Posted by: thewideblueyonder | May 20, 2009

Bullfighting Soon to be Banned in Spain?

Author photo Written by Levi Novey

Published on May 20th, 2009

The romantic imagery painted of Spanish bullfighting in Ernest Hemingway’s famous book The Sun Also Rises might soon be the stuff of history. Spain is edging ever closer to banning the sport.

A Bullfight in Spain

Of course, it is likely that opposition to banning the sport will be noisy, especially when it’s a multimillion dollar generating industry that’s subsidized by the Spanish government. Then there are also those fans to whom the sport is a profound tradition to be upheld, like a ten year old matador who set a Guiness World Record for killing six young bulls in one weekend despite protests. He later declared, “No one can stop me fighting… I was born a bullfighter and will die one.” At least this boy has been banned from bullfighting in Spain and now must practice his trade in Latin America.

The famous city of Barcelona has also made efforts to stop the torture that bulls face in the arena. In 2004 they passed a declaration that condemned bullfighting, but came short of banning it. 125,000 people still attended bullfights in Barcelona’s Monumental Bullring in 2008, showing the declaration alone was not entirely effective. In Spain’s Canary Islands, however, the sport has been successfully banned.

But now as the Catalonia region of Spain moves to ban the sport, we can only hope others will follow. About 250,000 bulls are estimated to die each year in the nine countries that allow the sport, with 60,000 of the kills occurring in Spain.

Awareness about the need to protect animal rights has become much stronger across Europe in recent years. Earlier this month the European Union banned seal products in condemnation of Canada’s brutal seal hunt.

For more information about the effort to ban bullfighting, visit the webpage for a Bullfighting-Free Europe.

Photo Credit: J>Ro on Flickr under a Creative Commons license

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EarthTrust is relaying this release on behalf of Save the Elephants and the desert elephants of Mali. For further information please contact Save the Elephants officers through the contact details at the end of this release.

NAIROBI, Kenya – 20 May 2009.   The future of a rare herd of desert elephants in Mali is under threat from one of the worst droughts in living memory, which has left a key water source at its lowest level in a quarter of a century and is breaking down the usual peaceful co-existence between the elephants and local herdsmen.

The 350 to 450 elephants of Gourma, the northernmost herds still alive in Africa, are being forced to trek ever-longer distances within the Sahel on the fringes of the Sahara to find scarce water, conservation organisation Save The Elephants warns today.

Juveniles are likely to be among the worst affected, as – unlike the bigger bulls – their trunks are not long enough to reach deep into remaining wells. Six elephants have already been found dead. Four others, including three calves, were recently extracted from a shallow well into which they had fallen when searching for water.  Only the largest survived.

Save the Elephants’ scientist Jake Wall is in Mali following the situation closely. He says “Banzena has almost completely dried leaving no more than 30 cm of muddy, sediment filled water. The elephants are now in a deadly situation as they wait for the rains to begin. Six elephants have died in the last couple of months from causes related to the drought conditions.”

A group of NGO’s comprising Save the Elephants (STE) and The WILD Foundation (WILD) have been monitoring the last rare desert elephants in Mali in collaboration with the Malian Environment Ministry directorate for conservation – Direction Nationale de la Conservation de la Nature (DNCN).
This unique herd of elephants is now in a desperate situation due to a drastic shortage of water, and we are launching an emergency appeal to save them.

The desert elephants of Mali live in the Gourma district to the South East of Timbuktu.  They are the northernmost elephants surviving in Africa, estimated at between 350 and 450 in number. They have adapted to survive in the harsh conditions of the Sahel by migrating long distances in search of water and food but live on the margin of what is ecologically viable.

Dr Iain Douglas-Hamilton of Save the Elephants has been monitoring their range since the mid 1970s. He says “In the Gourma region of Mali are the last elephants living in the Sahel and they are northernmost in Africa. Their range has shrunk drastically since the 1970’s due to climate change and overstocking of livestock which has degraded the habitat.  These elephants have the longest migration route of any in Africa and move in a counterclockwise circle of about 700km. At the height of the dry season there are only a handful of shallow lakes left to them until recharged by rains in July and August.”

This year the water levels are extremely low in the Gourma region due to uneven rainfall in 2008. The most important of these lakes, Banzena, is the lowest it has been since 1983 when it dried completely.

Over the last few years a team of Save the Elephants and the WILD Foundation in collaboration with the DNCN have been closely following the movements of the elephants using 9 collars fitted with Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers. The collars transmit the hourly positions of the
elephants three times daily via satellite link and give real-time information about the activities of the elephant herds.

On the16th May, Jake Wall a scientist with Save the Elephants returned from the most important water source, Lake Banzena, on which the elephants rely at the height of the dry season. He found it almost dry. “The situation is equally dire for the Touareg and Pheul herdsmen who rely on Banzena for their cattle and many cows are now dying each day from lack of water and the soaring temperatures which reach 50 degrees Celsius in the shade. The stench of rotting corpses fills the air and what little water remains is putrid and undrinkable by all standards. The normal peaceful coexistence between the elephants and herdsmen is starting to break-down and giving way to conflict over access to water.”

Very few options now exist for finding water and we are witnessing erratic movements further and further afield as they desperately search for water and forage.”Small thundershowers last week left tantalizing puddles 20 km to the south of Banzena, enough to survive on for a couple days at most, but the herds are now being forced back north to the almost dry lake.”

At a dry lake bed 50 km to the east of Banzena, 6 bull elephants are surviving by getting on their knees and reaching for water with their trunks that is 3 meters beneath ground level and through a hole dug by the Touareg. Younger elephants who are not as big or as skilled cannot possibly reach these to hard to get at water points. The long distances, high temperatures and weakened condition will also take a heavy toll on the younger elephants.

Jake Wall says “I have witnessed first hand how tough the situation can be for young elephants. Last year during a radio-collaring operation, I came across 3 elephant calves trapped in a mud hole along with a half grown female. From the age structure it looked like they had lost their matriarch. Evidently, this young female had led the youngsters into a waterless area. They happened upon a shallow well dug by herdsmen for watering cattle and it appears that the elephants, desperate for water, tumbled into the well and all four were hopelessly stuck in the mud for three days. Our Save the Elephants team pulled them out one by one, but they were so weak that only the large female survived.  She was radio-tagged and we watched her dash 80 km to the nearest water at Lake Banzena.”

Urgent action is now needed to secure water for the elephants until the rains commence as predicted in early June. Fortunately, two pumps already exist at Banzena for pumping water and can be used for helping the elephants. Save the Elephants, in partnership with the WILD Foundation and the Mali government, is appealing for funds for diesel necessary for their operation. It is not certain whether the water quantity will be sufficient and close monitoring of the situation is needed.

If you want to help us save these elephants please send a donation via our website:

WildlifeDirect is a non-profit conservation organization based in Kenya that uses the internet to create awareness about conservation issues and to raise funds for conservation through Web Logs (blogs) written by field conservationists. WildlifeDirect endeavors to create a movement powerful enough to produce a virtual endowment capable of reversing the catastrophic loss of habitats and species. WildlifeDirect is Registered as a charity in the USA and in Kenya.

Save the Elephants aims to secure a future for elephants and sustain the beauty and ecological integrity of the places they live in, to promote man’s delight in their intelligence and the diversity of their world, and to develop a tollerant relationship between the two species. They do this through research, protection, grassroots community involvement, and education.

 # # #

For more information contact:

Dr Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Save the Elephants and Department of Zoology, University of Oxford tel +44 798 140 3918

Jake Wall Save the Elephants tel   +223 7454 6124 tel   +223 6603 5042

Vance Martin WILD tel 303-442-8811

Posted by: thewideblueyonder | May 17, 2009

Thai Smugglers Busted with Grisly Halves of Tiger Carcasses

Written by Derek Markham

Published on May 17th, 2009
Thai Tiger Halves
The Thai Navy arrested eight animal traffickers in possession of two tiger carcasses, both chopped in half, and 45 pangolins as they attempted to smuggle the animals across the Mekong River into Lao PDF.
“The trail of butchered Tigers winds through many countries in Southeast Asia.” – Chris R. Shepherd, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia’s Acting Director

Officers in the Thai Navy followed two cars with the grisly cargo and arrested eight people as they attempted to transfer the animals from cars into a boat for the river crossing. Two of the pangolins were already dead.

Thai Tiger Halves

The Thai Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division sent the tiger carcasses to the Dept. of National Parks for DNA testing to determine if they were domesticated or wild animals.

“TRAFFIC lauds the Thai authorities for carrying out these DNA tests. Determining the origin of these Tigers is crucial if authorities hope to end this tragic trade.”- Shepherd

Previous attempts to smuggle tigers across the border have been recorded, with the Thai Navy preventing smugglers from bringing six slaughtered tigers, five leopards and 275 live pangolins across the Thai-Laos border in January 2008. The tigers in that incident were also sliced in half, and the leopards were missing their organs.

In January 2009, police in Thailand seized the carcasses of four tigers in Hua Hin, all decapitated. Police believed those tigers came from Malaysia and were en route to China. In February, two tiger carcasses and a panther carcass were seized in the province of Pattani.

TRAFFIC encouraged governments in Southeastern Asian countries to work together to stem the flow of illegal animal trafficking across borders.

“Tracking down those who illegally kill and trade these Tigers and putting them behind bars is a task countries cannot accomplish their own.” – Shepherd

Images: Mekong Waterfront Guard & Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division (NRECD) Thailand

Posted by: thewideblueyonder | May 12, 2009

80+ Environmental Organizations to Follow on Twitter

Written by Alex Felsinger

These organizations use tactics varying from direct action to job training, but they all are working to protect the planet in a substantial way.

Through twitter, anyone can stay up to date with their latest efforts to restore and protect habitats, influence environmental policy, and curb climate change. Take the opportunity to tap into the thoughts of those pushing for change and perhaps find some ideas of how you can help.

In alphabetical order:

AIDG – @aidg

Alliance for Climate – @ClimateEd

Alliance to Save Energy – @ToSaveEnergy

Amazon Watch – @AmazonWatch

Animal Aid – @AnimalAid

Bikes for the World – @bikesftworld

Blue Planet Society – @Seasaver

Camp for Climate Action – @ClimateCampLdn

Chesapeake Climate Action Network – @CCAN

Clean Air Conservancy – @CleanAirConserv

Clean Air Georgia – @CleanAirGA

Climate Cycle Africa – @ClimateCycle

Climate Rescue – @ClimateRescue

Conservation NW – @ConservationNW

Defenders of Wildlife – @Defenders

Earth Hour – @earthhour

Earth Institute – @earthinstitute

Earth Island Institute – @EarthIsland

Earthjustice – @Earthjustice

Earth Share – @EarthShare

ECO Canada – @ecocanada

Ecojustice – @Ecojustice_ca

Eco Preservation Society – @EcoPreservation @EcoInteractive

Endangered Species Coalition – @stopextinction

Environmental Defense Fund –  @EnvDefenseFund

Farm Animal Rights Movement – @FARMUSA

FarmForward – @FarmForward

Farm Sanctuary – @FarmSanctuary

Food & Water Watch – @Foodandwater

Forest Ethics – @ForestEthics

Friends of the Earth – @wwwfoecouk @foe_us

Global Green USA – @globalgreenusa

Go Sustainable – @gosustainable

Greener Leith – @greenerleith

Green For All – @GreenForAll

Greenpeace – @Greenpeace @Greenpeace_Intl @GreenpeaceUSA

Healthy Child Healthy World – @healthy_child

Hawk Conservancy – @HawkConservancy

Heal the Bay – @HealtheBay

Humane Society of the United States – @HumaneSociety

Institute for Sustainable Communities- @SustainableComm

International Elephant Foundation – @IEF_elephants

Just Green – @Just_Green

Kiva – @Kiva

LCA Trust – @preserveland

Liberation BC – @liberationbc

Live Earth – @LiveEarth

National Park Foundation – @GoParks

National Wildlife Federation – @NWF

Natural Resources Defense Council – @NRDC @NRDCswitchboard

Nature Conservancy – @nature_org

Nature New South Whales – @naturensw

Northwest Earth Institute – @nwearth

Ohio Wildlife Rehab – @OWRA

Oregon Wild – @OregonWild

Pacific Forest Trust – @PacificForest

Rainforest Action Network – @RAN

Rainforest Alliance – @RnfrstAlliance

Rainforest Rescue – @SaveRainforests

Royal Society for Protecting Birds – @Natures_Voice

RSPCA – @RSPCA_official

Save Our Rivers – @SaveOurRivers

Save the Frogs – @savethefrogs

Sierra Club – @Sierra_Magazine

Sierra Club Great Lakes – @SC_Great_Lakes

Student Conservation Association – @the_sca

Surfrider Foundation – @SurfriderHQ @surfridereurope

Sustain US – @SustainUSAgents

The Australian Conservation Foundation – @AusConservation

The Climate Project – @ClimateProject

The Model Forest Policy Program – @MFPP

The Wilderness Society – @Wilderness

The Wild Foundation – @WILDfoundation

Trees, Water & People – @treeswater

Urban Land Institute – @UrbanLandInst

Vegan Outreach – @VeganOutreach

WA Wilderness – @Wa_Wilderness

Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust – @wwtlondon

World Wildlife Fund – @World_Wildlife

1planet1ocean – @OceanDoctor

1Sky – @1Sky

This will be most useful as a comprehensive list, so please let me know if I missed any by sending me a tweet @AFelsinger.

Photo via Muffet on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Written by Jeff Pecaro

The Obama administration’s Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced today that he won’t be changing George W. Bush’s rule that global factors, such as climate change, cannot be considered in analyzing the polar bear’s survival.

The rule, instituted in the last months of Bush’s presidency, prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries services from considering whether practices outside the polar bear’s territory are affecting its chances for survival.

This severely limits the environmental agencies’ ability to regulate how the effects of climate change are impacting the polar bear and its habitat. Congress passed legislation on March 10th that specifically allowed Salazar to rescind this rule-change by the Bush administration, but he has decided today to allow the deadline for that rule change to pass.

The inclusion of climate change in the protections of the Endangered Species Act presents a nightmare scenario for many of the major players in American industry, who could be forced by federal law to undergo costly and expansive changes if science could provide a causal link between their projects or proposals and the impending extinction of such a popular and charismatic species.

The Endangered Species Act was intended to protect animals at risk of extinction, and their habitats, from danger as a “consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation.” Bush’s rule, limiting the protections available to a species to actions taken in that animal’s home-range, legally removes the EPA’s ability to hold American industry responsible for how their actions are affecting the arctic.

One of the ESA’s most powerful tools is its effect on the approval of new projects, such as power plants, factories, and housing developments. Environmental groups have successfully brought suit to stop or alter a number of projects that threatened habitats critical to a species’ survival, using the Act for legal justification.

While it may protect American industry from making costly changes, at least for the time being, it seems to indicate that Salazar’s agency and Obama’s government are not ready to accept responsibility for how climate change that is threatening the polar bear.

Photo Credit: Just Being Myself on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Posted by: thewideblueyonder | May 5, 2009

Activists Make First Attempt to Clean Pacific Garbage Patch

Written by Jeff Pecaro

the Pacific ocean garbage patch

A group of intrepid activists are making a bid to be the first to undertake a clean-up mission to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also know as the Plastic Vortex.

Project Kaisei will sail to out of San Francisco to attempt to remove 40 tons of plastic waste from the 4 million tons believed to be clumped together in the patch. While others have traveled to the north Pacific gyre to raise awareness about plastics before, Project Kaisei is the first to attempt to bring back and recycle the waste on a large scale.

Discovered nearly 13 years ago by Captain Charles Moore, the floating mass of plastic trash sits in the Pacific ocean, around a point approximately forming a triangle with San Francisco and Hawaii, and taking up an area of ocean about the size of Texas, though some estimate it to be much larger.

As the plastic dissolves down into smaller pieces, it chokes fish, sea turtles, and migratory birds. Additionally, as the plastic’s composition breaks down, the patch leeches toxic chemicals into the water column.

Unfortunately, it is unclear how so much plastic garbage could ever be removed from the oceans, and there are concerns that any attempt to pull out the plastic would kill too much wildlife in the process. Even Captain Moore said“Trying to clean up the Pacific gyre would bankrupt any country and kill wildlife in the nets as it went.”

Photo Credit: cesarharada on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Posted by: thewideblueyonder | May 5, 2009

European Union Votes to Ban Seal Products

Written by Marika Collins

Members of European parliament voted this morning to ban seal products, further tightening the noose on Canada’s archaic and cruel commercial seal hunt. With members voting 550 to 49 in favor of the ban, Europe has sent Canada a clear message: Europeans do not support the hunt.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) welcomed the EU decision. The ban represents a welcome victory in the IFAW’s forty year campaign to end the hunt.

The IFAW expressed relief that EU parliament members had listened to the wishes of the vast majority of Europeans, as well as thousands of concerned people from around the world, who showed support for the ban in the form of thousands of emails and letters to MEPs.

According to the IFAW, thirty countries have now banned the sale of seal products including seven of Canada’s top ten export markets. The ban blocks the sale of seal products in the EU while exempting Inuit and indigenous peoples.

The Canadian government has indicated all along that it would challenge any ban at the World Trade Organization. While such a challenge is disappointing it is not surprising to the IFAW which views the Canadian challenge as a further waste of millions of dollars in Canadian taxpayer money, referring to it as “an emotional, knee-jerk reaction, not one that is socially or economically responsible.”

Canada, which sent a political envoy to Europe earlier this year in a vain effort to sway members of parliament against the ban, is finding itself increasingly isolated in its continued insistence on hunting seals. Russia, another major player in commercial seal hunting, announced a ban on hunting seals under the age of one in March of this year. That ban is viewed by the IFAW as the beginning of the end of Russia’s commercial harp seal hunt in the White Sea.

Regarding today’s ban on seal products,  Lesley O’Donnell, Director of IFAW EU, said that, “Parliament has hammered the final nail in the coffin of the sealing industry’s market in the EU.”

Canadian Senator Mac Harb introduced a bill to end Canada’s commercial seal hunt and has received more than 500,000 signatures and letters of support from around the world.

You can take action to end Canada’s commercial seal hunt by signing the IFAW’s online petition and bombarding the Canadian Senate with messages of support for Senator Harb.

Let’s hope that today’s ban marks the beginning of the end for Canada’s cruel commercial seal hunt.

Image Credit: brentdanley at flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Posted by: thewideblueyonder | May 5, 2009

100-200 New Amphibians Discovered in Madagascar

Written by Jake Richardson

madagascar frog

A recent study documented the discovery of 100-200 new amphibian species in Madagascar.

One of the researchers, Dr. Miguel Vences, stated: “People think that we know which plant and animal species live on this planet. But the century of discoveries has only just begun – the majority of life forms on Earth is still awaiting scientific recognition.”

The large numbers of new species counted by the 15 year inventory suggest the number of species in Madgascar, has been underestimated significantly. ( A great gallery of some of the frogs.)

Unfortunately, the rate of rainforest destruction there threatens animal life increasingly. In what may seem like a complete paradox, species are being being scientifically discovered for the first time, while they are being killed by widespread destruction like deforestation.

Also in Madagascar many wild frogs are eaten by the local people. A researcher named Richard Jenkins recently conducted a five month survey of hunters who delivered frogs to an eastern Madagascar restaurant. Over 3,000 frogs were taken to the restaurant and sold for consumption during the survey period.

To see more amphibians in Madagascar, see Dr. Vences beautiful slideshow.

Image Credit: Dr. Miguel Vences

Posted by: thewideblueyonder | April 26, 2009

Sea Otter Acquires 1,000 FaceBook Friends

Written by Jake Richardson

sea otter

While being nursed back to health, a sea otter was supported by a huge online gathering.

The California sea otter was found covered with oil, and stranded at Sunset Beach in Monterey. It was taken to the California Dept. of Fish and Game’s Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz. She was named ‘Olive’ while being cleansed of the oil stuck in and encompassing her fur. Oiled sea otters can die from hypothermia because the oil disrupts the furs capacity to retain heat. (Oil is also toxic when ingested).  Olive spent about 6 weeks in rehab to get healthy. She was de-oiled using a combination of olive oil, dish soap and warm water repeatedly.

During rehab a Facebook page was created for her. About 900 fans joined her page and sent get well messages while following her progress. One of the attending vets (Dave Jessup) remarked, “Olive has been a great patient. She has taught us a great deal and will likely teach us much more about the pollution-related problems sea otters face.” 

She made a full recovery, and was released back into the Pacific Ocean in early April. Her Facebook page actually gained more friends after the release, and is still active with her fans. A most recent entry states, “As the father of a 14-year-old daughter, I am constantly reminded how quickly they grow up, but this is ridiculous ! Isn’t Olive a bit young for a serious boyfriend? She’s only been free for a little more than a week for crying out loud.”

There are only about 2,800 southern sea otters in California. They are stressed by constant amounts of pollution in their habitats. Sea otters are a keystone species, meaning their feeding habits actually help manage the kelp forests where they live. Without sea otters to eat the species (like sea urchins) that eat kelp, the kelp forests may be diminished to a degree they no longer support other forms of life, like they do in a balanced ecosystem. The keystone species concept was introduced by Robert Paine, a University of Washington professor. This page references the importance of sea otters, ”The return of the sea otter to southern California, for example, is restoring kelp beds and associated marine life there.”

 Recently when an extremely rare sighting of a sea otter was confirmed off the coast of Oregon, it sparked jubilation among nature lovers. No confirmed sightings had taken place there for about 100 years.

Image Source: California Dept. of Fish and Game

Posted by: thewideblueyonder | April 23, 2009

Scientific Proof of Global Warming

Written by Brian Liloia

Despite any confusion that you might be facing, the facts on global warming are not up for debate.

It is true that there are some natural causes of global warming. However, there is no doubt amongst the world’s leading experts that the current dangerous warming trend is primarily caused by humans.

Proof From the Experts

Human activities are most likely causing global warming according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. The results of this report are significant since the IPCC is the leading group of scientist that evaluate climate change-related research.

There’s no reason for you to doubt the scientists. There are some people who will attempt to confuse you by claiming that the idea that humans cause climate change is “just a theory” and therefore shouldn’t be taken seriously. But this is a dangerous misrepresentation of how scientists use the word ‘theory’. (If you are interested, you can quickly learn how to stop the spread of this kind of misinformation using these innovative tactics).

The evidence is overwhelming in its support of the theory that humans cause climate change. The most important piece of evidence for you to understand is the direct correlation between the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and global average temperatures. As carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased, so has the average temperature on Earth. In fact, many of the activities you do every day contribute to this problem.

You need to understand the basics of scientific theories

You’re probably used to using the word ‘theory’ to indicate that you are uncertain about something. When scientists use the word ‘theory’, they mean it in a different way than you are probably used to using it in casual conversation.

Scientific theories are like facts. Scientific theories are well-tested and generally believed to be true by the scientific community. You don’t doubt the scientific ‘theory’ of gravity because the evidence so overwhelmingly supports it, and popular culture has come to accept it as a fact. However, scientists wouldn’t consider gravity’s existence a fact because they always leave open the possibility that new evidence will lead to a new theory.

Global warming is as accepted as gravity in the sense that human-caused global warming has been researched extensively and almost all scientists believe it is happening.

Are Catastrophic Effects Around the Corner?

There are many dangerous effects from global warming that have the potential to cause the extinction of humanity. Fortunately, there is still time to reduce these effects, but you must take action.

You should start by making sure that everyone has access to good information. That is why it is critically important that you learn to share this proof before it’s too late.

Image credit: flickr via Gilbert R.

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