Archive from October, 2022

Shocker: Tweets on Elephant Issues are Generally Western-Centric, Narrow in Scope, and Lead to Resentment

A new study analyzing tweets about elephants reveals a disconnect between the conservation issues Twitter users care about versus the numerous threats these animals actually face. It also shows that 73% of the users voicing opinions on vital conservation issues don’t live in countries with elephant populations, and that Twitter users who live alongside elephants resent the way they are portrayed by western social media users.

African Forest Elephant

Some of the top threats to elephants are poaching, habitat loss, and human-elephant conflict. However, western Twitter users are concerned primarily with poaching, and show far less interest in the other key threats. Most troubling, some westerners demonstrate a callous, or even hostile view toward communities that live near elephants. Nobody wants to see these majestic creatures go extinct, but when more concern is shown over the life of an elephant than a dead farmer, it is understandable when bad blood arises.

We can’t say this study’s findings come as a surprise (are you surprised?). However, shining an academic flashlight on these misunderstandings is vitally important when it comes to preserving elephants and the communities that live near them. Successful conservation efforts require both political will and a clear understanding of the problems at hand. Preserving elephants is a huge task. If resources are misallocated and resentment festers between the stakeholders (the sacrifices made for conservation by communities in Batswana which are rarely acknowledged on social media, for example), that task becomes even more difficult.

★     Shrinking spaces for the world’s largest land animal
★     ​Africa’s elephants more endangered by poaching, habitat loss

Oct 21, 2022 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Animal Shelter Faces Predicted Crisis

Would you work 12-16 hours a day for non-responsive management, flailing about in a near-constant state of catch up, while fielding abuse and threats from the public – all while making about $13.50 an hour? You might tolerate working conditions like this for longer than you’d expect if you are passionate about animal rescue, but we all have our breaking points. This is what happened last month at the famously troubled Las Vegas animal shelter, The Animal Foundation: eight employees walked out in protest, forcing the shelter to temporarily close. To paraphrase one of the former employees, “Why do the jobs of three people when there are help-wanted signs down the street offering $5 more an hour?”

stock photo of full shelter

Of course, nobody expects – or should expect – to get rich working at an animal shelter, and the last year has been especially hard on shelter animals and workers in numerous locales across the country; the situation in Las Vegas is just a particularly rough and well-publicized example. However, it is worth pointing out that there were multiple dire signs (as there often are) prior to the walkout. Last July, for example, The Animal Foundation’s former COO submitted a report that the shelter’s staff was nearing their breaking point and would leave without improvements in conditions and pay. The COO was fired days later, and the walkout occurred as prophesized. Meanwhile, the shelter’s CEO acted surprised and “shattered” after the walkout, despite presumably being aware of employee complaints and the COO’s report. With so many warnings and several months to work toward a solution, this does seem like a crisis that could have been averted. 

★     Employees walk out on The Animal Foundation to protest ‘appalling’ conditions
★     ​Animal shelter puts the muzzle on taking in stray dogs

Oct 14, 2022 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Fuzzy Math Employed to Combat CDC Suspension of Dog Importation

This article lamenting the CDC’s suspension of dog imports from high-risk rabies countries makes a rather curious argument. Apparently, because a small increase in the already tiny number of dogs denied entry into the United States due to invalid/incomplete/false paperwork was not accompanied by an increase in the number of rabies cases, the suspension was clearly an overreaction and needs to end. Well, at least that seems like the argument it was making. We’re not exactly sure, and while we could lay out a myriad of reasons that bad paperwork and rabies cases don’t need to add up, it probably wouldn’t matter. For groups whose business models depend on importing dogs from high-risk countries, all equations inevitably equal “end the suspension.”

It is worth noting that rabies is merely the most dramatic and well-known disease that can accompany imported animals. And for good reason: rabies is horrific and fatal, and decades of funding and effort went into making the United States canine-rabies free. But there are also diseases like African Swine Fever that could be devastating to agriculture, bacterial infections like brucellosis that can render breeding stock infertile, and a host of other communicable diseases and parasites (some zoonotic) that we simply don’t want to mess around with when possible. It is not a matter of being uncaring or overly cautious – the stakes here are very serious.

And further, while we always encourage adopters to make homeless local pets their first option, those options are – sadly – greatly expanding right now. Current economic and housing insecurity has led to massive numbers of pet surrenders, and numerous shelters and rescues across the country would love to see you adopt a local dog or cat… maybe one that used to live just down the street from you!

★     Notice of Temporary Suspension of Dogs Entering the United States from Countries Classified as High Risk for Dog Rabies
★     What Imported Dogs have to do with African Swine Fever
★     Brucellosis: Dog Breeders Shouldn’t Skip Testing for This Dangerous Disease
★     (2007) US Declared Canine-Rabies Free

Oct 7, 2022 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Effort to Quell Growing Exotic Pet Trade Produces Strange Bedfellows

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is a North American membership organization that offers accreditation to its institutional members that meet their qualifications. They are the largest zoological organization in this hemisphere and have counterparts in both Europe and Asia. The majority of large zoos in major metropolitan areas are AZA accredited.

Bad Pet Idea

This week, AZA raised some eyebrows when they announced their partnership with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) – an organization which promotes keeping animals in the wild, and wildlife rehabilitation, and rescue, all laudable sounding goals. But IFAW’s critics, along with those of AZA would argue that their goals are not always based on best practices or science but on ideology, and that they often prioritize their own self-interest ahead of their stated missions. Worse, they seek to enforce their ideology through coercive legislative campaigns. In other words, IFAW is criticized for being the international counterpart of the Humane Society of the United States.

The ostensible purpose of this new partnership is to combat the private ownership of certain exotic pets, most specifically those that are harvested in the wild. Fair enough. The demand for unique, exotic pets is growing, so the need for sensible oversight and regulation exists. Whether this partnership provides the benefits it promises is yet to be seen.
★     ‘Astonishing’: global demand for exotic pets is driving a massive trade in unprotected wildlife
★     Risk of new Covid-like disease in Europe ‘getting higher’ as exotic wildlife trade surges