Wildlife

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, Jan/Feb 1995:

Trafficking
At least six sao las died dur-
ing 1994 due to human contact, from a
population of under 200, reports David
Hulse, World Wildlife Fund representa-
tive in Vietnam. A goat-like bovine with
horns like those of an antelope, the sao la
was only discovered in 1992. The sao la
was quickly protected by law, but TV
crews offering bounties for the chance to
videotape one have inspired poor vil-
lagers to try to trap them. “It has become
very hard for us to protect our animals,”
Viet wildlife officer Le Du Thuan recent-
ly told New York Times c o r r e s p o n d e n t
Philip Shenon. “In the 1970s we had
3,000 tigers, and now maybe we have
200. We had 300 rhinos in 1975; now
we have between 10 and 25. There are
now so many smugglers. And the prob-
lem is getting worse, not better, because
the demand from mainland China is
growing, because China is getting rich.”
The demand isn’t only from the mainland,
however. Observed an anonymous mer-
chant, “The Taiwanese people like
Vietnam because they know there are still
many animals in the forest here.
Sometimes they buy these animals to eat
them, sometimes for medicine. This is a
very good business for us,” while it lasts.
Rebuffed in a bid to lift t h e
six-year-old global ban on ivory traffick-
ing at the November meeting of the
Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species, Zimbabwean direc-
tor of national parks and wildlife Willie
Nduku told media on December 2 that his
government has declined offers of up to
$30 million U.S. for its 30-metric-ton
ivory stockpile. Some of the ivory has
been confiscated from smugglers; the rest
from government “culling.”
Partly due to the ban on ele-
phant ivory sales and partly because
elephants are now scarce, ivory poach-
ers have turned to hippos, whose tooth
vory––more brittle than elephant
tusks––goes for about $70 a kilo on the
black market, about a seventh the price of
tusk ivory. The hippo population of Zaire
is down from 23,000 in 1989 to about
11,000 today, says Newsweek.
Seizures of animals and ani-
mal products entering the U.S. illegally
from Mexico are up 40% since 1989,
says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The $2 billion traffic accounts for a third
of the global cash volume in wildlife traf-
ficking, according to Interpol. The
understaffed USFWS law enforcement
division has only nine agents along the
2,000-mile Mexican border; Mexico has
just three. Mexico hasn’t made an arrest
for illegal wildlife trafficking since join-
ing CITES in 1991. Said Agriculture
Secretariat spokesman Roberto Loeza
Gallardo, “The traffic in endangered and
exotic species does not exist here.” But
his office isn’t far from the Sonora
Market, where Homero Aridjis of El
Grupo de los Cien recently counted 106
animals of internationally recognized
endangered species offered for sale.
Biodiversity in Peru’s Bay of
Paracas National Reserve and Madre
de Dios rainforest is jeopardized by
poaching, fishing with explosives, unau-
thorized mining, and log piracy, S a n
Francisco Chronicle c o r r e s p o n d e n t
Lawrence J. Speer reported recently.
Environmental protection has been
ignored for a decade while the govern-
ment has focused on the now seemingly
ended Shining Path insurgency.
Endangered species
Australian biologists o n
December 7 said they’ve found five
Gilbert’s potoroos, a small marsupial
believed extinct since 1869, in a nature
reserve 255 miles south of Perth.
Canadian environment minis-
ter Sheila Copps has pledged to intro-
duce an omnibus endangered species act
next spring. Canada now protects endan-
gered species through subsections of 12
unrelated federal laws plus a hodgepodge
of provincial laws.
The newly formed European
Environmental Agency, an arm of the
European Union, reported on December
11 that from a third to half of all the fish,
reptiles, mammals, and amphibians
native to Europe are either threatened or
endangered, principally due to habitat
loss and pollution.
The Chinese river alligator,
or gharial, declared endangered by the
United Natons in 1973, is reportedly
thriving in captivity. Fewer than 500
remain in the wild, but there are now
6,000 at a breeding center in eastern
Anhui, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang provinces.
The center is looking into marketing pos-
sibilities––and alligator birth control.
RESTORE:
The North
Woods has warned the Department of the
Interior that it may sue if the department
does not respond by the end of January to
a petition to protect the Atlantic salmon
under the Endangered Species Act. The
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and
National Marine Fisheries Service ruled
in January 1993 that such protection may
be warranted. The petition is reputedly
the first ever filed which falls under the
jurisdiction of both agencies.
Habitat
Gorillas, chimpanzees, mon-
keys, and elephants are among the 210
mammal species and 766 bird species
imperiled by the invasion of Zaire’s
Virunga National Park by an estimated
200,000 Rwandan refugees––including
about 30,000 soldiers of the deposed for-
mer Rwandan government, who far out-
number the park wardens and are much
more heavily armed. About 10% of the
12,800-square-mile park, tree-covered
since before the Pleistocene epoch, has
already been deforested, partly for fire-
wood but mostly for sale by the soldiers,
who have found logging––and poach-
ing––to be quick sources of cash.
Established by Belgium in 1925, Virunga
had been closed to all human activity but
scientific study since the mid-1970s.
A Rwandan silverback gorilla
named Mkono was killed in November by
a land mine, the African Wildlife
Foundation said December 12. Fewer
than 30 silverbacks remain in Rwanda.
Heavy November rains r a i s e d
the Everglades water level to its highest
point since 1947, drowning at least 80 of
the 2,000 deer who were believed to live
in the vicinity of the Miccosukee Indian
Reservation, while countless other deer
became vulnerable to alligators. Though
hard on deer, the high water is expected
to benefit most other Everglades wildlife.
Bear Watch, a new anti-bear
hunting group, may be contacted at POB
1099, Ganges, British Columbia,
Canada V0S 1E0; 604-537-2404
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