FIGHTING WILDLIFE CRIME
Cheers to four grand prize winners of the 2016 Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, a U.S.-based competition that put out a worldwide call for out-of-the-box strategies to tackle the colossal illicit trade in animal parts. And the winners are:
• The National Whistleblower Center will use a web portal where potential whistleblowers can securely report evidence of wildlife crime, seek legal advice and learn about their rights.
• To save pangolins, the University of Washington will analyze the DNA of pangolin scales and meat seized by law enforcement to pinpoint where those animals were poached.
• New York University will use a web-based tool that incorporates a computational model with machine learning to help law enforcement and other groups monitor illegal wildlife trade over the internet with greater efficiency.
• The New England Aquarium will utilize their “smart invoice” technology that quickly digitizes customs paperwork for real-time analysis to find illegal wildlife products hidden in legal trade.
TWO NEW NATIONAL MONUMENTS
Cheers to President Obama, who created The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine, which abuts Baxter State Park. While we were hoping for a National Park designation, because National Parks are areas where hunting and resource development activities such as mineral extraction, fracking, timber harvesting and artificial habitat management are prohibited, we believe this is a step in the right direction. Several National Parks started out as monuments, including Acadia, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton and Zion. President Obama also recently created the Atlantic Ocean’s first marine monument, preserving a 4,900- mile expanse of sea canyons and underwater mountains off the New England coast by making it a no-go zone for commercial fishing and other activities. The area is home to many species of deep-sea coral, sharks, sea turtles, seabirds and deep-diving marine mammals, such as beaked whales and sperm whales.
CITES FAILS AFRICAN ELEPHANTS
We were devastated to learn that all of Africa’s elephants were denied the highest level of international protections during this year's meeting of the Convention in the Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) that took place in Johannesburg, South Africa in the fall. Jeers to the U.S. delegation, headed by Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which voted not to "uplist" elephants across the continent to Appendix 1, which would have strictly prevented all trade in their ivory. Any explanation is inexcusable, and the U.S. delegation should have had the backbone to make it work. The two-thirds majority required for the uplisting was not reached, with the European Union and its 28 member states (voting in one bloc) also proving to be a key opposing force.
We have a jeer for National Geographic and its feature story, “Why fur is back in fashion,” in the October issue. On one hand, we are happy that it exposes the horrors of the fur industry. It's crucial now since the fur industry has gotten busy revamping its image since the 1990s. And the leading fur auction houses began seducing design students at the height of the anti-fur movement. Sadly designers and consumers have fallen right into the fur industry’s trap! No pun intended. The distressing result is that the global fur trade is now valued at more than $40 billion worldwide, roughly the same as the global Wi-Fi industry. On the other hand, the author seems to praise the industry for its “reforms” since the 90s. However, the truth is there is no way to regulate the atrocities of the fur industry. That’s why the only option is to never wear fur so the industry fails and disappears for good.
We disagree with the author that “our pampered lives” depend on animal production of any kind.