May 17, 2021Lu Shegay & Zihao Yu

‘Pet Mystery Box’: China’s Dog and Cat Mail-Order Craze Causes New Outrage


May 7, 2021

An illegal cat and dog mail-order courier operation, which offered an online pet sale gimmick also known as a ‘pet mystery box’, has been exposed and shut down by animal rights activists of Chengdu Love Home Animal Rescuing Centre in Southwestern China.

Chengdu Municipal Postal Administration in Sichuan province revealed this week that it had launched an investigation into courier operation Hehuachi Station of ZTO Express for sending live animals through the postal system.

Volunteers from Chengdu Love Home Animal Rescuing Centre found workers at the delivery station had packaged a total of 156 cats and dogs into separate boxes before couriering them in vans, state media CCTV reported.

When the volunteers arrived at the station in the city’s Jinniu District earlier this week they were greeted by screeching animals. The animals were found wrapped up in boxes with plastic bags, making it difficult for them to breathe. The volunteers also found four dead animals.

Commentaries of IALA

Shipment of living animals in small boxes is dangerous for the young cubs because they have the risk of death during the long time and distance of transportation without enough oxygen, water, or food. As there is no animal welfare law or anti-cruelty law in mainland China, the behavior of mailing cats and dogs only violates the Postal law in China. According to the Postal Law and its Implementing Regulation, all living animals are listed as Prohibited items that cannot be sent through any postal or courier.

Read our blog about the Pet Blind Boxes in China.

Three Leopards Escaped a Safari Park in One of China's Biggest Cities


May 9, 2021

A leopard remains on the loose near one of China's biggest cities after three of the big cats escaped a zoo. Residents living near the Hangzhou Safari Park spotted the wild cats last week and alerted authorities. Search teams were dispatched, and two of the leopards were recovered. Now a massive hunt has been launched for the third, with officials and locals searching on foot and by drone.

In a statement Saturday, the zoo said it was "sincerely sorry" for not alerting people and they were worried that the announcement of the incident would cause panic." It was announced on May 10 that the three leopards escaped from the zoo on April 19, 2021.

The Hangzhou Safari Park has been closed while local authorities investigate. The person in charge of the park was taken into police custody. Opened in 2002, the Hangzhou Safari Park houses more than 200 animal species, including pandas and elephants. The leopards were kept in its Dangerous Predator Zone.

Commentaries of IALA

The zoo has the liability to report when the leopards escaped, and the failure to report may involve criminal liability under the Civil Code Article 134 for “very serious dereliction of duty”, and the negligence of zoo management may violate the Civil Code Article 341 for wildlife protection. The zoo shall follow the instructions under the Urban Zoo Management Regulations of China.

Latest Mass Stranding Raises Concerns for Endangered Caspian Seals


May 12, 2021

About 170 endangered Caspian seals were found dead on Russia’s Dagestan coast near the city of Makhachkala from May 4-6, with fishing activities most likely to blame. Caspian seals are caught for their skin and even their blubber, which is made into an oil and promoted as a cure for COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses, according to experts. An expert says that more than 15 000 Caspian seals are killed annually and sent to the market. With only about 68,000 mature individuals left in the wild, experts say international cooperation by countries bordering the Caspian Sea is urgently needed to protect the imperiled species.

This mass stranding has rung alarm bells for conservationists working to protect Caspian seals (Pusa caspica), a species listed as endangered by both the IUCN and Russia’s own conservation authority. Since the start of the 20th century, the species has declined by more than 90%, with only an estimated 68,000 mature individuals remaining.

This stranding isn’t an isolated incident. In December 2020, authorities reported the deaths of 300 Caspian seals in another mass stranding on the Dagestan coast. However, some conservationists say the total number of deaths was closer to 2,000.

Commentaries of IALA

Caspian seals, like many other aquatic animals, are mostly threatened by the fishing industry and wildlife trade. Seals are one of the victims of aquatic animals that get strangled in fishing nets or bycatch. Some were promoting seal oil as one of the cures for coronavirus and was popular in the local markets.

Caspian seals inhabit the Caspian sea that belongs to five countries (Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkmenistan). According to Simon Goodman, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Leeds who has been researching Caspian seals for the past 17 years, “establishing adequate protected areas for Caspian seals is a necessary step in conserving the species. This would require international cooperation due to the species’ migratory nature.” He also added that “reducing human-driven seal deaths due to fishing and wildlife trade,” but “people involved in these activities need to be offered alternative forms of income.”

Video of Zebras Being Mistreated During Journey to Iranian Zoo Sparks Outrage


May 13, 2021

People in Iran have been shocked and horrified by a video that emerged on social media on May 4, 2021, showing zebras being mistreated during their transfer from a zoo in Bulgaria to one in Tehran, Iran. One of the animals was beaten while another died. According to an animal rights activist, this video highlights the unscrupulous practices of Iranian zoos and the failure of Iranian officials to ensure animal welfare.

The footage shows several men trying to transfer the zebras from the container they had been traveling into a container belonging to the Iranian Department of the Environment, a government organization so that they could then be transported to a zoo in Tehran.

Neither officials at Safadasht Zoo nor Iranian customs officials have taken responsibility for the death of one zebra and the mistreatment of another. After the video appeared online, the official zoo Instagram account started posting insults aimed at the people who had been critical of the footage. Shortly thereafter, they backtracked, claiming that their account had been pirated. Users, however, took screengrabs of the original messages.

The Iranian customs Department of the Environment announced that they were launching an investigation into the video and the zebra’s cause of death.

Commentaries of IALA

Zoos in Iran are supplied with horrible and unacceptable conditions for wild animals, like in many other Asian countries. While the situation is bad enough in the capital of the country, other cities remain too bad for animals. The locals consider the best solution to address the issues with regard to zoos is not banning zoos completely but to restrain them from buying new animals, including those for breeding. The public thinks it may prevent the suffering of other [new] animals and let old animals “finish their lives out.”

An Owl Not Seen in Over a Century Makes a Brief Return — Then Vanishes Again


May 13, 2021

Researchers have confirmed the first sighting of a rare owl last seen in Borneo nearly 130 years ago. The researchers say the history of speciation in the region could justify naming the Bornean Rajah scops-owl as its own species, distinct from the Sumatran subspecies, O. b. solokensis.

The Rajah scops-owl is a small bird weighing 100 grams (3.5 ounces) and measuring up to 24 centimeters (9 inches) in length. It has a striking appearance with rufous plumage, black streaks on its chest, characteristic ear tufts with white inner sides, and piercing yellow eyes. Almost everything that is known about its ecology is derived from the Sumatran subspecies (O. b. solokensis).

Given that the islands of Borneo and Sumatra have been prone to speciation events, and that owls in the genus Otus have shown rapid divergence following geographic isolation, researchers say the Bornean subspecies is so rare it could be a whole new species on its own.

The encounter with the elusive owl lasted two hours before it vanished into the forest once again. There have been no sightings since.

Commentaries of IALA

Deforestation and climate change pose a huge threat to the Bornean bird and affect their habitats. The Rajah scops-owl is currently classified as Least Concern under the IUCN Red List. These birds are endemic to Indonesia and reported possibly extinct in Malaysia, according to the last assessed data. Climate change is a serious issue to address and take into consideration by everyone as it affects the population of thousands of animals that depend on our attitude towards animals and the environment.

Herd of 18 Elephants Killed by Lightning in India


May 14, 2021

Lightning is believed to have killed a herd of 18 wild Asiatic elephants in remote northeastern India, a forest official said Friday.

The elephants, including five calves, were found dead during rains in the protected Kondali forest reserve, wildlife official Jayanta Goswami said. The forest guard reached the remote area Thursday and found 14 elephants dead atop a hill and four at its bottom.

Preliminary reports by veterinarians said the elephants were struck by lightning, but Goswami said autopsies were being done to ascertain the exact cause of death.

Assam is home to an estimated 6,000 or more wild Asiatic elephants who constantly come out of the forests in search of food.

Commentaries of IALA

Human activities have a great impact on the living space of wild animals. The human-wildlife conflict is getting tenser and tenser in some areas. As elephant habitats decrease and get more fragmented, the interaction between humans and elephants increases, leading to intense conflicts between people and elephants, causing fatalities on both sides besides damage to human property. It is important to give wildlife enough space for their basic welfare and lives.

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