Tag

Animals Archives - Rhino Review

A new sanctuary for the Sumatran rhino is delayed amid COVID-19 measures (Indonesia)

By Conservation, Relocation No Comments
Junaidi Hanafiah, Mongabay| May 27, 2020

Read the original story here.

BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA: A much-anticipated plan to establish a new rhino-breeding sanctuary in northern Sumatra is one of many that has been put on hold in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposed facility is a top priority for Indonesia’s conservation plan to rescue the world’s last remaining Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) through a network of captive-breeding facilities. One already exists in southern Sumatra, inside Way Kambas National Park, and authorities planned another for a forest area in the Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh province, in the island’s north, expected to be completed by 2021.

For the past year, officials and experts — from the environment ministry, local government, academia and NGOs — have been working on the permits, feasibility and environmental studies, and developing the designs, including the detailed engineering design (DED).

“If it wasn’t for the pandemic, the DED would’ve been done in March 2020,” said Dedi Yansyah, the wildlife protection coordinator at the Leuser Conservation Forum, one of the NGOs involved in the plan.

Indonesia confirmed its first cases of COVID-19 in early March. Since then, the country has recorded the second-highest number of deaths from the disease in East Asia (behind only China­), even amid widespread measures to curb the spread of the virus, including stay-at-home orders and grounding of flights.

Harapan, a captive male Sumatran rhino, with a keeper at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park. Image by Rahmadi Rahmad/Mongabay Indonesia.

The planned rhino sanctuary in Leuser will cover 100 hectares (250 acres) of an ecosystem that’s also the only place on Earth that’s home to rhinos, tigers, orangutans and elephants. Agus Irianto, the head of the Aceh provincial conservation agency (BKSDA), said the area in question is a mosaic of logging forest, oil palm concession, and non-forest land. He said permits to acquire the logging forest and non-forest area were nearly completed; the agency is also in discussions with the oil palm concession holder to acquire that land.

“Certainly, [COVID-19] has affected the activities and timeline that were previously arranged,” Agus said.

An environment ministry official said an initial batch of at least five rhinos would be captured from the wild in Aceh and moved to the sanctuary to kick off the captive-breeding program there. The Leuser Ecosystem is touted by experts as the most promising habitat for wild rhinos because it’s believed to have the largest population of the species, at about 12 individuals. (Estimates for the Sumatran rhino’s total population range from 30 to 80.) But conservationists still understand little about the mountainous area, and the incidence of poaching there is believed to be higher than elsewhere.

Indonesia’s captive-breeding program currently has eight Sumatran rhinos in two sanctuaries: seven Way Kambas National Park, and one in the Kelian forest, in Indonesian Borneo.

Rhino experts around the world decided only in 2017 that the captive breeding of Sumatran rhinos, from both Sumatra and Borneo, was the only viable option to save the species, which is now found only in Indonesia after the death of Malaysia’s last captive rhino. The species once ranged across Southeast Asia, from the Himalayas in Bhutan and India, to southern China and down the Malay Peninsula. But it has been decimated by a series of factors, from poaching to habitat loss and, more recently, insufficient births.

Harapan, a captive male Sumatran rhino, at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park. Image by Junaidi Hanafi/Mongabay Indonesia.

The initiative agreed to in 2017 mirrors a similar effort in the 1980s to capture Sumatran rhinos for breeding. That program, however, collapsed a decade later after more than half of the animals died without any calves being born. But a string of successful captive births in both the United States and Indonesia, and a growing consensus that the species will go extinct without intervention, have laid the groundwork for the latest captive-breeding effort.

China offers buyouts to wildlife farmers in response to pandemic

By Wildlife Trade No Comments
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts, Mongabay | May 20, 2020

Read the original article here.

The Chinese government is offering to buy out animals on wildlife farms, and to help farmers change their agricultural practices, in an effort to reduce the consumption of wild animals. This step could have big implications for the management of wildlife in China in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say.

The novel coronavirus, which has affected more than 82,000 people in China and nearly 5 million people worldwide, is believed to have originated from a wet market selling wildlife in Wuhan, China. On Feb. 24, the Chinese government responded by banning the trade and consumption of wild animals, and on April 9, it released a draft list of animals that could be legally farmed for food and clothing. The majority of listed species were domesticated animals like pigs, cattle and sheep, although it had a separate category for “special livestock” such as reindeer, alpacas and emus that could be farmed for food, and minks, Arctic foxes and raccoon dogs that could be farmed for fur.

Caged bamboo rats. Image by arcibald / Flickr. Photo as published by Mongabay.

Some wild animals may continue to be legally farmed, but the Chinese government will offer payment to farmers of at least 14 wild species , including king ratsnakes (Elaphe carinata), bamboo rats (Rhizomyini spp.), Asian palm civet cats (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), Chinese muntjac deer (Muntiacus spp.), and Chinese bamboo partridges (Bambusicola thoracicus). The highest level of compensation is allotted for the Chinese muntjac deer — 2,457 yuan ($346) per individual —  while each Chinese bamboo partridge will be bought for 57 yuan ($8).

While this buyout agreement was initially presented to farmers in Hunan and Jiangxi provinces, where the majority of wildlife farming takes place, farmers in other provinces, including Guangdong, Yunnan and Guangxi, are being offered similar deals, according to Steve Blake, China’s chief representative at WildAid.

“There are several thousand wildlife breeding operations in each province, especially in some of the less economically developed provinces in the northeast and southern China,” Blake told Mongabay. “These operations are obviously on varying scales and for different uses, but the numbers are pretty staggering. The industry is valued at tens of billions of dollars annually. The fact that China is moving so quickly to clean up such a vast and complicated industry is really astounding.”

The buyouts aren’t necessarily compulsory, but wildlife farmers will face obligations, according to Peter Li, China policy specialist of the Humane Society International (HSI).

A newly hatched Chinese bamboo partridge. Image by Ishikawa Ken / Flickr. Photo as published by Mongabay.

“Buyout is a way for the breeders to exit the farming which was encouraged by the government,” Li told Mongabay in an email. “If the farmers do not want to accept the buyout arrangements, they are completely free to stop the farming operation by themselves. However, according to the buyout plan, the farmers cannot farm these animals for food any more.”

More species may be added to the buyout plan, which is only in draft form right now, Blake said.

“This first list of 14 species is the first batch of species to be listed for compensation, probably because they are more commonly bred,” he said. “Since it’s listed as ‘the first batch,’ then there should be more to follow.”

Some farmers will lose their livelihoods, but they will receive government assistance to help them transition to growing vegetables, fruits, teas, or herbs for traditional Chinese medicine, or to even farm other animal species like pigs and chickens.

A caged civet cat. Image by Wikimedia Commons. Photo as published by Mongabay.

“Many of these farmers were operating these breeding facilities as local poverty alleviation projects, and so this transition for them into other production is a continuance of these poverty alleviation projects,” Blake said. “These are ongoing and not just a one-time deal. But again, this definitely varies by location, county by county.”

Once the animals are purchased by the government, they face one of three fates, according to HSI. In certain circumstances, they will be released back into the wild, but most animals will be allotted to industries such as zoos and research facilities, or simply culled — and this has animal welfare advocates concerned.

“Culling programs in China and other countries in Asia can also involve truly barbaric methods such as live burial, and so we really hope to see the Chinese authorities mandating against such cruelty,” Li said in a statement. “The wild animal breeding farms and factories facing closure and transition must not sacrifice animal welfare in an effort to implement the new changes.”

There is also a big loophole in the buyout plan: farmers will be able to continue farming wild animals for traditional Chinese medicine, the fur industry or entertainment purposes. In the province of Guangxi, snake farmers, with the help of the government, are already repurposing their animals for the medicine and beauty industries, which will prevent them from having to shut down their farms, according to one news source.

A Chinese muntjac deer. Image by nesihonsu / Flickr. Photo as published by Mongabay.

While the buyout plan leaves room for improvement, both Li and Blake say they believe it can help lead China away from wildlife consumption, and promote better management of wildlife in the country.

“By subsidising wildlife breeders to transition to alternative livelihoods, these provinces are demonstrating global leadership on this issue, which other provinces and countries must now follow,” Li said. “Chinese farmers not only have an opportunity to leave a trade that poses a direct threat to human health — something that can no longer be tolerated in light of COVID — but also to transition to more humane and sustainable livelihoods such as growing plant foods popular in Chinese cuisine.”

“These new regulations provide much needed clarity on what is permissible and improvements to the permitting process,” Blake said. “There has also been notable concern throughout society here for the breeders affected by this, so this compensation scheme is also very important to help them transition industries rather than revert to trying to sell these products illegally.

“The amount of attention and resolve that the government, media, and society in China have paid to the wildlife consumption issue in the wake of this pandemic is unprecedented,” Blake added. “There’s not only much improved policy measures resulting from this, but also I think public perceptions on the need to end some of this risky wildlife consumption is going to be long-lasting.”

Banner image caption: Civet cats. Image by KL Wong / Flickr.