Sunday, December 14, 2008

Weekly Feline News

Hello everybody and welcome to this week's edition of cat-related news from across the globe. I'm a bit more relaxed this weekend since my sis got married the day before yesterday and after weeks of preparation and a few sleepless nights by me and my siblings - we are finally getting some rest! The ceremony went smoothly and if it was a personal blog I would have posted loads of pictures from the occasion below... ;) - but this site is about wildlife and conservation and I've come across some very disturbing conservation news this past week...

To understand this week's main story we must first learn a little background...tropical rainforests of Central and South America contain within them a vast diversity of animal and plant species - many of them rarely observed and understood by scientists. These parts also contain many important minerals and ores that can prove quite valuable to the local economy and help support conservation efforts by generating revenue for governments. Despite the criticism often levied at mining conglomerates, in truth there are companies that act in a responsible and eco-friendly manner as they go about their business of exploration and mining. In fact they often assist the scientific community by funding observatory studies and establishing strict perimeters around forests that restrict entry of poachers. The long term impact of the boost to the country's economy through mining ventures, translates into more jobs, greater investment into education and other incentives that turn people away from hunting wildlife for profit. Also the mining industry today is conscious of its impact on environment and an increasing number of companies are taking measures to restore the local ecosystem after their operations cease in an area. The debate will go on that whether the mining projects do more harm or good to an area's fauna and flora - but there is the fact that sometimes their presence can benefit a region's you might conclude from the story below...

SurinameSuriname is the smallest of South American nations in terms of area and population. Located at the extreme north of the continent, the country hosts many thousands of hectares of undisturbed tropical forests. Right in the heart of the country lies the Central Surinamese Nature Reserve, a sixteen thousand square kilometer area of pristine tropical rainforests that was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000. To the west of the reserve is the region of Bakhuis (alternatively spelled as Bakhuys), a 2800 square kilometer area that contains forests and mountains. I've tried to illustrate both Suriname and the relative location in it of Bakhuis, via the Google Earth captures to the right.

BakhuisNow in the Bakhuis Mountains there exists bauxite, the most significant ore from which the remarkable metal aluminium is extracted. In recent years mining enterprises have taken interest in exploring the area for this purpose and have established a presence - something that has deterred poachers from exploiting the untamed wilderness of these parts. The two companies that are currently involved in producing aluminium in Suriname are Suralco and BHP Billiton. BHP has been planning to undertake a long term project in these parts to extract bauxite from select locations. Since the last few years they have been surveying the area and even as they haven't started the extraction yet the dirt roads BHP staff have put in to commute and observe the area have allowed scientists to go in and study the wildlife in parts that haven't seen human presence for decades. As a result they've come up with some remarkable images and findings on the behavior of small and large mammals. Jaguars, Pumas and Tapirs are abundant in these jungles and the animals are trusting and not wary of human presence. In fact it is felt that these undisturbed jungles are one of a kind in the whole of Latin America and have the potential to be a top tourist destination for observation of animals in their natural element. All of this appeared to bode well for the future of the jaguars, cougars and other animals in Bakhuis until the following tragedy unfolded...

Towards the end of this October, news emerged that BHP is planning to wind up its operations in South America. The ongoing operations in Suriname will be shut down within the next couple of years and over a thousand workers will be laid off. It is not entirely clear that what led to this move by the company though it appears that the global financial crisis that has led to a fall in price of raw material exports, and unsuccessful negotiations with Surinamese government were behind the announcement. What happened as a result to the wildlife in Bakhuis was quite dramatic. Simply put - the poachers ran amok. They were waiting to pounce on this great wildlife resource and exploit it for their deplorable agenda. It appears that they are going to completely run over Bakhuis and shoot many of the trusting and beautiful small and large animals that scientists have come to document and admire in the last few years. Already shotgun pellets litter many of the sites and scientists and conservationists in the vicinity have been forced to remove their camera traps and leave the locality owing to grave risk to their personal safety. It remains to be seen as to how much damage will be carried out to this pristine wilderness before the recovery effort is initiated. It is felt that the onus is with the Surinamese government to accept responsibility and take affirmative action in this regard. There are examples in the region of administrations striving to protect their forests and wildlife. Brazilian government for instance has taken steps that have resulted in jaguars rebounding in numbers in the wild, even with a rapidly expanding economy and infrastructure.

Now the tragedy of Bakhuis is not yet fully exposed in local and international news. I've come to learn of this through personal communication with concerned conservationists and have attempted to bring it to attention to the best of my understanding of the affair. I will try and learn more about this situation in the coming days and post an update in next week's news issue. In the mean time it will be great if you could spread this news by posting about it, pointing to this post and forwarding it to your friends and colleagues by clicking the 'share this post' button at the bottom of the post on the site. We need to raise awareness about this issue and promote the understanding that may avert similar instances in future.

In other news, the stray tiger in India continues to dodge authorities. You can quickly check last week's post to refresh your knowledge of this particular animal's forays that has now moved over two hundred kilometers from its home range in the country's north in the last few weeks. To date it has killed a number of cattle and by moving up to ten miles every day, it has managed to slip past desperate wildlife officials and their traps. You can read more about the tiger's latest movements here, here and here.

There is some good news for Indian tigers too. The Sohelwa sanctuary located in the Uttar Pradesh province is to be given the status of a tiger reserve. This step has been taken after encouraging reports of an increased number of tigers and leopards in the near four hundred and fifty acres forest. The move will put the sanctuary on the map for tiger conservation and bring development in the area. Full story here.

Staying with the Bengal Tigers - four of them are to get radio collars in the mangrove delta of Sunderban. The new collars are expected to withstand the wear and tear associated with salinity and rugged terrain in the riverine forests. Apart from aiding scientists in monitoring the particular animals, they will shed more light on the under-studied Sunderban tigers and assist in an upcoming census. More here.

Whilst heightened surveillance is helping to protect tigers, as was previously feared leopards in India are suffering in an ironic twist of fate. Poachers are increasingly going after leopards who outnumber tigers in India, are poorly protected and as a result are suffering from rampant hunting. There is a flourishing market of leopard trade in parts of the country that needs to be checked by the authorities. You can read the report here.

One of Africa's largest and most famous rehabilitation centers, Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage in Zimbabwe is facing closure owing to the shortage of funds and food supply for the animals. The ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe has had a very negative impact on the animals as well as people and this is just one of the manifestations. If the situation does not improve soon, the near three hundred animals in the sanctuary might simply die from starvation. You can read the news here and reach Chipangali's website here.

There are some other news but I think since this is already getting quite long, I'll try and squeeze the rest in next week's post. I'll be back with more next Sunday. Have a great week and if you can take a moment out, please do pray for the animals of Bakhuis!


Sandee said...

Poachers are such a greedy lot. What a shame that they will reek havoc. Thanks for the heads up. We need the rain forests and we need the wildlife too. Have a great day. :)

Liz said...

That is a very serious concern. Opening up access into these remote areas invites development and the extinction of species. Where I live on the coast here in New Zealand the Kaipara Harbour is under threat from two Power Projects at either end bad news for everyone including the Maui Dolphins that feed there. Last census count was 110 individuals and dropping. They are the rarest dolphin in the world.
Something has to be done about the South American issue.

On the tiger. Very elusive and clearly the tiger has found an easy prey source. I hope they get her soon.

Purrs and hugs to you and the kitties
...lots of links there for me to read great.

Karen Jo said...

This is some really bad news. It's a shame that the poachers can move in and take such advantage of the situation. I hope that the tiger is caught and relocated soon, before something really bad happens.

Mickey's Musings said...

That is quite the bad news. In our part of the world,things are so different We do not know how lucky we are. We need to be aware of what happens to animals elsewhere in the world and we can do that by supporting Wild life groups. It will take a long time to change the mind of poachers. That is very sad.

BeadedTail said...

How awful that the poachers are moving in to Bakhuis. Hopefully something is done to protect the animals.

PurrPrints said...

Hmmm...I would have never thought that mining companies could be a good ecological influence...thanks for giving me something to think about in that regard.

Black Cat said...

This is very disturbing and thought-provoking. On the one hand, hope for the wildlife, on the other, disaster due to (semi-) human greed.

As to the tiger, I wish him well. "Get your meals how you can!" I think; then I realise how poor these people are, that to lose any livestock puts them further into poverty, so they are going to hate this tiger and try to kill him... What a dilemma. I don't want any human or cat to be killed. But why can't we, as allegedly the "most intelligent" animal on the planet, plan worldwide, plan to limit our proliferation to allow all species an equal chance?!!!

Sorry, this is more like a post than a comment. I just feel so strongly about the selfishness and hubris of the human race...

Thanks for your lovely comment Omer:) xxx

MaoMao said...

Oh no, such worrisome news! Thankies fur the heads up. We will purr and purr for the animals of Bakhuis! You do such a great job of raising awareness of these important issues, and we appreciate what you do!

Kittyhugs and purrs from MaoMao and alla the Ballicai.

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