Nonprofit Horse Rescue Group Challenges Inhumane Experimental Surgery

HINES, Ore., July 26, 2016 – Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER), a national nonprofit working to end the abuse and neglect of horses through rescue, advocacy and education, announced today it is suing the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management to stop the BLM’s experimental sterilization of wild mares in Oregon. The lawsuit was filed late yesterday in federal court in Washington D.C.

FRER’s suit contends the BLM’s intention to conduct surgical experiments on 225 wild horses, many in various stages of pregnancy, and potentially thousands more horses over time, causes harm and suffering in violation of federal law.

The sterilizations on wild mares proposed by the BLM, to be carried out in collaboration with Oregon State University, include three untested, dangerous procedures:

  • Slicing open the mare’s vagina while sedated, but awake and standing, and blindly pulling out her ovaries – a risky and controversial surgical procedure even for tame mares under the best of conditions, let alone captive wild horses in a holding facility
  • Burning and then cutting the sedated, but conscious horses’ fallopian tubes, a procedure that is surgically untested on horses
  • Using a laser, inserted through the vagina, to scar and seal the ovaries – another surgery that has never been studied in horses

“It is unjustifiable for the BLM to conduct such barbaric sterilization experiments with a host of known risks, including death, on captive wild horses,” said Hilary Wood, President of FRER. “Performing unproven surgeries in a holding pen, let alone on the open range, is contrary to the BLM’s congressional mandate to care for wild horses, especially when responsible alternatives like the PZP contraceptive vaccine already exist to maintain population levels and ensure herd viability.”

Earlier this year, FRER filed formal comments opposing the “research” that will be done on conscious animals in long-term holding. These comments – and comments submitted by more than 20,000 members of the public – were disregarded, prompting FRER to file its suit.

“These sterilization procedures are not documented, practiced, or analyzed in non-surgical settings; they are overly invasive, and they are unlikely to have applicability for mares on public lands,” said Laureen Bartfield, DVM, an expert in population control of wild horses and the social structure of herds. “Two of the three procedures have virtually never been performed on horses, and the unvisualized removal of the ovaries, while documented in the literature, is disfavored by reputable veterinarians. The BLM’s plan is not just clinically ill advised, it constitutes animal cruelty on a large scale.”

The plans for eventual widespread sterilization of horses on the range will also run up an estimated cost to the taxpayers in the millions – and the first of the funds could be handed to OSU in the form of a BLM grant. This first group of mares to go under the knife are in BLM custody in the Hines Corral in Eastern Oregon.

FRER’s lawsuit says the experimental sterilizations represent a conflict of interest, and are not in the best interests of wild horses, but rather in the BLM’s own best interest by reducing their management load without considering their mandate to properly manage the horses.

This is not the first time the BLM has pursued surgical sterilization for wild horses. In 2011, a federal court found the bureau’s plans to castrate wild horses captured in Wyoming was of an “extreme and irreversible nature.” In 2012, the BLM was again forced to defend similar plans in federal court, and abandoned its efforts to castrate Nevada’s wild horses.

About Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER)

Front Range Equine Rescue is a 501c3 Colorado nonprofit working to end abuse and neglect of wild and domestic horses through rescue and education. Since 1997, FRER has assisted thousands of horses through its programs, and many more with expanded facilities on the East Coast. Many of FRER’s rescued horses are obtained directly from auctions and kill lots, and would have shipped to slaughter without FRER’s intervention. Through its legal advocacy, FRER has effectively prevented horses from being slaughtered for human food in the U.S., and is actively involved in preventing unnecessary and unlawful removal of wild horses and burros from public lands. For more information see www.frontrangeequinerescue.org.

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Restoration efforts already underway must happen faster to protect water,

wildlife habitat and other natural resources

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) are taking additional steps under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to restore balance to the Florida Everglades ecosystem and help reverse decades-long population declines of the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow. 

These steps are outlined in a new biological opinion on the Corps’ Everglades Restoration Transition Plan(ERTP), which was implemented in 2012 to guide improved management of water flows in the Everglades. The new biological opinion will guide the Corps and partners in the Everglades restoration effort in better managing water in ways that improve habitat essential to the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. 

Actions called for in the biological opinion include operational modifications and expediting restoration initiatives already planned for the southern portion of the Everglades ecosystem to aid in providing suitable nesting habitat for the sparrow. These measures will allow the movement of additional water southward under the Tamiami Trail One-Mile Bridge flowing through the Everglades and into Florida Bay in ways that avoid prolonged flooding of the sparrow’s habitat during the nesting season. They will also provide much-needed fresh water into the Everglades and Florida Bay, benefitting wildlife such as American crocodiles, West Indian manatees, sea turtles, dolphins, a variety of bird species and gamefish. 

The ESA consultation, biological opinion, and the resulting operational modifications are part of a broad collaboration between the Service, the Corps, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service, which manages Everglades National Park, and many others to save the ground-nesting Cape Sable seaside sparrow and meet water management needs. The actions reflect the complexity of restoration requirements across the Everglades and the commitment of local, state and federal partners to find creative ways to achieve long-term restoration and conservation. 

“Although the Cape Sable seaside sparrow is on the brink of extinction, we believe with the timely and coordinated action of partners, we can save this and other imperiled wildlife for the long term,” said Larry Williams, the Service’s State Supervisor for Ecological Services in Florida. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers echoed the importance of state and federal partners collaborating in conserving the sparrow and the Everglades. 

"We’re moving forward with restoration efforts and operational modifications that will ultimately provide beneficial conditions to the many species that call the Everglades home," said Col. Jason Kirk, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Commander. “We have been coordinating closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine what measures can be taken to improve the habitat of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow and ensure we are able to operate our water management system in compliance with the Endangered Species Act. Nonetheless, multiple environmental factors continue to threaten the survival of this rare species. Successful recovery of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow requires continued collaborative efforts among our federal and state partnering agencies and we look forward to this ongoing dialogue.” 

Prior to Hurricane Andrew in 1992, there were 6,576 sparrows inhabiting Everglades National Park. Hurricane Andrew was followed by several wet years and high discharges of water through water control structures, causing several years of poor conditions for the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. This reduced the sparrow’s ability to recover from the impact of the hurricane and its total population declined to 3,312 in 1993. The Service began consulting with the Corps on the ERTP in 2015. Due to many factors, including loss of habitat, the sparrow’s population dropped to 2,720 in 2014. After one of the wettest nesting periods on record current preliminary results for 2016 indicate the population may have decreased to approximately 2,400 birds, the lowest on record. 

The biological opinion also addresses potential impacts to two other federally listed species—American wood storks and Everglade snail kites. Current water operations are not likely to impact these birds. 

As a result of this interagency consultation and biological opinion, the Corps has committed to: 

  • Provide habitat conditions that will continue to facilitate sparrow breeding in areas where the existing habitat is of better quality.
  • Provide habitat conditions that will allow the sparrow to successfully breed and recruit in currently degraded areas.
  • Promote sparrow population resilience by identifying additional areas of habitat expansion or movement that may occur with implementation of water management projects and the onset of sea level rise.
  • Monitor and demonstrate that successful sparrow breeding and recruitment is occurring in response to the implementation of management actions. 

The Service has developed a revised set of targets to improve the conditions of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow and contribute towards the survival and recovery of the species. Targets include providing at least 90 consecutive dry nesting-season days between March 1 and July 15. The marl prairie habitat that the Cape Sable seaside sparrow requires persists under a hydrologic regime of 90-210 wet days. If the habitat is dry fewer than 90 days, the grass habitat the sparrow requires often is taken over by woody plants. If the habitat is under water more than 210 days, a wetland habitat emerges. 

Conservation efforts on behalf of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow include annual range-wide population surveys by ground and helicopter, vegetation and hydrologic monitoring, use of prescribed fire to control woody vegetation, controlling wildfires to protect sparrow habitats, and banding birds so they can be identified in the future. The Service and partners are also developing new modeling tools and genetic studies and analyzing of sparrow blood and feathers to determine if there are contaminants, such as mercury that may be negatively affecting them.  

For more information, please visit:  https://www.fws.gov/verobeach/20160722NRERTPJeopardyBO.html

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

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“People put themselves in grave danger when they respond inappropriately during an encounter with wildlife… Selfies are only making the problem worse.” - Born Free USA CEO

Washington, D.C., July 21, 2016 -- According to Born Free USA, a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, in order to safely enjoy hikes and campouts without endangering themselves or wildlife, the public needs to stay alert to their surroundings, and make smart and compassionate decisions.

Over the past two months alone, we have seen an increasing number of incidents involving human conflicts with wild animals, particularly bears. In June, a Pennsylvania man lost his dog after a fatal run-in with a black bear and her cubs; a New Mexico marathon runner suffered injuries from a black bear after inadvertently scaring the bear’s cub; a young bear in California ripped open a tent, presumably foraging for food, injuring the camper inside; and a Montana Forest Service law enforcement officer startled a grizzly bear and was tragically killed. In July, Shenandoah National Park made the decision to close certain trails after a black bear approached a hiker, again looking to the human to provide food.

Animal welfare and wildlife conservation expert Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, explains: “Hiking trails and campsites are filled with natural wildlife populations and it is crucial that enthusiasts are aware of potential encounters, understand how to avoid conflict, and know exactly what to do if it happens. Human conflicts with wildlife are often due to people responding inappropriately when an animal is near. They put the animal and themselves at severe risk by how they react when they see a bear, coyote, bobcat, or other dangerous animal. These animals are wild, wary of humans, and protective of their territory, and should never be lured or encouraged to approach you for any reason.”

Roberts adds, “In the last two years, there has been an increase in people vying for an impressive selfie with animals ranging from seal pups, to bison, to black bears. This is becoming a dangerous epidemic that is reckless and harmful for both the public and wildlife. No selfie is worth getting killed or condemning an animal to death.”

Born Free USA offers these safety tips for outdoor adventures:

  • Keep food out of reach and never feed wild animals. Once they become accustomed to hand-outs, they lose their natural wariness and feel comfortable getting closer to humans. 
  • Resist taking wildlife selfies. Getting close to predators—like black bears—and then turning your back on them can rouse their prey drive and cause them to charge. Even getting too close to non-predatory animals—like bison—for a photo opportunity can also result in tragedy, as they might perceive you as an encroaching threat. Manipulating, touching, or removing wild animals from their habitats for a photo, or for any reason, causes severe anxiety for the animal, and puts everyone at risk for injury or death.
  • Beware of hidden animal traps. Steel-jaw leghold traps and other barbaric traps are widely used to catch and kill wild animals for their fur, and trappers often use the same trails and public lands that hikers do. Because traps are indiscriminate and can snap shut on any person or animal who triggers them, they frequently catch “non-targeted” animals, including family pets. Dogs end up maimed or killed as their families struggle to free them. For every target animal caught in a trap, two non-target animals are trapped. Adults and children have also been injured in traps, as reported in this Born Free USA database.  
  • Bears cause enormous fear for humans in the great outdoors. Most negative black bear encounters are caused by surprising the bears, luring them with food, or giving them a reason to think you are a threat. Bears have an exceptional sense of smell —seven times more powerful than dogs—and can detect odors over a mile away. Avoid packing odorous food and use bear-proof, odor-proof containers. Do not leave food or ice chests on decks or in vehicles, and become familiar with techniques for hanging food out of bears' reach. (Hang food and scented items at least 10 feet off of the ground and five feet from a tree. Be sure that tents, sleeping bags, and clothes are free of lingering food odors.)
  • As you travel through bear territory, make plenty of noise to avoid surprising a bear. If you do encounter a black bear, help him/her recognize that you are a human by talking calmly and by slowly waving your arms. During the encounter, do not make loud noises, try to imitate the bear, or run, as running may entice the bear to chase you. Slowly back away, always facing the bear, making no sudden movements, and always leave the bear an escape route. Avoid direct eye contact and pick up small children to prevent them from running and screaming. Contain and restrain dogs.
  • A black bear may stand on his/her hind legs as he/she investigates you; a standing bear is usually curious, not aggressive. Black bears may pounce forward on their front feet and bellow loudly, followed by clacking their jaw. This is a sign of fear. Mothers with cubs sometimes make “bluff charges”: short rushes or a series of forward pounces. These are signs of nervousness and not intent to attack. If this happens, momentarily hold your ground. Then, keep backing away and talking softly.
  • While camping or hiking, other predators (like coyotes and bobcats) may also be seen moving about their territory. If the animals act afraid of you, either running away or observing you from a safe distance, they are displaying normal, nonaggressive behavior. Aggressive behavior—an animal who does not run from humans or approaches them—is most often a result of habituation due to feeding by humans. If approached by a coyote or bobcat, make loud noises with pots and pans, yell, wave your arms, blow a whistle, or shake a can with rocks. Show dominance and re-instill their natural fear of humans. Do not run, as this may elicit a chase response. If hiking with dogs in coyote country, keep them on a leash. Small dogs may be especially tempting to a coyote. 

Roberts explains, “While we all deserve to explore, enjoy, and appreciate nature, we also need to understand that we are visiting the natural habitats and homes of wild animals. We can easily co-exist, as long as we treat the wilderness and its occupants respectfully and thoughtfully.”

Born Free USA is a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic "pets," trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to America the message of "compassionate conservation": the vision of the U.K.-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film Born Free, along with their son, Will Travers. Born Free's mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at www.bornfreeusa.org, www.twitter.com/bornfreeusa, and www.facebook.com/bornfreeusa.

Oakland, CA...July 14, 2016 – Oakland Zoo’s elephant program contributed to a special collection of peer-reviewed scientific research articles resulting from a comprehensive study on North American zoo elephant welfare. The collections is available today in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. It includes nine research papers, an overview and formal commentary explaining the significance of the work and its importance to better understand and enhance zoo elephant welfare.

“Oakland Zoo applauds AZA for taking on such a massive institutional study to work on improving the livelihood of elephants in captivity. Being involved in elephant research and data collection in and out of the field for twenty years, Oakland Zoo is committed to continuously improving the lives of elephants, a sensitive, highly intelligent, sentient, and complex being. We understand that the more we learn about this species in the wild and in captivity, we can manage them appropriately to encourage species typical behaviors. This study is one step toward that goal,” said Gina Kinzley, Co-Lead Elephant Manager at Oakland Zoo. 

This is the first and only multi-institution study to comprehensively identify and measure variables that significantly contribute to North American zoo elephant welfare, thus allowing science to inform management practices, according to Anne Baker, Ph.D., one of several principal investigators of the project. “Many AZA-accredited zoos are already using knowledge we’ve learned from the research to improve the welfare of their elephants.”

The collection, titled Epidemiological Investigations of North American Zoo Elephant Welfare, is available online and is accessible to the public. (See journals.plos.org)

The research is the outcome of work by a 27-member study team, which includes independent consultants, zoo professionals, and faculty from three universities. The study was funded by an $800,000 leadership grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded to the Honolulu Zoo Society and administered by Kathy Carlstead, Ph.D. Team members and dozens of research assistants from widely varied disciplines developed quantitative measures to assess multiple elephant-welfare indicators as well as a large variety of housing and management practices.

 “Zoo elephant welfare is a topic of public interest, but the lack of available data on this specific population made it difficult to differentiate fact from opinion, ” said Cheryl Meehan, Ph.D., the study’s consulting project manager and director of AWARE Institute, in Portland, OR. “The collection provides a scientific perspective on a number of issues that are important to the conversation about elephants in zoos, and it is forward-looking as a resource that can help shape and inform the future of elephant care.”

The collection resulted from a comprehensive study analyzing the daily lives of 255 Asian and African elephants in 68 North American zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Data were collected in 2012 and preliminary results presented at AZA conferences in 2013 and 2014. Research focused on factors related to the wellbeing of elephants that can be scientifically observed, measured, and analyzed, including: behavior, body condition, foot and joint health, female reproductive function, and walking distance -  Oakland Zoo's elephants were also part of the behavior studies which measured stereotypic behavior performance, walking distances and recumbence behavior. Nearly 96 percent of North American AZA-accredited zoos with elephants participated in the study.

Results showed that the elephants’ social lives play the biggest role in supporting behavioral health. For example, primary importance is for elephants to spend time in groups, and not be socially isolated.  Human care takers also can play an important role in an elephant’s social life through husbandry, training and interactive sessions.

 Although space is often linked to welfare in public discussions about elephants in zoos, researchers did not find evidence that the amount of enclosure space supports greater amounts of walking, decreased stereotypic behavior, improved body condition, or better foot and joint health.

The study did find that the quality of the space and management practices is important to elephant welfare. For example, the research demonstrated that decreased time spent on hard flooring significantly reduced the risk of foot and joint problems, which were found to be important health concerns for the population.

And the research team discovered a previously unknown link between the quality of enrichment and feeding programs and female reproductive health. This result indicates that day-to-day management practices could be an important tool in addressing the reproductive issues that are particularly common among female African elephants. 

“This groundbreaking approach provides a model for measuring welfare in managed animal populations with the potential to conduct similar studies to benefit many different species cared for in zoos and aquariums,” said Meehan. “And this research can be extended to inform elephant conservation efforts given that only a minority of free-ranging elephants exists in large undisturbed protected areas, while many “wild” elephants are managed in small reserves.”

ABOUT OAKLAND ZOO

The Bay Area's award-winning Oakland Zoo is home to more than 660 native and exotic animals. The Zoo offers many educational programs and kid's activities perfect for science field trips, family day trips and exciting birthday parties. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals and wildlife conservation onsite and worldwide; with 25¢ from each ticket donated to support conservation partners and programs around the world. The California Trail, a transformational project that more than doubles our size, opens in 2018, and will further our commitment to animal care, education, and conservation with a focus on this state’s remarkable native wildlife. Nestled in the Oakland Hills, in 500-acre Knowland Park, the Zoo is located at 9777 Golf Links Road, off Highway 580. The East Bay Zoological Society (Oakland Zoo) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization supported in part by members, contributions, the City of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Parks. For more information, go to: www.oaklandzoo.org

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SAN FRANCISCO – Led by staff from San Francisco Zoo & Gardens, a team of biologists, scientists and conservationists released 62 mountain yellow legged frogs into their native habitat in the Desolation Wilderness of Lake Tahoe Basin on Tuesday, July 12.  The release marks the final step in a three-year project seeking to restore the endangered frog to an area where it had been missing for decades due to non-native predators and deadly chytrid fungus.

The now two-year-old frogs were collected as eggs in 2014 in a nearby lake system and raised at San Francisco Zoo & Gardens where they grew to a healthy size.  The frogs were inoculated for chytrid in hopes they will survive future exposure to the fungus responsible for nearly wiping out entire populations of this species. 

“Releasing the frogs into their native habitat is amazing!” said Jessie Bushell, Director of Conservation at San Francisco Zoo & Gardens.  “It’s like sending your children off to college, except you want them to swim away and catch a bug.”

42 frogs were released into Tamarack Lake and 20 were released into Lake Lucille.  In the future, researchers will study how the inoculated frogs, which are microchipped, fare in the wild compared to those that were not inoculated. 

The groundbreaking scientific research and work done by conservation staff at San Francisco Zoo & Gardens is important to the survival of the species.  Participating agencies include the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology and Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Lab (SNARL), U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

SF Zoo is in the midst of several frog restoration projects and will aid in the release of more than 100 mountain yellow legged frogs in Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park next week.

Photos of the July 12 release: https://goo.gl/photos/1cRyB1G5xoVD3rnEA

 

Attached Photo: Jessie Bushell, Director of Conservation at San Francisco Zoo & Gardens, releases a mountain yellow legged frog at Lake Lucille in Desolation Wilderness on Tuesday.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVHl7zuJpfs

Website: www.sfzoo.org

About San Francisco Zoo & Gardens

Established in 1929, San Francisco Zoo & Gardens connects people to wildlife, inspires caring for nature and advances conservation action.  SF Zoo has been continuously accredited by Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) since 1977.  An urban oasis, the Zoo & Gardens are home to more than 2,000 exotic, endangered and rescued animals representing more than 250 species as well as seven distinct gardens full of native and unusual plants.  Located at the edge of the Pacific Ocean where the Great Highway meets Sloat Boulevard, the Zoo is open 365 days a year from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (summer hours) and is accessible by San Francisco MUNI "L" Taraval Line.

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TPR News
July 2, 2016
Crew:
Jon Patch - Host
Vince and Lisa Centonze DVM - Co-Hosts
Lexi Lapp - Producer
Ben Boquist - Network Producer
Bob Page - Executive Producer
Special Guests:  
Nancy Furstinger author of "Paws Of Courage" will join Jon and Talkin' Pets 7/02/16 at 5pm EST to discuss and give away her new book

 

 
MIAMI, FLA. - JUNE 30, 2016 - The Zoological Wildlife Foundation (ZWF Miami) is delighted to announce the arrival of a beautiful, new female Jaguar cub, that has been named 'Sapphire' by ZWF's founders in honor of the cub's deep blue eyes.
 
"We are overjoyed by the arrival of Sapphire and are excited to watch her grow and thrive within the ZWF environment," said Mario Tabraue, President and Director of ZWF Miami. "Our goal is to provide all our animals with exceptional care and a safe living environment," added Maria Tabraue, Vice President and Director of the zoo.
 
The largest cats in the Americas, jaguars reside in parts of Arizona, California and New Mexico as well as in the rainforests of Central and South America. With approximately 15,000 of the cats left in the world, they are considered a threatened species. 
 
Born on May 5, 2016, Sapphire is now eight weeks old and currently available for encounters with visitors of ZWF. Guests will have a chance to meet the cub for a limited time as an add-on to a tour experience at $160 + tax for adults and $60 + tax for children. To ensure the wellbeing of the cub, the duration of each encounter is limited to 5 minutes.
 
To learn more about how you can schedule a visit to meet Sapphire as well as ZWF Miami's other resident animals, visit: www.zwfmiami.com.
ZWF Miami is located at 16225 SW 172 Avenue in Miami, Florida and is open to the public seven days a week. Tours of the park are available by appointment only. Call (305) 969-3696 for more information.
Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, for more exciting news and updates.
 
About the Zoological Wildlife Foundation:
Founded in 2001, the Zoological Wildlife Foundation (ZWF Miami) is an organization accredited by the Zoological Association of America that serves as a zoo and a conservation facility that is dedicated to educating the public about rare and endangered animal species in captivity and in the wild. Located south of Miami and spanning several breathtaking acres of land, ZWF Miami is home to everything from domestic animals, leopards, big cats primates, large predatory birds and mammals to dozens of exotic species, most of which are available for interactive encounters with the public.
SMITHSONIAN CHANNEL(TM) GOES WILD ON WEDNESDAYS THIS SUMMER WITH SOME OF THE
WORLD’S DEADLIEST PREDATORSFive All-New WILD WEDNESDAY Premieres Start July 13 At 8 PM ET/PT

NEW YORK – JUNE 28, 2016 – Smithsonian Channel goes to where the wild things are this summer as the network ramps up WILD WEDNESDAYS with an exhilarating new block of wildlife programming beginning July 13 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Through five consecutive weeks of one-hour specials, WILD WEDNESDAYS will span the globe in search of elusive sharks, mighty lizard kings, viper queens, killer hornets and desert lions. Traveling from tropical waters and volcanic islands to stark deserts and steamy jungles, each hour will investigate some of the world’s fiercest and most iconic apex predators while unraveling the mysteries behind their behavior.

HUNTING THE HAMMERHEAD kicks off the new WILD WEDNESDAYS block on July 13 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, as Smithsonian Channel heads to Bimini in the Bahamas for the large and elusive predator, the great hammerhead shark, which rises from the depths en masse during certain months each year to hunt its favorite prey: venomous stingrays. Smithsonian Channel joins shark expert and sensory biologist Dr. Craig O’Connell on a mission to understand the mysterious creature’s killer tactics and capture this unique feeding event on film by deploying his revolutionary “RoboRay,” a remote controlled stingray, complete with on-board camera.

Go wild with four additional premieres on WILD WEDNESDAYS in July and August:

DRAGON ISLAND
Premieres Wednesday, July 20th at 8 p.m. ET/PT
Deep in the remote basin of the Pacific Ocean, dragons still roam in a Jurassic type underworld located in “The Ring of Fire,” where a string of 452 volcanoes erupt from the ocean bed. The ruthless environment helped to forge the Komodo Dragons, the largest living lizards on the planet, with 34 million years of survival in their DNA. Armored in claws and scales, these stealthy reptiles are ancient gladiators with deadly venom in every bite. On the hunt, they can run up to 23 miles per hour. But this apex warrior is also clinging to survival: only about 5,000 Komodo Dragons still exist. DRAGON ISLAND takes viewers onto Komodo Island for a glimpse of a mighty young creature, Drogo, who has overthrown the old king and must fight to hold onto his supremacy throughout the brawling season. Cameras capture Drogo as he feeds, breeds and fights for survival.

VIPER QUEENS
Premieres Wednesday, July 27th at 8 p.m. ET/PT
From the stark American Wild West, to steamy jungles in the heart of Africa, old and new world orders of vipers have merged to create a super-family of snakes. Within their ranks, some have adapted specific skills. VIPER QUEENS travels the world to present an intimate look at three different forms of these iconic, coldblooded killers in extreme, contrasting landscapes. Velvet, an African Gaboon viper, or adder, can wait motionless for months at a time, and then unleash a sudden, powerful attack. Armed with fangs that grow up to two inches long, Gaboon vipers not only have the longest snake fangs in the world, they’re also the largest and heaviest viper species. Therma, a Western Diamondback rattler, displays a familiar rattle warning as her first line of defense. She’s a new-world pit viper, equipped with an early warning system and thermal imaging abilities. Aries, the Puff adder, belongs to a group of formidable killers who are adaptable and hardy, able to spread themselves throughout Africa and Arabia, occupying one of the widest distributions of all viper species. Masters of disguise, their skin comes in a range of color variations, sometimes making them hard to identify, except for one distinguishable feature: the chevron markings on their backs.

KILLER HORNET SWARM
Premieres Wednesday, August 3rd at 8 p.m. ET/PT

Summer is here...and with it comes a deadly invasion. These super-sized Samurais called Japanese Giant Killer Hornets are the size of a human thumb and they are packed with a cytotoxic venom that can cause anaphylactic shock – and even death. Their stinger is a quarter the size of their body and packs a punch like a Black Mamba. For Golden-Yellow Hornets, a species much smaller in size, the invasion of giants is a mortal threat. It takes 10 of them to take on a single giant, but they’ve evolved surprising strategies to help even the odds.

DESERT WARRIORS: LIONS OF THE NAMIB
Premieres Wednesday, August 10th at 8 p.m. ET/PT
In a merciless, desolate furnace, an unexpected predator endures. Equipped with exceptional survival skills, desert lions roam the Namib. But with so few remaining adult males, the small population is on the brink of extinction. A brotherhood of five youngsters, known as the “Musketeers,” holds the key to the future of their kind. Two years ago, an old female and her two daughters gave birth to a cohort of five male cubs and, despite the hardships of the desert, they have managed to raise them successfully. But soon the time will come for the five Musketeers to continue their lives independently when their mothers begin their search for one of the last remaining adult males. Faced with many unexpected challenges, the five young males need to conquer the oldest desert on Earth on their truly epic journey to adulthood.

DESERT WARRIORS: LIONS OF THE NAMIB is produced by Intonature Productions, BoksDocs and Interspot for Smithsonian Channel. The other programs highlighted above for WILD WEDNESDAYS are produced by Earth-Touch for Smithsonian Channel.

Smithsonian Channel™, owned by Smithsonian Networks™, a joint venture between Showtime Networks Inc. and the Smithsonian Institution, is where curiosity lives, inspiration strikes and wonders never cease. This is the place for awe-inspiring stories, powerful documentaries and amazing entertainment across multiple platforms. Smithsonian Channel combines the storytelling prowess of SHOWTIME® with the unmatched resources and rich traditions of the Smithsonian, to create award-winning programming that shines new light on popular genres such as air and space, history, science, nature, and pop culture. Among the network’s offerings are series including Aerial America, Million Dollar American Princesses, The Weapon Hunter, Mighty Ships, Mighty Planes and Air Disasters, as well as critically-acclaimed specials that include Civil War 360, 9/11: The Heartland Tapes; MLK: The Assassination Tapes and The Day Kennedy Died. Smithsonian Networks also operates Smithsonian Earth™, through SN Digital LLC., a new subscription video streaming service delivering spectacular original nature and wildlife content. To learn more, go to www.smithsonianchannel.com, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Bill is result of trapping incident with 12-year-old boy; would ban import, export, and interstate commerce of leghold and Conibear traps

Washington, D.C., June 27, 2016 -- Today, Born Free USA announced its support for the introduction of the Public Safety and Wildlife Protection Act (H.R. 5560) in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswoman Alma S. Adams (D-NC) and Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY). This important bill would ban the import, export, and interstate commerce of barbaric steel-jaw leghold traps and Conibear body-gripping traps. H.R. 5560 was inspired by an incident in North Carolina, in which a 12-year-old boy playing near a neighborhood pond got his arm caught in a Conibear trap. It took a team of six doctors several hours to free him from the painful grip of this trap.

Born Free USA applauds and thanks Congresswoman Adams and Congresswoman Lowey for their leadership and urges the swift passage of the legislation to ensure that outdoor spaces are safe for the public, their pets, and wildlife.

According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, “Leghold and Conibear traps are the two used most often in the U.S. trapping industry. They are horrific in their brutality. When triggered, these archaic devices slam shut on their victims with bone-crushing force. They are indiscriminate and cause massive pain and suffering not only to targeted wild animals, but also to endangered species, people’s pets, and even children. It is time for the U.S. to take significant steps to limit the barbaric impact of these two dangerous traps.”

“The preservation of human life and wildlife is a priority that lawmakers must take serious. We can no longer afford to disregard the ill-effects that animal cruelty has on our ecosystem and on us as well. Steel-jaw leghold and Conibear traps are body-gripping tools that are inhumane and archaic. They also pose unnecessary risks to humans, especially young children. That is why I am proud to introduce this important piece of legislation with my colleague, Congresswoman Nita Lowey,” said Congresswoman Adams.

Although Conibear and leghold traps are legal in North Carolina, their use is severely restricted or prohibited in several states. Importantly, the Public Safety and Wildlife Protection Act would not alter any state’s own policies on trapping. Instead, it would ensure that these two notoriously dangerous traps do not cross state lines, especially into states with bans already in place. 

“Body-gripping traps are an archaic and indiscriminate method of catching wildlife,” said Congresswoman Lowey. “They cause tremendous suffering to animals and put humans at an unnecessary risk for injury. That is why I am proud to join Congresswoman Adams in introducing the Public Safety and Wildlife Protection Act. It is time for the United States to address the inherent cruelty of these devices and ban their use.”  

Born Free USA asserts that animals and people should be able to enjoy the outdoor spaces of the U.S without the risk of being caught—and possibly killed—in an indiscriminate and painful trap. The organization urges other members of Congress to join Congresswoman Adams and Congresswoman Lowey in support of H.R. 5560.

Born Free USA is a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic "pets," trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to America the message of "compassionate conservation": the vision of the U.K.-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film Born Free, along with their son, Will Travers. Born Free's mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at www.bornfreeusa.org, www.twitter.com/bornfreeusa, and www.facebook.com/bornfreeusa.

 

Thousands of Protected Bald and Golden Eagles May Be Threatened by Industry

 

(Washington, D.C., June 23, 2016) A neweagle-management planproposed by the federal government would give wind energy developers 30-year permits to “take” or incidentally kill protected Bald and Golden Eagles, without requiring the industry to share mortality data with the public or take into consideration such critical factors as proper siting. The so-called Eagle Take Rule, proposed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, puts many thousands of the nation’s protected Bald and Golden Eagles at unacceptable risk.

American Bird Conservancysuccessfully suedthe government over a previous version of the rule, which a federal judge agreed violated federal environmental laws. Unfortunately, the updated rule, open for public comment until July 5, 2016, is as problematic as the previous one.

In alettersent to FWS today, ABC spells out serious concerns about the revised rule. It would increase the number of eagles that can be killed by wind energy and other facilities. It’s based on insufficient data, and doesn’t require energy companies to be transparent about the effects of wind energy on our nation’s ecologically significant birds and bats. The rule doesn’t call for proper siting and regulation of wind energy development. And it allows for 30-year take permits without giving the public and conservation groups a voice in periodic reviews.

All of those flaws will put eagles and other wildlife in serious jeopardy if the rule is adopted. “Eagles are our nation’s symbol and are protected by law,” said Dr. Michael Hutchins, director of ABC’sBird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign. “In the end, the new rule differs little from its previous incarnation and allows wind energy companies to continue to kill our nation’s iconic eagles with little or no consequence.”

FWS has said that the revised rule is meant to entice wind energy companies to apply for permits and adhere to the service’s voluntary wind energy guidelines, since they are not doing so at present. ABC believes adhering to these guidelines should be mandatory, not voluntary.

“Voluntary guidelines for an energy company are much the same as voluntary stops signs for motorists,” Hutchins said. “If the law doesn’t require them to stop, many would ignore signs altogether.”

ABC supports the development of clean, renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar power to address climate change, but believes such development must be done responsibly, with minimal impact on our public trust resources, especially federally protected species such as Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles. When it comes to wind energy, proper siting is the most important consideration. (See our 2016 report on “Ten of the Worst-Sited Wind Energy Facilities for Birds.”)

“Conflicts between wind energy development and wildlife could be easily resolved through better mandatory regulation and enforcement of our wildlife laws, leading to proper siting of these facilities,” Hutchins said.

In its explanation of the new rule, FWS asserts that wind energy and other industries could cumulatively kill up to 4,200 Bald Eagles and 2,000 Golden Eagles every year without reducing their populations. These numbers represent a substantial potential increase in eagle take quotas from those allowed under the previous rule.

“The American people are not going to tolerate large numbers of eagles killed by poorly sited wind energy projects,” Hutchins said. “Nor should they. Eagles are not only our national birds and symbols of our democracy, they are sacred to Native Americans.”

Eagles, especially Golden Eagles, are highly vulnerable to collisions with wind turbine blades, which have tips that can rotate at more than 150 miles an hour. The notoriously poorly sited Altamont Wind Resource Area in California has killed more than 2,000 Golden Eagles since wind turbines first went into operation in there in the early 1980s. In addition, both Golden and Bald Eagles are killed by collisions and electrocution at associated power lines and towers.

The proposed rule is especially worrisome for Golden Eagles. Uncertainty about Golden Eagle populations—especially the small Eastern population of the birds—and the lack of knowledge about their behavior, migratory movements, and habitat use are, in ABC's view, the rule’s biggest weaknesses. FWS itself recognizes that Golden Eagle populations in the U.S. may be declining and that the species does not have the capacity to tolerate any additional, unmitigated mortality.

The rule spells bad news for Bald Eagles as well. Bald Eagles have just recently come off the Endangered Species List and are nowhere near their pre-DDT numbers. As wind turbines go up near freshwater lakes and large river systems and on- and offshore in marine coastal areas, however—all areas heavily used by the birds—Bald Eagle mortality is certain to increase.

The primary beneficiary of the proposed new Eagle Take Rule appears to be the wind energy industry, not our nation’s Bald and Golden Eagles, other native birds, and other ecologically important species such as bats. ABC urges the public and other conservation groups tomake their voices heardbefore the July 5 deadline for public comment on FWS’s revised 30-year Eagle Take Rule.

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American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere's bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas.  With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

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