Monday, December 28, 2015

The Elephant In The Room!

China-Africa Wildlife Conservation Council Shines Spotlight on Wildlife at FOCAC.
Members of the China-Africa Wildlife Conservation Council
On the eve of the heads-of-state summit of the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation in South Africa, a group of respected Chinese and African civil society leaders and celebrities called the China-Africa Wildlife Conservation Council are shining a spotlight on the role of wildlife conservation in sustainable economic development. 

The China-Africa Wildlife Conservation Council is a group of civil society and business leaders convened by the African Wildlife Foundation and the Aspen Institute to serve as a people-to-people platform for supporting China-Africa cooperation on wildlife and wild lands conservation, sustainable economic development, and governance. This Council exists as a cultural and economic exchange to deepen cooperation and support the governments of China and the African states in the joint commitment to protecting and African wildlife and expanding wild lands conservation as the foundation of a sustainable human economy in Africa.

Following two years of work, the group met this week for a three-day field visit and roundtable in Kruger National Park, facilitated by the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and the Aspen Institute. Chinese film star Wang Baoqiang and Tanzanian singer-songwriter Alikiba joined the delegation.

Following the roundtable, the Council has released a statement supporting the governments of China and the African states in their active commitment to conserve Africa’s wildlife, recommending that China strengthen its ongoing collaboration with African countries to conserve natural wild land habitats by expanding the continent’s protected area system. The group has also recommended that the FOCAC Declaration and Action Plan explicitly reference the need to set aside and protect large areas for terrestrial and marine conservation. (See “Statement from the China-Africa Wildlife Conservation Council” for more detail.)

“In the lead up to this year’s FOCAC, we have held a number of meetings in Beijing, Nairobi and Kigali, where we have discussed extensively the illegal wildlife trade that is fueling the poaching in Africa,” said Dr. Patrick Bergin, African Wildlife Foundation CEO. “This trip gave dialogue participants a chance to see and hear firsthand about the devastation that poaching has wrought on Kruger’s rhino population.” As of August this year, South Africa had lost 749 rhinos, the majority from Kruger.

For many of the participants from China, including actor Wang Baoqiang, the trip to Kruger was their first time visiting a national park in Africa. “I have always loved being out in nature, and I enjoyed seeing Africa’s elephants, rhinos and other wildlife for the first time,” said Wang. “The upcoming summit in South Africa highlights the strong relationship between China and Africa, and I am happy to be a part of the discussions around how all Chinese and Africans can work together to ensure sustainable development in Africa.”

Singer-songwriter Alikiba, who is a wildlife ambassador in his native Tanzania, noted that celebrities as well as government leaders and conservationists have a role to play in protecting wildlife. “My country has lost many of its elephants in the last few years due to poaching, and we must all find ways to work together to stop the killing and safeguard our wild lands,” said Alikiba. “As a musician and artist, I am using my platform to bring attention to this crisis and inspire people to get involved.”

Key outputs from the initiative to date have included:

  • A formal recommendation—supported by former Presidents Festus Mogae of Botswana and Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania—promoting the protection of Africa’s wildlife and wild lands as a priority in the continent’s development agenda was integrated into the African Union’s final Vision 2063 document.
  • A formal proposal to include topics of wildlife and wild lands protection within the 6th Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was submitted to the African Ambassadors Group in Beijing, along with supporting technical information to serve as a resource for submitting these issues into the formal FOCAC process.
  • A proposal to include wildlife on the diplomatic agenda of FOCAC was also submitted directly to South Africa’s Departments of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. In response, the Department of Environmental Affairs requested the submission of formal commitments for inclusion in the FOCAC action plan.

Nosey the Elephant Doesn't Belong in Florida Flea Markets! Notorious elephant abuser Hugo Liebel is giving himself a break from the road for the winter.
Meanwhile, crippled elephant Nosey is still being forced to give rides at seedy flea markets in Florida.

Howard's Flea Market in Homosassa and the USA Flea Market in Port Richey regularly host the suffering elephant, despite clear evidence of Liebel's decades-long neglect of her.

Liebel isn't your average animal exploiter. He has been cited for almost 200 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), and in 2013, he was ordered to pay a penalty following nearly three dozen charges for AWA violations, including for chaining Nosey so tightly that she could barely move, denying her adequate veterinary care, and endangering the public.
The cherry on top? Nosey has been limping in pain for over a year and is likely suffering from bone-aching arthritis, a condition that can be fatal in elephants.

Nosey needs YOU to speak up!.

Tell Howard's Flea Market and the USA Flea Market to make the obvious and compassionate decision never to host Liebel again.

Freaking Out African Elephants Could Help Save the Species. Setting up beehives around farms has been shown to help protect crops and animals alike.
Elephants don’t like bees; farmers don’t like elephants; farmers and bees get along smashingly. The idea behind the Elephants and Bees Project—a collaboration between Save the Elephants, the University of Oxford, and the Disney Conservation Fund—is to put the tiny bee to work both making honey for local farmers and protecting humans and elephants from each other. 

Though poaching for ivory is a primary threat to dwindling elephant populations, human-animal conflict further destabilizes the species’ future. As their habitats get smaller, these mammals wind up roaming toward human settlements, where they often find the most delicious source of food are farmers’ crops. Not only do these 5,000- to 14,000-pound elephants cause a lot of damage to the ground they trample, but they eat about 900 pounds of food each day. For a small farmer in Africa, where the average farm is only 2.4 hectares (compared with 178.4 hectares in the United States and 1.8 hectares in Southeast Asia, where Asian elephants reside and cause similar problems), an elephant crop raid can be an income-crushing act.

The usual response to these raids—which often happen at night—is for farmers to throw rocks or shoot firearms into the air to scare off the elephants. But this often prompts them to become aggressive, causing injuries and even deaths on both sides. Elephants that have been wounded or whose family members have been killed by humans may also be more aggressive toward people in the future.

Conflicts between wildlife and farmers can be found all over the world, including right here in the United States, where ranchers do battle with everything from coyotes to deer in the name of protecting their livestock (albeit with debatable success). But what do you do when the pest is an elephant, and killing it is illegal (as is the case in Kenya)?

If you’re Elephants and Bees, you look to animal behavior for solutions. “Most people seem to start with the human/farmer side of the problem and don’t do enough research into the natural behavior of the animal with which they are having conflicts with,” said project leader Lucy King. “We are fundamentally a scientific research organization who focus on elephant behavior first, so we know what they need before we try to implement management solutions.” One of the first important discoveries the group made was that elephants avoided acacia trees with active honeybee nests in them. To test whether they could put the elephant’s natural fear of bees into practice, King and her team recorded bee sounds and played them from a hollowed-out tree near a group of elephants. King wrote in an article, “Sixteen of 17 elephant families that heard the bee sounds ran away shaking their heads as if to knock any bees out of the air.”

King offered free hives to a local beekeeping group in Kenya if it would “go along with my crazy idea,” she said. One of the pilot beekeepers—who started with 12 hives—has expanded to 41 on his own. “In Africa, beekeeping is pretty common, so it’s not like we’re introducing a totally foreign concept,” King said. “Everyone loves honey no matter what religion, race, or gender you are.” The main tweak that had to be made to turn beehives into an elephant-proof fence was to move them from treetops, where they’re traditionally hung by beekeepers, to “new locations around the farm boundary,” King said. Compared with building an expensive electric fence to keep out elephants, this beekeeping initiative gives farmers extra income and incentive to keep the hives going, reducing conflict without violence—aside from the occasional sting, of course.

Yet many other animals that wind up in the midst of regular human-animal conflict can’t be dealt with so easily. What if a key trait that can become a tool for management strategies—that elephants are afraid of bees, in this case—simply doesn’t exist? Deer populations in the U.S. provide one example of a harder-to-control animal. They have a high reproductive rate, their natural predators in North America have been largely killed off, and people have differing opinions of them, explained Don Wagner, deer unit manager in the Department of Animal Sciences at Pennsylvania State University. Clear-cutting forest to make more farmland has caused an explosion in the deer population by creating more potential habitats for the “edge species.” He added that many areas have a mixture of farmers (whose crops the deer eat), people who like hunting deer, and those who want to protect the wide-eyed creatures.

One way of managing deer numbers is to confine a herd by building an eight-foot-or-taller deer-proof fence—but if there's population control, the numbers will quickly become unsustainable for the food sources available. (“Depending on how hungry the deer are, they can learn to get through different types of fences,” Wagner said.) Though fewer deer causes less damage, hunting them does nothing to keep them from devouring local crops.

Elephants are a far better candidate for this kind of behavior-based conservation—they reproduce slowly and are illegal to kill. Furthermore, because the bee fence is built from living creatures, there’s a much lower chance of the elephants becoming habituated. “The live bees are the key element that make the system work,” King said. (Another issue with keeping deer out through scenting boundaries with the smells of natural predators: They learn that they’re not going to get eaten after all.) Elephants that decide to break the “fence” can get stung around the eyes, mouth, and “watery end of the trunk,” King explained. “When one bee stings, the pheromone released triggers the rest of the bees to attack; it’s not one bee the elephant is scared of—it’s 1,000 bees all potentially coming to sting the same spot.”

That’s a lot of discomfort even for a 15,000-pound animal.

Suraj spent decades chained in a dank room in a temple in Maharashtra. At some point in his life, one of his ears was torn off. When we found him, he had bull hook wounds on his head and countless other maladies. In short, he was in a desperate state.  

But on December 21st, 2015, everything changed for him. After what was likely the most dangerous rescue operation we’ve ever conducted, he was rescued.

We will have more to share about Suraj in the days to come, but for now we thought you would enjoy seeing some photos and details from his rescue operation and his journey to our rescue center. 

Top 10 Memorable Moments from Suraj's Rescue. Suraj still has much healing to do, and we need people to become monthly donors to help support his care. Click Here To Help!

#1 – Tensions run high as, in the wee hours of the morning, the Wildlife SOS rescue team heads for the temple where Suraj has been for decades. A contingent of 70 police and forest department officials accompany us. A mob of people is expected to be there to resist this rescue, and so backup is necessary.
#2 – The team and police arrive at the temple to find 200 people determined to prevent us from removing Suraj from the premises.
#3 – Suraj stands in the same room he’s been in for decades, somehow maintaining his calm despite the chaos. We find ourselves wishing we could tell him that all of this will soon be over, and that a new life full of freedom is waiting.
#4 - Discovering and seizing several spear bull hooks... the very hooks that had been mercilessly used to inflict pain and fear on Suraj. Now these hooks will never inflict pain on another elephant ever again.
#4 – We discover and confiscate several spear bull hooks… the very hooks that have been mercilessly used to inflict pain and fear on Suraj. Now these hooks will never inflict pain on another elephant ever again.
#5 – The moment we succeed in loading Suraj onto the elephant ambulance. It has taken us hours of negotiating, and the situation is still tense, but the end seems to finally be in sight. Suraj has to be loaded onto the ambulance backwards, to protect his tusks. And then we drive off into the night, leaving the crowd behind.
#6 – Suraj is in extremely bad shape, battling foot rot, a lice and tick infestation, and infection in both eyes. Our vets waste no time, and begin treating him while en route to the rescue center.
#7 – It’s a 1500km trip to the Elephant Care & Conservation Centre, and Suraj finds plenty of time to wave his trunk (we like to think victoriously) from the ambulance.
#8 – On Christmas Eve, the convoy arrives at the rescue center, which has been decorated to welcome him. Suraj walks off the ambulance and into his new life. He has much physical and emotional healing to do, but the first leg of his journey is complete, and he is now among friends.
#9 – Suraj enjoys his first of many dust baths, a very natural activity for elephants. Seeing him enjoying such a simple thing — something he has been deprived of for decades — is both heartbreaking and awe inspiring.
#10 – Suraj meets co-founders Geeta and Kartick and gets a fruity treat. It’s just the beginning of a lifetime of love and good care. Thank you for making his rescue possible!

Can you donate today to give Suraj more happy moments, and all the care he needs to thrive?
Make a one-time gift, or become a monthly donor by clicking here.

This Rhino Sanctuary Did Something Amazing and Took in an Orphaned Baby Elephant in Need. Rhinos were once found all over Africa, with as many as 500,000 animals roaming the continent at the beginning of the 20th century. However, like the African elephant, poaching has taken a terrible toll on this species, with one rhino now being killed for its horn every eight hours. In 2011, the black rhino was officially declared extinct, with the other four species of rhino all on the critically endangered list. The largest populations of rhinos are now living in South Africa, which has become ground zero for both the conservation efforts and the fight against poachers. Because of this, the work being done at the Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage is so important.

The Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage is home to a large number of orphaned baby rhinos. Unfortunately, this is also the case for baby elephants, who are also becoming orphans at an accelerated rate due to ivory poaching. Without the help of dedicated conservation groups, these helpless baby animals would have nowhere else to turn. Luckily, the Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage has an open door policy to all orphans needing their help.

When two week old Ellie Showed up At the Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage, he was in terrible shape. Suffering from an abscess on his navel and a terrible case of septicemia, he required round the clock care and extensive emotional support.
baby elephant 4
Elephants, like rhinos, are highly emotional animals who depend on the love and support of their mothers for up to two years after they are born.  Watching their mothers get brutally murdered is as traumatizing for animals as it would be for humans. Luckily, the caretakers at this sanctuary are full of love and support to quiet and heal these babies.
baby elephant 2
Soon, baby Ellie’s health improved, and he began to settle into his new life.
baby elephant 1
A few weeks later, he was a good as new, thanks to all of the time and dedication of Thula Thula’s hardworking staff.
baby elephant 3
Soon, Ellie, like his rhino foster family will begin to learn the necessary skills to be released back into the wild. This is a long-term process, but a necessary step to aid in the conservation of these animals. If you would like to help the Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage on their lifesaving rescue missions, you can visit their Facebook page by clicking here. All image source: Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage/Facebook

Save Asian Elephants From Being Tortured and Exploited
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Target: Oriental Escape Thai Travel Agency, Bangkok, Thailand
Goal: Stop using kidnapped and abused elephants to entertain tourists.
Rated number one in Trip Advisor, Oriental Escape is one of the most well-known, commonly used travel agencies in Thailand. Unfortunately, this also means it is the number one, top contributor to why Asian elephants continue to be beaten and tortured into submission for the sake of Thai tourism.
The average elephant that is taken from his pack to be trained and domesticated is under six months old. The calf is then led through a process known as Phajaan, or crushing. It is placed in a cage that restricts all movement, prodded, starved and beaten into submission, then sold to tourist agencies and camps for trekking and other forms of entertainment such as elephant painting. Many of the baby elephants do not survive; the ones that do are oftentimes wounded for life. Their owners, also known as Mahouts, will carry around a large hook that they use to terrify the creatures into obeying their commands. The majority of these elephants that have been trained in the tourist industry are underfed, under hydrated and not given the opportunity to take a daily mud bath, which is necessary to protect their skin. As a result, most are malnourished and burned from being in the sun all day.
As visitors from all over the world flock to Thailand for the beauty, culture and low costs, there has been a large annual increase in the amount of elephants being captured, put through Phajaan and sold off for a life of submission and torture. Aside from the cruelty involved, this has also added to a large decline in the wild elephant population throughout Asia.
There are several sanctuaries around the world that take in elephants that have been injured and that are often deemed “useless” to their owners. They allow the elephants to roam free and make sure they are fed and cared for with the utmost compassion and gentleness. Sanctuaries such as, Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, allow visitors to care for and appreciate these gentle giants in a more natural habitat that doesn’t involve them being exploited or threatened with harmful torture devices.
Call upon one of the largest Thai tourist companies to help stop this process by eliminating elephant trekking and tricks from their tour packages and urge them to only work with elephant sanctuaries.
Dear Oriental Escape,
Baby elephants are regularly being taken from their families and tortured into submission for the sake of Thai tourism. They are forced to live the remainder of their lives in fear and pain as they are exploited and used for entertainment by various camps and organizations throughout Thailand.
Being one of the leading travel agencies in your country, I am asking you to exclude all elephant trekking and tricks from your tour packages and to work solely with sanctuaries that practice and value animal welfare. Elephant Nature Park is one of the top sanctuaries in Thailand, offering a variety of day, week and month long packages for visitors to see and enjoy elephants in their natural habitat. Please encourage and support alternative options in elephant tourism and help put an end to the torturing of wild elephants in your country.
Sincerely,
(Your Name Here)
Photo Credit: einalem-flicker
Earlier this year we shared this grim statistic with you: Every 14 minutes an African elephant is killed. That’s more than 100 of these intelligent, social animals murdered every day as the ivory poaching epidemic marches on

Shockingly, the United States is still the second-largest market for ivory in the world. The Center’s attorneys and scientists have determined that halting the ivory trade is the best way to stop the slaughter. And one of the best ways to put the brakes on the ivory trade is by wielding the most effective tool in our arsenal, the Endangered Species Act.

Not surprisingly, powerful anti-wildlife forces and their friends in Congress have been attacking the Act -- we counted a 600-percent increase over the past five years. So the fight to save elephants and other wildlife that need critical protections will be tough. We can't win without you.

To help support our fight for protection for elephants, please donate now to the Endangered Species Defense Fund. A generous donor committed to wildlife protection has stepped forward with a matching gift until Dec. 31.

Right now, African elephants are designated as "threatened" under the Act but that clearly isn’t getting the job done. That’s why the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect all elephants as endangered in 2016.

Full protection will add powerful new tools to the fight to save these extraordinary animals. It will help stop elephant parts from being sold in the U.S. and crack down on the practice of using the legal trade in old ivory as a cover for illegal trade in new ivory. It will also help the U.S. pressure other countries into stopping this deadly business -- a senior Chinese wildlife official has pledged to end the ivory trade if the United States does the same.


We're specialists at using the Endangered Species Act to save wildlife -- we've gotten hundreds of animals and plants protected under the Act, which has a 90 percent success rate in saving wildlife from extinction. With our expanding international work, the Center is using powerful laws like these to protect vulnerable species around the world, from the vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise, to the pangolin, the most highly trafficked endangered mammal in the world. By pressing forward now, we can keep Africa's elephants from disappearing forever.

Your year-end matched gift to the Center will help secure lifesaving protection for Africa's elephants. 


The holidays may be nearly over, but our campaign to save imperiled African elephants has reached a turning point.

With tens of thousands of these magnificent creatures massacred each year for their tusks, the world has no elephants to spare. Yet groups like the National Rifle Association are blocking proposed rules that would crack down on the trophy hunting of elephants.

NRDC is fighting back, countering the NRA and mobilizing public pressure on the White House to stand up for embattled elephants. But to succeed, we need your help.

Can I count on your generous year-end support as we face down the NRA and turn up the heat on President Obama to advance tough rules that crack down on the ivory trade?

There is no time to wait: each day we do, dozens of elephants are brutally slain. At this alarming rate, scientists say that African forest elephants could be wiped out in just 10 years.

If we are going to stave off disaster, we need to crack down now on trophy imports and other deadly loopholes in our laws that keep the ivory trade flourishing in the U.S.

Please make a special tax-deductible year-end gift to help us wage a no-holds-barred campaign to save African elephants and defend our environment in the most effective way possible.

Thank you for standing with us in this fight for elephant survival.

The trail of death surrounding elephant poaching in Africa is now extending well beyond elephants.
You see, it takes a poacher about an hour to hack off the tusks after they kill an elephant. In that time, vultures can circle overhead, potentially tipping off rangers.
One solution? Poison the carcass. What follows is a gruesome death for the vultures, as well as any lions or hyenas that happen to feast on the poisoned meat after the poachers flee the scene of the crime.
I hope you never have to witness a young lion cub dying from poisoning, as it lies on its side in convulsions, and scrapes the ground bare trying to stand up and get back to its pride. It is truly one of the most harrowing experiences I've encountered in over 30 years in the field.
These senseless deaths are, in a word, unacceptable. I have no intention of standing by while innocent life after innocent life is taken solely for profit. Are you with me, Don?
Clearly, elephants aren't the only animals in the crosshairs. WCS and local partners on the ground have worked tirelessly to establish sanctuaries across Mongolia. Poachers had other ideas, decimating herds of the Siberian ibex, goitered gazelle, argali, and the Mongolian wild ass to cash in on the demand for exotic meats around the world. Disgusting.
As we expand protected areas, ecoguards on the ground in places like Mongolia report having trouble patrolling hundreds and thousands of acres – there's simply not enough boots on the ground. And poachers get creative, too – whether it's poisoning vultures, or tracking the movements of park staff so they can plan their attacks accordingly.
We've got to stay two steps ahead of poachers. Here's how we plan to do it:
  • Put more boots on the ground to patrol protected lands. Without people to enforce the restrictions, protected areas are not protecting the lands and the animals we think they are.
  • Use smart technology to identify poaching hot spots faster. It's tracking devices to know where animals are at all times. It's aerial surveillance to stay one step ahead of poachers.
  • Increase our ability to understand the illegal wildlife trade and act to stop it. It's good to capture poachers when they poach. It's better to stop poaching before it happens, and capture those in the illegal wildlife trade that pay the poachers.
Poachers and their pals want us to give up. They're hoping the world will accept that slaughtered ibex, elephants, and gazelles are just part of life. If that's what you want to do, feel free to ignore this email.