Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hunters kill one of last surviving Amur leopards

Further to my last post, I now sadly add this one as a classic example of how close we are coming to losing the most beautiful and awe inspiring creatures on the planet.

Hunters in Russia's Far East have shot and killed one of the last seven surviving female Amur leopards living in the wild, WWF said on Monday, driving the species even closer to extinction.

Last week environmentalists said there were only between 25 and 34 Amur leopards -- described as one of the most graceful cats in the world -- still living in the wild.

At least 100 are needed to guarantee the species' survival which depends upon female leopards breeding.

"Leopard murder can only be provoked by cowardice or stupidity, in this case most likely by both," Pavel Fomenko, WWF's biodiversity coordinator in Russia's Far East said in a statement.

A hunter shot the leopard through the tail bone. It tumbled over and was then beaten over the head with a heavy object, WWF said. Amur leopards have not been known to attack humans.

Environmentalists have urged the Russian government to introduce tighter controls on its national parks in the Far East to crack down on leopard hunting.

They also want more done to protect the animal's natural environment and food supply, which they say is being destroyed by human development.

A local wildlife watchdog received an anonymous tip-off that a leopard had been killed. State wildlife officers found the dead animal after a day of searching.

The leopard died three days after my last post.

I urge everyone to read my last post and take this message to heart. The time for leaving this issue to the goodwill of wildlife organisations has passed, it is time to recognise that the battle to save critically endangered species from extinction has been lost and the ONLY hope now, lies with our political leaders.

The current political thinking on this matter, is that the subject does not rank as important enough for them to do anything about it. Organisations such as WWF can be left to deal with the matter and if we lose the great animals of the world so be it, and this is exactly what is coming to pass.

Future generations will write volumes in condemnation of our current leaders for their wilful neglect of treasures so important, they have taken millions of years to evolve and can never be replaced.

It is imperative that we act now to open the eyes of our politicians before it is too late. They have to wake up and change their attitude now and give this issue the importance it deserves.

Yesterday it was announced that there are only 100 South China tigers left. How many people read that? not many I'm sure, as it would only qualify for an 'and finally' mention on the news if at all, the latest goings on in Hollywood or what minister should resign today being deemed much more newsworthy. What a self absorbed species we are.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Are we saving the tiger?

No, We are not saving the tiger. The tigers future existence on this planet will be decided between a bunch of criminal animal traffickers and the whims of a handful of bureaucrats in the Indian government.

We have nothing to do with it. Despite our valiant efforts, our fundraising activities and our awareness campaigns over the last 35 years the tiger is now more endangered than ever before and it is now beginning to look like it's fate has been sealed.

It's time to tell it like it is, and to expose the myth that giving donations to wildlife charities is enough to save the last wild tigers from extinction. The amounts raised by the private sector are quite simply, too little too late and in any event, they are like providing funds for homewatch schemes with a hope they will prevent organized crime or sending donations to Africa believing it will put an immediate end to poverty and starvation and unlike the humanitarian disasters in Africa, the crucial difference with tigers is that once the they are gone, they are gone forever.

Is this acceptable? Is it right that we have absolutely no say in whether our children grow up in a world where tigers still roam pristine forests or whether they learn about them as they learn about Dinosaurs, as magnificent relics of a bygone age. I for one, do not find the current situation at all acceptable.

Who owns tigers anyway? Surely if they are wild, nobody 'owns' them, certainly not exclusively the group of humans who accidentally find themselves living next to them. If they belong to anything it is to the entire world. They are part of the magnificent biodiversity of this planet, they are perhaps the most awe inspiring and beautiful creatures that have ever lived and like so many things in life, we will only realize how much we loved and needed them when they are gone.
We will all feel their loss and we therefore should have a say in what happens to them. We have a share in them and that share currently has no rights.

We have no rights and yet we have responsibility. If we let them go extinct countless generations will suffer and they will not look kindly upon our generation who stood by and allowed this catastrophe to occur.

The time has come for a reality check regarding the many critically endangered species facing extinction within the next few decades. Politicians have for too long sat back and relied upon the good will of the general public to save them. This policy is clearly not working and a radical rethink is urgently required if these magnificent animals are to survive. The time for playing fast and loose with the worlds richest treasures is over.

I do not wish to criticize or belittle the efforts of fundraisers, conservationists, or wildlife organisations. They have done a magnificent job and clearly, many species would have long since died out if it were not for their efforts, but the status quo of having these animals teetering forever on the brink of extinction cannot continue. It only takes a regional conflict or a surge in the market for animal products and it is all over.

Tigers deserve more than this and we deserve better than this in an enlightened age where the longterm survival of these animals could easily be acheived, if only the political will of governments, not just private individuals was brought to bear.

Politicians are extraordinarily short sighted individuals, and the current generation seems blissfully unaware of the scathing condemnation that will be heaped upon them by future generations should they be stupid enough to allow the extinction of something so precious as the tiger to occur. This is a serious issue, and yet I sense people are becoming tired of hearing about endangered species, they are becoming complacent and there will widespread shock when the news finally hits home that all the tigers in the world are gone, never to return. Only then I fear, will people wake up and they will be extremely angry.

So what should be done?

Nations have recently shown themselves capable of agreeing international action over such things as climate change. Are endangered species not every bit as important as that? The time has come for Governments to say that species such as the mountain gorilla or the tiger are too important to be the sole responsibility of the country in which the animals live. Another war in Rwanda for instance, could be enough to wipe out the last remining mountain gorillas. This is no longer tolerable. Similarly, an inept Indian government that takes it's eye off the ball is all that it takes for tiger poaching to become widespread as has been demonstrated recently. This can no longer go on, just as no country would be allowed to pollute indescriminately, no country should be allowed sit back whilst the worlds natural heritage is lost forever.

As with climate change, international agreement should be reached at the United Nations. An international organization should be set up providing funds, manpower and expertize to help countries protect the national parks containing critically endangered species. Targets should be agreed for the increase in populations of such species and independant inspection by experts in the field should be regularly carried out. Rewards for good custody of the parks and Penalties for nations failing to properly manage them should also apply. The time for all this being done on goodwill alone has passed. It has been a failure and cannot continue.

In cases of emergency, U.N. personell should be deployed to conflict zones to ensure the integrity of park boundaries.

This may all sound far fetched but it is not beyond our politicians to acheive it. The only thing lacking is the will to do it and the vision to see how incredibly important this issue really is.

If the day dawns when we no longer have tigers, mountain gorillas or orangutans, people will ask why this wasn't done and it will seem so obvious that it should have been.