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Showing posts with label wildlife. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wildlife. Show all posts

Friday, 2 April 2021

Escobar's hippos. The ultimate invasive species.

 


You cannot get a more obvious and intrusive alien invasive species running wild in a foreign land than hippos and in the normal course of events such a situation should not happen but in the case of the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar in Colombia and his private zoo at Hacienda Napoles it did and it is now causing scientists consternation and disagreement.

Pablo Escobar managed to legally and illegally import into Colombia a whole private zoo from all parts of the world in the 1980’s and these included four illegally imported hippos. How its possible to smuggle such large animals into a country is another matter, but there were also giraffes, elephants, kangaroos and many other species.

Hippos left to fend for themselves.

When Pablo Escobar was killed in 1993 most of the animals were left to fend for themselves including the four hippos who took up residence in a local river and in the space of thirty years have allegedly increased their numbers to a staggering 80-100. A wonderful breeding achievement proving that you do not necessarily need a bunch of scientists in a zoo with their artificial insemination to breed animals. But some scientists and conservationists hate invasive species and prefer everything to remain in its right order and place as nature intended. This is because in some circumstances they eradicate indigenous animals and plants and muck up the ecosystems and biodiversity and the knee jerk reaction is always to kill them.

In this case, because of the difficulty and expense in relocating them, and the fact that the locals love them, are making money out of tourists visiting them and fingers crossed no one so far has been seriously injured or killed, they are at the moment being left alone. There have been attempts to neuter them but with so many this is now proving impractical. Some university study groups and scientists have wildly estimated that there could be as many as 1,500 by the year 2035 if the Colombian government do not act now. But unusually in such cases the Government are presently protecting them.

One of the greatest challenges of invasive species in the world.

One has to wonder why there wasn’t earlier intervention to remove them before their numbers got out of control and why wildlife rescue, university study groups and scientists didn’t step in sooner. One group has stated that they are “one of the greatest challenges of invasive species in the world”. but now that they are situ I am all for leaving them be as they now obviously form a colony outside of Africa which could prove useful in the future. And there are many studies in progress to monitor them so there could be many lessons to be learned from leaving animals to without our intervention.

Invasive species are a worldwide problem mainly caused as always by the hand of humans abandoning exotic pets or historically introducing them to benefit human occupation. In Australia and New Zealand it is feral cats and dogs, in Europe it is animals like the coypu, in the USA it is alligators, turtles and snakes. In the UK it is grey squirrels, mink and ruddy ducks. They are blamed for all sorts of things by us which is a tad rich when the major invasive species at work on the planet has always been homo sapiens wherever they have decided to take up residence and irreparably destroy the local biodiversity.

 


Saturday, 30 May 2020

Covid-19 lockdowns gave wildlife a rest.


 They do not necessarily need us but we need them.

Wildlife had a well-deserved rest


What became completely apparent during the recent worldwide Covid-19 lockdowns is that wildlife would not miss us at all if humanity was to suddenly disappear or reduce drastically in numbers. Wildlife appeared to enjoy this brief hiatus from us finding they could wander freely, unhindered and safe from interruption. They quickly decided to invade our space instead of the other way round. There is probably a great irony somewhere in all this.
Of course, it is a different story for companion animals who are so dependent on us and have seen a lot more of their owners during this period and may be shocked at normality again.
There have been numerous news reports from all parts of the world of timid species being emboldened to explore and venture into territory that was out of bounds just weeks before because of less human activity and even roaming the urban areas. And road kills lessened at an opportune time in many parts of the world for the spring breeding season. There have already been reports of more hedgehogs in the UK this year.
Unfortunately for them it may not take long for the normality to resume and they will be pushed back into their small enclaves and run the gauntlet of human contact. Although we set aside large swathes of land in the name of conserving animals and habitat and give them such impressive names as national parks, reserves and conservation areas, in reality they have become giant adventure playgrounds for us to enjoy mountain biking, hiking, picnicking, rock climbing, kayaking and any other pursuit we can think up with no consideration given to the disturbance to the animals. Far from being safety zones for them we increasingly invade these spaces, and if they should dare to retaliate by attacking us, we kill them.
Bears in U.S. national parks were able to roam freely and unhindered without having to take detours round vehicles and camp sites and they do not have to worry about confronting humans. Rangers have reported a huge increase in bear and wildlife sightings and stated that the bears are “partying” in Yosemite national park. Lions in Kruger national park also took the opportunity to roam freely and sleep wherever they pleased and enjoyed some peace and quiet even taking a nap on the park roads without being surrounded by hordes of tourist vehicles. 
Hopefully somewhere in all this there might be a salutary lesson to us perhaps even making us appreciate nature more and an understanding that animals require their space and freedom just like us. Perhaps we should even give some serious thought to whose benefit many of these preserved areas are truly for and put restrictions on the ultimate predator from entering them.




Thursday, 28 May 2020

Cruel ritual of Fang Sheng


The tradition causes more animal suffering than it prevents, undermining the original point of the ritual to save a life in danger.

Photo: John Brookland/animalrightsandwrongs.com

On a recent trip to Cambodia I was saddened to see that the Buddhist practice of releasing wild caught birds and other animals for merit is still flourishing. The tradition is variously called Fang Sheng, life release or merit releasing. Vendors on the waterfront in Phnom Penh near the Royal Palace and at the iconic temple of Wat Phnom were being kept busy with a stream of worshippers eager to buy. Cages containing thousands of stressed birds were lined up alongside the flower sellers and buyers seemed oblivious to their plight which must be at odds with Buddhist beliefs and doctrines.
Unfortunately the need to preserve or give life to another living being in order to obtain good karma and cleanse ones past sins appears to override any consideration of the welfare of the animals that they buy and immediately release. The age old tradition dating back to at least the sixth century allegedly began with devotees buying animals destined for slaughter and literally saving their lives.
Now it is purely a trade in which turtles, snails, crabs, eels, snakes, and live birds are made captive and sold for financial gain. The practice is prevalent across Asia and seems to be on the increase and causes more animal suffering than it prevents, undermining the original point of the ritual to save a life in danger.
Devotee carrying cage of birds into temple. Photo: johnbrookland
Trapping wild birds for the trade is indiscriminate. A recent study of the trade in Cambodia estimates 770,000 birds of 57 species are involved, many of which are endangered species ranging from owls and parakeets to finches and swifts. 10% tested positive for H5N1 bird flu which can cause illness in humans. In China alone it is estimated that 200 million animals are “freed” each year.

Sellers see no harm in it

The vendors use large “storage” cages containing over 400 small birds and then dispense a dozen or so into takeaway cages to take into the temple for blessing. This involves manhandling them which causes panic, injuries, and stress. The vendors see no harm in it and believe the birds do not suffer.


Bird seller outside temple. Photo: johnbrookland
Although the birds have food and water and the cages appear relatively clean it is the stress of capture, transport, overcrowding and constant manhandling that causes death and injury.
I watched in horror as one man dipped his cage of newly acquired birds in the nearby river to freshen them up and I saw another putting a dozen finches into a sealed clear plastic bag as though they we produce from a supermarket where they fluttered in distress.


This man was happy to put the birds into a sealed plastic bag. Photo: johnbrookland
In Thailand, the SPCA have managed to negotiate some cooperation from Buddhist temples who are trying to ban or remove sellers from outside their complexes, but this is not widespread. Buddhists in the UK and USA also practice Fang Sheng often with dire consequences. In 2017, two London Buddhists were ordered to pay £28,000 ($34,000) in fines and compensation for a mass release of hundreds of non-native lobsters and crabs into the sea from a boat off Brighton causing “untold damage” to marine life.

Consign the ritual to history

The Buddhist religion supposedly venerates the life of all beings and is against suffering and many temples help street dogs by feeding them and allowing them to rest in their compounds. They collect food and feed zoo animals and carry out other compassionate acts to animals. But at the same time monks get involved in the wildlife smuggling trade and keep monkeys and other animals confined in awful cages in their temple complexes. It is perhaps time for the Buddhist hierarchy to look at their mixed approach to their beliefs regarding living creatures and consign practices like Fang Sheng to history.