Displaying items by tag: extinction

 

By Luciano Beheregaray, Flinders University / 8th of January, 2016

THE Galápagos Islands, 1,000 kilometres off the coast of South America, are probably most famous as the place that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. They are home to an extraordinary array of wildlife, including giant Galápagos tortoises, the world’s largest land-living cold-blooded animals.

The tortoises once thrived in the archipelago. There were originally 15 species that evolved as the islands formed volcanically. However, since the arrival of people four species have become extinct.

A few weeks ago we returned from an expedition to the islands in search of two of these extinct species of tortoises. It may sound like a fool’s errand, but our expedition was a success.

Here’s how we did it.

Tortoises under threat

The Galápagos Islands were colonised in the late 1800s. A combination of poaching by whalers and pirates, and introduced pests competing for food and eating eggs and hatchlings, led to tortoises being exterminated on some islands, and dramatically reduced on others.

Lonesome George, photographed before his death at the age of about 100. Flickr/putneymark, CC BY-SA

Darwin wrote about the harvesting of the species of tortoise found only on Floreana Island (Chelonoidis elephantopus), which was exterminated within 15 years of his visit to the Galápagos in 1835.

The tortoise found only on Pinta Island (Chelonoidis abingdoni) went formally extinct in 2012, when its last representative, a male held in captivity and nicknamed Lonesome George, died. He was a major conservation icon and at one point considered by Guinness World Records as the world’s rarest living creature.

The Galápagos Islands, showing locations mentioned in this story.

Finding extinct tortoises

Ten years ago our genetic research program made a very surprising discovery. Some tortoises on Volcano Wolf, on Isabela Island, didn’t match others normally found on the volcano (Chelonoidis becki). Instead, their DNA matched that of the extinct species from Floreana and Pinta.

Volcano Wolf – the highest point of the Galápagos Islands. Luciano Beheregaray

These exciting discoveries led to an expedition on Volcano Wolf in 2008, where we tagged and sampled over 1,600 tortoises. DNA analyses revealed an astonishingly large number of tortoises with mixed genetic ancestry in this sample: 89 with DNA from Floreana and 17 with DNA from Pinta.

How was this possible?

It is likely that people have been moving tortoises around the islands. Old logbooks from the whaling industry indicate that, in order to lighten the burden of their ships, whalers and pirates dropped large numbers of tortoises in Banks Bay, near Volcano Wolf.

These animals were collected from lower altitudes islands (Floreana and Pinta) during centuries of exploitation by whalers and pirates, who made the archipelago a regular stop-off for their crews to stock up on these handy living larders.

Many of these tortoises made it to shore and eventually mated with the native Volcano Wolf species, producing hybrids that still maintain the distinctive saddleback shell found in the species from Floreana and Pinta. These hybrids include animals whose parents represent purebred individuals of the two extinct species.

An arduous expedition

Our recent expedition was aimed at finding the animals with a high proportion of ancestors from Floreana or Pinta.

It was ambitious, logistically complex, and very strenuous.

Our team of park rangers, scientists, and veterinarians from 10 countries were divided in nine groups of three to four people each. The daily mission included patrolling large areas of unstable razor-sharp lava fields and of spiny thick vegetation across Volcano Wolf, the tallest of the Galápagos. Added to this ordeal were the frequent encounters with wasps, the equatorial heat, and an El Niño induced six-day period of non-stop rain.

When one of the target tortoises was found, we would contact our mother ship by radio and clear the vegetation of the volcano slopes to make room for the cargo net of our expedition’s helicopter. The precious tortoise would then be moved into the net and airlifted to the ship, which was anchored in Banks Bay.

Our teams discovered more than 1,300 tortoises, including nearly 200 that potentially have mixed ancestry from Floreana or Pinta. We airlifted 32 of them to the ship and then to the captive breeding facility of the Galápagos National Park on the island of Santa Cruz.

A giant Galápagos tortoise with ancestry of an extinct species being airlifted to our ship. Elizabeth Hunter

Included in the 32 were four females with Floreana genes and one male and one female from Pinta that were tagged and analysed in 2008.

Reintroducing ‘extinct’ tortoises

The DNA of these tortoises will be analysed to inform the best breeding strategy. We want to restore as much as possible the genes originally found on Floreana and Pinta.

The captive-born offspring of the two extinct species are expected to be released in their native islands within the next five to ten years.

Giant tortoises relocated by our expedition from the Volcano Wolf, Isabela Island, to the captive breeding program of the Galápagos National Park, Santa Cruz Island. Joe Flanagan

Reintroduction of these tortoises to the islands where they evolved, together with large-scale habitat restoration efforts, is essential for the restoration of the island ecosystems. These long-lived large herbivores act as “ecosystem engineers”, altering the habitat they live in to the benefit of other species.

Wouldn’t low genetic diversity hinder the long-term persistence of reintroduced populations?

This is a logical concern for reintroduction programs that rely on a small number of captive breeders. However, giant Galápagos tortoises can bounce back from major demographic crashes and respond well to reintroduction programs.

For instance, the Volcano Alcedo tortoise population, arguably the largest in the Galápagos, is derived from a single female lineage thought to have survived a catastrophic volcano eruption in pre-historical times.

The reintroduction of over 1,500 captive-born offspring of the species once found on Española Island is another success story. The repatriated Española population, all derived from 15 captive breeders, now seems well-established.

Bringing back the Floreana and Pinta species from extinction, something inconceivable not long ago, is now a possibility. Its appeal is further increased by the fact that our expedition found that many more tortoises with genes from Floreana and Pinta still wander on the slopes of the Volcano Wolf. Adding them to breeding programs will boost the genetic diversity in the released individuals and calls for a new expedition soon to come.

We anticipate arduous but rewarding times ahead for giant tortoise conservation biologists.The Conversation

Luciano Beheregaray, Professor in Biodiversity Genetics and ARC Future Fellow, Flinders University and Adalgisa 'Gisella' Caccone, Senior Research Scientist and Lecturer, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Yale University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

“New Jersey has the opportunity to be a leader on this issue.” Born Free CEO

Washington, D.C. November 9, 2015 -- Born Free USA, a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, will testify in New Jersey at a hearing today in support of Senate Bill S. 3416 to ban the possession, transport, import, export, processing, sale, or shipment of many imperiled species, including the “big five” African species: African elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, and Cape buffalo. 

The bill, introduced by Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-21), is intended to curb trophy hunting. It was introduced after the tragic death of Cecil the lion, who was allegedly lured outside of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe and killed by an American hunter in July. His death was particularly tragic because he was a known, local favorite, and was collared as part of an Oxford University study.

According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation, "Illegal trafficking of wildlife products is directly responsible for shocking declines in wild animal populations in recent years, and this bill is a crucial step toward reducing the availability of wildlife in consumer markets, thus reducing poaching and trade. New Jersey has the opportunity to be a leader on this issue. In 2014, New Jersey became the first state to ban the sale or import of ivory and rhinoceros horns in order to stem the state’s role as a major hub in the illegal trade of these products.”

Senator Raymond Lesniak said, “S. 3416 will stop nonsensical trophy killings being imported, transported or possessed in New Jersey in order to protect endangered, threatened or vulnerable animals from being killed to be a trophy for someone. I urge my colleagues to do the right thing today by voting in support of this humane legislation.”

Trophy hunting, involving the selective killing of wild animals for ‘sport’ is extremely controversial. Pro-hunting groups often make the argument that hunting brings conservation funding into a country through hunting permits. However, not only are the steepest declines in lion populations seen in countries with the highest hunting intensity, but there is proof that the funds reaching the local community are miniscule, reports Born Free USA. 

In 2013 Born Free USA, along with partner organizations, commissioned Economists at Large to investigate the facts.  The study shows that the trophy hunting industry makes a minimal contribution to national incomes. As a portion of any national economy, trophy hunting revenue never accounts for more than 0.27 percent of the GDP. Additionally, trophy hunting revenues account for only 1.8 percent of overall tourism in nine investigated countries that allow trophy hunting, and even pro-hunting sources find that only three percent of the money actually reaches the rural communities where hunting occurs. While trophy hunting supporters routinely claim that hunting generates $200 million annually in remote areas of Africa, the industry is actually economically insignificant and makes a minimal contribution to national income.

This information reinforces Born Free USA’s call for wildlife photography safaris and other non-consumptive use, to be the focus for tourist activities, which make a greater contribution to conservation and the African economy without killing lions.

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.

Washington, D.C., October 14, 2015 -- Born Free USA, a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, will be one of several groups testifying in support of a bill to ban the sale of ivory and rhino horn in Massachusetts on Wednesday, October 21. House Bill 1275, introduced by Representative Lori Ehrlich, will be heard in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

This important legislation would restrict commerce in ivory and rhino horn throughout the state. Illegal trafficking of these wildlife products is directly responsible for shocking declines in wild populations in recent years, and this bill is a crucial step toward reducing the target market.

According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation, “Massachusetts has the opportunity to be a powerful leader on these issues. This bill is of particular importance because Boston’s port, like any entry point to the U.S., is a site where wildlife parts can be smuggled into the country and laundered as legal products. The elephant poaching epidemic across Africa has reached crisis levels and rhino poaching is escalating exponentially, so we have no time to waste in enacting legislation.”

The crisis has become increasingly severe over the past several years. It is estimated that more than 129,000 elephants have been poached since January 2012. “If the killing rate continues, certain African elephant populations could go extinct within a decade,” says Roberts.

Additionally, all five extant rhino species are in serious danger due to poaching. Africa’s black rhinos are critically endangered, with a population of fewer than 5,000. There are only 3,000 one-horned rhinos remaining in India and Nepal, and Southeast Asia’s Sumatran and Javan rhinos number only in the hundreds and tens, respectively. The horns, made of a substance akin to fingernails, are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Despite conclusive evidence that they have no curative properties, hundreds of rhinos are killed for their horns every year.

Poaching is not only a wildlife conservation and animal welfare issue, but is also directly linked to transnational criminal syndicates, according to the Born Free USA reports, Ivory’s Curse and Out of Africa. Poaching supplies $7-10 billion to a wildlife trafficking enterprise that enables terrorism, weapons, and human trafficking, feeding devastating violence and instability in Africa. Global criminal syndicates use poaching as a substantial source of funding for their brutal activities, which also threatens U.S. national security.

New York and New Jersey passed similar laws restricting the commerce in ivory and rhino horn last year, and California more recently. View a map of state action to crack down on the sale of ivory and rhino horn at www.bornfreeusa.org/ivoryinfographic.

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.

Ban is critical to save animals from extinction

Washington D.C., June 8, 2015 -- A coalition of leading animal welfare organizations including Born Free USA, MSPCA-Angell, Zoo New England, International Fund for Animal Welfare, The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, have joined together to encourage the passage of legislation to ban the sale of ivory and rhinoceros horn in Massachusetts.

Senate Bill 440 and House Bill 1275, introduced by Senator Jason Lewis and Representative Lori Ehrlich, would ban the sale of ivory and rhino horn in Massachusetts, a critical step in the fight to save these animals from extinction. Ninety-six Massachusetts legislators have signed on as co-sponsors.

African elephants and rhinos are being killed at an unprecedented rate as demand for their tusks and horns continues to grow. Between 2010 and 2012, 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory — representing the worst mass slaughter of elephants since the international ivory trade was banned in 1989.

According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation, “The elephant poaching epidemic across Africa has reached crisis levels and rhino poaching is escalating exponentially. The U.S. is a major ivory market, and we cannot afford to wait any longer to take action. Senator Lewis and Representative Ehrlich's timely action addresses the market for these products, which is a crucial part of ending the slaughter.”

“Massachusetts has the opportunity to lead during this critical time for elephants and rhinos. By banning the sale of elephant ivory and rhino horns, Massachusetts can also raise consumer awareness, reduce poaching and be an example for other states and other countries,” said Cynthia Mead, Zoo New England executive vice president of external affairs and programming.

"Although this problem might seem like only an African tragedy, our actions here at home make a huge difference abroad. Elephants are the only ones who need ivory; rhinos are the only ones who need their horns. Massachusetts doesn't need either,” said Azzedine Downes, IFAW President and CEO.

“With this alarming rate of poaching, African elephants could be gone from the wild in a few decades,” said Iris Ho, wildlife program manager for Humane Society International. “The situation is also devastating for rhinos as all five remaining rhino species are threatened with extinction. The very true possibility of disappearance of these majestic animals over human greed for vanity items is a moral and ecological disaster.”

As documented in Born Free USA’s groundbreaking reports, Ivory’s Curse and Out of Africa, poaching is not only a wildlife conservation and animal welfare issue but also directly linked to transnational criminal syndicates. Furthermore, the scale of poaching today supplies a $7-10 billion wildlife trafficking enterprise that is intertwined with terrorism and government corruption.  These groups use poaching as a substantial source of funding for their brutal activities, which also threatens U.S. national security.

“The proposed legislation would neither criminalize possession of ivory already legally owned by Massachusetts residents, nor would it prohibit inheritance or noncommercial ivory gifts,” said Laura Hagen, deputy director of advocacy for the MSPCA-Angell.  “But it would help stop the killing, trafficking and demand that is driving these iconic species to extinction—and that is essential if they are to have a chance at survival.”

New York and New Jersey passed similar laws last year.  A host of states, including, California, Connecticut, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont have similar pending legislation to shut down the ivory and rhino horn trade in their jurisdictions.

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 North America the message of “compassionate conservation” — the vision of the United Kingdom-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.

 

Global leader in wildlife conservation says certain populations may face extinction in our lifetime  

Washington D.C., October 28, 2014 – According to Born Free USA, a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, the world has become a scary place for many wild animals. In advance of Halloween, the organization highlights 13 of the scariest facts concerning wildlife today.

Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, says, “These are some of the blackest times we have ever seen for tigers, lions, rhinos, and elephants. Some of these species may face extinction not in my daughter’s lifetime, but in my own. Furthermore, we have a horrific epidemic still going on with exotic animals being kept as pets and for entertainment purposes, which is not only inhumane, but also a severe public safety issue. We have more to be afraid of from private ownership of big cats than black cats this Halloween.”    

Thirteen seriously scary facts about animals:

  1. With as few as 3,500 wild tigers left in the world, and numbers rapidly decreasing, the future for this iconic species in its natural habitat is precarious. There are more tigers kept in captivity in the U.S. than there are in the wild.
  2. The elephant poaching crisis has reached historic levels, and some elephant populations may face extinction in our lifetime. An estimated 35,000 to 50,000 elephants are poached each year for their ivory. Elephants are now being killed faster than they are being born.
  3. Approximately 35,000 African lions remain in the wild, declining more than 50% since 1980.
  4. Only six northern white rhinos are left on the planet, and rhinos in South Africa are being poached in greater numbers every year to supply horns to Asia.
  5. Since 1990, more than 200 people — including children — have been injured by captive primates in the U.S.
  6. Over half (54%) of National Wildlife Refuges allow cruel trapping. These lands are not safe havens for humans, wildlife, or pets.
  7. Cheetahs may be the fastest land animals, but they are no match for criminals who capture them from the wild as cubs, take them away from their mothers, and smuggle them to the Middle East, where they are highly prized as pets and live with a chain around their necks. Cheetahs can fetch $10,000 each on the market and only 10,000 remain in the wild.
  8. Born Free USA has recorded 225 captive exotic animal incidents in America alone since 2013. Each case shines a horrific spotlight on the dangers of human/exotic animal interaction.
  9. Six states do not require a license or permit to own exotic animals.
  10. Consumption of bushmeat has been linked to anthrax, Ebola, monkeypox, SARS, and foot and mouth disease. Experts estimate that the bushmeat trade could eliminate all viable populations of African apes within the next five to 15 years.
  11. Nearly 100,000 native carnivores are killed by the federal government on public and private lands each year in the U.S., including by poisons, steel-jaw leghold traps, strangulation neck snares, denning (killing coyote pups in their dens), hounding, and shooting.
  12. Ninety percent of foxes raised on farms are killed for the fur trim market. The number of animal pelts used for trim may soon outnumber those used for full-length fur coats.
  13. Bear gallbladders and bile have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. There are approximately 10,000 bears in barbaric Asian bear farms in China, Korea, and Vietnam, caged and “milked” cruelly for their bile. American black bears are poached in our forests to slice out their gallbladders and feed the same bear parts markets globally.

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.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Washington, D.C. – April 29, 2014) – An open letter to President Obama published today in the Washington Post expresses support for the Administration’s proposed new rules to halt domestic ivory sales.  Signatories on the letter include high-profile individuals, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Goodall and Dave Matthews, alongside a coalition of businesses and conservation organizations representing millions of Americans. 

Representatives of the coalition issued the following statements:

 

Jane Goodall PhD, DBE, Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger Peace, said: “The mass poaching of elephants in Africa should be of great global concern.  I applaud the US ban on ivory in its intent to counter the devastating toll on dwindling elephant populations in the wildand address the physical and emotional suffering of these intelligent and highly social animals. It is my hope that this strong move by President Obama will encourage other countries to do whatever it takes to endthe demand for ivory products – from wild elephants – within their own borders.”

Iain Douglas-Hamilton, DPhil, OBE, and Founder of Save the Elephants, said: “At the heart of the elephant poaching crisis is the seemingly insatiable demand for their tusks.  Closing the door to the illegal ivory trade in the U.S. is an important step towards saving elephants, and signals to the world that the continued existence of elephants must be valued above mere ivory trinkets."

Dr. Patrick Bergin, CEO – African Wildlife Foundation said: “If we want all countries to make a commitment to living elephants by getting tough on the ivory trade, then the United States, as one of the largest ivory markets in the world, must lead by example. We commend the Administration for setting the tone on this issue—that the U.S. values living elephants above the profit from dead ones. We can live without ivory; elephants can’t.”

 

Azzedine Downes, President and CEO, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said: “The Administration appreciates the difference between a carved statue and a living, breathing elephant, and the proposed US ivory rules would help ensure that this planet doesn’t lose its most iconic animal for the sake of souvenirs. If implemented, these new rules would significantly reduce the amount of illegal ivory smuggled into and sold in this country, and would set an example for the rest of the world.   

“Americans across the political spectrum agree with this effort, and now is the time to implement the strongest possible protections for elephants and other endangered wildlife.”

Charles Knowles, Executive Director, Wildlife Conservation Network said:  “With over 30,000 elephants killed last year for their ivory, it is time for the world to do something to stop the slaughter of one of the world’s most intelligent, sensitive and self aware animals. Their future depends on a global coalition to develop and deploy well-funded, strategic and efficient actions to address the growing demand for ivory,  its trafficking and ultimately poaching of elephants. We support the US government’s leadership in these efforts.”

Jim Maddy, President and CEO of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums

“AZA-accredited zoos connect people with elephants and help raise awareness about the conservation issues these incredible creatures face in their natural ranges,” said Jim Maddy, President and CEO of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. “The ivory rules proposed by the Obama Administration are an important step. Now we need to do what we can to educate people on what they can do to help end the illegal ivory trade.”

Carter Roberts, President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund said: “There are just too many loopholes in the current system for Americans to feel secure that the ivory they buy or sell is not connected to the ongoing slaughter of elephants in Africa.

“If we hope to influence this issue globally, we have to get it right here in the United States. The illegal ivory trade is fueled by organized crime. By placing restrictions on ivory sales, the Administration is making a commitment to not tolerate the senseless slaughter of wildlife and the global criminal syndicates profiting from it.”

Cristián Samper, President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society and a member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking, said: “WCS thanks the Obama Administration for its strong action to eliminate ivory sales and to save elephants.  We thank the thousands of U.S. citizens who are making a difference by backing an ivory ban and joining the 96 Elephants.org Campaign, and we encourage all to make their voices heard. Just in New York State, we know that more than 80 percent want an ivory ban based on a recent poll. This ban is important in the United States and we need clear, decisive action to save these magnificent animals. Along with our partners, we are committed to stopping the killing, stopping the trafficking, and stopping the demand.”

It is estimated that between 25,000 and 50,000 elephants are killed for their ivory each year, resulting in fewer than half a million elephants remaining in Africa’s savannas and

jungles — a drastic plunge over the last 50 years.

###

About African Wildlife Foundation

Founded in 1961, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is a leading conservation organization focused solely on the African continent. AWF’s programs and conservation strategies are based on sound science and designed to protect both the wild lands and wildlife of Africa and ensure a more sustainable future for Africa’s people. Since its inception, AWF has protected endangered species and land, promoted conservation enterprises that benefit local African communities, and trained hundreds of African nationals in conservation—all to ensure the survival of Africa’s unparalleled wildlife heritage. AWF is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Kenya and registered as a 501(c)(3) in the United States. For more information, visit www.awf.organd follow us on Twitter @AWF_Official and Facebook at facebook.com/AfricanWildlifeFoundation.

About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN)

WCN’s mission is to protect endangered species and preserve their natural habitats by supporting entrepreneurial conservationists who pursue innovative strategies for people and wildlife to co-exist and thrive.

 

About AZA

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and six other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit www.aza.org.

 

 

About World Wildlife Fund                                                                                                           

WWF is one of the world’s leading conservation organizations, working in 100 countries for over half a century. With the support of almost 5 million members worldwide, WWF is dedicated to delivering science-based solutions to preserve the diversity and abundance of life on Earth, halt the degradation of the environment and combat climate change. Visit www.worldwildlife.org to learn more and follow our news conversations on Twitter @WWFnews.

 

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) MISSION:WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.VISION:WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth.To achieve our mission,WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit:www.wcs.org;facebook.com/TheWCS;youtube.com/user/WCSMedia; follow:@theWCS.

Born Free USA: “Will world leaders push iconic species to brink of extinction or hand them a lifeline at UN wildlife convention?”

Washington, DC, February 25, 2013 – Adam Roberts, Executive Vice President of Born Free USA, a leader in wildlife conservation and animal welfare, and a board member of Species Survival Network (SSN), warned today, “We are presiding over a slide towards extinction for many of the world's most iconic species.” Roberts, along with members of the Born Free international team and SSN, will attend the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) March 3 to 14 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Born Free is calling on the 177 Member countries that are signatories to CITES (www.bornfreeeusa.org/cites) to urgently put in place effective measures to prevent the further loss of several key-stone species. Born Free also urges the international community to dig deep and find the essential resources necessary to shatter the organized crime syndicates that are behind today's poaching epidemic and equip the men and women who regularly lose their lives on the conservation frontline.

According to Roberts, "This is a tragic state of affairs. We are witnessing the decimation of some of the world’s most beautiful creatures and it must stop. The public is led to believe that the natural world is holding its own, and that is far from the truth. For some species, the question is not whether they will go extinct in the wild in my daughter’s lifetime, but in mine.”

Will Travers OBE, the CEO of Born Free and President of SNN adds, "The situation is now so bad, the poaching and slaughter of wildlife now so inextricably linked to international organized crime syndicates, that without a dramatic step-change in our efforts and without the resources for effective species conservation, we shall, in my view, end up with a handful of 'wildlife fortresses' - heavily guarded National Reserves and Parks, protected by garrisons of armed rangers and wardens - and that's it."

Recent announcements by former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, echoed by the UK Environment Minister Richard Benyon, on his recent trip to Kenya, indicate that criminal operations coordinated by terrorist organizations such as al-Shabab, Boko Haram, and the Lord's Resistance Army, are intimately connected with wildlife crime, the proceeds of which fuels their efforts to plunder and terrorize.

"The resources and the forces we have at our disposal to resist the tide of poaching are simply not enough,” said Travers. "Until the international community recognizes the need to meet this threat head-on, then endangered wild animals will lose their lives, people will be murdered, local communities will be destabilized, and environments will be destroyed."

Key Statistics:

  • African elephants down by 30% in 20 years - there were 1.3 million in 1979, now there may be less than 400,000. Some countries could lose their elephants entirely within five years.
  • 668 rhino of South Africa's 20,000 rhino poached in 2012 alone - up from just 13 in 2007.
  • African lion numbers collapse by 50% to below 35,000 since 1980 and the trade in lion body parts grows in leaps and bounds.
  • 3,500 wild tigers cling to survival, down from 100,000 just over a century ago, driven by poaching for their body parts.
  • At least 38,000,000 sharks unsustainably caught for their fins, primarily for soup.
  • Thousands of Manta Rays caught and traded for their gills which are used for medicinal purposes in the Far East.
  • Approximately 600 Polar bears killed each year, of which 64% are commercially traded as skins.
  • South Africa lost 668 rhino to poachers in 2012. So far in 2013 it has lost more than 100 - at a rate of two rhino per day. Kenya lost seven rhino to poachers in January.
  • The CITES Secretariat estimate that 25,000 elephant were poached in 2012. Others, including Born Free, suggest the total may be more than 30,000 in the last 12 months.
  • Duke University estimates African lions to number 35,000 or less. Born Free estimates the figure may be nearer 25,000 while some lion scientists believe the number to be as low as 15,000.
  • The Shark Trust reports that between 26,000,000 and 73,000,000 million sharks are traded for fins each year (based on 2006 figures).
  • According to the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) two thirds of Polar bear populations (estimated to be 20,000-25,000) could disappear by 2050.
  • Traders report a steep rise in the Manta Ray gills trade which are now reportedly worth $680 a kilo.
  • Of the nine recognized tiger subspecies, three are now extinct and some countries, notably Loas and Vietnam, may have less than 20 tigers surviving in the wild. China refuses to close down its notorious 'tiger farms.'

Born Free USA is a nationally recognized 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, now CEO of both organizations. 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: bornfreeusa.org/cites and bloodyivory.org. On Twitter twitter.com/bornfreeusa; On Facebook facebook.com/BornFreeUSA.

Website Exposes Bloody Ivory Trade and Tracks Global Ivory Seizures and Poaching Incidents

Born Free USA calls on public to act now

Washington D.C., January 15, 2013 -- Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation, global leaders in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, have launched a compelling website www.bloodyivory.org, which reveals the shocking truth behind the criminal illegal ivory trade and the challenges facing elephants throughout their natural range.

Will Travers, CEO of Born Free USA says, “The ivory trade is a brutal business, devastating entire elephant families, causing massive suffering to individuals - and now severely impacting populations in all four regions of Africa. It may be putting some of the most vulnerable at risk of extinction. Our site www.bloodyivory.org shows what is really happening to elephants and encourages all compassionate people and ‘Elefriends’ everywhere to lend their voice to the chorus declaring ‘no more ivory trade!’” Bloodyivory.org has been updated and expanded, and features new information exposing the depth of this ongoing crisis. Just last week, news out of Kenya reported that an insidious criminal cartel had wiped out an entire family of 12 elephants for their ivory in the worst single incident of its kind in the country.”

On January 5, Hong Kong’s customs seized 779 ivory tusks weighing more than one tonnes and valued at more than one million dollars. This, the most recent of the four largest seizures in four months (which totals 12 tonnes) is clear evidence that Asian demand continues to drive brutal elephant poaching and ruthless international profiteering.

Human lives are also lost as well-armed poachers have gunned down park rangers in Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, and elsewhere across Africa.

Virginia McKenna, OBE, Founder and Trustee of Born Free, expressed her sadness over the current plight of African elephants and called on the international community and the public at large to fight for elephant protection. In a statement released today, McKenna said, “Elephants are living treasures. Nature’s gardeners. Nature’s great teachers. For many, the symbol of Africa. Tragically some people don’t give a damn. They prefer the dead trinket to the living treasure. It’s all about bloody ivory.”

This vital new site includes a Petition calling on the Parties to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) to reject any future proposals for trade in ivory and to support improved protection for elephants. The 176 CITES Parties will meet this March in Bangkok and elephant ivory trade will be high on the agenda. The Born Free team will attend this critical meeting to fight for elephant conservation.

Travers concluded, “There are currently 38 African countries with wild elephant populations. Within five years I estimate that between five and 10 could see their elephants disappear forever unless intensive action is taken. Elephants need Elefriends now more than ever. I urge everyone to visit www.bloodyivory.org and make their voice heard before it’s too late.”

Born Free USA is a nationally recognized 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, now CEO of both organizations. 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 bornfreeusa.org; twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and facebook.com/BornFreeUSA.

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