April 5, 2021Lu Shegay & Zihao Yu

Thailand Says $11M Seized in Wildlife Trafficking Sting

Source: abcnews.go.com

March 17, 2021

Thailand's anti-money laundering authorities said they have seized or frozen more than 330 million baht ($11 million) worth of assets in a sting operation against a suspected wildlife trafficking ring.

The March 12 operation targeted Boonchai Bach, a Vietnamese and Thai citizen who was arrested in 2018 but later got his conviction for trafficking in rhino horns and other contraband reversed. Thai law gives police wide latitude to seize property that authorities suspect comes from illegal activities. They said they confiscated a hotel, vehicles, land, and other assets and have frozen Boonchai's bank accounts.

A senior Thai police official, Lt. Col. Teerapong Dulayawjian, said the Anti-Money Laundering Office was working with prosecutors in investigating the suspected laundering of profits from trading in endangered species. In raids beginning early on March 12, police said they searched several locations in northern Thailand's Nakhon Phanom and Chaiyaphum provinces seizing cash, Buddhist amulets, firearms, and wild animals.

Commentaries of IALA

A lot of Asian countries, especially Southeast Asia, have been caught and prosecuted for the illegal trade of wild species of animals. Despite wild animals and endangered species are protected under the Wildlife Protection and Preservation Act, the Animal Welfare Act covering five species of wild animals, and the Criminal Code, illegal activities continue to occur in Thailand, as well as smuggling to neighboring countries.

Critically Endangered Helmeted Hornbill Gets a Protection Boost in Thailand

Source: traffic.org

March 17, 2021

Thailand has given the highest level of protection under the country’s law to the Critically Endangered Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil), a species heavily targeted by poachers and traffickers for its ivory-like casque.

The hornbill will be added to the ‘Reserved Wild Animal’ list under Thailand’s primary wildlife law, the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act B.E 2562 (WARPA 2019). This is a list of rare or endangered wild animals offered the highest protection level and has the stiffest penalties for those convicted of hunting or selling them.

The decision was made on 8 March at the national wildlife conservation and protection meeting. The legal process to add the bird to this list is expected to be completed within a year.

Helmeted Hornbills were previously listed as ‘protected’: a separate category under Thai law that carries a jail term of at least 10 years or a fine of THB 1 million (about USD 32,700), or both for hunting or selling the animal. Once the upgraded protection takes effect, the penalties for hunting or selling Helmeted Hornbills will rise to 15 years in prison or a fine of up to THB 1.5 million (about USD 49,000), or both, upon conviction.

Commentaries of IALA

Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) is listed as Critically Endangered (CR) in the IUCN Red List and listed in Appendix I of CITES*, which prohibits all commercial international trade of this species. They live in Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand, but they are extinct in Singapore. Their current population is decreasing. The species is heavily targeted by hunters and illegally traded for their highly prized solid horns or casques. The trade network is thought to be largely managed by organized crime, which means that trade pressure is likely to continue, eventually reaching every part of the species' range, and will be very difficult to control. (Source: IUCN Red List)

From 2010 – 2020, at least 3,697 Helmeted Hornbill casques, heads, and skulls were seized in 66 incidents by enforcement agencies in six countries and territories. Over the past decade beginning in 2010, reported seizures on Helmeted Hornbills have generally been on a downward path, with peaks recorded in 2013, 2016, and 2019. (Source: Traffic.org)

Planet Zoo: Southeast Asia Animal Pack. Launching on Steam

Source: butwhythopodcast.com

March 18, 2021

Frontier Developments announced Planet Zoo with the Southeast Asia Animal Pack would launch on Steam on March 30. This brand new, animal-focused expansion brings a menagerie of much-requested creatures to players everywhere.

Hailing from the breathtaking Southeast Asia region, the Clouded Leopard, Sun Bear, Proboscis Monkey, Binturong, Malayan Tapir, Ussuri Dhole, North Sulawesi Babirusa, and Giant Malaysian Leaf Insect join the impressive list of existing habitat and exhibit animals.

In this game, players as zookeepers can test their skills as they handcraft a stunning array of habitats to keep their newest arrivals healthy and happy. Players will have the opportunity to help protect and raise this vulnerable species, and players will learn and provide the proper living environment for the species.

Commentaries of IALA

The game provides a great alternative to real zoos. The educational function of zoos can be achieved through the game without causing unnecessary harm or pain to animals. The players in the game are required to maintain the animal welfare standards while still bringing in the donations. It is a beginner guide to habitats, exhibits, and animal care, as well as zoo management. Through playing the game, players will also have a better understanding of the pros and cons of zoos.

Hong Kong's First Vegan Cheese Shop Opens

Source: asiatatler.com

March 24, 2021

Over the years, more and more plant-based and dairy-free alternatives have been launched in Hong Kong including vegan ice cream, vegan desserts, vegan bubble tea, and plant-based meat. The newest addition to the plant-based dining scene is Le Fromage, Hong Kong's first-ever purely plant-based cheese shop, set to open on March 26, 2021.

The shop will feature handcrafted dairy-free cheeses of over 20 vegan-friendly fermented raw cheeses, which are made using the highest quality plant-based and nutritionally-dense ingredients such as cashews and almonds. This newest vegan offering in Hong Kong will finally allow those with certain dietary restrictions and those who just want to eat healthier to get their hands-on dairy-free cheese.

Commentaries of IALA

Dairy is a good source of nutrients in daily life, but it will cause unnecessary pain and cruelty to farmed animals. Using plant-based alternatives can benefit more animal welfare, the environment, and your health as most plant-based dairy products are low in fat without cholesterol and rich in vitamins and minerals. Learn more about the plant-based alternatives and the facts behind the dairy industry, and make your choice.

Russian Conservationists Hail Rare Sighting of Amur Leopard with Cubs

Source: theguardian.com

March 26, 2021

Russian conservationists have hailed a rare sighting of an Amur leopard mother with three cubs in the far-eastern region of Primorye as proof of the efficiency of the country’s efforts to boost the population of the endangered species.

Scientists in a Russian national park in Primorye on the border with China obtained the images using a remote camera trap. The video footage shows the feline family standing on top of a hill in the Land of the Leopard national park.

In the video, the young mother, identified as Leo 117F, is seen spotting a mystery animal and then leaving the scene, apparently walking closer towards it.

Soon her cubs also discover the animal and begin to watch their mother’s interaction with the “intruder” intently, the park said. None appeared to be afraid.

Commentaries of IALA

The Amur leopard is a species of leopard endemic to the Primorye region of southeastern Russia and northern China. Currently, this species is listed as Critically Endangered under the IUCN Red List. Amur leopards are considered one of the rarest cats on Earth. In 2007, only 19-26 of this species were estimated to survive, but in 2019, the population was reported to be close to 90 leopards. This species is also included in Appendix I of CITES. A few captive breeding programs have been conducted to save the species and reintroduce them into the wild.

Russia Registered World's First COVID-19 Vaccine for Animals

Source: nbcnews.com

March 31, 2021

Russia has registered the world's first vaccine for animals against Covid-19 after tests showed it generated antibodies against the virus in dogs, cats, foxes, and mink.

The World Health Organization has expressed concern over the transmission of the virus between humans and animals. Moscow's regulator said the vaccine would be able to protect vulnerable species and thwart viral mutations. Russia has so far only registered two cases of Covid-19 among animals, both in cats.

Some scientists say that cats and dogs do not play a major role in transmitting the coronavirus to humans and that their own symptoms are often mild if they contract Covid-19. Clinical trials of the Russian animal vaccine began in October last year and involved dogs, cats, Arctic foxes, mink, foxes, and other animals. The watchdog said the animals had continued to show an immune response for at least six months since the trials began in October. It said it would continue to study the vaccine's effect on the animals.

Commentaries of IALA

In the light of the pandemic, animals have been affected too because of their interaction with humans. And although the virus has been found only in cats, other categories of animals are susceptible too, for instance, in slaughterhouses, zoos, etc. If the vaccine for animals ends up successful, it will become a rescue for lots of animals that suffered from COVID-19.

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