Wildlife and conservation

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The TPP, or Trans-Pacific Partnership, is the newest trade agreement being proposed and “fast-tracked” here in the U.S. The TPP is an agreement with 11 countries in Asia and Latin America that proposes major changes in property rights of intellectual property and the enforcement of infractions regarding them. It appears to be quite complicated (at least to me who is a non-attorney) and basically requires the signatory countries “to adopt heightened copyright protection that advances the agenda of the US entertainment and pharmaceutical industries agendas, but omits the flexibilities and exceptions that protect Internet users and technology innovators.”

Now that alone is concerning to me, but as this is an animal rights blog, I will leave it to others to explain why the TPP is bad for jobs and for anyone trying to make a decent wage.

So what DOES the TPP have to do with animals?

Well for one thing, the other signatory countries present issues regarding their treatment of animals. The other countries are Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Brunei Darussalam. Some of these countries have abysmal records of animal abuse on a systemic level, particularly in the food and research areas (not that the U.S. necessarily has a lot to be proud of). We only have to look at the world outrage over the confinement, torture, and slaughter in Taiji, Japan, of hundreds (it will be thousands before the season is over) of dolphins and whales so that the captive marine mammal entertainment industry can have more victims for their grotesque “theme parks.” In addition, as stated above, this agreement is a financial blockbuster for the pharmaceutical industry, a major abuser and killer of animals worldwide. The TPP does not appear to deal with either of these major issues as a condition of passage.

The other major concern with the TPP regarding animals is the disgusting crime of shark finning. As many know, shark finning is the obscene practice of removing a live shark from the water, slicing off its fins WHILE STILL ALIVE AND CONSCIOUS, and tossing its tortured, disfigured body back into the ocean (shark “meat” is not nearly as profitable as the fins). These sharks, of course, will not survive, dying by asphyxiation (since they cannot swim and move water over their gills to breathe), blood loss, or predation. No doubt the suffering of these sharks is unimaginable. Currently, it is estimated that 100 million sharks each year are killed in this horrific fashion. Shark fin soup is a delicacy in some places, which is responsible for much of the demand.

Sharks are vertebrates. They have the same basic nervous system and limb structure (in their case fins) as any other vertebrate. Their capacity to feel pain and suffering is the same as any vertebrate. The horrific suffering that they endure before their deaths is almost unimaginable. In addition to the massive suffering inflicted on the individual sharks, there is the issue of their conservation and ability to continue living in their environments. There are 18 species of sharks listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). At the rate of killing, sharks could be eliminated from the oceans in 10-20 years.

So back to the TPP. In March of 2013, some steps had been taken at a meeting in Bangkok to outlaw this brutal practice. A positive step to be sure. And some countries and cities are taking it upon themselves to ban shark fin products in their jurisdictions. But the news regarding the TPP is not good. The latest draft of the TPP does not include any language to ban shark finning. It merely “acknowledges commitments” previously made. In other words, nice-sounding phrasing which essentially does nothing to bind any of the participating countries to any prohibition on finning. To put in perspective, according to Michael Brune of the Sierra Club, “If the environment chapter is finalized as written in this leaked document, President Obama’s environmental trade record would be worse than George W. Bush’s.”

So what can we do?

1. If in the U.S., write to your congressional representatives and senators and voice your disapproval with this blatant pandering to international niceness and urge them NOT to put their seal of approval on any agreement which doesn’t include specific and enforceable prohibitions on shark finning (or, urge them not to approve it at all if that is your position). If in another of the signatory countries, follow the normal protocol for expressing disapproval with your government’s decisions, where appropriate.

2. Get the word out in whatever way you do – social media, email, telling your friends, families, and coworkers, however you choose to – speak out and inform as many people as possible of this travesty against our environment and its inhabitants.

3. Sign and share a petition to ban shark finning.

The omission of any clearly worded shark protection from the TPP is part of the attempt to fast-track it – bickering over wording and dealing with countries that do not want to stop this hideous practice would take time, and apparently time is not something the administration or congress want. They want to move this along as quickly as possible. But this appeasement of a brutal and obscene crime against sharks and the environment cannot be allowed to pass. It will be yet another blow to environmental conservation efforts and humane treatment of animals and another win for powerful, environment-killing corporate power.

Let’s try and stop it.

Photo of great white shark from 4freephotos.com

rhino-1-1276102050rNRLAs most everyone knows by now, a hunting club has auctioned off a trophy hunting permit to kill a black rhino in the country of Namibia. Wildlife officials there say that the money will go to protecting rhinos and their habitat and that the rhino chosen to be killed by the shooter (I refuse to use the term “hunter” in this context since it is basically a slaughter) is an older male past typical breeding age. I won’t begin to try and understand the political, financial, and logistical challenges of conserving wildlife and their habitat in far away lands (far away to me, as I am in the U.S.). But since other countries such as Botswana and Zambia have banned trophy hunting, and countries such as Kenya have extremely tough penalties for poaching wildlife, it is certainly conceivable that kill-free conservation efforts could be successful. Botswana, for example, has decided to switch the focus from killing to viewing, ending trophy hunting in favor of a more developed ecotourism program. Kenya has possible life sentences for poachers and also focuses on tourism to bring in much needed dollars.

Different countries have different approaches to trying to save their precious wildlife and habitat, but trophy hunting can’t be one of them. While it is well known that people will spend tens of thousands of dollars for a guided “hunt” (i.e., slaughter), the countries hosting them fear that photographers, nature lovers, and other tourists won’t necessarily lay out that kind of money for a trip to their country. Simply put, we must prove them wrong. Killing what should be a protected species can not be a true conservation strategy. Not in this century, not with all that we know about the importance of biological diversity and habitat protection. Not with all that we know about the sentient, sensitive, and intelligent nature of many of these magnificent animals. Not with the real risk of generations of people growing up in the future having to look only at photos of lions, leopards, and rhinos. This can’t be the answer.

What I find most despicable about this whole thing is the glee with which the “hunting” club is celebrating this auction of a kill permit. One person presented the winning bid of $350,000. That person, presumably, will travel to the country and enjoy his killing of this rhino. I am curious – does he actually think he is helping the species? Because he/she can do that by donating the money and NOT killing the rhino. And what kind of “hunting” feat is it when the animal to be killed has been preselected, will be older, and will likely be in a cordoned off area, not truly able to even escape his fate? What does it say about us as a species when people compete with large sums of money for the privilege of shooting a confined, elderly animal just for the pleasure of it?

This obscene practice of trophy hunting has to stop. It is, country by country. But it needs to move along with haste. We need to support in whatever way we can the conservation efforts of the countries fortunate enough to be the residence of these beautiful creatures. We need to speak out and petition against this brutal practice of wealthy, privileged people buying rights to kill animals that normally are protected and against whom the killing could be considered a crime if done by a person without the money to buy such an activity. Once again, the image of money dangling overhead by an extremely small minority of people is an attempt to control others and an attempt to do what is clearly wrong by calling it right. This contorted logic and destruction of the world’s precious ecological habitats and inhabitants needs to be defeated. Conservation can be accomplished without selling the blood of the species we are trying to save.

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Due to various life events, it has been a while since I have put up any new content (apologies for that). I normally like to address one topic in depth, but since there are about a million topics swirling around in my head, I will mention a few of them now. Some I might go into in a later post, some maybe not. But here’s a bit of what I’ve been thinking about:

1. What are the ethics of giving and receiving gifts (especially food gifts) between vegans and non-vegans? I try and give only vegan and/or cruelty free gifts even when I know the recipient might really enjoy a sausage from Hickory Farms, for example. But I always keep the recipient in mind and try and get a gift that they will really like, just not something based on an animal’s death. When I receive a gift, I have no problem returning/exchanging it (a wool sweater, for example), or passing it along to someone else if it is a food item. I wonder how much this is an issue in families, particularly at holiday time.

2. Speaking of gifts, I saw an article in a local paper about giving live animals as gifts. It was a syndicated article, and I have no memory of where it came from. But the gist of the article was that it is not a good idea to give live animals as gifts, a premise I wholeheartedly support. But it was the beginning paragraph of the article that appalled me. The author was talking about being out shopping and seeing a dog/cat in a pet store and being inclined to an impulse purchase. Is he/she kidding me?? Millions of healthy animals are still being killed in shelters because of a lack of space and homes, and there are still people BUYING animals from pet stores? I didn’t think you could even sell live animals at pet stores anymore (and that needs to stop forthwith). Hey folks, how about adopting? Saving a life? And that goes for breeders, too. They still want to sell their $500 puppies to a person with that much to spend, meanwhile perfectly nice, sweet shepherds, goldies, and too many cats to count are being killed. Shame on all of them.

3. A 12 year old girl was among those arrested at the US Thanksgiving day parade. A group of protesters wanted to stop the Sea World float – understandable. To me it’s akin to having a slaughterhouse float or a vivisection lab float. What was interesting to me is that shortly afterwards, Sea World put out a letter calling the protesters “extremists” and basically attempting to portray them as fringe lunatics. As many others have written and as I have on this blog and on twitter, it appears the days of Sea World and other such institutions are numbered. Word is out about the appalling tactics of capture, abuse, and, in the case of Taiji (which rounds up dolphins for marine mammal parks), slaughter. Sea World is losing its grip on this because the facts are coming out, so they are attempting to portray anyone speaking the truth as a non-mainstream wacko. I guess it sucks to be them as people realize that captivity, exploitation, and abuse are not very entertaining.

4. There have been too many cases lately of cows being left out in the elements and dying of exposure. The most recent one was a local case of a farmer who had left newly born calves out at night – in the high winds, blowing snow, and below zero wind chills that have plagued much of the northern US in recent days. If this had been done to a dog or cat, criminal charges might be pending. But since someone has decided that animals to be killed for food do not get the same protection, nothing will happen. Let’s all remember though that cows have the same nervous system, sensitivity, and capability of suffering as dogs. I guess it is easier for those who profit off of their deaths to imagine that somehow the rules of science get suspended when it is for something that they want. Or perhaps they simply don’t care.

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CNN recently aired the movie Blackfish, which had previously played in theaters and which has received a great deal of attention highlighting the plight of captive orcas and marine animals in entertainment venues, such as SeaWorld. Hopefully the broadcast by CNN (which they have played several times) will restart the important conversation about marine animal entertainment parks and the cruel abuse they inflict on their captives. I was heartened by the survey done by CNN after the movie in which 60-something percent of respondents said they would NOT take their children to SeaWorld now, while only 30-something percent said they would. I doubt those were the percentages before the movie was aired, so this compelling film does have the capacity to change minds about this issue.

I never really did a review of Blackfish for this blog, so I would like to share my collection of thoughts after last night’s airing:

The most wrenching part for me was the beginning, when the captures were taking place. Seeing the reaction of the young whales and the reactions of their family members while the young were being hoisted away ripped my heart out. The panic and cries of the family and the young whales even moved one of the kidnappers to say years later that it is the worst thing he has ever done in his life.

The emotion displayed by former trainers, even years later, while talking about food deprivation and other cruel techniques to control the whales was quite moving and shows the extent of their emotional evolution as they reflect on their years as trainers. They were also quite angry at SeaWorld for not having told them anything about the risks they were taking with their own lives given Tilikum’s history of killing people.

The initial response by SeaWorld to the death of Dawn Brancheau, particularly their attempt to blame her for her own death, was beyond revolting. They accused her of having a loose ponytail (which was later determined NOT likely to be the part of her which was grabbed but rather her arm) and of making a mistake in setting Tilikum off – as if a 12,000 pound/5,400 kg apex predator kept in deplorable and confining conditions NEEDS a reason to “go off” on anyone. The very fact of him being there at all made him a loaded weapon which SeaWorld was only happy to keep loaded and exploit for profit, even after he killed three people, including one of their most experienced trainers.

Speaking of Tilikum, his sperm has been harvested and used to parent a number of progeny, most of whom are also captives of the SeaWorld profit machine. Anyone out there think it is a good idea to breed an animal with a known history of aggression? Sure, he kills, but he is smart and trainable, so let’s make more of him – a fantastic example of how SeaWorld puts profit before human OR nonhuman animal well-being. And on the subject of sperm harvesting, the film does show how that is done. The trainers do it, and I don’t think I need to get graphic here about the technique used. Let’s just say it is a tried and true method of extracting sperm from a male animal. Just another horrible indignity and abuse heaped on these magnificent creatures.

One of the females, after her baby was taken from her to be transported to another park, went into grieving and made a sound that had not been heard before. Whale specialists were called in to examine this and determined that it was a long-range sound. She was attempting, in vain, to try and contact and find her baby. How do these people even sleep at night?

If you have not seen this film and are active in animal rights, I would recommend Blackfish. It is not terribly graphic in terms of violence (it’s not The Cove), although there is certainly enough there to evoke strong emotion. It is definitely something to recommend to any friends or family who insist on visiting SeaWorld type parks. These parks have to close, and people have to stop exploiting and abusing these beautiful animals for human entertainment and profit. Hopefully films such as Blackfish will help to make that a reality.

anim1763 Taiji, Japan – a place where, between September 1st and sometime next spring, an estimated 20,000 dolphins will be brutally slaughtered. Although there are always so many pressing and important animal rights issues to blog about, for me, as this date draws closer, there is very little else I can think about. These beautiful, intelligent, sensitive and social creatures will be herded into a small cove (which is where the name came from for the movie, “The Cove”), held captive, and will be violently and barbarically killed by being stabbed or hacked to death in full view of their family members and any other dolphins around. The ones who do not die of blood loss or trauma might drown, or, as in the case of at least one dolphin in a previous year, allowed herself to suffocate by closing her blowhole, killing herself. It is actually so bad that the waters of the cove become deep red from the blood of the slaughtered creatures. This atrocity takes place every year, and every year, the pressure on Japan to stop it grows more intense. The work of the entire production crew of “The Cove,” as well as organizations like Sea Shepherd, OPS, Save Japan Dolphins and others, have worked very hard in recent years to highlight to the entire world this previously hidden and unpublicized horror.

The fact that this slaughter continues is in stark contrast to actions other countries have taken, such as India declaring dolphins to be nonhuman persons with rights to life and liberty (the first country in the world to do so). In fact, India is in the process of starting the shutdown of its dolphin parks. How some governments can be so forward thinking in recognizing the sentient nature of dolphins while others fight world opinion to continue a barbaric, ruthless, and gruesome practice is a sad example of how wide a gulf still exists between those who might attempt to protect nonhuman animals and those who choose to continue exploiting and murdering them for profit.

And let’s not kid ourselves, this IS about profit. The people who commit these acts might claim it is a “tradition,” but in the end, money does change hands. Much as the whale flesh from the slaughter of whales in the southern ocean sanctuary is sold to be consumed, the flesh from these poor murdered dolphins will be sold to be consumed, despite growing concern about mercury levels in that flesh and the health effects on people who eat it. And for the small percentage of creatures who survive, many of them will end up in marine mammal parks such as Seaworld, recently highlighted in the movie Blackfish about the awful treatment of orcas in captivity.

So after reading all of this you are completely disheartened and horrified, you might be wondering if there is anything you can do. There is – as with whaling, the more economic pressure that is brought to the countries who still sanction these atrocities, the more likely they will be willing to abandon them in favor of activities that might actually improve their economies without horrifying the world.
Here are some things you can do:

1. Visit the Sea Shepherd Society’s website – they have an action page with contact information for Japanese government officials to write to and a link to donate if you are able.
2. Spread the word – through your facebook page, twitter account, or whatever social media you visit. Tell family, friends and coworkers.
3. If you know people who visit marine mammal parks, tell them about Taiji and suggest that they see the films The Cove and Blackfish. By buying a ticket to these parks, they are inadvertently supporting the dolphin slaughter industry, which sells surviving captives to these parks.
4. Educate yourself about the products that come from Japan and the companies that export their goods so that you can choose not to buy from them. Here are Japan’s top ten exported products, and here is a list of the top ten exporting companies. You can mention this to your friends as well or post the links to your social media pages.

At screenings of the movie The Cove in Japan, a survey found that 68 % of the people surveyed thought that the hunt and slaughter in Taiji should stop. This is clearly not the will of the world, or even perhaps of the Japanese people themselves. If we keep spreading the word and putting economic pressure, this horror could come to an end, hopefully sooner rather than later.

photo: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

piping plover Roadkill – we see it nearly every day: raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, frogs, and perhaps less frequently, deer, dogs, and cats. Most of the time, the poor creatures are already dead. Sometimes, rescues are possible, and even more rarely, survival and rehabilitation occurs. Over my thirty-plus years of driving, I have had the occasion to rescue two robins who had been hit by cars. I’ve also had the unfortunate experience of having hit and killed a raccoon, a chipmunk, and a bird (type unknown). The number of dead animals I see on any given day out on the roadways and highways I try not to think about.

After being particularly disturbed upon seeing an adult opossum dead today, I decided to look into this subject, which I had been intending to do for a while. As it turns out, accurate statistics (at least in the U.S.) are difficult to come by. Each state wildlife agency keeps its own statistics. Insurance companies keep their own statistics on reported collisions and damages, usually involving larger animals, such as deer and moose. Car enthusiasts as well as those concerned about disappearing endangered species both keep tabs as best they can. A few university researchers are attempting to collect data from the public. But information involving animals killed by motor vehicles is mostly available through a patchwork of surveys, insurance statistics, and observations of state wildlife officials.

Here is some of what we know. There are about four million miles of roads in the U.S., of which more than half is paved . There are 240 million cars and trucks registered in the U.S. And the estimated miles logged in the course of a year? three trillion.

That’s a lot of opportunities for death and injury causing collisions to occur. The best estimate I have come across as to how many animals we lose is approximately four hundred million vertebrate animals on U.S. roads every year. That of course, does not count the untold number of insects, such as moths and butterflies. And as others have pointed out, this figure only includes the counted and seen dead – it does not estimate how many collisions occur leaving an animal to die later alone in the woods, the total of which could be several times more than what we actually see and count. So basically, every day on US roads, at least one million vertebrate animals (and unknown numbers of invertebrates) lose their lives as a result of motor vehicles – a direct result of motor vehicles. If we also consider the losses due to dwindling habitat and pollution of habitat by motor vehicle exhaust as well as paving dust, pollution of nearby waterways, and disruption of feeding and breeding behavior due to the impact of major road construction, the numbers only climb higher.

Not only is this devastating to those who lose beloved companions in this manner, but there are also real concerns about the potential impact on wildlife populations, especially endangered or threatened species. There are over 1300 threatened or endangered animal species in the U.S. , including twenty two species of butterfly. While many of these species exist far away from developed areas, not all do, and individuals in search of food or mates may wander far enough away from their territory to become another statistic.

So what can we do besides feel a twinge every time we see a roadkill victim? There is much we can do collectively, if the will is there. The ecological toll of motor vehicle collisions on wildlife needs to be assessed and quantified in a more accessible fashion, which means it needs to be prioritized and funds need to be allocated for such an assessment. The effects of commandeering major swaths of land to be paved needs to be weighed heavily against the potential benefit of having yet another road in town which may not be very far from other existing roads. Public transportation needs to be given more attention (and yes, more funding). Public transportation infrastructure in the U.S. is dismally far behind many other industrialized nations. Such a network of transportation possibilities could cut down drastically on the number of vehicles on the roadways. Speed limits should not continue to be raised in response to public demand, and existing speed limits need to be enforced with fines meant to seriously discourage further infractions. Purchasing locally grown or manufactured goods (becoming increasingly more difficult) when possible can reduce the number of truck miles driven. Whistles for deer that are attached to vehicles and are quite inexpensive are available, but their effectiveness continues to be debated. Such whistles and other warning devices attached to vehicles could be improved upon and made more widely available to motorists (such as offering one when registering a vehicle, for example). And perhaps most importantly, the reality about the potential long term effects of building and driving more miles on more roadways needs to be told more widely and more emphatically to the driving public.

Roadkill is one of the unfortunate side effects of living in a fast-paced, consumer based, human centric society. There are things that we can do, both individually and collectively, to reduce the number of fatalities and the impacts on wildlife populations. But people need to have the information and the will to make such changes.

photo: Piping plover (endangered), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Newton, Massachusetts – a suburban town in the greater Boston area which has a reputation for being a nice place to live and work. But not if you are a young, lost, frightened bear. On Sunday, Environmental Police shot and killed a young black bear who was stranded in a tree (not the bear in the photo). The report claims that tranquilizers were used and that they did not subdue the bear. Perhaps a young, healthy bear needs a larger dose so that it could be safely removed? Just a thought. The other glaring discrepancy about this story is that the reason given for killing the bear was a concern for public safety – that they were concerned that it would fall out of the tree onto the highway, causing injury. So what is their solution? To shoot the bear, CAUSING IT TO FALL which is what they were trying to avoid in the first place. Fortunately for them, the poor creature fell on nearby train tracks and not on the highway, but no thanks to the officials on the scene.

I have to say I am getting fed up with people living in suburban or rural areas who think the approach to wildlife is to kill them. To be fair, most of the discussions I have seen show a majority of people critical of this particular decision. But it speaks to a larger issue. That being, of course, our behavior. WE decide to move farther and farther out into areas populated by a variety of wild creatures, and then when those creatures behave in a way that is consistent with their nature, or, out of disorientation or loss of habitat, make more appearances in our backyards and parks, we feel the need to remove them. So the timeline goes like this: humans move into and develop areas where a variety of indigenous species live and have lived for a long time. Humans decide that they are afraid of these creatures, annoyed at them searching for food or mates (in other words, acting naturally), and then humans decide that the only reasonable action is to remove the creature from its own habitat, often times by killing it.

It’s Mark Bittman all over again. I recently expressed my displeasure at Bittman’s use of the term “vegan” to describe himself, even on a part time basis. Although he admits that terrible, horrific things happen to animals as they are being killed to become human food, he feels that it’s ok to eat them sometimes because people like to. Very different circumstances, same attitude. The animals are here for US. The environment is here for US. And when it is convenient or pleasurable to kill, consume, or manipulate the world and creatures around us, it is completely justified, as long as it is for something WE want. It has been almost 500 years since Nicolaus Copernicus figured out that Earth was not the center of the universe but rather is a tiny participant in a complex system embedded within other complex systems. I think we need another Copernicus, this time to remind the human species that we are not the center of the universe, or even the planet. We are a player in a system of life and ecosystems, and, if not for advances in technology, would be only a small player in that arena. That many use our advanced technology and knowledge to control, kill, and manipulate rather than to prosper, grow, and nurture the life around us is deeply, deeply sad. But there is still time to reverse the course – if humans have the will to do so.
Photo: Jon Sullivan via Public-Domain-Photos.com

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Swamp people. Duck Dynasty. Hillbilly handfishin’. American Hoggers. Chasing tail. There’s a theme here, and it seems to be growing. The number of “reality” shows that focus on, even celebrate, the killing of animals has exploded in recent years. The killing and/or eating of animals has been shown on television for many years, of course, from cooking shows to “sports” programs. And as long as cable channels have existed, there have always been semi-documentary programs that followed hunters in the field or people out on the water fishing. But those shows, at least in the limited viewing I have had of them, seem to be straight forward and attempt to be instructive (not that I am a fan, just pointing out a difference). The present crop of programs however, seems to have a disturbing celebratory glee attached to them. And again, I have only seen (and been able to stomach) small snippets of these programs. But the people on them seem to really enjoy their “work” or “recreation” and do not seem to have any compunction at all about the violent and often cruel deaths they are inflicting on sentient, frightened creatures.

The knowledge that these things are take place is upsetting, but the fact is, people do hunt and fish and design products to make hunting and fishing more efficient for those who engage in it. Regarding hunting and fishing, again, not a fan, but it exists whether or not I like it. What is much more disturbing to me is that, by the millions, people are spending time out of what is for many a precious small allotment of free time, WATCHING these killings as a form of entertainment. I understand fatigue. I understand the need to unwind with some relatively mindless occupation after a long day. But to watch the suffering and death of animals as a way to unwind? I don’t get it. And for many people, work and family responsibilities consume many if not most of the waking hours of most days. So that leaves precious few hours for entertainment and relaxing. That these shows attract enough viewers to stay on the air makes me very sad.

I will admit to watching the first couple of seasons of Billy The Exterminator. But despite the program title, Billy and his company actually attempted (and almost always accomplished) relocation of the animals caught. When he had a bat infested attic, he rigged a net to force the bats out of the building while not harming them. He seemed to care about the local ecosystems and wanted to release the “nuisance” animals to live out their lives in a remote setting. It was actually somewhat uplifting. I did eventually stop viewing because there were some instances of actual extermination – wasp nests (although he did relocate a bee hive once) and rats in various locations. I just can’t watch that. But I am glad he rescued and released many of the animals he was called to remove.

But these current programs are about killing, hunting, shooting, and death. I don’t care if the animals killed are later harvested for food. Or if the people in them think they are performing a “necessary” removal of “dangerous” animals. The programs are ultimately about the hunt and the kill. And people are watching. Sad.

photo: Gary M. Stolz, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via bestphotos.us

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Thanks to recent attention by National Geographic, The World Wildlife Fund, and now, Animal Planet, the horrible and desperate plight of the rhino is becoming much more widely known. Animal planet’s newest mini series, Rhino Wars, highlights the efforts of an elite team of U.S. military specialists who have gone to South Africa to work with local authorities in the effort to reduce the illegal slaughter of rhinos. I was conflicted about watching it, because even the online trailer, which showed a baby rhino crying next to the body of his murdered mother, was enough to turn my stomach and break my heart. But I did watch, and I am glad I did. These four men are highly skilled and very dedicated to the effort, one of them at one point referring to it as a “calling.” I would not be surprised if this series comes out with more episodes in the future. People need to see the good things that are happening here even in the midst of cruel and vicious carnage. The dedication of the soldiers and the local authorities, the poachers who were stopped and apprehended, the adult and baby rhinos who have been saved from a brutal death – these realities give people hope and encouragement to continue this important fight. After seeing the trailer, I immediately went to the website of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and fostered a rhino orphan. I have been fostering an orphaned elephant for several months and knew this was one small way I could help. They are doing remarkable rescue work. The more attention we give this important cause, the closer the day when we can celebrate the safety of all the rhinos.

photo by Petr Kratochvil via publicdomainpictures.net