Proposed Seal cull in Canada

(Sorry for the MASSIVE delay between posts, got a new job, big changes, no time :p )

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So the badgers are safe for another year. With the lack of research and evidence to support such an operation it is a relief to see they are going to give it a bit more thought. Fingers crossed they see sense by 2013!

If only the good news could continue, but this time, it is the Grey Seals in Canada that are taking the hit. In October, the Senate Committee in Fisheries announced they would endorse a four year plan for the culling of thousands (if not over a 100,000) Grey Seals in the Golf of St Lawrence in a bid to increase Cod stock. The fishing industry wants something done about the depletion in cod stocks and under the pressure, the seal cull, is the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, “bright idea”. Getting to be a bit of a running theme this year, numbers in one species fall or money is threatened, cull down the unfortunate species that is being blamed.

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There is off course, as with the proposed badger cull in the UK, little evidence to support that a cut in seal numbers will lead to an increase in Cod numbers so how they can merit spending millions of dollars in the murder of the shy and un-deserving Grey seal, is a subject which angers me deeply. Am I alone on this? I would hardly think so. In fact better fishery management and sustainable fishing measurements in the first place would have prevented this and evidence would sway more towards over fishing then the seals being the main cause of a fall in Cod stocks.

As well as over fishing, the changes in the climates and the pollution of the earth’s waters would also play a big part in the drop in Cod numbers. With the use of common sense one cannot simply say that to cull a large number of the seal population in the Golf would boost the Cod stock and make for happy fishing once again. The Fisheries department and politicians need to take a serious look into the situation and carry out appropriate research before taking any action. In the UK, farmers called for answers to the TB situation and under pressure the badger cull solution was thrown out. This is turning out to be a very similar case and hopefully things will be researched properly in order to prevent the outrage and confusion that occurred in the summer with the badger cull proposal.

Early days on this, but hopefully there will be more information soon ( positive information). I will try and do a better job of keeping you all updated this time 😉

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Spotlight: The Red Panda

Well this little guy hardly needs much of an introduction being a very popular feature in many zoo’s across the world. Unfortunately the Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) is currently listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red list. This means that we need to take extra care in conserving the Red Panda in its small pockets of damp high-altitude forests in Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar, and southern China or it may be joining the “critically endangered” list all too soon.

The Red Panda is a very good climber using its specially adapted feet with rotatable ankles to control downward climbs. They have very strong claws which they use to grasp branches and leaves when feeding. Bamboo makes up the most part of their diet however they occasionally eat eggs, berries or fruit depending on the availability of their main food during foraging. Mostly nocturnal, they forage by night and sleep by day, spending the majority of their time in the trees.

Their main form of communication is by means of body language however they are usually a solitary animal, rarely interacting with other Red Pandas apart from during mating and when caring for young. Even though they are born very small, females have a considerably long gestation period of up to 135 days and usually only have one or two at a time. This also presents limitations in captive breeding programmes and makes the management of their habitat all the more important as they are fragile reproducers.

The main threats to Red Panda populations in the wild are: habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching and inbreeding depression. While human populations increase, Red Panda populations decrease as the humans claim more and more of their habitats for their own. This unfortunately is not restricted to the Red Pandas but uncountable different species worldwide suffer a similar threat and many unique habitats are suffering under the pressure. Road construction, commercial logging, localized logging and clearing for farm lands, being just some of the culprits in the fragmentation of habitats.

Poaching does not present as serious a threat to the Red Panda as habitat loss; however it is still a big problem mainly in China. They are hunted mainly for their fur and their beautiful tails. Outside China they are usually only killed by accident, caught up in traps meant for other animals and shot occasionally because the opportunity was there, rather than being deliberately hunted for.

Research and Habitat protection are vital for the survival of this species. They are known to be shy and due to their nocturnal behaviour observation and data collection can be difficult, so it is important that population studies are fronted in order to get a clearer picture of this secretive animal’s lifestyle. The more known about the Red Panda, the easier it becomes to protect. There are several protected areas covering some of the Red Pandas habitats across their home countries, however not near enough if they are to thrive in the long term and get the management and protection they need.

If you want to know more you can visit the Red Panda Network webpage. They are an organisation that focuses on education, research and conservation. All of which are important in the protection of a species.

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Who should we protect?

The resent death of a male surfer, off the coast of Western Australia after being attacked by a Great White Shark has spurred a debate as to whether or not this, the biggest of the shark species, should remain protected. This is the fifth fatal attack in this area since the start of 2012, recorded as the highest fatality rate in a given area due to Great White attacks. This has caused a bit of friction between the local fisheries/politicians and conservationists.

The question is: Who has the right to freedom in the waters surrounding Western Australia? The fatalities are no doubt tragic and I sympathise with the families of the deceased however my vote in this instant goes to the shark. They have been around much longer than humans have and while its behaviour is surrounded with a lot more mystery then a lot of its shark relatives, study suggests that humans are not considered a food source by the Great Whites. Why should Great white Sharks be culled for safer human recreation when there are much bigger threats to people out there which are not natural? Sharks just do what sharks do best, swim around, and occasionally chomp down on anything that looks like a potential food source.

Biologists have researched shark attacks for years and have come up with a theory for why sharks attack humans. They are a curious animal and may simply be “test biting” objects that intrigue them. It does not lessen the risk to people in shark inhabited areas but at least shows they are not simply “out to get us” as the film Jaws has suggested to people for years. Politicians are also suggesting that the Great White Shark population is increasing and that the ban, that was introduced in 1999 to protect them, should now be lifted in order to reduce the number of attacks. Sharks are difficult to survey but there is no evidence as of yet to support this. Plus the 5 fatalities could simply be a once off in statistics and it is too soon to launch out an attack on the Great White Shark based on a bad year.

At the end of the day, the surfers know the risks, and if wise will take as many precautions one can against a Shark attack. Potential Shark attack zones should be clearly marked and then people can make up their own minds about the risks before entering the water. Let the Great White sharks be, seeing as they are still listed by ICUN as “endangered” and let’s try to not get another species extinct due to human greed.

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Spotlight: Western Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla)

This species of Gorilla can be dived into two subspecies: The Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and the Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli). The Western Lowland gorilla being the most common (As common as this critically endangered species can be) with over 90,000 estimated in the wild and is found in several locations in Central West Africa. The Cross River Gorilla is estimated at just over 250, a scary figure, and is found on the border between Cameroon and Nigeria.

The Ebola virus, poaching, civil war and commercial logging are the main threats to the conservation of these sociable and powerful primates. While the Ebola virus wiped out almost a third of the population between 1991 and 2007 they are, against their nature, fighting back against the humans by means of throwing sticks and stones. This goes against their more common instinct to run. This strange behaviour sadly will not be enough to deter poachers or prevent them from getting caught in the crossfire of the civil wars which rage on in their territory.

The main difference between the Western and Eastern Gorillas is in their size, the Western gorillas being smaller and more agile, allowing them to be sufficient climbers. Their diet consists of high fibre content, mainly eating fruit when it is available, leaves and wood vegetation suffices when fruit is scarce. They are a highly sociable animal living in groups from anywhere between 2 and 30 individuals and are not all that territorial with family’s often crossing paths in the wild. These groups consist of a dominant male and several young males, females and their offspring.

Conservation groups such as the WCS are working hard to improve poaching laws, and establish health centres in areas such as Gabon and Cameroon in order to prevent the spread of a disease like the Ebola Virus. They are also working alongside logging companies to help create a more sustainable and Gorilla friendly method of logging.

Eco-tourism also plays a vital part in the conservation of the Western Gorilla. Through tourism conservation groups can work towards finding a careful balance for locals in that they can find alternatives to bush meat for survival, thus lessening the pressure on the Gorillas. The ZSL (Zoological Society of London) are one such organisation aiding in sustainable tourism and bush meat alternatives for locals. They are also involved in a project in Cameroon helping Timber Company’s management in a way that is less harmful to the Gorilla populations in its logging areas.

The Western Gorilla is in critical danger and needs our help NOW ! So spread awareness and get onto some of the above links if you wish to donate, or help! There is no shortage of information online and if you want to go see these beautiful creatures in the wild (It is an expensive but very worthwhile investment), now is the time and in the long run your efforts will help to conserve the Western Gorilla.

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Spotlight: Asiatic Lion (Panthera Leo Persica)

Wildlife conservation is a hot topic in this century due to the increase in endangered animals and plants across the globe throughout recent years. I will be going through some of my favourite and sadly at risk animals one by one in hopes to inspire more people to get involved in conservation. There is so much that can be done to help and some people just need and extra nudge to actually stand up and do something about the diminishing numbers of our earths beautiful wildlife. Every small gesture, every penny put into trusted conservation organisations, will go a long way to the future, so spread the word!

Today’s animal in the spotlight is the Asiatic Lion (Panthera Leo Persica); one of the 7 currently recognized subspecies of lion and one of the most endangered. I fell in love with this majestic king of the jungle when writing up an enclosure evaluation for the Asiatic lion enclosure at Chester Zoo during my second year at University. Watching the beautiful female and her male, I really grew to respect their strength and elegance. To see them in the wild would be a dream come true, however with numbers at a low, this may not be possible for very long.

Only a single population of this subspecies exists in the wild, resident to the Gir Forest in India and with a constant threat coming from poaching and limited gene pool for expansion, this number is currently stable. . In 2000 the ICUN Red list had listed the Asiatic lion as “critically endangered” however since captive breeding programmes and conservation efforts have been put into place, they are now rated as “endangered”. The current estimated wild population is around 359 and with less than 100 in captive breeding programmes the outlook is bleak for the Asiatic Lion.

Like the African lions, the Asiatic lions live in prides, however of smaller size, with the normal pride consisting of up to two females. In the dry deciduous scrubland of the Gir Forest they feed mainly on deer and domesticated cattle (at the cost of angry farmers) however they will also eat wild boar and water buffalo when they can.

It was around the same time that firearms became popular that the number of Asiatic lions across Asia went into steep decline and where pushed into the small population in India that exists now. Only time will tell the faith of the Asiatic lion, however with a limited gene pool and breeding with African lions, the question is more: “when”? rather than “If”?

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The Badger Culling: To be continued . . .

In my previous article concerning badger culling in the UK and Ireland I mentioned the proposed plan to carry out a badger culling pilot in Somerset and Gloucester in September of this year. The badger trust took on the government, earlier this month, in the courts arguing that the culling would be illegal and is not scientifically supported. Under pressure from the National Farmers Union, it is no surprise, they lost.

The Sussex branch of the Badger trust say that they will not give up the fight against the planned cull and are outraged that over 70% of the badger population in Sussex alone will be shot if the plans go ahead. This seems extreme as it is but researchers and animal organisations are saying that it will have little or no effect on the TB situation in Britain. It is also suspected that the culling will only drive the badgers out into new areas and further spreading TB instead of eradicating it.

So who will be carrying out the actual culling? Anyone who is a member of the British Association of shooting and ex-service men (perhaps listed servicemen if needed) will be in charge of shooting badgers on sight and it would seem that there will be little control on the numbers shot. It is estimated that over the course of 4 years up to 40,000 badgers could die.

There was a headline on a Guardian UK article, last week, which personally struck out to me: “It’s poor farming, not the poor badgers that spread disease”. While studies on such matters are few and far between what little evidence there is certainly suggests that badgers are not the main culprit, and that simply shooting them will not make the problem go away so long as farms continue to run as they are.

The government will be hard hit with protests and court appeals over the coming months, unfortunately it would appear that the farming council’s strong influence will win and the culling pilot will go ahead as planned after the Olympics this year even though, if carried out properly, a vaccination programme would be a more sure shot route to go. Yes it can be expensive but should the wildlife of Britain be made suffer due to a badly run government? I personally think the whole situation needs to be reviewed and hope that by September there comes a change in direction and some hope for the badgers.

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Bull Run and Bull Fighting: Tradition versus cruelty

Bull running is a highly controversial tradition that is said to have begun during the 14th century in North-East Spain. The bulls used for bull fighting would have to be herded from their overnight pens across the streets to the fighting arena in localities across Spain and over the years people started to join in and run in front of the bulls. This developed into the “sport” that is now witnessed in several towns across Spain and Portugal.

This year has seen a number of injuries in Spain’s largest bull running festival in Pamplona, including 2 British men and an American and an Irish man who got badly gored. 38 other runners got taken to hospital for a range of injuries. Luckily none of these injuries were fatal. The same, however, cannot be said for the animal participants.

During my final year at University I wrote a paper titled “Attitudes to non-human animals that were common in Britain in the 16th  century and how such attitudes had changed by the end of the 18th century”. The research for this included a lot of gruesome and unimaginable material outlining the harm and suffering caused to animals for sport and scientific purposes. We would like to think that in this century we are beyond all this but all over the world we still see the evidence of the cruel ways of past carried on down and justified due to “tradition”. The bull runs and bullfighting is one such questionable tradition.

The six, specially bred, fighting bulls that get let out onto the streets of Pamplona, a different group each day for a week, have only one destination – A drawn out and gruesome death. They are bred in fields where they have little human contact and are then moved into indoor enclosures when it is time for the festival to begin. Once let out the sunlight is almost blinding and confusion sets in while they are being coxed outside with electrical shocks to start them up. The whole thing, as you can imagine, is a stressful ordeal and many of the bulls getting injured along the run to the bull fighting arena where they will face even more trauma.

The bulls are sometimes weakened by means of drugs or are confused by shaving their horns before the start of the “fight”. This is followed by the entrance of the “picador” (a man on horseback bearing a sharp lance) who drives lances into the bull’s neck and behind the shoulder muscles to prohibit neck movement and induce bleeding. This is followed by a group of men chasing and teasing the already injured and weakened bull with “banderillas” (bright sticks with sharp harpoon ends). At this stage the bull is often unable to run anymore and is often reduced to crawling.

Finally the matador finishes the act by driving his sword down through the bull’s shoulder blades into its heart. They often miss and the bull has to endure more suffering by means of suffocating on its own blood. If the crowd are pleased with the matador the ears and tail are cut off and presented as a reward. This exact chain of events vary among towns however they are usually similar and always end with the same result: Death.

Is it all worth it? Should this tradition be allowed to continue?

In my opinion it is a tradition that should be left for the history books. True, it is a part of the local livelihoods and culture but the cruelty involved is barbaric and it is time to move on and follow in the footsteps of Catalonia who banned bullfighting last year. This is the 21st century and it is time that the word “tradition” is no longer accepted as an excuse for cruelty.

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Leatherback Turtles continue to fight for survival – Jake D

 

As many as 20,000 Leatherback turtle hatchlings and eggs have been destroyed in a disastrous industrial accident on the banks of the Grand Riviere in Trinidad. Government construction employees were attempting to divert the flow of the Grand Riviere River which has been threatening the foundations of the local Mt. Plasir estate hotel. The hotel has been a traditional meeting place for tourists coming to observe the nesting rituals of the leatherbacks on the sandy banks nearby for decades.

Leatherback Turtles are the largest turtles in the world, known to grow to a massive seven feet long and to weigh as much as nine hundred kilograms. Their evolutionary ancestry is traceable back over 90 million years. Unlike their sea turtle cousins, they have developed a soft, malleable shell, which is described as being rubbery in texture, yet still durable enough to provide protection (hence their name Leatherback).

The Leatherback is currently registered as an endangered species, and with good reason. The global population is declining alarmingly despite the best efforts of various conservation groups and animal welfare minded governments. One of the most prevalent threats to this majestic creature is the pollution of water bodies, namely the discarding of various plastic products. The turtles routinely mistake plastic floating in the water for their primary source of food, jellyfish. Ingesting plastic is generally fatal to the animals and accounts for a huge percentage of avoidable fatalities.

The approach of the work crews to the procedure, in Trinidad, has been widely criticized for the lack of forethought and consideration. It is understood that a far larger portion of the beach was crushed than was necessary by bulldozers and other industrial equipment, uprooting the defenseless eggs and hatchlings in the process. According to eyewitness reports many of the hatchlings were killed by hungry packs of stray dogs and opportunistic vultures that sensed an easy meal.Onlookers who had come to the Grand Riviere to witness the nesting rituals of a rare and beautiful species instead were treated to the aforementioned grisly spectacle.

Ironically Trinidad has been a progressive and civic minded nation when it comes to the conservation of leatherback turtles, banning the killing of the creature way back in 1966. Native conservation groups have also aided in the efforts to maintain the turtle numbers by protecting the numerous nesting grounds and raising awareness of the how vulnerable the leatherback turtle really is.The Trinidad department of works has issued a statement which places culpability on the shoulders of the workers themselves, claiming that after the initial logistic error the crews panicked and made a bad situation worse.

Wherever the blame lies one thing is for certain, the leatherback turtle continues to suffer in the wake of human carelessness.

 

 

South Korea cause upset at the IWC meeting in Panama

 

 

 

The 64th International Whaling Commission meeting is currently on going in Panama, and South Korea has caused quite the drama. They propose to use a clause in the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling which allows the killing of whales, if it is for scientific research.

They argue that the increase in whale numbers since the ban was put on hunting has lead to a depletion in fish stocks and that it is time to start hunting again in the local waters. As well as conservation groups, Australia and New Zealand have hit out at the proposal and state they will be trying to prevent this move.

Murray McCullay , New Zealand’s foreign minister has explained how once South Korea have filed this notification they can take it upon themselves to pass the notion and commence scientific Whale killing in the same manner as Japan. He hopes that there will be a period of reflection and that combined with Australia the permit can be revoked.

Minke whales are considered endangered and according to the World Wildlife Fund the South Koreans have presented insufficient evidence to indicate that whales are responsible for a decrease in fish stock. If South Korea commence with scientific whaling it will spark mass controversy and outrage from campaign groups and neighbouring Asian countries.

There has not been whaling on the coasts of South Korea since 1986, there is no need to start now especially under such a weak excuse with no evidence to support their claims.

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Olympics Opening Ceremony (Jake D)

Celebrated film director Danny Boyle has recently unveiled details of his plans for the 2012 London olympic  opening ceremony. The ceremony will seek to replicate the features of the quaint english countryside and will feature 12 horses, 10 chickens 70 sheep,9 geese, 3 cows, 3 sheepdogs and two goats.

The use of animals in ceremonies and public events is risky at the best of times and has many potential pitfalls, especially considering that the event takes place in a stadium filled with upwards of 60,000 excited spectators.

There are mounting concerns that exposing these animals to the tremendous noise, light and commotion of a packed stadium could potentially be a very distressing experience for them, and could cause considerable panic. The RSPCA has given its approval to the ceremony with the caveat that they be given permission to monitor the animals and ensure that the appropriate attention is given to the animals welfare before, during and after the cermony.

Several organisations have voiced their opposition to the plans including PETA, VIVA, animals defenders international and several others. A recent petition against the ceremonies plans had produced over 11,000 signatures thus far.

The primary concern of the objectors appears to be the potential psychological damage caused by the noise of 62,000 screaming people. Something the animals would never be exposed to in their lifetime under natural circumstances. Another concern is the inevitable use of huge quantities of fireworks, which have a notoriously detrimental effect on many types of animals.

It seems that Mr.Boyles plans are going to go ahead regardless of the vocal opposition from animal groups and the growing petition. My Boyle needs to ask himself if it is really worth using animals in the ceremony. Whatever happened to nice sculptors ? It could be a means of including a local artistic approach to the ceremony (Just a suggestion)

Photography by : Noreen