Entomophagy project ‘The Bug Shack’ gets support from the Catalyst Centre

My friend Dr Jenny Josephs, has just acquired help from the Catalyst Centre to make her dream ‘The Bug Shack’ a reality. It just goes to show there is in fact plenty of support for entomophagy out there. We are of course going to have to change our attitudes and embrace it in order to feed the growing world population.

USSP Catalyst Centre

Keen readers will be waiting with baited breath to find out about the 2014 winners of the Catalyst Centre. Well, it’s time to put you out of your misery. We’re thrilled to announce that the first winner is…..

The Bug Shack!

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This start-up is completely different from anything we’ve ever seen before. The company’s name may give you a bit of a clue as to the nature of the business, but we couldn’t wait for Dr Jenny Josephs to tell us more.

What’s The Bug Shack all about?

I came up with the idea for The Bug Shack in order to combat environmental, welfare and nutrition issues in the current rearing of meat products. Across the globe there’s a huge movement gearing towards eating insects as a nutritional, tasty and environmentally friendly alternative to meat and I believe there’s a great business opportunity there! Insects contain all of the protein…

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Deforestation in the news

Just a quick post about a couple of news articles I found today about deforestation. They both show the far reaching consequences that deforestation can have.

Fish surveyed in the study. Image from: http://www.bbc.co.uk

This first article indicates that fish are impacted by deforestation. This is not really that surprising when you think about it. The bottom of the food chain relies on an input of carbon from somewhere, and it was assumed by many that algae was the main source. However these findings suggest that decomposing leaves and other detritus from trees actually provide a large amount of organic carbon. In fact some fish were found to have almost 70% of their biomass originating from carbon found in trees. With less food available to plankton, one can assume there will be fewer and smaller plankton. This means less food for fish and therefore more fish with a lower body mass than would be expected. The article can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-27834440

Image from: en.wikipedia.org

The second article talks about how the recent ebola outbreak in Africa could be caused by deforestation. Continued deforestation in West Africa is bringing humans into contact with rare diseases which they wouldn’t normally come across. If deforestation continues at its current rate then I can only think that the outbreak are going to get worse. Ebola is thought to be carried by bats, and if their forest habitat is removed they are going to start frequenting rural communities more. This means humans are more likely to come into contact with the disease. In fact, mining in forests is increasing in popularity as a way to make a living. Those who mine and farm in deforested areas are the most likely to suffer an outbreak of ebola. The article can be found here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/08/how-deforestation-and-human-activity-could-be-to-blame-for-the-ebola-pandemic/

Charlie Hamilton-James. Image from: http://www.bbc.co.uk

Lastly you should try and see the BBC programme ‘I Bought a Rainforest’ if you haven’t already. It is a great 3 episode series following the exploits of cameraman Charlie Hamilton-James. The series illustrates the reality of protecting a forest from deforestation. People chop down trees illegally because they often have no other form of income, they don’t want to do it but have no choice in order to survive. Quite often drugs are grown on land that has been deforested because it fetches a good price. It just goes to show that all the legislation in the world can be made, but if it isn’t realistic then it won’t work. People need to earn money somehow, even if it means breaking the law.

Tar sands and their environmental effects

The change in landscape from tar sands mining. Image from: portlandrisingtide.org

Previously I have used images to convey the physical and environmental impacts the extraction of oil sands, or tar sands is having. The impacts are both local to Alberta, Canada and global. In this post I shall briefly outline what exactly these are.

1) The tar sands are being mined for oil, the use of which generates greenhouse gases. However, the method of extraction used with tar sands means the total greenhouse gas emissions is much higher than conventional extraction, therefore there will be a bigger impact on climate change. 1

2) As can be seen in the above picture, the landscape used to be boreal forest. Deforestation means there are fewer trees to take up carbon, one of the main greenhouse gases. I’m pretty sure everyone would prefer to look at boreal forest than the horrible landscape created by tar sands mining.

3) The destruction of the boreal forest also means the destruction of habitat for many species. Who knows how many animals have suffered as a consequence? Just the loss of one species in an area can have a profound impact on the way an ecosystem works.

4) Large amounts of water are diverted from the Athabasca River. It is then superheated and injected underground in order to make the bitumen fluid enough to pump to the surface. One estimate is that three barrels of water are needed to produce one barrel of oil. This means less water available further downstream. 2

Tailings pond. Image from: http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/155010 Original source: http://www.niehs.nih.gov, by Jiri Rezac

5) Tar sands create tailings ponds, which are effectively large pools of waste from the extraction process. 3 These ponds are so large they can actually be seen from space. The fact that they are filled with toxic waste is a hazard enough, but they are endangering the First Nation communities in the area. The toxic waste has been found leaking into the Athabasca River and therefore their water supply, and there have been reports of elevated occurrences of cancers and other diseases in the area. 4 It is of course everyone’s right to have safe drinking water, but this is obviously being contravened in this case. The tar sands are also damaging sacred areas and affecting cultural practices. If this is the effect on the human population, who knows how the wildlife in the local area is being affected.

So there we have it, a list of some of the environmental impacts the oil sands, or tar sands, are having on both a local and global scale. We can try and ignore what is going on in Alberta, Canada but in the end it will affect all of us. People in the UK should especially be made aware that the government are actually delaying legislation on fuel quality which would aim to discourage high emissions fuels such as oil from tar sands. 5 Shell and BP are already involved, and the Royal Bank of Scotland is one of the major investors. 1 Countries are obviously so eager to keep using oil and other fossil fuels, and delay the switch to renewable as long as possible, that they don’t care what the environmental impact is anymore. It’s truly a tragic situation and I hope this post will make people more aware of what is happening in Canada.

For more statistics and facts, such as the potential area of tar sands extraction could cover an area the size of England, the Rethink Alberta website has quite a few.

Sources:

1. http://www.no-tar-sands.org/what-are-the-tar-sands/

2. http://portlandrisingtide.org/campaigns/tar-sands-oil-exports/tar-sands-faq/

3. http://www.pembina.org/pub/2470

4. http://www.polarisinstitute.org/files/Boiling%20Point.pdf

5. http://www.no-tar-sands.org/campaigns/dirty-diplomacy-tar-sands-lobbying-and-the-fuel-quality-directive/

 

Ivory Stockpiles: Should We Burn Them and If So Why?

French Customs with the illegal ivory stockpile before crushing and burning it. Image from: Remy de la Mauviniere/ AP

France was in the news on Thursday for destroying all three tonnes of its illegal ivory stocks. The aim of this was to send a clear message to those involved in wildlife crime: the illegal trade in ivory will not be tolerated. So why do countries have ivory stockpiles?

Ivory and rhino horn were banned from international trade by the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) in 1989. Since then countries haven’t know what to do with ivory and rhino horn which they have confiscated, so they’ve formed it into stockpiles. It should be noted that the ban was temporarily removed to permit stockpiles from certain African countries to be sold off in 1999 and 2008.

The second sale of ivory is seen by many as a massive mistake. The supports of the sale argued that the selling of stockpiles was no bad thing, flooding the market with ivory should lower prices. Many people use ivory as a status of wealth, if it suddenly becomes less valuable then demand from the rich should decrease. However, from what can be seen this did not happen. Buyers in destination countries such as Japan and China saw the sale as a signal that ivory was now readily available. The demand for ivory and rhino horn has increased rapidly since 2008, along with the poaching rate. If the illegal trade is not reduced soon, then rhinos and elephants are looking at extinction in the not too distant future. 

So should we burn stockpiles? There isn’t a great history on stockpiles being stored securely. In many countries officials are tempted by bribes as they simply don’t earn much, resulting in them sneaking out ivory and rhino horn from the stockpiles to sell to dealers. In one case an entire stockpile was stolen and replaced with plastic replicas so it looked like nothing had gone missing. Some are keeping hold of stockpiles in the hope that CITES will allow another sale, and there are certainly those petitioning for this to happen. The money earned from these sales is meant to go back into elephant and rhino conservation, but it still isn’t clear whether that happened in either 1999 or 2008. I think they would have to guarantee the money went to conservation for another sale to be approved.

I just hope that the burning of stockpiles at the moment, and the subsequent media coverage, really does have an impact on the illegal trade. In my opinion though, stockpiles just shouldn’t be allowed. As a friend pointed out to me, it’s like keeping hold of a bunch of gold and not expecting someone to steal it. In fact the price of ivory and rhino horn is often more than the price of illegal diamonds and gold. So if I could have my way, I would simply burn any ivory or rhino horn that was found to be illegal straight away to remove the temptation. I say ‘found to be illegal’ because hunting of elephant and rhino in some countries is still allowed, but only if you have a permit. The tusks and horn can then be taken back as hunting trophies, however they are often illegally sold. My thoughts on that can be found here. In conclusion, I think yes we definitely need to burn ivory stockpiles and any more ivory that is found, straight away.

The oil, or tar, sands in Alberta, Canada

In this blog post I shall simply put some photos of the oil sands, which are also called tar sands in Alberta, Canada. This shall be followed up by an in depth blog post at a later date on the harmful effects of the tar sands on the environment.

Image credit: Nigel Allan/ WWF

Canadian tar sands mine. Image credit: Rezac/ WWF

Toxic waste stream. Image credit: Rezac/ WWF

Waste sludge. Image credit: Rezac/ WWF

Slag piles of coke. Image credit: http://beautifuldestruction.ca/ Louis Helbig

This is one of several sulfur piles. Image credit: http://beautifuldestruction.ca/ Louis Helbig

Snow floating over raw bitumen. Image credit: http://beautifuldestruction.ca/ Louis Helbig

The area should be boreal forest. Image credit: http://beautifuldestruction.ca/ Louis Helbig

Climate Change: Why Africans Still Celebrate When The Rains Arrive.

The idea for this post came from something I heard when the BBC were reporting on Nelson Mandela’s funeral. A reporter asked one person why they were so happy despite the fact it was raining, presumably because us British usually just get annoyed when it rains. To the African this must have seemed like such a stupid question, and let me explain why.

We all depend on rain to provide water to grow our food, but in the UK, like many other industrialised countries, we have become disconnected from this fact. Many simply think we can go into a shop and find all the food we want. We don’t stop and think about the process involved in growing it. However, Africans are still very linked to their food production system. They celebrate the rains as they know without them, there will be a drought, crops will struggle to grow, and consequently there will be a lack of food.

Just last night on TV ‘The Tea Trail with Simon Reeve‘ outlined the fact that many Maasai people are struggling to make a living from their cattle because rains are so unpredictable nowadays. An elder admitted that they used to be able to depend on the rains, but have now started to grow more drought resistant crops. Simply relying on cattle to provide an income was no longer sustainable. But why are the rains more unpredictable now, than in the past? It’s not just the Maasai that have noticed this but the whole of Africa. Less rain is falling over the continent.

The reason many believe for this change in rainfall pattern is climate change. However, rainfall can also be affected by more local factors. For example, large areas of Africa are being deforested so that crops can be grown or buildings built in order to cope with their booming population. Forest helps to sustain moisture in a sort of micro climate around it. I won’t go into the exact details of how this works, but once the forest is removed then there is reduced rainfall. Follow this link for more information, it concerns tropical forests, but the principal is the same: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/news/article/3284/loss_of_tropical_forests_reduces_rain.

African also regularly influence their local weather, by burning vast areas of grassland, usually in game reserves. In the past, this used to happen naturally where dry grass would be set alight by lightning during thunderstorms. However, nowadays burning must be much more controlled in order to not affect tourism which provides a vital income, and due to their increased population size. The reason this burning is carried out is that the high temperatures generated by the fires, trigger rains in that area. This rain provides vital moisture for plants to re-grow and so unsurprisingly the great wildebeest migration between the Serengeti and Maasai Mara follows these rains in order to find food. Therefore it can be seen that local rains can be triggered by Africans themselves. Unfortunately these rains induced by burning are not for the purpose of growing crops, so don’t really help to solve the problem of unpredictable rains.

Baby elephant sheltering from the rain. Image from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk

As a continent Africa does lack water, and climate change is only increasing the problem by making Africa hotter. Many desert areas such as the Sahara are increasing as a result. Droughts are now causing or contributing towards a huge humanitarian crisis in East Africa. Therefore the Africans have every right to celebrate the rains, more so now than before. We should also celebrate the rains too, as many of our food products are imported from Africa. Also without regular rains, the vegetation which can survive in certain areas will change, affecting the animals which eat it to survive; that is if they aren’t all poached to extinction first.

This post serves as an example of how less industrialised countries are more vulnerable to changes in climate than industrialised countries. Just because we live in a society where we mostly have a good quality of life, doesn’t mean we can ignore the hardships endured by people in other countries. Remember industrialised countries are mostly responsible for climate change.

Further information:

1. Analysing the underlying causes of vulnerability. http://www.careclimatechange.org/tk/cba/en/step_by_step_guidance/analysis/vulnerability.html

2. The socioeconomics of food crop production and climate change vulnerability: a global scale quantitative analysis of how grain crops are sensitive to drought. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12571-012-0173-4#page-1

3. Achieving food security in the face of climate change: final report from the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change. http://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?f=2013/GB/GB2013201600016.xml;GB2013201636

4. Crop Adaptation to Climate Change. http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Ptz5RvWEjI4C&oi=fnd&pg=PT100&dq=climate+change+vulnerable+food+africa&ots=IZvAHTuMd3&sig=OFHbNYy0ubxmFKGD-moH3XXGsec#v=onepage&q=climate%20change%20vulnerable%20food%20africa&f=false

5. Climate change risks for African agriculture. http://www.pnas.org/content/108/11/4313.short

6. Vulnerability of the South African farming sector to climate change and variability: An indicator approach. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1477-8947.2010.01302.x/abstract;jsessionid=20D8E4925AF4DEAF1ED12A09B17F4103.f04t03?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false

How does the Amazon support so much life? Is it due to soil fertility?

The beauty of the Amazon rainforest.

Now we have discussed the causes of deforestation in the Amazon and its consequences, I shall take a look at how the Amazon can support so much life. The answer may surprise you; the Amazon really ISN’T all that fertile and I shall explain why below.

The majority of soil in the Amazon is in fact very thin and acidic,and to be technical is called latosol. Due to high rainfall any nutrients are quickly washed away. 1 So the question is, how can an infertile soil support the high biodiversity found in the rainforest? There are several reasons:

  • Plant matter and dead animals decompose quickly due to high humidity and the ability of the decomposers to recycle them back into the ecosystem.
  • This ability to recycle also means nutrients rarely leave the rainforest ecosystem unless disturbed.
  • Most of the trees are short rooted so can take up nutrients in the top layer of soul quickly They also require buttress roots to hold them up, which are an iconic image of rainforests.

Buttress roots

So really the fertility is all down to really efficient nutrient cycling! 2 This means that when people start to farm in the Amazon, they find that the soil very quickly becomes infertile. The nutrient cycling simply becomes nutrient depletion, as all the crops do is take from the soil. Exposure to the sun also saps the soil of moisture turning it into a hard clay. 3

However, there are areas of the forest that are very fertile. The reason for this is ‘terra preta’, a different type of lathosol. 4 Terra preta is a very dark earth found in the Amazon and is entirely man made and very old. The soil was created by burying animal bones, manure, charcoal and pottery shards to creat biochar. Most importantly, compared to the few centimetres depth of the lathosol type above, terra preta can be up to 2 metres in depth.

Terra preta soil.

The depth and high density of carbon in the soil is what makes it fertile, the charcoal preserving organic matter to keep nutrients in the soil for use at a later date. Our ancestors used their waste in order to provide a highly fertile soil where they could grow crops. Or do they? Most think that it’s too convenient for them to have thought about creating this soil on purpose. Instead terra preta is simply the remains of kitchen rubbish, with charcoal used to fertilise soils they used for growing crops. This crop growing soil is called terra mulata. 5 Nonetheless areas from 20 hectares to 360 hectares of terra preta have been reported, and my cover up to 10% of the Amazon. 6 7 Maybe we could use these findings to help us create more fertile soil elsewhere? Thoughts and knowledge about terra preta are still in their early stages. More reading about terra preta can be found here:

http://www.acs.org/content/dam/acsorg/education/resources/highschool/chemmatters/archive/chemmatters-feb2009-amazon.pdf

This post concludes the last of three on the Amazon. They aren’t all encompassing, but they do give an insight into how the Amazon rainforest functions, what problems it faces and why.

Sources:

http://www.sln.org.uk/geography/schools/blythebridge/gcseecosystemtropicalrf.htm

http://www.wildmadagascar.org/overview/rainforests2.html

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_are_the_soils_of_Amazon_basin_mostly_infertile

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_preta

http://globalwarming-arclein.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/terra-mulata.html

http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F1-4020-2597-1_5#page-1

http://www.ecoworld.com/other/terra-preta.html

What are the effects of deforestation in the Amazon?

Deforestation is far more widespread than just the Amazon. This image shows its effect on the landscape in Madagascar.

I have already covered the causes of deforestation in the Amazon in a previous post, so here I shall cover its effects. The main effect of deforestation you hear about is climate change, but there are many others. Below I briefly outline the main effects, but don’t forget they aren’t mutually exclusive. At the bottom of this post you will find links where you can read more around each of the points if you are interested.

1. Climate change.
Rainforests act as sinks for carbon, and with their destruction they can turn into carbon sources as the trees are burnt and plants decompose. 1 A reduced sink for carbon, means an increase in carbon in the atmosphere contributing to climate change and global warming. The Amazon is actually experiencing droughts due to the warming. 2010 was a severe drought year, with much forest dying back and the Amazon becoming a net emitter of carbon dioxide. 2 In the warmer, drier climate trees struggle to take up as much. 3 Rainforests can also take up a miriad of other greenhouse gases. They fully deserve being called the ‘lungs of the Earth’.

2. Soil erosion.
The removal of trees means there are no longer roots to hold the soil in place. The first instance there is rain, which funnily enough is a very common occurrence in a rainforest, it starts to wash the soil away downstream. Consequently as there are few or no plants to absorb the water, there is more surface run-off which increases the chance of flooding.

The left stream is full of sediment as a consequence of soil erosion. The right stream is how it should look.

3. Loss of biodiversity.
With the loss of trees comes the loss of the plants that live below its canopy, and all the animals that depend on it to survive. This is no small number as rainforests are one of the most biodiverse places on Earth with new species constantly being found. By destroying these rainforests we could in fact be destroying as yet unknown cures for illnesses. Projections suggest that 5–18% of endemic (i.e. occur nowhere else) mammal species will be extinct by 2020. 4 This may have a cascade effect where these species underpin the ecosystem, directly causing the extinction of further species. Do we even have the right to deprive a species of the right to survive? 

4. Water table disruption.
The removal of trees leads to reduced water retention in the soil, lowering the water table. This leads to dry and less fertile soils, making it hard to grow crops. Therefore the people who have deforested the land to farm, end up with pretty rubbish growing conditions. In fact the more they farm, the less fertile the soil becomes, however that shall be covered in the next post on the Amazon.

5. Loss of culture and land by indigenous people.
Indigenous people often don’t have any official rights to their land, therefore the government has no qualms about selling it, for example, to oil companies. 5 This obviously is a contravention to their human rights, but all the government wants is money. 6 They simply don’t care about the people who lived their first. Without changes the sale of land for oil will be disastrous for the indigenous people. 7 The destruction of the forest takes away their home, they are forced to integrate into a society where they more than likely don’t speak the language, and hence can swiftly lose their traditions. Medicinal plants they use may also be destroyed along with the forest, and there are loads left for us to discover, or at least there are at the moment! 8 In fact the government should be thanking these people, as they are actually the reason why the Amazon is so fertile (again to be explained in my next post). 

Indigenous people using their bodies to help raise awareness of how bad the situation is in the Amazon. Source: Amazon Watch

One of the big reasons I think most of the world is in denial about deforestation, is you have to see it to believe it. To get a sense of scale of the problem, the mouth of the Amazon alone has an island the size of Switzerland in it. 9

I know that this subject can be a somewhat depressing one, so I will leave you with an inspiring TED talk by Willie Smits discussing how we can restore rainforests.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vfuCPFb8wk

The next post will be on terra preta, the reason why the Amazon soil is so fertile.

Sources:

1. http://thepimmgroup.org/1108/amazon-rainforest-turning-from-a-carbon-sink-to-a-source-of-carbon/

2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12356835

3. http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/4547/20131022/climate-change-inhibiting-amazon-rainforests-ability-absorb-greenhouse-gases-study.htm

4. http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=5320E0ADC4D17F73F1A9767D5655AB08.journals?fromPage=online&aid=323901

5. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/andes-to-the-amazon/2013/jun/07/peruvians-protest-oil-company-land-petroperu

6. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/29/brazil-indigenous-people-violates-rights

7. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0002932

8. http://atlanticrising.org/classroom/rainforests.asp

9. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130520154301.htm

What are the causes of deforestation in the Amazon?

Deforestation in part of the Amazon taken by a NASA satellite in 2007. Image from: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=38782

It has recently been reported in the news that deforestation in the Amazon has increased by 28% in a year. This is on top of an area the size of Panama being lost to deforestation each year. 1 Pretty much everyone knows that it is occurring, but do they know exactly why? The main causes are listed below:

1. The growing of crops. 2 The main culprits are soy and palm oil. Unfortunately palm oil manages to worm its way into many products nowadays, so it is hard to avoid eating products with it in. However, recently there has been a drive towards sustainable palm oil, but this is only effective if enforced at ground level and not just on paper. As for soy, vegetarians beware, you may think that not eating animal products isn’t impacting the environment, but it certainly is in a big way if you eat soy based products.

2. Cattle farming, for example, most corned beef comes from Brazil. 3 The clearing of large areas of land provides ideal grazing grounds. This is the main cause of deforestation, with arable farming occurring on redundant pasture land.

3. For the hardwood itself. This is used by big multi-national corporations as well as subsistence by locals. A large part of wood removal is illegal.

4. In order to build on the land. Brazil, where most of the Amazon rainforest lies, has a booming population.

5. Oil exploitation. If you don’t know the story of the Yasuni National Park in Ecuador then you should get acquainted with it. 4 Despite massive opposition from around the world, and huge funds being raised by richer countries to avoid the destruction of this area of the Amazon, the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa has given the go ahead for oil drilling. 5 As my friend would put it, capitalism. Ecuador is a poor country and cannot resist a chance to become rich. The world demands oil at almost any price, and they can provide this need. This shows why it is important to switch to renewable energy as soon as possible.

These of course, are not all of the causes. However, as can be seen from the ones listed above man’s greed is the driver behind many of them. Without support from other countries Brazil will continue to exploit the Amazon rainforest as it is a large source of income. This is not solely Brazil’s problem, it is a global problem which will not truly be solved until we are sustainable. The sad fact of the matter is that after a while the growing of the crops, grazing of cattle and removal of the wood, degrades the soil to such an extent that nothing can grow on it. The reasons why the soil of the Amazon is so fertile and the effects of deforestation shall be discussed in future blog posts.

Sources:

1 http://www.livescience.com/27692-deforestation.html

2 http://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/sdjclimel2&div=11&id=&page=

3 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305750X99001497

4  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasuni_National_Park

5 http://ens-newswire.com/2013/10/09/ecuadorean-voters-may-decide-fate-of-yasuni-national-park/

Why is the critically endangered black rhino being auctioned off for trophy hunting?

Image

Image: richarddawkins.net

When I read that a permit to hunt a critically endangered black rhino was going to be auctioned off, I was almost lost for words. (The article can be found here.) There are only 4,880 individuals black rhino left in the wild (statistic is from February 2013 though) 1. In fact the West African black rhino subspecies went extinct in 2006 2. Now I must say I am not opposed to trophy hunting, I think it does have a place in the conservation of African fauna and flora. It protects the area of land which the animals to be hunted live, and drives a certain amount of demand to keep species in order to kill them 3. It is big hobby among rich people to go out trophy hunting. I known in an ideal world I would like to not support trophy hunting, and fund conservation another way, but in a world driven by money, it is not a reality. However, I am afraid that the auction of this permit will set a precedent. The black rhino is far from out of the danger zone. Granting a permit is as good as saying ‘yeah, we have enough black rhinos in the wild’, giving the wrong message to the public and to poachers. 

Image: theatlanticwire.com

Money from the auction is going to go back into rhino conservation in Namibia, but when you have to kill an animal in order to raise funds for its future survival something is terribly wrong. If only China and other Eastern countries didn’t have a demand for rhino horn, in the first place, the poor black rhino wouldn’t be in this pickle in the first place. Someone needs to tell them they might as well bite their nails, than use rhino horn, as it’s exactly the same thing. The photo above shows the lengths that are gone to, to protect the black rhino. This particular one is being air lifted by a military helicopter, whilst sedated, to a new home, hopefully away from the main areas poachers are targeting. A video of the airlift operation can be found here: http://vimeo.com/31866622and I do urge people to watch it. With passionate people like this, I really hope the black rhino has a future. Just as long as the US based Dallas Safari Club stops being an idiot and permitting the killing of these majestic animals. The animals were here before us, humans shouldn’t be the cause of their extinction. 

If you think you need further persuasion to help protect black rhinos, just watch this link of David Attenborough and a baby rhino: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWSGqNBT1gc

There is a petition on this page, which you should sign, even if it comes to nothing: http://sunsetdaily.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/stop-the-killing-of-rhinos-as-a-way-to-save-rhinos/

For further information read the article which brought this to my attention and the comments below it: http://blog.africageographic.com/africa-geographic-blog/hunting/black-rhino-to-be-auctioned-off-to-trophy-hunters/

Sources:
1 http://www.arkive.org/black-rhinoceros/diceros-bicornis/
2 http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2011/11/black-rhinos-are-extinct-western-africa/44857/
3 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320706003831