Photo Of The Day: White Tiger

It’s rare to get up close and personal with an elusive animal like the white tiger, so I was intrigued when I saw today’s photo choice by Flickr user toffiloff. Taken at Bali’s Safari and Marine Park, the shot captures this magnificent cat as it appears to stare at its own reflection in a mirror. I love the fearsome growl, the piercing blue eyes and the interesting perspective from behind. Hopefully our photographer was not inside the animal enclosure to take this neat shot!

Have any great wildlife shots from your travels? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Leatherback Turtle Eggs Destroyed In Trinidad

leatherback turtle
Construction workers moving sand on Grande Riviere beach in Trinidad have accidentally crushed a large number of leatherback turtle eggs. The workers used bulldozers to redirect a river that was eroding the beach, popular with tourists who like to see the turtles hatch.

BBC reports that 20,000 leatherback turtle eggs were destroyed, while Trinidad Express Newspapers quotes Environmental Management Authority CEO Dr. Joth Singh as saying, “only a few hundred” were destroyed.

The Grande Riviere River was encroaching on the beach and the turtle nesting area, and a local hotel owner asked the government to shift its course. The workers ended up bulldozing a portion of the nesting site.

Leatherback turtles, which are a critically endangered species, are famous for laying their eggs in the same spot where they were born. Trinidad’s north coast has huge nesting areas that have become popular with visitors. The Trinidad Express reports that locals and tourists have joined together to sift through the wreckage in search of hatchlings that can be saved.

[Photo courtesy Crazy Creatures]

Ivory poaching on the rise thanks to Asian demand and a legal loophole

poaching, ivoryThe poaching of elephant tusks is a growing problem due to increased demand from Asian nations, the Kenyan newspaper Business Daily reports.

A loophole in the UN law regulating the ivory trade allows Japan and China to legally purchase some ivory from selected nations under tightly controlled contracts. This has encouraged poachers to smuggle their illegal goods to Asia. Once there, it’s much easier to unload them.

African nations are split on a global ivory ban, with Kenya supporting a ban and Tanzania wanting the trade to be legal. This basically comes down to whether nations want short-term profits by killing their wildlife and hacking their tusks off, or long-term profits from safaris and tourism.

Radio Netherlands reports that 2011 was a record year for ivory seizures, showing that at least some nations are taking the problem seriously. It also suggests, of course, that the trade is on the rise.

Authorities around the world made at least 13 large-scale seizures last year, bagging more than 23 tonnes of ivory. TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, says that represents about 2,500 elephants. The figure is more than twice that of 2010.

Photo courtesy Library of Congress. It dates to sometime between 1880 and 1923, showing poaching isn’t a new problem.

Can stem cell research save endangered species?

northern white rhino, stem cell researchNew advances in stem cell research are giving hope in the fight to save endangered species.

Scientists have created stem cells for two endangered African species–the northern white rhino and the drill monkey. They “reprogrammed” skin cells to make them revert to stem cells, an early stage of cell development in which a cell can develop into different types of specialized cells.

It’s hoped that one day these stem cells could be made into sperm and eggs, leading to test tube babies that could bolster dwindling populations of some species. This has already been achieved with laboratory mice.

The white rhino used to be a favorite of safari goers and, unfortunately, big game hunters. There are probably none left in the wild, and only seven in captivity. These rhinos are the poster children of how tourism can hurt the environment.

This stem cell breakthrough is good news. With Obama scrapping tighter smog regulations and China discovering just how much they’ve screwed up their environment, we can’t rely on our so-called leaders to get us out of this mess. While environmentalists say we all need to change our attitudes in order to save the planet, that’s unlikely to happen. In fact, science is the only part of society that regularly advances. Common sense, foresight, and wisdom sure don’t.

Here’s hoping the scientists can give us a world where our children don’t have to go to a zoo to see wildlife.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Shootouts kill five rhino poachers in South Africa

rhino, rhinoceros, South Africa, south africa
Five rhino poachers were killed in two shootouts with South African police this week, the BBC reports. Three were killed in Kruger National Park, one of the most popular game reserves for safaris in South Africa. Two others were killed near the border with Mozambique. Poachers often cross borders in an attempt to evade the law.

Two rhino horns were found among the poachers’ belongings.

Poaching is a serious problem in Africa, with South African rhinos, especially white rhinos, a favored target. Last year 333 rhinos were killed in South Africa. Police have been clamping down on poachers but their activities continue and the heavily armed criminals often get into gunfights with police and park wardens. African nations are having mixed results fighting poachers. Some countries have managed to reduce illegal hunting, but other nations are still struggling with the problem.

[This beautiful shot of two white rhinos is courtesy JasonBechtel via Gadling’s flickr pool. It was taken in Ohio, of all places! At least these beautiful animals are safe there.]