June 17, 2021Lu Shegay & Zihao Yu

Wildlife Trafficking, Like Everything Else, Has Gone Online during COVID-19

Source: mongabay.com

June 1, 2021


When COVID-19 emerged in early 2020 in Southeast Asia, its governments took rapid containment actions: lockdowns, travel restrictions, and trade suspensions, alerting the public about the virus. The pandemic has also put illegal or unsustainable wildlife trade under the spotlight due to enhanced restrictions on movement and increasing awareness about the public health risks associated with wildlife consumption. The long-term impacts, though, remain to be seen.

Data from the fourth edition of the Counter Wildlife Trafficking Digest of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), released May 21 this year, indicate that seizures of pangolin parts in China, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand dropped significantly in 2020, with 48 incidents in 2020 compared to 82 in 2019. The total volume of seizures also fell sharply to 9,765 kilograms (10.8 tons) of pangolin products from 2019’s 155,795 kg (171.7 tons). The report also found decreases in both the number and volume of seizures of tiger parts and elephant products. A total of 121 reported ivory seizures was recorded for 2020, down by 36% from 380 in 2019.

The trade in wildlife and wildlife products is increasingly shifting to online platforms as traffickers have found new ways to connect with potential buyers. Experts say that due to limited law enforcement capacities, encrypted online or undetected transactions, the online trade is particularly difficult to address.


Amid the pandemic’s increased enforcement activities, experts noticed that traders employ a shift in strategies: Traders resorted to stockpiling ivory, pangolin scales, and fossilized giant clamshells. A recent survey by WWF, released May 24, found that nearly 30% of respondents in China, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United States say they have consumed less or stopped consuming wildlife altogether due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, 9% of respondents said they were intent on purchasing wildlife products in the future.


Commentaries of IALA

The USAID report says COVID-19 has drawn attention to the threat that the illegal wildlife trade poses to human health, the global economy, and biodiversity, but it also revealed the inadequacies of wildlife legislation, policies, and enforcement on a global scale. China, the Philippines, ASEAN, have changed legislation to strengthen the enforcement of illegal wildlife traffic and trade. Educating the public is an important method to reduce the demand for wildlife products.


Read more on the report by USAID here.

Animals Asia Saves and Transports 101 Bears from Bear Bile Farms in China

Source: worldanimalnews.com

June 3, 2021


Animals Asia has successfully completed the largest operation of its kind by any animal welfare organization in the world. They just helped to transport 101 Asiatic black bears that were saved from bear bile farms in China to their new home in Chengdu.


The momentous rescue is the result of eight years of tenacious work and will provide an invaluable guide for animal welfare organizations around the world. The bears will spend their first 30 days in quarantine before slowly being integrated with the rest of the center’s rescued bears.


The successful completion of this operation shows that large-scale relocation of vulnerable species is entirely possible and feasible. Animals Asia believes that real and long-term change can only be achieved by working together constructively with all stakeholders, including the authorities and local communities.


Commentaries of IALA

Bear bile farming is a cruel farming system that is designed to extract bile from the gallbladders of living bears. This conduct is popular in some Asian countries, such as China and Vietnam. Bears’ gallbladder is used for traditional Chinese medicine. Bears are kept in cages almost all of the time throughout farming, where sometimes they are not even able to turn around or stand on four paws. On bile farms, bears are starved, dehydrated, and suffer from diseases that ultimately kill them. It is believed that bear bile has medicinal qualities, thus the demand for traditional Chinese medicine containing bear bile still takes place. It is believed that it can be a cure for acne, colds, sore throat, conjunctivitis, and cancer.

Magawa the Hero Rat Retires from Job Detecting Landmines

Source: bbc.com

June 4, 2021


Magawa the rat, who was awarded a gold medal for his heroism, is retiring from his job detecting landmines. Magawa was trained by the Belgium-registered charity Apopo, which is based in Tanzania and has been raising the animals - known as HeroRATs - to detect landmines since the 1990s. The animals are certified after a year of training.

In a five-year career, the rodent sniffed out 71 landmines and dozens more unexploded items in Cambodia. But his handler Malen says the seven-year-old African giant pouched rat is "slowing down" as he reaches old age, and she wants to "respect his needs". There are thought to be up to six million landmines in Cambodia.

Last September, Magawa was awarded the PDSA Gold Medal - sometimes described as the George Cross for animals - for his "life-saving devotion to duty". He was the first rat to be given the medal in the charity's 77-year history.

Commentaries of IALA

African giant pouched rats (cricetomys ansorgei) are trained to help to find landmines and detect tuberculosis. They are nicknamed as HeroRATs. A Hero RAT can search an area the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes – a human deminer with a metal detector can take up to 4 days. They have a highly developed sense of smell and are intelligent and easy to train, besides they are too light to set off the landmines. They are trained in APOPO’s Training & Research Center, which is based in Morogoro, Tanzania, by the organization of APOPO. Their animal welfare is protected including handling, cages, stimulation and enrichment, diet and healthcare, and retirement. Learn more about HeroRATs here.

Asiatic Lioness Becomes First Animal to Die from Covid in India

Source: independent.co.uk

June 7, 2021


A nine-year-old lioness, Neela, died on Thursday. Neela has died after testing positive for Covid-19 at a zoo in the South Indian city of Chennai, in what is believed to be the first reported death of an animal in the country due to the novel coronavirus. Along with Neela, eight more lions have also tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 infection. Zoo authorities said in a statement that the lioness showed symptoms, including nasal discharge, only one day before death, and that she started receiving treatment immediately. Officials said that the health conditions of two lionesses aged 23 and 19 were also critical and expected the number of positive cases to go up further as more samples are tested.

Zoo officials said they are yet to determine how the virus spread to the animals. They believe it may have either spread via caretakers or from those engaged in meat distribution to the lions. However, the officials said the feeders are vaccinated, and that regular RT-PCR tests are conducted for all staff, making it more difficult to pinpoint the source.

Commentaries of IALA

Zoonotic diseases are an infectious disease caused by a pathogen (an infectious agent, such as a bacterium, virus, parasite, or prion) that has jumped from an animal to a human. The germs spread between animals and people through the close connection between people and animals including the common ways of direct contact, indirect contact, vector-borne, foodborne, or waterborne. Health care is an important part of animal welfare for the animals kept in captivity. According to recent research, many mammals, including cats, dogs, bank voles, ferrets, fruit bats, hamsters, mink, pigs, rabbits, raccoon dogs, tree shrews, and white-tailed deer can be infected with the SARS-CoV-2. CDC suggests that People with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should avoid contact with animals, including pets, livestock, and wildlife.


Learn more about zoonotic diseases here, and COVID-19 and animals here.

NGOs Back Maldives’ Ambitious Plan to Save Indian Ocean Yellowfin Tuna

Source: news.mongabay.com

June 8, 2021


Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), one of the most profitable fisheries in the world, is just a few years away from collapse. A meeting that began June 7 will be crucial in deciding its fate.


Exploitative industrial fishing practiced over decades by the EU, and increasingly important artisanal fisheries in coastal states have decimated the population. There is consensus among members of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), the intergovernmental body charged with managing the stock, that overfishing must stop.


A rebuilding plan introduced by the IOTC in 2016 did not stop overfishing. Total catches actually increased between 2017 and 2019. The Maldives’ proposal for an update submitted in May received the backing of environmental NGOs like U.S.-based WWF and the U.K.-headquartered Blue Marine Foundation this month. The EU has also put forth a proposal in the run-up to the weeklong virtual meeting.


There is broad agreement that regulations need to be expanded to fleets and gear types that are currently exempt, as their shares of the total yellowfin catch are rising. Purse seine, gillnet, longline, and pole and line are the major gear types used in tuna fishing in the Indian Ocean.


Conservationists have also argued that fisheries management organizations like the IOTC put the interests of governments and corporations over the health of marine life. Rebuilding the stock will only be on the table after overfishing is brought under control, and at the IOTC, that would be a hard-won battle.


Commentaries of IALA

In 2019, the total yellowfin tuna catch stood at 427,240 tons, higher than the 403,000 tons that the IOTC’s scientific committee had prescribed. There are different estimates for how much the proposed plans will lower the total catch.


The yellowfin tuna is a species of tuna that can be found in pelagic waters of tropical and subtropical oceans. This species, like many other species of aquatic animals, are threatened by a number of factors. Fishing and farming are among the major threats to these fish, and, while animal welfarists are trying to prove that there is sustainable fishing and aquaculture, this is not possible with other factors affecting the aquatic animal population. Urgent steps shall be made to protect this and other species to prevent them from extinction.

Israel Has Become the 1st Country to Ban The Sale of Most Fur Clothing

Source: npr.org

June 9, 2021


The Israeli government has banned the sale of fur in the fashion industry, becoming the first country to outlaw the controversial clothing material that opponents say leads to the slaughter of millions of animals each year.


Israel's ban on the sale of fur will take effect in six months. Yet it's unclear just how far the ban will go toward preventing fur from coming onto the market in Israel, given that the country's warm climate can make wearing fur impractical. An exemption to the ban will also allow sales to continue for ultra-Orthodox Jewish men, many of whom wear fur head coverings as a matter of their faith. That means that married, ultra-Orthodox Jewish men will still be able to buy rounded fur hats known as shtreimels.


It was the latest development in an ongoing effort by animal rights activists to put an end to a practice they say causes cruelty to animals for no reason other than to manufacture clothing and fashion accessories, and the industry is responding.


Commentaries of IALA

Fur farming is the practice of breeding or raising animals for their fur involving extremely cruel conduct. Approximately 100 million animals are killed and bred every year to supply the fur industry. Animals that are mainly used in fur farming are mink, chinchilla, fox, rabbit, dog, and cat. Farmed fur is mostly produced in European countries (22). The European Union accounts for 63% of global mink production and 70% of fox production.


The United Kingdom banned fur farming in the early 2000s, and other European countries, such as the Netherlands, Belgium, and the Czech Republic have also taken some steps to end the practice.

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