International wildlife news

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1996:

Africa
Rangers at Garamba
National Park in Zaire on March
28 reported the poaching kill of a
10-year-old pregnant female northern
white rhino, one of under 30 in
existence and the second to be
poached in 12 days. “This is a tragic
loss,” said World Wildlife Fund
director-general Claude Martin from
Geneva. As of February 14, when
WWF announced the vulnerability
of the rhinos to media, no endangered
animals of any kind had been
poached at Garamba since 1984,
despite heavy poaching of elephants
and hooved stock, blamed on
Sudanese rebels and refugees,
whose camps flank the park.


“For the first time in 29
years, no breeding herd elephants
will be killed in Kruger National
Park and no juveniles will thus be
available for sale,” the South
African National Parks board
announced on April 1. “We will,
however, continue to remove elephants
by translocation in family
groups as and when suitable destinations
arise.” Previous practice was
to sell families to zoos, and formerly,
to circuses; adults for whom
there were no takers were shot.
About 8,000 elephants inhabit
Kruger, which is larger than many
nations. The Parks Board said the
moratorium on culling came as a
result of a policy review, adding
that it might cull again “under scientifically
justified circumstances.”
The Parks Board was offered $5
million to stop lethal killing by “a
coalition of animal rights groups,”
Newsweek reported on February 26.
A tame baboon was
accused of witchcraft and “necklaced”
with a burning tire by a mob
of about 150 villagers on March 17,
near Kruger National Park, South
Africa. In the same region, on
April 17, a previously unknown
group calling itself Spear of the
Tiger claimed to have begun “total
animal liberation in Africa” by
releasing animals identified by
British sources as radio-collared
lions, leopards, and springbok from
two facilities alternately called
“huge concentration camp farms”
and “game reserves.” As radio-collared
animals could be easily traced,
and the release of predators from a
protected area provides a pretext for
killing them, some wildlife experts
suspect the claim may be a hoax.
Also, there are no tigers in Africa.
Britain
Environment secretary
John Gummer and about 260
Members of Parliament are ready to
back a bill to reform the 1981
Wildlife and Countryside Act,
Charles Clover of the D a i l y
Telegraph reported on March 20.
“At present,” Clover wrote, “owners
of sites of special scientific interest
have only to threaten to exploit
them to qualify for compensation in
lieu of ‘profits foregone,’” a precedent
with implications for the wiseuse
theory that the U.S. Endangered
Species Act should be amended to
pay land owners for ‘takings’ of
property rights. Clover reported that
Viscount Cranborne, leader of the
House of Lords, gets $100,000 a
year to refrain from logging his
estate; former Scot Rail chair John
Cameron got about $2.5 million to
refrain from tree-planting on his
estate; and a piggery owner got
$175,000 to forgo expansion plans.
A billion-dollar cleanup
of the Thames basin has encouraged
the National Rivers Authority
and the Wildlife Trusts of Berkshire,
Hampshire, and Wiltshire to commence
an otter restoration project by
digging holts with plastic-pipe
entrances at concealed sites along
the Kennet River. Said Wiltshire
Wildlife Trust official Mark Satinet,
who chose the holt sites, “Pollution
and habitat loss have caused the
number of otters to decline rapidly
since the 1950s.” Considered vermin,
otters were actually all but
exterminated by lurchers and lampers,
the British equivalent of coonhunters,
until otter rescuer Gavin
Maxwell’s books Ring of Bright
W a t e r (1960) and The Otter’s Tale
(1962) turned public opinion in
favor of otter protection.
Another whitewash of
hunting comes from a survey of the
British brown hare population done
by Bristol University for the Joint
Nature Conservation Committee. A
team of 500 volunteers found the
national hare population is down to
about 820,000, from four million in
1900––which the report authors
blame wholly on habitat loss. “Field
sports such as shooting, coursing,
and beagling affect a small proportion
of the brown hare population
and are not believed to pose a
threat,” they wrote, overlooking
that as habitat shrinks, the amount
of shooting, coursing, and beagling
occurring on the rest has an evergreater
impact.
Asia
The Vietnamese government
and the conservation group
Fauna and Flora International on
April 12 announced a joint effort to
rebuild the Viet population of Asian
elephants, down from around 1,000
fifteen years ago to perhaps 250
today. About a quarter of the
$600,000 project budget is to be
donated by J&B Scotch Distillers’
“Care for the Rare” campaign, possibly
inspired by the success of
Rhino Chasers beer, brewed by
William & Scott Inc., profits from
which help African Wildlife
Foundation efforts to protect black
rhinos in Kenya and Namibia.
In what Reuter called “a
rare example of investigative journalism,”
the Chinese state TV news
show on April 7 showed alleged violations
of a February order by
Yunnan province officials that logging
halt in Deqing county, home of
about 200 of the last 1,000 to 1,500
wild snubnosed golden monkeys.
Chinese wildlife officials
on March 27 captured a giant
panda who pushed his way into
farmer Gu Yingming’s home in
Shaanxi province. “I was both surprised
and excited to find my special
guest,” said Gu Yingming, the
mayor of Yangxian village. The
panda lived for four days in Gu’s
cattle pen, eating a pail of honey
and bamboo shoots from the grove
around the house. The panda fell ill,
necessitating his removal, after Gu
and his mother gave him meat.
Australia
At request of the Australian
government, the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service on April 12
announced that Australian saltwater
crocodiles would be reclassified as
threatened, rather than endangered,
and said a special rule would be
issued to allow their hides and those
of Nile crocodiles to be imported.
North America
British Columbia environment
minister Moe Sihota on
April 12 announced an omnibus
grizzly bear protection plan. A
key grizzly salmon-fishing site at
the confluence of two rivers north of
Bella Coola, formerly slated for
logging, will become a 255-acre
sanctuary, and the fine for poaching
a grizzly, first offense, will
increase from $10,000 to $25,000.
Western Canada Wilderness
Committee spokesperson Joe Foy
expressed disappointment that
Sihota didn’t halt hunting grizzly
bears. From 10,000 to 13,000 grizzlies
live in British Columbia,
believed to be half the Canadian
population and 25% of the total
North American population. Sihota
didn’t announce any measures on
behalf of the rare Kermode bear of
the British Columbian rainforest––a
black bear who is born white. The
Valhalla Wilderness Society and
Bear Watch had poured resources
into a TV ad blitz in both Canada
and the U.S. on behalf of the
Kermode bear, starting March 18.
February flooding along
the Columbia River killed about
150 Columbia whitetailed deer in
the Julia Butler Hansen Wildlife
Refuge near Cathlamet, Washington,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
biologist Alan Clark told media on
March 16. Already weakened by
winter, the deer didn’t drown, but
were overstressed by battling water
that covered most of the refuge to a
depth of two to three feet for two
weeks. About 5,400 of the small
deer, on the Endangered Species
List since 1974, survive at three
other locations. The U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service was reportedly on
the verge of delisting the deer as
“recovered,” and some biologists
favored introducing limited hunts to
reduce the numbers of older
deer––who apparently took the brunt
of the flood losses.

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