Poaching: My Final Project

•May 4, 2009 • 6 Comments

As I mentioned in my inaugural post that this blog was created in accordance with an English class I was taking for Miami University. For the class I was required to create a “final” multimodal project for the class. I chose to create “Poaching: An Insight”. This is a short film created to represent poaching as a worldwide crisis.

The video includes some information on poaching that I have written about on this site before; but much of the information is newly researched. Some of the facts are quite intriguing so give it a look.

Although my span with the class has ended, I will continue to post information I come across involving the poaching of animals. The updates may not be as frequent, but continue to check it out.


Time: Investigating Animal Crimes

•April 22, 2009 • 3 Comments

“Some animal products (such as rhino horn and bear gall bladders) are literally worth more than gold.”- This is a startling reality revealed within a new article on Time.com; The article is a semi-news report/interview with Dr. Laurel Neme, author of the book Animal Investigators.

Dr. Neme brings up a good point within the article, many crime labs have trouble solving human crimes; so how can they begin to try to solve animal crimes such as poaching? Only one lab seems to have the answer- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Lab in Ashland, Oregon; the only lab in the U.S. that deals with illegal crimes involving animals. This is a harsh reality that shows us how so many poachers get away with the crimes they commit.

Dr. Neme also points out that most people don’t realize that they are buying goods that may have came out of illegal poaching enterprises.

“That’s exactly it. People know it’s happening, the way they know that illegal drugs are also being smuggled, but when you don’t see it you can’t recognize the impact. You can easily support [illegal wildlife trade] unknowingly. You’re on vacation, you see something and it’s a beautiful piece. It’s in a museum shop and they’re selling it, it must be legal, right? You don’t really know.”

We come from a nation where most things sold within shops and stores is legal and has been approved for sale to the public. However, when traveling out of the U.S. the regulations that give us comfort when shopping at home are absent. Many pieces of jewelry and other souvenirs sold within shops around the world are made possible by the illegal actions of poachers who kill the animals for the products.

“I never realized how hard it can be to catch the criminals. I just assumed that airport authorities would open a container and go, “Yep, that’s tiger.” But then you talk about bear gall bladders being ground into medicine…”

As I mentioned in a much earlier blog discussing what poaching actuallyis, there is a fine line between what can be legal and illegal to hunt. Bringing goods from animals through customs around the world is an activity that is difficult to monitor. It is impossible for a worker to know what is illegal in what parts of the world, and the circumstances behind it for each species. This complication of matters allows the illegal trafficking of animal goods to earn up to $20 million a year; a sad, yet true reality.

Link to the right

One Shot, One Kill: Poison Bullets

•April 21, 2009 • 5 Comments

A disturbing story was recently published in The Telegraph (Calcutta, India) about a new poaching technique that could be one of the deadliest yet. Recently, police recovered 10 improvised single-barrelled muzzle guns (SBMGs) with several rounds of poison-tipped bullets from a farmhouse located on the fringe of Nameri National Park in the Sonitpur district.

Naba Bora, The officer in-charge of Jamugurihat police, was quoted as saying that one of the poison bullets could kill an elephant or a rhino with one shot, regardless of where it hit. Normally poachers must shoot an animal through the head or in other vital organs located between the two front legs. Even if the shot does not bring down the animal in these cases, the wounds will succumb to infection and ultimately cause the death of the animal. However, when combined with poison, a single bullet can cause death via poisoning within 10 minutes.

The practice of poisoned bullets seems to be a knew idea to officials. Although the practice has been used since ancient times, with poison blow darts being used to kill small prey. Another complication that was not mentioned directly in the article could be similar to the Furadan phenomenon. If a poacher kills an elephant or rhino with the poison bullets, they will proceed to cut of the horn or tusks of the animal, leaving the infected carcass behind. Subsequently, other animals would feed on the dead carcass, possibly become poisoned second hand.

“It is a well-knit gang of poachers with international connections,” the police official said. He added that most of the gang members are from Nagaland and Manipur.

“The gang has local connections and charts out its plans at these small farmhouses on the fringes of the park,” he said.

If the suspicions hold true, and the gang is of the internationally variety, it may be nearly impossible to track the weapons or ammunition back to the hunters.

Link to the Right

Breakdown in Law Enforcement Leads to Rhino Deaths

•April 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I came across an article from the associated press, reported through MSNBC, that discussed how a recent falling out in Zimbabwe has lead to an increase in Rhino poaching.

The population of rhinos in Africa decreased from 830 down to 740 within the last year. This statistic is even more startling when you take into account that records show that many of the animals have been successfully reproducing both in captivity and in the wild.

The rhinos are killed for the large horn located on the front of their heads, the horns are then sold to some Asian countries and used in traditional medicine, and they can also be carved for decorations as many tribes around Africa customarily do.

I found this story initially relevant because of the inclusion of the rhino on the WWF’s “9 to watch” list. Its interesting to see how a breakdown in regulation and law enforcement can decrease animal numbers in such a short amount of time

As usual… Link to the right.

WWF’s 9 Species to Watch in 2009

•April 13, 2009 • 6 Comments

Just looking around the web the other day and I came across this rather insightful list. It’s the Word Wildlife Fund’s list of the 9 species most “in danger” for the year 2009. A few of the animals on the list I have previously mentioned, however I feel that the most insightful thing about this publication is the numerical figures of some of these species. The fact that almost all of them have populations of less than 1,000 is pretty horrifying.

WWF’s “9 to Watch in 2009” list:

1. Javan Rhinoceros

Population: Less than 60.  Location: Indonesia and Vietnam.

This is probably the rarest large mammal species in the world and is critically endangered. Poaching and pressure from a growing human population pose greatest risk to the two protected areas where they live. WWF teams actively monitor these rhinos and protect them from poachers.

2. Vaquita

Population: 150. Location: Upper Gulf of California, Mexico.

The world’s smallest and most endangered cetacean, this tiny porpoise is often killed in gillnets and could soon be extinct. WWF is working with local fishermen, local and international non-profits, and private sector and government officials on an unprecedented effort to save the vaquita. This includes establishing a vaquita refuge, buying out gillnet fisheries and developing vaquita-friendly fishing gear and other economic alternatives for the fishermen and their families.

3. Cross River Gorilla

Population: 300.  Location: Nigeria and Cameroon.

The few remaining forest patches of southeastern Nigeria and western Cameroon are home to the recently discovered Cross River gorilla, a subspecies of the western gorilla. But as its forests are opened up by timber companies, hunters move in. Conservation measures are urgently needed for this beleaguered animal, which is probably the world’s rarest great ape. In Nigeria, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, a WWF Affiliate, is working with communities in the Cross River National Park to help save the Cross River gorilla.

4. Sumatran Tiger

Population: 400-500. Location: Sumatra, Indonesia.

Accelerating deforestation and rampant poaching could push the Sumatran tiger to the same fate as its now-extinct Javan and Balinese relatives in other parts of Indonesia. Tigers are poached for their body parts, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, while skins are also highly prized. WWF is researching the Sumatran tiger population with camera traps, supports anti-poaching patrols and works to reduce human-tiger conflict as the cats’ habitat shrinks. Through the efforts of WWF and its partners, the Indonesian government in 2008 doubled the size of Tesso Nilo National Park, a critical tiger habitat.

5. North Pacific Right Whale

Population: Unknown, but less than 500. Location: Northern Pacific, U.S., Russia and Japan.

The North Pacific right whale is one of the world’s rarest cetaceans, almost hunted to extinction until the 1960s. It is rarely sighted and has a poor prognosis for survival due to collisions with ships, entanglement in fishing nets and the prospect of offshore oil and gas development in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. WWF is working to improve shipping safety to avoid collisions and trying to prevent oil and gas development in Bristol Bay, the whale’s primary summer feeding ground.

6. Black-Footed Ferret

Population: 500 breeding adults. Location: Northern Great Plains, U.S. and Canada.

Found only in the Great Plains, it is one of the most endangered mammals in North America because its primary prey, the prairie dog, has been nearly exterminated by ranchers who consider it a nuisance. Few species have edged so close to extinction as the black-footed ferret and recovered, but through captive breeding and reintroduction, there are signs the species is slowly recovering. WWF has been working to save the black-footed ferret and the prairie dog population upon which the ferrets depend.

7. Borneo Pygmy Elephant

Population: Perhaps fewer than 1,000. Location: Borneo, Malaysia.

These smallest of all elephants must compete with logging and agriculture for space in the lowland forests of Borneo. WWF is working to ensure protection of the “Heart of Borneo” and tracks the elephants through the use of satellite collars to learn more about these little-understood elephants.

8. Giant Panda

Population: 1,600. Location: China.

An international symbol of conservation since WWF’s founding in 1961, the giant panda faces an uncertain future. Its forest habitat in the mountainous areas of southwest China has become fragmented, creating small and isolated populations. WWF has been active in giant panda conservation for nearly three decades, conducting field studies, working to protect habitats and, most recently, by providing assistance to the Chinese government in establishing a program to protect the panda and its habitat through the creation of reserves.

9. Polar Bear

Population: 20,000-25,000. Location: Arctic.

The greatest risk to their survival today is climate change. Designated a threatened species by the U.S., if warming trends in the Arctic continue at the current pace, polar bears will be vulnerable to extinction within the next century. WWF is supporting field research to understand how climate change will affect polar bears and to develop adaptation strategies. WWF also works to protect critical polar bear habitat by working with government and industry to reduce threats from shipping and oil and gas development in the region.

-Link to the right

Elephant Nursery

•April 6, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Inside of Nairobi National Park–Reported by The National, there is a nursery very different from any that we are accustomed to in the U.S. Inside it are 15 orphaned baby elephants, each with a common bond between them– they were orphaned at the hands of humans.

Many of the elephants were brought here because their mothers were killed by poachers, leaving the babies because without tusks they have little if any value on the black market. The rest became trapped in man-made objects such as wells or ditches, which eventually led to their caregivers abandoning them.

Within the recent years, the number of baby elephants at the nursery has increased dramatically, this has been linked to an increase in the demand of ivory. As I mentioned before the value of ivory has increased greatly in the weakening economy, some markets reporting that ivory is as good as currency in some African markets. Though the trade in ivory is illegal, last year the convention granted China and Japan permission to buy stockpiles of ivory at auction from four southern African countries.

Officials in Kenya have said that they have noticed an increase in poaching in recent months, mostly in highly populated elephant zones. The increased poaching has been linked to the trade and demand from China, which gives poachers a loophole and a quasi-legal means to move their contraband.

Putting this in perspective, Kenyan Wildlife Services reported that in 2008, 98 elephant carcasses were found with their tusks removed, an increase from only 48 in 2007. As recently as February, Chinese immigrants have been arrested trying to smuggle shipments of Ivory through Nairobi airports.

To help counteract the increase in poaching, the elephant nursery allows local Nairobi children to come and enjoy the elephants during their daily mud baths. By showing the children that the elephants are their friends and educating them, it may slow down poaching of the creatures in future years… At least that is the hope. Link to the Right.

Finishing up Furadan

•April 3, 2009 • 1 Comment

A little more information on FMC Corp’s Furadan, the pesticide that was covered in a “60 Minutes” report on its use for killing lions.

Furadan, which is its marketing name, is actually Carbofuran, an insecticide that various plants absorb into their systems so that when an insect attempts to feed on them it attacks their nervous system killing them. As I mentioned before, it has been banned within Kenya, however I recently found that the U.S. request its ban on crops within the country. However this was limited to only allowing use only on specific vegetables through regulation.

Besides the use to poison lions in the cover story, there have also been abuse cases reported in the United States, where farmers have used the poison to kill other predators such as wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions. Also according to research, the poison is fatal to almost all vertebrates, including humans. A single teaspoon, if ingested by a human body, can be fatal within hours.

I was impressed to see that the U.S. had previously taken measures to regulate usage of such a toxic chemical, for once we are ahead of other nations on this front. It will be interested to see the reverberations to FMC Corp following the 60 Minutes piece.