natural history blog

Natural history and parasitical feedings on the world's press

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Conservation with Bush

From Popbitch, Kalebeul and yubanet
Matthew J Hogan has just been appointed by the
Bush Government as director of the Fish and
Wildlife Service. Interestingly, Hogan was the
lobbyist for Safari Club International - an elite
club of exotic animal trophy hunters, as well
as a keen exotic hunter himself.

SCI has 40,000 members, and promotes global
competitive trophy hunting, with Grand Slam
and Inner Circle competitions. These include
Africa Big Five (leopard, elephant, lion, rhino,
buffalo), North American Twenty Nine (one of
each species of bear, bison, sheep, moose,
caribou, and deer), Big Cats of the World and
Antlered Game of the Americas. To complete all
29 awards, a hunter must kill 322 separate
species. Enough to populate a large zoo.
This is an extremely expensive and lengthy task, and many SCI members take the quick and easy route to see their names in the record books. They shoot captive animals in canned hunts, both in the United States and overseas, and some engage in other unethical conduct like shooting animals over bait, from vehicles, with spotlights, or on the periphery of national parks.

SCI members have even tried to circumvent federal laws to import their rare trophies from other countries. Prominent SCI hunter Kenneth E. Behring donated $100 million to the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum and, according to published reports, tried to get the museum's help in importing a rare Kara Tau argali sheep which he shot in Kazakhstan and had shipped to a Canadian taxidermist - one of only 100 Kara Tau argali sheep remaining in the world. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, now under Hogan's watch, is the agency charged with granting or denying such trophy import permits.

AND FROM HERE. A View to a Kill: How Safari Club Int'l Works to Weaken ESA Protections

The latest example of SCI's growing influence in Washington is the Bush Administration's initiative to "save" the world's endangered species by killing or selling them, and then using the revenues as an incentive for poor countries to improve their conservation efforts. This scheme to protect rare wildlife is a formula for disaster. It will reverse 30 years of ESA protections for hundreds of exotic creatures who are heading for, or teetering on, the brink of extinction.

The proposal, which conveniently dovetails with SCI's agenda, offers several examples of how wildlife can be exploited for profit. It suggests imports, such as wild-caught Asian elephants for circuses and zoos, Morelet's crocodile skins for luxury leather items like shoes and handbags, and Asian bonytongue tropical fish to supply the aquarium trade. American trophy hunters could shoot and import trophies of straight-horned markhor, a rare goat found in Pakistan, and then head north on a quickie expedition to nail Canadian wood bison.

These are only examples. If approved, the proposal portends open season on many disappearing species, particularly large mammals, the so-called charismatic megafauna. It would also be a huge incentive for poaching and smuggling. Imagine how much rich trophy hunters would offer China to shoot giant pandas-arguably the world's most beloved animal-if they were allowed to import their stuffed remains. Picture furriers importing the hides of endangered snow leopards to swathe the ethically challenged. And now that pet tigers have earned a bad rap, might cheetahs become the newest rage among exotic pet owners?

Dandruff and climate change

From New Scientist

Could dandruff be altering the world’s climate? Along with fur, algae, pollen, fungi, bacteria, viruses and various other “bio-aerosols” wafting around in the atmosphere, it may well be.

A global study has found that tiny fragments of biological detritus are a major component of the atmosphere, controlling the weather and forming a previously hidden microbial metropolis in the skies. Besides their climatic influence, they may even be spreading diseases across the globe.

Scientists have known for some time that aerosols of soot, dust and ash can influence climate by reflecting or absorbing the Sun’s rays and by providing the condensation nuclei necessary for clouds to form. Recent research suggests that aerosols are also responsible for “global dimming”, which may be shading us from the full force of warming from greenhouse gases.

Air samples collected by Jaenicke from over Germany, Siberia, the Amazon rainforest, Greenland and remote oceans found that tiny particles of organic detritus, much of it in the form of biological cells, make up about 25% of the atmospheric aerosol.

Read all

Greatest natural disaster in British history

From BBC news

A tsunami in the Bristol Channel could have caused the deaths of up to 2,000 people in one of Britain's greatest natural disasters, experts have said.
For centuries, it has been thought that the great flood of January 1607 was caused by high tides and severe storms. It is estimated that 200 square miles of land in south Wales and south west England were covered by water. Eyewitness accounts of the disaster, published in six different pamphlets of the time, told of "huge and mighty hills of water" advancing at a speed "faster than a greyhound can run" and only receding 10 days later. Professor Simon Haslett, from Bath Spa University College, said: "There is an overall theme running through the pamphlets of a destructive event, very violent, disastrous, on a scale that is unprecedented." Australian geologist Ted Bryant, from the University of Wollongong, agreed: "The waves are described as mountainous - that's a description of a tsunami." Read all

Other UK tsunamis include a 70ft high wave that hit Scotland 7,000 years ago, following a massive landslip in Norway.