The Monthly Free E-Newsletter of South African Friends of Wolves
Volume 10, Issue 128, June 2015
From the Editor’s Desk
It’s been unusually cold on the South African Highveld for the past week and a half, with night temperatures regularly dropping to around freezing point or below and the days remaining chilly, too. It is now supposed to be the dry season, but amazingly, we even had a day with a bit of rain. Talk about climate change!
As for the imperilled wolves in the US, the battle rages on in their joke of a congress, with reedy representatives continuing to bow to big money rather than what should be national interests. What a poor state of affairs all this is. The News section below illustrates my point.
In the ‘Other’ news section, we provided more space than usual to the criminal slaughtering of elephants in Zimboland and the US’ role in illicit ivory trade. Highly questionable politics, again. We also add an update on the (legalised) shooting of a rhino in Namibia by a big-game hunter (from the US, where else), which provides a new angle on this much-publicised story. Personally, I can see a valid point here, much to my own surprise, and I hope the money will indeed be used as claimed.
Motivated by a documentary we watched recently, we pay tribute to a most remarkable she-wolf in this issue – O-six of Yellowstone – and summarize her unique life achievements. Sadly, she also had to fall to a hunter’s bullet in the end.
A romantic tale of wolf pack solidarity highlights how much the Omega is actually valued in spite of its role.
Erin is unfortunately too busy to try and stay warm, but promises to be back next month.
News from the Wolf Front
Nothing to report
From Defenders of Wildlife (http://www.defenders.org)
- USA: Show your support for Wolves
A war is raging. And the future of America’s wolves could depend on you. They are dying by the hundreds – shot, trapped, gunned down from helicopters, left to die in snares.
And now – in an effort to pander to anti-government ideologues and wolf-hating extremists – Congress has introduced a series of bills that would force wolves in seven states off the Endangered Species List.
If these bills pass, nearly every wolf in the nation will be at the mercy of the states.
More than 3,300 wolves, including mothers and helpless pups, have been killed since Congress stripped wolves in the Northern Rockies of federal Endangered Species Act protections.
I know you care. And we need you now more than ever.
Support our fight to save America’s wolves and imperilled wildlife:
As a special thank you, with any gift of $20 or more, we’ll send you a wolf beach towel FREE that features the Defenders of Wildlife logo along with a beautiful colour image of a wolf.
There have always been wolf-haters. Driven by fear, greed and superstition, they exterminated wolves by the thousands. By the 1950s, wolves in the Lower 48 were all but extinct.
Twenty years ago, Defenders helped reintroduce wolves to the Northern Rockies. New packs were born. As the 21st century dawned, wolves were making an historic comeback.
But now the wolf-haters are fighting back harder than ever – and they’re using Congress to get their way. They’ve declared war on the very wolves we worked so hard to restore.
Your urgent donation will help protect wolves and other endangered species wherever they are threatened:
Donate today, and with your gift of only $20, you’ll receive our wolf beach towel FREE!
Defenders of Wildlife is America’s leading voice for wolves, panthers, manatees and other imperilled wildlife. We are a dedicated team of field scientists, policy experts, wildlife lawyers, lobbyists and advocates with a remarkable track record of success.
But we are only as strong as our base of supporters. People just like you.
A war is raging. Won’t you stand up to defend the defenceless?
2: USA: Wolf killed in Colorado
It’s with a heavy heart that we report that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has now confirmed that the animal killed by a hunter in Colorado on April 29th was indeed a Grey Wolf.
As with any killing of an endangered species, FWS is investigating the shooting – so far, it is believed that the shooter misidentified the wolf as a coyote. Defenders fully supports this investigation.
This is the third confirmed wolf to disperse to Colorado from the Northern Rockies since wolves were reintroduced there in the 1990s. Wolves have also dispersed on their own to California, Arizona and Utah from the Northern Rockies and the Pacific Northwest. It’s a lesson that left on their own, wolves can fill in the blank spots on the map where suitable wolf habitat remains empty.
This incident also reinforces the critical need for continued federal protections for gray wolves. Removing federal protections would make it less likely that wolves would be able to establish new packs in areas outside their current range, essentially halting wolf recovery into western Colorado in its tracks.
Our job, yours and ours, is to give these magnificent animals the protection they need and deserve – and then to let nature take its course.
Defenders of Wildlife leads the nation in the fight for sensible wolf conservation. Won’t you chip in?
- USA: Congress to Grey Wolves: Drop Dead
We told you this could be the most anti-wildlife Congress in recent memory.
But it’s even worse than we feared.
The House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee has released an appropriations bill that is bursting with anti-wildlife provisions affecting wolves and other imperilled wildlife.
If these shocking provisions become law, it would be a death sentence for countless wolves and could set our nation’s wildlife conservation efforts back by decades.
URGENT: Tell your Representative to reject anti-wolf and other anti-wildlife measures:
Just consider some of the damage these provisions would do:
A death warrant for wolves. One proposed measure would force gray wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes off the Endangered Species List. Once again, these majestic animals’ fates would lie in the hands of states intent on dramatically driving down wolf populations. That’s a veritable death sentence for hundreds, if not thousands of wolves. In the last year alone, more than 700 wolves were killed in the states covered by this provision.
A blind eye to elephant poaching and ivory smuggling. At a time when the massacre of elephants for their ivory has reached epidemic proportions, the House bill would block efforts by the Fish and Wildlife Service to impose tougher restrictions on the importation and domestic sale of ivory – efforts that are necessary to prevent illegally smuggled ivory from being laundered into commercial trade. Today, an elephant falls to a poacher’s bullet every 15 minutes in Africa. This NRA-supported measure is a giant step in the wrong direction. All this proposal does is benefit elephant poachers and ivory smugglers at the cost of elephant lives.
A savage attack on the ESA. Yet another provision would prohibit a potential listing of the greater sage-grouse – an imperilled bird that has waited more than a decade for a listing decision.
In addition to these despicable appropriations provisions, there have already been more than 50 amendments or bills introduced by Congress aimed at gutting the Endangered Species Act.
These legislative proposals are the product of special interest lobbying and political extremism. They are wildly out of touch with what most Americans want and believe.
This is the moment we need to stand together and demand an end to the insanity on Capitol Hill:
Thank you so much for your partnership on behalf of America’s wildlife.
Nothing to report
From Johnny Rodrigues, Chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (www.zctfofficialsite.org)
- ZCTF Report June 3rd 2015
It is with great sadness that we heard that Theresa Warth passed away last night. We do not know any details yet but it seems she was in Harare and she collapsed and died.
For those who did not know Theresa, she was a very special lady. She was known as “The Elephant Lady” in Chiredzi and she devoted her whole life to the wildlife. This is a huge loss for the wildlife and conservation. The animals she has left behind are a testament to her good work.
We offer our most sincere condolences to her husband Gary who will no doubt feel lost without her.
- ZCTF Report June 2015
UPDATE ON ELEPHANT EXPORT
The baby elephants are still in Hwange National Park awaiting exportation to China. Apparently, baby elephants are still being captured. The cages have now been moved close to the entrance of the bomas which is an indication that the movement will start very soon.
4 ELEPHANTS SHOT
About a week ago, a government minister organised for 4 elephants to be shot in Hwange National Park. The tusks were taken and the carcasses left in the park to rot. Poaching has escalated in Zimbabwe and we believe the government is involved because they need money to pay the wages of the civil servants. Zimbabwe is breaking her own laws on wildlife. Instead of looking after the animals with a view to marketing tourism, they are destroying it by selling skins and ivory etc to overseas buyers.
Iain Jarvis, the founder and proprietor of Hippo Pools in Umfurudzi, has apparently been thrown out. National Parks have refused to renew Iain’s lease and he has been told to leave.
ELEPHANTS KILLED IN BUMI HILLS
3 elephants were recently shot in Bumi Hills. The tusks were taken.
We sent out a notice yesterday about the tragic death of Theresa Warth. Theresa was known as an elephant whisperer and she lived on a farm in Chiredzi where she had endless problems with government trying to take her farm away. Despite all the hardships, she stayed on and fought to keep the farm. She had 30 elephants, 5 of which she tamed. She went to the USA to train to be a caretaker of the wildlife and she did an amazing job in Chiredzi. I went to her farm on a few occasions and I have never met anyone so passionate about the wildlife – she was a true hero and the world has lost one of its best conservationists.
Rory Young was asked to train various Zimbabweans in the art of anti-poaching in order to stop the scourge in Zimbabwe. He was based in Kariba and was training the police, army and National Parks. A couple of weeks ago, he was interrogated by the CIO who threatened him with his life if he didn’t leave Zimbabwe. He has now moved with his family to Holland and he is still training people in other countries. Rory says don’t be fooled by reports of Zambians coming into Zimbabwe and poaching the wildlife because this is actually being done by the CIO and the Zimbabwean government.
A Chinese lady is doing huge damage to our wildlife and environment. She is running a big poaching business here and smuggling ivory and elephant products to her companies in China. She pays professional hunters USD 1000 and locals USD 300 to shoot elephants and bring the ivory etc to her. She then falsifies documents and exports the goods to China.
- Lawsuit filed in U.S. regarding Zimbabwe Baby Elephant Captures
For Immediate Release
June 4, 2015
Michael Harris, Director, Wildlife Law Program; 720.949.7791; firstname.lastname@example.org
Jenni Barnes, staff attorney, FoA’s Wildlife Law Program 720.949.7791; email@example.com
Friends of Animals files lawsuit to force the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Interior to take action to prevent the ongoing capture and exportation of baby elephants by Zimbabwe.
(Washington, D.C.) In January 2015, Zimbabwe announced it would be capturing and selling upwards of sixty-two baby African elephants to China and United Arab Emirates (Thailand has since been added to the list). Outraged by this news, Friends of Animals and the Zimbabwe Conservation Task submitted a petition to Secretary of State John Kerry and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell asking the United States to take legal action to condemn Zimbabwe’s plan to export elephants as it is inconsistent with international elephant conservation goals.
The United States failed to respond to the petition in a reasonable time. Meanwhile, reports indicate that helicopters have been hovering above wild elephants herds in Zimbabwe and firing shots until the herd scatters. The baby elephants that cannot keep up are kidnapped, and held in capture facilities surrounded by guards with AK-47s. The baby elephants are usually between two and five years old; a time when they are heavily reliant on their mothers. It is impossible to determine exactly how many elephants Zimbabwe has exported. Some have estimated that nearly 200 juvenile elephants have been captured and an increasing number are dying as a result of physical and mental abuse.
In light of the exigent circumstances and the United States’ failure to act, Friends of Animals and Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force have filed a complaint in the District Court of the District of Columbia asking for an order requiring the United States to promptly respond to their petition to condemn and help prevent these horrific roundups of baby elephants.
Darien, Conn.-based Friends of Animals, an international animal protection organization founded in 1957, advocates for the rights of animals, free-living and domestic around the world.
The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force is a registered NGO in the Republic of Zimbabwe. ZCTF opened its headquarters in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 2001 and works with all sectors of society to promote and ensure the sustainability of African wildlife for current and future generations.
From Defenders of Wildlife (http://www.defenders.org)
The heartbreaking cost of ivory
As you read this, an African elephant lies dying – yet another victim of a poacher’s rifle. Her ivory tusks will be hacked off her still-warm body to fuel an illegal international ivory trade worth millions of dollars.
This is the gruesome reality behind the illegal ivory trade – but you can help stop it.
Between 2010 and 2012, poachers slaughtered an estimated 100,000 elephants for their ivory. That’s roughly one elephant butchered every 15 minutes.
Your urgent gift will help Defenders reduce the demand for ivory here in the United States and support international efforts to stop the killing:
The United States is the second largest consumer of illegal ivory in the world. But even as President Obama seeks to end U.S. trade in ivory and other illegal wildlife, Congress is introducing legislation to relax restrictions on importing, exporting and selling ivory in the United States!
Your urgent support will help us raise our voices for embattled elephants by helping us:
- Keep the pressure on the White House to follow through on plans to end the domestic trade in ivory;
- Mobilize against Congressional efforts to weaken ivory import, export and sale restrictions;
- At the grassroots level, help enact state-wide ivory bans in key consuming states; and
- Ensure U.S. conservation leadership at international wildlife flora such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
As America’s leading voice for imperilled wildlife, Defenders has a critical role to play in stopping the deadly scourge of elephant poaching by shutting down illegal ivory trafficking into and within the United States. And it’s not just elephants – illegal international trade in wildlife is a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Tigers, rhinos and sea turtles are also being decimated to fuel these illicit markets.
There’s no time to lose. Stand with me today so that our children can experience the wonder of elephants in their world.
Thank you for your generous support:
From ENCA South Africa (http://www.enca.com)
Namibia: The man who paid $350,000 to kill a rhino
WINDHOEK – A US hunter who paid $350,000 to kill a black rhinoceros in Namibia successfully shot the animal on Monday, saying that his actions would help protect the critically-endangered species.
Corey Knowlton, from Texas, downed the rhino with a high-powered rifle after a three-day hunt through the bush with government officials on hand to ensure he killed the correct animal.
Knowlton, 36, won the right to shoot the rhino at an auction in Dallas in early 2014 — attracting fierce criticism from many conservationists and even some death threats.
This guy just killed an endangered black rhino after paying $350,000 http://t.co/HQ8H4D8h06
— TIME.com (@TIME) May 20, 2015
He took a CNN camera crew on the hunt to try to show why he believed the killing was justified.
“The whole world knows about this hunt and I think it’s extremely important that people know it’s going down the right way, in the most scientific way that it can possibly happen,” Knowlton told the TV channel in footage released Wednesday.
“I think people have a problem just with the fact that I like to hunt … I want to see the black rhino as abundant as it can be. I believe in the survival of the species.”
Since 2012, Namibia has sold five licences to kill individual rhinos, saying the money is used to fund conservation projects and anti-poaching protection.
The only rhinos selected for the hunts are old ones that no longer breed and that pose a threat to younger rhinos.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says there were about 850,000 black rhinos alive through much of the last century before hunting left only about 2,400 in 1995, but numbers have since edged up to about 5,000.
The black rhino has recently suffered from soaring poaching in South Africa’s Kruger Park where hundreds are killed each year for their horns which are used in traditional Asian medicine.
The exact location of Knowlton’s hunt was kept secret to avoid tipping off poachers.
Hunter pays $350,000 to kill endangered black rhino – CNN Video http://t.co/htyqaKpCTU
— WeRhino (@WeRhino) May 20, 2015
Television footage showed Knowlton accompanied by a professional hunter and local trackers as they tried to find a rhino that was approved for killing.
His first shots injured the animal before he fired the fatal bullets.
“I felt like from day one it was something benefiting the black rhino,” Knowlton said just after the hunt ended, his voice croaking with emotion.
“Being on this hunt, with the amount of criticism it brought and the amount of praise it brought from both sides, I don’t think it could have brought more awareness to the black rhino.”
Nothing to report
Wolves and Wolfdogs
The life of the legendary She-Wolf ‘06
She was born to the Yellowstone Lava Creek Pack in 2006 and named after this year. O-Six grew up very much like any other wolf cub and developed a stunningly beautiful grey coat, but she also grew to a size exceptional for a she-wolf. At the age of about two years she took a very unusual and dangerous decision for a female – she wanted her own pack, but she did not want to mate with one of her brothers, and therefore left her pack to start off on a long and hazardous journey to find a suitable mate and start her own pack.
Funny enough she did not seem to be in any hurry in her quest. In the eyes of male wolves she must have been just drop-dead gorgeous, because in one mating season she had five different male admirers, which is an unusually high number for a wild wolf. She did not show any interest, though, and it looked like these males were not up her high standards.
She-wolf ’06 not only had her stunning looks to her advantage, but was also blessed with another gift. Wolves hunt most efficiently in groups of at least four – young males and females select the prey, chase and seize it, and then the big males come in for the kill. A single wolf usually has to make do with small prey because he has to do all the work by himself without the help of others and that means he cannot go for larger prey such as elk or deer. In her early life as a loner, ‘06 likewise had to scale down on prey size. She was gifted with extraordinary hunting skills though, and over time fine-tuned them to a very effective, although rather dangerous, hunting technique. Instead of chasing elk or deer to run away from her she preferred to engage them in a standoff – face-to-face in direct combat. A bull elk can weigh up to 1500 kg, and he can charge forward, rear like a horse, and easily kill an opponent by the sheer force of his front legs. She-wolf ’06 would dodge the attack from the most dangerous position and launch her counterattack at just the right moment. She would charge right at the elk, jump as high as she could, and go right for the throat. This was a most remarkable way of hunting for a single wolf, especially a she-wolf.
The scientists stationed in Yellowstone wanted to catch ’06 and fit her with a radio collar, but her exceptional speed and intelligence made it impossible. Unlike other wolves she would not just run away when the scientists moved in on her to dart her, but she would use trees, rocks and other objects to shield her and in this manner outsmarted them for three years.
In the winter of 2010, ’06 finally decided to start her own pack and accepted two young wolf males, loning brothers from another pack, as her mates. They were much younger than she and knew virtually nothing; she had to do almost all of the work that was necessary for her and her cubs to survive. Why she chose these two young, inexperienced males over the older, strong and experienced males she had met before remains a mystery. However, the small pack somehow managed to catch enough food for all of them to survive and she had enough milk to feed her cubs. Her newly founded pack became known as the Lamar Valley Pack.
When her cubs were a few weeks old, she had recovered enough and was again able to go out and hunt. From leaving the denning site to killing an elk, it sometimes took her as little as ten minutes. Her two mates just stood by and watched initially, but with time she managed to teach them how to hunt properly.
In 2012, a major incident happened that showed clearly that ‘06 was the ultimate survivor. She had had another litter and was still recovering in the nursing den when a potentially deadly threat approached – the rival Mollie’s Pack. This pack consisted of 16 wolves and was heading straight for her denning site. All ’06 and her pack could do was run for their lives; they were totally outnumbered by the Mollie’s, and the moment they entered the thick forest, ’06 and her pack ran out of it with her leading. She was still weak from giving birth and not yet back to her full speed, yet she was pursued by 16 strong rival wolves. This was a really desperate situation! The fact that she was running towards the edge of a cliff didn’t make the situation any easier. She would have to stop and turn around eventually, and even a great fighter such as ’06 would not stand any chance against an attack by 16 rival wolves intent on killing her.
This seemingly dead-end escape route had purpose, however. It took her to a narrow gully she used to run up in, which caused the Mollie’s wolves major confusion as she had suddenly disappeared from their view. They were unable to find her. Unfortunately, they were now between her and her den, and if they followed her scent trail back, they would find the cubs and kill them. In just that moment everything she had taught her pack over the years paid off. One of her adult daughters made herself seen and started running to the east, leading the Mollie’s farther away from the cubs. She was the fastest wolf of ‘06’s pack and just left the rival wolves in the dust. A few minutes later, the Mollies’ gave up the chase in total frustration and trotted home to their territory. They never bothered ’06 and her pack again. From that day on ’06 was the undisputed queen of Yellowstone. She had managed to raise 13 cubs to a full year of age in one season, which is way above average.
In February 2012, a scientist eventually managed to dart and fix her with a radio collar. Actually this scientist had not intended to dart ‘06; over all these years of following her and her pack, he had developed such a respect for this she-wolf that he had decided to leave her alone. The day it happened he thought he had darted one of her daughters and only realized that it was ’06 when he got out of the helicopter and up close to her. Seeing what was at stake and how important it was to be able to track and follow her and learn more about this amazing she-wolf, made him decide to put the collar on, although still reluctantly. From then on, she wolf ’06 was known as 832F.
When the scientists then started to track her movements they noted that she suddenly did something she had never done before. She and her pack unknowingly crossed the border out of Yellowstone Park and into Wyoming where wolves can be legally hunted. Many wolves had started to leave Yellowstone at that time, because large prey was becoming scarce. In November, they crossed the way of a hunter, and the largest wolf of the pack, ‘06’s mate, known as 755M, was shot and killed. He was wolf number 7 killed in that season in Wyoming – eight wolves were allowed to be killed at that stage. One wolf left in the quota, and since ’06 had no idea about all this, everybody feared that another wolf of her pack or even she herself could be shot, too, and become wolf No. 8. To the big relief of all her human admirers, ’06 and the rest of her pack made it and moved back into the safety of the national park – for now.
Unfortunately, they did not remain inside the park for long and crossed into Wyoming again. Then a phone call reached the scientists, reporting that the eighth Wyoming wolf had been killed – a grey female. The next morning their worst fears were confirmed – legendary She-wolf ’06 was dead.
She had been the most famous of all Yellowstone wolves ever, mourned by people and scientists all over the world. The famous She-wolf ’06, the legend of her, and her Lamar Valley Pack and their adventures will never be forgotten, though.
For a short time after her death, the Lamar Valley Pack continued to exist, thanks to all the skills ’06 had taught her offspring. In August 2013, one of her daughters, nearly a mirror image of her and known as Middle Grey, took over and chose a suitable mate, Big Grey. In September of 2013, the pack dissolved, however, and the fate of most of the former pack members was unknown. The two new alphas remained together and were radio-collared in January 2014, then known as 925M and 926F. In the same year, they had six cubs, but the alpha male, 925M, was killed by the members of a rival pack in March of 2015. The female alpha, 926F, then began to associate with three males from this rival pack, known as the Prospect Peak Pack.
Recommended viewing: watch the Documentary “Yellowstone She Wolf”, National Geographic, 2013.
Wolf Myths and Legends, Part 116
by Katie Kopia
Demelo was always alone. He was never included in any hunts, and he wasn’t allowed to play with the other wolves. Indeed, he was the omega, but the other wolves treated him lower than an omega. The only times when he was spoken to was when his pack bullied him or when the alpha male spoke to him about ranks. He had no family in the pack. He starved on a daily basis because he was always the last to eat and when he finally got his turn, there was nothing left but a few strips on the bones.
One day Demelo went to the stream to be alone after a day without food, bullying from the pack, and loneliness. He looked at his reflection. In his mind he asked over and over again, “Why does it have to be this way for me? How can I survive living in this pack? He also wondered why his pack treated him like they did? Being an omega is the way of the pack and he couldn’t change that. “They wouldn’t care if I was in danger. They would probably just leave me to die,” he thought. He took a quick drink and sniffed the air. Something wasn’t right. Suddenly he felt a sharp pain in his side. He tried to run from the bear that was attacking him, but it was no use. He calmly waited for the blow that would end his life, but it never came. Instead, he heard a cry of pain from the bear as one of the wolves in his pack leaped onto its arm, and biting it, preventing it from harming Demelo. The rest of his pack joined in and attacked the bear until it ran away. His pack waited patiently until Demelo caught up and went to their resting place.
Demelo may not have the best rank in the pack, but he now knows that even though they don’t act like one, he has a family, he is not alone, and most of all, he is never forgotten.
A Wolfdog Diary
Erin is taking a cold-break and will be back next month.