October 1, 2021Lu Shegay & Zihao Yu

Assam, India, Sends Strong Message to Conserve Rhinos

Source: hindustantimes.com

September 22, 2021

To mark World Rhino Day, the Assam government on Wednesday destroyed nearly 2,500 horns of the one-horned rhinoceros, elephant tusks, and other body parts of other wild animals. The destruction of horns and other animal parts complies with the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, and a later Supreme Court order. While Assam had disposed of horns recovered before 1979, those collected later were at the forest department’s district treasuries after they were recovered from poachers or collected from dead rhinos.

Last month, the Assam government said that poachers have killed 22 one-horned rhinos in the state since 2017 and that till June 2021, 644 poachers have been arrested for the crime. In April, Assam successfully increased its rhino population to 3,000 as targeted under Indian Rhino Vision 2020. In the face of the poaching challenge, the Assam government’s decision to publicly burn horns sends out a strong message that the body part has no commercial and medicinal value, and that India values its wildlife heritage.

Commentaries of IALA

Even though the species of rhinos, except for some subspecies, are listed in Appendix I of CITES, which means that the international trade of these animals and their body parts is strictly prohibited, extensive illegal trade continues in Asian countries, and the number of documented cases does not decrease. Rhinos are used in traditional medicine because of the ingredient in the rhinos’ horns. However, there is no scientific proof of its medical value.

Overfishing Threatens to Wipe Out Bowmouth Guitarfish in Indonesia

Source: hoteldealsphuket.com

September 24, 2021

The population of the nearly extinct bowmouth guitarfish in Indonesia is being depleted by overfishing, according to a recent study that calls for a reduction in its fishing and protection for juveniles of the species.

Marine researchers in Indonesia wrote that uncontrolled fishing for bowmouth guitarfish (Rhina ancylostoma) and other species of wedgefish in the Java Sea, the Karimata Strait, and the southern Makassar Strait threatens to wipe out the bowmouth population within 20 years.

The scientists performed the demographic analysis of two wedgefish species (the other was the white-spotted guitarfish or Rhynchobatus australiae) involving scenarios with and without fishing. These two species are the most commonly caught species in the wedgefish family, a type of ray, in Indonesian waters. Almost all their body parts are traded, particularly their fins, which supply the shark fin trade and thus command the highest prices on the international market.

The researchers called on the government to impose a strict catch quota for both bowmouth and white-spotted guitarfish and full protection of their juvenile populations to prevent them from going extinct in the wild. For the bowmouth guitarfish, in particular, the authors strongly urged a substantial reduction in fishing to protect the population in Indonesia’s western waters.

Commentaries of IALA

The bowmouth guitarfish is a species of ray and a member of the family Rhinidae. This is a rare species that can be found in the tropical coastal waters of the western Indo-Pacific. The bowmouth guitarfish inhabits a wide range of waters, however, like many other aquatic animals, they are threatened by fishing and overfishing activities. The population of this species is identified as decreasing, according to the IUCN Red List, and this species is classified as Critically Endangered. The Fisheries Law in Indonesia provides that fish is “all kinds of organisms, all or part of which life cycle is in the watery areas.” (Art. 1(4)) The law does not allow catching animals only with the use of poisonous/chemical/biological substances or explosives, however, it does not seem to be enforced, and this rare species is still in danger.

Read our blog on Fishing and Aquaculture in Indonesia here.

Snapshot of Hatchlings Raises Hopes for Siamese Crocs in Northeast Cambodia

Source: news.mongabay.com

September 24, 2021

On Sep. 9, a team of researchers discovered a group of eight Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) hatchlings in the Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary, a protected wetland landscape in northeastern Cambodia. This is the first evidence that the critically endangered species are breeding in this part of Cambodia in 10 years of painstaking surveys.

Among the threats limiting population recoveries are entanglement and drowning in fishing nets, hydropower schemes that drastically alter water levels in rivers, and habitat destruction and degradation. In Cambodia, habitat loss is not isolated to development corridors — protected areas are in the firing line too.

Conservationists share the view that boosting numbers by reintroducing captive-reared crocodiles is the best way forward. To that end, a consortium of government departments and NGOs is cooperating on a Siamese crocodile recovery plan that features a captive-breeding program to produce offspring for reintroduction at suitable sites. To date, this initiative has resulted in the release of more than 100 crocodiles into the wild.

Commentaries of IALA

The Siamese crocodile is a species of freshwater crocodile native to Indonesia, Brunei, East Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. This species is Critically Endangered and was considered virtually extinct in the wild in the 1990s. However, over the past two decades, small, isolated populations have been discovered in wetlands and waterways in Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Nonetheless, numbers remain perilously low, with scientists estimating the global population of adults in the wild at fewer than 1000 individuals. “Following the species’ rediscovery in Cambodia two decades ago, systematic surveys have identified Siamese crocodiles in 21 river systems in 11 provinces, with recent assessments putting the Cambodian population at roughly 150 crocodiles.

For now, northeastern Cambodia’s new wild hatchlings will remain under “strict and regular law enforcement efforts,” Asnarith Tep, public affairs and advocacy head at WWF-Cambodia, told Mongabay in an email. Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary rangers will conduct boat and foot patrols inside and outside the protected area to make sure the hatchlings remain safe.”

South Korean President Suggests Ban on Eating Dog Meat

Source: theguardian.com

September 27, 2021

The South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, has raised banning the eating of dogs in the country, his office said, a traditional practice that is becoming an international embarrassment. The meat has long been a part of South Korean cuisine with about 1 million dogs believed to be eaten annually, but consumption has declined as more people embrace the animals as companions rather than livestock.

South Korea’s pet industry is on the rise, with a growing number of people living with dogs at home – the president among them. Moon is a known dog lover and has several canines at the presidential compound, including one he rescued after taking office.

Commentaries of IALA

Even though the dog meat industry violates the provisions of the Animal Protection Law, the cruel slaughter of dogs is still happening in the country with only the capital of South Korea banning dog farming. The rescue of dogs continues by lots of animal rights activists and animal protection organizations. Recently, the authorities of South Korea have invoked the law and other hygiene regulations to crack down on dog farms and restaurants ahead of international events such as the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

Mapping Threats to Land Mammals, Amphibians and Birds: Study

Source: news.mongabay.com

September 29, 2021

The Sumatran orangutan, Malayan tiger, and eastern lowland gorilla all find themselves in a grim lineup, joining thousands of other species listed as critically endangered, their populations dwindling as the planet continues to march headlong into “the sixth mass extinction.”

The recent study, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, uses data from the IUCN Red List of endangered species to map where these threats to terrestrial mammals, birds, and amphibians occur at a global scale. The six major threats to biodiversity addressed in the study are agriculture, climate change, hunting and trapping, invasive species, logging, and pollution. The researchers found that there are large areas of the globe in which animals have more than a 50% chance of encountering these threats.

The study found that, globally, agriculture is the greatest threat to terrestrial amphibians, mammals, and birds combined. Hunting and trapping are the most prevalent threat for terrestrial birds and mammals. Agriculture, invasive species, and pollution pose severe threats to amphibians in Europe, while birds are particularly affected by climate change in the polar regions, the east coast of Australia, and South Africa.

Commentaries of IALA

Plenty of wildlife animals are now facing habitat degradation, habitat fragmentation, and habitat loss due to such factors as deforestation caused by the climate crisis. Climate change is driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns.

The main driver of climate change is the greenhouse effect. Many of these greenhouse gases occur naturally, but human activity is increasing the concentrations of some of them in the atmosphere, in particular, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases, etc. Modern agriculture, food production, and distribution are major contributors to greenhouse gases. With that being said, agriculture is directly responsible for 14% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Deforestation currently accounts for an additional 18% of emissions. With changes in temperature, this affects many wildlife animals, apart from other factors that decrease their population (poaching, wildlife trade, entertainment purposes, etc.)

Malaysian Hornbill Bust Reveals Live Trafficking Trend in Southeast Asia

Source: news.mongabay.com

September 29, 2021

In August 2021, authorities at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport discovered a shipment of eight hornbills, caged but alive, en route to international markets. The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN) seized the birds and arrested two men for failing to display valid documentation for possession of the birds. Among the haul was a baby helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil), a critically endangered species hunted to the brink of extinction for its distinctive ivory-like bill casque that’s prized by collectors in parts of Asia.

Even without the illicit trade, hornbills are being pushed toward extinction as a result of their slow reproductive cycle and highly specific nesting requirements. There are more than 30 species in Asia, all of which require large trees with suitable nesting cavities.

While seizure records indicate that live trafficking is a threat, vital up-to-date information is missing. No one knows how many hornbills are taken from the wild, where they are taken from, or where they end up. Crucially, the effect of this trade on wild populations is largely unknown, and, with population numbers already in decline, experts say this information deficit is a serious concern.

Part of the problem, according to Shepherd, is that many hornbill species are not adequately protected by CITES, the international treaty to ensure commercial wildlife trade doesn’t lead to species extinctions. In many cases, hornbills can be traded legally given the correct documentation and permits that indicate the bird was not taken from the wild. As with so much wildlife trafficking, tracing the hotspots of trade and poaching and making the necessary adjustments to legislation and enforcement efforts is a continuous process. But for hornbills, the clock is ticking.

Commentaries of IALA

Wildlife trade is one of the pressing animal law issues, particularly in Asian countries and regions. TRAFFIC, a leading NGO that works on global trade in wild animals and plants in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, issued seizure reports from across Southeast Asia to evaluate the illegal live trade threat. Their findings indicate that the recent cases in Malaysia and Indonesia are just the tip of the iceberg. During 2015-2021, there were 99 incidents involving 268 live hornbills spanning 13 species. According to the report, the most trafficked species of hornbill were the wrinkled hornbill, the great hornbill, and the oriental pied hornbill.

It was documented that live hornbills have been trafficked from Indonesia to Russia, China, and Malaysia. Recently, 8 hornbills were confiscated in Kuala Lumpur for transfer to Bangladesh before being sent on to an unconfirmed destination country.

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