There is a world somewhere between reality and fiction. Although ignored by many, it is very real and so are those living in it. This forum is about the natural world. Here, wild animals will be heard and respected. The forum offers a glimpse into an unknown world as well as a room with a view on the present and the future. Anyone able to speak on behalf of those living in the emerald forest and the deep blue sea is invited to join.
--- Peter Broekhuijsen ---

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Policies & Politics

Netherlands peter Online
Expert & Researcher
( This post was last modified: 02-25-2019, 06:45 PM by Rishi )

Conservation is a direct result of decisions. As decisions and politics are intertwined, it is about politics in the end. This thread is about politics. Every decision regarding conservation can be posted in this thread. Debates are encouraged, but you are adviced to read the forum rules before you start or enter a debate. Remember rules are more important than anything else. Good luck. 
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Netherlands peter Online
Expert & Researcher
( This post was last modified: 03-28-2015, 11:19 PM by peter )


This is a report in a Dutch newspaper. It says a well-known Texas hunter paid $ 350,000 for a black rhino about a year ago. The rhino, to be sure, wasn't in Texas. It depended on the decison of Fish and Wildlife. It seems they agreed. The rhino, therefore, will be shipped to the USA. This means a major US organisation allowed for poaching an endangered species. Fish and Wildlife said the revenue would go to protection. The rhino in Africa, they added, would benefit. At the cost of a few adult males shot every now and then, of course. Use the translation machine:


I remember two other reports. One was about lifting the ban on shooting wolves in the north-west (USA) and the other was about abandoning a conservation project on red wolves in the east (also USA). Immediately after the ban was lifted, photographs of wild wolves recently shot appeared in magazins. The abandoning of the red wolves project, however, could prove to be more costly.


The decisions mentioned above got a lot of attention, both in the USA and abroad. My guess is cattle rangers and hunters had an effect on the decisions taken, but maybe it was a bit more complicated than that. Anyone able, motivationwise, to retrieve a bit more is invited to post it here. 

I recently read a report about a wolf in California. The first in many years, it said. My guess is he was from the north-west. Wolves are great walkers.

If we compare the USA in this respect to India and Russia, I get to 0-2 at halftime in both matches. India recently closed the door for both tourists and researchers in some Indian reserves in order to prevent more intrusion and Russia left no doubt as to its decision to protect Amur tigers. Remarkable, as conservation usually is a costly affair and both countries were hit hard by the international economic crisis.
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India sanjay Offline
Wildanimal Enthusiast

According to K Ullas Karanth India's tiger census is misleading
An obsolete model incapable of separating the signal from the noise – generating data not open to scrutiny – cannot be trusted to give a reliable count

I suggest to read to complete article and also read the below comments
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United States Pckts Offline
Bigcat Enthusiast
( This post was last modified: 05-27-2015, 12:19 AM by Pckts )

British airways has banned the transportation of any and all "trophy hunting kills"

One small step in the right direction, stop the transportation of these kills and stop the POS' who take them home and hang their heads in their "game room"
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United States Pckts Offline
Bigcat Enthusiast

PHOTO REPORT: Amazon Indian Warriors Beat and Strip Illegal Loggers in Battle for Jungle's Future
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Photographer Lunae Parracho followed the Ka'apor warriors during their jungle expedition to search for and expel illegal loggers from the Alto Turiacu Indian territory in the Amazon basin.Tired of what they say is a lack of sufficient government assistance in keeping loggers off their land, the Ka'apor people, who along with four other tribes are the legal inhabitants and caretakers of the territory, have sent their warriors out to expel all loggers they find and set up monitoring camps.

*This image is copyright of its original author

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Last year, the Brazilian government said that annual destruction of its Amazon rain forest jumped by 28 percent after four straight years of decline. Based on satellite images, it estimated that 5,843 square kilometres of rain forest were felled in the one-year period ending July 2013.The Amazon rain forest is considered one of the world's most important natural defences against global warming because of its capacity to absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide. Rain forest clearing is responsible for about 75 percent of Brazil's emissions, as vegetation is burned and felled trees rot. Such activity releases an estimated 400 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, making Brazil at least the sixth-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide gas.

This is what the Big Corporations and Gov'ts who refuse to protect lands  will have to deal with, people will not stand for destruction of their habitat and this planet, especially the more educated they get, the more people will stand and Fight, I believe.

Violence is unfortunate but these people are fed up and and this is the next stop.... War!
Gov't should step in across the world and realize protection of habitat is more important than Palm oil or wood, there are resources just as productive and easily self sustained, its time the rest of the world took note.
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United States Pckts Offline
Bigcat Enthusiast

 Ravi AsraniSanctuary Asia3 hrs · Germany has announced plans to turn 62 former military bases into wildlife sanctuaries. As the developed world attempts to turn back the hands of time, India has drawn up plans to destroy some of its prime natural habitat to make way for roads, for "development".

Here is what a few are saying in regards to IndiaNeha Parmar Shariq..You know I never thought I would say this..but I think I regret not voting for matter what I thought of him.. I think he would have been slightly better than this at least..Modi makes you cringe everyday with some bad news or the other about deforestation/development..his idea of turning our country into a concrete jungle23 mins · Like · 1

India sanjay Offline
Wildanimal Enthusiast

Actually the current Indian Government Led by Mr. Narendar Modi Is making lot of trouble in India wildlife conservation. They are focusing to make India Smart City which resulting in deforestation
So people are not happy with him.
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United States Pckts Offline
Bigcat Enthusiast
( This post was last modified: 06-23-2015, 10:07 PM by Pckts )

(06-23-2015, 06:47 AM)'sanjay' Wrote: Actually the current Indian Government Led by Mr. Narendar Modi Is making lot of trouble in India wildlife conservation. They are focusing to make India Smart City which resulting in deforestation
So people are not happy with him.

It seems that no matter the part of the world, the public suffers at the hands of big corporations and political ulterior motives.
Very sad to see, but glad that people are speaking out against it.
I am seeing this all over the world, may be its because of the internet and how we are so easily connected now, but I really think we as a race are much more united and ready to protect this world.
I wonder what will come to pass in our kids generation, it seems that a collision between big corporation/politicians vs the people is bound to happen soon.

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Netherlands peter Online
Expert & Researcher
( This post was last modified: 11-14-2018, 07:42 PM by peter )


A - Market size    

A few days ago, a report on the trade in wild animals was discussed on television. Ten minutes loaded with misery, it was. The one who wrote the report estimated that the value of the wildlife 'market' (any activity directly or indirectly related to the trade in wild animals) is about 20-25 billion dollars. A year. Those involved also often were involved in weapons, drugs and slavery. Money and all that.

The EU is an important market. The reasons are considerable wealth, no interest in research, no funds and no real legal framework to oppose those involved in wild animals and traffic. If someone is apprehended and found guilty, the result usually is a fine or something that compares.  

Why is that? Well, European politicians are not that interested. Those representing the country in which I live agree a legal framework is even unwanted. The one working for Interpol, when interviewed, said there is no priority.

Something else to consider. When we think of animals walking the edge, tigers and gorillas come to mind. Wrong. An experienced ecologist said all non-human creatures are hunted and traded everywhere. The reason is all have value. 

What I'm saying is this: if you had a bit of hope, bury it right now. It much worse than you think.

B - Safaris in southern Africa

Last week, I saw a documentary on canned hunts in southern Africa. A very attractive French journalist was involved. Attractive underlined, as it helped her to get access to those with firsthand information. The documentairy was gruesome.

I'll start with the good news. A well-known zoologist from Pretoria said South Africa now has at least four times the number of 'wild' animals it had as century ago. The bad news is they are as 'wild' as any domestic dog. Not at all. They are born and bred on farms. Born and bred? Yes. I'll explain.

Hunters from all over the world go the Africa. The reason is plenty of wildlife, no rules and no prisons. They kill an animal. Not seldom, the trophy is taken home. American hunters usually like 'm big. A 'farmer' is contacted by those interested in his animals and selects those that fit. They're sold to local firms involved in trophy hunting. Most of the others are sold to facilities all over the world. Zoo visitors seldom get the real deal, that is. What you see is a product 'developed' on some farm.  

It's big business. In South Africa alone, not counting the others, there are over 200 legal 'lion farms' (...). There is an organisation that allegedly supervises the farms (needed to prevent problems with the law). The chairman was interviewed by the French journalist. She showed him things he didn't want to see and asked him if he had ever visited these lion farms. Sure he had, but only a few. He had other things on his mind. Than the interview was cut short, as he didn't like it one bit.

She also got hold of a man who assisted the hunters. He walked with them when they 'hunted' a male 'lion' on foot and complimented them when the male had been shot. They told them they had passed the test. But they knew that everything, from start to finish, was a fake. The male lions are farm-bred animals. They don't run when they hear shots, because they can't: many are darted just before they are 'released'.    

Not saying all of those involved in this business compare to criminals. I know they have to make a living. I also know that locals get some of the money. Same for taxidermists and many others. But it is a very sad show.   

Most of us are not well-informed. We think we are, but we're not. Nothing is what it seems to be. Wild animals in southern parts of Africa, no matter what they tell you, struggle. I recently saw a documentary about the famous desert lions (Kalahari). The one who made the documentary really knew his business. The part of the park he covered, had one male lion. Yes, one. And he was shot. Illegal, but shot anyhow. And then there were no more adult wild male lions in that part of the park.   

c - Conclusions

1 - Wild animals are hunted nearly everywhere all the time. 

2 - The wildlife market has a value of about 20-25 billion dollars. A year.  

3 - Wildlife is a commodity.

4 - There's no legal framework to protect animals or oppose traders. Anywhere. The reason is no priority.  

5 - As a result of 1-4, many wild animals are walking 'the edge of extinction' nearly everywhere.

6 - There's no information about what is happening out there. News agencies do not consider it important. The result is many of us know next to nothing.

7 - Many (not all) animal welfare organisations in 'developed' countries are symptom-orientated. This often results in scores of no-results presented with a lot of flair. Same for politicians who introduced laws to 'protect' animals. They didn't tell you about the circus animals that were 'euthanised' after wild animals were removed from circuses in the western hemisphere. They also didn't tell you that those involved in 'conservation' stay well clear of the real deal. The reason is simple: trainers don't fight back, but hunters and others (like those involved in arms) can and will. The actions of welfare organisations and politicians have to be considered as marketing strategies with few costs and a nice turnover.     

8 - Don't allow yourself to be fooled at any time and don't underestimate the consequences of the trade in animals. It's worse than you think. 

d - Solution

1 - Although there's no alternative for the economic system in use, the limits have been reached. The reason is it's about short-term exploitation only. The consequences are deposited at the plate of the State. As it's no different with living creatures, the results are disastrous. If we allow for it and wild animals go extinct, the only new 'market' left is us.

This means that some of us will exploit others to make a living. One day, all of us will be involved. Those prepared to see the world as it is know that the laws implemented after World War Two in order to prevent just that are on their way out everywhere. The reason is the 'market' says they are of no use. The 'market' wants 'flexibility'. 

Who is 'they'? Less than 1% of the world population. Make that 0,1%. People you don't really want to know, but the problem is you can't avoid them. They are everywhere. The reason is they control more than half of the assets, news agencies and things like that included. 

Would my proposal compare to 'socialism'? It no doubt would for those addressed. For those interested in a good life, however, it's the only option. Cconstitutions all over the planet insist that all are born equal. Some pigs always will be a bit more equal than others, but we agreed race, religion and things like that should be eliminated. This what they fought for, remember?   

2 - The actions of those involved in exploitation of the natural world still can be undone. You now can swim in rivers that were severely polluted only a few decades ago. Regions that were eroded now have large tracks of forests again. The result is wolves knock on the door of some western European countries. They met with a universal 'no', but this could change in the near future. A question of training. And laws. The 'market' doesn't like laws and education, but it is the only option we have. 

3 - You know my trade is tigers. Can they be saved? Russia, India and Nepal say it's possible. In Russia the decision to give it a try was taken right at the top, but it is a fact that the natural world still is important for many. Same for Nepal and India. In most other countries in southeastern Asia, the future is bleak. The reason is no political will.

e - Future

Although it may seem different, this post wasn't written to discourage you. Reality, however, can't be ignored. It is what it is and it isn't looking good. Every time I get new information, I'm surprised at the speed of the changes and the consequences. We're very close to the point of no-return.

There are exceptions to the general rule. Russia tops my table, but India, Nepal and Thailand also deserve attention and support. Some projects of some organisations really have an impact, but they can't change the tide. We have to help out and we have to act fast and decisive.

Although I understand why many only consider their bank-account when they vote, my advice is to dig a little deeper. Money isn't a living organism. It brings no life. It's an agreement and we all know that agreements collapse all the time. 

I also like individuals, initiative, diversity, money and all that, but we need a framework directed at survival. We all know what happens when the State collapses and the 'market' takes over, don't we? So why not try something different, like common sense? You have any idea about the amount of money spent on arms every year? If it wasn't real, we would laugh. Humans are the same everywhere, are they not?         

The only way out is new ideas on what is really important in life and act accordingly. In the end, it's very simple. We act as responsible adults or end up with 20 billion and mud everywhere. When did we forget about the real fundamentals? And when did we start to take it for granted? The great planet we inhabit, I mean. How beautiful can it get? What more do we want?
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India brotherbear Offline
Grizzly Enthusiast
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Brazil Matias Offline
Regular Member
( This post was last modified: 10-24-2018, 11:05 PM by Matias )

In Africa, ‘Paper Parks’ Are Starved for Cash

In a unique analysis, researchers put a price on protecting Africa’s wildlife: at least $1.2 billion each year.

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A young lion in Nairobi National Park in Kenya. Their numbers in Africa have dropped 43 percent in the past 20 years.
CreditCreditTony Karumba/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By Rachel Nuwer
Oct. 22, 2018

As if illegal mining, logging and poaching weren’t bad enough, Africa’s national parks face another dire threat: They’re vastly underfunded.

According the most comprehensive analysis of conservation funding to date, 90 percent of nearly 300 protected areas on the continent face funding shortfalls. Together, the deficits total at least a billion dollars.

Failing to address this deficit will result in severe and ongoing declines of such iconic species as lions, researchers warned on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Some parks will likely disappear altogether.

“The assumption is that parks are just fine because they’re designated as protected,” said Jennifer Miller, a senior scientist at Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation group, and co-author of the report. “But in many cases, they don’t have the resources to do conservation. They’re just paper parks.”

That the parks are operating on a shoestring comes as no surprise to those working to preserve Africa’s wilderness, said Peter Fearnhead, chief executive officer and co-founder of African Parks, a nonprofit that manages 15 protected areas on the continent.

“What’s very helpful about this paper is that it actually puts a number to the problem,” said Mr. Fearnhead, who was not involved in the study.

In the new analysis, the authors used wild lions as a proxy for how Africa’s national parks are faring. Because of their place at the top of the food chain, lions are considered an umbrella species — a bellwether of an ecosystem’s health.

“If lions are doing well, everything else — with the exception of rhinos— is also doing well,” said Peter Lindsey, director of the lion recovery fund at the Wildlife Conservation Network and co-author of the new paper. (Rhinos are an exception because of poaching to meet the extreme demand for rhino horn.)

Throughout much of Africa, lions are not doing well. Their numbers have dropped 43 percent over the past two decades to as few as 20,000 in the wild. They now occupy just 8 percent of their historic habitat.

A growing proportion of their range is found in national parks and reserves. But according to Dr. Lindsey’s and Dr. Miller’s research — which they undertook while working at Panthera, a group dedicated to conserving wild cats — most protected areas are not realizing their potential as safe havens for lions.

Over two-thirds of the state-owned parks the team surveyed hold lion populations that are less than half of what they could be, based on the prey those habitats could support, the researchers said. If properly managed, those parks could quadruple the population of wild lions in Africa.

To estimate the amount of funding needed to boost populations by at least 50 percent, the researchers relied on three different financial models. Then, following a review of state wildlife and donor funding, as well as interviews with park managers and officials, the team totaled the dollars available for protected areas in the 23 countries included in their study.

They found that 88 percent to 94 percent of parks operate on budgets that are less than 20 percent of that required to perform effective conservation. Parks need to invest $377 to $783 per square mile, the researchers concluded. On average, parks spend just $77 per square mile.

The grand total to renew Africa’s parks: $1.2 billion to $2.4 billion each year. If the funding deficits are not addressed, lions and other wildlife in affected areas will likely experience catastrophic declines, the authors warn.

Protected areas that are not adequately managed inevitably succumb to poaching, illegal livestock incursions, land grabs and illegal mining and logging.

“It’s a tragedy of the commons situation,” Dr. Lindsey said. “If there’s open access to wildlife, 

you’d better poach or someone else will.”

*This image is copyright of its original author

Lion cubs in Kruger National Park in South Africa. South Africa and Kenya invest heavily in protected areas, and their parks face fewer deficits.CreditCameron Spencer/Getty Images

Wildlife is already quickly declining across many parks in Africa, and “there’s no reason that won’t continue unless the situation changes,” said Tim Tear, executive director of the Africa program at the Wildlife Conservation Society, who was not involved in the study.

“If we want to see many of Africa’s iconic species now and into the future, then this paper calls out pretty starkly that we’re going to have to change the way we continue to invest.”

Should business continue as usual, people also stand to lose, Dr. Lindsey said.

Healthy ecosystems provide many benefits, from watershed protection to carbon storage. In many places in Africa, parks also contribute to job creation, economic growth and rural development through tourism — a $34 billion industry on the continent, the majority of which is tied to wildlife.

Some countries already reap many of these benefits. Recognizing that they derive a significant portion of their national incomes from nature-related tourism, South Africa and Kenya invest more heavily than most other countries in protected areas, and relatively few of their parks face deficits.

Other nations, on the other hand, such as Mozambique, have many lions and stunning landscapes, but have yet to profit from those assets because their tourism industries are underdeveloped.

“That’s an important piece of the puzzle,” Dr. Tear said. “If we don’t invest more in the near future, then African countries may lose the opportunity to benefit from these species in years to come.”

Dr. Lindsey added that the benefits for nations that do invest are only set to grow. Tourism is rising globally, and as more natural areas are lost to development, the few places that retain wilderness and wildlife will increase exponentially in value.

“Central Park was worth nothing when all of Manhattan was forest, but now it’s an absolutely priceless asset,” Dr. Lindsey said. “That’s an extreme analogy, but in some places in Africa, there is already a hard edge around parks.”

African countries, however, should not bear sole responsibility for preserving the continent’s nature, the researchers write. Many nations have set aside a significantly greater proportion of land for conservation than the global average, yet are not compensated for the costs of bypassing development.

“The global community needs to recognize that there’s an imbalance here, and everyone needs to do their part to help fix it,” Dr. Tear said. “We should not view protecting iconic species in Africa as someone else’s responsibility.”

While the amount needed to renew Africa’s parks may seem daunting at first, Mr. Fearnhead pointed out that it is a minuscule amount on a global scale.

“Literally a single individual — admittedly a very wealthy one — could be the solution to a continental challenge, and that creates hope,” he said.

In addition to philanthropic donors and companies, the shortfall could be remedied if developed nations and agencies such as the World Bank stepped up their conservation commitments, Dr. Lindsey said.

Africa currently receives around $51 billion in annual development aid — about 200 times more than it does for supporting its protected areas. Reallocating just 2 percent of those funds toward conservation, Dr. Lindsey and his colleagues write, could stem much of the impending crisis.

“We have reached a fork in the road,” Dr. Lindsey said. “It is time for the world to decide if Africa’s iconic parks and reserves are worth fighting for.”

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Rishi Offline
( This post was last modified: 11-05-2018, 08:44 PM by Rishi )

Ignored lessons from Sariska experience & translocation protocols threatens Satkosia project

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Just three months after she was moved to her new home, officials have decided to put Sundari behind bars. The tigress from Bandhavgarh TR, Sundari, was shifted to Satkosia TR  in Odisha to boost the reserve’s tiger population. Within two months of being translocated, she made her first human kill.

The tiger that was brought from Kanha (MB2) has settled well in the core area of Satkosia and was never found roaming around in the buffer areas or outside the tiger reserve for prey.
She too had once entered into the core area of the Satksoia Tiger Reserve but was chased away from there immediately by the older tigress that have been inhabiting there for long. Ever since, Sundari has been roaming around in the buffer zone of the tiger reserve. Occasionally, she has also come out of the limits of the tiger reserve.

She's been killing cattle frequently, and then mailed a man who went to a pond on the edge of the forest. When a local news reporter went to the spot later, she charged & seriously mauled him too. She hasn't been tagged a man-eater yet but the killings weren't due to "chance encounters" either.

Her activities have triggered mass panic, large-scale protests and violence among the local people.

Attempts to tranquillise or bait-trap the tigress haven't been successful yet. She is to be shifted to Nandankanan Safari or back to Madhya Pradesh.

By the way the project was handled shows gross mismanagement on part of the Odisha Forest and Environment Department

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The process of tiger translocation is governed by the “Protocol for Tiger Re-introduction”, framed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). The protocol states a team of experts from the WII, state FD, a Vet & Wildlife Biologist should evaluate the socio-economic impact of the translocation.
"A thorough assessment of attitudes of local people to the proposed project is necessary to ensure long-term protection of the reintroduced population, especially if the cause of species’ decline was due to human factors (e.g. overhunting, over-collection, loss or alteration of habitat). The programme should be fully under-stood, accepted and supported by local communities."

Let alone being in the fold, some villagers from the region had complained that they weren't even informed of the presence & came to know from media after she killed a person!

Translocation of tigers is justified only if, 1. there is sufficient data to show that adequate prey density exists; 2. tigers are either absent or well below carrying capacity densities as shown by data; 3. there is no chance of wild tigers colonising the area naturally with adequate protect-ion; 4. the introduced tiger is not captive bred but is caught in the wild and is capable of hunting prey; and 5. the introduced animals are radio-collared and tracked so that they can be shot or recaptured the moment there is problem,” said Ullas Karanth.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Re-cognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, or FRA, says that rights of forest-dwelling communities must be settled before declaring a forest a protected area. No such thing happened at Satkosia.
Of all the tiger reserves in India, STR has the highest number of habitations—116 villages inside the protected area!

Other than still having a large human population, apparently it has very low prey base. Preybase development takes years of effort & no such rigorous program was carried out either.

“Satkosia is not an inviolate area by any stretch of imagination and there is hardly any herbivores there. In 1996, I had opposed declaring Satkosia as a tiger reserve. It’s a disastrous exercise,” said PK Sen, former director of Project Tiger.

Even rearguard actions taken in Sariska post tiger translocation like erecting masonry walls at strategic places to prevent livestock grazing, collection of forest produces or wood and human-tiger interface etc. are missing in Satkosia.

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Brazil Matias Offline
Regular Member
( This post was last modified: 11-07-2018, 12:36 AM by Matias Edit Reason: Text in Portuguese )

@ "Rishi" 

Together, the four links present a broad picture of the situation.

One fact that caught my attention was the age of Sundari (only 30 months); little experience in dealing with situations of stress and frustration, aggravated by the "inexistence of vacant territory to be occupied". His immaturity, both psychological and physical, can be a proponent in these events. Saved for exceptions, I always believed that "man-eating" was the result of human factors brought about. It would be interesting to know the context of the twelve tigers that existed in 2007. It is important to know the factors of decline and other indicators of balance and the connections that keep them. As well said in one of the links: what territorial occupation of the tigers in Satkosia currently, and the stretch of the central area of the tigers reserve. Satkosia comprises two districts, with a combined area of about 90,000 hectares; it is difficult to understand how Sundari found no territory in the central area or any other area far from the villages - except for the absence of 5 or 6 thousand hectares distant from any human grouping (116 villages within the reserve are inconceivable for any formally protected area). After the events, it is easy to understand the reasons for this failure. In terms of conservation, managing the human population is their biggest challenge, and Satkosia does not seem to have the minimum requirements to call itself a tiger reserve. Not forgetting the lack of adequate amount of prey.
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Virgin Islands, U.S. Rage2277 Offline
animal enthusiast

don't see why they can't send her to another reserve,mukundra hills perhaps..what a waste,rotting in a cage
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Brazil Matias Offline
Regular Member
( This post was last modified: 11-08-2018, 03:17 AM by Matias Edit Reason: Formatting )

Call to protect dwindling wilderness ‘before it disappears forever’
by John C. Cannon on 1 November 2018

  • Just 23 percent of wilderness on land and 13 percent of wilderness at sea remains, according to new maps of global human impacts.
  • Five countries — Russia, Canada, Australia, the United States and Brazil — contain 70 percent of the remaining wilderness.
  • The authors of the suite of studies argue that wilderness protection should move to the forefront of the conservation agenda.
New, highly detailed maps now reveal the state of the world’s wilderness, both on land and at sea, and the picture looks bleak.
In a series of recent studies, a group of researchers led by ecologist James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Australia’s University of Queensland analyzed the surface of Earth for significant human activity, such as roads and railways, pastures and farmland, and population centers, at a resolution of 1 square kilometer (0.4 square miles). In the oceans, they looked at fishing efforts as well as fertilizer effluent and shipping lanes.

*This image is copyright of its original author
The Okavango Delta in southern Africa. Image by Gregoire Dubois.

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The results are staggering, as summarized Oct. 31 in the journal Nature: Just 13 percent of the world’s oceans lack signs of human activity. And the figures on land aren’t much higher: not counting Antarctica, just 23 percent of terrestrial wilderness remains. But hidden in what Watson called a “horror story” for untouched places is the potential to save what’s left and, with it, life on Earth.

“Science is clearly showing that large intact places are the best low-hanging fruit that we should go and conserve,” Watson told Mongabay.

Early on in the research, a 2016 study comparing those changes with the pace of population and economic growth indicated that we weren’t losing wilderness as quickly as might be expected. Those “encouraging” results suggested that, as a species, we humans were using resources more efficiently, the researchers said.

*This image is copyright of its original author

The extent of wilderness on land and at sea around the world. Image courtesy of Watson et al.

But as the scientists dug deeper into the data, producing maps that looked at how well parks and reserves safeguard biodiversity and wild spaces from human impacts and the extent of humanity’s reach in the world’s oceans, for example, Watson said the story that emerged was “how little is left.”

At the same time, other investigations have demonstrated the importance of intact wilderness in softening the blow of changing weather as a result of climate change, acting as sanctuaries for plant and animal species to flourish and evolve beyond human influence, and maintaining stockpiles of carbon.

But often, the singular goal of protecting threatened species dominates discussions about conservation, often to the exclusion of the need to set aside the last of Earth’s wilderness, Watson said. In his view, the loss of wilderness is just as “profound” as the loss of species.

*This image is copyright of its original author

French Polynesia. Image by dany13 via Flickr.

You can have both agendas. They’re both bloody important, and if both fail, we’re going to lose,” Watson said. “If you want to sustain biodiversity in the future, you’ve got to have intact places.”
Similarly, he said that just designating a percentage of the world as protected areas wouldn’t be enough.

Watson and his colleagues reported earlier this year that perhaps one-third of the world’s protected areas weren’t holding the impacts of human use at bay. In a 2016 study, they also found that, despite a rise in the global area under protection between 1993 and 2009, the world lost an India-size chunk of wilderness — some 3.3 million square kilometers (1.27 million square miles).

*This image is copyright of its original author
[i]The Torres del Paine in Chile. Image by Gregoire Dubois.[/i]

[i]“The conservation community has to have more arrows in its quiver,” Watson said.[/i]
Those strategies could involve empowering indigenous communities to safeguard the forests they live in, he said. In their analyses, the presence of people within a plot of land didn’t preclude its classification as wilderness. Rather, they were looking for more substantial levels of human activity.

Legislation or robust action by private companies to rid their supply chains of deforestation could also be powerful tools, Watson said, in avoiding the critical “first cut” into wilderness areas. In many cases, developments such as a road or a mine touch off a cascade of irreversible changes to wild places.

“You can’t restore wilderness,” Watson said.

[i]The loss mirrors the finality of species extinction, he added. “The very values are gone, and they never come back even if left alone.”[/i]
*This image is copyright of its original author
[i][i]A canoe crossing a river in the rainforest. The Wyss Foundation’s Campaign for Nature will invest $1 billion over the next 10 years to [/i][/i]
[i][i]conserve 30 percent of Earth. Image by Michael Nichols/National Geographic.[/i][/i]

[i][i]Also on Oct. 31 and separate from this research, the Wyss Foundation committed $1 billion to conserve 30 percent of Earth’s surface and seas by 2030 through its Campaign for Nature. Echoing Watson’s call for a diversified attack, the Wyss Foundation, along with partners including the Nature Conservancy and the National Geographic Society, plans to invest in grassroots projects to shore up protections around the world.[/i][/i]
“I believe that to confront the global conservation crisis, we need to do far more to support locally-led initiatives that conserve lands in the public trust, so that everyone has a chance to experience and explore the wonders of the outdoors,” philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss, the foundation’s founder, said in a statement.

With upcoming international conferences on biodiversity in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, and climate change in Katowice, Poland, Watson said now was the time to rally around the need to protect wilderness worldwide and come up with “clear targets” to achieve that goal.

“What you need is a Paris moment where nations get together and commit to change,” he said, referring to the 2015 U.N. climate accords signed in the French capital, viewed as a watershed moment when much of the world at least acknowledged the steps required to minimize the rise in global temperatures.

*This image is copyright of its original author
[i]Antarctica wasn’t included in the caculations of remaining wilderness, but the authors point out that protecting it from human impacts will require international collaboration. Image by Jasmine Lee/University of Queensland.[/i]

[i]The answer could be as straightforward as getting some of the “wildest” countries to maintain the wilderness they have. Outside of Antarctica and the internationally governed high seas, 94 percent of remaining wilderness occurs in just 20 countries. And 70 percent is concentrated in just five: Russia, Canada, Australia, the United States and Brazil.[/i]

“Those nations should be proud of that,” Watson said. “They can lead the world in securing those places that have been largely untouched by humanity.”

That responsibility extends beyond their borders to international waters, home to nearly two-thirds of the last marine wilderness and vital sanctuaries for some of the ocean’s top predators, Watson said. But safeguarding these remnants requires according wilderness its due importance to life on Earth.

[i]“If we don’t recognize that there is a problem,” he said, “we’re going to lose everything.”[/i]

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