Category Archives: Wildlife

WOLF: Swiss victory of biodiversity

More than half of Swiss voters (51.9%) have rejected changes to the hunting laws, proposed by the Parliament. The regulation of the wolf population as protected species, has been in the focus. (Image: @nywolforg courtesy).

The outcome clearly demonstrated that the Swiss wish to strengthen and not weaken species protection, pointed out Gabor von Bethlenfalvy, large carnivore specialist at WWF Switzerland, in a press release on Sunday, September 27.

He added that by saying no to the revised law, voters were saying yes to a compromise between hunting, regulation and protection. His group was one of many conservation and animal welfare groups to launch the referendum challenging Swiss lawmakers’ revisions to the law.

“Now parliament gets the chance to draft a progressive hunting and protection law that will continue to protect threatened animals such as lynx and beavers and not put them under even greater pressure,” von Bethlenfalvy underlined.

“With this decision, the voters have missed the opportunity to strengthen animal and species protection and to set clear rules for the coexistence of wolves and farm animals,” stated the Swiss farmers’ and hunters’ associations and the committee for mountain regions in a joint press release.

Wolf: Swiss referendum

“To kill or not to kill?” That is the questions the Suisse will answer tomorrow in a referendum on hunting.
If the law is revised in the terms proposed by the Swiss Parliament, the cantons, which today can only authorise shooting at a wolf in the event of ‘significant damage’, will now be able to act in a preventive manner.

If the Swiss accept the revision of the law, the gamekeepers will be able to shoot isolated individuals who have lost their fierce character. They will be able to kill wolves living in a pack before damage occurs. however, cannot be shot if they keep away from herds and populated areas.

“The aim is to protect farm animals, farmed landscapes and human beings,” explains the committee supporting the law. They assure that the new text is more protective since “only three species can still be regulated, against nearly 300 previously: the wolf, the ibex and the mute swan”.

Why are conservationists against it?
Nature conservation associations, including Pro Natura, WWF Switzerland, BirdLife Switzerland, Zoosuisse and the Loup Suisse group, opposed the reform and obtained this referendum. According to the Swiss Greens, “it would then be possible to shoot protected animals when there is only a probability that they will cause damage and not in the event of actual damage, which removes any incentive to take preventive measures to protect the herds “.
Environmentalists believe that “preventive measures – not ‘preventive fire’, such as supporting herd protection, should be stepped up to avoid conflict with predators.”

On this side of the border too, the revision of the law is the subject of debate. It must be said that wild animals in general and wolves in particular do not care about the demarcation lines drawn by men.

Wildlife photographer from Haut-Doubs now living in Switzerland, Alain Prêtre denounces, for example, “a law of slaughter” which threatens both the lynx and the ibex.

Twenty-five years after his official return to Switzerland, the wolf has settled down for a long time. On September 27, 2020, the Swiss population is called upon to vote on the revision of the hunting law, following a referendum launched by Pro Natura, WWF, Birdlife, the Swiss Wolf Group and Zoosuisse. The latter might facilitate, among other things, the conditions for regulating firing.

“It is a real disaster: the revision of the hunting law (LChP) is totally inappropriate and endangers the protection of the species as a whole”, the WWF said. “Animals like the lynx, beaver, gray heron and wolf, which have always been found in Switzerland, could be shot without ever having done any damage – simply because they exist. This is why Pro Natura, WWF Switzerland, BirdLife Switzerland, the Swiss Wolf Group and the zoos of Switzerland have launched a referendum”.

The revision of the law no longer does justice to the balanced compromise between protection, regulation and hunting, but above all proposes a unilateral change which operates to the detriment of endangered species. Protected species such as the lynx, beaver and mute swan can be placed on the list of species that can be regulated at any time, along with the wolf and ibex. Thus, these animals can be shot simply as a preventive measure, that is to say without even damage being attributable to them. With this new law, it is no longer mandatory to take precautionary measures (such as protecting herds in areas where wolves live), before having the right to slaughter animals. Many protected species are likely to come into conflict with certain human interests and therefore constitute potential candidates for the list of species that can be regulated.

Dealing with such conflicts of interest between conservation of species and interests of use is a delicate business. This new law is in no way fair to face this challenge. It serves a unilateral interest: during the revision of the law, the positive impact of protected species on the ecosystem was completely obscured. Wolves and lynxes, for example, improve the health of wildlife, and grazing damage in nurseries has also decreased. In addition, these species offer new prospects for tourism.

In short, this new law poses a fundamental societal question: how much space are we prepared to give nature?
The vote of May 17, 2020 has been postponed, the new date is September 27, 2020 due to the pandemic restrictions.

Belgium: Fourth wolf missing

Belgium Institute for Nature and Forest Research (INBO) has released images of three cubs of wolves, concerned that the fourth cub went missing for several weeks.

In late April or early May this year, four wolf cubs were born in the north of the Limburg province, where wolves Noëlla and August have been staying for some time now.

FINLAND: husky at risk of cull

In Lapland (Finland) husky dogs culling are ahead if the post-coronavirus situation continues to degrade, said Pasi Ikonen, an entrepreneur from Hetta Huskies in Enontekiö, in an interview with Helsinki Sanomat newspaper.

Ikonen explained that the assessment is based on his own situation being an owner of 250 dogs.

“We basically don’t kill dogs. If the situation gets so bad that the number needs to be reduced, we try to get their elder to find homes for them. We already have a fairly extensive adoption program. ”

IKOSEN’s food costs for dogs are about 50,000 euros a year and veterinary costs less than 20,000 euros. The dogs are guided by two salaried employees. The total cost is about 120,000 euros per year.

“According to the law, the owner can abandon his dog whenever he wants, there is no obstacle, but it is certainly morally questionable to do so. If there is an emergency situation and there is no other solution, then dogs cannot be kept if they cannot get food and care for them. ”

Ikonen reminds that putting down dogs can be short-sighted. An ordinary draft dog costs 300-400 euros, but a top-class guide dog can cost thousands of euros.

“If the company’s goal is to continue the dog business, then stopping the dogs is a bad idea. Getting a working group of dogs back is difficult. For many, it is a way of life and not a business and the decision to put down dogs is a tough one.”

TRAVEL COMPANY Harriniva’s CEO Niina Pietikäinen says that in her company the number of dogs will be reduced by one hundred dogs in two years. This is accomplished by interrupting puppy production.

The company has 500 sled dogs in two kennels in Muonio. The natural elimination is about 50 dogs a year, Pietikäinen says.

“It’s the only measure right now. Of course, we are already thinking about the next season, ie winter 2021–22. Dogs are as important to us as human workers. They then suddenly do not appear anywhere: they are long-educated, valuable animals. ”

According to Pietikäinen, it is now assumed that this year’s expenses will be covered.

“It’s more than half a million euros. The big question is who would get us here to move them. The inherent feature of a sled dog is to pull and run. It could run a hundred miles a day. ”

PIETIKÄINEN thinks that the worst situation is for a company that only has a dog sled business. He also hopes that Finns will find the dog sled hobby a nice way to move around in nature now that the share of foreign tourists is collapsing.

However, Harriniva plans to continue the dog business.

“But I’m genuinely worried about the thousands of sled dogs in Lapland. It is the kind of breed that is not brought but adopted as a domestic dog. It’s such an energetic dog.”

Poland Animal Welfare crisis

Brussels 18.09.2020 Poland’s governing alliance appeared to be in disarray on September 18, as a dispute over animal rights measures highlighted divisions in the ruling camp, raising the possibility of early elections if differences cannot be resolved.

Tensions within the alliance led by the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party came into the open after some members did not support the measures, which passed in parliament with opposition support.

The dispute over changes to animal rights laws, which are seen as an appeal to younger voters, halted talks on overhauling ministries and raised risks of problems for the coalition.

The new rules, which would ban fur farming and curb the slaughter of animals, were opposed by all lawmakers from the ultra-conservative United Poland party, some other lawmakers in doubt have abstained.The legislation aligns situation with the Lisbon Treaty of EU, stating that animals are “sentient beings” and animal welfare is a European value.

PiS lawmaker and Agriculture Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski, who had openly criticized the bill, voted against it.

Opponents of the bill within the ruling alliance said it would alienate voters in PiS’s rural heartlands and hurt farmers.

Poland produces millions of furs a year, and the sector employs about 50,000 people. The country is also one of Europe’s biggest exporters of halal and kosher meat, with 2017 shipments of more than 70,000 tons.

“Negotiations … have been suspended due to the situation we have in the Sejm,” or parliament, PiS lawmaker and Deputy Parliament Speaker Ryszard Terlecki said before the vote.

Asked about ruling as a minority government, Terlecki said this would not be possible.

“If that happens, we’ll go to elections. Alone, of course.”

In 2007, PiS decided to go for early elections and lost power, making the party well aware of the risks of such a move.

Back in 1991, Compassion in World Farming NGO submitted a petition to the European Parliament, calling for animals to be recognised as sentient beings, capable of suffering. This was accepted as a ‘Treaty declaration’ which is not legally binding, but nonetheless a significant first step. Then, in 1997 with the Treaty of Amsterdam, it became a Protocol, with legal status. The new Lisbon Treaty, in force from December 1st 2009, includes animal sentience as an Article, meaning that recognition of animal sentience is now in the main body of the Treaty and carries considerably more weight.

France bans bird trap four decades after EU

France prohibits an archaic bird hunting technique four decades after the European Union ban. The country has suspended the use of glue traps, which conservationists say are especially cruel to animals and harmful the environment. The hunting technique involves coating branches with glue to trap songbirds, which are caged to attract prey birds that can then be killed.

Activists have condemned it as cruel to the animals and harmful to the environment, and such practices have been banned in all European Union countries except France, which created a workaround to allow hunters to continue to apply it bypassing the European ban.

This week, France said that it, too, was temporarily banning the practice — a move that follows mounting pressure from conservationists, a complaint to the European Court of Justice, and a threat from the European Union’s executive body in July that the country faced legal action if the glue traps were not banned within three months.

French environment minister, Barbara Pompili, described it “good news for the law and for biodiversity.” And Christophe Baticle, an anthropologist at the University of Picardy Jules Verne in northern France, named the move “symbolic.”

The suspension, issued by President Emmanuel Macron affects a minority of French hunters and applies only to the coming hunting season, pending a final decision from the European Court of Justice. And most people in the country disapprove of hunting, considering it cruel and outdated.

However the hunting lobby is a powerful political force in France. There are about 1.5 million registered hunters in the country, and they can form an influential voting bloc in rural areas. Mr. Macron has made efforts to attract their support since his election in 2017, including cutting the price of national hunting licenses in half, to 200 euros (about $240). About 5,000 hunters use glue traps to hunt birds, according to the French National Hunters’ Federation.

Willy Schraen, the head of the hunters’ federation, called the suspension “unacceptable.” “Let’s leave people alone,” he suggested in a television interview. “Why is this an issue to occupy Europe and our minister?” he questioned, referring to Ms. Pompili.

The hunting technique, known as glue-covered bird traps, is used to catch songbirds like thrushes and blackbirds. Conservationists explain that it not only is cruel to the trapped songbirds, but also threatens endangered species because the traps ensnare many kinds of birds.

The European Union moved to outlaw glue traps in a 1979 measure that prohibited “nonselective” hunting, but France influenced by hunting lobby then created a workaround by regulating how birds captured by mistake could be released.

Europol: Spain exotic birds traffickers arrests

Police have recovered 280 exotic birds, valued at over one million euros, among which featured macaws, parrots and cockatoos, all of which are endangered species protected by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). These birds were destined to be sold to North African countries – Morocco in particular, where the demand for them is high.

Codenamed ‘ORATIX’, this operation took place earlier this year in February and March in the Spanish cities of Malaga, Murcia, Granada, Alicante and Asturias.

The investigation initiated in 2019 uncovered how this criminal group would sell these endangered species to North African buyers using forged documents. The criminals would then arrange for the birds to be smuggled out of Spain hidden in buses heading to the African continent. The traffickers were supported by a Moroccan citizen who worked in a travel agency and arranged the logistics. They also developed their illegal business online, where they would sell birds but never deliver them, despite the buyers having paid for them. In addition, over 400 marijuana plants were discovered during the house searches, indicating that this group of traffickers was involved in a variety of criminal activities.

Europol supported this investigation from its on-set, providing operational and strategic analysis and piecing together evidence to identify the route used by the smugglers. One of its experts was also deployed on-the-spot in Spain to assist the law enforcement authorities with the cross-checking of information against Europol’s databases.

It is believed that parrot smuggling worldwide is on the rise. Some species can reach several hundreds of thousands of euros on the black market. The demand driving this illicit trade comes from collectors and breeders, but also citizens who want them as pets. However, this desire to own such exotic birds is killing them off.

A number of parrot species are threatened with extinction due in part to pressures from collecting for the pet trade. There is however legal protection in place. All but two parrot species are protected under CITES, as a result of which their commercial trade is either prohibited or strictly regulated with export permits.

With dedicated staff working on environmental crime, Europol supports EU Member States in their investigations to stop criminals damaging our ecosystems beyond repair.

Albania endemic animal cruelty

Albania restaurants are offering diners meat from illegally hunted bears – part of an illicit trade in wildlife that is “out of control” in the country, investigators claim.

Researchers said it was the first time they had seen bear meat cooked in Europe, and experts warned that the crude butchering of animals may lead to outbreaks of zoonotic diseases such as coronavirus, and many others. The investigaion took place in one of such a restaurants.

Bears, monkeys and birds of prey are among live animals being sold on popular Albanian online marketplaces, the investigation found, raising fears for the survival of some species in the country.

Animal-protection charity Four Paws discovered that two of Albania’s leading online sites were carrying dozens of adverts selling brown bears and other species that are legally protected to be killed an consumed as food.

Many photographs of the animals – along with foxes, barn owls and wolves – showed them with their mouths taped up or their claws chained.

It’s a profitable business: a tiny capuchin monkey was offered for €750 (£675), and a barn owl, a bear cub and a wolf for €500 each.

The buyers are mostly restaurant and hotel owners who keep the animals to attract tourists, or individuals who want the animals as pets and status symbols, charity workers said. But also for consumption as exotic meals.

Eagles, the national symbol of Albania, are especially popular with buyers and are often found stuffed as trophies in public places. In spite of the law delcaring them protected species, prohibiting them to be caged or sold,following a huge decline of native wildlife in the country, the implementation of law has been poor.

Although the offenders may be jailed for abuse, the overwhelming majority of the them escape justice.

Four Paws said that after its team reported some of the illegal adverts, they were deleted but new ones reappeared.

“A large majority of the photographs displayed severe animal cruelty, such as foxes with sealed muzzles in plastic boxes, bear cubs in chains and birds with their feet tied,” said Barbara van Genne, of the charity.

Monkeys and birds of prey are often kept in bars and restaurants in Albania as a tourist attraction, while foxes are sold for their fur, according to the investigators.

Wolves are bought to be cross-bred with dogs for the puppies to be sold as guard dogs, commonly used in the mountains against wolves. But other animals are killed, stuffed and put on display.

Animals’ mouths are often taped to prevent them biting and their feet chained to stop them running away.

U.S. calls China to ban wildlife markets

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the United States has called on China to permanently close its wildlife wet markets, citing links between those markets and zoonotic diseases. All together around 200 diseases, listed by World Health Organisation (WHO) incluing COVID-19, Ebola, Zika, plague, rabies, and many others.

https://twitter.com/reuters/status/1253258612299923458?s=21

The new coronavirus is believed to have emerged in a market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. It has spread around the world killing over 180,000 people and infecting over 2.6 million.

https://twitter.com/mothershipsg/status/1253153087608385538?s=21

“Given the strong link between illegal wildlife sold in wet markets and zoonotic diseases, the United States has called on the People’s Republic of China to permanently close its wildlife wet markets and all markets that sell illegal wildlife,” Pompeo said in a statement late on April 22.

Chinese wet markets trade in various animals, including wild or exotic, those have been linked to outbreaks of zoonotic diseases. 

One of many such places has been Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, believed to have played a fatal role in the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, although investigations into whether the virus originated from non-market sources are ongoing as of April 2020. 

Wet markets were banned from holding wildlife in China in 2003, after the 2002–2004 SARS outbreak which was directly tied to those dangerous practices of selling and consuming wildlife. Such regulations were lifted before being put into place again in 2020, with other countries proposing similar bans. The visitors of the markets buy wildlife not only for food, but also for the other types of consumption as manufacturing traditional medicines, which are integral part of modern Chinese culture.

Normandy: wolf camera images

А large canine has been captured by an automatic camera in Normandy, northern France. Authorities believe the animal is a European gray wolf. If their hypothesis is correct, it would be the first wolf seen in this region of France for more than a century.

According to a local news report, the image of the lone canine was taken overnight on April 7-8 in Londinières, a village northeast of Normandy—on an infrared camera.

Authorities at the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB) say it is likely a gray wolf (Canis lupus lupus), but caution additional information is needed to confirm the sighting.

“Given the quality of the images provided and considering that many breeds of dogs can have a size and coat colors similar to that of a wolf, this expertise should be considered with some reservation,” the OFB, which was sent images of the suspected wolf on April 12, said in a press release.

“The photo was analyzed by several people experienced in the identification of the wolf and who concluded that there was a high probability,” a spokesperson from the OFB told Newsweek. “However, it cannot 100 percent be said it is a wolf… Only DNA analysis on biological material would remove doubts.”

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