Tuesday 31 December 2013

This Dancing Spider Will Cure All Of Your Post-Holiday Blues (VIDEO)

Here's another reason why the land Down Under is awesome. It's home to the beautiful peacock spider.

Even if you suffer from arachnophobia, have no fear: This video of peacock spiders "dancing" to the YMCA is so entertaining that it will override any spider phobia.

Dr. Jurgen Otto, an entomologist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, captured the first-ever footage of this small arachnid. YouTube-user Dario Trovato then edited Otto's footage to create this hilarious compilation and spread worldwide adoration toward these arachnids.

Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by carefully chewing and passing them around

Dolphins are thought of as one of the most intelligent species in the animal kingdom – and experts believe they have put their ingenuity to use in the pursuit of getting “high”.

In extraordinary scenes filmed for a new documentary, young dolphins were seen carefully manipulating a certain kind of puffer fish which, if provoked, releases a nerve toxin.

Though large doses of the toxin can be deadly, in small amounts it is known to produce a narcotic effect, and the dolphins appeared to have worked out how to make the fish release just the right amount.

To cull or not? ‘Brumby’ wild horses divide Australians

For many Australians, the brumby – or wild horse – symbolises the romance and adventure of the outback.

To others, though, brumbies are pests which trample fragile vegetation and threaten native flora and fauna. Recently their numbers have soared, prompting an agonised debate about how to control populations.

Last month, more than 7,000 horses on two cattle stations in Western Australia’s East Kimberley region were killed by marksmen in helicopters. Aerial culling is regularly carried out in the Northern Territory, while in New South Wales the government – which imposed a moratorium in 2000 after photographs of a cull sparked a public outcry – is considering reintroducing it.

Just four months until we can understand dogs! Dog-to-English translator to become a reality

Anxious to know what your dog is thinking? The wait could soon be over as a ‘dog-to-English’ translator is set to become a reality in just four months.
No More Woof hopes to deliver the first translation devices in April 2014, after smashing its fundraising target this month.


The tale of a wombat: a journey from Australia to Newcastle upon Tyne

There is a wombat in Newcastle upon Tyne. It was the first of its kind to leave Australia, setting sail (pickled in spirits) in August 1798.

Name: The governor’s wombat
Species: Vombatus ursinus ursinus
Dates: ?-1798
Claim to fame: First wombat to leave Australia
Go visit: Great North Museum, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK

Can there be such thing as a shark photobomb?

That’s what many are calling an eerie and eye-catching photo inadvertently snapped by a California mother that appears to show a large shark, or maybe a dolphin, swimming near her two children.

"It was quite a shock to see” the photo, June Emerson told KTLA about her photo, which captured the outline of a large fish swimming underneath a breaking wave close to the shore on Manhattan Beach.

“Many local surfers and lifeguards have seen this and believe it to be a shark,” Emerson said. “Of course, I told my kids it was dolphin, as we live at the beach and are in the waters here almost daily.”

Charity Appeal: The weapons that bring death to the savannah

The wildest sound on the savannah is not the lion’s roar, but the elephant’s trumpet. When he senses a lurking poacher, the elephant screams, loud and shrill, to alert the herd and scare his enemy.

The poacher, standing only a few feet away takes aim and fires. The elephant screams again, before he collapses in a heap. One bullet will rarely kill an adult elephant, and it takes many minutes before the life drains away.

Military weapons such as AK-47s are increasingly used by poachers. Bullets from these guns weigh too little to penetrate the elephant’s thick skull so an instant death is rare. In the meantime, poachers carve out the elephant’s tusks – never sparing the valuable inches of ivory lodged firmly inside his head. A local poacher will sell a kilogram of ivory for as little as 80,000 Tanzanian shillings or £30.

Man arrested over ‘barbaric shooting’ of deer with crossbow

A man has been arrested after a wild deer in Devon was shot in the head with a crossbow, police said.

Officers were called to the Plymbridge Woods in Plymouth to reports that a member of the public had seen a man in hunting gear allegedly acting suspiciously, and moments later saw a deer running away with what looked like a crossbow bolt in its head.

A 25-year-old man was later arrested on suspicion of possessing an offensive weapon in a public place, and is now assisting both the police and the RSPCA with their inquiries.

Monday 30 December 2013

Endangered species could be screwed by rising seas

Sea-level rise isn’t just bad news for coastal-dwelling humans. It’s also bad news for coastal-dwelling critters and plants, including one out of every six threatened and endangered species in the U.S. 

That’s according to a Center for Biological Diversity analysis of federal data. From the new report:

Left unchecked, rising seas driven by climate change threaten 233 federally protected species in 23 coastal states. …

The most vulnerable groups are flowering plants, which represent a third of all at-risk species, followed by anadromous fishes, birds, mammals, reptiles and freshwater mussels.

Watch out for cat burglars Denis ‘The Menace’ and Theo

You may want to keep an eye out for two thieving felines during the holidays after their owners warned they would be up to no good.
Denis ‘The Menace’ from Luton is well known for his light fingers and his peculiar taste in underwear.
As well as his undergarment fetish he also likes to bring home wrapping paper but without any presents inside, according to his owner Lesley Newman.
His fellow cat burglar Theo, a three-year-old Siamese cross, is a more successful bandit.
Owners Rachael Drouet and Paul Edwards from Ipswich, Suffolk, say he likes to bring home clothing, phone chargers and other cats’ toys.
But he has yet to get into the full swing of things this year and has so far only managed to grab Christmas decorations from neighbours’ trees.

Here’s where to go if you want to find a deformed frog

More than a decade ago, way back in 1995, a group of middle school students visited a wetland in Minnesota and found something kind of creepy: a population of deformed frogs, with missing or shrunken limbs. This wasn’t just bad news for the frogs, as the Anchorage Daily News reports: “Scientists consider frogs to be barometers for the health of wetlands because they absorb liquid and gas through their skin, so they literally breathe their environment.”

If there were frogs missing legs, that meant the wetland probably wasn’t doing so hot. And the Fish and Wildlife Service started worrying this might be true, elsewhere, too. So the agency convinced Congress to fund “the largest national study of frog deformities ever conducted.” Scientists visited 152 wildlife refuges across the country and checked out 68,000 frogs for general weirdness.

Fungus discovery offers pine-wilt hope

The pine-wood nematode is a major pest in the forests of China. The worm, which causes pine-wilt disease, has killed more than 50 million trees and resulted in economic losses of US$22 billion since 1982.

But now, after a study lasting almost a decade, a team of Chinese ecologists has made a discovery that could halt the march of the nematode (Bursaphelenchus xylophilus). Sun Jianghua and his colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Zoology in Beijing have identified a fungus that has a crucial role in the worm’s life cycle, opening the way for potential control strategies.

Just like that! Meet Mother Nature's magicians

They are the magicians of the animal kingdom – they can disappear, make themselves look bigger, or slip away, thanks to classic distraction techniques, and can even make you think black is white and white is black.

Some of the techniques deployed by animals are similar to those used by human illusionists to pull off incredible tricks such as levitation or making the Statue of Liberty seemingly vanish into thin air.

A paper published earlier this month in Behavioral Ecology journal pulled together a wide range of animal studies and concluded that such animal masters of illusion could be much more common in nature than previously thought.

Australia to monitor Japan's Antarctica whale hunt by plane, not ship

The Coalition has been accused of breaking an election promise by announcing it will send an aircraft, rather than a ship, to monitor Japanese whaling activity in the Southern Ocean.

The environment minister, Greg Hunt, said on Sunday an A319 aircraft, co-ordinated and staffed by Customs personnel, would be deployed for the monitoring from January to March. The Greens have called on Hunt to resign over the decision, which they describe as “weak” and a clear breach of an election promise.

Hunt has come under pressure to move quickly to fulfil an election pledge to monitor the Japanese fleet, which is closing in on Antarctic waters claimed by Australia.

Hunt said the aircraft would monitor activities by “all groups in the Southern Ocean”, a reference to a trio of Sea Shepherd anti-whaling vessels already dispatched to the Southern Ocean to confront the Japanese.

Charity Appeal: Kenya's daily battle between humans and wildlife

Anne Nyokabi does not remember much about the day her mother was killed. They were both out walking one morning near their home when an elephant charged. He picked up her mother with his tusks and threw her to the ground. As he stepped on her repeatedly, Ms Nyokabi passed out.

It took neighbours three hours to convince her to let the police take away her mother's body. Two years later, she struggles to talk about that day. In one moment, she lost her mother, her confidante and the loving grandmother to her five children.

Elephants do not often kill people, but in Laikipia, Kenya, a number of people have a similar story to share. It is what happens when humans and nature's giants live side by side. More than 70 per cent of Kenya's wildlife live outside of national parks and can encroach on villages any day. About 35 people are killed by elephants each year in Kenya, according to the Born Free Foundation. Others live with the threat of losing their livelihood in one night, as hungry elephants can trample their crops and destroy a water supply.

Madagascar's forests vanish to feed taste for rosewood in west and China

Blood-red sawdust coats every surface in the small carpentry workshop, where Primo Jean Besy is at the lathe fashioning vases out of ruby-coloured logs.

Besy and his father are small-scale carpenters in Antalaha in north-east Madagascar, and are taking advantage of a recent resurgence in demand for wood from the bois de rose tree, prized for the extraordinary coloured streaks that weave through its centre.

"It's easy to sell because the wood is so famous," said Besy, whose skin glistens with red powder. "People from [the capital] Antananarivo come here [to buy goods]. They like it because they can sell it to foreigners."

The father and son pair are just the tip of the booming trade in bois de rose, one of the world's rarest trees, even though the logging and export of rosewood from Madagascar is banned.

Sunday 29 December 2013

Norway's Quest to Discover All of Its Native Species

Dec. 19, 2013 — More than a thousand new species -nearly one-quarter of which are new to science -- have been discovered in Norway since a unique effort to find and name all of the country's species began in 2009.

The Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative is one of just two government efforts worldwide where scientists are being funded to find and catalogue the country's true species diversity.

The Norwegian initiative is focused on describing poorly known species groups across the country's varied habitats, from its alpine plateaus to the northernmost reaches of the island archipelago of Spitsbergen.

The finds range from new species of insects and lichens to new species of molluscs and cold-water sponges. The information gives scientists and policymakers a better platform for understanding of the complexity and function of Norway's ecosystems.

Deep sea creatures found off Rockall 'new to science'

Four animals previously unknown to science have been discovered in deep water off Scotland, the Scottish government has said.

New species of large sea snail, clam and marine worm were found during surveys by Marine Scotland.

The clams and worm were at a suspected cold seep, an area where hydrocarbons are released from the seabed.

All were discovered around Rockall, the remains of a volcano 260 miles (418km) west of the Western Isles.

If confirmed, the cold seep would be the first to be discovered near Rockall. Some types of commercial fishing could be banned in the area to protect the habitat.

How animals can help us understand disease

For all the weird and wonderful diversity of the animal kingdom, at the genetic level many species have a surprising level of similarity.

As a result we can learn a lot about the inner workings of our own human cells by studying other animals, and not all of them are mammals as you might expect.

In the 2013 Christmas lectures at the Royal Institution, titled Life Fantastic, I discuss a menagerie of creatures that help explain where life comes from and how we grow and age.

I also show how the knowledge we gain from the natural world is helping to inform our understanding of human development and disease.

Charity Appeal: 'The way to stop poaching is to use people like me,' says man jailed for cutting off dead elephant's tusks

Joseph Maina had never seen an elephant up close before. The first time he looked into the eyes of one of Africa's giants, he was hacking off its tusks with an axe. The elephant was dead and he was ripping it apart to obtain ivory. He had been paid 500 Kenyan shillings, or a little over £3.50 for the work – twice his normal daily income.

The 47-year-old casual worker is now in a medium security prison. Unlike the majority of poachers who kill African elephants and leave them to rot in the bush, he was arrested the next day. The father of six is serving four and a half years inside Naivasha Prison. He wears a black and white striped uniform and sleeps with up to 80 other convicts on mattresses on the floor. He is one of around 800 inmates. He never thought he would end up here.

‘Hell for animals’: Egypt's Giza Zoo beset by tear gas, bear ‘riots’ and giraffe ‘suicide’

The giraffe committed suicide, an Egyptian newspaper reported. And the government pulled a former zoo director out of retirement to deal with the resulting media storm.

“The problem is with the press,” Nabil Sedki said one recent afternoon, five days into the job. “The media fabricated the suicide.”

The deceased animal was a three-year-old giraffe named Roqa, who, Sedki said, inadvertently hanged herself in early December after getting tangled in a wire inside her enclosure at the government-run Giza Zoo, in the heart of Cairo.

Sharks of more than three metres to be caught, shot and dumped into sea

Sharks longer than 3 metres that get near popular beaches in Western Australia will be caught, shot and dumped back into the sea, in a series of measures aimed at reducing public anxiety over attacks.

Details of the WA government’s controversial “shark management” strategy have been released, with sharks bigger than 3 metres singled out for shooting and then discarding offshore.

A tender released by the government calls for an “experienced licensed commercial fishing organisation” to deploy and maintain up to 72 drum lines off popular beaches in Perth and elsewhere along the south-west coast.

The drum lines, containing a hook with bait on them, will catch and, eventually, kill passing sharks that come within 1km of the beach.

This Prehistoric Sea Monster is Still Alive Today

In our “real monsters” features, we've come across a lot of marine creatures that may once have inspired the sea monster myths told by seafarers over the past few centuries. Sightings of the oarfish and the giant squid lend a lot of credence to those monster stories, and photos showing real-life versions of the mythical kraken and sea serpents keep making the news. - 

Another example of an ancient sea monster that probably spooked sailors in the past is the frilled shark (species Chlamydoselachus anguineus), which like the species we mentioned above, is still around today – although it's pretty hard to find, as it can lurk at depths of nearly a mile beneath the ocean surface. - See more at: 

Charismatic mammals can help guide conservation

Lions, elephants and other charismatic species are not by themselves good indicators of biodiversity hotspots. But a new analysis suggests that studies of tourist-pleasing big mammals can be part of a cocktail of indicators that produce useful maps for conservation planning.

Scientists at conservation organizations often focus their research on large, interesting animals that the public — and donors — love, such as pandas, tigers and gorillas. One rationale is that because many of these 'charismatic megafauna' thrive only in large, rich, biodiverse areas, their distribution can act as a proxy for the diversity of whole ecosystems, from microbes up, which is extremely difficult to measure. 

Bottlenose dolphins off US coast hit by measles-like virus

More than 1,000 migratory bottlenose dolphins have died from a measles-like virus along the US eastern seaboard in 2013 and the epidemic shows no sign of abating, a marine biologist said on Monday.

The death toll exceeds the 740 dolphins killed during the last big outbreak of the then unknown virus in 1987-88.

"It is having a significant impact and that is something we're monitoring closely," said Erin Fougeres, a marine mammal biologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

An estimated 39,206 bottlenose dolphins populated the eastern seaboard, to a depth of 25 feet, from New Jersey to Central Florida in 2010, according to the latest NOAA census.

Giant rampaging pig smashes through fence and breaks a pensioner’s leg and wrist in Devon woodlands

A 74-year-old woman in Devon had to be taken to hospital with serious injuries after a rampaging pig “as big as a bear” attacked her in woodlands near her home.

The giant 600lb boar is believed to have been roaming the area for some time, accompanied by a gang of smaller pigs, which spotted Mary Smith while she was out feeding a friend’s animals.

Ms Smith was alone, and got stuck in the mud when she saw the pigs coming. They barged their way through a fence and trampled her, “crushing” her knee and breaking her wrist.

Saturday 28 December 2013

Tourism – poaching’s silent witness

In 2011 tourism contributed R83,4-billion to South Africa’s GDP and last year more than 9-million tourists splashed out R76,4-billion across the country.

As a major economic driver, South Africa’s tourism industry has traditionally been in a position of strength when applying pressure on the government to respond to major issues which negatively affect it. Likewise, South Africa has been an effective lobbyist in other African nations for which it acts as a tourism hub. But on the thorny subjects of ivory and rhino poaching the silence from our tourism sector leaders has been both deafening and puzzling.

Prince William calls for end to 'greed-driven poaching epidemic'

The Duke of Cambridge yesterday called on the world to halt Africa's "poaching epidemic" after he joined Labour leader Ed Miliband in becoming the latest public figures to back The Independent on Sunday's Christmas appeal.

The campaign, with support from our sister newspapers The Independent, the i paper and the Evening Standard, is raising funds to combat the illegal ivory trade presently killing around 100 elephants a day.

Prince William recently established United for Wildlife, an alliance of seven leading conservation bodies, to try to end poaching. He has previously warned that the "catastrophe" facing rhinos and other species could make them extinct within our lifetime.

"The poaching of rhino and elephants on an industrial scale is one of the great conservation crises of the 21st century," he told The Independent on Sunday. "The rate at which we are losing these animals is staggering and heartbreaking.

Turned out nice: hot summer makes it a vintage year for wildlife across the UK

After six consecutive years in which awful weather had blighted the UK'swildlife, 2013's cheerful summer turned around the fortunes of flora and fauna across the country, an annual audit has found.

The heat of July and August was a particular fillip for insects that thrive in the warm, such as butterflies, moths, bees, crickets and grasshoppers, according to the National Trust, which publishes its report today of how the weather affected the natural world.

Only 6 signatures – how successful was the Botswana Elephant Conference?

In the wake of the Elephant Summit held in Botswana in early December where urgent measures to halt the rampant illegal ivory trade were adopted one is left asking if it is enough?

Against a backdrop of ever increasing levels of poaching across Africa the Summit was called to tackle the onslaught that threatens this iconic species. Statistics released at the summit indicate that 22 000 elephants were poached in 2012, an improvement on the estimated figure of 25 000 elephants poached in 2011, however ivory seizures in 2013 signal that elephant deaths in 2013 may reach 40 000.

Jack-of-all-trades slows down evolutionary tree

All living organisms are tips of an evolutionary tree that emerged over 3.5 billion years from a single common ancestor. Research in the Department of Bionanoscience at Delft University of Technology has provided the first experimental demonstration that the rate at which this tree branches depends on the ecological versatility of the ancestors. The study was published in the scientific journal PNAS.

Endangered Species Act: a 40-year fight to save animals

Forty years after the passage of the federal Endangered Species Act, the state and Snohomish County remain squarely on the edge of that preservation frontier.

More than 40 animal species in Washington are listed by the federal government as either endangered or threatened under the law, signed by President Richard Nixon on Dec. 28, 1973. Many others are listed as species of concern.

Among creatures found in waters in and around Snohomish and Island counties, seven species of fish or marine mammals are listed under the act.

A Zimbabwean villager fistfights crocodile to save child, says local media

HARARE, Zimbabwe — State media in Zimbabwe says a villager fought a crocodile with his bare hands to free his son from its jaws in northeastern rural Mutoko.

The Herald newspaper reported Tafadzwa Kachere and his 11-year-old son Tapiwa were trying to cross a river on Christmas eve when the crocodile attacked the boy. It reported that Kachere jumped onto the crocodile's back and tried to force open its jaws, beating at its head with his fists and poking at its eyes with reeds.

Python strangles security guard at luxury hotel in Bali, Indonesia

A python strangled a security guard near a luxury hotel on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on Friday, and then escaped into nearby bushes following the deadly attack, police and a hotel employee who witnessed the incident said.

The incident happened around 3 a.m. local time (2 p.m. ET Thursday) as the 15-foot-long python was slithering across a road near the Bali Hyatt hotel, said Agung Bawa, an assistant security manager at the hotel, which is closed for renovations until 2015.

Friday 27 December 2013

Birth Control at the Zoo: Vets Meet the Elusive Goal of Hippo Castration

Dec. 20, 2013 — One method for controlling zoo animal populations is male castration. For hippopotami, however, this is notoriously difficult, as the pertinent male reproductive anatomy proves singularly elusive. Veterinarians from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, and colleagues, have demonstrated a successful method for castrating male hippos.

Their results are published in the journal Theriogenology.

Common hippopotami (Hippopotamus amphibius) are vulnerable to extinction in the wild, but reproduce extremely well under captive breeding conditions. 

The 12 Weirdest Animal Discoveries

Mother Nature has a strange sense of humor. Her creations include zombie worms and penis fish, not to mention turtles with a strange way of getting rid of urine. Read on for some of the weirdest animal discoveries ever.

Carnivorous fish attack bathers in Argentina

A school of carnivorous fish related to the piranha has attacked bathers in an Argentine river, injuring about 70.

Thousands of bathers were cooling off in the Parana River in Rosario, 300km (186 miles) north of Buenos Aires, on Christmas Day when the attack happened.

Officials blamed the attack on the palometa fish, describing the event as "exceptional".

Paramedics said dozens of people had their extremities attacked and some had lost digits.

Authorities find 12-foot 'gator tied to tree near Hillsborough River - via Herp Digest

Thursday, October 24, 2013 8:08pm

Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission

Trappers and wildlife officials examine an alligator estimated at 12 feet and 500 pounds after it was found this week tethered to a tree outside an apartment complex along the Hillsborough River near Tampa.

TAMPA — Authorities are looking for the person, or people, who thought it was a good idea to tie up an approximately 12-foot alligator behind an apartment complex along the Hillsborough River.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission received a call Wednesday afternoon about children feeding and harassing an alligator in the river behind Rivertree Landing Apartments, 6909 Indian River Drive, just north of E Sligh Avenue near Temple Terrace.

When wildlife officers arrived, they found the alligator, weighing more than 500 pounds, tethered to a tree near the river.

Officers and a local trapper captured the alligator, which was later euthanized.

Any alligator that has been fed by humans is deemed a threat, according to agency spokesman Baryl Martin.

"Any time an animal is fed, especially an alligator, it begins to associate humans with food," Martin said.

Whoever tied up the alligator could be guilty of either attempting to take an alligator or possession of an alligator without permits — crimes that can be considered felonies under Florida law, Martin said.

He urged anyone with information about the incident to contact the wildlife commission toll-free at 1-888-

U.S. Offers Reward in Wildlife-Trade Fight – via Herp Digest

November 13, 2013, NY Times by Thomas Fuller

BANGKOK — Taking a page from the battle against international drug cartels, the United States announced on Wednesday a $1 million reward for information to help dismantle one of Asia’s largest wildlife-trafficking syndicates.

In what officials said was the first time such a reward had been offered, the State Department said it was targeting a syndicate based in Laos, the impoverished and authoritarian Southeast Asian country whose government, investigators say, has been uncooperative in stopping a thriving trade of African ivory, rhino horns, tiger bones and endangered animals harvested by the thousands from Asian jungles.

In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said the syndicate, the Xaysavang Network, “facilitates the killing of endangered elephants, rhinos and other species for products such as ivory.” The network, he said, spans South Africa, Mozambique, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and China.

Investigators say the syndicate is headed by a Laotian businessman, Vixay Keosavang, who was the subject of an article in The New York Times in March.

Reached on his cellphone on Wednesday, Mr. Vixay said he was being framed. “There are people slandering me,” he said. “If you want to know the truth, you should ask Lao officials.”

Asked about rhino horns sent from South Africa and addressed to him personally — evidence that was presented in a trial that concluded last year in South Africa — Mr. Vixay acknowledged that he had received them.

“I admit that I accepted them in good faith,” he said, adding that Laotian officials were aware of the shipments. But, he said, “I never ordered them.”

Bouaxam Inthalangsi, an official at the Laotian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, said Wednesday that American officials gave him documents last week related to Mr. Vixay and the Xaysavang Network. But he said it was not enough evidence to arrest Mr. Vixay, who is based in Bolikhamxai Province outside the capital, Vientiane.

“According to what we know right now, he can walk free in Bolikhamxai because he is not guilty,” Mr. Bouaxam said. “We must act strictly in accordance with the law.”

Laos, run by an opaque Communist Party, ranks 160th out of 176 countries and territories in the corruption index published by Transparency International, a monitoring group. The authorities in neighboring countries say Laos has increasingly been used as a transit point for trafficked wildlife that is sent to consumers in East Asia, especially China and Vietnam.

Investigators believe that Mr. Vixay has enjoyed a great degree of protection from the Laotian authorities, and they point to voluminous evidence of Mr. Vixay’s wildlife-trafficking operations. A shipment of ivory and rhino horns intercepted by the Kenyan authorities in 2009 was addressed directly to Mr. Vixay’s company, Xaysavang Trading, in Laos.

The largest trove of evidence against Mr. Vixay, investigators say, came during the trial in South Africa of Chumlong Lemtongthai, a Thai national who South African prosecutors say was Mr. Vixay’s deputy.

In the trial, prosecutors laid bare a system in which Mr. Chumlong used Thai prostitutes to pose as rhino hunters, illegally using a loophole in South African law that allows hunters to bring back one horn as a trophy. Prosecutors called this “one of the biggest swindles in environmental crime history.” Mr. Chumlong was sentenced to 40 years in prison, which was reduced to 30 years on appeal.

Invoices presented as evidence in the trial showed that the rhino horns were in Mr. Vixay’s name and sent to his address in Laos. Mr. Vixay said in an interview that he had quit “a long time ago” what he described as his import-export business.

Yet Mr. Vixay’s wildlife-trading business is well known in the village along the Mekong River where his large walled compound is. During a visit by this reporter in February, a security guard who answered the door said the compound contained tigers, bears and other endangered animals whose trade is restricted or banned by a United Nations treaty. Villagers reported seeing regular truckloads of pangolins, an animal that resembles an anteater. Trading in pangolins is illegal under the United Nations treaty.

The United States government has been increasingly aggressive in combating wildlife trafficking, partly out of concern over the slaughter of elephants and rhinos for their tusks and horns. More than 800 rhinos were illegally killed in South Africa this year, far more than in any previous year.

In July, the Obama administration issued an executive order calling wildlife trafficking an “international crisis” and instructing law enforcement agencies to “promote and encourage” actions against trafficking in other countries.

Brooke Darby, the deputy assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, said the trafficking reward program, which in the future could also be used for trafficking in arms, people and counterfeit currency, was modeled on a narcotics reward system that began in 1986 and has given out more than $87 million to informants.

“We want to go after everyone in this process,” she said. “The people who ordered that the poaching be done, the people who accept bribes along the way, the people who forge customs documents, the people who receive the products.”

Ms. Darby would not comment on the specifics of how the United States would try to dismantle the trafficking network in Laos, where security agencies are secretive and where cooperation with foreign governments has been highly circumscribed in other matters. One example of the limited cooperation is what appeared to be the abduction of an American-trained agronomist last December who was last seen at a police checkpoint. Despite numerous requests for information by foreign diplomats in Laos, the police have never fully explained his disappearance.

News of the award came as a surprise both to Mr. Bouaxam, the Laotian official, and to Mr. Vixay.

Steven Galster, the executive director of Freeland, a countertrafficking organization based in Bangkok that has been instrumental in tracking Mr. Vixay, described the reward as a “great development.” “In the world of wildlife trafficking and corruption, you gotta fight money with money,” he said in an email. 

Wild Animals are Not for Petting (Op-Ed)

Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO, Humane Society of the United States | December 04, 2013 06:37pm ET

Wayne Pacelle is the president and chief executive officer of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This Op-Ed is adapted from a post on the blog A Humane Nation, where the content ran before appearing in LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Recently, a woman stuck her arm into a tiger enclosure at G.W. Exotic Animal Park — a notorious roadside zoo in Oklahoma run by Joe Schreibvogel — and had to be airlifted to a hospital to try to save what remained of her limb.

The HSUS investigated the facility with an undercover operative in 2011, and we found approximately 200 tigers and other dangerous exotic animals, public contact with these powerful wild animals, and an operation with unstable leadership waiting to go belly up. Indeed, earlier this year Schreibvogel filed for bankruptcy on behalf of his personal estate and the park (which continues to do business as the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park).

Two bills in Pennsylvania's House and Senate could further damage state's endangered plants and animals - via Herp Digest

September 15, 2013, Poconorecord.com

"Mankind has the honor of quite possibly being the most destructive force to ever hit mother nature. Whether by overhunting or overpopulation, driving a species to extinction is nothing to be proud of, and it's certainly not slowing down." Those are the words of Jamie Frater on his Internet list of the 10 most recently extinct species.
I was saddened as I read through the list and glanced at the obituary photos of recently extinct animals, such as the Pyrenean ibex, Baiji River dolphin, Tecopa pupfish and golden toad.
Sorrowfully, many of these calamities happened within my lifetime. Regrettably, humans had a lot of practice to achieve such an awful track record of destruction.
Even the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states: "Biologists estimate that since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, more than 500 species, subspecies, and varieties of our Nation's plants and animals have become extinct."
It further states: "In short, there is nothing natural about today's rate of extinction."
That rate averages about 78 extinct species per century. To speed things up and bring notice closer to home, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania lists 73 existing state-designated threatened or endangered species.
How would we feel if these species become extirpated or even extinct from Pennsylvania's resident flora and fauna?
This may become an ugly reality, based upon a manifestation of ignorance, apathy and greed all concocted into two bills: House Bill 1576 (sponsored by state Rep. Jeff Pyle, R-Armstrong/Indiana counties); and Senate Bill 1047 (sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County), now pending in the House and Senate.
If passed, these bills would essentially modify the way threatened and endangered species are protected in Pennsylvania. Current endangered or threatened species would have to be re-evaluated and put through a new implementation process, using new species listing criteria.
According to the "PA Environment Digest," the bill applies to the state Game Commission, Fish and Boat Commissions and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which now have the statutory authority to list threatened or endangered species. In addition, the bill would immediately eliminate hundreds of species of special concern entirely from environmental permit review. These species were found by the agencies to be rare in Pennsylvania and are tracked for conservation purposes, in order to prevent them from becoming threatened or endangered.

Game Commission
In a letter to the House Game and Fisheries Committee, on Aug. 14, Carl Roe, executive director of the Game Commission, stated the legislation attempts to fix a problem that does not exist and threatens millions of dollars in federal funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The bill would require all threatened and endangered species designations made by the Game and Fish and Boat commissions to go through the regulation adoption process and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission. Listings by DCNR already go through the regulatory process.
The bill also makes a fundamental change in the way agencies evaluate species to be listed as threatened or endangered. Instead of looking at a species range or habitat within Pennsylvania for which the agencies are responsible, it requires them to look at the entire range of habitat for a species, even if it occurs across several states or in large regional areas across the United States.
In a simplified example, if there are 10 of the species in New York and only 2 in Pennsylvania, the bill would seem to direct the agencies to not protect the species in Pennsylvania because more exist outside the state.
In addition, the bill requires all species now listed to be re-listed through the regulatory process within two years of enactment of the bill. This means the commissions would have to re-evaluate and send 73 state-designated threatened and endangered species through the two-year window to protect their existing status.
The commissions would also have to evaluate the existing listed species under the new, expanded range of habitat criteria created in the bill, draft a regulation and move it through the regulatory process in two years — an all but impossible task with the limited resources the commissions now have.
Effectively, this means the protection of 73 existing threatened and endangered species are put at risk by this bill because of the process outlined in the bill.
Roe points out the bill may also have an effect opposite to the one intended by the sponsors of the bill. The lack of state action to protect species may prompt the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list more species as federally threatened or endangered.
Over the past 10 years, only three species have been added to the threatened or endangered species list by the Game Commission.

Fish & Boat Commission
Talking points circulated by the Fish and Boat Commission take a similar position, opposing the bills as unnecessary and harmful to existing protections offered to threatened or endangered species in Pennsylvania.
"Because these bills appear to provide protection only to federally listed T&E species, species that are rare within Pennsylvania, but not globally rare, will not be protected. Effectively conserving species at the state level prevents regional and range-wide declines that require federal listings," stated the commission.
The Fish and Boat Commission points out there is already a definition of "acceptable data" used by the commission to consider listing of species by scientifically valid and defensible data.
The commission also said the bill requires a new database to be created when there is already a database. The Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory, which is used for environmental reviews, is considered "one of the most advanced, and arguably the best, environmental review systems in the country," according to the commission.
The commission is also critical of the bills for opening access to specific location information for rare, threatened or endangered species. This could allow anyone to pinpoint their location, facilitating the potential for harm to those species.
In the last five years, the Fish and Boat Commission has added 13 species and de-listed 11 species from the state threatened, endangered and candidate species list.

History repeats
If these bills are passed, it would require all threatened and endangered species designations made by the Game and Fish and Boat commissions to go through the regulation adoption process and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.
Joe Kosak of the Pennsylvania Game Commission wrote about the reasons that caused the extinction of the passenger pigeon by 1914. Kosak said, "Passenger pigeon numbers began to slip in some areas during the mid-1800s. There was little concern about the birds, though, because they were so numerous. But the bird protection movement sweeping the country during this period apparently compelled some Ohioans, in 1857, to petition state legislators to introduce a bill protecting wild pigeons. A select committee of the state's senate found problems with the idea. The panel's report recommended: "The passenger pigeon needs no protection. Wonderfully prolific, having the vast forests of the North as its breeding grounds, traveling hundreds of miles in search of food, it is here today and elsewhere tomorrow, and no ordinary destruction can lessen them, or be missed from the myriads that are yearly produced."
It looks like history might repeat itself as if we didn't learn from our past mistakes. Sound familiar? Can we trust the scientific judgment of the selected Independent Regulatory Review Commission?

Why now?
It's apparent that certain members of the House and Senate want to change the current methodology of species listings and demand a new implementation process. But for what reasons? Does House Bill 1576 and Senate Bill 1047 demonstrate concern about species protection?
Capitol reporter Mary Wilson reports in the State House Sound Bites:
"We've had questions as to their science, and there's been a lot of objection to there not being an appeal process, and it's come from a hell of a lot of sectors," said Pyle. "The underlying premise of the bills is that there should be more oversight of the endangered species designation process, since the label often affects permits for industries like timber, gas, homebuilders and coal."
Rep. Pyle serves as chair of the Environmental Resources & Energy Subcommittee on Mining.
Unless I've been living on another planet, Pennsylvania has recently transformed the landscape with a hell of a lot of gas pads, wind turbines, gas lines and power lines.
I have no objection to progress, as long as we drive the industrial speed limit and not detour environmental review. It appears the bills want to remove the endangered species designation and rubber-stamp development permits. The current system works to minimize environmental impacts on threatened and endangered species and their habitat.
On behalf of the imperiled 73, they question your logic? If you have concerns about House Bill 1576 and Senate Bill 1047, please contact your state representative and state senator.

Contact Rick Koval at pocononaturalist@yahoo.com or write to him at PO Box 454, Dallas, PA 18612.

Closure of water race a threat to native fish


Last updated 12:00 05/12/2013

A Horowhenua water race will be closed despite concerns doing so will dry out a creek home to threatened species of native fish.

The Horowhenua District Council voted last night to close the Waikawa Open Water Race near Manakau.

That will save the council about $20,000 in operational and consenting costs, much of which is paid by farmers who own land the drain runs through.

It could also mean the drying up over summer, Horizons Regional Council staff said, of parts of the Mangahuia Stream, which is home to species such as inanga, longfin eel and giant kokopu. All three species are classed as in decline nationally.

The race draws water from the Waikawa Stream and drains into the Mangahuia, which feeds back into the Waikawa.

Thursday 26 December 2013

Almost 500 protected turtles found in Thai airport bags, over 1,000 creatures found in a week - via Herp Digest

11/9/13 AFP- Thai customs have seized a haul of 470 protected turtles and tortoises in airport luggage, making it a total of over 1,000 creatures found in the country's airports in a week.

Officials at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport say a 25-year-old Pakistani man has been arrested on suspicion of wildlife trafficking after four suitcases on a flight from Lahore were found to contain protected black pond turtles.

Chris Shepherd of wildlife trade protection group Traffic says there has been a surge in smuggling for the pet trade in South Asia.

"It does seem that the number of turtles and tortoises coming out of South Asia is skyrocketing, especially with regards to the black pond turtle," he said.

Mr Shepherd says Thailand is a "globally significant trade hub" for turtles and tortoises, and authorities should do more to find and prosecute high level smugglers.

"Few, if any, significant traders or kingpins in the tortoise and turtle racket have been penalised," he said.

The discovery came after authorities found 423 protected tortoises and 52 black pond turtles stashed in unclaimed bags on a carousel on Wednesday after arriving on a flight from Bangladesh.

On Sunday, customs at the same airport found 80 protected turtles on luggage also from Bangladesh.

International trade of the rare black pond turtle, which originates in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal, is forbidden.
Related Posts with Thumbnails