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Four southwest Mississippi men have been sentenced for poaching wild turkeys in multiple states. In addition to killing in excess of the legal limit, they did not have licenses and were illegally transporting the animals across state lines.
According to MDWFP, a group of Mississippians were charged and arrested for killing nearly 100 turkeys in the 2019 season and trespassing on 15 properties.
During this 11-month investigation, it was discovered that the unlawful activities were taking place in other states, as well. Poachers were crossing state lines with spurs and beards of illegally harvested turkeys in violation of the Lacey Act, prompting a federal investigation.
According to a recent news release, Kenneth Britt, Tony Smith, Barney Bairfield III, and Dustin Treadway were sentenced by U.S. District Judge David Bramlette for violating federal wildlife laws.
The original indictment charged the defendants for taking over 25 wild turkeys without license in Kansas and Nebraska and illegally transporting spurs and beards. Additionally, Britt faced a federal felony charge for lying to a federal law enforcement officer and Smith faced felony charges for killing red-shouldered hawks.
On Feb. 24, 2021, Judge Bramlette sentenced Britt to 5 years of probation with a fine of $25,000; Smith to 4 years of probation with a fine of $15,000; Bairfield to 2 years of probation with a fine of $3,000; and Treadway to 2 years of probation with a fine of $5,000.
Violating these probation terms, which include “a worldwide prohibition from hunting of any type…including accompanying anyone in hunting or being present at a hunting camp during hunting season” could result in imprisonment for any of the offenders.
“The Department of Justice is committed to enforcing the Lacey Act and other federal laws to protect our wildlife resources,” Acting U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca said following the sentencing. “It is my hope that this prosecution sends a strong message that the wanton, indiscriminate killing of the American Wild Turkey, or any animal for that matter, will be met with debilitating and just consequences.”
“In such contests, often conducted in public areas like parks, two finches sing and a judge selects the bird determined to have the best voice,” the complaint states. “Many who attend the singing contests wager on the birds. A finch who wins these competitions becomes valuable and can sell for more than $10,000. Although certain species of finch are available in the United States, species from Guyana are believed to sing better and are therefore more valuable.”
McKenzie is a resident of Guyana, authorities said. He flew from the South American country and arrived at JFK, where customs agents searched him, the complaint states. Subscribe
They found the birds stuffed in hair rollers concealed beneath his pants legs and jacket, the complaint states.
“The defendant told agents that he had been offered $3,000 to smuggle the birds into the United States,” the complaint states. “He was paid $500 before the flight, and he expected to receive the remaining $2,500 when he exited Customs.”
United States law prohibits importing wildlife and specifies commercial birds must be quarantined for 30 days to prevent the spread of diseases such as bird flu.
McKenzie faces a charge of intentionally and unlawfully importing and bringing into the United States merchandise contrary to law. He was released on a $25,000 bond.
Operation Icefish represented a turning point in human history. Sea Shepherd broke the record for the longest maritime pursuit when they chased the toothfish poaching vessel Thunder for 110 days from the frigid seas of Antarctica to the coast of West Africa. They confiscated 75 km of net and boarded the vessel to retrieve evidence when it sank itself to avoid prosecution. The captain and officers of the vessel were sentenced to two to six years in prison and the company was fined more than $30 million. Sea Shepherd later provided information that resulted in the arrest of four other “Bandit 6” vessels before chasing the Viking to Indonesia, where it was blown up by authorities. Effectively ending illegal fishing in Antarctica, none of these vessels poached again, and this case has been cited by INTERPOL and other global law enforcement bodies. During the course of the second year of Operation Icefish, Sea Shepherd stumbled upon a fleet of illegal driftnet vessels in the Southern Indian Ocean. Operation Driftnet saw them chase the fleet back to China, reporting and documenting its activities, seizing 5 km of net, and ultimately securing $1 million in fines against the company and costing the captains their fishing licenses. Something remarkable happened as a result of these partnerships: countries wanted to work with Sea Shepherd to stop illegal fishing. Since 2016, they have launched Operation Albacore, Operation Sola Stella, Operation Jodari, Operation Guegou, Operation Vanguard, Operation Sierra Leone Coastal Defense, and Operation Gambian Coastal Defense. These partnerships with the governments of Gabon, Sao Tome y Principe, Liberia, Tanzania, Benin, Namibia, Sierra Leone, and The Gambia have resulted in the arrest of nearly 75 IUU fishing vessels for crimes like shark finning, using banned gear, using undocumented immigrants for labor, violating human rights laws, smuggling drugs and mangroves, bribing officials, catching endangered species, fishing in marine protected areas, and a plethora of other offenses. This is merely the expansion of their earlier efforts against illegal fishing. They were active in the fight against driftnet fishing in the North Pacific, Caribbean, North Atlantic, and Mediterranean and dolphin bycatch in the tuna nets of the Eastern Pacific between 1987 and 1997, resulting in bans in these practices. They evicted cod trawling vessels from Canada in 1993, secured a temporary ban on salmon fishing in British Columbia in 1995, and worked on several occasions to protect Cocos Island, Malpelo Island, Coiba Island, and Fernando de Noronha between 1992 and 2017. Their most famous collaboration was with the government of Ecuador between 1999 and 2017 to stop the plundering of the Galapagos Marine Reserve; aside from busting dozens of poaching operations and exposing corruption in environmental law, they launched landmark legal, educational, monitoring, surveillance, and detection programs. The modern iteration of this campaign is Operation Treasured Islands; the organization is working with Peru, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Ecuador to stop illegal fishing. Modern threats have required modern solutions, and their range has been truly global: Operation Apex Harmony-Timor Leste led to the arrest of 15 shark finning vessels and three driftnet vessels in just a few weeks, saving the lives of a million sharks. Operation Blue Rage, covered in the TV show “Whale Wars,” exposed the illegal bluefin industry in the Mediterranean. Operation Requiem worked with the Phoenix Islands and other South Pacific areas to stop shark finning. Operation Sunu Gaal busted numerous illegal fishing operations in Senegal. Operation Cap Roux and Operation Siracusa have focused on stopping poaching in the marine reserves of Southern France and Sicily. Operation Anguilla is working to stop the poaching of eels in Italy, and Operation Siso has cleaned up numerous tons of fishing gear from the Aeolian Islands. Operation Oresund exposed illegal trawling along the coast of Denmark. Nor have their efforts focused only on species being intentionally caught. They are working to save the vaquita porpoise from extinction caused by bycatch in nets, protecting Hector’s dolphins from industrial trawling, exposing the slaughter of 11,000 dolphins a year by French vessels in the Bay of Biscay, protecting porpoises in the Baltic, and have previously saved the Saimaa seal of Finland from extinction with Operation Milagro, Operation Pahu, Operation Dolphin Bycatch, Operation Perkunas, and Operation Saimaa Seal, respectively. This is in addition to their legal workshops in the Philippines, Malaysia, Gabon, Peru, Palau, China, Indonesia, Mauritania, Senegal, Singapore, Thailand, Liberia, and numerous other nations. If there is one organization doing more than any to protect the oceans from the onslaught of IUU fishing, it is Sea Shepherd. Their efforts have busted hundreds of illegal operators, changed laws, and rallied the international community to see IUU fishing as a threat to national security and the global environment.
Scientists can now use camera traps, instead of bushmeat hunters, to find an animal’s whereabouts.
Camera traps, devices used to capture wildlife using motion sensors, are saving the animals from bushmeat hunters and spotting rare animals in the process.
In the West African country of Togo, researchers were able to see images of the Walter’s duiker, a petite African antelope species, for the first time in the wild, according to Gizmodo.
Rare species of aardvarks and a mongoose were also discovered roaming the wild in Togo using camera traps.
“Camera traps are a game changer when it comes to biodiversity survey fieldwork,” University of Oxford wildlife biologist Neil D’Cruze told Gizmodo. “I’ve spent weeks roughing it in tropical forests seemingly devoid of any large mammal species. Yet when you fire up the laptop and stick in the memory card from camera traps that have been sitting there patiently during the entire trip—and see species that were there with you the entire time —it’s like being given a glimpse into a parallel world.”
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For bushmeat hunters, who specialize in gathering wildlife in rural communities, their services, considered illegal and an unsustainable over-hunting practice, are no longer needed for biologists to gather information. Some bushmeat hunters would kill rare animals to sell their rare carcasses to market.
The Walter’s duiker was discovered in 2010 when bushmeat specimens were compared to other known duiker specimens. However, recent images of the Walter’s duiker are the first scientists have ever seen. Few and far between, some rare species do not make the endangered listing because of the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies them as “data-deficient.”
The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, a Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford in England, also known as WildCRU, is trying to make a difference.
“This graceful antelope has, for the last 200 years, displayed a great talent for avoiding scientists, but proven tragically less adept at avoiding nets, snares and hunting dogs,” zoologist at the University of Oxford David Macdonald said. “Plotting their whereabouts in bushmeat markets is roughly analogous to plotting the habits of deer in the UK by mapping their occurrence on butchers’ slabs.”
by: Molly Jirasek, Nexstar Media WirePosted: Apr 1, 2021 / 06:42 AM EDT / Updated: Apr 1, 2021 / 06:42 AM EDT
NEW YORK (NewsNation Now) — A man from Guyana did not make it past John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport Sunday after 29 live finches were found in his baggage. The birds were hidden inside some colorful hair rollers.
The 26-year-old was traveling from Georgetown, Guyana to New Jersey when U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) discovered the finches during a secondary baggage examination. In a news release, CBP said he was not criminally charged, but will have to pay a $300 civil penalty. He was put on a plane back to Guyana, Monday.
The finches were quarantined and put in the care of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Veterinary Services.
The reason federal agencies take swift action in situations like this is because of the risk of introducing the bird flu into the U.S. poultry industry.
The industry was dealt a big blow during a 2015 outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). According to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than 50 million chickens and turkeys in the U.S. died or were intentionally killed to stop the spread of the disease. They said that is about 12% of the country’s egg-laying population and 8% of the estimated turkeys raised for meat. As for the economic impact, losses were estimated at more than $1 billion.
CBP said during a regular day in 2020, they seized 3,091 prohibited plant, meat, animal byproducts, and soil, and intercepted 250 insect pests at U.S. ports of entry nationwide.
NewsNation reached out to CBP to ask why the man attempted to sneak the birds into the U.S. CBP could not say why the birds were being brought into the country, but previous news reports indicate finches have been smuggled and sold for bird singing competitions.
Officials at the Seymour Airport, located on the island of Baltra, just 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, called the incident an attempt to smuggle the reptiles off the island, according to USA Today.
Airport X-ray machines detected the tortoises when they sensed irregularities in a red suitcase. Staff opened the suitcase to discover 185 of the baby reptiles, including 10 that had died, the news outlet reported.
He said that the surviving tortoises have since been taken for veterinary reviews.
As of Monday, no charges were filed in connection to the incident, though Ecuador’s national police and environmental police are conducting investigations. The owners of the suitcase were also reportedly held for questioning, USA Today reported.
The smuggling of any animal from the islands can result in up to three years in prison, the news outlet noted.
ometimes it’s the SUVs, sometimes a Mercedes, other times a sedan, but this time it was a closed container carrier truck being used to transport turtles in India.
Law enforcement agencies had sprung into action when they were tipped off about the consignment that was on its way from the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh to West Bengal, which shares its borders with Bangladesh.
Police believe if all had gone to plan, the two suspects, now in custody, would have successfully transported the turtles to the animal markets in West Bengal. There, the reptiles would have either been sold as meat to the locals or exported across the border.
“The accused had stuffed more than 1,300 Indian Softshell turtles in 37 big gunny bags,” H V Girisha, an Indian Forest Service officer and regional deputy director for the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau told The Independent. The turtles, which normally have a lifespan of somewhere between 20 to 50 years, could not endure the stress of the journey and conditions in which they were kept, and about 30 of them had died. Pandemic Pets Has Led to ‘Mafia-Style’ Puppy Tradehttps://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.446.1_en.html#goog_1648242297
“When we opened the seized bags, we found that 1,283 of them were alive, 13 were severely injured and 30 were almost dead,” said Mr Girisha. The entire consignment and the truck itself were then seized.
STOP THE ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE
We are working with conservation charities Space for Giants and Freeland to protect wildlife at risk from poachers due to the conservation funding crisis caused by Covid-19. Help is desperately needed to support wildlife rangers, local communities and law enforcement personnel to prevent wildlife crime. Donate to help Stop the Illegal Wildlife Trade HERE
The trade of turtles and tortoises is illegal in India. Most of these reptiles are protected under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and their international trade is further regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to which India has been a signatory since 1976.
Placed under schedule – I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, turtles and tortoises have the highest level of legal protection in the country. “So if a species protected under the schedule – I of the Wild Life Protection Act, their trade invite a minimum of three years of imprisonment extendable to seven years. It is a non-bailable, cognisable offence,” Jose Louies, deputy director and chief of the Wildlife Crime Control Division at Wildlife Trust of India told The Independent. “They, therefore, have legal protection which is at par with big cats like tiger and leopard.” Please enter your email addressPlease enter a valid email addressPlease enter a valid email addressSIGN UPI would like to be emailed about offers, events and updates from The Independent.Read our privacy notice
The trade of these animals is so rampant, they were observed to be illegally transported through roadways, railways and airways.
The research, conducted in association with Turtle Survival Alliance- India, found about 58,000 live animals were seized during this period across India, Bangladesh, Thailand and China, nearly 90 per cent of which were being traded illegally. Of these, over 70 per cent of seizures were made in transit.
But it is not just the meat, for which these reptiles are traded. There is also a superstitious and mythological value attached to them. “According to Hindu mythological text, they are said to be an avatar of Lord Vishnu, so there is a belief that with it, goddess Laxmi– the goddess of money and prosperity– would also come along,” Mr Louies said. “Across different cultures, they are believed to bring in luck.”
Turtles and tortoises are also pretty low maintenance pets. “Any reptile is very easy to keep. In fact, you can send a turtle or tortoise by courier. Even they do not eat for two or three days, as long as they are not bashed around, the tortoise or turtle would survive and reach in as good a condition as it was sent,” said Aniruddha Mookerjee, a consultant wildlife adviser for the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) at Oxford University.
Yet, despite their ability to withstand tough conditions, their rehabilitation after the seizure is a big concern among wildlife activists and experts.
“When an animal is put in gunny bags for days, it would be under high stress,” said Mr Girisha. “They have to be relaxed and need immediate medical attention for conditioning them before they are sent to the natural environment. The doctor there has to make an assessment, whether the reptile is healthy enough to be released into the wild.”
“The welfare issues in this trade are really abysmal,” added Mr Mookerjee. “They are taped up, not fed for many many days and are exported miles away from the natural environment they are endemic to. Obviously, trade mortality is very very high.”
“In fact, in many of the places where they are rescued, people do not know whether they are water turtles or dry land turtles and they are released in the water body. The reptile drowns and dies,” he said.
Another concern about releasing an alien turtle into freshwater bodies is that they could overpower the native population and become dominant there, as seen in the case of the American red-eared slider turtle. Though native to the central and eastern United States, the species was accidentally released to the Sukhna Lake in the north Indian state of Punjab and is now dominating other reptiles found in the area.
While the turtle and tortoise trade has been a menace in India for a long time, it did not always receive this level of protection domestically or internationally.
The concern was first raised seriously in 17th Conference of Parties of CITES held in 2016 in Johannesburg. The international body undertook an investigation according to which between 2000 to 2015, more than 300,000 turtles and tortoise were illegally traded across the world.
Among those, Indian Star Tortoise accounted for roughly 35,000. “More than 10 per cent. This is when we did not know the actual scale of the illegal trade in freshwater turtle and tortoise trade. The real numbers would be much higher,” said Mr Girisha.
In fact, a separate study published in the journal Nature Conservation by WildCRU showed that in 2014 alone, at least 55,000 Indian Star Tortoises were poached in India.
“Star tortoise, which is endemic to India is largely traded for petting purposes mostly because these are ornamental species,” explained Mr Mookerjee, one of the co-authors of the study. “These are ornamental but it is believed that some part of it is also sent to China where it is believed to be consumed as food.”
In a boost to India’s bid to protect endangered animal species, the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva in August 2019 banned illegal international trade of Indian star tortoise, as it moved the species to Appendix I, giving it the highest level of international protection from commercial trade.
Earlier, the species was in Appendix II of the CITES, under which their trade was not completely restricted but regulated.
“Turtles are natural scavengers of the aquatic ecosystem. They help in cleaning the river by scavenging dead organic material and diseased fish, controlling fish population and other aquatic plants and weeds” explained Mr Girisha. And this is what makes them such an important part of India’s Ganga rejuvenation programme called Namami Gange, he said.
But despite, such strict regulations, the cross border trade of turtles and tortoise continues with impunity. “In true sense, the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 is a strict law. But there are weaknesses in the enforcement system,” said Mr Girisha, elaborating on the implementation-related roadblock that the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau of India and other enforcement agencies face.
“There is no deployment of forest officers in the Indo-Gangetic Plain for they are supposed to be deployed in forested areas. That is not where the trade of these reptiles happens. It happens in crowded places like towns and villages located alongside the riverbank.”
“More importantly, the forest department of the country does not have an intelligence unit of its own, to process and convert the tip-offs into actionable inputs,” said Mr Girisha. “In essence, we do not have a robust system in place that backs the act.”
It was a routine patrol around 7:30 a.m. on Sunday when six rangers working at Virunga National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo were ambushed by a local militia group. The attack is the latest in the part of eastern Congo home to some of the world’s last mountain gorillas.
“It’s devastating,” Parks Director Emmanuel De Merode told CBS News as he was leaving the funeral for one of his six rangers. “The families of these men have lost breadwinners and have no safety net.”
The attack is the deadliest since April of last year when 17 people — 12 of them rangers — were killed in the worst episode of violence in the park’s history. De Merode himself survived an assassination attempt after being shot several times in the chest and abdomen in 2014.
The Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation, the agency that manages protected areas in the country, says the latest attack occurred while rangers were patrolling the central sector of the park, near a newly constructed electric fence meant to prevent intrusions into the protected area. Rangers have been extremely successful with it — it’s kept the militia out of the area — but that success has put a target on their heads.
The armed fighters were not poachers, but militiamen battling for control over natural resources and land. \Park rangers are frequently attacked as part of the ongoing war for power in the eastern part of Congo. Dozens of armed groups operate in the region, many remnants of militias that fought in the civil wars over the past three decades that have resulted in millions of deaths from conflict, hunger and disease.
“The park is very rich in resources and we lose about $170 million a year with these illegal activities,” he said. “That’s what draws the militia to the park. Our job is to protect the park but that also means cutting them off from large sums of money and brings them into frequent conflict with rangers whose job it is to protect the reserve and its flagship species, the mountain gorillas.”
The attack has been blamed on the Mai-Mai, an umbrella term that refers to the numerous militias waging armed conflict in the region. They fund their activities with the illegal plundering of resources and are small but well armed.
The Virunga Game Reserve is one of the Africa’s oldest parks, home to stunning landscapes, incredible biodiversity and, of course, the majestic mountain gorilla. The park provides a rare opportunity to see these creatures up close.
Before the global coronavirus pandemic, the park was well on its way to becoming an economic asset. In a bid to reduce the violence, authorities have created about 12,000 jobs, and at least 11% of these new employees are former militiamen. Authorities hope that if they can give fighters a sustainable job, it can put an end to the conflict.
But the parks have suffered a series of devastating blows in the past few years: a recent Ebola outbreak, the coronavirus pandemic and now another brutal attack. The lack of tourism from this deadly cocktail of events has decimated the industry. De Merode said he doesn’t know how much longer they can hold on financially.
“It could be weeks,” he said. “At best, a few months.”
According to the indictment, beginning by at least July 2015 and continuing until at least July 2017, Horton shipped thousands of freshwater turtles from Georgia to California that had been trapped using turtle nets that were illegal under Georgia law. Although Horton held a Commercial Turtle Permit during this time and GA-DNR sends all commercial permit holders the applicable Georgia statutes and GA-DNR regulations on turtle traps, Horton repeatedly used illegal traps to capture freshwater turtles. In October 2016 and August 2017, while holding a commercial permit, GA-DNR cited Horton for using illegal traps to capture freshwater turtles, the indictment stated.
Among the species of turtles Horton allegedly trapped illegally were: Stripe-necked musk turtle (Sternotherus minor peltifer), Loggerhead musk turtle (Sternotherus minor), Common musk turtle or stinkpot or eastern musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus), and Eastern mud turtles (Kinosternon subrubrum).
Updated 6:59 AM ET, Tue October 20, 2020Seven people were arrested in a flying squirrel trafficking operation.
(CNN)At least seven people have been arrested and charged in an “elaborate organized enterprise” to smuggle Florida’s flying squirrels — protected wildlife in the state — and sell them, investigators announced Monday.Up to 10,000 traps were set up across the state to capture the flying squirrels and as many as 3,600 of the animals were shipped overseas within three years “to be sold as exotic pets for hundreds of thousands of dollars,” the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said in a news release.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year winners revealed, with tiger image scooping top prizeThe investigation started last year after the commission received an anonymous tip about people illegally trapping flying squirrels in one Florida county, the release said. The animals were illegally captured by poachers across several counties and sold to a dealer. The animals were then laundered through the business of the dealer, “who claimed they were captive bred,” the commission said.Officials said buyers would travel from South Korea to purchase the flying squirrels from the dealer, and the animals would then be driven to other parts of the country before being exported to Asia.Content by Trend MicroThis service keeps your computer running smoothlyThe internet really has opened up a whole new world. Literally. Anytime you open up your laptop, you have an entire globe’s worth of information at your fingertips.Investigators also learned the Florida suspects trafficked other animals as well, including protected freshwater turtles and alligators, the commission said.