America to destroy ivory stockpile

In a clear signal of its intention to tackle wildlife crime, the US Government announced today that it will destroy six tonnes of ivory stockpiled in a secure government warehouse.

Confiscated by government law enforcement officials over the past 25 years, the stockpile of ivory will be fed into an industrial sized crushing machine in front of visiting dignitaries and television cameras to send a message to poachers and wildlife trackers that the US government is committed to breaking up the illegal ivory trade.

Unfortunately, according to the Guardian website, this six tonne stockpile is only half of what was seized from the black market in Xiamen city, China, this week alone. Despite an international ban on ivory trade that was brought in two decades ago, the demand for elephant ivory has boomed after a relaxation in regulations, driven in part by wealthy Asian buyers who see ivory as a status symbol. Poaching is a significant and very worrying threat to African Elephants.

However, the US government is determined to tackle wildlife crime and illegal wildlife trade. As well as destroying this stockpile of ivory, an initiative called the Global Clinton Initiative was launched by Hillary and Chelsea Clinton in September this year which saw USD 80 million pledged towards a crackdown on poaching hotspots in Africa.

Working with conservation organisations and a number of African governments, the funds provided by the Global Clinton Initiative will be used to hire and train 3,100 park rangers at 50 sites in eastern and central Africa; to fund sniffer-dog teams along the top smuggling routes; and to train law-enforcement officials and judges responsible for prosecuting international trafficking gangs. Money will also be used to lobby governments to ban commercial ivory sales until elephant populations have returned to sustainable levels.

The ivory stockpile in America will be destroyed this coming Thursday 14 November and US diplomats have already begun encouraging other governments to carry out their own high profile eliminations of stockpiles and demonstrate that they too are serious about tackling wildlife crime.

A piece of carved ivory or an ivory bangle may look beautiful but it represents a living creature that has been slaughtered for nothing more than its tusks. The only place ivory belongs is on an elephant and this is where it should stay.

You can find out more about America’s plans to destroy its ivory stockpile here.

Find out more about the Clinton Global Initiative’s efforts to tackle elephant poaching here.

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Elvis, the beagle in training to sniff out polar bear pregnancy

This week is Polar Bear Week and I was going to celebrate by sharing some polar bear facts with you but then I came across a story so sublimely eccentric I had to share it with you.

Denver Zoo has enlisted the help of a beagle called Elvis to sniff poo in an attempt to identify if their polar bear called Cranbeary is pregnant!

Elvis and his marvellous nose has a talent for identifying pregnant females by sniffing samples of poo, so scientists at Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) are putting him through his paces to determine if he can correctly predict if a polar bear is pregnant.

According to Denver Zoo, female polar bears behave differently when pregnant, preferring to isolate themselves and not eating, drinking or defecating for months. If zoo keepers know their female polar bear is pregnant, she can be treated accordingly and given some peace and quiet. Females that aren’t pregnant prefer to socialise with others.

The scientists at CREW will reveal Elvis’ predictions in a few weeks’ time but in the meantime, Polar Bear Week will continue until 10 November. Organised by Polar Bears International, the week aims to raise awareness about the polar bear and its habitats.

Find out more about Elvis and Cranbeary here.

Learn more about Polar Bear Week here.

For photos, videos, and more facts about polar bears visit the ARKive website.

Rare cat caught on camera

A photo of an elusive cat, the size of a domestic cat and reddish or grey in colour, has caused a stir of excitement. Rarely seen and captured on film just a few times before, camera traps have revealed that the Bornean Bay Cat (Pardofelis badia) is surviving in heavily logged areas of Borneo’s rainforest.

Camera traps set up in a study by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Imperial College found the Bornean Bay Cat and four other cat species including the Sunda Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi), Leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), Flat-headed Cat (Prionailurus planiceps) and Marbled Cat (Pardofelis marmorata) living in a heavily logged area of forest where they were not expected to thrive.

Listed as Endangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the major threat to the Bornean Bay Cat is commercial logging and the continued spread of oil palm plantations on the island of Borneo that result in the loss of natural rainforest and the habitat it provides for many species. The evidence that endangered cats are living in areas where logging occurs is a good sign for their future survival.

ZSL and Imperial College will continue to study the effects of logging on wildlife populations, not just on cats, but on other mammals both large and small, and less charismatic animals will not be forgotten either. Information gathered in the study will lead to the development of ways in which oil plantations can be more mammal friendly and determine the best options for preventing the loss of Borneo’s mammals.

See this elusive cat for yourself on the ZSL website.

Great news for Spoon-billed Sandpiper

I’ll admit that I have a particular soft spot for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus) but news that 140 of these Critically Endangered birds were sighted on a stretch of coastline north of Shangai, China, is a real boost to efforts being made to save this species from extinction.

Named after its spoon-shaped bill, the Spoon-billed Sandpiper flies a remarkable 8,000 km as it migrates between breeding grounds in north-eastern Russia and wintering sites in Bangladesh and Myanmar. Along the way, it stops at inter-tidal wetlands in Japan, North Korea, South Korea, China and Vietnam to feed and rest. Unfortunately, reclamation of tidal flats for industry, infrastructure, and aquaculture is a great threat to the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and this, along with hunting at its wintering sites, is thought to have contributed to a decline in numbers.

Between 15 – 19 October this year, an international team from the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Taskforce carried out a survey along a 120 km stretch of coastline between Dongtai and Rudong in China, one of the stopping points used by the Spoon-billed Sandpiper to refuel on its long journey. A record total of 140 Spoon-billed Sandpipers as well as a fantastic 1,200 Endangered Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) were recorded, demonstrating the area’s importance for migratory birds.

Luckily, this confirmation of the area’s importance as a stopover point has prompted local authorities to announce the creation of a protected area for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper which will also provide sanctuary for other species using the inter-tidal wetlands.

Conservation efforts to increase numbers of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper will continue and Dr Evgeny Syroechkovskiy of the Russian Ministry for Natural Resources, SBS Task Force Chair, has also said that he will encourage his ministry to, “include both, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann’s Greenshank, which breed exclusively in Russia, into the recently signed bilateral agreement on migratory bird conservation between China and Russia.”

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper may not yet be out of the danger zone but this survey gives a positive indication that the species can be saved, and will spur on those who are working hard to make sure it is.

For photos and more information about the work being done to save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper from extinction visit the Saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper website.

Information about the Spoon-billed Sandpiper can also be found on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.