Saturday, September 7, 2013

Elephants, Vultures and Poaching

I read the news via my iPad;  CNN, MSNBC, Google News, Huffington Post and so on.  Syria, Iraq, Dennis Rodman, Riddick and the Australian elections seemed to dominate.  It was only when I opened the Salon app that this story appeared:  41 Zimbabwe Elephants Poisoned In Worse National Case Ever.   It was one of those "WTF" moments.

Elephants are sentient intelligent beings.  Their brains are 11 pounds compared to our puny human brains.  They grieve their dead, possess a complex social structure, language, tool use and so on.  Many conclude (as do I) that keeping them chained in zoos is immoral.  Yet, they are seen by many in China, Thailand and Viet Nam as a commodity.   They don't kill them for meat.  They want the elephant tusks for bogus medicinal purposes, status and for decorative trinkets.  

Currently, a genocide is taking place in Africa.  Last year 30, 000 elephants were ruthlessly murdered for their ivory tusks.  Millions of dollars is at stake in its blackmarket trade.  Poachers are generally poor desperate people the smugglers rely on to do the dirty work.  Poachers, when caught are given slaps on the wrist with shockingly light sentences.  It comes as no surprise, we probably will witness the extinction of all wild elephants in Africa disappear in the next 12 years!   

The sophistication of elephant poaching is brutal and quite efficient.  Now, vultures are being poisoned so authorities and game wardens won't be warned by the birds circling the carrion.   The African white-backed vultures are endangered.  Yes, things do go from bad to worse.  The poison used to kill the birds are spread through the ecosystem.  Definitely, a dark time.

What can you do?  I know, the situation appears hopeless.  The reality of the slaughter is depressing.  However, don't give up the battle!  Below are some links.  Maybe, just maybe the elephants and birds might have a fighting chance.

----Louis Vassmer MS, Pres., PWA

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Enlightened Conservation In The Third World by Donnie Dann

By Donnie R. Dann

Enlightened Conservation in the Third World

Our planet continues to lose its natural habitats. Tropical forests, coral reefs, native grasslands and other precious havens that provide humans with the biodiversity necessary to support life are disappearing at an increasingly alarming rate. To remedy this, well-meaning conservation organizations urge third world countries to set aside portions of their pristine places as “national parks.” But will this action really avoid deforestation, conversion to agriculture, and wildlife poaching?

Far too often, experience has demonstrated that a mere declaration of land as a protected park becomes just another “paper park” and a far cry from achieving real conservation. Rosaleen Duffy, in her 2010 book Nature Crime: How We're Getting Conservation Wrong, investigates and exposes the failings of international conservation efforts. She told the Guardian that when wildlife reserves are established, local communities suddenly find that their everyday subsistence activities, such as hunting and collecting wood, have been outlawed. This outcome could be the opposite of what's intended.

Many environmental groups are recognizing that to achieve valid habitat and wildlife protection you must have the buy-in of local people. Here are comments from the CEOs of three effective conservation organizations on the role of the people who live in these communities.

George Fenwick, American Bird Conservancy “Community engagement is a necessary component of our conservation work in almost every project in which we work. Local people need to be aware of the benefits that the birds, the biodiversity and the ecosystem services provide them, and they need to be offered ways to make a living while still respecting the protected area.  While guards may be critical in stopping many illegal activities, without the support of the local community there can never be enough guards to keep a reserve protected.”

Mark Tercek, The Nature Conservancy “We need to get better at connecting nature to what concerns people most—how to make their lives better, protect their health, create jobs, and get the economy moving.”

Brett Jenks, Rare Center “The people who inhabit the world’s most biologically diverse forests, grasslands, and coastlines have a disproportionate influence over the conservation of natural resources. Conservation is about people. Without their involvement, without their active leadership, conservation never works. This is the philosophy that guides all of Rare’s work in 50 countries and thousands of communities around the world.”

If you have the privilege of traveling to areas of high biodiversity that are being pressured by the forces of development, recognize that the dollars you spend on restaurants, lodges, nature guides, etc—especially those sponsored by local conservation organizations—all help with their enduring protection. Many ecotourism companies set aside a portion of your fees just for this purpose. Travel aside, support these and similar groups that protect the natural world and improve the lives of local people.

This may be excerpted, reproduced or circulated without limitation. 

Thank you, Donnie for your article!  If anyone would like to submit an item for the blog, please drop us a note!---Ed.....

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Audubon Travelers

Why would 40+ people brave chilly damp weather to see Josh Engel give a talk on the birds and travel of South Africa?  First off, Josh is an excellent speaker, a fantastic educator and has gorgeous pictures of the birds of that area.  So, it wasn't surprising we had a such a full house.  Our program chair, Paula Wiznerowicz has a knack for picking talented speakers.  That also had something to do with it.

However, I think there was another reason.  Audubon folks love travel.  We are a curious lot.  After all, we are citizen scientists.  Exploring, picking up rocks, identifying birds, hiking trails, staring at the starry skies, admiring nature, planting gardens and so on.  So what better way to satisfy that lust for knowledge?  We must see for ourselves what is out there, experience the planet we want to protect so much and try to sate that hunger for adventure.  We aren't satisfied with just reading a book about the bower birds building elaborate nests, for example. We want to see it for ourselves.  Birdwatchers like ourselves may never be able to go to a place like New Guinea to actually watch those fascinating birds firsthand.  Yet, we can dream about it and dream we do.

With the coming winter, some will be traveling.  My wife and I are planning a trip to Miami and from there, a ship will take us out to sea.  We aren't sure where we are going yet, but the anticipation is half the fun.  The wonder of what we will discover, learn and see is a very human component of what makes us as a species spread so far and wide across the globe and in to the vast areas of space.

That night, others at the meeting told me they were going to parts of Europe, Africa, Australia, South America...nearly all points on the globe.  Those who weren't traveling far or staying close to home were just as adventurous.  They told me of personal physical or health challenges that faced them or their loved ones.  A few told me they would be armchair travelers and told me their favorite travel shows. Still others told me about the travel brochures they were anticipating in the mail and places they hoped to go in the future.  I loved the enthusiasm in the room before and after the meeting.  PWA's members are very special people, indeed.    

We are birders, on the move with our binoculars in hand and ready to go!  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

We Are All Ears!

A friendly reminder to keep your comments respectful and constructive!

If your comments are not constructive, rude, hostile, using profanity, involve religious/political matters, stalking, degrading PWA or Audubon, debating evolution, fracking or climate change, attacking any member of get the idea.....these will not be published.

Thank you to all of you who have sent in your fantastic suggestions, topic suggestions and kind compliments. We are here for you together as citizen scientists working for the planet. Thank you again, Big Al, et al.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Group Effort For A Change

Not long ago, I watched a Japanese documentary about the cleanup and reed restoration work after the terrible tsunami.  There was despair.  Hopelessness.  Only until they became organized and worked as a team was there change.  One old man said as individuals we do not amount to much, but as a can do anything.  In the US, we are taught it is the individual who can do anything.  The lone cowboy, the one brave soldier, the football player running the ball across the goal, the activist turning Congress around.....   It's seems heroic and romantic but it's far from reality.  Teamwork & community is not a dirty word as some think in the political spectrum.  As a species, we were evolved to work in small bands.  It is a hallmark in our line of primates, cooperation in a group.

PWA maintains nearly 7 acres of pristine high quality prairie.  It would be covered with buckthorn, mustard green and Canadian thistle right now if it wasn't for the prairie stewards organizing the group of volunteers to happily work only two hours a week, once a month in among the asters, compass plants, native grasses, rattlesnake master and so on.  One would not make a difference here.  We need many hands, minds, good humor and smiling faces.  There would be a 7 story building killing the prairie right now if a large group of PWA members & activists didn't stand up to the developers and the build-happy village trustees.

PWA educates and engages the public with field trips, events and presentations.  Being informed citizen scientists and activists go hand in hand.  Again, one person could not possibly fulfill these duties.  It takes a group of concerned dedicated volunteers who want to do something meaningful for the planet.

I have heard many times since becoming president of PWA, "What can I do?  I'm only one person."  I agree and tell them, "You're right.  You can't do much alone."
It's true.  Yes, once in a great while there is an Erin Brockovich, for example.  However, even she needed a legal team.  Alone, she would not have gotten very far fighting the a utility.

Caring folks tell me how hard they try to conserve at home, no lights after 8pm, 3 minute showers only twice a week, giving up toilet paper, etc.  I admire their spirit.  In the end though, it is futile Puritanism likely to help no one overall.  It is like skimming off a teaspoon of oil from the BP spill and saying you helped with the cleanup.  As a group, with so many voices in defense of our communities desiring a clean, healthy place for all living things; we can do anything!  Thank you.  Now let's get to work!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Five Years?

We Got Five Years? by Louis Vassmer, Pres., PWA

There is a sublime song by David Bowie which was written in the early 70s called, Five Years. It is about a dying planet, “...News had just come over..We had five years left to cry in...He said ‘earth was really dying.” It is a terrifying song, yet it is something we may have to face someday.

Global climate change is real. Tipping points across the global ecosystem are showing ominous signs and change. The peer reviewed evidence is overwhelming. 97% if scientists and most scientific organization have stated and agree the changes are in large part due to aerosols, fossil fuel combustion, massive deforestation around the globe, methane release from landfills and agriculture, a growing world world population and so on. This is not a hoax, not a plot to destroy capitalism or to make Al Gore rich. This is reality.

Yes, we can turn off lights when leaving a room, drive less and walk more, eat local and do all the things which are “green.” These things are to be commended but it won’t solve the bigger problem. So, while you worry about reusing a paper cup, BP is dumping mercury into Lake Michigan, 1.584 pounds of ammonia and 4,924 pounds of sludge into the lake every single day! This is backed and approved by the EPA. Yes, that EPA. The body which is supposed to support the environment and our drinking water.

We need to pressure Congress, the President and industry to invoke national and earthwide change in manufacturing, what kinds of energy we use, how we grow our food, investing in family planning and education, etc. Sure, it’s a huge complex problem. We can tackle it if there is a real will of the people. In the end, we’ll gain in clean air, water and sustainable habitats. If not, someday in the distant future, we may only have five more years.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Find Us On Facebook!

Prairie Woods has many wonderful friends from around the world. Come read their posts and add your own. Many of the posts are of current environmental news and important to read. Hope to see you soon.