People like Lt. Col Faye Cuevas, a war-veteran-turned-conservationist, are exactly what wildlife warriors need. Africa, teeming with poachers and bearing the brunt of climate change, was especially up for change. To make up for Africa’s lack of resources, a Canadian team put up a brigade in Mali to protect its dwindling elephant population.
The brigade combines rangers and army forces, a necessary pairing for protecting wildlife in this hostile territory, regularly crisscrossed by offshoots of Al Qaeda and bandits.
Since launching the brigade in February, there have been no run-ins with poachers. Mali, normally plagued by other traffickers and petty bandits, has come a long way.
“The work,” Sergeant Sangare [of the brigade] said, “it is love.”
The brigade, led by the Wild Foundation and International Conservation Fund of Canada, is the first foreign helping hand Mali has received in some time. With locals expressing their dire need for basic necessities, the groups have also stepped in as community lifelines. It seems to me this act of selflessness is rarer than any ivory on the market.
Following India’s campaign against the use of wild animals in circus shows, China has caved to international pressures. In a giant leap forward, the mass ivory consumer is finally placing a near-total ban on the material. Things will definitely be looking up for 30,000 African elephants slaughtered by poachers each year.
China and the U.S. both agreed to “near-complete” ivory bans, which prohibit the buying and selling of all but a limited number of antiques and a few other items.
Ivory is in demand for intricate carvings, trinkets, chopsticks, and other items.
With no proven clinical use, ivory used as medication is purely based on superstition. Despite previous international bans, China has consistently managed to quietly condone black market trade — until now.
“The Chinese government’s ban on its domestic ivory trade sends a message to the general public in China that the life of elephants is more important than the ivory carving culture,” said Gao Yufang, a Ph.D. student in conservation biology.
With no means to curve laws, China is finally bound to the positively inescapable ban. There is no guarantee to a drop in poaching, but when society gets it, it seems everything falls naturally into place.
From banning their inclusion in recreational hunting and circus shows, bears are off to a great start in the new year. While those in the wild are frolicking in undisturbed freedom, those kept illegally are still waiting for rescue. For two of Nepal’s last known dancing bears, the delay has come to an end with the help of the Jane Goodall Institute of Nepal.
“We know that Rangila and Sridevi were suffering in captivity since they [were] poached from the wild and their muzzles were pierced with hot iron rods,” [said] Neil D’Cruze of World Animal Protection.
Despite the 1973 ban, bear dancing has permeated throughout Nepal. Many handlers turned to violent training methods, even removing the bears’ teeth. While rescue doesn’t liberate an animal from psychological trauma, extensive rehabilitation usually gets the job done.
“They will need long-term, specialized care, but many bears rescued from bear dancing and baiting have been able to live out the rest of their lives peacefully in sanctuaries,” [D’Cruze] said.
Both middle-aged, it’s about time Rangila and Sridevi received a hard-earned break!
Thanks to influencers like Leonardo DiCaprio, endangered animals are receiving the rehabilitation they deserve. Still, many involved in black markets will find ways to exploit rare species. Activists are praising Indonesian authorities for rescuing 101 pangolins smuggled on a fishing boat.
“After border protection by the Indonesian customs increased and more than 10 arrests with tons of frozen pangolins happened in the [major] seaports, the traffickers changed their modus,”
The most trafficked animal in the world, pangolins are delicacies in Vietnam and China. Many pay thousands of dollars to pair their scales with other medical treatments. Scientifically, pangolin scales have no curative elements and belong exactly where they are now — on pangolins.
It’s unknown exactly how many pangolins are left in the wild, but scientists have classified the four Asian species as endangered or critically endangered, meaning they face a very high risk of extinction.
Of the 101 rescued critters, 4 bit the dust. National parks are now home to the remainder. Indonesia is a frontrunner in the illegal wildlife trade, exploiting billions of dollars a year. If exploiting a single pangolin earns you five years jail-time and $7,300, poaching may not be the most attractive industry — nor should it ever be.
In the grand scheme of trying to make the world a better place, we sometimes forget about protecting our wildlife. Every now and then, a war veteran will fight for elephant rights, or a president will adopt a dog. Now, Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, along with the Wildlife Conservation Network, is working to save lions from extinction through the Lion Recovery Fund.
“100% of every dollar raised will go directly to the partners in the field with zero administrative fees or overhead.”
“We’re losing our planet’s wildlife – even such iconic species as the African Lion – at a dangerously rapid pace. An astonishingly small amount of philanthropic dollars go towards protecting wildlife‚ but together we can turn that around.”
Lion conservation is not just about hard work — it demands collaboration. This means wildlife organizations, governments, and donor communities all need to play an active role, and fast. Current lion populations are a tenth of what they used to be just a century ago.
“More than 26 countries have already lost their lion populations and without action‚ lions may disappear from many of their remaining strongholds‚”
We are losing the species to habitat loss via agriculture and deforestation, poaching, and invasion of wild lands. While I wish it didn’t take celebrity endorsements to encourage action, it may be the drive we need at the moment.
Wildlife rehabilitation is now going beyond the animal-loving circle. From grand endeavors by Chile to save endangered penguins to household efforts sheltering bats, everyone seems to be in on the action. Latest to join the party is Kazakhstan, which is reintroducing wild tigers back into the country after 70 years.
“Thanks to years of close collaboration between Kazakhstan and Russian conservation experts, we have now identified the best possible territory in Ili-Balkhash for the restoration of a thriving wild tiger population.” [said WWF-Russia director Igor Chestin]
The project will erect a nature preserve and restore forests that initially hosted the wild tigers. If all go according to plan, Kazakhstan will be the first country in the world to restore an extinct population of wild tigers.
“Kazakhstan is moving along the path of green development. We are honoured to be the first country in central Asia to implement such an important and large-scale project, that not only will bring wild tigers back to their ancestral home but also protect the unique ecosystem of the Ili-Balkhash region.”
Kazakhstan saw the end of its tiger community in the 1940s. Worldwide, wild tigers have lost some 90% of their historical range. Now, the country has poachers on their toes. As an animal enthusiast myself, I’m looking forward to anticipating the success of such an ambitious project.