Tag Archives: poaching

MoveOn, Humane Society launch ‘I’m with Purr’ push for Clinton

 MoveOn.org Political Action and the Humane Society Legislative Fund  teamed up to launch a new online ad highlighting Hillary Clinton’s record of animal protection and her “expansive” pro-animal campaign platform.

The ad was developed after MoveOn members said protecting animals is a key issue for them and the Humane Society Legislative Fund endorsed Clinton for president.

MoveOn.org represents millions of progressive members nationwide, according to a news release, and HSLF is a nonpartisan political advocacy organization that makes endorsements based on a candidate’s support for animal protection policies.

In their announcement for the campaign, the groups said: “During her eight years in the U.S. Senate, Hillary Clinton was a consistent supporter of animal protection policies, earning a 100 percent score in HSLF’s Humane Scorecard for the 108th Congress, a perfect 100 score in the 109th and an 83 in the 110th.”

In Congress, Clinton:

• Led efforts to stop the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals, which allow them to be crammed into overcrowded, stressful and unsanitary factory farms;

• Cosponsored legislation to prohibit the transport and receipt of horses to be slaughtered for human consumption;

• Cosponsored the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act  (S. 261) to prohibit the interstate transfer of animals for animal fighting;

• Cosponsored the Downed Animal Protection Act (S. 1779) to stop the processing of “downer” livestock;

• Cosponsored the Puppy Protection Act (S. 1478) to crack down on abusive “puppy mills” where dogs are treated like production machines;

• Signed letters requesting funds for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to step up enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the federal animal fighting law

The statement from the groups said as secretary of state, Clinton led international efforts to crack down on wildlife trafficking and, through her work at the Clinton Foundation, she helped launch a major campaign against the illegal ivory trade and poaching of elephants.

Here’s the transcript of “I’m With Purr”: Humans aren’t the only ones with a stake in this election. Hillary has a bold platform to protect animals and wildlife.  She wants to:  Strengthen “puppy mill” regulations.  Reduce the overuse of antibiotics.  Pass the “Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture Act.”  Vote Hillary Clinton.  #ImWithPurr.

Bogus guide, client from Wisconsin guilty of poaching in Canada

Two Wisconsin men were found guilty of illegal guiding and poaching across the border in Canada and it’s partly because of their own Facebook posts that they were caught.

U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad of the Eastern District of Wisconsin announced the two Milwaukee-area men pleaded guilty in federal court for violating the Lacey Act and lying about it to a federal officer. The violations are related to the unlawful importation of wildlife into the United States that had been killed in Ontario, Canada, in violation of Canadian law.

In late 2013, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry conservation officers looked into complaints relating to the illegal hunting activities of Reid Viertel, of West Allis,  and various associates, including Terry Schmit, of Franklin. The complaints partly were based on public Facebook posts by Viertel and Schmit in which they bragged about their successful hunting trips in Canada.

As a part of their investigation, Canadian officials reached out to a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to interview the men. Together, with assistance from wardens with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Law Enforcement, the agent learned this was much more than a hunting trip.

At the time of the interviews, Viertel was suspected of operating an illegal guiding service in Ontario to hunt for wolves, bear and white-tailed deer and was also suspected of poaching on those trips.

Viertel, a medically-retired firefighter, was doing business as Hero Driven Outfitters during this time, a self-described nonprofit whose mission, as noted on the group’s Facebook page was “to take disabled firefighters, law enforcement officers, and military personnel to the woods hunting and fishing.”

Schmit was one of those clients.

As a part of this scheme, Schmit was suspected of killing a black bear illegally during his trip in Ontario and allegedly used a bear license from a mentally disabled Canadian resident to make his black bear look legitimate.

“Wildlife crime knows no borders and I commend our Canadian counterparts, Wisconsin’s conservation wardens and our special agents for a solid investigation,” Edward Grace, deputy assistant director for law enforcement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, stated in a news release.

Along with Canadian law enforcement agents, the Wisconsin-based investigative team determined that Viertel shot and killed a timber wolf in February 2012 without having an Ontario license.

The team also determined that in August 2013, Schmit traveled to Ontario with Viertel, where Schmit had shot and killed a black bear, also without a license. Schmit used a bear license from a Canadian resident to make his bear kill look legitimate. In both instances, Viertel falsified export documents from Ontario for the purpose of illegally importing the animal carcasses into the United States.

“This case illustrates the partnership that takes place among conservation agencies,” stated Todd Schaller, chief warden with the Bureau of Law Enforcement in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

In June, Schmit pleaded guilty to a single count of violating the Lacey Act, and was sentenced to a $1,000 fine, the forfeiture of the black bear, and a ban on hunting, fishing, and/or trapping in North America until Jan. 1, 2019.

Following this verdict, Viertel pleaded guilty to two offenses and was sentenced to three years of probation, to include at least 25 hours per year of environmental community service, forfeiture of the wolf and black bear, and a ban on hunting, fishing, and/or trapping in North America until Jan. 1, 2021.

Viertel also was ordered to serve the 2016 deer gun season from Nov. 19 through Nov. 27 in the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and to pay the cost of his incarceration.

In the court proceedings, Haanstad said “the prosecution of offenders who intentionally violate wildlife laws helps protect and preserve natural resources both within and outside the United States.”

The prosecution was handled by assistant U.S Attorney Paul L. Kanter.

The court case follows the Canadian proceedings from December 2015, when Viertel and Schmit were convicted and collectively fined a total of $11,000 for a number of infractions.

In addition to these fines, Viertel lost his Canadian hunting privileges for 15 years and Schmit’s lost his for five years.

The Lacey Act

The Lacey Act is a federal law enforced by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service that makes it illegal to knowingly transport or sell wildlife taken in violation of state, federal, tribal and foreign laws or regulations. The act defines the sale of wildlife to include the sale of guiding services for the illegal taking of wildlife. When the act was passed in 1900, it became the first federal law to protect wildlife. It enforces civil and criminal penalties for the illegal trade of animals and plants. Today, it regulates the import of any species protected by international or domestic law and prevents the spread of invasive, or non-native, species

As Zimbabwe seeks to extradite American who slaughtered lion, donations pour in for conservation group

EDITOR’S NOTE: Corrects money raised to U.S. dollars

A pair of U.S. philanthropists with a passion for wild cats pledged Friday to match new donations to Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Unit — the researchers who were tracking the movements of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.

Tom Kaplan, a natural resource investor whose net worth was put by Forbes magazine at $1 billion, and his wife, Daphne, will match donations made after 3 p.m. London time Friday up to a total value of $100,000. The Kaplans hope to help the Oxford researchers raise half a million pounds to further their work.

More than the equivalent of half a million in U.S. dollars has already been raised from all over the world — $150,000 of it in the 24 hours after Jimmy Kimmel made a tearful plea for funding to assist WildCRU’s conservation efforts.

David McDonald, the director and founder of WildCRU, thanked Kimmel with a message on the organization’s website that said: “Jimmy Kimmel implored his millions of listeners in the USA to make donations to support our work on lions, and conservation more widely. We are so grateful for this and for the up-welling of support for our work worldwide.”

Kaplan said he was spurred into action to maintain the conservation momentum that Cecil’s death sparked.

“We have to seize this moment where we can all make a difference,” Tom Kaplan said in a statement, adding that if the “death of Cecil can lead to the saving of many more lions, then some good can come from tragedy.”

The pledge comes hours after Zimbabwe started extradition proceedings for the American dentist who paid two locals $50,000 to help him lure the lion out of a national park under cover of night and shot him with a crossbow. The wounded lion roamed for 40 hours in pain before the three men found, shot, skinned and decapitated the beloved animal.

Walter Palmer “had a well-orchestrated agenda which would tarnish the image of Zimbabwe and further strain the relationship between Zimbabwe and the USA,” Oppah Muchinguri, the African nation’s environment minister, told CNN.

But the Bloomington, Minnesota, dentist apparently has gone in to hiding. He briefly hired a public relations agency, but the firm quickly dropped him as a client. His business and suburban Minneapolis McMansion have been shuttered and all of his social media profiles have been erased.

A representative of Palmer’s contacted the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement late yesterday, but Palmer has yet to surface.

Cecil was not the first large mammal doomed to an illegal death by “trophy hunter” Palmer. The Bloomington, Minnesota, resident was convicted of poaching a black bear he killed in Wisconsin several years ago.

Records also show that Palmer had other impulse-control issues. His dental practice’s insurance company paid $127,000 to settle a sexual harassment complaint filed against him by a former receptionist there.

Palmer, who donated $5,000 to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, was also ordered to take management and ethics classes.

The slaughter of Cecil, a protected and internationally beloved resident of Hwange National Park, has touched off international outrage and sparked a worldwide conversation as to how to best safeguard the dwindling number of big cats. It has also harmed the local economy. Zimbabwe officials estimated that Cecil brought the area about $100,000 in tourism.

Oxford’s WildCRU, one of the world’s top university research groups, tracks the movements of hundreds of lions and runs an anti-poaching team. It also works with local farmers to help them live alongside the lions. It had followed Cecil’s movements in minute detail since 2008.

To make a donation to WildCRU from North America, click here.

Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer sought in illegal slaughter of Cecil, a protected and beloved lion, in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean police said Tuesday they are searching for American tourist Water Palmer, a Minnesota dentist who allegedly shot a beloved, protected lion known as Cecil with a crossbow in a killing that has outraged conservationists and others.  A petition calling for justice for the lion has topped more than 332,000 signatures. (Sign petition demanding justice for Cecil.)

Authorities on Tuesday said two Zimbabwean men will appear in court for allegedly helping lure the lion outside of its protected area to kill it. The American faces poaching charges, according to police spokeswoman Charity Charamba.

The American allegedly paid $50,000 to hunt the lion, Zimbabwean conservationists said, though the hunter and is local partners maintain they didn’t know the lion they killed was protected.

Palmer, a Minnesota dentists, was identified on Tuesday by both the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force and the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe as the American hunter, a name that police then confirmed. 

This was not the first time that Palmer, an avid hunter, has run afoul of the law in his pursuit of big game. He pleaded guilty in 2008 to making false statements to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about a black bear he fatally shot in western Wisconsin outside of the authorized hunting zone, according to court documents.

“We arrested two people and now we are looking for Palmer in connection with the same case,” Charamba said.

Emmanuel Fundira, the president of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, said at a news conference that Palmer’ current whereabouts were unknown.

Palmer issued a statement saying he was unaware that the lion was so well known and part of a study.

“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt,” he said, maintaining that to his knowledge, everything about the hunt had been legal.

Attempts to reach Palmer, 55, at his two listed home numbers and his office by phone and in person were unsuccessful. Palmer’s River Bluff dental practice in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, is shuttered.

This was not the first time Palmer has run afoul of the law in pursuit of his blood sport. The avid hunter pleaded guilty in 2008 to making false statements to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about a black bear he fatally shot in western Wisconsin outside of the authorized hunting zone, according to court documents.

The two arrested Zimbabwean men — a professional hunter and a farm owner — face poaching charges, the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority and the Safari Operators Association said in a joint statement. Killing the lion was illegal because the farm owner did not have a hunting permit, the joint statement said. The lion was skinned and beheaded. The hunters tried to destroy the lion’s collar, fitted with a tracking device, but failed, the statement said.

If convicted, the men face up to 15 years in prison.

The lion is believed to have been killed on July 1 in western Zimbabwe’s wildlife-rich Hwange region, its carcass discovered days later by trackers, the statement said.

The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said in a statement that an American paid the $50,000 for the hunt. During a nighttime hunt, the men tied a dead animal to their car to lure the lion out of a national park, said Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force. The American is believed to have shot it with a crossbow, injuring the animal. The wounded, suffering lion was found 40 hours later, and shot dead with a gun, Rodrigues said in the statement. 

Cecil was then skinned and decapitated, presumably so Palmer would have the head — or “trophy” — preserved and mounted on a wall.

“The saddest part of all is that now that Cecil is dead, the next lion in the hierarchy, Jericho will most likely kill all Cecil’s cubs,” said Rodrigues.

The Zimbabwean hunter accused in the case claimed that Cecil was not specifically targeted, and the group only learning after the fact that they had killed a well-known lion, according to the Safari Operators Association.

Cecil, recognizable by his black mane, was being studied by an Oxford University research program, the conservation group said.

Tourists regularly spotted his characteristic mane in the park over the last 13 years, said Lion Aid, also a conservation group.

Associated Press reporters Amy Forliti in Bloomington, Minnesota, and Brian Bakst in St. Paul, Minnesota, contributed to this report.


Reward offered after throats of 14 pelicans are slashed, 10 die

Two national organizations — the Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust — are offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for slashing the throat pouches of 14 brown pelicans in South Florida, leaving 10 dead and another four injured.

This adds to existing rewards totaling $6,000 offered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and a local construction company. FWC is investigating the incidents, which occurred in January.

Over a period of a few weeks, the pelicans began turning up on Cudjoe Key and in areas from Sugarloaf Key to Big Pine Key. Officers believe the injuries were intentionally inflicted on the birds with a sharp knife. Slitting the throats of pelicans, who use their pouches to skim the water and collect fish, causes them to suffer agonizingly slow deaths from starvation. 

Kate MacFall, Florida state director for The HSUS, said, “The particularly gruesome and malicious nature of the attacks on these pelicans, who pose no threat to anyone, is heartbreaking. Whoever is serially mutilating these animals must be caught and severely punished. We are so thankful to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for their determination to find those responsible.”

Pelicans have suffered from a rash of violence in Florida, including two other attacks in January. A local bird rescue found 18 pelicans near Jacksonville that were beaten and suffering from severely broken wings.

In a separate incident in Fort Lauderdale, a teenager faces criminal charges for allegedly torturing a pelican with vapor from an electronic cigarette and suffocating the bird to death. In 2013 and 2014, at least 10 pelicans were victims of throat-slashing.

Pesticides, trophy hunting and mass killing by fishermen decimated brown pelican populations in the early 1900s. While their century-long recovery effort is considered by many to be a major conservation success story, they still face serious threats from oil spills, habitat destruction, entanglement in fishing lines, and the disappearance of major food sources.

Brown pelicans were removed from the Endangered Species List in 2009 but remain protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as a State Species of Special Concern by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule.

Harming a brown pelican is punishable by fines and jail time.

Poaching:

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

Reward offered for information leading to arrest of dolphin killer

The Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust are offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for shooting a pregnant dolphin in Miramar Beach, Florida.

This adds to an existing reward of $2,500 offered by Whale and Dolphin Conservation. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating the crime, which happened just before Thanksgiving.  

The dolphin, who was within weeks of giving birth, was found dead on Miramar Beach on Nov. 21, but may have been shot two days prior to discovery. She suffered a gunshot wound, most likely from a small caliber firearm, on her upper right side. A bullet was lodged in her lungs.

Kate MacFall, Florida state director for The Humane Society, said, “This bottlenose dolphin and her near-term calf are among the latest victims of a disturbing rise in brutal attacks on dolphins over the past decade in Florida and other Gulf Coast states. It’s tragic that anyone would perpetrate such senseless violence against these smart and playful animals. We are thankful for NOAA’s efforts to bring the offender to justice and strongly encourage the Florida community to help solve this crime.”

This dolphin was killed just weeks before the discovery of another bottlenose dolphin in Alabama, who had been shot with an arrow and suffered for several days before dying from infection.

NOAA positively identified the person responsible in that case after a $24,000 reward — provided by The HSUS, the Trust, seven other organizations, and a private resident—prompted an informant to supply critical information about the crime. 

At least 13 dolphins have been shot in the Gulf of Mexico since 2010, and there are likely other incidents that have gone undiscovered. In addition to direct attacks by humans, bottlenose dolphins also suffer from entanglement in fishing gear, habitat loss, pollution, collisions with boats, and other threats. People are encouraged not to feed dolphins as it can encourage them to approach boats, creating conflict with fishermen and resulting in harm to the animals.

Dolphins are a protected species. Harming a dolphin is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and is punishable by criminal penalties up to $100,000 and one year incarceration. Civil penalties up to $11,000 per count may also be assessed.

Anyone with information concerning the death is asked to call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Callers may remain anonymous.

Poaching:

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