11 Elephants Rescued from Bomb Crater

Late last month, Wildlife Alliance assisted in saving eleven wild elephants from a grim death. Community members living near Keo Siema Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri province saw the herd stuck in a large hole created by a U.S. B52 bomb during the Vietnam War and united to help. The elephants likely wandered into the pit to drink and bathe but were then unable to climb back up the steep walls. Judging by how exhausted they were when found, they were likely stuck for a few days, and had the villagers not intervened when they did, would not have survived much longer. The villagers immediately called the provincial environment department, which united Wildlife Alliance and other conservation organizations, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment (ELIE), to help. The groups and villagers worked together to dig into the side of the crater and lay down logs and tree branches to create a ramp for the elephants to walk up. While ten of the elephants were able to escape this way, the youngest was too exhausted and needed to be pulled up with ropes. It took an hour to get the baby out, but the rest of the herd could be heard waiting in the nearby forest. The loss of these elephants – three adult females and eight juveniles – would have been a devastating loss for Cambodia’s conservation efforts. The Mondulkiri Department of Environment is considering building a slope at one end of the pond or a surrounding fence to prevent this from happening in the future. 

Wildlife Alliance is dedicated to protecting Asian elephants and Cambodia’s other iconic species. Please make a donation today to ensure that we can continue to conduct emergency rescue operations like this one.

Empty Forest Syndrome – A Hauntingly Quiet Crisis

Tropical rainforests are some of the most species-rich ecosystems in the world and yet, many forests across Southeast Asia are devoid of the wildlife that once thrived there. Although deforestation is a problem in the region, there are still many pristine and intact forests that provide a perfect habitat for endemic species but stand eerily quiet and empty. So if it’s not a lack of suitable habitat that is causing wildlife to disappear from forests, what is? Unsustainable levels of hunting for the illegal wildlife trade. 

In Southeast Asia, the predominant hunting method is homemade snares. These weapons are cheap to make and are particularly harmful because they indiscriminately trap any species that cross them. Wildlife Alliance’s Director of Science, Dr. Thomas Gray, has noted that if everyone living near protected areas were given a gun, the effects on wildlife populations would be less destructive than what we are currently seeing with snares.  From 2010 to 2015, the number of snares Wildlife Alliance rangers removed from the Southern Cardamom National Park nearly doubled, from 14,364 to 27,714. If something isn’t done to stop this crisis now, the spreading of empty forests across Southeast Asia is inevitable. 

Please, help us stop the emptying of forests by making a donation to help end the snaring crisis. Wildlife Alliance is working with local authorities to enact legislative reform that will make it easier to apprehend poachers who set snares. Our forest rangers are also ramping up efforts to rid the Cardamoms of these devices and prevent the landscape’s iconic species from disappearing forever.

Endangered Species Spotlight: Black-Shanked Douc Langur

The three species of douc langurs are some of the most beautiful primates in the world, but unfortunately are all under serious threat of extinction. Douc langurs are geographically restricted by the Mekong River to the west and are only found in Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Once widespread and common throughout their range, populations of all three douc langur species have been severely reduced and fragmented due to human pressure. 

Black-shanked doucs are native to northeast Cambodia and southern Vietnam and unlike their red-shanked counterparts, are able to survive in small, fragmented forests. However, they have still suffered over 50% population loss over the last three generations due to increasing pressures from humans and are classified as Endangered. Habitat loss is of particular threat to douc langurs because they have relatively small ranges and population densities. As humans encroach farther and farther into douc langur habitat it becomes increasingly more fragmented and the animals are no longer able to maintain healthy levels of genetic diversity. Habitat fragmentation allows hunters easier access to dense forests and douc langur habitat.  This poses a serious threat to the species because hunting (for meat, traditional medicine, and the illegal pet trade) is the biggest threat to the species’ survival. 

Douc langurs are particularly susceptible to hunting because when threatened, they let out loud alarm calls and instead of fleeing, climb up into the canopy and hide their faces behind leaves or branches. Because of this behavior of staying stationary, some hunters have called them the easiest species to hunt. When adult douc langurs are hunted for food and traditional medicine, their babies are often captured and sold as illegal pets. However, douc langurs have a very specialized diet of leaves and some seeds, fruits and flowers, so they often die in captivity due to gastric distress. Their highly specialized nutrition and habitat requirements make them extremely habitat dependent. In order to prevent douc langurs from becoming extinct, it is crucial to find a way to protect their habitats from destruction and to stop the hunting of these endangered animals.

In Cambodia 9 out of the 10 primate species are listed as either Endangered or Threatened. Since 2001, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) has been working arduously to rescue primates and halt the illegal wildlife and pet trade. They have rescued over 2,600 gibbons, langurs, macaques and lorises. Last year alone, the team rescued 90 live primates, including a black-shanked douc langur. Unfortunately, they also seized 14 dead douc langurs and 6 dried douc langur stomachs from wildlife traders. 
 
As the last line of defense, the WRRT’s presence in Cambodia is critical to the survival of this threatened species by combating the trade and reducing the demand for douc langurs. It costs the team approximately $500 to conduct a rescue operation. This consists of gathering information from various intelligence networks, conducting the undercover investigation, saving the animals, and providing care to rescued wildlife during transit to a release site or to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center. Help them continue to protect, conserve, and save douc langurs and other primates in Cambodia by making a gift to ‘End Wildlife Trafficking’ on our donation page!

Start a Conversation this Earth Day – April 22

Earth Day is almost here! Join us and more than 1 billion other people around the world this Saturday, April 22, to celebrate our greatest asset – the Earth. This year’s theme is “environmental and climate literacy.” In order to make long-term, sustainable changes to combat climate change, we need to build a global community that is fluent in climate issues and the unprecedented threat to our planet and its species. Since 2000, Wildlife Alliance has been working with underserved communities to empower them with the knowledge they need to make the best decisions for their communities while promoting environmental stewardship. Wildlife Alliance has been instrumental in helping communities develop sustainable and eco-friendly jobs through sustainable agriculture, reforestation, community-based ecotourism, and community anti-poaching units. Through these programs we have converted ex-poachers and slash-and-burn farmers into land stewards. We are also working to shape the next generation into conservationists through our education program. The Kouprey Express, Wildlife Alliance’s mobile environmental education unit, travels around Cambodia to schools and communities to teach them the value of biodiversity protection and environmental sustainability and actively fosters behavioral changes. 

This Earth Day, start a conversation with someone about climate change. This issue is too big to be ignored so break the silence and talk to your friends and family about it. You can also make a direct impact by donating to help us develop sustainable jobs, protect forests and endangered wildlife, and spread awareness.