Thursday, November 5, 2015

Stopping the trade of ivory and other endangered species

By passing the 1401 measure on November 3rd 2014, Washington state (WA), joins New York, New Jersey and California which previously passed similar measures prohibiting the trade of ivory from elephant and rhinos. The WA  measure goes beyond ivory by also banning the trade of parts sourced from other endangered animals. Wild cats such as lions, leopards and cheetahs. Other endangered land animals covered by the measure are the scaly ant eaters known as pangolins. Some aquatic species are also included in this measure. Among these are marine turtles (hunted for their shells, e.g., carey a material similar to ivory), as well sharks and rays. The passing of the measure was celebrated by environmentalist including The Wildlife Federation who stated in a tweet:

Thanks to friends of in WA voting , the fight against extinction has scored a big win:

The measure affects the sales, exchange (trade or barter), and commercialization of ivory less than 100 years old. Some exceptions were made for items such as musical instruments that may contain low amounts of ivory. These restrictions caused the opposition of antique dealers and other animal product dealers. They argue that the measure is unfair, in part because their items were acquired before the measure. In addition, the opposing viewers argue that the funds used for lobbying and advertise the measure could be used at the source of the problem, to defeat poachers.

The passing of the measure involved large contributions by microsoft co-founder Mr. Paul Allen ($2M), and many other donors. Mr. Allen has long advocated for wildlife in Africa. Yet, he along with advocates for the measure consider that changing trading laws in the USA, state by state would help to decrease poaching elsewhere, by decreasing the demand for the ivory or desired product. More about the campaign that lead to the passing of the banning on ivory and parts from other endangered animals (1401 measure) can be seen at the campaign site 

“Every day, endangered species like elephants and rhinos are slaughtered to fuel a lucrative trade in unnecessary products made of ivory or horn. We must attack the economic incentives associated with trafficking wildlife products and give law enforcement the tools needed to shut down the networks that contribute to this criminal activity. We all have a responsibility to protect endangered animals, and Washington State can serve as a model to lead the way in disrupting the market for these products. If we turn away from our responsibility to protect our planet, these species will become extinct.” Philantropist Paul G. Allen (endorsement for the campaign, save

 He also tweeted:
  1. Great victory passing ! A strong message to the country--we can save endangered animals a world away

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Federal Judge Return Gray Wolf To The Endangered List

Grey Wolf by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Federal Judge order  that the grey wolf get listed as an endangered species. This allow to protect the animals from trappers, license hunting, hunting with dogs, and other forms of killing.  This decision will cover The following Midwest States: Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

At least in Wisconsin the last harvest wolf hunting exceeded the quota per region and total (by 1.)
For scientists concerned with wolf management this is a relief. The science was not at the same pace with the decision of providing licenses for hunting. The decision to provide licenses was implemented rapidly, and was politically more that scientifically driven.  As a result, in some areas female pack leaders were killed. The hunters also tend to target what they consider trophy specimens of the species rather than what DNR will call problem animals.  Harvest of animals by the public (licensed or not) without consideration of the pack health maybe detrimental for the populations of wolves in this area. If there is any control, it perhaps should be done by rangers familiar with the packs. DNR argues that they won't be able to control animals that attack domestic animals such as dogs or cattle. This may be a problem with the regulations, and in any case they should negotiate for exceptions but not for open hunting the way it was this year.
The decision by the federal court also revert a previous controversial decision to allow trained dogs to hunt wolves. The owners of those dogs can't no longer train these animals for the purpose of hunting wolves.  DNR pays a fee if a dog is killed by a wolf. I suppose that is valid even for trained dogs driven to track wolves out of season. The hunters can take a wolf for the price of their license.  Hunters were also allowed to use traps, which are really damaging to the animals that fall in them. How is it possible that us who understand pain in humans (e.g., broken limbs), may decide to purposely impose such damages and the torture that this may imply to another mammal who may feel as much pain--similar nervous system.  This decision is probably be fight by the pro-hunting interest. In the mean time  scientist and managers may come to the table and find better ways to understand and manage wolf populations. This time many also  serve for both hunters and wolves lovers to come together and recognize that this animal belong to the wild. The ecosystem needs large predators such as wolves.  Aldo Leopold who for years was involved in the hunting decisions later in his life recognized the big gap represented by the absence of this powerful species on the land.  The land does not belong only to humans and we need to learn to share it.  Although living with predators may scare us, the damage by large animals is very low compared with more familiar things such as cars.

If you visit the Facebook Wolf Hunting Community- There a is a picture with many lifeless animal being throw down like rocks from a pick up. All along the web one may found pictures of the trophy animals the hunters harvested. There is pride on killing other species, just because they can and are allowed by law. This is not management, this is trophy hunting. It is what an open hunting season allows. It is a policy that needs consideration and reviewing. Now, there is an opening for that.

Real population management needs to be done by conscious and knowledgeable trained people. People who know not only to pull the trigger, but also what does it mean for a particular pack the removal of the specific individual.  Management also involves to relocate or take away an animal that is dangerous or aggressive, or to close to people. Most people would agree with that measure. Management may also mean managing for contagious diseases by which the removal of one or many individuals may save the others. Although hunters and managers could come out with many ways to rationalize their need to kill an animal, the fact is that in other areas, management is done different.  Ranchers at Yellowstone have shown  that it is possible to  do grow cattle and coexist with the wolves. In fact some of the means appear to be very inexpensive, such as investing in plastic fences-- made of moving plastic flags. Why is this not extensively applied?
Can we rethink our ways?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Obituary: To the young skunk that is gone...

Dead skunk left with a last expression of pain, the last lament.
Were you my neighbor skunk? The one I leave food for? I wonder. We rarely encounter, though you--if that was you, always let me know you have been around. I noticed that you didn't like leftover of bread. I am sorry about the accident. Someone must have not seen you crossing the street. Those dark clothes of yours may not have been safe for the road crossing. At least someone put you on the side, that was nice. Or did you manage to walk in pain, and lie there? How long did you suffer? I am sorry.
You know many people think that animals don't feel pain, but that is not possible. You were a mammal like us, with all those nerves, of course it must had hurt.I see it in your face. And, the feelings?I am sure you have family and friends...I wonder if you ''thought'' of them during those last moments. Did you have feelings? Anger, love...that stuff? Did you have a crush on a lady skunk?
They will count you as another road kill. You know lately, they say the populations of your people are increasing because more of your kind are dying on the roads. Could it be, that you have lost your wild food, your preferred habitat, or that you discovered the trash...and, then it was an easy move.
I wonder whether is good or not to leave the leftovers to share with your fellows that are still here. I hope you didn't die hungry. Can you live forever in a skunk spirit? Good bye!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Gray Wolf hunting by the numbers

This information concerns only to the state of Wisconsin where wolf hunting permits have been granted for 2012 wolf hunting season. The main picture and some of the resources for this note were obtained from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WI DNR) Wolf Management Section 2011-2012. 

Estimated wolf population in Wisconsin as 2011: ~800 (782-824, 202-203 packs, 19 loners, and 31 on Indian reservations. The hunting permits apply to outside reservation specified hunting zones)

How many wolves can the state of Wisconsin support: 700-1000
Maximum estimated historical population (highest pick 1830s): 3000-5000. No censuses were conducted then. Censuses started in the 90s.

Wolves were locally extinct by 1960s: population zero or near zero or zero sightings. This was associated with the increase in deer hunting as a sport activity, and non-tolerance for wolves as competitors for pray.

How many deers do wolves really eat? approximately 20/year (estimates based on current wolf populations). For Wisconsin, DNR researchers estimate that 30 livestock and 30 domestic animals (dogs) may be killed by wolves yearly. Accounting for all wolves in the state deer lost to wolves is about 16,000. This represents only 1/10 of the deer killed during hunting season.

How many deer are killed by hunters during hunting season? The number varies by year, policies observed and other factors. The most recent numbers:
During the first two opening days of the 2011 season ~600,000 hunters registered 112,581 deer killed in two days. This number alone surpasses the total deer estimate for a whole year.

How many deer are killed in car accidents (anthropogenic/human activity)?: 800

How many people apply for wolf hunting permits: 20,000

How many permits do the lottery would grant: 1600

WDNR quota for 2011 harvest: 116 wolves

Total wolves killed after the 2011 hunting season: 110. The season opened on Oct 25, 2012 and ended on Dec 23, 2011. The harvest was set up by quotas per region/management zones.  Originally, the season supposed to be open until the quota was reached and it was expected to be open until February 2013, although the quota was reached in less than two months.  (last update Dec 27, 2012)
Estimated pop 2011 before harvest season=~800 wolves. Now the numbers are below 700.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Today's favorite Science News: Elvis the robots that knows when you lie...

A University of Arizona team developed a robot that can detect with an accuracy of 90% whether you are lying or not! The robot will be initially used to screen people at the airports entry points. This robot was custom design to meet the needs of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP).  Although CBP counts with very good human agents, who are trained to detect even professional liers, they can only humanly detect 54% of the total liers.  But this new Super Agent of Truth, Special Agent 'Elvis', will detect any attempt on your side to lie.

Elvis official name is  Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real-Time. But I think that if CBP uses some marketing, and make Elvis as famous or more than Elvis Presley, or something like the Angel of Truth, even the Mexican Mafia would like to meet him.  For now, most folks will only know Elvis as the Avatar Kiosk, which makes Elvis only another ATM-like machine with man Avatar. The difference though is that you may speak like if you were speaking to a person. If you are Catholic, you may even confess to him, instead of feeling shameful in front of the priest. I am seeing all sort of potential with Elvis. He can be hired by Universities for admission purposes; by the policy as an interview detective; by the FBI as Special Agent Elvis; our even by You, the successful owner of a business, to increase the truthfulness factor of your labor force...

Super Agent Elvis, will solve more than CBP screening entry needs.  People who suffer from anxiety, or score low in social skills, could totally avoid humans and instead meet Elvis. Also, all the generations of game players and machine and avatar lovers, would also identify with Elvis. Finally, CBP has also entered in Second Life and people could met their dreamed Elvis for real.  Besides that, everybody else who sweat having to pass customs, and want to avoid humiliating moments, may also go to talk to Elvis. Go to Elvis and avoid the hassle, could be the new CBP Slogan.  I bet they soon will be creating more Elvis'clones or firing some human agents. 

I recommend that University of Arizona in association with the Department of Home Land Security, FBI, and CBP, buy some of those good looking Chinese and Japanese robots, like the ones they have in their technology fairs, to improve new Elvis prototypes. People would think of that human-like robots are more personable. They may even be friendly and provide free handshakes. In the future CBS will hire agents, not to screen you for the truthfulness factor, but to protect their Special robot agents from stalkers and from being harassed by humans.

Some potentials problems for Elvis will include finding a way to rid himself of the pesky testers or those who fall in love with the machine, or those who want to practice their flirting skill with the robot.

For now, Customs and University of Arizona can make some money for more research by promoting the contest  "Do you think you could defeat Elvis?"  The sponsors for more Truth, could offer big cash prizes or CBP could offer an entire year of express pass by custom. 

ps. Please come visit again, next time I will have my very own Manga version of Elvis!
ps2. I first read this in CNN  Meet Elvis: The Virtual Border Official Who Knows You are Lying

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hey guys you are only a gene away from monkeys...

Y chromosomes in males has lost only one gene compared to the monkeys. That gene may be very important... and not only for male reproduction (insert laughs). The Joy of Science, that is  the title of a book I read a while ago. This is also an emotion I felt when I was reading Nature News. Yes, I was laughing...and it was not because of males lacking one thing monkeys still have. I know you guys have gained so much with that little loss...but really, our science is not only funny but highly controversial and exciting too!

Sometimes reading about controversial science views, new discoveries, the way someone interpret results, and so on, one find oneself participating in that old fashion soap opera of science.  The controversies and anti-controversies...the paradigms and destruction of paradigms. The rise and fall of theories. As they say, everything that rise may fall.

Australian scientists predicted the disappearance of the Y gene, and recently other scientists said no way. The Y chromosome, containing our male they are not going away. Amanacera y veremos--the sun will rise, and we will see.

A while ago, Australian scientists have predicted the disappearance of the Y gene. Their assessment was based in the absence of Y chromosome in some mammalian species, such as certain voles and thus the male of our species. They predicted that the male gene could disappear within the next 10 millions years.  One of the scientist involved in that study consider that the human y chromosome many duplications is a tell story of its demise. Yet, that does not mean the demise of males. The study found that the information for the expression of male feature in species that have lost their Y chromosome was relocated.

I was not imagining a world without males of our species. How boring the world would turn out to be? It would make a good science fiction story though. No brother, no lover, no father, etc., The males of our species are rather interesting creatures.

Would the lost of the Y gene correlate to the demise of Patriarchism, and the decrease of testosterone driven violence? I don't mean to be hopeless, but I bet that both roles, the 'patriarchal stereotype ruler' and the violent gang, would be taken by a segment of the female population. Haven't we seen how people get rid of their oppressors just to rise a new generation of them.

Independently of our science controversies, evolution will continue and will tell the stories. The scientist of the future will elucidate the outcome. They will say how close or far the scientist in the last two decades were.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Birds, ecosystem services and economy

Do you know that birds help states/towns local economies? Birds are providing ecosystem services for people, and their beauty has an economic value for the places they depend on/ their habitats. Do you know how many people travel as tourist to see birds in Florida, Michigan, or Wisconsin? And how many people go around the globe to places in the tropics, high mountains or deserts in search of feathery beings. The more rare, the more exciting a bird is for bird watchers. Some people would go to almost the end of the see puffins? By doing so they are making themselves happy and at the same time contributing to those local economies. There are great revenues for localities, for small and large business and for entire cities based on the whereabouts of birds.

Types of ecosystems services provided by birds: provisioning (for example food), regulating (for example, participating in the cycling of nutrients); cultural (people identify with birds, for example, in the U.S., the bald eagle represent the strength of the country); other types of services are calling supporting services (e.g., birds serve as pollinators for crops and also control pest). 

Roles of birds in the ecosystem:

  • predators
  • pollinators
  • scavengers
  • seed eaters/seed dispersers
  • prey or food for other species (or humans/recreational activities such as hunting)
  • ecosystem engineers (some species have the ability to transform/or drive ecosystem change)
  • other services driven by bird behavior: participation on nutrient cycling, feeding nutrients to plants. In some urban areas, the presence of excess of birds such as geese in nearby lakes may cause pollution or health concerns. By contrast, the presence of birds in other areas, e.g., eagles or kingfish in a river attract tourists. 
  • Other services: birds can benefit agriculture (by controlling pest or providing pollination services to crops such as grapes or coffee); birds may cause crop loses by predating in a cash crop. 
  • Migratory birds participate in ecosystem process at broad scales. They may transfer products from an area to another. Birds have been linked to the spread of invasive species at regional levels and to the spread of zootic/animal transmitting diseases such as viruses. 

Jedicka, Greenberg and Letourneau, 2011. Avian conservation practices strengthen ecosystem services in California vineyards.

Whelan and Marquis, 2008. Ecosystem Services provided by birds.  Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008;1134:25-60.

Kellerman, Johnson, Stercho and Hackett, 2008. Ecological and economic services provided by birds on Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee farmsConserv Biol. 2008 Oct;22(5):1177-85.