In this episode, find out why Yellowstone Park grizzly bears and bison are falling prey to hunting interests, and learn all the latest news on…
…Why many more species may be at risk of extinction than previously realized
…Why the UK’s new £5 note may be unsuitable for vegetarians and vegans
…How avian flu is causing hundreds of thousands of birds to be killed from France to Japan
…What Argentina’s city of Paraná just did to lessen working animals’ burden
…How Venezuela’s economic crisis is putting dogs and cats in peril
…Why deforestation in the Amazon is increasing despite environmental protections
…How an acidic man-made lake killed as many as 10,000 snow geese in Montana
…and why reclassifying temples as zoos is good news for elephants in India!
Research by Kim Rogers Bartlett
Presentation & editing by Wolf Gordon Clifton
Theme music: “Praetor,” courtesy Ross Bugden: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQKGLOK2FqmVgVwYferltKQ/
Hello! I’m Wolf, like the animal, reporting for Animal People World News.
MANY MORE SPECIES FOUND TO BE ENDANGERED
Many more species of animal may be at risk of extinction than previously realized, according to new studies challenging the findings of the IUCN Red List. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature is widely recognized as the leading global authority on the conservation status of animals and plants, which its Red List classifies according to risk of extinction.
A recent study by Conservation International surveyed walking sharks, a genus of bottom dwelling sharks that use their fins to crawl across the seabed. The nine known walking shark species were thought to have large, overlapping ranges within Australian and southeast Asian waters, and are currently classified as Least Concern on the Red List. The new study, however, showed that the species actually have much smaller ranges than previously believed.
Meanwhile, a Duke University-led study examined nearly six hundred bird species across six regions in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Madagascar. Of these, one hundred and eight are currently listed as endangered by IUCN, based partly on the size of their geographic range. The IUCN does not take into account how much preferred habitat remains within that range, however. Factoring in habitat, the researchers found that an additional one hundred and eighty-nine species not classified as threatened are in fact at risk of extinction.
Both teams of scientists recommend that the IUCN reevaluate its methods and reassess the status of species on the Red List. The IUCN Red List does not convey any direct protection for endangered species, but is often consulted by governments and international conventions such as CITES to inform conservation decisions.
NEW U.K. BANKNOTE UPSETS VEGETARIANS & VEGANS
The United Kingdom’s new five pound banknote is causing upset among vegetarians and vegans. Last week, the Bank of England confirmed that the new notes, which are made from plastic to be longer lasting and waterproof, also contain trace amounts of tallow or animal fat. The use of tallow helps the currency to feed smoothly through machines without jamming, though plant-derived fats can achieve the same purpose. Some vegans and vegetarians have vowed to boycott the five pound note, and a petition on Change.org to cease the use of animal products in currency presently has over a hundred and thirty thousand signatures. The Bank of England plans to switch to plastic currency for its ten and twenty pound notes by 2020, and so far has not agreed to stop its use of animal fat in their manufacture.
BIRDS KILLED, FOIE GRAS HIT HARD BY AVIAN FLU
Farm birds continue to be killed across Eurasia, in efforts to combat the spread of avian flu. The current H5N8 strain of avian flu first appeared in South Korea in 2014, transmitted by wild migratory birds. While highly contagious to birds, H5N8 is so far not known to infect humans, although the related H5N1 and H7N9 viruses have killed hundreds of people. In France, forty five hundred ducks have died of the flu, and another seven thousand have been deliberately killed so far. Prices for foie gras have soared, and the outbreak prevents French producers from exporting the product abroad, severely impacting the industry. Foie gras is widely considered one of the cruelest meat products, requiring the force-feeding of ducks and geese to enlarge their livers up to ten times their normal volume.
Japan, which is France’s main export market for foie gras, has also experienced outbreaks of avian flu, killing some five hundred and sixty thousand chickens and ducks so far. Similar culls have taken place across Europe and Asia, and the Netherlands and Switzerland have banned free-range farming in order to prevent transmission between wild and domestic birds. Common methods of culling include gassing, electrocution, and suffocation in nitrogen foam.
PARANÁ, ARGENTINA BANS ANIMALS FOR TRANSPORT
The city of Parana in Argentina has passed an ordinance banning the use of working animals for transportation. Authored by councilwoman Claudia Acevedo, the ordinance prohibits using draught animals to carry or pull loads, whether of people or goods. The new rule will be applied gradually over the next year, simultaneously with a program to provide keepers with alternative means of transport in exchange for surrendering their animals. Once the ordinance has been fully enacted, any draught animals still in use will be confiscated and cared for by the government.
PETS IN PERIL FROM VENEZUELA ECONOMIC CRISIS
In Venezuela, dogs and cats are among those imperiled by a severe economic crisis, which has made it difficult for many people to care for their pets. The Venezuelan economy has been in recession for three years now, with rates of inflation approaching two thousand percent, and people are increasingly struggling to meet basic needs. A bag of rice can cost many days’ minimum wages, and a bag of cat food more than a month’s. There are around seventy animal protection groups in the country, and the government has provided workshops to teach pet keepers how to make pet food at home using leftovers. Nonetheless, rates of pet abandonment continue to rise, while shelters and rescuers struggle to provide for the animals already in their care. Says local rescuer Yessika Trejo on her blog, Venezuelan Cat,
“It wasn’t always like this, before I was able to catch stray cats, spay or neuter, and find them forever homes on my own. But since the beginning of this year, the situation just gets worse and worse daily. … Pets are being abandoned because people don’t see another way out. I want to help them, they don’t know or understand what is happening, but right now I can barely feed my own cats.”
AMAZON DEFORESTATION HITS EIGHT-YEAR HIGH
In the Amazon rainforest of Brazil, deforestation has accelerated to its highest rate in eight years, with nearly eight thousand square kilometers of forest – almost twice the area of Rhode Island – cleared between August 2015 and July 2016. Animal agriculture is the main cause of forest destruction, with the majority of cleared land used as cattle pasture, and the rest for crops used primarily to feed livestock. The Amazon rainforest is home to some ten percent of all known plant and animal species, and plays a major role in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As jungle is cleared to make way for livestock – the number one or number two source of warming greenhouse gases – climate change is expected to increase as a result.
Four years ago, logging was at a historic minimum, curtailed by protections for forest areas and enforcement of penalties against illegal logging. The political climate has changed greatly since then, with environmental regulations triggering a backlash from farmers whose livelihoods it has affected, further aggravated by economic recession. Illegal logging has increased as funds to police it diminish, and Brazilian lawmakers are relaxing environmental laws in order to promote agriculture and development across the Amazon.
YELLOWSTONE BEARS & BISON AT RISK FROM HUNTERS
Wild animals are under siege from hunters in and around Yellowstone National Park, which spans the U.S. states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Yellowstone grizzly bears are at risk of losing their protected status under the Endangered Species Act. Having dropped to fewer than one hundred and forty individuals in the 1970s, grizzlies have since recovered to over six hundred bears. Last spring, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed delisting them as endangered, and two weeks ago the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee voted unanimously to approve a new Conservation Strategy for once they are delisted. The Strategy includes managing grizzly bears as a game animal and issuing hunting permits to kill them.
Yellowstone bison, popularly known as buffalo, are already being hunted in Montana, whose state law permits the killing of all buffalo who leave the national park. Although there is no permanent buffalo population in Montana, the animals often migrate into the state during winter, seeking lower elevation habitat to escape Yellowstone’s snow. The government claims that the hunt is necessary to protect domestic cows from brucellosis, even though the disease originated in European cattle and has never been proven to transmit back from buffalo. According to the Buffalo Field Campaign, the true motive is to prevent competition for grazing lands, and the organization is currently petitioning Montana’s governor Steve Bullock to repeal the law permitting buffalo hunting.
MONTANA: ACIDIC LAKE KILLS THOUSANDS OF GEESE
Also in Montana, thousands of snow geese were killed after landing on a toxic man-made lake. The lake, known as Berkeley Pit, was formerly a copper mine abandoned in 1982, which has since filled with water so acidic it can liquefy steel. On November 28th, a flock of some ten thousand snow geese landed on the lake, in spite of deterrents implemented to prevent such catastrophes, with workers attempting to scare them away with gunshots and loud noises. The geese appear to have been migrating south later than normal, as a result of the unusually warm winter, and landed in Berkeley Pit in response to a snowstorm. The total death toll is not yet known – thousands of bodies have been counted on the lake, and many more birds have been found dead across the state, having evidently escaped the acidic waters only to succumb to their injuries later. The lake’s owners, Arco and Montana Resources, may face fines if federal investigators determine they were not in compliance with bird deterrence protocol.
INDIA ELEPHANT TEMPLES RECLASSIFIED AS ZOOS
Finally, in India a legal victory has been won for temple elephants. Some thirty five hundred Asian elephants are kept captive in temples across India, which use them in religious festivals and parades. Sometimes poached from the wild as calves, temple elephants are typically kept chained while not in use, and often beaten by trainers. During festivals, they are forced to walk many hours without rest, burdened by ornaments and human riders and surrounded by constant noise from instruments and fireworks. Current regulations for elephants’ health and welfare are frequently ignored; during this year’s Thrissur Pooram, the biggest such festival, nearly half the elephants used were found to be medically unfit due to wounds, impaired vision, or cracked nails.
Maneka Gandhi, India’s Union Minister for Women and Child Development and an outspoken animal advocate, has proposed that all religious institutions that keep animals in captivity be categorized as zoos. This will bring them under the rules of the Central Zoo Authority, forcing temples either to drastically reform their treatment of elephants, or surrender them to more suitable keepers. The proposal has been accepted by a Ministry of Environment committee and will take effect once signed by Minister Anil Madhav Dave.
This report covers just a few of the countless issues facing animals worldwide. More information can be found on the Animal People Forum, our online magazine and social networking site for people who care about animals. Sign up at animal people forum dot org, and don’t forget to like and subscribe for future episodes of Animal People World News. Together we can help create a kinder world for all living creatures! Thank you.