International wildlife news

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1996:

Members of 840 Masai
families during the second week in
March opened Kimana Tikondo
Group Ranch, a 15-square-mile forprofit
wildlife sanctuary in southern
Kenya, under the shadow of Mount
Kilimanjaro. Just 17 visitors paid
the $10 entrance fee the first week,
most of them members of a delegation
from the Wildlife Conservation
Society, formerly the New York
Zoological Society. Start-up funding
came from the U.S. Agency for
International Development. Kenya
Wildlife Services director David
Western hopes Kimana Tikando and
similar parks can make enough
money to persuade the Masai that
keeping wildlife is more profitable
than killing it to graze more cattle.

The estimated 31 northern
white rhinos and 230 savannah
giraffes left in Garamba
National Park, Zaire, the last wild
members of their kind, are imminently
menaced by poachers, the
World Wildlife Fund warned on
February 14. On March 16, WWF
confirmed the poaching of a male
northern white rhino, the first
endangered animal officially killed
by poachers in Garmaba since 1984.
About 80,000 Sudanese refugees
and armed rebels occupy the regions
east and west of the 1,900-squaremile
park, a United Nations World
Heritage site. At least 65 elephants
were killed in Garamba during 1995
and early 1996, according to WWF,
while the park buffalo population
has fallen from 53,000 in 1976 to
just 25,000. On March 6, David
Barritt of the International Fund for
Animal Welfare office in Johannesburg
issued a similar warning about
increased poaching in Uganda.
Seven Ugandan elephants were
poached in the first three months of
1996, up from just three in all 1995.
“Some traders believe limited trade
in ivory will be permitted (soon) and
are getting a stockpile,” said Barritt.
University of Southern
California anthropologist Gary
Seaman is creating a 200-CD/ROM
archive of chimp behavior at Gombe
National Park in Tanzania, the primary
scene of Jane Goodall’s chimp
research. The videotape of the
chimps, captured on the CD/ROM
disks for repeated re-examination
and computerized enhancement, has
already enabled researchers to
resolve some longstanding mysteries
about chimp social interactions.
Mozambique is reportedly
considering a proposal f r o m
Louisiana gold speculator James
Ulysses Blanchard III to start an
$800 million, 4,000-square-mile
for-profit ecopark. Reported Donald
McNeil Jr. of The New York Times,
“His plans include a floating casino,
thatched game lodges perched high
over watering holes, a golf course
with hippos in the water hazards,
and an antique steam train.” The
project would restock the area with
wildlife, all but wiped out by the
17-year Mozambiquan civil war.
Blanchard during the war helped
fund the right-wing Renamo faction,
who eventually lost the conflict and
subsequent elections to the Cubanbacked
Frelimo faction. Imported
would be 500 zebras, 30 white rhinos,
25 lions, 10 brown hyenas, a
group of crocodiles, and the last
Bushmen from the Kalahari Desert
of Botswana, from which they are
being pushed by cattle ranchers.
N e w s w e e k reported on
February 26 that the South African
National Parks board is considering
“whether to accept a $5 million
grant from a coalition of animal
rights groups,” on condition that it
must “relocate many elephants”
from Kruger National Park, where
purported surplus elephants have
been shot in recent years; “stop elephant
culling for five years”; and
“support the global ban on trade in
elephant parts.” Opponents, said
N e w s w e e k , “fear it could signal a
surrender of national autonomy.”
The World Wildlife
Fund has awarded the $50,000 J.
Paul Getty Wildlife Conservation
Award to the staff of the Parc
National des Volcans in Rwanda,
for staying at their posts to protect
the last wild mountain gorillas during
the 1994 Rwandan civil war.

Australian environment
minister Robert Hill o n
March 19 pledged that 2,000
koalas would be relocated from
Kangaroo Island, a coastal refuge
to which koalas were introduced
about 70 years ago. Endangered
on the mainland, koalas now
number about 5,000 on the island,
where they threaten “to eat every
damn leaf off until the trees give
up the ghost,” according to South
Australia state chief wildlife officer
Lindsay Best, who had suggested
shooting 2,000.

After closing 70 of about
120 traditional medicinal herb
m a r k e t s in 1995 for selling fake
goods or contraband, China in
February announced a further crackdown,
including the closure of all
markets that violate the law after
June. One concern is the traffic in
remains of endangered species,
especially those native to China.
Friends of Nature,
China’s first approved environmental
group, hopes to make permanent
a halt won late in 1995 on
logging within the 62-square-mile
last habitat of the golden monkey.
The 600-year-old forest may yet be
cut if Friends of Nature can’t find
other revenue sources for the human
residents, whose average annual
family income is just $12 U.S.—a
third of the Chinese poverty line.
China announced on
March 7 that it has allocated $2
million to upgrade the Altun Nature
Reserve, a 16,900-square-mile corner
of the Xinjiang Uygur
Autonomous Region, which critics
of the Chinese occupation of Tibet
claim was created as a pretext for
moving troops into the area, ostensibly
to fight poachers and illegal
gold miners. Chinese authorities say
the reserve protects 300 types of rare
plant and 60 endangered animal
species, including 60,000 Tibetan
asses, 80,000 Tibetan antelopes,
and 10,000 yaks.
Habitat destruction due
to development imperils the orangutans
of eastern Kalimantan
province, Borneo, officials said on
March 15. About 30,000 orangutans
remain in Borneo, but more than
1,000 have been lost to traffickers
during the past decade. Baby orangs
reportedly fetch up to $25,000
apiece in Taiwan, the major market.
The Smithsonian Institute
and Malaysian Wildlife
Department on February 8 released
the second of a series of rogue elephants
who are to be outfitted with
radio transmitters in an effort to prevent
damage to crops and villages
without killing the elephants. The
elephants’ locations are recorded by
a U.S. National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration weather
satellite. The first elephant in the
program, a female released in
October 1995, had wandered 1,960
miles within Taman Negara
National Park when the second, a
bull, was let go in the same area.
The evacuation of
135,000 people from a region the
size of Rhode Island around the
Chernobyl nuclear disaster site in
the Ukraine has aided wildlife,
researchers say. One of the four
Chernobyl reactors blew up on April
26, 1986, killing 32 people outright
and as many as 10,000 from aftereffects.
Since then, Mary Mycio of
the Los Angeles Times reported on
March 4, “The population of large
animals has rebounded. The number
of boars has increased eightfold.
The number of moose has doubled.
Eagles, cranes, and endangered
black storks have reappeared. There
are also more roebucks, wolves,
foxes, otters, and rodents. That so
many creatures are flourishing leads
ecologist Vitaly Gaichenko and others
to the conclusion that for
wildlife, the benefits of a humanfree
environment can outweigh even
the biological costs of radiation.”
Loss of blueberries and
other browsing staples to soil acidi
f i c a t i o n has changed the diets of
Scandinavian moose, says Center
for Metal Biology researcher Adrian
Frank, of Uppsala, Sweden, who
has dissected 4,360 livers and kidneys
from moose shot by hunters
since 1982. Now, says Frank,
“Moose frequently browse on cultivated
fields of oats and linseed,
which are heavily limed by farmers.”
This lowers the level of copper
the moose get, but increases the
molybdenum. The resulting imbalance
has killed at least 1,500 moose
over the past decade in Alvsborg
County, north of Gothenburg,
which may be the most acidified
part of Europe, receiving acid rain
from most of the continent.
Leeds University biologist
John Altringham on March 5
announced that small pipistrelle bats
from neighboring Yorkshire and
Lancashire counties in northern
England may be of separate species.
Altringham’s team found that the
Yorkshire bats squeak at 45 kilohertz,
while the Lancashire bats
squeak at 55 kilohertz. This matters
so much to the lookalike bats that
they “don’t mate or co-habit.”

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