Tibetan antelope are being decimated to produce opulent shahtoosh scarves

May 2, 2019 by  
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Poachers are taking advantage of a fashion trend to turn Tibetan antelope into expensive scarves. It takes four Tibetan antelopes to make the single opulent wrap known as a shahtoosh, and the hunt is decimating the antelope populations. These scarves, once used as dowry items in India, are seeing an increase in demand by Westerners willing to pay upward of $20,000 a piece. Over the past century, conservationists have measured a 90 percent drop in antelope numbers, mostly due to increasing wool demands . Experts believe there was once a million antelope that roamed the Tibetan landscape, but their numbers fell to around 75,000 in the 1990s. Related: These AI-powered cameras can sense poachers and save wildlife According to National Geographic , population numbers started to recover in the 2000s after China enacted tough laws against trading the antelope wool, but the demand for shahtoosh has increased poaching over the past 10 years. Since 2010, border agents in Switzerland have confiscated 295 scarves, which represent the deaths of more than 1,000 Tibetan antelopes. In light of the alarming numbers, officials are asking for other countries to keep a close eye on shahtoosh trafficking with the hope of curbing some of the fashion demand. It takes a trained eye to identify a shahtoosh. The biggest key in properly locating a shahtoosh is looking for antelope guard hairs. These long pieces of hair are difficult to remove in the manufacturing process and are easy to identify under a microscope. Once it is determined that a scarf is a shahtoosh, the owner is fined a few thousand dollars, and the piece of clothing is confiscated. The shahtoosh trade appears to be less of an issue in the United States, at least on the surface. Since 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not confiscated a single shahtoosh, though it is possible that the material has simply flown under the radar. Either way, experts do not believe Tibetan antelopes will be able to make sustained recoveries until the demand for the luxurious scarf is significantly reduced. Via National Geographic Image via McKay Savage and Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Tibetan antelope are being decimated to produce opulent shahtoosh scarves

Zimbabwe hopes to bring attention to trafficking endangered species with the Pangolin Project

February 20, 2019 by  
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Zimbabwe is raising awareness about animal trafficking with the annual World Pangolin Day. The pangolin is the most often trafficked mammal in the entire world, with an estimated one million of the scaly mammals being sold in the black market over the past 10 years alone. The pangolin project hopes to curb those numbers and raise awareness about the growing problem of animal trafficking around the globe. Behind drugs, weapons and humans, animal trafficking is the fourth highest illegal trade in the world. “It breaks my heart to know how the greed of mankind is pushing this animal to the brink of extinction,” the head of the Tikki Hywood Foundation, Lisa Hywood, explained. “Time is running out for the pangolin, so we all need to take action.” The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) outlawed the trade of pangolin in Asia and Africa, two regions of the world that contain all eight of the endangered species. The ban has given the pangolin protective status, but officials are still dealing with large scale poaching. Related: 60% of wild coffee species are now threatened with extinction In honor of Pangolin Day, several groups are using the occasion to raise awareness about other trafficked animals throughout the world. This includes the Tikki Hywood Foundation, which produced a documentary in 2016 about saving pangolins from poachers and the black market. While efforts like Pangolin Day are doing a great job at raising awareness, environmentalists and conservationists face an uphill battle ahead of them. In fact, animal trafficking numbers have steadily grown over the past few years, despite bans against trading endangered species like pangolins. Last week, for example, authorities in Hong Kong uncovered nine tons of pangolin scales in a shipyard, along with over 1,000 elephant tusks. The shipment was headed to Vietnam by way of Nigeria, and officials believe the cargo would have sold on the market for as much as $8 million. Sadly, experts believe around 13,000 pangolins were killed to account for the nine tons of scales seized in Hong Kong The incident in Hong Kong is one of many examples of the growing problem of animal trafficking around the world. Fortunately, initiatives like World Pangolin Day is helping raise awareness about animal trafficking and making it harder for illegal traders to operate. Via UN Environment Images via David Brossard 

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Zimbabwe hopes to bring attention to trafficking endangered species with the Pangolin Project

A new Polish film has exposed the illegal trafficking of sick cattle

January 31, 2019 by  
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After a film broadcast on Polish TVN 24 revealed that a slaughterhouse was illegally trafficking sick cattle , Polish police have launched an investigation into the matter. The film showed secret footage of cows too sick to stand being dragged into the plant, as well as slaughterhouse workers cutting carcasses at night “to avoid official supervision.” With no way of knowing where the meat went, the scandalous footage could end up being as serious as the 2013 EU horsemeat scandal that exposed Europe’s complex meat market and triggered product recalls. As first reported by the BBC, a statement issued just days after the movie premiered on TV, Poland’s chief veterinary officer said his inspectors and Polish police received a tip about the possible illegal slaughter at an abattoir in northeastern Poland near Ostrow Mazowiecka. On the night of January 14 eight sick cows were found at the facility and it was decided their suffering must come to an end and were ultimately killed. “During the check, the owners of the animals were identified, along with an animal dealer who transported cattle unfit for transport, and abattoir staff responsible for animal welfare there,” the statement said. Related: ChimpFace could help fight the illegal trade in chimpanzees The inspectors are continuing their investigation by attempting to identify buyers and sellers of meat from sick animals and are also checking other slaughterhouses in the region. According to Eurostat, an EU statistics agency, Poland is the EU’s seventh-largest producer of cow meat behind Ireland, Spain, Italy, the UK, Germany and France. In 2017, the country produced over 558,000 tons of beef and beef products, and each year they slaughter approximately two million head of cattle. However, just two percent of Poland’s meat consumption is beef, which means nearly all of Polish cow meat is exported. Data from UK Revenue and Customs (HMRC) shows that in 2018, the UK imported $85 million worth of Polish beef. Many are hoping that this latest revelation will lead to regulatory action that should have happened after the first scandal. The designated veterinarian for the slaughterhouse and his county supervisor have already been fired. “I think the police, which is at this moment already engaged in this issue, will be trying step by step to explain what has been the role of the supervisory authorities in this illegal, reprehensible, and downright criminal procedure,” says journalist Tomasz Patora of TVN 24’s Superwizjer. Via BBC Image via Shutterstock

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A new Polish film has exposed the illegal trafficking of sick cattle

40 lifeless tiger cubs discovered in Thailand temple’s freezer

June 1, 2016 by  
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After officials began to remove tigers from Thailand’s Tiger Temple this week, they discovered 40 dead cubs in a freezer. The temple, marketed as a sanctuary, has been accused of animal abuse , wildlife trafficking , and breeding tigers illegally. Monks at the temple deny the accusations. Controversy has shrouded the temple for years. Visitors reported tigers seemed drugged, ex-workers said they weren’t fed properly, lived in concrete cages, and received beatings from so-called caretakers. Others suspected illegal breeding to sell tiger parts utilized in traditional medicines. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), in 2007 there were 18 tigers at the temple, but by this year that number rose to 147. Wildlife groups have been working for the tigers’ release since 2001. Related: Tiger farming is cultivating a taste for luxury tiger products in China – and increasing poaching The BBC reports that Thailand’s Department of National Parks (DNP) attempted to seize the tigers but multiple times the monks would not allow them to enter the temple. This current raid is successful because the DNP came armed with a court warrant. So far dozens of tigers have been rescued, but babies were found in the freezer. Police Colonel Bandith Meungsukhum told AFP that the find would lead to criminal charges. Officials were unsure how long the cubs had been frozen, but many appeared to have been alive for only one or two days. Reporters and wildlife officials noted other animal body parts and a dead boar in the freezer. The temple says several years ago a vet told them to keep the cubs, “probably” to silence accusations they were trafficking the cubs. According to a post on their Facebook page, the Tiger Temple said the DNP knew about the babies inside the freezer and had even entered the freezer a few times before. Deputy Director-General Adisorn Nuchdamrong told Reuters , “They must be of some value for the temple to keep them. But for what is beyond me…The temple has notified us when grown tigers die, but never the cubs.” Via the BBC Images via Xiquinho Silva on Flickr , screenshot , and Eli Duke on Flickr

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40 lifeless tiger cubs discovered in Thailand temple’s freezer

VIVID light art dazzles the streets of Sydney

June 1, 2016 by  
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This year, in addition to the regular sites where artists show their beautiful work every year, the organizers have included three new precincts: The Galleries, The Royal Botanic Gardens and Taronga Zoo. An installation inspired by ancient routes across Australia lights the sails of the Opera House and features artwork by six indigenous artists. Related: Sydney’s mind-blowing ‘Light Origami’ is a crystal cavern filled with mirrors Large light projections will cover the facades of several landmarks, including Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Animal-shaped installations, bound to captivate the youngest among visitors, will be installed at Taronga Zoo. The festival will take place until June 18, by which time the organizers expect a record number of visitors. + VIVID Sydney Via Contemporist Photos via VIVID Sydney

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VIVID light art dazzles the streets of Sydney

World’s longest, deepest rail tunnel opens after almost 20 years of construction

June 1, 2016 by  
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After nearly two decades of construction, the world’s longest tunnel is now ready to carry cargo and passengers on a route that cuts right through the Swiss Alps. The 35-mile high-speed Gotthard base tunnel snatched the title of world’s longest and deepest tunnel upon its opening, and now connects northern and southern Europe. Swiss officials celebrate the high-speed rail as a major advancement for European transportation. The new tunnel in Switzerland is actually two tunnels, each with a single line of tracks for high-speed trains, running side by side for the length of the route. Prior to today’s opening, the longest tunnel in the world was the 33.5-mile Seikan rail tunnel in Japan. The Gotthard base tunnel, at 35 miles long, edged out Seikan to take the top slot, and also wins the designation of being the deepest rail tunnel on Earth. At its deepest point, the rail line runs nearly 1.5 miles under the mountains. Related: Chinese-funded $13.8B railway to slice through Nairobi National Park Just a year ago, the tunnel’s route was traveled by a million heavy cargo trucks, hauling goods across the continent. That inventory will now be transported by rail, hopefully saving time and energy costs. Although the new record-holding tunnel officially opens today, commercial rail schedules won’t begin until December. Rail officials celebrated the $10 billion tunnel’s completion with an inaugural run by two trains , one on each track, heading opposite directions. Aboard the trains were government and rail authorities, as well as members of the public who won tickets in a contest. Nine tunnel miners killed during the long construction period were also memorialized during the opening ceremony. Via BBC Images via Niedax

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World’s longest, deepest rail tunnel opens after almost 20 years of construction

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