7 of the Saddest Wildlife Stories From the Middle East

7 of the Saddest Wildlife Stories From the Middle East

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 03:18 AM PST

wildlife conservation, animal conservation, egypt, kuwait, wildlife, illegal wildlife trafficking, united arab emiratesAlthough many people in our region revere wildlife, too often we write about egregious abuse. Here are 7 of the saddest wildlife stories from the Middle East, and what you can do to help such harmful practices come to an end.

Many people living in the Middle East believe that it is haram to harm animals, and all kinds of excellent conservation work is taking place in Egypt, Iraq, and elsewhere. But too often we feature stories about rich Arabs who think it’s cool to capture cheetahs and other wild animals and keep them as pets, or about dolphins and lions that are confined to filthy, tiny spaces in order to lure tourists.

Sometimes ignorance lies at the root of animal abuse, while at other times people are simply trying to earn a living, but compassion and biodiversity preservation projects can benefit everyone. Step in for 7 of the saddest wildlife stories in the Middle East and be inspired to help your neighbor re-think his relationship to these magnificent creatures.

1. Red Sea Sharks Face Extinction

wildlife conservation, animal conservation, egypt, kuwait, wildlife, illegal wildlife trafficking, united arab emirates

The politics du jour can have either a positive or negative effect on a country or region’s wildlife, and no where is this more true than in present-day Egypt. With a still unstable political situation and general lawlessness sweeping throughout the country, no one is paying attention to poachers who are killing off sharks in order to meet mostly an Asian demand for shark fin soup. Since last year’s revolution broke out and the country has been unable to quell its general mayhem, 40 million USD in tourist revenue is lost every day, so this comes as no surprise to us. On the other hand, one of the Red Sea’s most important species – its sharks – face extinction.

2. Kuwaiti Kills Wolf and Then Shows Off

wildlife conservation, animal conservation, egypt, kuwait, wildlife, illegal wildlife trafficking, united arab emirates

Abdullah Algelawi from Kuwait went on a fishing trip with his friends, armed with a shotgun. In the morning when he woke up, he said that a wild animal was hovering around his tent but couldn’t identify its species. So he pumped a pile of shotgun shells into what turned out to be a rare wolf, and proceeded to pose for a series of photographs that he then forwarded to his local newspaper. It is not legal for Kuwaiti nationals to own firearms.

3. 1 Million Migrating Songbirds Killed for a Pickled Dish in Cyprus

wildlife conservation, animal conservation, egypt, kuwait, wildlife, illegal wildlife trafficking, united arab emirates

Every year trappers in Cyprus kill millions of migrating songbirds that are boiled or pickled – a national delicacy called ambelopoulia. Using mist nets and lime sticks to catch mostly whitethroats and blackcaps, the poachers then sell the dead birds to local restaurants where they are prepared in accordance with tradition. Wildlife conservationists want authorities there to do more to prevent what amounts to an ecological disaster.

4. Four Dolphins Living in a Filthy Egyptian Pool 1/10 of Acceptable Size

wildlife conservation, animal conservation, egypt, kuwait, wildlife, illegal wildlife trafficking, united arab emirates

The Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA) has taken huge strides to protect the marine environment in one of Egypt’s most popular tourist destinations, and it was them that raised the alarm when four bottle nose dolphins were discovered awaiting transfer to a dolphinarium in a tiny, private swimming pool. The water was filthy – most likely because the pool lacked an adequate filtration system to cope with the waste produced by the four dolphins. Visibility was apparently no more than 20 cm. The owner of the villa set his pit bull on The Cove’s Richard O’Barry when he set out to investigate the story.

5. Corruption is Alive and Well at Egyptian Zoo

wildlife conservation, animal conservation, egypt, kuwait, wildlife, illegal wildlife trafficking, united arab emirates

We had hoped that the revolution in Egypt would usher in a new era of accountability, but if anything, the opposite appears to be true. The government issued the zookeeper at a lion park north of Cairo a new permit even though the lions in his care were dehydrated, hungry, and forced to live in cramp, dirty conditions. Elsewhere at the facility, an unattended monkey ate a plastic bag and hyenas that require plenty of space to roam were deeply distressed by their small cages.

6. Lion Cub Shot Dead in Egypt

wildlife conservation, animal conservation, egypt, kuwait, wildlife, illegal wildlife trafficking, united arab emirates

Egyptian police officers who raided the house of a wanted suspect in northern Cairo found themselves confronted by a lion cub. This was so shocking for some of the officers that they jumped from the second floor of the building to escape and then pumped as many as 200 bullets into the cub. The suspect escaped, but the lion cub did not. The police officers also discovered a falcon inside the suspect’s apartment.

7. Dubai Marine Life at Risk After Devastating Shark Catch

wildlife conservation, animal conservation, egypt, kuwait, wildlife, illegal wildlife trafficking, united arab emirates

This last story is also the most disturbing. Conservationists working with the Shark Quest Project found a dead 9 meter long Hammerhead shark alongside all forty-five of her pups gutted from her belly at the Deira fish market in Dubai. It is illegal to fish for endangered shark species between January and April in this Gulf country, but poor oversight ensures that the practice continues more or less unabated.

If you love wildlife as much as we do, then these stories are bound to get you down. But don’t let that happen. Instead, donate funds to your local conservation group or better yet, get involved. A few hours every week generating better awareness can amount to many hours over the year – and our fauna will reap the benefits. Report people who are keeping animals that belong in the wild and stand up to your friends if you see them taunting or abusing any kind of animal. 

Shark Fin Soup Contributes to World Hunger

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 02:16 AM PST

image-hamnmerhead-shark-long-lineIt’s not a stretch. Vanishing shark populations affect the food chain in a very concrete way.

Karin’s post on shark meat’s high mercury levels made it clear: a bowl of shark fin soup is a  bowlful of poison. But a slower death awaits people who depend on healthy seas.

That means all of us. Because  the food chain’s myriad links go back to where life started –  in that primordial soup, the sea.  Global warmingmarine pollution, and overfishing have already destroyed countless ocean ecosystems. Depleted, suffocated oceans can’t nourish life on our planet. Ultimately, sick oceans won’t support the intricate web that we humans depend on for our food.

Who can, in good conscience, sit down at a restaurant table and order a dish of shark fin soup anymore? The satisfied diner pays his bill and walks away now, but his children and grandchildren may go ecologically bankrupt paying for that bowl of soup in the future. Ironically, laws protecting Red Sea sharks have only attracted poacher’s attention to the region. So what can you, the individual, do to protect sharks and the ocean’s health? Easy. You can refuse to eat shark and other endangered species, like bluefish tuna,  and say why.

Here’s what the Red Sea conservation body HEPCA says about sharks and the ecology:

As top oceanic predators, they are of fundamental importance to the balance of the marine ecosystem. Removing them on a large scale has severe consequences through succeeding layers of the marine food web. It has altered other species’ abundance, distribution and diversity, and impacted the health of a variety of marine habitats, including sea grass beds and coral reefs.

A recovery from depletion is hard to accomplish, since most of the larger shark species have a very low reproductive potential; they take years to reach sexual maturity and produce very few young.

Shark fins are profitable – a billion-dollar industry. And where there’s so much money involved, humanitarian issues get dumped overboard, like shark bodies. Fins, you see, don’t take up much room in a fishing boat. Poachers often cut the fins off their catch and then throw the living, mutilated shark back into the water.

Equally barbaric are poacher’s fishing methods. Long line fishing, a method  using lengths of monofilament that  stretch from 1 to 100 miles, is a popular way to catch shark. The photo above shows a hammerhead shark caught in a long line. The shark-poaching problem is compounded, because may other creatures become entangled and die as well – legally protected leatherback turtles, dolphins, and albatrosses being only a few.

Contrary to popular ideas of sharks as ferocious, man-hunting monsters, the big fish rather shy away from humans intruding on their underwater world. The video below shows sharks serenely gliding through the waters with only a mild curiosity about the divers around them. (The soundtrack is thrilling, too.) Is it worth sacrificing these majestic creatures, and  hurting the oceans – for a mere bowl of soup?


Jessica the Hippo Doesn’t Know She is Africa’s Most Dangerous Animal

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 12:09 AM PST

wildlife conservation, hippos, africa, south africa, dangerous animals, animal conservation, hunting, predator, prey

Experiencing the incredible bond between game warden Tonie Joubert and Jessica the Hippo, it’s easy to forget that this is Africa’s most fearsome animal.

Having grown up to fear hippos more than any other creature on the African continent, it was with great hesitation that I approached Jessica’s giant canine teeth and powerful gaping jaw. Just seconds before, Tonie Joubert planted a kiss on the smiling hippo, who washed up on his doorstep in South Africa 12 years ago after devastating floods separated her from her mother.

In the wild, a lone premature calf won’t survive for long, but Tonie and his wife Shirley nursed Jessica to health with baby formula. She now weighs nearly 2, 200 pounds and sleeps on their veranda in the Limpopo province! Jessica is the world’s most famous hippo and perhaps the only one who has forgotten how aggressive and scary she is supposed to be.

wildlife conservation, hippos, africa, south africa, dangerous animals, animal conservation, hunting, predator, prey

Culling wild hippos

My aunt and mother grew up in the Zambian bush and both married American professional hunters. For a spell, my Uncle Rolf was a game warden at the Luangwa National Park before he was replaced by Tonie Joubert – Jessica’s surrogate father.

Professional hunters are often called upon to cull animals in order to maintain the delicate balance between predator and prey in game parks. This is typically how hunting works in Africa. A wealthy foreigner will pay big money for the privilege to shoot a wild animal and keep its trophy, which contributes to maintaining a healthy ecosystem, and the funds are used to keep the game park afloat.

Joubert has put more than 1,000 hippos to death in his lifetime, but Jessica found a special place in his heart.

wildlife conservation, hippos, africa, south africa, dangerous animals, animal conservation, hunting, predator, prey

Feeding Jessica

So special, in fact, that he spends nearly $2,000 a month to keep her alive. He buys corn and sweet potato for her to eat – hippos are vegetarians – and replaces her mattress every two weeks. She also has a tea fetish and greedily slurps away at decaffeinated rooibos tea fed to her from a 2 liter coke bottle.

Last year while I was conducting research for a story on Lake Naivasha in Kenya, a wild hippo attacked the boat I was on and it sank within five minutes. If we hadn’t been close to the river bank, that hippo would have killed all of us without a second thought. They are territorial creatures and protective of their young.

Few people who have found themselves stuck between a female hippo and its calf have lived to tell the tale and Jessica has all the mechanisms that make them so frightening including a jaw that extends up to 150 degrees and has a bite pressure of approximately 1,821 pounds. But the Jouberts have never seen her display the slightest amount of aggression.

wildlife conservation, hippos, africa, south africa, dangerous animals, animal conservation, hunting, predator, prey

Taking the wild out of the hippo

Alec Kleynhans from the Mafigeni Safari Lodge, where I am currently staying with my family, raises the old adage that you can take the animal out of the wild but you can never take the wild out of the animal. He worries that one day Jessica will snap.

Tonie warned another man in the Limpopo province who tried to tame a male hippo that once it reached maturity and had a certain amount of testosterone in its body, it would be foolish to keep him. “I told him the hippo will kill him, but he didn’t want to listen and shut the phone down in my ear,” Tonie told us.

One night the man had too many drinks and tried to ride the hippo’s back like a rodeo animal. As predicted, the hippo killed him.

Although she regularly frolics with wild hippos in the Blyde river and is free to do as she likes, Jessica returns to the Joubert’s home every night. But now that she is beginning to reach a weight that primes her for bearing her own calf, it’s anybody’s guess what will happen next.

Going Green Ends With Water from the Sea

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 12:06 AM PST

desalinated water fish pipe undersea photo
Desalinated water is costly for Israel, and practically no one is talking about the hidden costs.

Making drinking water from sea water has been touted as a solution for water shortage in the Middle-East and elsewhere. In southern Israel, near Ashkelon, a small pilot project has been pumping out 24 million cubic meters of fresh drinking grade water into Israel’s water system since 2005. Currently expanding its output to add another 45 million cubic meters a year, the facility is planning to produce 120 million cubic meters of fresh drinking water annually by 2013. And Gaza’s about to get its own plant too!

When the Ashkelon plant went on the grid in 2005 using groundbreaking technology, the eyes of the world were watching with great interest. In an effort to deal with the challenges facing water management today, the Ashkelon facility offered an untried but hopeful solution. By applying a reverse osmosis system that had not yet been used on such a large scale the pilot project has proven to be extraordinarily successful.

With an on-site power plant operated by natural gas, the desalination facility pumps water from a point half a mile off the coast of Israel, filters it and then removes the water from the salt by running it through specially designed membranes. The water pumped by the Ashkelon plant currently supplies approximately 5% of Israel’s fresh water demand.

The reverse osmosis technology is considered to be the most effective technique available for the desalination of water. It’s long been in the middle of a persuasion campaign by Friends of the Earth Middle East in the Dead Sea, where they believe that installing such a system would benefit the rapidly falling water level in the Dead Sea.

However, while the fresh water plant in Ashkelon may represent a sort of utopian dream, sources in Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Affairs report that without proper supervision such interference in Israel’s natural resources will in the long run incur a steep price.

The desalination process by means of reverse osmosis is done in two steps.

First, a variety of chemicals are added to the seawater to help filter the floating particles. Before the filtering process, iron, phosphorus and other minerals are added to the water to identify foreign material. Then, the water is separated from all other materials and added directly into Israel’s water supply. The excess material is then pumped back to the sea.

The excess material includes all of the foreign chemicals added in the desalination process as well as all of the excess salts left over at the end of the process and hot water.

These materials are all returned to the Mediterranean, about a half-mile off shore, near the point from which the sea water was originally pumped out.

Right now, Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Affairs seems perhaps rightfully worried. With several other desalination plants under construction on the shoreline south of Tel Aviv, we can expect major changes in the marine environment, if careful existing safety measures aren’t enforced.

With the major changes being led by business conglomerates, that see water as a valuable resource in the future, they’re not sure these business groups have the marine environment high on their list of priorities. With so much money to be made it is highly doubtful their plans take the preservation of Israel’s delicate marine environment into account.

The Ashkelon Desalination Plant offered no comment in response.

Guest author Sol Goodman is making a film about the Dead Sea.

Shark Fin Soup Can Give You Brain Damage

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 09:54 PM PST

shark fin soup, mercury poisoning, marine ecosystem, pollution, sharks, wildlife conservation, Gulf, Middle EastGulf experts say that shark meat contains extremely high levels of mercury. The picture above depicts a deformed Japanese boy whose mother had mercury poisoning.

If shark conservation isn’t your thing, and you are one of the people creating a worldwide demand for shark fin soup, think about this next time you slurp: filmmaker and activist Jonathan Ali Khan is presenting a new TV documentary in the United Arab Emirates on the health risks of eating shark meat, the Gulf News reports.

Collecting footage for the NGO Shark Quest Arabia, we featured Jonathan Ali Khan here. His new show will document in detail how sharks, high on the food chain in the marine ecosystem, have dangerously high levels of mercury. This metal is linked to brain damage and infertility.

Working on sampling for mercury levels in the Gulf “You need testing from fishing and landing sites, biopsy samples. You need a small tissue or blood specimen. But some fishermen don’t take too kindly to that — they’re getting a bit more defensive,” Ali Khan said.

Our own reporter Tafline went undercover and took pictures of sharks in a fish market in Dubai, where they are sold openly even though it is not lawful to do so. Even mainstream grocery stores throughout the Gulf country stock sharks that have not yet had a chance to mature.

Mercury flows to the ocean via industrial processes and the metal is stored in the fat of the sharks over time. We hope that Ali Khan’s documentary will scare people away from eating shark meat and shark fins.

In the Middle East sharks are poached illegally for their fins and meat. Although shark fins are nothing more than rubber cartilage, I guess people like eating shark because it makes them feel omnipotent.

We recently reported that Red Sea sharks face extinction because no one in Egypt is monitoring illegal poaching, and fishermen are culling the animals en masse to satisfy a steady demand for shark fin soup. Pretty soon there may be no more sharks left thanks to this idiotic fetish.


Source: Green Prophet


~ by FSVSF Admin on 26 January, 2012.

One Response to “7 of the Saddest Wildlife Stories From the Middle East”

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