Tanzania Government To Fishermen: ‘Stop Catching Dolphins, It Upsets The Tourists’

Tanzania
The government of Tanzania is urging fishermen to stop hunting dolphins, a report in the Daily News says.

The report says dolphin hunting has become common practice in the Dar es Salaam and Tanga regions. It’s often done by “dynamite fishing,” in which explosives are chucked into the water to kill all marine life in a large area. Dolphin meat is used to bait sharks, which is what the fishermen are really after. Shark fins are a delicacy that sell for high prices.

Tourists have even spotted fishermen catching dolphins in Tanga Coelacanth Marine Park. Tourism is big business in Tanzania thanks to its diverse wildlife and being home to the Mt. Kilimanjaro part of the Serengeti. Seeing Flipper being blown up, hauled into a boat, cut to pieces and used as shark bait would definitely ruin an ecotourist’s vacation.

Dolphins have been a protected species in Tanzania since 2009. It’s not clear how well this is known among fishermen, however. Even if fishermen do know they’re flaunting the law, the need to be breadwinners for their families may outweigh any concerns about conservation or the health of an industry of which they are not a part.

[Photo courtesy Flickr user hobbs_luton. There is no indication that these particular Tanzanian fishermen are engaged in dolphin hunting]

Elephant Attacks Car In South Africa’s Kruger National Park

Damage from an elephant attack in Kruger National ParkMost visitors to South Africa’s Kruger National Park hope that they’ll have a memorable wildlife encounter while exploring the popular game reserve. Earlier this week one couple certainly got their encounter when they were attacked by an elephant, leaving their vehicle completely demolished and landing both of them in the hospital.

The unnamed travelers were said to be of “Chinese origin” with at least one reportedly visiting South Africa from Hong Kong. The couple was reportedly driving through Kruger at 6:30 a.m. Monday morning when they came across an elephant walking in the road. For some unknown reason the elephant became agitated and attacked the vehicle. As you can see in the photo to the right, the animal was able to do quite a bit of damage to the car.

The couple was taken to a nearby hospital where the man is reportedly in critical condition having received multiple rib fractures. The woman that was with him had to be treated for a fractured pelvis as well. Both were later transferred to a hospital in Pretoria.

While visiting Kruger a few years back my travel companions and I came across a rather large and aggressive bull elephant walking down the center of the road. We gave him a wide berth, backing up several times in an attempt to avoid him. He made several moves to charge our vehicle as well and we only got around him when he wandered behind a tree and we were able to gun the engine to get past him. Even then it was quite the close call, as he charged one final time towards the side of our minivan. The image below is one that I shot from inside the vehicle that day.

Kruger is one of the few African national parks that you can actually drive through yourself without the need to hire a safari guide. Of course, I’d always recommend hiring the guide anyway, but if you do self-drive the park, definitely be careful. These two travelers are very lucky to be alive.

A bull elephant inside Kruger National Park

[Photo Credits: Associated Press, Kraig Becker]

YouTube Video Of Owl-Kicking Paraglider Prompts Investigation

You’d think someone whose sport of choice is flying through the air would have respect for birds, but one paramotorist is catching heat after a video of him chasing and kicking an owl mid-air was uploaded to YouTube.

The man in the video doggedly pursued a Barn Owl in flight for more than seven minutes, kicking it several times as it flew over the landscape near Utah Lake. He then proceeded to brag about it, yelling, “I kicked an owl butt” in a taunting voice and asking, “Who’s the predator now?”

But federal and state wildlife officials aren’t smiling: since migratory birds are protected under federal law, officials are currently determining if the video warrants prosecution. They have a hunch the man in the video is Dell “Superdell” Schanze, a paramotorist who was arrested in 2011 after posting a video that showed him taking off from a historic monument in Oregon. I guess some people just never learn.

“I’ve gotten to know many pilots in the paragliding and powered paragliding community and I’ve found them to be some of the most considerate and conscientious fliers in aviation,” says our resident commercial and paragliding pilot, as well as “Cockpit Chronicles” columnist, Kent Wien. “But there’s always one, and I suppose every community has their own Dell ‘Superdell’ Shanze.”

The YouTube video has since been removed, but more than 50,000 people caught it during the four days it was online. Segments of it can be found in news reports online and on Facebook.

Rhino Population On The Rebound In Nepal’s Chitwan National Park

Chitwan National Park is home to the one-horned rhinoMost people visit Nepal for the opportunity to go climbing and trekking in the High Himalaya, but the country isn’t comprised solely of snow-capped peaks. In fact, Nepal actually has a region of subtropical lowlands that feel like they are a world away from the mountains that have made the country so famous. One of the main attractions for travelers in these lowlands is the Chitwan National Park, a 360-square-mile preserve that is home to a diverse population of animals that includes tigers, leopards, crocodiles and the rare one-horned rhino, a species that looked to be headed toward extinction, but is now on the rebound.

Chitwan was first designated a national park back in 1973 and was named a World Heritage Site 11 years later. In those days, the park was well patrolled by Nepal’s army, which ensured that the preserve, and its wildlife, remained protected. That all changed in the late 1990s when the country became embroiled in a civil war, causing the government to divert troops and funds toward battling Maoist insurgents. The result was a severe drop in the number of military monitoring posts in the region and a surge in illegal poaching soon followed.

According to this story from the BBC, there were an estimated 612 rhinos living in Chitwan at the turn of the century. Just five years later that number had dropped to a mere 375, putting the animal within striking distance of extinction in Nepal. The rhino’s outlook for survival would have been quite grim if the government and the insurgents hadn’t signed peace accords in 2006. Since then a relative calm has returned to the country and important resources have been freed up to help protect the national park once again.
With the civil war now behind it, Nepal has turned its efforts toward once again protecting the one-horned rhino, and other species, from poachers. Through the use of redeployed troops, better intelligence and a more communal approach toward protecting the park, the country seems to have turned the tide against those who illegally hunt and kill the animals. The latest census numbers, taken in 2011, indicate that the rhino population is on the rebound and it is believed that there are now more than 500 of the creatures roaming inside Chitwan National Park.

The one-horned rhino remains one of the most endangered animals on the planet and that is unlikely to change anytime soon. But considering how regularly we hear awful stories about how a species is in rapid decline, often at the hands of poachers, it is good to hear about a success story for a change.

[Photo Credit: Government of Nepal]

National Wildlife Week Begins Tomorrow

National Wildlife Week begins tomorrowTomorrow marks the start of National Wildlife Week, an annual event sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) with a goal of teaching young people about the extraordinary animals that live around us. This celebration of all the diverse life that we share our planet with will run from March 18-24.

The theme of this year’s National Wildlife Week is “Branching Out,” which puts a particular emphasis on the importance of trees to animals. Trees serve as protection, form habitats and provide food and other resources for animals and yet we don’t always recognize just how significant a role they play for the creatures that live in and around them. With that in mind, the NWF has provided educators with some suggested lesson plans and other activities for helping to convey this important message to their students.

2013 also happens to be the 75th anniversary of National Wildlife Week and the NWF wanted to do something big to commemorate the occasion. So, in keeping with the theme, the organization is also hoping to plant 75,000 trees across the U.S. With that goal in mind, they’ve given us the tools to host a tree-planting event of our own or donate some cash to the cause. For every $10 that is given, the NWF will plant another tree near schools, parks or on other public lands across the country.

The National Wildlife Federation is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and their habitats. By educating young people about the importance of this cause, they hope to create the next generation of conservationists that will help steward America’s national resources throughout the 21st century and beyond. National Wildlife Week is one of their most important tools in helping to achieve that goal.

With spring just around the corner and much of the country on break this week, now is the perfect time to head outside and plant a tree.