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Posts tagged “Africa

Endangered Species Monday: Archaius tigris

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Endangered Species Monday: Archaius tigris

This Mondays Endangered Species watch Post (ESP) I document on yet another African species of wildlife that hunting revenue is not helping to preserve. The Tiger Chameleon was identified back in 1820 by Dr Heinrich Kuhl (September 17, 1797 – September 14, 1821) was a German naturalist and zoologist. Kuhl was born in Hanau. He became assistant to Coenraad Jacob Temminck at the Leiden Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie. (Image: Credited to Henrick Bringsoe, A tigris). 

In 1817 he published a monograph on bats, and in 1819 he published a survey of the parrots, Conspectus psittacorum. He also published the first monograph on the petrels, and a list of all the birds illustrated in Daubenton’s Planches Enluminées and with his friend Johan Coenraad van Hasselt (1797–1823) Beiträge zur Zoologie und vergleichenden Anatomie (“Contributions to Zoology and Comparative Anatomy”) that were published at Frankfurt-am-Main, 1820.

Commonly known as the Tiger Chameleon or Seychelles Tiger Chameleon the species is currently listed as [endangered] which is not uncommon as like many Chameleons within the Seychelles their range is shrinking by the year or being overrun by invasive botanical species.

Endemic to the Seychelles the species has been listed as endangered since 2006 of which populations trends are unknown. Much documentation often cites the species at “comparatively” low density, however one must not take this as factual until a true population count is seen. It has been alleged that for every [five hectares] there is possibly 2.07 individuals which isn’t good ‘if true’ since the island is only 455 km2.

From what we know the species remains undisturbed where there aren’t invasive Cinnamon trees identified as the Cinnamomum verum. However where C. verum is spreading the Tiger Chameleons habitat is under threat from this invasive plant. There is a negative correlation between Chameleon density and the presence of cinnamon, suggesting this invasion is detrimental to chameleon populations. Negative correlation is a relationship between two variables such that as the value of one variable increases, the other decreases.

The Tiger Chameleon’s main endemic range on the Seychelles islands is Mahé, Silhouette and Praslin. A historical record from Zanzibar (Tanzania) is erroneous. It occurs from sea level to 550 m asl, in areas of the islands that have either primary or secondary forest, or in the transformed landscape if there are trees and bushes present. Although they are currently estimated to have a restricted distribution on each island (following survey transects conducted by Dr Gerlach if anecdotal observations from transformed landscapes (e.g. degraded areas outside the areas surveyed) are valid, then the distribution would be larger than mapped at present.

To date the only [non-active] conservation actions that I am aware of are within the Vallee de Mai on Praslin which is currently not a protected national park. Fortunately the species is protected to some degree in the Morne Seychelles, Praslin and Silhouette National Parks. The primary threat within non-protected areas is as explained invasive Cinnamon which seems to be posing similar threats to both small reptilians, insects and birds on the islands and mainland Madagascar.

While the species has been in the past used as a trade animal it was alleged that there were no Cites quotes since 2000 – 2014. However from 1997 – 2013 a total of twelve live specimens were legally exported [despite the species threatened at risk status]. Cites allowed the twelve species to be exported for use within the pet trade which I myself find somewhat confusing. Two specimens were exported to Germany in 1981 with the remainder [10] sent to Spain. I am a little perplexed as to why these twelve specimens were legally exported, furthermore I have found no evidence or follow up data that would satisfy me in believing this export was even worthwhile for the species currently losing ground within their natural habitat.

From 1981 -2010 a further 98 dead specimens were legally exported for scientific zoological projects. Then in 1982 a single live specimen was legally exported with Cites permit for experimental purposes. While I cannot [again] locate any evidence or reason as to why this single specimen was exported alive – I must make it clear that Cites is sympathetic to Huntington Life Science’s and various other animal experimental laboratories. However this doesn’t prove that Cites has exported to anyone of these experimental research centers, it is merely my assumption.

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Image: Archaius tigris

No other trade is reported out of the Seychelles, although re-export of specimens imported to Germany and Spain has been reported to Switzerland and South Africa, respectively (UNEP-WCMC 2014). This species is present and available in limited quantities in the European pet trade, and illegal trade and/or harvest may occur on a limited basis. ‘A’ report handed to myself from an [anonymous 2014] officer from the office of UNEP states that a population of some 2,000 specimens has been recorded [2014] however there is yet again no census historical data to back these claims/report up. I again must point out that if its proven there are no fewer than [2,000 Tiger Chameleons] remaining in the wild and, Cites is allowing export then Cites is going to come under immense pressure from International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa because exporting live animals for pet trade at such ‘alleged’ depressed populations – is neither helping the species nor supportive of conservation practices.

Threats

The main threat is habitat degradation as a result of the invasion by alien plants species, especially Cinnamomum verum, principally on Mahé and Praslin. Cinnamon is displacing other vegetation, it is present all over the islands and it is the fastest growing, heaviest seeding plant in most areas and is changing the composition of the forests. Currently it makes up 70-90% of trees in Seychelles forests, reaching >95% in some areas. For Archaius tigris, the cinnamon trees provide a normal structure of vegetation, but the invaded forests support a massively diminished insect population, somewhere in the region of 1% of normal abundance. This excludes invasive ants which are the only common invertebrates associated with cinnamon.

In addition, the cinnamon produces a denser canopy than native trees, giving deeper shade which excludes forest floor undergrowth (other than cinnamon seedlings), and this also is a factor in the reduced insect abundance. The Chameleons are found on cinnamon and in cinnamon invaded areas, as long as there is a wide diversity of other plants and a dense undergrowth. In fact, rural gardens can provide habitat for the Chameleons, because these tend to be more diversity in terms of flora, and therefore can support invertebrate fauna.

Dr Jose C. Depre

Environmental and Botanical Scientist.

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Endangered Species Monday: Afrithelphusa monodosa.

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Endangered Species Monday: Afrithelphusa monodosa

Warning: Extinction is now Inevitable

This Mondays (E.S.P) -Endangered Species watch Post I focus on a species of fresh water crab that’s rarely spoken about within the theater of conservation, or animal rights forums. Identified by Mr Bott from which I know little on and about this particular species of marsh crab is currently listed as endangered. Rarely do I document on a species of animal that I and other conservationists know will be extinct within the next five years. My aim for this Monday’s endangered species column is to raise awareness about the plight of this little creature, in a way I hope will force Cites and the Guinea government to now implement emergency evasive action to halt extinction immediately. (Image: Purple Marsh Crab, photographer unknown) 

I must also point out that one must not confuse the [common name] of this species [above], identified back in 1959, to that of the United States [Purple Marsh Crab]. Professor Linnaeus created the nomenclature system for a reason, and yet again I am seeing two species of animals that hold the same common names being confused with one-another. Sesarma reticulatum is not under any circumstances related to the Afrithelphusa monodosa pictured above and below. 

Endemic to Guinea the species was listed back in 1996 as [critically endangered]. However since the last census was conducted back in [2007] the Purple Marsh Crab has since been submitted into the category of [endangered]. Unfortunately as yet there remains no current documentation on population size, furthermore from the 1996 census, marine conservation reports suggest that no fewer than twenty specimens have been collected from the wild. To date the ‘estimated’ population size stands at a mere 2.500 mature individuals.

Back in 1959 Mr Bott identified the specimen as Globonautes monodosus however from 1999 the species was re-named as Afrithelphusa monodosa. The Purple Marsh Crab is one of only five species in the two genera of which belong to a very rare group of fresh water crabs that are still endemic to the Guinea forests within the block of Western Africa. All five specimens within the two genera are listed as either [endangered or critically endangered], and as such its quite likely that all five specimens will become extinct within the next five to eight years, or possibly even sooner. It is without a doubt that one of the next species on the planet to go extinct will be the Purple Marsh Crab.

Allegedly new specimens have been discovered since [1996] however these reports are somewhat sketchy. When I last documented on the specimen back in 2010 there were no conservation efforts or any projects in the planning process that would help preserve the crabs future survival. We are now in 2015 and I have yet to witness any conservation projects planned or taking place, which I find rather frustrating. As explained the species will be extinct within a matter of years of which the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (Cites) should be protecting.

A. monodosa lives within the Guinea swamps and all year round wetland habitat within the northwestern Guinea. The original vegetation cover found at the farmland near the village of Sarabaya where this species was recently collected lies in southern guinea savannah in the semi-deciduous moist forest zone. Specimens of A. monodosus were collected from cultivated land from burrows dug into permanently moist soil each with a shallow pool of water at the bottom. At the end of the dry season after a six-month period without rain the soil in this area nevertheless remains wet year round, so this locality either has an underground water table close to the surface, or a nearby spring. The natural habitat of A. monodosus is still unknown but presumably this cultivated land was originally a permanent freshwater marsh.

There were no nearby sources of surface water and it is clear that these crabs do not need to be immersed in water (as do their relatives that live in streams and rivers), and that A. monodosus can meet its water requirements (such as keeping its respiratory membranes moist and osmoregulation of body fluids) with the small amount of muddy water that collects at the bottom of their burrow. This species is clearly a competent air-breather and has a pair of well-developed pseudol.

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Image: Credited to Piotr Naskrecki. Purple Marsh Crab. 

Current threats

To be truthfully honest I feel documenting on the current threats is in reality a waste of my time because both the Guinea government and Cites have known of these threats for many years. Yet little if any actions are being taken to suppress these threats. Either way I will document on them in the hope that someone will push for protection or whip into action a protective project sooner rather than later.

To date the species hasn’t been listed on either Cites (I-II) Appendix’s, the major present and future threats to this species include habitat loss/degradation (human induced) due to human population increases, deforestation, and associated increased agriculture in northwest Guinea.

International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa propose the following actions to be undertaken immediately:

  1. Up to date assessment of population size and location of any new and old habitats documented.
  2. Surveys to asses diets, predators, diseases and behavior.
  3. Investigations to locate new subspecies.
  4. Protection zones established within the highest populated zones.
  5. Liaising the Guinea government for funding of conservation projects.
  6. Listing of the species in (I Appendix) Cites.
  7. Community education and awareness programs.
  8. Removal of healthy and gene strong species for captive breeding programs.

Crabs Role within the Eco-System

Crabs are one of the major decomposes in the naval environment. In other terms, Crabs help in cleaning up the bottom of the sea and rivers by collecting decaying plant and animal substance. Many fish, birds and sea mammals rely on crabs for a food source. Regardless of if this is one species with low individual populations or not, extinction will only harm other animals. Furthermore will reduce other species food sources. The video below depicts the [Marsh Crabs] and their normal natural environment. The species in question which is identical to the Guinea Purple Marsh Crab is not included within the video but is related to the five genera.

Thank you for reading. 

Dr Jose C. Depre 

Environmental and Botanical Scientist. 

info@international-animalrescue-foundation.org.uk 

 


Embassy Day: For Cats and Dogs in the Horrific Meat Trade.

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EMBASSY DAY: 17TH SEPTEMBER 2015  WWW.SAYNOTODOGMEAT.NET

Did you know on the 17th September 2015 from 11:00am the Australian organisation www.saynotodogmeat.net, registration 49 860 343 527 will be hosting peaceful demonstrations around the globe within nine major cities? Embassy Day forms the first (governmental) lobbying in relation to #OperationUnite 2016. Embassy Day will be the organisations second largest demo since April 4th 2015. Back in April Say No To Dog Meat made history by hosting the worlds largest anti pet meat demo in over twenty five countries.

On the 4th April 2015 the Say No To Dog Meat family hit the streets internationally in their thousands marching for dogs and cats in the horrific pet meat trade.  The main April protests were non-governmental, however was a reminder that should the (eight governments) the organisation are lobbying not respond to the polite requests from the Aussie organisation. The next step would be Embassy Day, September 2015. Finally after Embassy Day, the organisation will then begin gearing up for phase two of Operation Unite 2016 that will be held October 2nd and 3rd 2016. Followed up with #OperationUnite comes the new #lovefamily campaign too.

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Image: (SNTDM) supporter, #lovefamily campaign.

September 17th 2015 will see demonstrators lobbying South Korean embassies within Los Angeles, United States and Ottawa, Canada. Then in New York the Indonesian embassy, followed up with the Cambodian embassy in Seattle, United States will be demonstrated. Meanwhile within the United Kingdom the Vietnamese embassy will be peacefully protested in London, followed up with the Indian consulate in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Nigerian embassy in Johannesburg, South Africa will follow soon after. The Thailand consulate within Perth and Philippines consulate in Brisbane, Australia will be peacefully lobbied too.

Donna Armes, campaign manager and director confirmed that all embassy consulate generals and ambassadors had been sent communications months before Embassy Day was planned. Furthermore the campaign manager stated a second electronic communication had been sent and received by embassy staff informing them about the peaceful protests, and why the organisation has been forced to lobby all nine embassies. Embassy staff, consulates and ambassadors have failed to acknowledge the Aussie organisations peaceful plans which is a little frustrating but then the organisation didn’t expect a reply anyway.

Say No To Dog Meat volunteers and directors will begin the ‘peaceful demonstrations’ with an up to date speech on current and past issues in relation to both ‘Asian and African’ dog and cat meat trade outside of each embassy. After the main speech the public can stay or depart of which the organisations volunteers and directors will then be handing into the embassies all data and petitions.

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 Image: Nigeria, woman prepares dog carcass for [404 joint delicacy, peppered dog soup]. 

Each petition contains from 10,000 to 200,000 signatures. Statistics on pet meat consumption death rates, virus and disease, regulations and violations of current standing law, predictive model data research, food hygiene violations will be handed into the consulate generals and ambassadors too. Presidential letters will also feature within the pack of which each government has a set six to eight months to respond. The organisation is not expecting an immediate or even positive response, of which OPERATION UNITE will continue to go ahead come October 2016.

For the very first time in history the Indian and Nigerian embassies will be lobbied by the organisation in relation to the Indian, Nagaland and Nigerian pet meat trades. Nigeria is the largest dog meat consuming country on the continent of Africa and third largest on the planet. Furthermore deaths from consumption of diseased or rabies infested pet meat has skyrocketed this year alone with some eighty people dead already. Meanwhile the Indian Nagaland state loses on average an estimated forty people a year via the direct consumption of rabies infested dog meat. Rabies is also on the rise in both pet meat consuming zones. India is where 85% of all human rabies deaths occurred between 1995 and 2004. Over this period there were 21404 rabies deaths a year there. Death rates for 2014 are yet to be seen.

“About 3.5 million dog bites are registered every year in India. The Government cannot give vaccine free of cost to all people. From 2006, the price of vaccine has increased…”

Despite many protests against the South Korean Bok Nal pet meat trade that began in June and ended in the first week of August. The South Korean government took no notice of expert knowledge, scientific data or petitions handed to them. Instead they allowed traders to continue the horrific disease riddled trade, and took little notice of their own laws and guidelines implemented to protect dogs and cats in meat trade. Dare we ask what the point is in introducing animal protection laws, just to allow native citizens to continue violating them?

From 2013-2015 Say No To Dog Meat has vainly lobbied the Viet Nam health minister and president Trương Tấn Sang to bring an end to the pet meat trade. On the 19th August 2014 reports issued by the (World Health Organisation) confirmed that deaths rates had increased slightly to forty (per year), however its estimated that some one hundred people die annually from rabies infection.

Despite the Aussie organisation sending more than enough scientific evidence to the Vietnamese health minister and president the trade continues. From 1995-2004 the then death rate from rabies in Viet Nam stood at some 1,550. Since 2004 the Vietnamese pet meat trade has increased. Death rates continue to increase within the country from the direct consumption of diseased pet meat, statistics from 2014 showed many of these deaths were infant related either bitten by dogs on private land or from consuming rabied infected dog and cat meat.

March 16th 2009 the Vietnamese government were handed third party data from; National Institute of Infectious and Tropical Diseases and the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology in Hanoi, Viet Nam that stated; “Most Rabies deaths in Vietnam were from the direct Butchering and eating of either dog or cat meat”.

Vietnamese researchers confirmed;

“In Viet Nam, dogs with rabies have been detected in dog slaughterhouses and workers at dog slaughterhouses are vaccinated against rabies as part of the national programme for rabies control and prevention. However, the private slaughter of dogs is relatively common in the country which increases rabies infection rates”

“Vietnamese doctors already consider dog slaughtering to be a risk factor for rabies transmission, but it is important that other health care workers and policy makers, both in- and outside Vietnam, are aware of this risk factor”

Dog and cat meat trade is now finally illegal within Thailand, unfortunately this doesn’t stop traffickers from snatching dogs and transporting from Thailand into the Viet Nam. Yes the trade may indeed be illegal, but again our own investigative journalists have located street traders openly selling and smuggling unhygienic meat in rural communities.

Back in 2013 [Life With Dogs] stated; “In the past week, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam have signed a deal with the intention of ending the importation and sale of dogs to be used as food. This move was initiated by their governments because of the involvement of animal welfare group Asia Canine Protection Alliance. The ACPA is comprised of four notable animal groups: Animals Asia, Change for Animals Foundation, Humane Society International and Soi Dog Foundation.

We are now in 2015 and as yet [SpeakupFortheVoiceless] and [SayNoToDogMeat] have yet to witness any such decrease of trade within Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Trafficking and snatching of pet dogs and cats continues within Thailand feeding the trade within the Viet Nam and China. Why has it taken from 2013 to do nothing?  One only has to walk the streets of Hanoi, Saigon, Hoi An and Ben Tre to witness dog meat traders more than active. On June 30 2015, police from Sakol Nakorn intercepted a truck carrying the butchered remains and carcasses of more than 100 dogs. The truck was heading for Tha Rae, [the traditional home of Thailand’s dog meat trade]. Yet trade is illegal!

Within the Philippines the government has introduced tough and stringent laws with regards to pet meat traffickers and peddlers (Please click the links to view current data from government). Say No To Dog Meat recognizes the Philippines as one of few Asiatic countries on the continent that has taken the pet meat trade seriously. Despite a law banning the killing and maltreatment of dogs (Animal Welfare Act of 1998), dog-eating and the industry that supplies it continues particularly in the northern part of the country. Back in June 23 2013, some 12 dogs were rescued in San Pedro Laguna, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The Philippines government aims to eliminate the country’s dog meat trade by 2016, AKF Head and Legal Counsel Heidi Caguioa told Rappler [2014]. Eradication means no more dog meat traders and no more dog meat restaurants. Say No To Dog Meat will be lobbying the Philippines embassy within Brisbane, Australia calling on the government to strengthen the current Animal Welfare Act 1998 and Rabies Act 9482.

Finally Say No To Dog Meat volunteers will be lobbying the Indonesian embassy calling on the government to enact law and close down all known dog meat markets. The Indonesian dog meat trade is allegedly associated with the Minahasa culture of northern Sulawesi, Maluku culture and the Bataks of northern Sumatra, where dog meat is considered a festive dish, usually reserved for occasions such as weddings and Christmas. While Say No To Dog Meat and our comrades Animal Defenders Indonesia, Surabaya Tanpa Dog Meat, Bali Adoption and Rehabilitation Center would like to believe this, the trade on dog and cat meat actually occurs every day of the month.

This September 2015 please unite with Say No To Dog Meat this Embassy Day 2015. For more information please contact the organisation here via email: contact@saynotodogmeat.info

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Image: Say No To Dog Meat, Team Perth. 

Chief Executive Officer. 

contact@saynotodogmeat.info


Endangered species Friday: Acinonyx jubatus

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Endangered Species Friday: Acinonyx jubatus

This Fridays endangered species I speak up about the now (not co common Cheetah). Endangered Species Watch Post (ESP) tries to limit the amount of commonly known specie on the platform, however due to recent declines we’ve now included the specie within the (ESP).

Listed on the ‘threatened list’ of (endangered species) as vulnerable, the common Cheetah was formally identified by Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber (1739 in Weißensee, Thuringia – 1810 in Erlangen), often styled I.C.D. von Schreber, was a German naturalist. (Image Cheetah, photographer unknown).

Identified back in 1775 there remains a total of some five sub-species known that inhabits north, south, west and east Africa. The sub-species A. j. venaticus is known only to inhabit Iran. Some very contradictory reports state there may or may not be populations living within Central India too.

From 1996 to 2002 A. jubatus populations haven’t increased of which this amazing hunting cat commonly known as the Cheetah or (Hunting Leopard) continues to sit at (vulnerable listing). Further population declines will most certainly see the specie qualifying for the category of (endangered). Should this occur the African Cheetah will become the first specie of big cat within the new millennium to hit endangered level.

Cheetahs have disappeared from some seventy six percent of their known historical range which now overtakes that of the Panthera leo (Lion). African populations are considered ‘widely common’ however still known to be sparsely populated. Meanwhile in Asia the Cheetah has practically vanished which is why we must do more to protect the last known remaining Africans populations before further extinctions occur. Cheetahs were known to be quite common throughout Mediterranean and the Arabian peninsula, north to the northern shores of the Caspian and Aral Seas, and west through Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan into central India However this is no longer the case.

One reason for for Asiatic Cheetah population declines was due to live captures of the animal which were trained to hunt other fauna. Unfortunately that was not the main reason why the specie spiralled into near extinction. The primary threat was Cheetah prey decline. This same problem has also been noted as effecting other big cats within Africa and Asia too. Agriculture, over-unregulated-hunting, over-culling, urbanization and habitat destruction via humans, has all played a significant role pushing the species furthermore into the realms of near extinction. Within Iran the sub-species A. j. venaticus is known to be (critically endangered)

In Tunisia Cheetahs were known to roam freely, however there are no known populations remaining within the country. The El-Borma region, near the Algerian boundaries, was probably among the areas where Cheetahs have last been seen in 1974 and documented. Reports compiled back in 1980 now tell us the specie is incredibly rare (if not regionally extinct already). Recently hunters yet again stated that (hunting) has never impacted on the species whatsoever. That’s a complete barefaced lie by members of (PHASA) Professional Hunting Association of South Africa and (DSI) Dallas Safari International.

Cheetahs became extinct from most of the Mediterranean coastal region and easily accessible inland habitats of El-Maghra and Siwa oases one decade after being widely distributed in the northern Egyptian Western Desert until the 1970s. The main reasons explaining cheetah extirpation have been attributed to (extensive and uncontrolled hunting and the development of coastal lands). Please view images lower down the article.

“The main reasons explaining cheetah extirpation have been attributed to (extensive and uncontrolled hunting and the development of coastal lands)”…

Current data on Cheetah population within Eritrea, Sudan and Somali is unknown. Populations within these three countries could very well already be extinct. Reports conducted within most “known Chad Cheetah zones” have sadly concluded the species is no longer present within the of much African country either, 2008 surveys did pick up few roaming species within Southern Chad though. Few populations remain within Central Sahara although to what extent is again unknown.

sfghuntImage: Hunter, Canada – 7,000 to 10,000 Cheetah remain and this is allowed by Cites.

Within the African countries of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, and Democratic Republic of Congo again population counts are not known. (Its’ quite possible that the species has already gone extinct). Cheetahs are already officially extinct within Burundi and Rwanda. Reports have sadly confirmed the species is also extinct within Nigeria. Poaching and over-hunting have wiped all populations out within the three central African countries. A 1974 study ‘suggested’ that few populations may be occupying both Cameroonian boundaries and Yankari Game Reserve. This report is though mere speculation and not confirmed evidence.

EXTINCTIONS TO DATE

Regional Extinctions

Extinctions have already occurred within; Burundi; Côte d’Ivoire; Eritrea; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; India; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kuwait; Oman; Qatar; Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Sierra Leone; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Tunisia; Turkmenistan; United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan and Yemen.

Possible Extinctions

Afghanistan; Cameroon; Djibouti; Egypt; Libya; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Morocco; Nigeria; Pakistan; Senegal, Uganda and the Western Sahara.

Known Endemic Zones

Algeria; Angola; Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Ethiopia; Iran; Kenya; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Zambia; Zimbabwe. (Updated 2015)

2015 WILD POPULATION COUNTS

(Please note the following populations below are wild  and not captive nor farmed)

Reintroductions of Cheetah populations have taken place within Swaziland however to what extent the populations are within Swaziland is unknown.

What we know to-date is that populations within the “Southern Africa” (not just South Africa) hosts the largest populations at roughly some 5,000+ mature individuals. Botswana and Malawi holds roughly 1,800 mature individuals. Populations are unknown within (Angola) and ‘considered possibly extinct’. Mozambique holds some 50-60 mature individuals, Namibia 2,000. SOUTH AFRICA holds some 550 mature individuals, Zambia some 100 mature individuals, Zimbabwe 400. A large proportion of the estimated population lives outside protected areas, in lands ranched primarily for livestock but also for wild game, and where lions and hyenas have been extirpated. So we do question why trophy hunting and unregulated hunting still persists out of farmed areas.

Ethiopia, southern Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania holds an estimated (2,500 mature individuals) however due to intense hunting pressure, poaching and habitat destruction this number could be much lower. (There is NO evidence that hunting within any of the ‘legal zones’ has increased Cheetah populations whatsoever”. Furthermore I challenge all hunting organisations within the legally allowed hunting areas to prove myself wrong? The largest population (Serengeti/Maro/Tsavo in Kenya and Tanzania) is estimated at 710.

Kenya hosts some 790+ mature wild individuals, Tanzania 560+ to 1,100 individuals. Uganda, Gros and Rejmanek (1999) estimated 40-295 with a wider range in the Karamoja region, whereas now Cheetahs have been extirpated and just 12 are estimated to persist in Kidepo National Park and surroundings. North-West Africa the species stands at no fewer that 250 mature individuals (if that).

Within Iran the ‘sub-species’ of Asiatic Cheetah – A. j. venaticus (if still extanct) stands at some 60-100 mature individuals. We do like the fact the conservation trustee is a known hunter allegedly supporting Cheetah conservation. We’ve yet to see an real improvement of Iranian Cheetahs in the country (more money talk)…

The overall “known Cheetah population” for Asia and Africa is by far more threatened that the Lion. To date there are some 7,000 known mature individuals remaining within the wild but no greater than 10,000. This sadly make the Cheetah by far more threatened than Panthera leo. African Lion populations stand at some 15,000 to 13,000 maximum. As the Cheetah population will not likely exceed 10,000 individuals – the species therefore qualifies for (vulnerable status).

Nowell and Jackson stated that Cheetah populations in the past have undergone some alarming declines, now it would seem that history is re-repeating itself (this time the specie may not survive). The Cheetah exhibits remarkable levels of genetic diversity in comparison and compared to other wild felids, so there could be a high chance the species may make it back from the near brink of extinction within the wild.

Problem is poaching and over-hunting then wasn’t as prolific as it is today. Scientists stated that interbreeding among other individuals had saved the species from bottleneck declines in the past. This history dated back some 10,000 years. Sport hunting then wasn’t an issue as it is today, so in all fairness the species could be hunted into extinction illegally or legally (with much thanks to Cites on the ‘legal part’). So in all honesty we may lose the Cheetah before the Lion.

While the causes of the Cheetah’s low levels of genetic variation are unclear [back then], what is clear is that large populations are necessary to conserve it. Since Cheetahs are a low density species, conservation areas need to be quite large, larger than most protected areas. Major areas of the African continent are being overtaken by humans, agriculture to cope with human expansion and deforestation. No longer is it a case of ‘if’ rather than ‘when’….

MAJOR THREATS

Cheetahs are ‘hunted for sport and trophies’, as well as handicrafts products. Live animals are also traded – the global captive Cheetah population is not self-sustaining. Pest animals are also removed.

In Eastern Africa, habitat loss and fragmentation was identified as the primary threat during a conservation strategy workshop (2007). Because Cheetahs occur at low densities, conservation of viable populations requires large scale land management planning; most existing protected areas are not large enough to ensure the long term survival of Cheetahs. A depleted wild ungulate prey base is of serious concern in northern Africa. Cheetahs which turn to livestock are killed as pests. Conflict with farmers and depletion of the wild prey base are also considered significant threats in parts of Eastern Africa.

In Iran, the Asiatic Cheetah A. j. venaticus is threatened indirectly by loss of prey base through human hunting activities. In addition, most protected areas are open to seasonal livestock grazing, which potentially places huge pressure on the resident ungulate populations through disturbance and potential competition. Additionally, domestic dogs accompanying the herds present a likely threat to both Cheetahs and their prey. An emerging threat is the possibility of fragmentation into discontinuous subpopulations as a result of increasing developmental pressures (mining, oil, roads, railways); this is particularly the case in Kavir N.P., currently the north-western limit of the Asiatic Cheetah’s range.

cheorgImage: Cheetah populations are more threatened than Lions.

Conflict with farmers and ranchers is the major threat to Cheetahs in southern Africa. Cheetah are often killed or persecuted because they are a perceived threat to livestock, despite the fact that they cause relatively little damage. In Namibia, very large numbers of Cheetahs have been live-trapped and removed by ranchers seeking to protect their livestock (from government permit records, Nowell [1996] calculated that over 9,500 cheetahs were removed from 1978-1995). While removal rates have fallen, in part due to intensified conservation and education efforts, many ranchers still view Cheetahs as a problem animal, despite research showing that Cheetahs were only responsible for [3% of livestock losses] to predators. Although Cheetah in Iran have been killed because of predation on livestock, since 2003, there has been no direct evidence of killing Cheetahs, though it is likely most incidents go unreported.

Cheetahs are also vulnerable to being caught in snares set for other species”.

Another threat to the Cheetah is interspecific competition with other large predators, especially lions. On the open, short-grass plains of the Serengeti, juvenile mortality can be as high as 95%, largely due to predation by Lions. However, mortality rates are lower in more closed habitats.

CITES [allows legal trade in live animals and hunting trophies under an Appendix I] quota system (annual quotas: Namibia – 150; Zimbabwe – 50; Botswana – 5). This was accepted by CITES as a way to enhance the economic value of Cheetahs on private lands and provide an economic incentive for their conservation. The global captive Cheetah population is not self-sustaining; Cheetahs [breed poorly in captivity] and in 2001 [30% of the captive population] was wild-caught. While analysis of trade records in the CITES database shows that these countries have reported almost no live exports since the late 1990s, Conservation groups are concerned that there is a substantial illegal cross-border trade in live animals.

There is also concern about illegal trade in skins, as well as capture of live cubs for trade to the Middle East. There is an increasing trade in cubs from [north-east Africa into the Middle East], but there is currently little trade in cubs from the Sahel region, where it was previously considered a major problem. Cheetahs are active during the daytime and there is concern that they can be driven off their kills by [tourist cars crowding around, or mothers separated from their cubs]. Burney (1980) conducted a study and concluded that [tourist cars did not seem to harm cheetahs, and in fact sometimes helped, as cheetah chases more often ended in a kill when there were cars around, distracting prey, providing cover from which to stalk, or otherwise waking Cheetahs up to notice prey in the area]. However, [tourist numbers have risen sharply by then, and its potential impact on cheetahs remains a concern].

The Eastern African Cheetah conservation strategy identified four sets of constraints to mitigating these threats across a large spatial scale. Political constraints include lack of land use planning, insecurity and political instability in some ecologically important areas, and lack of political will to foster Cheetah conservation. Economic constraints include lack of financial resources to support conservation, and lack of incentives for local people to conserve wildlife. Social constraints include negative conceptions of Cheetahs, lack of capacity to achieve conservation, lack of environmental awareness, rising human populations, and social changes leading to subdivision of land and subsequent habitat fragmentation. These potentially mutable human constraints contrast with several biological constraints which are characteristic of Cheetahs and cannot be changed, including wide-ranging behaviour, negative interactions with other large carnivores, and potential susceptibility to disease.

Disease is a potential threat to the Cheetah, as its reduced genetic diversity can increase a population’s susceptibility. However, the most serious disease mortality thus far documented in wild Cheetahs was from naturally occurring anthrax in Namibia’s Etosha National Park; Cheetahs, unlike other predators, do not scavenge carcasses of ungulates killed by anthrax, and thus [had no built-up immunity] when they preyed upon springbok sick with the disease. The Cheetah’s low density may offer some measure of protection against infectious disease; for example, Cheetahs were not affected by an outbreak of Canine Distemper Virus in the Serengeti National Park which [killed over 1/3 of the Lion population]. Serological surveys of Cheetahs on Namibian farmland indicate some exposure and survival of the disease.

We are losing the Cheetah faster than the specie of Lion. Although some regulations are in place with the species listed on Appendix I (Cites) its quite likely we’ll lose wild populations should hunting, poaching and unregulated hunting not stop now.

Thank you for reading.

Dr Jose C. Depre

Environmental and Botanical Scientist.

Sources; Cites, Red List, Wiki, Wild Forum, DEA, CCG, DSI, PHASA, Cambridge University, Oxford University.

 


Endangered Species Monday: Alaena margaritacea

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Endangered Species Monday: Alaena margaritacea

This Mondays (ESP) Endangered Species Watch Post we take a brief glance at South Africa’s most endangered species of butterfly. Generically identified as Alaena margaritacea the species was primarily located by Dr Harry Eltringham FRS (18 May 1873, South Shields – 26 November 1941, from Stroud) whom was an English histologist and entomologist who specialized in Lepidoptera. (Image: unknown photographer) 

Dr Eltringham had been awarded a Master of Science (Cantab and Oxon) and a Doctor of Science (Oxon). He worked at the Hope Department of Entomology. He wrote Histological and Illustrative Methods for Entomologists OCLC 03655743, The Senses of Insects, London, Methuen (1933) and on Lepidoptera Nymphalidae: Subfamily Acraeinae. Lepidopterorum Catalogus 11:1-65 with Karl Jordan (1913) and On specific and mimetic relationships in the genus Heliconius.

Commonly known as the Wolkberg Zulu butterfly and identified back in 1929 the species stands within ‘threatened’ status of which has qualified for vulnerable listing. Endemic to a wee small town of South Africa the butterfly is from the family Lycaenidae which is the (second largest family of butterflies on the planet), hosting some 5,000 species and, constitutes 30% of the butterfly species on Planet Earth.

A. margaritacea is known to inhabit grassy slopes adjoining afromontane forest in the Haenertsburg area of the Limpopo Province near the Wolkberg. Populations trends are currently not known however we do know that flora alien (non-native botanical specimens) are placing the only two known colonies of Wolkberg Zulu butterflies within that area in [extreme danger], back in 2013-2014 a second colony was located to the joy of many.

To give you a clearer image of just how threatened the species is (any such habitat disturbance within their known range could see extinction occur within days rather than months or years).

However its not all doom and gloom yet. There is hope, even within a country that’s habitat is slowly being destroyed by agriculture, aquaculture and urbanization. Three years ago the species was believed to have gone extinct. However an intensive search was mounted by members of the Lepidopterists’ Society of Africa.

Despite being identified back in 1929 the species has only ever been known to occur in one single location: a small town in northern South Africa in Polokwane within the town of Haenertsberg. The wingspan is 24–27 mm for males and 28–30 mm for females. Adults are on wing from late December to early January. There is one generation per year. Lepidopterists’ Society of Africa spokesperson Naturalist Andre Coetzer stated that as yet none has been able to locate a third colony (2014).

The species has a habit of settling very frequently and for very long periods … which makes searching for the butterfly a tedious, challenging task involving long treks over rocky terrain while combing and scrutinizing the grass and undergrowth. And there’s another problem: the Wolkberg Zulu has an extremely short flight period (the ‘winged’ adult part of its life cycle) – just three weeks in December and early January that also happens to fall right in the middle of the rainy season. All of this easily explains why no one has found another colony of this elusive and endangered butterfly in the last 80 years. Until now… Please read more here to learn more on the butterfly. For fuether information please contact the organisation directly – click here

A typical liquid diet consists of nectar from flowers but also eat tree sap, dung, pollen, or rotting fruit. They are attracted to sodium found in salt and sweat too.

The word Lepidoptera is derived from the Latin words “lepido” meaning scale, and “ptera” meaning wings. Lepidoptera literally means scale wings, referring to the minute scale-like structures on the wings of both butterflies and moths. We are unsure as to how many Wolkberg Zulu Butterflies actually live within the two colonies, there could be anything from 100-200 (random guess). Which is why we please ask all our readers to make a donation to the Lepidopterists Society of Africa to secure more projects.

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Image: Wolkberg Zulu butterfly

For now we remain skeptical and whether there will be more colonies located. We are praying for more colonies to be located. The Department of Environmental Affairs must do more to protect their lands from invasive botanical species to ensure future survival of all flora and fauna. Not forgetting establishing a funding program, protected and manned area to secure their South Africa’s critically endangered butterfly. Failing this we’ll lose South Africa’s most rarest butterfly known to humankind.

Threats 

The only known threat to be placing the species in direct danger are that of alien botanical species. Habitat destruction is not known to be problematic within the region although agriculture and human disturbance could very well become a problem. For more information on alien invasive species please see click here for further information.

Unfortunately folks we do not have a video to show of this amazing video but hope one is made available soon. Video footage of this amazing yet so very rare butterfly would be wonderful to view. Please don’t forget to check out the links above and, donate if you can to the group Lepidopterists’ Society of Africa.

Thank you for reading.

Dr Jose C. Depre.

Chief Environmental and Botanical Scientist.  

 

 

 

 


Endangered Species Friday: Anas melleri.

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Endangered Species Friday: Anas melleri

This Fridays Endangered Species watch Post (ESP) focuses on a very undocumented bird known scientifically as Anas melleri and commonly known as the Meller’s Duck.

The Meller’s Duck was identified back in 1865 by lawyer and Doctor Philip Lutley Sclater FRS FRGS FZS FLS (4 November 1829 – 27 June 1913) was an English lawyer and zoologist. In zoology, he was an expert ornithologist, and identified the main zoogeographic regions of the world. He was Secretary of the Zoological Society of London for 42 years, from 1860–1902.

Listed as endangered, populations are on the decline quite extensively throughout the birds entire range. A. melleri qualified for (endangered status) back in 2012. Endemic to Madagascar the species can be located on the eastern and northern high plateau. Populations are isolated on massifs on the western edges of the plateau. Documented reports from the west of the island most probably refer to vagrant or most likely wandering birds.

Its been alleged that at some time from 2012 re-introduced populations on the island of Mauritius are now extinct – however there remains no hard hitting evidence to back this claim up, conservationists have stated that a ‘probable extinction’ occurred on the island.

The Meller’s Duck was once described as common on the Africans island of Madagascar, unfortunately there is no evidence to back this claim up either. Conservationists that visit the island regularly from International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa and have documented on the Meller’s Duck previously have been informed by locals that the species is rarely seen, however huntsmen will peddle the meat of ducks into local villages.

International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa stated the species had been documented by explorers as ‘densely populated’ on the island from the 1500’s to 1800’s. Sadly since human colonization increased on the island after the French protectorate from the mid 1800’s human population growth on the island has attributed to current decline of the species. Over the last twenty years human population has skyrocketed significantly which unfortunately has led to vast swathes of habitat destroyed and illegal poaching to occur.

“All birds seem to be within a single subpopulation which is probably continuing to decline rapidly. Extinctions are likely to occur in under a few years, five years max”…

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Conservation teams like the local communities have confirmed that the species is sadly no longer common ‘anywhere’ other than forested areas of the northwest and in the wetlands around Lake Alaotra where there are some breeding pairs, but where many non-breeders collect, with up to 500 birds present. All birds seem to be within a single subpopulation which is probably continuing to decline rapidly. Extinctions are likely to occur in under a few years, five years max!.

Population sizes are incredibly depressed. We now know the species numbers at 2,000 to 5,000 individuals which equates to exactly 1,300 to 3,300 mature individuals. Should pet collection, poaching, habitat destruction Etc continue at the rate it is extinctions will as explained occur in roughly (730 days). That’s how serious the problem is.

Conservation projects are underway of which the IARF have contributed funding towards the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. The species occurs in at least seven protected areas, and is known from 14 Important Bird Areas (78% of eastern Malagasy wetland IBAs) (ZICOMA 1999). No regular breeding sites are known. In 2007, there was a drive to increase the number of institutions that keep the species in captivity, and as such the bird is a nationally protected species.

Conservation actions planned: Protect remaining areas of least-modified wetlands at Lake Alaotra. Conduct wide-scale status surveys of eastern wetlands. Study its ecology to identify all causes of its decline and promote development of captive breeding programmes.

(Please note all new monetary and equipment grants provided by IARFA from August of last year to present has yet to be updated into the main transparency register onsite)

Meller’s duck breeds apparently during most of the year except May–June on Madagascar, dependent on local conditions; the Mauritian population has been recorded to breed in October and November (however as explained is likely to now be extinct). Unlike most of their closer relatives—with the exception of the African black duck—they are fiercely territorial during the breeding season; furthermore, pairs remain mated until the young are.

Threats

A. melleri is still classed as the largest species of wildfowl found in Madagascar and is widely hunted and trapped for subsistence (and for sport). Interviews with hunters at Lake Alaotra suggest c.450 individuals are taken each year, constituting 18% of the global population.

Long term deforestation of the central plateau, conversion of marshes to rice-paddies and degradation of water quality in rivers and streams, as a result of deforestation and soil erosion, have probably contributed to its decline too. Widespread exotic carnivorous fishes, notably Micropterus salmoides (although this may now be extinct) and Channa spp., may threaten young and cause desertion of otherwise suitable habitat.

Its decline on Mauritius has been attributed to hunting, pollution and introduced rats and mongooses as well as possible displacement by introduced Common Mallard Anas platyrhynchos. Pairs are very territorial and susceptible to human disturbance.

Extinction is likely to occur of which continued protective captivity projects must increase for the birds future survival and re-introduction elsewhere.

The video below depicts a Meller’s Duck captivity project in Germany.

Thank you for reading. 

Dr Jose C. Depre 

info@international-animalrescue-foundation.org.uk 

http://www.speakupforthevoiceless.org 

Please donate to SAYNOTODOGMEAT.NET < Click the link – contact@saynotodogmeat.info 


Endangered Species Monday: Apalis flavigularis

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Endangered Species Monday: Apalis flavigularis

This Monday’s endangered species article I focus again (with a very frustrated mind) on yet another threatened species of bird which is, one of my favorites. Scientifically named as the Apalis flavigularis the species is listed as endangered. Commonly identified as the Yellow-throated Apalis the bird was primarily discovered back in 1893 by Captain George Ernest Shelley (15 May 1840 – 29 November 1910). Captain George Ernest Shelley was an English geologist and ornithologist. He was a nephew of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Captain Shelley was educated at the Lycée de Versailles and served a few years in the Grenadier Guards.
His books included A Monograph of the Cinnyridae, or Family of Sun Birds, A Handbook to the Birds of Egypt (1872) and The Birds of Africa (5 volumes, 1896 – 1912).

Endemic to Malawi a landlocked country in southeastern Africa, is defined by its topography of highlands split by the Great Rift Valley and enormous Lake Malawi. Bordering Mozambique, Zimbabwe and, Zambia. Populations are decreasing quite rampantly throughout the birds range.

A. flavigularis is restricted within its range to the following mountainous regions Mt Mulanje, Mt Zomba, Mt Malosa in south east Malawi. From 1983 the species was once considered common within its habitat however has since declined to depressing levels. Some reports have stated that the species may-have occurred within the Mozambican region of Mount Chiperone however, there are no records to back these claims up.

Further reports suggest that the species does not occur within similar regions of Malawi or adjacent to Mozambique. Back in 2008 surveys suggested there was a mere 7,900 individuals in the cedar forest on Mt Mulanje suggesting that the species population on Mulanje may have likely exceeded to some 10,000 individuals.

In all the total population count to-date stands now at some 2,300-4,400 individuals. The species is banded within the number of  2,500-9,999 individuals. This equates to 1,667-6,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals.

Threats

The rapidly increasing human population in south-eastern Malawi, swelled by huge numbers of refugees during the last 20 years, is posing a serious threat to the survival of mid-altitude forest in the lowest parts of its range – the lower slopes of Mt Mulanje, in particular, are steadily being deforested for agriculture and timber. In 1995-1996, severe fires destroyed some indigenous forest on Mt Zomba.

Yellow-throated Apalis, Zomba Plateau, 16-May-11 (A1) L

Fires cause a proliferation of invasive plants, in particular Rubus ellipticus, on Mt Mulanje, however presence of the species was found to be positively correlated with R. ellipticus by Mzumara et al. (2011) so this may not present a significant threat. The “then” Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika granted a Japanese minerals company a concession covering the whole of Mount Mulanje to mine rare earths in 2011, and it was reported that Tuchila plateau had been clear-felled and exploratory drilling had begun in late 2011.

It is uncertain whether the subsequent change in head of state following the death of the president in April 2012 will affect the mining concession.

The new head of state President Peter Mutharika seems to have made some small changes regarding mining however nothing really major to show improvements to the natural wildlife or countries only endemic bird. Back in June 2015 the Malawian Congress Party – Law maker for Kasunga East, Madaliso Kazombo criticized mining contracts in the country for lacking transparency saying its high time locals had shares in the in the companies of foreign investors. Read more >here<

During past and to date debates the countries mining operations continue to threaten wildlife and waterholes that much of the countries large taxa depend on. Back in 2014 a uranium mine sludge discharged placed countless species of animals in danger of immediate death – not forgetting the countries most endangered bird – Apalis flavigularis.

Toxic substances flowed from the tailings pond at the Kayelekera Uranium Mine into Lake Malawi 50 kilometers (30 miles) downstream include waste uranium rock, acids, arsenic and other chemicals used in processing the uranium ore. Lake Malawi in eastern Africa is the world’s ninth largest lake, some 580 kilometers (360 miles) long, and 75 kilometers (47 miles) wide at its widest point. It extends into Malawi’s neighbors Tanzania and Mozambique.

The lake provides water for drinking and domestic use to millions of Malawians and wildlife. Part of the lake is protected as a national park, and it is inhabited by more than 850 cichlid fish species found nowhere else on Earth.
Back in 2013, Paladin Africa’s Kayelekera Mine in Karonga produced 1,066 metric tonnes of U3O8, triuranium octoxide, a compound of uranium. One of the more popular forms of yellowcake, U3O8 is converted to uranium hexafluoride to make enriched uranium for use in nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons.

A statement issued by the Natural Resources Justice Network (NRJN), a coalition of 33 civil society organizations active in the extractive industry sector – mining, oil and gas, expressed grave concerns about a recommendation by the National Water Development and Management Technical Committee in the Ministry of Agriculture that the minister issue a discharge permit to Paladin Africa.

Conservation actions under way include: All remaining indigenous forest within the species’s range is legally protected within Forest Reserves, but this no longer confers much protection.

Conservation actions proposed: Examine its taxonomic status in more detail. Initiate a campaign in Malawi to promote public awareness and support for forest conservation. Strengthen protection of remaining forest habitat. Conduct surveys to assess its population size and distribution. Establish a programme to monitor its population and habitat on a regular basis.

Thank you for taking to the time to read and, please share.

 

Dr Jose C. Depre. 

Environmental and Botanical Scientist. 

 

 

 

 


Endangered Species Friday: Dyscophus antongilii

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Endangered Species Friday: Dyscophus antongilii

This Friday’s endangered species article I focus on yet another Africans frog that is listing near endangerment. In fact this frog species is so threatened should conservation actions not improve we’re likely to see extinctions occur within the next decade. (Please note: the image above depicts the frog in threatened state –  colors do differ)

Commonly known as the Tomato frog the species is one of three within the genus Dysophus. Scientifically identified as Dyscophus antongilii this particular genus is the only genus known to be at threatened status while the other two sub species are in fact listed as least concern.

Identified back in 1877 by Explorer Alfred Grandidier (20 December 1836 – 13 September 1921). Explorer Grandidier was a French naturalist and explorer. From a very wealthy family, at the age of 20, he and his brother, Ernest Grandidier (1833–1912), undertook a voyage around the world. At first they were led by the astronomer and physicist Pierre Jules César Janssen (1824–1907), but when Janssen fell sick and had to return to France after about six months, the brothers continued the journey.

They visited South America in 1858 and 1859 and in particular the Andes, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil. During this voyage they gathered a significant collection of specimens which were analyzed, in 1860, by Ernest.

Conservation actions did improve the species back in the late 1990’s of which the D. antongilii was then listed as vulnerable. Since this time though conservation actions have improved to some degree leading to the species to then be re-listed back in 2002 as (near threatened). Unfortunately due to this particular genus being only native to the Africans island of Madagascar where habitat fragmentation, destruction, urbanization, species/human displacement, slash and burn operations are increasing only reduces frog habitat furthermore. Main causes of declines though are trade and pollution of water bodies.

D. antongilii is known to be abundant, however populations of this particular genus are currently unknown on the island. Locals have stated D. antongilii is most commonly seen within the Maroansetra region on the island of Madagascar. Unfortunately when environmentalists undertook surveys and census counts within the area with regards to the locals knowledge of the species, it was found that populations are actually declining quite rapidly. One such problem that has been noted by International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa was the increasing tropical pet trade.

International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa and International Animal Rescue Foundation England located a broad range of pet suppliers within England and America. Despite D. antongilii classified as “near threatened” and in overall decline one can purchase this exact genus within the United States for as little as $29.99. Meanwhile within the counties of Manchester, Nottingham, London, Kent and Wales pet suppliers were trading for around £30.99.

On researching a pet supplier within the United States not only did we locate evidence of D. antongili on sale, other species of threatened and “endangered” animals were also on sale. A search of their Facebook social media page also aroused suspicions of which they have since closed down. Pet Solutions, Beavercreek based in Ohio can be located here: http://www.petsolutions.com/C/Live-Frogs/I/Tomato-Frog.aspx meanwhile their Twitter account can be viewed hereto: https://twitter.com/petsolutions

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Image: Tomato frog in normal relaxed mode shows their unique tomato coloring.

The species lives in primary rain-forest, coastal forest, secondary vegetation, degraded scrub, and highly disturbed urban areas. It is a very adaptable species, but possible declines in Maroansetra indicate that there might be a limit to the extent that it can persist in urbanized habitats. It appears to be localized to sandy ground near the coast, and breeds in ditches, flooded areas, swamps, and temporary and permanent still or very slowly flowing water.

Tomato frogs breed in February to March following heavy rainfall; the sounds of males calling to attract females can be heard around small water bodies in the dark Malagasy night. Following copulation, females will lay a clutch of 1,000 to 15,000 eggs on the surface of the water. Tadpoles hatch from these small black and white eggs about 36 hours later; they are only around six millimetres long and feed by filter-feeding. Tadpoles undergo metamorphosis into yellow juveniles and this stage is completed around 45 days after the eggs were laid.

Ambushing potential prey, adult tomato frogs feed on small invertebrates, such as beetles, mosquitoes, and flies. When threatened, these frogs can inflate themselves, giving the appearance of greater size.

Threats

Pollution of water-bodies is a potential threat, and in the past this species was subject to collection for international trade, although this is now largely under control and restricted. Despite trade allegedly being restricted – it seems this is not the case as International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa have located over 34 suppliers in the last week, many of which have ties back to Asia and Africa. International trade is indeed taking off again, and with a population in decline – international trade must cease immediately.

This colorful species is much in demand by herpetological hobbyists. Captive breeding, in addition to CITES listing, has effectively halted the trade in wild-caught specimens. However it must be noted that captive breeding cannot always be proven within the private industry, and scrutiny must always be used to conclude if any breeder is following the relevant procedures and laws in place.

Research into captive breeding techniques for the tomato frog has been carried out by Baltimore Zoo in the United States in an effort to boost the currently small and genetically deprived captive population that exists in that country.

A consortium of U.S. zoos that form the Madagascar Fauna Group (MFG) have established an exhibit at the Parc Zoologique Ivoloina, Madagascar in an attempt to help educate local people about this attractive member of their natural heritage. Very little is known about the tomato frog and further research into its distribution, behavior and potential threats is urgently needed before effective conservation measures can be put into place.

It is currently listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), but this move has been criticized by some authors as an ineffective strategy and one that has undermined the status of the unlisted D. guineti. Furthermore, research is needed to determine if D. antongilii is in fact a separate species or merely a variant of D. guineti.

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Thank you for reading and taking the time to educate yourself and others about this amazing reptile.

 

Dr Jose C. Depre

Chief Environmental Officer/ CEO 

Botanical and Environmental Scientist. 

 

 


Africa: Culture, Abuse & Crime. Hyena Boys.

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Abuse or Culture?

Its been a long time since I last documented on the hyena men within Nigeria. My last article was more focusing on why men feel the need to take any animal from its natural habitat, drugging the animals into submission thus in a way domesticating them. Peter Hugo was one of the very first men to document and illustrate on this rather strange and morbid behavior of both man and animals.

This Wednesdays article focuses more on whether such domestication of wild hyenas (or any animals from the wild) is considered abusive or culture and, will such a “fashion trend” spread into neighboring countries on the continent of Africa? Yes, you did just read that correctly – hyenas are seen by some people (mainly men) within Nigeria as a fashion statement over dogs. Yet the hyena is more closely related to cats and not dogs.

Brief hyena history:

Hyenas or hyaenas (from Greek ὕαινα hýaina) are the animals of the family Hyaenidae /haɪˈɛnɨdiː/ of the feliform suborder of the Carnivora. With only four extant species, it is the fifth-smallest biological family in the Carnivora, and one of the smallest in the class Mammalia. Despite their low diversity, hyenas are unique and vital components of most African ecosystems.

Within Western African tradition hyenas have been known to mingle and interact with humans. The spotted hyena was considered a “bad Muslim” who challenge the local animism that exists among the Beng in Côte d’Ivoire. In East Africa, Tabwa mythology portrays the spotted hyena as a solar animal that first brought the sun to warm the cold earth, while West African folklore generally shows the hyena as symbolizing immorality, dirty habits, the reversal of normal activities, and other negative traits. In Tanzania, there is a belief that witches use spotted hyenas as mounts.

In the Mtwara Region of Tanzania, it is believed that a child born at night while a hyena is crying will likely grow up to be a thief. In the same area, hyena faeces are believed to enable a child to walk at an early age, thus it is not uncommon in that area to see children with hyena dung wrapped in their clothes.

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Image: Hyena and cub.

The Kaguru of Tanzania and the Kujamaat of Southern Senegal view hyenas as inedible and greedy hermaphrodites. A mythical African tribe called the Bouda is reputed to house members able to transform into hyenas. A similar myth occurs in Mansoa. These “werehyenas” are executed when discovered, but do not revert to their human form when killed. In all hyena’s are pretty much disliked among many traditional communities and are thought to bring a whole host of bad spirits and bad luck.

The hyena men and hyena man:

There are two groups of hyena men known. The first resides in Nigeria known as travelling performers while in Ethiopia there remains a “hyena man” rather than “men” named as Yusef. The Nigerian hyena men were first photographed by Peter Hugo. Nigerian hyena men are known to capture hyena’s, baboons and pythons of which are then tamed aggressively which we believe the use of powerful narcotics or veterinary tranquilizers are used to heavily subdue or sedate the animals removing their primal hunting instincts and natural behavior thus converting to human slavery.

Noted as travelling performers the hyena men are said to care for their animals while travelling the country followed by many whom shower the men with Naira (Nigerian currency). From observing reports it seems that the hyena men are really no different to the Monks of Tiger Temple in Indonesia. Drug and herbal concoctions are administered to subdue the animals before being captured and when on display to ensure the men are not injured or even killed by these aggressive carnivores. Peter Hugo also described how the men bathe in an unknown medical concoction of herbs as well as drinking medicinal concoctions in the belief that this will protect the men from harm when hunting and capturing the animals for later human domestication.

On hunting the hyena down with dogs the men are then said to blow a white tranquilizing powder into the face of the hyena in the hope to subdue it once the beast has been coaxed out its den. Once the hyena is subdued the men are then said to cage the animal before bringing the animal back to the local village community. Mr Hugo described that when the hyena’s are captured the hyena men then rub a unknown medicine onto the body of the hyena that is said to make the animal completely obedient.

Environmental News and Media are not quite sure as to what the medicine is or even if any such “medical rub” is administered that has any form of active properties to help subdue the animals.  Its quite possible the “white powder” that is blown into the face of the animal could be “Diazepam” which would explain why the animal is then quickly subdued and for long periods of time. We don’t believe that any such skin rub that is administered to the animal would then make the animal[s] completely obedient. For such a large predatory animal to be subdued completely one would require a significantly large dose of analgesia, opiates or a stronger barbiturate to fully contain and subdue the animal. That would then be considered as abuse and something which is a violation under the Nigerian Animal Welfare Law.

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Image: Hyena boys with muzzled Hyena.

Once the hyena is under the complete control of its handlers the handler will then teach the animal performing tricks and, how to live with its captive abductors (see video below). We do find this again quite baffling to take on board as hyena’s are natural born killers, very predatory and, on viewing the imagery taken by Peter Hugo it clearly shows multiple hyenas heavily chained and muzzled. So in all fairness while some people have been led to believe this is all OK its quite possible that these stunning animals are being fed a heavy dose of tranquilizers and/or depressive human or animal related relaxation medications.

Due to Nigeria’s rampant poverty the handlers were/are “allegedly forced” to parade their captive animals through the local community streets of which any raised money is said to be used to fend and care for the animals well being. In reality any money that is raised or stolen is used to feed their alleged narcotic habit and crime.

Baboons will perform a variety of tricks of which money is handed over to either animal or animals handler. Unfortunately the main earners are hyenas. Another concern raised was that many abducted animals are sold onto zoological gardens within the country that’s seen as another money maker. Peter Hugo quoted “The hyena men of Nigeria do more than simply put on a street show but they provide medicine to the public and more importantly stimulate the economy of whatever area they are in as well as act as a cultural product from the area”.

Meanwhile on the outskirts of Harar, Ethiopia another hyena man is said to exist known as Yusef. Yusef does not make money from animal performances but more admires their attention – despite these animals belonging to the wild and can at times be very unpredictable. Every night Yusef will feed the visiting hyenas with mule and camel meat. In a way these species of hyena seem to tolerate Yusef and also enjoy his company of which Yusef treats them like domesticated dogs. Many people in Harar are said to actually worship the hyena and treat them with the utmost respect which could explain why they’re not kept as performing animals but left to live how they should within their natural habitat.

Crime and exploitation:

Moving back to the Nigerian hyena men local press and media that picked the story up few years back were quoted as stating “that these men were bank robbers, bodyguards, drug dealers and debt collectors”. Between March 7th and 15th 2015 a local man named as Mr Mohammed Nafiu aged 27 who has been “suspected” of being part of the hyena men group was arrested and charged after using baboons and pythons to rob people within the country.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges. However, the prosecutor, ASP Eranus Nnamonu insisted that the accused committed the offences on March 7 and 17 when he terrorised the residents of Ogba and Ijaiye in Lagos.
He said Mr. Nafiu, armed with a fully grown baboon and a venomous snake, also terrified a crowd waiting to board a bus at Ogba Bus Stop. Mr. Nnamonu said the accused isolated a witness, Joshua Odogwu, and thereafter obtained N57, 000 from him.

“The obviously terrified victim dropped all he had in his bag along with N57, 000 cash, which the accused collected,” he said. In addition, he said the accused had on March 17 visited the shop of a man, Henry Ugwuokoh, and forcefully obtained N230, 000. The offences, Mr. Nnamonu noted, contravened Sections 166, 294, 295 and 409 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011. In her ruling, the Magistrate, Abimbola Komolafe, granted the accused bail in the sum of N100, 000 with two sureties in like sum and adjourned the case to June 18 2015 for trial to be held tomorrow.

Recently back in 2014 a local documentary-maker Tarryn Crossman won the award for Best Documentary Short for Hyena Boys at the California International Shorts Festival. Despite much criticism and debate from Carte Blanche, 50/50 and environmental and animal welfare groups the “award winning short film” was aired. Since Peter Hugo’s capture on the hyena men now known as the hyena boys, countless film, documentary producers and organisations have visited the group of men headed by Baba Mohammed that is in our eyes creating the wrong image and sending the wrong message to many people that abducting a wild animal to generate money from street performances is OK?

As explained its not just hyena’s that are taken from the wild and held in solitary confinement. Baboons, reptiles, snakes and small monkeys are also removed illegally from the wild. Furthermore the animals are also sold on to individuals within the communities as “pets” or as seen in the image below killed for meat to feed the locals.

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Image: Hyena meat carcass and Hyena boy with muzzled hyena.

Yahaya one of the Nigerian, Lagos “hyena men” was quoted as saying “Any animal that people want, we can get for them,’ said Yahaya, who claims that they have supplied hyenas, pythons and other animals to zoos in Nigeria, Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Benin. ‘A mature hyena is sold for one hundred and fifty thousand naira, but a cub is more expensive at two hundred and fifty thousand naira. This is because a cub can be trained. An adult baboon goes for fifteen thousand naira, a young one for eight thousand. A python goes for eight to ten, depending on the size.’”

What has turned in to a street performing activity to make money to “allegedly” feed the impoverished has clearly been heavily exploited too. Capturing these stunning animals from the wild to perform or to sell on as meat or pets is wrong and any film production team that honestly believes this is totally OK are foolish and supportive of animal captivity, abuse and, exploitation.

The entertainers have also been accused by the Nigerian police of using the animals to threaten or intimidate members of the public into parting with money or possessions. In June 2004 a report in Lagos newspaper This Day claimed that an armed ‘gang who used a hyena and a monkey to rob their victims’ had a shootout with police. The report can be read below:

June 2004: Four armed man suspected to be from the group “hyena boys” held up a bank with baboons and hyenas.

Four armed gang who used a hyena and a monkey to rob their victims in Katsina State have been arrested by the police after a gun duel in Bichi, headquarters of Bichi Local Government of Kano State. According to a statement made available to newsmen in Katsina, the robbers who were seven in number went to Kankia market in Kankia Local Government of Katsina State to display with the animals while they robbed their victims of N66,000 during their operation.

Shortly after their operation, the statement added, the robbers took to their heels and they were chased by the police down to Bichi in Kano State where they engaged the police in a gun battle which led to the death of two of the robbers. During the battle with the police, the gang let off the hyena and monkey to fight with the police during which the animals bit one of the policemen who is now lying critically ill at the Katsina General Hospital.

Two of the robbers were killed while four of them arrested on the spot. The police had however killed the two animals during the fight in Bichi. Meanwhile, two robbers have been arrested by the police in Funtua for allegedly burgling the home of the former Minister for Special Duties during the Abacha administration in the country Alhaji Wada Nas.

The hyena boys are known to deal heavily in narcotics which the film crew producer Tarryn Crossman confirmed on visiting the hyena boys back in 2014. Tarryn Crossman stated that on entering the camp they walked into a large camp populated with many people and cannabis laying everywhere. Tarryn Crossman’s own words “We thought we were going to die”.

Captive cruelty and abuse:

For years International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa has documented on animal abuse and captive cruelty however, nothing can be more cruel and abusive than this. Abducting wild animals from their natural habitat with vicious dogs, using hypnotic medications to subdue the animals and beating the animals should they not do what their masters demand. It really baffles us as to why any such film or press agency would even document on such so called traditions knowing their abuse that goes on within camp and outside of camp.

Wild animals in captivity are often anxious about being cooped up. And the stressors of social animals can sound strikingly similar to the popularity concerns of high school girls. Mark Wilson, a neuroscientist at Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Georgia’s Emory University, studies captive female rhesus macaque monkeys, housed in groups as they would live in the wild. The monkeys naturally form a hierarchy with some females dominating others, and subordinates enduring harassment and a general lack of control.

Furthermore and even more worrying is the sheer fact the hyena boys have not tamed wild caught adult hyenas at all. The only thing stopping these dangerous carnivores from ripping their owners to shreds are illicit “unknown” medications that help to subdue the animal and take its inhibitions away therefore doing everything the owner or owners bark at the hyena or other animals. I

have included two images for you to clearly evaluate from research. One depicts an non-muzzled adult hyena and a Tiger from the repulsive Tiger Temple. Both hyenas and tigers are dangerous animals of which their natural instincts are to hunt and be predatory. I have searched in vain for as many images as possible depicting non-muzzled hyenas from the hyena boys camp however, to no avail.

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Image (1) and (2) Drug induced state – Subdued Hyena and Tiger. 

As one can quite clearly see both tiger and hyena are being man-handled. Neither animals would if not drugged take this abusive treatment for very long before lashing out and seriously harming the owner[s]. Which has led us to believe since Peter Hugo first documented on the hyena boys, the hyenas are clearly drugged with either cannabis that was witnessed at the camp in 2014 by film producer Terryn Crossman or heroin. Furthermore individuals from the Australian organisation known as (Cee4life) have been quoted as witnessing cannabis being fed into Tiger food and possibly Sativex, a liquid cannabis tincture.

Further research and accounts from the hyena men have generally stated that hyenas make very good pets and as they are related to dogs they’d be the ideal candidate for home security. Furthermore my research conducted last year of which I located a earlier video of the hyena men stating “hyenas are the new black mans dogs, pit bulls are for sissies”. So, lets debunk this. Firstly hyenas are nowhere near related to dogs. Hyenas are actually more related to cats. Keeping hyenas as pets is considered the “new image” within Nigeria however, do hyenas actually make good pets?

Although a few people in Africa and Asia find very young hyenas in nature and raise them as pets, these animals generally appear to be extremely unhappy as “domestic companions” as adults, and must often be kept muzzled at all times so that they do not harm people or property One only has to view the videos above that clearly illustrates their unhappiness at being chained and muzzled. A muzzle prevents the hyenas from being able to groom itself properly.

As spotted hyenas need several years of practice to become proficient hunters, and as they are deprived of this practice when reared as pets, it is effectively a death sentence for a captive-reared hyenas to be released into the wild. In addition, pet hyenas cannot be released for fear that they might transfer new pathogens from captive environments into the wild. Upon reaching adulthood, many “pet” hyenas must therefore be euthanized.

Concluding:

I have researched many so called traditions and cultures over the years involving humans and wild animals removed from their natural habitat to be used in street or circus performances or domesticated as pets. Never within my entire career have I yet to locate any real evidence that indicates large predators, monkeys or apes are suited to domestication or take to being used as performing animals. Large predators, monkeys and apes belong in the wild and not within a human controlled environment. It is therefore in my own expert opinion the Nigerian Government must act to firstly ban such cultures and remove these animals either placing them into a more suited human controlled reserve or, unfortunately euthanizing them immediately. We as humans do not have the rights to wander into any animals natural habitat to abduct and then exploit for monetary greed. We are playing with fire here and opening Pandora’s box furthermore to virus’s jumping from animal to human. 75% of all known virus actually derive from animals.

Thank you for reading.

Dr Jose C. Depre

Environmental and Botanical Scientist.

International Animal Rescue Foundation (Africa, Europe, Canada, America, Asia, South America).  


Endangered Species Friday: Anas bernieri.

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Endangered Species Friday – Anas bernieri

This Friday’s endangered species article I focus on my eighteenth “Madagascan” species of wildlife since establishing International Animal Rescue Foundation’s Endangered Species Watch Post one and half years ago. I very much doubt too that this will by mine or the teams last such species of Madagascan native animal to print on nearing extinction, simply because the island is rapidly being overcome by humans, habitat destruction and poaching.

Endemic only to the Africans island of Madagascar the the A. bernieri as the species is scientifically known was primarily identified back in 1860 by Dr Karel Johan Gustav Hartlaub (8 November 1814 – 29 November 1900) was a German physician and ornithologist.

Dr Hartlaub was born in Bremen, and studied at Bonn and Berlin before graduating in medicine at Göttingen. In 1840, he began to study and collect exotic birds, which he donated to the Bremen Natural History Museum. He described some of these species for the first time. Dr Hartlaub has been described by many leading ornithologists as an expert in bird wildlife and conservation and, has been ranked as one of few such experts that has identified over hundreds species of birds globally.

Listed as (endangered) the species is commonly known as the Bernier’s Teal or just Madagascar Teal. The species is uncommonly viewed within western Madagascar of which it can be found along the western coast and, north east. Bernier’s Teal is known to breed at the Menabe and Melaky on the central west coast, and at Ankazomborona on the far north-west coast. Between July and August (1993) the species was observed at Antsalova and Morondava of which a census recorded a total of some 200-300 mature individuals. Back in 1998 a small flock was observed in Tambohorano totaling some 60-70 mature individuals.

Furthermore in 1998 a new a new breeding colony numbering some 200-300 mature individuals was recorded in Ankazomborona. Meanwhile the population noted at Baie de la Mahajamba was estimated to be between some 100-200 mature individuals. (Please note that due to lack of census counts and close monitoring these population numbers above may differ from any future or now census counts) however the Durrel Wildlife Conservation Trust is helping to preserve one of the worlds most incredibly rare birds.

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The total mean population count of which could be lower than the last census undertaken back in 2007 stands at a pathetic and measly 1,200 to 1,700 mature individuals today. However due to mass deforestation, pollution, habitat fragmentation and destruction and, poaching, Etc, its quite possible populations of the A. bernieri have plummeted way below the last 2002 and 2007 census count.

The Madagascar Teal is of the Anas genus and is a dabbling duck. Huge areas of wetlands are being drained or altered for human activities such as farmland, rice paddies and prawn ponds. Their wooded habitat is also being destroyed for timber which effects their breeding. Due to the increase of humans in their area, hunting has also increased for so called sport and meat.

Threats

Listed on (Cites) Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species Wild Flora and Fauna the species is listed on Appendix II of which is threatened by a large number of mostly human threats. The species is now extremely threatened throughout its breeding range, by extensive habitat loss and disturbance. The distribution of known sites suggests that the single subpopulation is being fragmented as areas of habitat become unsuitable.

The species has limited dispersal capabilities and isolation may result in the loss of genetic diversity. Furthermore it is threatened by virtue of being highly specific to a series of habitats – which are themselves threatened – throughout its annual cycle. Conversion of shallow, muddy water-bodies to rice cultivation has been so widespread on the west coast that in the non-breeding season the species now appears to be confined to the few suitable wetlands that are too saline for rice-growing, i.e. some inland lakes and coastal areas such as mudflats.

In 2004, during a dry-season survey in Menabe, this species was only found in saline wetlands. Pressures on coastal wetlands are exacerbated by the movement of people from the High Plateau to coastal regions, which is driven by the over-exhaustion of land. Mangroves are under increasing pressure from prawn-pond construction and timber extraction, which also leads to massively increased hunting. Subsistence hunting during the nesting season and the trapping of molting birds are major threats too. It is considered a delicacy by hunters and was found in markets in Sofia in 2011.

See more here on the video above. http://harteman.nl/pages/anasbernieri

In contrast, the breeding site at Ankazomborona is not threatened by aquaculture and there is little pressure from subsistence hunters, though there is some pressure from “sport hunters”. Breeding birds may suffer disturbance from human activity, such as the collection of crabs. The species is potentially in competition for the use of suitable nest-holes with the Comb Duck Sarkidiornis melanotos, parrots Coracopsis species and nocturnal lemurs, Lepilemur species and Cheirogaleus species, though lemurs are absent in mangroves. Breeding is from December to March. Diet consists of mainly insects.

In all its very likely that we will lose the Madagascan Teal within the wild in next to three to five years unless conservation efforts drastically and rapidly improve and, the Madagascar Ministry of Environment and Forests tackles poaching, habitat fragmentation, destruction and human interference sooner rather than later. I personally believe from my last visit to Madagascar back in 2013 its very unlikely the M. Teal or any other species listed as critically endangered will continue to thrive for years to come. Catastrophic habitat destruction on the island is threatening hundreds of over a hundred species of medium and large mammalians.

How can I help? The “Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust” are currently undertaking amazing captive breeding programs of the Madagascan Teal that is known to be one of the worlds most rarest birds. You can help by supporting the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and making a donation to their organisation that will help increase captive breeding colonies for later release back into the wild. Even if the species cannot be released back onto the island of Madagascar (should extinctions occur), reintroduction programs elsewhere will continue to keep this species alive for future generations to come. You never know the species may be coming to a home somewhere near you soon. Please donate and contact the D.W.C.T <here for further information.

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Thank you 

Dr Jose C. Depre 

Environmental and Botanical Scientist. 

International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa.

For further information or if you’d like to help in upcoming events this year or in the future please contact the Environmental team here today.  info@international-animalrescue-foundation.org.uk