Also known as “scaly anteaters,” pangolins are small mammals primarily distinguished by hard, overlapping scales made of keratin, the same protein that constitutes human hair and fingernails. Found in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, pangolins are solitary animals that use their extraordinarily long tongues to probe for ants and termites in mounds and decaying logs.
The multi billion-dollar ivory trade is controlled by a small number of kingpins who are moving tusks through the Kenyan port of Mombasa, according to an expert panel at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
In a June paper published in the journal Science, University of Washington conservation biologist Samuel Wasser and his colleagues compared DNA samples from African elephant populations with samples extracted from elephant tusks seized between 1996 and 2014. From this genetic analysis, they found two primary poaching hotspots in the continent: one East Africa (particularly Tanzania) and another in protected areas spanning parts of Cameroon, Gabon and the Republic of Congo.
Since the study was published, Wasser analyzed another sample of seized tusks found to be freshly poached, moving rapidly from poaching sites to seaports where they are smuggled.
“Not only have we showed that the number of kingpins are fairly limited, because the hotspots are very few, but also we’re showing that there are probably one or two major dealers that are moving all of this ivory out of Mombasa,” Wasser said during the panel.
SAN FRANCISCO (February 10, 2016) — WildAid and the Center for Biological Diversity today formally petitioned the Obama administration to ban the sale and export of so-called “synthetic” rhinoceros horn. Trade in the biologically engineered faux horn could accelerate consumer demand in Asia for illegal wildlife products that has caused rhino poaching rates to skyrocket across southern Africa.
Rhino horn is coveted by some in Vietnam and China as a status symbol and as a panacea for ailments and diseases, from hangovers to cancer. There is no scientific evidence that rhino horn has medicinal value but rhinos in Africa and Asia are gravely imperiled due to demand for their horns. Several populations have already been poached into extinction, while others, such as the northern white rhino, have dwindled to just a few individuals. Experts believe the best way to save rhinos is to reduce consumer demand for rhino horn.
The good news is that history has shown that we can beat this illicit trade: Past public campaigns against rhino horn have previously succeeded in putting pressure on nations to crack down on the trade. For example, in 1994 the Clinton administration imposed unprecedented sanctions against Taiwan for its failure to stop rhino horn sales. The international scrutiny and well-publicized penalties resulted in Taiwan stepping up enforcement against the market, which also was banned in China and other countries. The rhino horn trade collapsed until economic growth in Vietnam, coupled with new rumors of rhino horn’s anti-cancer effects, revived consumer demand.
Since our Thursday launch of the #JointheHerd campaign at YearoftheElephant.org, we've received dozens of emails asking who took the iconic photo of a bull elephant now seen in tens of thousands of #JoinTheHerd photos online.
The photographer is Australian-born Shannon Benson, who gives us the backstory:
I was in an area called the Klaserie, which is part of the greater Kruger region of South Africa. It was an early morning drive, and as the sun was rising and we were considering heading back to camp, this majestic beauty appeared as if from nowhere. He confidently swayed his way toward the vehicle.
It was the largest bull elephant I had seen to date, and I was filled with awe, excitement and admittedly intimidation. This shot was captured just before I couldn't zoom back any further while trying to keep him within frame. After that I simply took some close up shots as he passed right by the Land Cruiser and continued on his way. After that I finally took a breath again!
With recent reports showing that a vast majority of Hong Kong restaurants continue to serve shark fin soup — often with no shark fin alternatives on the menu — protestors led by Hong Kong Shark Foundation and WildAid Hong Kong have stepped up efforts to expose the truth behind the delicacy.