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Elephant Population In Mara-Serengeti Rises Says WWF

There has been an increase in the number of elephants living in the world famous Mara-Serengeti ecosystem that straddles Tanzania and Kenya in East Africa. According to the results of the latest aerial survey, the elephant population in the region has increased from 2,058 elephants in 1986 to 7,535 this year.

The wet season Serengeti-Mara aerial census report was released by Tanzania’s Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism and called for closer cooperation between Tanzania and Kenya to ensure poaching and the illegal wildlife trade in the region is kept at bay.

Poaching Prevalent Outside Protected Areas

During the survey there were a total of 192 elephant carcasses that were counted, of which 75 were found in Tanzania and 117 were in Kenya. The ratio of carcasses to live elephants was well within the normal range of what is required to maintain a stable or increasing population of elephants.

Despite the increase in elephant numbers in the region, conservationists remain concerned by the fact that 84% of the dead elephants found in Kenya lay outside the Masai Mara National Reserve. What was more worrying was the absence of tusks. This suggests that elephants that do not live in protected areas could be threatened by poaching.

Conservation Communities Want Governments to Improve Policy

The conservation community in Tanzania and Kenya are calling on their governments to improve their elephant management policies as well as make use of technology in the fight against the illegal trade in wildlife. Additionally the conservationists want there to be better management of elephants who live outside the protected areas. Both governments remain keen to partner with conservationists to achieve durable solutions to the challenges faced by endangered species including the rhino as well as the elephant.

WWF Looking To Find Long Term Solutions

The WWF and other conservation organisations are working closely with the governments to find long term solutions to the menace caused by poaching. A lot of the efforts are focused on technology and anti-poaching equipment. There is also engagement with the private sector and engaging communities though anti-poaching campaigns. Efforts are also being made to work with communities to reduce conflict between wildlife and humans and developing national and regional databases that will manage rhino and elephant populations.

According to WWF the Mara-Serengeti landscape is a priority and the organisation has focused its funding on conservation in this region. WWF is lobbying for the introduction of strong cross border cooperation between Tanzania and Kenya to manage poaching across the entire landscape.

Image Courtesy of WWF

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The Aspinall Foundation Returns Five Javan Primates To Their Original Home

World renowned conservation group The Aspinall Foundation which has had unrivalled success in captive breeding of endangered species, says that it is beginning to take the initial steps of returning a group of Javan primates to their original home land where they have nearly been hunted to extinction.

The Aspinall Foundation says it will return a total of five Javan grizzled langurs. The organisation has already flown out the animals to the Javan Primates Rehabilitation Centre (JPRC) in West Java. There were two males and three females that have been returned plus an additional three Javan ebony langurs were also sent home from the Foundation’s Port Lympne Reserve.

Back To The Wild Initiative

Returning the animals to their original stomping ground is part of the Aspinall Foundation’s “Back to the Wild” initiative. Under the program, the charity is returning captively bred animals ranging from endangered species such as gibbons, black rhino, European bison, clouded leopards and gorillas to their native homeland where the survival of these species is being threatened.

Before leaving the UK the langurs were given a battery of veterinary checks to make sure the animals were not carrying any infectious diseases. The process will continue throughout their pre-release phase whilst they are in quarantine in Java. Once the langurs are released into the wild their breeding patterns, habits and movements will be closely monitored by a team of scientists.

Rebuilding Populations In The Wild

The purpose of the Javan project is to rebuild viable populations of primates in the wild, where numbers have dropped as a result of hunting and habitat destruction. Damian Aspinall, Chariman of the Foundation said:

“It is our guiding philosophy that modern conservation must embrace the over-riding need to breed endangered species and then return them safely to the wild in order to restore populations devastated by mankind. These animals belong in their natural habitats on the planet and therefore merely breeding animals and keeping them two by two in captivity for the entertainment of the public can no longer of itself be a valid conservation aim.”

Aside from increasing the indigenous population with captively bred primates and those primates that have been rescued by the charity’s East and West Java centres, the Foundation along with the government of Indonesia is seeking to reduce the practice of poaching and trading of the species through awareness, education and information.

Image Courtesy Of The Aspinall Foundation

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WWF Condemns Seismic Testing In Virunga

Despite intense international opposition and local protests, British company Soco International PLC will begin the seismic testing phase of its hugely controversial Virunga National Park oil exploration project.

According to residents who live near the park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), parts of Lake Edwards will be shut to fishing whilst the company explores for oil reserves. If oil deposits are indeed found then the WWF says it believes the company will drill oil exploration wells on the lake

“WWF condemns in the strongest terms Soco’s unacceptable operations in Virunga National Park. It is irresponsible for Soco to disregard the national and international laws protecting this World Heritage Site. The company is putting the livelihoods of thousands of people at risk,” said Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Conservation at WWF International.

The fishery at Lake Edwards is responsible for annual income of US$30 million for the people who live near Virunga National Park says WWF who commissioned a study which also found that 50,000 households depend on the lake for their drinking water.

Apart from the loss of revenue and fishing jobs, the environmental report commissioned by Soco itself suggests that exploratory drilling could result in air pollution, water contamination, pulmonary diseases, and habitat loss in the incredibly fragile ecosystem.

The British foreign office reiterated concerns by expressing its opposition to the Soco’s plan in Virunga. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has also voice strong objections as well as EU member states.

“Fishermen, farmers and local entrepreneurs who depend on Virunga are objecting vehemently to Soco’s presence in their park, and numerous members of the international community have joined them. Virunga could be a source of hope for eastern DRC if is fisheries, hydropower and ecotourism potential is developed sustainably. Soco should not be allowed threaten the future of this irreplaceable park. As a publically-traded company, Soco is accountable to its shareholders. We urge investors to reject exploration in Africa’s oldest and most biodiverse national park,” Gustavsson said.

Image Courtesy of WWF

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Ambam The Gorilla Celebrates Birthday At Port Lympne

Ambam is arguably the most famous western lowland gorilla and is a resident at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park. He is celebrating his birthday in style after achieving fame when his gorilla walks like a man video went viral back in 2009 registering over 5.9 million hits. Ambam weighs 220 kilograms and has the ability to stand fully upright and is one of the few gorillas who is able to do this. If you are visiting the park you should also keep an eye out for Ambam’s sister Tamba who also has a two year old son Kabale, both of whom also have the ability to walk upright.

Recently Ambam celebrated his 24th birthday with a cake that was baked especially for him by SugarRush Baking Company in Hastings. The cake was completely gluten and sugar free and made using pumpkin seeds, bananas, apples and carrots. The bottom tier of the cake was made with icing made from apple puree and beetroot, whilst the top of the cake iced with ingredients such are swede puree, carrot and parsnip. The cake itself was decorated with almonds, banana chips, grapes, and aubergine.

Lynsey Mclean, owner of SugarRush Baking Company explains: “I was delighted to be asked to bake a birthday cake for Ambam and had a lot of fun designing it.”

Phil Ridges, Head of Gorillas adds: “All gorillas have the ability to stand upright to some degree although they often choose not to, but Ambam and his sister have a particular talent at standing and walking completely upright on two legs.”

At present Port Lympne Wild Animal Park serves as home to 20 lowland gorillas which are listed as being critically endangered. Gorilla numbers have declined by over 60 per cent over the last quarter century in response to habitat loss, disease induced mortality and high levels of hunting. Last summer the Park working in collaboration with the Aspinall Foundation sought to relocate a family of Gorillas from Kent back to Africa.

Image courtesy of The Aspinall Foundation.

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Cancer Research UK Says Organic Food Does Not Lower Risk Of Cancer

According to a new study in the British Journal of Cancer, women who usually eat organic foods are no less likely to develop cancer than woman who follow a more conventional diet.

Cancer Research UK scientists say they could not find any evidence that would suggest a diet that is free from pesticides results in a reduction in the overall risk of a woman developing cancer.

The researchers polled 600,000 women aged 50 or above about whether they consumed organic foods. In addition to that they tracked the development of the 16 most common cancers during a period which lasted nine years following the survey. During that period, as many as 50,000 participants developed cancer.

When the scientists examined the results for the 16 types of cancer they found a reduction in the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma but a small increase in the risk of breast cancer. However it must be stated the results could be the product of chance or other factors.

Pesticides are used extensively in agriculture and concerns have been raised that their use could result in an increase in the risk of developing cancer. Until now however the evidence has not been strong enough to provide concrete answers. Conventionally grown fruit and vegetables do contain tiny amounts of pesticides but so far there has been no evidence that it increases the risk of cancer.

Dr Claire Knight, Cancer Research UK’s health information manager, says the results of the study adds to evidence that organic food consumption does not mean a lower risk of cancer. For those people who are concerned about pesticide residue on their fruit and vegetable, the best thing they can do is wash before eating.

“Scientists have estimated that over nine per cent of cancer cases in the UK may be linked to dietary factors, of which almost five per cent are linked to not eating enough fruit and vegetables. So eating a well-balanced diet which is high in fruit and vegetables – whether conventionally grown or not – can help reduce your cancer risk.”

Image courtesy of Cancer Research UK

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WWF Says IPCC Report Shows Climate Change Impacting Humans And Animals

The latest IPCC report says climate change will most certainly impact communities and wildlife however there is still time to act.

The report which was recently released details the most comprehensive evidence that the planet is in desperate need of our help. It confirms the fact that climate change is occurring and it is affecting the things that matter the most.

The report combines the impact of climate change on both humans and nature and highlights our vulnerability to a warmer world.

According to the evidence, climate change is having an effect on some of the world’s most endangered species. Droughts throughout South East Asia are being predicted which will lead to a fragmentation of tiger habitat and impact the ability of the tiger to both breed and hunt. The panda is also at risk of losing its essential food source bamboo and the future of the snow leopard is also in doubt with the prediction that their Himalayan forest habitat will decline.

The research also shows that there will be increasingly intense extreme weather such as the floods experienced by the UK last year. The report also predicts that economic well being around the world is likely to be negatively impact without any rapid reduction in emissions that are the product of our use of fossil fuels.

The good news however is it’s not too late according to Samantha Smith, leader of the WWF Global Climate & Energy:

”The [IPCC] report makes it clear that we still have time to act. We can limit climate instability and adapt to some of the changes we see now. This report tells us that we have two clear choices: cut emissions now and invest in adaption or do nothing and face a world of devastating and unmanageable risks and impacts.”

Whilst the distance between what governments are doing and what the science is predicting is huge with the support of ordinary people like yourself we can lobby our elected representatives to do something and start building a more stable future for all of us.

Image courtesy of WWF

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The Aspinall Foundation Pleased To Announce The Arrival Of A Gelada Baboon

The mission at Howletts Wild Animal Park is to preserve animals. Therefore it goes without saying the park is thrilled to announce the birth of a new Gelada Baboon.

It is still far too early to be able to tell the sex of the two week old infant however keepers are very happy with how well Sereba the mother of the new addition is caring for her new born. The Gelada Baboon is a unique species of primate in that it is the only type that feeds primarily on grass. The species is sociable and lives in large hierarchical groups.

Adam May a Primate Keeper at the park says he is extremely pleased that Sereba is taking care of her new born so well. Mr. May says the new addition should be a good playmate for its brother Leena who was born back in 2010.

Howletts Wild Animal Park likes to distinguish itself from regular zoos because of its dedication to animal conservation. The Park is well known for its extreme commitment to animal welfare. Howletts provides large enclosures that allows animals the freedom to enjoy foliage and privacy as they choose. The Park as a result has become one of the top breeding sanctuary’s for some of the most en

Howletts Wild Animal Park, near Canterbury in Kent, distinguishes itself from conventional zoos through its devotion to animal conservation and is well known for the high standards of its animal welfare. The park offers fantastic large enclosures that allow the animals to enjoy natural foliage and privacy as they choose. As a result, the park has successfully become a breeding sanctuary for some of the world’s most endangered animals.

Neil Spooner, Animal Director commented: “We are committed to providing the highest standards of animal conservation and hope to lead by example to other zoos. It has been great to celebrate so many animal births recently, and we are very proud of our latest gelada baboon infant.”

Port Lympne and Howletts Wild Animal Parks both work very closely with The Aspinall Foundation which is a leading animal conservation charity. In 2013 the charity was responsible for the successful return of a family of Western lowland gorillas from Kent to the African wild.

Image Courtesy of The Aspinall Foundation

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WWF Thrilled Nepal Has Year Of Zero Poaching

The WWF says it is pleased to announce that Nepal was able to achieve a zero poaching incidence rate for the year ending February 2014.

The WWF has been working very hard to increase awareness around the illegal trade in wildlife all over the world so the news from Nepal is fantastic particularly when you consider rhinos, elephants and tigers are being rampantly poached in other parts of the world. This is the second year Nepal was able to celebrate a zero poaching success rate after having a fantastic year in 2011.

“The success of achieving zero poaching throughout the year is a huge achievement and a result of prioritizing a national need to curb wildlife crimes in the country. A national level commitment is key to encouraging complementing efforts, right down to the grassroots level, in order to address this biggest threat to wildlife not just in Nepal but across the world.” said Megh Bahadur Pandey, Director General of Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.

Zero poaching in Nepal was achieved by increased enforcement efforts and strengthened protection efforts which were led by the Nepalese government. The announcement was made to coincide with World Wildlife Day on the 3rd of March 2014.

Anil Manandhar the WWF representative in Nepal said it was something to be very proud of to be able to mark World Wildlife Day with the announcement that there had been zero poaching in Nepal for a year. He added that the WWF remains committed to working with the government and other conservation partners to ensure that efforts are maintained to sustain the success.

The WWF will also honour nine other organisations that played an important role in achieving the success of zero poaching in Nepal. This includes the Nepal Police, Nepal Army, Chitwan National Park, Bardia National Park, as well as the National Trust for Nature Conservation.

Image Courtesy of WWF

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Smoking Rate In England Drops To 80 Year Low

According to a new study by scientists from University College London shows the number of people who smoke cigarettes in England has dropped to its lowest level in nearly 80 years.

The data comes from a national study that has been surveying the smoking habits of people in England going back to 2006.

According to the study’s results in 2013 less than 20 per cent of adults were smokers. It’s very encouraging to see this snapshot of the number of smokers in England. Reassuringly, the figures are going down but it’s vital to remember the many millions of people who remain addicted to a lethal product. Half of all long-term users will die from smoking.” Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s head of tobacco policy, said.

Last year over 22,000 people over the age of 16 were polled and the percentage of smokers found was less than 20 per cent.

In the 20th century, there was a rapid increase in smoking rates which peaked just before the publication of a report which linked smoking and lung cancer in 1962. At that point nearly 70 per cent of males and 40 per cent of females were smokers.

The new data was published during the same week that legislation was passed in the UK to allow the introduction of plain standardized packaging.

“Reducing the numbers who smoke and the number of young people who start smoking must remain a focus. Plain, standardised packaging is key to protecting children from tobacco marketing. This week’s votes in parliament showed unprecedented support for tobacco control measures that will protect children from tobacco marketing and from second hand smoke. We urge the government to take the next steps to make standard packaging a reality as soon as possible.” Ms. Cox added

Smoking tobacco causes an estimated 60,000 cases of cancer in the UK each year and is responsible for approximately one in four cancer deaths in the UK.

Image courtesy of Cancer Research UK

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World Vision Joins Forces With HarvestPlus To Combat Hidden Hunger

Last month during the World Economic Forum in Davos, World Vision signed an agreement with HarvestPlus that committed both organisations to work together as they seek to improve nutrition for hundreds of millions of people that suffer from what is known as hidden hunger.

Hidden hunger is the absence in diets of crucial minerals and vitamins that puts both adults and children at risk of a variety of diseases and afflictions such as stunting, anemia, and even death. It is estimated that approximately one in three people suffer from hidden hunger with women and children at the greatest risk.

The new agreement sees both organisations combining to improve access to nutritious staple foods both for consumption at home and for sale at local markets.

Howarth Bouis Director for HarvestPlus says staple crops that are very nutritious are more readily available. There are over half a million cultivating such crops which provide higher levels of minerals and vitamins.

Mr. Bouis stressed that his organisation has limited reach and will have to work with partners who have experience in scaling up crop production. He added that World Vision has both the depth and reach needed to scale production in rural communities around the world. Both organisations are committed to exploring how best to do this together and gain a wider reach quickly with the most nutritious food.

The biofortication process is used to breed nutritious food crops. These varieties offer both higher yields and have greater resistance to pests and disease with some varieties even adapted to drought.

“World Vision is committed to improving nutrition for the world’s hungriest children, their families and communities. We can only do so much on our own. We believe more can be achieved by linking our comparative strengths with organizations like HarvestPlus, UN agencies like the World Food Programme, and companies like DSM.” said World Vision International President, Kevin Jenkins.

HarvestPlus and World Vision will begin their partnership by focusing on African countries such as Sierra Leone, Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania and Burundi.

Image Courtesy of World Vision

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