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Judge OKs Wild Buffalo Slaughter

A federal judge says he will allow the slaughter of hundreds of wild bison that wandered from Yellowstone National Park into Montana.

U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell said in a 72-page ruling Monday that he will deny requests from sportsmen, Indian tribes and environmentalists to stop the mass kill.

Montana ranchers fear the 525 bison, which are currently corralled along the border of the snowed-in national park, will transmit brucellosis to livestock. The disease can cause cows to miscarry their young.

217 of the wild buffalo have tested positive for the illness so far, and those will be slaughtered first.

“Distasteful as the lethal removal may be to some, it is clearly one of the foremost management tools – time honored – necessarily utilized to protect the species, the habitat, and the public,” the judge wrote.

“If slaughtering buffalo is time-honored, it’s high time for a change,” said Dan Brister, head of the Buffalo Field Campaign, according to Reuters.

The environmental advocates, including Buffalo Field Campaign and Western Watersheds Project, alleged that the planned slaughter was a violation of government regulations and the public trust.

An attorney for the plaintiffs said they plan to appeal, The Associated Press reports.

There are currently 3,700 bison in the Yellowstone herd. When numbers dip below 2,100, the government will be prohibited from killing straying buffalo.

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Kenyan Conservationists Concerned Over Slowed Elephant Population Growth

Kenyan conservationists are worried that the burgeoning demand for ivory will undo years of work getting the country’s elephant population to healthy numbers.

Wildlife officials say that a survey of an elephant sanctuary from an aerial census showed that growth had slowed to two percent from four percent in 2008, AFP reports.

Scientists counted 12,572 elephants in Tsavo National Park, an 18,000-square mile elephant sanctuary southeast of Nairobi. While that number is only slightly below the previous count of 11,696, it represents a weakening population growth rate, says Julius Kipng’etich, the director of the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Kipng’etich said elephant poaching was becoming increasingly prominent following increased ivory demand in Asian countries.

Ian Douglas-Hamilton, the founder of the organization Save the Elephants, told AFP that rising wealth in Asia was partly to blame.

“I am exceedingly worried about the increase in poaching because I think it is linked to a more fundamental factor which is the increase in demand in China and other countries in the Far East and the increased ability in those countries to pay for ivory,” he told AFP.

Ivory is used in traditional Asian medicines and ornaments.

Tsavo, home to a third of Kenya’s elephant population, boasted some 35,000 elephants in 1976, AFP reports. A major drought and poaching in the 1970s and 1980s all but decimated their numbers.

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Traveler Detained for Possessing 200 Illegal Animals

An Indonesian man was arrested Wednesday at an airport in Bangkok, Thailand for attempting to smuggle 200 live animals – including tortoises, snakes, squirrels, spiders, lizards and a parrot – in three suitcases.

The international wildlife monitoring group TRAFFIC said in a statement Thursday that the traveler was stopped after airport officials spotted the animals in images of the scanned luggage.

“It’s not unprecedented to find numbers — sometimes even hundreds — of live animals inside luggage like this,” TRAFFIC spokesman Richard Thomas told msnbc.com. “What makes this case unusual is the wide variety of wildlife in the cases. Animals like tortoises are usually taped up to keep them from moving, and being detected, but quite how the man in this instance expected not to be found out is quite extraordinary.”

The suspect said he had illegally purchased the animals from an outdoor market in Bangkok.

“One really has to question how Chatuchak Market, which is located just down the street from both Wildlife Protection and Nature Crime Police Offices, can continue these illegal mass sales,” TRAFFIC regional director William Schaedla said, according to MSNBC. “The situation is totally unacceptable in a country that claims to be effectively addressing illegal wildlife trade.”

TRAFFIC reportedly found the following animals crammed inside the three black bags:

88 Indian Star tortoises

34 ball pythons

33 elongated tortoises

22 common squirrels

19 bearded dragons

18 baboon spiders

7 radiated tortoises

6 Argentine horned frogs

6 mata mata turtles

4 spiny tailed lizards

4 striped narrow-headed turtles

3 aldabra tortoises

2 boa constrictors

2 Sudan plated lizards

2 corn snakes

2 king snakes

1 ploughshare tortoise (world’s rarest turtle)

1 pig-nosed turtle

1 African gray parrot

1 milk snake

1 hog nosed snake
The man is currently in police custody and faces smuggling charges, TRAFFIC said.

Posted in Amphibians, Birds, Mammals, Reptiles0 Comments

Indonesia Palm Oil Company Promises to Preserve Forests

Indonesia’s biggest palm oil manufacturer on Wednesday promised to meet new standards aimed at preserving ecologically important peatswamp forests.

The announcement was cautiously applauded by environmental groups like Greenpeace.

Palm oil producer Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) and its subsidiary SMART, part of the Sinar Mas Group, pledged to partner with The Forest Trust (TFT)  to develop new environmentally responsible practices.

SMART president director Daud Dharsono told the press that the companies would not develop plantations on High Carbon Stock and High Conservation Value forests and peatlands, which are prized by scientists for their biodiversity and their role in keeping the climate stable.

Scientists believe the deforestation of the carbon-rich forests plays a major part in global warming. Indonesia is the third biggest emitter of heat-trapping greenhouse gases due mainly to its ongoing destruction of the peatlands to make way for palm oil plantations.

Malaysia and Indonesia contribute about 85 percent of global production of palm oil, a cheap alternative to vegetable oil used in cooking oil, cosmetic products, soap, bread, margarine, and chocolate.

“Without better stewardship, the phenomenal growth of the palm oil industry could spell disaster for local communities, biodiversity and climate change as palm plantations encroach further and further into forested areas,” said  TFT executive director Scott Poynton, as reported by AFP.

“We all know that this agreement counts for nothing if it’s not now implemented,” he added.

“We have worked with other companies to clean up their supply chains successfully, and it is our intention to do so again,” he said.

Greenpeace warily welcomed the move, saying it would put its campaign against GAR on hold to see if the company follows through with its promises, AFP reports.

Posted in Conservation, Trees & Forestry0 Comments

Rwanda: Scientists Report Rare Mountain Gorilla Twins

Park officials in Rwanda have reported a rare birth of mountain gorilla twins – no small triumph for the endangered species numbering a mere 780.

The successful twin birth is only the second since 2004, and just five previous cases of twins have occurred since record-keeping began 40 years ago, gorilla trackers from the Volcanoes National Park say.

“It’s uncommon among the population of gorillas, and very few cases of twins have been documented in the wild or captivity. The twins in Hirwa Group provide another opportunity for comparative research on this rare case of twining in primates, therefore continuing to get more knowledge and reference for gorilla research, and conservation in general,” said Prosper Uwingeli, the Chief Park Warden, as quoted by AllAfrica.com.

Mountain gorillas are Rwanda’s primary tourist attraction, but their population is alarmingly weak. Researchers say the current total of 780 gorillas is a quarter higher than it was seven years ago.

Wildlife officials said the baby gorillas are in good health.

“The twins, both of them males, were born Thursday of a mother gorilla called Kabatwa. They are doing well,” Radio Rwanda reported, according to AFP.

The majority of mountain gorillas are found in the Virunga massif, which covers Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. A 2010 census found a 26 percent increase in gorillas in Virunga chain habitat.

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Whale that Scientists Drugged Found Dead

The North Atlantic right whale scientists shot with sedatives last month so they could untangle it from fishing ropes has been found dead off the coast of Florida, the Associated Press reported Monday.

Wildlife experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are still conducting tests to determine 2-year-old female’s cause of death, but initial results from a necropsy on Thursday indicate that the whale had rope deeply lodged in its mouth. This probably prevented it from feeding, scientists say.

NOAA spokeswoman Karrie Carnes says it appears that, unable to eat, the malnourished whale was easy prey for sharks.

Scientists found the whale wrapped in 50 feet of fishing rope last month off the coast of Florida.

Following the whale in a small vessel, the team shot it with sedatives from a dart gun so they could pull closer to untangle the ropes and attach a satellite monitor.

It was only the second time that drugging has been used on a free-swimming whale.

Carnes says the sedatives do not appear to have played a part in the whale’s death.

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Malaysia Rapidly Destroying Ecologically Important Peatlands

Malaysia is destroying forests more than three times faster than all of Asia combined to make way for palm oil plantations, according to a study released Tuesday.

Analyzing data acquired from satellite images of the region, researchers  said the country obliterated an astonishing 872,263 acres, about one-third of its biodiversity-rich peatswamp forests, in the past five years.

The report, which was commissioned by the Netherlands-based Wetlands International, found that the swamps of stored carbon from decomposed plants could disappear from the state of Sarawak by the end of the decade if the clearing continues.

The country is deforesting an average two percent a year of the swamps on Sarawak, Malaysia’s largest state on its half of the island of Borneo, which it shares with Indonesia and Brunei.

That’s nearly 10 percent in the last five years. Asia in its entirety deforested at a rate of just 2.8 percent in that period.

“We never knew exactly what was happening in Malaysia and Borneo,” said Wetlands spokesman Alex Kaat, according to AP. “Now we see there is a huge expansion (of deforestation) with annual rates that are beyond imagination.”

The Sarawak peatswamps, home to such animals as the Borneo pygmy elephant and the Sumatran rhino, were initially harvested for timber. Now companies are totally clearing the forests to make way for palm oil plantations.

“As the timber resource has been depleted the timber companies are now engaging in the oil palm business, completing the annihilation of Sarawak’s peat swamp forests,” Marcel Silvius from Wetlands said in a statement.

“Unless this trend is halted, none of these forests may be left at the end of this decade.”

Malaysia and Indonesia contribute about 85 percent of global production of palm oil, a cheap alternative to vegetable oil used in cooking oil, cosmetic products, soap, bread, margarine, and chocolate.

Kaat said the report proves that deforestation is occurring at a faster rate than the Malaysian government has admitted.

“The new studies conclude that 20 percent of all Malaysian palm oil is produced on drained peatlands. For Sarawak, this is even 44 percent,” researchers said.

In addition to the risk it poses to the forests’ many rare species, the draining of peatswamps causes massive carbon emissions.

“The production of palm oil is welcome only if expansion can be done in a sustainable way,” the environmental group said.

The study was conducted by satellite monitoring and mapping company SarVision.

Posted in Biodiversity, Conservation, Ecosystems, Trees & Forestry0 Comments

Walrus to Get “Endangered” or “Threatened” Label

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will soon announce a federal listing for the Pacific walrus as a threatened or endangered species, a spokesman for the agency said Tuesday.

The Associated Press reported that the agency is waiting on a publication date from the Federal Register before it reveals its recommended listing.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition three years ago claiming that the walrus should be listed as threatened or endangered due to loss of sea ice caused by climate change.

The case gave the Fish and Wildlife Service a court-mandated deadline to determine a listing.

The decision will be announced one day before it is published in the Federal Register, agency spokesman Bruce Woods told The Associated Press.

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Right Whale Saved with Help of Sedatives

Wildlife experts say that sedatives may be useful in calming endangered whales caught in fishing line.

Researchers tested the approach on a young North Atlantic right whale off the Florida coast last week, The Associated Press reported Sunday. The whale had about 50 feet of fishing rope wrapped through its mouth and around its flippers.

Following the whale in a small vessel, the team shot it with sedatives from a dart gun so they could pull closer and untangle the ropes. They then attached a satellite monitor, which now shows the animal survived the incident.

Fishing ropes pose a serious threat to the dwindling population of right whales. The gear cuts into their flesh and limits their ability to feed, ultimately causing infection and starvation.

Experts typically trail lines from tangled whales and attach them to boats and buoys to create drag, allowing them to slice the ropes from pole-mounted knives.

But the process can be tricky, since right whales often attempt to flee or dive underwater.

“They’re likely in a lot of discomfort,” Jamison Smith of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told AP. “They don’t want to be … harassed by a small boat.”

With a population of only 300 to 400 worldwide, right whales are thought to be the most endangered large whale. The animals feed off the coast of New England and Canada in the summers, and migrate southeast to the waters off Florida and Georgia for breeding season in mid-November to mid-April.

NOAA initially proposed drugging whales in 1999, in an attempt to disentangle an afflicted right whale swimming off New England and in the Canadian Bay of Fundy. Researchers mounted a syringe on a 30-foot pole so that they could inject the whale from a boat.

In the most recent case, scientists used an airgun that fires a 2-foot dart containing sedatives.

“There was a noticeable decrease in speed,” Smith said of the 2-year-old right whale sedated off the coast of Port Canaveral, Fla. “There was a noticeable decrease in boat evasiveness.”

Satellite data from the attached tag shows the whale is heading north toward New England.

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Davos Forum: Leaders Call for Green Economy

International leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland say U.S. businesses must pressure the federal government to work toward an energy-efficient economy before China reaches one first.

U.N. climate chief Christina Figueres said Thursday that China “is going to leave us all in the dust” if Western countries don’t begin to act on climate change, AP reports.

Figueres said the Chinese “are not doing it just because they want to save the planet. They are doing it because it’s good for the economy.”

European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard called for U.S. businesses to change their perspective on energy efficiency, saying they should realize that “it’s bad business to not be among the front-runners” in the race for a green global economy.

The annual conference is held in a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the the eastern Alps region of Switzerland.

Posted in Effects, Energy Efficiency, Energy Industry, Finance, Accounting, & Investment, Global Warming, Globalization & Free Trade, Policies & Solutions0 Comments

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