Universities for Tigers Challenge

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Universities for Tigers Challenge-Just in time for college football bowl season, the University of Missouri, Auburn University and Clemson University have squared off in another battle: to stop tiger farming and the illegal trade in tiger parts. The three major universities---all with famous tiger mascots---have joined forces with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and initiated a friendly competition to see which school and its alumni can raise the most money to aid real-world tigers around the globe.

The joint effort to stop tiger farming and the illegal trade in tiger parts is one of more than 100 individual conservation projects and programs in need of support and is featured in WWF's "Extraordinary Gifts Catalog." Launched in the fall of 2007, WWF's Extraordinary Gifts Catalog is a first-of-its-kind guide featuring unique opportunities - ranging from $1,000 to $3.5 million-- for individuals and organizations to support WWF's conservation efforts around the world.

Beginning December 13, 2007, and running through December 13, 2008; students, faculty and alumni from all three schools are encouraged to turn their legendary tiger pride into action by making donations in their schools' name to a special Web site created by WWF for the "Tigers for Tigers Challenge" at www.worldwildlife.org/tigersfortigers.

Visitors to the program site will be able to view the progressive donation amounts from supporters of each school to help gauge the level of school spirit demonstrated by each university community. As part of the program, participating universities will help raise awareness of the challenge to their extensive community of alumni, students, staff and faculty.

"The 'Tigers for Tigers Challenge' takes competition between these rivals to a new level. Students, alumni and fans of Missouri, Auburn and Clemson Universities can show their true stripes by helping to end tiger farming and the illegal trade in tiger parts," said John Donoghue, senior vice president of World Wildlife Fund. "No matter which school comes out on top, the ultimate winners will be the magnificent tigers living in the wild that these donations will help protect."

An Urgent Need
While this challenge is being launched as a good-hearted, friendly competition between rival schools, the threat facing the world's tiger population is deadly serious. In 1993, the world celebrated China's domestic ban on trading tiger bones, flesh and skins. But when the cheering stopped, a sickening new enterprise began: tiger farms-where over 4,000 tigers are currently being bred for their body parts.

Today, a few Chinese businessmen are pushing the government to repeal its domestic trade ban, to open up the market for farm-bred tiger parts. With a revitalized market will come an increase in poaching, threatening dwindling populations of wild tigers across Asia. Donations from this program will help set up an enforcement network in priority places such as the Eastern Himalayas and the Mekong to keep tigers in the wild and off the market.

"Reversing the domestic trade ban on tiger parts in China will mean the sure road to destruction of many isolated populations of tigers across Asia, and an even stronger pressure on the last 5,000 tigers in the wild," said Sybille Klenzendorf, director, species conservation, World Wildlife Fund. "This program helps to address a critical conservation need to protect these threatened species-- before it's too late."

WWF works around the globe preserving a diverse selection of natural areas. Of these areas, WWF has identified 19 specific places that are of highest priority and in greater need of immediate attention. These 19 spectacular places include the world's largest and most intact tropical rain forests, the most diverse freshwater systems, the most varied coral reefs, the most biologically significant deserts, and the most productive fishing grounds.

"It is clear that without our help, tigers will be lost from the wild. The University of Missouri, Clemson, and Auburn each have existing conservation programs to help save our mascot," said Dana Morris, coordinator, Mizzou Tigers for Tigers. "The 'Tigers for Tigers Challenge' is an exciting opportunity for us to unite our efforts and engage broad support to raise awareness and funds to protect them. We have all gained by having the tiger as our mascot, and now it is our turn to give something back to tigers."

Virunga National Park

Monday, October 19, 2009

Virunga National Park-For the first time in more than a year, mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Virunga National Park have been seen by park rangers, and are reported to be doing well.

Thanks to successful negotiations led by the park’s director, Emmanuel de Merode, the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) has been allowed to reenter and work in the southern part of the park.

“We were very worried about the mountain gorillas as we had not any contact with them for over a year, but ICCN rangers have already seen many of the mountain gorilla families and we are happy to report that most of them seem to be doing well,” said de Merode. “We are continuing our census of the gorillas and are reinstating our antipoaching operations.”

Last September rebels took control of several park sectors – including those with mountain gorillas – forcing park rangers and their families to evacuate the area. Since that time, the ICCN had not been able to monitor the gorillas. WWF has been providing equipment and logistical support to the ICCN, the government agency tasked with safeguarding the DRC’s protected areas.

While this is good news for the southern sector, the central and eastern areas remain very unstable. Because of the fighting over half of the ICCN’s staff and their families – more than 2,000 people – who work in Virunga National Park are now living in temporary sites.

Here, a WWF staffer supplies a Virunga park ranger with a fuel-efficient stove. These stoves ease the burden of survivors living in sites for internally displaced peoples because they reach higher temperatures and require less fuelwood. The rangers are close partners, and WWF is working with these colleagues to ease their family’s transition to temporary shelter.

The armed conflict in the region has forced thousands of others to flee their homes, and there are now an estimated 145,000 displaced people living in six sites just outside of the national park. The people living in these sites are in desperate need of food, shelter and fuelwood.

WWF is partnering with the United Nations and other organizations to provide firewood from sustainable sources to alleviate pressure on Virunga National Park’s forests. Established in 1987, the WWF-supported Virunga Environmental Program (PEVi) in the DRC contributes to the long-term health of Virunga's ecosystem and surrounding community. Among other activities, the project promotes privately or community-owned plantations that encourage economic development and the creation of alternative wood sources outside of Virunga National Park. PEVi also develops community-based management for the sustainable use of natural forests outside of the park.

In coordination with the United Nations, WWF is purchasing wood from these community plantations to supply wood for cooking and shelter to people fleeing the war zone who have settled near Virunga National Park. WWF has also been distributing fuel-efficient cooking stoves, which use half the amount of wood as a normal stove.

“WWF is working with humanitarian organizations responding to the conflict to help them adopt environmentally-friendly practices. Virunga National Park and the surrounding landscape are important sources of food and income for local communities. ‘Green’ disaster response provides better service for survivors and preserves their natural resources,” says Dr. Richard Carroll, managing director of WWF’s Congo Basin program.

WWF’s work in the Congo Basin’s Virunga landscape builds on more than 20 years of supporting Virunga National Park and its surrounding communities. In that time, WWF has helped promote sustainable livelihoods, provided environmental education and increased protection of critically endangered species like the mountain gorilla.

Polar Bears

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Polar Bears-An aerial survey by government scientists in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea this week found at least nine polar bears swimming in open water – with one at least 60 miles from shore – raising concern among wildlife experts about their survival. A World Wildlife Fund (WWF) polar bear expert said the bears could have difficulty making it safely to shore and risk drowning, particularly if a storm arises.

“To find so many polar bears at sea at one time is extremely worrisome because it could be an indication that as the sea ice on which they live and hunt continues to melt, many more bears may be out there facing similar risk,” said Geoff York, a polar bear biologist with WWF. “As climate change continues to dramatically disrupt the Arctic, polar bears and their cubs are being forced to swim longer distances to find food and habitat.”

Scientists say the Arctic is changing more rapidly and acutely than anywhere on the planet, noting that 2007 witnessed the lowest sea ice coverage in recorded history. Satellite images indicate that ice was absent in most of the region where the bears were found on August 16, 2008 and some experts predict this year’s sea ice loss could meet or exceed the record set last year

The discovery of the nine bears at sea came as the U.S. Minerals Management Service was conducting marine surveys in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in advance of potential offshore oil development.

WWF polar bear experts on the ground in Alaska are assessing the situation and will provide updates to the media as more details unfold.

In May, the U.S. Department of Interior listed polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne cited the strong body of science pointing to the significant loss of Arctic sea ice habitat as the primary reason for protecting the bear with federal legislation. The State of Alaska has opposed the listing and has sued the federal government over its decision to list the bear.

Professor Richard Steiner of the University of Alaska’s Marine Advisory Program said, “While these bears are swimming around in an ice-free coastal Arctic Ocean, the only thing the State of Alaska is doing is suing the federal government trying to overturn the listing of polar bears. The bottom line here is that polar bears need sea ice, sea ice is decaying, and the bears are in very serious trouble. For any people who are still non-believers in global warming and the impacts it is having in the Arctic, this should answer their doubts once and for all.”

Source from WWf

Mammal Species

Saturday, October 17, 2009

World Wildlife Fund said today that governments must double their efforts to save endangered species, as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List revealed that one in four of the world’s 5,487 known mammal species was at risk of extinction. Species such as tree kangaroos, narwhals and Irrawaddy dolphins are now closer to extinction, say WWF scientists who helped compile the list and work around the world to save endangered species and habitats.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species was compiled by 1,800 experts from 130 countries and ranks species according to their population status and threat levels. It shows the effects that habitat loss and degradation, over-exploitation, pollutants and climate change are having on the world’s species.

“The math is simple: Threats are increasing and species populations are decreasing,” said Dr. Sybille Klenzendorf, Managing Director of World Wildlife Fund’s Species Program. “Unless we address these threats immediately the Red List will only get longer.”

The Irrawaddy dolphin went from data deficient to vulnerable on the new list, confirming that the dolphin, found in southeast Asia, is facing serious threats from bycatch in fisheries, dam development, deforestation and mining. One population in the Philippines has a total of only 77 individuals.

The narwhal, which is famous for its long ivory tusk, went from data deficient to near threatened. Narwhals spend their lives in the arctic waters bordering Russia, North America, and Greenland and are threatened by hunting, trade, habitat loss and toxics and pollution that accumulate in the Arctic, which affect the health and reproduction of these whales.

Fourteen tree kangaroo species are on the Red List, with their status ranging from threatened to critically endangered, which highlights the fact that the species are in an overall decline due to deforestation of their ranges in Australia and New Guinea, as well as hunting.

But not all species are “in the red,” with African elephants going from being listed as vulnerable to near threatened because their populations in eastern and southern Africa are better off today than in the past when poaching for ivory was out of control.

“We are encouraged to see that the African savannah elephant is benefiting from effective conservation programs and ivory trade controls in eastern and southern Africa,” Klenzendorf said. “Forest elephants however are still dangerously low and seriously threatened, meaning governments, range states and conservationists need to remain diligent in their efforts to protect them.”

WWF supports use of the IUCN Red list as an important science-based conservation tool that should be used across the globe by communities, governments and international organizations to drive funding and decision making.

“We can reverse these trends when political motivation is high and local communities see the value and benefit from conserving species,” Klenzendorf said. “African savannah elephants are a classic case study of what is possible.”


The Red List is developed by a voluntary network membership in Species Specialist groups. WWF works in close cooperation with IUCN across the globe, through field interventions, and by providing financial and technical support to various Species Specialist groups of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

The IUCN Red List threat categories are the following, in descending order of threat:

* Extinct or Extinct in the Wild;
* Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable: species threatened with global extinction;
* Near Threatened: species close to the threatened thresholds or that would be threatened without ongoing specific conservation measures;
* Least Concern: species evaluated with a low risk of extinction;
* Data Deficient: no assessment because of insufficient data.

WWF’s Living Planet Index, prepared in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London, is also a measure of the health of global biodiversity. The 2008 Living Planet Report is scheduled for release on October 29.
Source from WWF

Gorilla Population

Friday, October 16, 2009

Gorilla Population-The number of mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park has increased despite the war being waged in and around the area, according to the first count in 16 months.

The count showed that the number of gorillas in groups habituated to humans – considered most at risk in the conflict – had increased to 81, compared to a count of 72 in 2007.

Park rangers were kicked out of the Mikeno sector of Virunga National Park, where six groups of habituated mountain gorillas live, in September 2007 by forces loyal to the ex-rebel leader Laurent Nkunda.

Fifteen months passed without any rangers being able to monitor the mountain gorillas but in December 2008 Virunga National Park director, Emmanuel de Merode successfully negotiated with the CNDP rebel group to allow park rangers access the Mikeno sector and resume monitoring of the area.

ICCN, the government institution in charge of protected areas management in Virunga National Park has since been fully operational and ICCN rangers have just completed a census of the habituated mountain gorillas. To their surprise, they discovered that the populations of all of the groups have increased.

“This is a huge relief and a welcome surprise,” said Matthew Lewis, Program Officer for African Species at World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “Habituated mountain gorillas are at particular risk from humans because they aren’t afraid of them.”

While on a five day patrol during which they were looking for and counting mountain gorillas, two ICCN patrols removed more than 500 snares placed by poachers targeting small forest antelopes that can harm and maim gorillas.

“The humanitarian crisis in the region continues and our hearts go out to those residents caught in the middle,” Lewis said. “And despite this good news about the gorillas, we must remain vigilant as they are under constant threat.”

There is currently a cease fire between CNDP and the Congolese Army who have joined up with Rwandan forces to fight FDLR rebels; however, the rangers still have conflict and violence to contend with. On 8 January a ranger was killed during an attack by Maï Maï militia against an ICCN Patrol Post and another ranger was kidnapped.

“The true heroes in this story are the courageous ICCN rangers who worked tirelessly to gain access to the gorillas despite the ongoing violence,” said Dr. Richard Carroll, Director of WWF’s Congo Basin Program. “WWF will continue supporting ICCN and helping reduce the poaching, habitat encroachment and other threats to these magnificent creatures.”

ICCN has been able to keep its operations running during the conflict with financial and technical support from International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), a joint initiative of AWF (African Wildlife Foundation), FFI (Flora and Fauna International), and WWF and other conservation partners on the ground.

Source from WWF

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