For the Conservation Curious

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Killing an Endangered Rhino IS NOT Conservation January 16, 2014

Filed under: Science — newdomino @ 1:15 PM
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This topic has been covered well in the media this week, so I was hesitant to throw my thoughts out into the blogosphere too, but the subject matter makes my skin crawl so much that I had to go ahead and write about it: the auction by a hunt club in Texas to give the highest bidder a chance to kill an ENDANGERED black rhino in Namibia.

rhino_wikipedia

Where do I begin? First of all, according to a blog posting on National Geographic’s website, this is only one of five rhino permits that the Namibian government will hand out this year. So not only is one ENDANGERED rhino facing its death, but many will! This is a species that numbers less than 2,000 animals in the country, a population crash of nearly 96 percent over the last century. How few individuals does a species have to have in order for all hunting of it to cease?

Illegal poaching for the rhino’s horn, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine, kills numerous individual animals too. Supporters of the hunt say that the $350,000 raised by the auction will go to protect the other rhinos from poachers. It’s all about conservation, they say. Bullshit is what I say! If these people truly cared about conservation, and not the need to kill something to show what a man they are, and put a rhino head on their wall, they would donate to conservation organizations that work in Africa to create new parks and reserves and to hire additional rhino guards to protect them from poachers. They would not put their money where their gun is. Using the word conservation in this context is just disgusting to me.

And don’t think that I am some ultra-liberal animal rights activist here, who is against all forms of hunting. I am not. I used to be, but as I have educated myself about hunting and the environment, I certainly see its place – at times. Humans have altered the natural landscape so much through the killing of predators like wolves and mountain lions, along with creating the perfect habitat for nuisance species like Canada geese and white-tailed deer, that hunting is one of the few viable options left. If people didn’t hunt deer, our forests would never regenerate trees, except for perhaps some invasive ones. So I support hunting where it keeps the ecological web in check. That is not the case with the rhino hunt.

We are talking about a species under threat from many angles. The black rhino is ENDANGERED, which means it’s on its way to being EXTINCT. That means it is gone for good. I may never see a rhino in Africa although I hope to!), but that makes the species no less precious to me. I can’t travel to Namibia right now and watch the rhinos like a hawk to make sure no one guns them down, but I can use my keyboard and the internet to spread the word. What this hunt represents IS NOT conservation, no matter how they spin it.

I will leave you with a very apropos quote from John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints,” not take only trophies, leave only shell casings!

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Ivory in China Knocked Back One Peg January 10, 2014

Yesterday the Chinese government took a big step in telling their citizen’s and the rest of the world what they think of ivory and the poachers that are illegally selling it – they crushed six tons of the white substance, valued at $10 million. While it is estimated that the government has a large, undisclosed amount of ivory still in its stockpile, wildlife groups hail the move as impressive and hopefully a sign of more good things to come.

This display of ivory destruction was the first of its kind for China, the world’s largest market for ivory. Illegally poached ivory travels through the black market to China, where it is sold to the growing middle and upper classes as art work. What does ivory poaching leave in its wake? Thousands of dead African elephants and sometimes the rangers paid to protect them. But with values up to $2,000 per kilogram, ivory fuels a thriving underground industry.

Will this very public display of ivory crushing deter those killing elephants for their tusks? I’m not so sure. As ivory items are destroyed, doesn’t that just reduce the supply of existing ivory, raising the price of the remaining ivory and incentivizing people to go get more? Until people can be convinced of the inhumane practice of killing elephants for their tusks (as well as killing tigers for their bones for “medicine” and other such practices) I think the illegal ivory trade will continue. And until there are strong enough laws and penalties for the poachers, and a stronger armed presence of elephant guards and park rangers, the poaching will continue.

What can we, so far from the situation, do to help? For one thing, don’t buy ivory. There are still places where you can buy ivory items – both legally and illegally – in the U.S. and elsewhere. Just say no! And if you are considering a trip to either Africa or China, think about where you are going and how you can make a point to bring up this issue. Stay in places that support tracking down and penalizing ivory poachers. Avoid places that openly flaunt the law. Share this knowledge with your friends and perhaps one day the African elephant (along with rhinos, tigers and so many other poached species) will be able to roam the savannahs free from the danger of a sniper scope.

 

Conservation Wish List for 2014 January 2, 2014

It’s 2014, which means it’s time to create a list of things I hope to see happen (or not happen) in the coming year. I like to think about my sustainability and natural resource conservation dream list… if the sky’s the limit, what could we see take place in 2014? Here are some of my desires, in no particular order…

The Sustainable PA Program will be rolled out to the public and embraced by municipalities across the Commonwealth

New York will keep its moratorium on fracking

Orcas can no longer be held in captivity

Genetically modified foods will have to be labeled if they are sold in the U.S.

More people will embrace the use of native plants in their gardens and yards

Dolphins and whales would not be killed for food or “research”

No new invasive species will enter the country

More municipalities will embrace “green” storm water management strategies like porous pavement, rain gardens and bioswales

Pennsylvania gets a new governor

More climate change deniers are shown the light and start spreading the word about its dangers

When someone abuses an animal they get more than a slap on the wrist

More people decide to live a vegetarian lifestyle or at least cut way down on their meat consumption

Do you have any conservation-related hopes for 2014? If so, let us know about them. Thanks!