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Can whales mitigate climate change

Terry Hughes sadly surveys GBR bleaching


Discussion on trophy hunting. Prince William’s comments and my article on the history of the rhino horn trade

Money matters in conservation and the human connection to animals throughout history has, for a large part, been through hunting. Undoubtedly hunting especially for the pot has always aimed at sustainability. So trophy hunting now is a necessary aspect of conservation. No doubt. But it wasn’t for a long time. It’s important to look at the history of rhino hunting for two industrialising centuries; see the damage to the black rhino populations; the impact of the trade in horn and the active role that white hunters and traders and middlemen played in it in order to gauge current cultural views. Especially in relation to notions of regulations, privilege and entitlement.…/2017-03-16-paradise-is-f…/
A fact of the world is that by the rhino horn market culture putting a price on the trophy it is problematic to the trophy hunting culture.

See the articles below for discussion.

Lions mane jellyfish

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Photos by Zaid Dillon and Shona Low. For information on how to treat stings for bluebottles, irukandji and box jellies, blue blubbers and lions manes, info on jellyfish as apex predators and info on why there are increasing blooms of jellyfish with warmer temperatures and pollution see


Paradise is finite – a lesson a long time in the learning, and yet to be learnt by some

170px-RJCunninghamMy latest article. Published in The Daily Maverick in South Africa.

Interesting facts about the origins of African conservation that shows it was the British who brought the black rhino to the critically endangered levels from which they have never recovered.

The hunters recognising that game was becoming scarce, was the reason the British and Europeans took measures to conserve Africa’s wildlife – treating game as a treasure of the Empire.

Rhino horn trade was linked to the ivory trade and slave trade in the 19th century. The Ivory Trade was dominated in East Africa by Indians and Arabs with the tribes doing the hunting. Whether ivory was for Western or Eastern end-markets it was nearly always carved in China, but rhino horn was always for the Orient: for carving in Yemen or carving and medicine in China and parts of Asia. In the lead-up to the 20th century the British took over the trade from the Arabs and Indians and the tribal hunters who over 100 years had reduced rhino/elephant populations drastically. The Brits, Europeans and American industrialists claimed the rhinos and elephant for sport, for trophies, but still supplied the Asian trade for much needed cash. Africans were jammed out. While the Brits put regulations in place to try and stop the most bloodthirsty “sportsmen”, hunting didn’t become illegal till CITES in the 1970s and only certain aspects. The Asian brokers, middlemen and end-market have been continuous factors for over two centuries in the hunting of rhino whether legal or illegal. Now the hunting is done either legally as deigned by the conservation sector specifically CITES (which was formed in Washington) by sportsmen or pseudo-sportsmen (trophy hunting is not seen as trade) or illegally by rogue South Africans both black or white. But the Asian middlemen and end-markets have persisted. In my article I am suggesting that certain mindframes exist, particularly among indigenous South Africans and Africans and Asians, as a result of Western nations’ earlier role in reducing rhino populations to critical levels, then appearing to reserve hunting of rhinos for sportsmen.

Australian Environment Department policy on rhino imports

Trade in Rhinoceros Specimens

All species of rhinoceros are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). An Appendix I listing applies to all five species with the exception of populations of the southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum) from South Africa and Swaziland which are listed on Appendix II. While trade in hunting trophies and live animals is allowed in certain circumstances for populations listed on Appendix II of CITES, Australia has introduced measures to restrict trade in rhino specimens, including rhino horn hunting trophies.

These measures include:

  • permits will no longer be issued to import hunting trophies of Appendix II listed southern white rhino
  • rhino hunting trophies are no longer allowed to be imported as personal and household effects
  • radiocarbon dating is required to conclusively prove the age of vintage rhino horn for export.

Two orphaned rhinos’s faces hacked for horns – unspeakable cruelty to animals

Photos from Saving the Survivors: Saving the Survivors is a field-based South African non-profit conservation organization that aims to maintain biodiversity by caring for and rescuing threatened and endangered wildlife species, by partnering with governmental, non-governmental, community and private stakeholders.16425733_1397059887001981_2263119326893666909_n16508803_1397059923668644_626305947747910066_n

German marine biologists describe plastic pollution inside stranded Sperm Whale stomachs

Press release of the Ministry of Energy, Agriculture, Environment and Rural Areas in Schleswig-Holstein

Environment Minister Robert Habeck and Gerd Meurs-Scher show garbage dumps found in the Pottwalm saws.

Environment Minister Robert Habeck (left) and Gerd Meurs-Scher show garbage, which were found in sperm whale stomachs. | © Claussen / LKN.SH

During the investigation of sperm whales stranded in Schleswig-Holstein large amounts of garbage have been discovered. Four of the 13 whales had large amounts of plastic waste in their stomachs. This was not the reason for the beaching and the death of the animals, but reflects the situation on the open sea. Veterinarians and biologists suspect that the most affected animals would have suffered major health problems from the remains of the garbage. This became apparent during the presentation of the results of the investigation on 23 March 2016 in the Multimar Wattforum in Tönning.

The most striking pieces of garbage are the remains of a 13-meter-long and 1.2-meter-wide net used in crab fishing, a 70-cm-long plastic cover from the engine compartment of a car and the sharp-edged remains of a plastic drum. “These findings show us the impact of our plastic society: animals inadvertently ingest plastic and other plastic waste, suffer from it, in the worst case, some starve to death, which is an urgent reminder to tackle garbage in the sea now,” said Environment Minister Robert Habeck.

Sperm whale pod beached themselves – then died of heart and circulatory failure

The 13 whales were stranded in January and February on Schleswig-Holstein’s North Sea coast. Professor Ursula Siebert, director of the Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research at the Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (ITAW), examined the sperm whales with her team. All animals were young, not yet sexually mature bulls, 10 to 15 years old and 12 to 18 tons. They were all in good health and nutrition. Their hearing, which is important for the orientation of the animals, showed no signs of a acoustic trauma and the infestation in the different organs with parasites was normal.

All the animals had stranded into the shallow waters of the Wadden Sea. There, lying on the ground, the weight of her body pressed their blood vessels, the lungs and other organs together so that the animals died of acute cardiovascular failure.

In their stomachs, Dr. Uwe Piatkowski, a marine biologist from Kiel’s GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research, discovered with his students a total of over 110,000 squid parts, such as the indigestible upper and lower jaws of squid. These species are mainly found in the Norwegian Sea, the Barents Sea and the Icelandic waters, the main wintering areas of the sperm whales. In a stomach, the beaks of 21,000 of the squid up to 35 cm in length were found, which corresponds to a live weight of about 4.2 tons.

Last food intake probably in the Norwegian Sea

Siebert and Piatkowski suspect that the endangered whales had last eaten in the Norwegian Sea. The first group with three animals had probably only been staying for a short time in the North Sea, the second with ten animals probably a little longer. In some of their stomachs were found bones and other remains of North Sea fish such as monkfish, cod, whittling and sea bunny.

Since the beginning of the year, 30 sperm whales were stranded alive or dead on the North Sea coast in the UK, the Netherlands, France, Denmark and Germany. In addition, strandings in the northern and eastern seas of Denmark and Germany included sword whales, fin whales and minke whales. Pig whales and a blue-and-white dolphin were found live on the coasts of Schleswig-Holstein in February, but were brought back into deep waters except for the dolphin.

The cause of the large number of strandings is unknown according to the statements of the two scientists. Unusually high temperatures and particularly strong storms registered in the north-east Atlantic in recent weeks could have pushed water masses from the Norwegian Sea southwards into the North Sea – and the squid with them. Possibly the sperm whales followed their main food and so, like other whale species, entered the North Sea. A plausible explanation, which is not proven however.

Siebert and Piatkowski, however, made it clear that the occurrence of sperm whales in the North Sea is not extraordinary. All migratory species occasionally appear outside their actual distribution area. They open up new habitats and adapt to new conditions. Since the 16th century, more than 200 strandings on the North Sea coast have been documented, among them 21 animals that were stranded in the mouth of the Elbe at Neuwerk in 1723.

The males of this population spend the winter in the North Atlantic. On their migrations, individual animals enter the shallow and low-nutrition North Sea. With their acoustic sense of orientation, they can be misdirected there.

Special exhibition on the stranded sperm whales in the Multimar Wattforum

The spectacular finds of the whales, their recovery, separation and analysis are from now on in a special exhibition at the National Park Centre Multimar Forum presented. Gerd Meurs, head of the Multimar Wattforum who helped in the preservation of the animals, will also prepare a lecture series. Whale experts will present details of the whale beachings from May onwards. Environment Minister Habeck will address the public on August 11th.

Habeck: “Rescue of the whales was a logistical masterpiece”

In January, three sperm whales were driven by Helgoland and the Schleswig-Holstein Wattenmeer National Park near Dithmarschen. Since they constituted a dangerous obstacle to shipping, they were salvaged by ships of the Federal shipping administration and state coastal protection authority and national parks and marine protection Schleswig-Holstein (LKN.SH).

At the beginning of February, eight sperm whales were washed in the Wattenmeer National Park near the Kaiser-Wilhelm Koog as well as two animals on sandbanks at Büsum. They were examined by the same whale experts near the port of Meldorfer.

The skeletons of five animals were sent to the University of Giessen and Rostock, the Stralsund Marine Museum, the Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover as well as to the Nature Protection Association Öömrang Ferian on Amrum and are to be exhibited there.

Recovery, decomposition and investigation of whales have cost about 250,000 euros. The costs are borne on a pro rata basis by the federal government (70 per cent). In addition, the LKN.SH has around 2,200 hours of work done by employees, as well as the use of LKN ships and other equipment. This has resulted in some 160,000 euros in internal costs for the LKN.

Background to the garbage in the sea

In Schleswig-Holstein, the issue of “garbage in the sea” in 2015 was a focus of the state government and was accompanied by an intensive awareness campaign and public relations work. The joint Fishing for Litter initiative with the NABU, along with the support of plastic-free model regions and garbage collections are already helping to draw attention to the problem. The Cabinet has recently agreed to a comprehensive list of measures for the protection of the sea, which should also be applied to the source of waste, in the manufacturing industry. The implementation of these measures will be coordinated in the future at the federal level through a round table of different stakeholders.

“Schleswig-Holstein will work for necessary legal regulations at federal or EU level, also for a ban on microplastics,” Habeck said.

(Press release of the Ministry of Energy, Agriculture, Environment and Rural Areas in Schleswig-Holstein)

Tigers and Elephants in the Vietnam War

Journalist investigates the details of death of Vietnam’s last rhino

In this BBC story linked to here, Chris Baraniuk talks to the people present at the forensic investigation into the death of Vietnam’s last rhino in Cat Tien National Park near HCMC. In 2011 I spoke with one of the scientists Ulrike Streicher for some quotes for The Saigon Horn: Part 1  and Part 2. Streicher said the rhino’s leg had gone septic and it had most probably fallen into the gully. Picture by Ed Newcomer.

The scene of the crime (Credit: Ed Newcomer)