Red pandas

My local zoo just received two red pandas.  The zoo is undergoing a facelift – better and larger spaces for the animals with a more natural environment.  They also are getting a few new animals and sending some away to other zoos.

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These red pandas are a welcome addition. They certainly are cute, and so many people including children as young as three excitedly asked zookeepers questions.

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Red pandas are endangered with less than ten thousand in the wild.  Their natural home is in the Himalayans, and deforestation is the main culprit for their low population numbers.

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They seem to be closer in relation to a raccoon rather than a giant panda!

IMG_2409Their fur is a beautiful color and fluffy which sadly make them a popular hunting target in the wild.

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They spend their days in the treetops, and are most active at night.

IMG_2410Zoos are involved in conservation of the species.  The Knoxville Zoo in the US is considered the premier place in North America for red panda conservation.

IMG_2408All photos taken by me at the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, NY.

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Thailand

Three years ago I studied abroad in Thailand.  One of my favorite experiences was visiting the Elephant Nature Park, which ethically cares for over 35 elephants.  My professor is now back in Thailand, leading another group on this magical daytrip.

IMG_2402She just sent me this picture, which showcases the beautiful scenery of the park.  I wish I were there with them!

Thailand is getting more and more aware of ethical tourism.  Here are some other options:

1. Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary: Three guesthouses with double accommodation.  Wake up and walk only a few steps to help feed and bathe the elephants.

2. Elephant Haven: like the Elephant Nature Park, you can do a daytrip from Chiang Mai.  The unique part about this place is it is a reformed elephant camp.  Just a few years ago, they kept elephants in chains and used harsh training methods so the elephants would perform for tourists.   Now, they are looking to the Elephant Nature Park model as a guide to humane treatment for elephants.

3. Burm and Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary: one hour from Chiang Mai, this is a volunteer experience.  People often stay a week helping out, with regular feedings, bathing, and clean up duties.  Help restore nature to her finest by assisting with tree plantings.

 

 

Daphne Sheldrick dies

Dame Daphne Sheldrick has passed away from breast cancer.  She and her late husband founded the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust which has rescued hundreds of elephants since 1977 and raised awareness about conservation.  Her daughter posted the following on the DSWT website.

She will be sorely missed, but never forgotten, and this is what Daphne drew the most comfort from in her final weeks; knowing that her memory and work would continue with the tiny steps of baby elephants for generations to come and that the work that she pioneered has been able to achieve so much for wildlife and wild places throughout Kenya. She died knowing that she will continue to make a difference each and every day upon a land that she held so dear to her heart through the work of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, thanks to a dedicated team she leaves behind. Daphne was fortunate to live long enough to preside over mud baths at Ithumba with well over 100 orphans, ex orphans and wild friends frolicking, and be able to say to herself, ‘but for I’. What a gift she leaves us all with, as she really is a shining example of the finest of humanity. Thank you all for your love and passion and support.” Angela Sheldrick

Disappointment

Very disappointing news shared by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust:

USA lifts ban on elephant trophy imports

In another twist in the trophy hunting debate, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has announced that it is withdrawing its ban on importing elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia with immediate effect. Instead, permits will now be granted to hunters on a ‘case-by-case basis’. A number of other decisions made previously under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are also being overturned.

The ban on importing trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia was put in place under the Obama Administration in 2014 as a measure to protect elephants, after evidence showed that hunts in these countries did not enhance conservation efforts. The current US Administration first tried to lift the ban in November 2017, but a subsequent global backlash forced President Trump to put the decision on hold, pending a further review.

Though USFWS remained tight-lipped on any formal decision, Trump indicated at the time that the ban would remain in place, calling trophy hunting a ‘horror show’ and the attempt to overturn the ban ‘terrible’.

Yet, just a few months later, here we are again, with the US Administration lifting the ban to allow imports, this time on a case-by-case basis – appointing itself as judge, jury and executioner to elephants.

This latest announcement comes as a disappointing u-turn and one that could lead to the killing of more innocent elephants by US hunters.

Rhinos in trouble

IMG_5864There are only three Northern white rhinos left in the world, and sadly, the one male is gravely ill.  He is forty-five years old and is facing death due to natural causes.  The hope of a naturally conceived rhino is now slim to none, so scientists are trying to see if in-vitro fertilization is an option or if cross-breeding with another species of rhino is possible.  The loss of the northern white rhino will follow the loss of the western black rhino, which became extinct seven years ago.

The three remaining northern white rhinos are under heavy armed protection at all times.  While Asia has made strides at reducing the demand for elephant ivory the past few years, rhino horn is still being sold in many open markets in countries like Vietnam.  Misinformation that rhino horn treats disease such as cancer has made prices soar.

All rhino species are in danger, and organizations such as Save the Rhino are doing the best they can to educate, inform, and raise awareness.  Some fundraising has been creative – for example, last year Tinder named the Northern white rhino male as the most eligible bachelor in the world.  But, rhinos do not share the same prestige as elephants (which have been featured in countless fables, children’s stories, art, religious imagery, etc), and it has been more difficult to get the public to rally to save rhinos or to open their wallets for the cause.

(photo taken at my zoo)

 

 

Influential Conservationist Killed

Sad news featured on BBC today:

Esmond Bradley Martin, 75, was found with a stab wound to his neck at home in the capital Nairobi on Sunday.
The former UN special envoy for rhino conservation was known for his undercover work establishing black-market prices.

An influential conservationist, Martin was fearless in his pursuit for truth and justice.  He traveled to a China, Laos, Vietnam, and other locations posing as a black market dealer, taking secret photographs of ivory whilst in the presence of gang members.  He was instrumental in providing accurate reports of the illegal ivory and rhino horn trade to the UN and conservation groups, and gets a lot of credit for pushing China to ban ivory.

A US citizen, he first went to Kenya in the 1970s to begin his reports to combat the rise of ivory trading.  He died there in his home, likely the unfortunate victim of robbery rather than a premeditated revenge killing.

Tributes from groups like Save the Elephants have been released in the press and on social media.

 

 

 

 

Arctic Drilling

IMG_5453Photo: sea lion at my zoo

With the earthquake this morning (a 7.9 magnitude), I was reminded of yet another reason I oppose drilling in the Arctic.  The Trump administration is determined to open up this vast area for oil exploration and extraction.

Here are some reasons to oppose it:

1. Oil Spills

The US government itself estimates that there is a 75% chance of an oil spill in the Chukchi Sea if it is opened to offshore drilling.  Unlike the Gulf of Mexico spill, the remote location and ice will greatly complicate the clean up.  In fact, there is no proven method for cleaning an oil spill off an icy landscape.

2. Animals

An oil spill would be disasterous for wildlife.  But, development will hurt animals too.  197,000 caribou migrate to their calving grounds.  Migratory birds, sea lions, seals, wolves, polar bears, and more call this area home.  Building rigs requires building transport routes and human settlements, undoubtedly causing disruption.

3. Environmental impact everywhere

World scientists are trying to limit average global warming to 2 degrees C.  Drilling in the Arctic will make it  nearly impossible to meet the goal.  Rising sea levels will affect all areas, so if you’re living in Miami you should still care about the great white north.

4. Technology

I was shocked to see a few minutes of CNBC – the stock channel – and hearing them saying they were opposed to drilling in the Arctic and on US coastlines.  If anyone was for it, I would think it would be those looking to make a quick buck.  But, the commentator explained that new technology used by companies like Halliburton have made drilling in current locations very profitable and efficient.   It is possible to have a surplus of production without drilling in new areas.  He believed the long term costs of opening vulnerable areas to drilling would far outweigh any benefit, and hurt our economy in the future.