Global rally against devastating wildlife poaching

The last few decades have been deadly for wildlife.  Since the 1970s, over half of all animals on Earth -- mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish -- have disappeared, according to a major analysis by WWF.  And overhunting -- often by illegal poachers -- is one of the biggest reasons.

Mom killed by poachers...

Mom killed by poachers...

In response, there's just been the first-ever global rally against poaching, focusing specifically on the devastation of elephants and rhinos.  In 136 cities and towns across six continents, thousands of demonstrators voiced their strident concerns about this issue.

The rally echoed the stark messages of the WWF Living Planet Report, which assessed the state of 10,380 populations of 3,038 wildlife species across the Earth.

According to the report, the situation is worst in poorer countries, where wildlife numbers have fallen by 58% on average, between 1970 and 2010.  Latin America had the biggest declines, with 83% of all animals lost in the last 40 years.

Some of the most imperiled species include African forest elephants, whose numbers have plummeted by an estimated two-thirds in just the last decade, following a massive rise in poaching for ivory.

Marine turtles have fared just as badly, falling by 80% in abundance in the last 40 years, the report concludes. 

As the situation grows more desperate for many species, some conservationists are beginning to devise innovative tactics in an effort to combat poaching.  For instance, an Australian-led team is using research on human behavior in an effort to modify attitudes toward rhino poaching in Vietnam.

In Kenya, the situation has grown so desperate that shoot-to-kill orders have been given to park ranges in an effort to combat heavily-armed poachers.  Globally, hundreds of park and wildlife rangers have been murdered by poachers in recent years.

The global rally against poaching is an admirable attempt to raise awareness about the critical role of illegal wildlife hunting.  It's come not a moment too soon. 

 

More about imperiled vultures: Help needed

ALERT has received a further appeal about the potentially catastrophic threat to European vultures, by Dr Ralph Buij, a biologist affiliated with Alterra at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and a member of the IUCN Vulture Specialist Group

Cinereous and Griffin vultures scrapping in Spain (photo by Ralph Buij).

Cinereous and Griffin vultures scrapping in Spain (photo by Ralph Buij).

Buij's plea follows here (see also our blog below):

After widespread and severe declines of important vulture populations in Africa and Asia, the conservation community in Europe is shocked to learn of the authorization of veterinary anti-inflammatory drug Diclofenac in Spain and Italy. Diclofenac is the drug that brought Asian vultures to the verge of extinction.

In both EU countries, products containing Diclofenac are commercialized by FATRO (http://www.fatro.it/en/chi-siamo) - they were authorized for sale after risk assessments concluded the products to be “safe…for the environment, when recommendations are used.”

Vulture populations in Africa and Asia have been reduced to mere fractions of their former numbers. In Africa, strong declines have a variety of causes from loss of habitat and food resources, persecution, poisoning, to the use of vultures in the traditional medicine trade (Ogada et al. 2012).

The Asian vulture crisis was attributable to unintentional poisoning from Diclofenac, which was regularly used in the 1990s to treat cattle in India, Pakistan, and Nepal. Vultures die from the consequences of kidney necrosis, resulting in reduced excretion of uric acid, usually within a few days of eating tissues of cattle treated with a veterinary dose of diclofenac (Pain et al. 2008).

Healthy populations--for now... (photo by Ralph Buij)

Healthy populations--for now... (photo by Ralph Buij)

Within a decade, Indian vulture populations declined from tens of millions in the early 1990s to only 1% of those numbers today. The costs of the vulture decline, which led to an increase in human rabies infections due to exploding feral dog numbers feeding on livestock carcasses, was estimated at US$34 billion in India (Markandya et al. 2008).

Now that vulture populations in Asia and Africa have collapsed over huge areas, European vulture populations are some of the strongest after decades of work and many millions of euros invested in their conservation.

Still, the Egyptian Vulture is threatened with extinction and listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Species and the Cinereous Vulture is listed as ‘Near Threatened’, while Griffon and Bearded Vultures have only recently recovered from very low populations after decades of conservation efforts.

Some of the largest populations of European vultures breed in Spain, which is therefore critical to European vulture conservation. The EU and its Member States have a legal obligation to conserve all vultures under the EU Birds Directive and to avoid ecological damage under the EU Veterinary Drugs legislation.

Rather than allow its use, the EU should act immediately and ban veterinary Diclofenac from the EU market. Given the environmental disaster this drug has proven to be, further efforts should be made to globally ban its use in veterinary medicine.

Please sign a petition here for an immediate ban on veterinary Diclofenac.

-Ralph Buij