Happy World Wildlife Day!

Today is World Wildlife Day, celebrated every March 3rd since its creation in 2013. This year it is centred aroundwwd_logo_english elephants, with the theme “The future of elephants is in our hands.”

Elephants are fantastic creatures, who have made sacrifices for our sake. Throughout history they played important roles in shaping the human race, but now the tables have turned and they need our help. Find out
about 4 iconic individuals who played huge roles in human history here.

World Wildlife Day is a day to celebrate wildlife and raise awareness for the world’s flora and fauna. My favourite animal is the Tiger, Panthera tigris, so here are a few facts to help you celebrate this majestic big cat with me.flying-tiger-wallpapers

Variety
There were once 9 subspecies of tiger: Bengal, Siberian, Indochinese, South Chinese, Sumatran, Malayan, Caspian, Javan and Bali. The last 3 are now extinct and the South Chinese has not been seen in the wild for 25 years. Tigers currently range South and Southeast Asia, China and the Russian Far East, but they have lost 93% of their historic range.tiger-wallpaper-predator-wild-cat

Size
Tigers are the largest members of the cat (felid) family. The Bengal and Siberian subspecies are the largest, growing up to 120 cm in height and 3.5m long, weighing anything from 65-300kg.

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Sociality

Tigers are solitary animals, except during the mating season (November to April in tropical climates, winter months in temperate regions). Cubs becomes independent at around 18 months, but will stay with their mothers for up
to 2 1/2 years. Tigers maintain strict territories, within larger home ranges which may overlap. A male’s range is larger and usually overlaps with several females’.

Population
Estimates suggest there are less than 2500 tigers left in the wild, a huge decrease from the 100,000 estimated at the beginning of the 20th century. The Bengal tiger has the largest population size of the remaining subspecies. Poaching for fur and body parts for trade and medicine alongside habitat loss have led to the depletion of the tiger’s population.

big_cat_tiger_face_teeth_anger_66431_3840x2160.jpgConservation
Tx2: With so few tigers remaining, efforts are aiming at bringing tigers back from the brink. An ambitious goal has been set: double the tiger population by 2022 (the next year of the tiger). Combating poaching and reducing habitat loss are vital components in the fight for the tiger’s survival. Protecting one tiger protects around 25,000 acres of forest and all wildlife within it
Tiger Reserves: The Satpuda forests of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra in India contain a network of 7 tiger reserves, connected by forest corridors. The Satpuda Landscape Tiger Programme (SLTP) was set up by the Born Free Foundation, and WildCRU at the University of Oxford. They aim to protectIMG_0650-Russian-Tigers.jpg tiger habitat, reduce human-tiger conflict, monitor tiger populations, raise awareness and improve the livelihoods of people living alongside tigers.

IUCN: Launched in 2014, the Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme was set up as a result of funding from KfW and the German Government. With aims similar to the tiger reserves in India, the programme offers grants of  €700.000 to €2 million for individual projects run by NGOs, governments and local communities.

Celebrate and raise awareness for your favourite animal too.

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Acceptance

A report by World Animal Protection came out recently highlighting the Top 10 Cruellest Animal Attractions. The research was in partnership with the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and came up with these Top 10: 10-cruellest-attractions

Riding elephants and walking with lions is something I have already blogged about, with riding elephants especially, as something I am passionately against, catching people’s attention. It is great to see a report like this labelling elephant riding as the number one cruellest animal attraction.

What surprised me most though, as I read further into the report, was the findings about reviews from tourists on Trip Advisor. People would comment on the poor conditions they saw animals in, yet it would not affect the rating they gave the attraction. Have we really become so self indulged that our satisfaction is placed so highly above animal welfare?

As a race, as a species, have we lost compassion? We are the most intelligent species on the planet, but have we lost the most basic instincts? Are we so numb to, so accepting of, the cruelty that happens that we consider it normal, daily life?

We were not the first animals to roam this planet, and neither will we be the last.

Find the full report here.

Are Zoos Good?

Zoos and aquariums bring about a lot of controversy. They’re good for education and research purposes, but bad as they take animals away from their natural habitat and put them in enclosures. (Zoos and aquariums will be referred to collectively as zoos).

Of course, there are ‘good’ zoos and ‘bad’ zoos, but how good are the good ones, and how bad are the bad ones? Do the pros outweigh the cons, or should we be leaving these animals in their natural habitats?

Recently, National Geographic posted an article about 18 elephants that are planned to be moved from Swaziland into 3 US zoos.

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The reason why is that they are believed to be crowding out rhino and other animals, and would be shot anyway. The zoos say that the addition of new elephants will “improve the sustainability of elephants in North America” through breeding programmes, along with improving zoo attendance.

Problems arose when a Seattle Times reporter looked into US zoo elephant statistics, finding that 50% of all the US’s zoo elephants die at half the age of wild elephants. These elephants typically die from injuries or diseases related to captivity. African elephants are classified as endangered, and under CITES, import of animals should not be detrimental to their survival or be used primarily for commercial purposes. The decision on whether to import these animals will be made between the US and Swaziland.

This particular example pulls up a couple of problems linked with zoos. Are they detrimental to each individual’s health and wellbeing? It is very clear that the space available to zoo animals is only a fraction of the amount they would have in the wild, affecting their sense of freedom and stimulation. seaworld orcasSize also impacts on the amount of individuals that can realistically be kept in an enclosure, which then impacts on individuals’ social bonds. This was something that was brought up by PETA when investigating SeaWorld’s orcas. Problems facing captive orcas have recently been brought up in the documentary film ‘Blackfish,’ which could be suggested to have started the snowball effect looking into the alleged abuse these animals undergo.

However, zoos can have positive impacts. Most notable among these has to be reintroduction programmes. Paignton Zoo in Devon has been working on a reintroduction programme into Cornwall for the Cirl Bunting. This little bird had become increasingly rare in the UK, becoming restricted to Plycirl-bunting-alamy-439969mouth and Exeter. in 2006 the programme began, with the first breeding pairs being reared in Paignton and released. There are now over 50 breeding pairs in Cornwall and they have spread into parts of Devon.

Some zoos are the last place of refuge for some animals. Species that have been pushed to extinction in the wild can be kept alive in captivity. The Scimitar-Horned Oryx has been extinct in the wild since 1999, primarily due to hunting for its horns, but are still breeding successfully in Chester Zoo (UK), Werribee Open Range Zoo (Australia), Attica Zoo (Greece) antelope.jpgand another 214 institutions around the world. In 2008, there were 1703 registered individuals. Reintroduction programmes have been planned and put in place, but their success is yet to be seen.

Zoos are also a place of education. They inspire children to have an interest in wildlife, educate the public on current conservation issues and provide a learning experience for schools and universities.LincolnParkzoo 30 In recent years, zoos have been making their conservation efforts very clear, with species’ conservation statuses being visible on signs, emphasis on breeding programmes and possibilities to ‘adopt’ an animal so that the public can contribute.

It would seem that for some animals, zoos are not good. Some species are simply not suited to be kept in zoo environments, and may thrive better from in situ conservation. But for other species, they provide safety from extinction, and even chances of reintroduction. They are places that can educate people so that more species can be saved. The question ‘are zoos good’ is not a simple on to answer.

Overfished and Underloved

I eat fish probably once a week. There are 1 billion people around the world who depend on fish as their main protein source, and over half the world’s population gets 15% of their protein from fish. But how much is that really? In 2012, total fish production from fisheries and aquaculture was 158 million tonnes. Nearly double the production of 20 years ago. fishing

Even with this rising production, people still go hungry. The human population is increasing and with no indication of slowing, it’s expected to reach 9.3billion in 2050. With this comes increasing demand; it is estimated that global fisheries need to increase output by 35% by 2030.

These are all big numbers, but what does it really mean?

The majority of the fish we eat is categorised as vulnerable or endangered. And these aren’t just obscure species that you’ve never heard of. Bluefish tuna stocks are at 4% of historic levels. Predictions suggest the global oceans have lost 90% of large predatory fish, which includes cod, billfish, tuna and flatfish species. This image shows the decline, by plotting the number of fish caught per 100 hooks on a pelagic long line, from 1952 (a) through to 1980 (d).

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The spread of the blue shows how the number of fish caught is decreasing all over the world.

Scientist Boris Worm has predicted that all currently fished species could have collapsed by 2048. That’s only 33 years away. Fish biomass is decreasing. slippery slope to slimeThe North Sea biomass of fish 16-66kg is 99% less than what it would be with no fishing. Fish are becoming smaller, as they are being caught younger, often before they have reached reproductive maturity. We are approaching what has been termed “The Slippery Slope to Slime,” with the capacity of recovery unknown.

You wouldn’t eat a Giant Panda if it was offered on a menu. You wouldn’t eat a tiger, an orang-utan or an elephant if it was on the shelf of a supermarket. So why is it okay to eat the bluefin tuna? All these animals have the same conservation status, given by the IUCN. They’re all endangered. The Atlantic Cod, your fish from the chippy, has the same conservation status as a lion.

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So where are we going so wrong?

One of the major problems is that people just don’t realise. Even scientists didn’t realise quite how desperate the situation has become. The sea is somewhat of a mystery to us. It’s much more difficult to quantify the number of animals in it, it spans 71% of the globe, travels deeper than man has even been and contains many hidden secrets. Fishermen realised their catches were shrinking, but the consequences were never fully understood. Now we can no longer blame naivety. Now we know there is a problem.

Another problem is IUU fishing. Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing. Countries and fishermen are set quotas of the number of fish they are allowed to catch. Sometimes to avoid these, boats will not declare their catch, or they will declare it as a different fish for which they have quota left to fill. It is believed around 1/3 of fish produce sold in America is mislabelled. This means that you may not be eating the type of fish you thought you bought. Some boats don’t declare their catch if it is a particularly expensive species and rare species, that may have some protection. In Japan, whaling is allowed for scientific research, but after genetic tests done on fish in markets, scientists found whale meat being sold as food.

Bycatch is the accidental catLeo blog : Romanian fishermen are cleaning up their net from small dead fishch brought up alongside the target species. It is usually discarded over the side of the boat, dead.
Bycatch can be around 30% of an average catch, but for some fisheries, such as shrimp fishing, it can reach levels of 20:1. In the EU, a discard ban came into place in 2015 (until 2018). The aim is for fishermen to become more discriminate in their fishing methods, as all fish they catch must then be taken to shore and landed, whether they want it or not.

What Can You Do?

Knowledge is a powerful thing. A film documentary called ‘The End Of The Line‘ is a fantastic place to start.
With commentary from leading scientists, it brings to light the imp
acts of overfishing. It follows fishermen, policy makers and restaurateurs, confronting them about their apparent disregard for the oceans. Watch the trailer below:

Cut down the amount of fish you eat. Protein and omega 3 can be found in other places than oily fish. Increase the amount of nuts, leafy greens and red meat instead, and you won’t notice a difference.

Look at labelling! Fish are labelled when they are caught with a reduced environmental impact. Look out for these:

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But beware, they may not always be completely sustainable.

Change which fish you eat. Move away from cod and haddock and try sardines, mackerel and herring. Coley is a great cod alternative. Be adventurous and try mussels, clams and cockles. If you’re not sure, have a look at this to find out which fish you should buy. Note that the sourcing area for many fish is really important.

Please buy your fish responsibly!