Trophy hunting removes ‘good genes’ and raises extinction risk

Cecil the lionImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionCecil the lion, killed in 2015, was a major attraction at a national park in Zimbabwe. His black-fringed mane was an identifying characteristic

Hunting animals that stand out from the crowd because of their impressive horns or lustrous manes could lead to extinction, according to a study.

Research predicts that removing even 5% of high-quality males risks wiping out the entire population, for species under stress in a changing world.

Animals prized by trophy hunters for their horns, antlers or tusks usually have the best genes, say UK scientists.

Removing these could push a species over the edge, they warn.

There is intense global debate over trophy hunting. Some argue that it should be banned or restricted, while others say it can provide valuable revenue for conservation.

Dr Rob Knell of Queen Mary, University of London, who led the research, said the assumption that so-called selective harvesting is not especially threatening to a population of animals does not take into account recent work.

”Because these high-quality males with large secondary sexual traits tend to father a high proportion of the offspring, their ‘good genes’ can spread rapidly, so populations of strongly sexually selected animals can adapt quickly to new environments,” he said.

”Removing these males reverses this effect and could have serious and unintended consequences.”

Human hunting is different from natural predation in that big-game trophy hunters target large animals, usually males.

They may be awarded prizes for killing animals with exceptionally large antlers, horns or manes.

And illegal poaching of animals such as elephants for the ivory trade also targets animals with the biggest tusks.

Using a computer simulation model, the scientists were able to predict the impact of selectively targeting males on the basis of their secondary sexual traits.

”If the population is having to adapt to a new environment and you remove even a small proportion of these high quality males, you could drive it to extinction,” said Dr Knell.

”You’re removing the genes from the population that would otherwise allow the population to adapt.”

In the past, human hunting has led to the extinction of many animals, from the zebra-like Quagga, which was once common in Southern Africa, to the Tasmanian tiger of mainland Australia and Tasmania.

Hunting is still legal in many countries; trophy hunting takes place over a larger area in Sub-Saharan Africa than is conserved in national parks.

In the US and Canada, there is also a lucrative trophy hunting industry, for the likes of deer and big-horn sheep.

Some argue that revenue from trophy hunting can support conservation efforts and local livelihoods.

The scientists said age restrictions that allow males to breed before being removed could reduce the impact of trophy hunting.

This is already recommended with some species, such as lions.

“When properly regulated trophy hunting can be a powerful force for conservation which is why we’re suggesting a different management approach as opposed to calling for a ban,” said Dr Knell.

The study is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

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Trophy Hunting May Drive Extinctions, Due to Climate Change

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/11/wildlife-watch-trophy-hunting-extinctions-evolution/

According to a new study, hunting the most impressive animals weakens a species’ ability to survive in the face of environmental changes.

 VIEW IMAGES

Big tusks on an elephants indicate well-being, which in turn signifies that they have high-quality genes that help them adjust to a changing environment. Elephants with big tusks are also the target of trophy hunters, but removing those genes from their populations could lead more quickly to extinction.

PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID CHANCELLOR, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

Trophy hunters, as well as poachers who “harvest” the big males—antelopes and deer with the largest horns and antlers, elephants with the longest tusks, or lions with the most impressive manes—are putting those species at greater risk of extinction with climate change.

That’s the finding of a new study published today by researchers at Queen Mary University of London, England, in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. “Trophy” animals tend to be the most evolutionarily fit and possess the high-quality genes a population of animals need to adapt quickly to a changing environment, says evolutionary ecologist and lead author Robert Knell. “They also father a high proportion of the offspring. But if they’re killed before they can spread their ‘good genes’ around, this reduces the overall fitness and resilience of that population.”

When environmental conditions change—a shift in seasonal rainfall or warmer temperatures—the risk of extinction increases dramatically, even with a healthy population of animals apparently unaffected by trophy hunting, Knell says.

“The results were very, very clear.”

This can happen even with an annual harvest rate as low as 5 percent of the high-quality males. With environmental change now a reality across the globe, the study shows that some animal populations facing even relatively light hunting pressure are more vulnerable to extinction than is generally believed, Knell says.

This also means poachers are even more of a threat since they target big males but also indiscriminately kill any individual they believe will profit them, he says.

The study also shows that restricting the take to older trophy males means that they will have had time to spread their good genes around, which should help populations adapt to environmental changes.

“When properly regulated, trophy hunting can be a powerful force for conservation, which is why we’re suggesting a different management approach as opposed to calling for a ban,” Knell says.

In an email Rosie Cooney, of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which sets the conservation status of species, called the study interesting, “with obvious relevance to trophy hunting management, highlighting that there may be a need under climate change scenarios to shift to age restrictions as a basis for management.”

“This study matches up with the empirical work we’ve done on bighorn sheep in the Rocky Mountains,” says David Coltman, professor of biological sciences at the University of Alberta. Coltman’s studies have shown that decades of trophy hunting have resulted in a 20 percent decline in the size of ram’s horns in today’s sheep.

We also know that sheep with the biggest horns produce the largest offspring, and losses of them all contribute to a decline in the fitness of the overall population, Coltman says.

Horns aren’t ornaments. They’re a signal of fitness. The biggest horns that trophy hunters crave are likely found only on the highest-quality individuals, he says. This is an example of human selection leading to artificial evolution.

Hunters argue that the funds from their hunts—estimated to be anywhere from $132 million to $436 million in Africa annually—gives local communities an incentive to protect wildlife as well as fund conservation efforts and community development. Many conservation groups, on the other hand, argue that oftentimes the fees trophy hunters pay are actually siphoned away by corruption and mismanagement.

The latest trophy hunting controversy came on November 14, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would be lifting the ban on trophy imports of elephants killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia. There was an intense backlash, and within three days President Donald Trump tweeted that the Department of the Interior, which oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service, would reevaluate the decision. In a follow-up tweet he wrote, “[The department] will be “hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of elephants or any other species.”

Sustainable sport hunting is important for raising conservation revenue in many areas, but this study tells us we must be mindful of our evolutionary impact, said Adam Hart, professor of science communication at the University of Gloucestershire, England, in an email. “As always, conservation is more complex than it can appear.”

Giraffes Are in Trouble—the U.S. Endangered Species Act Can Help

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/giraffes-are-in-trouble-mdash-the-u-s-endangered-species-act-can-help/

The African mammal’s population numbers in the wild have dipped below 100,000

Credit: John Hilliard Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The following essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research.The Conversation

On April 19 of this year, five major wildlife protection groups petitioned the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to list the giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) as an endangered species. As the petition asserted, “the giraffe has suffered a major reduction in population size across its range primarily due to habitat loss, commercial overutilization, and severe poaching, and such decline continues unabated.”

If the Fish and Wildlife Service agrees to list the giraffe, a set of legal tools will become available to protect this iconic species. But how would listing in the U.S. help this African mammal, whose population numbers in the wild have dipped below 100,000?

EXTINCTION IS FOREVER

While extinction can be a natural process, the current rate of extinction is anything but. Scientists estimate that at least 99 out of 100 species extinctions in the world today are the result of human action. Although people rarely intend to drive species into oblivion, as with the giraffe, they do so through the destruction of habitat, poaching and legal hunting. As the petition notes, “[g]iraffes once occupied much of the savanna and savanna woodlands of Africa…. [It] has undergone a 36 to 40 percent population decline over the past 30 years.”

More than a century ago, scientists began to notice the disappearance of once prominent species around the world. TheAmerican passenger pigeon, the Carolina parakeet and the Great Auk—once well-established in North America—disappeared. Other species like the American bison and many kinds of whales had once played central roles in important ecosystems but had been reduced to small remnant populations.

The existence of species is important to people for many reasons. Sometimes species provide clues for the development of medicines. Often they play a fundamental role in maintaining the functioning of ecosystems on which people depend. As Aldo Leopold—perhaps America’s most famous naturalist—noted,

“If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”

What would you say to a child who saw a giraffe in a book and asked where giraffes lived? Would you be comfortable saying they’re all gone?

ROOTS OF REGULATION

In 1964, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) began tracking the conservation status of species on its “Red List.” Although the IUCN provides information only about the status of species, this is the first step in helping to limit extinction because it allows conservation efforts to be directed where they’re most needed.

A few years later in the United States, the federal government began keeping an official list of species in danger of extinction—what we call endangered species—and species likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future—threatened species.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), passed in 1973, goes further than just identifying imperiled species. Under its terms, listed species are protected from actions “authorized, funded or carried out” by the federal government that may jeopardize their continued existence or adversely affect their essential habitat. Species members are also protected from direct harm by any person. Commerce in species protected by the ESA is generally a crime.

The purpose of the ESA is the “conservation” of protected species. In practice, that means bringing the species back to the point where it no longer requires the protection of the ESA. The law’s goal is not to preserve tiny populations on the brink of extinction but to recover species populations that are resilient enough to survive the bad luck which is so often part of living on the planet.

Listing is the public, administrative process whereby a species can become entitled to protection under the Endangered Species Act. It centers around one question: Is this creature or plant in danger of extinction? At the listing stage, the federal government can consider only scientific evidence in making its decision. Anyone can initiate the listing process via petition.

Evidence suggests the ESA works. A recent report in the Endangered Species Bulletin noted that of the 78 species first listed under the federal precursor to the Endangered Species Act in 1967, only four have been officially declared extinct after half a century. Many others, such as the California condor, the grizzly bear and the whooping crane, have seen remarkable recovery progress. Some, including the bald eagle, have even been removed from the list.

There are now 1,382 species of animals listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened or endangered; 711 live largely within the borders of the United States. For these species, the federal Endangered Species Act can help preserve habitat, require “consultation” on projects that need federal approval and make most hunting illegal.

AMERICAN LISTING FOR AN AFRICAN ANIMAL

The giraffe, of course, is not native to the United States. How would ESA listing help it? The habitat destruction and overharvesting that threaten the giraffe aren’t happening within U.S. borders.

The answer lies in the role the United States plays in buying and selling giraffe parts. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service database, over the past decade Americans imported more than 21,000 giraffe bone carvings, more than 3,000 skin pieces and 3,744 hunting trophies. If many people want giraffe parts, the demand can be too high for survival of the species. Heightened demand for giraffe products can encourage people to hunt illegally—for example, taking more giraffes than limits allow or hunting in places where it is not permitted.

An international treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (1973), known by its acronym, CITES, also addresses this problem. Countries that are party to the treaty meet periodically to list species that are threatened due to international trade. The treaty has two appendices for listing species: Appendix I results in an almost complete ban on commercial international trade; Appendix II requires all international trade in that species be monitored and subject to permits. The giraffe is not currently listed on either of the CITES appendices, but this does not prevent individual countries—such as the United States—from deciding to limit imports.

Around the world, markets for species parts are sometimes driven by traditional uses—things like carving ivory or using certain animal parts in traditional medicines. New uses fuel demand too; think of newly wealthy businessmen in Vietnam consuming rhino horn mixed with water or alcohol to show how rich they are. Sometimes, the two can converge: An increase in consumption of shark fin soup has been tied to a traditional celebration dish being served by more people as China’s middle class grew.

Listing on the ESA would require the federal government to limit imports of giraffe parts into the United States and would therefore help curtail global demand. The ESA cannot ensure habitat protection or require other countries to take affirmative conservation action to protect the giraffe. But listing in the U.S. would limit one important threat in which Americans do play a role.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Extinct creature sightings are piling up in Australia

[No thanks to Man.]

By Mike Wehner

http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2017/04/03/extinct-creature-sightings-are-piling-up-in-australia.html

File photo - Don Colgan, Head of the Evolutionary Biology Unit at the Australian Museum, speaks under a model of a Tasmanian Tiger at a media conference in Sydney as seen in this May 4, 2000 file photo regarding the quality DNA extracted from the heart, liver, muscle and bone marrow tissue samples of a 134 year-old Tiger specimen (R) preserved in alcohol. The last known Tasmanian Tiger died in 1936 after it was hunted down and wiped out in only 100 years of human settlement. (Reuters)

File photo – Don Colgan, Head of the Evolutionary Biology Unit at the Australian Museum, speaks under a model of a Tasmanian Tiger at a media conference in Sydney as seen in this May 4, 2000 file photo regarding the quality DNA extracted from the heart, liver, muscle and bone marrow tissue samples of a 134 year-old Tiger specimen (R) preserved in alcohol. The last known Tasmanian Tiger died in 1936 after it was hunted down and wiped out in only 100 years of human settlement. (Reuters)

Multiple reports of Tasmanian Tiger sightings are starting to flow in from everyday citizens in Australia. Several people have recently claimed they’ve spotted the animal, which isn’t a tiger at all — and, despite looking very much like a species of dog, isn’t of canine lineage either — but a carnivorous marsupial. Spotting an interesting creature in Australia isn’t exactly a rare occurrence, but there’s one problem with these reports in particular: the Tasmanian Tiger is supposed to be extinct.

The last known Tasmanian Tiger was captured in its native Australia in 1933 and lived for a few years in a zoo before dying, and its death has long been thought to be the final nail in the species’ coffin. Australians have occasionally claimed to have spotted the dog-like animals over the years, but the sightings were typically rare and attributed to nothing more than misidentification. That’s all changed now, as several “plausible sightings” are beginning to give life to the theory that the animal never actually went extinct at all.

Now, scientists in Queensland, Australia, are taking action in the hopes of actually finding evidence that the Tiger is still around. If confirmed, it would be an absolutely monumental discovery, considering the animal’s history. The team plans to set up cameras in areas where reported sightings have taken place in the hopes of confirming the claims.

In the late 1800s there were actually bounties on Tasmanian Tigers in Australia, and the creatures were hunted to the brink of extinction before any action was taken. By that point, the species was thought to be doomed, and when the last captive animal died it was assumed that was the end of the road. Now, it appears that might not be the case after all.

B.C. grizzly bears could be shipped to Washington State

Kendra MangioneWeb Journalist / Digital Content Editor, CTV Vancouver

@kendramangione

Published Tuesday, March 14, 2017 7:08PM PDT 

Washington State is looking at ways to boost its grizzly population, including bringing in bears from north of the border.

proposal from the National Parks Service suggests shipping in grizzlies from a nearby area with bruins to spare, like British Columbia or Montana.

If approved, some of the roughly 15,000 grizzly bears living in B.C. could be captured and sent south, to a part of the state that used to be flush with the species.

Ann Froschauer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says they estimate there are fewer than 10 grizzlies in the Northern Cascades ecosystem, an area in northern Washington east of the I-5 corridor. The bears chosen to head to the area would be selected for the sole purpose of repopulating.

“We’d be looking to have a self-sustaining population of bears that would then continue to grow that population over the years,” Froschauer said.

The proposal is currently open for public input, and Canadians are welcome to share their thoughts, by clicking “Comment Now” on the page they’ve set up for the project.

More than 100,000 people have weighed in on the debate so far, largely due to an online campaign started by a Seattle cartoonist. Matthew Inman, the man behind theoatmeal.com, used social media and his website to get signatures from supporters of the plan. On Twitter, he wrote that he’d spoken with the National Park Service Monday to get the deadline for feedback extended.

While some in the States are fully supportive of the idea, other advocates north of the border are not yet on board with the plan.

“We want to see grizzly bears thrive wherever they are,” said Rachel Forbes, executive director of the Grizzly Bear Foundation.

“But we think the B.C. government has a lot more questions to answer before we decide to export populations of grizzly bears. We need to do a better job of managing them here first.”

The foundation says there are several areas of B.C. where the species is threatened, and others where populations have disappeared entirely.

“Before we say yes to this, we need to take a better look at the cumulative impacts here in B.C.,” Forbes said.

The U.S. government expects to make a decision early next year. The B.C. Ministry of Environment says the province will work with U.S. officials at that time to determine its level of involvement.

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Scott Hurst

National Park Service - potential release area

Photo@ Jim Robertson

SAVE THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT FROM EXTINCTION

Earthjustice
The Endangered Species Act is one of the strongest, most effective wildlife protection laws in the world. It was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support more than 40 years ago to provide a legal safety net for wildlife, fish and plant species that are in danger of extinction. Now this Congress—which is shaping up to be the most anti-wildlife Congress we have ever seen—wants to slash the Endangered Species Act, threatening the very existence of the imperiled wildlife and ecosystems the Act protects.

We cannot allow this bedrock environmental law to be undermined by lawmakers who are in the pocket of polluting industries. Tell your representative to stand up for the Endangered Species Act now!

Biologists warn that our planet is facing a sixth wave of mass extinction. The Endangered Species Act, which has prevented 99 percent of the species under its care from vanishing, is precisely the kind of effective tool we need today. It has revived the bald eagle, the American alligator, the California condor and many others.

Yet anti-environment interests in the House and Senate are currently orchestrating some of the most serious threats ever posed to the Endangered Species Act. Some of the legislative proposals put specific imperiled wildlife species on the chopping block, while others attack core provisions of the Endangered Species Act itself.

House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) has said he wants to “repeal and replace” the Endangered Species Act. Others are supporting legislative proposals that would make it harder for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to resolve Endangered Species Act lawsuits.

Take action now to ensure this landmark law is not weakened by political attacks.

During the previous (114th) Congress, anti-wildlife representatives authored more than 100 bills and amendments to undermine the Endangered Species Act. Similar legislative attacks are already being introduced in the current (115th) Congress. These proposals would put imperiled species at greater risk by:

  • Establishing arbitrary land boundaries where species protections would not apply
  • Imposing limitations on the ability of citizens to help enforce the Endangered Species Act
  • Undermining the use of science under the Endangered Species Act
  • Declaring open season on individual species, including wolves and sage grouse, by blocking federal protections or denying existing protections

If anti-environment members of Congress get their way, the Endangered Species Act’s vital protections will be cast aside. Tell your congressional representatives and senators to oppose any legislation that hurts imperiled wildlife!

Earthjustice and supporters like you have been fighting to stop political attacks on the Endangered Species Act for decades. We can’t do it without you—we need your help to defend this important law.

TAKE ACTION! Don’t let anti-environment members of Congress cast aside the Endangered Species Act’s vital protections.
TAKE ACTION

 

The Endangered Species Act is one of the strongest, most effective wildlife protection laws in the world. It was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support more than 40 years ago to provide a legal safety net for wildlife, fish and plant species that are in danger of extinction. Now this Congress—which is shaping up to be the most anti-wildlife Congress we have ever seen—wants to slash the Endangered Species Act, threatening the very existence of the imperiled wildlife and ecosystems the Act protects.
Biologists warn that our planet is facing a sixth wave of mass extinction. The Endangered Species Act, which has prevented 99 percent of the species under its care from vanishing, is precisely the kind of effective tool we need today. It has revived the bald eagle, the American alligator, the California condor and many others.
Yet anti-environment interests in the House and Senate are currently orchestrating some of the most serious threats ever posed to the Endangered Species Act. Some of the legislative proposals put specific imperiled wildlife species on the chopping block, while others attack core provisions of the Endangered Species Act itself.
House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) has said he wants to “repeal and replace” the Endangered Species Act. Others are supporting legislative proposals that would make it harder for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to resolve Endangered Species Act lawsuits.
During the previous (114th) Congress, anti-wildlife representatives authored more than 100 bills and amendments to undermine the Endangered Species Act. Similar legislative attacks are already being introduced in the current (115th) Congress. These proposals would put imperiled species at greater risk by:
  • Establishing arbitrary land boundaries where species protections would not apply
  • Imposing limitations on the ability of citizens to help enforce the Endangered Species Act
  • Undermining the use of science under the Endangered Species Act
  • Declaring open season on individual species, including wolves and sage grouse, by blocking federal protections or denying existing protections
If anti-environment members of Congress get their way, the Endangered Species Act’s vital protections will be cast aside. Tell your congressional representatives and senators to oppose any legislation that hurts imperiled wildlife!
Earthjustice and supporters like you have been fighting to stop political attacks on the Endangered Species Act for decades. We can’t do it without you—we need your help to defend this important law.
Mother Grizzly Bear with cub feeding on clamps. Katmai National Park, Alaska (Andre Anita/Shutterstock)
The Endangered Species Act has prevented 99 percent of the species under its care from going extinct.

Demand that your elected officials oppose all efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act now.

Humans, the Pinnacle of Evolution?

The following is an excerpt from Richard Leaky’s book The Sixth Extinction: Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind, chapter six, “Homo sapiens, the Pinnacle of Evolution?”

“The answer to the above question appears self-evident. Yes of course we are. In the penultimate chapter of The Origin of Species, Darwin wrote, ‘As natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection.’ Homo sapiens, since its origin some 150,000 years ago, has come to occupy every continent, with the exception of the hostile wastes of Antarctica, and even there we have a toehold. This surely attests to our corporeal endowment, as we have adapted to these many environments. And there is no question about our mental endowment, which is unmatched in all of nature. We are intellectually analytical, we are artistically creative, and we have invented ethical rules by which society operates. No one can doubt that our species has advanced toward, if not perfection, than a high point–the highest point–among the diversity of life on Earth. We are the pinnacle of evolution. Or are we?

“Anthropologists and biologists have struggled with this issue for a very long time, and the resolution has never been simple. We feel ourselves unique in the world of nature, and of course we are: each species is unique, by definition, so that doesn’t help much. We are but one species among many millions in today’s world. However, we feel ourselves special, among this exuberant diversity of life, because we have an unmatched capacity for spoken language and introspective consciousness, and we can shape our world as no other species can. We judge this to place us on the top of the heap. Before the fact of evolution was demonstrated, beginning with Darwin in the mid-nineteenth century, we considered Homo sapiens to have been placed on the top by Divine Creation. In the Darwinian world, our species was said to have achieved its ascendancy through the natural selection of our special qualities. The intellectual context changed, but the outcome was the same. We judged ourselves to be the pinnacle of the world of nature.

“This assessment brings two assumptions with it–one implicit, the other explicit. The implicit assumption is that the evolution of Homo sapiens was an inevitable outcome of the flow of life, in the unfolding of evolution. The explicit assumption is that the qualities we value in ourselves as a species are indeed superior in some way to the rest of the world of nature. Through evolutionary time, life became ever more complex, producing an arrow of progress. As Darwin stated in the above passage, by means of natural selection life ‘will tend to progress towards perfection.’ We are the tip of the arrow of progress, the expression of perfection. …

“Man’s view of Man in the world of nature has changed over the centuries, reflecting the scholarly context. Only in the relatively recent past have anthropologists begun to discuss human origins as they would the origin of oysters, cats and apes. …”

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The Canadian Federal Election and Wildlife

From:  Born Free USA Canadian Blog by Barry Kent MacKay


 27 Oct 2015 10:13 AM PDT

Wildlife© Mazzali

On October 19, we Canadians went to the polls, in large numbers, to vote in the federal election. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after holding that position for nine years, went down to a stunning defeat. Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party won a majority of the seats in parliament, giving them power that may help to partly undo the truly horrific environmental record of the Conservative Party. To what degree they do so, the future will determine.

But, things could not be much worse for the environment and wildlife than they were under the steadily more authoritarian Harper regime. He did not want to be factually informed and, in 2008, eliminated the Office of the National Science Advisor. In 2010, Harper prevented scientists from talking directly to the media, or to people like me, who seek information in order to help us protect wildlife. (The “war on science” waged by Harper is far too long to list here.)

Friends of long standing who were on the federal payroll were suddenly afraid to talk to me about work they were doing with funding from my taxes! The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) scientists were not allowed to publish research without screening it to assure it did not counter government policy. Unbelievably, in 2010, geologist Scott Dallimore was not allowed to talk to media about a paper he published in Nature about a flood that had occurred 13,000 years ago. I never even got a response from a scientist about what species co-existed with a long-extinct, ice age camel!

The 25-year existence of the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, critical of Harper’s policies, was axed in 2013. In 2014, seven (of nine) research libraries of the DFO, many containing unique, century-old baseline data of previous fish population sizes, were closed, and irreplaceable documents were trashed or burned. Yes, book-burning in 21st century Canada… with scientists blindsided.

And, the following January, Environment Canada tried to stop an investigation into whether tailing ponds in oil-rich Alberta were contaminating fish habitat, contrary to the Federal Fisheries Act. Fishery scientists whose findings indicated certain environmental problems were continually thwarted, often not allowed to speak about their own findings, with Harper’s government media even keeping close to Environment Canada scientists at the International Polar Year Conference in 2012, lest they say the wrong thing. Work was impeded that indicated infectious salmon anemia and parasites could spread from “farmed” salmon to wild stocks, researchers muzzled. DFO scientists working on a shared Canadian-U.S. Arctic research endeavor had to promise confidentiality.

But, worse things happened, including Canada being the first nation to leave the Kyoto Protocols and its greenhouse gas emission targets. And, in 2012, Canada repealed key parts of the Fisheries Act, leaving previously protected fish habitat vulnerable to destruction by oil and other economic interests. Harper greatly weakened both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the once-effective Species at Risk Act (the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Endangered Species Act). The Harper government was particularly opposed to legislation requiring public consultation and independent assessment of any project that might benefit short-term economic interest at the expense of wildlife and the environment.

By 2012, emboldened, Harper slashed some $222.2 million out of the Environment Canada budget, cutting 1,211 jobs—thus weakening many prior endeavors to protect the environment. For me, a dangerously low blow came early in 2012, when Public Safety Canada said that environmentalists were identified as “issue-based domestic terrorists” in its counter-terrorism strategy, as Harper sought to conflate many existing crimes as “terrorism” while also seeking harsher penalties for conviction. We seemed to be heading toward an authoritarian state with divisive and mean-spirited decisions coming out of Ottawa almost daily.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that Harper is now gone. As a peculiarity of our parliamentary system, his party never did win the majority of votes from Canadians; Canada never did fully share his values; and, finally, after a campaign long enough to allow even naïve Harper supporters to understand what was happening, it was all over.

It is not that I have great expectations of Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party—but, the bar is low. I have little doubt that we will be able to again communicate with government employees, partake in communicating our views, perhaps undo some of the damage Harper did, and provide fact-based information without being labeled enemies of the state. It is a new chance for Canada, for the Canadian environment, and for Canadian wildlife… and we intend to make the most of it!

How Much Bad News Can We Take?

Yesterday was a bad day—news wise. It’s not like World War III broke out—yet—but with Russian jets flying over our ships off Syria, and with headlines like, “China naval chief says minor incident could spark war in South China Sea,” it sounds like we’re getting a couple of steps closer.

Meanwhile, unless you were tucked away safely under a rock somewhere, you probably ryanwaxheard that bowhunter Paul Ryan is the new Speaker of the House (just two heartbeats away from the White House). Funny, I didn’t get a chance to vote for him, not that I would have. What’s this we hear about democracy? Is this how Nazi Germany got its start? (Hopefully this means he’ll be too busy to wait in his tree stand for a passing deer to recreationally-impale.)

And the last piece of bad news announced yesterday was that China coincidentally is ending its one-child policy. The media cited numerous reasons but stopped short of telling us that their population has decreased since the 1970s when they implemented the policy.

Having their population increase from 818 million in 1970 to 1.36 billion and counting (even under the one-child policy), it seems a strange time to decide to double their allowable birth rate. Of course, you need a lot of replacement babies if you want to be a major player in the world market—or declare World War III.

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