Peter Fearnhead, CEO, African Parks Network, South Africa
World Animal Protection sent an email today to give the great news that the last two known dancing bears in Nepal have been rescued.
WAP worked with the Jane Goodall Institute of Nepal and Nepali police to rescue the two sloth bears last December. Their noses had been pierced with a burning hot rod by their owner, who had also shoved a rope through so he could control them.
Bear dancing is very cruel animal abuse. Cubs are trained by setting them on a hot sheet of metal while music plays. The pads of their paws are constantly burned so they hop from one foot to another. This is repeated until their response becomes automatic - they swap and hop when they hear the music. So they are conditioned to do this by a terrible method of cruelty.
WAP is also working to end the bear bile and bear baiting industries. About 22,000 Asiatic black bears are stuck in tiny cages, with permanent holes in their stomach. They are constantly milked for bile.
India is roaring off to conduct a tiger census which apparently is the largest survey of wildlife in the world.
The tiger study is done every 4 years, invovling a whopping 38,000 forestry officials and zoologists. They cover an amazing 155,000 square miles of terrain. And 14,000 camera traps across 18 states form a vital part of the effort. India is home to about 70% of the world's wild tiger population.
For the first time, ground staff are being co-ordinated with a mobile app called M-STrIPES. It records the staff's path through the forest and helps upload geo-tapped pictures into a central database. So it will make the whole exercise faster and more accurate.
In 2006, the first census recorded 1,411 tigers; by 2010 this had risen to 1,706; by 2014, tiger numbers had gone up again to 2,226. What's helped this rise? Tougher anti-poaching laws, new conservation initiatives and improved counting techniques.
The 2018 census will last for several months, and also count other large cats. In 2014, 11,000 leopards were counted by the census.
It gets more exciting: the 2018 census will extend beyond Indian territory to try to avoid doulbe counting big cats that cross borders with Bhutan, Napal and Bangladesh. It should also help establish the territorial spread of the animals in the sub-continent.
Can't wait to see the results!
A new survey commissioned by entertainment channel W showed that material gifts don’t necessarily bring us great happiness.
The survey was done for Davina McCall’s series, The Davina Hour, and the hour focused on happiness.
It showed that the simple pleasures in life are the best. Out of the 2,000 people surveyed, 56 said a kiss and a cuddle was their top treat, then sharing a laugh, the joy of clean sheets, and stroking a pet.
Nature featured several times in the top 20:
Doing things for others also featured, including Doing a Good Deed and Giving a Present. I know I feel happy every time I put the bird feed out and fill up their water bath. People also felt happy when they heard from an old friend, received kindness from a stranger and had a compliment, so there are a few things we can all do to make the world a happier place, if we don’t do them already.
Last year for Christmas, my husband gave a donation to SPANA for their mobile veterinary clinic to help care for working elephants in Myanmar. Every time I think of this clinic going about its work helping to care for working animals, it gives me a glow. SPANA do a wonderful job, and I'd far rather have a gift which gave animals the chance to have a happier healthier life, than anything else.
Friendship also rated well, with 21% saying hearing from an old friend made them happy, and 11% having a cup of tea with a friend.
The top 20 pleasures which make us happy were:
When we talk of health and being well, much of the talk is often centred on physical health – but mental health matters too.
And the Royal College of General Practitioners recently revealed that loneliness can be just as bad for our health as illnesses such as diabetes.
More than 1.1 million people in the UK are thought to be chronically lonely, with 17% of older people having human contact less than once a week.
The Chief Scientific Officer at the RSPCA, Dr Julia Wrathal, said: “Adopting a pet can be a fantastic way to combat loneliness and animals can make wonderful companions for those who find themselves alone.”
Pairing people with pets could also help ease pressure on animal charities. Older pets are hard to re-home, and older people could adopt older pets – they don’t need to take on a youngster. It’s often the older pets who really just want a loving, caring home with a lap to cuddle up next to, and a stroll around the garden or a short walk around the block.
They make great companions. There’s someone to meet you when you get home. Walking a dog is a great way to meet people when you’re out and about. Dogs mean you need to get out and about for exercise and you can get to meet other dog owners and build up quite a network of people to say hallo to!
Evidence suggests that when we stroke animals - or in the case of dogs, when we just look into their eyes - our bodies release oxytocin, a hormone that brings about bonding between individuals as well as helping us feel more optimistic and lowering blood pressure. They make us less vulnerable to the physical effects of stress.
That said, owning a pet won’t be for everyone.
So what do you do if owning a pet long term isn’t for you?
You could volunteer – it’s a great way to meet people and you can build it into a regular routine. When I volunteered for Cats Protection, an elderly lady used to bring her knitting and radio along to help. She would sit in the pens of the more nervous cats and knit listening to the radio at one end, and the nervous cat would sit at the other and gradually come to say hallo as she knitted away. It was a great way to give cats in the cattery human companionship and keep them in touch with people.
You could also foster – a short term arrangement – or longer! Fosterers are great when kennels and catteries are particularly busy or when there are cats and dogs who aren’t coping with life in a rescue and need more of a homely environment. Contact your local rescue to see how you can help.
The RSPCA says that interacting with animals can be a great way to overcome loneliness in people – and help animals at the same time!
And if you’d like to help the elderly with pet care, you could become a volunteer for the Cinnamon Trust who have volunteers all over the UK. They help with dog walking and all sorts of activities to help the elderly keep their pets, whether the older people live in a care home or in their own homes.