A precipitous spike in rhino and elephant poaching has dominated environmental news headlines in recent weeks, with record numbers of rhinos killed in South Africa last year and sting operations in multiple African nations uncovering elephant ivory bound for Asian markets.
But look closer at the coverage, and you may also read about one obscure animal equally imperiled by the illegal wildlife trade — and a fraction the physical size of these megafauna.
Poachers killed a record number of rhinos in South Africa last year, according to government figures released Thursday (January 22). A total of 1,215 rhinos were poached in 2014 — ten times the number killed in 2009. During the first three weeks of 2015, 49 rhinos have already been poached in South Africa.
Although rhinos were recovering in Africa since 1993, increasing demand across China and Vietnam in recent years is reversing that trend. Belief in its purported health benefits, including treatment for cancer, fever reduction and other health problems, remains relatively high in Vietnam, despite the fact that rhino horn is composed of compressed hair and keratin, the same protein found in fingernails.
Two weeks into 2015, it's already proving to be a promising year for combatting the illegal ivory trade on the West Coast. Just days after California lawmakers introduced a bill to close illegal ivory loopholes in the state, Washington state has now followed suit with bipartisan legislation unveiled Wednesday (January 14).
The new bill, co-sponsored by State Reps. Eric Pettigrew (D), Vincent Buys (R) and Joe Fitzgibbon (D), prohibits the sale, purchase and trafficking of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn. Exemptions include antiques verified to be at least 100 years old and musical instruments manufactured before 1976.
Good news! Thandi the rhino has given birth to a calf this morning at the Kariega Game Reserve near Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Thandi is a poaching survivor. She and two male rhinos were discovered by rangers in March of 2012, their horns brutally removed with machetes. The poachers had left them to die, but two years of medical care and surgery has led to an amazing recovery.
(Jan 12, 2015 -- Guangzhou, China) Mantas are getting a big boost from one of China's most popular actors, Wu Xiubo, with the release of a new manta protection PSA. The PSA was produced by WildAid and announced by Wu Xiubo today at a press conference in Guangzhou.