March 18, 2021Lu Shegay & Zihao Yu

'Looking for a Flamingo?': Bird Trafficking in Iraq


March 1, 2021

“Is it flamingos you’re looking for? Come to my place after 1 pm,” whispers Mustafa Ahmed Ali from inside his small shop, which is buzzing with bird sounds of all kinds. He has been selling birds – wild and bred – at the bird market in Amara, in Iraq’s Maysan province, for more than 30 years. In his small bricked house in Amara’s suburbs, Ali admits selling various species of birds, mostly to rich Iraqis or foreigners from the Gulf states. “Many flamingos die in my cage, especially during warm summer days,” he admits, adding: “I sell between one and 10 of those birds every month during winter, the peak season. They buy them dead or alive because people also eat them.” Holding a flamingo tightly under his arm, Ali says the police are no threat to his business, despite a local decree banning flamingo poaching.

Another man called Ahmed Saleh, no relation to Dr. Hamoudi, recently bought some flamingos for his garden. His kitschy fountain is lit with pink, blue, and red iridescent lamps, shading the wild birds with a wide variety of colors. His brother offered the birds to him two days earlier. “When he brought them, they were in bad condition, they couldn’t even stand up. But when they saw the fountain, they got better and started moving around. I’ve been looking for flamingos for a while now, mainly because it’s a beautiful bird to have in a garden,” Saleh says.

The flamingos are unable to escape Saleh’s garden because they lack the necessary space to take off. Sometimes, the poachers or owners cut off the main feathers of the birds to prevent them from flying away.

Commentaries of IALA

Flamingos migrate to the south of Iraq every year during the winter period, specifically between October and February, to places where the temperature is milder and where there is plenty of food for birds. Bird poaching is a common practice in Iraq, and generally, birds that have been captured are sold for IQD 30 000 - 40 000 (USD 20.5 - 27). Despite the international law instruments that protect migrating birds, the domestic law of Iraq does not protect flamingos, according to the Head of the Environmental Department of Maysan. However, there is a provincial government ban on selling flamingos in the market. The Head of the Environmental Department of Maysan said that “since the poaching areas are at the border between Iran and Iraq, it falls under the jurisdiction of the border protection forces, making it difficult for our police department to control the area or conduct arrest operations.”

Cambodia's Royal Turtle Lays Eggs in Captivity for the First Time


March 3, 2021

An endangered turtle bred in captivity laid eggs for the first time in Cambodia, conservationists said this week, in a massive win for animal protection in the kingdom. The animal was among five royal turtles - once feared extinct in the country - that laid more than 70 eggs.

On March 2nd, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced that four royal turtles bred in captivity - and one that was handed to its conservation center in Cambodia's southwestern Koh Kong province - successfully laid 71 eggs. Given the rarity of the species in the wild, successful egg laying is considered a massive win for Cambodia. Since conservation efforts started, scores of royal turtles have been released back into the wild. These come from eggs laid in the wild and taken into captivity, to protect them from the dangers which threaten the species' numbers.

Commentaries of IALA

A lot of species of turtles, particularly, endangered species, are endemic to Cambodia. However, the population has decreased due to the high demand for traditional medicine and food consumption in certain Asian countries. The IUCN Red List classified royal turtles as Critically Endangered Species, according to the 2018 data, and their population ranges from 500 to 2500 mature individuals. CITES, currently, lists royal turtles in its Appendix I, the highest level of protection in international trade.

Largest Dog Meat Auction House In South Korea Closes Following Lady Freethinker Investigation


March 5, 2021

In a major victory for animal advocates, what is most likely the largest remaining dog meat auction house in South Korea, Nakwon Auction House, closed this week, following an inspection by Mayor Cho Kwang-han of the premise’s illegal dog meat farm and auction in the city of Namyangju. The dogs have been removed from the facility, and the owner has voluntarily reported the business’ closure to the government.

The closure follows an undercover investigation in the summer of 2020 by animal rights nonprofit Lady Freethinker that captured footage and images of captive dogs kept and sold at Nakwon Auction House. As reported by WAN last year, the investigation found more than 200 dogs being held in 60 metal crates and cages, each containing three to four dogs.

The closure follows a wider crackdown on dog meat farming in Namyangju by Mayor Cho. In January 2021, Mayor Cho convened a joint meeting of relevant departments to discuss measures to counter illegal activities of the dog farm and auction house. In the meeting, he demanded the departments take strong administrative measures with regard to legal violations that result in public harm and environmental damage. The city had also filed a complaint with law enforcement authorities and was taking administrative measures against the dog farm and auction house on charges of constructing an unlawful structure and changing its usage without a permit.

Commentaries of IALA

Dog meat farming remains a widespread practice in lots of Asian countries, especially Eastern and Southeastern regions of Asia. According to the poll in 2019, 12.2% of the respondents were eating dogs, compared to the poll conducted in 2018 (13%). Dog meat farming and trade are legal in South Korea, however, some cities already began closing dog slaughterhouses, and Seoul, the capital of South Korea, became a dog-meat-free city. This, unfortunately, does not prevent dog farmers from distributing and selling dog meat in other places, especially small towns, but it was reported that out of 41% of participants of the poll that used to eat dogs, are no longer consuming them.

Learn more about Animal Law in South Korea in our blog.

China Animal Testing: Exemptions for Testing on ‘Ordinary’ Cosmetics Start in May


March 8, 2021

Imported cosmetics products that fall into the ‘general’ category will not require mandatory animal testing to enter the Chinese beauty market from May 1st, 2021, China’s National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) has confirmed in its finalized regulations.

The authorities will begin to conditionally accept data from alternative methods for animal testing for cosmetic ingredients registration and notification.

This is regarded as the biggest step towards cruelty-free for China. Up until now, any cosmetics brand selling in China required animal testing by law.

Commentaries of IALA

Animal testing is considered to be one of the cruelest practices to animals which causes pain to animals’ eyes, skins, throats, and lives. The ‘general’ category of cosmetics includes non–special use products, like shampoo, body wash, lotion, and make-up. The cosmetics sector is the only one to have completely banned animal testing in Europe. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is planning to phase out animal testing procedures by 2035 in a bid to end flawed scientific tests which torture animals.

Chinese 'Polar Bear Hotel' Opens to Full Bookings


March 13, 2021

A hotel, part of the Harbin Polarland theme park, that bills itself as the world’s first “polar bear hotel” has opened in Harbin, the capital and largest city of Heilongjiang province, China, drawing both guests and criticism for its central feature: live polar bears.

The hotel opened on Friday with the promise of polar bear viewing from all 21 guest rooms. According to the media, two polar bears were in an indoor enclosure featuring artificial ice and small pools of water.

Harbin Polarland, established in late 2005, calls itself the world’s first polar performing arts amusement park. The spokeswoman for Harbin Polarland said that the indoor area is only part of the bears’ total enclosure and that they are let outdoors when temperature and air quality permit.

Commentaries of IALA

This hotel is criticized by conservationists and animal activists. Polar bears belong in the wild, instead of in aquariums or hotels. The small enclosure is harmful to polar bears’ physical health, mental health, and will have a negative impact on their behavioral pattern. Zoos, aquariums, and other facilities shall meet the animal welfare requirements and educate the family and children with the knowledge of animals instead of the cruelty.

Thailand Celebrates Elephant Day, Hoping Tourists Will Return


March 13, 2021

Thailand held a fruit banquet for dozens of elephants in the ancient capital Ayutthaya on Saturday (March 13), continuing an annual event that has been a big draw for foreign tourists in the hope they will return soon and revive the key tourism industry.

The feast marks the country's Elephant Day, celebrating elephants as a source of national pride and cultural identity for Thailand throughout its history, used for labor, transport, and in battlefield triumphs by warriors and kings.

The “elephant people” are hoping the government will open up the country to welcome foreign tourists for income for “the elephant food and compensation for their handlers”. The tourism-reliant country has yet to lift a travel ban imposed in April 2020 to curb the outbreak, keeping most foreign travelers and investors away.

Commentaries of IALA

“Animal rights groups have long been calling for the elephant camps in Thailand to end animal shows and rides, branding the shows as a form of animal abuse.” Elephants have been cruelly trained for human-animal interactions. Since the pandemic, the number of foreign tourists has fallen down 83% from 2019, and the elephant handlers, known as mahouts, were unable to meet the costs of wages and elephant food, and other elephant parks are still struggling to feed the animals and pay their mahouts which could be a huge tragedy for causing more deaths of elephants.

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