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UN Withdraws Funding For Asiatic Cheetah Conservation Dooming The Species To Extinction

Sick Cheetah Cub Becomes Best Friends With Puppy

The UN has decided it will no longer fund conservation efforts to protect the Asiatic cheetah and experts are warning that species is on the brink of extinction. There are less than 50 wild Asiatic cheetahs left and all of them are in Iran. Conservationists are worried that unless immediate action is taken there is almost no chance that one of Earth’s most distinctive and graceful hunters will survive.

Hunted to extinction across Asia

Both the African and Asian cheetah are the fastest land animals on the planet and they use their speed to hunt antelope and other moderately large prey. The Asiatic cheetah used to roam across the entire continent but were hunted to extinction in India for sport and as farming became more widespread their habitat was destroyed, reducing their numbers even further during the 19th and 20th centuries. Ultimately the species was wiped out across all the countries it was native too, bar a few areas in Iran.

Human animal conflict

Conservationists have fought hard to maintain their population in these areas but face several hardships. There are a number of threats such as retaliatory killings by local sheep and goat herders who have lost animals to the cheetah. Farmers use dogs to hunt the big cat or use traps. Aside from this the Asiatic cheetah roam over wide areas of Iran often crossing highways where they are killed after being run over by cars. Many have been killed despite signs being posted along highways warning motorists of the risk.

Numbers continue to decline

Over the last few years a number of measures have been introduced in order to raise awareness of the plight of the species. Unfortunately, their numbers have continued to decline. There used to be three main protected areas where Asiatic cheetahs could be found, now there are none left in the Western area of Kavir whilst in the Southern region of Iran not enough cheetahs exist to meet and breed. It is only in the Northern part of Iran where numbers are high enough for a breeding population to remain.

Iran cannot fund conservation because of sanctions

The government of Iran is keen to protect the species but it has been extremely difficult because the country has faced economic sanctions since the 1980’s and this means international agencies have experienced lots of problems sending money to the country. The money is there to provide some protection, unfortunately it cannot be used for conservation. To add to the species woes, the Iranian government has had to cut the budget of the its environment department which is responsible for the protection of the species. The UN has the ability to fund the cheetah conservation project because its development program (UNDP) is able to get money into the country relatively easily and that aid was critical.

UNDP decision puzzling

Unfortunately, that support no longer exists because the UNDP has decided it has had to make major cuts to its own budget and the agency announced that it would not be continuing to support the Asiatic cheetah conservation from this year onwards. This means that Iran now has sole responsibility for funding cheetah conservation programs. The decision is a little controversial because the UNDP has spent less than US$800,000 on the project over the last few years which is a pittance compared to the overall budget.

Without funding there is no hope

Conservationists are warning that without the support of the UNDP there is almost no hope for the survival of the Asiatic cheetah. Conservation efforts will totally depend on funding by the Iranian government’s department of environment which has already declared the species doomed. Conservationists are arguing that as much support as possible must be provided to Iran because it is the only country where the Asiatic species has managed to survive. The warning is stark. Unless something is done within the next couple of years, the species will become extinct. Right now, it is five minutes to midnight for the Asiatic cheetah and very soon it will be the end.

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Sumatran Rhinos Have Been On The Decline Since The Last Ice Age

Rare Sumatran Rhino Discovered In Borneo

Scientists have managed to decode the Sumatran rhino’s genome. The species is one of the most endangered on the planet and according to its genetic blueprint, its population has been steadily falling for quite a while now. The species population decline began to occur during the last Ice Age when its habitat effectively shrank. Since then humans have been the problem causing populations to fall further. It is estimated that there are fewer than 250 wild Sumatran rhinos left.

Roller-Coaster Ride

Terri Roth a researcher from the Cincinnati Zoo says the species has been under pressure for a very long time now. According to the genome sequence data, its been a roller-coaster ride for the Sumatran rhino. The most recent ice age lasted between 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago and is known as The Pleistocene geological time period.

Sequencing the genome

The researchers sequenced the Sumatran rhino’s genome using a sample taken from a well-known male that used to reside at Cincinnati Zoo. The male rhino known as Ipuh died four years ago but fathered three offspring, more than any other rhino of his kind in the world. His genetic material was then deposited in a gene bank. Using his DNA scientists were able to infer a lot about the history of the rhino population.

Population started to bottom about 9,000 years ago

The researchers estimate that about 950,000 years ago, there was a 60,000-strong population, but by 12,000 years ago the end of the Pleistocene, like many other large mammals, the Sumatran rhino had lost much of their suitable habitat.  By about 9,000 years ago, the population reached a bottom and has never recovered. The researchers say the species now hangs on by a thread and humans should do more to try and save the species.

Human hunting

The Sumatran rhino used to be ubiquitous across virtually all of Asia, but as its name suggests it is now confined to Sumatra. The species is listed by the IUCN as being critically endangered and according to the agency the reason for this is because the rhinos are hunted for their horns and other body parts which are used in traditional Eastern medicine. At present there are 20 Sumatran rhinos housed in zoos mainly in Indonesia and Malaysia, with a few in the United States.

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Tourists Come Across Unique Sight Of 200 Polar Bears Feasting On Whale Carcass

New Home Could Be Found For Sad Polar Bear

A group of people on a boat tour in the far Eastern Russian Arctic didn’t know what they were seeing for a good few minutes until they realised that there were as many as 200 polar bears roaming on the slope of a mountain. The tourists said they were gobsmacked by what can only be described as a completely unique situation. The bears were there to feed on the carcass of a bowhead whale that had washed ashore. After eating their fill, they then rested near the source of their meal. The group of bears included a number of families including a couple of mothers who were being trailed by four cubs each.

Climate change is changing polar bear behaviour

Climate change has meant that sea ice has started form much later in the year and the ice is necessary for the bears to hunt seals which is the main constituent of their diet. Lack of ice means bears are now being forced to spend more time on land than they ordinarily would and whilst the sight of 200 polar bears may have been exciting for tourists, in reality more bears are being crammed together on coasts and islands and will have to compete for what limited food is available on land.

Hungry bears

Hungry bears also wander into villages which puts locals at risk. A whale however represents a real gift because an adult whale weighs several tens of tonnes and can act as a source of food for a good few months. Studies have show that polar bears now spend an average of a month longer on land compared with two decades ago. The IUCN estimates that the Arctic serves as home to approximately 26,000 polar bears and there is potential for a large reduction in their population over the long term due to loss of sea ice.

Population is stable at the moment

For now, experts says the polar bear population in the Arctic sea area shared by the US and Russia seems to be both productive and healthy for now. However, as the amount of time they are forced to spend on land increases, their nutrition and body condition will be negatively impacted. Nobody is sure at what point the polar bear population will begin to experience the negative effects of climate change. Does a delay of one and half months for the sea ice to form impact them, or is it two months or more? There is obviously some threshold and we will only come to know what it is in the future.

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Trophy Hunting Could Push Species Into Extinction

Lions On The Lose In Nairobi

A new study suggests that hunters who pick targets that stand out from the crowd because of their lustrous manes or impressive horns could well result in species extinction. The research claims that if hunters remove just 5 per cent of high-quality males, then there is a risk that the entire population could be wiped out given that many species already face intense pressure from a fast-changing world.

Removal of the best genes from the pool

Researchers say that animals deemed to be the most valuable by trophy hunters because of their tusks, antlers, manes or horns typically have the best genes and removing them from the gene pool could result in the species being pushed over the edge. The global debate over trophy hunting is intense. Conservationists argue that it should be banned or at the very least restricted. Other conservationists say the revenue trophy hunting generates can generate valuable revenue that could be used for conservation.

High-quality males father the most offspring

Dr Rob Knell of the University of London who is responsible for the research says the assumption that selective harvesting does not pose a threat to a population of animals fails to consider the most recent research. Dr Knell adds that high-quality males tend to father a high proportion of offspring ensuring their good genes remain within the pool and rapidly spread. This means that populations that consist of strong sexually selected animals have the ability to quickly adapt to new environments. The removal of such males will reverse this effect and this will obviously have consequences that are serious even if they are unintended.

Humans hunt the most attractive animals

Human hunting significantly contrasts with natural predation because trophy hunters actively target large animals which are usually males. Illegal poachers do the same thing killing elephants with the biggest tusks so their ivory can be harvested for illicit trade. Its no secret that human hunting has caused the extinction of many species and whilst the practice is legal in many countries, big game hunting takes place over a larger area in sub-Saharan Africa than is conserved in national parks.

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Habitat Destruction Bringing Leopards Into Conflict With Humans

Leopard near extinction

Recently a leopard wandered into school building in the Indian state of Assam and ended up mauling four people.  Forest officials think that the leopard was simply seeking somewhere to rest for the night before going hunting for prey. Workers doing some construction work entered the school in the morning and four of them were attacked ending up in hospital with everyone surviving.

Deforestation is a big problem

This disturbing story is basically emblematic of the problem of deforestation in India and what habitat loss means for the relationship between leopards and humans who live on the border of their ecosystem. According to the IUCN Red List leopards are currently classified as being vulnerable. Experts say it’s not the first-time leopards and humans have come into conflict and it most certainly won’t be the last. Unfortunately, as people continue to encroach on forest area, the problem is only going to get worse.

Leopards have no food to eat

The city of Guwahati is the largest city in the North-Eastern Indian state of Assam and is surrounded by 18 hills. The foothills used to be covered by old growth forest but during the 18th century the British planted non-native pine trees instead with the intention of cutting them down. This means there are few places for the leopard to hide and the species is finding it harder and harder to find natural prey to feed on.

Mob mentality takes over

Steve Winter a photographer for National Geographic who spent six months in Assam photographing the species and learning about them says leopards simply have no food. Occasionally one will venture into a village at night time looking for livestock or street dogs but when the sun rises they find they have no way out. When a leopard becomes stuck in the city, it faces the problem of madness and mob mentality of the crowd. In this latest incident, as news spread it became almost impossible for the veterinary team to tranquilise the leopard who grew more agitated as the crowd developed.

Crowds complicate rescue efforts

It took the rescue team about an hour and half and forest officials blame the large gathering of spectators as being the main reason for the delay. Unfortunately, the animal became increasingly stressed and agitated which made the operation much more complicated. According to zoo officials, the leopard was a healthy adult and was successfully tranquilised and transferred to the zoo, but not before sustaining minor injuries received whilst trying to avoid the crowd.

"Please note, any prices mentioned in the adopt an animal blog are correct at the time of posting. Please check the relevant website for the latest pricing information."

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