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The extremely rare northern white rhino - a subspecies of white rhino - may soon disappear. One of the last males, a 34 year-old rhino named Suni, died from natural causes on Oct. 17, at a nature reserve in Kenya, leaving just six northern white rhinos (only one of them male) remaining worldwide. Its close cousin, the southern white rhino, is also severely threatened. The low numbers are themselves largely a product of the relentless rhino poaching that occurs across Africa, and which has driven the animals as a whole to the brink of extinction. And the problem is getting worse. Back in 2009, Suni was one of eight of its species at the Kenyan Ol Pejeta Conservancy as part of a last-resort effort to save its kind. To date, these rhinos have not fared well in captivity. But after all, experts point out, it's not as though they're exactly doing too well in the wild: according to some conservationists, a free-roaming rhino is killed for its horn every nine hours. "It's a shame the [northern white rhino] subspecies got to that point," said Matthew Lewis, the World Wildlife Fund's senior program officer for African species conservation. Corralling surviving rhinos in that type of nature reserve represents "the worst-case scenario in trying to bring back a subspecies. Its story is a fantastic lesson on what not to do, and how we need to avoid getting to this point with other rhinos." So what to do? The answer, most would say, is to continue to support efforts to stop poaching, which is the primary cause of the decline of rhinos, as well as elephants and other animals. "That we've lost the subspecies is a statement of just how bad off animals are across Africa," said Stuart Pimm, a conservation ecologist at North Carolina's Duke University. "It's a measure of the fact that rhinos are being massively poached and in trouble wherever they are. It also means we're losing this distinctive, important animal within the savanna ecosystem. It's not just another charismatic animal; it's also a species that has a very clear ecological role, and we need to be very worried that we lost that." Large demonstrations took place Oct. 4 in 136 different cities, with activists calling for an end to rhino and elephant poaching, and seeking to draw greater attention to the issue in the eyes of the public. "There's a lot of talk, but we need to see more action," said Simon Jones, founder of nonprofit group Helping Rhinos. "We need more rangers on the ground and we need more campaigns in countries where ivory and rhino horns are sold." Among those actions was a march that took place that day in Johannesburg, South Africa. One of the organizers, Dex Kotze, remarked, "We have to do this for future generations. The youth today are making a statement globally, in 136 cities, that it's their heritage that is being killed. South Africa, home to the world's largest rhino populations, has seen at least 700 killed so far this year. We are also here protesting against the political leaders of the world, who do not have the guts and political will to make appropriate changes in their laws." Organizers there debuted a list of objectives, which included the demand for a global ban on the trade in ivory and rhino horns, stricter penalties for poachers who are caught, and better, more coordinated international cooperation in stopping what has arguably developed into a flourishing underground criminal industry.
Green Blog posted a article in BiodiversityThe elephants in northern Mozambique survived the country’s bloody civil war, but now they are being killed by the hundreds every year. An aerial-survey, commissioned by WWF-Mozambique, shows that between 480 to 900 elephants died in the area between 2011 and 2013, with the majority of the deaths being blamed on poaching. “The elephant deaths are probably due to illegal hunting and the losses are likely to be devastating to the population,” said Anabela Rodriguez, Country Director of WWF-Mozambique. Almost half of the elephants sighted during the aerial-survey of the landscape at the end of last year were carcasses of dead elephants. WWF is now calling for urgent action following these shocking research results. “Mozambique has emerged as one of the main places of the slaughter of elephants and ivory transit in Africa and as a profitable warehouse for transit and export of rhino horn for the Asian markets,” said WWF International’s Policy Expert on Wildlife Trade, Colman O’Criodain. “We need to see urgent action and ongoing commitment to combat these illegal activities.” But poaching seems to be increasing in not just Mozambique but also in neighboring South Africa. According to South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs, say that hundreds of rhinos have been killed. Figures released at the end of May showed that a total of 442 rhinos have already been poached in 2014 – with more than half killed inside the Kruger National Park. WWF is organizing a meeting with conservation NGOs, wildlife experts and government officials this week to find ways to stop this renewed onslaught on the elephant and rhino populations of southern Africa. But weak enforcement, vulnerable borders and corruption in Mozambique makes it hard to co-ordinate an effective response to poaching. “Well-organised and structured criminal networks facilitated by corruption are luring unemployed youths in the region to engage in criminal activities,” said Dr Jo Shaw, Manager of the Rhino Programme for WWF-South Africa. “In order to cope with this crisis, we need interventions that involve a variety of stakeholders from government, through to the private sector and civil society to change attitudes towards wildlife.” WWF calls for strengthened law enforcement and increased awareness “across all sectors of society” about the illegal wildlife trade that fuels the poaching in Mozambique.
Last week, British broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough devoted over a third of a widely reported interview to his claim that human beings are "a plague on the earth." "It's not just climate change; it's sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now." Attenborough cited Ethiopia as his only example of the natural world fighting back against the human plague. "We keep putting on programmes about famine in Ethiopia; that's what's happening. Too many people there. They can't support themselves - and it's not an inhuman thing to say. It's the case." In Attenborough's view, Ethiopians are starving simply because there are too many of them. Since they haven't voluntarily reduced their numbers, the natural world is doing so, by the "natural" method of mass starvation. But let's suppose that 50% of Ethiopians disappear today. That would take the country's population back to its level in the 1980s. If Attenborough's people-are-the-problem view is correct, hunger should not have been a concern then. In reality, more than 400,000 Ethiopians died of starvation between 1983 and 1985, in one of the worst famines of modern times. Clearly, reducing population would not make Ethiopia any less vulnerable to mass hunger. Ethiopia actually produces much more food per person today than it did when the population was much smaller. According to Oxfam, the country is now is "just 2% from being able to supply an adequate level of food energy to all its citizens." Despite that, at least thirty million Ethiopians go to bed hungry every night. The problem isn't human numbers or food production, it's an economic and political system that enriches foreign investors and a tiny urban elite, while nearly 80% of the people earn less than $1 a day. There's lots of food, but they can't afford to buy it. Cruel irony: the hungriest people in Ethiopia are farmers. In the past five years, hundreds of thousands have been driven off their land with no compensation, while the government has leased millions of hectares to foreign corporations that raise export crops. But in Attenborough's populationist worldview, there are no land grabbers stealing land from subsistence farmers. There is no history of colonial exploitation, slavery, and war, no extreme inequality reinforced by neoliberal policies. There are no international speculators driving up food prices, no agribusiness giants exporting food to richer countries while millions starve. There are just people, and people are a plague. Yes, there is a plague on the earth, but it isn't people. It's a social and economic system that puts profit before people, that treats food as a commodity instead of as a basic human right. So long as that system remains in place, hunger and poverty will continue, no matter what happens to birth rates. Films about wild animals have made David Attenborough famous. It's sad and appalling that he uses that fame to promote ignorance about human suffering.