2.7 Million Animals Killed by Federal Wildlife-destruction Program in 2016

2.7 Million Animals Killed by Federal Wildlife-destruction Program in 2016

     by Center for Biological Diversity

WASHINGTON— The highly secretive arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture known as Wildlife Services killed more than 2.7 million animals during 2016, according to new data from the agency.

The multimillion-dollar federal program targets wolves, cougars, birds and other wild animals for destruction — primarily to benefit the agriculture industry. Of the 2.7 million animals killed last year, nearly 1.6 million were native wildlife species.

According to the latest kill report, the program last year destroyed 415 gray wolves; 76,963 adult coyotes, plus an unknown number of coyote pups in 430 destroyed dens; 407 black bears; 334 mountain lions; 997 bobcats; 535 river otters, including 415 killed “unintentionally”; 3,791 foxes, plus an unknown number of fox pups in 128 dens; and 21,184 beavers.

The program also killed 14,654 prairie dogs outright, as well as an unknown number killed in more than 68,000 burrows that were destroyed or fumigated. These figures almost certainly underestimate the actual number of animals killed, as program insiders have revealed that Wildlife Services kills many more animals than it reports.

“Despite mounting public outcry to reform these barbaric, outdated tactics, Wildlife Services continues its taxpayer-funded slaughter of America’s wildlife,” said Collette Adkins, a biologist and attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s simply no scientific basis for continuing to shoot, poison and strangle millions of animals every year. These cruel practices not only fail to effectively manage targeted wildlife but also pose ongoing threats to other animals, including endangered species and pets.”

According to the new data, the wildlife-killing program unintentionally killed 2,790 animals last year, including badgers, bears, bobcats, foxes, muskrats, otters, porcupines, raccoons, skunks, turtles and more. Such data reveals the indiscriminate nature of painful leg-hold traps, strangulation snares, poisons and other methods used by federal agents.

Earlier this month a young, endangered male wolf known as OR-48, died an agonizing death in northeast Oregon after taking the scented bait from a cyanide trap put out by the federal wildlife killers. The program’s brutality has fueled growing public outcry and calls for reform by scientists, elected officials and nongovernmental organizations.

“The Department of Agriculture needs to get out of the wildlife-slaughter business,” said Adkins. “Wolves, bears and other carnivores help keep the natural balance of their ecosystems. Our government kills off the predators, such as coyotes, and then kills off their prey — like prairie dogs — in an absurd, pointless cycle of violence.”

The wildlife-killing program contributed to the decline of gray wolvesMexican wolvesblack-footed ferretsblack-tailed prairie dogs and other imperiled species during the first half of the 1900s and continues to impede their recovery today.

Tuahka Indigenous Leader Shot and Killed in Nicaragua

Featured image: Tuahka Indigenous Territorial Government Prosecutor, Camilo Frank López, was confirmed dead from a gunshot wound to the head on Wednesday evening. (Photo: Gilberto Ariel Artola; permission to use from Jose Garth Medina of La Presna)

     by Courtney Parker / Intercontinental Cry

The climate of violence endemic to the ongoing resource wars, illegal occupation, violent siege, and politically motivated land grabs of Nicaragua’s North Caribbean Autonomous Region, is continuing to escalate.

On Wednesday evening, January 25, the death of a well-known Tuahka Indigenous leader was confirmed – Camilo Frank López was shot in the forehead and killed while leaving a local bar with his cousin. López was the current Tuahka Indigenous Territorial Government Prosecutor.

López’s first cousin, Eloy Frank, who was the Deputy Foreign Minister Secretary for Indigenous Affairs of the Presidency, also suffered an injury to his arm in the attack.

The killing took place in an area known as the ‘Mining Triangle’.

Nicaragua is often lauded for its low crime rates compared to more systemic cultures of violence found in Central American nations such as Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. However, the region where this latest killing took place, largely known as La Muskitia, has been host to intensifying violent conflict as the legal territories of Indigenous Peoples, such as the Mayagna and the Miskitu, are encroached upon by Mestizo settlers from the interior and Atlantic regions of Nicaragua.

Many claim the illegal settlers are affiliated with the ruling Sandinista political party, who have much to gain economically from seizing and exploiting the resource rich region. Estimates have held that around 85% of Nicaragua’s intact natural resource preserves are contained there; and thanks to ongoing Indigenous stewardship, much of the biodiversity is currently preserved and remains intact.

The binational Indigenous nation of Muskitia, which extends into Honduras, is also home to the second largest tropical rainforest in the western hemisphere –  second only the Amazon in size and commonly referred to as “the lungs of Central America”– and many endangered species of animals.

3.2 Million Animals Killed by US Wildlife Services agency in 2015

3.2 Million Animals Killed by US Wildlife Services agency in 2015

Featured image: 533 river otters were killed by Wildlife Services in 2015. The federal agency killed a half million more coyotes, bears, wolves, foxes, and other animals than the previous year.

By Center for Biological Diversity

The highly secretive arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture known as Wildlife Services killed more than 3.2 million animals during fiscal year 2015, according to new data released by the agency. The total number of wolves, coyotes, bears, mountain lions, beavers, foxes, eagles and other animals killed largely at the behest of the livestock industry and other agribusinesses represents a half-million-animal increase over the 2.7 million animals the agency killed in 2014.

Despite increasing calls for reform a century after the federal wildlife-killing program began in 1915, the latest kill report indicates that the program’s reckless slaughter continues, including 385 gray wolves, 68,905 coyotes (plus an unknown number of pups in 492 destroyed dens), 480 black bears, 284 mountain lions, 731 bobcats, 492 river otters (all but 83 killed “unintentionally”), 3,437 foxes, two bald eagles and 21,559 beavers. The program also killed 20,777 prairie dogs outright, plus an unknown number killed in more than 59,000 burrows that were destroyed or fumigated.

“Despite mounting public outcry and calls from Congress to reform these barbaric, outdated tactics, Wildlife Services continues its slaughter of America’s wildlife with no public oversight,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s simply no scientific basis for continuing to shoot, poison and strangle millions of animals every year — a cruel practice that not only fails to effectively manage targeted wildlife but poses an ongoing threat to other animals, including pets.”

Agency insiders have revealed that the agency kills many more animals than it reports.

The data show that the Department of Agriculture boosted its killing program despite a growing public outcry and calls for reform by scientists, elected officials and nongovernmental organizations.

“The Department of Agriculture should get out of the wildlife-slaughter business,” said Robinson. “Wolves, bears and other carnivores help keep the natural balance of their ecosystems. Our government kills off the predators, such as coyotes, and then kills off their prey — like prairie dogs — in an absurd, pointless cycle of violence.”

USDA’s Wildlife Services program began in 1915 when Congress appropriated $125,000 to the Bureau of Biological Survey for “destroying wolves, coyotes, and other animals injurious to agriculture and animal husbandry” on national forests and other public lands.

By the 1920s scientists and fur trappers were robustly criticizing the Biological Survey’s massive poisoning of wildlife, and in response in 1928 the agency officially renounced “extermination” as its goal. Nevertheless it proceeded to exterminate wolves, grizzly bears, black-footed ferrets and other animals from most of their remaining ranges in the years to follow. The agency was blocked from completely exterminating these species through the 1973 passage of the Endangered Species Act.

In 1997, after several name changes, the deceptive name “Wildlife Services” was inaugurated in place of “Biological Survey.”

Bangladesh: Protestors Killed by Police Over Coal Project

Bangladesh: Protestors Killed by Police Over Coal Project

By Cultural Survival

At least four people were killed after police opened fire at a massive protest of several thousand villagers in Bangladesh Monday, April 4th, reported the Phulbari Solidarity Group.

“This is a terrible tragedy and major news. It is the largest loss of life at an anti-coal protest in Bangladesh since the tragic deaths in the August 26, 2006 killings at Phulbari, Bangladesh, where three people were killed and 200 injured by paramilitaries. It is the worst overall loss of life in anti-coal protests worldwide since the killings of six people in Jharkhand, India, at two protests in April 2011,”  noted Ted Nace, the editor of Coal Swarm.

Professor Anu Muhammd, the Member Secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh, noted: “The villagers in Bashkhali have been loud against the destructive plans of S. Alam Group for months because the company wants to build two coal-fired power plants in the area by evicting thousands of villagers and landowners. The coal-businessmen of S. Alam Group, financed by two Chinese firms — SEPCOIII Electric Power and HTG, were fully aware of the strong opposition to the coal-power plant.”

According to the Daily Star, in December 2013, S Alam Group, struck an agreement with SEPCO3 Electric Power Construction Corporation of China to set up a coal-fired power plant in Banshkhali district of Chittagong, Bangladesh.  On February 16 this year, the government signed power purchase agreements with two private joint ventures led by S Alam Group to buy electricity at Tk 6.61 per kilowatt-hour from two projects with power generation capacity of 1,224MW.  S Alam Group  and their Chinese backers plan to initiate the power plant by November 2019 across a 600-acre site.  No consultation has taken place with communities members who would be affected.  The project will require an investment of $2.4 billion of which $1.75 billion will come from Chinese lenders.

Abu Ahmed was a witness to the police violence, himself being shot in his leg. He said that the villagers had been holding peaceful protests for days after S. Alam, the local conglomerate behind the project, started purchasing land for the plants in the village, which lies on the edge of the Bay of Bengal.  But the government did not pay attention to the village protests and the district administration remained silent for months. This led the villagers to stage a mass protest which turned into the worst tragedy in the history of coal in Bangladesh.  The government of Bangaldesh announced on April 9 that work at the $2.4 billion power plant would be suspended for 15 days, while it carries out an assessment of the plant’s environmental impact, led by Bangladeshi and foreign scientists.

The plans for coal mine join a laundry list of other planned coal projects being pursued by the government of Bangladesh and foreign investors, despite huge opposition from communities, international coalitions, human rights experts, and environmentalists.  Phulbari coal project, in Northeastern Bangladesh, is one infamous case that has lead to massive protests over the 8 years since it was first proposed by GCM resources, a British-based company. Ongoing mobilizations by communities on the ground have been successful in preventing the licensing of the coal mine, and resulted in plummeting financial loss for GCM, who failed to conduct adequate social and environmental impact studies and gain the free, prior, informed consent of the communities at various stages of the project’s life.

As a rapidly developing country, Bangaldesh has a  strong demand for electricity, but communities are not willing to accept development at the cost of losing their lands and livelihoods.

In an op-ed in the Dhaka Tribune, Professor Muhammed argued,  “Tension and resistance will be certainties if a so-called development projects like this are implemented forcefully and through fraudulent activities and corruption. People will not accept any project that goes against the locals’ interests or may harm the national interests or is taken up without maintaining transparency.”

Bangladesh has made plans to ramp up its coal production, with the goal of setting up 25 coal-fired power plants by 2022.  However this lies in conflict with its goals to curb carbon emissions in line with the climate treaty negotiations agreed to in Paris in 2015 known was the COP 21 agreement, to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.

An analysis by the Climate Action Tracker presented at the COP 21 found that attempts to keep global warming to 2 degrees will be wildly off course if existing plans for coal-fire plants are carried out, as coal is the world’s single biggest contributor to global warming. Just by allowing the 2,440 coal-fired power stations that are currently planned would cause emissions rates four times higher than the 2-degree target by 2030.  Without a single new coal plant, allowing existing coal plants to continue operating would lead to emissions rates 150 percent higher than what is consistent with a 2-degree target.

Bangladesh was part of a coalition of developing countries who argued for rich countries, who carry more responsibility for climate change,  to carry more of the financial burden that developing countries would incur in order to leapfrog past dirty fossil fuels like coal.

Read more: After the COP21: How Bangladesh Can Move Past Coal and Why Rich Countries Must Help


Another COPINH Member, Nelson Garcia, Killed in Honduras

Another COPINH Member, Nelson Garcia, Killed in Honduras

Featured image: COPINH march in Honduras, from elmundo.cr

By Cultural Survival

On March 15, 2016, Nelson Garcia, a member of the same Indigenous rights group as Berta Caceres was assassinated in Honduras. Garcia was killed by four gunshots to the face in the Rio Chiquito community, less than two weeks after Caceres’ murder.

Both were outspoken members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). Garcia had been involved in a land dispute to reclaim Indigenous lands in Rio Chiquito along with 150 families who were members of COPINH.  On March 15, 100 police officers, 20 military police, and 10 soldiers were sent to evacuate the area.

“They said that they would be peaceful and they were not going to throw anyone out of their houses, but at midday they started to tear down the houses, they destroyed the maize, the banana trees and the yucca plantations,” said Tomas Gomez, a COPINH coordinator. “When they finished the eviction, our companion Nelson Garcia went to eat in his house, they were waiting in the zone that the commission of COPINH to pass, but it was diverted. Garcia arrived first and they killed him,” he added.

Nelson Garcia

Nelson Garcia

It is not clear who was behind the killing. Outraged human rights groups in Honduras have demanded the protection of COPINH members since the assassination of Caceres. Garcia was the father of five children and leader of the community in Rio Chiquito. Human and environment rights activists are regularly targeted in violent attacks in Honduras. At least 116 environmental and human rights defenders were killed in 2014, according to Global Witness, but many suspect that number to be much higher.

COPINH has issued the following statement:

The assassination of our comrade Nelson García and the eviction of the community of Río Chiquito are additional elements of the war against COPINH that seeks to end our more than twenty-two years of work defending, resisting, and constructing.

Today’s aggressions are additional elements of the large quantity of threats, aggressions, assassinations, intimidations and criminalizations directed against COPINH.

Since the assassination of our comrade Berta Cáceres we have been the target of a large number of that show there is zero interest on the part of the Honduran state in guaranteeing our lives and the work that we perform, as well as disregard for the mandates of the IACHR in terms of the application of the precautionary measures that have been granted us.  The precautionary measures were granted March 6th, and now, nine days later, they’ve killed one of our comrades.

How could anyone expect us to trust the investigative process of the state that criminally harasses the leadership of the organization by announcing that it is under investigation for presumed participation in the murder, while not investigating the sources of the threats?

How could anyone expect there would be justice in the case of our leader Berta, when the measures necessary to protect her family are not guaranteed, and the daughters and companions of our comrade Berta have been followed by an armed man in the city of Tegucigalpa during their meetings with the authorities?

Since the very day of Berta’s assassination, the installations of COPINH in La Esperanza have been under surveillance by unknown persons, intimidating those who remain in resistance following in the footsteps of our leader.

In the same way the comrades of the community of Río Blanco have suffered aggressions and persecution when they went to the city of Tegucigalpa to make their case in front of entities such as the Ministry of the Interior and the diplomatic representatives of the G16.

Also there was an incident in which the comrades of the community went to the Río Gualcarque and were assaulted with shotgun blasts by the security guards of the hydroelectric project Agua Zarca, fortunately without injuring any members of the community.

All of these aggressions are part of a plan for the extermination of our organization and we call for national and international solidarity to fight back.

We demand an end to the persecution, harassment, and war against COPINH.

We demand that the Honduran state answer for the deaths of our comrades and that there be no more impunity.

We demand justice for our comrade Berta Cáceres.

With the ancestral force of Lempira, Mota, Etempica, Berta, our voices rise full of life, justice, and peace.

Berta’s alive, the struggle thrives!

La Esperanza, Intibucá, Honduras.  Done on the 15th day of the month of March, 2016.


Via Campesina has also reported that violence in Honduras since Berta’s death has skyrocketed:  “In the last few weeks the situation has worsened greatly with the proliferation of hired assassins aiming to take the lives of those who demand land to produce food, of those who struggle against extractivism, dams, and agribusiness.”

Other recent violence includes:

·       Assassination attempt of Cristian Alegría in front of La Vía Campesina in Tegucigalpa. Cristian is the cousin of Rafael Alegría, Coordinator of La Vía Campesina Honduras and currently a member of the Honduran Congress for the Libre Party.

·       Harassment of the president of  MUCA (Unified Movement of Aguan Farmers), Juan Ángel Flores, who was arrested in the department of Colón, falsely accused of links to drug trafficking. The lack of evidence forced authorities to release him hours later.

·       Detention of public defender Orbelina Flores Hernández, member of the Permanent Human Rights Observatory of the Aguan, accusing her of involvement in land conflicts.

·       Sentencing of David Romero, journalist of Radio Globo, to 10 years in prison. David’s investigative reporting had exposed embezzlement of social security and other acts of corruption in Honduras, involving the ruling party, that gave rise to tens of thousands taking to the streets last year.

·       Forcing Mexican environmental activist Gustavo Castro Soto — the sole witness to Berta’s assassination and himself injured during the shooting — to stay in Honduras for 30 days despite fears for his safety.

Cultural Survival joins hundreds of organizations in encouraging the international community continue to speak out against this violence.

Take action here

Read more: 6 Things You Can Do to Put Your Anger into Action for #BertaCaceres (March 10)