Category: Ecological Disasters


If you have one child and your brother has seventeen, who is more likely to bury their children during a drought or famine?

Dozens more dead cubs have been found at Thailand’s controversial Tiger Temple, this time in jars containing liquid, as authorities continue their raid on the tourist attraction.

The exact number of cubs found varies. The Bangkok Post reports that 30 cubs were discovered, whereas wildlife charities put the number at 50.

This find follows Wednesday’s discovery of 40 tiger cub carcasses, which were found in a freezer at the Buddhist temple, located in the Kanchanaburi province.

Wildlife officials are continuing with their raid on the temple as they remove tigers from the facility in a move to bring the animals under state control.

On Thursday police caught a monk trying to flee the temple in a truck carrying animal skins and teeth.

Hundreds of amulets containing tiger body parts, including a range of skins and fangs, were found in the vehicle.

A post on Tiger Temple’s Facebook page reads: “The recent discovery of the tiger skins and necklaces comes as a shock to us as well as the rest of the world. We are disgusted at this discovery and we don’t condone this.

“We are looking forward to the authorities bringing the culprits to justice.”

Charity Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) says that there are concerns as to the whereabouts of 20 live tiger cubs who are missing from the Tiger Temple.

The temple denies allegations that they have sold the cubs.

Tiger Temple promotes itself as a wildlife sanctuary, but in recent years it has been investigated for suspected links to wildlife trafficking and animal abuse.

Wildlife charities and animal welfare groups have been condemning the facility for years, as the temple grew in popularity with tourists wanting to have their photos taken with tigers.

A raid that began on Monday is the latest move in a tug-of-war since 2001 to bring the tigers under state control.

Officials were not sure why the temple kept the cubs in the freezer.

“They must be of some value for the temple to keep them,” said Adisorn Nuchdamrong, deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks.

“But for what is beyond me.”

More than 130 tigers were kept at the temple.

Thailand has long been a hub for the illicit trafficking of wildlife and forest products, including ivory.

And exotic birds, mammals and reptiles, some of them endangered species, can often be found on sale in markets.

WFFT, a charity that has been working with Thai authorities and other NGOs to remove the tigers, said in a Facebook post on Thursday that staff at Tiger Temple have been dismissed, raising concerns about who will look after the animals.

The post read:  “The abbot of the temple has fired all his staff, meaning there is now no longer Tiger Temple staff on site to take care of all the other animals, including domestic cattle, buffalo, deer and wild pigs.

“The WFFT along with Thai Animal Guardians Association are in talks with the authorities on how we can handle this situation and ensure that all the animals are cared for properly. What will the coming days bring.”

On Tuesday, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals group said the temple was “hell for animals” and called on tourists to stop visiting animal attractions at home and abroad.

The raids follow the controversial shooting of a gorilla at a Cincinnati Zoo on Saturday. The critically-endangered animal was killed after a child fell into its enclosure.

World Animal Protection said: “The cruelty towards tigers at the temple, and the latest scenes of dead cubs, is extremely disturbing.

“It’s clear that the welfare of the tigers is not a priority and their lives are full of abuse and commercial exploitation for the entertainment of tourists.”

The animal protection group commended authorities for taking action against the temple, but further urged the government to investigate how the cubs died, and to find an “appropriate safe environment” for the tigers it had already recused to spend the remainder of their lives. 

Source: Tiger Temple Raid Reveals Dead Tiger Cubs In Jars Of Liquid At Controversial Tourist Attraction In Thailand

Authorities want to loosen regulations to reverse the country’s worst economic slump in decades.

Signs of a rightward turn by Brazil’s new government have alarmed conservationists and climate change activists who fear a rollback of environmental laws that could accelerate deforestation in the Amazon basin.

With Brazil’s economy in its worst slump since the 1930s, new leader Michel Temer took power this month promising a more business-friendly agenda to spur growth. Temer named a ­conservative-leaning cabinet whose members include figures with close ties to powerful landowners and agribusiness companies.

Temer has taken control in South America’s largest nation — and the world’s biggest rain forest — at a time when Brazilian lawmakers are considering a major overhaul of environmental laws. This includes a controversial constitutional amendment known as PEC 65 that would reduce licensing requirements for development projects and limit judicial oversight of their impact.

The amendment has been stalled, but last month it won a key vote in a Senate commission, where it was sponsored by Sen. Blairo Maggi, a farming tycoon nicknamed the “King of Soy.” ­Temer has made Maggi the country’s agriculture minister, a powerful post in the world’s second-largest food exporter, giving him significant leverage to promote the amendment.

Temer’s centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party has responded to the economic crisis with a package of proposals that would ease licensing requirements for projects in protected areas, weaken mining regulations and allow “productive activities” in Brazil’s indigenous reserves. Now that Temer is president, conservationists worry he will push those measures through the ­National Congress. “Those who have taken power are backing
an explicitly regressive, anti-environmental agenda,” said Christian Poirier of U.S.-based Amazon Watch.

New foreign minister José Serra said last week that Brazil would assume its “special responsibility” for the Amazon and be “proactive and pioneering” in climate negotiations. But the new government has said little about its plans, and Temer comes to power at a time when Brazil’s regulatory controls and environmental laws are increasingly blamed for stifling investment and growth.

After a decade in which deforestation slowed significantly, it began rising again under President Dilma Rousseff, according to satellite data from the independent Brazilian monitoring group Imazon. Last year, 1,228 square miles of forest were cut down, according to the group — an area larger than Rhode Island.

Rousseff was suspended from office May 12 and faces an impeachment trial in Brazil’s Senate, leaving Temer — her vice president and former coalition partner — to form a new government.

Environmentalists and advocates of indigenous rights also worry that Temer will push forward with controversial hydroelectric projects in the Amazon basin, including the $10 billion Sao Luiz do Tapajo mega-dam. Plans for the project were put on hold last month by Brazil’s environmental agency, partly over concerns that it would destroy the ancestral forests of indigenous groups.

Temer, whose public-approval ratings are low, has assembled a broad political coalition by offering key cabinet posts to right-leaning lawmakers who were often marginalized during the 13 years that Rousseff’s Workers’ Party was in power. Among those who have gained leverage are “ruralistas” from Brazil’s vast interior with ties to powerful farming and ranching interests.

Halting the loss of tree cover in Brazil is viewed by climate activists as essential to slowing global warming, because tropical forests absorb and store large amounts of carbon. Since 1970, about 20 percent of the Amazon basin has been deforested — an area larger than France — but the rate of destruction fell sharply starting in 2005, under Rousseff’s predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Lula’s administration toughened enforcement of environmental laws and put millions of acres off-limits to development.

“Few people thought that Brazil could actually stop the wholesale destruction of the Amazon. Its success — partial but real — is one of the few hopeful achievements in the fight for a safe climate,” said climate change activist and author Bill McKibben, a professor of environmental studies at Middlebury College in Vermont.

“It makes the prospect of a return to business as usual in the rain forest especially sad,” he said.

As Brazil’s economy began to falter in recent years, deforestation picked up again, especially as farmers attempted to make up for falling revenue by clearing more land. Soy production in Brazil has quadrupled in the past 20 years, and this year’s harvest is projected to approach 100 million tons, a record.

Tighter government budgets have also meant less money to keep illegal loggers, gold miners and others out of protected areas and indigenous reserves.

Rousseff was not viewed with any special sympathy by environmental activists and Amazon conservation groups. In 2014, she named agribusiness executive Kátia Abreu, dubbed the “Chainsaw Queen” by her critics, as agriculture minister.

But with her presidency on the ropes in recent weeks, Rousseff attempted to win back the support of environmentalists by issuing executive orders to protect more than 5 million acres of the Amazon and create three new indigenous reserves. Officials in the new government say Rousseff’s 11th-hour decrees will be subject to review.

Temer’s new minister of mines and energy, another powerful cabinet post, is 32-year-old Fernando Coelho Filho, a member of the National Congress who said his priority will be to attract new foreign investment by overhauling mining laws. Critics say the proposed changes fail to protect communities affected by mining. Last year, 19 people were killed when a dam collapsed at a large reservoir for mining waste, an accident that became a symbol of lax Brazilian oversight.

But officials in Temer’s new government say environmental controls remain too rigid. Maggi, the new agriculture minister, said the point of proposed amendment PEC 65 is to give companies a guarantee that once a project is approved by regulators, it won’t be halted by lawsuits or judicial interference.

Brazil’s problem, he said in an interview, is that “if some nongovernment group or prosecutor or person is opposed to a project, even for ideological reasons, they use their power to delay construction.”

Maggi was given a “Golden Chainsaw” award in 2005 by Greenpeace while governor of the Amazon state of Mato Grosso. He said it forced him to be more agile in fighting deforestation, which fell dramatically in the state during subsequent years. But his support for the new regulations has eroded the grudging respect he won from some environmentalists.

A group of prosecutors has launched a social-media campaign against his constitutional amendment. “The risk is enormous,” said Sandra Curea, one of the attorneys.

Maggi said he also supports allowing indigenous Brazilians to farm commercially on their reserves, as opposed to the subsistence farming they are currently permitted to practice. This is another sensitive proposal, because the country’s indigenous reserve system also has been used to make large tracts of Amazon forest off-limits to commercial exploitation and development. Maggi rejected the idea that farmers are anti-environmental.

“The biggest friend of the environment has to be the producer, because he depends on the environment to receive the rain,” he said.

José Carlos Carvalho, who served as environment minister in 2002 under the business-friendly administration of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, said the new anti-regulatory push in Brazilian politics amounted to “the biggest regression in environmental management in Brazil since re-democratization,” referring to the end of military rule in 1985.

He said the Temer government wouldn’t be the first to view environmental protections as a luxury the country can’t afford. “This has been the reality in Brazilian politics since forever,” he said.

Source: Brazil’s new government may be less likely to protect the Amazon, critics say – The Washington Post

An application to carry out fracking in England for the first time since a ban was lifted in 2012 has been approved.

North Yorkshire County Council considered a bid by Third Energy to extract shale gas at a site near Kirby Misperton in Ryedale.

Hundreds of protestors had attended a meeting in Northallerton to voice anger at the project, which was previously recommended for approval.

Councillors on the council’s planning committee voted 7-4 in favour.

Live updates from today’s meeting

The meeting has heard a number of objections from people opposed to the plans.

Supporters including landowners, farmers and Third Energy employees also had their say.

Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at rock to release the gas inside.

Opponents say it can cause water contamination, earthquakes and noise and traffic pollution.

Immediately after the vote, North Yorkshire Police tweeted a warning to protesters.

It read: “Please be aware, the police will take action against unlawful behaviour linked to the #nyshale protest.”

After the decisionm, campaigners gathered outside County Hall in Northallerton chanting “we say no”.

Rasik Valand, chief executive of Third Energy said the approval meant the firm now had “a huge responsibility”.

“We will have to deliver on our commitment, made to the committee and to the people of Ryedale, to undertake this operation safely and without impacting on the local environment,” he said.

Campaign group Frack Off said: “These plans could pave the way for thousands of fracking wells to spread across Yorkshire and many other parts of the country if not stopped.

“Impacts, including pipelines, air pollution and waste disposal will spread far beyond the areas being drilled.

“Third Energy’s plans in Ryedale are the thin end of a very large wedge.”

No fracking has taken place in the UK since 2011, when tests on the Fylde coast were found to have been the probable cause of minor earthquakes in the area.

Since then, two high-profile applications to frack in Lancashire have been rejected by councillors and are now the subject of appeals.

Third Energy wants to frack for shale gas using an existing two-mile deep well – called KM8 – drilled in 2013 close to the North York Moors National Park. They could start by the end of the year.

Andy Mortimer, the company’s subsurface director, told the committee fracking at Kirby Misperton was “highly unlikely to cause any sort of earth tremor”, describing the area as “seismically benign”

He said Third Energy would operate a safety system that would halt operations if a seismic event measuring above 0.5 on the Richter Scale occurred, adding that “trains cause seismic signals several orders of magnitude greater than our proposed threshold”.

The firm already had licences to produce gas in North Yorkshire and offshore in the North Sea.

Source: Landmark North Yorkshire fracking vote approved – BBC News

Hundreds of protesters have gathered outside a council meeting where a decision on whether to approve fracking for the first time in England since a ban was lifted in 2012 is expected.

The hearing is considering plans by Third Energy to frack for shale gas at its existing site near Kirby Misperton.

Over 100 people are due to address the council meeting in Northallerton.

Third Energy said it had been producing gas “safely and discreetly” for over 20 years and had a “responsible approach”.

‘Most controversial application’

North Yorkshire county councillors were greeted by placard-waving protesters as they arrived for the planning committee meeting at County Hall.

Source: North Yorkshire fracking meeting draws protesters – BBC News

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