Tag Archive: Poaching

Jan 21

The State of Africa’s Big Cats: a 30-year Conservation Report Card

Leopard-Dow2014 Despite staunch conservation efforts, global big cat populations continue to decline. In just the last 30 years, data collected by conservation groups in Africa show that some big cat populations fell by at least 50% (table 1). Loss of habitat, human-wildlife conflicts, hunting, and poaching continue to threaten the long –term survival of these iconic creatures.



1985 2015
Cheetah (Africa and Iran) ~21,000 <10,000 (CCF)
Lion (African and Asia) 100,000 ~23,000 Africa; <400 Asia (IUCN)
Tiger (6 subspecies) 5,000-7,000 <3,500 (Global Tiger Initiative)
Leopard (9 subspecies) no reliable data 100,000 Africa; 8,000 India (Nat Geo)
       *Amur Leopard no reliable data 30
        Snow Leopard 5,000 ~2,000 (Nat Geo)
Jaguar >25,000 ~15,000 (WWF)



Why Big Cats Matter
Predators keep ecosystems in balance. Large carnivores, like lion, leopards, and cheetah, play important roles as stewards of the environment by maintaining healthy populations of herd animals. Culling sick and geriatric individuals limits disease contact to others and ensures populations will be maintained at a sustainable level. When the natural balance is shifted to the side of the prey, the habitat suffers. Yellowstone National Park in the United States suffered a near collapse in several areas when gray wolves were removed in the early 1900s. By removing the predator, prey animals flourished. So much so that massive elk populations destroyed entire willow thickets and the subsequent habitat for a variety of other species.
Where Have All the Big Cats Gone?
At present, our human population is at 7.3 billion. The increasing demand for resources for an ever-growing global community, as well as human displacement from internal civil conflicts, have caused a great need for new settlement areas. The problem is that most of these places are already called for and have been for centuries by our wildlife. Human-wildlife conflicts over territory and resources are a daily occurrence. Human encroachment into designated parks makes interactions with wild animals inevitable.
Big cats are opportunistic hunters. Although they have a preference for wild hoofstock like deer and antelope species they are never going to pass up an easy meal; and honestly, who can blame them. Coming into contact with sheep, goats, and cattle usually end in death, either to the livestock and/or the big cat. Because of a lack of government assistance, compensation, or impatience and anger on the pastoralist’s part, retaliatory killings target individual cats or entire prides.
Cheetah_Kruger by mukul2u wiki
The trade in wildlife and their parts is the fourth largest illegal trade behind drugs, weapons, and human trafficking. It is currently a $20 billion a year business. The uniquely patterned coats of leopard, cheetah, and tigers continue to be in high demand for black market fashion. In China and Taiwan, tiger bones and blood are falsely sought after as a cure-all elixir. Similarly, lion teeth, claws, whiskers, and manes are sold as amulets for protection and even used in cursing rituals.
For some, to witness a big cat in the wild is a thing of grace and beauty; however, for others they are nothing more than a trophy. There are more than a few international countries that allow for hunting of big cats. Hunters pay a very large sum of money, in some cases upwards of $50,000.00, to visit game reserves and literally be driven up to cats that have been preconditioned to not fear humans to make their kill. Some facilities go as far as even tethering the animal to a tree to ensure that they will not run away. Regardless, the end result is the same; the “hunter” bags his prize with a high-powered weapon and retires to the comfort of the lodge. The cat on the other hand retires to the taxidermist freezer.
The Future of Our Big Cats
The future is upon us. Human activities have led to an inevitable perfect-storm of destruction for our wildlife and wild places whether it intentional or not. Global campaigns continue to bring awareness to the importance of our big cats. In addition, international legislature is used to prosecute those criminals intent on destroying these icons of the bush. But it is not enough? If population trends continue, by 2045, our lions, tigers, cheetah, leopards, and jaguars will be gone. Ghostly images will be all that is left to remind us that once again human apathy prevailed in a most sinister way. Is this the legacy we want to leave to future generations? We all have to believe that there will always be hope.
For centuries, the Massai people living in Kenya’s Masai Mara would measure bravery and mark the transition into lionguardians.orgmanhood by one’s ability to kill a lion with a spear. The lion’s mane would later be worn as a badge of honor. Due to over-hunting, poaching, and persecution over human-lion conflicts, lion numbers plummeted. In 2007, a group of conservationists saw the need to protect the remaining lions in East Africa. The key initiative was to get people involved, specifically the Massai. Lion Guardians was formed out of a necessity to protect and conserve lions but in the eight years since its inception has become much more. Now bravery in a Massai warrior is no longer measured by what he can kill but what he can save. The Guardians act as mediators between lions and humans. As citizen scientists they record data regarding movement among and interactions with humans in Tanzania and Kenya. As a collective voice for the lions, the Guardians work to mitigate the stress that can come from living so closely with large predators and promote their conservation. These amazing people are proof that perceptions can change.
In West Africa the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in Namibia work tirelessly to support cheetah survival. Injured cheetah can be transported to an onsite veterinary hospital for emergency medical care and subsequent rehabilitation. Since 1994, CCF has been breeding and training Anatolian shepherds and Kangal dogs. Once mature, these dogs are placed with farmers to protect livestock against predators.   And if that’s not enough, CCF is also restoring habitat, educating locals on best farming practices, inspiring cheetah enthusiasts internationally on the plight of this incredible animal in the pet trade, as well as participates in biological research studies.
South Africa’s Leopard Conservation Project (LCP) was founded to protect leopards from “poaching, poisoning, trapping, and over-hunting.” Since it’s induction in 2000, LCP has taken a more active role in education and research. Working with farmers, they help formulate better strategies to alleviate human-leopard conflicts and predation of livestock.   Through research, utilizing GSM cell-phone collars, leopards are giving LCP insight into how they cope with an ever-changing environment.
We All Have a Part to Play in Conservation
Big cats need our support. Even if you have never been to Botswana to see a lion in the Okavango Delta or Namibia to watch a cheetah lounge in the shade of a Baobab, you can make a difference by getting involved. Start a conversation with your government about legislature to combat wildlife trafficking. Talk to neighbors and friends about the obstacles big cats have in both captive and wild environments. Support those projects previously mentions and those similar located in range countries working to mitigate human-wildlife conflict. Whatever you do, just do something. A single voice, fueled by passion alone, can be heard over the crowd. Please lend your voice to big cat conservation.


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Jan 15

What New Legislature in the U.S. Means for the African elephant

African elephantsFrom 2010-2012, the world lost more than 100,000 African elephants. At present, it is estimated that we lose 98 elephants a day. The biggest threat to both African and Asian elephants continue to be poaching to fill the demand of a thriving illegal ivory trade in China, the U.S., and Southeast Asia.
In July 2013, President Obama revealed his Executive Order on combating wildlife trafficking, a proposed ban on all commercial trade in elephant ivory in the U.S. Working with preexisting legislature to close legal loopholes, the order will amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to include African elephants. In addition, a new bill sponsored by Congressman Steve Daines (R-MT), H.R. 5052 Lawful Ivory Protection Act of 2014, will ban all commercial trade of elephant ivory, as well as imports and exports regardless of when the ivory was originally obtained. Exemptions for noncommercial Ivorytrade meeting strict specifications including antiques 100+ years old, bona fide scientific specimens for use in museums and law enforcement, household moves, inheritance, and musical instruments will be allowed for all items deemed legal. Evidence to support legality would include scientific testing, qualified appraisal, and/or detailed history via photographic or written documentation. Furthermore, importation of sport-hunting “trophies” will be limited to two per individual per year.
090225-elephants-poison-spears_bigThe need to introduce new legislature is in response to the increasing threat poaching presents for the future of elephants. Currently, the U.S. is second only behind China for illegal ivory importation; a truly embarrassing fact. It is imperative that all countries understand there has to be a collective responsibility to monitor and uphold accountability both within and outside of their own borders. Banning all ivory will not only set a standard for others to follow, but also shows the U.S. dedication to help save these iconic creatures. Hopefully, in the near future. all existing stockpiles of confiscated ivory will be destroyed. Unless worn by a living elephant, all ivory is illegal ivory.


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Jan 05

Make 2015 the Year of Conservation Achievements

Okapi DSCF4336 TdowAs 2014 came to a close, I felt inundated with reports of record numbers of animals killed to fuel the illegal wildlife trade.  In 2014, almost 1,200 rhino were killed for their horns.  Numbers of elephants slaughtered for ivory were in the tens of thousands.  It appears that life in the sea is just as dangerous on land as over 100 million sharks were killed for their fins.  Gorillas, tigers, okapis, hippos, lions, and cheetah are not only losing their lives, but also their homes.  Sadly, they are not the only ones.  This cannot continue.


As we begin 2015, I am asking all of you to incorporate wildlife conservation into you resolutions.  Whether you are supporting species native to your backyard or that exist on the other side of the world, it does not matter.  Please, get involved.  By changing our attitudes we can change our environment and influence others.  Be a voice for wildlife that are losing ground.  We must all be good global citizens and share this responsibility.


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Jul 30

Essence of Pakistan’s Wildlife and Biodiversity: An Overview of the Problems and Conservation Needs

Sunil Nawaz, MSc Zoology, M.phil Microbiology Scholar
Natasha Zarish M.Sc Zoology M.Ed Science Education


Pakistan is blessed with several natural beauties including indigenous wildlife (including several rare endangered species), beautiful mountains of Himalayas, deserts of Cholistan and Thar, Manmade forests like changa manga forest as well as several natural resources from the Baluchistan trails. It also holds second tallest mountain K-2, which is a really challenging tourist attraction in terms of mountain climbing. Four seasons bloom each year to their fullest, and rain fall of 12-14 inch per year average lead to make Pakistan a very fertile agricultural land.


But despite its enormous beauty, Pakistan has many pests which are ruining it by illegal hunting, poaching and unattended wildlife disease impact (i.e. Newcastle disease in wild peacock). Deforestation and lack of biodiversity conservation laws are eradicating Pakistan’s biodiversity at a massive scale.


In 2012, National Assembly Standing Committee on Climate Change was distressed to know that bustards and the Siberian cranes are hunted arbitrarily. Both these species of migratory birds flying into Pakistan all the way from Siberia during the winter months are listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cities) with around 14,000 other endangered species in Pakistan including birds, other animals and plants.


The meeting channeled their thoughts to find out the source of such illegal hunting and came to an awkward result that members of Royal families from the Middle East, particularly from Saudi Arabia, have been given licenses to hunt endangered migratory birds, such as Bustards, despite the stringent restrictions. The meeting observed that it was the Foreign Office that issued hunting licenses to such personalities.


Laws are there to stop such hunting campaigns, but often the officials who control such events become lawless in greed of money. Such laws are also present to stop poaching of wildlife specially endangered species. In August 2012, a group of young individuals were arrested in Bahawalpur accused of illegal hunting and poaching of wild animals. The district administration officials said they have recovered four deer, 28 black and 11 brown partridges and 20 quails from them. The officials held that three of those arrested are government servants. These deer and other animals were captured from Laal Sohanra National Park, which hosts as many as 432 deer in the 600-acre area.



MarkhorIn some areas and National Parks of Pakistan Game hunting is being practiced successfully to control and fulfill the hunter’s desire of hunting and to finance the conservation efforts for those animals. For the trophy hunting of Kashmir markhor, as the program began, three hunters from US paid as much as $150,000 per trophy – for every markhor hunted, $105,000 was returned to the community for a total of $315,000. Slowly but surely, the markhor population began to recover. Last year too at least 48 permits have been issued on exorbitant fees to legally hunt wild goats. The impact of such projects over the country has shown its results in years. In 1986, there were less than 200 Suleiman markhors and Afghan urials in their natural habitats in Baluchistan, but a 2010 survey showed their populations had increased to 3,500 and 3,000, respectively.


Leopard2Beside all the pleasures of game hunting there is another side of the picture as well, some shepherds who have lost their cattleLeopard1 that are being hunted by wild carnivores often kill such attackers to reduce the attacks. In 2011, a snow leopard wrecked havoc in a remote valley of Gilgit one night, killing 68 goats in six separate incidents. As a result after few months there was several news of snow leopard being killed by locals as a protection measure. Such boundaries are not being controlled here. Human interrupts the wild lands in terms of recreational activities and the results turn fatal for both.  (Photos courtesy: www.wildlifeofpakistan.com)


The snow leopard is a rarely sighted animal in fact the only detailed and the first ever video documentary on it came out in Snow_leopardrecent years by BBC, which was shot in chitral and gilgit sites. Nisar Malik, a Pakistani journalist, and cameraman Mark Smith (who had worked on the Planet Earth segment) spent a further 18 months filming snow leopards in the Hindu Kush for the BBC film Snow Leopard – Beyond the Myth

Such beauty of Pakistan has to be conserved at any cost. But all efforts go in vane without a proper check and balance on it. Beside hunting and poaching, lack of proper disease control is also a major problem for wildlife and biodiversity in Pakistan. A recent study by sub-continent’s eminent scientists revealed that Newcastle disease which is caused by avian paramyxovirus serotype-1 (APMV-1), that is also branded as Newcastle disease virus (NDV). It is a highly contagious viral disease that affects domesticated and wild bird species throughout the world. The disease is endemic in Pakistan and represents major threat to the economy of the country. From 2009 to mid 2012, many outbreaks of Newcastle disease have been reported to World Organization for Animal Health from Pakistan as well as neighboring countries. Most of the outbreaks have been reported from Iran and India that shares border with Pakistan. Even with some of the reports from selective regions only and surfacing of novel NDV (5i) from Pakistan, it is of the essence to screen and characterize the NDV throughout the country (Muhammad U Sohail et al-2013).


Last year, in 2012, Pakistan lost 300 peacocks to the deadly Newcastle virus. This year, since June, at least 60 more peacocks have died owing to the same disease, five of which died in a span of just two days. The overall population at risk is around 80000 which threatened of extinction from Pakistan if proper control measures are not practiced soon. Around 40 million chickens have died due to this massive attack of ND virus.


Several conservation campaigns are working at national and international level by governmental as well as nongovernmental organizations for controlling of hunting, eradication of poaching, enhancing the breeding of wild animals, tagging and vaccination of wild animals.












Scans from high school biology book


In the educational syllabi, recent syllabus change at high school level biology books has been able to develop greater interest of students for biodiversity conservation. Special chapters are included in the book regarding biodiversity conservation. They give a sound account of what wildlife and biodiversity of Pakistan includes, what are its problems and what simple steps can be taken by students to take care of biodiversity of Pakistan.


With all this I urge the readers to contribute their energies to conserve the essence of natural beauty of Pakistan taking one step at a time.











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