Peter Cosgrove carried out the first national pearl mussel survey and in one of those wonderful moments of happenstance, submitted his final report which recommended full legal protection during a periodic review of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. It had the desired effect and the law was changed in 1998 and Peter always highlights this to those cynics who think our conservation efforts are pointless and make little or no difference. Since then Peter has spent hundreds of days in more than a thousand Scottish rivers and burns surveying for pearl mussels. His interest in pearl mussels transfers into a general interest in wildlife crime.
Wildlife crime in Nepal
Over Christmas and New Year I had a fabulous 3 week trip to Nepal with my family. One of our targets was to see the endangered Great One-horned Rhino, which we easily saw at Chitwan National Park. These cool, dangerous and almost prehistoric looking animals were in the mood for mating and we saw ca. a dozen, some of the males with wounds from battling each other. It was a true wildlife spectacular.
This species was brought to the brink of extinction by rhino poachers just over a decade ago. In 2002 more than 38 rhinos were confirmed killed in Chitwan National Park. Since then, the Nepalese Government’s response has been nothing short of brilliant. The Nepalese Army’s Shree Shreejung battalion is now based at Chitwan National Park, where 800 armed soldiers patrol the 932km2 national park, along with teams of anti-poaching national park wardens. To stop corruption (and associated poaching), anyone entering the national park has to go through 2-3 different sets of army check points and once inside the park, solders are present throughout and patrol on foot and bicycle and can challenge anyone they meet. As we entered the park at dawn, the night patrols were returning to base and reporting in. Daily national park entrance fees from wildlife-tourists such as ourselves go directly to supporting the anti-poaching work at Chitwan. WWF and other NGOs have also provided critical financial and logistical support.
The government also works closely with local communities in the park’s 766km2 buffer zone and rewards them financially for reporting poachers or suspicious people/activity. Nepal celebrated zero poaching of Great One horned Rhinos in 2011, 2013 and 2015. On the entrance board at the army check point it stated “Number of days since last poaching incident = 524 days”. It is estimated that Chitwan National Park now holds over 600 Great One-horned Rhinos. There is clearly a deep sense of pride in what has been achieved and the financial benefit from increasing tourist revenue that has followed.
Chitwan National Park is also now home to one of the world’s largest and most important big cat populations. Since the national park was established the small population of ca. 22 Bengal Tigers has increased to an estimated 120 individuals today. Populations of Leopards and Sloth Bears have also benefited too.
Tackling wildlife crime can and does work if you have the political will to do it. The Nepalese army battalions have to be based somewhere, so why not have base them in the poaching hot-spots? With this in mind, I propose we move the SAS HQ from Hereford to the North York Moors National Park and the Paras HQ from Pudsey to the Peak District National Park to stamp out wildlife crime at these sites once and for all.
First I would like to thank you for your beautiful and sad book about the passenger pigeon. I came across it by chance as I looked into a bookshop´s window in Amsterdam. There it was, a small, red book with the word passenger pigeon written across it. I went in and bought it.
I am an artist and has been interested in wild things since childhood. I was fortunate to grow up in a family who went to the lakes east from Malmö or to the beech forest, always with the wellingtons on and with a pair of binoculars. This was in the sixties and seventies and we never saw a raven or an eagle. My parents spoke about the mercury in the fish, the otters were gone and so was the peregrine falcon. There were no wolfs and no boars. The red deer was a rare sight. Once we saw a red kite from the car, my father stopped immediately and we all went out to see it. A red kite!!! I still remember the place where we saw it. Now it’s possible to see 20-30 kites picking worms when the farmer ploughs his field in Fyledalen in Skåne. Ravens often fly over my house in Gothenburg. The birds of Oden – Hugin and Munin – is here to stay.
We have perhaps 200 000 wild boars in Sweden and they are increasing. About 250 wolfs and perhaps 3000 bears. Many moose, a large number are shot every year in the autumn hunt. The otter is back and so are the golden eagle and the sea eagle. Many peregrine falcon and eagle-owls have been released from a breeding program that has taken place during a couple of decades. Sadly, the predators (mostly wolverine and wolfs, but also lynx and bear and eagle) are killed illegally, both by hunters and the same people, who have their reindeer herds. Once, the wolf was exterminated and many people in the countryside are used to a life without predators and don´t want them back. An eternal conflict.
I heard about the passenger pigeon already as a child. I still have a book about zoos around the world and in that book Audobon´s famous picture of the two passenger pigeons caught my imagination already as a young girl. The picture you wrote about in the book. I agree with you that the pigeon was an extremely beautiful bird and the loss of it is still incomprehensible. When I tell my friends about it they can´t believe it. How can so many birds have been killed? The number is staggering, the photos of the piles of dead birds reminds me of photos after the bombing of Dresden or from the concentration camps. From billions of birds to the last wild one sitting in a tree and then being shot. You are struck with a deep sense of guilt, of an immense loss, a sadness you can´t get rid of. The passenger pigeon should have been the symbol bird of the United States, not the bald eagle. And the deep forests of beech and oak and chestnut, also gone.
As an artist I can travel in my imagination. It has helped me many times. When I had read your book I sat down and made a drawing of Martha, not in her cage, but in an old chestnut forest where she belonged. I put her there as a remedy, a cure, to comfort myself. When she died, she should have died in the forest and disappeared amongst the dead leaves and branches on the ground.
Now I would like to send the drawing to you, as a gift in return for your book. Please let me now your address, and I will post it for you.
Thank you once again for your important book.
Mark writes: this was how I replied;
If you have been directed to this page then it’s probably because you have sent me an unsolicited email offering me a Guest Blog of the following general type:
I have some great topics for your site
I’m [insert name] and I just wanted to say that your blog, looks great and I enjoy reading it. I am a blogger myself and write for various [insert topic] blogs and magazines.
I would love to get featured with an article on your blog. I think one of the posts below would work in great with your style and blog:
Celebrity pick: The favorite bags of Gigi Hadid
The 12 countries you must visit before you die
How to store coffee beans or grounds properly
Health benefits of Coconut Oil
I hope you will give me this opportunity to create something cool for your blog… I saw you have accepted guest posts in the past, so hopefully I can try beat you’re fav!
Errrr – no thanks.
Unless any regular readers of this blog feel very drawn to any of these subjects…?
This post is primarily designed for people who want to write Guest Blogs about some aspect of the natural world for this site. The blog is called Standing up for Nature and that gives you a clue about its focus.
I am very happy to consider Guest Blogs for this site from individuals or from organisations. You can either contact me on email@example.com to discuss your idea or just send something in and I promise I’ll look at it, but I can’t promise I will publish it. Having said that, rather few submissions have been rejected.
Here are some guidelines:
- length – there is no minimum or maximum word limit
- format – send as a .doc or docx file
- hyperlinks – include in the Word text
- images – send as .jpg or .png (DO NOT embed in the text (please)) and confirm that you have the right to publish these images
- who you are – include an image of yourself, the author
- who you are – include a few sentences about yourself
- who you are – tell me your Twitter handle if you have one, please
- topics – whatever you like which fits into the general thrust of this blog which has a primarily UK (and primarily English) audience. You don’t have to agree with me, in fact a variety of views is perfectly acceptable.
- tone – don’t be rude about others (you can be a bit rude about me), and don’t libel anyone.
- interact with comments made on your blog – it’s really nice if Guest Bloggers interact with the comments made – not essential but nice.
Here are some examples of Guest Blogs over the last few years which illustrate the variety of approaches, authors and styles:
Bag charge by Janice Hume
Otters by Kevin Parr
Remember not to forget by filbert cobb
We forgot to tell the fish by Carrie Hume
Britain’s bees are under threat by Andrew Pendleton
Think 500 years ahead by Findlay Wilde
Langholm Q&A by Ruth Tingay