questions I sent her and as always she answered with great detail and honesty.
Chester Moore, Jr.
Do you feel the delisting of the snow leopard is justified?
I think the decision by the (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) IUCN assessment team to downgrade the snow leopard’s conservation status from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ is justified as the species needed to meet very specific criteria to maintain that status.
A continuation of the ‘endangered’ classification for the snow leopard would have required two criteria to be met, 1.) a population consisting of less than 2,500 adults, and 2.) a rate of decline exceeding 20 percent over 16 years. The expert assessor team (consisting of five respected international experts), using the best information available, determined that the snow leopard currently meets neither criteria.
Although recent studies suggest that snow leopard numbers are likely higher than previously thought, the assessment team took an exceptionally precautionary approach, including using the lowest widely accepted global population size (4,000) when determining if the ‘endangered’ threshold could be met.
Although we still have only very crude estimates of snow leopard abundance based on sightings, camera trap recordings and interviews with local people, more accurate estimates are likely to not have any impact on the conservation status according to the expert team. However, my personal concern is that the decision has been made prematurely before broader-scale surveys are conducted with more accurate counting methods, to know for certain. In fact, in the full report on the snow leopard, the IUCN noted that population numbers could be partly speculative, given the difficulties in collecting accurate data on the elusive species across its full range from Afghanistan through to China.
What has been the main contributing factor to an increase in population?
Conservation efforts have been pinnacle in helping to prevent snow leopard extinction, particularly efforts to stop poaching and cutting off illegal trafficking routes however, as far as we are aware, the population is still decreasing, just not as rapidly as we once thought.
What are some negatives that could come from de-listing the snow leopard?
The biggest concern about the recent downlisting is that the lower status may weaken conservation efforts in range countries and the ability of local governments to stop the major threats to their survival. Some funding sources are also restricted to Endangered or Critically Endangered species, so there may be less funding opportunities for the species.
Tell us about your invention for tracking species like the snow leopard?
This invention has become the biggest life sacrifice for me, because I believe in its value so much! With the help of biomedical experts from McMaster University, the Centre for Molecular Dynamics in Nepal and Panthera, we aim to develop a simple, inexpensive, accurate, sensitive and portable DNA detection kit that can be used by non-experts for the rapid detection of species from the evidence they leave behind.
Through the identification of animals from their droppings we can gain an accurate estimate of population abundance, and the kit will be particularly useful for the detection of rare and elusive species where scats are difficult to identify morphologically. The portability and affordability of the kit will also make it easier for detecting species inhabiting challenging terrain, and in developing countries where conservation funding is limited. Once identified, those samples can then be taken back to the lab for further analysis of diet and disease.
The kit can also be used by customs officers to rapidly identify the remains of illegally trafficked species such as skins and bone. It is the lack of ability to be able to distinguish between legal and illegal wildlife products that represents the biggest issue in the enforcement and prosecution of wildlife trafficking. By improving our frontline detection methods we can identify poaching hotspots and trafficking routes, determine the geographic origin and age of the product, as well as assist law enforcement officers to prevent future crimes.
Finally, the simple design will allow the detection kit to be used by non-experts such as local communities and for citizen science initiatives. The usability of the kit will help local people to be directly involved in identifying and mitigating threats to wildlife, thereby expanding conservation outcomes.
We’ve already made significant headway and with the support of people and organisations who believe in the value of this idea too, we’ll get there.
What are the greatest challenges for the species moving forward?
Despite the IUCN downlisting of the species, snow leopards are still considered at high risk of extinction from habitat loss and degradation from mining and infrastructure development, declines in prey populations and poaching for the illegal wildlife trade. It is so important that we don’t become complacent in our efforts to preserve this important apex predator.
The snow leopard plays a crucial part in maintaining the health of the Himalayan ecosystem.
As long as she can remember they have been her very favorite animals and she has encountered them both in the wild and at marine parks.
Her twin sister Abby loves marine mammals too but her favorite pastime is photography.
Together these two Texas ninth graders want to do something to save the vaquita.
The “what” you ask?
The vaquita is a type of porpoise, the world’s smallest in fact and also the single most endangered marine mammal. There are only 30 estimated left on the planet.
Living in the upper reaches of the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez), these small, strikingly-marked cetaceans are the very definition of critically endangered.
“It’s so sad that that such a beautiful creature could go extinct. It’s time we do something about it. We support what Dr. Guy Harvey and Sea World are doing with #savethevaquita,” Rachel said.
The girls have grown up working with our Kingdom Zoo outreach and had an encounter with a wild pink albino dolphin on one of our expeditions in 2013.
“I loved dolphins before but I really loved them after that and it made me appreciate marine mammals. We want others to appreciate them and contribute to saving the most endangered species of all-the vaquita,” Rachel said.
They will be helping with two events to help raise funds for vaquitas, a food fundraiser called “Fajitas for Vaquitas” which will take place at the Kingdom Zoo: Wildlife Center in Pinehurst, TX (Orange area) Sat. July 29 and Kingdom Zoo will be auctioning off prints of some of Abby’s wildlife photography.
“I love shooting photos of animals and I am excited that some of my photos can help raise money for the vaquita. They are one of God’s special creations and we are so excited to help them in any way. We have our #savethevaquita shirts and are inspired by Dr. Harvey’s amazing artwork,” Abby said.
The girls know saving the vaquita is a big task but that great things happen when people come together in the name of wildlife conservation.
And there are 30 tracks on The Beatle’s The White Album.
It is also how many vaquitas scientists believe exist on the planet.
The vaquita is a type of porpoise, the world’s smallest in fact and also the single most endangered marine mammal.
Living only in the upper reaches of the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez), these small, strikingly-marked cetaceans are the very definition of critically endangered.
A gill net fishery that is now heavily centered on another endangered species-the totoaba (fish), vaquitas often end up tangled in the nets and either killed or left to die.
“The issue facing the vaquita is emblematic of larger impacts that humans are having on our oceans,” said world renown marine artist and conservationist Dr. Guy Harvey.
“From unsustainable fishing practices to marine pollution to changing ocean chemistry, human behavior is negatively affecting ocean health. As the human population continues to increase, we will depend on our oceans even more and need to ensure that we are using these resources in a sustainable manner to benefit future generations.”
Harvey has partnered with Sea World to raise funds for Vaquita CPR an international effort to save the species by creating a “Save the Vaquita” line of items that will be sold at Sea World Parks and through Dr. Harvey’s properties in which 15 percent of proceeds go directly to conservation efforts.
“I was proud to paint my first ever vaquita porpoise in support of SeaWorld and VaquitaCPR’s efforts to save this species that is on the brink of extinction,” Harvey said.
In addition Sea World has donated an additional $120,000 to the project.
“The plight of the vaquita porpoise illustrates the devastation the illegal wildlife trade can inflict on a species,” said Dr. Chris Dold, SeaWorld’s Chief Zoological Officer.
“We are proud to partner with Guy Harvey to help educate people about this crisis and raise money toward a solution. The Vaquita CPR effort is an extraordinary, last ditch attempt to prevent the extinction of a porpoise species that is only found right here in North America. We at SeaWorld care deeply about the ocean, and we care especially about the animals that live there. We can not sit idly by as another animal goes extinct.”
According to Vaquita CPR which is spearheaded by the National Marine Mammal Foundation the Mexican government has determined that emergency action is needed to temporarily remove some of the remaining animals from their threatening environment and create a safe haven for them in the northern Gulf of California.
An emergency conservation plan has been developed by an international team of experts, with field recovery operations set to begin in May 2017. Catching and caring for vaquitas may prove impossible, but unless we try, the species will likely vanish.
A project like this might indeed seem impossible. After all, is there any hope for a species that only has 30 representatives?
In 1987 there were only 22 California condors. Now there are more than 400.
The black-footed ferret was thought extinct in the early 1980s and then a population of a few dozen was found. Now, thanks to captive breeding and active monitoring efforts there are around 1,200 in the wild.
Yes, the fact vaquitas are ocean dwellers complicates things but there is still hope. The common denominator for all endangered species success stories is people taking action.
And that is what a coalition of people are doing right now.
Let’s do what we can to help the vaquita by supporting those who are supporting efforts to save this beautiful, severely endangered marine mammal.
A stampede of wild boars killed three Isis Jihadi fighters in Iraq recently.
According to the Times of London the large group of boars were living in the dense reeds in the al-Rashad region on the edge of agricultural fields. In other words prime hog habitat.
“It is likely their movement disturbed a herd of wild pigs, which inhabit the area as well as the nearby cornfields,” Sheikh Anwar al-Assi, a chief of the local Ubaid tribe and supervisor of anti-ISIS forces, told the Times of London.
Details of the attack are sketchy but what we do know is that boars in some form or fashion killed Isis fighters.
It might seem strange for there to be wild boars in Iraq as the Western idea of the Middle East is large tracts of sand with no life. The fact is there are arid forests and even pristine wetlands in the war-torn country. The Eurasian boar is one of the numerous native mammals and there are animals in the country that we would call “feral hogs” that are a mixture among domestic breeds and Sus scrofa the Eurasian boar.
The native hogs are likely the subspecies Sus scrofa attila that taxonomists believe extend from Hungray all the way into the Mesopotamian Delta in Iraq and possibly Turkey and Iran as well.
Although this is the first time we know of hogs being involved in the war on terror, over the years I have documented numerous cases of hogs attacking people.
The Pineville Town Talk tells the story of a Pineville, La. man who had a pig enter the house he was visiting.
“Boston Kyles, 20, of 497 Pelican Drive told deputies he was visiting his sister’s house at the time of the incident. He said he had gone there to clean fish and was sitting in the house’s front room when the pig entered through the front door. Kyles told deputies he stomped the floor to try to shoo the pig out of the room, but the pig charged him, Maj. Herman Walters said.”
“Walters had heard of pigs attacking people in the woods but said this was the first time he had heard of a pig going into a house and attacking someone.”
An Edgefield, South Carolina man experienced one of the scariest hog attacks I could find occurring in the United States.
The Edgefield Advertiser reported, “A man was hospitalized recently after being attacked by a wild hog at his home on Gaston Road. The hog, which eyewitnesses estimated to weigh upwards of 700 pounds, materialized in Fab Burt’s backyard while he was working in his garden.”
“It came out of nowhere and attacked me. It had me pinned on the ground and was mauling me.”
Fortunately, Burt’s seven-month-old German shepherd, named Bobo, was on hand to help him fend off the hog.
It looks like the Isis terrorists did not have any “Bobo” to save them. In a strange case from what is a brutal, ugly war, nature struck back-with a vengeance.
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