July 21, 2021Lu Shegay & Zihao Yu

Critically Endangered Antelope Saiga Makes Comeback

Source: bbc.com

July 4, 2021

The population of a rare type of antelope has more than doubled since 2019, in a remarkable turnaround in fortunes. According to the first aerial survey in two years, the number of saiga in their Kazakhstan heartland has risen from 334,000 to 842,000.

There were fears the animal was on the brink of extinction following a mass die-off in 2015. In 2015, there were barely more than 1,000 animals left in the area, but there's been a big increase to 12,000 in this year's census.

Numbers of the species, which goes by the scientific name Saiga tatarica, have plunged by more than 90% in the late 20th Century, coming close to extinction several times. Recent years have seen measures taken by the Kazakh government to protect the saiga population, including a crackdown on poaching, with penalties of up to 12 years in prison, and the establishment of nature reserves.

Commentaries of IALA

The saiga antelope is a symbolic animal for Kazakhstan that can also be found in Uzbekistan and Russia. These animals have been facing a dramatic decline and increase in the population for decades due to such factors as poaching, diseases, extreme weather conditions. Although hunting endangered species is prohibited in Kazakhstan by the Law on Reproduction, Use, and Protection of Fauna, poaching for food consumption in rural areas, for decoration is practiced in the country. The latest survey conducted in April that an increase in the population demonstrates the recovery of these animals in the particular region of Kazakhstan, Ustyurt.

Tiger Habitat Threatened by Malaysian Royals’ Mining Plans

Source: news.mongabay.com

July 7, 2021

An environmental report has revealed the Malaysian royal family is requesting permission from the Department of Environment for a new iron ore mine in the middle of one of the few remaining habitats of 15 threatened animals, including the critically endangered Malayan tiger.

The proposed project involves the deforestation and excavation of 60.75 hectares (150 acres) in the Som Forest Reserve, part of the Central Forest Spine linking four of Peninsular Malaysia’s key forest complexes. Alongside the Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni), of which fewer than 200 remain in the wild, the Som Forest is home to the Malayan tapir (Acrocodia indica), Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), sun bear (Helarctos malayanus), and two different species of leopard.

The planned mine would destroy an area the size of 113 football fields that comprise these protected species’ habitats. Beyond the “irreversible” loss of habitat, the EIA report highlights that these animals will be at increased risk of human-animal conflict due to them being pushed toward nearby plantations and residential areas. The report also warns of the potential for disrupting a key wildlife corridor, and the “rampant” poaching of animals in and around the project area.

In addition, the proposed site is just 500 meters (546 yards) from a salt lick that is regularly visited by a big herd of elephants along with tapirs and sun bears. Salt licks are a key resource for animals to increase their mineral intake and are also protected from any man-made disturbance under the 2010 Wildlife Conservation Act. The report states the mine will not only permanently alter the animals’ routes to the salt lick, but also risk the “total loss of functionality” of this critical resource.

Despite stating that nothing can be done to stop both the loss of habitat and negative impacts on flora and fauna — including a total of 188 fully protected species found in the proposed site — the report concludes that, with mitigation measures, the project can be implemented with acceptable environmental risks and impact.

Commentaries of IALA

Mining activities are detrimental for animals because it causes the destruction of habitats and may also lead to the water and air pollution. But it is considered that if the mine is reclaimed at the end of its life, habitats can be restored through proper reclamation. Such projects are, unfortunately, common in Malaysia. According to the environmental impact assessment, “the project poses a direct risk to these species, all of which are fully protected under Malaysia’s 2010 Wildlife Conservation Act. The Department of Environment did not respond to a request for comment regarding the enforcement of this law.” The project is still pending is waiting for approval from the Department of Environment. According to Journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown, “the richer they have become the more influential it has made them so that people are now fearful to speak in terms that are not groveling let alone critical because of what might happen to them,” Rewcastle Brown said. “In particular there is a willingness on the part of the police and judiciary to abuse old-fashioned sedition laws to arrest and prosecute people just for speaking critically about such practices.”

Giant Pandas No Longer Endangered in the Wild, China Announces

Source: theguardian.com

July 9, 2021

Giant pandas are no longer endangered in the wild, but they are still vulnerable with a population outside captivity of 1,800, Chinese officials have said after years of conservation efforts.

The head of the environment ministry’s department of nature and ecology conservation, Cui Shuhong, said the reclassification was the result of “improved living conditions and China’s efforts in keeping their habitats integrated”.

The decision by China’s own conservation authority comes five years after the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) removed giant pandas from its endangered species list and classified them as vulnerable. Many Chinese experts disputed the decision at the time, arguing that it was misleading and would cause complacency in China, where the animals are considered a national treasure. They have been used as a part of Beijing’s international diplomacy since the 1950s.

Commentaries of IALA

The giant panda is a species of panda bear endemic to South Central China. According to the last assessment by the IUCN Red List, this species is classified as Vulnerable, and their population is slowly increasing. Giant pandas are mostly threatened by climate change that causes their habitat loss. Most products that are made out of bamboo that feeds pandas may lead to the lack of food for these animals. Using bamboo for clothes, accessories raises concerns among animal rights activists and environmentalists. According to the IUCN, climate change may destroy more than 35% of bamboo habitat in the next 80 years.

Green Peafowl Flourish in Thailand’s Northern Forests, But Conflict Looms

Source: news.mongabay.com

July 9, 2021

Once widespread across Southeast Asia, from Java to southern China, green peafowl (Pavo muticus) have vanished from much of the region over the past few decades, due to forest habitat loss, overhunting, and persecution following conflict with farmers. The endangered species is only present in 16% of its former range in mainland Southeast Asia and is largely confined to a handful of isolated forests in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, according to a 2019 study.

Now, a thriving population has been documented in a network of four protected areas in Phayao province in northern Thailand. Researchers say the findings, published in June in Global Ecology and Conservation, represent the largest population of green peafowl yet recorded in mainland Southeast Asia.

Between January and April 2018, a team led by researchers from King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Thonburi, surveyed an area spanning 1,500 square kilometers (580 square miles), comprising Tub Phaya Lor Wildlife non-hunting area, Wiang Lor Wildlife Sanctuary, Doi Phu Nang National Park, Mae Yom National Park, and surrounding agricultural land. Based on 1,615 bird detections, the researchers calculated an average of 15.82 calling green peafowl males per square kilometer (40.97 calling males per square mile).

Although protected forests in Phayao are now patrolled by park rangers, they suffered severely from hunting and agricultural encroachment in the past. As a result, large carnivores like tigers and leopards and many ungulate species have been extirpated from northern forests.

Progress is already being made: according to the study authors, attitudes toward the peafowl are slowly shifting. Local conservation groups, park rangers, and researchers from the University of Phayao are helping farmers to establish peafowl feeding stations on former agricultural fields. Bird-watchers and photographers pay a small fee to see the peafowl and thus contribute to the local protection of the birds.

Commentaries of IALA

The green peafowl is a species of peafowl native to the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. This species has been listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2009 due to loss of habitat and habitat fragmentation and is listed under Appendix I of CITES. The major threats for these birds are hunting, poaching, and reduction in extent and quality of habitat. They are now protected in such areas as Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand, Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam, and Baluran National Park, Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia.

The researchers found that the peafowls generally rely on forested areas with shrubs, saplings, dry dipterocarp, mixed deciduous, and mixed pine forest. “Although the density of peafowl was highest in forest areas farthest from human settlements, they were frequently observed in the surrounding agricultural fields, particularly during the breeding season, which coincides with the ripening of rice and maize.”

Sumatran Elephant Found Beheaded in Indonesia

Source: channelnewsasia.com

July 12, 2021

A critically endangered Sumatran elephant has been found decapitated with its tusks missing in Indonesia, the conservation agency said on Monday (Jul 12), as it opened a poaching investigation.

The rotting carcass was discovered on Sunday at a palm oil plantation in Sumatra's Aceh region and a subsequent autopsy found that the animal had also been poisoned.

It was not clear how long the male elephant, estimated to be about 12 years old, had been dead. Rampant deforestation has reduced the elephants' natural habitat and brought them into increasing conflict with humans, while their tusks are prized in the illegal wildlife trade.

Commentaries of IALA

The Sumatran elephant is a native species of elephants to Indonesia. They have been moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered category of animals due to the dramatic decline in their population caused by habitat loss and deforestation. There already have been several elephant poisoning cases lately, including one in 2019 when a Sumatran elephant was found decapitated with its tusks ripped off. This species is protected nationally under Indonesian law and is listed in Appendix I of CITES.

Foe to Friend: Fishermen Join Fight to Save Endangered Pakistan Dolphin

Source: channelnewsasia.com

July 15, 2021

Freshwater dolphins are flourishing in a stretch of Pakistan's main river after a helping hand from fishermen mobilized to defend a rare species driven to near-extinction.

Identifiable by their saw-like beaks, Indus River dolphins once swam from the Himalayas to the Arabian sea, but now mostly cluster in a 180km length of the waterway in southern Sindh province. A glimpse of a dolphin cutting through muddy water to gasp for air is a regular sight along the mighty river, but most villagers nearby were unaware their neighbors were on the brink of extinction.

Commentaries of IALA

The Indus River dolphin is a species of dolphin that can be found in the lower parts of the Indus River in Pakistan and in River Beas, a tributary of the Indus River in Punjab, India. This species is categorized as Endangered under the IUCN Red List. There are many factors that affect the population of aquatic animals, not only this species of dolphins. Oftentimes, aquatic animals are threatened by fishing and overfishing activities, including commercial fishing and bycatch. Uncontrolled fishing and habitat loss caused by humans led the population of this species to go to 1200. Pakistani wildlife officials declared a “painstaking door-to-door awareness campaign with the local fishing community on the riverbanks and arterial canals.” The recent survey indicated that the population of this species grew to 1800.

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