Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters

 

Silent spring in Tokyo 

By Mike DeJong- Shin Tokorozawa, Saitama
June 9, 2009 The Japan Times Online

Dear Environment Minister Tetsuo Saito,

In her groundbreaking work "Silent Spring," American writer Rachel Carson lamented a lack of birds and wildlife in her neighborhood one year. That spring, she thought it strange that no birds were singing or animals chattering. Later, Carson discovered that the wildlife had disappeared following a massive pesticide-spraying campaign. The silence prompted her to write one of the most important books of the 20th century.

This spring, my first in Japan, it is a similar story.

I live in a Tokyo suburb, about an hour by train from midtown. Although plants and flowers are plentiful here and there are a few birds, there are no animals of any kind. No squirrels or chipmunks, raccoons, skunks, rabbits, foxes or deer. It's an eerie scene. Walk outside in the morning and you hear few sounds of living beings other than those of cars, planes and other human activities. Where are the sounds of nature?

Growing up in Canada, I have been spoiled by the abundance of wildlife. At our old home near Toronto, my son and I would look out the back door and see chipmunks haggling over pinecones. We would chase rabbits into the forest and clean up garbage ransacked by raccoons. One year, an enterprising squirrel even set up a winter nest in our barbecue. Foxes, skunks and deer were also spotted in our area. My son loved it and it was a great educational experience.

However, here in the Tokyo area there is none of that. My son has seen no wild animals save the few behind cages or stone walls at the local zoo. The educational experiences have been lost.

In his book "Dogs and Demons," Alex Kerr argues that environmental degradation has been one of the byproducts of Japan's relentless postwar pursuit of economic growth. In the last half-century, Kerr suggests that the Japanese have dammed up most rivers, scarred many mountains and uprooted trees, all to make way for urban growth. In the course of this expansion, much of Japan's natural habitat has been lost.

Kerr points out that this lack of regard for nature contradicts the traditional world view of the Japanese. In most Western writing, the Japanese are portrayed as nature lovers, with a spiritual, almost mystical connection to their environment. Japan's indigenous Shinto religion even puts a reverence for nature at the core of its beliefs.

However, as Kerr points out, this Western view of Japan is a myth. Yes, the Japanese enjoy their cherry-blossom parties each year. But in reality, the Japanese see nature as something to conquer rather than preserve.

If Kerr is right, then that is a shame. The Japanese people that I know love nature and are concerned about environmental damage. They do their best to recycle and protect areas where they live. However, the average people here are not the problem. It is the massive construction and urban renewal projects that do the most damage.

Unfortunately, in my Tokyo suburb, a lack of natural activity is not peaceful. It's depressing. As more and more buildings go up, the sounds of nature are extinguished. And the silence of spring here is deafening.

Comment:  Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not unique to Japan.  The human population is displacing all other life forms and the beauty of nature.  Still, we do nothing to stop it.  What a sad world it has become.

1000 rare tortoises poached each week in Madagascar

September 30, 2010 wildmadagascar.org

One thousand endangered tortoises are being illegally collected each week in southern Madagascar, reports WWF.

The trade, driven by international demand for the endemic radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) and the spider tortoise (Pyxis arachnoids) as well as local consumption, is driving the slow-to-reproduce species toward extinction in the wild. Additionally, tortoise trafficking poses a risk to local authorities, with poachers increasingly likely to be "armed and dangerous," according to WWF.

Some 7,855 living tortoises and more than 4.8 tonnes of meat were seized between 2001 and 2010 according TRAFFIC, WWF's wildlife trade monitoring program. TRAFFIC estimates the seizures represent only two percent of the estimated 600,000 tortoises collected from the southern Madagascar during that period.  

"The population decline of these flagship species is alarming," said Tiana Ramahaleo, WWF’s Conservation Planning and Species Program Coordinator in Madagascar, in a statement. "If we don’t manage to halt tortoise poaching and habitat destruction in the South, we might lose both tortoises in the wild in less than fifty years."

Tortoises are collected as a local delicacy as well as the international pet trade, where the reptiles fetch high prices.

Tigers could be extinct within 12 years: WWF

October 23, 2010

STOCKHOLM (AFP) -- Tigers could become extinct within 12 years but a top level meeting in Russia next month could help reverse the decline, nature conservation body WWF said on Thursday.

The “worse scenario is that the tiger could be gone when the next year of the tiger comes along, in 12 years,” said Ola Jennersten, head of the international nature conservation program at WWF Sweden.

The organization is leading a global campaign to attempt to double the number of tigers by 2022, when the next Chinese calendar year of the tiger comes around.

WWF said that in the last century, illegal hunting, a shrinking habitat and the trade of tiger parts used in oriental medicine had sent the number of the big cats worldwide plunging 97 percent to around just 3,200 tigers today.

“Despite the gloomy figures, the situation is more hopeful than ever,” Jennersten said, praising a political initiative of 13 'tiger states' and different bodies set to meet in Russia on November 21-24 in a bid to halt possible extinction of the species.

“This will be achieved through increased political involvement, focus on the tiger landscapes that have the greatest chance of long term retention of the tiger, and increased control of tiger trade,” he said.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who in the past years has made a big show of his love for nature, publicly kissing animals and engaging in a string of stunts involving wildlife including tigers, is expected to attend the summit in Saint Petersburg.

WWF said some 1,800 tigers live in India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, 450 live in Sumatra, 400 in Malaysia, 350 are spread throughout southeast Asia and around 450 live in the wild in Russia.

This is the Largest Model for Wildlife Conservation in the World

October 21, 2010 Brian Merchant www.treehugger.com

It's no secret that traditional conservation methods, while noble, have been failing miserably. Since the first forest and wildlife conservation programs were embraced internationally some 40-50 years ago, half of the world's forests have been razed, and biodiversity has plummeted around the globe, to the point where many scientists are already terming this era that of the 6th great extinction. Alan Rabinowitz, CEO of Panthera and one of the world's foremost conservationists, is keenly aware of this. Which is why his talk at Poptech 2010 was all about throwing out traditional methods and installing the largest working model for wildlife conservation in the world: A massive system of interlinked corridors for wildlife to coexist with human populations.

Rabinowitz's talk focused on the decades of failures that he's experienced over the years through his work with wildlife conservation. You may remember Rabinowitz from recent news of his work in creating the world's largest tiger preserve in Burma. He noted how a lifelong commitment to big cats led him to launch some of the world's biggest wildlife preserves -- but it wasn't nearly good enough. As he was receiving accolades from the press and conservation community, big cats and biodiversity were worse off than ever.

The biggest problem, Rabinowitz says, is with the traditional conservation model -- seeking big (and not so big) tracts of land to cordon off and keep wildlife protected in reserves and preserves. These just don't work on a scale anywhere near what's necessary. Large populations of wildlife live outside those preserves, obviously -- and tying a rope around an area, marking it a preserve, and ending the effort there isn't cutting it in the large scale.

Or, as Rabinowitz says, the reason conservation efforts are failing is that we're intent on creating these "bambi-like" nature preserves that aspire to our now arbitrary idea of natural perfection. This concept simply isn't realistic in the 21st century world -- people, and their impact, are everywhere. So, the solution that Rabinowitz proposes is something he calls a Corridor Initiative: a network of interconnected corridors that span entire regions, even continents. He's already undertaken making this initiative a reality in Central and South America, creating a system of jaguar corridor preserves (pictured above) that spans from Mexico to Argentina. It's the largest working model for wildlife conservation in the world.

The idea is to work with governments, local populations, and conservationists to create a habitat for animals like big cats to successfully coexist with burgeoning human populations. This model allows for wildlife preservation across a much wider swath of land than would otherwise be possible. It's certainly a good idea, though keeping industry and poaching in check throughout the network will pose a significant challenge.

Another such corridor effort is underway to protect tigers across India, China, and Southeast Asia. This innovative approach may very well be the future of conservation, if programs like the Jaguar Corridor Initiative prove successful.

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