Thursday, March 27, 2014

Elephants Using Their Intelligence to Avoid Human Conflicts

The following are thoughts related to an article by Kate Shaw Yoshida in Ars Technica (link to article below):

"Elephants can distinguish between different subgroups of humans based on vocal cues, using them to assess how much danger a human poses."

Humans pose the main threat to elephants around the world.  Recently, there was a study conducted with elephants to determine if they could distinguish between different groups of people.  In Amboseli National Park, Kenya, studies have revealed that elephants can can distinguish amount different groups of people as well as different genders.  One study concluded that elephants in Amboseli could distinguish between the not too threatening Kamba tribe and the more conflict-ridden Masai.  The Kamba are an agricultural group that are of little threat to elephants in the area, however there are numerous conflicts with the Masai over water and land. It had previously been known that elephants could distinguish between these two groups based on their clothing and scent.  This most recently study revealed that they can also distinguish Kamba men from Masai men based on auditory cues.  This is yet another indication of elephant's highly developed cognitive abilities.

In addition to distinguishing between the two groups of men, the study also suggested that elephants react more strongly to Masai males than to females.  It is believed that they understand that the males carry the spears and provide a much great threat than the females.

Elephants are incredible, intelligent, family-oriented beings.  At the rate that they are being poached in Africa (estimated at 96 elephants per day) and killed in Asia due to human conflicts over food and land, our future generations may grow up in a world where the letter "e" represents the word "extinct" instead of elephant.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Wolf Ethics

Delisting Wolves

On April 15, 2011, President Obama signed Public Law 112-10, The Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011.  One section of this act required the Secretary of the Interior to reissue the final rule, previously published in 2009, delisting gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the Northern Rocky Mountain DPA. Wyoming was temporarily exempted.  

This ruling took effect on May 5, 2011. It was the first time in the history of the ESA that protections were eliminated by politicians rather than scientists, setting a dangerous precedent for managing controversial species in the future. As a result of the ruling, wolves in Montana, Idaho, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, and Utah were federally delisted and would be managed by the respective states going forward

 In June, 2013, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published its proposal to delist the gray wolf from the federal Endangered Species Act.  Although a number of wildlife protection organizations have filed suits against the USFWS to relist wolves on the ESA, as of the time of this writing, it has not happened.  Consequently, thousands of wolves have been killed since 2011 by hunting, trapping, poisoning, snaring and aerial shooting.

Attitudes Toward Wolves

There is an ugly hatred toward wolves that fuels the desire to eliminate them from the landscape.  This is exactly how wolves were extirpated from most of the United States by the early 20th century.  The wolf debate is both political and complicated.  Although some attitudes can be changed with education, many are more deeply ingrained values that have been passed on from generation to generation.

Wolves have historically been used as a scapegoat for bigger issues.  They have been blamed for the loss of agricultural animals, when in reality they have been responsible for less than .25% of cattle depredations.  According to a 2010 report from the United States Department of Agriculture, the majority of cattle deaths typically occur due to disease and weather, not native carnivores and dogs WildEarth Guardians.

Non-Lethal Methods of Wolf Management

There are successful programs in place to minimize farm animal deaths due to wolves.  One of these programs is The Wood River Wolf Project in Idaho .  Defenders of Wildlife works with sheep producers and federal agents to non-lethally stop the wolf predations.  There are many methods of non-lethal management that have proven to be successful.   It will take a willingness from all stakeholders to come to the table and work together in a fair, non-judgmental and compromising manner to successfully resolve this highly charged issue.

Ethics vs. Science

The controversies over wolf management revolve around ethics and less about science. Biologically, wolves can and will exist throughout the world without the interference of humans.  It is the human tolerance for wolves that is their limiting factor.  It then becomes a moral issue as to whether we value wolves in our environment or not.  And if so, how will we treat them? Wolves present a litmus test, if you will, for the moral ethics of human beings.  If we choose not to treat them fairly and kindly, what does that say about our ethics?

Don’t Let USFWS Delist Gray Wolves

The following information is from Earth Island Institute

A recent review by an independent panel of scientists unanimously concluded that the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to delist gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act throughout the lower 48 states is based on insufficient science. The delisting proposal would leave gray wolf management to individual states, which has proven detrimental in maintaining wolf recovery efforts

In light of the panel’s determination, the USFWS has reopened public comment on the proposed delisting through March 27. EII’s Project Coyote urges you to write the USFWS today to let them know that you oppose the delisting proposal.