First it was the giant panda, then the polar bear. Now it seems that the grizzly bear is the latest species to face impending disaster.
A furious row has erupted in Canada with conservationists desperately lobbying the government to suspend the annual bear-hunting season following reports of a sudden drop in the numbers of wild bears spotted on salmon streams and key coastal areas where they would normally be feeding.
The government has promised to order a count of bears, but not until after this year’s autumn trophy hunts have taken place. It has enraged ecology groups which say that a dearth of salmon stocks may be responsible for many bears starving in their dens during hibernation. The female grizzlies have their cubs during winter after gorging themselves in September on the fish fats that sustain them through the following months.
“I’ve never seen bears hungry in the fall before, but last year they were starving,” British Columbian wildlife guide and photographer Doug Neasloss said. “I noticed in the spring there weren’t as many bears coming out, but I felt it was premature to jump to conclusions.”
But now, he said, “there just aren’t any bears. It’s scary.”
It was the same story, he said, from other guides over 16 rivers where once they would have been encountering dozens of grizzly bears.
“There has been a huge drop in numbers. I’ve never experienced anything this bad,” he said.
Reports from stream walkers, who monitor salmon streams across the vast territories, have been consistent, according to the conservation group Pacific Wild — no bears and, more worryingly, no bear cubs.
“There are just no bears out there, I’m hearing that from every side now,” said Ian McAllister from Pacific Wild.
He said that because a few grizzlies have been wandering close to centers of human habitation people thought there were plenty of bears around.
“In fact it’s the shortage of food that’s driving them into town. They’re starving,” he said.
In one river alone, the Fraser on Canada’s west coast, 10 million sockeye salmon were expected back to spawn there this summer. Only 1 million turned up. Canada’s Ministry of Environment announced in July that it would ban hunting of grizzly bears on an additional 470,000 hectares, bringing the total protected area for grizzlies and black bears to 1.9 million hectares.
The news came after Jane Goodall, the renowned wildlife campaigner, added her voice to the campaign against the hunts, which are for trophies, not meat.
“I’m very distressed and shocked that the bear hunt — grizzly bear and black bear — is continuing in a country like Canada,” she said. “These bears are such amazing, magnificent creatures and there are so many secrets still to discover about their lives.”
Grizzlies once roamed across most of North America and the Great Plains until European settlers gradually pushed them back. Only 1,000 remain in the contiguous US, where they are protected, but the number is less clear in the vast wilds of Canada and Alaska, where they are prized by hunters who shoot hundreds of the 350kg giants every year, providing a lucrative income for provincial governments that license the hunts.
“It’s appalling wildlife management, considering the widespread concern for coastal bears at the moment,” McAllister said.
Indigenous groups have added their voice to the call to save the bears, pointing out that trophy hunting is against their traditions and threatens tourism, which is a vital source of income for the remote areas of Canada.
But a senior biologist with the US National Wildlife Federation said the evidence remained anecdotal and called the reports “alarmist.”
A rogue overgrown sheep found roaming through regional Australia has been shorn of his 35kg fleece — a weight even greater than that of the famous New Zealand sheep Shrek, who was captured in 2005 after six years on the loose. The merino ram, dubbed Baarack by rescuers, was discovered wandering alone with an extraordinarily overgrown wool coat, and was promptly shorn to save his life. Kyle Behrend, from the Edgar’s Mission farm sanctuary, said that it appeared Baarack was “once an owned sheep” who had escaped. Merino sheep do not shed their fleece and need to be shorn at least annually, as
‘GRAVE CONCERN’: A critic of the government died immediately following his complaints of torture at the hands of security forces, a human rights group said Students on Friday clashed with police in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, as anger mounted at the death of a writer and government critic in a high-security jail. At least 18 police and an unknown number of protesters were injured in the clashes, authorities and witnesses said, amid international demands for an independent investigation into the death of Mushtaq Ahmed. An Agence France-Presse correspondent witnessed police using batons and firing tear gas at students who staged a torchlight march calling for “justice” near the University of Dhaka. At least six students who allegedly attacked security forces with torches were detained, police said. More protests were planned
China, under growing global pressure over its treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, is mounting an unprecedented and aggressive campaign to push back, including explicit attacks on women who have made claims of abuse. As allegations of human rights violations in Xinjiang mount, with a growing number of Western lawmakers accusing China of genocide, Beijing is focusing on discrediting the female Uighur witnesses behind reports of abuse. Chinese officials have named women, disclosed medical data and information on their fertility, and accused some of having affairs and one of having a sexually transmitted disease. Officials said that the information was evidence of bad character,
The plane laden with vaccines had just rolled to a stop at Santiago’s airport in late January and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera was beaming. “Today is a day of joy, emotion and hope,” he said. The source of that hope: China — a country that Chile and dozens of other nations are depending on to help rescue them from the COVID-19 pandemic. China’s vaccine diplomacy campaign has been a surprising success: It has pledged about 500 million doses of its vaccine to more than 45 countries, according to a country-by-country tally by The Associated Press (AP). With just four of China’s many