Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Elephant in the Room

We’ve Lost 58% of Wildlife in the Past 42 Years Alone – Here’s What You Can Do to Help. Our species, Homo sapiens, has existed for some 200,000 years. While that may seem like a lot, if you consider that life on Earth began about 3.5 billion years ago, humans have only been on the scene for less than .006 percent of life’s tenure on our planet. But despite our relatively young age, humans have had arguably more of an impact on the planet’s ecosystems than any other species, so much so that many scientists now claim we’re living in an entirely new epoch, the Anthropocene (anthro = human, cene = new or epoch), which will show up in the geologic fossil record long after we’re gone.

By 1804, the human population had reached one billion people for the first time in history and has since skyrocketed to over seven billion and counting. Such burgeoning numbers don’t come without a cost, however; humans have expanded mainly at the expense of other species with which we share our planet, driving some to extinction and severely depleting the population numbers of others. Now, after 42 years of data collection, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), along with the Zoological Society of London, has released a report showing that between 1970 and 2012, wildlife populations around the world decreased by 58 percent, and the cause of this sudden reduction is almost entirely attributable to the negative impacts humans have had on the environment. Below, we discuss which groups are the most vulnerable and the exact mechanisms underlying their decline. You can find the full report here. Unless otherwise stated, all of the following information was obtained from the WWF report.

The Living Planet Index
The WWF publishes the Living Planet Index once every two years, in which they attempt to assess the state of the world’s wildlife populations. To do this, they delve into records that include peer-reviewed scientific publications as well as government surveys and statistics. The result this year was a report that incorporated 14,152 populations of 3,706 species (approximately six percent of all vertebrates) of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. The one caveat to keep in mind for any such amalgamation of data is that, while some areas of the world are relatively well-represented, others lack the data necessary to make robust inferences. The majority of populations in this report are located in North America, Western Europe, and Southeast Africa, with virtually no data from areas like Russia and Western Asia. The latter are regions where few scientific monitoring studies have taken place, targets for future research. But the information we do have is in many cases dire.

Species at Risk
Freshwater species, including fish and amphibians, have been particularly hard-hit, estimated to have lost 81 percent of their population density. That means, on average, we’re losing almost four percent of freshwater animals every year! The most common threat to these organisms is the effect humans have had on their habitats. Almost half of the volume in our planet’s rivers have been altered by dams or fragmentation, and 3,700 more dams across the globe are currently being planned or are already under construction. If all of these dams are completed, 93 percent of all river water volume will have been altered by humans. Dams impede the ability of migratory fish to travel to their spawning grounds; it’s estimated in the report that there’s been a 41 percent decline in fish migration between 1970 and 2012. Our wetlands are also disappearing at an alarming rate (30 percent over the last 40 years), causing downward spirals of 39 percent in the populations of species that depend on them for their survival.

In marine ecosystems, a 36 percent decline in wildlife abundance was reported, mainly due to a rapid reduction in the number of fish caused by their overexploitation in the late 1900s, whose numbers have yet to return to previous levels. A similar scenario was observed for species on land, where wildlife populations were reduced by 38 percent, their habitats converted to agricultural fields, or their numbers dwindled by poaching, as is the case for elephants.

The Problem
The destruction of species habitat was consistently found to be the number one reason for reductions in wildlife abundance in terrestrial ecosystems. The majority of land on Earth has now been modified by humans, most of it allocated to agricultural use. The majority of that land, however, isn’t used to grow crops but instead harbors livestock for the production of meat and dairy products, which are shelled out en masse to satiate an ever growing human population. A full 10 percent of Earth’s land is currently used for growing crops, but even then, one-third of that is used to feed the massive numbers of animals kept in the meat and dairy industries. All said, animal production accounts for almost 80 percent of agricultural land and produces about 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, yet land-based meat products contribute only 17 percent of the calories and 33 percent of the protein humans consume globally.

While overexploitation of wildlife, as well as invasive species, disease, and global climate change are all partially responsible for the recent reduction in vertebrate abundance, it’s becoming increasingly clear that current practices of meat production are unsustainable. This, compounded with the problem of a rapidly increasing human population is stretching the capacity for which Earth can support life, and the string can only be pulled so taut before it snaps.

What You Can Do
Eat responsibly. Consider adopting a plant-based lifestyle; even reducing your weekly meat consumption can have a large and meaningful impact on our environment. Unless we do something, the amount of land allocated to livestock will only increase, displacing native species as well as reducing wildlife abundance and diversity. To find out more about eating green, you can check out One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign.

Baby Elephant Who Was Rescued From the Trekking Industry Gets Awesome Birthday Party. Each year, millions of tourists flock to Thailand in the hopes of interacting with Asian elephants. Popular tourist encounters include everything from taking selfies with calves to riding on an elephant in the jungle. Tragically, these “entertaining” endeavors often lead tourists to believe that these excursions are normal and somehow acceptable. Most tourists are unaware of the abuse elephants face when in captivity but considering how endangered Asian elephants are, the facade needs to end now. Between poaching, the tourism industry, and habitat loss, both African and Asian elephants are in danger of becoming extinct within our lifetimes.

According to the National Geographic, the median lifespan of a zoo-born female is just 17 years with Asian elephants living up to 19 years in captivity and 42 in the wild. If that’s not telling, we don’t know what is – but it comes as little surprise as wild elephants form close relationships with other family members. Calves will stay with their mothers for around 16 years, but the elephant tourism business shatters this bond at the ripe age of six months. The fulfilling life these animals lead in the wild makes any captive scenario seem unbearable.

Thankfully, there are many organizations working to protect and conserve Asian elephants. Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand is a non-profit organization in Thailand that works to rescue, rehabilitate and care for wildlife that has been exploited by people. One of the elephants in their care, a baby named Pin recently turned two years old. Pin and her family were rescued from the trekking industry and are now safe in the care of the organization’s Thai Elephant Refuge. What do you do to celebrate a baby elephant’s birthday? You throw a party, of course!

Here comes the birthday girl, Pin now! Wondering what kind of gifts she’ll receive?
Pin enjoyed yummy fruits and vegetables on her special day! 
Pin didn’t celebrate alone! Her mother Pun was also there to enjoy the yummy treats!
Pins aunts, Kaew Petch and La Ong Dao also came to wish the birthday girl lots of happy years!
The elephants seem to really be enjoying the festivities! 
No one missed out. There were plenty of fruits and vegetables to go around!
Pin seems to be saying “thanks for the great party!”
Thanks to the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, Pin and her family will enjoy many more years chain free. Seeing how content this elephant family looks in their safe haven, it is incredibly clear this is how these beautiful creatures should live. Please boycott these cruel tourist attractions and tell your friends and family to boycott them as well. Instead of supporting cruelty, support the wonderful efforts of the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand. Visit their website for ways on how you can get involved to save elephants. All image source: Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand 

Like Nosey, Anna Louise Needs You!

Please help us fight for Anna Louise, a precious elephant who has been, like Nosey, suffering in the circus. For THREE DECADES Anna Louise has been subjected to life as a solitary elephant on the road with the circus, performing menial tricks for the profit of an exhibitor named Tom Demry. Please sign our latest petition, demanding the USDA step up for all solitary elephants like Nosey and Anna...

Mother elephant killed - now her orphaned calf needs food and care. Young "Kasewe" needs us now 
Young "Kasewe" needs us now.
When Kasewe's mother was shot dead, the young elephant's life changed forever. Now you and I need to make sure she survives. After her mother's death, Kasewe was lost and hopeless. Luckily, a teacher spotted her wandering and was able to keep her safe until our partners at the GRI-Elephant Orphanage in Zambia arrived.

Kasewe was rushed to the Orphanage, where she's receiving lifesaving care. Now she needs you.

With your gift today, you can help us provide the food, expert veterinary care, and everything else she needs to grow strong and healthy so she can one day be released to the wild.

And you'll help us care for other orphaned elephants in Zambia and ease animal suffering wherever we find it.

You've so generously taken action before to help the animals. I'm hoping that this holiday season, you can make a special lifesaving gift to help animals like Kasewe and the rest of the Zambian orphaned elephants.

The calves at the Orphanage have already suffered so much loss in their short lives. They need your help!

You can help provide the specially-made formula to take the place of their mother's milk ... help provide them with expert veterinary care ... help the Orphanage's wonderful Keepers teach them how to survive in the wild and provide love and companionship.

Your gift will be a lifesaver for these orphaned elephants, and for suffering animals everywhere we help them.

The VAST majority of ivory for sale on the international market comes from elephants massacred in recent years.

 It has become an extremely valuable material -- worth thousands on the black market. But no amount of money is worth driving beautiful, endangered animals to extinction.

That’s why Vietnam took a critical first step in committing to protect elephants: they BURNED their ivory stockpiles.

 It was an incredible demonstration showing their determination to save animals -- but it can’t be the last.
The ivory trade is officially banned in Vietnam, but the country is a MAJOR transit point for poachers looking to traffic their illegal goods.

 Elephants will continue to disappear until action is taken to stop fuelling the illicit and lucrative ivory trade. And that means every country needs to commit to stopping ivory smugglers across the world.

Sign your name to insist Vietnam take more action to END the ivory trade: http://go.saveanimalsfacingextinction.org/Vietnam-Ivory

Urge IRCC Florida To NOT Host Nosey Again! *** 2nd UPDATE! ***
In relation to IRCC Floridas' Diwali event last weekend which took place at the Broward County Convention center ~ Here's a second positive update from the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida

via ARFF (Animal Rights Foundation of Florida)

Nosey, an African elephant whose neglect and cruel treatment has been well documented, appeared at an event last weekend at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Broward County Convention Center. Today ARFF received the encouraging statement (below) from the convention center's General Manager:

"We received the letter you sent us expressing concern regarding the use of an elephant by an exhibitor that was a part of an event (Diwali) that took place this past weekend in the Convention Center. Like you we have a great concern and love for all animals and do not condone such practices during contracted events in this facility.... In this instance, this one got by us and we apologize for the oversight. Further... we will not allow this to happen again and will make certain that our policy regarding any animal display, participation, or use is clear to all of our sales and event personnel in the facility going forward. We feel very badly about what occurred and assure you that our team will be much more diligent in the future so we can avoid this kind of misstep at all cost. Thank you, and the many people who have expressed concern for this innocent animal on its behalf. We have a clear understanding, and will stand fast by the protection of our innocent friends as we look into the future."

This is further proof that together we can make a difference! As always Thank You for taking action for Nosey

Learn more and support the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida in the following ways: