There was a story on ABC Television’s Foreign Correspondent last night (that I didn’t see) about an organization trying to save ‘near extinct’ wildlife in Cambodia’s national parks including tigers, monkeys, sun bears, deer, and elephants. According to the website, poaching for Asia’s million-dollar trade in exotic wildlife is part of the problem with wildlife traders protected by government and the military.
I was alerted to the story by Graeme McIveen, a friend who has a long standing interested in wildlife conservation. He sent me an email that included comment:
“We have involvement with a project in Iran that is close to a nature reserve for Asian cheetah – I didn’t even know there was such an animal – one estimate is a total population of around 60 of an animal that once ranged across much of Asia Minor, but no one really knows.”
And I had previously read that the
Liberian Iberian lynx was the world’s most endangered cat with only 100 animals in Spain and Portugal – numbers down from about 100,000 at the turn of the 19th century.
And just a few weeks ago I read that the Australian kangaroo is facing extinction including that,
“The collapse in kangaroo numbers was inevitable once a combination of rampant exploitation and drought came together …The world’s largest wildlife massacre is being justified on the basis of so-called ‘scientific management’ programmes …”
This story does not accord with the piece at Farm Online today claiming roo numbers are up, demand for roo meat is up, there are just not enough roo shooters.
How does someone living in Japan, for example, work out whether they should donate to save the Iranian cheetah, the Cambodian sun bear or the Australian kangaroo? … while perhaps enjoying a meal of Minke whale.
The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) has raised millions of dollars for koala conservation and even successfully campaigned to have koalas listed in the United States as an endangered species in Australia.
The political and fund-raising success of the group has been aided by its claiming that there are less than 100,000 koalas remaining, with numbers on the decline.
Yet, as I detailed in my article for the June issue of the IPA Review, by simply counting up a few of the know koala populations it is evident that there would be well over 100,000 koalas in Australia. There are about 59,000 in the mulga-lands of southwest Queensland, 25,000 in southeast Queensland, 8,200 in North Coast NSW, 27,000 on Kangaroo Island South Australia. This quick count does not include Victorian Koala populations with a Monash University researcher suggesting in 1998 that the Victorian koala population could total one million (that was before the January 2003 bushfires).
I concluded in the IPA article that the lack of information and honest reporting on Koala numbers perhaps reflects a broader issue for conservation. It is the koala as victim, the koala as a species in decline, which attracts funding, and thus power and influence for organisations like the AKF. There is no incentive to report that koala populations might be doing OK.
There really is a need for someone, or some organization, to start compiling basic statistics on icon species from the sun bear to the koala.
There might be ‘lies, damn lies and then there are statistics’ but statistics tend to lie less than newspaper headlines.
PS I have read somewhere that sun bears caught in Cambodian National Park could be sold as pets, or have their paws amputated and made into soup, and/or be kept alive in a small cage with a tube inserted into them extracting bile for traditional medicines.
Update 8.30am Thursday 8th
I have received some offline comment quering roo numbers – I probably should have provided the following link in the post:
There is an annual census of roo numbers in Australia with information at:
I was hoping for general feedback on the problem of what to do about those who ‘cry wolf’ as this can result in real and pressing problems not being addressed. For example, we worry about koalas when there is really a crisis with African elephants? Also we worry about landclearing impacts on koalas when most mortality has been the result of feral bushfires? Also, how does one find reliable information on, for example, sun bear population numbers?