Photo: Ernesto Mendez / PROFEPA
You ever have that “not so fresh” feeling? Well, a lot of mammals felt that way all month (and most of them have felt that way all year). These are the seven times it sucked to be a mammal in June 2016.
You’re right, this one involves more than just mammals. You can call shenanigans if you want. This month, the federal government’s Wildlife Services unit, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, released data that shows they killed 3.2 million animals in fiscal year 2015 (half a million kills more than 2014). The WS has the unglamorous job of gassing newborn foxes and trapping, shooting or poisoning just about everything else: Wolves, coyotes, bears, mountain lions, beavers, foxes, eagles (see, it’s mostly mammals).
Why do they do this? Well, the program dates back to 1915 and its purpose is to “resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist.” In other words, if animals are bugging farmers or other businesses, the fed goes in and “resolves the conflict” by erasing the animals.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the agency kills many more animals than it reports.
Long story short, the Rambo Circus in India was not taking care of its four elephants. Upon inspection, Rambo failed evaluations from both the country’s Central Zoo Authority and the Animal Welfare Board and was subsequently ordered to put its elephants into retirement and rehabilitation. That was in May. This month, a court ruled that the elephants were the property of Rambo Circus and ordered that they be returned. Now the “Precious Four,” as they’ve been dubbed, are back at the circus. A petition has been created to convince the government to reconsider. You can sign it here.
A study published earlier this month in the journal Current Biology puts forth the groundbreaking proposition that hunting and poaching large animals like elephants, lions, sharks and whales, puts those animals at a higher risk of extinction. “The extreme values of these species mean that without significant conservation intervention, they will be hunted to extinction,” said Loren McClenachan, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of environmental studies at Colby College.
Unfortunately, to make a dent in the extremely profitable illegal wildlife trade, researchers concluded that poaching fines would need to be increased 10 to 100 times current levels. Some government officials argue that legal hunting of big game animals will generate enough revenue to pay for increased wildlife monitoring, but then again, “maybe hunting animals isn’t the best way to save them.”
This one’s real simple to explain. There are so few cheetahs left in the wild that their genetic diversity is declining “at an alarming rate.” That’s according to a recent study from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI). “Genetic health is essential for species survival,” said SCBI’s Dr. Wildt. “This is yet another example for the need to protect habitat as more range allows cheetahs to distribute their most valuable genes to sustain a healthy population.”
However, Wildt’s colleague, Dr. Kim Terrell, is unsure if cheetahs will be able to bounce back. “Cheetahs have already come back from the brink of extinction once in history,” she said. “We don’t know if they can do it a second time.”
Yep, another elephant story. We do a lot of those at Planet Experts, and it’s because it really sucks to be an elephant. Tanzania’s elephant population is now at a historic low, according to the WWF, “and urgent measures are required to protect the remaining animals and return the population to a stable and sustainable size.” The organization warns that if these measures aren’t taken, elephants could disappear from Selous, one of the largest faunal reserves in the world, in just six years.
Poachers have killed an average of 2,500 elephants on the game reserve every year for the last 40 years.
There are about 60 vaquita porpoises left in the whole ocean. That’s down from about 245 less than a decade ago. Unfortunately for the vaquita, they keep getting snagged by Mexican fishermen who are trying to catch another endangered species entirely, the totoaba. Despite the Mexican government’s ban on totoaba fishing in 1975, illegal trade in the fish is thriving due to the ridiculously high price its swim bladders fetch in the Chinese black market, which ranges from $5,000 to $600,000.
Chinese demand for the bladder is so high because of the traditional belief that eating it imparts extraordinary health benefits. Scientists say that’s bogus, but consumers remain unconvinced.
Fun fact about Brazil’s Jungle Warfare Training Center: Their mascot is a jaguar. It makes sense, too. These are the tough hombres that train for accomplishing military missions in the Brazilian rainforest—a particularly unforgiving environment. They’re so tough, in fact, that the CIGS Zoo is stocked with animals the jungle brigades capture on missions, including one bonafide jaguar named Juma. And since the mascot of the Brazilian Olympic team is also a jaguar, the military trotted out Juma to pose behind Olympians during a Rio 2016 torch-lighting ceremony on June 20.
Unfortunately, after a few hours of enduring her photo ops in a metal collar, Juma decided she wasn’t too keen on getting back into her cage. She escaped from her handlers and was gunned down by a Brazilian soldier.
According to the Amazon Institute of Environmental Research, the military was not granted permission to use Juma in the ceremony. The Rio 2016 committee was quick to condemn the incident, saying that the image of a chained up jaguar “goes against our beliefs and our values,” and guaranteed that “there will be no more such incidents at Rio 2016.”
After thousands of years of exploiting animals for our amusement, isn’t it nice that we’ve finally learned our lesson? Verily, Juma has died for our sins.