Friday, October 01, 2021

More Good News - 2 Wins for Wildlife

 


Obviously increased habitat protection benefits all species within it, but there are also initiatives which increase the survival prospects for specific animals. I have mentioned many of these such as the banning of animal acts in circuses and petting zoos in the posts on big cats, but here are a few more.

A crackdown on rhino poaching in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Zimbabwe has paid off with the number of rhinos poached dropping by 1,319 between 2015-2020. The sharp decline is thanks to tougher legislation, enforcement, and more sophisticated investigations. Conservationists have also switched tactics, empowering communities to become rhino custodians.

Kenya's Wildlife Service says that for the first time in 21 years, not a single rhinoceros was poached in the country’s national parks in 2020. The agency credits a new strategy that focuses on providing rangers with housing, equipment and support to be able to respond around the clock. 

Tanzania is hopeful of reaching a ‘zero-elephant-poaching’ target after making thousands of arrests, including 21 kingpins of the illegal trafficking trade. Since 2014, the elephant population has increased by 17,000, remarkable progress for a country that once had the unenviable status of the world’s elephant killing fields.

Gabon has passed new laws to protect the country’s 69 species of sharks and rays. The landmark measures include new laws to fully regulate shark and ray catches, and highlight a new global initiative launched on World Ocean Day to save endangered marine species.

As mentioned in an earlier post about big cats as of May 2021, South Africa has banned canned hunting in part because of “the risk that trade in lion parts poses to stimulating poaching and illegal trade," but also because it damaged South Africa's ecotourism image. The ban includes closing South Africa's 300 or so captive breeding facilities.

ASIA/Pacific

I have also mentioned the creation of The  Land of the Leopard National Park, a collaboration Between China and Russia  to save the Amur Leopard  of which only 40 were left in the wild. Both governments have now created reserves on either side of their common border to extend the Amur Leopard’s range three -fold over 20 years and the initiative also helps to conserve other species. 

In Nepal, thanks to a huge crackdown on poaching the number Tigers has almost doubled in the last 10 years. However, Tigers are still “on life support “ in China where they remain a symbol of wealth  and are used in traditional medicine.

 In the wake of the Corona virus which is believed to have arisen in the nation's wet markets, China has placed a ban on the consumption and  breeding of and the trade in wild animals.

The population of the critically endangered Saiga Antelope in Kazakhstan has more than doubled to 842,000 since 2019. It’s great comeback after a huge dieoff in 2015 after 200,000 animals died from a nasal infection during unusually warm weather. 

 

Saiga antelope at the Stepnoi Sanctuary
Saiga Antelope at the oltega Stepnoi Sanctuary

-Andrey Giljov, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

 

Chinese officials have announced that they no longer regard giant pandas an endangered species. Thanks to a combination of conservation measures and captive breeding. Those initiatives have also benefited other species There are now 1,800 giant pandas living in the wild. Siberian tigers, Asian elephants, and crested ibises have also increased their numbers. 

China is paying farmers to stop raising exotic animals and the city of Wuhan has banned eating them for the next five years. 

 

Giant Pandas are making a comeback

 

 In Vietnam, thanks to the efforts of a German primatologist and local communities the population of  its critically endangered monkey, the Delacour’s Langur, has quadrupled in the past 20 years. before the establishment of the Van Long Nature Reserve in 2001, there were only 50 left in the wild. Now there are over two hundred and Tilo Nadler who first came to the region on behalf of the Frankfurt Zoological Society is campaigning for additional reserves as the monkey population expands along with human activity in the region. 

Thailand has banned sunscreen which damages coral reefs in all of its marine sanctuaries.Similar bans are already in place in other regions including Hawaii, Palau and the US Virgin Isles.

National Geographic reports that several species of Tuna are in recovery, notably the Atlantic Bluefin which has moved from endangered when last assessed to least concern. The Yellowfin Tuna and the Albacore Tuna have also both moved from near threatened to least concern.While the status of others such as the Southern Bluefin has also improved, they remain endangered or vulnerable, even if no longer critically endangered.


UK AND EU

Animal rights activists in the UK have won a major victory with a landmark reform that legally recognises animals as sentient beings. A range of new government measures will ban most live animal exports, the importation of hunting trophies like ivory and shark fins, and target puppy theft. The government has also pledged to uphold animal welfare in future trade deals. The new Action Plan for Animal Welfare released in May 2020 will also end the keeping of exotic animals as domestic pets. 

 Beavers have been successfully returned to Scotland after being hunted to extinction in the C16th, thanks to a rewilding and reintroduction program begun in 2009. 

 


Government incentives for pesticide free, wildlife-friendly farming in the UK have helped save Britain’s rarest butterfly, the Duke of Burgundy, from near extinction. The population has soared by 25% over the past decade with one of the largest colonies found on an organic dairy farm in Dorset. Guardian

Spanish conservationists report that there are now 1,100 Iberian lynx in the wild  thanks to one of the world's most successful reintroduction programs. Prior to that there were only 483 left making it the most endangered cat in the world. The program has also reintroduced the lynx to Portugal and as of 2010, the project has expanded to include the black vulture which shares habitat with the lynx.

 Norway has passed legislation to protect all 44,000 terrestrial animals, their land and bodies of water through it's Wildlife Act, while its Nature Diversity Act protects and monitors prirority species, making it the top wildlife protector in the EU. 

The critically endangered Polish wolf has recovered to an estimated population of 3,000, a massive leap from the mere 60 in existence in the early 1970s.

In Bulgaria, there is now has a stable population of around 80 griffon vultures, more than 40 years after the birds were declared extinct. Twenty -three pairs have been breeding in the wild since 2016.

In North Cyprus nest counts of green turtles have increased by 162% and those of loggerhead turtles by 46% since 1993. Local conservation efforts began in 1983, with volunteers and scientists working tirelessly every nesting season to keep the nests safe from local predators and plastic waste.

In the United Arab Emirates, the population of the endangered Arabian oryx has increased by 22% in four years thanks to a reintroduction program inside the country's largest nature reserve. However, smuggling of cheetahs -one of the most endangered of the big cats, from the Horn of Africa to the Middle East appears to be on the rise.

 

Good news for marine mammals in the US
 

USA

The US government has increased protection of endangered humpback whales, declaring 300,000 km² of the Pacific Ocean as critical habitat. It’s a big win for conservationists who sued the federal government in 2018 over its failure to designate protected areas, which are proven to double the chance of species’ recovery. 

Off the west coast of the United States, orca whales just received new protections, expanding their critical habitat from the Canadian border down to Point Sur in California, an additional 41,206 km² of foraging areas, river mouths and migratory pathways. Further north, recent sightings of the North Pacific right whale offer hope that one of the rarest of the large whales may finally, be starting to recover. 

Hawaii - US authorities have banned the practice of tourists swimming with spinner dolphins at night  and tourists may longer frequent certain areas in order to protect the dolphins and their habitat.

The population of endangered Florida panthers has also increased from 20 to 200 in three decades. The long road to recovery began in 1995 with legislation for a genetic restoration plan, and just received another big boost from lawmakers with $100 million for land conversation and to build highway underpasses along migration corridors. 

AUSTRALIA

In Australia there have been some amazing successes with reintroductions. This is doubly important not only because of  the devasting toll last summer’s bushfires have had on our wildlife, but because Australia also has the dubious distinction of presiding over a record of extinctions unlikely to have been seen since the demise of the dinosaurs or the megafauna. 

 Seven out of eight  Australian mammals such as Eastern Pygmy Possums, Brown Antechinus, Numbats and the Brush Tailed Bettong (the Woylie*) which had become in extinct in their historic ranges, have  been successfully reintroduced with the Woylie population now numbering 1000 individuals. 

In South Australia the Western Quoll and the Red-Tailed Phascogale  which had been wiped out by introduced predators and extensive land clearing, are being reintroduced to their original home the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges. Both are carnivorous marsupials native to South Australia and, as predators, have important roles to play in the health of the ecosystem. 

 * Had never heard of a Woylie until I read this article.

The Swift Parrot Recovery

Australia’s critically endangered Swift Parrot breeds in Tasmania in summer and migrates along the East Coast of Australia for the rest of the year. Twenty years ago there were only an estimated 2000 individuals left in the wild,  not just because of the usual  disastrous combination of land clearing, logging and fires, but also due to an introduced species, the sugar glider, taking over its real estate and destroying nestlings, breeding birds and eggs. The two young researchers in this story started a public fundraising campaign and built nest boxes in suitable areas to facilitate the birds’ recovery. Follow the full story here. What a great job for redundant timber workers – cutting new nest hollows and building nest boxes for the birds they have unhomed for decades!

The story of an even more critically endangered species, Tasmania’s Orange Bellied Parrot, is very similar though not yet as successful. This parrot which is unique to Tasmania also breeds here in summer and then sensibly moves on to the warmer climes of coastal Victoria and South Australia. Unfortunately, their decline was only noticed in 1984 when they were down to 23 pairs. In the intervening years, heroic efforts to protect their habitat, provide nest boxes, control predators and institute captive breeding programs has only raised their stocks to around 150 individuals, but the challenge continues with conservationists working with private landowners in order to protect habitat and nesting sites. 

Orange-bellied Parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) (8079612553)
Tasmania's Orange Bellied Parrot is slowly returning from the brink of extinction

 -Image Ron Knight from Seaford, East Sussex,United Kingdom, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This list is not comprehensive, but it shows what can be done when someone has the will to do it. None of it came about by accident. It’s the result of huge efforts by individuals, donors, scientists and non – government organisations and sometimes even governments, and often against steep opposition. Nor are we done yet. There are still many species which have not come to our attention or are not so charismatic that they generate as much support. For example, in Australia, there are at least 160 birds facing extinction and that was before the bushfires, yet we hear very little about these, or many others known and unknown which may seem insignificant but play a vital role in maintaining ecosystems that nurture us all. - think bees, dung beetles and so many other small creatures whose purpose is not apparent to us until they no longer exist.


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