This week's environment news hails the global conservation efforts of the CITES CoP17 conference in Johannesburg as well as a new designation for the protection of Hawaii's most threatened bees. here's you weekly news roundup:
Protecting the Helmeted Hornbill
When it comes to conservation sometimes humans can be fickle, whereby only recognising the plights of big, majestic and/or beautiful animals, such as Rhinos, Elephants and Pandas sometimes leaves other species to remain unrecognised. However a rising trade in “red ivory” has led to an influx of awareness-raising on the poaching of Helmeted Hornbills.
These birds are found across Asia in Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia and Malaysia. Their beaks are a vivid red and have are similar malleability to rhino horn; hence trinkets carved from them fetching a high price on the Chinese black market.
In a bid to further the protection of the species it was agreed last week at the CITES CoP17 in Johannesburg that, in addition to being on Appendix I, countries to which the Hornbill is native would implement their own protective measures as well as put public education campaigns in place, ensuring their protection in the future.
Hawaiian Bees Officially Declared Endangered
Seven species of Yellow-faced Bee, native to Hawaii, have finally achieved endangered status from the US Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act. Yellow-faced Bees established in Hawaii long ago and became an isolated population. This allowed them to evolve and become part of the ecology of the islands, but when humans turned up with non-native farm animals and non-native plants this complex ecology was thrown out of balance.
Many natural foraging and nesting sites of these bees have been choked out by invasive plant species, or razed over by agricultural expansion or urbanisation. These problems have been further exacerbated by natural disasters such as cyclones and wildfires, making it difficult for the bees to recover.
The new classification will allow conservation efforts to receive funding as well as prohibit disturbance from developers. However, as with many Endangered Species legislations, only the species itself is protected and not its dependant habitat (for instance only 20% of Bornean Orangutan prime habitat is protected despite their Critically Endangered classification). But, this is a step in the right direction and hopefully future amendments will be made to implement a more rigorous protection of both the species and their habitats.
Despite these species are now set to receive added protection and conservation measures, this is a slightly bittersweet victory, as the very need to protect them this way is a testament to the problems humans are presenting them with.
More Happenings from Johannesburg
Back to Johannesburg as this year’s CoP17 made huge strides in ivory trade and wildlife crime. The CoP17 summit held its first conference on wildlife crime and, although failing to gain consensus on a total ivory ban, did result in the shutting down of many domestic markets.
183 countries signed the bill, with the US and (surprisingly) China agreeing to close down their ivory markets. However, there is cause for concern as the convention states only markets contributing to poaching and dealing in illegal ivory are to be closed. This leaves a door ajar for deception, as less ecologically compassionate countries with steadfast and lucrative markets will of course lie about their markets contributions to poaching to keep the money flowing.
And Pangolins receiving some long overdue attention as the animals were moved from Appendix II to Appendix I, meaning a total ban on the trafficking of Pangolins, safeguarding all 7 species.
By Thomas Phillips - Online Journalism Intern