Tag Archives: “Fish and Wildlife Service”

Animals Without Borders

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The construction of barriers along borders is a hardly a new practice, from the Great Wall of China and Hadrian’s Wall to the present day. Aside from the existing 580 miles of wall between the US and Mexico, North and South Korea, and Israel and the West Bank are also separated by borders. Fences also separate Malaysia and Thailand, India and Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, China and Mongolia, and Botswana and Zimbabwe. These border walls do not merely impact people, but also have unintended consequences for wildlife by curtailing their movements.

Trump’s megalithic construction project will require an enormous staging area complete with access roads, heavy equipment, and supporting structures even before the wall is completed.

Up until very recently Donald Trump’s idea for a wall on the U.S.–Mexico border has existed as little more than a psychosocial framework – a chest-pounding display for bully boys. There were certainly many clues that the totally unscripted, unrehearsed, and unedited Trump was hostile to animal rights and animal welfare issues prior to the election. He and his sons spoke negatively about animal rights advocates and he has affiliated himself with supporters of agricultural gag laws. Proving that not only people will suffer from “Trumpism,” the House Appropriations Committee has approved a 1.6 billion down payment on a wall that will help ensure that endangered animals are endangered right into extinction.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers has begun preliminary preparations for the construction of segments of a wall in several places along the border with Mexico. Immediately impacted is the 2,088 acre Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.  The federally owned refuge, established in 1943, is often referred to as the “crown jewel of the national wildlife refuge system,” and could see construction begin as early as January 2018. This will destroy the refuge, one of the top birding destinations in North America. In addition, the US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that the project will potentially impact 111 endangered species, 108 species of migratory bird, four wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries, and an unknown number of protected wetlands.

A voyage across the US-Mexico border, stitched together from 200,000 satellite images, criss-crossing through private land, native territories, and the Rio Grande.

 

 

It’s certainly true that highways, railroads, canals, and other types of human-created infrastructures already harm wildlife. Knowing that, you may ask why border walls are different. While human developments continue to encroach on animal territories, most projects are constructed as part of an overall planning process where there is usually an attempt to minimize the impacts by federal or state laws. A border is designed to be impenetrable – for people certainly, but also for wildlife. International law doesn’t prelude the US from constructing a border fence, except when such construction would violate federal or international wildlife laws. The Sierra Club maintains that multiple Federal laws will need to be waived by Department of Homeland Security, in order to construct the remaining 1,400 or so miles of border wall.

National Environmental Policy Act
Endangered Species Act
National Historic Preservation Act
Archaeological Resources Protection Act
Safe Drinking Water Act
Noise Control Act
Solid Waste Disposal Act
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act
Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act
Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
Farmland Protection Policy Act
Coastal Zone Management Act
Wilderness Act
Federal Land Policy and Management Act
National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act
Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956
Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act
Administrative Procedure Act
Otay Mountain Wilderness Act of 1999
California Desert Protection Act
National Park Service Organic Act
National Park Service General Authorities Act
National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978
Arizona Desert Wilderness Act
Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899
Eagle Protection Act
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
American Indian Religious Freedom Act
Religious Freedom Restoration Act
National Forest Management Act of 1976
Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act of 1960
Federal Grants and Cooperative Agreements Act of 1977

Existing border fences include (combinations of) chain link, barbed or razor wire fences, electrified fences, steel fences, concrete walls, sand walls (e.g., Morocco/Western Sahara), mud walls (e.g., Pakistan/Afghanistan), trenches and even underground metal walls (e.g., Egypt/Gaza Strip). Common accessories include roads, floodlights, human guards, dogs and landmines.

In order for a species to survive, populations need move about, travelling to various food and water sources and for seasonal migration. Climate change has made this mobility imperative for wildlife.  There are many unintended consequences that result from preventing the natural movements of animals. Impenetrable fences impede this mobility and fragment habitats, isolate populations, cause genetic isolation and alter behaviours that may be important to the long-term survival of the populations or species involved. When populations are small, species need as much intermixing as possible in order to survive – smaller populations of already endangered animals will suffer without access to the varied genetics of animals blocked by the wall. Nocturnal animals can also be disrupted by floodlighting on walls, which interfere with their normal routines for feeding etc.  Additionally, both poachers and predators can take unfair advantage of animals whose escape is prevented by border walls – some wily predators have learned to chase prey into fences. Since large carnivores and herbivores play particularly influential roles in the food chain, this can have a profound effect by cascading through the ecosystem.

Even fences that were created for the purpose of safeguarding one species usually harm others. Consider for instance, the consequences of the so-called dingo and rabbit-proof fences in Australia.

Photo Credit: Graeme Chapman. Western Australia’s State Barrier Fence represents a continuation of colonial era attitudes that separated or blocked the movements of kangaroos, emus, rabbits, and dingoes.

Designed to prevent dingos from predating sheep and keep other wild animals off farmland, the fences also separated the dingos from kangaroos, so there was a massive increase in the kangaroo population, whose expanded populations went on to compete with the sheep for forage. Like the proposed US border wall, the rabbit-proof fence basically cuts the continent in half. These Australian fences also affected the dispersion of plant seeds by preventing Emus (who eat the fruits of native plants) from travelling long distances, resulting in a loss of biodiversity of plant life.

Fencing to prevent disease transference from wild animals and livestock often resulted in devastating consequences as well. In the 1950s, fence construction in Kruger National Park restricted wildebeest to half of their original range, obstructing their migration to seasonal water sources and contributing to a population drop of 90%.

Two recent studies have shed even more light on the effects walls have on wildlife.  A 2016 study published in the Review of European, Comparative and International Environmental Law found that “border fences can cause declines and even local disappearance of species.”  Authors of another study in the journal PloS Biology found that border fences erected to prevent refugee migration “were erected as emergency measures with no environmental impact assessments.” and the authors went on to suggest that a “wide range of high-tech monitoring methods are now available that would allow selected sections of a border to remain unfenced, while still providing security.”  the latter study focused on Slovenia where over 100 miles of barbed and razor-wire fencing have been erected along about one-third of the border with Croatia.  A slew of mangled animal carcasses – especially red deer have been found caught in the coils of wire.

During the Cold War, an electrified barbed-wire fence separated what was then Communist Czechoslovakia from what was then West Germany. It kept the Czechs from crossing over into Bavaria. Well, nowadays it’s the Czech Republic and the electric fence is no longer there, no longer keeping people out of what is now a united Germany. But two decades after that stretch of the Iron Curtain came down, the deer from Czech Republic’s Sumava National Park still won’t cross the area where the former electrified fence was decades ago.

Even when walls are later removed, animals are often hesitant to cross the area where the former border stood. Red deer who were formerly separated by an electric fence that divided Communist Czechoslovakia from what was then West Germany now refuse to cross the border where the fence used to stand. Even though the areas is now forest, the deer still tend to stick to either the Czech or German sides and are essentially two separate populations of animals.  This is an interesting example of social learning within the herds, since the electric fence was removed over 20 years ago and generally red deer don’t live beyond 15 years, so the currently living animals would never have encountered the electric fence

Given that the stated purpose of Trump’s wall is to keep people out, it is unlikely to include areas of passage for large herbivores or predators. So, leave it to Trump and the serially science-denying flat-earthers of the Republican party to exacerbate the current mass extinction emergency by regarding our ecosystem as merely a resource to be monetized and exploited. The wall will, if actually completed, severely undermine the Endangered Species Act and remove or block protections for imperiled species. This is one reason why Trump wants to kill off the EPA – so there is no environmental impact study on the wall.  It’s a “silver bullet” that’s a politically expedient yet inevitably, a major ecological intervention.

Don Jr.: ““Wouldn’t it be great to bring in a sportsman to run the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a conservationist (not a radical environmentalist) in to run the U.S. Forest Service? How about bringing a real farmer or rancher in to run the Department of Agriculture? What about having a farmer or rancher head the EPA? My dad will bring people into government who will be leaders, who will provide focus and direction for these departments and agencies and who will get these departments and agencies to focus on their missions rather than on advancing some political agenda.” source – http://www.outdoorlife.com/what-donald-trump-administration-says-it-would-do-to-our-wildlife-streams-and-forests

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Tackling The Ivories

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ebony and ivory elephants

Written By:  Heather Clemenceau

When I was a kid, I’m pretty sure that I learned that “E” was for “elephant,” not for “extinction.” But since the time I was in grade school, Africa has lost over 90% of their elephants. Despite an international ivory trade ban being in place, the obscene demand for elephant ivory and rhino horn just keeps growing, largely due to increasing affluence in China. In the Far East a single elephant’s tusks that weigh 10kg will fetch more than $30,000, while rhino horn is selling at $65,000 a kilogram, more than twice the price of gold. As most everyone knows, a tipping point has been reached – more African elephants are being killed each year than are being born. An elephant has one baby only every few years. Factor in natural death and do the math – their end is in sight.

Ivory is often concealed as stag antler, cow bone, bovine bone, angel skin coral, faux ivory,  or other natural organic material.  Elephant ivory has been the most important source, but ivory from many species including the hippopotamus, walrus, pig, mammoth, sperm whale, and narwhal has been used.

Ivory is often concealed as stag antler, cow bone, bovine bone, angel skin coral, faux ivory, or other natural organic material. Elephant ivory has been the most important source, but ivory from many species including the hippopotamus, walrus, pig, mammoth, sperm whale, and narwhal has been used.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement which came into force in Canada on July 3rd, 1975 and aims to prevent the over-exploitation of wildlife threatened by excessive international trade and illegal poaching. Selling African ivory has been prohibited since 1989.  Under the regulations, some people will need to sacrifice certain rights of ivory ownership. Anyone who currently owns an ivory item, and wants to keep it or gift it, is not impacted at all by these regulations. However, owners of ivory without proper documentation (showing it is either antique or acquired legally before the 1989 ban) will not be able to sell it. However, any ivory considered ancient, such as 10,000 to 40,000 year old mammoth ivory, is completely unrestricted in its sale or possession.

Elephant-sized loopholes, insufficient law enforcement and capitulation by the member states of CITES to pro-ivory trade governments has occasionally allowed sales of enormous amounts of stockpiled ivory. But not all shipments of ivory arrive via someone’s luggage or a

Elephants will be extinct in 10 years at the rate China's carving factories are churning out chopsticks and useless doodads.  There are 37 massive carving factories in China. The owners could close those factories now, retool to carve in resin, and the poachers would not be paid at the factory door.

Elephants will be extinct in 10 years at the rate China’s carving factories are churning out prestige pieces, chopsticks and useless doodads. There are 37 massive carving factories in China. The owners could close those factories now, retool to carve in resin, and the poachers would not be paid at the factory door.

shipping container. In 2007, eBay, under pressure from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, banned all international sales of elephant-ivory.  But this has done little to prevent elephant ivory products from being trafficked on the world’s online marketplace.   eBay and Etsy are largely responsible for much of the illegal ivory transactions in North America. While both sites have have been humiliated into creating official policies, they certainly do not enforce them to the spirit of the agreement, since they are profiting handsomely via fees and commissions from their sellers. This is also true of Craig’s List, Google Shopping, and other online sellers who have no policies at all against facilitating the ivory trade.

Most of the doodads sold as antique ivory today are made to look old but come from elephants that were killed recently in Africa. Illegal products are also getting mixed up with the pre-ban and pre-historic stuff, such as legal mammoth ivory, reclaimed from mass graveyards. I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with using ivory from long-dead mammoths, but the average person cannot distinguish between mammoth ivory and elephant ivory – a highly trained individual is still necessary to obtain a positive identification of the species source, sometimes by using techniques such as isotope analysis.

The replica Bechstein Louis XV grand piano. The original was made for Queen Victoria. It is undeniably impressive with its intricate woodcarving and gold leaf, but should a contemporary grand piano have real ivory-topped keys?  Reviving traditional craftsmanship is a worthy pursuit. But to use ivory for the keys is a very serious misreading of the tea leaves by this piano company.

The replica Bechstein Louis XV grand piano. The original was made for Queen Victoria. It is undeniably impressive with its intricate woodcarving and gold leaf, but should a contemporary grand piano have real ivory-topped keys? Reviving traditional craftsmanship is a worthy pursuit. But to use ivory for the keys is a very serious misreading of the tea leaves by this piano company.

Confounding this are the products made (or allegedly made) from hippo tusk, ox bone, warthog ivory, buffalo horn, giraffe and camel bone, in addition to mother-of-pearl, synthetic polymers, and the catch-all phrase, “faux ivory.” Any of these aforementioned terms are used online as “code” for genuine ivory.  Visit eBay and search for “faux ivory” or any of these other terms and you’ll see how prevalent it is. If sellers do identify their wares as ivory, they claim that their ivory trinkets are pre-ban, antique, or vintage. But they cannot all be pre-ban relics. An investigation by the Natural Resources Defense Council has found that up to 90 percent of the ivory products sold in stores in Los Angeles is illegal.

Older or antique musical instruments are sometimes made with ivory components.  Despite the scourge of poaching, piano maker Bechstein created a world-wide scandal when they used post-ban ivory on a new golden salon grand commissioned for its 160th anniversary and based on a replica of the original gilded piano Carl Bechstein created for Queen Victoria in the late 19th century. It is finished with 24-carat gold leaf, carved from century-old Italian wood and finished with ivory keys. If you can get past the ivory keys, the piano is exquisite and will probably find itself in the parlour of a wealthy buyer in China or some tobacco company executive. But if anyone seriously believes a new piano made with ivory keys rather than other materials is worth more than an elephant then they are deluded. Then again, people still pay to go on those gruesome big game safaris, eat endangered whale meat at high-class restaurants, and wear fur, so I’m not really sure what I’m so surprised about. Singer Billy Joel took to his blog to provide the perfect response to musicians who argue that they need ivory keys for their pianos. Joel writes:

For piano keys, the ivory was sliced thin, into laminates that were secured to wooden keys. These keys are all that's left of our antique piano,  destroyed in "The Great Fire" of 1999.  You can see how warped they are from the heat of the fire.

Two keys from our 1936 Steinway piano, inexorably linked with the distasteful business of killing elephants for the purpose of obtaining ivory. For piano keys, the ivory was sliced thin, into laminates that were secured to wooden keys. These keys are all that’s left of our piano, destroyed in a house fire not that long after we brought it up from the US. You can see how warped they are from the heat of the fire.

“I am a piano player. And I realize that ivory piano keys are preferred by some pianists. But a preference for ivory keys does not justify the slaughter of 96 elephants every day. There are other materials which can be substituted for piano keys. But magnificent creatures like these can never be replaced. Music must never be used as an excuse to destroy an endangered species. Music should be a celebration of life – not an instrument of death.”

Despite the masses of buttons, buckles, and billiard balls freely available in the online marketplace, musicians are being targeted when travelling with their instruments for competitions and performances. The CITES regulations have created anxiety in the music world, and will cause many working musicians with vintage instruments to reconsider travelling abroad. Both the Los Angeles Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony were only able to travel internationally after they secured CITES permits, which require a wait time of 30-75 days and cost $75 per certificate.

We brought our 1936 Steinway piano with elephant ivory keys up from the US via railway car, coincidentally right after CITES regulations came into force. At the time we had no idea that there were existing regulations with which we would have to comply in order to import it into Canada. We had never heard of a CITES Import Certificate. You can be sure that we didn’t have any paperwork proving how old it was. If we had called Steinway do you think that they would have had the documentation to prove when and where that ivory was obtained? Had the piano been seized, the keys would have been ripped off it and we probably would have been lumped in together with people who are intentionally trafficking in new ivory.

Today, there are many different materials available to pianomakers. Piano key veneers are made of resin,  jade, slate, or clamshell.  You can almost hear the elephants trumpeting their approval.

Today, there are many different materials available to pianomakers. Piano key veneers are made of resin, jade, slate, or clamshell. You can almost hear the elephants trumpeting their approval.

Even if you’re in possession of a CITES certificate, things can still go horribly wrong in the misguided war on musical instruments. Campbell Webster, 17 and Eryk Bean, 17, both from New Hampshire, had their bagpipes seized while travelling between Canada and the US, just two days before they were due to fly to Scotland for the World Pipe Band Championships. Webster’s £6,000 pipes, which were previously used by his father in his role as an official piper to the Queen, were confiscated by officials because they are made out of ivory. All this was due to the boys’ failure to cross at the designated port. In another example of overreaching authority, The Fish and Wild Life Service confiscated a 73 year-old piano and would not release it to the owner until the ivory had been stripped from it. In 2014, a Canadian string player studying in New York cancelled his audition in Winnipeg, fearing his bow with an ivory bridge would be confiscated on return to the States. To serious violinists, the bow is almost as important as the violin itself.

The ivory trade is a pretty despicable industry – the domain of the world’s most vicious and heavily armed militants. It’s hard to believe that the killing, trafficking, and terrorism are being committed solely out of the desire for animal teeth. Whatever can be done to stop the trade, then I’m all for it. But confiscating or damaging these musical instruments is a ridiculous action in the face of so many ivory pieces being sold internationally.

Do governments really believe that ivory is being trafficked as antique bagpipes, piano keys, and violin bridges or bows? It’s pretty obvious when you have a musician transporting an older musical instrument that just happens to be laden with ivory… as opposed to someone with a couple massive tusks in their checked bag. Confiscating bagpipes from teenagers and hassling other musicians with vintage instruments is not the way to go about it – no one is playing that instrument *because* it has ivory – they have the instrument due to its quality. These are good and well-intended regulations, but they’ve got to be refined so they accomplish their intended goals without needlessly complicating the lives of musicians.  We need higher penalties for violators, online retailers, traffickers and especially for big game hunters who can currently legally kill elephants and bring home the ivory.

Oscar-Winning Director Kathryn Bigelow Wants You to Know Your Ivory Souvenirs Finance Terrorists