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Landmark Deal Struck With Seychelles To Create Protected Ocean Area The Size Of UK

Sea Turtle

The government of Seychelles is doing its bit for conservation and has created a protected area which is the size of the UK in the Indian Ocean. The government created the zone in exchange for having some of its national debt paid off. As a result, the island nation agreed that it will ensure that 210,000 square kilometres of ocean will be protected. The Ocean reserve will prevent tourism and fishing activities in the Seychelles so that no further damage to aquatic life caused by humans occurs.

Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation participated in the deal

A foundation that was established by Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the investors in the deal and the Oscar winning actor said that the deal will ensure the people of Seychelles protect their ocean so that future generations can enjoy it. The deal will also act as a model for future marine conservation efforts all over the world. The President of Seychelles says his country’s large ocean does provide plenty of opportunities for development but that must be balanced against being responsible. This means properly planning to protect the environment so that the country can be sure its people and their livelihoods are protected against a future which is far from certain.

What is the deal?

Apparently, this is the first of its kind. A deal designed to swap debt in order to protect some parts of the world’s oceans. The government of Seychelles agreed to the swap the debt with US based charity Nature Conservancy as well as a number of other investors back in 2016. US$21 million was paid by the charity and a group of investors led by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation to the government which will be used to pay off some of its debt.

Seychelles will then funnel future national debt payments into a newly creates special purpose trust named the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT). This vehicle will then offer lower interest rates on outstanding debt and any savings will be used to fund additional projects that will protect marine life and mitigate the impact of climate change.

What will be protected?

The island nation will raise the percentage of ocean waters that are protected from just 0.04% today to a staggering 30% by 2020. The first stage of the plan involves the creation of two new marine parks. The first one will protect the Aldabra Islands which serves as homes to hundreds of thousands of tortoises and other endangered species in the Indian Ocean. The only activities allowed in the area will be research though some highly regulated tourism will still continue.

Hopefully  the deal will serve as a model for others

The second protected area consists of the ocean around the main islands of the Seychelles and will mean that tourism and fishing activities will be limited. Mark Tercek who heads up Nature Conservancy says the achievement is a critical accomplishment in the charity’s mission to bring scale to conservation efforts around the world. Mr Tercek says that he expects the deal that was done with Seychelles to be replicated in the Caribbean and other ocean regions that are being threatened by the impact of climate change.

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The Right Whale Is On The Brink Of Extinction Experts Warn

Rescuers Manage To Free Entangled Humpback Whale Calf

This year the birthing season for the critically endangered right whale which takes place during winter ended without a single new born calf. This has not occurred for more than thirty years and experts are warning that the incredibly rare species with roams the South East coast of the United States during the winter is a step closer to extinction. Barb Zoodsman who overseas the conservation effort for the species says it is a pivotal moment and if conservation is not taken more seriously it may mark the beginning of the end of the right whale.

Just 450 whales left

In December researchers scoured the oceans off the coasts of Georgia and Florida looking for pregnant whales who usually migrate there every winter in order to give birth in the warmer Atlantic waters. Spotters used airplanes and found nothing at all making it the first-year whale watchers will have recorded no births since they began conducting survey flights in 1989. It is estimated that there approximately 450 North Atlantic right whales left and last year was disastrous for the species. 17 whales washed ashore dead in the US and Canada, well in excess of the five births recorded.

2018 is expected to be terrible

With no births this season it is likely that in 2018 the number will shrink further. Scientists are truly alarmed by the trend because they do not believe that the species can survive such a high mortality rate. On average there about 17 right whale calves born every year for the last three decades. Since 2012 all but two birthing seasons have resulted in less than average calf counts. Scientists are hopeful that the species could rally next year with a dramatic increase in births next year.

Birth rates fluctuate

The female right whale takes approximately three years or more between giving birth which means birth rates fluctuate from year-to-year. The previous low occurred in 2000 with just a single calf spotted. In 2001 however, there 31 new born calves recorded representing the second-best season on record.  With the future birth rate uncertain, researcher say more needs to be done to stop humans from causing the death of the species. Last year of the 17 dead whales that were analysed, it was found that four had been struck by ships and a further two died as a result of being caught up in fishing gear.

The sky is falling

Many scientists think that entanglements are part of the reason behind the decline in right whale births. Even when such entanglements are not fatal, the scientists say that the stress induced by the entanglement means it is probably harder for pregnancy to take place. The latest research shows that most adult female right whales die by the age of 30 which is less than half their usual lifespan. Ms Zoodsma says right now for the right whale, the sky is falling but she says she is optimistic that the situation can be turned around if the will power to do it is there.

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Indian National Park To Conduct One-Horned Rhino Census

Zimbabwe To Re-Introduce Rhinos Into National Parks

Kaziranga National Park in India is full of biodiversity and authorities who manage the park have decided to conduct a census of the park’s population of one-horned rhinos. The people responsible for undertaking the census will make use of sports vehicles and elephants to count the rhinos. The park itself is a Unesco World Heritage Site and it is located in the North-Eastern part of India in a state known as Assam and serves as home to more than two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhino population.

Population has been increasing

The census takes place every three years and occurs over a two-day period. The most recent survey took place in 2015 and back then there were 2,401 rhinos that were counted representing an increase in population from the census conducted in 2012. Pramila Rani Brahma who is the environment minister for Assam says the government expects the rhino population in the park to increase this year as well.

Sanctuary for many species

Authorities have divided the park which measures 430 square kilometres into 74 different compartments and there will be 300 government and NGO officials conducting the count. The park was founded back in 1905 and since its establishment, it has been a massive success in conserving and increasing animal populations. The park is not only a sanctuary for one-horned rhinos but has also been declared a tiger reserve by the government of India. It also serves as home to elephants, wild water buffaloes and a number of species of birds. The rivers that criss-cross the park are also populated by the extremely endangered South Asian river dolphin which is also known as the Ganges dolphin.

Not without controversy

Despite all the success the park has had with conservation it has not come without controversy. The Indian government has awarded special powers to park rangers to protect animals in the park. These powers are usually only given to soldiers who are deployed in areas where civil unrest and insurgency is taking place. In 2015 for example, park rangers shot and killed more people than poachers killed rhinos. According to local media reports this year poachers have managed to kill three rhinos in the park so far. Last year seven rhinos were killed and in 2016, 14 rhinos were poached.

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Cecil The Lion Suffered For Many Hours Before Dying New Book Reveals

Lions On The Lose In Nairobi

Many people will remember when an American dentist travelled to Zimbabwe on a hunting expedition and shot and killed a beloved lion called Cecil back in 2015. The killing caused global outrage and the Minnesota based dentist named Walter Palmer who fancied himself as a big game hunter fled into hiding as a result. Andrew Loveridge A researcher who was studying Cecil now claims in a new book titled   “Lion Hearted: The Life and Death of Cecil and the Future of Africa’s Iconic Cats,” that Cecil suffered for many hours after initially being shot with a crossbow.

10 to 12 hours before dying

Excerpts of the book were published by National Geographic and according to Mr Loveridge, the data that was obtained from Cecil’s GPS collar suggests he was killed approximately 10 to 12 hours after initially being wounded. After the incident gained international attention Mr Palmer released a statement saying he was clueless that the lion he had been hunting was a known animal and a favourite amongst locals. Instead Mr Palmer blamed his local professional guides on whom he says he relied for their expertise to ensure his hunt was legal.

Hunter has a history of making false statements

Mr Palmer however is unreliable however, given the fact that he plead guilty over a decade ago to making false statements to the US Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the shooting of a black bear he killed in Wisconsin. Whilst Mr Palmer was in possession of a permit to hunt, the animal was killed outside the authorised area. Mr Palmer at the time attempted to pass of the killing as having occurred elsewhere court documents reveal.

Cecil was lured out of the national park

Conservationists claim that the men who participated in the killing of Cecil tied an animal carcass to their car in order to lure the lion out of the national park where he was protected. In the book authored by Mr Loveridge, it is claimed that the professional hunter from Zimbabwe who was guiding Mr Palmer panicked when he first saw the collar attached to Cecil. He then removed it and hung it on a tree instead of returning the collar to officials. The research team only realised that something was amiss about six days later when it occurred to them that no data had been transmitted from the collar.

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Animal Tourism In Asia Results In Elephants Being Kept In Cruel Conditions

WWF Helps Break Up Major Ivory Trafficking Network

Animal welfare group World Animal Protection says that Asia’s tourism industry makes use of hundreds of elephants that are kept in extremely cruel conditions. Scrutiny of animal tourism in Asia has been stepped up over the last few years particularly in light of the scandal in Thailand at a tiger attraction where wildlife authorities discovered dozens of dead tiger cubs.

Poor living conditions for domesticated elephants

World Animal Protection says that 80 per cent of the 3,000 elephants at tourist venues are located in countries such as India, Cambodia, Nepal, Laos, Thailand and Sri Lanka suffer and from extremely poor living conditions and diets. The poor animals are also over worked. In Thailand alone, it is estimated that there are 4,000 domesticated elephants many of which work in the tourism industry. There are a further 2,500 wild elephants in the country as well.

Changing the attitudes of tourists

Jan Schmidt-Burbach, a wildlife expert at World Animal Protection says the organisation wants to change the demand by tourists to experience an elephant ride or take in an elephant show. Instead the organisation wants tourists to gravitate towards more elephant friendly activities such as simply observing the animals. In an interview with Reuters, Mr Schmidt-Burbach says if you have the ability to ride an elephant or take a selfie with one, it is highly likely that is cruel to the animal.

Tourist attractions reject the accusation of cruelty

Thailand is experiencing record numbers of foreign tourists, and since 2010 there has been an increase of 30 per cent in the number of elephant tourism venues. Ittipan Khaolamai, manager of the Royal Elephant Kraal in Ayutthaya province, which servers as home to about 90 elephants defends the use of elephants as tourist attractions. He says that caretakers treat their animals well adding that in general most mahouts look after the animals because their livelihoods depend on their welfare.

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