AWI Quarterly

Lions on the Brink?

"Raffi" was rescued (and photographed) by the Born Free Foundation from a cage atop a bar in the Canary Islands. He now lives happily on 5 acres at the Shamwari Private Game reserve in South Africa.

If you want to be in the killing club then you've got to kill a lion. Safari Club International, an organization dedicated to promoting the killing of wild animals for sport, has the lion listed on a number of its hunting awards. The lion is one of the "Dangerous Game of Africa," the "African 29," the "Cats of the World," and the grand slam "Africa Big Five" (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo). Safari Club International's magazine is replete with stories about lion hunts in which hunters hang bait from tree limbs in what one author called "the perfect setup" for an easy ambush and kill. Another author rates the lion as the most dangerous of the Africa Big Five and "perhaps the most difficult of all Africa's great prizes." He contends, "Most parks in Africa hold good numbers of lions, so there need be no concern over the species' survival."

In reality, the future looks bleak for the African lion (Panthera Leo) of west and central Africa, based on the results of a workshop held in Cameroon in June 2001. The recently published proceedings from the meeting highlight the pressures placed on these fragmented lion populations and the need to protect them immediately. One participant at the meeting noted that the population estimates of between 1,500 and 2,000 lions "in the entire West African region was considered as a shock."

The "information exchange" on "Status and Needs for Conservation of Lions in West and Central Africa" reveals that in west and central Africa, lions in countries such as Senegal, Mali, Benin, Sierra Leone, and Cameroon are threatened by poachers, loss of habitat (especially for conversion of land to agriculture and forest cutting for timber), slaughter for the use of their parts in traditional medicines, and trophy hunting.

Roughly 30,000 lions remain in the wild.  Individual populations are small isolated, and decreasing.

The situation seems dire in some parts of southern Africa as well. Researchers Chris and Tilde Stewart in Zambia claim that in the northeastern part of the country, "numbers are critically low and they probably have no future here." Little population data apparently exists for the rest of the country. In Botswana, the Director of Wildlife placed an immediate ban on all hunting of lions in February 2001, as a precautionary measure to prevent further decline of lions there. The temporary ban was praised by conservationists but assailed by trophy hunters.

Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation has stressed the need to respond to the findings of the Cameroon workshop as a matter of urgency. "This latest lion news must serve as a wake up call to all conservationists. Unless we take concerted action to reduce poaching, prevent further habitat loss, stop trade in lion parts and eliminate trophy hunting this serious situation will soon become a crisis."



Nine Charged with Illegal Trade in Exotic Cats:
Tigers, Leopards, and Other Big Cats Appear to Have Been Killed for Trophies

Following a lengthy investigation by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, a series of indictments have been issued against individuals in Michigan, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri for trafficking in protected tigers and leopards. A couple of the individuals involved are licensed as exhibitors under the Animal Welfare Act. Apparently, those charged were buying and killing tigers, leopards, snow leopards, lions, mountain lions, cougars, mixed breed cats, and black bears with the intention of introducing their meat and skins into the lucrative animal parts trade.

At this point only one individual has been sentenced. Woody Thompson, Jr., owner of the Willow Lake Sportsman's Club in Three Rivers, Michigan, pled guilty to brokering the interstate sale of three tiger skins. He was sentenced to six months of home detention, two years probation, a $2,000 fine, and he was ordered to pay $28,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's "Save the Tiger Fund."

More indictments are expected soon.

Loud Sonar Reined in by Legal Decisions

Loud Sonar Reined in by Legal Decisions

Two recent court decisions support our claims that Low Frequency Active sonar (LFA), other active sonars, and airguns pose some of the greatest threats to whales, dolphins, and all ocean life across the globe.

On January 24, 2003, U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti blocked Dr. Peter Tyack of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute from blasting migrating gray whales-including newborns and pregnant females-off the California coast with 180 to 210 decibels of sound to test their reactions. Dr. Tyack is one of the principal biologists testing active sonars for the U.S. Navy.

Two weeks earlier, Judge Conti issued a temporary restraining order against such studies, allowing us to halt plans to put swimmers in the water to protect whales by blocking sonar transmissions (which cannot occur when humans are in the water).

Animal welfare and environmental organizations brought suit asserting that the National Marine Fisheries Service did not conduct a proper environmental assessment to conclude that Tyack's studies would not pose a significant risk to whales. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Bush Administration's attempts to cut red tape and circumvent comprehensive environmental assessments are increasingly being "tripped up in the courts."

In a second court decision last October, U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth LaPorte imposed a global ban on the Navy's deployment and testing of LFA sonar, agreeing with arguments offered by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that the device poses an unacceptable risk to marine mammals.

However, Judge LaPorte also agreed with the Navy that the device was needed to find quiet enemy submarines. She directed the opposing attorneys to find a place where the intensely loud sonar could be tested. The two sides struck a deal allowing LFA testing in about a million square miles of ocean around the Mariana Islands in the Pacific, specifically avoiding the coasts of Japan and the Philippines. Clearly, any LFA deployment is unacceptable.

This is just the first phase of this court challenge. In issuing the original injunction in October, the judge found that it was likely that NRDC will prevail in its attempt to win a permanent injunction on LFA in her court over the next few months. The current deal allows continued testing during this period.


Whistlestop Tour Unites Soldiers in the Fight Against Animal Factories

Community buildings across the Midwest filled with farmers and concerned citizens in early December when Friends of Rural America and Illinois Stewardship Alliance organized a whistlestop tour through Iowa and Illinois for Waterkeeper Alliance Senior Attorney Nicolette Hahn and Southeast Representative Rick Dove. AWI's Farm Animal Advisor, Diane Halverson, organized a Minnesota whistlestop for Waterkeeper Alliance Founder and President Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. speaks about the cruelty and environmental dangers of factory farming at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota. (Doug McCrae/Faribault Daily News)

The tour galvanized various groups to fight corporate hog factories and led to massive press attention, including the Omaha World Herald and Des Moines Register. The St. Paul Pioneer Press proclaimed "Factory farms face threat of legal action;" while in Northfield, Minnesota, the Northfield News' headline read: "Kennedy: 'Day of reckoning coming.'" In Red Wing, Minnesota, the Red Wing Republican Eagle proclaimed "Kennedy warns audience of factory farms." The goal of the tour was to warn people living in regions burdened by animal factories about their dangers, identify citizens in need of legal support in their fight against factories, and provide details of Waterkeeper's legal actions against Smithfield Foods, Inc., the world's largest hog raiser and processor.

Waterkeeper Alliance has filed multiple legal actions against Smithfield under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), the federal Clean Water Act, the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (the federal solid and hazardous waste law), and North Carolina state law. RICO is a powerful tool to rein in outlaw industries. One of the themes of the RICO complaint is that Smithfield's operation is funded by its illegal pollution-based profits. In violating environmental laws, which is an intended part of its business strategy, it is unlawfully shifting the cost of handling its pollution to the American public.

The tour culminated with Mr. Kennedy's stirring speech to an overflow crowd, including a dozen state legislators, attorneys from Minnesota's Office of Attorney General, family farmers, public interest activists, and interested citizens from seven states, at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota on December 7. Preceding the meeting, AWI organized a press conference that included Waterkeeper Alliance, AWI and environmental, public health, and family farm activists, and a reception for Minnesota citizens who suffer from living in the shadow of animal factory pollution, stench and cruelty and who have organized to fight industrial farming.

Following are excerpts from Mr. Kennedy's presentation:

"Instead of raising hogs on farms they shoehorn thousands of animals into a building where they live in unspeakable misery in tiny confinement crates. They live without straw bedding, without rooting opportunities, without sunshine, without the social interactions that are critical to the happiness of these animals.

"What polluters do is make themselves rich by making other people poor. They raise standards of living for themselves by lowering quality of life for everybody else. And they do that by escaping the discipline of the free market, by forcing the public to pay part of their costs of production.

"I want to make one last point and it's probably the most important point, but I think it takes a higher level of understanding: the most important issue that we're dealing with here is not the environmental democracy issue but the issue of how we treat these some level, we begin treating these sentient beings with such unspeakable cruelty that it has to come back and hurt us and it's going to destroy our humanity.

"I'm going to close with a proverb from the Lakota people, appropriated to some extent by the environmental movement, where they said 'We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.'

If we don't return to them something roughly equivalent to what we received, they have a right to ask us some very difficult questions....Thank you for joining us in this fistfight. As long as we don't give up, we can never lose."

Saving the Elephant Through Film

Saving the Elephant Through Film

With an enormous 20 foot tall inflatable elephant watching over hundreds of guests, the Species Survival Network reception during the 12th Conference of the Parties to CITES began with a showing of the film Wanted Dead or Alive produced by the African Environmental Film Foundation (AEFF). The film, available in eight languages including Arabic, Japanese, and Swahili, presents a comprehensive insight into the role played by the African elephant in the economy, ecology, sociology, and politics in Kenya today.

The film highlights the lasting effects of elephant poaching in Kenya in the 1970s and 1980s, the complexity of elephant society, and the threats posed to both people and animals by any resumption of the international commercial ivory trade. "Yet, through all the daunting challenges," notes the AEFF, "hope continues to burn strong: this film demonstrates the benefits Kenyans can gain by conserving the Elephant, which is not only part of their natural heritage, but is a vital player in their country's economy and ecology."

The film was produced by Simon Trevor, a long-time advocate for Africa's elephants. Simon has served as a game warden in Kenya's national parks and, after many years of successful commercial film-making, now devotes all of his time to the work of the AEFF. For more information, visit


UN Speaks Out Again on Illegal Exploitation in the DRC

In a follow-up report on the state of illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) the United Nations Panel of Experts has recommended a moratorium on the purchasing and importing of various products from the region including coltan, diamonds, gold, and timber (see Summer 2001 AWI Quarterly, "Militants and Profiteers Wipe Out Wildlife in the DRC"). The Panel notes that the DRC's history "has been one of systematic abuse of its natural and human resources... backed by the brutal use of force and directed to the benefit of a powerful few."

Under the watchful eyes of the male silverback mountain gorilla, his group takes a siesta.  All gorillas are threatened by the violent conflict in the DRC. (Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International)

The DRC, home to numerous threatened and endangered species such as gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, elephants, and lions, has become a veritable cookie jar of natural resource pilfering-with several countries and unsavory characters sticking in their hands. The Ugandan army carries out gold mining in DRC. Zimbabwe, a fierce opponent of the international ban on commercial trade in elephant ivory, is particularly involved in DRC deforestation. A British nongovernmental organization, Global Witness, reported of a deal struck by Zimbabwe's embattled president, Robert Mugabe, to log 33 million hectares in the DRC, 15 percent of the territory. Zimbabwe also is heavily involved in mining for copper and cobalt.

DRC government officials are involved in embezzling diamonds that are allegedly smuggled through South Africa, another proponent of the global ivory trade. Coltan, a metal ore used in hi-tech and communications devices and which is a vital component in cell phones, is removed from DRC by a number of groups, notably the Rwandan army, and exported worldwide.

After publication of the UN Panel's initial report, the price for coltan (columbo-tantalite), dubbed "blood tantalum," dropped from $300 a pound in 2000 to an average of $25 a pound in 2001. Legislation has been introduced in the US Congress by Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) to prohibit the importation of coltan into the US from countries supporting the violent conflict in the DRC (specifically, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and the DRC itself). Said the Congresswoman, "This legislation, supported by the Ambassador of the DRC, would begin to institute the tough measures necessary to end this horrible and deadly conflict." Meanwhile, the Security Council will consider the Panel's recommendation of a trade moratorium with the DRC. If that doesn't work, the Panel has already introduced the idea of imposing sanctions. A new Panel has been convened to follow-up the ongoing work by the United Nations on this matter.

Nyiragongo Erupts!

Wildlife in the DRC and surrounding regions is imperiled by the January 17 eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano, about six miles outside the city of Goma near the Rwandan border. The lava flow has displaced hundreds of thousands of people in the area.

According to NASA, "biomass burned from Nyriagongo, and nearby Mount Nyamuragira, eruptions tends to create clouds of smoke that adversely affect the Mountain Gorillas living in the adjacent mountain chain."

Gorillas are already under pressure in the area from habitat destruction and poaching. Chimpanzees and other wild animals are similarly at risk.

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.

Zapping Irradiation

2002 saw the single largest meat recall in history-27.4 million pounds of turkey and chicken! Not surprisingly, Americans suffer from foodborne illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 76 million Americans get sick each year, 325,000 are hospitalized, and about 5,000 die due to foodborne pathogens. The majority of these cases are associated with contaminated meat. Cows, pigs, and chickens are subjected to increasingly deleterious housing and slaughter conditions that encourage bacterial contamination. Nonetheless, when people get sick or die industry representatives and the United States Department of Agriculture quickly blame consumers for not cooking meat thoroughly. Most recently, corporate interests are promoting irradiation as a "solution" to the contamination problem.

Unbeknownst to most Americans, a substantial amount of meat is already irradiated. Food irradiation is the deliberate exposure of food to ionizing radiation in an attempt to kill pathogens that cause illness.  Industry representatives advocate irradiation to prevent the public relations disaster of people getting sick and to extend the shelf life of meat for export purposes. Rightly so, there is consumer skepticism of this technology, but in an attempt to deceive the public, industry is petitioning the Food and Drug Administration to rename the process "cold pasteurization" and to request that labeling be voluntary. Currently, irradiated meat products sold in grocery stores must bear the international symbol for irradiation and a statement saying they have been "treated by irradiation." However, there is no labeling requirement for irradiated food served in restaurants, schools, or by other food service providers.

Labeled or not, irradiation neither removes contaminants that cause illness nor addresses how they got there in the first place. Meat contamination coincides with a dramatic increase in inhumane factory farming practices, substantial cutbacks in federal food safety inspectors, and dangerously accelerated line speeds at slaughtering and processing facilities.

The most common sources of contamination are the inherently filthy and inhumane conditions of massive factory farms. The use of irradiation does nothing to reform the cruelty animals suffer in factories where pigs are confined in crowded and barren conditions, where sows are housed in crates so narrow they cannot walk or turn around, and where chickens raised for meat spend their short lives indoors, standing in their own feces. It is in these cramped, dark, damp conditions that bacteria proliferate.

Irradiation also masks cruel conditions in slaughterhouses. Rather than irradiate meat at the end of the processing line, USDA should station inspectors, on a full-time basis, for the purpose of enforcing the Humane Slaughter Act, at those critical points in the handling and slaughtering process where violations are most common, such as the unloading and handling areas and the stunning and bleeding areas. Furthermore, line speeds in slaughterhouses must be drastically reduced. Current line speeds prevent animals from being stunned in accordance with the Humane Slaughter Act. Improperly stunned animals thrash about in unnecessary pain and fear resulting in the contamination of meat with partially digested food or fecal matter.

Far from being a solution, irradiation masks the food safety problems caused by inhumane conditions at factory farms and slaughterhouses. AWI will continue to work for comprehensive food safety policies that protect farm animals and prevent foodborne illness. For more information visit

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.

One Family's Crusade to Help Primates

One Family's Crusade to Help Primates

n the outskirts of Santiago, Chile, in a suburb like that outside major cities the world over, lives a very special family dedicated to helping primates. Beyond two huge gates, past five or six small and incredibly affectionate dogs, and through Elba and Carlos Almazan's own home is a refuge for 91 monkeys: Siglo XXI (21st Century), a center for the rescue and rehabilitation of primates.

Elba Munoz Almazan treats all the monkeys in her care as though they were her children, bestowing upon them endless love and affection.
Pro Wildlife

Siglo XXI provides permanent sanctuary for primates rescued from the illegal pet trade in South America or who are currently living in deprived conditions in captivity. The monkeys come from, or are destined for, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and, of course, Chile. Sometimes gypsy families abandon these animals, or they are confiscated from laboratories. Tamarins, squirrel monkeys and woolly monkeys, are among the inhabitants at the sanctuary.

Monkeys at the facility are housed in a huge backyard city of linked enclosures that provide escape routes for animals who wish to be alone but also present an opportunity for companionship when it is sought. Baskets hang or rest within arms reach of the outside of the enclosures offering ready access to fruits and vegetables, especially cut apples. Inside the enclosures are toys, hanging tire swings, and even hammocks for the enjoyment of the sanctuary's residents.

Twin veterinarians make house calls to heal the animals, many of whom need serious medical attention from wounds suffered as a result of horrible transport conditions or cruel laboratory settings. The work is done right inside the house.

Siglo XXI educates the public about primate welfare, conservation issues, and in particular the inherent cruelty of the illegal trade and keeping primates as pets. The subject is of great interest to the Chilean public, and Siglo XXI has received much media coverage for their laudable work. School visits to the center are popular as well.

Unfortunately, the limited space of the sanctuary site meant that Siglo XXI could not cope with the demand by schools and colleges for greater visitation. As well, they ran out of space to satisfy the number of animals in need of a home-especially urgent since Mr. and Mrs. Almazan have pledged to help house additional confiscated pet and circus primates.

Animals at Siglo XXI share time with each other as they pick through the regularly stocked baskets of fruits and vegetables.
Adam M. Roberts/AWI

Thus, the couple has undertaken an ambitious expansion project. A beautiful new sprawling plot of land has already been bought to continue their vital work, and they have begun building the enclosures there.

Mr. Almazan is a practicing pediatrician who invests much of his earnings into the rescue center-he and his wife fund the ongoing care for the animals at a cost of about $3,000 a month. Additional funds are needed, however, for the enclosure construction at the new site. AWI has provided assistance for the erection of a security fence on the perimeter of the new property, which will run along a small river.

Without Siglo XXI there is no appropriate sanctuary in Chile available for these needy primates. If you would like to help ensure that the new facility is fully operational, please send a check payable to AWI with a note in the memo line: "for Siglo XXI." All donations will be sent to the sanctuary together. For additional information contact


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