News, announcements and updates from the EAZA Executive Office and the wider EAZA community. You can have new stories delivered directly to you by subscribing to the RSS feed for this blog. For information on upcoming events please visit the calendar.
Poachers have entered one of Africa's most unique elephant habitats on Monday, threatening to cause one of the biggest elephant massacres in the region since poachers killed at least 300 elephants for their ivory in Cameroon's Bouba N'Djida National Park in February 2012.
According to WWF sources, a group of 17 armed individuals on Monday entered the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park and headed for the Dzanga Bai, locally known as the "village of elephants", a large clearing where between 50 and 200 elephants congregate every day to drink mineral salts present in the sands.
Two WWF-supported local researchers said that three members of this group armed with Kalashnikov rifles approached them in the forest on Monday, asking for food and directions to the viewing tower at the Dzanga Bai, which is used by scientists and tourists to observe elephants. After giving a false lead, these sources immediately ran away and heard gunshots coming from the Bai on their way into hiding.
Also on Monday, two ecoguards said they saw they saw armed individuals on the Dzanga Bai observation platform shooting in the direction of elephants. While going into hiding, these sources said they saw the vehicle which had transported the 17 gunmen parked at the entrance of the park.
"Unless swift and decisive action is taken, it appears highly likely that poachers will take advantage of the chaos and instability of the country to slaughter the elephants living in this unique World Heritage Site' says Jim Leape, WWF International Director General.
WWF calls on the international community to help restore peace and order in the Central African Republic, which has been rocked by violence and chaos since the beginning of the year, and to help preserve this unique World Heritage Site.
Jim Leape: "We also urge Cameroon and Republic of Congo to provide support to the Central African Republic in preserving this World Heritage Site, which not only encompasses the Bai, but also includes large neighbouring areas of these two countries. Finally, ivory consumer country governments, and notably China and Thailand, must redouble their efforts to end demand – the root cause of the extermination of elephants across Africa."
More info here:
UN official alarmed over rising violence in Central African Republic nature reserve
17 poachers allegedly enter elephant stronghold in Congo, conservationists fear massacre
IUCN has produced a series of Fact Sheets showing which EU countries host the highest number of species threatened at the European level. The Fact Sheets present a detailed overview of species threatened at the European level in all 27 EU Member States. The analysis draws upon data from the European Red List which has assessed around 6,000 European species (mammals, reptiles, amphibians, freshwater fishes, butterflies, dragonflies, and selected groups of beetles, molluscs, and vascular plants) according to IUCN regional Red Listing guidelines. Assessments of pollinators, marine fishes, birds and medicinal plants are currently under development.
The analysis shows that the highest share of species threatened in the European Union can be found in the Mediterranean region which hosts most of Europe's biodiversity. Spain, Portugal and Greece host the highest proportion of species threatened with extinction at the European level. Of the 2,032 species assessed which occur in Spain, 21% are considered threatened at the European level. Fifteen percent of the 1,215 European species occurring in Portugal are threatened, and the same is true for 14% of the 1,684 European species found in Greece.
Of the species assessed so far, freshwater species – including fishes, molluscs and amphibians – are at the highest risk, with species such as the European Eel (Anguilla anguilla) and the Freshwater Pearl Mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) being particularly threatened. The status of terrestrial molluscs, dragonflies and mammals, such as the European Mink (Mustela lutreola) also raises significant concern. Species are mainly threatened by the loss, fragmentation and degradation of their habitat, due in large part to agricultural and urban expansion, construction of dams and water pollution. While effective conservation action in the Mediterranean is needed urgently, the study calls on all EU Member States to take adequate measures to reverse the current population declines and fully implement the EU Biodiversity Strategy.
Conservation works and species can be saved from extinction but a combination of sound research and greater coordinated efforts are needed. The IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM is an important tool for prioritising conservation action, guiding policy and preventing continued extinctions.
The Fact Sheets can be consulted here
On Wednesday 3 April the team at the EAZA Executive Office in Amsterdam received a surprise in the shape of a shipment of plants, all potted, labelled and destined for offices, meeting rooms and library.
The plants were a gift from Fachjan, one of Europe's largest suppliers of tropical and subtropical plants and trees and a Corporate Member of EAZA.
Each plant had been carefully selected by Fachjan's Quirinus van Trigt according to a plan taking into account light and situation - and the plant management abilities of the EEO team!
Drop in for a visit at the EEO to see the results, which have helped brighten the offices and usher in an overdue spring season!
For more information about Fachjan and EAZA's other Corporate Members, visit the Corporate Member pages of the EAZA website.
We are pleased to announce the opening of the next round of applications for the EAZA Ape Conservation Fund. The EAZA Ape Conservation Fund aims to make a significant and lasting contribution to the continued survival of apes and their habitats
So far the Fund has supported 13 projects working on the conservation of gorillas, chimpanzees, orang-utans and gibbons.
Funded projects will:
• Have the central goal of 'ape conservation'
• Be managed by, or are partnered with, an EAZA member zoo
• Address one of the following issues: habitat loss; hunting and illegal trade of apes; ape disease and health; and, conserving ape species and their habitats through rehabilitation or reintroduction.
All ape projects that meet these criteria are eligible, and we would particularly encourage applications in relation to orangutans and gibbons. Application information can be found on the EAZA Ape Conservation Fund webpage.
Please pay particular attention to the eligibility criteria and the assessment criteria.
The closing date for applications is Friday 31st of May 2013.
The fund covers all ape species; great apes and gibbons. It will focus on the key issues of habitat loss and trade, both within range states and internationally, and control of diseases affecting wild apes.
More information here
At the beginning of March over 100 educators from 60 different zoos and aquariums across 28 different countries met at Burgers' Zoo, Arnhem, the Netherlands for the EAZA European Zoo Educators (EZE) conference. It was excellent to see such a wide diversity of educators keen to update their knowledge, share information about successful projects and discuss current trends in zoo and aquarium education.
The conference included a wide variety of presentations and workshops on various themes from news ways to communicate to life-long learning opportunities. Speakers came from all over the world to share their experiences and inspire the audience about new ways to encourage emotion and engage visitors in caring for nature via the work of zoos. The theme of using emotion, as well as knowledge, to educate and inspire people to care for nature and take action to preserve it is one that is growing in the zoo and aquarium community. Many of the presentations demonstrated how this had been effectively integrated in a variety of projects; from linking with arts programmes or nature parks to encouraging people to 'put themselves in the place of animals'.
When asked what was the main piece of information from the conference that they would use back at work one of the participants commented "Hope! Ideas and activities to educate our visitors and the view that together we can!" Another said that they will "try to use a bit more emotions in their messages and evaluate the different activities carried out in the park."
The conference was also preceded by a very productive EAZA Academy seminar on the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning. Sarah Thomas from the Zoological Society of London led the interactive seminar, and participants were able to discover the variety of different ways these theories could be applied to educational activities in zoos and aquariums.
Overall the conference was a great success; providing an excellent forum for educators all across Europe and beyond to share ideas for the future development of their programmes.
Last year Bill Robichaud, coordinator of the IUCN SSC Saola Working Group (SWG), attended the EAZA Conservation Forum in Vienna (May, 2012) and the EAZA Annual Conference in Innsbruck (September, 2012). During these events contacts were made between SWG and EAZA members which in turn yielded promising and valuable arrangements for saola conservation.
One of those arrangements includes the sponsorship of a young, talented Lao conservationist. For long-term conservation of saola, one of the priorities of the IUCN SSC Saola Working Group (SWG) is to mentor and encourage young Lao and Vietnamese conservationists. In the short-term, one of the constraints to saola conservation is the paucity of people in Laos or Vietnam focusing on saola. Recently, with funding from EAZA member ZooParc de Beauval, the SWG addressed both issues, with the hiring of Anita Bousa.
Anita is a bright, promising graduate of the National University of Lao, who has work experience with (and high praise from) the Wildlife Conservation Society and IUCN. She recently returned to work at the WCS Lao Program office, and under an arrangement between WCS and the SWG, she will spend 50% time on wildlife monitoring for WCS, and 50% on saola, under the guidance of the SWG. She is the first Lao ever whose job is to focus on saola conservation. This is a major step forward, and hope, for conservation of the species.
In April this year the EAZA IUCN SSC Southeast Asia Campaign is promoting the 'Saola Awareness Month', with the aim of focusing attention on the campaign with the support of campaign flagship species such as the saola. Whilst the events are promoted as part of 'Saola Awareness Month' campaign participants are encouraged to select any species that helps to raise funds and awareness about the current biodiversity crisis in Southeast Asia.
Parts of more than 1400 Tigers have been seized across Asia in the past 13 years, according to TRAFFIC's latest analysis of confiscations, which includes new data for 2010-2012. The report 'Reduced to Skin and Bones Revisited' finds that parts of at least 1425 Tigers had been seized across all but one of the 13 Tiger range countries between 2000 and 2012. For Cambodia alone, no seizures were recorded at all during the period. The report, a joint effort by TRAFFIC and the WWF Tigers Alive Initiative, was launched at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting currently underway in Bangkok, Thailand.
Although it is not yet possible to show a definite trend, the analysis provides clear evidence that illegal trade in Tigers, their parts and products, persists as a major conservation concern, says TRAFFIC.
A total of 654 seizures of Tiger parts ranging from skin to bones, to teeth, claws and skulls took place during this period, an average of 110 Tigers killed for trade per year or just over two per week. 89% of seizures occur outside protected areas, emphasizing the importance of anti-trafficking actions to disrupt trade chains and prevent incursions into Tiger habitat. The benefits of such analysis to enhance law enforcement efforts to protect Tigers are obvious.
"If more robust information was routinely collected, analysed and shared between countries, real inroads could be made into targeting the smuggling syndicates behind Tiger trafficking," said Natalia Pervushina, Tiger Trade Programme Leader for TRAFFIC and WWF. Under agreements made at earlier CITES meetings, Tiger range countries have to state what action they have taken to protect Asian big cats. As of the start of the current CITES meeting, only China, India and Thailand had submitted appropriate reports in compliance with a CITES requirement to do so. WWF and TRAFFIC are urging countries engaged in the Global Tiger Recovery Program to develop a harmonized process for reporting to the GTRP that will also fulfil the requirements of CITES with respect to Tigers.
Nearly 2,400 rhinos have been poached across Africa since 2006, slowing the population growth of both African rhino species to some of the lowest levels since 1995, according to the latest facts revealed by IUCN experts.
Rhino poaching increased by 43% between 2011 and 2012, representing a loss of almost 3% of the population in 2012, according to IUCN's Species Survival Commission's (SSC) African Rhino Specialist Group. Experts predict that if poaching continues to increase at this rate, rhino populations could start to decline in less than two years' time.
"Well-organized and well-funded crime syndicates are continuing to feed the growing black market with rhino horn," says Mike Knight, Chairman of the IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group, a group of rhino experts within IUCN's Species Survival Commission. "Over the past few years, consumer use of rhino horn has shifted from traditional Asian medicine practices to new uses, such as to convey status. High levels of consumption – especially the escalating demand in Viet Nam – threaten to soon reverse the considerable conservation gains achieved over the last two decades."
There are currently 5,055 Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and 20,405 White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) in Africa. Although these numbers have increased slightly over the last two years, there is no room for complacency. In 2012, at least 745 rhinos were poached throughout Africa – the highest number in two decades – with a record 668 rhinos killed in South Africa alone. In 2013, one rhino has been lost to poaching every 11 hours since the beginning of the year – a rate that is higher than the average for 2012.
Illegal trade in rhino horn is coordinated by well-organised criminal syndicates which transport the horns primarily to Viet Nam and China. Mozambique has also been identified as a key driver of poaching activities, with poachers making cross-border raids into the South African Kruger National Park, home to the world's largest rhino population. Mozambique is also a major transit point for illegal horn to Asia.
IUCN experts call upon the international community – especially the key consumer and transit states such as Viet Nam, China and Mozambique – to urgently address the crisis by strengthening and enforcing regional and international trade laws, particularly in relation to rhino horn.
"The rhino community is encouraged by the signing of a recent Memorandum of Understanding between South Africa and Viet Nam to address the rhino poaching epidemic as well as other conservation issues," says Simon Stuart, Chair of IUCN's Species Survival Commission. "However, it needs to be reinforced with tangible government action on both sides. International and regional collaboration needs to be strengthened, as does sharing of information, intelligence and expertise to address wildlife crime issues."
Updated facts on the rhino crisis come on the eve of the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that will take place from 3 to 14 March in Bangkok, Thailand. Illegal rhino horn trade will be one of the many issues discussed at the meeting.
For more information: www.iucn.org / The Species Survival Commission
Adding to an already fantastic collection of creatures living in the Greater Mekong are new characters such as a pygmy python, a walking catfish, a subterranean blind fish, a ruby-eyed pit viper, a bat with a devilish appearance, and a frog that sings like a bird. These discoveries, compiled by WWF-Greater Mekong, further cement the region's reputation as a final frontier for scientific exploration and new encounters.
The Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia, through which the Mekong River flows, consists of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan in southern China. The region is home to some of the planet's most charismatic and endangered wild species, including the Indochinese tiger, Asian elephant, Mekong dolphin, and Mekong giant catfish—and between 1997 and 2011 an incredible 1,710 new organisms were described by science in these landscapes. While this year's 126 new discoveries continue to showcase the region's stunning biodiversity, they also reveal intricacy and fragility among Greater Mekong species and their habitats.
The terrifying drop in the number of wild tigers—70 percent in just over a decade —and the recent local extinction of the Javan rhino in Vietnam in 2010 are urgent reminders that unique creatures are being lost at an alarming rate due to human pressures. The illegal trade in wildlife remains a major threat to many species and shows no signs of declining. As the region's financial wealth increases, the culture of ownership, consumption, and gifting of wildlife products remains ever present. The global illegal wildlife trade is now estimated to be worth at least USD19 billion annually.
Rapid unsustainable development, including poorly planned infrastructure, uncontrolled and non-transparent extractive activities, and agricultural expansion, as well as the rampant wildlife trade, are profoundly degrading the health of ecosystems— and consequently millions of people who directly depend on natural resources. Warmer temperatures and more extreme floods, droughts, and storms as a result of climate change only exacerbate these pressures.
Today the Greater Mekong region forms part of one of the five most threatened biodiversity hotspots in the world. Thorough and consistent management of ecosystems across the Greater Mekong region will help nations adequately address complex, challenging, and regional-scale issues like habitat loss and fragmentation, unsustainable natural resource use, poaching, and climate change.
Download the 'Extra Terrestrial' WWF report here
Watch a short video about the new discoveries in the Greater Mekong here
Source: WWF Global
Copyright Beelzebub's bat image: Gabor Csorba
You can support the Southeast Asia Campaign in many ways. One way of contributing is to make a donation using the Southeast Asia Campaign Indiegogo website. Indiegogo is an international fundraising platform. If you make a donation of at least 10 US Dollar you will receive merchandise item in return (also known as a perk). The larger your donation, the bigger the perk. The Southeast Asia Indiegogo Campaign is available until March 9th. Please visit the Southeast Asia Campaign website on Indiegogo, make a donation and select your perk.
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