(PHOTO GALLERY) A magnificent collection shows the animal kingdom bursting with life. — Global Animal
Now, in light of that comeback, delegates from around the world will decide in the coming weeks if they should condone commercial hunts once more.
The International Whaling Commission will consider a controversial plan seeking a truce in the battle that has raged since a global whaling ban took effect in 1986. Three nations — Japan, Norway and Iceland — have defied that moratorium, insisting on the right to use the oceans as they always have, and in recent years have expanded their whale hunts.
The compromise being considered would give approval for commercial hunts by those three nations in exchange for an overall cut in the number of whales being killed each year.
While the United States has yet to formally endorse the compromise — the details of which will be made public on April 22, Earth Day — U.S. commissioner to IWC Monica Medina said it may represent the best chance of bringing the ongoing whale hunt under control: “It’s a global problem, and needs global solutions.”
But the negotiations have infuriated some environmentalists and scientists, who say policymakers are placing whales at risk at the very moment when some are beginning to recover. “It’s great to be showing success, but should we be planting the flag and saying, ‘We’re there’?” asked Howard Rosenbaum, who directs the ocean giants program at the Wildlife Conservation Society. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”
Warmer and more acidic seas attributed to climate change threaten to disrupt feeding and breeding patterns, and other threats from ocean noise and offshore energy development are rising.
So scientists and policymakers are at a crossroads: Have the whales been, mostly, saved? Is the battle over, or has it just changed focus?
While recent estimates are not precise, several whale populations are on the mend. Bowhead whales off Alaska number somewhere between 8,200 and 13,500, according to the IWC, and are on the rise. Eastern Pacific gray whales, taken off the endangered species list in 1995, reached a peak of between 21,900 and 32,400 in 1999 before experiencing a modest decline. Blue whales in the Southern Hemisphere number between 1,150 and 4,500, and are increasing.
Centuries ago many of these whale populations were much larger, but that was before commercial hunting began. The three historic heydays of whaling were the killing of right whales in the Southern Hemisphere in the late 1700s; sperm whale hunting in the mid-1800s off New England; and global industrial whaling in the mid-1900s, which peaked when hunters killed nearly 80,000 whales in 1960.
But in 1967 Roger Payne and Scott McVay recorded humpback whales singing, a discovery that transformed public attitudes and galvanized a global movement to halt whaling altogether.
Could this Chinese Year of the Tiger be the last one with actual tigers still afoot in the world’s wild? The numbers are not encouraging. Experts believe the global wild tiger population has fallen to below 3,000 — less than 3 percent of what it was just 100 years ago. Today, their range has been reduced to small patches, isolating many of the animals in genetically impoverished groups of dozens of cats or fewer.
In India, some famous tiger reserves have no tigers left at all. The new Year of the Tiger, which began last month, will be a year of talking about the tiger, and urgently so. Thailand hosted a meeting of concerned Asian nations last month. This week a major conference — the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora — begins in Qatar, where tigers will be a marquee topic. A “summit” planned for Vladivostok, in September, will be hosted by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia and the president of the World Bank.
Mr. Putin has taken an especially active interest in the Amur sub-species, also known as the Siberian tiger, the largest of all the big cats, with males weighing up to 800 pounds and growing to lengths of 12 feet. Visitors to his Web site can track the movements of a female he collared with a transmitting device in 2008.
The long human assault on tigers has many participants: the seekers of traditional tiger-based medicines for mundane ailments like headaches; poachers and traffickers who raid wildlife sanctuaries; governments indifferent to the steady march of farmers and settlers on the tiger’s dwindling range.
A leading conservationist implicates one more culprit: the world’s leading conservationists. Alan Rabinowitz, who heads Panthera, a group devoted to big cat preservation, says that ever-more-numerous tiger organizations are mostly competing for donors when they should be concentrating on protecting the most promising populations and fighting poachers, the cats’ foremost threat. Despite millions raised and spent in the last decade or so, wild tigers may have declined by half over that time.
China banned trade in tiger products in 1993, but illegal demand there remains high and is the greatest driver of poaching. China periodically has considered lifting the ban to allow some of its tiger farms to provide parts to meet domestic demand for medicinal tiger products.
The possibility that China could lift the ban “is without a doubt the most polarized issue in tiger conservation,” said Ronald Tilson, a director at the Minnesota Zoo and an authority on tigers. Most conservationists insist that more tiger products increase demand, and more demand always hurts wild tigers, because consumers prefer wild ones for what is believed to be their greater potency.
There are an estimated 5,000 captive tigers in China and another 8,000 worldwide — kept as exhibits, entertainment, pets and livestock. In Texas alone, a hotspot in the robust market for the animals, there are more tigers in captivity than in the wild globally.
Meanwhile, the talk continues over how to keep these biggest of the big cats freely roaming a few small corners of the planet.
This year’s Dog of Valor award has some tough competition. There are simply so many dog heroes to recognize. From Calamity Jane who lost her leg protecting strangers, to other dogs who went beyond the call of duty to save people, we’re grateful to all these extraordinary pets. – Global Animal
ZooToo, Robin Wallace
NEW YORK — The phrase is as old as the sun — “man’s best friend,” exemplified by TV stars like Lassie, have always captured our hearts for the heroics that only a human-canine bond can create. But these extraordinary feats of loyalty are not just for the silver screen. Ordinary dogs often perform acts of heroism — just ask Calamity Jane.
This foster dog was still recovering from having her leg amputated — a delayed consequence of an old gunshot wound — and giving birth to a litter of seven, when she stopped a violent home invasion at a neighbor’s residence during her walk with foster mom Shar Pauley. Calamity Jane is certainly a hero, but she is not alone.
“We received almost 100 nominations, which is pretty amazing when you realize that all of these dogs are responsible for saving at least one person’s life,” said Colin Berry, Director of Innovations for the third annual “Dogs of Valor” contest, sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States.
Nominations came from 31 states and have been narrowed down to 10 finalists. The “People’s Hero” award is now open to the public’s voting until Friday, March 12 at 5 p.m. EST. While official winners will be announced on Monday, March 15, the Valor Dog of the Year will be chosen by a panel of celebrities.
The panel includes Kristin Bell, who played a mysterious character with special powers on the hit show “Heroes;” Sally Pressman, whose character on Lifetime’s “Army Wives” adopted a stray dog who saved a soldier’s life in Iraq; and Jay Kopelman, a retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel who brought a puppy back from Iraq and wrote “From Baghdad With Love” recalling the experience.
“The Dogs of Valor Awards are one way the HSUS celebrates animals and the incredible bond they share with humans,” Berry told Zootoo Pet News. “In this case, we’re honoring dogs who have acted beyond their own needs and wants, demonstrating that dogs are intelligent creatures who have the ability to reason and act courageously on behalf of others.”
Calamity Jane is only one such nominee and finalist, and nine other heroic animals share the honor with her. Meet this year’s Dogs of Valor Finalists:
Benson (Binghamton, N.Y.) — Barked and alerted his owners to a fire across the street, giving them time to run to their neighbor’s home and awaken the family before the house was consumed by flames.
Jackson (Rahway, N.J.) — Cried and ran through the house, alerting his owner to a 90-year-old neighbor who was trapped by a door that had fallen, knocking her to the ground.
Jobe (Omaha, Neb.) — Ran through the home and howled, awakening the family to alert them that their son, who has life threatening allergies, was in respiratory distress.
Kenai (Erie, Colo.) — Awakened owner to alert him to a carbon monoxide leak in the vacation home where he, six other adults, two children, and three dogs were sleeping.
Max (Little Neck, N.Y.) — Barked incessantly, leading his owner to investigate and discover that his neighbor’s 89-year-old mother had collapsed in the garden on a sweltering 91-degree day.
Milky Way (Rushford, Minn.) — Scratched feverishly at a closed bedroom door and alerted a woman that her sister had suffered a stroke and collapsed in another room.
Porkchop (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) — Bayed and barked until he got a neighbor’s attention, leading her to find his 71-year-old owner who was unconscious after collapsing and accidentally detaching the tube from the oxygen tank on which he depended to breathe.
Prozac (Sanford, N.C.) — Barked and alerted family when a 94-year-old woman began having difficulty breathing. Two months later, he awakened his pet sitter and her granddaughter, alerting them to a fire in their attic.
RaeLee (Tampa, Fla.) — Barked and ran down the hall, leading his owner to her son who was purple and seizing with blood streaming from his nose and mouth.
Calamity Jane (Aledo, Texas) — Scared away intruders by ferociously barking and growling outside a home where a family and their guests had been held at gunpoint for nearly an hour.
To vote or to read the complete stories of these Dogs of Valor nominees, visit HumaneSociety.org/DogsOfValor.
To watch our Zootoo Pet News story on last year’s People Choice winner, click here: www.zootoo.com,
(ANIMAL CONNECTION/WILDLIFE VIDEO) At an animal sanctuary in Tennessee, an elephant named Tara and a dog named Bella have formed an enduring friendship. Watch and see how their bond is unshakable in both sickness and in health. What great friends! — Global Animal
Nobody can turn a phrase better than Aaron Sorkin. Whether an omnivore, a vegetarian or a vegan, we can all agree that animals aren’t here to be killed as props for a reality TV show. But read on – Aaron puts it much more strongly. Tell us whether you agree or disagree! – Global Animal
“Unless you’ve never worn leather shoes, sat upon a leather chair or eaten meat, save your condemnation.”
You’re right, Sarah, we’ll all just go f*ck ourselves now.
The snotty quote was posted by Sarah Palin on (like all the great frontier women who’ve come before her) her Facebook page to respond to the criticism she knew and hoped would be coming after she hunted, killed and carved up a Caribou during a segment of her truly awful reality show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, broadcast on The-Now-Hilariously-Titled Learning Channel.
I eat meat, chicken and fish, have shoes and furniture made of leather, and PETA is not ever going to put me on the cover of their brochure and for these reasons Palin thinks it’s hypocritical of me to find what she did heart-stoppingly disgusting. I don’t think it is, and here’s why.
Like 95% of the people I know, I don’t have a visceral (look it up) problem eating meat or wearing a belt. But like absolutely everybody I know, I don’t relish the idea of torturing animals. I don’t enjoy the fact that they’re dead and I certainly don’t want to volunteer to be the one to kill them and if I were picked to be the one to kill them in some kind of Lottery-from-Hell, I wouldn’t do a little dance of joy while I was slicing the animal apart.
I’m able to make a distinction between you and me without feeling the least bit hypocritical. I don’t watch snuff films and you make them. You weren’t killing that animal for food or shelter or even fashion, you were killing it for fun. You enjoy killing animals. I can make the distinction between the two of us but I’ve tried and tried and for the life of me, I can’t make a distinction between what you get paid to do and what Michael Vick went to prison for doing. I’m able to make the distinction with no pangs of hypocrisy even though I get happy every time one of you faux-macho sh*theads accidentally shoots another one of you in the face.
So I don’t think I will save my condemnation, you phony pioneer girl. (I’m in film and television, Cruella, and there was an insert close-up of your manicure while you were roughing it in God’s country. I know exactly how many feet off camera your hair and make-up trailer was.)
And you didn’t just do it for fun and you didn’t just do it for money. That was the first moose ever murdered for political gain. You knew there’d be a protest from PETA and you knew that would be an opportunity to hate on some people, you witless bully. What a uniter you’d be — bringing the right together with the far right.
(Let me be the first to say that I abused cocaine and was arrested for it in April 2001. I want to be the first to say it so that when Palin’s Army of Arrogant As*holes, bereft of any reasonable rebuttal, write it all over the internet tomorrow they will at best be the second.)
I eat meat, there are leather chairs in my office, Sarah Palin is deranged and The Learning Channel should be ashamed of itself.