Taking the Lives of Wolves

Without Respect for the Innocent

We kill by accident as we drive the roads we built over the woods and prairies, we kill by accident when we hide the land beneath houses and farms, and we kill on purpose when we seek excitement to end the life of a one-time enemy who is now our friend.  Here’s a poem by Mary de la Valette:

wolves-runningThey have run all day
With the Caribou,
Now, silvered shadows
On the moonlit tundra
They gather.
In one small last circle
They raise their heads
In ageless ritual
And sing.
A planetary, timeless howl.

And the wind
Takes their song
In her arms
And scatters it
Like silver rain
Over the earth.
And the last whales
Sing
For the wolves.
And the last elephants
Lift their great heads
And sing.
And all the earth’s children
Sing for the wolves
For they know
What tomorrow brings.

And the wolves
In their silver circle
Sing for life
Sing for the earth
Sing for t he Caribou
For they know
The men in helicopters
Wait.

And tomorrow
They will run with the caribou
Run for life.

By Mary de la Valette

romeo-the-black-wolf-of-alaska Nick Jans

Study says road threat to carnivores is underestimated globally

GR: Roads are an element of widespread human construction that destroys habitat and causes wildlife decline. As reported here, roads have other serious ecosystem impacts. They cause selective deaths of the regulators of food chains, the top carnivores.

While the Iberian lynx is IUCN-classified as “endangered”, other species threatened by roads are not. For example, two species in Japan: According to the projection, the Japanese badger (Meles anakuma) and the Japanese marten (Martes melampus) will have died out in nine and 17 years, respectively, because of the threat from roads.

“The threat of roads to carnivore species around the world has been seriously underestimated, according to a new study that looked at the issue on a global scale.

“After looking at 232 carnivore species around the world (out of a total of about. 270 existing species) and assessing how severely these are affected by roads cut through their habitat, the researchers concluded that some rare species are even at risk in areas with low road densities. The study, published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography, calculated natural mortality rates, reproduction and carnivore movement patterns, determining the maximum density of roads that a species can cope with.

“The study also tried to pinpoint the minimum area of unbroken habitat that a species needs to maintain an enduring healthy population. Finally, they compared these numbers with road network data.

“Among the 5 percent of carnivores (17 species) that are most affected by roads, nine are currently categorized as species of “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which means that they are regarded as not endangered.

“Our results show the necessity of updating the protection status of these species, whose threat from roads has previously been underestimated,” said Henrique Pereira, with the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and the Portugal Infrastructures Biodiversity Chair/Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources (CIBIO-InBIO). –Summit County Citizens Voice (More:  Study says road threat to carnivores is underestimated globally – Summit County Citizens Voice.)

Hedgehogs now a rare garden sight as British populations continue to decline

GR: Worth noting that even in developed countries with slowing population growth, wildlife decline continues. In Britain, many people do small things to make their gardens more wildlife friendly. However, habitat loss and farming continue to cut carrying capacity for most wildlife species. Hedgehog and other species’ declines are accelerating, suggesting that many wildlife populations are no longer self-sustaining and are falling toward extinction. The Guardian story below includes ideas and links for steps to take to support wildlife. Unfortunately, it does not mention the big step, human population control. Without drastic efforts to cut our needs and begin returning the land and seas to their natural state, most of Earth’s wildlife species will disappear (more on human population impact).

Britain’s hedgehog population has dropped from an estimated 30 million in the 1950s to fewer than one million today. Photograph: Rebecca Cole/Alamy

“The plight of the hedgehog in Britain appears to be worsening, with a new survey revealing a further decline in garden sightings.

“The spiky creature was once a common sight, with the population estimated at 30 million in the 1950s. But that has plummeted to fewer than one million today, with a third of this loss thought to have taken place in the past decade.

“The latest survey, conducted with more than 2,600 people by BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, found that 51% of people did not see a hedgehog at all in 2016, up from 48% in 2015. Just 12% saw a hedgehog regularly.

“The poll’s result is in line with an in-depth analysis in 2015 by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species which found urban populations of hedgehogs had fallen by up to a third since 2000 and rural populations had declined by at least a half. Results from a citizen science survey run by the RSPB in June 2016 also revealed a falling number of sightings.

“The decline is not entirely understood but the main factors are thought to be the loss of their habitat in Britain’s towns and countryside – where farming has intensified – as well as road deaths. The fragmentation of habitat is also a problem as hedgehogs roam up to a mile every night to look for food and mates. A possible rise in badger numbers, which can eat hedgehogs, has also been suggested as a possible cause.” –Damian Carrington (More: Hedgehogs now a rare garden sight as British populations continue to decline | Environment | The Guardian.)

100,000 may have died but there is still no justice over Indonesian air pollution

GR: No family should have to endure such heartbreak because some company is pursuing profits at all costs. The tragedy extends even farther than reported here. People can breath through a rag and clean their food. Wild animals can do neither. Moreover, the smoke is from burning wildlife habitat. It’s no surprise that the World Wildlife Fund reports global loss of 60% of all the Earth’s animals since 1970. The total loss is expected to reach 67% by 2020.

“It started with a mild cough. Muhanum Anggriawati was just 12 years old when the cough began, transforming within weeks into a violent hacking that brought up a yellowish-black liquid.

“At the end of last year, her father told an Indonesian court how she had been taken into hospital, and treated with oxygen therapy, then with a defibrillator. Nothing, however, had worked. After a week on a breathing machine, she died in the hospital, her lungs still full of the foul mucus.

“Anggriawati is believed to have been one of many victims of the haze, or air pollution, that regularly spreads across Indonesia because of the huge deforestation fires linked to palm oil and other agribusiness.

“The Global Fire Emissions Database reports that in 2015, fires in Indonesia generated about 600m tonnes of greenhouse gases, which is roughly equivalent to Germany’s entire annual output.

“The smoke contains dangerous chemicals such as carbon monoxide, ammonia and cyanide. A study by Harvard and Columbia universities revealed that the haze may have caused the premature deaths of more than 100,000 people in south-east Asia in 2015. The authors estimated that there were 91,000 deaths in Indonesia; 6,500 in Malaysia and 2,200 in Singapore.” –Elodie Aba and Bobbie Sta. Maria (More: 100,000 may have died but there is still no justice over Indonesian air pollution | Global Development Professionals Network | The Guardian.)

Armed herders invade Kenya’s most important wildlife conservancy

laikipia-by

Eastern Escarpment of the Great Rift Valley, Northern Kenya (Photo by the Luxury Safari Company)

GR: Combine global warming-forced drought with politics and you get indigenous people destroying nature so that they can live a richer life than their neighbors.

Drought in Samburu, to the north of Laikipia, has led to herders ranging further afield than normal. Photograph: Stephen Morrison/EPA

“Thousands of heavily-armed herders are invading conservancies, private properties and smallholdings in Laikipia, one of Kenya’s most important wildlife areas, as they search for pasture for their cattle.

“Over the past couple of weeks, about 10,000 nomadic herders, armed with automatic rifles and driving 135,000 cattle, have left a trail of destruction and chaos in the county, just three hours drive from Nairobi. The herders have indiscriminately killed wildlife – from elephants, giraffes, zebras and lions to family dogs. Residents have been injured, some seriously. At least one person has been killed, according to reports.

“This is just the latest but most serious clash between the herders and the residents of Laikipia, after a series of incursions dating back at least a few years. This time private game lodges, ranches and smallholdings owned by farmers are being targeted systematically. David Mwaweu, who owns a small farm, said that armed herdsmen passed his way as they marched towards private land where they have since been “stealing grass for their cows”.

“The wildlife deaths appear to be a tragic byproduct of the violence. At least six elephants have been killed in the last two weeks, and graphic photos of a decapitated zebra and a skinned buffalo, among many others, have been posted on Twitter and Facebook.“

An elephant carcase found at a Laikipia waterhole. The elephant had been shot. Photograph: Laikipia Farmers’ Association

“The elephants are being shot for several reasons,” said Max Graham, CEO of Space For Giants, a conservation organisation headquartered in Laikipia. “First, the herders are coming into conflict with elephants at water points, and shooting at them to scare them away. Second, some of these herders now in Laikipia, but not indigenous to the area, are traditionally hunters: to kill an elephant is a rite of passage in their culture.” –Adam Cruise, Armed herders invade Kenya’s most important wildlife conservancy | Environment | The Guardian

How Human Actions are Compromising the Largest Mammal Migration – and Why YOU Need to Care

GR: The growing human population threatens the most numerous and widespread animals. This photo essay by Bee-Elle is about Wildebeest.

Human expansion and development in the surrounding areas of the Serengeti ecosystem have caused a rapid decline of the wildebeest population.

“The Great Migration sees approximately two million beautiful beings moving around within the Serengeti ecosystem, chasing what the fresh rains have provided: greener pastures. Comprised mostly of Wildebeest, and some hundreds of thousands of zebras and antelope, they are constantly on the move, navigating the dangers of big cats and dogs on the plains and the mammoth crocs and hippos wading in the river. It’s the largest large mammal migration in the world and declared one of the greatest wildlife shows on the planet. And what a grand spectacle it truly is.

“Behind the scenes, however, an ecological disaster is taking place.

The Mau Forest, which feeds the Mara River, is rapidly shrinking, creating massive threats to the Serengeti ecosystem.

“The source of this magnificent Mara River, which provides the life-giving water to these wondrous creatures, is the Mau Forest – the largest forest in Kenya, up in the hills, which is rapidly shrinking. In the last 20 years, more than a quarter of the forest has been decimated by human development and agricultural activity. The water that runs from it is increasingly lesser in flow and lower in quality, and in certain periods, droughts at the Mara ensue, resulting in widespread animal deaths. Last year the water flowing out of the Mau was at an all-time low. A lot rests on this forest, which also powers the country’s hydroelectric plants, and fuels key agricultural exports such as tea.

Droughts at the Maasai Mara have ensued due to a lack of rainfall and decreasing water flows from the Mau forest.

“The issue of resettling communities that live there, all of whom have land title deeds, remains at large. Community partnerships to create private conservancies have proven to be a successful strategy in the past, however, time ticks along for the Mau Forest, and if measures aren’t implemented soon, the life-giving veins of the Mara River will become even more polluted, and then dry out. This is one of the biggest threats to the Maasai Mara and the massive ecosystem to which it belongs.

Plight of the Wildebeest

The shrinking state of the forest directly threatens the Serengeti ecosystem and the Great Migration.

“Wildebeest populations are also in steep decline. Rapid population growth and development have caused significant habitat loss and disrupted their migratory corridors and dispersal areas. Fences and roads have blocked routes to important wet season ranges, which are vital for not just their survival, but for the health of the ecosystem. Their movements fertilize the soil, and the trampling of their hooves help to maintain the grasslands. Those migrating also help to feed predators, keeping life’s balance in check. Although the wildebeest are listed as a non-threatened species, they’re considered a keystone species, and much of the land relies on their existence.” –Bee-Elle (Source: How Human Actions are Compromising the Largest Mammal Migration – and Why YOU Need to Care | One Green Planet.)

Bay of Bengal: depleted fish stocks and huge dead zone signal tipping point

GR:  Dead zones will spread across marine fisheries in the coming years. With rising sea level, stronger storms, and humid low-country heat waves, humans will begin to abandon coastal lowlands and move inland. For decades, we’ve know that we needed to reduce our population and our consumption of land, energy and water. We didn’t do it. So we exceeded Earth’s carrying capacity. As geophysical systems change and biological ecosystems collapse, tipping points at sea, across arctic ice, and on land will initiate gnawing consequences. There is growing belief that dystopian Earth is unavoidable now. The article includes maps.

“The Bay of Bengal’s basin contains some of the most populous regions of the earth. No less than a quarter of the world’s population is concentrated in the eight countries that border the bay1 [footnotes refer to references at the end of the original article]. Approximately 200 million people live along the Bay of Bengal’s coasts and of these a major proportion are partially or wholly dependent on its fisheries2.

“For the majority of those who depend on it, the Bay of Bengal can provide no more than a meagre living: 61% of India’s fisherfolk already live below the poverty line. Yet the numbers dependent on fisheries are only likely to grow in years to come, partly because of climate change. In southern India drought and water scarcity have already induced tens of thousands of farmers to join the fishing fleet3. Rising sea levels are also likely to drive many displaced people into the fishing industry.

“But the fisheries of the Bay of Bengal have been under pressure for decades and are now severely depleted4. Many once-abundant species have all but disappeared. Particularly badly affected are the species at the top of the food chain. The bay was once feared by sailors for its man-eating sharks; they are now rare in these waters. Other apex predators like grouper, croaker and rays have also been badly hit. Catches now consist mainly of species like sardines, which are at the bottom of the marine food web5.

“Good intentions have played no small part in creating the current situation. In the 1960s, western aid agencies encouraged the growth of trawling in India, so that fishermen could profit from the demand for prawns in foreign markets. This led to a “pink gold rush”, in which prawns were trawled with fine mesh nets that were dragged along the sea floor. But along with hauls of “pink gold” these nets also scooped up whole seafloor ecosystems as well as vulnerable species like turtles, dolphins, sea snakes, rays and sharks. These were once called bycatch, and were largely discarded. Today the collateral damage of the trawling industry is processed and sold to the fast-growing poultry and aquaculture industries of the region6. In effect, the processes that sustain the Bay of Bengal’s fisheries are being destroyed in order to produce dirt-cheap chicken feed and fish feed.

“In Myanmar, until a ban was enacted in 2014, the catch collected by foreign fishing boats was 100 times greater than that of local fishermen10. In the troubled Arakan region, where 43% of the population is dependent on fisheries, catches have declined so steeply that many families are mired in debt11. Conflicts over fisheries and other resources are a significant but largely unnoticed aspect of the explosive tensions of the region.

Green spots seen from the International Space Station are the lights of fishing boats used to attract squid across the Gulf of Thailand. Photograph: ISS/Nasa

“The dead zone of the Bay of Bengal is now at a point where a further reduction in its oxygen content could have the effect of stripping the water of nitrogen, a key nutrient. This transition could be triggered either by accretions of pollution or by changes in the monsoons, a predicted effect of global warming.” –Amitay Gosh and Aaron Savio Lobo (More:  Bay of Bengal: depleted fish stocks and huge dead zone signal tipping point | Environment | The Guardian).

Endangered Indiana bats face twin threat from wind turbines and white-nose syndrome

GR:  Energy production destroys wildlife. Burning fossil fuel is has the worst impact, but wind and solar are also harmful. Unless we reverse our population growth, cut our resource use, and reduce our energy needs, we will continue to drive our fellow species toward extinction.

Small hibernating bat colonies need protection
to prevent extinction

“Between collisions with wind turbines and deadly white-nose syndrome, endangered Indiana bats may not have much of a chance of recovering, according to a recently published U.S. Geological Survey study.

“The researchers used a scientific model to compare how wind turbine mortality and WNS may singly and then together affect Indiana bat population dynamics throughout the species’ U.S. range.

“Bats are valuable because, by eating insects, they save U.S. agriculture billions of dollars per year in pest control,” said USGS scientist Richard Erickson, the lead author of the study. “Our research is important for understanding the threats to endangered Indiana bats and can help inform conservation efforts.”

“Wind energy generation can cause bat mortality when certain species, including the midwestern Indiana bat, approach turbines during migration. Meanwhile, WNS, which is caused by the Pseudogymnoascus destructans fungus, has killed millions of hibernating bats in North America and is spreading. The new study found that the combination of these two hazards has a larger negative impact on Indiana bats than either threat alone.” –Bob Berwin (Continue reading:  Endangered Indiana bats face twin threat from wind turbines and white-nose syndrome – Summit County Citizens Voice.)

Platform Addition for the Justice Democrats

Justice Democrats Platform Omission

Monarch butterfly at Coldwater Farm.

Monarch butterfly at Coldwater Farm.

I agree with the 20 items included in the Justice Democrats platform. My concerns for nature conservation lead me to suggest an addition.

Defend natural systems from damaging uses. The Earth’s reserves of fertile soil, dense forest, fresh water, and wild animals and fish are declining. Overuse driven by commercial exploitation and by simple need is stripping the lands and seas of life. Biodiversity is declining and ecosystems are collapsing. For the benefit of humanity and all other living creatures, we must insist on proper land use. We must insist that national land management agencies in all nations are empowered to monitor, repair, and regulate the use of the land, water, and life without which human life would be impossible.

Why You Should Care: Trump’s Order on the Border Wall

GR:  In the midst of the greatest mass extinction in Earth history, the U. S. government is stepping in to do even more to disrupt wildlife movements and put more pressure on survival.

Wall on the Mexico Border

“Wildlife and habitat are on the line because of impacts of the new administration’s immigration policy.

“Today, President Trump ordered the construction of a Mexican border wall — the first in a series of steps intended to crack down on immigration and bolster national security. The executive order to finish the remaining 1,000 miles will have a huge impact on biological unity, connectivity along the border, and habitat disruption.

“While being constructed to stop people from illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexican border, the border wall actually does more to prevent wildlife – not humans – from migrating and connecting with different populations across vast natural southwestern habitats.

“Maintaining connected habitats is important for any species, but especially for those struggling to survive in the face of multiple and cumulative threats. For some species, the wall will completely block the corridors – or regularly traveled paths through the landscape – that they have relied on for centuries. If the wall fragments populations and prevents animals from reaching necessary habitat, these species are unlikely to remain healthy and contribute to their ecological landscapes. Imperiled species such as the ocelot, Mexican gray wolf, jaguar and Sonoran pronghorn may not be able to migrate, exchange genes between populations, and or reach vital food sources.

Is There An Alternative?

“There are several scientific and conservation-minded solutions to extending the wall, including virtual fencing and wildlife-friendly vehicle barriers that are passable only to wildlife. There are also short-term measures that can be taken to support wildlife on America’s borders such as increased funding for environmental protection, improved environmental training for Border Patrol agents, and greater commitment to existing environmental laws.” –Hillary Esquina (Continue reading: Why You Should Care: Trump’s Order on the Border Wall – Defenders of Wildlife Blog).