OAK AND FURROWS WILDLIFE RESCUE CENTRE
Charity Gala Dinner and Auction, 4th March 2017 – MORE 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
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
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.
Thursday 19 January 2017
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.”
In 1996, Botswana erected an 83-mile fence along its border with Namibia. The goal was to protect domestic cattle from the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease. Within a year, though, the barrier had snared five giraffes, one elephant, several antelopes and numerous other wild animals.
In the 20 years since, border barriers have proliferated to unprecedented levels — and become one of presidential candidate Donald Trump’s favorite talking points. But while attention has focused on the human consequences of a more bordered world, the effect on wildlife is also dramatic.
Trump has proposed sealing off the U.S.-Mexico frontier with a “great” expansion of the current wall, which spans about 650 miles of the United States’ 2,000-mile southern front and is already harming animals. Bison along that border have been spotted climbing over barbed-wire fencing to get to food and water. And according to a 2011 study, 16 species in California have had as much as 75 percent of their range blocked.
“Completing a barrier that’s impregnable for animals would be a really major problem,” said Jesse Lasky, a biologist at Pennsylvania State University and author of that study. The move could affect more than 111 endangered species and 108 migratory birds, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provisional report. The Trump campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the proposed wall’s potential effect on wildlife.
Two recent studies have shed light on the often-overlooked effects walls have on wildlife. The fences can “curtail animals’ mobility, fragment populations and cause direct mortality,” according to an article published last month in Review of European, Comparative and International Environmental Law. Authors of another study, released earlier this year in the journal PLoS Biology, write that barriers “represent a major threat to wildlife.”
The latter study focused on Slovenia, which has for about a year been fencing its border with Croatia in an attempt to block an influx of refugees that the government fears could morph into an outright “humanitarian catastrophe.” So far, 111 miles of barbed- and razor-wire fencing have been erected along about one-third of the frontier. A slew of mangled animal carcasses — especially deer — have been found in, on or around the “temporary technical obstacles.”
“These events are horrid,” said co-author Aleksandra Majic, a biologist at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. But, she added, “what is worrying in the long-term is the fragmentation that such fences cause.”
Slaven Reljic, another co-author, tracks brown bears along the Slovenia-Croatia border and has found that of 33 radio-collared animals, 16 cross between the two countries. Majic said she has observed similar movements among wolves.
“Conservation success for large carnivore populations here is largely depending on this trans-boundary connectivity,” she said, adding that lynx along the border are most at risk. The population hovers at around a mere 20 animals and is in danger of local extinction within the next decade, Majic said, adding that “habitat fragmentation would speed up this process.”
Barriers are hardly new, of course. Construction on the Great Wall of China began in the 3rd century B.C., and it still splits habitats today. The Berlin Wall divided East and West Germany throughout the Cold War. When that fell in 1989, triggering the figurative collapse of the Iron Curtain, people began moving and trading en masse across increasingly porous European borders. Wildlife, biologists documented, also reaped rewards.
Not only could they move freely, but “countries began working together,” said John Linnell, an ecologist at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and the lead author of the Slovenia study. That meant improved conservation legislation, practices and coordination.
Although the postwar chaos occasionally proved detrimental to wildlife — economic hardship, for instance, led to a rise in unregulated poaching that contributed to a collapse in the saiga antelope population in parts of the former Soviet Union — the end result was very encouraging, Linnell said. He pointed to successes such as the reintroduction of wolves into Germany and the creation of a European Green Belt, among others. It felt, he said, like a “world where borders of all types were softening and disappearing.”
That quickly ended.
Today, the number of barriers around the world is at an all-time high, said Élisabeth Vallet, author of “Borders, Fences and Walls: State of Insecurity?” Although the flood of displaced people into Europe and illegal immigration to the United States have contributed to that surge, Vallet pointed to the late 1990s, when rapid globalization helped revive nationalist sentiment, as the beginning of the proliferation. The 9/11 terrorist attacks drastically accelerated the trend and, by 2010, her research found, 45 new walls had gone up, from Morocco to India, totaling 18,000 miles in length.
“We’ve been sleeping, pursuing dreams of a borderless world,” Linnell said, “while the borders have been closing all around us.” Now, however, conservationists seem to be paying attention.
Even fences aimed at improving conservation, the RECIEL study noted, have had unintended consequences, like when poachers fashion the fencing material itself into snares. But the study’s authors also highlighted a few ways walls intended to keep people out have inadvertently aided animals, such as Israeli-constructed barriers that have helped shield the endangered Israeli gazelle from Palestinian hunters in the West Bank. Overall, however, lead author Arie Trouwborst of Tilburg Law School in the Netherlands said that “in the great majority of instances, the impact is negative.”
In an email, the Slovenian government characterized its efforts as “an urgent and temporary measure, which is necessary for the protection of the state.” The ultimate scope of the project, officials say, depends on migrant flows into Europe. In case the obstacles do become permanent, they insist they are working to find ways of ensuring uninterrupted animal migration and conforming to the European Commission’s Habitat Directive, a legal cornerstone of the continent’s conservation efforts.
Linnell’s study, on the other hand, argues that a permanent wall in Slovenia would “undo decades of conservation and international collaboration efforts.” At the very least, he said that he would like to see more consideration given to wildlife — for example, by designing small openings for animals.
But all migrants, both human and nonhuman, tend to gravitate toward the same spaces along borders. That makes stopping one group but not the other an extremely difficult task.
“I think there is a fundamental conflict,” Lasky said. “Animals like to disperse under cover of vegetation and darkness. But so do people.”
Imagine running a business — say a bank or gas station — and every now and then a band of disgruntled customers barges in with guns, takes over your office and spouts nonsense about how you have no right to exist in the first place. How could you continue to conduct your business? How could you recruit new employees? How could you ensure the safety of your customers?
That is exactly the kinds of questions that leaders of our land management agencies — the folks who take care of our national parks, forests and wildlife refuges — now must face.
Because that is exactly what six men and one woman got away with at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon. Under the guidance of the Bundy family of Nevada, they took over the refuge headquarters last January, claiming that it was illegitimate, and causing havoc for employees and the local residents for 41 days. One militant was killed in a confrontation with police. After a tense, negotiated end to the standoff, seven militants were charged with federal conspiracy and weapons charges.
Now, 10 months later, an Oregon jury has acquitted them. By choosing the more difficult path of proving conspiracy rather than criminal trespass or some lesser charge, the government lawyers aimed too high and lost it all. The verdicts stunned even the defense attorneys.*
Without second-guessing the jury, it’s clear that the repercussions of this case will play out for years to come. But I fear that the greatest and most lasting damage caused by the thugs who took over Malheur will prove to be the way they vandalized something essential to every functioning society: Trust. If America doesn’t get its act together, this verdict may prove to be the beginning of the end of one of our greatest experiments in democracy: our public lands.
Make no mistake. There are plenty of people who would like to shoot Smokey Bear, stuff him and relegate him to some mothballed museum. The Bundy brothers who spearheaded the Oregon standoff insist that the federal government is not allowed to control any land beyond Washington, D.C., and military bases. They simply hate the idea of Yellowstone National Park and consider any other national nature reserve unconstitutional.
The Bundys’ Oregon acquittal doesn’t make their absurd reading of the Constitution any more viable. But it does embolden those who share their misguided fervor in the political sphere. Don’t take my word for it; consider the words of elation uttered by those who supported the Bundys. Montana state Rep. Theresa Manzella, R-Darby, responded to the news with a Facebook post that read: “BEST NEWS IN A LONG TIME!!! Doin’ a happy dance! Didn’t expect the verdict today!!! Hurray!”
She elaborated to a newspaper reporter: “I think it will be very empowering. It indicates that American citizens are waking up and we don’t want to be kept under the thumb of the federal government.”
The mood at the Bundy family ranch in Nevada was also jubilant: “We are partying it up,” Arden Bundy told another reporter. “This is a big step, not just up there, but for the people down here in Nevada. Knowing that they let them go scot-free, it’s going to … be a big influence on the people down here.”
The bullies who want to rule the playground just got a pat on the head by the principal and were sent back outside to play the same old game. Managing public lands is a messy, difficult and often thankless job. But in no way do these public servants deserve the kind of verbal abuse and physical intimidation reflected at Malheur. I am thankful for these hard-working people, and I marvel at how they remain true to their mission despite taking constant verbal jabs from all sides.
They deserve better. This issue reflects some larger illness in the American psyche. We have replaced civil discourse with kneejerk tribalism.
It’s much harder to restore trust than to lose it. But all of us who appreciate public lands — whether we want to log a particular place or preserve it, whether we want to hunt or watch birds, whether we enjoy riding motorcycles or horses or just walking around — need to be together on one thing. We can disagree on how we manage our lands, but we need to do so with respect. We all deserve to be heard, but we also need to listen. What happened at the Malheur National Wildlife Preserve wasn’t a revolution, it was mob rule, and it’s unfortunate for all of us that a jury failed to understand that.
*This story was updated to correct an error about the possibility of appeal. It’s the prosecutors who might have wanted to appeal, not the defense. In federal cases, such as this, government prosecution cannot appeal.