Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

Make you Fink on Friday

China’s New Great Wall Threatens One Quarter of World’s Shorebirds

Human disregard for other species is disgusting.

The following by Richard Conniff.

Every spring, tens of thousands of plump, russet-breasted shorebirds drop down onto the wetlands of China’s Bohai Bay, ravenous after traveling 3,000 miles from Australia.

This Yellow Sea stopover point is crucial for the birds, called red knots, to rest and refuel for the second leg of their journey, which will take them another 2,000 miles up to the Arctic tundra.

Unfortunately for the red knots, the intertidal flats of Bohai Bay are rapidly disappearing, cut off from the ocean by new sea walls and filled in with silt and rock, to create buildable land for development.  In a society now relentlessly focused on short-term profit that seems like a wonderful bargain, and the collateral loss of vast areas of shorebird habitat merely an incidental detail. As a result, China’s seawall mileage has more than tripled over the past two decades, and now covers 60 percent of the mainland coastline. This “new Great Wall” is already longer than the celebrated Great Wall of China, according to an article published Thursday in Science, and it’s just getting bigger every year—with catastrophic consequences for wildlife and people.

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Ramifications

Global decline of wildlife linked to child slavery

Children enslaved as fishing labour in the Brong Ahafo region of Ghana

New research suggests the global decline in wildlife is connected to an increase in human trafficking and child slavery.

Ecologists say the shortage of wild animals means that in many countries more labour is now needed to find food.

Children are often used to fill this need for cheap workers, especially in the fishing industry.

The decline in species is also helping the proliferation of terrorism and the destabilisation of regions.

According to a study in the journal, Science, the harvesting of wild animals from the sea and the land is worth $400bn annually and supports the livelihoods of 15% of the world’s population.

But the authors argue that the rapid depletion of species has increased the need for slave labour. Declining fisheries around the world mean boats often have to travel further in harsher conditions to find their catch.

In Asia, men from Burma, Cambodia and Thailand are increasingly sold to fishing boats where they remain at sea for many years, without pay and forced to work 18-20 hour days.

“There’s a direct link between the scarcity of wildlife, the labour demands of harvests and this dramatic increase in child slavery,” said Prof Justin Brashares from the University of California, Berkeley, who led the study.

“Many communities that rely on these wildlife resources don’t have the economic capacity to hire more labourers, so instead they look for cheap labour, and in many areas this has led to the outright purchasing of children as slaves.”

This exploitation also happens in Africa, where people who once found their food in the neighbouring forests now travel for days to find prey.

Fishers to pirates

Children are often used by hunters to extract wildlife from areas that would be too costly to harvest.

The researchers contrast the outcomes of the collapse of fisheries of the north east coast of the US and in the waters off Somalia.

The decline of fish stocks is increasing the need for slave labour to work on the boats

Source: BBCNews Read more

A Country with a Conscience

Chile rejects huge hydro-electric project in Patagonia

Environmentalists say the hydro-electric project would have devastated the region’s ecosystem

The Chilean government has rejected what would have been the biggest energy project in the country’s history.

The HidroAysen project would have seen five huge dams built on two rivers in a beautiful part of Patagonia.

“This project has many aspects that were poorly thought out,” said Energy Minister Maximo Pacheco.

Environmentalists celebrated the decision, saying the project would have had a devastating impact on the area’s ecosystem.

“These giant dams would have put at risk the wilderness, traditional culture, and local tourism economy of this remarkable region,” said Amanda Maxwell, Latin America project director at the Natural Resources’ Defence Council.

Thousands of people had protested against the HidroAysen project.

Environment Minister Pablo Badenier said HidroAysen had made insufficient provision for those who would have been displaced, and the quantification of damage to the environment and wildlife were inadequate.

The companies behind the proposal, Spain’s Endesa and Chile’s Colbun, can appeal against the decision before an environmental court.

“Without HidroAysen, the country is starting to turn its back on hydroelectricity – the only real remedy to the continuing dependence on fossil fuels,” said Daniel Fernandez, the CEO of HidroAysen.

He described the move as a lost opportunity for Aysen, one of the most remote and under-developed areas of the country.

Source: BBC News

Nature Ramble

Nature Ramble isn’t always about animals and birds, discoveries or threatened with extinction. It can also be about habitats, often these habitats are generally unknown by the majority, or are themselves under threat. Such is the case today.

One thinks of Spain, great wines, Basques and Catalonians vying for independence, failing economics and great beaches. But you rarely hear about the nature in Spain like you do about Africa or the Amazon.

Spain’s wetlands wonder is under threat for a second time in 16 years

Doñana national park, a haven filled with rare birds and wildlife, survived a toxic flood. Now tourism, an oil pipeline, demand for water and the return of mining have left it on a knife edge

Evening in Donana national park. Huelva province, Andalucia. Photograph: Alamy

The view from the visitors’ centre at the southern edge of Doñana national park is striking, to say the least. From its plate-glass windows, you gaze – over a small lake ringed with bulrushes – at a group of tamarisk bushes covered with squawking, screeching birdlife. Cattle egrets, night herons, purple herons and glossy ibis have made their homes here, while in the foreground flamingos and spoonbills wade gracefully through the shallow, reed-filled water.

This an ornithologist’s dream: 200,000 hectares of salt marsh of unrivalled importance to the birdlife of western Europe. Dozens of Britain’s most loved migratory birds, including house martins, swallows, cuckoos and warblers, find precious rest here on their annual migrations from Africa.For good measure, Doñana, a UN World Heritage Site, is home to some of Europe’s rarest birds, including the Spanish imperial eagle, while its mammalian inhabitants include the highly endangered Iberian lynx.

It is a glorious, vibrant landscape. Yet it exists on a knife-edge, a point brought home dramatically 16 years ago last week when almost two billion gallons of contaminated, highly acidic water, mixed with arsenic, cadmium and other waste metals, surged into the park from a dam that had burst its bank at Los Frailes mine 45km to the north, near the little town of Aznalcóllar. A toxic tsunami of mine tailings poured down the Guadiamar river and over its banks, leaving a thick crust of metallic crud over a vast stretch of parkland.

More than 25,000 kilos of dead fish were collected in the aftermath and nearly 2,000 adult birds, chicks, eggs and nests killed or destroyed. Even worse, the contamination persisted and many birds gave birth to deformed or dead chicks for several years.

It was Spain’s worst environmental disaster and the clean-up cost €90m (£74m). Suddenly aware of Doñana’s status as the nation’s most important natural site, Spain decided to spend a further €360m, some of it EU money, on restoring the landscape which, in the 1950s and 60s, had been drained in places to create rice and cotton fields. Some of this farmland is now being returned to its original wetland state.

It has been a costly but encouraging process. Yet the fate of Doñana still hangs in the balance thanks to the increasing pressures of modern life. An example is provided by local farms which, in a bid to provide western Europe with out-of-season fruit, have laid out endless ribbons of plastic arches in which they grow strawberries all year round. Strawberries drink a lot, however, and that has led farmers to pump up ground water – in many cases, illegally – and so lower the park’s critically important water table.

In addition, plans have been outlined to build an oil pipeline through Doñana, while other developers have announced proposals to expand local tourist resorts whose new hotels and golf courses would demand water supplies that would further erode the local table. Silt washed from nearby farms is also choking the channels that crisscross Doñana. The wetlands of Doñana are under threat of a death by drought.

However, the real body blow for conservationists has been the recent decision of the Andalucían government to reopen the Frailes mine which so very nearly destroyed Doñana in 1998. “This is Europe’s most precious bird sanctuary, both in terms of indigenous species and also as a resting place for birds that migrate between Africa and Britain and other parts of north-west Europe,” says Laurence Rose, of the RSPB. “Doñana already faces a great number of threats, but now they want to bring back the very cause of its near-undoing 16 years ago. It is extremely worrying.”

Having spent so much restoring Doñana to its past glories, it might seem strange that the local government should choose to announce that it wants mining companies to tender bids to rework Los Frailes. However, a brief examination of the state of the local economy provides an explanation. The crash of Spain’s banks five years ago hit the region catastrophically and unemployment in some parts of Andalucía is now more then 30%. Reopening the mine would provide more than 1,000 precious jobs.

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Nature Ramble

Viewpoint: Why Burma’s forests must be preserved

An early morning boat journey from base camp in search of a herd of elephants in Taung Lay

For the first time in more than 50 years, a team of wildlife film-makers has been permitted to venture deep into Burma’s barely penetrable jungles. The expedition’s insect expert, Ross Piper, explains why the country’s forests are special and, in his view, deserve protection.

Closed to outsiders for five decades, Burma, also known as Myanmar, is something of an unknown quantity, particularly in terms of its natural riches.

The country is right in the centre of the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot, one of the most biologically important regions of the planet. We know there are still large areas of good quality forest in Burma, which could be among the last real strongholds for a huge range of species.

Beyond simply supporting a dazzling variety of life, we have to remember that vast forests like these, often thousands of miles away, are crucial to every one of us, not least because they help to stabilise the climate and maintain the water cycle.

A wild Asian elephant herd was found resting in the shade of a valley in Burma

I was lucky enough to be part of a BBC Natural History Unit/Smithsonian Institution expedition to document the wildlife of this long-isolated country and shed some light on the state of its forests.

 

This expedition couldn’t have been more timely because as the country slowly opens up, its Asian neighbours and developed nations alike are scrambling to establish diplomatic relations, many of whom would ultimately like to take advantage of Burma’s natural wealth.

 

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Nature Ramble

Today, the Lake District, and a problem.

People out grow pets, fads bring on new pets, people can’t cope with the grown animals, fads disappear leaving an unwanted animals in their wake.

Often as not, this creates a problem, because you release the animal into the wild far from its natural habitat where things are different and it has to adapt, often at the expense of other animals that were part of the original scheme of things.

Abandoned terrapins stalk Lake District

Pets bought in the wake of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle craze have been let loose and now pose a threat to wildlife and children

Terrapins can grow to the size of dinner plates, and are aggressive and smelly Photograph: Graeme Robertson

The ducks at Tebay services in Cumbria have a pretty good life. A cracking view of the Pennines on one side and the Lakeland fells on the other; a lovely pond by the northbound restaurant and a diet supplemented by organic leftovers from the award-winning farm shop inside. Just don’t mention the terrapins.

A few years ago something odd befell these otherwise lucky ducks, according to Terry Bowes, director of Wetheriggs Zoo and Animal Sanctuary up the M6 at Clifton Dykes near Penrith. “I had a call from Tebay and a lady there said: ‘We’ve got a problem here. Some of our ducks only have one leg. I think they must have some sort of disease.’ I went down there to have a look, and what did we find? Three red-eared terrapins the size of dinner plates! They’d been chomping the ducks’ legs off!”

Last week Bowes caused a ripple of alarm when he warned parents in the Lake District to look out for marauding terrapins, which have been dumped in the national park’s waters after becoming too big for their owners to cope with. “If you have kids paddling in a river the turtles could easily snap off a toe or a finger. They can become quite aggressive when they have grown,” he said.

So should holidaymakers panic at the growing terrapin threat? Bowes wouldn’t go quite that far. It turns out his intervention was more a cri de coeur. He was exasperated at the routine abandonment of creatures that suffered the misfortune of becoming fashionable at the time of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle craze.

“I was just a bit fed up with the situation,” he said on Friday as he showed the Observer around his charmingly ramshackle sanctuary. “The other Monday we had 14 terrapins come in on one day – by the end of the week we had more than 20. In the last year we’ve had more than 100 from 15 different species of freshwater terrapins. I was thinking what we could do about them all and then I heard about another Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle film coming out soon and steam came out of my ears. I was thinking, ‘Oh no, this is only going to get worse.'”

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Opinion:

Before getting pets for your kids, have a good think about the future and the consequences.

Nature Ramble

This week we’re off to Nepal to see what problems they are having with wild animals.

It appears that National Parks and saving rare and endangered species creates other problems.

 

Attacks prompt Nepal to cap wildlife growth

 

Attacks by wild animals have caused lives and property to be lost

Officials in Nepal have said they will now have to put a cap on the growth of wildlife including endangered species like tigers and rhinos.

They say it is a result of significant increase in loss of human lives from attacks by wild animals.

The problem is especially acute in buffer zones between human settlements and national parks.

In recent years, Nepal has developed a successful protection programme for many endangered species.

The Bardiya National Park in the west now has more than 80 elephants, almost 10 times as many as there were in the 1990s.

In the Himalayas, the numbers of endangered species like snow leopards and red pandas have been growing as well.

And the country has nearly 24% of its land area as protected areas, including national parks, conservation areas and wildlife reserves.

With all these achievements in nature conservation, however, Nepal has also witnessed a rising number of human deaths and property losses because of wildlife.

In the last five years, more than 80 people have been killed by wild elephants while 17 of the animals died in retaliatory killings, according to forest ministry officials.

Elephant protest

Last month, local people in Chitwan, southern Nepal, staged a strike and demanded that a rogue elephant be killed after it had taken the lives of three people.

A few months ago, a leopard in western Nepal caused terror as it killed more than a dozen people within a matter of weeks.

In eastern Nepal, herds of wild elephants continue to rampage, demolishing human settlements and raiding crops.

National park boundaries are no barrier to animal movement

Meanwhile, common leopards are increasingly attacking children and livestock in the hilly region.

Further north, in the trans-Himalayan region, locals continue to complain about snow leopards preying on their livestock.

Although forest ministry officials are yet to compile the latest data on these losses, they do admit that such incidents have gone up remarkably.

“Before, we used to record about 30 human deaths because of wildlife attacks annually but in the past few years the figure appears to have risen significantly,” said Forest Ministry spokesman Krishna Acharya who, until recently, headed Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.

He added: “The time has now come for us to determine how many such wildlife species we can have in our protected areas.”

WWF’s Nepal country director, Anil Manandhar, said the problem had become quite serious.

“This is now something that could become the biggest threat and setback for Nepal’s success in wildlife conservation,” he explained.

Buffer zones

Wildlife experts say human settlements known as buffer zones around national parks have become flashpoints for human-wildlife encounters.

“The numbers of rhinos and tigers are increasing in the national park and they are moving out in search of food and space. Meanwhile, the increasing human population needs more of the natural resources available, and that competition creates conflict,” said Mr Acharya.

Most of Nepal’s national parks and protected areas are either in the Himalayan region or in the Tarai area, the southern plain land that border India.

Yet, wildlife-related loss of lives and properties are also increasingly being seen in the mid-hill region, geographically located between the Himalayas and Tarai plain land.

Rhino numbers in Chitwan National Park have shot up in recent years

Conservationists point at the growing number of attacks on children and livestock by common leopards because this region has seen huge success in community forestry.

“We have been hearing complaints from farmers that community forests have more wildlife than in some national parks and therefore they are suffering losses of lives and properties,” said Yam Bahadur Malla, country director for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Nepal.

He also suggested it was necessary to scientifically demarcate the boundaries of national parks, as some species involved in the attacks were sometimes found outside the existing boundaries.

Forest ministry officials, however, said the chances of expanding existing protected areas were very slim because Nepal had already made huge swathes of land available for nature conservation.

Mr Acharya said the details of plans to limit wildlife growth were yet to be worked out but he added that one of the ideas would be to relocate some of the wildlife species.

“We have listed nine such species that can be trans-located from where there are quite many of them to where there are very few and such species include animals involved in conflicts with humans,” he said.

Mr Acharya also hinted that Nepal will now not commit to protect more wildlife than the amount its protected areas could sustain.

“For instance, we have said we will double the number of tigers to 250. But as we cannot expand our protected areas, we will not be able to commit more than that,” he said.

“Nor can we add new conservation areas.”

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Nature Ramble

How wildlife is thriving in the Korean peninsula’s demilitarised zone

The forces that lock humans out of the DMZ have allowed other species to thrive. Could a remnant of violent conflict become the symbol of a greener, more peaceful future?

Manchurian cranes with their distinctive black and white feathers fly low over fields in Chulwon valley, just south of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Photograph: AP

DMZ

A thin green ribbon threads its way across the Korean Peninsula. Viewed from space, via composite satellite images, the winding swath clearly demarcates the political boundary between the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Its visual impact is especially strong in the west, where it separates the gray, concrete sprawl of Seoul from the brown, deforested wastes south of Kaesong. In the east, it merges with the greener landscapes of the Taebaek Mountain Range and all but disappears.

Amur leopard cat, Prionailurus bengalensis euptilurus - Image: Scientific American

From the ground, the narrow verdant band manifests as an impenetrable barrier of overgrown vegetation enclosed by layers of fences topped by menacing concertina wire and dotted with observation posts manned by heavily armed soldiers. That a place so steeped in violence still teems with life seems unimaginable. And yet, the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, is home to thousands of species that are extinct or endangered elsewhere on the peninsula. It is the last haven for many of these plants and animals and the centre of attention for those intent on preserving Korea’s rich ecological heritage.

Once known as the “land of embroidered rivers and mountains”, the Korean Peninsula has experienced almost continual conflict for over 100 years, resulting in a severely degraded natural environment. International competition for control over the peninsula’s resources left Korea in a precarious position at the start of the twentieth century. The Japanese occupation between 1905 and 1945 brought with it radically increased exploitation of mineral and other resources, resulting in massive deforestation, pollution and general environmental decline.

Since at least the 1940s, deforestation for fuel wood and clearing for agricultural land has caused significant erosion of the area’s mountains and hills and contributed to the siltation of its rivers, streams and lakes. The 1950 to 1953 war ranged across the entire peninsula, subjecting it to widespread devastation that destroyed cities, roads, forests and even mountains. And, in the 1960s and 1970s, unchecked industrialisation further undermined the peninsula’s ecological health, causing air, water, and soil pollution.

The relative health of the DMZ now stands in stark contrast to the failing ecosystems in both North and South Korea.

White Napped Crane - Image: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

Created in 1953 during tense armistice negotiations, Korea’s DMZ is at once one of the most dangerous places on earth and one of the safest. For humans, its thousands of landmines and the millions of soldiers arrayed along its edges pose an imminent threat. But the same forces that prevent humans from moving within the nearly 400 square miles of the DMZ encourage other species to thrive. Manchurian or red-crowned cranes and white-naped cranes are among the DMZ’s most famous and visible denizens. Nearly 100 species of fish, perhaps 45 types of amphibians and reptiles and over 1,000 different insect species are also supposed to exist in the protected zone.

Scientists estimate that over 1,600 types of vascular plants and more than 300 species of mushrooms, fungi and lichen are thriving in the DMZ. Mammals such as the rare Amur goral, Asiatic black bear, musk deer and spotted seal inhabit the DMZ’s land and marine ecosystems. There are even reports of tigers, believed extinct on the peninsula since before Japanese occupation, roaming the DMZ’s mountains.

Much of the biodiversity in the DMZ is speculative, extrapolated from spotty scientific studies conducted in the Civilian Control Zone (CCZ) that forms an additional protective barrier along the DMZ’s southern edge. Approximate though these studies are, the DMZ’s ecological promise is great enough to spur many people to action.

Source: The Guardian Read more

South Korea Seeks to Protect Endangered Species in Demilitarized Zone

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