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ENDANGERED SPECIES MONDAY | PHOCARCTOS HOOKERI EXTINCTION LOOMING – NATIONAL EMERGENCY.

ENDANGERED SPECIES MONDAY | PHOCARCTOS HOOKERI

This Monday’s endangered species (E.S.P.) article I’ve chosen to document on the New Zealand sea lion. Image: New Zealand Sea Lion. Credits: Tui De Roy

Listed as (endangered) the species was identified by Dr Gray back in 1866. Dr Gray John Edward Gray, FRS (12 February 1800 – 7 March 1875) was a British zoologist. He was the elder brother of zoologist Dr George Robert Gray and son of the pharmacologist and botanist Dr Samuel Frederick Gray (1766–1828).

Dr Gray was Keeper of Zoology at the British Museum in London from 1840 until Christmas 1874, before the Natural History holdings were split off to the Natural History Museum published several catalogues of the museum collections that included comprehensive discussions of animal groups as well as descriptions of new species. He improved the zoological collections to make them amongst the best in the world.

Scientifically identified as the Phocarctos hookeri the species was listed as vulnerable from 1994-2008. Unfortunately due to continued population declines the New Zealand seal is now bordering complete extinction within the wild (and things really aren’t looking good neither)  Endemic to Australia (Macquarie Is.); and New Zealand (South Is.), the species is also native to the Pacific North West.

To date there is estimated to be no fewer than 3,031 mature individuals remaining within the wild. New Zealand sea lions are one of the largest New Zealand animals. Like all otariids, they have marked sexual dimorphism; adult males are 240–350 cm long and weigh 320–450 kg and adult females are 180–200 cm long aMnd weigh 90–165 kg. At birth, pups are 70–100 cm long and weigh 7–8 kg; the natal pelage is a thick coat of dark brown hair that becomes dark gray with cream markings on the top of the head, nose, tail and at the base of the flippers.

Adult females’ coats vary from buff to creamy grey with darker pigmentation around the muzzle and the flippers. Adult males are blackish-brown with a well-developed black mane of coarse hair reaching the shoulders. New Zealand sea lions are strongly philopatric.

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Image: New Zealand Sea Lion Pup. Credits: NZ Fur Seals

Back in 2012 populations of New Zealand sea lions “were estimated to be standing at a population count of 12,000 mature individuals”. However since that count took place, from (2014) populations have ‘allegedly plummeted’ to all new levels although there doesn’t appear to be any evidence as to why the species suddenly declined – fish trawling and disease have been noted though!.

Like the Maui’s dolphin, the sea lion has come under intense scrutiny this year after research showed its numbers had halved since 1998. It has been classed as nationally critical and if its decline is not stemmed will be extinct within 23 years. A bacterial infection severely reduced breeding in 1997-98, and the species has failed to recover.

Its decline has been compounded by deaths due to squid fisheries, which trawl at a similar depth to the sea lions’ hunting grounds. Conservation groups call the population decline “a national emergency and are calling on stricter by-catch limits and a change in fishing methods”.

BACK IN 2012 THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD REPORTED THE FOLLOWING

In a country with 2800 threatened species, conservation in New Zealand is often about picking winners. The Department of Conservation’s budget and energy can extend only to active interventions for 200 of these endangered species.

Whether a species is protected depends on funding, community input, national identity and research. DoC spokesman Rory Newsam says interventions are often made because the department believes it can “get the most bang for its buck”. But animals and plants are not always invested in because they have a greater chance of survival.

The kakapo receives a relatively large chunk of funding despite being functionally extinct on the mainland. Some ecologists argue too much is spent rescuing the rare parrot, while more crucial parts of our ecosystem are left behind. But the kakapo is protected because it is a charismatic species and the public considers it integral to New Zealand’s ecological identity.

Conservationists say kakapo are a window to New Zealand’s history. They are believed to have inhabited the Earth for millions of years. To kill them off in a fraction of that time is an indictment on the way we live.

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Image: New Zealand Sea Lion. Image Credits One Newz

New Zealand sea lions are known to predate on a wide range of prey species including fish (e.g. hoki and red cod), cephalopods (e.g. New Zealand arrow squid and yellow octopus), crustaceans, seabirds and other marine mammals. Studies indicate a strong location effect on diet, with almost no overlap in prey species comparing sea lions at Otago Peninsula and Campbell Island, at the north and south extents of the species’ breeding range. New Zealand sea lions are in turn predated on by great white sharks, with 27% showing evidence of scarring from near-miss shark attacks in an opportunistic study of adult NZ sea lions at Sandy Bay, Enderby Island.

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Image: Dead New Zealand Sea Lion in Fishing Net. 

Since 2012 New Zealand conservationists, and the public community have been calling on the New Zealand government to do everything they possibly can to preserve this species. Unfortunately as you can see above fishermen are still accidentally killing the species off. As the species is protected under law and listed as endangered, the New Zealand government must take action against these perpetrators, otherwise extinction will most certainly occur.

The Maori people of New Zealand have traditionally hunted Sea Lions, presumably since first contact, as did Europeans upon their arrival much later. Commercial sealing in the early 19th century decimated the population in the Auckland Islands, but despite the depletion sealing continued until the mid-20th century when it was halted.

Commercial sealing in the early 19th century decimated the New Zealand Sea Lion population in the Auckland Islands, but despite the depletion sealing continued until the mid-20th century. The population has yet to fully recover from the period of over exploitation. At the present time, New Zealand Sea Lions have a highly restricted distribution, a small population, and nearly all of the breeding activity is concentrated in two subantarctic island groups. This restricted and small breeding population in combination makes them vulnerable to disease outbreaks, environmental change, and human activities.

The commercial Arrow Squid trawl fishery near the Auckland Islands reported their first New Zealand Sea Lion bycatch mortalities in 1978. Reported or estimated mortality between 1995 and 2007 averaged 92 animals annually (range 17-143) which was 3.7% of the estimated number of mature individuals in the Auckland Island area. Of particular concern is that most bycatch animals are females (up to 91%). New Zealand Sea Lions are also incidentally caught in other trawl fisheries around the Auckland and Campbell Islands.

Apart from direct mortality, competition and habitat modification caused by fishing activity may also be impacting New Zealand Sea Lion foraging areas. Epizootic outbreaks at the Auckland Islands in 1998, 2002, and 2003 led to more than 50%, 33%, and 21% early pup mortality respectively, and were also responsible for the deaths of some animals from other age classes during 1998.

The source of the suspected bacterial agent and cause of the outbreak and subsequent mortality for the 1998 outbreak are unknown, however the 2002 and 2003 outbreaks have been identified as being caused by Klebsiella pneumoniae.

The future of the New Zealand sea lion doesn’t look good at all. I highly suspect that we’re going to lose the species within 10-20 years (if that). More needs to be done to preserve the species habitat and its current fishing grounds as well as protecting from bacterial outbreaks. Failing this the species will be extinct within 10-20 years max. I am highly doubtful here, which is very rare for me to speak about.

Thank you for reading. 

Dr Jose C. Depre.  PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M.

Environmental, Botanical & Human Scientist. 


ENDANGERED SPECIES MONDAY | SUNDASCIURUS HIPPURUS

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ENDANGERED SPECIES MONDAY | SUNDASCIURUS HIPPURUS

This Mondays (E.S.P) post – [Endangered Species watch Post] I am documenting on the horse tailed squirrel, scientifically identified as Sundasciurus hippurus. (Image: Horse tailed squirrel. Credits: Con Foley)

Listed as [near threatened] the species was first discovered back in 1831 by French Dr Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (15 April 1772 – 19 June 1844) who was a French naturalist who established the principle of “unity of composition”. He was a colleague of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and expanded and defended Lamarck’s evolutionary theories.

Geoffroy’s scientific views had a transcendental flavor (unlike Lamarck’s materialistic views) and were similar to those of German morphologists like Lorenz Oken. He believed in the underlying unity of organismal design, and the possibility of the transmutation of species in time, amassing evidence for his claims through research in comparative anatomy, paleontology, and embryology.

Dr Geoffroy ‘allegedly’ named the squirrel ‘the horse tailed squirrel’ because the squirrels tail resembled that of a horse tail, although even I myself find that somewhat difficult to digest, as in all due honesty the tail looks more like a bushy tail, which horses don’t really host. Horses tend to have long, slender and non-bushy tails, while others do host a type of busy but lose tail. I could be wrong?!

While as yet I cannot prove this, I do believe that Dr Geoffroy may have named the squirrel after a wild dwarf Asiatic horse endemic to South East Asia – that as yet we environmentalists have as yet to discover more about, furthermore that species of horse is likely to be extinct.

Moving on and (as explained) the horse tailed squirrel has been listed as [near threatened]. From 1996-2012 the species was placed into the category of [lower risk/least concern]. Lower risk/least concern is defined as: A taxon is Least Concern when it has been evaluated against the criteria and does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable or Near Threatened. Widespread and abundant taxa are included in this category.

International Animal Rescue Foundation Asian Environmental Scientists have been studying this species (among others) and can confirm from camera traps that the mammal’s populations are still declining significantly. However to what extent we’re still unsure.

As yet there have been ‘no reported extinctions’ within anyone of the species endemic countries being: Brunei Darussalam; Indonesia (Kalimantan, Sumatera); Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak) and Thailand. Since 2012 environmental fauna scientists have tried in vain to establish a mean population count, unfortunately as yet we (the organisation) and non-related organisations cannot determine a true population count.

Back in 2004 Dr’s Han and Giman pers. comm stated that the species was common, furthermore there was no evidence to prove the species was severely fragmented, or nearing endangered. The species prefers to inhabits lowland forests, however is also located in secondary forests too. Scientists reported that within these secondary forests species populations were on the decline. 

Unlike your normal European squirrel the species can commonly be  located at ground level foraging for food ranging from nuts, fruits, seeds and insects. Interestingly the species is diurnal (again unlike the European squirrel). Diurnal means the species will be active either during the day or night. Whereas the European squirrel is normally pretty active during the daytime, then rests during the night. 

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Image: Horse tailed squirrel: Photographer unknown

While the species ‘often lives within the trees’, horse tailed squirrels will spend a majority of their time at ground level. It has been suggested that one of the reasons for low densities of this species in Malaysian tropical rain forest is competition from the great variety of other arboreal vertebrates (such as birds, and especially primates) for food, especially fruits and leaves, which are among the food items preferred by squirrels. 

There are by few very few threats actually known, however don’t take that as positive news. The species is threatened by habitat loss due to logging and agricultural conversion. I expect the first extinctions are likely to be witnessed within Malaysia (based on past and current research). Malaysian deforestation and palm oil plantations all pose a very high threat to the horse tailed squirrel as well as many other species of flora and fauna. 

Nearly 60% of Malaysia is still covered with natural rain forest, unfortunately much of Malaysia forests are devoted to cash crop plantations, particularly oil palm and rubber, with tree crops occupying 17% of Malaysia’s land area. These are ideally suited to Malaysia’s hot, wet, and humid climate.

While many of us are aware of ‘palm oil devastation’ which is probably by far the biggest threat to a wide number of animals and plants – including the horse tailed squirrel. I would also like to point out to many non-meat and dairy consumers (I.e: Vegans), that while coconut plantations are for now considerably small. These plantations are still being developed and farmed within areas that once saw pristine green forests – now nothing more than a brown churned up heap of land growing and harvesting coconuts too.

In Malaysia, coconut is the fourth important industrial crop after oil palm, rubber and paddy in terms of total planted area. It is also one of the oldest agro-based industries. As an industry, coconut contributes very little to the overall economy of Malaysia (contribution to export earnings of about 0.08% in 2006).

Recent competition with oil palm for land has also resulted in the decline of the total area under coconut cultivation: in 2001, the area was about 151,000 ha and this has gradually decreased to the acreage of 109,185 ha in 2007. Based on the estimates given under the 9th Malaysia Plan, it is anticipated that the acreage will consolidate to around 80,000 ha by 2010. However regardless of this ‘alleged decline’ most if not all coconut plantations are farmed within forests where species such as the horse tailed squirrel is inhabiting

The species is found in several protected areas, including Pasoh Forest Reserve. Environmentalists state the need for further comparative study on this species’ abundance, density and distribution and its relationship to forest structure or habitat quality, spatially and temporally, in hill dipterocarp forest of Malaysia is greatly needed.

For now the future of the horse tailed squirrel is uncertain. I’m doubtful the species will remain extant within Malaysia for much longer – with possible localized extinctions witnessed here soon. More research needs to be undertaken on the species, furthermore we also need to research just how much ‘pristine green forest is being converted for fruit, cereal crops, oils and plant milk crops’ rather than just palm oil. While I find palm oil agriculture incredibly concerning. Knowing that anyone of our vegan, vegetable and fruit crops is originating from areas where animals are being killed – is just as concerning too.

Thank you for reading. 

Dr Jose C. Depre PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M. 

Master of Environmental Botanical & Human Science.

(Environmental, Botanical & Human Scientist). 


Vegan Monday | Vegan French Dip Sandwiches | #TryVegan.

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VEGAN FRENCH DIP SANDWICHES

Vegan Lundi

Every Monday and Friday – International Animal Rescue Foundation hosts a #TRYVEGAN recipe. We scan recipes from around the globe, convert them, the pubic send recipes to us to convert, or we simply publish our own recipes or that of third parties. We’ve made a small change to our hash-tag as we believe, in a way the “#GOVEGAN” tag is demanding, so we’ve changed that to #TRYVEGAN. What’s the harm in trying? Every Monday and Friday (two days a week) going completely meat, dairy and other animal products free from your normal diet.

Furthermore we’re not in the habit of publishing trash, such as plates of plain lettuce leaves, carrots, spinage or general boring recipes from which there is no goodness whatsoever, nutrients, fiber, protein, vitamins or minerals. Vegan foods must never be boring, and all you’re doing is removing the animal products and replacing that with a non-animal product. Today we’ve a small French recipe which is actually a rather tasty dish in France known as ‘dip sandwiches’. The meat of course has been removed. Try it, you’ll be amazed at just how tasty and filling this simple, easy to make dish is. I would advise to make your own French bread, alternatively, pick out some granary, gluten free French bread from your local continental farmers market.

INGREDIENTS: 

2 tbsps olive oil (divided)
1 onions (medium, sliced into half rings)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
3 portobello caps (about 20 oz. total, cleaned and sliced into thin strips)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp liquid smoke (optional, but highly recommended)
1/4 tsp black pepper
6 inches sandwich rolls (or baguette sections, sliced open) [Please do try French bread]
horseradish mustard

RECIPE:

Coat the bottom of a large skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil and place over medium-low heat. Add onion and toss a few times to coat with oil. Allow to cook until caramelized, about 20 minutes, flipping occasionally. Add garlic and cook about 2 minutes more. Transfer onions and garlic to a plate. Coat skillet with another tablespoon of oil and raise heat to medium. Add mushroom strips. Avoid overcrowding the skillet. A little overlapping is okay, but work in multiple batches if needed (I needed two), adding a bit of oil between batches if needed. Cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook 5 minutes more on opposite sides. Return onions to skillet and add broth, soy sauce, Worchestershire sauce, thyme, liquid smoke and pepper. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Slather the insides of rolls with horseradish mustard. Use a slotted spoon to remove onions and mushrooms from skillet, pressing lightly to squeeze out any excess juice. Divide onions and mushrooms into rolls. Pour cooking liquid into a small bowl and serve with sandwiches, for dipping.

“IT REALLY IS THAT SIMPLE”

And if you want a sweet after, and think you’ve got what it takes to be a ‘French cook’ – which is pretty easy. Why not try French Vegan Gingerbread Toast Sticks. 

ENJOY AND HAVE A NICE DAY. 

Dr Jose C. Depre. 


Endangered Species Monday: Papilio homerus |Extinction Imminent.

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Endangered Species Monday: Papilio homerus

This Mondays (Endangered Species Post) E.S.P, I document again on this stunning species of swallowtail butterfly. I last documented on this amazing species of butterfly two years back, unfortunately conservation actions that were ongoing back then still don’t seem to really be improving the current status of the largest swallow tail butterfly in the Western Hemisphere. Image credited to Dr Matthew S. Lehnert.

Despite the species nearing (complete extinction) within the wild, with a possible extinction likely to occur soon, biologists and conservationists are doing all they can to improve the current status of this beautiful insect, we can only hope for the best, or that the Jamaican Government increases further protection for the species, thus earmarking funding for conservation teams on the ground to preserve our largest Western Hemisphere species of swallowtail.

Endemic to Jamaica, the species was first discovered by Professor Johan Christian Fabricius (7 January 1745 – 3 March 1808) who was a Danish zoologist, specializing in “Insecta”, which at that time included all arthropods: insects, arachnids, crustaceans and others. He was a student of Professor Carl von Linnaeus, and is considered one of the most important entomologists of the 18th century, having named nearly 10,000 species of animals, and established the basis for the modern insect classification.

Professor Johan Christian Fabricius first identified and documented on P. homerus back in 1793. The common name for this swallowtail butterfly is known as the Homerus Swallowtail, which is listed as [endangered]. Back in 1983 the species was first listed as [vulnerable]. Then from 1985-1994 the species was re-listed as [endangered]. Evidence shows from 2007 we almost lost the species, of which conservation press and media pleaded with the public for help, which did in a way increase awareness. Sadly we need more awareness on and about this butterfly.

The specie hosts a wingspan of some fifteen centimeters, the Jamaican swallowtail is said to be the second largest swallowtail of its kind on the planet, with the African swallowtail alleged to be the largest. The species can only be located within the forests of Jamaica, of which habitat loss remains the largest yet significant threat associated with this species of swallowtail butterfly, butterfly collecting is alleged to be the second largest threat. Parasitic wasps also pose a large threat to the P. homerus too.

Back in the 1930’s P. homerus was considered to be somewhat common throughout Jamaica, however, regrettably the species can now only be located within the Blue and John Crow Mountains in eastern Jamaica. Population count is [estimated to be no fewer than fifty individuals], which theoretically makes this super stunning butterfly one of the planets most threatened species of insects.

P. homerus is included on the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species wild flora and fauna (Cites), of which (all domestic and international trade of this species is strictly illegal). Collection for display and trade is illegal, and finally destruction of the swallowtail butterflies habitat is furthermore strictly ‘forbidden’.

It has been suggested that the species could/may ‘benefit from captive breeding’, more data on this subject can be located hereto http://www.troplep.org/TLR/1-2/pdf005.pdf The caterpillars feed exclusively on Hernandia jamaicensis and H. catalpifolia; both of which also are endemic to Jamaica.

The Giant is a peaceful lover of a quiet habitat and is normally found in areas that remain undisturbed and unsettled for the most part, although due to destruction of its habitat can rarely be found at some cultivated edges of the forests on the island. P. homerus primary and favorite residence is usually the wet limestone and lower montane rain forests, however, it is now isolated to only 2 known locations on the island of Jamaica. The reproduction habits are not well known but like most of its fluttering cousins, it feeds on leaves and flowers where it also breeds and lays eggs that develop on the host plants.

P. homerus future remains critical, and its quite likely that we’re going to see yet another extinction occur sometime very soon. As much as I hate to say this, I do honesty believe that a complete wild extinction may occur in no fewer than 1-2 years (if that). However I believe based on the current populations, data, and habitat destruction, that extinction will occur sooner than that. I am not aware (as explained) of any captive breeding programmes, which if such projects are not undertaken now, we’ll see the species gone for good in under a year.

Image: P. homerus caterpillar.

Papilionidae in a green tree of wild fennel

Thank you for reading, and please share this article to create more awareness relating to the Jamaican swallowtail, and lets hold our breath and pray to almighty God that somewhere out there, wherever God may be, a miracle may occur.

Dr Jose C. Depre

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Have a nice day.


What Part of Unethical Conservation Don’t You Understand? | Endangered Species Monday Special.

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ETHICAL OR UNETHICAL

Last week we wrote an article in relation to the GoEco student/tourist travel firm, and the Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm. As usual we came under some pretty heavy criticism as apparently we were yet again in the wrong. Within many of the emails that we have received, students have literally blasted us for depicting themselves holding, petting or interacting with African predator cats, many of them cubs that seem to have no mother insight, and could be re-rehabilitated into the wild to boost wild predator populations up.

Back in 2015 from January to December we rolled out yet again another mass educational and awareness campaign aimed at mainly students and overseas tourists that paid up to $1,200USD for a two week visit to the many petting farms, lodges and resorts on the African continent, that was projected onto our main Facebook platform.

I.A.R.F.A’s educational and awareness campaign (2015) saw over 200 students give up this practice (one of many articles you can read here). Furthermore Zebula Golf and Spa Club that was hosting lion petting activities withdrew the practice, and removed adds from their main website. An African zoological garden removed its advertisement for cheetah petting, thus later ending their petting experiences, and finally a painter and artist that was promoting such activities eventually stopped.

The campaign also saw a decline in profit in relation to the Ukutula Game Lodge, and customer star rating, and less students visiting from 2014-2015.  Amanzi Travel located within the United Kingdom have also allegedly withdrawn their lion petting advertisements focusing more on ethical conservation. (Amanzi Travel are still the focus of our attention though). The list goes on, and frankly we’re not going to stop until these practices are ceased immediately.

From 2014-2015 the organisation Blood Lions pounded the streets and cinemas (internationally) in relation too the petting and canned hunting industry which has seen quite a significant response from the petting and hunting fraternity too). In the wake of much controversy France has implemented an immediate ban on lion trophies being brought into the country. Now PHASA are at the throats of (Sapa, reported by Blood Lions) demanding the South African Predator Association immediately responds to the canned hunting problem that’s sparked fireworks around the globe. (See video below).

Unfortunately, despite the mass effort that we and others have placed into these projects, students, tourists, even trainee zoologists and veterinarians still thrash it out with us, believing that what they are participating in, is all good fun and doesn’t do the animal any harm whatsoever. Below are just a handful of the lame excuses that we read every week emailed to us in anger.

LAME RESPONSES FROM TOURISTS / PREDATOR PETTING

“None of these cubs were harmed and are all living a peaceful happy life”

“Your information is wrong, petting doesn’t harm the cubs, the cubs don’t have a mother, we’re helping them and their cuddly, so what!”

“Please research your information before posting my image, there is no hunting on this farm whatsoever, leave me alone”

“The image you posted of me misrepresents me, all I was doing was holding the cub for a Facebook photo avatar. I’m doing nothing wrong”.

“Lions are so cute, I can’t wait to go back again”

“They advertise release programs, and I participated in a release program within a fenced in area, none of the animals were harmed, or killed, what’s your problem?”

The above lines are just a handful of lame excuses that we read everyday from tourists, students, petting farms, and alleged predator rehabilitation sanctuaries. Furthermore no matter how much we try to explain, either in basic English or with science – the fact of the matter is this: Many students, tourists and sanctuaries fail to see the damage that they are doing, and contributing too.

Many of the students and tourists that we’ve highlighted as contributing too unethical conservation also scold us for using their images, stating that we’re misrepresenting them holding or petting a “predator cub”. So we’re going to try things a little differently. Back to basics. Below we’ve included a number of images, and under them images we’ve written a brief extract in relation to what’s wrong with each image/ real life scenario. However before we start, lets take a look at what real ethical conservation is within the “captive breeding and release industry”.

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Image: Basel Zoological Gardens

The image above was taken at Basel Zoological Gardens, and as you can see mother, father and three young cubs are happily strolling in the park on a fine late Spring day of (2015). There are no tourists, students or even the hint of petting, interaction, cuddling or manhandling on show here. Mother’s Oka and Uma gave birth to their cubs on May 28th, and June 15th (2015).

Many people may be asking, why are lions being bred and reared within a foreign non-African zoo? The answer to that is simple. Lions are listed as vulnerable (IUCN Red List population map), and while there may be many lions in countries such as South Africa where security is more tight. North and West African lions are practically extinct. Southern Africa is probably one of very few regions now on the African continent that holds more “larger populations”. Unfortunately within the past twenty years Africa has seen a staggering decrease of lion populations by over 30-50%. (See video below.) 

Zoo Basel supports the Big Life Foundation, which works in the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem in Kenya to protect the Lions. The Zoo is also a participant in the EAZA Endangered Species Breeding Programme for African Lions. This means that every-single lion you see within a zoo that’s part of the EAZA Endangered Species Breeding Programme will eventually be released into the African wild, they’ll not be kept for photography purposes, or to interact with.

For release programme’s to be successful human interference must be kept to a bare minimal. You’ll not see any petting, interaction, man-handling or public photography exploitation going on here. EAZA’s Endangered Species Breeding Programme is what we refer to as “ethical conservation within captivity”, and there is much evidence in relation to EAZA’s working projects too.

UNETHICAL CONSERVATION PRACTICES

Below are prime examples of “unethical conservation practices”. From America too the continent of Africa you’ll not see EAZA’s Endangered Species Breeding Programme allowing this type of behavior. The reasons why you’ll not see such behavior played out within anyone of EAZA’s projects is listed below for your information in plain English.

GENERAL PETTING

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Image: Sarah Haley lion petting United States

Back in 2012 Sarah Haley from Fayetteville, Arkansas, United States visited the Wild Wilderness Through Safari. Sarah’s reasons for visiting was quite simple. “I mostly went to play with the lions”. As one can see these lions are very young, and as normal there seems to be no mother or father in sight. What Sarah doesn’t realize is, the mother would have had her young ripped away from her at a young age, just so tourists and students can play petting.

Mother and cub[s] would have been left in quite an emotional state, suffering psychological trauma, and would have pined for one another. Its more or less the same behavior a new born baby and mother will play out when separation occurs. Did it make you feel good Sarah knowing that you was holding a pining mothers cub that simply wanted to behave like any normal human or animal mother?

There doesn’t appear to be any-form of breeding programme in operation at this alleged zoo either. Furthermore this cat will never be released into the wild, because all of its natural instincts have been removed by the human, and imprinted from the human onto the cub. Yet on the African continent we’ve lost over 50% of our lion populations. There doesn’t seem to be any form of hunting advertised, however we are somewhat suspicious here as to why so many cubs are being reared at this zoo, and what the so called zoo’s actual intentions are.

MISHANDLING

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Image: Unidentified male at the Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm

Every month we bring into question many safaris, big cat projects, lodges and zoos. Many of them do not participate in hunting, while others are more than “questionable in relation to their mission statement and hunting”, and what they are actually projecting into the public domain (which most of the time doesn’t support their mission statement).

Furthermore contradictions from the owners in regards to their companies mission statement are rampant among such alleged rehab and non-breeding facilities. The image above seems pretty innocent, and quite adorable to most. The image was posted onto the Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm Facebook page of which the Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm has venomously protected as innocent.

Zanchieta have even gone to great lengths in the past week basically stating that were totally wrong, and everything that we’ve located in relation to their company (above and below) is more than legitimate. An insult that we did read stated: We (Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm) know that this post by I.A.R.F. was done with good intentions, from people who, like us, love animals and fight for their rights”. We do indeed love animals hence why this article is proving wrongdoing and unethical conservation practices. I.A.R.F.A do not under any circumstances support such activities nor will we promote them either. (Please continue reading).

What the young unidentified male seems to be forgetting is that this young cub “may” have been removed from his/her mother at the prime milking age of three weeks old. PAAZAB’s Husbandry and Veterinary Guide states: The cub should also be supported under its bottom with the other hand, cubs must be supported correctly as to not injure the young developing cub. Further to this we all know that cubs aren’t exactly hygienic like their adult mothers and fathers. Regardless of how much Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm defends themselves, the images projected onto their Facebook page are clear signs of “exhibiting to profit from money”. The worst is to come.

Cubs this age want roam, explore, test their young muscles to develop coordination, and sleep for extended periods of time without interruption. They dislike being handled. While Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm states that they protect, rescue and rehabilitate, this behavior is neither protecting the cub, or (at the least) trying to rehabilitate this young cub into the Asiatic wild where the number of tigers are about 3,200 if that remaining in the wild.

Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm also hosts a number of lions identified as the (Timbavati white lions). This area of alleged predator conservation has been a great focus of concern to us, Timbavati white lions are practically extinct. There is said to be more white lions in captivity than in the wild. Meanwhile within the wild there is alleged to be no fewer than 13-20 individuals if that. So why is this predator rehab farm and rescue not helping to support white wild populations with captive breeding programmes? (See video below)

The owner of Zanchieta states via her website “I have never and never will breed or raise any BIG CAT at Zanchieta for onward selling to a third party. Our white lion pride has grown from the original male and female pair to five lions and these lions will never leave Zanchieta”. We believe this statement was written back in 2010 when the main domain and site was formed and registered.

NO THREATENED SPECIES RELEASE PROJECTS

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Image: Timbavati white lion cub 2014. 

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Image: Timbavati white lion cub (new born) 2014. 

The Zanchieta owner states: “No further natural breeding will occur as the females are on contraception programs. Our two male brown lions and our brown lioness were purchased as cubs and have never been allowed to breed. They too will never leave Zanchieta.” That statement has been on the main Zanchieta website since 2010, yet the lady is not prepared to release these lions into the wild via ethical conservation projects. Timbavati white lions are as explained (critically endangered), so this statement is very questionable.

Again where is the mother, but more importantly why is Zanchieta stating that none of her lions will be allowed to leave the farm? That’s a classical sign of unethical conservation for reasons that we do not fully understand. This lion as one can see (above) is only a few days old. Furthermore as the owner states none of the lions will be allowed to leave the farm.

If you are familiar with the sub-species of the Panthera leo krugeri, you’ll also know that their populations within the wild are dwindling. So theoretically any good “rescue and rehabilitation project” that states they’re not breeding (when they clearly are), would try to improve Panthera leo krugeri populations within the wild like EAZA’s Endangered Species Breeding Programme. So in our (expert opinion), this farm is nothing more than a breeding and captive facility. Indeed there are some release projects ongoing however as the owner states (no lions leave).

So instead students, tourists and volunteers can all help contribute to (nothing). That in our opinion is a complete waste of money, money that could be spent elsewhere on actual breeding and release projects to sustain threatened populations of predators.

ANIMAL ATTACKS

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Image: Chameleon Village Lion Park

Whenever we explain to tourists and students about the petting and interaction industry, they’ll often absorb only a certain amount of information (in most cases), which is why education needs to focus more on every aspect of this industry rather than just hunting. Many Non-Governmental Organisations, and “anti hunting groups” out there, will categorically state on locating a petting/breeding farm, that hunting is the major player regarding their find. Most of the farms, lodges and sanctuaries that we’ve located aren’t actually connected to hunting whatsoever.

So when a tourist or student hears them words I.e. hunting is not ongoing, they automatically believe that all is okay, we’ve got our wires crossed, and we’re simply trying to tar the name of a farm or lodge. International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa researchers every single piece of detail on all industries and practices that we do not support practicing unethical conservation. That includes petting, disease, hunting, abuse, exploitation, and failure to keep to promises (I.e): release programmes, or helping increase threatened species in the wild.

Meet Mr Hennie Pio from South Africa. The image above looks very innocent again, and both the visitor and lioness seem pretty much laid back. Tourists need to remember that predators are like cats and dogs, they all have deeply embedded within their genes (hunting and predator behaviors). For E.g. I once owned a Springer Spaniel rescued as a puppy.

That wee dog was domesticated like any other dog into an adult dog. A few years into life and on a long walk, my pet dog jumped the lead, and naturally went after hens and chickens killing three instantly with a single bite to the neck. Yet the dog hadn’t seen a chicken or hen before, nor had she been raised to hunt. The same applies to lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards, and jaguars Etc. Just because they’ve never hunted naturally in the wild, and had humans imprint their natural behaviors onto them, doesn’t for one single minute mean that, that animal will not attack you.

Listed below are real life captive predator attacks that left their owners or keepers, tourists and visitors with life threatening injuries or in some cases death did occurred.

WHEN CAPTIVE PREDATORS ATTACK

Jan 21, 2016 Australia: A 12 year old tiger has attacked a keeper at an Australian zoo founded by the late Steve Irwin. The incident, which took place Thursday morning at the Sunshine Coast’s Australia Zoo, left 41-year-old Che Woolcott with “significant puncture wounds” to his head and forearm, according to local media reports. He was treated at the scene before being transferred to the hospital.

Nov 29 2015 Malta: Ħal-Farrug zoo was closed by its owners after a tiger severely injures a 3 year old boy. A spokesman for the zoo said the incident happened when the two handlers were walking the “friendly” tiger, which they had raised, outside its cage since it had been slightly unwell. The tiger was lying on the floor when the incident happened. Upon seeing the animal, the boy ran towards it, prompting the tiger to raise its paws, lashing the child in the face in the process, the spokesman said.

Jun 1, 2015 Johannesburg, SA: Katherine Chappell, 29, a visual effects artist for Game of Thrones, was killed and her tour guide seriously injured in an attack by a lioness at the Lion Park near Lanseria. The two people were travelling in the car with their windows open. It’s understood a lioness jumped through the open window, biting the woman who was in the passenger seat. The driver, a tour guide, was badly injured while attempting to free the woman from the animal’s grasp. The park’s Scott Simpson said, “There was a car driving to the lion camp and the lioness came through the window and it bit the tourist. The ambulance arrived quite soon but the lady has passed away.” Three months ago an Australian tourist was bitten in the thigh while driving though the park, also with his window down.

Please view the video below which shows the worlds top ten predator on human attacks, Mr Hennie Pio is in our opinion a very lucky man, like most of the students, tourists and visitors that man-handle allegedly “friendly hand reared predators”. They’re only friendly if they want to be. When you place yourself within a predators environment your acting irresponsibly, furthermore if that animal attacks you, its very likely the animal will be shot dead.

Lastly if your lucky to walk away with minor or serious injuries its highly unlikely that your insurance will cover you, and you have very little chance of receiving compensation – because you placed yourself in that predators environment.

ZOONOTIC DISEASES

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Image: Helping Hands for Underprivileged Children

While we all like to visit animal shelters, and provide a helping hand, one will find that some animal shelters and farms in the Western Hemisphere will point out to you the notices that inform you not to pick the animals up, touch the animals, feed them and always ensure that your hands are washed should you come into contact with animals. The reasons for these “polite notices” is to ensure you do not fall ill with anyone of the known zoonotic diseases that are fatal in some cases.

The organisation identified (above) as Helping Hands for Underprivileged Children is where the image above derives from (click the link above that’ll direct you too the Facebook image). The image was picked due to myself being a parent, and because I know just how easy it is for a child to unknowingly place their hands within the mouth dozens if not hundreds of times a day. The data below we do advise you take seriously.

When zoonotic diseases pass from animals to humans, pandemics can result. When a pathogen leaps from some nonhuman animal into a person, and succeeds there in making trouble, the result is what’s known as a zoonosis.
The word zoonosis is unfamiliar to most people. But it helps clarify the biological reality behind the scary headlines about bird flu, SARS, other forms of nasty new disease, and the threat of a coming pandemic. It says something essential about the origin of HIV. It’s a word of the future, destined for heavy use in the 21st century.

About 60 percent of all human infectious diseases currently known are shared between animals and humans. Nearly all zoonotic diseases result from infection by one of six kinds of pathogen: viruses, bacteria, protozoans, prions, fungi, and worms. Toxocariasis is a mild zoonosis caused by roundworms; you can get it from your dog, cat or in this case a predator. But fortunately, like your dog, cat or predator, you can be wormed. On some farms the owners lie to the public, and there is no way of telling if these animals are treated. Should the animal not be treated as the owners have advertised – your insurance doesn’t cover this either. Your unlikely to be compensated, and you could spend anything from 2 months to 1 year+ off work, or out of action.

Fore more information on zoonotic diseases in lions click the link below. here http://cbs.umn.edu/research/labs/lionresearch/research/diseases

We have deliberately left out all mention of hunting within this article, because frankly many tourists, students and visitors that visit predator farms seem to believe that if hunting is not seen as the “major problem”, then all is as explained pretty much okay. The petting and interaction industry can at times be directly related to hunting, however there are as seen above other issues that you need to take into consideration over hunting.

If you believe an image that we have posted “misrepresents you”, then just stop and think how that individual predator cat thinks about you misrepresenting them as a cuddly “pet”. International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa supports all EAZA’s breeding projects, reputable projects that do take in predators that are unable to be released into the wild, I.e: circus, rescues, domestic rescue Etc. We are able to view the lies and contradictions within each alleged rescue, lodge, farm or sanctuary and can if required go to great lengths to prove “unethical conservation practices are being played out here”, with more than sinister motives possibly attached.

This article hasn’t been written to attack, or place blame, but more point to where problems are occurring within the predator breeding and petting industry. If your allegedly rescuing, and rehabilitating then please print and practice just that. If your not breeding and have stated all your animals are on contraceptives, then keep to that promise. If you knowingly understand ethical conservation and really do plan on helping wildlife in their endemic wild, then please practice that. Please do not mislead the public into thinking that your indeed 100% ethical – as we will find you, and highlight them problems always steering the public into the correct conservation path.

If you feel that you’ve been led astray and would like to visit and participate in ethical conservation, please click the links below.

EAZA: http://www.eaza.net/about-us/vacancies/

WORKING ABROAD: http://www.workingabroad.com/projects/south-africa-lion-volunteer

PROTRACK: http://www.protrackapu.co.za/news-blog

BIG CAT RESCUE: https://bigcatrescue.org/get-involved/volunteer/

RHINO ORPHANAGE: https://www.helpgoabroad.com/volunteer-abroad/specialist-rhino-orphanage-and-rehabilitation-centre-2306/

Thank you for reading. 

Chief Environmental Officer 

Dr Jose C. Depre. 


Endangered Species Monday: Papustyla pulcherrima | Special Report.

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Endangered Species Monday: Papustyla pulcherrima

Manus Green Tree Snail – Very first invertebrate to be listed on the Endangered Species Act of the United States of America (2015) Endangered Species Post Special Report. 

This Monday’s Endangered Species Post (ESP) I take a wee glimpse into the life of the Green Tree Snail, also commonly known by Papua New Guinea’s natives as the Manus Green Tree Snail. Image Credit: Stephen J. Richards.

Identified by Professor Rensch 1931, Rensch was born on the 21st January 1900 in Thale in Harz and died on the 4th April 1990 in Münster, (Germany), Professor Rensch was an evolutionary biologist, zoologist, ethologist, neurophysiologist and philosopher and co-founder of the synthetic theory of evolution. He was professor of Zoology and Director of the Zoological Institute at the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster. Together with his wife Mme Ilse Rensch he also worked in the field of Malacology and described several new species and subspecies of land snails.

The Manus Green Tree Snail is identified as Papustyla pulcherrima commonly known as the Emerald Green Snail. From 1983-1994 this particular species of snail was considered (extremely rare). Back in 1996 when scientists managed to again finally catch up with this stunning little mollusk, the species was then listed as (data deficient) of which to date there remains little information about this (rare) but beautiful snail.

P. pulcherrima is endemic to the Papa New Guinea northern island of Manus of which the species is listed as (near threatened), and has also been reported on the adjacent Los Negros Island. Environmental scientists have confirmed from villagers on the main Manus Island that the species is not located anywhere else. However there are some sketchy reports that the species “may be located on surrounding islands”, however there is no evidence to back these claims up.

Environmental scientists have confirmed for now that the species is located in only 12-13 areas of the Manus Island[s]. Further reports have confirmed that mature individuals are on the decline (which if not controlled could evidently see the species re-listed as vulnerable or endangered). The Manus Green Tree Snail is not believed to be living within fragmented zones. The species is restricted to forest and low intensity garden ‘type’ habitat. Declines have been noted within all 12-13 identified habitats on the Manus Island and adjacent Los Negros Islands. Population history is pretty much undocumented although has been shown to be slowly declining.

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Image: Manus Green Tree Snail.

Back in 1930 when Professor Rensch identified the Manus Green Tree Snail, locals soon began collecting the species for trade thus seeing the mollusk now nearing endangered listing. Demand for the Manus Green Tree Snail has now drastically increased threatening the species furthermore. Locals continue to collect this rather unusual colored species shell for use within the jewelry trade. There are now “very serious concerns” that trade may eventually push the species into extinction.

Due to mass trade exploitation the Manus Green Tree Snail is the very first invertebrate to be listed on the Endangered Species Act of the United States of America. International trade has been controlled by export permit since 1975 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) appendix II. Unfortunately this is not stopping locals from harvesting the species, and trade is still continuing despite it now a criminal offence under United States and some international laws.

“Overexploitation threatens the Manus Snail”

Market sales data collected from the Lorengau market, over a six day period suggest that annual sales at the market may approach 5,000 shells. Investigations by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) reveal that large quantities of shells are still being attempted to be exported out of the country. Online searches revealed the sale of the shells, often marketed as antiques, occurring in open forums and internet market places based in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States of America (USA). International Animal Rescue Foundation has ran numerous traces online of which located yet again Ebay as being a number one trading site of the “threatened species”, please view the image below and click the image link that’ll direct you to that site.

“EBAY JAPAN IS A HOTBED FOR ILLEGAL TRADE OF THE MANUS GREEN SNAIL”

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International Animal Rescue Foundation’s External Affairs Department and the Environmental Cyber Crimes Unit located many a sites trading the Manus Green Tree Snail’s shell which is illegal under some trade law, unfortunately the Ebay site listed above, located within Japan is one of many more that are trading (despite the species nearing extinction).

I.A.R.F’s Environmental Cyber Crimes Unit have since filed a complaint with Ebay, providing all the relevant data to now remove these species from their sites, however its likely to prove negative as the trader could very well state they harvested or purchased the shells before international laws were drafted. Furthermore a trace of the owner that owns this site above which is in violation of the United States and Cites laws (is located within the United States). So in regards to enforcement, breaking this link is going to be somewhat of a tough cookie. Further trade was witnessed here via what we can only believe is alleged “antiques”.

Further trade all of which is illegal has been recorded hereto – this site linked back to a Mr Rob West of 121 Henderson Road, Sheldon, Brisbane, Queensland 4157 Australia, Telephone: 610732061636. Mr West from Brisbane categorically states that he doesn’t own a shop, and is a one man band, yet clearly this link states otherwise. Further evidence revealed antique trade conducted on the Ebay site, see in the image below (illegal under United States law).

Click the image link below to view more. 

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“Illegal to trade under the Endangered Species Act of the United States of America”

The environmental wildlife crimes investigation team linked to TRAFFIC and Cites stated:

It is possible the avoidance of conventional nomenclature is an attempt to avoid detection by authorities. In some cases, sellers on internet market places were based in CITES signatory countries (including: Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Singapore and USA) while others were not (e.g. Taiwan). Currently, volumes of shells on sale in such online market places appear low, suggesting that the existing controls on international trade maybe adequate. However, given that the online prices of shells were often orders of magnitude greater than market prices on Manus Island, vigilance will be required to insure that illegal international demand does not fuel a resurgence in snail collection.

Despite the massive trade on Manus Green Tree Snails online and within open Asian markets, its literally impossible to determine if this trade will eventually lead to the species being pushed into extinction. However it MUST be noted that there are currently only 12-13 identified habitats that the snail currently inhabits. And based on traces online conducted by the I.A.R.F’s External Affairs Department – trade is most certainly “out of control”, and not as Cites has reported (2012).

The shell of this species is a vivid green color, which is unusual in snails. The green color is however not within the solid, calcium carbonate part of the shell but instead it is a very thin protein layer known as the periostracum. Under the periostracum the shell is yellow.

MAJOR THREATS

The Manus Green Tree Snail is mostly threatened by habitat destruction through forest clearance: logging, plantation development (especially rubber) and to a lesser extent road developments. Increasing human population growth and an increasing cultural demand for deriving cash incomes from the land will likely see the rate of forest degradation increase in the future. Harvest occurs when trees are felled as part of traditional shifting cultivation and the snails, typically found in the canopy, suddenly become exposed. Such harvesting is not uncommon but it is likely to be of lower significance than the longer term habitat degradation caused by such agricultural practices.

While harvest for illicit international trade is occurring, the volumes are not “allegedly” thought to be large compared to historic rates, although they may approach levels seen in the legal domestic trade. However, given that the prices of shells internationally are often orders of magnitude greater than market prices on Manus Island, vigilance will be required to insure that illegal international demand does not fuel a resurgence in snail collection.

Notable deposits of gold have been found in central Manus and a mine operation will likely result in the next decade although no details of the plan have been released (as of 2014). The forests of Manus Island were badly affected by the 1997-1998 El Niño which resulted in a prolonged drought. Should climatic change result in increased rates of similar conditions this may constitute a future threat to the snail species, however, current predictions suggest that future incidence of drought in Papua New Guinea will decrease (Australian Bureau of Metrology and CSIRO 2011).

Despite the reassurances from Cites, WCS and the local wildlife organisations – evidence clearly points to large scale online trade legal and illegal.  Furthermore there is no telling if shells online are antique or smuggled from the Manus Islands which is very concerning.

Manus Green Tree Snail is the first such snail to be listed on the threatened list of endangered species (USA). Research also explains to us that its likely the species will be plundered into extinction – very soon. Enjoy the video.

Thank you for reading, and please be most kind to share to create awareness and education. 

Dr Jose C. Depre  PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M.

Environmental & Human Science

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Sources:

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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.


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 

 


Endangered Species Monday: Vini peruviana.

LORI66

Endangered Species Monday: Vini peruviana

This Monday’s endangered species watch post (ESP) I document on a rather elusive bird that is rarely spoken about within the conservation theater or among animal rights organisations. Listed as (vulnerable) the species was formally identified by Professor Philipp Ludwig Statius Müller (April 25, 1725 – January 5, 1776) was a German zoologist. (Image V. peruviana, photographer Tara)

Statius Müller was born in Esens, and was a professor of natural science at Erlangen. Between 1773 and 1776, he published a German translation of  Professor Linnaeus’s Natursystem. The supplement in 1776 contained the first scientific classification for a number of species, including the dugong, guanaco, potto, tricolored heron, umbrella cockatoo, red-vented cockatoo, and the enigmatic hoatzin. He was also an entomologist.

Despite the birds high population size the Blue Lorikeet-scientifically named as Vini peruviana is under threat from feral cats, accidental introduction of black rats and violent storms that hit the birds native range frequently causing untold damage and catastrophic destruction to the specie habitat. Furthermore the ‘swamp harrier’ remains an all out threat to Blue Lorikeet’s range which has led to wide range species decline. Swamp Harriers predate on the Blue Parikeet mainly due to the birds color.

Endemic to the Cook Islands and French Polynesia, Blue Lorikeet population sizes are declining quite fast of which drastic conservation measures are now required to control feral cats and the accidental introduction of black rats, not forgetting measures to either reduce swamp harriers or introduce a non-endangered prey for the harrier. The last survey which I believe was undertaken sometime back in 2012 showed a ‘global population’ estimated to be at 7,200 to 9,000 individuals. Which is still quite high, however not high enough to stop the species qualifying for the classification of (endangered).

Taking into consideration range and overall total population size (at an estimate) the species falls into the ‘band’ of 2,500 to 9,000 individuals. This equates (exactly) to 1,677-6,666 ‘mature individuals’ rounded to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals. Summarizing; the exact total population size could be as low as 1,500 but no greater than 7,000 mature individuals (which is extremely concerning).

Blue Lorikeet’s have been recorded within twenty of the south-east Polynesia islands, unfortunately on seven of these islands the species has since been declared officially extinct. The species now remains sparsely distributed on some thirteen islands of which is threatened by rats, feral cats and the swamp harrier. We now know the species is situated within the Society Islands (formerly all), the northern atolls of the Tuamotu Archipelago (both French Polynesia), and Aitutaki (Cook Islands).

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Image: Blue Lorikeet –  Vini peruviana

Within the Society Islands conservation teams estimated that there were some 200-400 individual pairs on the Motu One and Manuae respectively in 1973 , however this may no longer be the case. On the Maupihaa island back in 1999 conservationists that believed the species to be extinct located breeding pairs. In Tuamotus 2006 surveys have shown the following data in relation to population sizes; Kaukura (1,000), Rangiroa (1,000), Arutua (500), Apataki (200) and Tikehau (50).

Meanwhile in Tiamanu Motu in Apataki atoll a minimum 300 individuals were estimated back in 1989 (this sub-population being allegedly smaller than 10 years previously). On Aitutaki, where it was probably introduced, numbers have been estimated at under 500 pairs, 2,400 individuals and 1,000 individuals (2006).

Following the devastation of Cyclone Pat (2010) a further census was undertaken to asses the impacts of freak weather patterns and catastrophic cyclones on the species. Distance sampling surveys on the island of Aitutaki (2011) showed a decrease in population size of exactly 1,400 individuals. That’s quite a substantial decline of individuals caused directly by a single yet destructive cyclone.

Blue Lorikeets depend on coconut palms for nesting and some of its food, and will frequent cultivated areas. They also roost in palm trees, rising at dawn and calling and preening before feeding. They are usually found in small flocks of less than ten birds. They are active birds, feeding on nectar, insects, and ground forage.

Swamp_Harrier_on_approach

Image: Swamp Harrier (Wiki) – . Circus approximans

Threats

The species’s extinction from many islands is most likely due to predation by black rat Rattus rattus and to a lesser extent, feral cats Felis catus. Blue Lorikeet’s have gone extinct from Makatea in the Tuamotus could have been accelerated by a particularly violent hurricane. Its range reduction in the Society Islands correlates with the spread of the introduced Swamp Harrier Circus approximans. The accidental introduction of black rats to the islands where Blue Loirkeet persists is a continuing threat to the species. Listed on Cites Appendix II conservation actions are under way with more projects proposed.

Thank you for reading. 

Dr Jose. C. Depre 

Botanical and Environmental Scientist. 

 

 


Endangered Species Monday: Phalacrocorax carunculatus.

jimscarfroughfacedshag2010

Endangered Species Monday: Phalacrocorax carunculatus

This Mondays (ESP) Endangered Species watch Post is dedicated to the Rough Faced Shag, scientifically known as Phalacrocorax carunculatus. Identified back in 1789 by Professor Johann Friedrich Gmelin (8 August 1748 – 1 November 1804) was a German naturalist, botanist, entomologist, herpetologist and malacologist. (Image credited: Jim Scarff 2010)

Listed as (vulnerable) the Rough Faced Shag doesn’t appear to be listed on either appendix (I) or (II). This Monday I have chosen to document on P. carunculatus as the species is incredibly rare. Thankfully conservation efforts and improvements in relation to protection of habitat have finally stabilized the birds population count. For once in many of my articles I can finally write on a bird that’s populations are not in decline. However, as explained the species is considered one of New Zealand’s rarest specimens.

Endemic to New Zealand the species derives from the family of Phalacrocoracidae. Locals commonly refer to the species by other names such as; New Zealand King Shag or King Shag. P. carunculatus qualified for the listing of vulnerable due to its very small (stable) population size where its restricted to four islands only.

From 1992 to 2002 the estimated number of birds living on all four islands stood at a mere c645 individuals (Est). A further 100-130 breeding pairs were counted too, which is equates (roughly) to 299-1000 ‘mature individuals’. Taking all individuals and breeding pairs into consideration followed up with the last census, it concluded that some 375- 1500 individuals remain on all four islands. Had drastic conservation measures not been implemented the species could have gone extinct.

Conservation practices on all four islands have been undertaken extremely well despite the fact populations are depressed. I personally applaud the New Zealand Government and Department of Environment for their efforts, and thank them for continuing future conservation and bird management projects.

King Shag Mini Colony-Banner

Image: Rough Faced Shag small colony. 

92% of the population resides on White Rocks, Sentinel Rock, Duffers Reef and Trio Islands, in the Marlborough Sounds, with two smaller colonies off D’Urville Island. Furthermore surveys on islands have confirmed that populations have remained stable over the last fifty years.

Breeding normally occurs on small rock stacks and islets, the primary diet component is said to be left eyes flatfish. However the Rough Faced Shag will also feed on other marine aquatic specimens too.

Colonies now reside within wildlife sanctuaries that are clearly signposted on the islands reminding tourists and any wannabe poachers to stay clear of Rough Faced Shag habitat. Bird watchers are also reminded to stay clear of habitat, especially when breeding occurs due to the species being very sensitive to human disturbance. I am somewhat concerned as to how a tourist has been able to edge so close the colony within the image above. This isn’t good and as such enforcement teams must remind tour operators of the (code of conduct).

Conservation actions that are now underway include a census count every five years and, monitoring of vessels that can/do cause habitat disturbance. Furthermore development of techniques to establish new colonies of Rough Faced Shags elsewhere for future survival. A code of conduct has been established to (remind commercial boats, fishing-people and tour operators) of their obligations and duties to ensure Rough Faced Shags are not pressurized by human disturbance.

Protection of all breeding grounds has most likely been sought since last documentation on the species (2012). Prevention of marine farming next to ‘any’ colonies breeding or non-breeding and responsible fishing programs have been rolled out minimize by-catch thus ensuring the birds food source requirements are not depleted or harmed in anyway.

Threats

In the 1800s, collecting by ornithologists and hunting for the fashion trade may have affected numbers. Human disturbance (boats, aircraft and scuba divers) can cause desertion of nests and subsequent predation by gulls. New interest from tour operators in the region may increase the problem. Set-nets are sometimes placed very close to colonies and present a major risk. Birds are occasionally illegally shot. Probably the largest threat now is that of tourists or fishermen disturbing breeding and non-breeding colonies. Hence why conservation measures have been put into practice to remind and keep tourists and fisherman away from all inhabitant islands.

Thank you for reading. 

Dr Jose C. Depre

Environmental and Botanical Scientist.