‘Extinct’ Taiwanese Leopard Spotted for the First Time Since Disappearing in 1983

Our world has become a very rough neighborhood in recent years, with scientists and conservationists saying that the Earth is currently undergoing the sixth mass extinction of plants and animals and species going extinct at up to 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate.

However, on rare occasions, we’re reminded that perhaps it’s not too late for everyone—perhaps the reports of an animal species’ demise were premature, even if that species remains in grave danger.

Such is the case in Taiwan, where a rare species of large cat, the Formosan clouded leopard, has been spotted in the wilderness by a number of people across the archipelago’s southeast, according to Taiwan News.

The Formosan clouded leopard hadn’t been officially sighted since 1983 and was declared extinct in 2013.

The leopard had been spotted prowling in the countryside near Taitung County’s Daren Township, where the area’s Paiwan tribal authorities had formed indigenous ranger groups to patrol the region and guard sensitive areas.

According to Taiwan News, the rangers spotted the leopard–known as Li’uljaw and holding a sacred status for locals–suddenly climbed a tree before scrambling up a cliff to hunt for goats. Another group witnessed the Asian cat dart past a scooter before quickly climbing a tree and disappearing from sight.

The significance of the find is striking for locals, who held tribal meetings in Alangyi Village to determine how best to move forward.

Tribal members of the village hope to halt hunting in the area by outsiders, while village elders are lobbying Taiwanese authorities to end logging and other activities that harm the land.

The Formosan is known to be quite agile and vigilant, eluding human attempts to trap or otherwise capture it.

National Taitung University’s Department of Life Science professor Liu Chiung-hsi told Focus Taiwan News Channel:

“I believe this animal still does exist.”

Professor Liu also noted that in past investigations of the leopard’s whereabouts, he encountered hunters from the indigenous Bunun people who admitted capturing the animal on several occasions in the late 1990s. However, they burned the bodies for fear of violating Taiwan’s Wildlife Conservation Act.

From 2001 to 2013, a team of Taiwanese and U.S. zoologists surveyed the region but failed to sight the animal once, prompting the declaration that the Formosan clouded leopard had officially gone extinct.

Historical records of the rare cat date back to around the 13th century, when indigenous people brought the leopard’s pelts to trade at the busy markets of port cities like Tainan. It is believed that Japanese anthropologist Torii Ryūzō, in 1900, was the only non-indigenous person to have actually seen a live Formosan clouded leopard.



Fin whales and mountain gorillas back from the brink of extinction thanks to conservation efforts

‘With sustained, long-term conservation action, we can not only prevent extinctions, but also achieve considerable population recoveries’

Anti-poaching efforts have helped boost mountain gorilla numbers by hundreds in recent decades

Anti-poaching efforts have helped boost mountain gorilla numbers by hundreds in recent decades ( Getty )

There is hope for the survival of fin whales and mountain gorillas after conservationists announced both species have been pulled back from the brink of extinction.

After decades of persecution by whaling vessels and poachers, modern efforts to protect these mammals appear to be working as their numbers have started to recover.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) maintains a “red list” to monitor the status of the world’s wildlife, and in its latest update both whales and gorillas have shifted one step further away from becoming new entries on the long list of species wiped out by humanity.

After a recent WWF report revealed 60 per cent of monitored animal populations had been obliterated in the space of decades, the announcement shows concerted international action can yield results.

Previously listed as endangered, fin whale numbers have roughly doubled since the 1970s when an international ban on commercial whaling was introduced. The population now stands at 100,000 mature individuals.

There has also been a marked improvement in western populations of grey whales, which are no longer considered critically endangered.

Fin whales numbers have doubled since an international ban on whaling was introduced (Aqqa Rosing-Asvid)

Dr Randall Reeves, chair of the IUCN cetacean specialist group, said it was “a relief” to finally see these populations on the rise.

“These whales are recovering largely thanks to bans on commercial hunting, international agreements and various protection measures. Conservation efforts must continue until the populations are no longer threatened,” he said.

In central Africa, anti-poaching patrols and the concerted removal of snares has helped boost mountain gorilla numbers from 680 individuals a decade ago to over 1,000 now, the highest figure ever recorded.

The IUCN has therefore reclassified the apes from critically endangered to endangered, crediting this small but significant victory to collaborative efforts that have spanned the nations where they reside.

However, they noted that despite the success of this subspecies, the eastern gorilla species to which it belongs remains critically endangered, and the future survival of these apes is still on a knife edge.

“Coordinated efforts through a regional action plan and fully implementing IUCN best practice guidelines for great ape tourism and disease prevention, which recommend limiting numbers of tourists and preventing any close contact with humans, are critical to ensuring a future for the mountain gorilla,” said Dr Liz Williamson of the IUCN primate specialist group.

However, the good news from the IUCN was tempered by reports that overfishing and illegal logging are sending species in parts of the developing world spiralling into decline.

Lack of sustainable fisheries and a boom in demand mean that 13 per cent of the world’s grouper fish are now threatened with extinction, and 9 per cent of the fish in Lake Malawi, according to the IUCN’s latest assessment.

Meanwhile illegal logging has fuelled a 15-fold increase in trade in the Vene timber tree, which the IUCN says is now endangered.

With some nations still holding out on a total whaling ban, and companies accused of fuelling the destruction of rainforests home to orangutans, tigers and rhinos, conservationists are clear that despite some successes urgent international action is needed to end the mass extinction of wildlife.


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WWF has called for a “global deal” in the mould of the Paris climate agreement to save nature, and an ongoing UN biodiversity summit in Egypt presents an opportunity for decisive action.

“The recovery of species like mountain gorilla, fin whale and Rothschild’s giraffe demonstrates once again that with sustained, long-term conservation action, we can not only prevent extinctions, but also achieve considerable population recoveries,” said Dominic Jermey, director general of the Zoological Society of London.

“As the world’s governments convene in Egypt to continue discussions around forging a new and ambitious strategic plan for biodiversity, we hope that these examples will embolden countries to make strong commitments that will put the world’s wildlife on a path to recovery.”

Upstate NY man faces 3 charges after shooting a bald eagle over deer carcasses


A mature bald eagle up close and personal on the western shore of Owasco Lake.
A mature bald eagle up close and personal on the western shore of Owasco Lake. (Paul Pflanz)

A Tompkins County man has been charged with three violations of state Environmental Conservation Law after he shot an adult bald eagle Saturday, using deer carcasses as bait.

The DEC said Donald N. Mix, of Caroline, N.Y. shot the protected bird in the Town of Caroline. Bald eagles are listed as a “threatened species” in New York.

According to the DEC, Environmental Conservation Officer Ozzie Eisenberg responded to a complaint Saturday from a town resident who “who heard a shot and then spotted a large bird round in a nearby field.”

The conservation officer found a dead adult bald eagle at the scene, and “a subsequent interview with a neighbor revealed that the man had placed deer carcasses in the field to shoot coyotes and turkey vultures, another protected species.” It is legal to shoot coyotes over bait. Read more about hunting coyotes.

According to the complainant, the neighbor found the eagle “still breathing slowly,” and was with the bird as it died while she awaited the DEC officer’s arrival.

The DEC said Mix “thought the bird was a turkey vulture and was unaware that he had killed a threatened bald eagle.”

The man is due to return to Town of Caroline Court on Jan. 22.

According to the DEC, Mix faces the following charges and penalties: 

Illegal taking of protected wildlife ECL 11-0107 (1) – “No person shall, at any time of the year, pursue, take, wound or kill in any manner, number or quantity, any fish protected by law, game, protected wildlife, shellfish, harbor seals, crustacea protected by law, or protected insects, except as permitted by the Fish and Wildlife Law.”

The fines and punishment can range from up to $250 and up to 15 days in jail or both.

Illegal taking of wild birds ECL 11-0901 (9) – “No protected wild bird for which no open season is established by law or fixed by regulation shall be taken.”

The fines and punishment can range from up to $250 and up to 15 days in jail or both.

Illegal taking of a bald eagle ECL 11-0537 –  “It shall be unlawful to knowingly or with wanton disregard for the consequences of this act to take, possess, sell, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, at any time or in any manner, any bald eagle commonly known as the American eagle, or any golden eagle, alive or dead, or any part, nest, or egg thereof of the foregoing eagles without a permit from a lawful authority. ”

The fines and punishment can range from, in the case of a first violation, up to $5,000 and up to 90 days in jail or both.

For more Upstate New York outdoors on Facebook, go to Upstate NY Outdoors on NYup.com. We’d appreciate a “like.”

Bowhunters on Binghamton University campus can kill up to 50 deer in 'controlled hunt'

Bowhunters on Binghamton University campus can kill up to 50 deer in ‘controlled hunt’

The entrances and exits of the school’s Nature Preserve will be cordoned off to stop anyone from entering the area during the “controlled hunt.”

Question to deer hunters: Could you -- should you shoot a coyote?

Question to deer hunters: Could you — should you shoot a coyote?

“They bring out more hatred and passion in us than any other animal species,” Frair said.

Message for the next World Wildlife Conference – CITES CoP18

Ivonne Higuero, CITES Secretary-General

The 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will take place at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 23 May to 3 June 2019. This will be the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES in South Asia since CoP3 held in New Delhi, India way back in 1981.

All of us at the CITES Secretariat are very much looking forward to this important meeting of the Convention and it is our pleasure to work with the Government of Sri Lanka during this preparatory period. I wish to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the Government of Sri Lanka for their generous support and commitment to hosting this meeting.

The agenda for the meeting will cover a great number of CITES issues for discussion by the Parties under the headings of strategic matters, implementation and interpretation matters, species specific matters and proposals for amending the CITES Appendices. These discussions will have a significant impact on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, especially when viewed in the context of the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the preparations for the post 2020 biodiversity framework.

Sri Lanka is privileged with great natural beauty, abundant wildlife and rich land and marine biodiversity in its extensive protected area system. This is the second time for a meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES to take place in an island country. It promises to be the perfect setting for the critical global discussions on the conservation and sustainable use of wild animals and plants under CITES for both people and the planet.  We sincerely hope to have the pleasure of welcoming you in Colombo next May and supporting all stakeholders to achieve progress in meeting global biodiversity commitments.


See you in Sri Lanka!


Endangering wildlife in the name of traditions

As China lifted a 25-year ban on the trade of tiger bones and rhino horn last month, sale of endangered wild animal parts remains rife on and off the Chinese internet

This story is part of the ‘Reporting the Online Trade in Illegal Wildlife’ programme, a joint project of the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The Global Initiative Against Organized Crime funded by the Government of Norway.

Tiger bone, bear bile, deer musk and pangolin scales are all prized ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine. They also come from some of the most endangered species of animals on earth, whose international trade is protected by the Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). But on Chinese social media and e-commerce platforms, their sale is still rife.

For instance, deer musk, an odorous secretion from the male musk deer, is believed by the Chinese to be of high medicinal value. Over the past 50 years, the poaching of musk deer has been so rampant in China that their population has shrunk by more than 90 per cent. Although the government gave the species class I protection status in 2003, it is still allowing more than 10 pharmaceutical companies to legally use natural musk – either from their own stockpiles or farmed musk deer – in nearly 20 products.

It is easy to buy illegal raw musk on the internet too. On Alibaba’s 1688.com and Taobao, at least a dozen postings can be found offering to sell raw musk pods or powders – ostensibly from Qinghai or Tibet – all without proper documentations, including a special label required to be displayed on the packaging of legal products. Most of the sellers are based in Bozhou, Anhui, which is dubbed one of the “four medicinal capitals of China”. Advertised as “healthy and nourishing,” these items have been sold to at least 5,000 people according to the number of reviews left by buyers.

These online transactions are illegal and completely “off the books”, admits one seller. “Products with proper documents cost twice as much,” he says. “They are only crude drugs. I don’t need a licence to sell farm produce,” another trader argues, before abruptly hanging up when questioned about musk deer being a Class I protected species.


According to officials at the Chinese State Forestry Administration, Anhui Forestry Department and Bozhou Forestry Bureau, it is illegal to trade raw musk without approval or to sell it to retail customers, while legal pharmaceutical products that contain deer musk must bear a special label issued by the government. Alibaba has now removed listings that mention natural musk in their descriptions from 1688.com and Taobao following an enquiry from FactWire. “We will also continue to take action against sellers who violate laws or our product-listing policy,” a spokesperson says.

Relentless online sales

In November last year, Chinese internet giants Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent joined forces with eight other e-commerce companies to launch a massive campaign, vowing to curb the rampant online sales of endangered wildlife. But its effectiveness is questionable.

On Baidu Tieba, a Chinese discussion platform similar to Reddit, keywords such as rhino horns, antelope horns and bear gile, which are banned from sale in China, are directly blocked from appearing in search results, but adverts for endangered wildlife parts can still be found by adding words like curio or crude drugs, or using their homophonic characters or pinyin.

Buyers and sellers typically hide their identity by only leaving their usernames on Wechat in the adverts and transacting through online payment methods and courier services. One seller on Wechat can offer deer musk, bear bile, tiger bones and antelope horns, while flaunting them as a cure for everything; Another seller claims to be a wooden furniture merchant but is able to source frozen or live pangolins and their scales from Vietnam and Laos. “They are all freshly killed,” he boasts on the messaging app.


Voracious appetite

Thanks to an insatiable demand for wild animals in China, illegal poachers, traffickers, smugglers and sellers from all corners of the country have formed a powerful supply chain. The trafficking of pangolins, for example, is very difficult to track. In one case that happened between 2013 and 2014, the defendant paid three groups of smugglers to move 2,200 pangolins from Vietnam across the border into Guangxi using boats and motorcycles, and then delivered them to Guangdong using private vehicles.

The habit of eating wild animals stretches back centuries in China and is very much part of the Cantonese cuisine. After the 2003 SARS outbreak, which was initially thought to originate from exotic animals – such as palm civets and raccoon dogs – the provincial government stepped up its efforts to curtail wildlife consumption by banning party members and officials from eating them. But such discouragement has so far proven to be futile.

“The culture of eating rare species spreads from the top to bottom,” says a wildlife volunteer, who has only given his name as Yiyun for fear of his safety. “People think eating them is a status symbol and good for their health. In every Chinese city there is always a street full of restaurants where you can pre-order wild animal meat.”

For many years Yiyun has teamed up with other volunteers, going undercover as diners and reporting these restaurants to authorities. In one operation in March they found two ailing pangolins, which were believed to have been force-fed water to increase their weight, in order to fetch a higher price. “It was upsetting, I was still holding it in my hand… The pangolin is a slow and shy species. it will just curl up into a ball when it is attacked, so its life is very fragile,” he laments.


Underground trade

According to the observations of Yiyun and another volunteer who goes by the name Yuexin, in every Chinese city there are at least 10 black markets that supply wild animal parts to nearby restaurants. These marketplaces are typically used for legal agricultural wholesale in daytime but are converted into seedy wildlife markets at night.

Last year, volunteers successfully tracked down pangolin traffickers to a poultry trading market in Guangzhou, which has since been shut down following media reports. But some appear to have stayed behind. In dark and empty streets, a few mini lorries typically used for transporting wild animals can still be seen parked next to what used to be wildlife shops. Within minutes, one lady has turned up in her motorcycle in suspicion.

More than an hour’s drive away is another market called the Furong agricultural wholesale market. At midnight, the air reeks of animal flesh and feces; wild sounds echo through dimly lit shops. Inside cages lining the corridors are live wild animals like porcupines and masked palm civets – both are protected species but can be legally sold with licences – and many more that are indistinguishable in the dark.

These shops only display legal wild animals at the front and keep endangered species like pangolins hidden. To conduct a trade, buyers often place an order on Wechat first. They will then park deep inside the market at night and directly transfer the animals from one vehicle to another.


Bitter pills, unproven remedies

For years activists in China has been promoting the message that “when the buying stops, the killing can too”, but many now fear that the government’s recent reboot of its wildlife law in 2017, which has provisions that allow for endangered animal farming and trading for medicinal use, has left loopholes for the use of wild animal parts that were originally tightly restricted to thrive again.

For example, although in 2016 the critically endangered pangolin was elevated to CITES Appendix I – the highest protection status, the use of pangolin scales is still legal in 700 Chinese hospitals and around 70 medicines manufactured by authorised drug companies. Activists have criticised the lack of transparency about their sales volume and inventory, which enables smuggled scales to enter the market easily.

Processed pangolin scales are also still commonly sold in pharmacy chains in China. In a chemist in Guangzhou, a salesperson says these scales not only can reduce swelling, but also help with lactation and blood circulation.


However, according to Professor Lao Lixing, director of the School of Chinese Medicine at the University of Hong Kong, many animal-based remedies were historically only based on the shapes and behaviours of the animals. “For example, people used to believe pangolins, which dig through the ground using their claws, can help blood circulate; Or since tigers are strong, they must have extraordinary health benefits too,” he says.

Lao, who has also studied western physiology, believes that animal parts should no longer have a place in traditional medicine. “First, there are many substitutes for animal parts. Second there is no proof that animal-based remedies are better than other methods. Third, even if animal parts are proved to be useful, human beings should not put their self-interest above the welfare of animals,” he says, adding that the perceived health benefits of pangolin scales, for instance, can be replaced by more than 20 medicinal herbs.

Lao lambasts that traffickers would exaggerate the benefits of wild animal parts in order to extract higher prices, for example by concocting folk remedies like pangolin meats and pangolin blood with rice, which have no medical evidence.


Trafficking and enforcement

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a total of one million wild pangolins were poached and illegally traded globally between 2004 and 2014. Trafficking of pangolin parts has remained rampant despite repeated crackdowns, with Hong Kong being an important port in the entire value chain.

According to government data, between 2015 and August 2018, Hong Kong customs officials seized over 45 tonnes of pangolin scales estimated to be worth more than HK$80m – meaning that at least 22,000 pangolins were slaughtered in three years, given that one can produce about 500g of scales. The smuggling of pangolins has shown no sign of abating: in the first eight months of 2018 alone, Hong Kong has seized a total of 16 tonnes – the highest figure in five years – including 11.7 tonnes found hidden in several 40-foot shipping containers originated from Nigeria in three separate seizures.

“Demand for pangolin scales is low in Hong Kong, so these specimens were probably destined for neighbouring areas such as mainland China,” says Chan Tsz-tat, head of the Customs and Excise Department’s ports and maritime command.


These successful seizures and convictions only represent the tip of the iceberg, considering the scale of the illegal wildlife trade. In Hong Kong, for instance, only 20 cases involving the smuggling of pangolins were successfully prosecuted between 2014 and early 2018, with the most severe penalty being two months of imprisonment. Taking a stronger stance against endangered wildlife trafficking, the Hong Kong government has recently updated its law to increase the maximum penalties from a fine of HK$5m to HK$10m and from two years of imprisonment to 10 years.

Meanwhile in China, the government has finally upped the ante against the booming online wildlife trade. For example in last year’s revision of the wildlife protection law, e-commerce platforms were for the first time made liable for any illegal wild animal goods sold by vendors on their websites. These platforms and online traffickers were also targeted earlier this year in a nationwide enforcement campaign, which, in one case, saw a man in Guangzhou arrested for allegedly selling 168 protected wild animals online, including a globally threatened rhinoceros iguana.

But for the volunteer groups that investigate the illegal sales of wild animals – both on or off the internet – it remains dangerous work. Both Yiyun and Yuexin have received threatening calls and messages, so they must be careful in every operation. “The truth is, some government officials don’t like us, the public don’t understand us. There is pressure everywhere,” Yuexin says.

This story was produced by FactWire written as part of the ‘Reporting the Online Trade in Illegal Wildlife’ programme. This is a joint project of the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The Global Initiative Against Organized Crime funded by the Government of Norway. More information at http://globalinitiative.net/initiatives/digital-dangers. The content is the sole responsibility of the author and the publisher.


Court Victory: Wild Red Wolves Get a Chance at Survival


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina today issued an order declaring that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act in its rollback of protections for the world’s only wild population of red wolves living in eastern North Carolina.  On behalf of Defenders of Wildlife, the Animal Welfare Institute and the Red Wolf Coalition, the Southern Environmental Law Center initiated the lawsuit in 2015.

Examining the agency’s decisions to allow private landowners to shoot and kill non-problem red wolves, to end releases of red wolves, and to end active management of coyotes, the court found that “taken together, these actions go beyond the agency’s discretion and operate to violate [the Service’s] mandate to recover this species in the wild.”  The court also made permanent its September 29, 2016, order stopping the service from capturing and killing, and authorizing private landowners to capture and kill wild red wolves.

“For four years now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been dismantling one of the most successful predator reintroductions in U.S. history,” said Sierra Weaver, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The service knows how to protect and recover the red wolf in the wild, but it stopped listening to its scientists and started listening to bureaucrats instead.  The law doesn’t allow the agency to just walk away from species conservation, like it did here.”

The groups brought the federal court action over the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to allow red wolves that were not causing any problems to be shot and killed by private landowners, at the same time as it rolled back conservation measures that had helped red wolves grow from four pairs released in 1987, to over 100 animals in eastern North Carolina from 2002-2014. Since those management changes were made, the red wolf population has plummeted over the past four years to as few as 24 known red wolves in the wild today.

“Support for red wolf protection has been overwhelming,” said Jason Rylander, Senior Staff Attorney for Defenders of Wildlife. “But, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has ignored public support and moved forward with a proposal that will doom the species to extinction. Today’s decision by the court to protect red wolves from being shot and killed offers a glimmer of hope for species recovery and new energy to make this program successful once again.”

USFWS attempted to avoid a ruling in Conservation Groups’ lawsuit by proposing on June 27, 2018, a new rule to restrict wild red wolves to one National Wildlife Refuge and a bombing range in eastern North Carolina, while allowing the immediate killing of any wolves that live on or wander onto non-federal lands in what previously had been a designated 1.7 million acre five-county Red Wolf Recovery Area.

Conservation groups opposed this proposal, arguing instead for an alternative that would reinstate previous successful management measures.  “Rolling back protections is the opposite of what this species needs,” said Kim Wheeler, executive director of the Red Wolf Coalition. “The court’s ruling today makes clear that the USFWS must recommit to red wolf recovery and resume its previously successful management policies and actions.”

The USFWS proposal would reduce the recovery area by almost 90 percent, eliminating protections for endangered red wolves from 1.5 million acres.  In 2016, a group of 30 scientists condemned such a scenario because the limited area proposed by USFWS could not support a viable population of red wolves and its proposal was inconsistent with the best available science.

“The District Court’s ruling today makes it clear that USFWS’s recent management decisions have failed to protect the red wolf population,” said Johanna Hamburger, wildlife attorney for the Animal Welfare Institute.  “Scientists have warned that if USFWS continues to ignore the recovery needs of the red wolf, these animals may once again be extinct in the wild by 2024. The court has ruled that this is unacceptable and that USFWS has a duty under the ESA to implement proactive conservation measures to achieve species recovery.”

According to the conservation groups, 99.9 percent of the 108,124 comments that the agency received on its proposed rule supported red wolf recovery in the wild.  Only 19 comments—with 13 of these coming from a single real estate developer—supported USFWS’s proposal to restrict red wolves to only federal lands in Dare County.

The red wolf recovery program served as a model for reintroduction efforts and was widely celebrated as a success for 25 years before the service began ending its successful conservation actions.  Once common throughout the Southeast, intensive predator control programs and loss of habitat drove the red wolf to extinction in the wild in the late 1970s. Later, red wolves bred in captivity were reintroduced on a North Carolina peninsula within their native range in the late 1980s.


About the Red Wolf Coalition
The Red Wolf Coalition (www.redwolves.com) advocates for the long-term survival of red wolf populations by teaching about the red wolf and by fostering public involvement in red wolf conservation.

About the Animal Welfare Institute
The Animal Welfare Institute (awionline.org) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild.

About Defenders of Wildlife
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org.

About the Southern Environmental Law Center
For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With over 70 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

Six caribou in North Idaho and Washington – the last in the continental U.S. – will be relocated to Canada

Sat., Nov. 3, 2018


Caribou, the Grey Ghosts of Idaho and Washington’s forests, will no longer roam the Lower 48.

After decades of work reintroducing the large ungulates into Idaho and Washington, Canadian wildlife officials decided to relocate the six remaining survivors in the United States farther north into Canada.

There, Canadian biologists hope to breed the animals in captivity at a pen north of Revelstoke, British Columbia, deep in the Canadian brush, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported Friday.

Bart George, a wildlife biologist for the Kalispel Tribe, hopes the breeding project is successful and that the caribou population grows to a point where it could “spill over into the U.S.”

In 2009, George said the South Selkirk caribou herd had 46 animals and was “climbing at a pretty good rate every year.”

But wolves started to filter onto the landscape about that time, George said.

“That’s been our primary source of mortality that we’ve known about,” George said.

Logging roads and increased snowmobiling access also played a role . But in terms of direct mortality, cougars and wolves were the primary culprits.

“Predation is obviously the No. 1 factor,” George said. “That was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back at this point. All those other issues are concerns, but we don’t really understand how snowmobiling would affect the animals in the long term, other than we know it disrupts animals in the winter.”

He added, “Of the six collared animals that we collared in 2013, two were killed by wolves, one killed by cougars and one by an unknown mortality.”

In April, an aerial survey of the South Selkirk Mountain caribou herd found only three surviving members, all female. Over the summer one of those animals was killed by a cougar, George said.

Biologists and managers have known the animals were in trouble since 2012, George said. However, little was done.

“We really didn’t mobilize until it was too late,” he said.

Other herds in the range have “blinked out” in recent years. Full-scale recovery efforts began only recently, with Canada starting to control its wolf population in 2014 and maternal pen projects and population augmentation efforts starting only a year ago.

Canadian wildlife agencies have removed about 20 wolves since 2014.

Deep snow delayed the Kalispel Tribe’s maternal pen project and the enclosure was never used.

“We could potentially use that site in the future as a release site,” George said.

Although mountain caribou were listed as an endangered species in the U.S. in 1983, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the states of Washington and Idaho are not actively involved in the maternal pen project or controlling the caribou predators even though the caribou range extended south into Idaho and Washington.

“This is what extinction looks like, and it must be a wake-up call for wildlife and habitat managers in both Canada and the United States,” said Joe Scott, Conservation Northwest’s international programs director, in a news release. “While it comes as no surprise given the long decline of the only caribou herds that still roamed into northeast Washington and northern Idaho, today’s news marks the tragic end of an era.”

The South Selkirk caribou herd was the only one living in both the United States and Canada. It ranged through the high country along the crest of the Selkirk Mountains near the international border. The remaining 14 or so herds are all in Canada. It’s estimated that fewer than 1,400 mountain caribou are left in North America.

Known as Grey Ghosts because of how rarely they are seen, the South Selkirk caribou differ from caribou that wander the tundra farther north. These caribou use their wide feet to stand on top of deep snow and eat lichen that grows high in old-growth forests.

The mountain caribou have struggled as old growth forests have been thinned by logging and other industrial activities, George said. With thinner forests, the caribou have become more susceptible to predation.

Thinned forests have led to other problems, including vehicle strikes on Highway 3 in British Columbia.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrote its first recovery plan for mountain caribou in the early 1980s and it was reworked in 1994. Working with Canadian agencies and First Nations, caribou from other regions were trapped and released in the area with some positive results.

But those positive results didn’t last, and, despite the Kalispel Tribe’s efforts, starting in 2012 the population has only declined.

“We talked about it, and we did a bunch of hand-wringing for the next six years until we ended up this position,” George said.

B.C. didn’t do enough to protect rare fishers in the Interior, board says

Fishers said to be at high risk of decline or elimination in Interior

A fisher is shown in this handout image. An investigation by British Columbia’s forest practices watchdog has found the provincial government didn’t take steps to protect a local species at risk when it allowed for extensive logging in the central Interior. (Loney Dickson/Handout/Canadian Press)

An investigation by British Columbia’s forest practices watchdog has found the provincial government didn’t take steps to protect a local species at risk when it allowed for extensive logging in the central Interior.

The Forest Practices Board says the investigation of a complaint by two trappers in the Nazko area has determined that the fisher is at a high risk of decline or elimination in the region.

The forest in the area near Quesnel was devastated by the pine beetle and the government allowed extensive salvage harvesting between 2002 to 2017, but the trappers complained that impacted the fisher and other fur-bearing mammals.

The animal is a member of the weasel family and is about twice the size of a marten.

A fisher kit is seen up a tree in an undated photo. (Holly Kuchera/Shutterstock)

Board chairman Kevin Kriese says it found the government didn’t take steps to ensure the protection of fisher habitat, and while forestry firms did make some efforts, it wasn’t sufficient given the unprecedented scale of salvage.

He says the board is concerned that unplanned salvage of fire-damaged stands could make a grave situation worse and it recommends the government take steps to restore the local fisher population.

Fishers like older forests stands with lots of large trees and the board says even areas of mostly dead timber may still provide habitat for them.

Read more from CBC British Columbia

Eight critically endangered black rhinos die after drinking saltier water than they were used to when they were moved to a new reserve in Kenya

  • Tragic loss of endangered black rhinos thought to be caused by salt poisoning
  • Operation aimed to boost species population, but eight of 14 died in transit
  • Translocation of endangered animals is risky and involves putting them to sleep
  • Conservationists in Kenya demand responsibility be taken after sad news broke
  • Death toll is ‘unprecedented’ in more than a decade of such animal transfers

Eight out of 14 critically endangered black rhinos died after being moved to a new reserve in southern Kenya, wildlife officials admitted on Friday.

The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife said salt poisoning may have caused the rhinos to perish as they struggled to adapt to saltier water in their new home.

It has suspended the ongoing move of other rhinos with the surviving ones being closely monitored.

Eight critically endangered rhinos died of suspected salt poisoning while being moved from Nairobi and Lake Nakuru in Kenya

Eight critically endangered rhinos died of suspected salt poisoning while being moved from Nairobi and Lake Nakuru in Kenya

The black rhinos were being translocated to Tsavo East National Park in the hope of boosting species population

The black rhinos were being translocated to Tsavo East National Park in the hope of boosting species population

The relocation of endangered animals involves putting them to sleep for the journey and then reviving them in a process which carries risks.

But the loss of more than half of them is highly unusual.

Prominent Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu said officials must take responsibility and should have explained what went wrong sooner.

‘Rhinos have died, we have to say it openly when it happens, not a week later or a month later,’ she said.

‘Something must have gone wrong, and we want to know what it is.’

It was hoped moving rhinos to the newly created Tsavo East National Park from Nairobi would boost the population there, AP reported.

The wildlife ministry said ‘disciplinary action will definitely be taken’ if an investigation into the deaths indicates negligence by agency staff.

14 black rhinos were moved in all.

The death toll while moving from the capital to a national park hundreds of kilometres away has been labelled ‘unprecedented’ by the government.

‘Moving rhinos is complicated, akin to moving gold bullion, it requires extremely careful planning and security due to the value of these rare animals,’ Kahumbu added.

‘Rhino translocations also have major welfare considerations and I dread to think of the suffering that these poor animals endured before they died.’

In transit from two separate locations, eight out of 14 of the endangered black rhinos died while moving to Tsavo East National Park

In transit from two separate locations, eight out of 14 of the endangered black rhinos died while moving to Tsavo East National Park

There are an estimated 5,500 black rhinos in the world, a figure that has rebounded from just 350 that existed when the species was on the brink of extinction in 1983

There are an estimated 5,500 black rhinos in the world, a figure that has rebounded from just 350 that existed when the species was on the brink of extinction in 1983

In May, six black rhinos were moved from South Africa to Chad, restoring the species to the country in north-central Africa nearly half a century after it was wiped out there.

Kenya transported 149 rhinos between 2005 and 2017 with eight deaths, the wildlife ministry said.

Save the Rhinos estimates there are fewer than 5,500 black rhinos in the world, all of them in Africa.

Kenya’s black rhino population stands at 750, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

According to KWS figures, nine rhinos were killed in Kenya last year.

In May, three more were shot dead inside a specially-protected sanctuary in northern Kenya and their horns removed, while in March the last male northern white rhino on earth, an elderly bull named Sudan, was put down by Kenyan vets after falling ill.

The black was on the brink of extinction after a dramatic 98 percent decline in population from 20,000 in 1970 to about 350 in 1983, says WWF.

The decline was caused by escalating illegal poaching for illegal markets in the Middle East and Asia.

Black rhinos are considered critically endangered but its population has rebounded, although the species remains threatened due to poaching and habitat loss.

They’re fighting for their lives…


Right now bulldozers are clearing a tiny speck of rainforest where Earth’s last 800 Tapanuli Orangutans cling to survival.

It’s all to build a hydropower dam that could push them to extinction.

But Indonesia’s President can still cancel the dam, and he wants to be seen as the people’s president. So if we build a massive campaign and get huge media coverage — he could do it! Wildlife experts are meeting him in days and will deliver our call — so add your name to the petition below with one click before the diggers destroy their home!

Save the Last Tapanuli Orangutans

To the Indonesian government and President, Joko Widodo:
“As citizens from across the world, we urge you to save the last 800 Tapanuli Orangutans from extinction by cancelling the Batang Toru hydropower dam. The fate of this entire species rests in your hands.”

Save the Last Tapanuli Orangutans — Sign Now!

The Tapanuli Orangutans were only discovered months ago, and with fewer than 800 left, they instantly became the world’s most endangered great ape species. Their only home is one shrinking patch of rainforest in Indonesia — and this hydropower dam would be built right in the middle of where they live! No wonder major development banks won’t touch it.

Orangutans are basically family — we share 97% of our DNA. They laugh at jokes, cry when they’re sad, and can clearly tell what it means when the chainsaws arrive. We can’t leave them to face that alone and be wiped out forever. So we have to stop this — together!

Let’s build a giant campaign to make them famous, help journalists expose the destruction, and take out media ads to push Indonesia’s President to scrap the dam and save these desperate orangutans. Sign now and tell everyone!

Scientists say we’re living through the sixth mass extinction, and it’s mostly caused by humans. But at the same time, we’ve never been more able to respond to the crisis, and there’s no other global movement on earth that can do it quick enough, loud enough. So let’s save them!

With hope and determination,

Mike, Bert, Lisa, Sarah, Spyro, Elana, Samir and the whole team at Avaaz

More information:

World’s newest great ape threatened by Chinese dam (The Guardian)

Scientists urge Indonesian president to nix dam in orangutan habitat (Mongabay)

Chinese companies backing megadam threaten survival of new orangutan species (Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation)

Sighting of Tapanuli orangutan twins raises hope for saving species (Jakarta Morning Post)