EU blocks uplifting the Hippopotamus to an Appendix 1 endangered animal from an Appendix 2

Hippopotamus populations have declined by 30-50% over the last decade. This is an animal which is moving fast in the direction of extinction, yet despite a plea from 10 african countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Gabon, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo) to move them to appendix 1 has been blocked.

Hippopotamus are often easy to find on Safari, as they are usually found in the few deep pools and rivers that exist. They can be very dangerous if you are between them and the water, and roam widely in and out of protected reserves. This is the most common view for people who visit a national park
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UK government changes rules for farmers: now allow killing beavers?

Beavers have returned to the UK in the last couple of decades. Becoming extinct in the 16th century, Beavers were an important part of the UK ecosystem.

Beavers are incredible engineers. They build large pools, held back by dams, as well as canals running in many directions. One of the biggest bonuses of this behaviour, is to slow the speed that water has as it runs back into rivers and eventually the sea. This means that in areas where beavers exist, there remains plenty of water even in times during the year when there is little rain. The beaver pools are also fantastic for wildlife, from fish fry, to vast quantities of insects – which can increase farmers yields by pollinating the crops.

So what is the problem? Well, in many places in the country, farmers are now farming on low grade land, and some of this will be lost.

Given that beavers have only been in the UK for about 15 years, and the population only numbers a few thousand at most (while some populations like in Devon numbering in the hundreds or even approaching one thousand), in most of the country they are incredibly rare. Lethal methods of control should very rarely be required. In the vast majority of cases, the beavers should be worked around as the benefits they bring even to the farm are usually greater than the problems they cause. In the rare occasion where the beaver needs to be removed, then it is not necessary to kill it, with the numbers of beavers still so far below the carrying capacity of the UK, it would be relatively simple to catch it and to move it to a river which does not yet have enough.

While it may be cheaper in the short term, for both the farmer and the government, shooting the beaver is unlikely to deal with the problem. In many instances, it will not be long before another beaver takes up the area, which means that the problem is likely to occur again, furthermore, apart from the benefits for the local farm, the beavers behaviour has wider positive impacts.

If the government was to fund nature trusts in each county to help in this work, the price could be kept incredibly low, and the countries environment would benefit greatly

Should Jaguars have a place in the ecosystems of the continental north America?

Wild Jaguars are a native resident of the USA. Once roaming as far north as the Grand canyon, they roamed over around 1/3 of its lands. It is not a natural migration therefore that has therefore meant that Jaguars are extremely rare in the USA.

Currently there are about 173,000 Jaguars living in the wild, meaning that taken as a whole, the Jaguar is far away the safest of the big cats (Lions who come in second, have a population of around 20,000). However, if you look at the part of the Jaguar population that lives in north America, their position becomes far more precarious.

Currently, it is thought that Mexico contains a wild jaguar population of about 4800.

A map of current considered range of Jaguars in Mexico, with records over the last 20 years.
Credit: Ceballos G et al 2021
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Soliga tribe has been allowed to live inside tiger in a reserved area – and the tiger population doubles!

Around much of the world, as the various European countries expanded their empires, one of the first things that Europeans did, was to create reserves to protect the wildlife, and required the local people to move out.

Many tribes have incredibly small footprints on the ground, ad look after their environment far better than many conservationists would succeed

In many of these places, the local tribes were forcefully thrown of their land, and begrudgingly given small areas often with little value compared to where they lived before.

Now there is a difficult issue: those people who are living their lives in the same way that they have lived for thousands of years, are often fantastic for the reserve. However, in many places these people will turn to harvesting the wildlife in a totally different way, leading to many local extinctions.

India has a range of tiger reserves across the country. Few of them have more than a few hundred tigers, and many just have a few, yet, if this could be replicated, the Indian tiger population might have the ability to double once again
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Back on the 10th I wrote about the Tiger recovery, here is more details about the Kazakhstan reintroduction: by 2026?

The Caspian tiger once lived in 12 countries, from the west in Turkey, to the east in central Asia. Seemingly, across this range, they did not have consistent populations but the tigers lived on the shores of lakes in the region, with 15-20 valleys being their strongholds.

The Kazakhstan delta is mostly ready for a return of the Tiger, with just the missing prey base needing addressing, this is well in hand

On the whole, the Caspian tiger lived in relative harmony with humans up until the Russian invasion. The Russians brought with them, the custom of keeping livestock, which brought the humans into direct competition with the tigers. As a result, Russia started paying a bounty for every tiger killed. This was incredibly successful, such that by the 1940 they were exterminated. The hunting was banned in the 1940s but too late to save these tigers.

After this, the tigers former home was taken over and converted into farmland, so the few that survived the hunting, soon lost what home was left.

In the 1990s as Russia fell, WWF started working to help the ecosystem recover. As a result in the late 2000s a satellite analysis was carried out on the area, and one area stood out – a delta of the Lli river in Kazakhstan. It was found that if the prey base was first helped to recover (animals such as boar and deer) then this area could easily support tigers.

Now, it is true that the Caspian tiger went extinct 70 years ago. However, recent genetic analysis has shown that the Caspian and Amur tigers are not distinct enough to be classed separately – they are essentially one subspecies, with a large range. It is true that Caspian tigers tend to have had shorter fur, but tigers are able to adjust in this way, so tigers that are moved to warmer climates will grow less fur and be able to thrive.

Given Kazakhstan being the most advanced of the countries in the area, with relatively high living standards, they should be able to carry out the plan. The delay until 2026 is to allow time for the prey base to build up to sensible levels.

UK makes a respected decision to ban ivory sales, but not other body parts

At various times over the last century, the elephant population has been decimated. Between 1979 and 1989 the elephant population halved. Even recently, between 2007 -2014 30% of Africa elephants were lost.

Yet this is only the top of the iceberg. In 1930 there were an estimated 10,000,000 African elephants roaming the continent -today just 415,000 remain 96% decline. That means a sustained loss of almost 1%a year for almost a century.

Bbc photo of a group of elephants killed by Poachers

Now, there is another problem with this. These elephants belong to 2 species, the African forest elephant and the African Bush (or Savannah elephant). It is estimated just 40,000-50,000 African forest elephants remain; and it has to be remembered that the differences between the African forest and Savannah elephants are not small – they are not sub species, they are separate species.

The African forest elephant, overlooked by poachers for a long time, had had precipitous collapse in numbers, from over 700,000 to likely under 100,000. More than half of the remaining population lives in Gabon – which makes them susceptable to any change in policy in this small African country.

All this, is a rather long winded way to say that African elephants have suffered over the last century.

The British government has banned the import of ivory. Now they are closing the loophole, by banning other body parts from elephants – why stop ivory import, if the elephant will be driven to extinction for is ears or feet anyway.

Now, it is true that there is some legal hunting. In some places this does make sense, and I would suggest rules to allow import from these places – however these are few and far between, and many are not currently healthy enough to allow hunting. I am thinking of places like the Selous – 20,000 square miles. At one point housing more than 110,000 elephants, successive round of devestating poaching has reduced that to 10,000 or less.

While a take of 50-100 (even 500) from 110,000 is a founding error, this big a take from 10,000 is quite different. In a healthy ecosystem, this take of 1% or less would be fine, but it is likely that animals are still being lost to the poachers. Furthermore, given such a precipitous decline much of the population knowledge will have been lost – making survival through tough times far harder already.

My feeling, is that hunting should only happen if there is no other option. Sure, a hunted elephant brings in a lot of money, however, the Selous could support a vast photographic Safari destination, if the tsetse fly could be eliminated. This would give well passing jobs to the many poor communities living around it’s fringes. Certainly, I would argue with Africa has no need to trophy hunting of elephants, or most other species – never mind the fact that someone going on a canned lion hunt does not risk his life, and is guaranteed to kill. Essentially a canned lion hunt, is killing an animal in a large zoo.

1 in 5 (1800) reptiles around the world are facing extinction

Impacts on the worlds ecosystems from this many animals disappearing could have disastrous effects. The loss of this many reptiles could cause knock-on effects such as huge increase in the number of insects. As much as 30% of forest dwelling reptiles are threatened by extinction, due to their homes being cut down.

Reptiles are often quite beautiful, but we would also miss what they do- if they ceased to be there

Hunting is also adding an unhelpful pressure, as many reptile species have skins that can be made into items for human consumption.

In some countries such as the UK, it is usually looked down on so much, that you rarely see reptile skins (we have other problems) but elsewhere this is not the same. Reptiles are also very important seed dispersers

A study found that 3/4 of oil palm concessions in Indonesia and Malaysian Borneo certified by RSPO were forest or wildlife habitat just 30 years ago!

It seems that so long as the initial cause of the deforestation was not palm oil (or perhaps not the current owners of the palm oil farm?), then even if it is immediately converted into palm oil plantations, it can be counted as sustainable.

I think that few people would claim that practices like this are sustainable

This is absurd. It should obviously be the case that if an area is deforested illegally, then it should be reforested, not get the right to permanently become part of the crop areas.

Not really good.

It essentially means that the RSPO affiliation means nothing, as those of us concerned about the destruction of the rainforest and the loss of the biodiversity that it contains cannot trust them at all. I have written in the past, about Newquay zoo getting its signs wrong on avoiding palm oil. What is clear, is that almost none of the palm oil from Indonesia can claim to be avoiding deforestation as you’d expect. Has the RSPO destroyed their authority for ever? Time will tell.

What is clear is that this is not a new thing. Back in 2016 the Huffington post wrote an article “RSPO: Completely Worthless, or Just Mostly Worthless? (UPDATED)” (click the article to read it in another tab) in which it basically outlines many of the points from this latest assessment. This study was more thorough, so can tell us the extent of the problem, but what is clear is that it is not new.

Should the RSPO be given a second chance? I would argue not. If they have not cleaned up shop in 6 years, then there is going to be little rainforest left before they actually get their act together. Can it be done? Ferrero is ranked number 1 out of 173 by WWF on sustainable palm oil sourcing. Clearly it can be done – However, brands that hold onto RSPO may well start being avoided by the eco-concerned. If they are that useless then why even look for their mark

Fame of the Axoloti has grown over the last few years -Minecraft, but in the wild they are not doing so well

Axoloti look strange, and have got a lot of attention after being included in Minecraft. Unfortunately they are threatened with extinction

Having lost much if their habitat, the Axoloti is struggling to survive. Once widespread through the high-altitude lakes around Mexico city, the Axoloti an amphibian that is about 30cm long is restricted to just a few inland canals. Here somewhere between 50 and 1000 of these lizards live. Water pollution, habitat loss, and predation by invasive fish species such as Carp and Tilapia are all pushing this amphibian towards extinction.

Public awareness of this animal has exploded. Apart from its inclusion in games, it also features on the 50 peso coin from 2021.

Will it be able to survive? certainly there is now the will, however, it is hard to clean up waterways that lie so close to a huge city.

Time will tell if the Axoloti will survive in the wild, or whether future generations will think that they are a phantom of the game creators imagination.