Lawsuit threatened over about-face on grizzly reintroduction


by GENE JOHNSON Associated PressWednesday, July 15th 2020AA

FILE – In this May 26, 2020, file photo, a grizzly bear roams an exhibit at the Woodland Park Zoo, closed for nearly three months because of the coronavirus outbreak in Seattle. Grizzly bears once roamed the rugged landscape of the North Cascades in Washington state but few have been sighted in recent decades. The federal government is scrapping plans to reintroduce grizzly bears to the North Cascades ecosystem. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

https://komonews.com/news/local/lawsuit-threatened-over-about-face-on-grizzly-reintroduction-07-15-2020

SEATTLE (AP) — A conservation group is threatening to sue the Trump administration over its sudden reversal of plans to restore grizzly bears in the North Cascade mountain range of Washington state.

The Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter Wednesday giving notice that it intends file a federal lawsuit in 60 days unless the Interior Department resumes its efforts to reintroduce the apex predator.

The group said the Endangered Species Act mandates the bears’ recovery.

The administration scrapped the plans this month, saying local residents made clear they opposed having more grizzlies in the region.

Right whales are now ‘critically endangered’—just a step away from extinction

A Humane World Kitty Block’s Blog HSUS.org
By Kitty Block and Sara AmundsonCalendar Icon July 10, 2020Entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes are largely to blame for the decline in right whale populations, as is climate change. Photo by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationIn late June, the body of a dead North Atlantic right whale calf was found floating off the coast of New Jersey—a victim of two boat strikes, according to a preliminary analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While this would have been a sad story no matter what animal was involved, it is particularly concerning that this was a young right whale with many reproductive years ahead of him. There are just 400 of these mammals surviving in our oceans, and the death of even one could have deadly ramifications for the entire species.Yesterday, the International Union for Conservation of Nature escalated the urgency around saving right whales by uplisting their status on its red list from “endangered” to “critically endangered”—meaning that these animals are now just a step away from extinction.The numbers are indeed alarming. Since 2017, only 22 North Atlantic right whale calves have been born. At the same time, 31 North Atlantic right whales have died and an additional 10 have been presumed dead due to the serious nature of injuries they’d sustained, bringing the total to 41 dead right whales in the past three years.This plight of North Atlantic right whales is entirely attributable to human actions. These native American marine mammals make their home along the eastern shores of the United States and Canada, and the reason their numbers went down in the first place is because they were easy targets for whale hunters for centuries. These mammoth animals are slow-moving and live close to the coast, which made them the “right” whales to hunt.While whaling is now banned in U.S. and Canadian waters, it has been replaced by new threats. As the IUCN said in its release announcing the uplisting, entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes are largely to blame for the decline in right whale populations, as is climate change, which pushes the whales’ main prey species further north during summer where they are more exposed to accidental encounters with ships and are also at high risk of entanglement in fishing gear.The Humane Society family of organizations has been sounding the clarion call to these countries for many years now on saving right whales. We’ve taken the fight to court, and in April we won a lawsuit in federal court, brought along with our coalition partners, that challenged the U.S. government’s failure to protect right whales from deadly entanglements in fishing gear. In 2013, as the result of a legal petition we filed, the United States mandated that large ships slow down while passing through key right whale habitats. This resulted in reducing deaths from lethal ship strikes, which until recently was the leading cause of death for the species. We also successfully petitioned to expand their designated critical habitat protections in key feeding areas and in the southeastern United States where female right whales birth their young.The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International have exhorted Canada to close more risk-prone fisheries during months of high use in order to protect right whales from dying after getting entangled in fishing gear. Last year, Canada announced comprehensive protections, altering fishing season dates and designating specific shipping areas with a seasonal slow speed requirement. This year, the country announced further restrictions regulating fishing and shipping in a larger area after a whale has been spotted nearby. But given that most right whales are killed in Canadian waters, the country needs to do more to prevent unnecessary deaths.We also need the United States to take more concrete steps if we are to save this important species. We need NOAA to urgently issue overdue regulations that would restrict and regulate where and how fishing gear could be set along the U.S. coast. This will help ensure less risk-prone rope is in the water during right whales’ migration up and down the coast. And we desperately need to ensure that funding for conservation efforts makes it into Congress’s Fiscal Year 2021 spending package.As Congress works in coming weeks on its annual appropriations process, the Humane Society Legislative Fund is pushing for additional funding for vital research for monitoring right whale populations. We also continue to urge Congress to provide funds to the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue assistance grant programs, which funds the country’s marine mammal stranding response network. This network responds in emergencies to injured marine mammals, including entangled or injured right whales, and could make a crucial difference in helping this species survive.We continue to press for the passage of the SAVE Right Whales Act (S. 2453/H.R. 1568), introduced by Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., former Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga, and Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Mass. and John Rutherford, R-Fla. The bill authorizes $5 million per year for research on North Atlantic right whale conservation over the next 10 years.Your support to help save these North American marine mammals is crucial. Please contact your Senators today and urge them to support this important bill. The IUCN uplisting of right whales is a grim reminder that there is no time to lose.Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.The post Right whales are now ‘critically endangered’—just a step away from extinction appeared first on A Humane World.Related StoriesSpending bills move up in Congress, with provisions for gray wolves, non-animal testing methods and ending wildlife marketsSpending bills move up in Congress, with provisions for gray wolves, non-animal testing methods and ending wildlife markets – Enclosure

Forty-four years of global trade in CITES-listed snakes: Trends and implications for conservation and public health

Author links open overlay panelFleurHierinkab1IsabelleBolona1Andrew M.DursoadRafaelRuiz de CastañedaaCarlosZambrana-TorreliocEvan A.EskewcNicolasRayabShow morehttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108601Get rights and content

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320720306595

Highlights

Trade in CITES-listed snakes is dominated by commercially purposed pythons.•

Live snakes are mainly exported by Ghana, Indonesia, Togo and Benin, and imported by China and the USA.•

Traded snakes are increasingly reported as being sourced from captivity rather than the wild.•

Potentially invasive snake species are heavily traded as pets.•

Traded venomous snakes are mainly wild-caught, potentially increasing snakebite risk.

Abstract

Trade in venomous and non-venomous snakes can negatively impact wild snake populations and may drive snakebite risk for people. However, we often lack sufficient trade data to identify where the potential risks for snake population decline and snakebite are highest. Currently, the legal, international trade of 164 snake species is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). We analyzed CITES-listed snake trade from 1975 to 2018 using the recently released shipment-level CITES Trade Database to identify spatiotemporal trends of snake trade and generate insights regarding snake conservation and potential public health risks from snakebite. Commercially purposed pythons dominated the global snake trade, comprising 38.8% of all traded snakes. Live snakes were mainly exported by Ghana, Indonesia, Togo, and Benin, and imported by China and the USA. Venomous snake trade comprised 10.8% of all traded snakes, and over 75% of wild-sourced venomous snakes came from Indonesia. Although traded snakes in recent years are increasingly comprised of captive-bred animals, the majority of snakes are still wild-sourced (> 60% between 2015 and 2017), including IUCN-listed species, with potentially detrimental impacts on conservation status. Further, the CITES Trade Database reveals geographic regions where venomous snakes are sourced from the wild, posing potential risks to snake catchers, traders, and pet owners. The database also documents the movement of non-native snake species through trade, with implications for conservation of native species. This study represents the first global analysis focused specifically on CITES-listed snake trade using the CITES Trade Database.

Endangered whale, 1 of only 400 left in world, found dead off N.J. coast

https://www.nj.com/monmouth/2020/06/endangered-whale-1-of-only-400-left-in-world-found-dead-off-nj-coast.html

Updated Jun 25, 7:49 PM; Posted Jun 25, 7:49 PM

North Atlantic right whale
North Atlantic right whaleNOAA

4.5ksharesBy Chris Sheldon | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

An endangered species of whale, one of only 400 left in the world, was found dead Thursday morning off the coast of Long Branch, officials said.

The whale was spotted floating in the ocean in the Elberon section of the city and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was able to confirm that it was a North Atlantic Right Whale after photos were sent to the organization.https://b95b4947059efc0726d46ddbbfa2a995.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

New Jersey’s Marine Mammal Stranding Center was working Thursday with NOAA to find a spot where a necropsy can be performed to find out how the mammal died, authorities said.

The discovery was the first confirmed right whale death in U.S. waters this year, NOAA said.

Since 2017, 31 North Atlantic right whales have been found dead in U.S. and Canadian waters and of the 400 that are remaining, only 95 are breeding females, officials said.

Entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes are among the leading causes of North Atlantic right whale deaths, NOAA said.

Thank you for relying on us to provide the journalism you can trust. Please consider supporting NJ.com with a voluntary subscription.

Opinion: Endangered Bird Couple Returns To Chicago’s Shore

A Piping Plover glares at Jones Beach, Long Island, N.Y. A couple of these endangered birds have reappeared in Chicago.

Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond/Getty Images

Monty and Rose met last year on a beach on the north side of Chicago. Their attraction was intense, immediate, and you might say, fruitful.

Somewhere between the roll of lake waves and the shimmer of skyscrapers overlooking the beach, Monty and Rose fledged two chicks. They protected their offspring through formative times. But then, in fulfillment of nature’s plan, they parted ways, and left the chicks to make their own ways in the world.

Monty and Rose are piping plovers, an endangered species of bird of which there may only be 6,000 or 7,000 in the world, including Monty, Rose and their chicks. They were the first piping plovers to nest in Chicago in more than 60 years.

After their chicks fledged, they drifted apart. Rose went off to Florida for the winter, and Monty made his way to the Texas coast. They’d always have the North Side, but were each on their own in a huge, fraught world.

And then, just a few days ago, Monty and Rose were sighted again, on the same patch of sand on which they met, matched and hatched their chicks last year. Montrose Beach on the North Side of Chicago. (The name predates their romance, by the way.)

“They’re both back, and it’s kind of amazing!” Tamima Itani of the Illinois Ornithological Society told the Chicago Tribune.

Leslie Borns, the steward of the Montrose Beach Dunes, told us, “Monty and Rose survived the winter and their long migration, and returned to this one place in the world. It’s so amazing.”

Louise Clemency, a field supervisor with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says the couple has already picked up where they left off — or as Ms. Clemency phrased it, “engaging in courtship behavior.”

That means scraping in the sand, not sending a text message that says, “Hey, you up?”

An Illinois Department of Natural Resources biologist has placed a cage over the nest of Monty and Rose. It doesn’t afford much privacy, but does protect them and any new fledglings from predators like gulls or coyotes, or for that matter, certain members of the city council.

In these times when so much has to be closed, the care so many humans have taken to care and provide for a couple of small birds is a kind of reassuring signal. Life goes on. Love finds a way. Family sustains. The fate of two small piping plovers still amounts to something in this crazy world.

Eyewitness account plus scavenged elk carcass indicates likely presence of multiple wolves in northwest Colorado

1/8/2020

https://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/News-Release-Details.aspx?NewsID=7209

 



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Gray wolf (Photo/USFWS)
Mike Porras
CPW NW Region PIO
970-255-6162
Eyewitness account plus scavenged elk carcass indicates likely presence of multiple wolves in northwest Colorado

MOFFAT COUNTY, Colo. – Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials say an eyewitness report of six large canids traveling together in the far northwest corner of the state last October, in conjunction with last week’s discovery of a thoroughly scavenged elk carcass near Irish Canyon – a few miles from the location of the sighting – strongly suggests a pack of gray wolves may now be residing in Colorado.

According to the eyewitness, he and his hunting party observed the wolves near the Wyoming and Utah borders. One of the party caught two of the six animals on video.

“The sighting marks the first time in recent history CPW has received a report of multiple wolves traveling together,” said CPW Northwest Regional Manager JT Romatzke. “In addition, in the days prior, the eyewitness says he heard distinct howls coming from different animals. In my opinion, this is a very credible report.”

After learning about the scavenged elk carcass, CPW initiated an investigation which is still ongoing. At the site, the officers observed several large canid tracks from multiple animals surrounding the carcass. According to CPW wildlife managers, the tracks are consistent with those made by wolves. In addition, the condition of the carcass is consistent with known wolf predation. (Photos below)

“The latest sightings add to other credible reports of wolf activity in Colorado over the past several years,” said Romatzke. “In addition to tracks, howls, photos and videos, the presence of one wolf was confirmed by DNA testing a few years ago, and in a recent case, we have photos and continue to track a wolf with a collar from Wyoming’s Snake River pack.

Romatzke says from the evidence, there is only one logical conclusion CPW officials can make.

“It is inevitable, based on known wolf behavior, that they would travel here from states where their populations are well-established,” he said. “We have no doubt that they are here, and the most recent sighting of what appears to be wolves traveling together in what can be best described as a pack is further evidence of the presence of wolves in Colorado.”
Romatzke adds CPW will continue to operate under the agency’s current management direction.

“We will not take direct action and we want to remind the public that wolves are federally endangered species and fall under the jurisdiction of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. As wolves move into the state on their own, we will work with our federal partners to manage the species,” he said.

The public is urged to contact CPW immediately if they see or hear wolves or find evidence of any wolf activity.  The Wolf Sighting Form can be found on the CPW website.

For more information about wolves, visit the CPW website.

Orangutans Pay a Steep Price for the World’s Palm Oil

Mutilated orangutan bodies discovered near palm oil plantations captivated public attention throughout 2018 in Indonesian Borneo. One hundred and thirty bullets shot from close range riddled one orangutan carcass. Seventeen bullets were found in another decapitated orangutan. Conservation workers observed signs of torture in a third body discovered near a newly opened palm oil plantation.

A video of an orangutan battling a bulldozer clearing forest in Borneo for palm oil went viral in international media last year. Months later, Iceland banned an animated anti-palm-oil ad featuring a lost, orphaned orangutan finding her way into a human home. In 2019, Norway pressured Indonesia, the world’s largest producer and exporter of palm oil, to adopt more sustainable harvesting practices by reducing its palm oil imports from the country, but did not ban palm oil itself. With the exception of Norway, the world’s countries have remained either relatively quiet, or completely uninformed about, Indonesia’s growing environmental crisis and various animal rights violations.

Deforestation and habitat destruction are rampant in Southeast Asia, mainly due to palm oil production. The region alone produces 87 percent of the world’s palm oil, which can be found in snack foods. The 18 million hectares of palm oil plantations in Borneo have destroyed more than half of the island’s rainforests, leaving wildlife (and especially orangutans) vulnerable to abuse and death.

Indonesia’s forests face varied and complex pressures. A combination of palm oil production, hydroelectric project development and infrastructure development is driving habitat loss. To slow global deforestation rates, the United Nations in 2015 dedicated Goal 15 of its Sustainable Development Goals to “life on land.” National targets for conservation in Indonesia focus on increasing biodiversity and halting illegal wildlife trafficking by 2020. As we head into 2020, considerable work remains unfinished. One clause of Sustainable Development Goal 15 explicitly calls upon all countries to “take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature classified Bornean orangutans as critically endangered in 2016. Orangutans are still being hunted as intruders on palm oil plantations, despite protective regulations being in place since 1985. An estimated 104,700 orangutans survive in Borneo today, down from a population of 230,000 in 2007.

In the last 20 years, palm oil producers have slashed orangutan habitat in Indonesia and Malaysia by more than 80 percent. The toxic, hazardous phenomenon of transboundary haze — seasonal air pollution from burning forests in Indonesia and Malaysia that crosses international borders to affect up to six countries in Southeast Asia — is a result of slash-and-burn practices to clear plantations. In 2015, the World Bank Group reported smog levels over 1,000 on the Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) in Indonesian villages near the slashed-and-burned clearings. A PSI level ranging over 300 is considered hazardous for humans and animals.

Indonesia’s forests are being decimated for palm oil production at an alarming rate. The area of Indonesian forest burned by palm oil producers for clearing just in 2015 was more than 26 times the area of forest destroyed by all the California wildfires of November 2018.

The main cause of deforestation in Indonesia is the conversion of forests into commercial plantations.
The main cause of deforestation in Indonesia is the conversion of forests into commercial plantations.
RICH CAREY / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

A narrow strait separates Indonesia from Singapore, my home. Since the haze doesn’t respect international boundaries, schools and institutions in Singapore began distributing protective breathing masks in 2015. Throughout September and October of this year, the air pollution was so thick that simply going outside caused watering eyes and burning throats. With haze this suffocating in Singapore, I began to wonder what is happening across the water where the forests blaze. To find out why Indonesian forests continue to burn year after year and why an endangered species is still being killed, I embarked upon several months of investigative reporting to speak with Indonesian conservationists directly.

Standing at the Receding Borders of Indonesia’s Demarcated Forests

The Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP), based in Jakarta, Indonesia, works at the front lines, campaigning against habitat destruction in Borneo, rescuing and releasing orangutans, and actively protesting palm oil companies. One of Indonesia’s most dogged activist groups, COP hijacked the 2013 Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil in Medan, Sumatra, by barging in on the meeting dressed in orangutan costumes. In the 20 minutes that elapsed before the police removed the activists, they disrupted the conference and paraded around a banner urging onlookers to boycott the palm oil companies present at the meeting. Leading COP’s habitat campaign efforts is Paulinus Kristianto from Kalimantan, Borneo. Deforestation is a deeply personal issue for Kristianto, an Indigenous Dayak. Kristianto, a videographer by trade, documents what’s happening in Kalimantan to educate the Dayak people and the world.

Kristianto’s film and photos have propelled COP’s advocacy work to international acclaim.
Kristianto’s film and photos have propelled COP’s advocacy work to international acclaim.
COP

The Dayaks share the forests with orangutans; the Dayak people well understand that their fates are intertwined. “When I see the Dayak tribes, my family, lose the forest, we can’t do anything. We try to fight and the companies send us to jail,” Kristianto told Truthout. “So, I must go to fight. It comes from my heart. I must prove to the people what’s happening is bad.”

The Dayaks are witnessing the end of their way of life. Indigenous cultures in Borneo are being threatened by the deadly trifecta of palm oil extraction, hydroelectric development and commercial logging. Kristianto embraces the danger and sacrifice that his videography and activism entail. On his journey as a conservationist, he recounts, “The first year, I said, these are my adventures; the second year, I said, this is my work; the third year, I said, this is my life. When you see the eyes of the orangutan, there’s no escaping.”

COP dispatched Kristianto to Central Kalimantan in 2015 to save animals endangered by the slash-and-burn fires blazing across palm oil plantations. Uncontrollable flames spread throughout Borneo, including to West Kalimantan where Kristianto lives. “My house was in the peat area. I was in Central Kalimantan trying to stop the fire but I couldn’t get to my home,” Kristianto told Truthout. “The same moment I was in the fire there, my grandfather called me to say, ‘Linus, your house is burning. But it’s okay; our family is okay. Don’t worry about it; I’ll stop the fire here.’ He told me we will build the house again. My battery died, and at night I finally went back into town and charged my phone — and there was a text from my mother saying that my grandfather died [in the fires], just two hours after calling me.”

Kristianto in his traditional Dayak garb. The Dayaks of Kalimantan protest mining, logging, hydroelectric projects, and palm oil cultivation to protect their ancestral lands.
Kristianto in his traditional Dayak garb. The Dayaks of Kalimantan protest mining, logging, hydroelectric projects and palm oil cultivation to protect their ancestral lands.
PAULINUS KRISTIANTO

When Kristianto finally reached his home, days later, there were only ashes where his wooden house once stood. He vowed to quit his conservation work to be with family, but his surviving family members and colleagues urged him to not let his grandfather’s death be in vain.

Kristianto continues campaigning against habitat destruction by palm oil plantations that encroach into the rainforest and investigating crimes against wildlife. According to Kristianto, “We’re just like firefighters. If there’s a problem, we go there. I don’t know much about the data of how many orangutans are in the forest. But if you ask me how many died there, I can tell you.”

The body of a decaying orangutan. Orangutans, considered agricultural pests by palm oil companies, are frequently victims of violence.
The body of a decaying orangutan. Orangutans, considered agricultural pests by palm oil companies, are frequently victims of violence.
COP

Dayaks are committed to protecting their forests, and their own communities by extension. A misleading study claims that orangutan populations are in decline due to hunting by Dayaks. Supporters of palm oil production widely cite this dated survey, published in 2011 with the assistance of the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry, to justify their destructive activities. The survey, which observed kill rates by Dayaks to be higher than expected, does not align with Kristianto’s lived experiences. “In all my seven years of conservation work, I’ve never seen an orangutan killed because of hunting by Indigenous people,” he said. “Villagers are not causing the spike in orangutan mutilations and murders.” According to Kristianto, palm oil companies are killing the orangutans; their incentive is to protect their private, commercial property from “agricultural pests.”

Palm Oil Costs an Arm and a Leg — Literally

Some palm oil companies place bounties on orangutans in an effort to minimize the damage that orangutans inflict on their crops. As plantations continue to encroach upon orangutan habitats and destroy their sources of wild fruits, the primates resort to eating palm oil fruit to survive. Over the last decade, companies have been offering payments of up to USD $100 to villagers and workers who bring back a severed orangutan foot, hand or head as evidence of a killing.

Indonesian law states that it is illegal to kill an endangered species like an orangutan; doing so could result in up to five years in jail and a fine of USD $7,400. Despite some arrests of individuals, the Indonesian legal system has never handed down a full sentence commensurate with the crime. Only one notable case of a Malaysian-owned palm oil company went to trial in 2013. The company was found guilty of paying two of its workers to kill orangutans. The plantation manager and the two workers were found guilty. Despite COP campaigning during the trial for a full sentencing, the manager and two workers all spent eight months in jail and were fined less than a third of the maximum fine stated by the 1990 Conservation of Biodiversity and Ecosystems Law.

COP photographed this orangutan skull during its investigation of a killing - but the skull disappeared the next day before COP’s investigation finished.
COP photographed this orangutan skull during its investigation of a killing — but the skull disappeared the next day before COP’s investigation finished.
COP

Kristianto performed the autopsy of the orangutan who in 2018 was found with 130 bullets lodged in his body. He determined that the orangutan not only was shot at extremely close range, but also suffered in this wounded condition for three days before dying. Officials found the orangutan near PT Wana Sawit Subur Lestari’s newly opened plantation. Police convicted the perpetrator, but the punishment was a mere seven months in jail.

In 2018, the federal government of Indonesia issued a moratorium on the opening of new palm oil plantations. However, local governments that ignore the moratorium and continue to allow the establishment of new plantations face no consequences from the federal government. Palm oil companies that already hold local permits can still establish new plantations. Abetnego Tarigan, former executive director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment and a senior adviser to the Indonesian president, has a unique perspective on the government’s stake in palm oil. “The strategy to maintain the position of Indonesia in the palm oil sector is to improve productivity,” Tarigan told Truthout. “So the moratorium is actually a way to improve the palm oil sector by increasing productivity.” According to Tarigan, the federal government is encouraging palm oil producers to focus more on regenerative agricultural practices to expand production, rather than continuing to destroy virgin forest.

Tarigan agrees that the federal government’s moratorium on new plantations by itself is not enough to curb palm-oil-driven deforestation, and says that stricter reviews of palm oil development permits are crucially needed. “It’s public knowledge that many permits are released to bribery without the support of an environmental impact assessment or disaster risk,” he said.

Palm oil production is causing the stark destruction of Indonesia’s forests.
Palm oil production is causing the stark destruction of Indonesia’s forests.
COP

According to the World Bank, the agriculture industry employs about 30 percent of the Indonesian workforce, with the palm oil and pulp-and-paper industries being key constituents of the sector. Palm oil surpassed oil and gas as the biggest component of Indonesia’s Gross Domestic Product in 2016. Even Kristianto, who has seen first-hand the devastation caused by palm oil, declares himself not to be anti-palm oil. “Palm oil is still needed in Kalimantan,” he says. “So many places are isolated, and palm oil companies build infrastructure.”

Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) Director Jamartin Sihite pulls all threads of human development into the picture. “You cannot talk conservation with hungry people. Give people a way to find an alternative livelihood. It’s so complicated with poverty alleviation, rescue and release, monitoring and combating fires,” said Sihite.

Jamartin Sihite of BOSF releasing an orangutan. When he first started his conservation work, Sihite’s colleagues told him, “Don’t look in the eyes of the orangutan - you’ll fall in love.” Sihite has helped to release over 200 orangutans back into the wild since 2012.
Jamartin Sihite of BOSF releasing an orangutan. When he first started his conservation work, Sihite’s colleagues told him, “Don’t look in the eyes of the orangutan — you’ll fall in love.” Sihite has helped to release over 200 orangutans back into the wild since 2012.
JAMARTIN SIHITE

In 2011, BOSF was unable to release a single rescued orangutan, as there was insufficient suitable, safe habitat available. Sihite told Truthout that after unsuccessfully lobbying the Indonesian federal government to protect more forest to facilitate the rescued orangutans’ release, BOSF approached local governments. BOSF and local governments in Kalimantan reached an agreement to permit the group to buy the licenses of logging companies (valid for 60 years) and pay property taxes for land suitable for orangutan release. The foundation now has 557 orangutans in rescue and rehabilitation centers around Kalimantan.

Conservation Means Rebuilding Forests, Not Cages

For those orangutans fortunate enough to be rescued from habitat destruction and protected from hunters, the journey back to the forest is not guaranteed. The Wildlife Rescue Centre (WRC) in Yogyakarta (also referred to as Jogja), Java, Indonesia, supports the COP’s program to rehabilitate and release orangutans. The WRC cares for orangutans, macaques, sun bears, gibbons, eagles, monkeys, cassowaries and many more animals rescued from illegal trade or poaching.

Habitat conservation does not always lead to rescued animals’ full rehabilitation and release, however. Many of WRC’s orangutans and other animals are too old to be released back into the wild and must remain in captivity as permanent residents.

Many conservation organizations lack the resources to build adequate enclosures and provide habitat enrichment for their primates.
Many conservation organizations lack the resources to build adequate enclosures and provide habitat enrichment for their primates.
WRC JOGJA

For rehabilitated animals, habitat for release is scarce. “Right now, it’s hard to find a habitat to release the animals,” said Ignatius Prasetyadi, volunteer coordinator for the WRC. “For example, most of the national parks [in Indonesia] are already full of eagles, and eagles are territorial, so we almost can’t release more [rescued animals]. The forests are overfilled and conservation centers are at maximum capacity. The solution isn’t to make more cages, but to build enclosures, sanctuaries and mini-forests.”

Sihite, the BOSF director, is motivated to get orangutans back into the trees, climbing in their natural environment. “You go to rehabilitation centers and see the big orangutans who have already spent 15 years in the cage. You see their eyes. They look empty. No hope; it’s like a loss of soul. I work so hard, not for the baby eyes, but to get these orangutans out of the cage,” said Sihite.

With a shrinking amount of habitat suitable for release, many orangutans live out their days in captivity.
With a shrinking amount of habitat suitable for release, many orangutans live out their days in captivity.
JAMARTIN SIHITE

If these orangutans are not killed by bounty hunters, they still provide lucrative sources of income for wildlife poachers. Many of the orangutans in rehabilitation have traumatic former lives as pets or in circuses. The gruesome 2003 case of Pony, who was kept as a sex slave on a palm oil plantation, demonstrates how long these abuses have been going on.

While the global public is becoming more aware of deforestation and the illegal wildlife trade, the sophistication of wildlife poachers’ methods is also increasing. WRC Jogja Director Rosalia Setiawati is well aware of the tricks that illegal traders use, including systems of ringtone codes and burner phones, to stay one step ahead of law enforcement. Until the global demand for palm oil and exotic animals is extinguished, any real progress toward wildlife conservation goals will likely continue to be nullified by the work of poachers.

Deforestation endangers orangutans; it also affects other animal and plant species that don’t receive much or any media attention. “If you lose orangutans, you lose the 40 types of plants that are grown through their digestive systems,” Setiawati said. Sihite agrees, calling orangutans “the gardeners of the forest.”

WRC Jogja is home to two sun bears; sun bears are gravely endangered as a species by the triple threat of illegal wildlife trade, poaching, and habitat loss.
WRC Jogja is home to two sun bears. The animals are gravely endangered as a species by the triple threat of illegal wildlife trade, poaching and habitat loss.
PHOTONCATCHER / SHUTTERSTOCK

Boycotting Palm Oil Is Not Enough

Every day spent steadfastly boycotting palm oil is a day in which 25 orangutans worldwide are still killed due to habitat destruction. Large manufacturing companies, whether compelled by government policies or not, must eradicate unsustainable sources of palm oil from their supply chains in order to save the orangutans. All countries that import palm oil need to ban the ubiquitous commodity as a first step to rehabilitate damaged forests, conserve wildlife and put an end to orangutan killings.

More than a decade ago in the U.K., Friends of the Earth campaigned against palm oil for a year. Activists protested outside storefronts to pressure Tesco and other major retailers to develop a framework for certifying sustainable palm oil production as such. Creating this distinction in the marketplace is another first step toward raising consumer awareness about the hazards of non-regenerative palm oil production.

Kristianto would be more than happy to put himself out of a job if palm oil companies radically alter their production practices to prioritize wildlife conservation. “Conservation is not about how much we rescue the orangutans,” he said. “It’s about how much people care about them. Conservation is successful when you don’t have to rescue them anymore.”

Baby orangutans are frequently brought to COP after their mothers have been killed. The infants are spared by palm oil workers and adored for their human-like features, while their mothers are shot for bounty.
Baby orangutans are frequently brought to COP after their mothers have been killed. The infants are spared by palm oil workers and adored for their human-like features, while their mothers are shot for bounty.
COP

The imperative to save the orangutans presents a predicament for Indonesia’s government, which is attempting to balance frenetic economic development with a dire need for species and habitat conservation. Partnerships among government entities, industry participants and conservation groups are essential to saving the orangutan, Indonesia’s national gem, along with the hundreds of other animal and plant species endangered by habitat loss.

Sihite offered this analogy about the urgent need for cooperation: “Everybody has their own part to play. Nobody is bigger than the other,” he begins. “But sometimes it’s not about resources, it’s about the willingness. We work together like an orchestra. How can you say the violin is better than the piano? The piano is more expensive than the violin, but in the orchestra, all have the same role to play in order to make a symphony nice to hear.”

But what if the piano is not playing its part? Orangutans have yet to benefit from the harmony of a concerted, nationwide conservation effort to protect their rapidly dwindling species.

Wolf supporters say they gathered 200,000 signatures, enough for reintroduction question on 2020 ballot

A gray wolf. (Photo provided by Grizzly Creek Films)

Opponents of Colorado wolf reintroduction are preparing a public education campaign as the battle over the animals shifts into a new gear

New drone, underwater footage of orcas stuns researchers, gives intimate look at killer whales’ family life


Who knew orcas were so playful, so full of affection, so constantly touching one another?

New footage taken by drone as well as underwater stunned researchers who spent two days with the southern resident orca J pod off the British Columbia coast, including with the newest baby, and more time with northern resident killer whales in B.C.’s Johnstone Strait. The footage taken during three weeks in August and early September was filmed in collaboration with the Hakai Institute, a science research nonprofit.

“It took our breath away,” said Andrew Trites, professor at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries Department of Zoology and director of the Marine Mammal Research Unit at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Trites is co-lead researcher on a study that over five years is taking a close look at resident killer whales and their prey.

Researchers are comparing the hunting of northern resident orcas like these with the behavior of endangered southern residents. Footage of the whales shot by drone and underwater is opening new understanding of orcas’ lives in the wild. (University of British Columbia / Hakai Institute)
Researchers are comparing the hunting of northern resident orcas like these with the behavior of endangered southern residents. Footage of the whales shot by drone and underwater is opening new understanding of orcas’ lives in the wild…. More 

The drone footage was gathered non-invasively, with the camera hundreds of feet above the whales, who did not seem to even know it was there, Trites said. Combined with underwater microphones, tracking devices used to follow adult chinook, and underwater footage, a spectacular new look into orcas and their day-to-day life in the wild is emerging.

The big standout so far is just how much the orcas touch one another, something not as visible from a boat.

“We like to think we are hardened research scientists, but it tugged at our heart strings,” Trites said, “Especially the mum and calf.”

“These drones are opening up avenues of their lives we have never seen before,” Trites said. “The same way we hug our kids and hug our friends, touch furthers those bonds. That’s the power of touch, and here we have killer whales reminding us of that — who would have thought?”

J pod’s newest baby, here swimming with her mother, carried a salmon in her mouth for two days this summer near the Fraser River in British Columbia, even though she is 3 months old and feeding on her mother’s milk. Was she teething? Learning how to be a big killer whale some day? (Andrew Trites / University of British Columbia)
J pod’s newest baby, here swimming with her mother, carried a salmon in her mouth for two days this summer near the Fraser River in British Columbia, even though she is 3 months old and… (Andrew Trites / University of British Columbia) More 

J pod’s new baby whale, J56, also was seen near the mouth of the Fraser River toting a salmon around in her mouth for two days, even though she is only 3 months old and entirely feeding on her mother’s milk. Is she teething? Or learning how to how to act like a grown-up killer whale?

The core question the investigators are exploring is whether southern residents can get enough chinook salmon — their preferred prey — to eat in the Salish Sea. Data could help answer the question of why for the past three years the southern residents have not been coming back as usual to their core foraging areas in San Juan Island and B.C.

Hostile Waters: Orcas in Peril


ABOUT THIS SERIES “Hostile Waters” exposes the plight of Puget Sound’s southern resident killer whales, among our region’s most enduring symbols and most endangered animals. The Seattle Times examines the role humans have played in their decline, what can be done about it and why it matters.

The southern residents also are thinner on average than the northern residents and have been steadily declining in population, to just 73 animals, while northern residents have been slowly growing in population to more than 300. Like the southern residents, the northerns eat only fish, preferable chinook, but their core habitat while far smaller has more abundant fish runs, and cleaner, quieter water.

By observing both populations and their prey, researchers hope to compare their foraging conditions and hunting behaviors and learn whether it is more difficult for the southern residents to capture prey. “One of the conclusions is, yes, there is a food problem,” Trites said. “But we have to be able to answer that with not just an impression or belief, but with data.”

A southern resident killer whale swims past a school of salmon last August at the Fraser River delta in British Columbia. Fraser chinook have been in decline and sightings of the southern residents in their traditional summer foraging grounds near the San Juan Islands also have become scarce. (Keith Holmes / Hakai Institute)
A southern resident killer whale swims past a school of salmon last August at the Fraser River delta in British Columbia. Fraser chinook have been in decline and sightings of the southern residents in… (Keith Holmes / Hakai Institute) More 

To learn more about the presence, abundance and quality of the orcas’ prey, co-lead Scott Hinch, director of the Pacific Salmon Ecology and Conservation Lab at the University of British Columbia, is capturing and tagging chinook, probing where the big fish are, and examining nutritional quality of the fish.

“We are putting all these pieces together to see what is going on,” Trites said.

The $1 million project is part of the federally funded Whale Science for Tomorrow initiative by the Canadian government, with additional funding and support from other sources.

Florida authorities bust trafficking ring smuggling thousands of native turtles

By Alaa Elassar, CNN

Updated 4:30 PM ET, Sat October 19, 2019

Thousands of wild turtles were being captured and sold illegally in Florida.

(CNN)Two men have been charged for poaching thousands of Florida turtles and
selling them illegally, according to the
<https://myfwc.com/news/all-news/turtle-traffic/> Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission.

The “charges represent the state’s largest seizure of turtles in recent
history,” the FWC said in a statement on Friday.

More than 4,000 turtles comprising a range of native species were illegally
captured and sold over six months, the commission said. The turtles were
worth $200,000 on the black market.

“The illegal trade of turtles is having a global impact on many turtle
species and our ecosystems,” said Eric Sutton, the FWC’s executive director.

Two suspects have been charged for smuggling thousands of turtles and
selling them illegally.

After receiving a tip in February 2018, the FWC launched an undercover
investigation where they discovered a ring of traffickers who were selling
wild turtles to reptile dealers and distributors.

The suspects had taken so many turtles from targeted habitats that
populations were depleted, the commission said.

“Wild turtle populations cannot sustain the level of harvest that took place
here,” said Brooke Talley, the FWC’s reptile and amphibian conservation
coordinator. “This will likely have consequences for the entire ecosystem
and is a detriment for our citizens and future generations.”

Investigators served a search warrant on August 12, during which they found
hundreds of turtles and the skull and shell of a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle,
the <https://conserveturtles.org/information-sea-turtles-species-world/>
most endangered species of sea turtles.

The skull and shell of a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the most endangered
species of sea turtles, was found in possession of the suspects.

The suspects sold the turtles for cash and marijuana products, the
commission said. Both suspects face a variety of poaching-related charges.

While the turtles were sold in Florida, they were sold to buyers who shipped
them overseas, specifically in Asia where they were bought as pets.
Depending upon the species, the commission said the poached turtles sold
wholesale for up to $300 each and retailed for as much as $10,000 each in
Asia.

“Over 600 turtles were returned to the wild, two dozen were quarantined and
released at a later date, and a handful were retained by a captive wildlife
licensee since they were not native to the area,” the commission said.

“We commend our law enforcement’s work to address the crisis of illegal
wildlife trafficking,” said Sutton.

CNN’s Melissa Alonso contributed to this report.