About hunting of Wildlife for trophies

Hunting is the practice of killing or trapping animals, or pursuing or tracking them with the intent of doing so”, as per Wikipedia definition (here). Evidence is showing that hunting was essential in survival and development of human species, our closest relatives the chimpanzees are displaying today troop hunting behavior and tools to hunt smaller species of monkeys and feed (Dr Jane Goodall dedicated her life studying chimps in Tanzania in early 1960’s in Tanzania, documenting for first time such behavior, essential in understanding our own human evolution). Also in some of the greatest civilizations, in Greek and Roman mythology there are assigned Gods to Hunting (Artemis in Greek mythology, or its Roman counterpart Diana as Goddess of the Hunt, or Greek God Pan, God of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature of mountain), highlighting how ever-present and valued this practice has been during our society evolution, and how wildlife, nature and hunting have been interconnected in human evolution.

Today hunting is claimed to give resource managers an important tool in managing wildlife populations that might exceed the carrying capacity of their habitat. However, in most circumstances carrying capacity is determined by a combination habitat and food availability. Hunting advocates assert that hunting reduces intraspecific competition for food and shelter, reducing mortality among the remaining animals. Environmentalists assert that (re)introducing predators would achieve the same end with greater efficiency and less negative effect, such as introducing significant amounts of free land into the environment. In fact, the nature has been re-balancing itself for millions of years, without any 3rd party involvement. Moreover, though our interference in nature through hunting, we are disrupting the laws of nature, negatively impacting the process of natural selection (trophy hunting is notorious for killing the fittest males for reproduction and passing on the winning genes to the next generations).

The fact that we are destroying anyway our planet through our current economic system and our actions, doesn’t give an excuse to hunters to continue killing other species with which we share this planet (morally unacceptable), even if giving in the process the incentive to hunters to assure the long term survival of some species preferred for hunting, or governments the incentive to assure wildlife survival for assuring a constant flow of income through hunting taxes, sales of hunting equipment etc. We like to think that we “progressed” since we were no more than chimps hunting for food, today society no longer justifies any need whatsoever for killing other species, for any other reason than someone sick pleasure or some commercially not viable and corrupt and immoral income.

Anyone today having a pet at home can confirm that animals have feelings same as humans do, and they can equally feel pain and stress. Wild animals are also having complex social behaviors, killing an alpha pair of wolves can lead to dismantling or starving the whole pack of wolves, or hunting of a male lion leads to killing of all its cubs by the newly taking over male etc…Even national parks are a kind of joke today, as invisible boundaries allow hunters to lure animals just few meters outside park and legally shoot the animals, or even if not lured, animals migrating to seasonal feeding grounds are also target to legal hunting, as it is the case of bison from Yellowstone National Park in United States.

Today technology also doesn’t give any fair chance to hunted animals, as it did in the time of our ancestors. Luring wildlife and killing it from distance and safety of a tree, or from safety of helicopter, the only limit to how many animals you can kill being the size of your bank account, this is not even “sport” or “game”. In a game, all parties should know the rules and give them a fair chance of winning.

Wildlife is not a commodity to satisfy today consumerism, to be priced and sold on the market. Its survival should not depend on human’s greed, consumerism preferences and obsolete and immoral preference for spending free time, in activities like hunting. As dominant species of this planet, humans have a responsibility of protecting other species and assure their survival, in a balanced ecosystem as they did for millions of years. We lost already too many valuable species and we harm too much this planet in the name of “progress”, and we should stop continuing doing so until it is too late!

Brown bears of Pirinei mountains, northern Spain

In one of the previous articles ( here ), was mentioned about the effort to re-introduce brown bears in Pirinei mountains, northern Spain. There have been a number of bears captured (mostly from Slovenia) and released in several areas of the mountains, enough to call it a symbolical re-population of the vast area with one of Europe’s top predators, but not enough to secure a viable and self-sustaining population.

Travelling in one of the areas, we had the chance to enjoy authentic mountain scenery, and also learn from locals what is their view on the topic, after reading in press few claims of bear attack over the livestock grazing freely in an area, including a horse! Pretty unheard for a brown bear to attack such big animals, known that they are shy animals, and most of them leave on a complete vegetarian diet, unless opportunistically an occasion arises to find a dead animal on their way!

What we were told by locals is that the release of bears was inappropriate, that the central government agreed to an European funded project to re-populate the area with brown bears, but in fact some bears being relocated were coming from private hunting reserves, where they were used to eating livestock…that could have explained indeed the recent attacks in the areas. Unfortunately this bad experience turned completely the local populations against bears in general, which otherwise are peaceful animals, and we are personally afraid that the whole project is now compromised, as well as in the near future, as skeptics will always use this bad experience to fight off any new attempts of the bear introduction. Also all local bears already released, bad or good ones, they are under risk of being shot, poisoned and trapped, by local hunters, thinking they will do what is just, even if illegal!

Pretty sad news, after an initial successful re-integration when few female brown bears already had small cubs, sign that they find enough food in the area and they would accommodate well! A recent amateur video shows a brown bear caught on camera in the area: video here

The grey wolf

One of the most controversial predators in the world is for sure the famous grey wolf, it is also one of the most adaptive, which despite the ubiquitous persecution and death sentence from the human kind, it has still manage to survive in large parts of the world, and eve thrive, due to his shy nature and its excellent survival skills.

Wolf_distr

The wolves are highly sociable animals, with a clear family structure, built around an alpha pair. The killing of a wolf may have catastrophic consequences over the entire pack, as each individual has a well defined role in raising puppies and hunting. As interesting fact, the domestic dog is a descendant of one of those now-extinct wolf populations, sometimes showing similar social behavior.

The beneficial role of the wolf on the ecosystem has been proved by scientists in the field, in U.S. Yellowstone park, where for tens of years the absence of wolves led to herbivore populations of deer grow out of control, exhausting landscape from over-grazing, and even changing water course, of rivers, by modifying the consistence of vegetation on the river beds. Then the wolves have been reintroduced and the beneficial effects appeared soon, the forest recovered, and the deer number was back under control, all has been measured by scientists and recorded, nevertheless this did not increase wolves acceptance by human communities, in U.S or around the world.

The wolf is a common motif in mythology throughout Eurasia and North America (corresponding to the historical extent of the habitat of the gray wolf). The obvious attribute of the wolf is its nature of a predator, and correspondingly it is strongly associated with danger and destruction, making it the symbol of the warrior on one hand, and that of the devil on the other. The modern trope of the Big Bad Wolf is a development of this although majority of recorded attacks on people have been attributed to animals suffering from rabies. There is however a conflict between wolf and heard grazer which use to leave their animals unattended in the mountains and wild spaces, claiming themselves absolute master of the land…I just call it irresponsibility, laziness and even stupidity, with absolute lack of respect for the other species with which we share this planet.

Fingers cross for this magnificent animal, hope it will survive, as it truly represents the symbol of wild and unspoiled nature! It would be a pity one day if it existed only in the fairy tales or the zoos, the world would never be the same again!

Wildlife as dog food, made in U.S.A.

 

Anything for a dollar, right? It is the case in the U.S.A. today, as its iconic wildlife (as the american bison) is used to make dog food (other “flavors” are available as well, also made of wildlife meat)! Found this in a store in Europe in Spain, but seems they distribute all over Europe! And this is not a new company opened with the new U.S. administration, it has been going on since before…Simply disgusting and outraging! What can we than ask from less developed countries, like African countries, if the “free world leader” is behaving like this?!

On the wildlife in the ZOOs

Too often people are considering some things as part of normality, simply because they exist. It is the case today of the ZOOs (public zoological parks), which have been around since 1765 (first of its kind has been open in Vienna, Austria), and whose number exceeds now 10.000, most of them located in bigger cities, in US alone being visited by more than 180 Mil people annually. The origins of the ZOOs may date back even longer at the time of kings and emperors, during Roman Empire for example, when wild animals caged and later used for fighting in the arena, an outstanding number of animals being eventually killed.

Many zoos see their primary purpose as breeding endangered species in captivity and reintroducing them into the wild. Modern zoos also aim to help teach visitors the importance on animal conservation, often through letting visitors witness the animals firsthand. Some critics and the majority of animal rights activists say that zoos, no matter what their intentions are, or how noble they are, are immoral and serve as nothing but to fulfill human leisure at the expense of the animals (which is an opinion that has spread over the years). However, zoo advocates argue that their efforts make a difference in wildlife conservation and education.

I normally visit a zoo each time I visit a new country, and their set-up may vary wildly, normally the well-being of animals (mainly space dedicated) is directly proportional with well-being of that particular country inhabitants. The ZOOs in general are having various sources of financing, from selling tickets to visitors, to public funding. Animals also can be traded between zoos. It is said the animals in the ZOOs these days are babies of other captive animals, and no longer caught from the wild.

My reaction, when I see animals behind bars, as in below picture, only makes me sad. Look again please! There is nothing more unnatural and immoral than this! You would normally put people behind bars, for a determined period of time, if they did something wrong! But what these bears did wrong? They didn’t brake any law, in fact they could have not, because they only submit to the laws of nature, this has always been the case with wild animals for millions of years now!

HPIM0004

Still today the captives wildlife living conditions can unimaginable. Many animals remain in barren concrete enclosures or other minimally enriched cages. Animals which naturally range over many km each day, or make seasonal migrations, are unable to perform these behaviors in zoo enclosures. For example, elephants usually travel approximately 45 km (28 mi) each day. Animals in zoos often exhibit behaviors that are abnormal in their frequency, intensity, or would not normally be part of their behavioral repertoire. These are usually indicative of stress. For example, elephants sometimes perform head-bobbing, bears sometimes pace repeatedly around the limits of their enclosure, wild cats sometimes groom themselves obsessively, and birds pluck out their own feathers. Some critics of zoos claim that the animals are always under physical and mental stress, regardless of the quality of care towards the animals. Elephants have been recorded displaying stereotypical behaviors in the form of swaying back and forth, trunk swaying or route tracing. This has been observed in 54% of individuals in UK zoos. Worst seems to be in some Chinese provinces, as below bear cages, one square meter in size, in Dalian zoo, Port Arthur, Liaoning Province, China.

china cage bears 1997

Try to judge for yourself next time when visiting a ZOO! Hopefully the visit would only educate you on the conditions of the particular wild animals in the wild, as many zoos, in more developed countries, will display such info boards. But surely I wouldn’t call a Sunday visit to the zoo as an entertainment day!

The damage of invasive species in Australia

 

The fauna of Australia consists of a huge variety of animals; some 83% of mammals, 89% of reptiles, 24% of fish and insects and 93% of amphibians that inhabit the continent are endemic to Australia (ecological state of a species being unique to a defined geographic location)! Australians are very proud of their local fauna, two of the most famous ones being present even of the country’s coat of arms.

A unique feature of Australia’s fauna is the relative scarcity of native placental mammals. Consequently, the marsupials — a group of mammals that raise their young in a pouch, including the kangaroos and koalas, occupy many of the ecological niches placental animals occupy elsewhere in the world.

The settlement of Europeans from 1788 has significantly affected the fauna, through hunting and introduction of non-native species, leading to numerous species extinction! An invasive species is a plant, fungus, or animal species that is not native to a specific location (an introduced species), and which has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment. Introduced organisms affect the environment in a number of ways. Rabbits render land economically useless by eating everything. Red foxes affect local endemic fauna by predation while the cane toad poisons the predators by being eaten.

Costly, laborious and time-consuming efforts at control of these species has met with little success and this continues to be a major problem area in the conservation of Australia’s biodiversity.

Elephants of Thailand’s tourism industry

There are fewer countries whose culture is so connected to elephants like Thailand, but how good is that for elephants? Surely there are more elephants statues around cities and temples of Thailand than there are wild elephants left in the wild, last estimate around 2000 exemplars.

And Thailand, as part of the South-East Asia region, has been among champions at deforestation and continues to lead ahead in unsustainable tourism. Apart from the coral reefs destruction through negligence of the local motor boats driver and industrial destruction of tropical forests, wild animals also suffer through extreme exploitation, either through illegal trade or tourism industry.

An apparently innocent elephant ride, multiplied with the massive number of foreign tourists in Thailand, have developed over years an industry which seems to have brought massive suffering to these wonderful and extremely socially complex herbivores. There are few sources of reading below to understand how suffering starts since elephant is just a baby, to adulthood, and older age, where, if lucky, it ends in the elephant sanctuary (if saved in time).

One piece of advise for tourists, which still have doubts, is to visit first an elephant sanctuary, and then they can decide if they take the ride or not. I am sure they will have doubts…Elephant Sanctuaries in Thailand

Other sources:

Why You Shouldn’t Ride Elephants In Thailand,

The Shocking Secrets Behind Thailand’s Elephant Tourism Industry,

Can elephant tourism be ethical? by The Telegraph

The Ugly