AWI Quarterly

Elephant Seals Hot Iron Branded

 

Elephant Seals Hot Iron Branded

Hot iron branding has caused terrible pain to animals, both wild and domestic. Photographs of branded elephant seals, with hot iron brand marks covering a significant part of the animals' sides (both sides so scientists can read the number easily) were published in the Sydney, Australia Mercury.

According to the March 29th Mercury, "The evidence collected shows the brands have created large weeping and infected wounds on many seals." The Parks and Wildlife Director, Max Kitchell, said, "a significant number of seals were left with horrific injuries which could be life-threatening."

The brandings, part of a 10 year population study, have now been mercifully stopped by the Macquarie Island government.


Judge Strikes Down Phony "Dolphin-Safe" Label


Judge Strikes Down Phony "Dolphin-Safe" Label

On April 11, 2000, Judge Thelton Henderson of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco ruled against the blatant defrauding of consumers by the U.S. government. The judge struck down the new "dolphin-safe" label for canned tuna fish—a label that is distinctly dolphin unsafe. Judge Henderson questioned the diligence of the Department of Commerce in adequately studying the reason for the lack of recovery of several species of dolphins, hard hit for decades in the eastern tropical Pacific.

Despite the death of over seven million dolphins who were chased, exhausted and netted to catch the tuna schools beneath them, Secretary of Commerce William Daley made a preliminary finding last year that there was no proof that this technique of fishing caused "significant adverse impact." His finding triggered the release of a new, official Department of Commerce "dolphin-safe" label for canned tuna fish. The new label would have been used on cans of tuna caught by harassing dolphins. Judge Henderson essentially voided this fraud and sent the government back to the drawing board. His ruling came in the nick of time, with Mexico poised to flood the U.S. with tons of dolphin-deadly tuna.

Thanks to especially vocal consumers, all canned tuna now sold in the United States is caught without netting dolphins. All three major American tuna importers have vowed to continue the present definition of dolphin-safe and reject the phony label.


Photo, Spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata) are one of the two species most heavily impacted by being chased and encircled by tuna nets in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean. (Psarakos/Earthtrust)

Random Source Dog and Cat Dealers Under the Microscope

ALTHOUGH NO ACTION WAS TAKEN on the Pet Safety and Protection Act in the last Congress, the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill and the FARM bill were adopted; both include language regarding random source Class B dealers who sell dogs and cats for experimentation.

They call for an independent review by a panel of experts to determine how frequently animals sold by Class B dealers are used, and make recommendations regarding such use. In addition, the Agriculture Committee leadership in both the House and Senate called for a Government Accountability Office study on the subject.

In response to Congress's call for action, the National Academies Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR) formed a committee to "address the use of Class B dogs and cats in research funded by the National Institutes of Health." The 10-member committee representing a broad spectrum of individuals, from vocal opponents of Class B dealers to scientists who purchase and use such animals, is expected to issue its report this spring. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been tasked by Congress to review any recommendations proposed and report how they may be implemented to ensure compliance with the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

Most of the committee's deliberations have been private, but during two half-day public sessions, an array of people spoke, including Cathy Liss of the Animal Welfare Institute. Liss provided a statement, showed footage from dealer premises, presented extensive documentation and answered questions based on her 28 years of random source dealer experience.

Two representatives from a licensed Class A dealer facility (a breeder of purpose-bred animals), gave an impressive presentation describing their ability to provide a wide variety of animals and services to the research industry. The breeding facility is able to meet the research demands for dogs and adapt as these needs change. Unlike random source dogs, the health status and genetic background of Class A animals is known.

Another detailed presentation was given by a genetic expert on cats from the National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Genomic Diversity. He described how to breed cats to ensure genetic diversity, emphasizing that it can in fact be done.

The USDA's Animal Care staff gave two separate presentations and has submitted data to the committee. One chart notes that from November 2007 to November 2008, 2,863 dogs and 267 cats were sold by Class B dealers to research facilities. Currently, just 11 such dealers remain. Compared to historical figures, these numbers clearly represent a dying industry.

Recently, Animal Care has revised the manner in which it conducts tracebacks intended to assess the accuracy of dealer records identifying from whom they purchase their dogs and cats.

Tracebacks are an extensive and costly process, yet they cannot provide assurance that the dealers' transactions involving animals were legal. A significant loophole in the AWA is that any person who claims to have bred and raised a dog or cat can sell the animal for profit. Dealers can exploit this loophole knowing it is virtually impossible to disprove their claim.

The suggested machinations to tighten controls and provide oversight of Class B dealers are mind boggling. Based on the evidence provided, it seems inconceivable that the committee can justify a research need on scientific grounds to use any dogs and cats obtained from these dealers. While the vast majority of researchers get their animals from other sources, it is time for the foot-draggers to follow suit.

Dogs at a Class B dealer facility.

Not Just GRASPing at Straws

Arguing that "every local extinction is a loss to humanity, a loss to the local community and a hole torn in the ecology of the planet," the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has undertaken an ambitious new venture to save great apes across the globe: the Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP).

Across Africa and Asia, great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans) survive in 23 countries. But that survival is under constant assault as a result of war, deforestation, mining, capture of live animals for sale, conversion of forestlands for agriculture, and poaching for bushmeat. The billion-dollar-a-year international commerce in bushmeat has particularly dire implications for these primates. Their meat is not only sold locally and in city centers but is illegally exported for sale in western cities. Recently, a Nigerian couple was arrested for selling bushmeat illegally in London.

The GRASP team will establish survival plans in each great ape range country in an effort to equip wildlife law enforcement officers appropriately, preserve great ape habitat, and educate local people who live with this wildlife about the benefits of ecotourism focusing on great apes.

Dr. Eve Abe, formerly with the Uganda Wildlife Authority and now a co-director of GRASP's technical operations, noted, "Wildlife tourism is one of the mainstays of Uganda's economy and mountain gorillas are certainly the biggest draw, closely followed by chimpanzees. Uganda has pioneered the sharing of revenues from great ape tourism with local communities, and thousands of families now benefit directly from the presence of their gorilla and chimpanzee neighbors."

As UNEP's Executive Director, Klaus Topfer, said, "The clock is standing at one minute to midnight for the Great Apes." But with the technical and financial resources that come through the collaborative Great Apes Survival Project, the clock may be stopped just long enough to save them.

Ebola Strikes in Gabon

In the West African nations of Gabon and the Republic of Congo, at least 34 people have died in a recent outbreak of the Ebola virus. Gabon's border with the Republic of the Congo has been sealed off and similar restrictions are being placed on provinces within the country. While the death toll rises from this disease, which is estimated to kill 90 percent of its victims, rumors swirl about whether the infection is being spread by the consumption of meat from infected primates.

A dead monkey awaits the cooking pot in Gabon. (AP/Wide World Photos)

Authorities in Gabon have urged local villagers to abstain from eating bushmeat, but it is unclear whether this sage advice will be heeded. According to a recent Reuters report, a traditional Christmas meal in Gabon could include monkeys, chimpanzees, gazelles, or wild boar. Other mammals in Gabon that have been identified by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as being in the commercial bushmeat trade include the mandrill, Moustached monkey, Black colobus, and Grey-cheeked mangabey.

The CITES Bushmeat Working Group meeting in Cameroon in January 2001 revealed that some 68 species were threatened in Gabon by poaching for the bushmeat trade. However, the infrastructure to combat this poaching does not exist: staff is inadequately trained and the ability to monitor protected areas is lacking. Enforcement of Gabon's ban on bushmeat hunting is poor, and villagers apparently continue to consume the flesh of these wild animals, despite the potentially grave risks.

The Ebola virus (Ebola hemorrhagic fever) is named after a river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and can be spread through contact with an infected animal such as primates in Africa. According to the Centers for Disease Control, within a few days, patients may suffer flu-like symptoms. Within a week of infection, chest pain, shock, bleeding, blindness, and death may result.


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