New research shows that more of the marine mammals are dying as their main food source in the Antarctic dwindles.
Two months ago, a dead humpback whale washed up onto the beaches of Washington state.
Although the cause of its death remains a mystery, initial observations found that the whale was overly thin, with little blubber and little of its associated oil, which humpbacks use for fuel and warmth.
It was not an isolated occurrence. In Western Australia, the number of humpback whale stranding events has been on the rise for the past several years. The region used to see just two or three dead whales a year; that has now increased to dozens per season. As with the humpback in Washington, tests down under have revealed that most of the dead whales in Australia also had low blubber levels. Experts described the animals as“extremely malnourished.”
The exact cause may never be known, but new research has emerged that suggests that the deaths will continue.
The humpback whales that migrate to Australia rely on Antarctic krill for most of their food. They gorge themselves for three months while in the Southern Ocean and then fast during their months-long journey to their breeding grounds off the coast of Western Australia, 6,000 to 11,000 miles away. That requires packing away an awful lot of calories before they hit the road.
So, Why Should You Care? Krill, however, is in short supply these days. The tiny oceanic crustaceans depend on sea ice for their habitat because they eat algae that grow underneath the ice. Sea ice, meanwhile, is in decline in many areas of Antarctica owing to the effects of climate change. Previous research has indicated that krill populations have dropped by as much as 80 percent since the mid-1970s. Species such as whales and penguins depend on krill for survival.
This means humpback whales have a lot less to eat, and they may not be able to build up enough fat reserves for their 10,000-mile migration. That could leave them exhausted and less able to survive, according to research published in two new papers led by Janelle Braithwaite, a marine biologist and Ph.D. student at the University of Western Australia.
The first paper, published in the journal Polar Biology, looked at historical records to understand how krill abundance affects the health of humpback whales. Records for krill levels in decades past do not exist, but we do know how much oil used to be extracted from whales caught off the coast of Western Australia between 1947 and 1963. Scientific samples taken more recently indicate that the whales today have much lower oil content in their blubber, a sign that the whales are not as healthy as they were 50 years ago.
The second paper, published in the journal Conservation Physiology, looked at how much energy humpback whales need to complete that long migration. Braithwaite and her fellow researchers calculated exactly how much energy whales expend as they swim and how much more they need to use if their migration patterns are disturbed by shipping vessels, mining activities, fishing, and other things that get in their way.
The conclusion: Many whales, especially mothers who recently calved and need to feed their young, could start running out of energy during their long migration and die from exhaustion.
“Our research shows that the body condition of whales can be affected by changes in sea ice,” Braithwaite said.
The next step is to figure out what sea-ice levels would pose the most risk for humpbacks. “At the moment it is difficult to say whether conditions at the moment are risky, or how this will change in the future,” she said. “From our research, all we can say is that if sea ice declines in the future, then this will have consequences on the food source and migration condition of humpback whales.”
Until we know more, Braithwaite suggested that it might be time to take proactive steps to protect humpbacks at the tail end of their long migration, when they might be the most depleted and any disturbances could push them over the edge.
For example, she pointed to Western Australia’s Exmouth Gulf, which she said “is an important resting area for southbound migrating humpback whales. This area is also a hubbub of human activities, such as those associated with offshore mining. Adjusting shipping movements and speeds around the Exmouth Gulf area during these resting times would minimize disturbance and reduce whales spending any unnecessary energy.”
A video making the rounds shows two stupid swimmers trying to “surf” on a whale shark.
In the footage, the two men hold onto a rope and are towed behind a boat as they attempt to balance on the giant fish. The whale shark submerges below the water after a few moments, seemingly trying to shake his unwelcome passengers off.
Shortly after, he pops back up and one man gets right back on top, standing on his head while his companions in the boat laugh and cheer him on.
Toying with whale sharks could also pose risks to humans. Whale sharks are quite gentle and eat only plankton, but at up to 40 feet and 20 tons, a sudden movement on their part could be bad news for any people near them.
However, while it’s illegal — in the U.S. at least — to ride, feed or similarly harasswhales and dolphins, whale sharks are excluded from these protections because they’re classified as fish.
“My hope is that one day sharks will be elevated to that same level of protection as marine mammals,” Eric Hovland, associate curator at the Florida Aquarium,told Florida’s Bay News 9 earlier this week.
“What a sad reflection on their attitude to wildlife when, instead of considering themselves fortunate to see this majestic creature in the wild, they choose to participate in a stupid stunt like this,” the group said.
“Wonder if they would have done this with a great white shark,” they added.
As expressed in January of this year, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) have grave concerns for the future of upwards of 60 infant elephants captured by wildlife authorities in Zimbabwe late last year. Since their capture from the wild, these infants have been held in a facility in Hwange National Park awaiting their fate.
In last week’s Telegraph newspaper, it was reported that the Zimbabwean government is now pressing ahead with plans to sell 27 of these infant elephants to China, to be part of a Zimbabwe Safari experience. Based on what has been reported in the article, we have extensive concerns and fear for the future of these elephants.
Selling wild elephants to fund conservation is unethical.
The justification to capture elephants from the wild and ship them overseas to generate funds for the protection of other elephants is hugely flawed. Essentially generating a one off payment, given Zimbabwe’s current ranking of 156/175 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (2014), its highly unlikely funds will reach front line conservation efforts in Zimbabwe. Setting a dangerous precedent when funds quickly run out; then what? Simply “Capture, ship and repeat”?
Photo copyright: Elephants DCThe trauma inflicted upon the captured elephants means any ‘visitor experience’ is wholly un-educational.
Elephants are highly emotional animals, with strong social bonds and the power of cognitive thought. Breaking up elephant family units causes emotional trauma, to the captured calf, as well as the remaining herd.
Additionally, seizing wild elephants and placing them into captivity in China, so that fee-paying visitors might be able to “enjoy” them, is illogical. To witness elephants in forced confinement is not to witness elephants at all — physically, yes, but a captured animal will not display natural behavior and this is especially true for elephants, a species that requires vast space to roam — space that is not provided by any zoo or safari park anywhere in the world. That space exists only in Africa, the home of these elephants and that is where these elephants should be seen, in their home, among their families, being elephants!
The return of fully grown elephants to the wild, after five years of captivity is unrealistic and shows a total lack of understanding of the species well-being.
In the article Zimbabwe’s Environment Minister, Saviour Kasukawere talks of returning these 27 elephants to the wild after five years. That in five years’ time, these 27 elephants will be given up by the Chinese Safari Park and either the Park of Zimbabwe will then cover the transport costs of sending 27 elephants, who would then purportedly be large animals at 10 years of old, from China to Zimbabwe is implausible, unrealistic and a cynical ploy to placate international outcry.
Critically, knowing what we do about the species, informed by scientific and expert opinion, these elephants would have no understanding of life in the wild and would be suffering emotional trauma from their time in captivity, which would need to be overcome. One could argue that it would be dangerous, not only to the elephants, but to others, to release 27 non-wild elephants into the wild without an extensive reintegration program. Experience has shown this would take a number of years and, importantly again, cost more than the income generated by the initial sale of these elephants to China. It shows a terrifying lack of understanding of elephants that the Environment Minister would even suggest this!
We implore the Zimbabwean Government to look again at their approach to wildlife conservation, and take a deep and long-sighted view of the country’s environmental heritage and resources. The Government claims it must sell these elephants to get money for conservation because tourists will not come and see the elephants in Zimbabwe — of course they won’t, not while the government attacks its own elephant population by breaking up families and shipping off their babies as a commodity to be traded. It must focus instead on improving the protection of wildlife and recognizing, as demonstrated in a recent report by our iworry campaign, that a living wild elephant could bring in $1.6 million in tourist dollars over its lifetime, making wild herds infinitely more valuable roaming the plains, than sold overseas!
Written by Rob Brandford, Executive Director of the DSWT (UK)
Special Report: dressed in grotesque costumes, plastic masks and acrylic wigs, the exhausted and severely malnourished dancing monkeys spend every day in the hot sun as they dance on command on the edge of busy roads, choking on putrid traffic fumes.
Monkey handlers usually lay in the shade a few meters away and constantly wrench on the heavy chain around their monkey’s neck, demanding non-stop performances. Forty percent of monkeys die during training alone.
Known as topeng monyet, a five year battle took place to have performing monkeys banned in Jakarta and that same battle now exists for other locations across Indonesia.
The illegal animal trade is a multi-million-dollar business and every year over 3,000 Macaque monkeys are estimated to be poached from the Sumatran forest, tortured and condemned to a life of painful misery. The monkeys are poached after the mother is wounded and the baby is prised off the dying mother’s body. Most macaque babies are used for research for international pharmaceutical groups or universities and the others are sold to become topeng monyets, performing monkeys.
Poachers are paid $2 for each monkey by dealers, who sell them on to street buskers in Jakarta for $5 each. A fully trained macaque can be sold for up to $135.
Listed as near-threatened, the highly social and intelligent macaque monkeys are forced to live in isolation in tiny dark wooden crates which quickly leads to serious emotional problems for each of the monkeys. In 2013 at least 150 macaques were kept in this manner in the East Jakarta slum area of South Cipinang Besar, famously known as Kampung Monyet, or Monkey Village where a majority of the residents call themselves ‘monkey masters.’
A young baby is forced to start training way before it’s body can handle such physical or mental stresses.
Monkey dancing only took off during the 1980s, to entertain poor children in villages [kampungs.] In recent years dancing monkeys began performing in city areas which quickly escalated to an industry throughout many regions in Indonesia.
Macaque training takes around four to six months, comprising of six or seven hours torture every day for the monkey to learn to walk upright and do simple tricks. Macaques who survive the training process will be forced to perform every day for between five to 10 years , depending on how soon they lose their mind and become aggressive and uncontrollable. At that point they will be sold to specialized restaurants of exotic cuisine, where they will be served as a live monkey-brains meal.
Training To Death
The following is from an undercover interview with an Associated Press journalist and a monkey handler known as Cecep, a resident of Monkey Village.
Cecep puts a metal ring around the neck of Toal, a male macaque with a broken arm from a previous training incident. Two ropes tether the ring to poles erected on either side of the monkey as Cecep also ties Toal’s arms behind his back while the monkey screeches in pain as his broken arm is twisted and tightly tied.
This “hanging the monkey” method forces the monkey to rely only on its feet to get better footing on the ground, giving it an erect, human posture, says Cecep.
“We usually hang the monkeys for half a day before we release them for a few hours to feed.After that, we hang them again for a few hours until the day’s training is over and we put them back in their cages. But we have to hit them too,”says Nanang, another handler.
A terrified Macaque monkey screams in terror as it is slapped across the face,
“Some handlers let theirmonkeys hang all day without feeding them or giving them breaks,”says Cecep.
The hanging training begins as soon as a monkey stops nursing, or when it is at least a year old and it takes a week to a month for a monkey to get through this basic training. “Sometimes they don’t make it and they die,” says Cecep.
Once the monkeys have passed the hanging training and can walk upright, the handlers train them to use various toys and props, such as a toy motorcycle, for their performance. “We also train them to lift toy weights to check if they can really stand erect, if they can’t, the toy training period takes longer,” Cecep says.
“The monkeys are starved and only fed when they obey to make sure they learn quickly. If they’re not physically strong enough, they die during the basic training, though some die later in the toy training phase.
Many just toss the monkey’s body into the river or a garbage dump.”
Having it’s arms tied behind it’s back, this young monkey is tortured for several hours a day, everyday for around six months.
Then there are the non-lethal training accidents, like the broken arm Cecep gave Toal.
Cecep demonstrates how he has trained another of his monkeys, Odon, to ride a small wooden motorcycle and salute a flag. As Odon walks back and forth with the toy motorcycle, Cecep gives the command for it to perform by yanking on the chain attached to a collar around the monkey’s neck.
It’s “normal” to pull hard, he says, and there’s a certain way to do it without breaking the animal’s neck.
Monkey bosses rent out the primates to handlers for Rp 15,000 ($1.70) per monkey per day, with the basic props of a mask and a costume. The monkey owners charge an additional Rp 20,000 to rent out extra props such as a toy bicycle or musical instrument. Monkey bosses own bigger cages can have up to 15 monkeys crammed into them.
Darting in and out of heavy traffic, a skinny little monkey attached to heavy chain and wearing grotesque costume, mask and wig is forced to dive between cars and pick up coins tossed out of car windows by drivers passing by. Standing upright on his/her back legs all day, overheated in the full sun while dressed in heavy clothes, the dancing monkeys is constantly having it’s neck chain wrenched by it’s handlers as he lays in the shade some meters away, out of the heat of the sun. The never ending assortment of malnourished little monkeys are worked to exhaustion on a daily basis, till death.
Exhausted and skinny Macaque mother with a suckling baby, still has to work all day every day, in the hot sun.
If the monkey does not immediately answer the sudden yank of the chain around it’s neck, it will be severely punished, resulting in greater pain. Even female monkeys with suckling young are still expected to “work” in a disgusting exploitation to get more money if people see the baby suckling on the utterly exhausted mother.
Standing on the edge of traffic all day the monkeys are forced to swallow car and truck fumes all day long, which are particularly potent due to the height of the monkeys and the height of car exhaust pipes.
Forced to do stupid tricks which require energy and stamina, when the money is starving and exhausted.
After transportation and monkey rental, handlers like Cecep and Nanang can expect to take home up to Rp 70,000 (US$5.00), after several hours of daytime performance on the sides of some of Jakarta’s busiest roads. Cecep adds that he can make a little more during weekends.
As hard as the monkeys are forced to work for several hours every day, their pitiful diet consists solely of plain white rice. During performances sometimes their handlers give them pieces of fruit or snacks that passers by hand out
Each time a tourist stops to look, the monkey is ordered by its owner to walk on his hands, sit on a toy rocking horses or ride bicycles in the hope the tourist will hand over some loose change. It is important that people stop giving money to the monkeys or their handlers because doing so only encourages the practice.
Jakarta Bans Dancing Monkeys, Why Not Everywhere?
After a five year battle to shut down Jakarta’s dancing monkeys, the ban came into effect in late 2013 – butonly for Jakarta! As soon as the first 11 monkeys out of 350 were confiscated from handlers in Jakarta, other handlers went into hiding or relocated to areas such as West Java where they are still operating today.
The Jakarta Animal Aid Network has been campaigning since 2009 to end the dancing monkey trade because of its ongoing cruelty. A Spokeswoman for JAAN, Femke Den Haas says the monkeys have their teeth cut out, are starved and are forced to hang upside down for hours in order for the monkey to become submissive.
the despair of a chained Macaque monkey.
According to BBC, Governor Joko Widodo made the decision to end the street performances because he wanted to save the monkeys, as well as protect humans from the diseases they may carry. Such diseases have included rabies, tuberculosis, hepatitis and the bacterial disease leptospirosis.
The original plan in 2011 was for the city government to buy back all monkeys used as street buskers for about $90 and shelter them at a one-hectare preserve at Jakarta’s Ragunan Zoo, and the handlers and caretakers would be provided vocational training to help find new jobs.
A total of 81 dancing monkeys were seized in 2011 with the thought they could be either placed into the Ragunan Zoo or simply released back into the wild. However, after suffering years of mental and physical abuse, the zoo refused all the monkeys, arguing that the dancing monkeys suffered from diseases and posed a threat to the facility’s current animal population. Yet the monkeys were not able to fend for themselves in the wild.
Their front legs are wrenched behind their back and their wrists tightly bound together.
JAAN stepped in and offered to rehabilitate them. Fourteen macaques were put down after testing positive for tuberculosis and the remaining 67 were nursed back to health and slowly learned to socialize with other macaques; a significant step after spending much of their lives living alongside humans.
In 2012 a group of 40 dancing monkeys were confiscated by the authoritiesand were found to be carrying various diseases including tuberculosis, hepatitis and the bacterial disease, leptospirosis.
In 2013 an estimated 350 dancing monkeys were being forced to work as street performers in Jakarta. These heavily traumatized monkeys were no longer able to live with other primates in zoos and had no way to defend themselves in the wild.
Jakarta authorities initially intended that the monkey confiscations would begin in 2014 but were forced to act earlier because of the appalling conditions in which the monkeys are made to live.
Cruelly hung by the neck with their front legs tied behind their backs, the young Macaques are forced to stay like this for up to weeks. 40% die during the training phase.
“That is related to order on the streets as well as rabies and other sorts of diseases, that is why we want to be free of performing monkeys and why we have started this week. Most of the owners are not residents of Jakarta,” said Mr Widodo.
Haas said “All the confiscated monkeys are traumatized and require at least three months in quarantine before we can even contemplate re-releasing them into the wild and even then, it has to be in an area where there no other wild monkeys.”
“We believe the monkeys are best off on an isolated island such as the uninhabited island in Pulau Seribu, the capital’s Thousand Islands district, where the idea of a topeng monyet sanctuary could be set up,” said Hass.
Topeng monyets are still performing in the West Java cities of Bandung and Bekasi, however the local government in Bandung is preparing to also ban monkey shows.
2014 UPDATE ON DANCING MONKEYS
The ex dancing monkeys in the care of JAAN are all long tailed macaques which were rescued after Governor Jokowi banned the dancing monkeys on Jakarta streets end 2013 and are cared for in the government quarantine building in South Jakarta where a full time team is on site, including one veterinarian who is standby 24 hours a day, every single day.
The monkeys were cared for in the quarantine for three months during which ’emergency care’ was provided as they all suffered badly not only from stress and trauma, but also malnourishment and various diseases, including parasite infestation. They were skinny and scared, seeking comfort with each other.
After three months quarantine, the monkeys were moved to the land behind the quarantine building where JAAN built enclosures for them. One group at the time was formed, with the last group successfully being introduced in July 2014, totaling four successful groups.
Macaque monkeys have suffered enough. Ripped from their wounded mother at a tender age, then chained and tortured and made to perform idiotic tricks on command for several hours every day before being shoved back into a small dark cage. Just because the monkey is dressed into a grotesque outfit and mask designed to make it appear as an object does not remove the truth that behind every topeng monyet mask is an injured and severely abused animal who needs urgent help.
It is truly disgusting that after years of forced service the Macaque monkey ends up in the center of a dining table for people to eat his brain while he is still alive! The final betrayal by humans toward this precious breed of monkey.
Jakarta has banned topeng monyet dancing monkeys but we cannot become complacent and presume Indonesia will automatically ban it elsewhere. As we source current petitions for Indonesia’s remaining dancing monkeys we will add them to this article.
The following is a selection of professional photographs which were taken of Jakarta’s doll face dancing monkeys:
Jakarta has banned topeng monyet dancing monkeys but we cannot become complacent and presume Indonesia will automatically ban it elsewhere. As we source current petitions for Indonesia’s remaining dancing monkeys we will add them to this article.
written by Michele Brown firstname.lastname@example.org
POPULATIONS of vultures across the continent of Africa and Asia have been on the vast decline over the past ten years of which has become quite concerning to International Animal Rescue Foundation and other conservation organisations. Both the new world and old world species are battling both habitat destruction, unstainable agriculture, but most concerning is the use of diclofenac – a pharmaceutical that has been used in human and veterinary medicine since the early 1970’s.
The name “diclofenac” derives from its chemical name: 2-(2, 6-dichloranilino) phenylacetic acid. Diclofenac was originally developed by Ciba-Geigy (now Novartis) in 1973. It was first introduced in the UK in 1979. In the United Kingdom, India, and Brazil diclofenac may be supplied as either the sodium or potassium salt; in China, it is most often supplied as the sodium salt, while in some other countries it is only available as the potassium salt. Diclofenac is available as a generic drug in a number of formulations, including diclofenac diethylamine, which is applied topically. Over-the-counter (OTC) use is approved in some countries for minor aches and pains and fever associated with common infections. In the United States it’s available as both the sodium and potassium salt.
Diclofenac is being used wildly by poachers to decrease the chances of being caught by ranger anti-poaching units. Vultures (old world) and (new world) are the eyes and ears of the skies from which they naturally alert field operatives on the ground to a possible poaching incident. Used to treat animals for inflammation and other diseases vultures are unable to break down the chemical and die from renal failure. The impact of the drug was quick and devastating with vulture populations in India during the 1980′s running at millions of birds to barely a few thousand remaining by the late 1990′s.
Despite the drug being banned by India in March 2006, Nepal in August 2006 and Pakistan in late 2006 the drug has been authorised for use in Spain where 80% of European vultures live. There is no need for diclofenac to be licensed for use in Europe as Meloxicam has the same effects on livestock but without being toxic to vultures.
Could the devastation of Asia – where over 99% of vultures died in just over a decade – be replicated in Europe? The drug is particularly toxic to vultures. A study in 2003 by Dr. Lindsay Oaks to try to find out what was killing all the vultures in India discovered just how toxic the drug was to the birds. The researchers concluded that if just 1% of dead livestock on by vultures had been treated with diclofenac the impact would be catastrophic on vulture populations. In reality over 10% of animal carcasses had been previously treated with the drug.
While the drug was in use in Asia the impact on vulture’s numbers was substantial – between 1993 and 2002:
The sudden drop in numbers of vultures saw major increases in other scavengers such as wild dogs and rats which also carries diseases that are not present in vultures. The loss of the vultures led to major public health implications through the growth in diseased carrying scavengers.
While the drug has been produced and used in Italy for many years the implication of Spain now allowing the drug to be used in livestock is worrying conservationists. The drug was licensed for use in Spain last year. While risk assessments were done there was no advice taken from bird conservationists and no impact assessment done to consider the risks to vultures.
One of the lead organisations in helping to coordinate an alliance of conservation organisations is the Vulture Conservation Foundation. The new alliance aims to help highlight the issue to the public and to campaign to the European Union to ban the use of veterinary diclofenac.
Diclofenac an (NSAID) Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug commonly referred to as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents/analgesics (NSAIAs) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIMs)—are a class of drugs that provides analgesic (pain-killing) and antipyretic (fever-reducing) effects, and, in higher doses, anti-inflammatory effects. Although seen as a keen anti-inflammatory by practitioners and medical specialist’s used unprofessionally or as a weapon can have disastrous effects to wildlife species of which International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa/Europa require this drug to be banned or made safer immediately.
Renal failure (also known as kidney failure or renal insufficiency) is a medical condition in which the kidneys fail to adequately filter waste products from the blood. Avian renal failure is more or less exactly the same as renal failure in humans; humans are easier to treat though than avian species.
Just as in other metabolic diseases (i.e. liver disease) determining a definitive diagnosis in a timely manner and administering appropriate therapy is crucial to the patient’s survival. Unfortunately, kidney diseases in birds often carry a poor prognosis as many cases are diagnosed after they become chronic disease.
Clinical signs associated with kidney disease are highly variable and may be attributable to any number of disease processes. Clinical signs may include lethargy, depression, polyuria, polydipsia, dehydration, weakness, ataxia, lameness, weight loss, diarrhoea and neurologic signs. Sadly within the bushvelds of Africa and grasses of Asia once poisoned with substantial amounts of diclofenac vultures have very little chance of survival, poachers are not just killing rhino or elephant species they too are damaging the eco-system of which puts undesirable stress onto other fauna species both land and aquatic.
In July, a reported 600 vultures were found poisoned to death next to a SINGLE elephant carcass in Namibia’s Botswana National Park. Similar incidents have occurred in Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Botswana in recent years, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
This newish threat couldn’t come at a worse time for vultures. In West Africa, vulture populations have declined by 42 percent over the past 30 years. A January 2013 study showed that, because vultures fly long distances to feed outside national parks, they are increasingly at risk of chemical poisoning in agriculture areas.
Fuelled by rising demand in Asia, where elephant tusks are turned into rings, chopsticks, and countless other trinkets, conservation groups estimate that poachers kill tens of thousands of elephants each year, including an estimated 25,000 in 2012 alone and whilst poaching of mega fauna continues so will the destruction and extinction of species continue. The worldwide trade in ivory has doubled since 2007 so what hope our avian species have is very slim.
Four rare vulture species are present in Europe, and all are protected by EU law. The Egyptian Vultureis threatened with extinction and listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Species and theCinereous Vulture is listed as ‘Near Threatened’. The Griffon Vulture and Bearded Vulture have recently recovered from very low populations after decades of conservation efforts. Millions of Euros have been invested in saving these European vultures and this investment is now in jeopardy.
The UK’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate (the UK Government’s agency that regulates veterinary medicines) has just released a statement on diclofenac and Vultures
“The UK’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate is taking the issue of diclofenac’s risks to vulture populations seriously. As a precautionary measure the VMD will not approve any requests from vets to import products containing diclofenac. Furthermore, they have agreed not to issue any export certificates which name diclofenac-containing products in the list of products to be exported”.
This is significant, because it sends out a strong message to decision makers, veterinaries, farmers and the conservation practitioners about the dangers of diclofenac to vultures. The UK veterinary standards are often seen as the ‘industry standard’ to follow in other countries.
Widespread, increasing and mostly illegal use of poison is decimating African vulture populations, precipitating a biodiversity crisis with as yet uncharted human health consequences. These are the main conclusions from a recent workshop organised to discuss the issue, which has gathered 20 experts from Africa, Europe and North America. Twelve leading conservation organisations speak in unison: Without rapid and effective action, Africa will soon lose some of its vultures!
Below you can find the joint press release, and also the conclusions of the meeting. You can also download all presentations and supporting documents hereto.
Worrying depletion of vulture species;
Regionally extinct within South Africa the Egyptian Vulture still inhabits quite a significantly large range. However the species is in decline of which populations will continue to plummet should poaching, unsustainable agriculture, habitat fragmentation and deliberate persecution not be addressed more precisely at government level.
This species faces a number of threats across its range. Disturbance, lead poisoning (from gunshot), direct poisoning, electrocution (by power lines), collisions with wind turbines, reduced food availability and habitat change are currently impacting upon European populations. Illegal poisoning against carnivores seems to be the main threat operating on the breeding grounds in Spain and the Balkans.
Declines in parts of Africa are likely to have been driven by loss of wild ungulate populations and, in some areas, overgrazing by livestock. Within the European Union, regulations introduced in 2002, controlling the disposal of animal carcasses, greatly reduced food availability, notably through the closure of traditional “muladares” in Spain and Portugal; however, recently passed regulations will permit the operation of feeding stations for scavengers.
Poisoning is a threat to the species, often through the use of poison baits targeted at terrestrial predators, and through the consumption of inappropriately disposed poisoned animals. Recent analyses from many countries such as Spain and Bulgaria have highlighted high levels of contamination of Egyptian Vultures leading to increased mortality.
Antibiotic residues present in the carcasses of intensively-farmed livestock may increase the susceptibility of nestlings to disease (e.g. avian pox has been reported as a cause of mortality in Bulgaria.
It appears that Diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) often used for livestock, and which is fatal to Gyps spp. when ingested at livestock carcasses, is driving the recent rapid declines in India. NSAIDs are reportedly toxic to raptors, storks, cranes and owls, suggesting that vultures of other genera could be susceptible to its effects.
It seems plausible that this species previously had less exposure to the toxin owing to competitive exclusion from carcasses by Gyps spp. vultures. In 2007, Diclofenac was found to be on sale at a veterinary practice in Tanzania. In addition, it was reported that in Tanzania, a Brazilian manufacturer has been aggressively marketing the drug for veterinary purposes and exporting it to 15 African countries.
Mortality at power lines has been found to be particularly common on the Canary Islands and potentially risky in other regions of Spain and in Africa, with 17 individuals found killed by electrocution in Port Sudan, over 10 days in 2010, indicating a potentially serious problem that has persisted for decades and will continue to contribute to Egyptian Vulture population declines. In Morocco at least, the species is taken for use in traditional medicine. Competition for suitable nest sites with Griffon Vulture may reduce breeding succession the short-term.
Decreasing populations –
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 3,300-5,050 breeding pairs, equating to 9,900-15,150 individuals. Europe forms 25-49% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 20,000-61,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 13,000-41,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.
Regionally extinct within Cyprus, Italy, Moldova, Romania and Slovenia the Cinereous Vulture is currently listed as “near threatened” of which may soon be re-listed as vulnerable should persecution not cease and pharmaceutical companies not take responsibility for drugs they are manufacturing.
Threats to this species are just as identical as that of the Egyptian endangered vulture species.
The two main threats to the species are direct mortality caused by humans (either accidentally or deliberately) and decreasing availability of food. The main cause of unnatural death is the use of poisoned baits for predator extermination, although shooting and destruction of nests also occur.
Shooting and poisoning are increasing in Mongolia, and many birds are trapped or shot in China for their feathers. There are fears that veterinary application of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug Diclofenac, which has caused the near-extinction of several Gyps vultures in India, may have a negative impact on A. monachus, particularly as increasing numbers of the species are wintering in northern India. A study in central Spain during 2003-2005 found high concentrations of antibiotics in blood samples from 57% of nestlings tested.
The same study found two antibiotics in the liver samples of all dead nestlings that were tested. It is hypothesised that antibiotic residues, particularly quinolones, cause liver and kidney damage, and deplete lymphoid organs and alter bacteria flora, facilitating pathogenic bacterial and fungal infections. In Europe, decreased food availability was formerly caused by European Union legislation on carcass disposal; however, recently passed regulations will allow the operation of feeding stations for scavengers.
In Eastern Europe and central Asia, particularly in the former Soviet Union, changes in agricultural practices and human migration from the countryside to the cities have greatly reduced numbers of domestic livestock. In Georgia and Armenia, declines may be linked to the loss of subsidies for sheep-herding in the post-Soviet era. Additionally, there have been steep declines in many populations of wild ungulates which provide a major food source for the species.
The Saiga antelope (Saiga tartarica), for example, numbered over one million individuals ten years ago, and has now been reduced to a population of 30,000-40,000 owing to uncontrolled hunting and severe winters. In South Korea, food limitation is a serious problem such that the species relies on supplementary food. Habitat loss is also thought to be important. The majority of brood losses occur during the incubation period and it is suspected this may be partially due to low and fluctuating temperatures and so changes in air temperatures resulting from climate change may be a potential future threat to the species.
Its global population is estimated to number 7,200-10,000 pairs, roughly equating to 14,000-20,000 mature individuals. This consists of 1,700-1,900 pairs in Europe and 5,500-8,000 pairs in Asia. The population in Korea has been estimated at c.50-10,000 wintering individuals. The estimate roughly equates to 21,000-30,000 individuals in total.
The Griffon Vulture;
There are two species of (Gyps) being the G. rueppellii and G. fulvus. G. fulvus is currently listed as (least concern) of which populations are on the increase. Unfortunately G. rueppellii commonly known as the griffon vulture also known as Rueppell’s Vulture, Ruppell’s Vulture, Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture, Rueppell’s Griffon, Rüppell’s Vulture is listed as endangered.
The species faces similar threats to other African vultures, being susceptible to habitat conversion to agro-pastoral systems, loss of wild ungulates leading to a reduced availability of carrion, hunting for trade, persecution and poisoning. In East Africa, the primary issue is poisoning (particularly from the highly toxic pesticide carbofuran), which occurs primarily outside protected areas; the large range sizes of this and G. africanus puts them both at significant risk as it means they inevitably spend considerable time outside protected areas. In addition, the ungulate wildlife populations on which this species relies have declined precipitously throughout East Africa, even in protected areas. In 2007, as explained above diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug often used for livestock, and which is fatal to Gyps spp. when ingested at livestock carcasses, was found to be on sale at a veterinary practice in Tanzania. In addition, it was reported that in Tanzania, a Brazilian manufacturer has been aggressively marketing the drug for veterinary purposes and exporting it to 15 African countries. The West African population has been heavily exploited for trade, with birds commonly sold in fetish markets.
For example, the Dogon of central Mali climb the Hombori cliffs to take eggs and chicks of this species. The decline and possible extirpation in Nigeria appears to be entirely attributable to the trade in vulture parts for traditional juju practices. It is apparently also captured for international trade. In 2005, 30 birds were reportedly confiscated by the Italian authorities. Disturbance, especially from climbers, is a particular problem for this species. In Mali, the Hombori and Dyounde massifs are dotted with at least 47 climbing routes, on which expeditions take place every year, mainly during the species’ breeding season. However, the impact of these activities is not known.
Population size is currently a shady unknown area in reality however has been stated that there are no more than mere 400-500 mature individuals. (To be updated)
Listed as least concern the bearded vulture is undergoing quite a significant population decline over its entire range of which Africa and Asia are seeing some of the highest declines. Extinct regionally in Albania; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Jordan; Liechtenstein; Montenegro; Serbia (Serbia) and the Syrian Arab Republic the species remains in a rather suspended state.
The main causes of on-going declines appear to be non-target poisoning, direct persecution, habitat degradation, disturbance of breeding birds, inadequate food availability, changes in livestock-rearing practices and collisions with power-lines and wind farms. Simmons and Jenkins (2007) suggested that population trends in this species in southern Africa may be correlated with climate trends. In addition, habitat degradation and breeding disturbance also threaten the species.
Ferguson-Lees et al. (2001) estimated the population to number 1,000-10,000 individuals, but in Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 300-700 breeding pairs, equating to 900-2,100 individuals. A revised global estimate is therefore 2,000-10,000 individuals, roughly equating to 1,300-6,700 mature individuals.
Terbufos – Brief insight into yet another avian killer.
Terbufos has also been blamed for recent and past reductions of vulture species. Terbufos an agricultural chemical that International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa wants banned has been responsible for the deaths of many hundreds if not thousands of aves species over the past decade and is a difficult pesticide to eradicate once leached into the soils.
Persistence: In aerobic soil, hydrolysis and biodegradation are the primary degradation pathways for terbufos. The half-life under conditions which favor microbial growth is 27 days. It increases to 67 days in anaerobic soil. The two important metabolites, terbufos sulfoxide and terbufos sulfone, are more persistent than terbufos, and are equally toxic. The half-lives for the sulfoxide and sulfone degradates are 116 and 96 days, respectively. In aquatic systems, the hydrolysis half-life for terbufos is about 13 days for the range of pH 5, 7, and 9. The primary breakdown product in water is formaldehyde, but the sulfone and sulfoxide degradates are also present. The half-lives for the sulfone and sulfoxide degradates are 32 days and 68 days, respectively.
Solubility: nearly insoluble in water at 5.0mg/L, terbufos is soluble in acetone, aromatic hydrocarbons, chlorinated hydrocarbons, and alcohols.
Mobility: The mobility of terbufos in soil varies. In Arkansas loamy sand, it is moderately mobile but in Indiana silt loam, New Jersey sandy loam, and Wisconsin loam soils it is essentially immobile. The primary degradates are considerably more mobile than the parent compound. Terbufos degradates have a high potential for surface and groundwater contamination and have been responsible for many incidents of fish kills after run-off contaminated ponds and rivers.
Bioaccumulation: studies have shown that terbufos has the ability to bioaccumulate in living tissue. The bioconcentration factors for fish range from 320X to 940X , indicating a moderate potential for bioaccumulation.
Terbufos is very highly toxic to freshwater invertebrates by both acute and chronic criteria. Studies have noted developmental abnormalities in aquatic invertebrates at extremely low concentrations of terbufos.
Terbufos is very highly toxic to both warm and cold water fish species.
Terbufos is very highly toxic to mammals. The LD 50 for rats has been reported to be from 1.5 to 2.0 mg/kg.
Terbufos is very highly toxic to passerine bird species. The LD 50 for the red-winged blackbird is 2.1 mg/kg. Chronic effects on terbufos and its degradates have not been adequately studied.
Illinois, 1991. The Department of Conservation reported a fish kill after runoff of terbufos applied to a cornfield contaminated the immediate watershed. Biologists investigating the site estimate 41,800 bluegill, 38,000 largemouth bass, 5,700 green sunfish, 4,300 black crappie, 407 red-ear sunfish, and 211 hybrid sunfish were killed.
Terbufos ranks fourth overall in the U.S. for documented fish kill incidents. To summarize the incidents, during the period from 1989 to 1998, seventy-eight incidents have been reported. The numbers of fish killed range from 30 to 90,000. Most of the kills were related to use on corn. Grassy buffer strips did not prevent incidents, in some cases. Incidents generally occurred from 2 days to 3 weeks after application. The incidents were determined by the EPA to have resulted during periods of normal rainfall and were not attributed to rare or severe storm events. The mortalities oftentimes occurred on soils which are not highly erodible, demonstrating the ability of terbufos and its metabolites to persist and move through the soil.
Madison, Wisconsin, 1995. An adult female and a juvenile red-tailed hawk were found at the base of a tree in Madison, WI. Meat taken from the crops of the hawks contained 12 and 13 ppm terbufos. The investigator speculated that the prey of the hawks had been rodents from a nearby corn field (USFWS case file 2300).
Bear Valley, near Klamath Falls, Oregon, 1992. Five bald eagles were found dead in an unidentified site. Their crop contents were analyzed at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. Four of five crop samples, one from each bird, were found to contain terbufos.
Dumas, Texas, 1996. In April, 20 migrating Swainson’s hawks were killed when they gorged on grubs in a corn field recently treated with a granular formulation of terbufos. Stomach contents of the birds contained soil, grubs, and from 6.5 to 16 ppm terbufos. The registrant of terbufos, American Cyanamid, commissioned a team of scientists to investigate the kill. The consultants concluded that terbufos granules, along with seed corn, had been deposited on the surface of the soil, instead of in the furrows after plowing. The grubs were exposed with plowing and would likely have remained exposed even after terbufos and the seed corn were covered. It is highly likely that proper application methods would have prevented this incident. This kill proves that secondary poisoning is possible after terbufos contaminated invertebrates are consumed by avian predators.
Felton, Delaware, 1997. Two Canada geese were found dead in a 7 acre field of corn. The geese were feeding in newly planted corn which had been treated with granular terbufos. There were heavy rains prior to the incident. This incident shows that grazing birds, such as geese, are susceptible to the effects of terbufos. The heavy rain may have facilitated the absoption of terbufos into the soil, lessening the contact exposure to geese, or, the rain may have increased exposure to geese if standing water containing terbufos was present on the field. Additionally, the rain may have enhanced the uptake of terbufos by the young corn plants, increasing the systemic effect and exposing the geese to high levels of the chemical and its metabolites as they fed on the corn.
Over the past two decades we have noticed quite an astonishing level of bird species on the decrease of which the vulture species listed herewith are decreasing at rather an alarming rate. Habitat fragmentation and deliberate persecution are major worries for us, however so is poaching and the use of diclofenac of which needs to be addressed now by the company Pfizer – Diclofenac/misoprostol is manufactured by Pfizer, Inc., and distributed by G.D. Searle, LLC., a division of Pfizer, Inc. The damage caused by these medicines to bird species be it deliberately or via the use veterinary medicine within the cattle trade needs addressing immediately. Please support our stance and contact Pfizer today demanding they remove this synthetic medicine from the shelves before it’s too late.
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