How America Declared A War on Wildlife

Wonder why wildlife is disappearing? The government is killing cougars, bobcats, bears, wolves and coyotes to protect cows, pigs and chickens.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s own reports, it has killed over 34 million animals in the last decade alone.

Most of those animals were native, wild animals. The rest were accidental killings of domesticated animals.

Shocking numbers

In 2017 alone, the agency killed more than 1.3 million native, wild animals.

Coyotes face heavy times in the USA. Every respect for wildlife seems to be gone in regions of the continent.

That figure includes:

  • 319 mountain lions
  • 357 gray wolves
  • 552 black bears
  • 1,001 bobcats
  • 3,827 foxes
  • 69,041 coyotes
  • 15,933 prairie dogs
  • 675 river otters
  • 23,646 beavers
  • 624,845 red-winged blackbirds

These figures are almost certainly far smaller than the actual number of animals killed, as whistle-blowing former employees of the ironically named “Wildlife Services” program of the USDA have claimed they killed far more animals than they were instructed to report:

While livestock protection is its primary charge, Wildlife Services also “kills animals for eating flowers and pet food, digging in gardens, frightening people, and other concerns that could easily be addressed using nonviolent methods,” according to wildlife advocacy group Predator Defense.

“That killing is carried out with a vast arsenal of rifles, shotguns, small planes, helicopters, snowmobiles, leg-hold traps, neck snares and sodium cyanide poison,” writes Tom Knudson, a reporter who’s been investigating the program for years.

Special contest are organized to kill coyotes in mass numbers.

“A list of birds and mammals trapped and poisoned by mistake by Wildlife Services would fill a small field guide: great blue herons, porcupines, river otter, mule deer, pronghorn, snapping turtles, raccoons, family pets, federally protected bald and golden eagles, a wolverine – the list goes on and on.”

“This war on wildlife can’t be tolerated anymore,” attorney for The Center for Biological Diversity Collette Adkinstold Newsweek. “This idea of killing wildlife any time there is a conflict is just barbaric.”

The environmental organization is suing the federal government over its Wildlife Services program.

“The Department of Agriculture needs to get out of the wildlife-slaughter business,” she added.

“There’s just no scientific basis for continuing to shoot, poison and strangle more than a million animals every year. Even pets and endangered species are being killed by mistake, as collateral damage.”

Mountain Lions also face a difficult time, and get killed in big numbers by Americans

“The barbaric, outdated tactics Wildlife Services uses to destroy America’s animals need to end. Wolves, bears and other carnivores help balance the web of life where they live. Our government needs to end its pointless cycle of violence.”

Source: ReturnToNow

Four-legged victims of war find peace in Jordan

Forty animals from Rafah Zoo in the Gaza Strip, considered the worst zoo in the world, will join at the end of the month other rescue animals at Jordan’s wildlife center aptly called New Hope.

For the last two years, a protected forest near the Jordanian capital has been home to animals that suffered in the regional wars. Seventeen African lions, two leopards and four bears currently live at Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife, 48 kilometers (30 miles) from Amman.

Four Paws, founded in Vienna in 1988, brought the animals to the shelter opened by the Jordanian authorities in 2017. Most of these wild animals had been left in the zoos without food or water. Four Paws transported some of the lions and bears from the Magic World Zooin war-ravaged Aleppo, via the Turkish border. Bear Lula and lion Simba were rescued from the zoo in 2017; they were the sole survivors at the zoo that once housed many animals but was ravaged by the fighting. More animals from Syria followed. Bear Dana, who was smuggled out of Syria in a van provided by the Turkish Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture, was pregnant. Within 12 hours of her arrival in Jordan, she gave birth to a cub that the team named Hajar (Emigrant).

Three lions that were rescued from Al-Bisan Zoo in the Gaza Strip, which was shelled by Israel in 2014, also found their way to Jordan in 2017, after being sheltered in different preserves in the region. More wild animals from Gaza are on their way. Later this spring, at least 40 animals — including five lions, a hyena, monkeys, wolves, porcupines, foxes, cats and dogs — that have been trapped at Rafah Zoo, known as the world’s worst zoo due to the poor living conditions that killed many of the animals there, will find a new home at Al Ma’wa.

According to a statement by Four Paws, the owner of the zoo has finally agreed — after negotiations that lasted more than a year — to hand over the animals to Four Paws at the end of March, when a team of veterinarians, wild animal transporters and animal caretakers will be in Gaza for several days to examine the animals and load them into their transport crates.

A bear seen at the Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife, Jordan, Feb. 25, 2019. Image by Mohammad Ersa

Head of Al Ma’wa Mustafa Khraisat told Al-Monitor that just like human war victims, the animals that came to the preserve were also traumatized and needed psychological treatment. “We noticed that Loz and Sukar [Arabic for Almond and Sugar], the bears brought in from Aleppo, hid every time they heard planes flying over the sanctuary,” he said. “It took a while for them to relax.”

Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife, also known as the New Hope Center, was established in partnership with the Princess Alia Foundation and Four Paws. It is managed by a staff of 26 employees, including caretakers who focus on issues related to health and psychology. The sanctuary covers an area of ​​1,100 dunams (272 acres) of protected forest that creates living conditions close to the natural environment of the animals.

The animals that are currently living in Al Ma’wa are only a small number compared to all those that died in the various wars. “Due to the destruction of the zoos in which they lived, a large number of wild animals died. When the survivors came here, most were in critical condition. We had to put them on a special diet,” Khraisat said.

A lion seen at the Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife, Jordan, Feb. 25, 2019. Image by Mohammad Ersan

The reserve, which opens its doors to visitors for a small fee, has become a popular local attraction. The sanctuary has created a new kind of eco-tourism in Jordan, with 200-300 visitors a day during the week. On weekends, the number of visitors goes up to 1,500.

“The tour guide gave me a thorough explanation about the conditions that these animals have experienced in the past,” Said Rand, a university student from Amman, told Al-Monitor. “It was very moving to learn how they had been affected by war.” He said that he visited the preserve to watch animals in their natural environment, even though there is a protective fence that separates the animals and visitors.

Khraisat pointed out that Al Ma’wa provides visitors with the opportunity to see animals up close, but also seeks to create awareness on how wars affect fauna, and explain the harmful practices and crimes against animals. “Our guides seek to raise visitors’ awareness on the harmful impact of illegal possession and trafficking of animals as well,” he concluded.

Read more:

Crocodiles moved from world’s tallest statue, angering environmentalists

Rob Picheta, CNN • Published 26th January 2019


Current Time0:36
Duration Time1:08

Loaded: 0%

Progress: 0%


(CNN) — Officials have started removing hundreds of crocodiles from the site of the world’s largest statue in India, prompting an outcry from conservationists and concerns about the welfare of the reptiles.
The crocodiles are being relocated to allow for a seaplane service to carry tourists to the Statue of Unity, a 597-foot-tall statue that opened in Gujarat in October, AFP reported.
At least 15 have already been lured into metal cages and moved elsewhere in the west Indian state, the Indian Express newspaper reported, with hundreds still remaining in the waters surrounding the landmark.
But the operation has been criticized by environmentalists and politicians.

The statue is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty.

The statue is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty.
“Have we collectively lost our minds?” Bittu Sahgal, the editor of environmental magazine Sanctuary Asia, tweeted in response to the story.
“As any environmentalist will tell you, this is sheer insanity!” Indian journalist and activist Pritish Nandy added, while others questioned whether the move contravenes the country’s wildlife protect laws.
Crocodiles are a protected species in India, listed under Schedule 1 of the country’s Wildlife Protection Act, meaning they cannot be moved unless a state government determines it is “necessary for the improvement and better management of wildlife therein.”
Local forestry official Anuradha Sahu said the state’s government had ordered the removals “for safety reasons as the tourist influx has increased,” according to AFP.
But the All India Mahila Congress, the female wing of opposition party the Indian National Congress, said the move showed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government was “keeping the environment at bay again.”
The Gujarat Forest Department did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.
The towering Statue of Unity depicts Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a popular political and social leader who was part of the freedom struggle that resulted in India’s independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
Twice the height of the Statue of Liberty, the landmark is estimated to have cost more than $410 million to erect.

Indian construction workers at the plinth structure of the statue.

Indian construction workers at the plinth structure of the statue.
It is widely seen as the personal project of Modi, who announced the plans in 2010 and formally unveiled the statue in October.
But transport links to the site, which sits in a remote part of the Narmada district around 100 kilometres from the city of Ahmedabad, are limited, with most tourists currently arriving by bus.
The government finalized three seaplane routes in the region in June to improve access.

Wildlife Services: The Worst of the Worst

Article posted by C.A.S.H. Committee To Abolish Sport Hunting

CLICK HERE for more from CASH COURIER NEWSLETTER, Winter/Spring 2018

By Jim Robertson

bobcat heads
Photo taken by an outraged employee of another government agency. Jim Robertson received permission to use this photograph by Brooks Fahey of Predator Defense. Please visit:

Never in human history has a more self-serving, damaging and persistent lie been perpetuated than the patently false notion that non-human animals lack consciousness. I mean, who came up with the idea, anyway? Some human, no doubt! Thankfully for the animals’ sake, we’ve come far beyond that kind of thinking these days.

Yet, the United States Department of Agriculture’s shadowy take-lethal-action-against-natural-predators-any-time-they-might-even-cast-a-sideways-glance-at-a-farm-animal division, the inaptly named “Wildlife Services,” a government agency that tries to claim science as its moral guide, conveniently ignores modern peer-reviewed studies such as the findings of 16 scientists in the 2014 Convention for Consciousness, which states:

“Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.

And the Delegation for Scientific Expertise takes it a step further, including fish, invertebrates—and those institutionally exploited species whose rights and well-being the agenda-driven humans would rather not have to acknowledge—to the thinking, feeling fold:

“Livestock species, such as poultry, pigs, and sheep, exhibit cognitive behaviors that seem to imply levels and contents of consciousness that until recently were considered exclusive to humans and to some primates. That is even more the case for fish and invertebrates that until recently were not even considered as sentient.”

But like Cartesian vivisectionists of dark ages past, USDA’s Wildlife Services must secretly wish that animals were unconscious so they could carry out their cruelties without protest from struggling victims (or their advocates).

When Wildlife “Services” speaks of animal suffering, it’s with the callous disassociation—indeed, the downright disregard and doublespeak—of the friendly neighborhood psychopath. And like a psychopath, the only reason they “care” about anything or anyone is when they think it affects them somehow. To the agency, wild animals are just resources and the “services” they perform are for the sake of industry—certainly not for the animals themselves:

“Pain and physical restraint can cause stress in animals and the inability of animals to effectively deal with those stressors can lead to distress. Suffering occurs when action is not taken to alleviate conditions that cause pain or distress in animals. Defining pain as a component in humaneness appears to be a greater challenge than that of suffering.”

In the words of Wildlife Watch’s own Anne Muller: “particularly galling is their analysis of ‘suffering’ and ‘pain,’ discussed as though they have a shred of concern for the individual animal or would know the meaning of the words ‘pain and suffering’ in animals at the most superficial level.”

murdered wolf
Photo by Wildlife Services

One group devoted to ending the terrible reign of Wildlife Services is Predator Defense. The following overview and kill data is from their website: “Wildlife Services is a strategically misnamed federal program within the USDA that wastes millions of dollars each year killing wild animals with traps, snares, poisons, gas, and aerial gunning at the request of corporate agriculture and the hunting lobby. According to their official reports, they have slaughtered over 34 million animals in the last decade. Even worse, we’ve had whistleblowers tell us repeatedly that Wildlife Services’ real kill numbers are significantly higher, just not reported.

In 2016 alone they claim to have killed 2.7 million animals, including the following vital native predators:

76,859 coyotes
997 bobcats
410 bears
415 wolves
332 mountain lions”

(For more on the savage escapades of Wildlife Services, watch the film, Exposed, by Predator Defense:

The late ornithologist and evolutionary biologist, Ernst Mayr, asked at the end of his book, What Evolution Is (one of 25 books on the subject to his name written over his 100 years of life), “How did human consciousness evolve? The answer is actually quite simple: from animal consciousness! There is no justification in the wide-spread assumption that consciousness is a unique human property… It is quite certain that human consciousness did not arise full-fledged with the human species, but as the most highly evolved end point of a long evolutionary history.”

And as Marc Bekoff, PhD, professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, wrote in his column for Psychology Today:

“…sentient nonhuman beings care about what happens to themselves and to family members and friends, and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect for who they are, not what we want them to be. …animals’ lives are valuable because they are alive — they have what is referred to as inherent value — not because of what they can do for us — what is called their instrumental value. It’s about time that we welcome them into our world and the arena of conscious beings.”

Of course, no one in the know and without a self-serving agenda would ever think of checking with the USDA “Wildlife Services” about anything having to do with animal awareness or intelligence—after all, they are in the business of depersonalizing animals so they can justify killing them. But for a government agency that is supposed to be utilizing science, they’re clearly behind the times. You could say their grasp of reality for animals is almost stone-aged.

Speaking of stone-aged thinkers, ironically, sport hunters, trappers and fishermen must “instinctively” know, almost as well as anyone, that animals are aware. Heck, what challenge would there be to their chosen sports if animals couldn’t think for themselves and make an effort to hide or escape? And just think what would happen to the camouflage clothing industry if animals somehow became unthinking, unfeeling robots that did not fear their pursuers.

helicoper hunting
Photo by Wildlife Services

To question whether or not animals are conscious is so absurd that one might wonder if it’s the animal-sentience deniers who lack awareness instead. In a satirical intro to the chapter, “Inside the Hunter’s Mind,” of my book, Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport, I turn the argument back on the exploiters themselves: “Hunters were once thought of as automatons: robots programmed to react to stimuli but lacking the ability to think and feel. But radical new studies have tentatively shown them to be capable of grasping simple grammar and the meanings of certain symbols (especially those lit up in neon in front of their favorite tavern or mini-mart).

If an attempt at humor seems out of place, consider this, the subject matter is so grim, gruesome or ghastly, that only a sport hunter and/or Wildlife Services agent would want to dwell there, mentally, for more than a fleeting moment or two. Now, not all hunters or trappers have jobs with the USDA Wildlife Services, but you can bet your bottom dollar that nearly all Wildlife Services agents are sport hunters and trappers in their spare time, in addition to being poisoners and aerial gunners when they’re on the clock.

Those in the Wildlife Services are clearly the worst of the worst. If you ever slip up and find yourself pitying some of these people whom you might hear about being lost in a plane crash or a rollover accident on a gravel back road, remember, they are the ones who aerial shoot, snare, trap, poison, etc. countless coyotes, bears, foxes, bobcats, wolves, cougars, etc., etc. Talk about unconscious, Wildlife Services must lack something else non-human animals have proven to posses: feelings like guilt, remorse or empathy for others—a conscience.

Jim Robertson is the President of C.A.S.H. and author of Exposing The Big Game.

CLICK HERE for more from CASH COURIER NEWSLETTER, Winter/Spring 2018

Mass shootings do not reflect human nature

by David Cantor

In the aftermath of mass murders, as in Las Vegas, we constantly hear that killing others arises from human nature. Filmmaker Ken Burns stated in his “Fresh Air” interview about his recent release on the Vietnam War, “War is human nature in spades.”

Yet, during my 28 years studying human beings’ killing of others, I discovered this from the leading expert on training human beings to kill in war, psychologist Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, in “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society,” “[D]espite an unbroken tradition of violence and war, man is not by nature a killer.” Grossman invokes findings that even with military training and indoctrination, many soldiers deliberately fire over the enemy’s head.

As consistently indicated in a great many sources on morality in human beings and other animals, we see human nature in the altruistic, protective, compassionate, and cooperative behavior that takes hold in the aftermath of mass murder, in mass resistance to war, and in spontaneous celebration of war’s end.

This distinction is crucial for understanding and preventing violence and murder and for responding to perpetrators. If killing were natural, we would not collectively be so horrified by it. Maybe it would be OK for authorities to “lie us into war” if “we” could benefit at the expense of “them.” Instead, we experience moral injury from our representative government’s promoting official violence while demonizing killers acting on their own.

We reward and celebrate peacemakers and officers who make arrests without killing or injuring the accused. We teach children how to get along with other human beings, not how to kill them because it is “natural” to do so.

For killing to manifest an animal’s biological nature, the animal must have body parts adapted to killing other animals and to protecting against prospective victims’ defenses. It helps to have thick, tough skin; long, hard claws and powerful muscles for wielding them; long fangs and strong jaw and head muscles to sink them between a victim’s vertebrae; back and limbs especially suited to pouncing and chasing.

Obviously, human beings do not possess such physical traits.

As detailed in “The Comparative Anatomy of Eating” by Milton R. Mills, M.D., human beings have none of the anatomical or physiological traits that define animals who evolved in nature to kill other animals – the above plus an omnivore’s or carnivore’s dentition, saliva, and digestive tract. In nature, killing is mostly for eating. No naturally occurring human “equipment” correlates with that function.

Humans evolved as plant-foraging apes on the African savanna, with color vision good for distinguishing a great variety of edible leaves, fruits, berries, flowers, and other plants that eventually led to what we call “produce” when our species began living unnaturally through agriculture; versatile digits and nails adapted to picking, plucking, peeling; teeth good for tearing and grinding plants – not for ripping and scarfing flesh.

Human beings’ organized killing relies on innovation, not nature – on manufactured weapons, traps, rope and, more recently, poison, electrical current, toxic fumes. For killing, our elaborate imaginative and cooperative capabilities, adapted to avoiding predation and raising families while moving about the landscape foraging for plants to eat, are distorted to plan and coordinate assaults, attacks, murders, wars, eliminationist campaigns, and executions.

Our bodies alone – our original, natural condition – aid us in spotting our natural predators, grabbing children and fleeing, defending with rocks and tree branches, not in actively planning, organizing, and setting out to kill.

In making policies and establishing practices with regard to nonhuman animals, human beings and governments typically analyze the kind of animal involved. Except that other animals’ sentience, emotions, and intelligence are denied because our innate humaneness rebels against injuring and killing.

It is peculiar indeed that we craft policies and perpetuate practices for our own species based on ignorance of such a basic fact of our animality as whether or not it is natural for us to kill.

A native Chestnut Hiller and 1973 graduate of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, David Cantor is founder and director of Responsible Policies for Animals, in Glenside –

Take action to protect the Arctic Refuge!

Take Action!

Arctic wildlife are already in a race against time living at ground zero for climate change but now their troubles could intensify.

As if the Trump administration’s demands to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development weren’t enough, now Congress is threatening to desecrate these incredible lands and waters by trying to sneak drilling authorization into the budget bills of both houses of Congress.

Tell Congress to stop all attempts to ransack the Arctic Refuge!

The president has made no secret about where his loyalties lie in his unrelenting drive to open the Arctic Refuge to Big Oil – he has even tried to use secret and illegal tactics to speed his agenda.

The one barrier to the Trump administration’s greedy push to put profit above wildlife and habitat in the Arctic Refuge is that it still takes an act of Congress to allow drilling in the coastal plain. But now, anti-wildlife members of Congress are using the budget process to clear that roadblock.

The House budget resolution already includes a provision paving the way for Arctic drilling, and now the Senate Budget Committee is also trying to bury it in its own budget resolution.

Take Action: Don’t let Congress put a price on the wildlife we love.

The Arctic Refuge is a place of unparalleled beauty that supports a vast array of unique and imperiled wildlife – from polar bears and brown bears to musk oxen and arctic foxes. It is also the principal calving grounds for the Porcupine Caribou herd, one of North America’s largest caribou herds.

Contact your members of Congress today and demand they protect the Arctic Refuge for its treasured beauty and for the wildlife that depend on it.

The decision to open one of the world’s largest intact ecosystems, a place of breathtaking beauty and vast, rugged wilderness, to oil and gas development should not be treated as a mere footnote in an unrelated budget process.

The Arctic Refuge deserves better. Wildlife deserves better. And the American people who overwhelmingly support keeping the Arctic Refuge free from destructive drilling deserve better.

Asia’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Makes Tigers a Farm-to-Table Meal


Tigers caged in a zoo at the Kings Romans casino complex in Laos. CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

BOKEO PROVINCE, Laos — The tiger paced back and forth in its cage, groaning mournfully. A second big cat slept soundly in the corner, while a third stared blankly at the bars.

Next to this cage was another containing three more tigers, and after that three more cages: a line of small pens, each holding at least one cat. Most likely, none had long to live.

The tigers were property of the Kings Romans Group, which operates a casino here, along with hotels, a shooting range, a cockfighting and bullfighting ring, a Chinatown-themed shopping center, and this shabby zoo.

Ten years ago, the Hong Kong-based company signed a lease with the Laotian government to develop this 12-square-mile plot in northwestern Bokeo Province, just across the Mekong River from Thailand. It’s called the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone.

Most businesses in the duty-free complex are owned and staffed by Chinese citizens and patronized by a predominantly Chinese clientele. Many are drawn here by the promise of vices not as easily found back home, including products made from exotic animals like tigers.

Conservationists maintain that this zoo is actually a farm raising animals for slaughter, and that it plays a significant role in perpetuating the illegal wildlife trade, swapping tigers with similar operations in Thailand and illegally butchering animals for their bones, meat and parts.


The front of a casino that is part of the Kings Romans Casino complex in Laos. CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

Tigers, bears, snakes and countless other species, many endangered, are held on farms throughout Southeast Asia. Operators illegally capture animals in the wild and then pass them off as captive-bred, or breed the animals on site and illegally sell them into the trade.

These facilities are part of a contraband industry whose profitability by some estimates is surpassed only by the global trade in drugs and arms, and by human trafficking.

Few tourists were present at Kings Romans during a recent visit. The ghost-town feel was reinforced by boarded-up shops, half-finished construction sites and posters advertising events that had long since come and gone.

But restaurants at Kings Romans still offered expensive plates of bear paw, pangolin (an endangered scaly mammal) and sautéed tiger meat, which can be paired with tiger wine, a grain-based concoction in which the cats’ penises, bones or entire skeletons are soaked for months.

When a group of foreigners showed up at the God of Wealth, Kings Romans’ fanciest restaurant, the suspicious proprietor told their translator, “You can eat here, but do not ask for the special jungle menu” — the menu offering wildlife options.

Nevertheless, the staff offered tiger wine for $20 a shot glass, and served a bear’s paw to patrons at a nearby table. In May, a photographer for The New York Times who visited the restaurant was offered plates of tiger meat for $45.


Gambling at the Kings Roman casino in The Golden Triangle, Laos. CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

Nearby, half a dozen jewelry and pharmaceutical shops displayed exorbitantly priced tiger teeth and claws, as well as rhino-horn carvings and shavings, elephant skin and ivory.

“The place is just a mess,” said Debbie Banks, of the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency in London. “Pretty much anything goes.”

In 2015, Ms. Banks and her colleagues, along with the nonprofit group Education for Nature-Vietnam, reported that meals, medicine and jewelry made from numerous protected species — including tigers, leopards, rhinoceroses, bears and elephants — were openly sold in the special economic zone.

Their documentation spurred the Laotian government to raid some businesses here and to burn a few tiger skins on television. But Ms. Banks said little had changed since that “cosmetic effort.”

Like the rest of the complex, the Kings Romans zoo was largely deserted save for animals kept in cages. A woman and her young daughter wandered in to look at the bears. Many showed signs of captivity-induced stress, including uncontrolled headbanging. Staff members were nowhere to be found.

Approximately 700 tigers live on farms in Laos. Thousands more are believed to be kept throughout Southeast Asia, and an additional 5,000 to 6,000 are housed in over 200 breeding centers in China. Fewer than 4,000 of the big cats remain in the wild; farmed tigers now far outnumber total wild populations.

Continue reading the main story


An entrance to the zoo holding tigers, bears, deer, monkeys and peacocks, a part of the Chinese-owned Kings Romans casino complex. CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

At an international conference on the endangered species trade last fall, Laotian government officials acknowledged a growing problem with wildlife farms and committed themselves to closing down the country’s tiger farms. So far, little has changed.

One source who works closely with the government, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, said that some Laotian politicians remained deeply involved in the farms and that the country’s forestry department lacked the authority to shut them down.

Representative Ed Royce, Republican of California and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has singled out Laos as an international hub for illegal wildlife trafficking, saying in 2015 it was “quite clear officials are profiting.” Laotian government officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Treaty Limits Breeding

According to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, or Cites, a treaty to which China and all Southeast Asian nations are signers, tigers are to be bred only for conservation — not for their parts, and not on a commercial scale that does not benefit wild tigers.

“Farming tigers for trade confuses consumers and stimulates demand,” said Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia regional director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. “The increased market demand for tiger parts also fuels poaching of tigers in the wild, because wildlife consumers prefer animals caught in the wild.”

In Laos and several other Asian countries, conservationists have compiled ample evidence that many zoos and farms serve as fronts for commercial breeding.

Continue reading the main story


At the center, a jar of tiger bone wine for sale at the New Tender Fish Restaurant, which also served tiger meat and pangolin.CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

In 2016, Tiger Temple in Thailand made headlines when monks there were accused of abusing tigers and selling them into the illegal wildlife trade. Eventually, 40 dead cubs were discovered in a freezer, along with pelts and other wildlife products. Temple representatives said that the bodies and parts did not prove wrongdoing.

Thailand has some 1,450 tigers in captivity, the majority of which are kept at popular attractions like Tiger Temple, where tourists pay to take photographs and play with cubs and young adults.

When the tigers reach sexual maturity and can no longer be handled safely, they often disappear, sold on the black market for up to $50,000, according to Karl Ammann, a Kenya-based investigative filmmaker who is making a documentary about the tiger farming industry.

Conservationists also have accused tiger farms in China — two of which are supported by government investment — of illegal activity.

Chinese law permits some tiger skins to be traded legally, although tiger bone has been banned since 1993. But in 2013 Ms. Banks of the Environmental Investigation Agency and her colleagues found that farms were stockpiling tiger bones to make wine and that skins from wild tigers were sold as being from captive-bred tigers.

After inquiries from The Times, Meng Xianlin, executive director-general of the Chinese Cites management authority, declined to be interviewed. Several other Chinese officials did not respond to repeated interview requests.


Serving a dish of tiger meat at a restaurant called The God of Wealth in the Golden Triangle, Laos.CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

Past violators often re-enter the wildlife farming business. Construction has already begun on a zoo next door to Tiger Temple. Officials in Vietnam recently granted permission for the wife of Pham Van Tuan, a twice-convicted tiger trafficker, to import 24 tigers from the Czech Republic “for conservation purposes.”

Vuong Tien Manh, deputy director of Vietnam’s Cites management authority, said in an email that Vietnam had seized a number of frozen tigers and tiger bones over the past five years, most of which were suspected to have originated from Laos.

He added that Vietnam’s policies did not permit commercial breeding of tigers, but the country has some 130 tigers in captivity. All tiger farms are strictly monitored, Mr. Manh said, no matter who the owners are.

Bear Bile Collected

Though tigers are the most contentious of Asia’s farmed wildlife, they are by no means the only species caught up in the industry.

An estimated 10,000 bears are legally kept on Chinese farms for their bile, an ingredient in traditional medicine that is collected through a tube permanently implanted in the animals’ gall bladders, or through a hole in their abdomens.

Countless other species — crocodiles, porcupines, pythons, deer and more — are also farmed throughout China and Southeast Asia.

Continue reading the main story


Tourists pose with tigers in an enclosure at Tiger World in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in May. CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

Some proponents, including government officials, believe that such facilities should be legal and encouraged, arguing that they relieve pressure to hunt wild animals by satiating demand with captive-bred animals.

Others say there is no evidence to back this assertion. “I can’t think of any species in Southeast Asia that benefits from commercial captive breeding,” said Chris Shepherd, the Southeast Asia regional director for Traffic, a nonprofit wildlife trade-monitoring group.

Scott Roberton, the director of counter-wildlife trafficking at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Asia program, added that the risks associated with legalizing trade in farmed tigers and other endangered species are the same as those associated for decades with the ivory trade.

“Legal trade stimulates demand, confuses law enforcement efforts, and opens a huge opportunity for laundering illegal products, which is why ivory markets are now being closed globally,” he said.

“There just isn’t the capacity within these countries to manage a legal trade in a watertight way,” Dr. Roberton said.

“Laundering” of animals as farmed that were actually caught in the wild is a frequent practice. In Chengdu, China, one-third of 285 bears rescued from bile farms and now living at a rehabilitation center run by Animals Asia, a nonprofit group, are missing limbs, a sign that they were caught in the wild by snares.


A bear, with damaged teeth, at the zoo. CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

A 2008 investigation by Vietnamese officials and the Wildlife Conservation Society found that about half of 78 wildlife farms surveyed regularly launder animals caught in the wild. In 2016, a study of 26 Vietnamese wildlife farms found that all engaged in laundering.

The pet trade is also a problem. Indonesia annually exports over four million reptiles and small mammals labeled captive-bred — including thousands shipped weekly to the United States. But virtually all are caught in the wild, according to Dr. Shepherd.

“I’ve been to almost every reptile farm in Indonesia, and none have breeding facilities,” he said. “Wildlife dealers are running circles around everyone. It’s a joke.”

Though modern wildlife farming emerged in the 1990s and has only grown in popularity, wild populations of farmed species have continued to plummet, Dr. Shepherd said.

Tigers, for example, are effectively extinct in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, while just seven to 50 remain in the wild in China.

“No matter how many tigers are farmed, we still have wild tigers getting killed,” he said.

What Becomes of the Tigers?

Heeding these arguments, Laotian government representatives attending a major Cites meeting last September announced their intention to end tiger farming in their country.


Deer at the zoo. CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

International nongovernmental organizations are advising Laotian authorities on how to carry through with that announcement, but there has been no progress to date.

In April, Vietnamese reporters discovered a tiger farm in Laos on a main highway near the center of Lak Sao, a town near the border with Vietnam. Conservationists later confirmed that it might hold an additional 200 animals.

“There are some countries in Southeast Asia that are equipped to combat criminal networks, and some that are still struggling,” said Giovanni Broussard, Southeast Asia regional coordinator for the Global Program for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime of the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime.

“Laos,” he said, “is in the category of those that are still struggling.”

Though most tiger farms in Laos do not allow visitors, conservationists fear that owners will simply shift to a model embraced in Thailand, in which petting zoos serve as a front for illegal trade.

Even if the authorities move forward with shutting down the farms, what to do with the country’s 700-plus captive tigers is a challenge. Euthanizing them would bring unwanted media attention, but releasing them into the wild is not an option. There’s not much prey, and the tigers lack survival skills and have no fear of humans.

Yet keeping them is a burden; it costs thousands of dollars a year to feed a single tiger, Ms. Banks said, and tigers can live up to 20 years.

Continue reading the main story


Caged tigers at the zoo. CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

In 2002, Vietnam faced a similar dilemma when it made bear farming and bile sales illegal. Fifteen years later, around 1,200 bears still live with their original owners.

Many are kept in horrific conditions — in cages scarcely larger than their bodies, suffering from rampant disease and lacking adequate food and water — and their bile continues to be collected illegally.

Animals Asia runs a rehabilitation center near Hanoi that houses 160 bears rescued from the trade, but the center has permission to keep only 200 animals. Even if that cap were eliminated, however, the group lacks the funds and space to care for all of Vietnam’s remaining captive bears.

“Obviously, we can’t do this all ourselves,” said Tuan Bendixsen, Animals Asia’s Vietnam director. “The government must take responsibility for their wildlife.”

As Laos ponders how to responsibly close its tiger farms, China is moving in the opposite direction. Since 1992, it has been petitioning Cites to permit trade in farmed tiger products.

When Chinese representatives lobbied for this change once again at the most recent Cites meeting, the proposal was turned down.

Conservationists believe that international pressure may be crucial to persuading Asian governments to close tiger, bear and other wildlife farms, but that strategy’s effectiveness is compromised by an awkward fact: An estimated 5,000 tigers are held in backyards, petting zoos and even truck stops across the United States.

While those animals are predominantly kept as pets, they compromise negotiations with other countries on this issue, said Leigh Henry, a senior policy adviser at the World Wildlife Fund.

“When fingers are pointed at China about their tiger farms, they tend to point the finger back at the U.S. and say, ‘They have as many tigers as we have, why are you not criticizing them?’” she said.

“The priority is closing the tiger farms in Asia,” Ms. Henry said, “but the U.S. needs to set a strong standard, and that starts with cleaning up the situation in our own backyard.”

Forest rangers tortured and killed by illegal settlers in Liberia rainforest

Two forest patrollers have been killed and four hospitalised in what is believed to be retaliatory action from illegal settlers in Sapo National Park

 A man walks past a rack of bushmeat that includes the increasingly rare pangolin, now on the point of extinction.
A man walks past a rack of bushmeat that includes the increasingly rare pangolin, now on the point of extinction. Photograph: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

Two forest rangers have been killed by a violent mob in a Liberian rainforest after discovering a community illegally settling and hunting in the park, according to authorities.

“They ambushed them using single-barrel shot guns,” Darlington Tuagben, managing director of Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority told the Liberian Observer. One of the rangers died at the scene, while the other died in hospital a day after the attack. The ranger “was beaten and tortured to death”, said Tuagben. Four other rangers were hospitalised.

“This kind of behaviour is no longer in any civilised world including Liberia. It is barbaric and unacceptable,” said Tuagben.

The attack took place just one month after a ranger was tortured by other illegal settlers in the forest.

Sapo National Park is home to a variety of endangered species, including elephants, pangolins, pygmy hippos and western chimpanzees. It is one of west Africa’s most intact forest ecosystems.

The park was pillaged by poachers, loggers and miners during the Liberian civil war from 1990 to 2003, and the government and the United Nations have since implemented major resettlement programmes and PR campaigns to raise support for conservation. Farming, logging, construction, hunting, and human settlement have been illegal since 2003.

Despite conservation efforts by the government and NGOs, illicit activities inside the park have soared in the last decade. More than 1,000 people occupy Sapo illegally, according to Tuagben, who told the Liberian Observer that people remain hostile to park authorities and those trying to protect it. He said he has requested that the police deploy armed men to work alongside forest rangers.

If you would like to contact us with a story about elephant conservation and wildlife rangers, please email

War and the Effect on Wildlife

By Jenny Griffin

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

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

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

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

Habitat Destruction

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

Over-Exploitation of Natural Resources


Deforestation by World Bank Photo Collection

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

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

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


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

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

[Thanks to Rosemary for the link,]



JACKSON HOLE, WY – Most readers here have probably never heard of the notorious “M-44.” It’s not a gun, but rather a different kind of weapon deployed by the U.S. government in its century-old campaign still being waged against wildlife predators.

Verbatim, this is how the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s predator-killing bureau, Wildlife Services, describes the function of M-44s: “The M-44 device is triggered when a canid (i.e. coyote or wild dog) tugs on the baited capsule holder, releasing the plunger and ejecting sodium cyanide powder into the animal’s mouth. The sodium cyanide quickly reacts with moisture in the animal’s mouth, releasing hydrogen cyanide gas. Unconsciousness, followed by death, is very quick, normally within 1 to 5 minutes after the device is triggered. Animals killed by sodium cyanide appear to show no overt signs of distress or pain.”

Repeat that last line again, italics placed here for emphasis: “Animals killed by sodium cyanide appear to show no overt signs of distress or pain.

Should that give us solace?

Only days ago, as 14-year-old Canyon Mansfield was playing with his beloved Labrador friend, Casey, in the hills above Pocatello, Idaho, both teenage boy and dog stumbled unsuspectingly upon an M-44-like device that later was described as detonation of a “cyanide bomb.” The encounter killed the family pet that came in contact with cyanide and left Canyon’s clothing covered with chemical residue, prompting the local sheriff to declare him “lucky to be alive.”

Of course, the boys ‘parents are rightfully outraged. Other recent tragic incidents involving M-44s and pets in Wyoming, plus a wolf killed by an M-44 this February in Oregon, and a longer list of additional events that the government calls unfortunate accidents, are refueling public anger over M-44s, prompting Congressman Peter DeFazio-D, Oregon, to renew his push for a total ban.

While Wildlife Services and its cooperating local and state collaborators tout the lethal efficacy of poisoning to death intended prime targets—especially coyotes given that we are now again in the middle of another domestic sheep lambing season in the West—the dangers of M-44s are undeniable, critics say.

Namely, M-44s are menacingly super toxic and non-discriminating; in many cases needlessly used, especially on public land; and hazardous to the health of humans and pets.

Most of all, noted Brooks Fahy, a founder of the organization, Predator Defense, and a national leader in pushing to have M-44s outlawed, their deployment “reflects an archaic mindset carried forward by a federal agency out of touch with 21st century values,” he said.

A few years ago, Predator Defense produced a documentary Exposed: USDA’s Secret War on Wildlife (viewable free on YouTube), that won a number of awards and even drew praise from legendary conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall.

“What we desperately need is serious, objective, and transparent oversight of Wildlife Services by Congress but we haven’t had it because of Republican resistance to scrutiny of the agency’s tactics, especially from lawmakers in the rural West,” Fahy asserted. “They don’t want to know the truth; they don’t want their constituents to know the truth. They’re invested in promoting baseless propaganda which reinforces negative generalizations about predators that are just not factual.”

As numerous studies note, predator control may indeed be a culturally engrained tradition in rural corners of the West, but its rationale does not always align with the conclusions of science.  In some places, costly intervention by Wildlife Services has actually made predator conflicts worse and they’ve resulted in the killing of non-target species. In addition, as research makes clear, predators—including wolves, cougars, bears and coyotes—are actually important in helping to slow the spread of diseases in wildlife, such as Chronic Wasting Disease, because predators target sick animals.

Although Wildlife Services insists that M-44s are safe and subject to 26 different “use restrictions” mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (note: some Western federal lawmakers are now working to gut EPA’s role as a regulatory agency), Fahy says the agency and, in particular, state partners and private contractors have checkered records as noted in his film mentioned above.

On the official USDA website, it states that “Wildlife Services personnel place M-44s along game and livestock trails, ridges, fence lines, seldom-used ranch roads, coyote and fox natural travel ways, rendezvous sites, and territorial marking sites/locations. Trained personnel inspect each M-44 at least weekly. Used mostly in the winter and spring, M-44s may be used year-round in some locations. When not in use, they are stored in secured, locked locations.”(Read more:

Fahy notes the irony that M-44s are “stored in secured, locked locations,” yet as the Mansfield incident points out, they were sloppily deployed in a location that nearly cost a teenager his life.

There are instances, Fahy acknowledged, where depredation of livestock, particularly on private land, can be a problem that must be resolved through lethal removal. But he and others argue that many conflicts on public land can be better resolved through more conscientious sheep and cattle management, vigilant deployment of non-lethal deterrents such as guard dogs, range riders and fladry, especially during calving and lambing seasons, and acknowledgment that the publicly-subsidized grazing of private livestock on public lands is a privilege.

Predator Defense is among several organizations pushing to reform how Wildlife Services does business. Together, they have also sought tighter restrictions on trapping to reduce the number of pets caught in legholds and conibears near towns and reducing the killing of non-target species such as imperiled wolverines and lynx.

“With M-44s, it’s kind of like allowing a person with a loaded Glock to put a gun down on a picnic table in a public park along with a sign that reads, ‘Dangerous, do not touch.’ What would we be thinking if government agencies allowed that to happen?” Fahy said. “M-44s are more dangerous than a gun. You breathe some of this stuff in, and you’re dead.” PJH

Todd Wilkinson has been writing his award-winning New West column for nearly 30 years. It appears weekly in Planet Jackson Hole. He is author of the recent award-winning book, Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek, An Intimate Portrait of 399, the Most Famous Grizzly of Greater Yellowstone only available at