Photo: abused cheetahs returned to the wild

April 27th, 2011

An adult cheetah, which had been smuggled and abused for the illegal pet trade, returns to the wild in Tanzania.  Photo by: Annette Simonson
An adult cheetah, which had been smuggled and abused for the illegal pet trade, returns to the wild in Tanzania. Photo by: Annette Simonson.

Few people realize that cheetah’s, one of Africa’s great cats, are a target of the global wildlife trade. Yet these speedy predators are sought as exotic ‘pets’, especially in the Middle East.

As apart of this illegal pet trade, three adult cheetahs were recently seized at a residence in Tanzania’s capital, Arusha. According to a press release from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the cheetah’s were being held in cages so low they could barely stand. ZSL worked with the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), and the Tanzania Wildlife Division to secure the release of the cheetahs and then re-released them back into the wild at Tarangire National Park.

Satellite collars were fitted to two of the three cheetahs (including the one photographed) so they could be tracked by researchers.

“This is the first known case of cheetah trafficking in Tanzania and it worryingly suggests that the illegal trade of this protected species is increasing,” said Dr Sarah Durant of ZSL and WCS in a press release. “We hope the plight of these three cheetahs will raise awareness of the demand for big cats as pets in places such as the Middle East, and encourage increased law-enforcement at key trading hubs.”

The cheetah has been fitted with a satellite collar as seen in this close-up.  Photo by: Annette Simonson.
The cheetah has been fitted with a satellite collar as seen in this close-up. Photo by: Annette Simonson.

Photos: tortoise dwarfed by grape, seriously

April 11th, 2011

No, this is not photoshopped: this month-old Egyptian tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni) is actually dwarfed by a grape.

A new resident of the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) Whipsnade Zoo, Bedfordshire, the tortoise is the offspring of a group of tortoises seized by customs last year as a sting on the illegal pet trade. The tiny tortoise pictured weighs 0.2 ounces (6 grams), but within a decade will weigh nearly hundred times that much at 1.1 pounds (500 grams). They are the smallest tortoise in the northern hemisphere, unfortunately the Egyptian tortoise is also one of the world’s most threatened. Listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the tortoise faces agricultural and industrial pressures, but has actually been decimated by the pet trade, which is now illegal. Only a few thousand survive today in the wild. Photo courtesy of ZSL

A close-up of tortoise v. grape. Photo courtesy of ZSL.

Activism: petition targets Chinese officials regarding African poaching “due to the demand of ivory and rhino horns by Chinese citizens”

April 10th, 2011

Note: does not endorse the action below, but believes its readers may be interested in taking action or discussing the issue in comments.

African elephant (Acinonyx jubatus) infant in Kenya. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

The organization SOS Elephants of Chad has released a petition urging the Chinese government to tackle the illegal ivory and rhino horn trade as a new article in the Global Post reports: “The growing appetite for ivory in Asia, coupled with the increasing influence of China in countries across central and southern parts of Africa, has led to more elephants being killed for their ivory tusks.”

According to the petition by SOS Elephants: “We want the Chinese authorities to take action against these killings immediately and ask the Chinese Government to set a complete ban on the import and the purchase of ivory. We want the Chinese people to know that all the ivory which they have purchased within the last 10 years has mainly been obtained from illegal killings of elephants ! This is the only way to help and save the African elephants and rhinos.”

SOS Elephant’s petition: Stop killing African elephants for illegal ivory trade!.

For more information on SOS Elephants:

A nation of tragedies: the unseen elephant wars of Chad

(05/12/2010) Stephanie Vergniault, head of SOS Elephants in Chad, says she has seen more beheaded corpses of elephants in her life than living animals. In the central African nation, against the backdrop of a vast human tragedy—poverty, hunger, violence, and hundreds of thousands of refugees—elephants are quietly vanishing at an astounding rate. One-by-one they fall to well-organized, well-funded, and heavily-armed poaching militias. Soon Stephanie Vergniault believes there may be no elephants left. A lawyer, screenwriter, and conservationist, Vergniault is a true Renaissance-woman. She first came to Chad to work with the government on electoral assistance, but in 2009 after seeing the dire situation of the nation’s elephants she created SOS Elephants, an organization determined to save these animals from local extinction.