Wildlife: wolves and elephants and turtles and bison and bats and bears––oh my!

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1993:

The North American Free Trade
Agreement could harm endangered species
and wildlife sanctuaries along the
U.S./Mexican border, a U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service impact analysis says. “There
are serious habitat problems and endangered
species problems on the border now, and we
expect that NAFTA may in fact exacerbate
some of them,” USFWS international affairs
specialist Doug Ryan told the Los Angeles
Times on September 27. The USFWS report
confirms the view of the majority of national
animal and habitat protection groups; see
“Animal and habitat protection groups split”
on page 6 of the October issue of ANIMAL

Alaska’s plan to massacre up to
80% of the wolves in a 4,500-square-mile
area south of Fairbanks and east of Denali
National Park was delayed by lack of snow as
we went to press. Once there is enough snow
for the wolves to leave tracks easily recogniz-
able from the air, hunters are expected to
make short work of the wolves, whom the
state government has slated for death to
reduce predation on moose and caribou. The
latter, coveted by trophy hunters, have been
depleted from record highs to historically
average numbers in the area in question by the
combination of heavy hunting and poaching
with adverse weather during recent calving
seasons. Although Alaska denies encouraging
hunters to chase radio-collared wolves to
exhaustion from aircraft and then land and
shoot them when they drop, anyone with a
$15 trapping license is allowed to shoot a wolf
if he or she is at least 300 feet from the air-
craft. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
admists it hasn’t the staff or equipment to
enforce the federal Airborne Hunting Act in
Alaska, while a recent legislative audit of the
Alaska Division of Fish and Wildlife
Protection found it full of conflicts of interest
that could sabotage its ability to enforce any
law about anything.
Zimbabwe, thwarted in attempts
to lift the global ban on ivory trading, and
therefore reluctant to shoot elephants who
have allegedly overpopulated their habitat,
declared success October 15 in relocating
nearly 500 elephants. Three hundred fifteen
were trucked from the overcrowded
Gonarezhou National Park to private hunting
resorts; 150 went to the Madikwe national
park in South Africa. Eight tranquilized ele-
phants died during the operation, mostly from
falling on their trunks and suffocating, but
veterinarian Ewan Anderson was happy. “It
has proved there is a viable alternative to
culling,” he said. Costs were covered by the
British group Care of the Wild, which put up
$225,000, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, contributing $200,000.
The introduction of Texas cougars
to north Florida as potential mates for geneti-
cally almost identical and highly endangered
Florida panthers doesn’t seem to be working.
Two have been shot after wandering into
Georgia; a car killed one; another ate several
deer at a game ranch; and another ate an exot-
ic goat at a game ranch.
Japan plans to begin captive
breeding using artificial insemination next
year in an attempt to restore the Tsushima
yamaneko mountain cat population. From 85
to 125 of the cats hunt frogs and mice on the
island of Tsushima, off the northwestern coast
of Kyushu, close to Korea. The small wild-
cats are amber-colored with red stripes on their
heads. Japan has never before attempted artifi-
cial captive breeding of a mammal.
The Nature Conservancy released
300 bison on a 5,000-acre tract near
Pawhuska, Oklahoma, on October 18, the
last step in the first phase of an ambitious
attempt to recreate the tallgrass prairie discov-
ered by the first settlers. The tallgrass sanctu-
ary will eventually encompass 36,000 acres,
now being cleared of introduced plant species
through controlled burning.
The construction of a long-await-
ed truck route through the Aspe Valley i n
the Pyranees may doom the last dozen wild
brown bears in western Europe by dividing
their territory in half. There were 40 bears left
when killing them was finally banned 20 years
ago, but their habitat is already so fragmented
that they rarely meet and mate successfully.
World Widlife Fund researcher
Leonora Sheeline reports that the Chamorros
tribe of Guam and other Pacific islands are
eating so many fruit bats––a rare delicacy at
$25-$40 apiece––that the survival of the
species in the Philippines and other exporting
nations is in jeopardy. Fewer than 500 fruit
bats remain on Guam itself. The Chamorros,
45% of the human population of Guam,
import about 7,000 bats a year, many of them
illegally. Before the bats got scarce, circa
1989, they imported 15,000 or more.
The National Academy of Sciences
on October 5 endorsed Interior Secretary
Bruce Babbitt’s formation of a National
Biological Survey, to inventory U.S. flora and
fauna––and said it should be given the means
to fund research grants, with status equivalent
to that of the National Institutes of Health.
A new report from the Clean
Water Fund says Michigan is neglecting
protection of endangered species. Michigan
has 71 endangered species and 258 threatened
species; 48 native species have gone extinct
since record-keeping started.
Seventy-nine nonindigenous ani-
mals and plants, among the 4,500 now resi-
dent in the U.S., have done $97 billion in
damage since 1906, the Congressional Office
of Technology Assessment reported in early
October. Another 15 “high impact” foreign
organisms are expected to soon begin con-
tributing significantly to annual damage now
totaling circa $2 billion a year. A similar
study done by biologist Brad Griffith several
years ago found that of 93 intentional intro-
ductions of foreign species to new habitat in
the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zea-
land between 1977 and 1986, stocking game
species for hunting and fishing accounted for
90%. His study didn’t cover plants and insects.
Red-eared and snapping turtles,
imported from the U.S. as pets, have been
dumped by the thousand in French and British
waterways during the past eight years and are
now devastating water birds. The highly terri-
torial turtles snap the heads off any chicks who
swim near them.
A Colorado State University study
published in September found that 62% of
the 1,200 Coloradoans surveyed want to take
trips to view wildlife, but only 26% actually
do; 61% want to fish, but only 30% do; and
28% want to hunt, but only 14% do.
The Biodiversity Legal Foundation
and Restore The North Woods on October 3
asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to
declare the Atlantic salmon an endangered
species. Despite 40 years of restoration
efforts, the Atlantic salmon still numbers only
4,000, up from a low of 2,000.
The Delhi Sands flower-loving fly,
native to five sites near Colton, California, on
September 22 became the first fly to be added
to the U.S. endangered species list.
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