March 30, 2013 | 1
Ivory smugglers, manatees, Iranian cheetahs, slow lorises and Britain’s beloved hedgehogs are in the news this week.
Ethics and Endangered Species: A new study accuses wildlife photographers of unethical behavior when it comes to the slender loris (either Loris tardigradus or L. lydekkerianus). The photographers reportedly convinced tribesmen (who consider the species to be taboo) to catch the lorises from the wild so the animals could be posed for photos. The lorises were then released into habitat that contained no food. Thought-provoking stuff.
The Punishment Doesn’t Fit the Crime: A Kenyan court this week fined a Chinese man the equivalent of $350 for trying to smuggle 439 pieces of ivory out of the country. This fine would actually a pretty decent-sized punishment if it had been levied against a citizen of Kenya, where the GDP is just $1,800 per person, but it is pocket change for an ivory smuggler from China. Wildlife crime is only attractive to so many people (and to organized crime syndicates) because the punishments are so small. We’ll never stop ivory smuggling unless enormous fines and jail time are levied against future offenders.
The Punishment Does Fit the Crime, but…: Authorities in India have removed a Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) from the wild after it killed a woman who was grazing her livestock. That woman’s death is sad enough, but if you did deep into this article from The Hindu, you see the situations that led to this attack in the first place. The 10-year-old male tiger came from Nagarhole National Park in the state of Karnataka, where too many tigers live in too little space. There’s a 22 percent annual tiger mortality rate in the region as tigers disperse out of the park and fight each other for territory. This particular tiger, named NHT-222, had been wounded by another tiger, leaving him unable to hunt, and had been pushed out of the protected reserve, where he finally clashed with humans. The tiger will now live in a zoo for the rest of its life.
British Butterflies Have Got it Bad: Hot on the heels of my recent report about British moth extinctions comes news that the UK’s butterflies are also in dire straits. Some species have declined 98 percent in the past few years after the wettest summer on record. Ironically, some of these species were already suffering from a drought in 1995, from which they have still not recovered.
Death at Ol Pejeta: Remember my recent article about Ol Pejeta Conservancy’s plan to buy an unmanned aerial vehicle (or drone) to protect its rhinos? Well, we have another reminder about the need for these devices and similar technologies. Poachers struck at Ol Pejeta on March 13, killing a 22-year-old black rhino that had just given birth a few weeks ago. The calf “was found clinging to its mother’s body, unharmed, but distressed and calling for its mother,” according to an Ol Pejeta press release. This is the first poaching incident at the conservancy in more than a year.
Slow Justice: A Toronto-area restaurant has been fined $10,000 for selling 31 endangered spiny softshell turtles (Apalone spinifera), a protected species under Canadian law. The charges, amazingly, date back to May 2010. There’s no word on why it took nearly three years for the restaurant to finally be fined.
Counting Spots: Sam Khosravifard penned a guest blog here at SciAmBlogs asking, “How Many Asiatic Cheetahs Roam across Iran?” A country-wide survey is currently underway. So far they have only counted 20 cheetahs, although there are still many far corners of the country left to check. For more on Asiatic cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), check out my article “Asiatic Cheetahs Racing Toward Extinction.”
Manatees vs. Boats: As I’ve written many times before, one of the biggest threats to Florida’s manatees (Trichechus manatus) is that state’s love of high-speed watercraft. But as this great National Geographic video illustrates, you don’t need to actually hit a manatee with your boat to endanger it:
Don’t Hedge Your Bets: Britain’s beloved hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) lost 32 percent of their population between 2011 and 2012. The species had been declining about 5 percent per year leading up to this.
Save the Easter Bunny? Finally, in honor of Easter, Jordon Carlton Schaul of Wildlife SOS gives us the run-down on several lagomorph species that are “conservation dependent.”
That’s it for this time around. For more endangered species news stories throughout the week, read the regular Extinction Countdown articles here at Scientific American, “like” Extinction Countdown on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter.
Photo: A slender loris (Loris tardigradus) photographed in Frankfurt Zoo by Joachim S. Müller. Used under Creative Commons license