Tag Archives: poachers

Poachers target rare bird’s ‘ivory’ beak in Southeast Asia

Some call it “ivory on wings,” part of the bill of a critically endangered bird in Southeast Asia that is sought by poachers and carved into ornaments for illegal sale to Chinese buyers.

The helmeted hornbill isn’t getting as much attention as the beleaguered African elephant at a global wildlife conference this week in South Africa.

But the killing of elephants by the tens of thousands for their tusks is intertwined with a surge in the slaughter of the rare bird whose beak part is a coveted substitute for ivory.

“It’s all part of the rising demand for ivory,” said Richard Thomas, spokesman for TRAFFIC, a conservation group based in Britain.

Poaching of the helmeted hornbill has soared since around 2010, particularly in Indonesia. The timing roughly coincides with an increase in elephant poaching that has caused a sharp drop in elephant populations. Last year, the helmeted hornbill was designated as critically endangered on an international “red list” of threatened species.

Delegates are discussing protections for elephants, helmeted hornbills and other vulnerable wildlife at a meeting in Johannesburg of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES . The 12-day meeting of the U.N. group, which regulates wildlife trade, ends Oct. 5.

The helmeted hornbill is a bird of lore, featuring in an ancient belief that it sits by a river between life and death. Its feathers have been used in traditional ceremonies. During breeding, the female is sealed into a nest, relying on the male to provide food.

The call of the helmeted hornbill is an intermittent, honking sound that slowly builds in tempo until it ends in what resembles, for some listeners, shrieks of laughter. Loud and long, the call helps poachers locate their prey.

In a CITES document , Indonesia asked for more collaboration among law enforcement agencies from countries where helmeted hornbills live, as well as “end market” nations — a reference primarily to China.

China, the world’s main ivory consumer, has already said it plans to close its domestic ivory market.

A large lump on top of the beak of the helmeted hornbill is made of keratin, a protein also found in rhino horn and other animal and human parts. It has a red tinge is softer than elephant ivory, making it an attractive material for carvers who have fashioned belt buckles, snuff boxes, pendants and images of Chinese deities from it over many centuries.

The upper part of the bill, also known as a casque, is solid, unlike the hollow casques of other hornbill species. Its price on the illegal market is higher than that of elephant ivory. A casque weighs up to 350 grams (0.7 pounds); the average weight of an elephant tusk is five kilograms (11 pounds), though a big male’s tusk can weigh 10 times as much.

At least 2,170 heads and bill parts of helmeted hornbills were confiscated from the illegal trade in Indonesia and China between 2012 and 2014, TRAFFIC said.

Investigators found helmeted hornbill products being sold openly in Laos, a major transit point for wildlife traffickers that borders China, according to a TRAFFIC report released this month. Sale locations included a luxury hotel and convention center in central Vientiane, the capital, it said.

Indonesia said it has arrested more than 20 people in the helmeted hornbill trade and sentenced most of them. Penalties include up to five years in jail and a heavy fine.

On Saturday, rangers in Indonesia’s Gunung Leuser National Park arrested a suspected helmeted hornbill poacher with a rifle and silencer, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, or WCS, a group based in New York. The suspect had just entered the forest and did not have any bird parts.

“This species needs to be on people’s radars,” said Elizabeth Bennett, vice president of species conservation at WCS.

Illegal logging in Indonesia is shrinking the habitat of the helmeted hornbill. Conservationists fear poachers will focus on the Malaysian population once supply dries up in Indonesia.

The call of the helmeted hornbill is an intermittent, honking sound that slowly builds in tempo until it ends in what resembles, for some listeners, shrieks of laughter. Loud and long, the call helps poachers locate their prey.
The call of the helmeted hornbill is an intermittent, honking sound that slowly builds in tempo until it ends in what resembles, for some listeners, shrieks of laughter. Loud and long, the call helps poachers locate their prey.

 

A year after Cecil killing, threats to African lions grow

Some call it the “Cecil the lion effect.”

A year ago, an American killed a lion in Zimbabwe in what authorities said was an illegal hunt, infuriating people worldwide and invigorating an international campaign against trophy hunting in Africa. Some conservationists, however, warn there are greater threats to Africa’s beleaguered lion populations, including human encroachment on their habitats and the poaching of antelopes and other animals for food, a custom that deprives lions of prey.

The death of Cecil at Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park raised the profile of African lions on the “conservation radar,” but most substantive steps in lion conservation since then have been directed against trophy hunting rather than bigger problems depleting lion numbers, said Luke Hunter, president of Panthera, a conservation group. Those measures include airline bans on the transport of parts of lions, rhinos, elephants and other wild animals shot in hunts.

In a report marking the anniversary of Cecil’s death in early July 2015, Panthera and two other conservation groups — WildAid and WildCRU — estimated that it would take at least $1.25 billion a year to effectively manage all protected areas where African lions roam.

The groups advocated more protection for lion habitats, measures to stimulate tourism and economic growth unrelated to hunting, and the supply of alternative sources of protein to local people to reduce demand for wild animal meat. Restrictions on hunting should be tightened as more data emerges on whether trophy hunting of some threatened species is even sustainable, the report said.

The number of African lions in the wild has dropped by more than 40 percent to about 20,000 in the past two decades, according to estimates. Lion populations in West, Central and East Africa have dropped, though some conservation success has been recorded in the southern part of the continent.

Cecil, who wore a GPS collar and was being monitored by researchers, was killed in a protracted hunt in which he was, according to authorities, lured out of the wildlife park and initially wounded by an arrow. The death unleashed an extraordinary outpouring of anger at Walter Palmer, the American dentist who shot the lion, and other foreigners with means who have traveled to Africa to kill wildlife.

The hunting industry countered that it has a conservation role, channeling revenue from hunting back into wildlife areas that would otherwise end up as farms for livestock.

“Each (wildlife) population needs its own management plan,” said Stewart Dorrington, who hosts bow and arrow hunters at a wildlife area three hours by car from Johannesburg. He said in a telephone interview that some anti-hunting activists favor a “blanket statement” about the ills of all hunting across Africa.

Dorrington, who does not have lions at his Melorani Safaris hunting operation, said many hunting areas in South Africa are struggling to get foreign clients at the moment.

In December, the United States made it harder for American big-game hunters to bring a lion head or hide into the country, announcing that it would protect African lions under the Endangered Species Act. At least 11,000 lions were logged in the trophy hunting trade between 2004 to 2013, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, a conservation group.

Conservationists are also increasingly concerned about the use of lion bones to replace tiger bones in traditional medicine in parts of Asia, as well as for use in ceremonies in some African countries.

Hunter, the Panthera president, said lions are relatively easy to spot in some wildlife parks and leave the impression that their overall population is plentiful. Lions are social, active during the day and accustomed to vehicles, he said.

“They’re one of the top drawcards for tourists visiting Africa, in protected areas,” said Hunter, noting the death of Cecil had generated massive awareness about their plight. “I hope that it doesn’t go away.”

 

Wanted: Reward offered for arrest of burl poachers in Redwoods

Environmentalists are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the prosecution of burl poachers stealing the prized patterned old-growth wood from California’s Redwoods.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Redwood Parks Association and Save the Redwoods League announced the reward.

Burls are large natural protrusions on the trees. They can weigh hundreds of pounds and bring thousands of dollars. They are most prolific on the oldest trees, and they play a critical role in the regeneration of the redwoods on the Pacific coast. Removing the burls exposes the heart of the tree to further damage and threatens wildlife.

California authorities have in the past year reported a spike in poaching in an already threatened region — due to commercial logging, less than 5 percent of California’s original old-growth forest remains.

“California’s ancient redwoods really are some of the world’s greatest treasures,” said Justin Augustine of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We hope this reward will encourage people to come forward and help us bring an end to this appalling destruction so we can protect these beautiful trees for generations to come.”

Most of the old-growth redwoods in California are located in protected areas, either national or state parks.

“We are all responsible for protecting these magnificent trees and magical places,” said Sam Hodder, president and chief executive officer of Save the Redwoods League. “We will continue to work with our partners to create programs and protocols to prevent future destruction of our redwood parks and wildlife habitat.”

Coast redwoods regenerate one of two ways: from seedlings, which have a survival rate as low as 1 percent, and from burls, dormant bud material that develops in bumpy, bulbous knobs that can occur anywhere on the tree, most commonly near the ground. Redwood burls develop slowly as the tree grows, and can range from the size of a softball to several feet thick in diameter.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, when burls are cut from coast redwoods, the tree is injured in several ways:

1. Redwood bark provides a thick, insulating layer that protects the tree from insect infestation, fire and disease. By removing the bark and the cambium (the growing layer of the tree), the inner heartwood of the tree is exposed, increasing the risk of insect or fire damage and disease. The defacement of trees creates entry points for pathogens from which the tree may not recover. 

2. Since the burl is a primary tool for coast redwood reproduction, removing the burl may deny the tree its primary method of regeneration. A burl from a 2,000-year-old coast redwood can initiate growth of a new tree that can live for another 2,000 years, thus the Latin name for coast redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens, which means “forever living.” 

3. If the cuts are extensive, as in a number of recent cases, the structural integrity of the tree can be weakened to a point where it is threatened by high winds, floods or saturated ground. In these situations the canopy of the tree can also suffer extensive dieback and reduced vigor, further stressing the tree.

Burl poaching involves the cutting, often with chainsaws, of burls from both live and dead trees, including the felling of living old-growth redwood trees to access burls higher up the stem. There has been an increase in poaching incidents in recent years, including:

The removal of a burl nearly 8 feet tall, 5 feet wide and 4 feet deep;

The removal of at least 15 burls, some as large as 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide;

The felling of a 150-foot-tall, 400-year-old tree 4 feet in diameter to reach a large burl about 50 feet above the ground;

The removal of 24 burls from five old-growth trees next to a park road.

Reward offered for information in falcon shooting in West Allis

The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for illegally shooting an endangered peregrine falcon in West Allis.

The falcon was found in the early afternoon on Feb. 27 in the back yard of a bar at the 2200 block of 55th Street in West Allis, according to the Wisconsin Humane Society. X-rays revealed multiple pellets embedded in the bird, suggesting she had been wounded with a shotgun. The collar bone was fractured.

Peregrine falcons are protected under state and federal law.

“We are appalled at this kind of cruel disregard for an endangered species in our state,” said Melissa Tedrowe, Wisconsin state director for the HSUS, in a news release. “We are so thankful for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ diligent work to investigate this crime and bring the offenders to justice.”

The Wisconsin Humane Society’s wildlife rehabilitation staff members are caring for the bird.  

The investigation is being handled by the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

Anyone with information is asked to call the West Allis Crime Stoppers at 414-476-2274. Callers may remain anonymous.

The Humane Society says:

• Wildlife officials estimate that nationwide, tens of millions of animals are poached annually.

• It is estimated that only 1 percent to 5 percent of poached animals come to the attention of law enforcement.

• Poachers injure or kill wildlife anytime, anywhere and sometimes do so in particularly cruel ways. Wildlife officials report that poachers often commit other crimes as well.

• The HSUS and HSWLT work with state and federal wildlife agencies to offer rewards of $5,000 for information leading to arrest and conviction of suspected poachers.

On the Web …

http://www.we-energies.com/environmental/protect_wildlife.htm