First Light Productions

investigative journalism

A (trophy animal) picture is worth a thousand (angry, violent) words

Posted on April 27, 2014

Exposing the Big Game


by Kathleen Stahowski  April 21, 2014

One woman (sporting a Safari Club International cap), one gun, one dead giraffe. One pump-my-ego photo posted and then shared hundreds of times on animal rights Facebook pages, generating thousands of sad or angry comments.

Many–distressingly many–of the responses to these vile, celebratory trophy photos are vile and violent themselves. When the killer is a woman, the comments can also be terribly misogynistic: ”Stupid brainless b*tch!” “This fat ugly b*tch should be shot!” “Shoot this b*tch!” 

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Taiwan does right

Posted on April 25, 2014

Taiwan, whose fishery is infamous for its indiscriminant use of gillnets, some miles long, on the high seas, wreaking havoc on all species of marine animals, has established a marine wildlife sanctuary off the west coast of the island to protect a dwindling population of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins.

Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin. (Sousa chinensis)

Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin. (Sousa chinensis)

    Identified as a distinct species only a few years ago, there are estimated to be fewer than 75 dolphins in the population, and more than 30% show signs of having been caught in or injured by fishing gear. Some can be seen swimming with lines still attached to their fins and around their bodies, while others bear deep, lasting scars from previous entanglement.

    Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins are coastal animals, venturing into estuaries and mangroves. Due to their preference for nearshore waters they are especially at risk from human activities.

    The most immediate danger are the thousands of gillnets strung along the west coast of the island which are designed to catch fish by their gills but also kill dolphins and other cetaceans.

    Trawling, another kind of fishing that can cause Sousa bycatch, has been banned in much of the dolphins’ near-shore habitat, but continues illegally, often in plain sight.

    Normal fishing in the area will be unaffected, as the government said a total ban was not feasible as the success of the sanctuary depends on the cooperation of local fishermen, but guidelines have been tightened for operators in the region and there will be tough punishments for illegal fishing of the endangered species. Dredge fishing has also been banned.

    Shout out: Wildlife Extra.


Posted on April 24, 2014

He didn’t sign his name but I think this lament was written by Jerry Finch, whose posts never fail to impress.

Jerry Finch, President and Founder of Habitat for Horses. (Photo: Michael Paulsen/Houston Chronicle)

Jerry Finch, President and Founder of Habitat for Horses. (Photo: Michael Paulsen/Houston Chronicle)

There are times when I have to restrain myself, when it takes everything I have to stay within the limits of the law.

Pulling up to a pasture this morning, we saw four horribly skinny horses. A walk through the mud led us to a three year-old in the final stages of starvation, unable to lift his head. A few hours later the warrant was signed, the seizure completed and our part was finished. I shook hands with the officers, our friends at the SPCA, and drove off through the fog and drizzle.

It was those few hours between the first walk and the loading of the horses that got to me. Kneeling in the rain, trying to wash thick mud off the face of a dying horse, praying for his life, I tried to ignore the owners. Listening to them talk about how much they care for the horses was upsetting enough. Seeing the results of their lies, which they refused to see, is what angers me.

These horses had no grass in the pasture. None. There was a round bale of moldy cow hay, not a bit of feed anywhere. When I asked them about feeding, he said he was scared to feed them because, “They always run toward me so fast.”

He had put a dog collar on the horse that was down, tied a rope to it, tied the other end to his new pickup and pulled the horse a good 10 yards, “To see if I could get him up.”

The horse was packed in mud. Unlike them, who slept in a warm bed and had a good breakfast, they left the horse out there for days.

The excuses went on and on. I looked at their new pickup, their cell phone, their nice clothes and looked back at the dying horse that weighed half of what it should. Two bags of feed a week and a round bale of hay would have kept this horse alive and the other four halfway healthy. Less than $80 a month. His truck payments must have been five times that.

“How can people do that?” is a question I am often asked. “Why do they even bother to get a horse if they don’t care?” The questions are rhetorical, of course. There are a million answers but there are no real answers, none that would ever make sense to those of us who love these horses.
The man who taught me about the legal aspects of seizures once told me, “Don’t ever show emotion on the scene. You have a job to do, just get in there and do it. If you need to bang on the dashboard when you drive off, fine, but the crime scene is not the place to explode.”

This evening, as I’m writing this, I can’t remember what the faces of the owners looked like but I’ll never forget the face of that horse, the mud packed eyes, the skin stretched tight over the bones. That’s what nightmares are made of.

I see people at the vet’s office with their sick horse, willing to spend thousands and to do whatever it takes to bring their loved one back to health. I’ve seen a tough old cowboy break down in tears when his horse hurt her leg. We have volunteers who think nothing of walking a horse with colic at three AM, in the cold and rain, sloshing through mud. They all treat a horse like they would their own child.

Then there are the others.

A wise man once said that you have to know your enemy before you can change him. Tomorrow I might feel differently, but tonight I have no desire to know the enemy. I could not fathom that type of mind, nor do I even want to try. And I’m not going to bang on the dashboard.

Instead I’m going to go out to the barn, find the closest horse and give him a hug. I won’t tell him anything about seeing one of his kind die today or anything about one of my kind causing the death. Such things happen many times over in our world. The horse doesn’t understand why, and I certainly don’t. I will tell him that I love him, and then I’ll look into his eyes.

In that moment there is no anger. There is only deep, forgiving love. It’s there for anyone, for each of us, at any time. It comes not only from horses, but from dogs, cats, little children, big adults, all sorts of living things. But you have to care to feel it.

You have to care enough not to starve your horse to death.

Habitat for Horses

Flower World bears

Posted on April 23, 2014

A state-owned horticulture and landscaping company in southern China, Flower World farm, has agreed to give the 130 bears used in its bear bile operation into the custody of the Animals Asia Foundation.

130 bears at Flower World Farm freed by Animals Asia.

Bears at Flower World Farm. (Photo: Animals Asia)

    The bears have been kept in tiny cages—some for up to 30 years—and milked for their bile, which is used in traditional Chinese medicines.

    Bile is obtained by cutting a hole in a bear’s stomach so fluid can drip from the gall bladder. The holes are left open, leading to infection and disease.

    Their health issues include blindness, dental problems and untreated wounds. In early May, 28 of the sickest bears will be transported to Animals Asia’s facility in the city of Chengdu for urgent medical treatment.

    Under the terms of the deal, Animals Asia will rehab the farm facility where the bears have been kept and turn it into a sanctuary.

    There are around 10,000 bears in farms in China.

Eagle cam

Posted on April 10, 2014

Live 24/7 from the neighborhood of Hays, about five miles outside of downtown Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River.

The parents feed the eaglets bits of fish and squirrel torn into tiny pieces.

The female laid her eggs on Feb. 19, Feb. 22 and Feb. 25. The sex of the newly hatched eaglets is unclear. It takes about 35 days for a bald eagle egg to hatch. The last egg hatched yesterday afternoon.

During the first few weeks one parent, usually the female, stays always at the nest.

The American Icon, The Mustang: Why Is It Quickly Disappearing

Posted on April 7, 2014

Ann Novek( Luure)--With the Sky as the Ceiling and the Heart Outdoors

Photo: Jaymi Heimbuch

Mustangs have been a part of the landscape of the United States for centuries. Ever since the first horses escaped from Spanish conquistadores, feral horses have returned to their wild roots, roaming in small family bands lead by stallions, mixing with various breeds of other escapees — including the appaloosas and paints of Native Americans, ranchers’ quarter horses and cow ponies, thoroughbreds, and draft horses that ditched their farms. The mustang has become an exceptionally hardy breed of horse, adapting easily to rough and arid conditions in the west, with isolated bands still showing their centuries-old ancestry though particular conformation and markings. And importantly, the mustang is a breed we equate with freedom, an untamed spirit, and the history of our country.
mustangs run through western scrub habitat
Photo: Jaymi Heimbuch
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is tasked to uphold the 1971 legislation written to protect these free-roaming horses, the Wild Free…

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Posted on April 6, 2014

Unfettered capitalism caught between a rock and a hard place.

    McDonalds recently announced the company is transitioning to “sustainable beef.” The definition of this breakthrough concept is now being formulated by a group that includes Walmart, Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden and Red Lobster), Cargill, Tyson Foods, the pharmaceutical company Merck, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

The announcement coincided with an article in Bloomberg Businessweek proposing a tax on meat for health and environmental reasons.

Report Finds Unbeliable Waste in 9 Major Fisheries

Posted on April 6, 2014

Ann Novek( Luure)--With the Sky as the Ceiling and the Heart Outdoors

By: John Platt

A dolphin caught in a fishing net. (Photo: Oceana)

A shocking new report from the conservation organization Oceana reveals staggering levels of waste caused by U.S. fisheries. According to the report, up to 2 billion tons of fish and other species die needlessly every year. This adds up to 500 million seafood meals every year, while also killing astonishing numbers of dolphins, sea turtles, whales, sharks and other endangered species.
The report covers bycatch — the capture of “non-target fish and ocean wildlife” either by accidentally catching unwanted species or by catching too many fish.
“Anything can be bycatch,” Dominique Cano-Stocco, campaign director at Oceana, said in a news release. “Whether it’s the thousands of sea turtles that are caught to bring you shrimp or the millions of pounds of…

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Terrible Trade

Posted on April 6, 2014


Photo © Matt Reinbold Photo © Matt Reinbold

Thanks to Miles Becker for this summary of an article that touches on a theme we have highlighted in the past–sourced from Bush, E.R. et al. 2014. Global trade in exotic pets 2006-2012. Conservation Biology doi: 10.1111/cobi.12240— at Conservation Magazine‘s website:

Pet stores are filled with colorful critters originating from the wilds of other continents. All the cages and terrariums stay well stocked while many prized species decline in their native habitat. Does the global fascination with exotic pet species hasten their extinction?

One way to find out is to compare the list of traded species with a list of species in trouble. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) maintains records of reported legal exports from its 180 member countries. The conservation status of species are listed on the red list curated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources…

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Why is Lake Nakuru the new Poaching Hotspot?

Posted on April 6, 2014

Fight for Rhinos

Kenya  – Only 3 months into 2014, there have been 18 rhino poached in the country. Six of them have been killed in Lake Nakuru alone.

Lake Nakuru National Park has been a protected rhino sanctuary since 1986.  Rhinos from Solio Ranch, Nairobi National Park, Lewa Downs and South Africa were translocated to the area in an attempt to give them safety to roam and breed. There is a reinforced high power solar fence enclosing the area, as well as guards/rangers within the park.

white rhino in lake nakuru White rhino in Lake Nakuru

Why is Nakuru seeing an increase in rhino poaching?

nakuru park

According to KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service), poachers not only use sophisticated weaponry, they are now using silent poaching methods that are difficult for rangers on patrol to detect.

In parks such as Lake Nakuru, rising water levels have shrunken grazing land for rhinos forcing them to move to park periphery. This makes them an easy target…

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a.k.a. Burma

Posted on April 5, 2014

The first ever live-action footage of the critically endangered Myanmar snub-nosed monkey has been captured on video in Kachin state, Myanmar.

    Previously unknown to scientists, the monkey was first identified on camera trap footage in 2010. The species is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. An estimated 260 to 330 individuals survive in the wild.

    It’s hard to tell from the footage the number of individuals in the troupe, but judging from the bodies seen hurling themselves between trees it looks to be at least twenty, which means the video shows perhaps 10% of the world’s population of the species in one spot.

    The footage was taken by a team from Fauna & Flora International while checking on camera traps.

    Source: Wildlife

Small miracle

Posted on April 3, 2014

Amidst the greatest mass extinction of species since the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago, there is one smallish success

Channel island fox. (Photo: George HH Huey)

Channel island fox. (Photo: George HH Huey)

    The Island Fox which had vanished from all but six of the California Channel Islands off the coast of southern California, USA on which it lives, has staged a remarkable comeback. By the mid-1990s four of the fox subspecies were listed as Endangered under the U.S Endangered Species Act. Aggressive recovery actions such as captive breeding and reintroduction, vaccination against canine diseases, and relocating Golden eagles which prey on the fox, have brought all four subspecies back to pre-decline population levels with annual survival rates above 85%.


    The latest update to the IUCN red list added more than 1,000 species, to bring total assessments to 71,500 species, including all mammals, birds and amphibians. More than a third of the species are considered under threat. About half of known reptiles have been assessed and a third of fish, but only a fraction of invertebrates, plants and fungi.

    source: Damian Carrington.


Magic powder

Posted on April 2, 2014

Rhino horn, ground into powder, is in strong demand in Vietnam.

Rhino horn powder mixed in drink. (Photo:

Rhino horn powder mixed in drink. (Photo:

It is believed to be a cancer cure and an aphrodisiac for men. Businessmen buy it as a “tribute” to bribe their superiors and “lubricate” business affairs.

Grinding rhino horn to power. (Photo:

Grinding rhino horn to power. (Photo:

Openly advertised in the streets of downtown Hanoi it can be purchased at shops selling traditional medicines at prices approaching $70,000 per kg.

Vietnam. Ad for rhino horn grinding plates. (Photo:

Vietnam. Ad for rhino horn grinding plates. (Photo:

70 % of rhino horn specimens in Vietnam are fake.

Will they abide?

Posted on March 31, 2014

The United Nations’ highest court for resolving disputes between nations, the International Court of Justice, has ordered a temporary halt to Japanese whaling in the Antarctic in a lawsuit brought by Australia.

Three dead minke whales on the deck of the Japanese whaling vessel Nisshin Maru, in the Southern Ocean. (Photo: Sea Shepherd Australia)

Three dead minke whales on the deck of the Japanese whaling vessel Nisshin Maru in the Southern Ocean. (Photo: Sea Shepherd Australia)

    Japan has been claiming for years the right to kill unlimited numbers of whales in the Antarctic, arguing that its does so for scientific purposes. The finding by the ICJ’s 16-judge panel held that that the two peer-reviewed papers submitted by the Japanese since 2005 – based on results obtained from just nine killed whales – was basically a smokescreen that “was not proportionate to the number of animals killed.”

    “In light of the fact the [research program] has been going on since 2005, and has involved the killing of about 3,600 minke whales, the scientific output to date appears limited,” said presiding judge Tomka.

    The decision will not mean the end of whaling. Japan has another whaling program in the northern Pacific and Iceland and Norway, who rejected a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling imposed by the International Whaling Commission, continue the practice. Norway set a quota of 1,286 north Atlantic minke whales last year, saying stocks are plentiful.

    Iceland and Norway do not claim to be carrying out research, so the ICJ’s ruling has no immediate consequences for them.

    The ICJ’s ruling is final and there will be no appeal. Japan issued a statement that it would comply with the decision. Fingers crossed…

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