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Tanzania Anti-Poaching Task Force Helps Elephant & Rhino Populations Increase



Tanzania Anti-Poaching Task Force Helps Elephant And Rhino Populations Increase
Photo Credit: Intelligent Living

Worldwide, elephants and rhinos are classified as vulnerable and endangered. However, in Tanzania, both animals’ populations are increasing significantly. All thanks to a task force Tanzania formed to combat wildlife poaching.

Populations Rising

The government of Tanzania has declared the official numbers of the rising population of the elephants and rhinos. Since 2014 elephants have increased in population from 43,330 to over 60,000. Since 2015 rhinos have increased from only 15 to 167.

 Credit: Gary Bembridge
Credit: Gary Bembridge

Sky News reported a statement from the country’s government about the figures prior to 2014. In 2009, the official number of elephants in Tanzania was 110,000 but by 2014, poachers killed off more than half of the population.

The President’s office claims that in 2015 the rhino population was just 15 rhinos. That’s a very low number. However, the Independent reported that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) had a different number. CITES documented the rhino population was at 133 rhinos at that time. Either way, the rhino population is slowly increasing nonetheless. This is good.

What Is Poaching?

In 2016 Tanzania formed a task force to combat wildlife poaching. This task force is the reason why the populations of these animals are rising.

Wildlife poaching is the illegal killing of wild animals. Elephants are typically poached for their ivory tusks but sometimes their bodies are used for meat. Ivory tusks are used for jewellery or decor. While rhinos are poached for their horns. Rhino horns are used for Chinese medicine and as a status symbol. Additionally, sometimes there are the “trophy hunters,” which is when the hunter takes a proud photo next to the corpse then cuts the head off the poor animal and hangs it on their wall for display.

 Image from Africa Trophy Hunting
Image from Africa Trophy Hunting
The Ivory Queen

According to NPR, one of the big arrests was the infamous Chinese ivory trafficker that goes by the name of the “Ivory Queen.” The Ivory Queen was a major link between poachers in East African countries (including Tanzania) and ivory purchasers in China for more than a decade. Between 2000 and 2004 alone, she was responsible for smuggling over 800 pieces of Ivory to China. The Tanzanian government gave her a 15-year jail sentence.

Protection Awareness

Even with the elephants and rhino populations rising, Mark Jones, leader of Born Free Foundation, is far-sighted. He is happy with the government’s figures but takes them with a pinch of salt. Jones believes there is still much work to be done to properly protect the rhinos and elephants in Tanzania.

“This sounds like very good news but we should view these figures with caution until there’s independent verification – there’s no way that has occurred through breeding and protection alone. [Rhinos] mature late, have long gestation periods and don’t produce many young. Both species take a long time biologically to reproduce. Elephants are intelligent — they move across national borders to where they are safer, so if there’s been a clampdown on poaching in Tanzania, it may be that some have moved in.”

However, the government’s efforts should be acknowledged. Every new-born of majestic creatures is now getting extra protection due to these efforts. Hopefully, elephant and rhino populations in Tanzania will continue to rise.

This article (Tanzania Anti-Poaching Task Force Helps Elephant & Rhino Populations Increase) was originally created for Intelligent Living and is published here under Creative Commons.

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These Guard Dogs Protect The World’s Smallest Penguins (Successfully)

When foxes discovered this small Australian island and its little penguin inhabitants, they nearly wiped the colony out. But a farmer came up with a novel way to protect the birds.

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These Guard Dogs Protect the World’s Smallest Penguins (Successfully)
Photo Credit: Global Screen

The problem first became apparent in the year 2000 when the sea’s natural current led to increased sand build-up in the area. As a result, the local fox population on this island in Australia called Middle Island started to grow as there was an easy source of food around.

The penguins – the world’s smallest actually – faced being wiped out until a chicken farmer by the name Swampy Marsh (wow) came up with a plan. He suggested sending one of his Maremma dogs to protect the birds.

Image Credit: Global Screen

At low tide, and when sand builds up in the narrow channel, foxes can cross from the mainland barely getting their paws wet.

Red fox with a Little Penguin on Middle Island (photo courtesy of Middle Island Maremma Project) and Maremma sheepdog protecting a Gannet colony (seen in the background) (photo by L. van Bommel).

The dog, the first of several to be used on Middle Island, was called Oddball – and Oddball made quite an impact. Amazingly, since Oddball and his four-legged successors were introduced 10 years ago, there has not been a single penguin killed by a fox on Middle Island.

And there came the dogs. Image Credit: Middle Island Maremma Project
Also known as ‘blue penguins’, ‘little blue penguins’ and ‘fairy penguins’, they are found in Australia and New Zealand and are the smallest of all known penguin species. Image Credit: Global Screen

By now, the fairy penguin population has gone back up to almost 200.

The current dogs patrolling Middle Island are Eudy and Tula, named after the scientific term for the fairy penguin: Eudyptula.

The dogs operate in penguin breeding season, usually from October to March, when they spend five or six days a week on the island.

Here we go. Image Credit: Middle Island Maremma Project

The project has been such a success that a movie called Oddball has been made about it.

Sources: Middle Island Maremma ProjectBBC

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First Baby Koala Born In Australian Wildlife Park Since Devastating Bushfires

The Australian Reptile Park has good reason to celebrate, welcoming the first koala joey born at the park since the devastation.

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First Baby Koala Born In Australian Wildlife Park Since Devastating Bushfires
Photo Credit:

(TMU) – After the horrific Australian bush fires over the 2019/2020 fire season, the Australian Reptile Park has good reason to celebrate, welcoming the first koala joey born at the park since the devastation. The Park’s handlers named the new-born Ash, in remembrance of the Black Summer fire season.

The koala population were arguably the hardest hit during the fires, with their death toll estimated to be in the thousands. Northern New South Wales lost about 85% of their koala population while researchers are still working around other areas to determine the extent of the damage between November and February. No wonder little Ash’s birth is being celebrated, hopefully the first of many joeys born in the wake of the fires.

Australian Reptile Park Zookeeper, Dan Rumsey said: “Ash represents the start of what we’re hoping to be another successful breeding season.”

“It was such an incredible moment when we saw Ash poke her head out of her mom’s pouch for the first time!”

While female koalas generally have one joey a year, some may go two to three years without having any and the stress suffered during the fires could have a negative impact on their reproduction, especially now, when their population across the country desperately needs a boost.

According to the Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, koalas could be listed as endangered because of the bushfire crisis. Earlier this year, the MP announced a $50 million funding package to help wildlife populations bounce back after the devastating bushfires.

Ms Ley told reporters: “It may be necessary… to see whether in certain parts of the country, koalas move from where they are, which is often vulnerable, up to endangered.”

Half the funds will go towards wildlife carers, hospitals and zoos, who have the people best equipped to lead the re-population and rehousing efforts.

Experts were shocked by the devastating loss of life during the 2019/2020 bush fire season – as was Cate Faehrmann – committee chair of the NSW upper house inquiry, when she saw the numbers from their investigation to determine how many koalas were lost over the period.

There is now a significant and immediate threat of extinction to koalas, according to a report published in March.

At least 5,000 koalas are estimated to have died, according to the report from the global conservation group International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

“That’s extremely shocking and really should be a wake-up call to the government to pause any threats to koala habitat including logging and development in key areas,” Cate Faehrmann told the Australian Associated Press (AAP).

“There are so many threats that if we are going to stop this wonderful animal from becoming extinct we have to really, really, prioritize securing and protecting their habitat now.”

For now, little Ash and her mom have set the ball rolling to rebuild their species. May they flourish and plenty of little joeys start popping their heads out of their mom’s pouches soon.

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World’s Rarest Primate, The Critically Endangered Hainan Gibbon, Returns From Brink Of Extinction

Up until recently, the highly intelligent and charismatic Hainan Gibbon was standing at the brink of imminent extinction with only 10 members still existing.

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Photo Credit:

Until very recently, the highly intelligent and charismatic Hainan Gibbon was standing at the brink of imminent extinction with only 10 members of the species existing in a tiny patch of land on a tropical island at China’s southernmost tip.

But thanks to the devoted work of a team of conservationists, the ultra-rare Hainan Gibbon appears to have a much brighter future, with their numbers swelling to 30 individuals as of this year.

The Hainan Gibbon is not only one of the world’s rarest apes and rarest primates, but it’s also one of the rarest animals on the face of the Earth, largely restricted to a small patch of rainforest at the Bawangling National Nature Reserve on Hainan Island in the South China Sea.

Gibbons can be found in forests across Southeast Asia. Like other gibbons, the Hainan gibbon swings rapidly from tree to tree and mostly rely on fruit such as lychee and figs for its diet. The males have jet-black fur with white patches on their cheeks, while mature females are a rich golden orange. Their faces are tender, and their eyes seem to reflect an intelligent curiosity about their surroundings.

“They are really intelligent animals. When they look at you, it feels like they are trying to communicate,” Philip Lo Yik-fui told South China Morning Post. Lo has been helping to lead conservation efforts through the Hong Kong-based NGO, Kadoorie Conservation China.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature – which has included the species on its Red List as “Critically Endangered” – the Hainan gibbon used to exist in high numbers, with researchers estimating that over two thousand individuals populated the island.

However, the species’ numbers fell precipitously in the second half of the 20th century thanks to climate factors as well as massive deforestation resulting from China’s push toward prosperity and industrialization. Hunters and poachers also targeted the highly intelligent and social gibbons, either for the illegal pet trade, food, or for traditional medicine.

By 2003, only 13 wild gibbons divided into two family groups remained – a result of not only the diminishing quality of their habitat but also their naturally slow birth rate.

Over the years, however, Kadoorie Conservation China has been monitoring the gibbons, working hard to discourage poachers, and also planting over 80,000 fig and lychee trees to link the populations of the famously shy gibbons and expand their habitat.

BBC 3 Modern China SE Hainan Gibbon 5d

And with the gibbons now reproducing at a stable pace, Lo is hopeful that once they get the gibbons’ numbers above 50, their IUCN designation can change from being critically endangered to simply “endangered.”

“Our biggest goal now is to help expand the gibbons’ territory so the whole species won’t be wiped out if natural disasters occur,” Lo said.

Yet concerns remain about the genetic health of the Hainan Gibbons, who are mostly either half-siblings or full-siblings – meaning that their gene pool is far too narrow at present.

CGTN Nature: Bawangling Series | Episode 1: Hainan Black-crested Gibbon

However, Lo is proud that his group’s efforts have stabilized things for the remaining Hainan Gibbons. His next goal is to continue expanding the creature’s territory so that if a typhoon or other natural disaster strikes, the whole species won’t be wiped out in one fell swoop.

The Kadoorie Conservation China team has also recruited ex-hunters from the community, who have a wealth of experience about local forests, to keep an eye on the gibbons and take part in conservation efforts.

Lo said: “We try and install a sense of pride in the locals, and the ex-hunters are really satisfied with their work now. That is the main point of conservation work; it’s just as much about the people. And now people who were on opposing sides are teammates working together to protect the gibbons.”

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Baby Elephants In Southeast Asia Are Separated From Their Mothers And Tortured For The Sake Of Tourism

The process that’s required to train baby elephants to give rides to tourists is devastatingly cruel. Now, animal rights groups and travel agencies are taking a stand against this practice.

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Baby Elephants In Southeast Asia Are Separated From Their Mothers And Tortured For The Sake Of Tourism
Photo Credit: Mint Press News

Baby elephants in Southeast Asia have become subjected to the practice of international trafficking. This trafficking is feeding Thailand’s booming tourism industry, where one of the most popular tourist activities is taking a ride atop an elephant through the jungle.

But once you understand the horrifying training process that’s necessary to make an elephant capable of giving these rides to humans, and the lengths that captors go to achieve this, chances are you won’t even think about wanting to ever experience an elephant ride in your life.

Elephant Calves Are Separated From Their Mothers

The first step in the elephant training process is for poachers to find baby elephants in the wild and separate them from their families. Baby elephants are highly sought after because they’re much easier to train, and thus will command higher prices on the black market.

Some poachers will go as far as to kill the calf’s entire family, namely the mother elephants that try to protect their young. This practice likely has contributed to the significant decline in the population of the Asian elephant over the last century.

A orphaned baby elephant rests at a sanctuary in Nairobi, Kenya.
A orphaned baby elephant rests at a sanctuary in Nairobi, Kenya.

According to Trafalgar CEO Gavin Tollman, a travel and lifestyle brand, at one point the Asian continent was populated with more than 3.5 million wild elephants. Today there are only an estimated 415,000 wild elephants left. Elephants aren’t only harmed for tourism, but are also hunted for their ivory tusks — both of which contribute to the significant decline in their population over the past 100 years.

Phajaan” — The Soul-Crushing Process Baby Elephants Endure

After poachers capture baby elephants, they’re subjected to a barbaric practice called “phajaan,” which essentially translates to “breaking of the spirit.” The goal is to render the calf totally submissive to humans, and as you may have guessed, it’s an incredibly cruel process.

Baby elephants are isolated and tied down, usually confined to a small cage where they have little or no ability to move. They are then subjected to extensive torture, which typically involved stabbing their bodies repeatedly with sharp objects or hitting them with pieces of wood.

This is done to train baby elephants to be afraid of humans and submit to their disposal completely — which has physical as well as psychological effects on the animal.

A news report by Link TV uncovers how elephants in southeast Asia are being smuggled for the tourism industry.

Nora Livingstone, founder of Animal Experience International, says of the “phajaan” process, “Imagine being a 5,000-kilogram [1,100 pound] social animal and only being allowed to walk two steps in either direction because of a chain around your leg that digs into your sensitive skin and causes you to bleed. And now, imagine being completely alone from your family.”

These baby elephants exhibit symptoms once this “training” is complete that can only be described as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder and CEO of Wildlife SOS, explains the elephants that are used for riding in India “have been observed as displaying behavior indicating extreme mental distress and deterioration, such as head bobbing and swaying.

An International Wildlife Crisis

The staggering rate at which the elephant population has declined in Asia has alarmed animal rights advocacy groups as well as travel agencies. Intrepid Travel co-founder Geoff Manchester, a travel agency based in England, has explicitly asked tourists traveling to Thailand to not seek out elephant rides during their stay

Intrepid Travel explains why they stopped elephant rides on their tours.

Manchester admittedly sold the elephant riding experience to his customers, but stopped doing so in 2014. “The evidence is so overwhelming that it had a big impact on all of us who’d taken elephant riding,” he said, stating that according to his own independent research, only 6 out of the 114 elephant riding locations treated the animals properly.

By 2016, about 160 travel companies have stopped offering elephant ride experience excursions, and Trip Advisor has stopped advertising such places entirely.

A tourists rides an elephant at the Maetaman Elephant Camp in Thailand.
A tourists rides an elephant at the Maetaman Elephant Camp in Thailand.

The torture of elephants isn’t specific to Southeast Asia — the senseless killing and battering of elephants for commercial purposes is rampant across the world. Of the approximately 2,000 elephants that are currently being used for entertainment, about 200 reside in Africa.

Poaching elephants in Africa is most commonly done for the purpose of obtaining their ivory tusks, but training baby elephants to give rides to tourists is a trend that on the rise on the continent.

According to the London-based advocacy group World Animal Protection, there are currently 39 sites that offer elephant rides in southern Africa.

Vetting Your Elephant Experience While Traveling

While riding elephants is certainly out of the question, there are definitely other ways to experience these majestic creatures while visiting countries with elephant populations. One way is to look into travel agencies that explicitly state that they do not support elephant experience sites that they’ve found to abuse and torture their animals.

True elephant sanctuaries will never offer rides, forced tricks, or anything that might humiliate the animal, according to Wildlife SOS’s Satyanarayan. “A reputable sanctuary will keep the interests and welfare of the elephants first and foremost. They’ll have veterinary staff on hand. And they’ll be known for truly rescuing elephants from abusive situations.”

This article (Baby Elephants In Southeast Asia Are Separated From Their Mothers And Tortured For The Sake Of Tourism) was originally created for All That Interesting and is published here under Creative Commons.

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