Wolf-like golden jackal discovered in northern Germany

http://www.dw.com/en/wolf-like-golden-jackal-discovered-in-northern-germany/a-38977624

Golden jackals, similar to small grey wolves, have been making their way across Europe into new territory. A German farmer is claiming compensation after the protected, wolf-like predator killed a sheep.

Canis aureus (picture-alliance/dpa/Nationalpark Bayerischer Wald/LfU)A golden jackal was photographed by a camera trap in Bavaria in 2012

For the first time, golden jackals have been detected in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, which borders Denmark, authorities announced this week. The animals are originally native to the Balkans, but have slowly spread to areas they never previously settled, such as northern Italy, eastern Austria and Hungary.

After three sheep were attacked by an animal in the region of Dithmarschen on the North Sea coast this month, authorities first suspected a wolf. A DNA sample, however, revealed the culprit to be a golden jackal (Canis aureus), the state ministry for the environment announced.

The predators are smaller and more slender than gray wolves and normally weigh 8 to 10 kilograms (17 to 22 pounds), while especially large specimens can reach 15 kilograms, according to the ministry. They are protected by German federal regulations.

One of the sheep died following the incident, meaning the farmer can claim compensation. Authorities pay farmers damages when wolves, which are also protected in Germany, kill their livestock.

Spreading north

Despite the name, golden jackals are believed to be more closely related to gray wolves and coyotes than to the black-backed and side-striped jackal species native to Africa.

Portrait of a golden jackal in Rajasthan, India (picture-alliance/blickwinkel/W. Layer)Golden jackals have been spreading through Europe to regions where they never previously lived

Individual specimens have been sporadically detected in Switzerland and Germany over the past few years, the ministry said. In the summer of 2000, evidence of their presence was first discovered in a southern part of Brandenburg state. Specimens popped up in Bavaria in 2012, in Hessen in 2013 and in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Lower Saxony in 2016, gradually moving north.

Europe’s northernmost population of golden jackals is in Denmark. The ministry said it could not accurately determine if the latest findings were evidence of Danish jackals colonizing Schleswig-Holstein.

The animals usually live in pairs and occupy fixed territories of about 3 square kilometers (1 square mile).

They tend to feed on insects, rodents, birds and amphibians but can also eat smaller mammals such as hares and rabbits, rare deer, and their offspring.

This week in southern Germany a golden jackal was struck on the highway near Freising, which is close to Munich airport.

Bad Selfies: 5 Places Not to Pose in Yellowstone

http://www.yellowstonepark.com/bad-selfies/

 

Yellowstone National Park is an untamed wilderness area. Don’t pose too close to hazards… Ouch! Here are five bad locations to pose along with suggestions on how to take pain-free photos.

1. Right next to a geyser

Couple taking a selfie next to a geyser.

Yes, Yellowstone’s most famous thermal features are amazing. Yes, a photo standing alongside one of the biggies—Grand Geyser, Steamboat Geyser, Old Faithful—would surely impress your friends back home. But when geysers erupt, superheated water powered by steam can blast hundreds of feet into the air, and there’s no telling exactly in which direction it will spray.

Even if you escape a scalding, the ground in Yellowstone’s thermal areas is thin and fragile; people who have stepped off trails and boardwalks have broken through the crust into boiling pools and died.

Better idea: Keep a safe distance from geysers by sticking to the boardwalks and trails. That way, your photo will capture a better sense of the geyser’s size and power.

2. In Yellowstone Lake

Girl taking a selfie in Yellowstone Lake

Those lapping waves, that deep blue water: North American’s largest highest-altitude lake definitely makes for a refreshing backdrop. But think twice before you dive into its depths for a photo: The water temperature usually hovers between 40°F and 50°F. That’s so cold that the survival time for someone immersed in the water is only about 20 minutes, and why many people have drowned in Yellowstone Lake.

Don’t even think about jumping into the deep water—if you can’t get back in your boat easily, your clock is ticking.

Better idea: Shoot from the shore, from the viewing platforms in front of Lake Hotel, or from the safety of a boat or kayak.

3. In a hot spring

Hiker taking a selfie near a hot spring in Yellowstone.

Like the sound of a natural hot tub? What about a hot tub that exceeds 200°F? A dip in that kind of water can quickly scald a person to death; even if you’re pulled right back out, third-degree burns will likely finish the job.

And just in case you need another reason to steer clear of boiling hot springs: Touching them could damage the delicate bacterial colonies that give features like Grand Prismatic Spring its beautiful colors.

Better idea: If you must have a soaking selfie, head to two places in the park where the water is safe to sit in: the Boiling River (near Mammoth) or Mr. Bubbles (in the backcountry Bechler area).

4. On the edge of the canyon

Man taking selfie in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

What a dramatic shot: You, a thundering waterfall, the bright walls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone all around you. But this enormous canyon is more than 1,000 feet deep in places, and the cliff walls leading down to the river are sheer. It would only take one wrong step—or one bit of crumbling soil—to plummet straight down.

Better idea: Snap your shot from safe overlooks at Uncle Tom’s Trail, Artist Point, or Point Sublime.

5. With a bison—or bear, or wolf, or elk…

Family taking a selfie next to a wild bison.

All together now: Wildlife at Yellowstone is wild.

These large, unpredictable animals are not pets. They’re not domesticated. They can and will injure, maim, or kill you if you get too close. Sounds like common sense, but in just the summer of 2015, 5 different people were gored by bison—4 of them trying to take a selfie with one when the bison gave them its horns.

Better idea: You were lucky enough to spot one of Yellowstone’s incredible animals: Train your camera on it, not yourself! And know the rules about how far to stay away from wildlife.

Linked from:

http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2017/05/11/yellowstone-doesn-t-want-tourists-endangering-wildlife-with-selfies.html

Ivanka Trump quoted Jane Goodall, who responded with a plea: ‘Stand with us’

  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/05/03/ivanka-trump-quoted-jane-goodall-who-responded-with-a-plea-stand-with-us/?utm_term=.2c6c5ce82b8f
May 3 at 5:36 AM

In Ivanka Trump’s new book, “Women Who Work,” released Tuesday, the president’s daughter includes a quote from Jane Goodall, the renowned chimp researcher and crusader for conservation.

“What you do makes a difference,” the quote reads, “and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

It was one of several quotes in Trump’s book attributed to people who have criticized President Trump or voiced support for presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The reference to Goodall, 83, was also particularly timely, considering the book dropped less than a week after scores marched in Washington to push for action on climate change, a movement Goodall has ardently supported.

So, as the conservationist has done before, Goodall took the opportunity to make a statement. And give the president’s daughter a bit of advice.

“I understand that Ms. Trump has used one of my quotes in her forthcoming book,” Goodall said in a statement provided to The Washington Post. “I was not aware of this, and have not spoken with her, but I sincerely hope she will take the full import of my words to heart.”

Goodall said legislation passed by previous governments to protect wildlife — such as the Endangered Species Act, efforts to create national monuments and other clean air and water legislation — “have all been jeopardized by this administration.”

“She is in a position to do much good or terrible harm,” Goodall said. “I hope that Ms. Trump will stand with us to value and cherish our natural world and protect this planet for future generations.”

Jane Goodall reflects on how young people inspire hope

Play Video0:58
At an event for youth in a school in Northern Virginia, Dr. Jane Goodall reflects on how young people inspire hope. (Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

In a statement to CNNMoney on Tuesday, representatives for Ivanka Trump said “Women Who Work” is “not a political book,” and its manuscript was submitted months before the election.

“Ivanka has always believed that no one person or party has a monopoly on good ideas,” the statement said. “When she was writing this book, she included quotes from many different thought leaders who’ve inspired Ivanka and helped inform her viewpoints over the years.”

This is not the first time Goodall, a native of England, has spoken out critically about the Trump administration since the election.

Shortly after Trump won the presidency, Goodall wrote a lengthy post on her website called “Post Election 2016: What’s Next?”

“Will Donald Trump, the President of the United States, be a different person from Donald Trump, the presidential candidate? ” Goodall wrote. “We can only hope for the best, hope for a change of heart as he contemplates his tremendous power for helping to save our planet for the future — his youngest child is only 10 years old — and his equally tremendous power to inflict untold damage.”

In late March, after the president signed a sweeping executive order dismantling key rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions, Goodall told reporters she found the order “immensely depressing.”

“There’s no way we can say climate change isn’t happening: it’s happened,” Goodall said ahead of a speech at American University in Washington.

“There is definitely a feeling of gloom and doom among all the people I know,” she added in her first trip to the U.S. since the election. “If we allow this feeling of doom and gloom to continue then it will be very, very bad, but my job is to give people hope, and I think one of the main hopes is the fact that people have woken up: people who were apathetic before or didn’t seem to care.”

Goodall participated in the 2014 Peoples Climate March in NYC, and frequently voiced her support of Saturday’s march on social media. An artist included Goodall as one of several massive cardboard cutout signs of notable figures for the People’s Climate March in Washington on Saturday.

More than half a century ago, at the age of 26, Goodall immersed herself among wild chimpanzees is what is now Tanzania. Her observations that chimps had emotions and personalities, and could make and use tools, would revolutionize the way we think about animals and redefine what it means to be human.

Goodall now travels 300 days a year to share stories and lessons with audiences around the world. She frequently speaks about threats facing chimpanzees and environmental crises, urging people to take action to conserve wildlife.

Shortly before Trump won the Republican nomination for president, she told the Atlantic that in many ways, “the performances of Donald Trump remind me of male chimpanzees and their dominance rituals.”

“In order to impress rivals, males seeking to rise in the dominance hierarchy perform spectacular displays: stamping, slapping the ground, dragging branches, throwing rocks,” Goodall said. “The more vigorous and imaginative the display, the faster the individual is likely to rise in the hierarchy, and the longer he is likely to maintain that position.”

Desertification as a Source of Conflict in Darfur

Thanks again to Rosemary for the link:

http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5173

In Sudan’s Darfur region, brutal scorched-earth tactics by nomadic militias and government army units have killed at least 200,000 people and forced 2.5 million out of their homes since 2003. Stopping the mass violence has become a rallying cry for many who argue that there is a need for “humanitarian intervention.” The ENOUGH Project, for instance, calls for an approach that mixes peacemaking, protection, and punishment of perpetrators of mass violence. In contrast to such sweeping demands, however, negotiations have focused on shoring up a weak African Union mission by deploying a “hybrid” African Union/United Nations peacekeeping force.

While Darfur shows the limits of current peacekeeping and humanitarian policy, it is also becoming clear that the roots of conflict are not found in the often-repeated claim of simplistic “ethnic hatreds.” To a considerable extent, the conflict there is the result of a slow-onset disaster—creeping desertification and severe droughts that have led to food insecurity and sporadic famine, as well as growing competition for land and water. The “Sudan Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment”—a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)—argues that severe environmental degradation is among the root causes of the conflict. The 354–page study includes the following findings:

  • Deserts have spread southwards by an average of 100 kilometers over the past four decades.
  • Land degradation is linked with overgrazing of fragile soils. The number of livestock has exploded from close to 27 million animals to around 135 million.
  • A “deforestation crisis” has led to a loss of almost 12 percent of Sudan’s forest cover in just 15 years, and some areas may lose their remaining forest cover within the next decade.
  • Declining and highly irregular patterns of rainfall in parts of the country—particularly in Kordofan and Darfur states—provides mounting evidence of long-term regional climate change. In Northern Darfur, precipitation has fallen by a third in the past 80 years.

Achim Steiner, the agency’s Executive Director, warns that “Sudan’s tragedy is not just the tragedy of one country in Africa – it is a window to a wider world underlining how issues such as uncontrolled depletion of natural resources like soils and forests allied to impacts like climate change can destabilize communities, even entire nations.”

Along similar lines, the Sudan Environment Conservation Society says that average annual rainfall in El Fasher in northern Darfur has dropped nearly in half since data was first gathered in 1917. Meanwhile, Darfur’s population—and with its, pressure on the land—has grown six-fold over the past four decades, to about 6.5 million.

Resource challenges might have spurred cooperation between Darfurs’s farming and nomadic communities. The two populations have both a history of competing for scarce water and fertile land, but also a record of economic interdependence and a tradition of seeking negotiated solutions. But encroaching deserts have pushed nomads further south and into growing conflict with farming communities. Increasing scarcity has led to rising tribal antagonism over the past 20 years.

Darfur has also experienced increased banditry and lawlessness, and it has played involuntary host to insurgent groups from neighboring Chad. Decades of economic and political neglect by the central government in Khartoum finally led to rebellion in February 2003. The Sudanese government responded by playing up ethnic distinctions and arming the so-called Janjaweed nomadic militias.

Both environmental restoration and reconciliation between different communities are key. And those driven off their land by the conflict need to be either allowed back home or resettled in sustainable communities. Refugee camps in Sudan and neighboring Chad themselves are contributing to additional environmental degradation: the displaced have little choice but to cut down trees for firewood, or to deplete the little underground water there is.

War and the Effect on Wildlife

http://www.ourendangeredworld.com/war-effect-wildlife/

By Jenny Griffin

Human conflict throughout the world can often result in wars that cause large-scale economic and social disruption, as well as immense suffering and loss of human life. But the impact is not limited to the effect on human populations living in the war-zone.
Its impact spreads broader, often impacting the natural environment and the wildlife that inhabits these areas, ultimately with dire consequences for wildlife conservation, biodiversity, and for the livelihoods of human communities that depend on these natural resources.

The negative impact that war has on the environment and wildlife is typically fuelled by a number of factors, including:

    •A breakdown in law and order, together with disruption of agricultural production and economic trade leads to a lack of income opportunities as a result;
    •A growing dependence on natural resources and wildlife (eg. wood for cooking, wildlife for food) due to lack of other options;
    •An increase in human movement through natural protected areas as a result of a mass exodus of refugees fleeing war torn areas or an insurgency of militants, all of whom require food and shelter;
    •An abundance of trigger happy militia armed with high powered automatic weapons and firearms makes unarmed wildlife an easy target and that much more vulnerable.

War can impact wildlife in several ways:
1) by destroying vital habitat that wildlife needs to survive;
2) by over-exploiting natural resources, including wildlife; and
3) pollution can have both short-term and long-term impacts on the environment and wildlife.

Habitat Destruction

Natural vegetation is often cleared to allow troops to either move through an area more easily or to improve visibility so that they are able to detect approaching enemy forces. Masses of displaced people living in temporary settlements can result in erosion and deforestation. Wildlife reserves and other natural protected areas are particularly vulnerable as they are very often situated on international borders and offer an abundance of natural resources and cover. Habitat destruction can threaten vulnerable species – especially those with limited ranges – and even cause them to become locally extinct.

Over-Exploitation of Natural Resources

Deforestation

Deforestation by World Bank Photo Collection

Over-exploitation of natural resources can occur as a result of subsistence use of resources or commercial exploitation of resources. Wars typically leave countries in a state of upheaval and as a result, local rural communities are very often unable to cultivate food crops during wartime, having to turn to wild plant foods and bush meat as an alternative food source to meet their nutritional needs in order to survive. Displaced people often harvest wildlife while they are living away from home, but may continue to do so after they return to their communities, as other sources of food may still be non-existent for some time.

In combat areas hunting of wildlife generally occurs on a grand scale – with larger animals be targeted more frequently – in order to provide food for military troops. As many large animals, such as the critically endangered mountain gorilla, have complex social hierarchies and slow reproductive rates, when animals are killed at a rate that exceeds their ability to reproduce it can devastate wildlife populations.

Commercial exploitation and illegal trade of natural resources such as diamonds and timber, and poached ivory and rhino horn is often undertaken to fund military operations, weapons and ammunition. Exploiting commercially lucrative resources with a readily available source of weapons fuels a vicious cycle that allows armed militia to control the area, natural resources and their network of illegal trade operations. The proliferation in weapons, notably high-powered automatic rifles that are far more effective at killing larger game than traditional spears, often results in a rapid escalation in the slaughtering of wildlife for the bushmeat trade.

Pollution

The environment can be polluted directly as a result of conflict, or may occur indirectly as a result of human activities in sensitive areas. The Persian Gulf War saw massive amounts of oil being deliberately dumped into Persian Gulf in efforts to prevent troops from coming ashore. As the war progressed, oil wells in Kuwait were set alight by fleeing Iraqi soldiers. The resulting oil pollution and atmospheric pollution had severe environmental consequences, severely impacting local wildlife, especially marine life and seabirds. Spraying of the herbicide Agent Orange in Indochina in efforts to defoliate vegetation during the Vietnam War resulted in toxic pollutants contaminating the vegetation, soil and water, with dire consequences for both the environment and the wildlife and human populations living in these areas.

Pollution can also occur indirectly as a result of war. For example, surface water and ground water sources may become contaminated when large groups of displaced people are forced to settle in temporary refugee camps that lack adequate sanitation and where waste is allowed to accumulate due to lack of services. This can result in nutrient enrichment of water bodies, leading to low oxygen levels and fish die-offs, and can also cause disease outbreaks to spread rapidly amongst humans living in cramped, unsanitary conditions, with little or no access to medical care or medicines. Some diseases can also be passed on to wildlife with devastating effects.

[Thanks to Rosemary for the link,]

Animal rights in the Trump Era: protecting Alaskan wildlife

With so much news coming from Washington DC these days, it’s hard to keep up with everything. One story that caught my eye and disgusts me to no end is a bill Trump recently signed into law.

What happens now? Predators, mostly bears and wolves, living on federal lands in Alaska will be slaughtered.

The law this bill repealed is an Obama-era regulation that prevented the hunting of bears and wolves on Alaskan federal lands unless it was deemed necessary to preserve the land’s refuge status. With the passage of this new law, bears and wolves can be shot from planes. They can be baited and shot. Cubs and pups can be killed in their dens, and mothers and their kids can be targeted and killed any time, any place.

As the former director of US Fish & Wildlife Services wrote in August of 2016, laws like this one are “purportedly aimed at increasing populations of caribou and moose but defies modern science of predator-prey relationships.” He was in favor of the Obama-era regulations that sought to protect predators on federal refuge lands. He stated that we should “ensure that predator and prey alike can thrive on our refuges.”

Why are bills like this, that so unfairly target predators–– going so far as to allow cubs and pups to be shot in their dens–– so popular among Republicans? The answer is the NRA, which backed this resolution. On the opposing side of the battle was the Humane Society, which urged Congress not to adopt the resolution.

One line in the NRA’s article about the law struck me as not only odd, but as an outright lie. They state that the ads the Humane Society aired in regards to the law are “falsely claiming that its repeal would allow for inhumane forms of taking bears and wolves.”

Is shooting hibernating bears in their dens not inhumane? Is chasing down bears from planes not inhumane? Is pulling the trigger on wolf puppies point-blank not inhumane?

The answer is obvious.

Now not only are the unethical and brutal murders of countless Alaskan bears and wolves legal, but the passage of this law suggests that we as a nation are okay with such inhumane actions. It also messes with the already fragile ecosystem, and will lead to the deaths of animals on refuge lands.

It is wrong, and I am deeply ashamed that it is now the law.

http://blog.timesunion.com/animalrights/animal-rights-in-the-trump-era-protecting-alaskan-wildlife/6512/

Protect Park Rangers from Trump

Ranger cutout iStockphoto 300px

Take Action

Protecting our national parks requires the dedicated efforts of tens of thousands of Park Service employees, from rangers who protect wildlife to maintenance workers who repair buildings to interpretive staff who greet and educate visitors. But parks are understaffed, and a new order from President Trump could only make a bad situation worse.

Our parks need your help.

The president has ordered a hiring freeze on federal workers, including staff at the National Park Service. Federal managers have less than 90 days to figure out how to reduce the size of their workforce. National parks are already operating with limited staff due to past budget reductions.

If parks are forced to further reduce their ranks, it would mean even fewer people to repair trails and visitor centers, study and protect park wildlife, and teach visitors about America’s history and culture.

Don’t let rangers become an endangered species!

National parks have welcomed record-setting numbers of visitors over the last several years. Our parks need more staff, not less, to handle this increased demand. The administration recently made an exception to the hiring freeze allowing for seasonal staff like park rangers. That helps, but it’s not enough — there needs to be a waiver for ALL park employees.

And parks don’t thrive without protections for the air, water and wildlife that are central to their well-being. The hiring freeze could also affect staff at other agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency that play a role in protecting park resources. We need these staff to remain on the job as well!

Take Action: Tell the Trump administration to exempt the Park Service and related agencies from the freeze so parks have the staff and resources they need to protect America’s favorite places.

Thanks for all you do to protect our national parks!

Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson invites you to a Fundraiser for UK Wildlife

CHARITABLE CAUSES

OAK AND FURROWS WILDLIFE RESCUE CENTRE

Charity Gala Dinner and Auction, 4th March 2017MORE INFO

If you have a fondness or a passion for wildlife, or simply vague feelings of guilt about the plight of our many UK species of wild fauna, please consider helping with a donation to Oak and Furrows.

We, the human species, have made life and reproduction difficult for our many indigenous animals through our creation of roads, railways and the encroachment of agriculture on the wild spaces of our countryside.

As a result many animals are found injured or lost by members of the public each year. With the help of and redirection by local vets, Oak and Furrows receives, cares for, nurtures and releases back into safer habitats, hundreds of creatures every year. The Centre with its small overworked team of dedicated professionals and volunteers relies on donations and the goodwill of you, the public.

For more information please visit: http://www.oandf.co.uk

Thank you.

Ian Anderson

Iraq’s Unique Wildlife Pushed to Brink by War, Hunting

Even by the Islamic State’s brutal standards, the mess its fighters made of Kaldo Shoman’s farm had to be seen to be believed.

Over more than two decades, Shoman and his two brothers had labored to turn their land into an ad-hoc animal sanctuary. By planting trees, they hoped to attract migrating birds—and eventually tourists—to this largely barren swath of northwestern Iraq. In an area with scarce water, they carved out an artificial pond—and then watched as wild pigs and the occasional gazelle came calling.

But in one fell swoop, the Islamic State wiped their refuge off the map.

Blasting through the front gate in the summer of 2014, the men penned the Iraqi farmer’s horses into a paddock and used them for target practice, Shoman says. After shooting Shoman’s pet vulture and hogtying his favorite dog to a moving tractor, they carted off his extensive collection of songbirds. (See “Here Are the Ancient Sites ISIS Has Damaged and Destroyed.”)

Keen to deprive would-be attackers of potential cover, the fighters then torched dozens of forested areas, including the Shomans’ roadside plantation. They laced the soil with mile after mile of landmines. When, in late 2015, Iraqi Kurdish troops closed in on their last holdings in northern Nineveh Province, the retreating jihadists deployed one last ecosystem-killing tactic: Dumping oil.

“Look what they did!” Kaldo Shoman says, pointing at the jet-black trails of diesel that still coat his pond 18 months later. “They are the animals!”

The past few decades have been intensely challenging for many Iraqis, who’ve lived through several conflicts, crippling economic sanctions, and now jihadi terror. But lost amid the understandable focus on the human toll is the impact this chaos has had on the country’s wildlife.

Before its 40 years of near-unbroken hostilities, Iraq teemed with life, including a half-dozen types of cat, an impressive array of falcons, and several hundred species of fish, including the plump river carp that gave rise to Iraq’s national dish: masgouf. So prolific was its snake population that the ancient Sumerians milked the serpents’ venom and used it for medication.

But in recent decades, wildlife sightings are becoming more and more rare, conservationists say. Due to the ongoing conflict, scientific data on species decline are scarce. At least 31 bird species are threatened or at the point of extinction, according to Nature Iraq, a local nonprofit. (Bigger beasts, including Asiatic lions and Caspian tigers, long ago disappeared from the landscape.)

“For thousands of years we had plenty of wildlife, from Zakho [in the north] to Faw [in the south],” says Adel Musa, director of Baghdad Zoo, where some of Iraq’s few remaining big cats now reside. (See National Geographic magazine’s pictures of Baghdad after the storm.)

“But after all this war, all of Iraq’s circumstances, I am sad to say they are gr

WAR ZONE

The Iran-Iraq war shoulders much of the blame for the wildlife decline.

Starting in 1980, two enormous armies battled one another back and forth across the border region for eight years, laying waste to the mountains in the process.

Entire populations of wild goat and wolves were whittled down to almost nothing by shellfire, forest rangers told National Geographic. The number of migrating Persian fallow deer dropped precipitously, in part due to extensive trench networks, and is now regionally extinct in Iraq, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

When former President Saddam Hussein chopped down most of Basra’s 12 million date palms in order to prevent sneak assaults on all-important oil facilities, he transformed this once lush environment into a sterile flatland from which neither it—nor its animal inhabitants—have ever recovered. (Also read about the struggle to save Baghdad Zoo animals in 2003.)

Several years later Hussein turned his fury on southern Iraq’s marshes, the region’s largest wetlands. Intent on flushing out defeated rebels, he ordered the landscape drained, its people dispersed. As the waters dried up, the area’s rich array of otters, pelicans, striped hyenas, and river dolphins vanished, in most instances never to return.

Poachers have also killed off the smooth-coated otter—which is considered vulnerable to extinction—throughout most of its range in Iraq.

“The fish, the birds, the bigger animals: It’s not like before,” says Ismail Khaled Dawoud, a buffalo breeder who moved back to the marshes after they were partially reflooded.

Congress moves to give away national lands, discounting billions in revenue

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/19/bureau-land-management-federal-lease

In the midst of highly publicized steps to dismantle insurance coverage for 32 million people and defund women’s healthcare facilities, Republican lawmakers have quietly laid the foundation to give away Americans’ birthright: 640m acres of national land. In a single line of changes to the rules for the House of Representatives, Republicans have overwritten the value of federal lands, easing the path to disposing of federal property even if doing so loses money for the government and provides no demonstrable compensation to American citizens.

At stake are areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Forests and Federal Wildlife Refuges, which contribute to an estimated $646bn each year in economic stimulus from recreation on public lands and 6.1m jobs. Transferring these lands to the states, critics fear, could decimate those numbers by eliminating mixed-use requirements, limiting public access and turning over large portions for energy or property development.

In addition to economic stimulus from outdoor activities, federal land creates revenue through oil and gas production, logging and other industrial uses. According to the BLM, in 2016, it made $2bn in royalty revenue from federal leases. The Outdoor Industry Association estimates federal tax revenue from the recreation economy at almost $40bn.

Ignoring those figures, the new language for the House budget, authored by Utah Republican representative Rob Bishop, who has a history of fighting to transfer public land to the states, says that federal land is effectively worthless. Transferring public land to “state, local government or tribal entity shall not be considered as providing new budget authority, decreasing revenues, increasing mandatory spending or increasing outlays.”

Essentially, the revised budget rules deny that federal land has any value at all, allowing the new Congress to sidestep requirements that a bill giving away a piece of federal land does not decrease federal revenue or contribute to the federal debt.

Republican eagerness to cede federal land to local governments for possible sale, mining or development is already moving states to act. Western states, where most federal land is concentrated, are already introducing legislation that pave the way for land transfers.

In Wyoming, for example, the 2017 senate has introduced a joint resolution that would amend the state constitution to dictate how public land given to the state by the federal government after 2019 is managed. It has little public support, but Wyoming Senate President Eli Bebout said that he thought the state should be preemptively thinking about what it would do with federal land.

“We didn’t see it coming. I think it was sneaky and underhanded. It exemplifies an effort to not play by the rules,” said Alan Rowsome, senior director of government relations at The Wilderness Society. “This is the worst Congress for public lands ever.”

more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/19/bureau-land-management-federal-lease