A Viral Video Of An Elephant Doing A Headstand Leaves The Internet Angry. Here’s Why!

A video of an Elephant doing a headstand has gone viral online and triggered a discussion about animal cruelty.

The video shows Elephant standing on its head, like he’s doing a headstand.

A video circulating on social media shows an Elephant in a circus-like pose while taking a bath. But the viral video has angered social media users.

The video has been shared by Morissa Schwartz on Twitter with the caption, “I didn’t know Elephants could do this.” It has received over 380k views and has had more than 200 comments mostly expressing the belief that cruel training has been used to train the Elephant to ‘perform’.

Meanwhile, in the video, it could be heard crowd of spectators gasping and cheering at the view. After watching this act by the Elephant, angry viewers took to the comment section to express their outrage. Many of them even claimed that the headstand was not real and the big creature was trained for doing so. People also said that there are chances that the animal was unethically trained to do it to entertain the crowd. The video has spread outrage on the internet.

Here are a just a few of the comments it garnered:

It is very essential for us to understand that these animals go through a lot of fear and pain in making such moves. The humans train them and brutally torture these animals to make them do these poses.

ELEPHANTS ARE BEATEN INTO SUBMISSION FROM A VERY YOUNG AGE

But we, the citizens, can create a groundswell of changes and instil compassion in the hearts of cruel human beings while creating a safe world for Elephants. If you’re genuinely hurt and angered by the atrocities against Elephants, here are nine things you can do right now:

1. Scratch off Elephant rides from your bucket list.

2. Boycott festivals that exploit Elephants and perpetuate cruelty

3. Do not visit zoos, circuses, or any entertainment that involves Elephants or any animals for that matter.

4. Educate yourself and influence your immediate circle of family and friends, creating ripples of change. Gods in Shackles is a great educational aid that exposes the dark truth behind captivity.

6. Write letters and petitions to your elected officials.

7. Remember to vote – you have the power to vote them out.

8. Share this story and help create awareness.

9. Write a science-based review on TripAdvisor and other travel sites.

What you can do to help wildlife

The Mission of Protect All Wildlife is to prevent cruelty and promote the welfare of ALL animals EVERYWHERE.

Please support our work by donating ANY amount, large or small. It only takes a minute and your donations help make our work possible. Thank you for your support.

Pilot Whales Killed In Season’s First Faroese Hunt

 The devastating scene of pilot whales thrashing in blood-filled water as hunters converge on them with their killing tools.

On May 7th, more than 60 pilot whales were captured and butchered in this year’s first pilot whale hunt in the Faroe Islands. Ingi Sørensen, a Faroese diver, author, and underwater photographer who is fiercely against the practice documented the slaughter, known as grindadráp in Faroese. His video recording shows several motorized boats driving the pilot whales towards the selected whaling beach in the islands’ capital of Torshavn. Images reveal the devastating scene of pilot whales thrashing in blood-filled water as hunters converge on them with their killing tools.

They hunt the long-finned species of pilot whales that inhabits the North Atlantic. It is a wide-ranging, toothed whale that belongs to the dolphin family and which, among dolphins, is second in size only to the orca. Pilot whales live in matriarchal pods with an exceptionally strong social structure. They are one of the most frequently reported whale species in events of mass strandings and are known to stay together as a group, even in a crisis. This makes it easy for hunters to drive entire pods of them ashore. And once the pod is helplessly stranded, men and women—mostly men—begin the process of killing every single member, including pregnant and lactating mothers and their offspring. When the carnage is over, calves that were cut from their mothers’ wombs can be seen lying next to their dead mothers, umbilical cords still attached.

Faroese whale hunters use motorized boats to chase pods of pilot whales ashore. Faroese whale hunters use motorized boats to chase pods of pilot whales ashore. Credit: Ingi Sørensen
Faroese whale hunters use motorized boats to chase pods of pilot whales ashore. Credit: Ingi Sørensen

For centuries, the people of the isolated Faroe Islands survived by hunting whales, and during times of famine, pilot whales became their rescue. But times have changed, and pilot whale meat and blubber are no longer considered everyday food in the Faroe Islands. Many toxins build up in animals’ bodies as they ascend the food chain. This bioaccumulation reaches dangerous levels in top predators, such as pilot whales. In 2008, the chief physician for the Faroese Department of Occupational Medicine and Public Health, Pál Weihe, and the islands’ chief medical officer, Høgni Debes Joensen, warned that pilot whales are contaminated with dangerously high levels of mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), as well as DDE, a breakdown product of the insecticide DDT. In a press statement issued in 2008, the physicians noted that mercury and PCB exposure contribute to Parkinson’s disease in adults, impaired immunity in children, and compromised fetal development. “It is recommended that pilot whale is no longer used for human consumption,” they warned.

The Faroese government chose not to follow the doctors’ recommendations. In June 2011, however, the Faroese Food and Veterinary Agency urged limited consumption of pilot whale meat and blubber. They issued special recommendations for women and girls: refrain from eating blubber while they plan to have children, and do not eat whale meat while pregnant or breastfeeding. No one should eat the kidneys and liver of pilot whales, the agency said.

As a result of the government’s hazardous decision to downplay the risks of consumption, the pilot whale hunt continues to this day. I have heard whalers boast that they can kill a pilot whale in a few seconds. What they don’t consider is the lengthy time it often takes to drive the pod ashore. And, apparently, they also don’t think about the distress that these ocean-going marine mammals experience when forced to strand in shallow water with no possibility of escape. Once stranded, the pilot whales are subjected to complete chaos, commotion, and yelling as hunters start the practice of dragging them ashore. They do this by injecting a rounded stainless-steel hook into a whale’s blowhole. The hook is attached to a long piece of rope, and several men drag the struggling whale ashore. A pilot whale can weigh more than 5000 pounds, and it is easy to imagine how terrifying and painful it must be to be dragged out of the water in this manner. Once the whale is fully beached, a hunter finishes it off by jamming a spinal lance into its spinal canal, thereby severing the spinal cord, and cutting the blood vessels supplying blood to the brain.

A whale hunter kills a pilot whale with a so-called spinal lance, thereby severing the spinal cord and cutting off the blood supply to the brain. In 2015, the spinal lance replaced the traditional whaling knife as a killing tool. A whale hunter kills a pilot whale with a so-called spinal lance, thereby severing the spinal cord and cutting off the blood supply to the brain. In 2015, the spinal lance replaced the traditional whaling knife as a killing tool. Credit: Ingi Sørensen
A whale hunter kills a pilot whale with a so-called spinal lance, thereby severing the spinal cord and cutting off the blood supply to the brain. In 2015, the spinal lance replaced the traditional whaling knife as a killing tool. Credit: Ingi Sørensen

While hunters are killing some of the pilot whales with spinal lances, other whales are still fighting for their lives in shallow water. They can see and hear their family members being mutilated and destroyed just a few feet away from them during their desperate struggles. Swimming in the blood of their dying pod members, all they can do is await their turn. I am sure they are fully aware that their pod, which has taken several generations to build, is being demolished. Their torment, to me, is undeniable, and it is impossible for me to fathom how anyone can participate in it, especially now that the meat and blubber contain some of world’s most dangerous toxins and should not be considered food.

On a positive note, not all Faroese people agree that the pilot whale hunt should continue. Ingi Sørensen puts it this way: “There is no justification to wipe out entire schools of pilot whales, and the much-used argument of maintaining the hunt as a Faroese tradition that must be carried into future generations has no validity.” He adds: “Throughout centuries, pilot whales have saved us from starvation. Today, their meat is so toxic, our own health authorities warn us it’s too dangerous to eat. The destruction of these incredible beings needs to stop, once and for all. Now it’s our turn to save them, by leaving them be and focusing our attention on saving their habitats.”

Pilot whales are fighting for their lives as hunters jam rounded stainless steel hooks into their blowholes to drag them ashore. Pilot whales are fighting for their lives as hunters jam rounded stainless steel hooks into their blowholes to drag them ashore. Credit: Ingi Sørensen
Pilot whales are fighting for their lives as hunters jam rounded stainless steel hooks into their blowholes to drag them ashore. Credit: Ingi Sørensen

The lack of empathy is not a Faroese phenomenon. It is a human phenomenon, and people carry out animal cruelty daily in every single country of the world. Please refrain from posting derogative comments based on negative stereotyping against all Faroese people, as they shut down all possibilities of dialog.

This article by Helene O’Barry was first published by The Dolphin Project on 25 May 2022.  Lead Image: Once helplessly stranded, the whales are subjected to complete chaos, commotion, and yelling as hunters start the practice of dragging them ashore. Imagine the terror these highly social and complex beings go through as the entire pod is being demonished in a tremendous bloodbath. Credit: Ingi Sørensen.

#StopTheGrind

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Be Aware Of The Dark Truth Behind Guruvayur Elephant ‘Sanctuary’ In India

A CHAINED ELEPHANT IN GURUVAYUR CAPTIVE ELEPHANT ‘SANCTUARY’

By Sangita Iyer, Author, Gods In Shackles. Founder, Voice For Asian Elephants Society

MADHAVAN, A POPULAR BULL ELEPHANT, TRIES TO BREAK THE CHAINS.

“Fifteen Hundred captives were cooped up in a shed built to accommodate probably 200 at the most. We were cold and hungry and there was not enough room for everyone to squat on the bare ground, let alone to lie down. One five-ounce piece of bread was our only food in four days.”

A holocaust survivor, Dr. Viktor Frankl, painstakingly chronicles this horrific scene at the Auschwitz extermination camp in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning“. He recalls the Nazis captured approximately 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, forced them to travel by train for several days and nights, then stuffed them into a tiny room, with nine prisoners sharing a bunker and two sheets.

A similar concentration camp for Elephants exists in the southern Indian state of Kerala, where 45 captives are crammed into 12 acres of land. They are tethered beneath the scorching sun at 45°C, languishing in their urine and excrement, and deprived of their basic primordial needs. Most of them were illegally captured wild Elephants from the north-eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and Bihar, and sold to the Kerala Elephant owners during the annual “Sonpur Mela” festival that takes place every November.

BULL ELEPHANTS IN THEIR MUSTH ARE TETHERED NEXT TO EACH OTHER.

This is the world’s most notorious Elephant prison, called “Punnathur Kotta,” aka the “Guruvayur Captive Elephant Sanctuary.” It is adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Guruvayur Temple. Tourists from around the world travel here, many having been led to believe that the Elephants at this concentration camp are happy and well cared for. They are oblivious to the dark truth behind the shackled Elephants and their weaving motions.

Although many reviews on TripAdvisor from local people glorify this “sanctuary,” the most recent post in November 2021 affords a one-star rating by a U.K. visitor. Entitled “Nothing but a prison for distressed Elephants,” it paints the harsh realities that Elephants suffer.

“Elephants are constantly chained, many by front and back legs simultaneously. Many are chained so tightly they can hardly move, others constantly rock and sway due to stress. Terrible to witness in the 21st century.”

In the wild, Elephants wander across vast areas for hours on end, grazing on a wide variety of berries, barks, roots, leaves, fruits, grass, and even soil to obtain mineral supplements from the earth. They need to keep moving to balance their massive bodies. Socializing is a must for their sanity. Elephants also keep themselves busy, making tools and devising strategies when confronted by enemies.

A BULL ELEPHANT IN HIS PEAK MATING PERIOD IS THOUGHTFUL AND GENTLE

Females socialize, with a wise matriarch leading her family, and fiercely protecting the young. In contrast, bulls form bachelor groups and join a female herd only during their annual musth cycle – peak mating period. During this time, their testosterone and energy levels surge. They are overwhelmed by the urge to mate. The bulls secrete musth fluid from their temporal glands, emitting a potent smell to attract females. It triggers the instinct to fight off the bulls. They deplete their surging energies by mating, fighting, and covering extensive distances.

At the Guruvayur concentration camp, however, the bulls are denied food, water, and shelter, so their energies will be depleted. Worse still, many Elephants come into their musth cycle around the same time. The musth odour is even stronger as the bulls are tethered right next to each other. It’s hard to resist the urge to fight the neighbouring bulls. Frustrated, these prisoners pull their chains that cut into their flesh, causing bloodied and swollen ankles.

THIS BULL ELEPHANT STRUGGLES TO COPE WITH THE BLISTERING SUN
THIS BULL ELEPHANT STRUGGLES TO REACH THE FILTHY TANK WITH LITTLE WATER

Out of sheer desperation, many bulls have attacked their handlers, only for the torture to be intensified. One Kerala veterinarian alleges that the handlers toss rocks on the bulls’ genitals to inflict maximum pain in the most sensitive areas of their body and control them.

But the cruellest of all rituals awaits these bulls after their musth cycle. A group of 10 to 15 drunken men will beat the living daylight out of the bulls. This brutal practice is called “Katti Adikkal,” which means “tied and beaten.” It is driven by a misguided myth that Elephants may have forgotten their commands during the musth cycle.

It’s also common practice to control every movement with a long pole stuck behind the bull’s ear, enforcing the so-called “freeze” position. If the bull moves too much, the pole will fall, and he will be punished. The atrocities meted out against Kerala Elephants, including this prison, are exposed in Gods in Shackles.

FRUSTRATED, THIS BULL TOSSES A CLUMP OF MUD AT ME. PHOTO CREDIT: SANGITA IYER

With every single natural behaviour suppressed, Elephants are under chronic stress, displayed by swaying side to side, bobbing their head up and down, and even biting their trunk and trying to break the chains.

Dr. Jessica Bell Rizzolo, a trans-species psychologist and wildlife crime expert, explains in an interview with me that these symptoms are caused by years of abuse and lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Depravation of agency is among the critical factors that hinder brain development and exacerbate PTSD.

“So, if that Elephant is unable to make basic decisions about his or her life, who to mate with, when to have social interactions with another Elephant, how long to stay with the mother, that could really impact the right brain development.”

An Elephant brain is three times as large as the human brain, with a highly evolved cerebral cortex. Dr. Bob Jacobs and his team have released shocking scientific research detailing the devastating consequences of unnatural and depleted environments on Elephants’ brain structure and functions. Key points from “Putative neural consequences of captivity for Elephants and cetaceans” include:

1. The impoverished nature of the captive environment has detrimental consequences for the brain, including degeneration of nerve cells in the cerebral cortex, which is involved in higher cognitive functions.

2. An unnatural environment leads to chronically elevated levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, which has a wide-ranging negative impact on brain structures and functions, including inflammation of brain tissue and the death of nerve cells.

3. One effect of chronically elevated stress hormones is the intricate, normally well-balanced interaction of key regions of the brain – the prefrontal cortex (planning), the hippocampus (spatial learning), and the amygdala (emotional processing) – becomes dysregulated (i.e., unbalanced). In both human and non-human animals, such disruptions in the delicate communication among these regions are associated with mental disorders such as PTSD, hyper-aggression, increased vigilance, and/or depression.

4. The chronic stress that characterizes impoverished environments disturbs neurotransmitter (chemical) systems, resulting in poor communication among different brain structures and cellular networks. For instance, because of changes in the release of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex, aberrant environments decrease an animal’s ability to cope with the stress of captivity.

5. Impoverishment and the accompanying chronic stress can potentially suppress the immune system. For example, the endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) is prevalent among immunocompromised captive Asian Elephants.

In the wild, it is normal for Elephants to occasionally encounter predators such as humans and other carnivores, which triggers a brief increase in stress hormone levels. However, once the threat disappears, the hormones return to a normal level, allowing the body and brain functions to resume their natural state.

But in this concentration camp, Elephants are under chronic stress. Despite obeying the commands of the handlers, the Elephants are constantly whacked with vicious bullhooks and poked with long poles as a constant reminder that their masters are in control.

One video of a helpless Elephant being chained and beaten ruthlessly by a group of men, as hundreds of others simply watched this heinous brutality, went viral on social media. This bull had killed his handler, and apparently, the men were teaching him a lesson – never to mess with them.

The prisoners at the Auschwitz camp suffered a similar fate: “Beatings occurred on the slightest provocation, sometimes for no reason at all… We heard the lashings of the straps and screams of the tortured men. At such a moment it is not the physical pain which hurts the most, it is the mental agony caused by the injustice, the unreasonableness of it all… The most painful part of beatings is the insults which they imply.”

Is it even conceivable that the bull who was being beaten in front of hundreds of people felt the insults and shame? Many neuroscience and psychology studies on Elephants reveal that Elephants are highly intelligent and emotional animals. They display empathy not only towards their own kind but also other species.

It has also been demonstrated that Elephants have their own culture, and they observe rituals, for instance, a grieving ritual, when they encounter the skeletal remains of other Elephants. They pass social information through generations. They have strong social bonds. So, by capturing Elephants randomly and separating them from their herd, their culture becomes fragmented.

The Guruvayur concentration camp Elephants conceal layers upon layers of trauma… and with no escape from the ongoing brutality and unpredictability, they seem to have just given up on life. Dr. Rizzolo says, “The trauma is such that the sense of self is impaired. That Elephant doesn’t even have a sense of themself in relation to themselves and in relation to other Elephants in relation to their herd… “If that normative social structure is ruptured on a larger scale. You see results of that just as you see in human cultures that have experienced trauma after trauma.”

At the Auschwitz concentration camp, Dr. Frankl observed similar dysfunctional behaviours: “Apathy, the blunting of the emotions and the feeling that one could not care anymore, with the symptoms arising during the second stage of the prisoner’s psychological reactions, and which eventually made him insensitive to daily and hourly beatings.” (Pg. 23)

Knowing these psychological, emotional, and mental traumas caused by captivity, is it then moral or ethical to confine these sentient animals for human entertainment? The cultural and religious lobby groups will turn a blind eye and continue to justify their actions.

But we, the citizens, can create a groundswell of changes and instil compassion in the hearts of cruel human beings while creating a safe world for Elephants. If you’re genuinely hurt and angered by the atrocities against Elephants, here are nine things you can do right now:

1. Scratch off Elephant rides from your bucket list.

2. Boycott festivals that exploit Elephants and perpetuate cruelty.

3. Do not visit zoos, circuses, or any entertainment that involves Elephants or any animals for that matter.

4. Educate yourself and influence your immediate circle of family and friends, creating ripples of change. Gods in Shackles is a great educational aid that exposes the dark truth behind captivity.

5. Speak out and expose the cruelties. All of us have cell phones and have access to an abundance of social media platforms.

6. Write letters and petitions to your elected officials.

7. Remember to vote – you have the power to vote them out.

8. Share this story and help create awareness.

9. Write a science-based review on TripAdvisor and other travel sites.

Complacency and apathy have no place in an era confronting the sixth mass extinction. Asian Elephants are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. With only 40,000 of them left on the entire planet and 27,000 of them in India, we need to do everything in our power to protect them in their last bastion. Only collectively can we end the suffering of Elephants and foster compassion towards these majestic animals.

Please Sign The Petition : Stop Elephant Captivity in Kerala Temples

GODS IN SHACKLES WITH AUTHOR SANGITA IYER
AN EXCELLENT FOREWORD BY DR JANE GOODALL

What you can do to help wildlife

The Mission of Protect All Wildlife is to prevent cruelty and promote the welfare of ALL animals EVERYWHERE.

Please support our work by donating ANY amount, large or small. It only takes a minute. Thank you for your support.

What else you can do to help

Please SHARE to raise awareness to wildlife and environmental issues from around the world. You can also receive NEWS and UPDATES by signing up in the top right of this page.

That’s My Girl With The Gorilla… But She’s Totally Safe, Says Father Who Released A 20-Year-Old Home Video To Show How ‘Gentle, Noble And Wonderful’ Gorillas Are

Many will be deeply moved by the sight of a toddler beating her chest with tiny fists while a 300lb Gorilla lounges alongside her, eating a kiwi fruit. They will laugh as the two toss straw over their heads and gasp when one of the world’s largest primates leans forward to give the little girl a tender peck on the cheek.

Others, however, will be horrified. More than once, the Gorilla gathers the girl in her arms, carrying her off as she would one of her young. The bond between the playmates is unmistakable despite the the grainy VHS footage being more than 20 years old.

Dressed in navy jumper and light blue trousers, 18-month-old Tansy Aspinall romps in the sunshine, one minute swaying on a rope swing, the next tumbling down the slide, tummy first, her not-so-little friend behind her. Not-so-little being the operative phrase. For Tansy’s playground is, in fact, an animal pen at Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent and her chums are Western Lowland Gorillas.

Scroll down to see the video of Tansy Aspinall and the Gorilla for yourself…

Controversial parenting: A photo taken in 1990,before the video was filmed, that shows Tansy Aspinall in the arms of an adult gorilla at Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent

Controversial parenting? A photo taken in 1990, before the video was filmed, shows Tansy Aspinall in the arms of an adult gorilla at Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent

Her father, Damian, released the family film via The Mail on Sunday and made it available on YouTube. It is a controversial decision and Damian, was prepared for criticism but remains unrepentant.

‘This is a family video,’ he says. ‘Before I wouldn’t have released it but now, with the internet it is different. I don’t care if I get a bit of stick because I think the gorillas get a good deal out of it. There’s an upside for them that there wasn’t before. If we can show millions of people how gentle and noble and wonderful these animals are, then I think we’re doing the Gorillas a service. I’m happy to take the stick for that.’

Tansy, now 33, agrees. She says: ‘I obviously understand that people might find it quite shocking seeing a baby going in with the Gorillas because that’s how they have been brought up – to see Gorillas in that King Kong kind of way. But really gorillas are such wonderful, gentle animals and they’re so human-like. So I hope it’s a way of people understanding how gentle and kind Gorillas really are.’

She was too young to remember the video taken at Howletts, the Palladian mansion that her grandfather, the gambler John Aspinall, bought after a particularly good night at the tables.

Laughing or crying? Video clip of 18-month-old Tansy Aspinall playing alone with one of Dad's gorillas

Laughing or crying? Video clip of 18-month-old Tansy Aspinall playing alone with one of Dad’s Gorillas

No fear: The toddler was filmed 19 years ago by Damian and has been kept secret because of some fears that it might have provoked a backlash from childcare experts because of the risk

No fear: The toddler was filmed 19 years ago by Damian and has been kept secret because of some fears that it might have provoked a backlash from childcare experts because of the risk

Gorilla-hug: The young girl is smothered by the 300lb adult

GORILLA-HUG: TANSY IS SMOTHERED BY THE 300LB POWERFUL ADULT

Aspinall filled the house and grounds with animals, including Tigers, Wolves and Gorillas. He also brought the pets he had kept in his previous home in London’s Eaton Square including  a Leopard, a Himalayan Bear and a Capuchin Monkey. In time, the animals were moved outdoors and Howletts became a wildlife park.

On John’s death in 2000, Damian took control and set up the Aspinall Foundation, a conservation initiative to return captive-bred animals into the wild. His foundation has now bred more captive animals – and reintroduced them into the wild – than any other organisation in Europe. There have been 139 Gorilla births, 33 Black Rhinos and 20 African Elephants. The animals are released into reserves in Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the foundation has approximately a million acres of guarded land.

Contrary to popular belief, this is no rich man’s hobby. True, Damian is wealthy thanks to the chain of casinos he set up with media mogul Kerry Packer’s son James – but it is all self-made money. His father refused to help him financially, and at the time of his death, Howletts was running at a loss of millions.

Gorilla-loving father Damian Aspinall, 52, with his daughter Tansy Aspinall (now 23)

GORILLA-LOVING DAMIAN ASPINALL WITH HIS DAUGHTER TANSY

John Aspinall was the owner of Howletts and grandfather to Tansy Aspinall

JOHN ASPINALL WAS THE OWNER OF HOWLETTS AND GRANDFATHER TO TANSY ASPINALL

Damian has not only ensured its survival but turned it into a truly groundbreaking conservation project. Tansy also wants to play a part in the foundation’s work – mainly, she says, because of her childhood experiences.

‘I don’t really remember that specific moment with the gorillas but I do remember playing with them,’ says Tansy, who has just completed a degree in politics at Bristol University and is ‘on the job hunt’. 

‘I don’t have any of the fear of Gorillas that people normally have. I just feel love and warmth. Of all the  animals, Gorillas are my favourite. And that’s because they were always something I went in with as a child. I remember them being so gentle –  they almost treated me as if I was one of their own little babies.’

AMBAM THE GORILLA SHOWS HOW HE CAN WALK LIKE A HUMAN

Of course, there are dangers. During his adolescence Robin Birley, Lady Annabel Goldsmith’s society club-owning son, was mauled by a Tiger at Howletts. In 1980, a Tigress called Zeya was shot after killing two keepers, and in 1994 the park’s head keeper was killed when a two-year-old Siberian Tiger pounced on him.

And in 1989 a two-year-old boy had his arm ripped off by a Chimp after he reached into a cage to stroke it at another Aspinall park in Kent, Port Lympne. There is no record of a Gorilla ever killing a human.

Damian says: ‘I wouldn’t put my children or daughters in with an adult Tiger or a Lion regardless of the relationship – but Gorillas are different.’ Even so, times have changed, something Damian accepts. Tansy and her younger sister, Clary, 20, are Damian’s daughters with his first wife, Louise Sebag-Montefiore. The couple divorced in 1997. Both girls were allowed to play with the Gorillas but Freya, his eight-year-old daughter by his former partner, Donna Air, was not. He says: ‘I gave an interview when Freya was young and they said, “Would you take Freya in with the Gorillas?” I said, “Yes, sure.” There was uproar. The police called and said if you do this we’re going to have to come and interview you and social services called and said, “We might take your child if you do this.” The usual absolute nonsense.’

Still, he’s teaching her Tiger speak and Gorilla gurgles. He’s serious. ‘I can speak Wild Boar,’ he says. ‘When you wake up in the morning, open the bedroom door and two Tigers jump in your bed, you’re in serious trouble if you don’t know good morning in Tiger-speak.’

Damian’s earliest memory is of playing roly-poly on the lawn with Wolves and rolling over a wasps’ nest. ‘I was about eight and was with my sister,’ he recalls. ‘The swarm came out and they chased us and the Wolves, biting and stinging us everywhere. Even the Wolves screamed.

‘One of the animal people grabbed me, my sister and the Wolves and shoved us underwater at a trough. I remember opening my eyes under the water and a wolf and I just looked at each other terrified. My fear was never of the animals – but I’ve been wary of Wasps ever since.’

Damian Aspinall has put the film on the internet to show the amazing bond that can be formed between Gorillas and humans.

He said: ‘It’s a thing of great beauty in my life. It’s priceless. It’s a very deep connection and when you know that and see that, you will know what I mean.

‘That’s why I released the video. If seeing Tansy does a little bit more to reinforce the belief that there is a place for Gorillas on this planet, then people can say whatever they like.’

What you can do to help wildlife

The Mission of Protect All Wildlife is to prevent cruelty and promote the welfare of ALL animals EVERYWHERE.

Please support our work by donating ANY amount, large or small. It only takes a minute. Thank you for your support.

What else you can do to help

Please SHARE to raise awareness to wildlife and environmental issues from around the world. You can also receive NEWS and UPDATES by signing up in the top right of this page.

Are The MSC Doing Enough To Stop Shark Finning On Tuna Vessels In The Pacific

Campaigners report incidents of the cruel practice on several certified boats, amid allegations of a flawed auditing system. Despite documented evidence, little action was taken to prevent the boats from operating under the MSC banner nor was anyone prosecuted.

SHARK FINNING: ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST DESTRUCTIVE FISHERIES. SHARK FINS ARE REMOVED WHILST THE REMAINDER OF THE CARCASS IS DISCARDED AT SEA

The Marine Stewardship Council, which certifies fisheries under its blue tick sustainability label, has ordered an independent investigation into allegations of shark finning on tuna vessels in certified Pacific fisheries.

Shark finning is the cruel practice of removing fins from live sharks. A report by the UK charity Shark Guardian with CNS Global Consulting, a sustainable development consultancy, has alleged it took place on board three vessels operating in the western central Pacific that were certified by the MSC, which runs the world’s largest fishery certification programme.

Official documents from independent observers who monitor fishery compliance, seen by the Guardian, said shark finning happened on board vessels in MSC-certified fisheries in 2019 and early 2020. They reported silky sharks and a black-tipped reef shark as having “DFR” or “discarded fins retained”, a reference to the practice of cutting fins off live animals and discarding their bodies overboard. Both species are classified as “near threatened” with extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

A third of shark and ray species have been overfished to near extinction, a study found last year.

Despite documented evidence, little action was taken to prevent the boats from operating under the MSC banner, the charity said, nor was anyone prosecuted.

There is no suggestion the MSC was aware of the observer reports that alleged shark finning. However, the MSC’s third-party certification boards – known as conformity assessment bodies (Cabs) – which audit fisheries and read observer reports, have a duty to remove certification if shark finning is detected, or if a vessel is convicted for it. This duty was strengthened in September 2020 to require “zero tolerance” of shark finning, the MSC said.


LIKE THOUSANDS AND PROBABLY MILLIONS OF OTHER SHARKS EACH YEAR, THIS SCALLOPED HAMMERHEAD SHARK IS FINNED ALIVE AND THROWN OVERBOARD TO DROWN

Jean-Jacques Schwenzfeier, director of CNS Global Consulting, said: “The observers told us their reports are constantly being ignored and shark finners are not being prosecuted.

“We are not saying the MSC is a bad programme. The MSC is probably unaware this is happening. But the auditing system is flawed and needs improving.”

A spokesperson for the MSC said it took the allegations “seriously” and had asked Assurance Services International, which oversees Cabs, to investigate.

European countries dominate half of Asian shark fin trade, report reveals.

HUNDREDS OF SHARK FINS DRYING OUT ON A ROOFTOP IN KENNEDY TOWN HONG KONG.

“Shark finning is completely prohibited in MSC-certified fisheries and we take the allegations contained in the Shark Guardian report, relating to vessels fishing in the western central Pacific, seriously. On receiving notification of this report via the media, we immediately asked the independent oversight body, Assurance Services International, which oversees our third-party certification activities, to investigate the claims relating to shark finning and the other matters raised in the report.”

Any vessel convicted of shark finning is banned from MSC certification for at least two years, it said.

The MSC has come under pressure from conservation groups to reform standards on shark finning, and is now proposing new standards. Earlier this month, 90 marine conservation experts, organisations and international researchers welcomed the MSC’s move towards zero tolerance of shark finning by requiring all catch to have “fins naturally attached (FNA)” without exemptions.

A POWERFUL GRAPHIC CREATED BY STOP SHARK FINNING .NET

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Tony Fitzjohn, Renowned For Wildlife Conservation Work In Kenya & Tanzania, Has Died Aged 76

He began as a Boy Scout, became a hippie, hitchhiked to Africa, & made himself useful.

Tony Fitzjohn, 76, died on May 23, 2022, “following a prolonged fight against a malignant cancer,” the Tony Fitzjohn-Wildlife Now George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust announced.

TONY FITZJOHN AND FRIEND. 1968.

Fitzjohn recounted most of his long career working on behalf of African wildlife in his 310-page memoir Born Wild, published in 2010.

“Growing up in England, Fitzjohn loved Scouting.  Tarzan tales enchanted him,” summarized reviewer Debra J. White.  “As a troubled teen, Fitzjohn landed in Outward Bound programs.  A letter Fitzjohn sent to Born Free author Joy Adamson brought Fitzjohn to Kenya,” by hitchhiking.

Assistant to George Adamson

In 1971, at age 24, Fitzjohn became assistant to Adamson’s then-husband, 65-year-old conservationist George Adamson.

GEORGE ADAMSON AND TONY FITZJOHN  SIT WATCHING THE SUNSET  ON A ROCK NEAR KORA CAMP IN KENYA. AFRICA. 1987.

Fitzjohn, as a full-time volunteer, helped Adamson to rehabilitate injured or formerly captive lions, leopards, and African wild dogs for return to the wild.  Tracking animals post-release was among his duties and was considerably more difficult and dangerous than it is today because radio collars had not yet been developed.

Once, in 1975, “I was incredibly lucky to survive,” Fitzjohn wrote.  “My attacker’s teeth had come within millimetres of both my carotid and jugular arteries.  There are holes in my throat that I could put a fist through, and I did.”

After several months of recovery Fitzjohn returned to help George Adamson at his camp called Kora, located east of Mount Kenya, near the Tana River, almost in the dead centre of the nation.

TONY FITZJOHN WITH SQUEAKS, LEOPARD FRIEND

Kenya “became a scary place”

Conflicts with poachers and illegal grazers at Kora intensified after a border conflict between Kenya and Somalia in 1978.  Somalia lost the war but, Fitzjohn remembered, “There were suddenly a lot of well-armed Somali men flooding across the border into northern Kenya.  They were bandits, well-trained, ruthless and armed.”

“Another camp near Kora was attacked and everything of value was looted.  Two workers were killed.  Poaching escalated,” White wrote.

“The Kenyan government was either unwilling or unable to stop the raiding, despite warnings that wildlife tourism could be destroyed.  Political unrest, corruption, drought, and tribal strife plagued Kenya for more than a decade,” White continued.

Understated Fitzjohn, “Kenya had suddenly become a scary place.”

TONY FITZJOHN AND A RHINO FRIEND

Murders brought move to Tanzania

The Kora camp site eventually became the hub of the Kora National Reserve, initially designated in 1973 but not added to the Kenyan national park system until 1989, after George Adamson came to the aid of a tourist who had been robbed and gang-raped by poachers.  Adamson was murdered while racing his jeep straight at the bad guys, who fled.

Joy Adamson had already been killed in a confrontation with an ex-employee in January 1980.

Of George Adamson’s murder, Fitzjohn said, “If I had been there, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Fitzjohn had left, temporarily, to assess the prospects for restoring the huge Mkomazi Game Reserve in Tanzania, south of Tsavo National Park in Kenya.

Fitzjohn said of Kora – Life at Kora was one of overwhelming isolation. The camp was situated two days’ travel from the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, and conditions were basic. Aside from a few camp employees and George’s brother Terence, Adamson and Fitzjohn would go months at a time without being visited by an outsider. The work was everything.

“Our whole life was based around the lions: their health, their survival, their coping with going back to the wild. I became a self-taught mechanic, and I learned to maintain all the vehicles. I would also do the supply trips to Garissa [the Somali Kenyan capital], though god knows why the bandits didn’t take me out,” Fitzjohn laughs.

“The police would get shot up, even the commissioner would get shot up. And there I was, a heathen, storming down with a beer in one hand and a joint in the other, the ghetto blaster booming. But they never touched me. I think there was someone up there looking after me. And I’ve always been prepared to take my chances for what I thought was worthwhile.”

Fitzjohn soon became Kora’s de facto PR man and fixer: dealing with the local authorities, talking to the police, keeping things cordial. “It mainly involved a lot of drinking in the police mess and the army mess in Garissa,” he says. “Drinking was a big part of life out there, I suppose, though not so much in the bush.”

At one point, Fitzjohn thought two policemen were trailing him through the city — so he hid in an alleyway and ambushed them, taking them both out with fists flailing. That afternoon, he discovered that they’d been sent to look over him and protect him, should anything turn nasty.

“So I had to go and apologise to them at the station. Well: that turned into a long night on the beers, didn’t it…” he says, slightly sheepishly. “It was the Wild West, in many ways. But the Wild West with Land Rovers.”

Having worked with Adamson for 18 years, but at odds with himself after the murder, Fitzjohn soon afterward moved to Mkomazi.

Mkomazi, in Fitzjohn’s own words, was “the perfect place for me to bury myself and reinvent myself after the events of the past few years.”

Mkomazi Game Reserve

There, said the Tony Fitzjohn-Wildlife Now George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust statement announcing Fitzjohn’s death, “His main, towering achievement was the rehabilitation of Mkomazi.

“This was at the invitation of the Tanzanian Government in 1989,” the Tony Fitzjohn-Wildlife Now George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust continued.  “In the next thirty years, he enlisted a formidable group of supporters, experts and famous institutions in what became an international beacon for conservation of land and wildlife.”

Fitzjohn “created programs for endangered species, including the African wild dog, and one of the most successful rhino sanctuaries in Africa, and pioneered educational programs in the local communities,” the Tony Fitzjohn-Wildlife Now George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust memorial statement finished.

Frustrated by the corruption of the John Magafuli regime in Tanzania, Fitzjohn returned management of Mkomazi to the Tanzanian government in 2020 and returned to Kenya to work on rehabilitating Kora.

Magafuli, ironically, who had been the most vehement COVID-19 denier in Africa, died of COVID-19 in March 2021.

Fitzjohn was admitted to the Order of the British Empire in 2006.   He also received the Prince Bernhard Order of the Golden Ark, the North of England Zoological Society’s Gold Medal and the Hanno Ellenbogen Citizenship Award for public service.

A FITTING TRIBUTE TO TONY FROM MKOMAZI NATIONAL PARK

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Willie Nelson Lets 70 Horses Roam Freely At His Texas Ranch After Rescuing Them From The Slaughterhouse

WILLIE NELSON RESCUED 70 HORSES DESTINED FOR THE SLAUGHTER HOUSE

With his 85 years he is still visiting and has more than 30 flicks under his belt in addition to a number of books. He typically is traveling but when he isn’t you can find him on his ranch out in the Texas Hillside Nation. Willie is a vocalist, songwriter, poet and lobbyist.

When he heard that 70 horses were about to be sent out to the slaughterhouse and after that to an adhesive factory he rescued them in the nick of time. For the majestic animals it is a terrible fate. Sadly there are more pens than in the wild. Willie couldn’t see that occur as an enthusiast of steeds. His ranch in Texas is called Luck Ranch and is about 30 miles from Austin. He immediately moved the steeds to his ranch. The most of the rescued horses were destined to go to the abattoir. For minimum of for the horses the cattle ranch is certainly lucky. They have a lot of area to wander there. The horses are also dealt with like kings and queens as well.

Willie Nelson told ABC Information: “My steeds are possibly the luckiest steeds in the world. They obtain hand-fed two times a day. They were just all set to head to slaughter. That’s possibly the last pint they remember. They are more than happy steeds.’’ Willie’s love for animals is well documented and mentioned in many of his tunes.

WILLIE NELSON WITH ONE OF HIS RESCUED HORSES

The majority of people at his age place their feet up in a retirement community but this fabulous country music celebrity not. He still spends around 200 days a year traveling. Nelson likes nothing more than driving his old pickup truck around Luck Cattle ranch when he is not visiting. His kind work goes way back. In 1985 Nelson set up Farm Aid with Neil Young and John Mellencamp. They decided to do this to assist and raise awareness on the significance of family farms.

Nelson had his first concert in front of 80,000 people at the College of Illinois’ Memorial Area. Entertainers included Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, B. B. King, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty and over 9 million household farmers for the United States. Nelson conserved around 70 steeds from shedding their lives over the course of the past couple of years. Instead of being sent to a butcher’s residence the horses can now appreciate spending their days strolling the countryside as well as eating routinely hand-fed meals. In the drive to prohibit the slaughter of wild steeds Willie has likewise been an energetic and vital voice. On behalf of the American Steed Slaughter Avoidance Act Nelson has actually contacted congress.

HAPPY HORSES

Willie reported: “As opposed to what some individuals are claiming massacre is not a gentle form of assisted suicide as well as these are not undesirable equines. The therapy of slaughter-bound steeds is most often savage as well as greater than 90 percent of those butchered are young and in good health. Lots of are marketed to abattoirs at closed auctions while others are stolen pets.’’ Nelson said he still can’t ride a horse in addition to he performed in his more youthful days. ‘The Love of Equines’’ is the name of his song from his most recent album. Look at the acclaimed video that is listed below.

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Ringling Bros Circus Returns – But Without Animals!

The iconic circus is set for a comeback after closing in 2017. But this time, it will focus on human feats and stories, and so sparing animals from having to perform.

RINGLING BROS CIRCUS RETURNS – BUT WITHOUT ANIMALS

The so-called “Greatest Show on Earth” is set to make a comeback, as the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus announce its return to the stage. 

The Ringling Bros circus stopped its 146 year-run back in 2017, after falling ticket sales and a long history of criticism and legal challenges by animal rights groups who condemned the circus’s use of animals. 

Now, the show’s big return – set to begin with a huge 50-city tour next year – will for the first time be free of animals, and instead focus on human feats and narrative story lines. 

“Ringling has always evolved: Logically, in order to be successful for 146 years, you constantly have to change,” Kenneth Feld, the chief executive officer of Feld Entertainment, which purchased the circus in 1967, told The New York Times.

Ringling’s controversial use of animals had faced constant negative attention, with the circus forcing animals such as elephants, lions, and tigers to perform tricks, endure lengthy journeys across the country, and suffer many incidents of alleged animal abuse. 

Undercover investigations repeatedly revealed the miserable lives of the animals, including the Ringling Elephants who spent most of their long lives either in chains or on trains, under constant threat of the bullhook, or ankus—the menacing tool used to control elephants.

AN ELEPHANT BEING ‘TRAINED’ TO PERFORM BY TRAINERS WITH BULLHOOKS

As calls for better treatment towards animals have continued to grow over the years, Ringling’s latest iteration will reflect modern attitudes and instead focus on inspiring and exciting human performers. The circus has already begun worldwide auditions for performers in countries including Ethiopia, Mongolia, and the US, with the 50-city tour scheduled to begin on Sept. 28, 2023. 

Animal rights campaigners are among those welcoming the return of Ringling’s circus. 

“Feld’s decision to bring the circus back without animals sends a very clear message to the industry that the circus can dazzle audiences with willing human performers and that no animal needs to be exploited,” said Rachel Mathews, a director from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Foundation, told the Times.

“What people see in the circus is a display of human dominance,” Mathews added. “The fact is the public doesn’t want to see that anymore.”

In 2009, PETA conducted a hidden-camera investigation into the treatment of Ringling’s elephants. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ordered Feld Entertainment, the circus’s parent company, to pay a $270,000 penalty to settle violations of the Animal Welfare Act for its treatment of performing animals.

Criticism of animal acts in the circus dates back to at least 1920s, when the Ringling circus, facing pushback from a growing animal rights movement, removed Lions and Tigers for about a decade, according to Greg Parkinson, the former executive director of Circus World Museum, in the Ringling family’s hometown, Baraboo, Wis. (The Sea Lion and Elephant performances stayed on.)

As Ringling Bros. announces an animal-free comeback tour after a five-year hiatus, PETA is offering it the group’s web domain Circuses.com, which was previously used to expose the abuse of animals used in its circus.

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South Africa’s Ivory Delusion. Why Selling Ivory Stockpiles To China Will NOT Stop The Illegal Ivory Trade

The values of Zimbabwe’s and Namibia’s ivory stockpiles have been grossly overstated, and their proposed sale would lead to another poaching epidemic.

In 2020 the world reacted in shock when Namibia announced plans to auction off 170 live Elephants to the highest bidder.

Despite criticism, the plans have continued to move forward — and that may just be the start. Tucked away in a press release justifying the auction was a rehash of the country’s oft-repeated desire to also sell ivory. The Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism’s stated:

“Namibia has major stockpiles of valuable wildlife products including ivory which it can produce sustainably and regulate properly, and which if traded internationally could support our Elephant conservation and management for decades to come.”

Namibia is not alone in this desire to capitalize on its wildlife. In Zimbabwe’s national assembly last year, the minister of environment valued the country’s stockpile of 130 metric tonnes (143 tons) of ivory and 5 tonnes (5.5 tons) of rhino horn at $600 million in U.S. dollars. This figure, which would value ivory at more than $4,200 per kilogram, has since been seized upon by commentators seeking to justify the reintroduction of the ivory trade.

Charan Saunders is an environmental accountant dedicated to ethical conservation, so she wanted to understand these numbers and how they motivate countries. In truth, she found not even full black-market value comes close to arriving at this figure.

Black-market values are, of course, often invisible to the general public, but the most recent data from criminal justice experts finds that unworked (or raw) Elephant ivory sells for about $92/kg on the black market in Africa, while rhino horn is currently selling for $8,683/kg.

Therefore, a more realistic valuation of Zimbabwe’s ivory stockpiles, using an optimistic wholesale price of $150/kg, would give a potential income of only $19.5 million in U.S. dollars.

This is a 30th of Zimbabwe’s estimate.

And even then, those numbers fail to account for the disaster that would happen if ivory sales return — as we saw in the all-too-recent past.

The One-Off Sales

SEIZED ILLEGAL IVORY

International trade in ivory has been banned since 1989, following a 10-year period in which African Elephant numbers declined by 50%, from 1.3 million to 600,000. However, in 1999 and 2008 CITES allowed “one-off sales” of stockpiled ivory, to disastrous effect. The selling prices achieved then were only $100/kg and $157/kg, in U.S. dollars respectively, due to collusion by official Chinese and Japanese buyers.

The intention of CITES in approving the one-off ivory sales was to introduce a controlled and steady supply of stockpiled ivory into the market. The legal supply, coupled with effective systems of control, aimed to satisfy demand and reduce prices. This in turn should have reduced the profitability of (and the demand for) illegal ivory. Poaching should have followed suit and decreased.

Instead, the sales led to an increase in demand and, consequently, an increase in Elephant poaching. The 2008 ivory sale was accompanied by a 66% increase in illegally traded ivory and a 71% increase in ivory smuggling. An investigation in 2010 by the Environmental Investigation Agency documented that 90% of the ivory being sold in China came from illegal sources.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) comparison of Elephant poaching figures for the five years preceding and five years following the sale showed an “abrupt, significant, permanent, robust and geographically widespread increase” in poaching.

The problem has not faded away. Most recently the two African Elephant species (savanna and forest) were declared endangered and critically endangered due to their continued poaching threat.

ZIMBABWE ELEPHANTS

Still, some African nations look fondly at the 2008 sale and have long hoped to repeat it. The Zimbabwe Ministry’s 2020 statement follows yet another proposal to the 18th CITES Conference of the Parties (COP18) by Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana to trade in live Elephants and their body parts, including ivory. The proposal was not accepted by the parties.

Why Didn’t Ivory Sales Work?

The one-off sales of ivory removed the stigma associated with its purchase, stimulated the market demand, and increased prices.

The ivory that China purchased in 2008 for $157/kg was drip-fed by the authorities to traders at prices ranging between $800 and $1,500 per kilogram. This meant that the bulk of the profits went to filling Chinese government coffers — not to African nations — and in doing so, created a large illegal market which drove prices even higher.

Raw ivory prices in China increased from $750/kg in 2010 to $2,100/kg in 2014. The market had been stimulated, prices increased and the volume of legal ivory available was insufficient to meet demand as the Chinese government gradually fed its stockpile into the market.

Japan, the other participant in the one-off sales, has systematically failed to comply with CITES regulations, meaning that there were (and still are) no controls over ivory being sold, allowing the illegal markets to function in parallel to the legal one.

In a very short space of time, criminals ramped up poaching and Elephant numbers plummeted.

What Has Happened to the Price of Ivory Since Then?

With no recent legal international sales, combined with the significant U.S., Chinese and United Kingdom domestic ivory sales bans, the price for raw ivory paid by craftsmen in China fell from $2,100/kg in 2014 to $730/kg in 2017. That’s when China closed all its official ivory carving outlets and theoretically stopped all official ivory trade.

The price currently paid for raw ivory in Asia, according to an investigation by the Wildlife Justice Commission, is currently between $597/kg and $689/kg, in U.S. dollars. Ivory sourced in Africa and sold in Asia has additional costs such as transportation, taxes and broker commissions. The prices paid for raw ivory in Africa have decreased correspondingly from $208/kg to $92/kg in 2020.

Those numbers pale in comparison to a living Elephant. A 2014 study found that live Elephants are each worth an estimated $1.6 million in ecotourism opportunities.

Funding Conservation

One half-truth is that the money earned from the legal sale will be used to effectively fund conservation.

One of the CITES conditions of the 2008 sale was that funds were to go to the conservation of Elephants. South Africa placed a substantial portion of the income from its share of the pie in the Mpumalanga Problem Animal Fund — which, it turns out, was well-named. An internal investigation found the fund had “no proper controls” and that “tens of millions” of rand (the official currency of South Africa) had bypassed the normal procurement processes.

Ironically, proceeds were also partly used for the refurbishment of the Skukuza abattoir, where most of the 14,629 Elephant carcasses from culling operations between 1967 and 1997 were processed.

All the while, Africa’s Elephant populations continued to decline.

How to Stop Poaching

In light of these deficiencies — and in light of Elephants’ recently declared endangered status — the very reverse of actual conservation can be expected if any nation is again allowed to sell its ivory stockpiles. The cost of increased anti-poaching efforts required from the consequent increase in poaching will outweigh the benefit of any income from the sale of ivory stockpiles.

To stop poaching, all international and local trade must be stopped.

Repeating this failed experiment will send a message that it is acceptable to trade in ivory. Ivory carving outlets in China will re-open and demand for ivory will be stimulated. The demand for ivory in an increasingly wealthy and better-connected Asia will quickly outstrip legal supply and poaching will increase.

Meanwhile, the management of a legal ivory trade requires strong systems of control at every point in the commodity chain to ensure that illegal ivory is not laundered into the legal market. With recalcitrant Japan continuing to ignore CITES, “untransparent” Namibia “losing tolerance” with CITES, and Zimbabwe ranking 157 out of 179 on the corruption perceptions index, not even the basics for controlled trade are in place.

Therefore, aside from the strong theoretical economic arguments against renewed one-off sales, the practical arguments are perhaps even stronger: If international ivory and rhino horn sales ever again become legal, the cost to protect Elephants will skyrocket and these culturally valuable animals will plunge into decline — and possibly extinction.

About the author: Charan Saunders grew up in Cape Town and studied genetics and microbiology and then went on to qualify as a chartered accountant. She has worked in London in the forensic science field and was the chief financial officer of a major vaccine manufacturer for six years. She now serves as a financial director in the field of conservation.

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Life At 30: The EU Project That Has Saved Species From Lynx To Flying Squirrels

The Life programme, which celebrates its birthday this weekend, has poured billions into saving Europe’s most vulnerable creatures.

THE IBERIAN LYNX

“It has been a miracle,” whispers biologist Gabriel Llorens Folgado as he studies a tumble of granite boulders for any signs of movement. The miracle is that Spain’s Lynx population has been saved. Today, in the wildflower-coated hills of the Sierra de Andújar in southern Spain, Folgado is looking for Magarza and her four cubs. “When I first saw a Lynx, 20 years ago, there were fewer than 100 in just two places in Spain. I never stopped hoping, but I thought they might disappear,” he says.

AN IBERIAN LYNX IS RELEASED IN THE FRAMEWORK OF THE ANIMAL PROGRAMME ‘LIFE IN TOLEDO

The Iberian Lynx was the world’s most endangered cat 20 years ago, but after a number of EU Life projects, today there are more than 1,000 across Spain and Portugal. Carmen Rueda Rodriguez from the conservation group CBD Habitat, who has been working with the Iberian Lynx since 2014, says the EU funding programme has been a gamechanger.

“In the 1990s everyone knew the Lynx was in decline but no one knew how to stop it,” she says. “The first projects started looking for Lynx and that led to realising there were fewer than 100 left.” What followed was “Lynx intensive care” – capturing some of the few remaining Lynx and putting them into a breeding programme, alongside rebuilding myxomatosis and haemorrhagic fever-ravaged wild rabbit populations. Building on that success, the aim of the fourth phase, Lynxconnect, is to link up populations established across Spain and Portugal to improve genetic diversity.

In 1992, when the EU agreed the habitats directive and launched Natura 2000, the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world, the EU Life funding programme came into being. In the last 30 years it has supported 5,500 projects and spent €6.5bn (£5.5bn) up to 2020, with a further €5.4bn pledged for the period 2021 to 2027.

Threatened species that have benefited from Life projects include European Bison, Marsican and Cantabrian Brown Bear populations, the Siberian Flying Squirrel, European Mink, various Vultures and Raptors, Yelkouan Shearwaters in Malta, Capricorn Beetles in Sweden and seven species of Sturgeon in the Danube river system. Some projects build ecological knowledge, others implement conservation measures; many promote knowledge of endangered species and foster public support.

A MARSICAN BEAR

In Spain, it is not just the Iberian Lynx that has benefited from Life projects. The Sierra de Andújar is also home to the Spanish Imperial Eagle. Endemic to Spain and Portugal, in the 1960s the birds were reduced to 30 pairs, mostly due to poisoning, collapsing rabbit populations and electrocution. José Luis Sánchez, a biologist at Iberian Lynx Land, says: “The main problem was electrocution. When Eagles perched on pylon towers their wings spanned the wires on both sides and they were killed.” Life projects enabled about 15,000 electric pylon towers to be modified with rubber to insulate the wires, while agreements with private landowners generated more than 22,000 hectares (54,353 acres) of new eagle-friendly habitat. Now there are thought to be more than 1,000 of the Eagles – Spain’s national bird – breeding across the Iberian peninsula.

“Getting the baseline science right is key,” says Hall-Spencer, “but the whole point of Life projects isn’t primarily scientific, it’s social.”

THE FUTURE OF THE IBERIAN LYNX

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