Vegan For The Animals
Ⓥ FOR THE EARTH | FOR THE ANIMALS | FOR YOUR HEALTH
 

Go Vegan For The Animals!

Farm animals have unique personalities. They're fascinating creatures with the ability to love, form friendships, mourn, get angry and show a variety of other emotions. They are deserving of our respect and our compassion.

The consolidation of farms in recent years has radically altered the face of farming. Today more animals are being raised on less land, with profound effects on the animals, rural communities and the environment.

This shift in farming has been termed "industrial agriculture" or "factory farming," as thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of animals, are crowded into huge buildings with no access to the outdoors.

As the animal agriculture industry continues to take over the Earth's landmass, species rich habitats are being quickly destroyed. A frightening one acre of land is cleared every second. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, habitat destruction and ocean dead zones.

Cows & Cattle

Cattle, as individuals or as a herd, possess many unique traits, the most distinctive being their social disposition. They are extremely social animals and rely heavily on "safety in numbers"— herds can form with up to 300 animals.

Each animal can recognize more than 100 individuals and will closely bond to some herd members, while carefully avoiding others. While the bond between mothers and daughters is particularly strong, calves also maintain lifelong friendship with other herd members.

It is thought that cattle were first domesticated in 6,500 B.C. from wild cattle in Europe and the Near East. Only in the past two centuries have cattle been differentiated into breeds raised for beef or milk. Some cattle still exist as "dual purpose" breeds. 

People often refer to all cattle as "cows." Technically, cows are actually adult females who have, usually through having babies, developed adult physical characteristics. Heifers are young females who have not yet had babies or developed the mature characteristics of a cow. Male cattle can be divided into three groups: bullocks, steers and bulls. A bullock is a young, uncastrated male who has begun to display secondary sexual characteristics. A steer is a castrated male, whereas a bull is a mature, uncastrated male.

Cows are sturdy yet gentle animals. They are social animals and form strong bonds with their families and friends that can last their entire lives. The bond between a cow and her calf is especially powerful. If a mother cow is caught on the opposite side of a fence from her calf, she will become alarmed, agitated and call frantically. If they remain separated, she will stay by the fence through blizzards, hunger, and thirst, waiting to be reunited with her baby. This bond continues even after the calf is fully grown.

Cows "moo" to each other fairly frequently, allowing them to maintain contact even when they cannot see each other. But when they can see each other, they also communicate through a series of different body positions and facial expressions.

Cattle usually stand between 4 feet, 9 inches and 5 feet, 6 inches, and “beef cattle” range from 850 to 2,500 pounds depending on breed and gender. In non-commercial herds, cows have been observed nursing their male calves for up to three years.

Cattle have almost panoramic vision, which allows them to watch for predators or humans. They can see in color, except for red. They have an amazing sense of smell, and can detect scents more than six miles away.

Cattle are ruminant herbivores and will swallow vegetation whole, then later masticate their "cud" (chew their partially digested food).

The scientific name for the cattle group is "bos taurus," a subfamily of the bovidae family, which includes other hollow-horned animals. Interestingly, bulls are much less likely to use their horns than cows. However, the level of aggression can be influenced by the degree of confinement.

Cattle will learn from each other's mistakes: If an individual is shocked by an electric fence, others in the herd will become alarmed and avoid it. If a herd is confined by an electric fence, only 30% will ever be shocked.

Cattle enjoy swimming and running in the moonlight, as they have been shown to remain active for a longer period between their two sleep sessions when the moon is full.

The lifespan of cattle averages 20 to 25 years. However, the lifespan of cattle raised for beef is significantly shortened. These animals are typically weaned at 6 to 10 months, live 3 to 5 months on range, spend 4 to 5 months being fattened in a feedlot, and are typically slaughtered at 15 to 20 months.

Pigs

Despite their reputation, pigs have many positive attributes including cleanliness, intelligence and a social nature. Pigs are indeed clean animals. Yes, they do roll in mud, but only because they can't sweat like people do; the mud (or water) actually keeps them cool. If available, pigs, who are excellent swimmers, prefer water to mud.

Pigs also carefully keep their sleeping area clean, and will designate a spot as far from this area as possible for waste. Even piglets only a few hours old will leave the nest to relieve themselves.

Those who know pigs can't help but be charmed by their intelligent, highly social and sensitive nature. Pigs are actually more intelligent than any breed of dog. Like dogs, piglets learn their names by two to three weeks of age and respond when called. They are also very discriminating eaters, and are particular about their living space. Pigs enjoy novelty and are extremely active and inquisitive.

When free to roam, pigs spend much of their day enthusiastically smelling, nibbling, manipulating objects with their snouts and rooting ("nosing") about in the soil for tidbits. Rooting is so essential to a pig that some animal scientists say that "a rooting pig is a happy pig." Their powerful but sensitive snout is a highly developed sense organ. A pig's sense of smell is so keen that the animal is trained in France to unearth truffles. Using their snouts as shovels, pigs toss clumps of soil and twigs high into the air, searching for the rare and delicious fungus that grows underground near the roots of oak trees. They are also used by police to help search for drugs.

Few species are more social than pigs; they form close bonds with each other and other species, including humans. They are quite gregarious and cooperate with, and defend, one another. Adults in the entire social group will protect a piglet, leaving their own litters if necessary to defend an endangered youngster. If one pig starts to dig out tree roots, others invariably join in.

Touch and bodily contact are especially important to pigs. They seek out and enjoy close contact, and will lie close together when resting. They also enjoy close contact with people familiar to them; they like being scratched behind the ears and shoulders, and, at the touch of your hand, will grunt contentedly and roll over for a belly rub.

Pigs are vocal and communicate constantly with one another. More than 20 of their vocalizations have been identified. Pigs most often say "gronk" (more commonly known as "oink"), and will say "baawrp" when happy. They have an elaborate courtship ritual, including a song between males and females. Newborn piglets learn to run to their mother's voice, and the mother pig sings to her young while nursing. After nursing, a piglet will sometimes run to her mother's face to rub snouts and grunt. Pigs also enjoy music.

When she is ready to give birth, a sow selects a clean, dry area apart from the group, sometimes walking several miles to search for a good nest site and to gather preferred bedding materials. She hollows out a depression in the ground and lines it with grass, straw or other materials. For several days after her babies are born, she defends the nest against intruders. When her babies are five to ten days old, she encourages them to leave the nest to socialize with the other pigs.

Weaning occurs naturally at three months of age, but young pigs continue to live with their mothers in a close family group. Two or more sows and their piglets usually join together in an extended family, with particularly close friendships developing between sows. Young piglets play with great enthusiasm, play-fighting and moving or throwing objects into the air. Pigs appear to have a good sense of direction, too, as they have found their way home over great distances. Adults can run at speeds around 11 miles an hour, and can trot for relatively long distances.

Yet many pigs do not lead such noble lives; the hog industry confines many female pigs to farrowing crates, claiming these are necessary to protect piglets from being crushed by their careless mothers. Yet when given more room, sows are very gentle with their piglets. Before a mother pig lies down in a bed of straw, she roots around to make sure all the piglets are out, a safeguard against accidentally harming one of them.

Chickens

Chickens form strong family ties. A mother hen begins bonding with her chicks before they are even born. She will turn her eggs as many as five times an hour and softly cluck to her unborn chicks, who will chirp back to her and to one another. After they are hatched, the devoted mother dotes over her brood, teaching them what to eat, how to drink, where to roost, and how to avoid enemies.

Male chickens (called roosters) are most famous for greeting each sunrise with loud crows, often acting as alarm clocks for farmers.

Chickens are fascinating creatures. They have more bones in their necks than giraffes, yet they have no teeth. They swallow their food whole and use a part of their stomach called the gizzard to grind it up. Chickens actually have many similarities to humans: the majority are right-footed (just as most humans are right-handed), they see a similar color range, and they love to watch television. Many also enjoy classical music, preferring the faster symphonies to the slower ones.

Having a private nest in which to lay eggs is extremely important to hens. The desire is so strong, in fact, that a hen will often go without food and water, if necessary, to use a nest. The nest-building process is fascinating. A hen will first scratch a shallow hole in the ground, then reach out to pick up twigs and leaves, which she drops onto her back. After she has gathered some material, she'll settle back in the hole and let the material fall off around the rim. She will continue to do this until her nest is completed.

As highly social animals, chickens can bond very closely to other animals, including humans. They will fight to protect their family and will mourn when a loved one is lost. When they have bonded with a human, chickens will often jump into his or her lap to get a massage that they enjoy fully with their eyes closed, giving every indication of being in ecstasy.

"It's just a chicken" is a retort heard often when concern for the welfare of chickens is exhibited. This comment reflects just how misunderstood these animals are. Chickens are just as deserving of our respect and compassion as are all other animals.

Turkeys

A bald eagle, as the nation's official bird, adorns the Great Seal of the United States of America. But if Benjamin Franklin had had his way, a turkey, not a bald eagle, might have famously gripped those 13 arrows and an olive branch as part of the seal. Franklin knew, like others who have spent time around this large bird, that it would have been an honor for the turkey to represent the U.S.

Originating from the Mexican wild turkey, the turkey was domesticated by Native Americans in prehistoric times and introduced to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. Early American settlers brought descendants of the Mexican wild turkey to the U.S. and crossed them with another subspecies of wild turkey indigenous to eastern North America to produce the forerunner of the modern domestic turkey.

Turkeys are usually characterized by large tail feathers that spread into a fan when they are courting or alarmed. Turkeys also have several oddly named appendages: the caruncle, snood, wattle and beard. A caruncle is a red fleshy growth on the head and upper neck of the turkey. A snood is the red fleshy growth from the base of the beak which hangs over the side of the beak. A wattle is the red, loose appendage at the turkey's neck. A beard is the black lock of hairy feathers found on a male turkey's chest.

Most turkeys raised for food have been genetically selected to have large breast meat, and they are unable to fly or reproduce without artificial insemination. They are fed a mix of corn and soybeans during their short life. Millions of turkeys are slaughtered for food each year, most at about 14–18 weeks of age. Commercial, domestic hens (or female turkeys) weigh 15–18 pounds by 14–16 weeks of age, and heavy toms (or male turkeys) weigh 25-32 pounds by 16–18 weeks.

Five subspecies of wild turkeys still inhabit much of the United States, with a population estimated at 6.5 million. The most prevalent bird is the Eastern wild turkey, whose forest territory ranges from Maine to parts of Kansas and Oklahoma. Wild turkeys are smaller in size than their domestic counterparts, with a longer neck and body. They have a rich, brown-shaded plumage with a metallic or iridescent sheen, and white and black bars on their primary wing feathers. Toms can stand up to 4 feet tall and weigh more than 20 pounds, while hens are about half that size and weight. Wild turkeys eat nuts, greens, insects, seeds, and fruit, and can live 3–4 years. Their predators include human hunters and animals who disturb their nests, such as crows, raccoons, skunks, snakes and opossums.

Hens begin nesting in late March or early April, laying one egg a day until the clutch reaches 10–12 eggs. They nest on the ground, in a hidden area in the forest or fields of tall grass. Incubation lasts for 28 days, and hatching occurs over a 24–36 hour period in late May or early June. Poults, or baby turkeys, stay near the nest until they are about 4 weeks old and can fly 25–50 feet. This allows them to escape predators by roosting in trees for the night, usually near their mother. By three months of age, turkey groups will begin to form a social hierarchy, and an established pecking order is set by five months of age, at which time groups show subdivision by gender. As full-grown adults, wild turkeys can fly at 55 mph and run at 25 mph.

Hens are protective of their young. They will hiss and ruffle their feathers to scare away trespassers, and will only abandon the nest as a last option. Hatching begins with pipping, where the baby rotates inside the egg, breaking the shell in a circular pattern with its egg tooth (a sharp spike on its beak). Hens cluck as they check the eggs, beginning the critical imprinting process. Social cohesion among the babies is evident the first day after hatching, as is attachment to the mom. Vocal and visual signals are used to maintain close contact. This facilitates the learning of certain important activities, particularly feeding. Turkeys are social animals who prefer to live and feed together in flocks.

Wild turkeys are not protected by legislation. Commercial turkeys are not even included in the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, although poultry make up over 95% of the animals killed for food in America. They are raised in crowded factory farms where they are not able to nest or feed like their wild cousins.

Mules

Some of the most charismatic and versatile domesticated animals, mules have been used by humans for millennia, working as load-bearers, cart-pullers, and even racing mounts. The exact origin of the mule as a species isn’t known, but it’s likely that the first mules were the result of pairings between wild asses and horses that lived in the same habitats; this is a rare occurrence, though, and nearly all mules throughout history and up to modern days have been domestically bred by humans.

Mules were first popularly bred by the ancient cultures of Paphlagonia (a region that’s now part of Turkey), and they were used as valued pack animals in ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations. The mule was also seen as a highly valuable mount in many societies, often being reserved specifically for the use of royalty or nobility.

Christopher Columbus first introduced the species to the Americas in 1495, breeding together donkeys and horses that he had brought with him to the New World for the Conquistadores’ explorations.

The word ‘mule’ itself typically refers to the progeny of a mare (a female horse) and a jack (a male donkey), who, although they belong to two different species, are able to readily breed and produce offspring. Interestingly, foals of jennets (female donkeys) and stallions (male horses) pairings are called hinnies, but they’re far more rare in number, since a jennet’s body is far more efficient at detecting and defending against foreign DNA than a mare’s body. Both hinnies and mules fall under the same species and tend to be classified together as mules.

Although the adage ‘stubborn as a mule’ is widely quoted, in actuality, mules are truly intelligent survivalists, and won’t willingly put themselves in danger from overwork. They’re also widely praised as being anecdotally more patient than horses or donkeys, as well as stronger, more compliant and more curious than their donkey sires, making them hardy, enduring companions. The size and appearance of a mule can vary drastically from individual to individual, and really depends more on the size and lineage of their equine dam. Mules can range from miniature sizes, to smaller pony-types, to tall and lightweight physiques, and even up to moderately heavy weights when they’re bred from draft horses. On average, though, the weight range for a mule is between about 820 and 1,000 lb. In appearance, mules tend to have the thinner limbs, narrower hooves and short manes characteristic to donkeys, but the height, neck length, tail appearance and hindquarters are horse-like, as is their coloration. Mules can appear in sorrel, bay, black or grey, as well as (less commonly) roan, paint, and Appaloosa variations. These personable beasts also have a unique bray, which often sounds different from mule to mule – a humorous combination of ‘hee-haw’ and ‘whinny’.

A fantastic example of hybrid vigour (a phenomenon where hybrid offspring improve upon their parents), and more able to resist common diseases and parasites, mules can survive off of less nutritious fodder, and also typically have a longer lifespan than either horse or donkey. Their skin is less sensitive to pressure and changes in temperature and they’re also adaptable and able to better withstand more extreme climate conditions. Mule hooves are also narrower in size, but thicker and harder in material composition than those of horses.

A mule’s diet (entirely plant-based) tends to depend on the work they do, but, like horses and donkeys, they can thrive mainly on timothy or grass hays, or fresh pasture grazing. Unless they’re frequently working for long periods, most mules don’t need to eat richer alfalfa or grains, since they tend to use the nutrients in their food more efficiently than their equine parents. Mules also tend to be far less likely to consume toxic plants, and won’t generally overeat.

The major growth spurt for mules generally happens later than with horses - around 3-4 years of age - and some mules continue growing in height until they’re 8 or 9 years old. Aside from their slower development rate, the reproductive characteristics of mules are perhaps the most fascinating aspect of these animals. Mules (and hinnies) have 63 chromosomes, which differ from a horse’s 64 and a donkey’s 62. This means that chromosomal pairing typically doesn’t happen correctly if a mule were to mate, meaning that most mules are sterile (not able to produce offspring). There are a few recorded exceptions, however; as historical records since 1527 show 60 cases where foals were carried to full term and birthed from the mating of mule mares with male horse or donkeys.

Although the use of mules has declined enormously in North America with the introduction of industrial machinery in the late 20th century, mule breeders continue to breed these equids. They are often forced to perform more work than their small bodies can handle. Mules are sometimes kept as "pets", often poorly cared for. Many are left to fend for themselves. They develop deformed and crippled feet, become emaciated or obese and suffer from dental problems and parasite infestation.

Horses

The horse is an odd-toed ungulate mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today. Humans began to domesticate horses around 4000 BC, and their domestication is believed to have been widespread by 3000 BC.

Horses in the subspecies caballus are domesticated, although some domesticated populations live in the wild as feral horses. These feral populations are not true wild horses, as this term is used to describe horses that have never been domesticated, such as the endangered Przewalski's horse, a separate subspecies, and the only remaining true wild horse.

Horse breeds are loosely divided into three categories based on general temperament: spirited "hot bloods" with speed and endurance; "cold bloods", such as draft horses and some ponies; and "warmbloods", developed from crosses between hot bloods and cold bloods.

"Hot blooded" breeds include "oriental horses" such as the Akhal-Teke, Arabian horse, Barb and now-extinct Turkoman horse, as well as the Thoroughbred, a breed developed in England from the older oriental breeds. Hot bloods tend to be spirited, bold and learn quickly. They tend to be physically refined - thin-skinned, slim, and long-legged.

Muscular, heavy draft horses are known as "cold bloods". They have a calm, patient temperament; sometimes nicknamed "gentle giants". Well-known draft breeds include the Belgian and the Clydesdale. Some, like the Percheron, are lighter and livelier. Others, such as the Shire, are slower and more powerful. The cold-blooded group also includes some pony breeds.

"Warmblood" breeds are a cross between cold-blooded and hot-blooded breeds. Examples include breeds such as the Irish Draught or the Cleveland Bay.

There are more than 300 breeds of horse in the world today.

Horses are herd animals, with a clear hierarchy of rank, led by a dominant individual, usually a mare. They are also social creatures that are able to form companionship attachments to their own species and to other animals, including humans. They communicate in various ways, including vocalizations such as nickering or whinnying, mutual grooming and body language. When confined with insufficient companionship, exercise, or stimulation, individuals may develop stable vices, stereotypies of psychological origin, that include wood chewing, wall kicking, "weaving" (rocking back and forth), and other problems.

Horses are also prey animals with a strong fight-or-flight response. Their anatomy enables them to make use of speed to escape predators. Their first reaction to threat is to startle and usually flee, although they will stand their ground and defend themselves when flight is impossible or if their young are threatened. They also tend to be curious; when startled they will often hesitate an instant to ascertain the cause of their fright, and may not always flee from something that they perceive as non-threatening.

Related to this need to flee from predators is an unusual trait: horses are able to sleep both standing up and lying down. In an adaptation from life in the wild, horses are able to enter light sleep by using a "stay apparatus" in their legs, allowing them to doze without collapsing. Horses sleep better when in groups because some animals will sleep while others stand guard to watch for predators. A horse kept alone will not sleep well because its instincts are to keep a constant eye out for danger. Unlike humans, horses do not sleep in a solid, unbroken period of time, but take many short periods of rest. Horses must lie down to reach REM sleep. If a horse is never allowed to lie down, after several days it will become sleep-deprived, and in rare cases may suddenly collapse as it involuntarily slips into REM sleep while still standing.

Horses are grazing animals, and their major source of nutrients is good-quality forage from hay or pasture. They can consume approximately 2% to 2.5% of their body weight in dry feed each day.

The horses' senses are based on their status as prey animals, where they must be aware of their surroundings at all times. They have the largest eyes of any land mammal, and are lateral-eyed, meaning that their eyes are positioned on the sides of their heads. This allows horses to have a range of vision of more than 350°, with approximately 65° of this being binocular vision and the remaining 285° monocular vision. Horses have excellent day and night vision, but they have two-color, or dichromatic vision; their color vision is similar to red-green color blindness in humans where certain colors, especially red and related colors, appear as a shade of green.

Their sense of smell, while much better than that of humans, is not quite as good as that of a dog. It is believed to play a key role in the social interactions of horses as well as detecting other key scents in the environment.

A horse's hearing is good, and the pinna of each ear can rotate up to 180°, giving the potential for 360° hearing without having to move the head. Noise impacts the behavior of horses and certain kinds of noise may contribute to stress.

Horses have a great sense of balance, due partly to their ability to feel their footing and partly to highly developed proprioception - the unconscious sense of where the body and limbs are at all times. A horse's sense of touch is well developed. The most sensitive areas are around the eyes, ears and nose. Horses are able to sense contact as subtle as an insect landing anywhere on the body.

Horses have an advanced sense of taste, which allows them to sort through fodder and choose what they would most like to eat. Their prehensile lips can easily sort even small grains. Horses generally will not eat poisonous plants.

Female horses, called mares, carry their young for approximately 11 months, and a young horse, called a foal, can stand and run shortly following birth. They reach full adult development by age five, and have an average lifespan of between 25 and 30 years.

Horses are highly intelligent animals. They perform a number of cognitive tasks on a daily basis, meeting mental challenges that include food procurement and identification of individuals within a social system. They also have good spatial discrimination abilities.

They excel at simple learning, but also are able to use more advanced cognitive abilities that involve categorization and concept learning. They can learn using habituation, desensitization, classical conditioning, operant conditioning and positive reinforcement. Domesticated horses may face greater mental challenges than wild horses because they live in artificial environments that prevent instinctive behavior while also learning tasks that are not natural.

The wild horse (Equus ferus) is a species of the genus Equus, which includes as subspecies the modern domesticated horse (Equus ferus caballus) as well as the undomesticated Tarpan (Equus ferus ferus), now extinct, and the endangered Przewalski's horse (Equus ferus przewalskii). The Przewalski's Horse was saved from the brink of extinction and reintroduced successfully to the wild. The Tarpan became extinct in the 19th century. Since the extinction of the Tarpan, attempts have been made to reconstruct its phenotype, resulting in horse breeds such as the Konik and Heck horse. However, the genetic makeup and foundation bloodstock of those breeds is substantially derived from domesticated horses, and therefore these breeds possess domesticated traits.

The term "wild horse" is also used colloquially to refer to free-roaming herds of feral horses such as the Mustang in the United States, the Brumby in Australia, and many others. These feral horses are untamed members of the domestic horse subspecies (Equus ferus caballus).

Horses are exploited by the unethical horse racing industry. Commercial horse racing is a ruthless industry motivated by financial gain and prestige. Cruelty, slaughter, injuries and accidental deaths are common. Horses are pushed to their physical limits and beyond, all for profit. Some horses are raced when they are under three years old, leading to fractures. Horses are drugged so they can compete with injuries, or given prohibited performance enhancing drugs. Jockeys often whip horses. The racing industry breeds thousands of horses looking for its next champion, contributing to an overpopulation crisis. Loosing and winning horses are commonly sent to the slaughterhouse when their careers have ended.

While no horse slaughterhouses currently operate in the United States, American horses are still trucked over borders to slaughtering facilities in Mexico and Canada. Horses suffer horribly on the way to and during slaughter, often shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water or rest. Horses are often injured even before arrival due to overcrowded conditions during transport. The methods used to kill horses rarely results in quick deaths: they often endure repeated stuns or blows, and sometimes remain conscious during their slaughter.

Horses are forced to pull oversized loads by the animal entertainment industry. Carriage horses are forced to perform in all weather extremes. They face the threat and stress of traffic, often working all day long. The horses suffer from respiratory ailments from exhaust fumes, and develop debilitating leg problems. Carriage horses also face the threat of heatstroke from summer heat and humidity. Living conditions for these animals are often deplorable. When the horses grow too old, tired, or ill they may be slaughtered and turned into food for dogs or zoo animals, or shipped overseas for human consumption.

The animal entertainment industry also uses horses in rodeos. They are abused with electrical prods, sharp spurs and "bucking straps" that pinch their sensitive flank area. During bucking events, horses may suffer broken legs or run into the sides of the arena causing serious injury and even death.

Each year, hundreds of wild (feral) horses are rounded up by United States government agencies using inhumane methods. The horses are put in holding pens where, for a small fee, anyone can "adopt" them. The lucky ones are adopted by people who love and care for them, but many are traded or sold at auctions. Some are sent to Canada or Mexico to be slaughtered for their meat.

The Horse Protection Act is a federal law that prohibits sored horses from participating in shows, exhibitions, sales or auctions. Soring is a cruel and abusive practice used to accentuate a horse’s gait. It is accomplished by irritating or blistering a horse’s forelegs with chemical irritants (such as mustard oil) or mechanical devices. The Horse Protection Act also prohibits drivers from transporting sored horses to or from any of these events.

Donkeys

The donkey or ass, Equus africanus asinus, is a domesticated member of the horse family, Equidae. The wild ancestor of the donkey is the African wild ass, E. africanus. The donkey has been used as a working animal for at least 5000 years.

There are more than 40 million donkeys in the world, mostly in underdeveloped countries, where they are used principally as draught or pack animals. Working donkeys are often associated with those living at or below subsistence levels. Small numbers of donkeys are kept for breeding or as “pets” in developed countries.

Domesticated donkeys are also used as guard animals for goats, sheep and cows against the threat of coyotes. Coyotes are the only natural threat to donkeys.

Wild donkeys, called burros, live in desert plains, where they survive on little food and water for long periods. 

A male donkey or ass is called a jack; a female a jenny or jennet; a young donkey is a foal. Jack donkeys are often used to mate with female horses to produce mules.

Donkeys were first domesticated around 3000 BC, probably in Egypt or Mesopotamia, and have spread around the world.

Donkeys vary considerably in size, depending on breed and management. The height at the withers ranges from 31 to 63 inches, and the weight from 180 to 1,060 lb. Working donkeys in the poorest countries have a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years; in more prosperous countries, they may have a lifespan of 30 to 50 years.

Donkeys are adapted to marginal desert lands. Unlike wild and feral horses, wild donkeys in dry areas are solitary and do not form harems. Each adult donkey establishes a home range; breeding over a large area may be dominated by one jack. The loud call or bray of the donkey, which typically lasts for twenty seconds and can be heard over long distances, may help them keep in contact with other donkeys over the wide spaces of the desert. Donkeys have large ears, which pick up more distant sounds and may help cool the donkey's blood. Donkeys can defend themselves by biting, striking with the front hooves or kicking with the hind legs.

A jennet is normally pregnant for about 12 months, though the gestation period varies from 11 to 14 months, and usually gives birth to a single foal. Births of twins are rare, though more common than in horses. Although jennets come into heat within 9 or 10 days of giving birth, their fertility remains low and it is usual to wait one or two further oestrous cycles before rebreeding.

Donkeys can interbreed with other members of the family Equidae, and are commonly interbred with horses. The hybrid between a jack and a mare is a mule. The hybrid between a stallion and a jennet is a hinny, and is less common. Like other inter-species hybrids, mules and hinnies are usually sterile. Donkeys can also breed with zebras in which the offspring is called a zonkey.

Donkeys have a notorious reputation for stubbornness. This has been attributed to a much stronger sense of self-preservation than exhibited by horses.

Although formal studies of their behavior and cognition are rather limited, donkeys are quite intelligent, cautious, playful, and eager to learn. Donkeys are affectionate animals and enjoy the companionship of people. Donkeys require companions or they become depressed. The donkey's favorite pastime is rolling.

Over 40 million donkeys exist worldwide. China has the most, followed by Pakistan, Ethiopia and Mexico. While domesticated species are increasing in numbers, the African wild ass and another relative, the onager, are endangered.

In many societies donkeys are regarded as low status animals and are commonly mistreated. They are forced to perform more work than their small bodies can handle. Since new donkeys are cheaper than veterinary care, ill and injured donkeys are often tied to posts without food or water and left to die.

In Spain and Greece, donkeys are used as "donkey taxis". Profit is placed above the care of the animals. They are exposed to temperature extremes with little or no food, shelter or water and are made to carry people too heavy for their bodies. At night their feet are tied together to prevent them from wondering off.

Donkeys are abused at live animal markets in China. Some restaurants offer fresh donkey meat where pieces of donkey are sliced off while the donkey is still alive.

Donkeys are sometimes kept as "pets", often poorly cared for. Many are left to fend for themselves. They develop deformed and crippled feet, become emaciated or obese and suffer from dental problems and parasite infestation.

Donkey basketball has been practiced in the United States since the 1930s. Donkey basketball involves human basketball players riding donkeys, usually as a fundraising event. The events typically take place in public schools where children are taught that animal abuse and humiliation is entertaining. The donkeys are often dragged, kicked and punched by participants who have no animal-handling experience. Unethical commercial firms provide donkeys and equipment, splitting the proceeds with the hiring party. Donkey basketball is inhumane and cruel to animals.

Donkeys are not protected by the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Sheep & Goats

When people think of goats, they often think of a clothesline-munching vagrant. Goats and sheep, however, are more often the source of clothing than the consumers of it. The fibers that become textiles—wool and cashmere, among many other types—are shorn from these animals.

Sheep and goats, like cows, are ruminant animals. They have a four-chambered stomach, using the first chamber to store food (cud) which they then bring back into their mouths to chew again before fully digesting it. These grazing animals often prefer noxious weeds and plants, which makes them great environmentalists.

Goats are shy at first, but will show adoration and devotion once you have gained their trust. They're frolicsome and have a gentle disposition, but when angered, they can retaliate quickly with a strong head-butt.

Goats are also clever animals who have been known to use their horns to open gates and feed bins, create and enlarge holes in fences, and batter down boards in confined areas. They also use their horns as back scratchers. Goats are most comfortable in groups, which are known as "tribes."

Like goats, sheep like to stick close to one another for comfort and security. Either black or white, these animals are incredibly gentle. Lambs form strong bonds with their mothers, but they have also been known to bond closely with humans. If a person hangs a piece of clothing outside, a goat who has bonded with that person will run to it for safety when frightened.

Goats and sheep deserve the same love and compassion from humans that they show to each other.

Ducks & Geese

Swimming gracefully across a pond or waddling comically across the land, ducks are a common feature of the landscape of most of America. There are statues devoted to them in a park in Boston, and every year that city holds a parade for the Bostonian ducklings. Walt Disney created the sputtering Donald Duck, and Warner Brothers followed with a less feisty, yet still speech-impaired, Daffy Duck.

Ducks are very social animals. Males and females sometimes live in pairs or together with their ducklings. They communicate both vocally and with body language. At other times ducks spend much of their time—during both day and night—in larger groups.

The domestic duck has a normal life span of ten years. By contrast, a pair of geese will get together to raise a family and, for the most part, will stay together the rest of their lives (up to 25 years), raising new families each year.

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of geese is that they form a giant "V" across the sky. This amazing trick actually helps each bird fly further than if flying alone. When a goose falls out of formation, she will feel the drag and move quickly back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front of her. When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back into formation leaving another goose in the front position. They even honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Geese have very strong affections for others in their group (known as a gaggle). If one in the gaggle gets sick, wounded, or shot, a couple of others may drop out of formation and follow the ailing goose down to help and protect him. They try to stay with the disabled goose until he dies or is able to fly again, then they catch up with the group or launch out with another formation.

Much of a goose's time is spent foraging for food, most of which is obtained by grazing. They honk loudly and can stretch their long necks out to great length when scared or threatened.

Ducks and geese are wild animals, but they have domesticated counterparts who are raised for their eggs and meat, down and feathers. They're less commonly known as farm animals, yet they can certainly fall within this category.

Compassionate Food Choices

Understanding how animals are killed for food is clearly not a pleasant subject. However, all consumers have a right to be aware of how animals farmed for food production are killed, and to understand the extent of the killing involved, in order to make an informed choice as to whether or not they wish to be a part of it.

The following explains what happens before meat, eggs, dairy and other animal products end up on the supermarket shelves. Each person who rejects animal products and goes vegan makes a huge difference.

You can give this story a happy ending; go vegan and experience for yourself a lifestyle that is kinder to animals, people and the environment.

COWS

Meat

Cattle are gregarious animals who, in a more natural environment, would live in complex social groups. They would choose a leader and form close friendships, grooming and licking one other to show their affection. Cattle-farming upsets this hierarchy in many ways, because new members and divisions of the herd occur frequently and this can be very disruptive.

Conditions

Cattle bred for beef may be kept in a variety of systems. Frequently they are kept in windowless fattening sheds until ready for slaughter. They have little room to move and no access to the outside, to feel fresh air and sunlight.

How They Are Killed

Cattle are stunned by a shot into their brain from a captive-bolt pistol. Frequently they struggle or move around because they are terrified by the situation, so sometimes the bolt misses the mark and the cattle are not stunned. Thus they are conscious while being killed by having their throat slit and bleeding to death.

Leather

Purchasing leather ensures the continuity of a massive industry based on animal suffering. The leather industry makes a huge profit each year, mainly from cattle and calf skins. 

Artificial Insemination

Most cows are now artificially inseminated. The cow is tied up and one hand of the inseminator manipulates the cervix through the rectum wall while the other discharges semen into the vagina and cervix using an inseminating gun. This is uncomfortable and stressful for the cow.

DAIRY

Both the mother and calf suffer greatly at the hands of the milk industry.

The Mother

Dairy cows have been selectively bred to produce ten times more milk than they would naturally need to feed their calves. This can lead to mastitis, a painful udder infection, and lameness when they are forced to stand all day in the cow shed. In order to produce milk the mother must be kept continually pregnant. So three months after she has given birth, and while she is still producing milk, she will be made pregnant. This puts a huge strain on her. Moreover, the calf is taken away soon after birth so that any milk produced by the cow can be sold for humans to drink. The mother and calf form a strong bond very quickly and the cow continuously calls after her calf has been taken away from her. The separation also causes a lot of confusion and distress for the calf. The cow is put through this heart-breaking and exhausting procedure not once, but an average of five times, until she is deemed to be no ‘use’ to the farmer and killed.

The Calf

The calf is usually disbudded, whereby a heated iron is applied to the horn buds to stop the horns from growing. This is painful and stressful. Male cattle are also castrated by methods that cause the animal acute pain. Female calves are often kept to produce milk. Male calves are usually sent abroad for veal or deemed ‘useless’ and killed.

Organic Milk

On organic farms the dairy cow still has to deal with continual pregnancies, and the mother and calf are still separated very soon after birth. Castration and disbudding of calves may still be carried out, and, as on nonorganic farms, slaughter is inevitable.

SHEEP

Meat

Sheep are social herd animals who tend to be gentle and passive. They have been found to feel desolate when those close to them die or are sent for slaughter. When farmed for their flesh and wool, sheep are exposed to a series of stresses and abuses throughout their lives.

Castration 

Lambs are castrated with a rubber ring around their testes or by having them cut off with a knife, usually without anesthetic.

Tail-Docking

During this mutilation the lamb’s tail is usually removed by means of a tight rubber ring, though a knife or hot iron may be used. Again anesthetic is rarely used. Sheep are also put through a barrage of other stressful procedures including artificial insemination, force-feeding, dipping and spraying.

Killing For Meat

Sheep are usually slaughtered by electrical stunning followed by having their throat slit. However, stunning is not always effective and sheep may regain consciousness when their throats are slit or while blood is being drained from their body, a terrifying experience. 

Wool

The wool industry is a massive profit-making industry in itself. As well as all the cruelties involved in rearing for meat, the additional practices of mulesing and shearing cause even greater suffering to sheep used in wool production.

Mulesing

This is a practice carried out across Australia, where most wool comes from, and it was introduced to reduce the risk of fly-strike. Fully-conscious lambs have chunks of flesh sliced from their back end. The lamb may be in excruciating pain and left with a wound that takes weeks to heal.

Shearing

This is also extremely stressful with the sheep being forcibly restrained as workers rush to shear them, and bloody injuries often occur. One worker reported, “I have seen sheep with half their faces shorn off”. In Australia alone, an estimated one million sheep die every year from exposure after shearing.

Live Export and Transport

Current methods of transporting sheep are extremely crude and present a number of welfare concerns. During loading and unloading, frightened or tired sheep are not treated with sympathy. Instead they are pushed and hit by stockmen. This certainly causes unnecessary fear in the animals and may also cause them to slip or fall, resulting in cuts, bruises and even broken bones. While being transported, sheep are crammed in with not even enough space to turn around. On journeys that may last days or even weeks, conditions are often appalling. Sheep may suffer from starvation, dehydration, injury and disease and any that fall to the floor are usually crushed to death. Many die before reaching their destination.

POULTRY AND EGGS

Chickens can be very sociable. They enjoy sunbathing and, like turkeys, love to dust-bathe in order to keep clean. As with other birds, mother hens’ desire to build a nest for their young is very strong. They have a strong bond with their chicks which begins even before they are hatched, with the chick and hen calling to each other. In the wild ducks and geese spend much of their time swimming and flying and may travel for hundreds of miles during migration. Geese choose one partner who they stay with for life through thick and thin while ducks live and sleep in groups.

The Life of a Broiler Chicken and Other Birds ‘Grown’ for Meat

On factory farms these birds are taken from their mothers before birth, thus being denied most of their natural types of behavior. No water is provided for ducks and geese to swim in and there is no chance for hens and turkeys to dust-bathe. They are crammed into sheds where the stench of ammonia from their droppings is intense and often leads to respiratory problems. Selective breeding means that these young birds grow very fast. Their bones have no time to become strong enough to hold their weight, so many birds have broken bones and most have lost the ability to fly. An investigation by Compassion in World Farming found crippled birds in chicken farms unable to reach food and drink, carcasses trampled by live chickens and piles of decomposing bodies left to rot.

The Killing

Birds are commonly hung upside down in shackles by their feet and passed through a bath of electrified water, which should stun them before their throats are slit. The birds are killed at the rate of 8-10,000 per hour and left to bleed to death.

Egg Production

Most laying hens are kept in battery cages with several birds to one cage. The amount of room in which each bird spends her life is roughly the same size as a sheet of paper or a microwave oven. In these conditions hens often fight. To prevent this they are de-beaked by having the tip of their beak sliced off. This is an agonizing procedure which leaves the hen in pain for days. It has been found that hens who have been de-beaked avoid using their beaks except for feeding. Privacy is very important to an egg-laying hen but is utterly denied to her. Her desire to make a nest is also very strong, but again this is simply not possible.

Other alternatives are free-range and barn systems but each creates its own welfare concerns. For example, in free-range and barn systems there is more aggression leading to greater feather-pecking and cannibalism. Just like hens in battery cages, free-range and barn hens are often de-beaked. As in the battery system, half of all chicks are gassed at a day old because they are males and hence no good for egg-laying.

FISH

Fish and Pain

Not only do fish feel pain, they are very sensitive to stimuli. Some of their senses are far more developed than ours. Fish are highly responsive to touch and have an incredible sense of smell. They have sensory hairs along their backs that allow them to detect gentle currents and vibrations and sense the motion of other animals. Like other animals, fish use the sensation of pain to help them survive. It tells them when they have entered a dangerous situation from which they should withdraw immediately. It is pain that motivates a fish to fight vigorously when hooked, in a desperate attempt to get away.

Net Losses of Life

Various types of nets are used in sea-fishing, including drift nets and bottom trawls. Drift nets may be over two miles long. Fish that swim into the net become trapped by their gills when they try to back out. Marine mammals, such as seals and porpoises, also become trapped and drown when unable to reach the surface to breathe. Bottom trawls are dragged over the seabed and, as well as fish, catch every other species living on the seabed. 

The Way They Die

As the fish are dragged from the ocean, they experience decompression which often causes the eyes to pop and the swim bladder to rupture. Many are crushed to death under the weight of other dying fish and those that survive are left to suffocate when removed from the water or may be gutted alive.

Fishing Has Devastated the Oceans

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that all seventeen of the world's major fishing areas have either reached or exceeded their natural limits, and nine are in serious decline. Overfishing has an impact on whole ecosystems since other fish, birds, marine mammals and smaller organisms that depend on fish to survive are affected.

Fish Farming

The rearing of farmed fish can be compared to other types of factory farming. With very limited space the fish can barely exercise and injuries to the snout and fins are common. These are generally caused by rubbing against the net or by collision or aggression between fish. Wild salmon migrate over hundreds of miles and this is completely frustrated by keeping them in the small, static cages that fish-farming involves. The stocking density of salmon is equivalent to keeping a two foot salmon in a bath, while trout have even less space to move.

Killing

Before slaughter, fish are starved for up to three weeks. They may then be killed by electrocution, by a blow to the head with a club or by being frozen to death on ice. Alternatively, the fish’s gill arches are cut or torn and life is literally drained as they are left to bleed to death in the tank. Fish-farms may be rife with disease so large quantities of chemicals are used in an attempt to control it. Ironically, fish-farming also affects wild fish who are fed to farmed fish such as salmon, trout and cod. It takes up to three tons of wild fish to produce one ton of farmed salmon, and up to five tons to produce a ton of farmed cod or haddock.

The True Cost

Few consumers realize that the true cost of cheap salmon includes the deaths of millions of other animals who are seen as predators. Birds, seals, mink, otters and many other animals are killed by the fish-farmers.

PIGS

Pigs are sociable, tactile and inquisitive animals. They like to roll in mud to keep cool and protect their sensitive skin from the sun. They are very clean and, given the chance, they will always keep their ‘latrine’ separate from their living quarters. In a more natural environment the sow would build a nest up to three feet high for her babies. In the factory farm the sow is given a concrete floor with no straw and the nesting instinct is totally frustrated. The pregnant sow will nose at straw that isn’t there to make a nest she’ll never have for another litter she’ll never raise. The sow can barely move and often ends up crushing some of her piglets. In the wild the sow constructs the nest so that crushing cannot happen, but in the factory farm the death of many piglets in this way is almost inevitable.

Piglets

The sow’s piglets are taken away after three weeks, causing great distress to mother and babies. The piglets are still reliant upon their mother at this time, and in a natural environment would still be suckling. Most piglets have their teeth clipped and tails cut off to stop them from fighting and tail chewing. They are put into small pens or metal cages, and after about six weeks go to fattening pens where they have little room to move and never see fresh air. Their intelligent, enquiring minds are dulled down by boredom and total lack of stimulation.

Slaughter

Pigs to be killed are stunned with electric tongs or gas, hoisted up by one leg and have their throats slit. They are then put into a tank of boiling water to remove their bristles. Many pigs regain consciousness before they die from loss of blood. There are reports of pigs being boiled alive because they had not been stunned properly.

HONEY, SILK AND SHELLAC

Honey, silk and shellac are produced using bees, moths and lac insects respectively. Being such tiny creatures, their needs are often overlooked. This is very unfortunate because thousands are required to yield a small amount of honey, silk or shellac.

Honey

Bees are social insects who live in a well organized colony. They work together to keep the colony running smoothly, protecting and feeding one other and undertaking many other tasks together. In commercial honey production, bees undergo treatments similar to those used in factory farming. Whole colonies of bees may be killed to save feeding them during the winter, and the queen bee has her wings clipped and is artificially inseminated with sperm from decapitated male bees. Beekeepers take the bees’ honey, and to replace it often feed them artificial pollen substitutes and white sugar syrup. The honeybee flies about 500 miles in her working life and produces half a teaspoon of honey. Much of this is taken away.

Silk

This is produced by silkworms. A silk cocoon is spun by the silkworm caterpillar by manipulating a thin silk thread in a figure of eight movement some 300,000 times. Once the caterpillar is ready to turn into a moth, she must break down the cocoon in order to emerge. This process would destroy much of the silk, therefore the majority of the moths are killed by being immersed in boiling water or dried in an oven. It takes literally hundreds of silkworms to make just one small silk scarf or tie.

Shellac

This is a secretion produced by Lac insects as a protective coating. The secretion is scraped off the trees on which they live and turned into shellac. Some of the insects are scraped off at the same time and die.

The Pork Industry

Only pigs in movies spend their lives running across sprawling pastures and relaxing in the sun. On any given day in the U.S., there are more than 65 million pigs on factory farms, and 110 million are killed for food each year.

Mother pigs (sows)—who account for almost 6 million of the pigs in the U.S.—spend most of their lives in individual “gestation” crates. These crates are about 7 feet long and 2 feet wide—too small to allow the animals even to turn around. After giving birth to piglets, sows are moved to “farrowing” crates, which are wide enough for them to lie down and nurse their babies but not big enough for them to turn around or build nests for their young.

Piglets are separated from their mothers when they are as young as 10 days old. Once her piglets are gone, the sow is impregnated again, and the cycle continues for three or four years before she is slaughtered. This intensive confinement produces stress- and boredom-related behavior, such as chewing on cage bars and obsessively pressing against water bottles.

After they are taken from their mothers, piglets are confined to pens until they are separated to be raised for breeding or meat. Every year in the U.S., millions of male piglets are castrated (usually without being given any painkillers) because consumers supposedly complain of “boar taint” in meat that comes from intact animals. Piglets are not castrated in the U.K. or Ireland, and the European Union is phasing out the practice by 2018.

In extremely crowded conditions, piglets are prone to stress-related behavior such as cannibalism and tail-biting, so farmers often chop off piglets’ tails and use pliers to break off the ends of their teeth—without giving them any painkillers. For identification purposes, farmers also cut out chunks of the young animals’ ears.

Farms all over North America ship piglets (called “feeder pigs”) to Corn Belt states such as Illinois and Indiana for “growing” and “finishing.” When they are transported on trucks, piglets weighing up to 100 pounds are given no more than 2.4 square feet of space.

Once pigs reach “market weight” (250 to 270 pounds), the industry refers to them as “hogs” and they are sent to slaughter. The animals are shipped from all over the U.S. and Canada to slaughterhouses, most of which are in the Midwest. According to industry reports, more than 1 million pigs die en route to slaughter each year. No laws regulate the duration of transport, frequency of rest, or provision of food and water for the animals. Pigs tend to resist getting into the trailers, which can be made from converted school buses or multideck trucks with steep ramps, so workers use electric prods to move them along. No federal laws regulate the voltage or use of electric prods on pigs.

A typical slaughterhouse kills about 1,000 hogs per hour. The sheer number of animals killed makes it impossible for pigs’ deaths to be humane and painless. Because of improper stunning, many hogs are alive when they reach the scalding-hot water baths, which are intended to soften their skin and remove their hair.

Because crowding creates an environment conducive to the spread of disease, pigs on factory farms are fed antibiotics and sprayed with huge amounts of pesticides. The antibiotics and pesticides remain in their bodies and are passed along to people who eat them, creating serious health hazards for humans. Pigs and other factory-farmed animals are fed 20 million pounds of antibiotics each year, and scientists believe that meat-eaters’ unwitting consumption of these drugs gives rise to strains of bacteria that are resistant to treatment.

Each factory-farmed pig produces about 9 pounds of manure per day. As a result, many tons of waste end up in giant pits, polluting the air and groundwater. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, agricultural runoff is the number one source of pollution in our waterways.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Stop factory-farming abuses by supporting legislation that abolishes intensive-confinement systems. Reduce or eliminate pork from your diet.

The Dairy Industry

How has milk production changed since the 1950s? Intensive dairy practices and modified feeds have enabled U.S. dairy cows to produce 2.5 times as much milk today as they did in the 1950s. These intensive practices place dairy cattle under enormous stress to produce an abnormally large amount of milk, 10-20 times the amount of milk they need to suckle their calves. As a result, dairy cattle "burn out" at a much younger age than their normal life span or even the life span of a milk-producing dairy cow in the 1950s and consequently are culled and slaughtered at an early age.

Up to 33% of dairy cows develop mastitis, a very painful udder infection that can become systemic, and is a common reason for early slaughtering. Abnormally large udders produce problems walking, so a cow's legs are usually spread apart, distorting the normal configurations of her pelvis and spine. Her back problems are aggravated when she must walk on hard ground and concrete.

The dairy farms of today are quite different than the picturesque sunshine-filled meadows of contented cows we imagined as children. Today, most dairy cattle are confined to a barren fenced lot with a packed dirt floor, where they must endure all types of weather, including rain and extreme temperatures 24 hours a day. Factory farming systems (sometimes known as dry-lot) seldom provide shade, shelter or clean comfortable resting areas. Dairy cattle are often covered with their own filth because they cannot escape the dirty dry lot conditions. In colder climates dairy cattle may be provided shelter in winter, but most dairy practices remain the same.

To boost their milk production, the cattle are fed high intensity feeds and grains that often cause digestive upset. They are also injected with Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) to increase, by up to 25%, the already exorbitant amount of milk they produce. Of the 9 million dairy cattle in the U.S., 7-25% are injected with BGH.

The use of BGH to increase milk production results in increased udder size and increased frequency of infection. The large numbers of cattle that are crammed into small spaces where the soil is hard and compact increases the incidence of injury and lameness as well. Some dairies have up to one thousand cows, which means the factory dairy farmer may often fail to recognize that veterinary care is needed until the illness or injury has progressed beyond successful treatment ... and the cows are sent to slaughter.

Fully 25% of dairy cattle are slaughtered before they are 3 years old. Only 25% of dairy cattle live more than 7 years, although the natural life span for cattle is 20-25 years. (The oldest cow on record lived to be 49 years old.) Injury, illness, milk production lower than optimum, poor conception rates, and other factory-farming-induced health problems are common reasons dairy cattle are sold for slaughter long before they have lived out their natural life span.

Every year 17 million shots of antibiotics are given to cattle for infections related to milk production and other diseases. Most commercial ground beef is made from the meat of culled dairy cattle. Because dairy cattle have not been raised specifically for human consumption, dairy cattle have often been treated with antibiotics shortly before being butchered in an attempt to cure the disease that later resulted in their being killed. Therapeutic antibiotics are also routinely given to dairy calves and cattle. This means that antibiotics are entering the human food chain through the consumption of the milk and meat of dairy cattle. Many experts feel that the excessive consumption of antibiotic-tainted animal products has created a number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (superbugs) that may be a threat to human health.

A heifer (female) calf will probably remain on the farm to replace her mother or some other worn-out milk producer. A bull (male) calf is usually thrown in a truck and sent to an auction while he is still wet with amniotic fluid, still unable to stand by himself. Many bull calves die at the auction yard and those who don't are often sold to a veal operation, where they live out their short lives confined to a tiny crate that prevents almost all movement and fed an iron-poor diet to make their flesh pale. For calves reared as replacement heifers, life is not much better -- farmers make feeding and maintenance easier by housing the heifers for the first few months of their lives in crates barely larger than veal crates.

The days of a calf being born in a field and being nurtured by her dam are long gone. Calves are separated from their mothers within 24 hours of birth, and weaned from milk within 8 weeks (calves will gladly suckle for as long as eight months if allowed to do so). A calf separated from her mother at an early age does not receive any immunities through her mother's milk, and is therefore vulnerable to disease -- a 10% mortality rate is common.

The nearly half a million factory farms in the U.S. produce 130 times more waste than the human population. Cattle produce nearly one billion tons of organic waste each year. The waste from livestock, chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides are a primary source of water pollution in this country. Wastes from dairies, feedlots and chicken and hog farms enter waterways, damaging aquatic ecosystems and making the water unfit for consumption. Cattle also emit methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide, three of the four gases responsible for trapping solar heat.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

You can take an active role by decreasing or eliminating meat and dairy products from your diet. You and the cattle will both benefit from your efforts. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services endorses vegetarian diets. Seven common diet-related conditions -- heart disease, hypertension, cancer, diabetes, gallstones, obesity, and food-borne illness -- are attributable to meat consumption. (For a copy of the report, write: Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC 20250.) Report any suspected farm animal abuse or neglect to your local authorities.

The Poultry Industry

The average consumer may not be aware of the suffering of billions of birds raised for meat and egg production in the United States each year. Billions of "broiler" chickens and "egg" chickens, and millions turkeys, are killed for food each year. In addition, millions of birds die as a result of disease, injury and during transportation.

Egg-laying hens in the United States number more than 459 million. Of these millions of birds, 97% are confined to "battery" cages, tiny cages roughly 16 by 18 inches wide. Five or 6 birds are crammed into each cage, and the cages are stacked in tall tiers. As many as 50,000 to 125,000 battery hens, in sheds with minimal light, strain to produce 250 eggs per year, ten times the number of eggs they would produce in the wild.

Battery cage confinement does not allow birds to turn around or take part in any other natural behavior, such as preening, dust bathing, and foraging for food. Prolonged forced confinement causes unnatural behaviors such as cannibalism and increases the incidence of disease and injury. Laying hens are also forced to live in a polluted environment due to toxic feed ingredients, accumulated feces, and excretory ammonia fumes. A successful battery system relies heavily on antibiotics that are routinely administered to laying hens to decrease the incidence of disease among these immune-repressed birds.

Battery hens often die in their cages as the result of disease or injury. Those who survive but stop producing adequately are considered "spent" hens and are sent to slaughter to be used for human and animal food. Male chicks are of no value to egg producers. Each year more than 200 million male chicks are killed or left to die after hatching.

Egg-producing birds that are not confined to battery cages seldom fare much better. Eggs labeled "Cage Free" or "Free Range" simply mean that the birds are not confined to battery cages, not necessarily that the hens are allowed a more natural existence. Neither guarantees that they have adequate space to move around, or that they are allowed outdoors to roam about and forage or dust bathe.

Molting is the natural process of shedding old feathers and the growth of new feathers. Molting initiates a new egg-laying cycle. The natural molting process takes about four months to complete. However, on factory farms, poultry producers induce starvation to control egg production in laying hens (eggs for human consumption) and breeding hens (eggs that hatch into birds used for meat or egg production) to reduce the molting period to one to two months. Performed to increase farm profits, this "forced molting" is extremely stressful to hens. Forced molting methods include food and water deprivation, medications and simulated light and dark cycles. A Poultry Science report found that forced molting in combination with a Salmonella infection created an actual disease state in tested hens. Salmonella infection can be passed on to consumers through egg consumption.

Debeaking is a painful procedure whereby the bird's sensitive beak is sliced off with a hot blade. Poultry meat and egg producers that use battery cages and crowded floor systems remove one-half to two-thirds of the birds' beaks to discourage cannibalistic pecking, a behavior that occurs when birds are kept in close confinement with no regard for their natural behaviors. Behavioral studies indicate that debeaked birds are often unable to eat, drink, and preen properly. They also exhibit behaviors associated with chronic pain and depression.

Toe-clipping is the amputation of a bird's toes just behind the claw. This painful procedure is performed to reduce claw-related injuries on factory farms.

Genetic engineering of broiler chickens and turkeys often results in a bird too heavy to stand or walk. They suffer from pain in their legs and sores on their feet that are induced by their extreme, unnatural size. Kept in polluted dark sheds with as many as 25,000 birds per shed, these birds suffer many of the same ailments as battery hens, such as being debeaked and being forced to live in a toxic environment. Thousands of these birds never make it to slaughter -- they will die while still on the farm from injuries, disease or their inability to reach food and water.

Millions of birds die during the loading of trucks and while en route to slaughter. These sensitive birds, often in very poor physical condition, are grabbed by their legs and thrown into densely packed cages to be transported by truck to slaughterhouses that are sometimes hundreds of miles away. Many die from shock, injury, and suffocation in the process.

The U.S. Federal Humane Slaughter Act does not apply to poultry, meaning that there is no federal law that requires birds to be stunned prior to slaughter. This allows for diversity in commercial poultry slaughter approaches and stunning equipment. When slaughterhouses do use stunning equipment, lack of regulation often results in birds allowed to raise their heads prior to reaching the water bath stunner and therefore not adequately stunned. Problems also exist in neck-cutting equipment, which may result in prolonged and extreme pain caused by necks improperly cut during the killing process.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Decrease or eliminate foods containing poultry products from your diet. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services endorses a vegetarian diet.

Say No To Veal

The veal calf industry is one of the most reprehensible of all the kinds of intensive animal agriculture. Male calves used for veal are taken from their mothers one or two days after birth. They are chained inside tiny crates barely larger than their bodies and are usually kept in darkness, except to be fed two or three times a day for 20 minutes. During their brief lives, they never see the sun or touch the earth. They never see or taste the grass. Their anemic bodies crave proper sustenance. Their muscles ache for freedom and exercise. They long for maternal care. About 14 weeks after their birth, they are slaughtered.

The veal calf's permanent home is a veal crate, a restraining device that is so small (22 inches by 54 inches) that the calves cannot turn around. Designed to prevent movement (exercise), the crate does its job of atrophying the calves' muscles, thus producing tender "gourmet" veal. The calves often suffer from open sores caused by the constant rubbing against the crates.

In 1996, the European Union voted to ban the veal crate across Europe. Yet it is still perfectly legal in the United States.

The calves are generally fed a milk substitute intentionally lacking in iron and other essential nutrients. This diet keeps the animals anemic and creates the pale pink or white color considered desirable in veal. Craving iron, the calves lick urine-saturated slats and any metallic parts of their stalls. Farmers also withhold water from the animals, who, always thirsty, are driven to drink a large quantity of the high-fat liquid feed.

Because of such extremely unhealthy living conditions and restricted diets, calves are susceptible to a long list of diseases, including chronic pneumonia and "scours," or constant diarrhea. Consequently, they must be given massive doses of antibiotics and other drugs just to keep them alive. The antibiotics are passed on to consumers in the meat and that's not all that's passed along.

Federal agents have found more than a dozen veal production companies giving calves clenbuterol, a dangerous and illegal drug that speeds growth and increases anemia in the calves, producing more expensive white meat. Calves treated with clenbuterol can be sold for slaughter at 12 to 13 weeks, rather than the standard 16 weeks. Even trace amounts of clenbuterol can cause severe illness in humans, including increased heart rate, tremors, breathing difficulties, fever and even death.

Veal calves are a byproduct of the dairy industry; they are produced by dairy cows, who are kept constantly pregnant to keep milk production high. Their female calves are raised to be living milk machines like their mothers...confined, fed synthetic hormones and antibiotics, artificially inseminated, and slaughtered after their milk production drops or they are slaughtered for the rennet in their stomachs (used to make commercial cheese). Since male calves cannot produce milk, they are often taken away from their mothers at 1 or 2 days old and put into crates to be killed for veal. The milk that nature meant for them ends up on our supermarket shelves instead.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Factory farming is an extremely cruel method of raising animals, but its profitability makes it popular. Farm animals are sentient beings that experience all the same emotions we do. The best way to save animals from the misery of factory farming is to stop or reduce your consumption of meat, milk, cheese and eggs.

What's Wrong With Milk?

Consumers who avoid meat for ethical and/or health reasons often still consider dairy foods nutritious and humane. But products made from cow's milk are far from "natural" for humans and anything but humane for cows and their calves.

Cow's milk is suited to the nutritional needs of calves, who, unlike human babies, will double their weight in 47 days (as opposed to 180 days for humans), grow four stomachs, and weigh 1,100-1,200 pounds within two years. Cow's milk contains about three times as much protein as human milk and almost 50 percent more fat. 

No other species besides humans drinks milk beyond infancy, and no other species drinks the milk of another species (except domestic cats and dogs, who are taught the habit by humans). After four years of age, most people develop lactose intolerance, the inability to digest the carbohydrate lactose (found in milk), because they no longer synthesize the digestive enzyme lactase. Lactose-intolerant people who drink milk can experience stomach cramps, gas, and diarrhea. By some estimates, up to 70 percent of the world's population is lactose intolerant.

In addition to being an unnatural food for humans, cow's milk, like other dairy products, is unhealthful. Dr. John A. McDougall calls dairy foods "liquid meat" because their nutritional contents are so similar. Rich in fat and cholesterol, dairy products, including cheese, milk, butter, cream, yogurt, and whey (found in many margarines and baked goods), contribute to the development of heart disease, certain cancers, and stroke our nation's three deadliest killers. Robert Cohen, author of Milk: The Deadly Poison, estimates that, by the time the average American is 50, he or she has consumed from dairy foods the same amount of cholesterol found in 1 million slices of bacon. Perhaps most surprisingly, the consumption of dairy foods has also been linked to osteoporosis--the very disease milk is supposed to prevent.

Osteoporosis is a debilitating disease characterized by low bone mass and deteriorating bone tissue. Contrary to the protestations of the dairy industry, this bone loss is not halted or prevented by an increased calcium intake so much as by a drop in protein consumption. Indeed, after studying the diets of 78,000 American women over a 12-year period, researchers at Harvard University concluded that "it is unlikely that high consumption of milk or other food sources of calcium during midlife will confer substantial protective effects against hip or forearm fractures"; participants in the study who consumed more than 450 milligrams of calcium from dairy foods per day actually doubled their risk of hip fractures. Foods high in animal protein, such as meat, eggs, and dairy products, leach calcium from the body in order to buffer the acidic byproducts that result from the breaking down of the excess protein; this causes a net loss of calcium. Societies with little or no consumption of dairy products and animal protein show a low incidence of osteoporosis. Furthermore, Dr. McDougall notes, "Calcium deficiency caused by an insufficient amount of calcium in the diet is not known to occur in humans."

Other illnesses are also more prevalent among those who consume significant amounts of dairy products than among vegans. Ninety percent of asthma patients who were put on a completely vegetarian diet (without meat, eggs, or dairy products) experienced great improvements in the frequency and severity of their attacks. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, milk is the leading cause of food allergies in children, causing symptoms as diverse as runny noses, ear problems, muscle fatigue, and headaches. Dairy foods have also been implicated in congestive heart failure, neonatal tetany, tonsil enlargement, ulcerative colitis, Hodgkin's disease, and respiratory, skin, and gastrointestinal problems.

At least half of the 10 million cows kept for milk in the United States live on factory farms in conditions that cause tremendous suffering to the animals. They do not spend hours grazing in fields but live crowded into concrete-floored milking pens or barns, where they are milked two or three times a day by machines.

Milking machines often cause cuts and injuries that would not occur were a person to do the milking. These injuries encourage the development of mastitis, a painful bacterial infection. More than 20 different types of bacteria cause the infection, which is easily spread from one cow to another and which, if left unchecked, can cause death. 

In some cases, milking machines even give cows electric shocks due to stray voltage, causing them considerable discomfort, fear, and impaired immunity and sometimes leading to death. A single farm can lose several hundred cows to shocks from stray voltage.

Large dairy farms also have a detrimental effect on the surrounding environment. For example, in California, which produces one-fifth of the country's total supply of milk, the manure from dairy farms has poisoned hundreds--perhaps thousands--of square miles of underground water, rivers, and streams. Each of the state's more than 1 million cows excretes 120 pounds of waste every day equal to that of two dozen people.

Cows on today's farms live only about four to five years, as opposed to the life expectancy of 20-25 years enjoyed by cows of an earlier era. To keep the animals at high levels of productivity, dairy farmers keep them constantly pregnant through the use of artificial insemination. Farmers also use an array of drugs, including bovine growth hormone (BGH); prostaglandin, which is used to bring a cow into heat whenever the farmer wants to have her inseminated; antibiotics; and even tranquilizers, in order to influence the productivity and behavior of the cows. 

Many of the country's dairy cows are routinely injected with BGH, which manufacturers say increases a cow's production by 20 percent. That's not all BGH increases. According to the government warning that, by law, must accompany packages of the Monsanto company's BGH, the use of this hormone "has been associated with increases in cystic ovaries and disorders of the uterus" and may increase the number of cows afflicted with mastitis. The increased rates of infections in cows have led to an increase in the use of antibiotics at a time when scientists say the overuse of antibiotics has caused more and more strains of bacteria to become drug-resistant. Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, warns that higher infection rates in cows also mean more pus in the milk people drink.

Some researchers also worry about the long-term effects of consuming milk from BGH-treated cows. For example, Dr. Samuel Epstein, a professor of environmental medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, believes such milk could increase the risk of some types of cancer in humans.

Perhaps the greatest pain suffered by cows in the dairy industry is the repeated loss of their young. Female calves may join the ranks of the milk producers, but the males are generally taken from their mothers within 24 hours of birth and sold at auction either for the notorious veal industry or to beef producers. If the calf is killed when young, his fourth stomach is also used in cheese-making; it contains rennin, an enzyme used to curdle (or coagulate) milk to turn it into cheese. Rennet, from whose membrane rennin is an extract, can also be used in this process. It is possible to make rennetless cheese (available at health food stores), but the close connection between the dairy, veal, and leather industries makes it cheaper for cheese producers to use calf parts than a vegetable-derived enzyme. 

Within 60 days, the cow will be impregnated again. For about seven months of her next nine-month pregnancy, the cow will continue to be milked for the fluid meant for her older calf. A typical factory-farmed dairy cow will give birth three or four times in her short life. When her milk production wanes, she is sent to slaughter, most likely to be ground up into fast-food burgers.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Reduce or eliminate milk and dairy products from your diet.

We Don't Like The Thought Of Eating Animals

Humans like eating meat more than the thought of eating animals. Scientists conclude that humans choose not to really think about what we eat, because if we do we lose the appetite.

When we eat beef, chicken wings, hot dogs or spaghetti bolognese, we do it in denial. Already by referring to what we eat as “beef” instead of “cow”, we have created a distance between our food and an animal with abilities to think and feel.

“The presentation of meat by the industry influences our willingness to eat it. Our appetite is affected both by what we call the dish we eat and how the meat is presented to us”, says Jonas R. Kunst, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Psychology, University of Oslo.

Kunst and his colleague Sigrid M. Hohle conducted five studies in Norway and the U.S. In the first study, chicken was presented at different processing stages: a whole chicken, drumsticks, and chopped chicken fillets. The scientists measured participants’ associations to the animal, and how much empathy they felt with the animal.

In the second study, participants saw pictures of a roasted pork – one beheaded, the other not. The scientists examined their associations to the animal, and to which extent they felt empathy and disgust. They also asked participants whether they wanted to eat the meat or would rather choose a vegetarian alternative.

Participants felt less empathy with the pig without a head.

“Highly processed meat makes it easier to distance oneself from the idea that it comes from an animal. Participants also felt less empathy with the animal. The same mechanism occurred with the beheaded pork roast. People thought less about it being an animal, they felt less empathy and disgust, and they were less willing to consider a vegetarian alternative.”

In a third study participants saw two advertisements for lamb chops, one with a picture of a living lamb, another without. The picture of the lamb made people less willing to eat the lamb chops. They also felt more empathy with the animal.

Philosophers and animal rights activists have long claimed that we avoid thinking about the animal we eat, and that this reduces the feeling of unease. This mechanism is described by the “disassociation hypothesis”. Celebrities have spoken up for the animals as well. Founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, ate only self-slaughtered meat for one year, claiming, “Many people forget that a living being has to die for you to eat meat”. Vegetarian Paul Mc Cartney said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian”.

Kunst and Hohle are the first scientists to test the hypothesis empirically, and it gains support from all five studies. We do have a tendency to distance ourselves from the thought of what we actually eat; this reduces discomfort and increases the willingness to eat meat.

In the three first studies, the scientists examined processing stages and presentation. In the next two studies, they investigated the use of words and phrases. They found that replacing "pork" and "beef" in the menu with "pig" and "cow" made people less willing to eat meat. The choice of words also affected feelings of empathy and disgust. Lastly, researchers investigated the effect of using the word "harvest". Traditionally the word has referred to plants, but in the U.S., it is now increasingly replacing words like "slaughtered" or "killed". The scientists found a clear effect: When the word "harvest" was used, people felt less empathy with the animal.

In total, more than 1000 people participated in the studies, and most of them were meat eaters. For some of them, eating meat was difficult, for others less so. Everyone disassociated meat from animals in their daily lives, but those that spent the most effort on disassociating were more sensitive when the presentations and descriptions of meat changed.

“We did not test whether these sensitive persons ate less meat than others in general. However, we all have a sensitivity in us, but this sensitivity is rarely activated because of the presentation of meat,” said Kunst.

He is not a vegetarian himself, but during these studies, he has become more aware of his meat consumption.

“The science results support a line of philosophers and animal rights activists who have said that the way meat is presented and talked about in our culture, makes us consume more of it”, said Kunst.

The results are published in the journal Appetite and might help authorities limit people’s meat consumption.

“For instance, authorities can influence people’s diets by presenting pictures of the animals in meat advertisements or contexts where meat is consumed. However, the will to do this is probably limited, since there are strong financial interests involved,” said Jonas R. Kunst.

What's Wrong With Wool?

Many people believe that shearing sheep helps animals who might otherwise be burdened with too much wool. But without human interference, sheep grow just enough wool to protect themselves from temperature extremes. The fleece provides effective insulation against both cold and heat. Until shears were invented in 1000 B.C., the only way to obtain wool was to "pluck" sheep during molting seasons. Breeding for continuous growth began after the advent of shears.

With an estimated 148 million sheep, Australia produces eighty percent of all wool used worldwide. Flocks usually consist of thousands of sheep, and individual attention to their needs is virtually impossible.

Just weeks after birth, lambs' ears are punched, their tails are chopped off, and males are castrated without anesthetic. According to Australian Law Reform Chairman, M.D. Kirby, Australian sheep suffer over 50 million operations a year that would constitute cruelty if performed on dogs or cats. Extremely high rates of mortality are considered "normal": 20-40 percent of lambs die at birth or before the age of eight weeks from cold or starvation; eight million mature sheep die every year from disease, lack of shelter, and neglect. One million of these die within 30 days of shearing.

In Australia, the most commonly raised sheep are Merinos, specifically bred to have wrinkly skin (which means more wool per animal). This unnatural overload of wool causes animals to die of heat exhaustion during hot months, and the wrinkles also collect urine and moisture. Attracted to the moisture, flies lay eggs in the folds of skin, and the hatched maggots can literally eat sheep alive. To prevent "flystrike," Australian ranchers perform a barbarous operation--"mulesing"--or carving huge strips of skin off the backs of unanesthetized lambs' legs. This is done to cause smooth, scarred skin that won't harbor fly eggs. Yet the bloody wounds often get flystrike before they heal; and despite the feeling by many that mulesing may kill more sheep than it saves, the mutilation continues.

Aging sheep are subjected to "tooth-grinding," an unanesthetized procedure that sheep farmers claim reduces tooth loss and extends the sheep's productive life. A battery-operated grinder is used to wear down the teeth. Another method involves using the edge of a disc cutter to cut right through the teeth near the level of the gums. This terrifying and painful procedure exposes the sensitive pulp cavities inside and causes the teeth to bleed profusely.

Faced with such vast amounts of death and disease, the rational step would be to reduce the numbers of sheep so as to maintain the existing ones decently. Instead, sheep are forced to bear more lambs by the administration of drugs. Malnourished ewes are taken into laboratories and placed in climate-controlled chambers to determine how much exposure they can withstand before they die.

Like other "commodities," animals can fall victim to fluctuations in the economy. In 1990, 10 million Australian sheep were shot and buried in mass graves when they became practically valueless due to a lingering drought and low wool prices.

Sheep are sheared each spring, after lambing, just before they would naturally shed their winter coats. Timing is critical: shearing too late means loss of wool. In the rush, an estimated one million Australian sheep die every year of exposure after premature shearing. A closely shorn sheep is, in fact, more sensitive to cold than a naked man since a sheep's normal body temperature is about 102 degrees F, much higher than a human's.

When shearing, speed is everything. Shearers are usually paid by volume, not by hour, which encourages working quickly and carelessly. Says one eyewitness: "the shearing shed must be one of the worst places in the world for cruelty to animals. I have seen shearers punch sheep with their shears or fists until the sheep's noses bled. I have seen sheep with half their faces shorn off." 

When the sheep age and are no longer effective wool producers, they are transported long distances to slaughterhouses in trucks and trains without food or water. Those who fall are trampled by other frightened animals. On arrival, the dead and dying are piled into heaps. Those with foot rot attempt to drag themselves on their knees.

The ultimate cruelty is the live export of seven million sheep every year from Australia to the Middle East, which the Wool Council of Australia supports as "an important component of the wool and sheep industry." These sheep travel vast distances until they reach the feedlots where they are held before being loaded onto ships. Many sheep, ill or wounded from the journey, faced with intensive crowding, disease, and strange food, die in the holding pens. Eighteen percent of sheep die during the 3-6 week transport process; in just one Australian feedlot, 15,000 sheep died from cold in 1983.

The surviving sheep--7 million a year--are herded onto huge 14-tier-high ships resembling the old slave-trade ships. Up to 125,000 sheep are packed tightly into each ship, each allocated an area hardly bigger than themselves, so that not all can lie down at once, or reach the feed troughs. Mired in their own waste for three weeks or more, the sheep suffer from sea-sickness, temperature extremes, disease, and injuries. Younger animals or babies born en route are often trampled to death. Shipboard mortality ranges up to 10 percent, and for every sheep who dies, many others become ill and are injured.

When the three-week trip to the Middle East is over, the surviving sheep are killed in ritual slaughter (Halal). Since Moslem religious law does not require that the knife be sharpened between kills, sheep often have their throats sawed open with dull knives. According to one witness in the Sitra abbatoir in Bahrain, men would begin slaughtering as soon as a pen was full. The sheep would "wave their heads in obvious confusion, trying to stand up and call out as the blood gushed from their throats." Other sheep are loaded into the trunk of a car for later slaughtering at the buyer's home. 

Sheep aren't the only animals who suffer as a result of the wool industry. The Australian government permits the slaughter of approximately 5 million kangaroos a year because it views them as "pests" who eat grass ranchers want for their sheep and cows. Ninety percent of kangaroo killers are "weekend" hunters, killing by the most expedient methods available: running kangaroos down in trucks, poisoning their water, beating them to death, even impaling them on stakes and meat hooks and skinning them alive. The standard kangaroo hunting technique, as recounted by Paul and Anne Erlich in their book Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearance of Species, is to "spotlight" them from cars at night. "The kangaroos would freeze in the light and were shot with rifles. Some were killed immediately, but some hunters purposely just wounded them--sometimes leaving them to suffer for hours or days so that their meat would remain fresh until they could be collected." According to Dr. Susan Lieberman of the Humane Society of the U.S., joeys, or young kangaroos "are not considered to be worth the cost of a bullet...and are often killed by being thrown against a tree or car bumper or kicked in the head." 

In the U.S., coyotes, vilified for allegedly preying on sheep and other livestock, are poisoned, shot and burned alive by the hundreds of thousands every year by ranchers and the U.S. government.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Refrain from purchasing products made from wool or other animal products.

Pigs Are Smart, Emotional, Complex

According to a paper published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, the International Journal of Comparative Psychology, pigs perform as well or better than dogs on some tests of behavioral and cognitive sophistication, and they compare favorably to chimpanzees, our closest human relatives, in addition to other primates.

The article reviews pigs’ full range of abilities by detailing dozens of studies and extrapolating from those results to determine what we do and do not know about pigs. The areas examined by the article include cognition, emotion, self-awareness, personality and social complexity.

Scientists have concluded that “pigs possess complex ethological traits similar … to dogs and chimpanzees.” For example, pigs:
  • have excellent long-term memories;
  • are whizzes with mazes and other tests requiring location of desired objects;
  • can comprehend a simple symbolic language and can learn complex combinations of symbols for actions and objects;
  • love to play and engage in mock fighting with each other, similar to play in dogs and other mammals;
  • live in complex social communities where they keep track of individuals and learn from one another;
  • cooperate with one another and show signs of Machiavellian intelligence such as perspective-taking and tactical deception;
  • can manipulate a joystick to move an on-screen cursor, a capacity they share with chimpanzees;
  • can use a mirror to find hidden food;
  • exhibit a form of empathy when witnessing the same emotion in another individual.

Scientists have shown that pigs share a number of cognitive capacities with other highly intelligent species such as dogs, chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins, and even humans. 

What's Wrong With Foie Gras?

The methods used to turn duck and goose livers into the "delicacy" known as pâté de foie gras are anything but delicate. Foie gras is a French term meaning "fatty liver" and it is produced by force-feeding birds. The ducks and geese force-fed for foie gras are compelled to consume much more high-energy food—mostly corn—than they would eat voluntarily. This damages their liver and often kills them.

The Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Welfare for the European Union found many examples of abuse as a result of force-feeding, including:
  • Birds are routinely confined to small cages or crowded pens.
  • Birds are force-fed tremendous amounts of feed via a 12- to 16-inch plastic or metal tube, which is shoved down their throats and attached to a pressurized pump.
  • The force-feeding may be performed twice daily for up to two weeks for ducks and three to four times daily, for up to 28 days for geese.
  • Force-feeding causes the liver to increase in size about 6-10 times compared to the normal size for a bird.
  • Increased liver size forces the abdomen to expand, which makes moving difficult and painful. An enlarged abdomen increases the risk of damage to the stretched tissue of the lower part of the esophagus.
  • Force-feeding results in accumulated scar tissue in the esophagus.
  • The liver can be easily damaged by even minor trauma.

Ducks and geese are social animals who suffer when confined in individual cages. The confinement also can lead to lesions of the sternum and bone fractures, as well as foot injuries from the cage floors. Ducks and geese also suffer when they're not allowed enough water to swim and preen, which they do naturally in the wild.

Originally, all foie gras came from France, but now the United States has gotten into this cruel niche industry.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Refrain from eating foie gras.

The next time you go into a store or restaurant that sells foie gras, please let them know that a product that comes from force-feeding ducks and geese is more than you can stomach.

Not Just Grunts: Pigs Have Something To Say

The grunts made by pigs vary depending on the pig’s personality and can convey important information about the welfare of this highly social species, new research has found.

Scientists specializing in animal behavior and welfare devised an experiment to investigate the relationship between personality and the rate of grunting in pigs. They also examined the effect different quality living conditions had on these vocalizations.

The study involved 72 male and female juvenile pigs. Half were housed in spacious ‘enriched’ pens with straw bedding, while the other half were kept in more compact ‘barren’ pens with partially slatted concrete floors, which adhered to UK welfare requirements.

To get a measure of the pigs’ personalities, the researchers conducted two tests: a social isolation test and a novel object test. Each pig spent three minutes in social isolation, and five minutes in a pen with a large white bucket or an orange traffic cone they had not previously encountered. Their behavior, including vocalizations, were observed. These tests were repeated two weeks later, allowing the researchers to determine if the pigs’ responses were repeatable – the defining characteristic of personality (also known as ‘coping style’ in animals).

They also recorded the frequency of grunts they made by counting the number of grunts produced per minute of the test, and investigated the effect different quality environments had on the sounds made.

The study indicated that pigs with more proactive personality types produced grunts at a higher rate than the more reactive animals. The study also found that male pigs (but not females) kept in the lower-quality conditions made fewer grunts compared with those housed in the enriched environment, suggesting greater susceptibility among male pigs to environmental factors.

The results add to evidence that acoustic signaling indicates personality in pigs. This may have had far reaching consequences in shaping the evolution of social behaviors, the researchers believe. The findings also suggest personality needs to be kept in mind when using vocalization as a measure of the animals’ welfare status.

Principal investigator, Dr Lisa Collins, a specialist in animal health, behavior and welfare epidemiology in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, said: “The domestic pig is a highly social and vocal species which uses acoustic signals in a variety of ways; maintaining contact with other group members while foraging, parent–offspring communication, or to signal if they are distressed. The sounds they make convey a wide range of information such as the emotional, motivational and physiological state of the animal. For example, squeals are produced when pigs feel fear, and may be either alerting others to their situation or offering assurance. Grunts occur in all contexts, but are typical of foraging to let other members of the group know where they are.”

Majority Of Americans Concerned About Farm Animals

Most Americans don’t know the true meaning of food labels like “cage-free,” “free-range,” or “grass fed” and falsely believe that farm animals are protected by laws or independent oversight, according to the results of a national survey released by the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®).

The survey also showed that, despite their misconceptions, approximately three quarters of consumers surveyed are concerned about the welfare of animals raised for food and are paying more attention than they were five years ago to food labels that indicate how those animals were raised.

Key findings of the survey:
  •     There are widespread misconceptions about what common labels actually mean for animal welfare: For example, 65 percent of consumers surveyed believe the term “free-range” ensures that the animal spent most of its time in a pasture. But in reality, there is no legal definition of “free-range” for pork, beef or dairy products. On poultry products, birds must have access to the outdoors, but the size, duration and quality of that outdoor experience is not defined.
  •     Consumers are confused about how animal welfare is monitored on farms: Nearly half of those surveyed believe that an independent inspector verifies the health and welfare of animals living on most farms. Actually there is no independent inspection or oversight of animal welfare on the vast majority of farms – a fact that sparked concern in three quarters of survey takers.
  •     Consumers are willing to pay more for products from farms that were audited to higher welfare standards, and desire more options: Sixty-seven percent of consumers say they are likely to buy meat, eggs and dairy products bearing a welfare certification label with meaningful standards, even if it meant paying a higher price for those products. In addition, 75 percent of consumers would like stores to carry a greater variety of welfare-certified meat, eggs and dairy.

There are now over 9 billion land animals raised for food in the U.S. each year, the vast majority of which exist in inhumane factory-like facilities. Sales of ‘higher-welfare’ animal ‘products’ are rising each year, demonstrating consumers’ ever-increasing desire for animals to be treated compassionately.

But buying ‘higher-welfare’ animal products does not reduce animal exploitation. If consumers want to ensure that the food they buy is ‘cruelty-free’, by far the best way to achieve this is to buy vegan food. It is entirely possible and increasingly easy to have nutritious and tasty food and practical and stylish clothing without exploiting animals.

Save Bison

Along with the bald eagle, the bison perhaps best symbolizes the spirit of American wilderness. While many people are aware that both animals teetered on the brink of extinction in the past due to human encroachment, few realize that wild bison continue to be the victims of a calculated, annual slaughter in the Greater Yellowstone Area.

During the mid to late 1800s, government agents orchestrated one of the most aggressive and wanton animal massacres in history, killing bison indiscriminately in an attempt to subjugate Native Americans. With the addition of market hunters and settlers killing bison for profit and for fun, America's wild bison herds were reduced from an estimated 60 million to perhaps as few as 100. 

With the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 and the National Park Service in 1916, the 25 bison remaining in the Park finally were afforded some protection. Initially, management policies allowed for the active manipulation of populations by culling what was perceived as "surplus" animals. But eventually, the management strategy evolved to an approach which permitted natural regulation to occur, for the most part letting nature take its course rather than relying on human intervention.

This was good news for the bison, but sadly their fortune was short lived. Since the mid 1980s, more than 3,000 bison have been massacred under the supervision of government officials bowing to the pressures of the livestock industry and its cohorts.

WHY ARE BISON BEING KILLED?

In 1917, officials discovered that some Yellowstone bison were infected with Brucella abortus, the bacteria which causes the disease brucellosis in domestic cattle. In cattle, the disease produces spontaneous abortions, but bison do not appear to be similarly affected. In fact, over the past 80 years in the entire Greater Yellowstone Area, there have been only four documented bison abortions, which may or may not have been caused by the bacteria.

Over the past decade, bison have been emigrating from the Park over its northern and western boundaries into the state of Montana during winter months. Because of several mild winters, and the National Park Service's continued grooming of snowmobile trails which makes it easier for bison to exit the Park, more and more bison have been stepping hoof over Park boundaries.

The livestock industry and federal and state livestock agencies contend that bison can transmit the Brucella abortus bacteria to cattle under natural conditions. In reality, there has never been a documented case of this occurring. Despite this fact, they continue to wage a war against Yellowstone bison.

HOW THE BACTERIA IS TRANSMITTED

The primary route of transmission is direct contact of susceptible animals with infected reproductive products, such as fetuses and afterbirth, or with contaminated feed. Given that bison abortions are extremely rare, the risk is remote at best. Bull bison and calves pose virtually no threat of transmitting the bacteria -- because males and juveniles obviously do not give birth or have abortions -- yet shockingly hundreds have been killed. Of the blood and tissue samples taken from 218 of the bison slaughtered during the winter of 1991-92, not a single bison was infectious at the time of death.

In the event a bison abortion were to occur, the bacteria is sensitive to sunlight and heat, and in all likelihood, would die quickly outside the body, although it is possible for it to remain viable for longer periods of time if frozen. Nevertheless, in nature, aborted fetuses are consumed either by the bison themselves or by scavengers almost immediately. In addition, abortions probably would happen during January through June, a period of time which cattle are not permitted on public lands and do not come into contact with wild bison.

CATTLE PERMITTED ON PUBLIC LANDS

The U.S. Forest Service issues grazing permits on lands adjoining Yellowstone National Park, generally for the months of June through October. Cattle grazing is even allowed in Grand Teton National Park. The interests of wildlife, and not cattle, should take precedence on public lands. The grazing allotments should be either closed or modified to minimize any contact between bison and cattle. Also, mandatory vaccination of domestic calves against brucellosis within the counties surrounding the Park could further reduce the risk, if any risk exits at all, of infection. Currently, vaccinations are not mandatory in Montana or Wyoming.

AGENCIES RESPONSIBLE FOR BISON BEING KILLED

With increased bison migrations into Montana, the Montana Legislature listed bison as a game animal in 1985, giving the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks authority to initiate a public hunt. During the winter of 1988-89, sport hunters shot 570 bison at point-blank range. Due to national media coverage, this cruel fiasco generated outrage across the country. Shortly thereafter, the Legislature decided to no longer issue bison permits to sport hunters, although state officials retained the right to implement lethal control.

Today, control has been vested in the Montana Department of Livestock, an agency which views bison as nothing more than brucellosis-infected pests who must be controlled to maintain Montana's brucellosis-free status. With the cooperative services of Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and National Park Service officials, government officials continue to gun down hundreds of bison each year. During the winter of 1996-97 alone, nearly 1,100 bison were killed.

Much of the hysteria derives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the agency responsible for brucellosis eradication in domestic livestock. APHIS, without legal authority, has threatened to revoke the brucellosis-free status of both Montana and Wyoming if measures aren't taken to eliminate Brucella abortus in the Greater Yellowstone Area. Brucellosis-free status permits cattle producers to market their cattle without being subject to disease testing requirements. Recently, Wyoming capitulated to these threats by establishing a bison sport hunt outside the eastern boundaries of Yellowstone National Park where a small number of bison occasionally exit.

The APHIS brucellosis eradication program launched in the 1930s was intended to apply only to domestic livestock, but it appears that APHIS and other industry interests will not be satisfied until the Brucella abortus organism is eliminated in all domestic animals and wildlife.

OTHER WILD ANIMALS POSE A RISK

In addition to bison, elk can also be infected with the bacteria and can carry the disease. With more than 90,000 elk in the Greater Yellowstone Area, the likelihood of eliminating the bacteria using available technologies is virtually nonexistent. Moreover, if all infected bison were destroyed, exposure to elk would result in reinfection in the remainder.

This is particularly a problem in Wyoming where over 23,000 elk congregate on artificial feedgrounds, creating prime conditions for bacteria transmission. In fact, bison from Grand Teton National Park, just south of Yellowstone, have discovered the "free meals" being provided on the National Elk Refuge each winter in the Jackson Hole area. It is speculated that this herd of bison contracted the bacteria from elk on the feedground.

State officials rarely admit that elk may also carry the disease. Elk, of course, are a prime money maker for Montana and Wyoming state officials, who encourage propagation of elk herds so they can profit from the sale of sport hunting licenses.

Ironically, bison are being targeted allegedly to protect the livestock industry, but the general consensus among scientists is that cattle probably introduced the bacteria into the Yellowstone bison herd shortly before 1917. Victims then and victims now.

Save The Seals

Each year thousands of seals are killed in Canada. The seals suffer painful and lingering deaths. The weapon used is a club, the brutal hakapik. Sometimes the seals are skinned alive. Sealers often use sharpened steel hooks to drag the creatures on board their vessels. Seal-clubbing is justified by the Canadian government because its victims are adversely affecting the profits of the Newfoundland fishing industry.

A harp seal can be legally killed as soon as it has begun to moult its white hair, around 2 weeks after birth. Adult seals are also killed. The seal hunt is one of the very few hunts that occurs in the spring when young are being born. As a result, roughly 80% of the seals killed in the commercial hunt are 'young of the year' - between approximately 12 days and 1 year old.

Younger seals (ragged jackets and beaters) are usually killed on the ice with clubs or hakapiks (a device resembling a heavy ice-pick). Later in the season, beaters and older seals are usually shot with a rifle, both on the ice and in the water. It is also legal to use a shotgun firing slugs. It is illegal to deliberately capture seals using nets, although seals are often caught incidentally in nets set for other fisheries.

Six species of seals -- including the harp, hooded, grey, ringed, bearded and harbour -- are found off the Atlantic coast of Canada. Harp and hooded seals are the two most common species hunted commercially.

Although harp seals make up 95% of the commercial hunt, they are not the only seals hunted in Atlantic Canada: there is also a quota for 10,000 hooded seals, and in recent years small numbers of grey seals have been hunted for commercial use. In addition to the commercial hunts, seals of all species are taken for subsistence purposes in Labrador and the Canadian Arctic, and harp and hooded seals may be killed for personal use by residents of sealing regions. The seal hunt quota was introduced in 1971.

The majority of seal pelts are still exported to Norway for processing. The seal pelts are either used for furs or leather. A small amount of seal meat, particularly the flippers, is consumed locally by Newfoundlanders, and some claim it to have an aphrodisiac effect. Seal penises are shipped to Asian markets and can sell for upwards of $500 US each. Penises are often dried and consumed in capsule form or in a tonic.

Seal hunting is inhumane. Groups have campaigned on the issue for years and their evidence shows all the horror of the hunt -- dragging conscious seal pups across the ice with sharpened boat hooks, stockpiling of dead and dying animals, beating and stomping seals, and skinning seals alive. In 2002, an international team of veterinary experts attended the hunt. They observed sealers at work from the air and from the ground, and performed post-mortems on 73 seal carcasses.

Their study concluded that:

79% of the sealers did not check to see if an animal was dead before skinning it.

In 40% of the kills, a sealer had to strike the seal a second time, presumably because it was still conscious after the first blow or shot.

Up to 42% of the seals they examined were likely skinned alive.

Many people remember the worldwide protest that arose in the 1970s over Canada’s killing of whitecoat seal pups (under two weeks old). The massive protest, with international campaigning against the Canadian seal hunt during the 70s & 80s, led to the European Union ban on the importation of whitecoat pelts in 1983, and eventually to the Canadian government banning large-vessel commercial whitecoat hunting in 1987.

Canada's cod fishery collapsed in the early 90s, and some in Canada blamed the seals, despite the fact that the greatest cause was clearly decades of over-fishing by humans. The collapse of fisheries around Newfoundland, due to mismanagement, is a major driver in the expansion of the seal hunt.

Although the Canadian seal hunt is the largest in the world and has the highest profile internationally, sealing is also carried out in a number of other countries across the world including Greenland, Namibia, Russia, Norway and Sweden.

Rhinos: Ancient Animals At Risk

The rhino is one of the largest and most powerful animals on earth, and one of the most ancient. Its origins can be traced back 50 million years when it was know as Paraceratherium, the giant rhinoceros. This monstrous creature weighed nearly 20 tons and roamed the grasslands that ranged from Europe to China. It survived the ravages of the Ice Age, migrated continents, fought against predatory adversaries like the crocodile and prehistoric hyenas, and evolved into what we know as the present day rhinoceros. Human hunting and unstable conditions of habitat have reduced this majestic animal, that once roamed half the earth, to just five broad species found only in pockets of Asia and Africa.

Rhinos are in serious danger of going extinct. Poaching of rhinos is on the rise by organized international criminal syndicates. Two rhinos are estimated to be killed by poachers every day in Africa. If rhino poaching is not stopped, African rhinos could be lost forever. Threats to Indian rhinos include expanding human populations, agriculture, and poaching.

Dagger handles made from rhino horns are symbols of status and wealth in Arab countries. In Far East countries, rhino horns are sought for alleged medicinal properties. There is no scientific evidence of their medical value, but they continue to be used in traditional Asian medicine – ground into powder to treat a variety of illnesses.

Rhino horns have fetched as much as an astonishing $50,000 on the black market. Its value tempts even subsistence farmers and poor herdsmen to be a part of the trade. Poaching gangs have reached great levels of sophistication and use night-vision equipment, veterinary drugs and even helicopters in their hunt for rhinos.

Northern White Rhinos

There are no longer any northern white rhinos in the wild. There were around 500 of them in the 1970's scattered over northwestern Uganda, northeastern Congo, parts of Central African Republic and on the eastern fringes of Lake Chad. By 1980 their numbers were down to just a paltry 15. Now only three of them are to be found in the Garamba National Park of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Southern White Rhinos

The southern white rhinoceros is the biggest of all species, standing almost 6 feet up to its shoulders. Its immense body weighs as much as 5,100 lbs (5 tons). They are pale grayish in color and have two horns, the front one curved and big at the snout of the nose, followed by a very small one behind it. They are found in the Savannah grasslands of South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, and in some measure in the arid expanses of the Kalahari. From a position of complete extinction in the early part of the 20th century, the southern white rhinoceros has witnessed a dramatic rise in its numbers thanks to the efforts of conservationists, wildlife agencies, game sanctuary authorities and support of local governments. Presently, the number of these rhinoceros stand at 21,000. Despite now being the only rhinos that are not endangered, a surge of poaching in recent years once again threatens the southern white rhinoceros. Legal hunting also threatens their future, as white rhinos in South Africa and Swaziland were downlisted to Appendix II to allow the export of live rhinos and hunting trophies.

Black Rhinos

The black rhinoceros is another species that is making a comeback from the brink of extinction in the early 1980's to a count of 5,000 today. They are found in East Africa and South Africa. They are smaller in size in comparison to the white rhino. They have an acute sense of smell but very poor eyesight that make them easy targets for poachers. The growing number of rhinoceros in the Southern half of the continent, along with the great demand for horns among the nouveau riche Chinese, has created an incentive for poachers. Cases of poaching in South Africa are up from 15 in 2007, to an alarming 1,200 in 2014. Black rhino horns are in great demand in Vietnam and other South-East Asian countries where they are powdered and used for medicinal purposes.

Indian Rhinos

The Indian rhinoceros, or the great one-horned rhino, is the predominant of the two Asian species. They are mostly found in the north-eastern state of Assam in India in reserves like the Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary, Manas National Park and half a dozen sanctuaries scattered over the state. The rhinos found in the Kaziranga, Orang and Pobitara inhabit the alluvial flood plains of the river Brahmaputra that flows through the state. There are a little over a hundred of this species in the Jaldapara National Park of the West Bengal state bordering Assam. The sanctuaries of Parsa Wildlife Reserve, Chitwan National Park, Bardia National Park and Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve in Nepal hold about 645 of these animals.

The male Indian rhinoceros can stand up to a height of 5 feet 8 inches at its shoulders. It weighs up to 4,800 lbs and is much bigger than the female which weighs just 3,500 lbs. It has a thick skin that is grayish brown in color and has a single black-colored horn. Despite its poor eyesight, it has a heightened sense of smell and can become a scary looking animal when it breaks into runs of almost 55 kms per hour.

Although massive conservation efforts have resulted in the count of Indian rhinos rising to almost 2,600 from an extinction phase a couple of decades ago, threats in the form of expanding human population pressure, farmlands eating into rhino grasslands, and poaching remain. Organized crime networks are at work catering to the demand for Indian rhino horns, sought for their alleged medicinal values among the affluent Chinese and the rich of the South-East Asian countries. The forest protection personnel of India are not as well equipped as their South African counterparts and are poorly staffed. At the political level, conservation of rhinos is not a priority, and efforts to that end at the grassroots level become difficult. Massive seasonal flooding of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries are turning out to be a major threat to rhinos of Assam. There seems to be no solution in sight. Many of the creatures have drowned or died of sheer hunger, having being displaced from their habitat by raging waters.

Javan Rhinos

The Javan rhinoceros is among the most endangered species of animal on earth. Just a century and a half ago, it roamed the wilds of Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java. Only 63 of these animals are presently found in the Ujung Kulon national park in the western-most tip of Java, Indonesia.

The Java species stand up to 5.5 feet and weigh up to 2,300 lbs. They have a single horn which is the smallest of all species and measures just 25 cms. It is amphibious like the Indian rhino, and spends a considerable amount of time in the shallow swampy waters of the Javan tropical jungles. Although protected by law, and numbers now too few to act as incentive to poachers, other threats exist. The Arenga palm, or Arenga pinnata, that is a native to Indonesia, poses a grave threat to plants which the rhinos of Java survive on. The Arenga palm is an invasive plant that grows and spreads quickly.

To counter the threat of real extinction this species is facing, a population is being kept in captivity outside of Ujung Kulon by wildlife conservationists. This may give the endangered Java rhinoceros a last chance of long-term survival.

Time Is Running Out

Several rhino species will likely be extinct in just a few decades. The others will follow in less than 100 years. Hunting, animal agriculture, habitat change, and human population growth are taking their toll on these magnificent animals. Without immediate intervention, they will disappear from the Earth causing ecological, social, and economic ramifications. We must act now, before it's too late.

Monkey Invasion

Monkeys have long been a common sight in temples and tourist destinations around the world. These intelligent animals once stayed away from urban hubs, restricting themselves to the fringes of big cities. But deforestation, animal agriculture, industrialization and fast expanding cities is reducing monkey habitat at an alarming rate. As a result, many species of monkeys are invading cities for food, shelter and water.

Many monkeys have long taken to temples, where they are often protected and fed. From these temples they radiate out to nearby forests. But urbanization has invaded temple areas, bringing the city to the monkeys.

As natural monkey habitats are continuously destroyed, monkeys are loosing their fear of humans. In search of new food sources, they raid farms, beg for food, and steal from homes and businesses. Urban areas offer monkeys easy access to shelter, food, water and large trees, causing population explosions. Telephone and electric wires give them easy access throughout the urban jungles.

Monkeys are now as plentiful as squirrels in many Asian cities. They hang out in train stations, beg at the side of roads, dig through trash cans, and steal food from humans.

Cows, stray dogs and cats have roamed the streets of the capital city of India, New Delhi, for centuries. Now, monkeys have taken over. There are tens of thousands of rhesus macaques skirting rooftops of buildings, darting through work places, raiding kitchens, scattering files and attacking workers. Instances of human-monkey conflicts include monkeys biting people, snatching foodstuffs, picking pockets, and even drunken monkeys misbehaving. Monkeys have spread to other Indian cities of northern states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Langurs, another species of monkey, are now seen on the rooftops of Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan. Ironically, the langur was brought in to scare off the rhesus macaques.

While the rhesus macaques are having a free run of many Indian and Asian cities, the baboons have their sights set on the affluent neighborhoods of Cape Town, South Africa. Man and baboon have co-existed in the Western Cape for centuries, but tolerance for the creature seem to be running thin. Loss of habitat from development and urbanization is turning this once-friendly creature into an aggressive one. Baboons are breaking into glitzy estates on the Cape, raiding kitchens for food, rummaging into garbage cans and stealing whatever they think may be of use to them. Even restaurants haven't been spared.

Many urban communities feed the monkeys, often compounding the problem. The monkeys quickly loose their fear of humans and become dependent on human handouts. Thousands of monkeys went on a rampage in northern Thailand when the council ran out of rice for the monkeys after a drought. Shops, homes and restaurants were invaded by gangs of hungry monkeys.

Snow monkeys in Japan raid farms, invade towns and break into homes and businesses to steal food. Forestry has reduced their wild food sources, leaving the monkeys little choice.

While monkeys are not native to the US, vervet monkeys have made a tiny patch of forest near the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport their home. They have survived in the area for generations. Silver River, in central Florida, is home to rhesus macaques that were introduced to the central Florida wetlands to drum up tourism. They have lived there for decades and are now moving as far north as Jacksonville and as far south as Orlando.

Finding Solutions

Attempts to reduce urban monkey populations have ranged from outright elimination, to forced migration and awareness campaigns not to feed monkeys.

Many farmers have resorted to shooting monkeys to save their crops. A more humane attempt to avoid monkey damage is switching from fruit and vegetable crops to growing crops less likely to attract monkeys.

Culling methods are not only inhumane, but also ineffective. New monkeys soon move in from surrounding areas. Their numbers swell quickly to match the original populations. Culling also results in the monkeys becoming more aggressive. 

Capturing city monkeys in cages, and keeping them in captivity before release, causes extreme stress to the animals. Relocation of monkeys only results in new troops entering the area. Diseases can also be spread by monkeys from one area to another.

Large-scale sterilization of monkeys has yet to be attempted. At least 1/3rd of the population needs to be sterilized to arrest the rate of population growth. Capturing enough monkeys to be effective is both challenging and expensive. Oral contraceptives for monkeys, that can be administered through food, are in the works.

In South Africa, "virtual fences" on the perimeters of cities are being created. These virtual fences are a line of speakers that emit sounds of predatory beasts, like the lion, to keep baboons at bay. Whether that will be a long term solution is a matter of conjecture.

Conservationists are proposing filling monkey habitat with food sufficient enough to dissuade them from venturing into cities. Some areas have proposed mass planting of trees to create green islands to provide habitation to monkeys.

To help save monkey and other wildlife habitats, humans must also shift from animal based agriculture to plant based farming. Expanding animal farming is the leading cause of deforestation, resulting in ever-increasing habitat loss. Animal agriculture takes up over 40% of the planet. 56 million acres of land are used to feed factory farmed animals, while only 4 million acres produce plants for human consumption. It takes 20 times less land to feed someone on a plant based diet than it does to feed meat eaters.

Urban monkey challenges have been created by humans, and must be solved by humans. Monkeys are not the villain. Monkey habitats and food-sources have been greatly depleted in the wild by irresponsible human activity. Coexistence is the only solution.

Stop The Badger Culls

Despite continued calls from the public and leading experts to abandon inhumane badger culls, thousands of badgers are slaughtered each year in England in a misguided attempt to control tuberculosis in cattle. Killing badgers as a means of controlling the spread of the disease has been overwhelmingly declared ineffective by a host of eminent scientific experts.

The government continues to maintain that shooting badgers reduces TB in cattle, for which there is no evidence. In fact, the vast majority of scientists agree that this approach actually increases the risk of spreading the disease.

Shooting thousands of badgers, the majority of whom will not even have TB, is a costly distraction from the real solution to TB in cattle. The truth is, they could wipe out every badger in England and farmers would still be dealing with TB in cattle: it’s a disease of cattle, primarily spread by cattle, and it’s cattle-focused control measures that will stop it.

If badgers were causing TB in cattle, scientists would see a similar pattern of infection in both species. However, analysis reveals that this is not the case.

There is little geographical overlap between farms with infected cattle and setts with infected badgers, and cycles of infections between the two species are not synchronized. Also, the spatial aggregation pattern of TB in cattle and badgers is different – in badgers the disease is found in clusters, whereas in cattle the disease is much more random and dispersed.

While policymakers have adopted the bovine TB management strategy of culling badgers, culling badgers spreads the disease further as it forces them to runaway.

Culling causes great suffering to badgers with no meaningful benefit to farmers or their cattle. Badgers are killed by two methods: by “cage trapping and shooting,” where they are caught in cage traps and then shot at close range; or by “controlled” shooting, where a cull company contractor shoots them with a rifle in the countryside at night.

An Independent Expert Panel estimated that between 7.4 percent and 22.8 percent of badgers that are shot are still alive after 5 minutes, experiencing marked pain.

The enormous cull is completely at odds with public attitudes. A YouGov poll revealed the high level of concern the public has for badger welfare, with 67 percent of respondents saying they are concerned at the suffering caused to badgers. This concern is reflected in the number of ordinary local residents who join badger patrols night after night to check badger setts and look for injured animals.

There is no justice in killing badgers when all the science says killing badgers will make no meaningful difference to the incidence of bTB in cattle. In Wales, where stricter cattle testing and movement restrictions have been implemented in recent years (and where badger vaccination is undertaken and there is no badger culling), the number of cattle slaughtered as a result of bovine TB has been reduced by 45 percent.

Badger culls are ignorant and cruel. Tell the government to stop killing badgers.

Help Save Dolphins

Dolphins are often regarded as one of earth's most intelligent animals. They are social, living in pods of up to a dozen individuals. In places with a high abundance of food, pods can merge temporarily, forming a superpod; such groupings may exceed 1,000 dolphins. Individuals communicate using a variety of clicks, whistles and other vocalizations. They make ultrasonic sounds for echolocation. Membership in pods is not rigid; interchange is common. However, dolphins can establish strong social bonds; they will stay with injured or ill individuals, even helping them to breathe by bringing them to the surface if needed.

Dolphins also display culture, something long believed to be unique to humans. Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins are known to teach their young to use tools. They cover their snouts with sponges to protect them while foraging. This knowledge is mostly transferred by mothers to daughters. Using sponges as mouth protection is a learned behavior. Another learned behavior was discovered among river dolphins in Brazil, where some male dolphins use weeds and sticks as part of a sexual display.

Play is an important part of dolphin culture. Dolphins play with seaweed and play-fight with other dolphins. They play and harass other local creatures, like seabirds and turtles. Dolphins enjoy riding waves and frequently surf coastal swells and the bow waves of boats, at times “leaping” between the dual bow waves of a moving catamaran. Occasionally, they playfully interact with swimmers.

DOLPHINS AT RISK

Some dolphin species face an uncertain future, especially the Amazon river dolphin and the Ganges river dolphin, which are critically or seriously endangered. A 2006 survey found no individuals of the Yangtze river dolphin, which now appears to be functionally extinct.

Pesticides, heavy metals, plastics, and other industrial and agricultural pollutants that do not disintegrate rapidly in the environment concentrate in predators such as dolphins. Injuries or deaths due to collisions with boats, especially their propellers, are also common.

Various fishing methods, most notably purse seine fishing for tuna and the use of drift and gill nets, kill many dolphins. By-catch in gill nets and incidental captures in antipredator nets that protect marine fish farms are common and pose a risk for mainly local dolphin populations. In some parts of the world, such as Taiji in Japan and the Faroe Islands, dolphins are killed in harpoon or drive hunts. Dolphin meat is high in mercury, and may thus pose a health danger to humans when consumed.

Dolphin safe labels attempt to reassure consumers fish and other marine products have been caught in a dolphin-friendly way. The original deal with "Dolphin safe" labels was brokered in the 1980s between marine activists and the major tuna companies, and involved decreasing incidental dolphin kills by up to 50% by changing the type of nets being used to catch the tuna. Dolphins continue to be netted while fishermen are in pursuit of smaller tuna. Albacore are not netted this way, which makes albacore the only truly dolphin-safe tuna.

Loud underwater noises, such as those resulting from naval sonar use, live firing exercises, or certain offshore construction projects, such as wind farms, may be harmful to dolphins, increasing stress, damaging hearing, and causing decompression sickness by forcing them to surface too quickly to escape the noise.

A number of militaries have employed dolphins for various purposes, from finding mines to rescuing lost or trapped humans. The military use of dolphins drew scrutiny during the Vietnam War when rumors circulated that the United States Navy was training dolphins to kill Vietnamese divers. Dolphins are still being trained by the United States Navy on other tasks as part of the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program. The Russian military is believed to have closed its marine mammal program in the early 1990s. In 2000 the press reported that dolphins trained to kill by the Soviet Navy had been sold to Iran.

DOLPHIN DRIVE HUNTING

Dolphin drive hunting, also called dolphin drive fishing, is a method of hunting dolphins and occasionally other small cetaceans by driving them together with boats and then usually into a bay or onto a beach. Their escape is prevented by closing off the route to the open sea or ocean with boats and nets. Dolphins are hunted this way in several places around the world, including the Solomon Islands, the Faroe Islands, Peru and Japan, the most well-known practitioner of this method. Dolphins are mostly hunted for their meat; some are captured and end up in dolphinariums.

Despite the highly controversial nature of the hunt resulting in international criticism, and the possible health risk that the often polluted meat causes, many thousands of dolphins are caught in drive hunts each year.

In Japan, striped, spotted, Risso's, and bottlenose dolphins are most commonly hunted, but several other species such as the false killer whale are also occasionally caught. A small number of orcas have been caught in the past. Relatively few striped dolphins are found in the coastal waters, probably due to hunting.

The Japanese town of Taiji on the Kii peninsula is, as of now, the only town in Japan where drive hunting still takes place on a large scale. In the town of Futo the last known hunt took place in 2004. In 2007 Taiji wanted to step up its dolphin hunting programs, approving an estimated ¥330 million for the construction of a massive cetacean slaughterhouse in an effort to popularize the consumption of dolphins in the country.

Dolphin welfare advocacy groups such as Earth Island Institute, Surfers for Cetaceans and Dolphin Project Inc., assert that the number of dolphins and porpoises killed is estimated at 25,000 per year.

In Japan, the hunting is done by a select group of fishermen. When a pod of dolphins has been spotted, they're driven into a bay by the fishermen while banging on metal rods in the water to scare and confuse the dolphins. When the dolphins are in the bay, it is quickly closed off with nets so the dolphins cannot escape. The dolphins are usually not caught and killed immediately, but instead left to calm down over night. The following day, the dolphins are caught one by one and killed. The killing of the animals used to be done by slitting their throats, but the Japanese government banned this method and now dolphins may officially only be killed by driving a metal pin into the neck of the dolphin. It is not clear if this ban is strictly enforced however.

Some of the captured dolphins are left alive and taken to dolphinariums. Dolphins have also been exported to the United States for several parks including the well known SeaWorld parks. The US National Marine Fisheries Service has refused a permit for Marine World Africa USA on one occasion to import four false killer whales caught in a Japanese drive hunt. In recent years, dolphins from the Japanese drive hunts have been exported to China, Taiwan and to Egypt. On multiple occasions, members of the International Marine Animal Trainers Association (IMATA) have also been observed at the drive hunts in Japan.

Protest and campaigns are now common in Taiji. Some of the animal welfare organizations campaigning against the drive hunts are Sea Shepherd, One Voice, Blue Voice, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, and the World Society for the Protection of Animals. Since much of the criticism is the result of photos and videos taken during the hunt and slaughter, it is now common for the final capture and slaughter to take place on site inside a tent or under a plastic cover, out of sight from the public.

On a smaller scale, drive hunting for dolphins also takes place on the Solomon Islands, more specifically on the island of Malaita. Dolphin's teeth are also used in jewelry and as currency on the island. The dolphins are hunted in a similar fashion as in Japan, using stones instead of metal rods to produce sounds to scare and confuse the dolphins. Various species are hunted, such as spotted and spinner dolphins. The amount of dolphins killed each year is not known, but anecdotal information suggests between 600 and 1,500 dolphins per hunting season. The hunting season lasts roughly from December to April, when the dolphins are closest to shore. As in Japan, some dolphins (exclusively bottlenoses) from the Solomon Islands have also been sold to the entertainment industry. There was much controversy in July 2003, when 28 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops trancatus aduncus) were exported to Parque Nizuc, a water park in Cancun. A large portion of the animals were later transported to Cozumel, to do interaction programs. Though the export of dolphins had been banned in 2005, the export of dolphins was resumed in October 2007 when the ban was lifted following a court decision, allowing for 28 dolphins to be sent to a dolphinarium in Dubai. A further three dolphins were found dead near the holding pens. The dealer that exported these dolphins has stated that they intend to release their 17 remaining dolphins back into the wild in the future.

On the Faroe Islands mainly Pilot Whales are killed by drive hunts for their meat. Other species are also killed on rare occasion such as the Northern bottlenose whale and Atlantic white-sided dolphin. The hunt is known by the locals as the Grindadráp. There are no fixed hunting seasons, as soon as a pod close enough to land is spotted fishermen set out to begin the hunt. The animals are driven onto the beach with boats, blocking off the way to the ocean. When on the beach, most of them get stuck. Those that have remained too far in the water are dragged onto the beach by putting a hook in their blowhole. When on land, they are killed by cutting down to the major arteries and spinal cord at the neck. The time it takes for a dolphin to die varies from a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on the cut. When the fishermen fail to beach the animals all together, they are let free again. About a thousand pilot whales are killed this way each year on the Faroe Islands together with usually a few dozen, up to a few hundred, animals belonging to other small cetaceans species...but numbers vary greatly per year. The brutal appearance of the hunt has resulted in international criticism especially from animal welfare organizations. As in Japan, the meat is contaminated with mercury and cadmium, causing a health risk for those frequently eating it.

Though it is forbidden under Peruvian law to hunt dolphins or eat their meat, a large number of dolphins are still killed illegally by fishermen each year. Although exact numbers are not known, the Peruvian organization Mundo Azul (Blue World) estimates that at least a thousand are killed annually. To catch the dolphins, they are driven together with boats and encircled with nets, then harpooned, dragged on to the boat, and clubbed to death if still alive. Various species are hunted, such as the bottlenose and dusky dolphin.

On the Penghu Islands in Taiwan, drive fishing of bottlenose dolphins was practiced until 1990, when the practice was outlawed by the government. Mainly Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphins, but also common bottlenose dolphins, were captured in these hunts.

Help Save Elephants

Centuries ago, the African elephant enjoyed ample representation among the teeming herds of wildlife that roamed the African continent. Today, their survival dangles on the precipice of extinction due to unchecked human population growth and overdevelopment. Once numbering in the millions, the continent-wide population in Africa is now estimated to be just under 600,000 elephants.

Elephants exist in one of the most complex societal units of any land mammal. A typical elephant herd consists of a matriarch, who is the leader and usually the oldest female in the group, her siblings and their offspring. The matriarch is the source of all information for the herd. 

Throughout her years, she has learned where the best watering holes are, and which areas to avoid because of human presence. If the matriarch is killed by a hunter or poacher, her family suffers immensely and lacks the leader on whom they depend.

Baby elephants are born after an average of 22 months of gestation. They will normally stand within their first hour of life, and they nurse immediately from their mothers. The vital nutrients which can only be found in her milk help the development of the calf's immune system. Mothers and calves are rarely separated, and spend most of their time touching or in close physical contact. The other females in the herd often help raise the young elephant and can often be seen closing in around him to form an "elephant shield" if danger is present. The cousins, aunts, and sisters become the calf's guardians and form a family unit with impenetrable loyalty and devotion. Elephants have only one predator: humans.

IN DANGER

Classified as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and endangered under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Animals, the most significant reason for their decline can be traced back to the 1800s when the precursor to the modern ivory trade began to take root. Nearly 200 years and millions of carcasses later, the future of the African elephant is in serious question.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) is an international treaty that governs trade in wildlife. The signatory nations agree to abide by its regulations in order to conserve plants and animals found in their respective countries. As the global demand for ivory increased in the latter part of the twentieth century, the wild herds of African elephants were being decimated at an amazing rate. The rampant poaching of the late 1970s and mid-1980s reduced the population in Africa by half.

In 1989, the parties to CITES voted to ban the once-legal trade in ivory, realizing that unless it was brought to a halt, the African elephant would disappear. After the ban was in place, the price of ivory dropped so rapidly that demand fell and poaching decreased considerably. 

Unfortunately, the thin cloak of protection afforded to the elephants would soon wear out completely. In 1997, under threats and pressure from Japan, which wanted to reignite ivory sales, the parties to CITES voted to allow Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia to sell their ivory stockpiles (warehoused ivory taken from elephants who were hunted or died naturally) to Japan. An additional provision allowed the export of live elephants from these countries. New life was breathed into the illegal poaching cartel, and bodies of elephants with their faces hacked away once again appeared on the African savannah. Shortly after the 1997 CITES meeting, Ghana, which had not lost any elephants to poachers since 1988, experienced elephant poaching in Mole National Park. Poaching also increased in the national parks of Zimbabwe and Namibia, two of the proponents of renewed ivory trade.

CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS

The first African elephant to be taken from the wild to be used for human entertainment was named Jumbo. He made the journey from Africa to the London Zoo in 1865, and was later sold to P.T. Barnum, the infamous circus magnate. More than a hundred years later, elephants are still being used and abused in circuses all over the world. 

Elephants in captivity lead miserable lives. In stark contrast to their natural tendency to roam several miles each day, they are bound in shackles and chains and forced to perform tasks that are the antithesis of their innate instincts.

For a short time, it was illegal to capture a wild elephant for use in a circus or zoo, but the CITES decision in 1997 changed all of that. In August 1998, 30 baby elephants were captured in southern Botswana and sold by the Botswanan government to Riccardo Ghiazza, a South African animal dealer. Although Ghiazza was accused of abusing the elephants and was charged with animal cruelty by the National SPCA, he exported three of the elephant calves to the Basel Zoo in Switzerland, and four calves to the Dresden Zoo in Germany. This sale was the first of its kind in recent history and illustrated the trend that would grow from the destructive weakening of protection for African elephants.

ELEPHANT HUNTING

Elephant hunting is alive and well in several African countries. The most notable program exists in Zimbabwe. The CAMPFIRE program (Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources) is designed to give local villagers "benefits" from living with wildlife. These benefits come at the cost of animals' lives. An estimated 90 percent of CAMPFIRE revenues are gleaned from elephant trophy hunting fees, which are paid by wealthy westerners who want to bag the most notorious of the "Big Five" animals.

CAMPFIRE is funded largely by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which receives tax dollars from U.S. citizens through congressional appropriations. A portion of USAID's support is funneled through the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to administer this trophy hunting program. CAMPFIRE has come under continuous fire for corruption and misappropriation of funds. Other countries which encourage and promote trophy hunting of any animal, endangered or otherwise, include Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, and Tanzania. Kenya and Uganda prohibit hunting of any kind within their borders.

HURTING NOT HELPING

Some conservation organizations who claim to be saving the African elephant, are actually lining up to participate in their demise. WWF, for example, directly benefits from the existence of CAMPFIRE and receives federal dollars for their involvement. The African Wildlife Foundation believes that "CAMPFIRE is essential to meeting our conservation goals," and the National Wildlife Federation believes that "CAMPFIRE is consistent with NWF's common-sense approach to human development and wildlife conservation." With the weight of lofty annual budgets and international recognition, these organizations continue to damage efforts to save what is left of the magnificent African elephants.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

If you are going to visit Africa, do not patronize countries such as Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia, which have demonstrated their tenacity for exterminating elephants on their soil. Instead, choose to spend your tourist dollars in elephant-friendly countries such as Kenya and Uganda.

Write to your U.S. Representative and your two U.S. Senators and tell them that you do not want your tax dollars spent on the trophy hunting of elephants. Ask them to stop funding the CAMPFIRE program. Write to The Honorable __________, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510; The Honorable __________, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515.

Write to the conservation organizations that you want to support and ask them about their policies regarding elephants. Do they support trophy hunting? Do they support the ivory trade? What is their position on exporting live elephants to zoos and circuses? Spend your well-intentioned donation wisely.

Deforestation For Animal Agriculture Clearing The Path For Wildlife Extinctions

As the population of the world grows, more mouths to feed means more land needed for agriculture. Where will the land come from? From the denudation of forests, of course.

Rather than focusing on sustainable forms of vegetable farming, the modern farming industry continues to promote animal agribusiness. Raising animals for food results in massive amounts of forest destruction. It takes 12 times as much land, 13 times more fuel and 15 times more water to make a pound of animal protein than to make a pound of plant protein.

Subsistence agriculture is farming carried out with the sole aim of feeding the farmer and his family. Nearly half of the world's deforestation has been a result of subsistence farming. But commercial agriculture is now responsible for another third of the planet's deforestation, with one more acre of land cleared every second.

Up to the year 1947, nearly 6.2 million square miles of tropical forest covered the earth. Only 3.2 square miles remain now. Tropical forests hold 80% of the world's biodiversity. With the destruction of forests, entire ecosystem – in which millions of species of animals and organisms once thrived – are being eliminated.

Seventy percent of the Earth's plant and animals dwell in forests, and deforestation affects them directly. Once their habitat is lost, they are on their way to extinction. According to recent estimates, the world is losing 137 species of plants, animals and insects every day to deforestation. A horrifying 50,000 species become extinct each year. 

Of the world's 3.2 million square miles of the planet's rain forests, 2.1 are in the Amazon alone. But much of these forests are vanishing at an alarming rate. The Brazilian Government's incentive to the meat and leather trades in the early 1990's led to massive deforestation between the years 1991 and 2004. During this time, jungles cleared in the Amazon for this purpose alone accounted for an astonishing 15 percent of the world's tropical forest cover. Three decades of continued deforestation have resulted in the complete extinction of 10 mammal, 20 bird, and 8 amphibian species. Another 20 percent of the species that still survive will slowly perish from the loss of habitat.

And it's not just the Amazon. 90 percent of eastern tropical jungles of Madagascar have vanished over the century and endanger the survival of the lemurs – those exotic creatures so unique to this island nation. In Haiti, what remains is a pitiable 1 percent of the original forest acreage. Countries like Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka, Laos, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Guinea, Ghana Ivory Coast, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras have lost between 30 to 50 percent of their forest cover within a century. In the United States, 260 million acres of forests have already been lost.

Below is a list of just some of the creatures that may soon be extinct due to massive deforestation.

Mountain Gorilla: The Mountain Gorilla is a critically endangered animal found primarily in the mountains of Rwanda in Central Africa. They captured the public imagination after the screening of the 1981 movie "Gorillas in the Mist". Only about 900 of this species remain today.

The Javan Rhinoceros: This animal is one of the rarest on earth and is listed as 'critically endangered' by the The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). There are just 60 of these animals surviving in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia.

The Bornean Orangutan: Illegal logging, a rampant palm-oil industry, and forest fires have taken a toll on one of the most intelligent species in the world. It is on the critically endangered list of the IUCN.

The Giant Panda: Ecological changes have accounted for the numbers of this lovable creature plummeting in a habitat in the Sichuan province of China.

The Golden Lion Tamarin: This tiny animal of the Amazon forest has seen its habitat evaporate in the face of extensive soy farming and timber-felling, which is why it finds itself in the IUCN's critically endangered list.

Organizations have endeavored to protect the forests of the world and its denizens for the past 50 years. Bill will it be enough? Forests now cover only 31 percent of the planet's surface. Unless drastic measures are taken to protect them from further denudation, that number will reduce to 10 percent by the year 2030. With so little forest cover, what the effect on the environment and wildlife will be is hard to imagine.

10 Ways To Help Endangered Species

Conservation of endangered species may sound like a job for politicians and scientists. A problem of such proportions seems impossible to be tackled by the average person. But you can make a significant impact by adopting some simple habits; and if we all do the same, we have the power to protect endangered animals all over the world. Here are 10 ways you can make a difference for endangered species:

Reduce And Reuse

Reuse items in your household when you can, and buy products that produce less packaging waste. By purchasing second-hand furniture, clothes, electronics, and toys, you help reduce the energy consumption required to make new ones and produce less waste as well. Choose reusable bottles for beverages whenever you can. Use a reusable bag for your groceries, and carry your own container to the restaurant for the leftovers. 

Don’t Use Harsh Chemicals In Your Household

Toxic chemicals used in laundry, housecleaning, dish washing and personal care products end up in underground waters, poisoning aquatic life and any animals that feed on them. Choose non-toxic products, or make your own.  

Dispose Of Waste Properly

Recycle plastics, paper, metal cans and glass. When you take out your trash, see that the bag is sealed safely so you don’t litter by accident. Dangerous compounds such as car fluids, paint, bleach, batteries, pesticides, and other chemical substances should be disposed of properly at a specialized facility. 

Prevent Soil Erosion

Take all necessary measures to prevent soil erosion and protect water resources close by used by wild animals. When you clear out vegetation, you must take all necessary precautions that any loose sediment is kept away from natural waterways, as it would consume all oxygen from the water and disrupt the habitat of the stream bed. 

Maintain A Healthy Backyard Habitat

Populate your yard with native plants and ask the extension agent of your local community to help you fight off any invasive plant species. Replace toxic pesticides and herbicides with safer options. Sterilize bird feeders and baths often to stop diseases from spreading. Prevent wild animals from raiding pet bowls and trash cans by bringing pet food indoors overnight and securing your garbage in safely closed bins.  

Support An Organization That Fights To Save Endangered Species

If you care a lot about saving a particular endangered habitat or species, seek out an organization who is on a mission that accommodates your concerns. Volunteer, donate or materialize your support by adopting your favorite endangered species. 

Advocate For Conservation

Start studying about how you can assist in pressuring government officials on issue policies and decisions regarding endangered species. Stay informed on how to effectively engage in civilian advocacy by signing up to relevant newsletters.

Vote

Become a member of the League of Conservation Voters, a national non-profit that works toward turning environmental values into the nation’s priorities by promoting the adoption of fair environmental policies and electing candidates with eco-friendly views who will take ownership of, and implement, these policies.

Lead By Example

As you gain more insight about how to protect endangered wildlife, you will become more capable of conveying that knowledge to other people. It is more efficient to share your own relevant efforts and experiences with your friends and family, than simply flooding them with dos and don’ts. To lead by example is the most effective way to show people how to start changing their lives. 

Go Vegan!

The one action with the most pronounced impact on the preservation of the environment is to become a vegan. Animal farming is the number one cause of water consumption, pollution, and deforestation. Livestock has a higher greenhouse effect on the atmosphere than fossil fuel consumption. The farming industry is the principle cause of rainforest demise, soil erosion, habitat loss, species extinction and dead zones in the oceans. Enormous amounts of food, water, energy, and land are required to raise animals for food, on top of the immense animal suffering it causes. By opting to consume exclusively plant-based food, you aid in the rescue of our planet, while easing animal suffering at the same time.

Help Save Chimpanzees

Chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than they are to gorillas. Chimpanzees and humans share 99 percent of their genetic composition. Chimpanzees are highly intelligent, probably more so than human-based tests are able to measure. They make and use tools, cooperate with and learn from each other, and can learn various forms of expression and communication, including American Sign Language and computer symbols. Chimpanzees also have good memories.

HABITATS BEING DESTROYED

Fewer than 250,000 chimpanzees still exist in western and central Africa. Chimpanzees now occupy only a fraction of their former territory. Chimpanzee habitats, already small and isolated, are being further destroyed by increased commercial and agricultural development. In Africa, both species of chimpanzees--pan paniscus and pan troglodytes--are considered endangered. The U.S. Department of the Interior also lists them as endangered.

There are approximately 2,000 captive chimpanzees in the United States. About 300 are in zoos, and the remaining 1,700 were bred for medical research. Many are the offspring of chimpanzees captured in the wild before 1973, when the United States agreed to abide by an international treaty prohibiting the capture and importation of wild chimpanzees.

An estimated 106,000 chimpanzees live in a range of wooded habitats in the wild. They live in 21 African countries and are most concentrated in rainforest areas. They live in social groups, with numbers ranging from just a few to over 60.

BUSHMEAT

Chimpanzee meat is no longer exclusively the food of the forest peoples, but is now commercially available in urban areas too. Bushmeat, including chimpanzee flesh, is also eaten by people in logging camps. The Jane Goodall Institute has very real concerns about the bushmeat trade. They say: "The large-scale commercial bushmeat trade could eradicate all great apes within 10 to 15 years."

ENTERTAINMENT

CITES prohibits chimpanzees caught in the wild being used in circuses, but in countries where CITES has not been ratified or where it cannot be enforced, chimpanzees may be taken from the wild as infants, which often means the killing of the adults in their group.

RESEARCH

Chimpanzees have been used in brain and skull research and in social deprivation studies. Chimpanzees are now popular subjects for AIDS research, although their immune system does not succumb to the virus. Chimpanzees are also used in painful cancer, hepatitis, and psychological tests, as well as for research into artificial insemination and birth control methods, blood diseases, organ transplants and experimental surgery. Their use in military experiments is suspected, but such information is kept secret and is hard to verify. Because they are in short supply, captive chimps are often subjected to multiple experiments, each of which can last an average of two to four years.

Chimpanzees are highly active and very socially oriented. When kept isolated in laboratories with no regular physical contact with either humans or other chimps, they quickly become psychotic.

Because adult chimpanzees are strong and often unmanageable, and because infected chimpanzees cannot be placed in zoos or existing sanctuaries, many chimpanzees are killed before the age of 10. (The normal lifespan of a chimpanzee is 40 to 50 years.) Others, perhaps not as lucky, are kept in tiny cages for decades.

CAPTIVE BREEDING 

Any increased use of chimpanzees in U.S. laboratories must rely on captive breeding. However, chimpanzees who are taken from their mothers before the age of four or five years seldom develop the social skills necessary for normal breeding. Female chimpanzees do not begin breeding until they are about 12 years old, and thereafter do not breed at all during each baby's four-to six-year infancy. Artificial insemination has increased breeding only slightly. Chimpanzees infected with AIDS, hepatitis or other diseases usually cannot be used for breeding. Unwanted chimpanzees from zoos and circuses are sometimes sold to laboratories.

Chimpanzees are still captured in the wild by poachers who shoot chimpanzee mothers and then take their infants. Many of the captured baby chimpanzees die before they reach a laboratory. Because the adults protect the infants, several adults are sometimes killed to obtain one baby.

CHIMPANZEE MANAGEMENT PLAN

During the late 1980s, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) developed its so-called "National Chimpanzee Management Plan." This plan is, in reality, was just a funding mechanism for five breeding colonies to maintain a steady supply of chimpanzees for vivisectors. Under a series of grants, the plan established breeding colonies of chimps at the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in Atlanta, the University of Texas in Bastrop, the Primate Foundation of Arizona in Tempe, the University of Southwestern Louisiana in New Iberia, and New Mexico State University (NMSU) in Alamogordo.

The Chimpanzee Management Plan (CMP) also established chimpanzee-related research bases at Yerkes and the University of Texas, as well as at Texas A&M in College Station and at the University of Pittsburgh. The International Species Inventory System monitors the status of all the captive chimps.

In 2013, under intense pressure from organizations and the public, the National Institutes of Health announced it would retain, but not breed, a colony of up to 50 chimpanzees for potential use. The remainder of the chimps would be designated for retirement into the Federal Sanctuary System.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Write to your U.S. Representative and your two U.S. Senators and tell them that you do not want your tax dollars spent on animal experimentation. Write to The Honorable __________, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510; The Honorable __________, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515.

Do not patronize zoos and other forms of animal entertainment.

Help Save Bears

There are eight types of bear in the world: polar bears, brown (or grizzly) bears, American black bears, Asiatic black bears, sun bears, sloth bears, spectacled bears and giant panda bears. Some are on the verge of extinction, but all face threats.

LOSS OF HABITAT

Probably the biggest threat to bears worldwide is the loss of their habitat and, with it, the loss of their food source. Giant Pandas rely on bamboo forests for their food, but many of these have been cut down by Chinese farmers. It is believed that there are now only about 1,600 pandas left in the wild. Asian black bears are also listed as endangered due to the loss of their habitat.

Other threats include:

FARMS

In China, bears are imprisoned in farms and 'milked' for their bile daily. The bile is used in Eastern medicine. Bears are taken from the wild for this trade, jeopardizing the survival of bears in the wild. There are hundreds of bear farms housing thousands of bears, mostly Asiatic black bears. These are listed in Appendix 1 of CITES.

BEAR PARKS & ZOOS

Japan is home to eight bear parks, in which bears are confined to concrete pits. Here, they are denied their most basic requirements and are often confined to small spaces without access to shade or shelter. The public tease and torment the bears by throwing in 'bear biscuits' and watching the fights that ensue. Injuries sustained are often not treated. Repetitive behavior is not unusual among bears kept in zoos, and is indicative of stress and psychological trauma. Some of the animals may be obtained illegally. Sun bears were found in a zoo in Indonesia with forged documentation claiming that they had died. Sun bears are endangered.

DANCING BEARS

Over 1,000 bears in India 'dance' on their hind legs for up to 12 hours a day to entertain tourists. The cubs are captured in the wild and traded, even though this has been illegal since 1972. Once sold, the young cub will have his or her muzzle pierced so the handler can control the bear. This is an invasive procedure and infection is common. Due to the stress of capture, the terrible transportation conditions, starvation, dehydration and rough handling, 60-70 percent of bear cubs captured die even before the training begins. Training involves starvation and beatings in order to make the bears rise up onto their back legs. The bears' teeth may be wrenched out and sold as charms to tourists. During their brief lifetime - rarely beyond eight years, in contrast to their natural 30-year life span in the wild - respiratory infection is common, caused by the constant walking along dusty streets.

BEAR BATING

Although illegal in every country, bear baiting remains a popular past-time in Pakistan, where politicians and senior police officers can still be found watching the show. A series of dogs are set upon a chained bear who must fight for his or her life. The dogs and the bear sustain horrendous injuries.

GAME HUNTING

Black and brown bears are routinely hunted in North America. In all but the most isolated habitat areas, brown bears have been eliminated from much of their former range. In North America, numbers have declined rapidly. 

FOOD & MEDICINE

Sun bears are eaten in some countries and their claws are collected as 'good luck' charms. Asiatic black bears are also hunted for their meat and their paws are eaten as a delicacy. Their bile and bones are also used, as they are believed to possess medicinal properties. Hunting spectacled bears is illegal, but they are still routinely poached and their bones, gallbladders and fat used for medicines. The gall bladders of sloth bears are also prized for medical treatments. Because of the cruelty involved and the scarcity of sloth bears, India has banned the hunting of the sloth bear and the sale of products made from their gallbladders.

THE PET TRADE

Like many wild animals, some bears are traded and collected as exotic pets, although they are unsuitable companion animals. 

CIRCUSES

Bears are still used in circuses around the world. Polar bears and brown bears are made to perform tricks like 'dancing', roller-skating or riding bikes. While bears aren't seen in circus performances in Britain, campaigners say that British circuses still own bears and hire them out to do television commercials and other TV appearances.

Animal Agriculture: Cutting Down Wildlife Habitats

Forests are vital for the health and well-being of humans, wildlife, and the Earth. They provide habitat for about two-thirds of all land-dwelling animals and plants. Around the world, these critical ecosystems are being ripped apart as a result of a booming demand for furniture, flooring, lumber, and other building materials. Trees are used to make paper, packaging materials, pencils, fuel for cooking and heat, and other wood-based products. In addition to wood products, logging is also occurring at an alarming rate to make room for animal agriculture and subsistence farming, oil and gas extraction, mining operations, and ever-increasing development. The world's natural forests cannot sustain the increasing global demands of current forest management practices.

Years of irresponsible exploitation have destroyed and degraded much of the planet's forests. Half of the Earth's global forest land has already been lost. In the United States, 90 percent of continental indigenous forests have been removed. Around the world, 15 billion trees are being cut down each year. The destruction of important wildlands is displacing communities, endangering habitats of rare and endangered plants and animals, and negatively affecting the environment. Most of the world’s remaining indigenous forests are located in Canada, Alaska, Russia and the Northwestern Amazon basin. We must protect what is left before it is too late.

Logging generally falls into two categories: selective logging and clear-cutting logging. Selective logging involves taking only trees of high value. Clear-cutting involves the taking of all trees in an area, thus clearing the entire forest. While selective logging is promoted as being more environmentally responsible than clear-cutting, it can be very damaging to the surrounding trees which are left standing. The heavy equipment used in logging often damages the surrounding trees. Around 40 out of 100 trees die from just one tree being selectively logged.

Logging Threatening Species

The massive activity of logging, both legal and illegal, involves the felling of trees on such a large scale that it is one of the major forms of deforestation. Only thirty-one percent of our Earth's surface is still covered by forests. Of this, rich tropical forests like those found in the Amazon, Congo River Basin and Mekong River Basin account for almost three-fourths of the covered area. For the timber industry, these precious million-year old forests are prime targets for logging. It is in such tropical forests of the world that 80 percent of endangered species reside. The impact on the general ecology and habitat of all living creatures is in danger when over fifty thousand hectares of forests continue to vanish every year.

Seven countries account for approximately 60 percent of the total deforestation on Earth, including Canada, the United States, Brazil, Indonesia, China, Russia and the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. About half of world’s timber and up to 70% of paper is consumed by the United States, Europe and Japan. An estimated 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forest are lost every year. One and a half acres of forest is cut down every second. Up to 28,000 species may become extinct in the next quarter of a century from deforestation.

Few consumers are aware that the timber used for their hardwood floors, kitchen tables and cabinets come from illegal felling operations carried out in African forests that house elephants, lions, rhinoceros, gorillas and many rare and endangered species. Illegal logging has resulted in loss of habitats in regions spread across wide geographies from the Amazon, Congo Basin, Borneo in Indonesia and the forests of Siberia. Particularly threatened by such activities are the dwarf gorillas of the southern Congo basin, orangutans in Borneo and the great Siberian tiger.
 
In a virtually dry continent like Australia, rare tropical forest cover has been reduced by half as a result of logging. Precious eucalyptus forests cover only 8 percent of Australia, but house 47 percent of its animals that use hollows in trees as their homes. The yellow-bellied glider, the brush-tailed phascogale, the greater glider, the Leadbeater’s possum and various squirrel species are some of the animals that depend on tree hollows and have been affected by logging. Australian blue gum plantations are home to thousands of the iconic koala bear and the continuous felling of these trees are a constant threat to the endangered animal.

In South-eastern Australia logging has led to increased light penetration that facilitates the growth of lantana, a toxic plant preferred by the bell miner – a species of bird that preys on insects that inhabit these plants. The bell miner drives out smaller species of birds that would have otherwise fed on such insects. Sudden increases in insect loads means they feed on eucalyptus leaves, eating into a vital food source of the koala bear.

In Pennsylvania an astonishing 99 percent of the population of the northern long-eared bat, and 75 percent of the Indiana bat, have been lost to intensive logging and related activities. These two species of bat depend largely on the older and larger trees of the forests for foraging and roosting.

Forests of Madagascar, isolated from mainlands for tens of millions of years, have developed a quality of timber unmatched anywhere in the world. Loggers in search premium wood have mercilessly felled trees over the decades for export to affluent markets of China and the Far-East. The bio-diversity evolved over the millions of years in Madagascar forests has created a stunning array of 200,000 species of plants, insects, mammals and birds found nowhere else in the world. Forests that house thousands of endemic species like baobabs, lemurs, and Uroplatus geckos, have halved in cover since the advent of man on the island just 1,000 years ago. The very survival of such wildlife is in danger.

Careful planning and the use of reduced-impact logging (RIL) practices can help avoid some of the destructive damage caused by logging. RIL practices include better planned logging roads, directional felling so that cut trees do not crush trees left standing, and cutting vines that may pull other trees down with those being harvested. However, any type of logging can result in devastating impacts on forest animals, and on mammals and amphibians in particular.

Humans must realize that even now seventy percent of our Earth's land animals live in forests. It's time for a proper substitute to timber. For the timber and paper industry, profits should take a back seat to conservation. We must save the only habitats the endangered wildlife of the world have left.

Logging Effects On Wildlife And The Environment
  • Logging causes a loss of bio-diversity. When forests are logged, species lose their habitat, food sources, and shelter. Primary trees also provide seeds for new trees. The seed source is lost when the trees are harvested.
  • Logging causes extinction. Many animal species rely on trees for their food sources and shelter.
  • Logging causes ecosystem fragmentation. Habitats are cut into fragments, affecting food availability, migration patterns and shelter. Forest fragmentation is threatening the survival of many species.
  • Logging causes erosion. Trees and leaf litter are essential nutrients for the soil in forests and prevent erosion by absorbing water – keeping nutrients in the top-soil from washing away. 
  • Logging causes flooding. Trees stable soil by absorbing rain water. When trees are removed, flooding and mud-slides can result.
  • Logging obstructs streams and rivers. Erosion and flooding caused by logging causes soil and silt to flow into water systems. Clouded water can prevent fish and other species from laying eggs and constructing nests.
  • Logging is changing the climate. Trees store carbon. When forests are harvested, the carbon is released into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. A greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide absorbs heat and creates global warming.

What You Can Do
  • You can help save forests by making responsible daily choices. By consuming less, eating sustainable food, choosing recycled or certified sustainable wood products, and opting for alternative products, you can reduce deforestation.
  • Choose more sustainable products whenever possible. Hemp is a fast-growing and sustainable crop that produces more construction-grade fiber per acre than most trees. Bamboo is also a fast-growing plant stronger than most slow-growing trees. Soy can be made into a variety of products and can make traditional wood products safer - replacing dangerous glues, formaldehyde, and other toxic solvents. Additional plant fibers and recycled materials are being used to create a vast array of items. Composite materials combine wood with other components.
  • When you do buy wood products, choose 100 percent post-consumer content materials when available. When purchasing products made from virgin forest fiber, look for a seal from a credible forestry certification system.
  • Support companies that have adopted forest-friendly policies.
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle to lower the need for more raw materials from trees. 
  • Eliminate meat, eggs and dairy from your diet. A plant-based diet drastically reduces the devastating deforestation happening around the world from animal agriculture practices.
  • Educate others about how their everyday choices impacts forests.

12 Steps To Become An Animal Advocate

An animal advocate is one who fights for animals to have the right to exist without the fear of being mistreated, exploited or exterminated. The welfare of animals is foremost in the mind of a genuine animal activist. Activists work to ensure that animals receive proper care, treatment and respect, and endeavor to create awareness among the public about animal exploitation and abuse issues. Animal advocates can be individuals, volunteers of an organization, or paid employees of an organization.

1. Determine Your Strengths

A good way to become an animal activist is to make a list of your strengths. Everyone is endowed with some skills; it makes sense to chose those skills that are conducive to animal rights activism. Your personal strengths can be used to make a big impact for animals.

2. Choose Your Cause

Find out as much as you can about animals and the various issues affecting them. This could include habitat destruction, deforestation, animal agriculture, urban development, illegal trafficking, neglect and various forms of animal exploitation and abuse. It is advisable to choose just one or two areas to focus on. Trying to pursue too many causes can prove diversionary and quickly burn you out.

3. Know Your Subject

Your ability to convince people is greatly affected by the amount of knowledge you possess about the subject. Watching documentaries, searching the web, reading books, and perusing articles will help you gain knowledge on your chosen issues. It also helps to compile a data bank which can lend strength to your arguments when you present facts to potential enthusiasts or donors.

4. Get Connected

Individual effort is indeed a good way to advocate animal protection and preservation. But activism is more effective when you connect with other people who also feel passionately about the subject. Meet-ups with like-minded people in your locality, or attending workshops or seminars, are productive ways to stay connected with fellow activists and potential activists. Join online groups associated with your cause.

5. Volunteer

To make headway in animal advocacy, nothing is more constructive than volunteer work. Take part in activities of organizations that espouse similar causes as yours. Getting in touch with local chapters of humane societies, SPCAs, or wildlife rehabilitation centers is a good place to start.

6. Plant A Seed

To circulate your passion for animal advocacy go on-line. The web offers instant communication to large numbers of people - not just locally, but worldwide. Construct a blog or a website, or create social media pages. Make people feel your passion for the subject. Create well-written articles on sensitive issues, or post recent news topics on the subject. This will create awareness among those who may not have been previously aware of the issue.

7. Listen

Most of the people you speak to about animal issues are clear about what they feel. Listen to their viewpoint and find common ground. Determine what your target audience feels about the subject and offer a little additional information to make them think more deeply about the subject.

8. Power Of The Pen

Letter and email writing can be powerful tools in promoting your cause. Write to authourities and companies at local and national levels about animal issues. Many of the addresses of such agencies, institutions and corporations can be found on the web. You can also write letters to the editor(s) of your local newspaper(s).

9. Raise Funds

Organize fund-raising activities for your cause. Dinner events, bake sales and marathons can attract hundreds of participants. Proceeds from such activities can be used for your own group, or can be donated to organizations that support your goals.

10. Be Prepared

Make sure to carry brochures, pamphlets or business cards with you wherever you go. There are numerous opportunities throughout the day to distribute educational and promotional materials that draw attention to your cause.

11. Get Noticed, Get Vocal

Getting visible is the name of the game. Catchy animal photographs and posters displayed at local events will draw people to your table or booth. Circulate literature about your activities via brochures and business cards carrying URLs of your website, blog or social media page. Arrange for lecture appointments at schools, colleges and universities. Make your presence known to local authorities and regulators. Post messages and videos on your site and social media outlets to gain wider dissemination of information on the issues you stand for.

12. Practice, Practice, Practice

Animal advocacy is like any other skill: the more you practice, the better you’ll become. Hone your skills.

Help Save Leopards

Leopards are beautiful cats generally found in the dense, damp, forested areas of India and Southeast Asia. Once common in all parts of Africa apart from the Sahara, they have now disappeared from most parts of northern Africa (apart from a few areas of the Atlas Mountains) and are scarce in the extreme west of the continent. The leopard is under extreme threat, especially in the Middle East and southwest Asia. It is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List because it is declining in large parts of its range due to habitat loss and fragmentation, and hunting for trade and pest control. It is regionally extinct in Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuwait, Syria, Libya and Tunisia.

SKINS

The European fashion for leopard skins may have diminished since the 1970s, but leopards are still killed for their skins. These crimes are often overlooked. 

ZOOS

While it is illegal to take leopards from the wild to put in zoos, captive-bred leopards (and other animals) retain their wild instincts. They are shy creatures, used to remaining hidden and avoiding open spaces. Zoos want people to see the animals and so, in captivity, leopards are often prevented from engaging in their natural behaviors.

GAME HUNTING

For just $3400, you can track and kill a leopard on a Big Game Hunting Trip. These trips are geared toward tourists. You list the animals you want to kill and the tour guides will take you to where you are likely to be able to kill them.

MEDICINE

The bones of the leopard are used in traditional Asian medicine and are sometimes prescribed as a substitute for tiger bones in the treatment of rheumatic diseases and aching joints and muscles. Ironically, the success in controlling the trade in tiger parts may actually have led to greater risk for other cats.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Do not support any form of animal entertainment.

Do not purchase animal products.

Write to your U.S. Representative and your two U.S. Senators and tell them that you do not want your tax dollars spent on game hunting. Write to The Honorable __________, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510; The Honorable __________, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515.

Write to the conservation organizations that you want to support and ask them about their policies regarding game hunting and animal entertainment. Spend your well-intentioned donation wisely.

Help Turtles & Tortoises

Turtles and tortoises are the favorite animals of many people. These attractive, often seemingly helpless creatures continue to beat incredible odds to survive in today's world of increasing trade (particularly for the pet industry) and shrinking habitat. Here are some suggestions on how you can help turtles and tortoises in your own neighborhood and around the world:

1. Help stop the Asian turtle crisis.

The majority of Asian turtle populations have been critically diminished by over-collection, particularly for delicacies in restaurants and live animal markets. Dealers are now targeting turtle populations elsewhere, such as in the United States and Europe, to meet the Asian demand. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified this as the "Asian turtle crisis," and it has spearheaded efforts to protect turtles from the trade.

2. Get turtles out of U.S. live animal markets.

Turtles are among the most popular offerings at live animal markets in the United States. They suffer terrible abuse in filthy, neglectful conditions, and they are slaughtered by being cut apart while conscious. The vast majority of market turtles are taken from the wild, contributing to declining U.S. turtle populations. Tell state wildlife agencies that you're concerned about the increasing collection of wild turtles and tortoises to supply animal markets in the United States and abroad. If wildlife is being sold for food in a live animal market in your state, contact your local and state legislators, asking that they ban the practice. You may also find it effective to contact state and local health departments (check the Centers for Disease Control web site for listings), which are responsible for sanitary conditions at live animal markets. Finally, contact state wildlife agencies about the dangers that non-native and diseased market animals may pose to local wildlife if released.

3. Don't pollute or litter.

Pollution makes its way into bodies of water and wild areas, poisoning turtles and tortoises and destroying their habitats. Always properly dispose of any hazardous materials such as paint or oil. Garbage, such as plastic bags, kills many pond turtles and sea turtles who either ingest it or become entangled in it. Reduce the amount of garbage you produce and dispose of it properly.

4. Protect turtle and tortoise habitat.

Become active in your local conservation commission or parks and recreation department, and work to preserve turtle habitat.

5. Stop turtle and tortoise exploitation.

Avoid activities such as turtle races. They involve taking turtles out of their natural habitats and exposing them to many dangers, not to mention an enormous amount of stress. Races can harm individual turtles as well as entire local wild populations.

6. Give them a brake.

If you see a turtle or tortoise crossing a road, gently pick him up and carry him across in the direction he was headed. (Be watchful for cars in the process.) If the turtle is a large one, or a snapping turtle, use a stick to nudge him gently across the road without getting too close.

7. Enjoy turtles and tortoises in the wild.

Never keep wild turtles or tortoises as pets or buy them from a pet store. The trade in reptiles as pets is responsible for tremendous animal suffering and serious damage to turtle and tortoise populations. Learn to enjoy these animals by observing them in their natural habitat, where they belong. If turtles or tortoises live in your yard, why not keep them happy by building a pond and by landscaping with plants that provide protection and food? Edible plants such as tropical hibiscus, dandelion, geraniums, and Chinese lantern can be quite appetizing. (Make sure that your plants are free of pesticide and herbicide residue.) Piles of leaves, vines, and downed trees make perfect hiding places.

8. Do not disturb.

Steer clear of the beach at night during the summer. Your presence will frighten nesting sea turtles back into the sea, preventing them from laying eggs and jeopardizing any eggs they have laid.

9. Turn out the lights.

Do not shine bright lights on the beach at night. Oppose coastal development such as condominiums, houses, resorts, and hotels; they tend to expose beaches to excessive artificial lighting, which discourages female turtles from approaching the beach to lay eggs. The light also draws hatchlings away from the ocean, disorients them, and exposes them to predation and deadly dehydration.

10. Report crimes.

Tell local authorities if you see any person harassing or poaching a sea turtle, her eggs, hatchlings, or nests -- or those of any other endangered turtles and tortoises. These activities are violations of U.S. state and federal laws.

11. See what you can do.

Several groups are involved in research, conservation and advocacy work to protect turtles and tortoises. Join one of these groups to stay informed. 

12. Spread the word.

Educate others about the importance of protecting turtles and tortoises from commercial exploitation and abuse in your community and throughout the world. Be a voice for turtles.

Save Sea Turtles

Sea turtles, air-breathing reptiles with streamlined bodies and large flippers, are well adapted to life in the marine environment. They inhabit tropical and subtropical ocean waters throughout the world.

Of the 7 species of sea turtles, 6 are found in U.S. waters: green, hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, leatherback, loggerhead and olive ridley. The 7th species, the flatback sea turtle, is found only in Australia.

Although sea turtles live most of their lives in the ocean, adult females must return to beaches on land to lay their eggs. They often migrate long distances between foraging grounds and nesting beaches.

All marine turtles occurring in U.S. waters are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and are under the joint jurisdiction of NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Green turtles and olive ridley turtles have breeding populations that were listed separately under the ESA, and therefore, have more than one ESA status.

In 1977, NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly administer the Endangered Species Act with respect to marine turtles. NOAA Fisheries has the lead responsibility for the conservation and recovery of sea turtles in the marine environment and USFWS has the lead for the conservation and recovery of sea turtles on nesting beaches.

Major threats to sea turtles in the U.S. include, but are not limited to: destruction and alteration of nesting and foraging habitats; incidental capture in commercial and recreational fisheries; entanglement in marine debris; and vessel strikes. To reduce the incidental capture of sea turtles in commercial fisheries, NOAA Fisheries has enacted regulations to restrict certain U.S. commercial fishing gears (gillnets, longlines, pound nets, and trawls) that have known, significant bycatch of sea turtles. To effectively address all threats to marine turtles, NOAA Fisheries and the USFWS have developed recovery plans to direct research and management efforts for each sea turtle species.

The tourist trade is the main reason why turtle numbers are in decline. Tourism poses the greatest threat to turtles for a number of reasons. Turtles migrate huge distances but during certain times of the year they congregate in shallow waters to breed. Females go ashore to lay clutches of up to 150 eggs. Two months later, tiny hatchlings emerge from the sand and make their way to the sea. But many of the tropical and sub-tropical beaches that turtles have used for millions of years are now inhabited by tourists. 

Many females will not lay their eggs if there is too much noise or lighting from local resorts. Also, nests can be damaged by sunbathers and newly hatched turtles can become disoriented by beachfront developments and may never reach the sea. In the Mediterranean, the nesting period of the loggerhead and green turtle coincide almost exactly with the peak tourist season (May to August).

Speedboats can be deadly, especially during the mating season when turtles spend long periods of time close to the surface. Turtles are still killed for their shells, which are made into souvenirs such as combs and ashtrays.

The conservation and recovery of sea turtles requires multi-lateral cooperation and agreements to ensure the survival of these highly migratory animals. NOAA Fisheries has a broad national and international program for the conservation and recovery of marine turtles. The Office of Protected Resources works closely with 2 international environmental agreements that deal exclusively with sea turtle conservation. 

Save The Manatee

While some claim the manatee is ugly, with ‘a face only a mother could love,’ most people seem drawn to this fascinating marine creature. Whether it’s their sad, puppy-like demeanor, or their sluggish, gentle manner, something about manatees is awfully endearing.

The manatee, or sea cow, is an aquatic mammal. With a round cylindrical body, they can measure from 8 to 13 feet from tail to head. Weights can vary from 450 lbs for the smallest species to 1,300 lbs for the larger ones. Some can even grow up to 3,000 lbs.

Primarily herbivorous, manatees spend up to eight hours each day quietly grazing on seagrasses and other aquatic plants, though they will occasionally feed on fish.

Manatees surface for air about once every five minutes, but can remain submerged for up to twenty minutes when they are resting. Their lungs are positioned along the backbone, which helps with buoyancy control. They swim by waving their wide paddle tails up and down, and because they do not possess the neck vertebra that most other mammals have, they must turn their entire bodies to look around.

Manatees can hear quite well, at least at high frequencies. This is likely an adaptation to shallow water living, where low frequency sounds aren’t transmitted well because of physical barriers. Their inability to hear the low frequency churning of an approaching boat might explain why manatees are susceptible to injury by boat propellers, a top reason for the decline in their populations.

West Indian Manatee

West Indian manatees are the largest of the three main manatee species. They are gray in color, have a whale-like body, and a tail that is shaped like a paddle. This species of manatee is mostly found in the waters of the Caribbean Sea and south-eastern fringes of the US, especially the coastal areas of Florida and Georgia where they prefer to wade in warm shallow waters. They also occur in Texas, Mexico, Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean. This species takes in a daily diet of sea weeds and plants, up to 10-15 percent of  their body weight.

West Indian manatees were listed as endangered in 1967 concurrent with the creation of the Endangered Species Conservation Act, an act that pre-dated the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. Accidental collisions with boats are the primary cause of death for these shallow water-inhabiting animals, followed by low reproductive rates and a decline in suitable habitat. Another important threat is loss of reliable warm water habitats that allow manatees to survive the cold in winter. Natural springs are threatened by increased demands for water supply. Deregulation of the power industry may also result in less reliable man-made sources of warm water. Seagrass and other aquatic foods that manatees depend on are affected by water pollution, and sometimes direct destruction.

Amazonian Manatee

The Amazonian manatee can reach up to 9 feet in length and weigh up to 500 lbs. It is the smallest of the tree species. This species of manatee is basically a fresh water creature found in the upper reaches of the Amazon river and its tributaries that span the countries of Brazil, Guyana, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Water lettuce and hyacinth are their main diet, requiring 8 percent of their body weight daily. They have a flat and elongated rear and a hippo-like snout, both characteristics that make the Amazonian manatee an unusual looking animal.

Although hunting of the Amazon manatee was banned in 1974, there seems to be no end to the poaching of the animal. It's still being hunted down for its meat and oil. Massive deforestation of the Amazon basin, and mining for gold, has led to the habitat of the manatee considerably shrinking over the decades. Once found all over the huge Amazon basin area, it is a rare sight nowadays – leading conservationists to believe that it could become extinct.

West African Manatee

Of all the three species of manatee, the West African is the one few people have heard of. They dwell all along the coastline of West Africa, especially in the shallow and warm waters of estuaries and lagoons flowing into the Atlantic. The country-wise distribution of their habitat is Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and Sierra Leone. The preferred daily diet of this species is the leaves of the low overhanging trees of the extensive mangrove forests abounding the mouth-waters of the massive Niger river and Congo river deltas.

For the West African manatee, the threats are similar to its Amazonian cousin in the sense that its meat fetches a considerable price in the markets. In many places it is openly displayed for sale. It is also poached for sale to zoos and aquariums of private collectors. Rapid agricultural and urban expansion, massive and unhindered exploration for oil in Nigerian delta waters, and extreme congestion of vessels and boats in shallow waters are serious threats to the habitat of the African manatee. Fishing equipment, such as large nets, are also a threat. Manatees trapped inside them are killed by the fishermen before they can cause considerable damage to the nets. Natural occurrences, like shifting tides and eddies, are also threats as manatees are shallow-water creatures. Like the Amazonian manatee, their numbers are dwindling. 

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) enforces controls on the export of the West African manatee. Hunting of the animal is now banned in almost all the countries of its habitat. In countries like Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal, conservation programs have seen areas being demarcated as protected zones for the manatees. Conservation organizations are also making an effort to educate the populace in these regions about the manatee.

Fight For Survival

Manatee conservation and recovery involves many partners from government and industry, as well as many citizens. Great strides have been made in the protection and recovery of the manatee. Numerous manatee speed zones have been established. Many sick and injured manatees are rescued every year. These animals are often rehabilitated and returned to the wild. Recommendations and actions to prevent manatee deaths related to water-control structures and navigation locks have included modification of gate openings and installation of pressure sensitive and acoustic devices on some of the most deadly locks. All efforts to reduce water pollution help to maintain and restore aquatic vegetation. Extensive manatee conservation education work has been conducted by federal, state and private entities.

The West Indian manatees are now doing comparatively better than their Amazonian and African counterparts. However, there is much left to be done to secure their future. This will require the cooperation and support of everyone: government, orgainzations, the private sector and boaters.

Rotors of fast-moving water crafts once took many lives each year. Thanks to awareness and dissemination of information concerning the safety of the sea mammals, such mishaps have been reduced considerably. But areas where watercraft-related injury and mortality continue to occur have almost no protective measures for manatees.

Warm water wintering sites need to be secured. Important spring flows must be maintained. We must ensure that aquatic vegetation is adequate to support a recovered population.

Red tide, a natural occurrence in the Gulf of Mexico, is another threat to the manatee. Exposure to toxic algal bloom created by the red tide can be lethal to manatees. Scientists are investigating links between the run-off of wastes into the sea and the red tide phenomena.

The great news for these likeable creatures and their enthusiasts is that their count has increased five-fold within a decade and half. In 1991, a count of the West Indian manatees around Florida found just 1,267 inhabiting the area. The number has increased to an astonishing 6,250. The West Indian species is finally out of the list of endangered animals.

Although the struggle will be uphill, one can only hope that similar efforts are made to wean away the Amazonian and West African manatee from the path of extinction and put them in one that leads to multiplication of their numbers.

Help Save Sharks

Don't be afraid OF sharks; be afraid FOR them. There are more misunderstandings and untruths about sharks than almost any other group of animals on the planet. While many people fear sharks, it is the sharks who should be fearing us.

According to the shark attack file, maintained by the Florida Museum of Natural History, on average 5 people die worldwide from shark attacks. Research published in 2006 found that up to 70 million sharks are killed by humans each year, mostly for their fins. This is a devastating death toll for a long-living species that is as slow to reproduce as sharks.

Sharks have roamed the oceans far longer than most land animals have been here. They were here before many of the dinosaurs and have outlasted them. But an international assessment of sharks undertaken by the World Conservation Union reveals that their future is in doubt.

Of 546 shark species assessed, 111 species were at significant risk of global extinction. Twenty species are listed as critically endangered and 25 as endangered. A study published in the journal Science concluded that some shark species have lost 80% of their populations just in the past 40 years including hammerhead sharks, thresher sharks and porbeagle sharks. While hammerhead shark is a name familiar to most, most people have never heard of porbeagle sharks...some of the lesser known sharks are in even greater danger.

Sharks can range from being just inches in length (like the tiny cookie cutter shark) to being larger than a school bus (like the giant plankton-eating whale shark). Though sharks perform the same role in the ocean ecosystem that is performed by well-known predators such as lions, tigers and cheetahs on land, the fact that they live in such an alien world makes it hard for us to know about their lives. What we do know is pretty fascinating.

Sharks shed their teeth. A single shark may lose thousands of teeth over its life and this accounts for the many shark teeth found by beach combers throughout the world. Their teeth are connected to a membrane in their mouth that is constantly being pushed forward as new teeth form. New teeth are generally slightly larger than the ones before. This allows the size of the shark's teeth to keep pace with the growth of the rest of the body.

Sharks are picky eaters. Some sharks eat only plankton, others eat small fish or squid, and still others eat large fish and marine mammals. The type of teeth a shark has will show you what it eats. Great white sharks have teeth with serrated edges for slicing off pieces from larger prey, the teeth of  mako sharks are thin and pointed for grabbing onto slippery fish. Nurse sharks and other bottom dwellers tend to have thicker teeth for crushing shellfish. No matter the tooth shape, sharks never chew their food.

You're more likely to die as a result of being electrocuted by lighting than being attacked by a shark. More deadly than shark attacks each year are crocodile attacks, hippo attacks, and even attacks by pigs.

Many sharks are warm blooded. Unlike the rest of the fishy world, many large sharks can maintain their body temperature higher than the ocean temperature around them.

Some sharks lay eggs, but others give birth to live young and may not be sexually mature until they are over the age of 10.

We don't know whether sharks sleep. Sometimes they seem to rest, but their eyes don't close and if they sleep, they certainly don't sleep the way that mammals can.

There is a lot we don't know about sharks, but we DO know that if we don't act soon to stop overfishing, some of the most ancient and magnificent animals on the planet may soon disappear.

How You Can Help Conserve Wildlife

There are many ways you can help to conserve important animals across the globe. Here are a few examples of things you can do to help support international conservation efforts:

Volunteer! Many conservation organizations depend on volunteers in your country and abroad. Do a web search to find an organization near you.

If you can't volunteer, donate. Wildlife conservation organizations require funding to carry out their critical missions of saving animals.

Wild animals do not make good “pets”, and it is illegal to buy endangered species. Wild animal belong in the wild. Rescue a companion animal from a shelter.

Learn more about threatened and endangered species and tell your friends! Lesser known species do not receive as much support as other more well-known species.

Read your labels! Palm oil plantations and animal agribusinesses are contributing to massive habitat loss around the world. Valuable forests and other ecosystems are being cleared at alarming rates. If palm oil is in your product, read the label to check if it was sustainably grown. 

Be a conscious shopper when abroad. When you travel, it is important to think about what you are buying. When purchasing souvenirs or gifts for family and friends, think about where that item might have come from. Does it contain wildlife products? One of the main ways to limit the wildlife trade is to stop the demand for wildlife products. If you don’t know, don’t buy!

Be an eco-tourist and travel green. Eco-tourists are able to experience species in their natural habitat while supporting local livelihoods and conservation efforts. Sustainable and humane travel practices allow visitors to experience nature while limiting human impacts on wildlife.

Don't patronize zoos, circuses, aquariums and other forms of animal entertainment. Imprisoning wild animals for profit and human entertainment is cruel and unethical.

Buy local products and support the local economy. Support local communities’ livelihoods by purchasing unique, handcrafted goods that do not contain animal products.

If you see suspicious products, speak up. If abroad and you think you see wildlife or products derived from wildlife traded or sold illegally, let the local police or your hotel management know. If possible, warn fellow travelers in the same area.

Don't buy wildlife products, whether they are legal or illegal.

Go vegan! Eliminate all animal product purchases. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, habitat loss and greenhouse gases – which are the leading causes of species extinction. Make the connection.

Giraffes In Danger

The giraffe is loved and known across the world, but very few people are aware that we are losing both this iconic species and its close relative, the okapi, at an unprecedented and alarming rate.

Giraffe and okapi are the only living species in the Giraffidae family and share a number of common features, such as elongated necks and long, dark-colored tongues (both adaptations for feeding on tree leaves). The giraffe is found in savannah regions of 21 countries across sub-Saharan Africa while okapi are restricted to the dense, lowland rainforests of central and north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Giraffe numbers have plummeted from 140,000 in the late 1990s to less than 80,000 today. In the past 30 years, giraffes have become extinct in at least 7 African countries and okapi numbers are thought to have halved. This dramatic loss has gone largely unnoticed. The main threats to both species are habitat loss and, increasingly, hunting and poaching.

Giraffes, as well as all 9 subspecies, are expected to end up in one of the IUCN Red List threatened categories. The okapi was recently listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List.

The giraffe is an African icon and the drop in numbers surprises even the most seasoned conservationists, as giraffes appear to be everywhere. Recent research is only starting to paint the bleak picture facing these gentle giants. It is time for the international community to stick their necks out to save giraffes before it is too late.

Despite being one of the most iconic and recognizable animals in the world, giraffes are probably the least researched large mammals in Africa. New studies are providing important information on the ecology, population and distribution of giraffes and okapi, shedding light on poorly-understood behaviors such as the function of all-male giraffe herds and the leadership role taken by older females in the group. But we still know little about these animals and more research is needed, as well as improved monitoring of both species.

Save The Whales

Whales are hunted for their meat and other body parts. The oil from their bodies has been used to make lipstick, shoe polish and margarine. The practice of hunting whales began in the 9th century when Spain undertook the first organized hunt. By the 20th century, the Netherlands, Denmark, Britain, France, Germany, Norway, Japan and the United States had begun to kill large numbers of whales.

Certain species of whales were hunted so much that their numbers began to decline. There were fewer whales than there had been before. In 1946 the International Whaling Commission (IWC) was formed to address the issues of whaling and this growing threat to whales. The IWC created three categories of whaling: Commercial, Scientific and Aboriginal Subsistence.

In commercial whaling, whales are killed for their meat and their parts. In scientific whaling, whales are killed so that their bodies can be studied and cataloged. Aboriginal subsistence is the whaling carried out by native cultures, such as the Native Americans in the United States. These groups of people are given certain rights to hunt whales based upon their cultural history and dependence upon whale meat.

Due to the danger of extinction facing many whale species, the IWC voted to suspend all commercial whale hunting beginning in 1986. Despite this international agreement to stop killing whales for their parts, several countries continued to kill whales and sell their meat and parts, including Norway, Iceland and Japan.

A loophole in the ban on commercial whaling allowed for the killing of large and medium whales for "scientific purposes." The ban also doesn't cover smaller whales like pilot whales, dolphins and porpoises. Iceland and Norway take whales within their own waters, otherwise known as exclusive economic zones. Japan conducts whaling in international waters, including in a whale sanctuary in the ocean off the Antarctic coast, despite the ban.

Whales are most often killed using a primitive weapon called a harpoon. The harpoon has a grenade attached that explodes when the harpoon enters the body of the whale. It can take a very long time for some whales to die which causes additional suffering and fear in these gentle animals. There is no humane way to kill a whale.

Despite international pressure and the best efforts of grassroots movements to ‘save the whales’ around the world, whaling continues to be a danger facing whales and their future here on earth.

The Truth About Feral Cats

The topic of feral cat predation on wildlife, especially birds, has become a battleground of competing opinions on whether feral cats should be trapped, neutered and returned to their environment, or if they should be viewed as invasive species and eradicated. A careful analysis of the science concludes there is no strong support for the viewpoint that cats are a serious threat to wildlife, except in certain instances of fragile populations in isolated or fragmented ecosystems.

Hundreds of news outlets reported on a Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study in 2013 claiming “free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds and 6.9 to 20.7 billion mammals annually” in the U.S. The absurd estimates presented in the study of bird mortalities represented 28.5 to 75.5% of the estimated 4.7 billion landbirds in all of North America. If these figures were even remotely accurate, birds would have been wiped out in North America long ago. A careful examination of the mathematical model developed by the researches revealed one inflated input after another. Yet, this bad science continues to be quoted over and over again by the media and wildlife organizations.

Too often, very flawed science is used to wrongly blame cats for declining wildlife populations and to bolster the false case against Trap-Neuter-Return. The so-called “Wisconsin Study” is one of the most misquoted and misunderstood of these studies. It is not reliable scientific research. The Wisconsin Study is not even a real study—in fact, it is a proposal for a study that never actually took place. The Wisconsin Study’s “data” has never been peer-reviewed, and only parts of it have been selectively published.

The authors published several articles attempting to project the potential impact of free-ranging cats on the bird population in the state of Wisconsin. The authors themselves identify their estimates of cat predation on birds as guesses. When interviewed about the estimates of cat predation from the study, one of its authors, Dr. Stanley Temple, disavowed them, saying, “Those figures were from our proposal. They aren’t actual data; that was just our projection to show how bad it might be.”

As this false data circulates, people aren’t getting the truth about wildlife and cats. The American Bird Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other groups have carelessly wielded these flawed statistics when opposing Trap-Neuter-Return. Such high-profile sources have a responsibility to properly examine their sources and provide Americans with scientifically-supported information.

Worse, the data is circulated by unknowing media. Both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have repeatedly cited statistics attributed to the Wisconsin Study in the past—but their reporters and editors have apparently failed to investigate the accuracy of these numbers.

Bad science robs communities of real solutions—and costs cats their lives. Trap-Neuter-Return is the only effective approach for managing feral cat colonies. Sound policy decisions about animals’ best interests cannot be made based on unsound science.

Real science shows that removing feral cats creates a “vacuum effect”: Cats from neighboring areas move into the newly available space to take advantage of food and shelter. These cats soon begin to breed to capacity. Before long, just as many cats can be found in the area as were there before.

Scientific research has observed the vacuum effect across many species. Removing cats from an area is a futile effort—one that cannot succeed. Municipalities engaged in any type of catch and kill efforts are fighting a cruel, endless, losing battle against nature that is a gross waste of taxpayer dollars.

One of the few documented efforts to remove a population of cats by catch and kill occurred on a uninhabited (sub-Antarctic) island: Marion Island. It took 19 years of ruthless methods—methods impossible to recreate in areas inhabited by people, such as introducing disease and poisoning—to clear the island of cats. Over those 19 years, scientists noticed that when cats were cleared from a “preferred” area of the island, cats from another area took their place. In other words, even as scientists worked to kill the cats, they observed the vacuum effect.

Trap-Neuter-Return avoids the vacuum effect. Trap-Neuter-Return stabilizes the population, which then decreases over time. It also improves the cats’ health by ending the stresses associated with mating and pregnancy.

Breed Specific Legislation Not The Answer

Targeting dogs by breed is ineffective in preventing tragic incidents. Laws and policies restricting certain breeds may break up families, but they won't make a community safer.

Tragic deaths caused by dog attacks often prompts much discussion about how municipalities can most effectively manage dogs to ensure community safety. But animal advocate organizations urge communities to reject ineffective, breed based measures.

There is no evidence that breed-specific laws reduce dog bites or attacks on people, and experts have found that no breed is more likely to bite than another. In fact, no jurisdiction has been able to prove that this kind of legislation has improved public safety.

It is very important to understand that no breed ban has ever effectively eliminated restricted dogs from the community. These laws fly in the face of the human-animal bond and citizens will risk law-breaking to keep their companion animals with them.

Breed bans and restrictions force dogs out of homes and into shelters, taking up kennel space and resources that could be used for animals who are truly homeless.

Many animal advocate organizations and veterinarians have clear position statements that do not support breed specific legislation. They urge municipalities to take an objective, fact-driven approach to preventing tragic incidents from happening.

Breed based laws are archaic and misinformed approaches to the issue of managing dogs and building safe communities. Breed-specific legislation only creates an illusion of safety. It distracts the public from the real issues at stake and diverts resources from more effective animal control and public safety initiatives. These laws are not founded in science or credible data, but on myths and misinformation surrounding different breeds. Their impact on dogs, families and animal shelters, however, is real.

Do Feral Cats Live Miserable Lives?

Research proves that feral cats do not suffer harsh lives, pose a risk to other cats, or threaten public health. Feral cats live full, healthy lives outdoors. Claims that feral cats “suffer” outdoors are based on isolated incidents and are not supported by scientific evidence. Research of feral cats in high-volume spay/neuter clinics spanning nearly a decade found the need to euthanize for debilitating conditions was less than 1%. Anecdotal reports by caregivers bolster these findings.

Feral cats are just as healthy as “pet” cats—studies show they have the same low rates of disease. Despite recent media reports, there hasn’t been a confirmed case of cat-to-human rabies transmission in more than 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Rabies in cats is extremely rare; in 2010, less than 5% of all reported rabid animals cases were cats, according to statistics from the CDC. Rabies vaccination is part of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) protocol, making successful rabies prevention programs even more effective.

FIV and FeLV are also extremely rare in feral cats. Major scientific studies of hundreds of feral cats found rates of these diseases to be just as low as companion animal cats.

Science shows feral cat colonies pose no disease risk to humans. Rumors about the spread of infectious disease by cats to humans is based on myth and misunderstanding, not science. Infectious diseases from cats can spread to humans only via direct contact, and that’s extremely unlikely among feral cats, who avoid humans. In people, incidences of these diseases often have other causes. Toxoplasmosis, for example, is almost always caused by consuming undercooked foods.

Trap-Neuter-Return makes feral cats even healthier. Trap-Neuter-Return ends the breeding cycle, as well as the strains of mating and pregnancy, which improves the cats’ overall health. Studies of cats cared for through TNR show they have healthy body weights and fat distribution. One long-term study of a TNR program showed 83% of cats had lived in the colony for more than six years, indicating a healthy lifespan comparable to companion animal cats.

Pet Trade Jeopardizing Survival Of Rare Reptiles

A gecko for your terrarium? Or a tortoise? Or would you rather have a snake? Reptiles are exceedingly popular as “pets”. The illicit pet trade is booming. Between 2004 and 2014, official imports to the EU alone came to just under 21 million live specimens, more than six million of these ended up on the German market. These also include a large number of representatives of threatened species that can be sold at extremely high profits. Some collectors are quite willing to pay prices of several thousand euros for such rarities.

An international team of experts has now documented the implications of such transactions. The great demand from the European market is already endangering the survival of a great number of species all over the world is the warning issued by these researchers.

They are some of the rarest reptiles in the world. According to the latest surveys, there are not even 250 adult ploughshare tortoises left to crawl through the dry forests of north-west Madagascar. This means that the species, known by the scientific name of Astrochelys yniphora, is on the brink of extinction. The government of this island state created the Baly Bay National Park in 1997 especially to protect the remaining individuals of the species. The international trade with this species is completely forbidden, but this does not seem to deter trappers and smugglers. For example, 54 Madagascan ploughshare tortoises were confiscated at the airport in Bangkok in March 2013. Demand by reptile hobbyists in Asia, Europe and the US threatens to undo thirty years of conservation work.

This tortoise is not an isolated case. 37 scientists, conservationists and customs officials from 22 countries have compiled numerous other examples of species for which the pet market has become a serious problem, even though the Washington Convention (CITES Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is intended to prevent nature being sold off in such a way. This Convention, that to date has been signed by 182 states including the EU, regulates the international trade in threatened fauna and flora. Appendix I to the Convention lists particularly highly endangered species; imports or exports of these species for commercial purposes is no longer permitted. Appendix II contains a large number of other endangered species; a special permit is required for trading in these species.

More than 90 percent of reptile species are, however, not even covered by CITES. To date, biologists have described more than 10,000 reptile species worldwide. A mere 793 of these species are presently covered by trade regulations under CITES. Many other endangered reptiles that are included in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), on the other hand, have so far not made it into the Appendices of CITES. Orlov’s viper (Vipera orlovi), for example, is considered threatened with extinction; less than 250 adults are still crawling through a small region in the Caucasus. Yet the international trade in these snakes is not regulated, nor is the trade in various rare geckos from Madagascar and New Caledonia.

It is specifically such species that are in particular demand among collectors. Even though they enjoy rarity value, they can still be purchased legally and without any great degree of bureaucracy. So why does CITES not apply to all endangered animals and plants? In many cases the inclusion in the appendices fails only on account of economic interests or lack of political will.

Even if a species is listed by the Convention, it is, nevertheless, not necessarily out of danger. After all, the illegal trade in wild animals has become a crime that is just as lucrative as trafficking in drugs, weapons and human beings. There is a correspondingly strong incentive to circumvent the protective provisions. One possibility, for example, is to manipulate documents. This way, a CITES-listed species becomes an unregulated relative at the drop of a hat. Or an animal captured in the wild becomes one allegedly bred in captivity. A large number of monitor lizards from Indonesia or chameleons from Madagascar come onto the market using this strategy.

But time and time again, there are cases where smugglers do not bother with any paperwork. Interesting species are secretly taken across borders in suitcases or on the smuggler’s body, often by "hired tourists". There is an amazing level of ingenuity involved. One US citizen was arrested for smuggling three Fiji banded iguanas (Brachylophus bulabula) in his prosthetic leg.

The persons involved are very much aware which animals reach the highest prices: rarities are always in great demand. For this reason, it is not only protected species that are targeted but frequently also new discoveries by the scientific community, as are endemic species that only occur in a very small distribution area worldwide. It is therefore not surprising that Cnemaspis psychedelica, a gecko species that was unknown until 2010, quickly became popular. After all, this little reptile not only adorns itself with colors reminiscent of tripping on drugs but lives exclusively on Hon Khoai, a Vietnamese island of only eight square kilometers in size. They have been offered for sale in Europe on a regular basis since 2013 - one pair for 2500 to 3000 euros.

Regions that are home to a large number of such unique reptiles attract particular attention from smugglers. These include, for example, Mexico, Sri Lanka and Madagascar. In many of the countries affected, poverty, poorly equipped authorities and a lack of controls make illegal trade particularly easy. But even in the US, Australia and New Zealand, countries that have strict protective legislation and an efficient law enforcement system, unique fauna is not spared.

According to studies, reptile smuggling can have dramatic effects, particularly for species with small populations and extremely limited distribution areas. But even larger populations cannot cope with over-harvesting. For instance, tortoises and large lizards are very long-lived and have low reproduction rates. The ability of these populations to compensate for massive losses from trapping is therefore limited.

So what should be done to prevent a reptile clearance sale? On the one hand, stricter regulations are needed committing all CITES member states to better protection for their own incidences. On the other hand, main importers must adopt responsibility. An example is the highly sought-after Borneo earless monitor lizards (Lanthanotus borneensis) for which European reptile hobbyists are currently willing to pay up to some 3000 euros per pair. While this species is protected in their home country, it is to date not included in the CITES appendices. This means that smugglers only have to get such animals out of Borneo. They can then be offered for sale quite openly on the European market. In the US, in contrast, trade in species that are not included in the CITES appendices but are protected in their home countries is also forbidden.

Species Imperiled From Agriculture, Land Conversion, Hunting

Three quarters of the world’s threatened species are imperiled because people are converting their habitat into agricultural lands and overharvesting their populations. 72 percent of species are imperiled by overexploitation (the harvesting of species from the wild at rates that cannot be compensated for by reproduction or regrowth), while 62 percent of species are imperiled by agricultural activity (the production of food, fodder, fiber and fuel crops; livestock farming; aquaculture; and the cultivation of trees). In comparison, 19 percent are considered threatened by climate change.

There are 5,407 species threatened by agriculture alone, according to the University of Queensland, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Illegal hunting is decimating populations of all rhinoceros and elephant species, western gorilla and Chinese pangolin. Other threats are affecting substantially fewer species, for example hooded seals being threatened by climate change. Climate change is ranked 7th among 11 threats.

Addressing overharvesting and agricultural activities are key to turning around the biodiversity extinction crisis. This must be at the forefront of the conservation agenda. Government and society must focus on proposing and funding actions that deal with the biggest current threats to biodiversity.

History has taught us that minimizing impacts from overharvesting and agriculture requires a variety of conservation actions, but these can be achieved. Actions such as well managed protected areas, enforcement of hunting regulations, and managing agricultural systems in ways that allow threatened species to persist within them, all have a major role to play in reducing the biodiversity crisis. These activities need to be well funded and prioritized in areas that will reduce threat, according to scientists.

While overharvesting and agricultural activities are currently the predominant threats to species, this may change in the coming decades. Reducing immediate impacts is essential to tackling the biodiversity crisis, but climate change could become an increasingly dominant threat for species.

Thankfully, those actions that best reduce current threats such as unsustainable use, habitat destruction, and invasive species are also the best solutions in responding to the challenges of rapid climate change.

Dolphins Under Threat

The dolphin is found in almost all seas and oceans of the world, and even some rivers. Their amazing intelligence, creativity, playfulness and complex culture captures the hearts and minds of humans around the globe. But these fascinating creatures are continuously under threat from human activities, including marine pollution, habitat degradation, hunting, low frequency sonar and fishing gear.

Many dolphin species face an uncertain future. The Amazon river dolphin and the Ganges river dolphin are critically or seriously endangered. The critically imperiled vaquita — the world’s smallest and most endangered porpoise — is being driven extinct, with only around 50 remaining.

Pesticides, heavy metals, plastics, and other industrial and agricultural pollutants that do not disintegrate rapidly in the environment concentrate in predators such as dolphins. Injuries or deaths due to collisions with boats, especially their propellers, are also common. Various fishing methods, most notably purse seine fishing for tuna and the use of drift and gill nets, kill many dolphins. In some parts of the world dolphins are killed in harpoon or drive hunts.

Complex, Social, Intelligent, Playful

Dolphin brains are larger and, in some ways, more complex than human brains. They have such significant brain power it stops them from sleeping. Their sophisticated language allows them to trace other dolphins up to six miles away. They even have names for one another. They communicate with a variety of low sounds that humans cannot hear. They also use echolocation – sending sounds through water to bounce off objects to determine their shape, size and distance.

Dolphins form complex social groups. They crave physical attention and stroke each other. They use tools and pass their knowledge through a family line. They reason, problem-solve and comprehend ideas. They plan ahead. They have advanced math skills. They blow bubbles that vary in exact amplitudes to detect fish, then subtract values found with their echolocation to confirm the target.

Dolphins love to play. They follow ships and ride bow-waves like human surfers. They play catch, tag and other games with each other, and also enjoy playing with other animals. Dolphins swim onto the nose of humpback whales, who then raise themselves out of the water so the dolphins slide down their heads - both animals enjoy the game.

Threats From The Fishing Industry

The modernization of the fishing industry has resulted in far more fish caught annually than half a century ago. Sophisticated fishing techniques are responsible for the depletion of fish in the oceans by one-third. For the dolphin, whose main intake is fish, especially tuna, this scale of commercial over-fishing has come as a death knell.

Fishing gear continues to pose the most significant threat to dolphin conservation worldwide. Scientists estimate that each year more than 650,000 whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals are caught and killed in fishing gear. These animals are unintentional “bycatch” of commercial fisheries and either drown or are tossed overboard to die from their injuries. Fishing nets are now made of much tougher material, and dolphins getting routinely trapped in them is a common occurrence. One such menace is the gill-net, which when vertically hung trap the fish by their gills. In addition, trawl nets, driftnets, and longline gear are responsible for the lives of almost 60,000 dolphins each year. Many fishermen kill dolphins because the dolphins cause damage to their nets.

Dolphin Hunting

Dolphins are also hunted as a form of delicacy in parts of Asia, South America and Africa. Dolphins fall prey to "drive hunting", a hunting method where boats converge and crowd around the mammals driving them towards a beach or bay. This form of hunting has accounted for the lives of thousands of dolphins each year, a phenomena vividly depicted in the documentary "The Cove".

Massive dolphin hunts are being carried out to obtain dolphin teeth for use in wedding ceremonies. Thousands of dolphins have been killed by villagers in Fanalei where a single dolphin tooth is worth 70 cents.

Noise Pollution

Noise pollution in the form of ocean shipping, seismic testing for the purpose of oil and gas exploration, and underwater blasts carried out for military tests have had a serious effect on the dolphins acute sense of hearing. Chronic noise from human activities has a big impact on these animals, since it interferes with their acoustic signaling – increased background noise can mean animals are unable to hear important signals, and they tend to swim away from sources of noise, disrupting their normal behavior. Noise pollution could also be the reason for mass strandings of dolphins on various beaches each year.

Litter & Toxic Pollution

Colossal amounts of waste entering the sea every day have also added to the dolphin's woes. Plastic bags, toxic chemicals and heavy metals are some of the pollutants that have accidentally become food for the mammals. Pesticides cause failure of immune systems in dolphins and affect their reproductive abilities. As a consequence, many dolphins have been found carrying cancerous tumors.

Climate Changes

Climate change is another serious threat to the dolphins. The gradual warming of the seas and oceans are driving dolphins into cooler and deeper waters where food sources for the creatures are hard to come by. Habitats of certain species of dolphins found at the confluence of river and ocean waters (brackish waters) are being severely affected by rising ocean levels. Scientists question if dolphins can adapt to such changing conditions.

Freshwater Threats

The story of freshwater dolphins or river dolphins is not very dissimilar to their cousins of the seas. While the Amazon river dolphin numbers in ten of thousands in their natural habitats of the Amazon and Orinoco river systems, they face dangers from tribesmen and fishermen with whom they have to compete for a depleting fish population. In countries like Colombia and Brazil, the dolphin is used as bait by those active in the mota catfish trade.

The Ganges river dolphin, once numbering nearly 100,000, have been reduced to under 2,000 now, making it a seriously endangered species. Its habitat, the Ganges River, flows through some of the mostly densely populated regions of the world, the Northern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The existence of such human population results in direct killing, illegal construction of dams and barrages, rampant fishing, pollution occurring from open defecation by millions on a daily basis, and toxic material draining in from thousands of industrial units lining the river.

The Irrawaddy river dolphins, inhabitants of the Mekong and Irrawaddy river deltas of South-East Asia, is one species which is witnessing a turnaround of sorts. Hunted down ruthlessly over the years by the illegal wildlife trade, just about 90 of these unfortunate mammals exist now in a 120-mile stretch of the Mekong river in Cambodia. But the stunning discovery of nearly 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins in the freshwater regions of the faraway Bangladeshi mangrove forests skirting the coast of Bay of Bengal has given this species hope.

Captivity

Hundreds of dolphins are held in captivity. They are sentenced to a life of confinement deprived of normal social and environmental interaction. Confined to tanks as small as 24 feet by 24 feet wide and 6 feet deep, the reverberations from their own sonar bouncing off walls can drive them insane. Tanks are kept clean with chlorine, copper sulfate, and other harsh chemicals that irritate animals' eyes, causing many to swim with their eyes closed. They are often forced to learn tricks through food deprivation. Marine parks may withhold up to 60 percent of food before shows so that the animals will be "sharp" for performances. The stress of captivity is so great that some commit suicide.

Feral Cats Are An Important Part Of The Environment

While some wildlife organizations continue to claim that feral cats threaten wildlife species, they fail to take into account that cats are a part of our natural landscape. Science shows that attempts to remove cats could mean dire consequences for the rest of the ecosystem.

There have been feral cats since the dawn of civilization—and that is unlikely ever to change. Cats continue to be a natural part of our environment. They began their unique relationship with humans 10,000 to 12,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, and followed Europeans to the Americas. But it wasn’t until 60 years ago, with the growing availability of canned pet foods, spay/neuter techniques, and commercial cat litters, that keeping cats indoors was even considered possible—or desirable.

Cats play a complex role in local ecosystems; removing them is a major risk. Maintaining ecological balance is much more complicated than predator vs. prey. Although opponents of Trap-Neuter-Return claim that removing cats would “save” other species, this has never borne out in the instances where cats have been removed. These extermination programs result in the cruel, extreme, and prolonged targeting of cats.

A cat eradication effort on Amsterdam Island in the Indian Ocean found that killing all the cats resulted in a spike in the rat and mouse population, which then preyed on the bird population. Another cat eradication effort on Macquarie Island in the Pacific Ocean saw the rabbit population spike wildly once the cats were gone. Without cats to keep the rabbits in check, local vegetation was devastated by a rabbit feeding frenzy, and other animal species were then threatened by the loss of food and habitat.

Killing cats will not save wildlife. Studies have shown cats to be mainly scavengers, not hunters, feeding mostly on garbage and scraps. When they do hunt, cats prefer rodents and other burrowing animals. Studies of samples from the diets of outdoor cats confirm that common mammals appear three times more often than birds. Additionally, scientists who study predation have shown in mathematical models that when cats, rats, and birds coexist, they find a balance. But when cats are removed, rat populations soar and wipe out the birds completely.

Some wildlife organizations and media outlets continue to quote scientific studies that have been proven inaccurate. A careful analysis of the science concludes there is no strong support for the viewpoint that cats are a serious threat to wildlife.

Although human civilization and domestic cats co-evolved side by side, the feral cat population was not created by humans. Cats have lived outdoors for a long time. In the thousands of years that cats have lived alongside people, indoor-only cats have only become common in the last 50 or 60 years—a negligible amount of time on an evolutionary scale. They are not new to the environment and they didn’t simply originate from lost companion animals or negligent animal guardians. Instead, they have a place in the natural landscape.

Whales Facing Multiple Threats

Whales are among the most fascinating and talked about creatures on the planet. These mammals are not just the largest creatures of the ocean, but of the Earth. Even the smallest species, the dwarf sperm whale, is 8.5 feet long and can weigh at least 135 kilograms. The biggest, the blue whale, is over a 100 feet in length and can weigh as much as 210 tons.

Whale species include the killer whale, blue whale, humpback whale, the narwhal or narwhale, beluga whale, gray whale, bowhead whale, fin whale, North Atlantic right whale and dozens more.

The whale has a thick layer of fat that makes it immune to cold ocean waters. These submarine-like creatures are found roaming all the oceans and seas. Since the whales' habitat spans such a vast area of the globe, their diets can differ dramatically. The most common diet is fish, plankton, shrimp, crabs, larvae, krill and squid. The killer whale preys on large animals like sea lions, walruses, seals, sharks, seabirds and even large whales for its food.

Whales come up to the ocean surface intermittently to take in air and spew out a long fountain of water from a duct right on top of their heads. While many whales have sharp, uniformed rows of teeth, the baleen whales have a bristle-like formation in place of teeth that helps them sift food from water. Whales communicate with each other by way of mysterious, elongated squeaks than can travel miles through the waters.

The whale, like many other endangered species, is not immune to the ravages of man. From 1900 to the 1970's, as many as 350,000 whales were hunted down and killed in the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere alone. In a bloody year of 1931, a staggering 29,000 blue whales were butchered. As a result, they are among the most endangered species and just 10,000-25,000 of them remain today. The North Atlantic right whale, especially, is under the greatest threat of extinction with just 300 of the creatures left.

Rapidly rising human activity in marine environments like harbors, landfills, shipping channels, and fish farming (aquaculture) is resulting in the loss of whale habitat. Recreation in the form of heightened boat traffic, ocean liners and resort development is driving the whales further away from shores where they find their natural food.

Warm ocean temperatures, along with melting of ice in the polar regions, pose more threats for the whales. Sea ice that produces krill is a major food source for the whales and could vanish with the water becoming warmer. Melting ice could destroy 30% of the Antarctic minke whales' habitat and could push the humpback whales' feeding zones 300-500 kilometers away into the seas.

Many whale species specially feed on herring, cod and mackerel. The huge commercial demand for these fish has led to their over-fishing, which in turn has robbed the whales of one of their main diets.

The whale is itself a delicacy and its body oils and parts find commercial use in quite a few parts of the world. In fact, whaling is a huge industry in countries like Japan and Norway. Norway is now the world’s leading whaling nation. The Norwegian government is funding a number of projects, both to promote domestic sales of whale products and to develop alternative commercial products derived from whales, including dietary supplements, medicines, and cosmetics.

Hundreds of thousands of whales were killed by the Japanese until commercial whaling was banned in 1986. But that has not stopped Japanese whaling fleets from killing 2,000 of the mammals every year since under the guise of "scientific whaling" for the bogus purpose of "scientific research". Why one has to kill whales to understand them simply confounds logic.

Exploration of offshore oil and gas is another threat to whale habitats. Studies by scientists have shown that oil finds, and subsequent drilling, have completely destroyed habitats of whales. Noise emanating from the equipment used for underwater seismic surveys have hugely impeded on the whales' delicate sense of sound and affected the communication among the creatures. There were instances in the early 1990's where eardrums of humpback whales off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada were found ruptured by sounds of undersea blasts used for exploration activities. Pollutants emanating from toxic chemicals used by the oil and gas industry is another serious hazard to whale health.

The over-fishing of fish species has led to a slowdown in the commercial fishing industry in recent times. The cause for decline in supplies was laid on whales. The culling of the mammals was promoted to revive the fortunes of the fishing industry, but conservationists exposed the fallacy of the claim that whales are to blame. Unsustainable fish harvesting and other human actions are the true culprits of reduced fish populations.

Although most whale species have been protected by stringent laws, man has found indirect ways of hunting down the creatures. While the levels of killing have dropped drastically over the years owing to endeavors of conservationists, whale-lovers and concerned authorities, the recovery of their populations will remain a huge challenge. For instance, the population of humpback whales, which was close to 1.5 million in the beginning of the 19th century, is only 20,000 now.

Antelopes In Double Jeopardy

Antelopes are an increasing conservation concern, with one-third of the world's 87 species now listed as threatened. Loss of habitat, game hunting, poaching, and loss of grazing land to cattle farmers are some of the biggest threats to antelope populations. Adding to the threats to antelope populations is changes in climate.

For 82 percent of African antelope species, forecasts show a decline in suitable habitat by 2080 due to the effect of climate change. About one-quarter are likely to see their range size drop in half. None of Africa's antelopes are predicted to improve their threat status on the IUCN Red List as a result of changes in climate, and the threat status of ten species is predicted to worsen as a direct result of climate change. Antelopes preferring cooler and drier climates are likely to be the hardest hit.

Researchers say that climate change will cause a disproportionate decline in African antelopes with the smallest geographic ranges, placing the most-threatened taxa in "double jeopardy." Recent findings suggest that animals already living in the most-restricted areas will be hardest hit as the climate shifts in the coming decades.

Several antelope species are in need of urgent conservation action to avoid extinction. Scientists had suspected that animals with the smallest ranges to start with might be at the greatest risk as the climate changes. That's because small ranges imply that species thrive under a very narrow range of conditions. Even small changes in climate could push those species outside of their comfort zones.

Species that are found only in very restricted areas are usually more demanding in the combination of temperature and rainfall conditions they require, and therefore suitable areas are more likely to disappear when temperature and rainfall do not change together.

There is some good news: if we switch to more conservation-friendly land use, the threatened species with small ranges stand to benefit the most, having the greatest potential to expand their ranges. A major priority is to target the increasing fragmentation of wilderness areas, which prevents wildlife from tracking shifts in their environment.

Seals & Sea Lions Under Siege

The image of seals and sea lions conjures up thousands of these creatures basking on the rocky beaches of the U.S. West coast, Australia and Tasmania and ice floes of the Arctics. While similarities between these two amphibious mammals seem apparent, there are some inherent differences.

The pinniped, the family to which these two belong, consists of the phocidae or true seals and otariidae or sea lions. True seals are believed to have descended from a terrestrial creature closely resembling the weasel, while the sea lion traces back its origins to a bear-like animal. True seals fall in the category of earless seals because they lack the external ear flap which sea lions, or "eared seals", have. The sea lions have much larger front and hind flippers than the seals, which allow far more locomotion. So while on land the seal slushes forward at snails' pace on its belly, the sea lion virtually gallops forward thanks to it bigger flippers. Like most aquatic mammals, both the seal and sea lion are expert swimmers.

All pinnipeds, like many other wildlife species, have not been spared the ravages of mankind. The hunting of millions of seals for their meat, blubbers and pelts reduced their numbers significantly. Later they were killed by fishermen who over-harvested fish, then blamed the seals for depleting fish stocks in the ocean.

Extensive commercial fishing has harmed pinnipeds in more ways than one. Reduced food, resulting from irresponsible fishing practices, is suspected to be behind a declining pinnped population. Seals and sea lions also get entangled in fishing gear, causing injury or death.

A high amount of industrial and toxic waste is a potent threat to the health of seals. Algal biotoxins and disease caused by such pollutants are proving to be fatal for seals and sea lions. Non-biodegradable marine debris, such as drifting trawling nets, plastic packaging straps and monofilament gill nets, are hazards that have killed nearly 2 percent of Tasmanian seals.

Climate change is also a deadly threat to seals and sea lions. Changes in temperatures in ocean currents has wreaked havoc in the food patterns of these mammals and affected their reproductive cycles. Species which primarily rely on ice – like the ribbon, ringed, spotted and bearded seals – have been direct victims of rapid ice loss leading to premature separation of mothers from their cubs during the milking period. The inability of the mammals to build dens during such periods of ice loss has resulted in high mortality among pups.

Other threats to seals and sea lions include introduced species and barbed wire. The introduction of animals like dogs, especially in Alaska, has made seals prone and exposed to disease. Barbed wire barriers have been erected that are known to cause severe injuries to sea lions.

Seals have long been commercially hunted for their pelts, meat and blubber. As a result, the Caribbean monk seal was hunted to extinction. In 1911 the North Pacific Fur Seal Convention made it illegal to hunt seals at sea, but hunting babies seals on land continued. All pinnipeds are now protected in U.S. waters under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, but baby seals are still being killed in other countries for their fur.

Each year thousands of seals are killed in Canada. Although the Canadian seal hunt is the largest in the world and has the highest profile internationally, sealing is also carried out in a number of other countries across the world including Greenland, Namibia, Russia, Norway and Sweden.

Seal hunting is inhumane. Groups have campaigned on the issue for years and their evidence shows all the horror of the hunt.

Seals and sea lions are also common victims of the animal entertainment industry. Aquariums and marine mammal theme parks are part of a billion-dollar industry built on the suffering of intelligent, social beings who are denied everything that is natural and important to them. Animals are taken from the wild; their families torn apart. Marine parks have shown no more interest in conserving marine mammals' natural habitats than they have in educating audiences.

Cetaceans do not belong in captivity where they are forced to perform meaningless tricks. They are often separated from family members when they’re shuffled between parks. Most die far short of their natural life spans. The living conditions at these attractions are often dismal, with animals confined to tiny, filthy, barren enclosures. Even the best artificial environments can’t come close to matching the space, diversity, and freedom that cetaceans have in their natural habitats.

The monk seal and the Galápagos fur seal are endangered. Local populations of some seals, such as gray seals in the Baltic Sea, are also endangered. The hooded seal and northern fur seal are vulnerable.

Mountains: The Last Frontier For Endangered Species

The threats faced by wildlife around the world continue to increase. Each year, thousands of animal species are lost to extinction. Mountain areas provide one of the last safe havens for endangered plant and animal species. But even these last safe havens are now under threat by irresponsible human activities.

A large number of mammals have taken up homes in mountainous areas. The most cited reason for this is environmental variation, which is the evolution of different species that live in the valleys and mountains. But studies have revealed that the high level of biodiversity in mountains can also be attributed to the protection mountains offer to endangered species. Animals are taking refuge in mountains because we've driven them from other ecosystems.

Mountains provide safety to animals that have come near extinction. But these last safe areas for wildlife are continually faced with a myriad of challenges which include animal agriculture, human development, insufficient water, climatic changes, desertification and declines in biodiversity.

The brown bear once flourished in Asia, North America and Europe. But now they can only be found in mountainous areas due to the threats faced in lowlands. In the past 100 years, only 1% of the entire population of brown bears has survived in the United States.

Pumas, otherwise known as mountain lions, are mostly found in the mountains – especially in the Andes and Rockies. It took its home in these areas primarily due to the threats they face from the activities of man.

Red pandas are mostly found in the Himalayan mountain chain. Even though this region is reasonably inaccessible to humans, the red panda is having a difficult time surviving as bamboo, which it feeds on, continues to be depleted. For the giant panda to survive, three things are important; high mountains with deep valleys, lush bamboo vegetation, and rippling streams – all of which are threatened by human activities.

The golden eagle has its home in the Northern Hemisphere. Like many other endangered species, the number of golden eagles has plummeted due to human actions.

Not only do mountain forests serve as protection for wildlife, but billions of people depend on them for their income. 60% of the world’s fresh water comes from the mountains even though they cover just 12% of the Earth’s surface. The quality and quantity of water supplied to industries and lowland communities is influenced heavily by mountain forests. If there are no forests in the mountains, erosion is bound to occur, leaving the quality of water in jeopardy.

Most cities source their water supply from the mountains. For instance, 95% of Vienna’s water comes from mountain forests of the Northern Alps. Honduras and Tegucigalpa get 40% of their water supply from the cloud forest of La Tigra National Park. 97% of Kenya’s electricity is generated from Mount Kenya using hydroelectric technologies. The Tibetan plateau serves as a water tower for more than 3 billion Asians. 

A large amount of carbon in contained in mountain forests. When these mountain forests are lost, a massive amounts of carbon will be released into the atmosphere.

Threats to Mountain Animals

Every day mountain forests continue to face threats from human activities.

Agriculture 

As the world’s population continues to increase, farmers are migrating to higher lands, contributing to the depletion of forest life. More than half of Africa’s mountainous areas have been turned into grazing lands. Excessive grazing leads to the destruction of fragile vegetation. 10% is used for growing crops. This practice is unsustainable due to the fact that crops do not do well on highlands. Most mountainous areas are unproductive lands. Only a meager 3% of mountain land is suitable for growing crops.

Development 

About 25% of mountain lands across the world have been used for roads, dams, pipelines and mining projects. Every year, billions of minerals are extracted from mountains. Not only does road construction lead to erosion, it also provides easy access to cut down trees.

Warming 

Mountain habitats are very susceptible to climatic changes. As glaciers continue to melt, snowcaps are receding. Scientists believe this will eventually lead to a series of landslides which will eventually affect water reserves. As climatic conditions continue to change, there will be an increase in the number of pests which further endanger forest life.

War

Civil wars have a devastating effect on mountain areas. Insurgents base their stations in the mountains. It has been estimated by the United Nations that 67% of African mountain regions have been used for violent activities. 

Action Is Needed

Governments have slowly begun to take small steps to reduce forest depletion. National parks are being erected in different parts of the world to conserve some fragile regions and to serve as refuges to endangered species. Although national parks are protected, they are still subject to environmental pressure. The high rate at which animal species are being lost is a clear indication that mountain strongholds are still being attacked by poachers.

Mountains are vital to all life on earth, including humans. What happens on the highest mountain peak affects all life in the lowlands. Lands, freshwaters and even oceans are affected by moutains. Much larger steps must be taken now to save these last wild areas from animal agriculture, development and other human impacts.

Pangolins Are The Most Trafficked Mammals

Most people have ever heard of pangolins. Yet around the globe they are facing an unprecedented crisis. The pangolin is one of the most sought-after and poached wild animals in the world. Nearly one million have been illegally traded over the past decade.

Pangolins, or scaly anteaters, are nocturnal, ant and termite eating mammals found in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa whose bodies are covered with overlapping scales made of keratin, the same protein that forms human hair and finger nails, and rhino horn. 

There are eight pangolin species worldwide. Four of the species can be found in 17 range states across Asia, and four in 31 range states across Africa. Pangolins occupy a diverse array of habitats; some are arboreal or semiarboreal and climb with the aid of prehensile tails, while others are ground-dwelling. Some pangolin species, such as the Chinese pangolin and Temminck’s ground pangolin, sleep in underground burrows during the day. Others, including white-bellied pangolins and Sunda pangolins, are known to sleep in trees. Pangolins dig burrows with their strong front legs and claws, using their tails and rear legs for support and balance.

Pangolins are insectivores. They use their claws to break into nests of ants and termites, and they use their long, sticky tongues to lap up the insects. A baby pangolin will remain with its mother for three to four months and cling to its mother’s tail as she forages for insects. Pangolins have few defenses beyond their scaly exterior. While their habit of rolling up in a ball is an effective response to predators, the behavior actually makes it easier for poachers to collect and transport these toothless mammals.

Pangolins perform important ecological roles such as regulating insect populations. It has been estimated that an adult can consume more than 70 million insects annually. Pangolins also excavate deep burrows for sleeping and nesting. Burrowing animals are sometimes referred to as “ecosystem engineers” as their burrows may be used by other species; for example new research shows that giant armadillos, South American mammals that fulfill a similar ecological niche to ground pangolins, dig burrows that are used for shelter by at least 25 other species.

Pangolin populations are severely dwindling due to massive unsustainable and illegal international and domestic trade. Traffickers seek out pangolins for their scales and blood — which are boiled off or drained to use in traditional medicine — and their meat, which is considered a delicacy. Thousands of pangolins are trafficked each year, making them among the most critically endangered species in the world and liable to go extinct if we don’t take action.

All eight pangolin species are listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). But despite protections under CITES and domestic laws, poaching and illegal trade in pangolins continues at a high rate. Recent IUCN Red List of Threatened Species assessments indicate that all eight species are declining and at risk of extinction.

Pangolins do not thrive in captivity, and their slow reproductive rate and low natural population density in the wild suggest that current trade levels are unsustainable. As Asian pangolin populations have become increasingly hard to find and are now subject to zero export quotas by CITES, traders have turned to the African pangolin species to meet market demand. Meanwhile, African species are under additional pressure from local and regional demand for bushmeat and other traditional uses, as well as from habitat loss. While live and whole dead specimens usually can be identified to the species level based on size, number of scales, and other morphological characteristics, commonly traded non-living specimens, such as scales and meat, are difficult for non-experts to identify to the species level, which complicates enforcement.

Most illegally sourced pangolins are destined for markets in China and Vietnam, but demand for pangolins in the United States remains significant. Parts and products of poached pangolins are sold online and in stores. Nearly 30,000 imports of pangolin products were seized in the United States between 2005 and 2014.

Currently, only one of the eight pangolin species — the Temminck’s ground pangolin from Africa — is protected as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Because all species of pangolins so closely resemble each other, law enforcement officials have difficulty distinguishing them. Expanding federal protection would prohibit the import and sale of pangolins and their parts in the U.S. and raise global awareness about the pangolin’s plight. An Endangered Species Act listing is an important and necessary step to end the U.S.’s role in declining pangolin populations and would set an example for the rest of the world.

Pangolins have been silently killed and trafficked for far too long. It’s time to recognize the grave situation threatening the survival of the species and offer them the protections they rightfully deserve. If we don’t act now to protect them, these extraordinary animals will disappear from the planet forever.

How To Fight Animal Cruelty

You've seen an animal being abused and want to do something to stop it, but you don't know what to do. Here are a few steps to help you with a cruelty investigation.

First, find out who in your town, county, or state investigates and enforces the anti-cruelty codes. Often, these people work for local humane societies, societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCAs), or taxpayer-funded animal shelters.

If you cannot locate the proper person, call or visit your local sheriff's office or police department to ask for help in enforcing the law. Before doing so, check the county and state law books in your local library. The state statute and county code will tell you exactly what your laws prohibit a person from doing to an animal. You can look up the laws easily in the index of the books and should make a photocopy to take with you. In most states, causing an animal "unnecessary suffering" is illegal, as is beating an animal, depriving him or her of food, and so on.

Once you have located the proper law enforcement officer, provide him/her with a concise, written, factual statement of what you have observed, giving dates and approximate times. If you can, photograph the situation and date your photographs. You should also try to get short, factual, written statements from other witnesses.

Always keep a record of whom you contact, the date of the contacts, and the content and outcome of your discussions with each of them. Never pass on a letter or document without making a copy for your file. Make it crystal clear that you wish to pursue this case and are willing to lend your assistance, as required.

If you are not able to get satisfaction from the enforcement officers, present your documented case to their supervisors, and, if necessary, to your local government officials, such as the county commissioner, and ask them to act. If you have witnessed the cruel act yourself, you can go to your local police commissioner and ask to swear out a warrant to summon the accused person to court. Sometimes expert witnesses may be necessary to the case. A veterinarian, for example, can sign a statement that it is his/her "expert opinion" that a dog suffers if swung by a chain, deprived of food, etc. Expert opinions often make or break a case, so if you know a sympathetic veterinarian, you may wish to seek his/her assistance and tell the officer you have expert support.

By keeping a factual, well documented, step-by-step record of the case, if all else fails, you can always visit or call your local newspapers or television stations and try to interest reporters in the story. A news story may force officials to act, or scare the person causing the abuse into stopping. Other people who have seen similar acts may then be encouraged to step forward.

Here are some pointers on problems to look for in various types of facilities, what laws apply, and who is responsible for inspecting each type of facility.

Zoos 

What to Look For: Are the animals in good health? Can people get to close to the animals? What form of population control is used? What happens to "surplus animals"?

What Laws Apply: Animal Welfare Act; state anti-cruelty statutes. 

Who Inspects: USDA/APHIS; local law enforcement. 

Exhibitors and Traveling Animal Shows

What to Look For: Physical condition; abnormal stereotypic behavior; unnecessary suffering; travel accommodations.

What Laws Apply: Animal Welfare Act; state anti-cruelty statutes; commercial laws; zoning regulations.

Who Inspects: USAD/APHIS; local law enforcement.

Dog Dealers, Wildlife Dealers and Auctions

What to Look For: Physical condition; overcrowding; selling endangered species without the required permit.

What Laws Apply: Animal Welfare Act; state anti-cruelty statutes; Endangered Species Act (if selling endangered species.)

Who Inspects: USDA/APHIS; local law enforcement; US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Animal Shelters

What to Look For: Conditions at shelter; method of euthanasia; adequate veterinary care; employee reliability and attitude.

What Laws Apply: State anti-cruelty statutes; local ordinances.

Who Inspects: County and state officials.

Pet Stores

What to Look For: Sanitation; physical health; overcrowding; selling endangered species. 

What Laws Apply: Animal Welfare Act (if selling wild animals); state anti-cruelty statutes; health regulations.

Who Inspects: USDA/APHIS (if selling wild animals); local law enforcement; state health department; state department of environment.

Lemurs: Spirits Of The Night

About 600 miles off the coast of South-Eastern Africa lies the fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar. Famed for its lush green tropical forest, misty highlands, temperate climate and 3,000 miles of coastline, this jewel in the Indian Ocean is home to one of the most exotic creatures in the world – the lemurs.

Madagascar's 160 million years of isolation as a landmass has shaped an ecosystem and habitat that's perfectly suited and unique to the existence of lemurs. The lemurs themselves have been on the island for over 40 million years, giving them distinctive features quite different from any other animal in the world. In appearance, lemurs are a mixture of many animals – squirrel, cat, dog, and monkey. Some have faces that closely resemble raccoons or skunks and have many characteristics of apes. But when there are 101 species of an animal, looks and behavioral patterns vary widely.

Lemurs are basically nocturnal creatures and move about at night. "Lemures" in Latin means "Spirits of the night". Lemurs are herbivorous animals and their main diet is plants. 55 percent of the island's plant life constitute food for lemurs. Black lemurs, for example, eat leaves, flowers and fruit. So do the inri, another species of lemur. Insects also form an important part of the diet, especially for the smaller species of lemur. Greater bamboo lemurs live off the inner pith of giant bamboo found in forest pockets of the eastern highlands.

Among the existing species, the diademed sifaka and the indri lemurs are the largest and can weigh up to 15 lbs at the most. The smallest, the pygmy mouse lemur, weighs only 1 oz, making it the tiniest primate in the world.

Man first landed in Madagascar as recently as 2,000 years ago. The fate of lemurs has been threatened ever since. Archaeoindris fontoynontii, the giant lemur weighing as much as 440 lbs, was among the first species to become extinct. Once found virtually all over Madagascar, lemurs are now ensconed into just 20 percent of their original habitat, most of it in the central and east coast highlands. According to a recently released report of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species, of the 101 species of lemurs, 22 are on the brink of extinction, 48 are endangered, and 20 are vulnerable. 

The threats to the lemur's survival is similar to many endangered animals of the world - a burgeoning human population's hunger for more land which translates into more clearing of forests for agricultural purposes. Poverty-stricken Malagasys have resorted to burning down the nation's scarce forests to grow crops. Hunger has also led to the hunting of lemurs for meat, an unusual occurrence until a few decades ago.

Political turmoil also has taken a toll on the laws and mechanisms that safeguard and conserve forest resources. Armed gangs, working in cahoots with the timber mafia, have taken advantage of the political vacuum to pillage protected forests for ebony and rosewood. Over $100 million dollars of wood stolen in this manner have made their way to China for use in furniture. The immediate fallout is on the habitat of the lemur.

Despite laws protecting the lemurs, the creatures are not just hunted as a delicacy, but for superstitious reasons too. The aye-aye lemur, a 5.1 lbs animal, is considered a harbinger of death by some natives and is quickly exterminated if spotted in the vicinity of their villages.

The ring-tailed lemur is among the most well-known and loved lemur species. It is at the top of the list of the illicit pet trade industry. Found mostly in the southern fringes of Madagascar, this beautiful animal, with an off-white coat and a long zebra-striped tail, is sold to hoteliers and tourists for a ridiculously low sum of $2. Being a popular animal, it is also inhumanely kept in zoos all around  the world for human entertainment and profit.

The black lemur is another highly endangered species. There are about 10,000 of them in the North-western parts of Madagascar and in some of the islands off the North coast. The black lemur stands about 38 inches tall and weighs about 5 lbs. The black lemur faces common threats like other lemur species. Man's proximity has brought this species into confrontational situations where they have been killed for raiding crops.

Superstitions sometimes can work in favor of the lemurs. For example, the inri is believed to be carrying souls of ancestors. Villagers refrain from killing them. 

But lemurs desperately need protection. Loss of habitat can have serious consequences for the breeding or reproduction of lemurs. The lemurs have very short mating and birth windows that are synchronized to seasons when food availability is at its peak. The female vagina opens up for a very brief period of the day, leaving a small window for reproductive activities. High levels of energy exhaustion during such periods account for high mortality among adult lemur females.

Despite protests from local villages, the Ranomafana National Reserve Park was created by the forest authorities of Madagascar. The Ranomafana reserve is a 15 km strip of virgin forests not far from the east coast setup primarily to protect the lemurs inhabiting it. Similarly, nearly 20 national parks have sprung up in the last few decades – especially along the entire eastern and southern coastal belts – to protect endangered species in those sensitive places where they may come into direct contact with human habitation.

The blue-eyed black lemur, an inhabitant of the sub-tropical moist and dry forests in the north-western tip of Madagascar, is a beneficiary of serious conservation measures. Thanks to the endeavors of organizations that have put into place natural resource management and ecological research programs to monitor and mitigate the loss of valuable forest resources in that region, the rare blue-eyed species of lemur is on a comeback trail and finds itself out of the IUCN’s list of the 25 most endangered primates on the planet.

But serious challenges remain. In addition to rapid habitat loss, climate changes may pose the biggest threat to the survival of lemurs. A study found that 60 percent of the 57 species examined may find their habitat reduced by an alarming two-thirds in the next seventy years solely due to climate change.

Feral Cats Are Not To Blame

While some wildlife groups may use media attention to speculate that cats are causing species loss, leading biologists, climate scientists, and environmental watchdogs all agree: endangered species’ fight for survival rests in our own hands.

Focusing on cats diverts attention from the far more dangerous impact of humans. Too many media stories sidestep these realities to focus on sensational issues like cats’ imagined impact on birds. But cats have been a natural part of the landscape for over 10,000 years—that has not changed. What has changed in that time is how we have re-shaped the environment to suit 21st century human needs—at a great cost to the other species that share our ecosystem. Our direct impact on our environment is without a doubt the number one cause of species loss.

Make no mistake—habitat loss is the most critical threat to birds. With this exponential human population growth comes massive use of natural resources and rampant development: industrial activity, logging, farming, suburbanization, mining, road building, and a host of other activities. The impact on species from habitat destruction, pollution, fragmentation, and modification is alarming. According to the World Watch Institute, “people have always modified natural landscapes in the course of finding food, obtaining shelter, and meeting other requirements of daily life. What makes present-day human alteration of habitat the number one problem for birds and other creatures is its unprecedented scale and intensity.”

Human activities are responsible for up to 1.2 billion bird deaths every year. Nearly 100 million birds die annually from collisions with windows; 80 million from collisions with automobiles; 70 million from exposure to pesticides. Millions of birds are intentionally killed by U.S. government-sponsored activities each year.

The human population continues to grow, threatening other species. Exponential population growth has left little land untouched by human development. In America alone, the population grew by 60 million people between 1990 and 2010, and experts predict we will add 23 million more people per decade in the next 30 years. That kind of growth—the equivalent of adding another California and another Texas to our already teeming population—is unprecedented in American history.

Killing cats will not save wildlife. Studies have shown cats to be mainly scavengers, not hunters, feeding mostly on garbage and scraps. When they do hunt, cats prefer rodents and other burrowing animals. Studies of samples from the diets of outdoor cats confirm that common mammals appear three times more often than birds. Additionally, scientists who study predation have shown in mathematical models that when cats, rats, and birds coexist, they find a balance. But when cats are removed, rat populations soar and wipe out the birds completely.

Some wildlife organizations and media outlets continue to quote scientific studies that have been proven inaccurate. A careful analysis of the science concludes there is no strong support for the viewpoint that cats are a serious threat to wildlife.

Although human civilization and domestic cats co-evolved side by side, the feral cat population was not created by humans. Cats have lived outdoors for a long time. In the thousands of years that cats have lived alongside people, indoor-only cats have only become common in the last 50 or 60 years—a negligible amount of time on an evolutionary scale. They are not new to the environment and they didn’t simply originate from lost pets or negligent animal guardians. Instead, they have a place in the natural landscape.

Chimpanzee Fight For Survival

Millions chimpanzees once thrived in the forests of 25 different African nations. Today, their populations have been reduced to only 5 nations and their numbers have plummeted to between 150,000 and 300,000. Without immediate action, humans' closest living relative could be lost in only 15 years.

Humans are largely responsible for chimpanzee population declines. In addition to poaching, which plagues areas of Africa, deforesting and farming are quickly eliminating the habitats of chimps.

Legal and illegal logging is rapidly depleting habitat for chimpanzees. Agriculture is stripping away forests at alarming rates. Changes in climate may be the biggest threat of all to chimpanzees. Climate change is expected to wipe out many forest areas in the coming decades.

The Nigerian chimpanzee dwells in jungles along the Nigeria-Cameroon border. Weighing 70 kilos and reaching heights of nearly 6 feet while fully standing, this species is the most endangered of all the chimpanzee species. There are only 1,500 of them left in the Gashaka-Gumti National Park in Nigeria, a forest reserve.

The Eastern chimpanzee is a native of Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and the southern fringes of South Sudan. They also feature in the 2007 IUCN Red List of most endangered species.

Once a sub-Saharan species found in areas far beyond the Niger River, the Western chimpanzee now lives only in the forests of coastal countries of West Africa like Guinea, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Liberia and Ivory Coast. There are about 20,000 to 55,000 individuals, as per the most recent count.

The Central chimpanzee is a native of Central Africa and can be found in the dense equatorial forests of the Congo River Basin in countries of Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Congo. They are the most populous of all species, with a count of over 100,000 individuals.

The Bonobo, or the pygmy chimpanzee, is found only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Its habitat is ensconced in the southern bank of the powerful Congo River and has lent this species a different set of characteristics from other chimpanzees. It reaches a standing height of just under 4 feet, weighing in the range of 35 to 60 kilos. Bonobos appear distinctly slender when compared to other chimpanzees. There are about 30,000 to 50,000 of these creatures in their exclusive habitat in the equatorial forests of the southern Congo River basin.

Threats to Chimpanzees

Chimpanzees can adapt to both terrestrial and arboreal environments, but prefer dense forests. It is among trees where they are most at home. Chimpanzees are synonymous with trees, which is one reason why it is so essential to protect the forests they live in.

Logging results in the massive loss of forest cover every year. The growing numbers of poor humans are forced to clear forests to sustain themselves, leading to loss of habitat for the chimpanzees. The hardest hit is the Nigerian-Cameroon species that is on the brink of extinction. Many farmers use agriculture techniques that strip the soil of nutrients and quickly render it unusable, requiring more forests to be cleared.

In Tanzania's Gombe National Park, it’s the influx of refugees from strife-torn regions like Rwanda and Burundi that have taken a toll on the forest cover. The 35-sq-km park is not sufficient to cater to the needs of chimpanzees. Since they are large in size, they need more calories from sufficient food intake than such a restricted habitat can provide. This leads them to venture beyond the precincts of the park in search of food. Raiding nearby farms for maize, vegetables, and sometimes fruit, puts them in direct confrontation with man – a situation that has led to the deaths of many apes. Examples like the Gombe National Park have become widespread throughout the continent and heighten the risk for the chimps' survival.

Population pressure and consequential poverty drive many Africans to hunt for chimpanzee meat. Hunger is one reason. The other is the trade in bushmeat (the meat of wild animals as food). A family that has no sustainable income can live off the bushmeat trade, where they can earn anything from $1,000 - $3,000 in a year. This is more so the case in populous West African countries like Nigeria, Cameroon and Senegal.

Recent research reveals that the biggest threat to chimpanzees could come from climate change. Huge forest areas are likely to be wiped out in the next 50 to 60 years. While those dwelling in the deepest rainforests of Central Africa and DPR may somehow survive, habitats of forest areas of lesser expanse, like the Cameroon-Nigerian mountain jungles, are likely to perish.

Like humans, chimpanzees are susceptible to numerous diseases. Ebola and AIDs are no exception. This is one reason why so many of these animals are inhumanely kept in labs as models for biomedical research. Chimpanzees caged in such lab environments suffer from extreme mental stress emanating from boredom, confinement, and fear of experiments carried out on them.

Chimps may possess numerous traits in common with man, but that does not justify them being made a “pet” or kept in confinement in labs or zoos for man's benefit or entertainment. They must be recognized as creatures of the wild.

We need to conserve our precious forests for the protection of its denizens. Foremost in our minds should be the safeguard of chimpanzees, the most significant link to man's past.
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