Indian government relocates villagers away from tiger reserve

tiger reserve
The village of Umri in Rajasthan, India, is no more.

The entire population of 82 families, some 350 people, has been relocated because the village stands inside the Sariska tiger reserve, the BBC reports. The move aims to protect the local tiger population, which is rebounding after being wiped out by poachers several years ago. This reflects a gain in tiger population nationwide after stronger efforts against poaching and mitigation efforts with local human populations.

Tigers are feared by the villagers, who not only worry for themselves but their livestock. Often villagers will hunt or try to poison tigers that come into their neighborhood. Humans also compete with tigers for land and wildlife.

Umri is the second village to be moved and all eleven villages in the reserve will eventually be relocated. The Indian government says the villagers are being compensated with free land, livestock, up to one million rupees ($20,241), and are being relocated as close as possible to their old homes.

The case highlights the problems facing conservationists worldwide. Human needs have to be balanced with those of the endangered animals, and doing that can be a tricky business. Relocating villages is a difficult and expensive task, and what will be done with the two national highways that pass through the park remains to be seen.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

African governments doing more to stop poaching of endangered species

poaching, rhinoThis year in Africa, the fight between law enforcement and poachers of endangered species has flared into a war.

In the first two months of 2011, nine poachers were shot dead in South Africa. Despite this, poaching is up. In that nation alone, 333 rhinos were killed in 2010, and there have been 309 rhinos poached so far this year. It looks like the illegal hunters are set to break a grisly record.

Now South Africa is holding talks with Vietnam to reduce the demand for rhino horn, which some Asians use as an aphrodisiac and as a cure for cancer. Sometimes the horns are kept whole as curios or for religious rituals, as this 1930s photo of a Tibetan monk from the Bundesarchiv shows. The two governments are working on a plan to fight organized syndicates that trade in animal parts.

South Africa isn’t the only country seeing trouble, and isn’t the only country fighting back. In Zimbabwe, poachers have been poisoning water holes so they can kill animals silently and avoid detection by park guards. At least nine elephants, five lions, two buffaloes, and several vultures are known to have died.

Meanwhile, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are going to sign a treaty to cooperate across their borders to stop poaching of mountain gorillas and other species. The treaty also sets up joint research and education about the region’s diverse flora and fauna.

Mountain gorillas making a comeback

gorilla, gorillas, mountain gorilla, mountain gorillas
In the latest in a spate of good news about wildlife conservation in Africa, BBC Earth reports that mountain gorillas have increased their numbers on Virunga Massif, their core habitat stretching across Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. From a population of only 250 thirty years ago, their population has almost doubled to 480 today. Another 302 live in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park .

The rise is attributed to increased cooperation between the three countries to protect the gorillas and stop poachers.

Safaris to see mountain gorillas have become increasingly popular with adventure travelers. Uganda has expanded its gorilla safaris in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Rwanda is also offering safaris to see the gentle giants.

African nations are getting better at preserving their wildlife. Namibia and Zimbabwe are clamping down on poaching and last year we reported how Niger has pulled a unique subspecies of giraffe from extinction.

[Photo courtesy user KMRA via Wikimedia Commons]

Africa has mixed results in fighting poachers

Africa, rhino, NamibiaOne of the main reasons adventure travelers head to Africa is for the wildlife. Sadly, that wildlife is in danger of disappearing thanks to illegal poaching. Big game such as rhinos and elephants can bring in large sums of money for their tusks, hide, and meat.

Namibia has been one country that has been successful in the fight against poaching in the face of a continent-wide rise in illegal hunting. Neighboring South Africa lost 150 rhinos to illegal poaching. On the other hand, Zimbabwe has seen a drop in incidents, despite reports that safari operators and hunters are supplying poachers with weapons. The poachers are local hunters with local knowledge of the terrain and animals, who then sell the animals to big game hunters and safari operators who have foreign connections.

Namibia has been clamping down on poachers by increasing staff and national parks and setting up communication systems to rapidly report any incidents. So far it’s worked, with no rise in deaths among the country’s elephant and rhino population.

[Photo courtesy user Ikiwaner via Wikimedia Commons]

One in five vertebrates face extinction


The bad news: One in five vertebrates could go extinct within our lifetime, and the number may rise even higher than that.

The good news: It would be a lot worse if it weren’t for conservation efforts.

That’s the verdict of a global study of 25,000 threatened vertebrate species presented to the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, in Nagoya, Japan. It found mammals, amphibians, and birds are especially hard hit, with fifty species a day sliding closer to extinction. The main culprits are logging, agriculture, hunting, and alien species.

Yet conservation efforts are saving some animals. The white rhino, like the ones pictured above, was almost extinct a hundred years ago but is now the most common rhino in Africa and its status has been upped to Near Threatened, meaning that while it still needs to be watched, it’s not in any immediate danger. Here’s where ecotourism comes in handy. For example, Niger is hoping to cash in on safari tours by helping a unique subspecies of giraffe, bringing the population from fifty to two hundred in just a decade. Countries where the white rhinos roam are also pushing ecotourism and safaris.

Another success story is the giant marine reserve created in the South Pacific a few years back. This 73,800 square-mile reserve is one of the world’s largest and was created by Kiribati, one of the world’s smallest countries. If tiny island nations and poverty-ridden countries can help out their animals, one has to wonder why any species in the First World are threatened at all. Major food sources like tuna face extinction and even mythical beasts like the Loch Ness Monster may be extinct. When even our legends are dying out, you know we’re in trouble.

[Photo courtesy Joachim Huber]