Harmonious coexistence with each other and all sentient beings could be the ROI if countries divested some of their military funding into wildlife protection rather than waging war against nations to exploit their natural resources.
World military expenditure in 2012 is estimated to have reached $1.756 trillion with a small number of countries (15 to be exact), rolling out the largest military spending budget. The USA contributes to 39% of the world military budget, followed by China at 9.5%, Russia 5.2%, UK 3.5%, and trailing closely behind, Japan at 3.4%. But what if some of the military resources and or funding can be utilized in protecting our wildlife and making peace with our natural world?Although traditionally wars are waged for oil and power, in recent years wildlife crime, using sophisticated weapons of mass destruction (WMD) has intensified, making it a serious national security threat. According to a new joint United Nations - INTERPOL report,
"Global environmental crime, possibly worth more than $200 billion annually, is helping finance criminal, militia and terrorist groups and threatening the security and sustainable development of many nations, notably in sub-Saharan Africa."
This past May Satao, one of the iconic tuskers in Tsavo national park in Kenya (East Africa) was brutally murdered for his most coveted gigantic tusks. It sent shock waves in the conservation world. After evading poachers and surviving some of the worst droughts for 50 years, Satao was strategically targeted for his tusks that will fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund terrorist organizations such as al-Shabab and Somali gangsters.
Sato's Tusks ruthlessly hacked after poachers darted several poisoned arrows into his body
This aerial view, as Mark Deeble's aircraft hovered over Satao's body covered in bird feaces
Images courtesy: Mark Deeble, A Wildlife Film Maker in Africa
Kenya Wildlife Service reports, so far 97 of 38,000 elephants in Kenya have been killed this year. However conservationists claim the true figures are much higher, as substantiated by the recent discovery of 117 elephant carcases in the Masai Mara (a game park in Kenya). They fear if this trend continues African elephants will become extinct within a decade.
Over the past three decades, relentless poaching of wildlife has already wiped out several species of rhinos, and elephants, even as the surviving species are being pushed to the brink of extinction. However wildlife crime has come into scrutiny only in the past decade, and despite the emergence of stringent international laws, criminals are getting away Scot-free, as local laws (seldom enforced) don't seem to be stern enough to deter poachers and criminal rings.
Worse yet, wildlife crime has been omitted from the United Nations description of "organized crime". The website states, "Transnational organized crime manifests in many forms, including trafficking in drugs, firearms and even persons. At the same time, organized crime groups exploit human mobility to smuggle migrants and undermine financial systems through money laundering." No mention of wildlife crime! What about the smuggling of endangered species?
Meantime, more bad news for our non-human species with the sixth mass extinction currently underway, even as human population continues to grow exponentially. According to a recent United Nations report, between 150 and 200 species are becoming extinct every 24 hours, whereas more than 7.2 billion of us are dominating the earth, tipping off our planet's balance.More humans = destruction of ecosystems = less natural resources. The over exploitation of ecosystem may temporarily increase material wealth and alleviate poverty, but this can jeopardize future well-being and in some cases even survival of our species.
The reality is, healthy ecosystems are essential for our well-being, as they provide invaluable functions and services including sustaining living resources. According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
"We are seeing a disturbing shift in demand for some species from health to wealth - driven by the motivation of displaying new wealth rather than by use in traditional medicine. This is most evident with the use of rhino horn and tiger parts. This is part of a shift from traditional culture-related consumption to conspicuous consumption, which is also affecting many other species pressured by illegal trade. Illegal trade in ivory, however, appears to be largely profit-motivated, as a means of investment for the purpose of generating wealth" said, John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES.
"The health of ecosystems is therefore not only essential to the environment, but also important to the existence and development of human society. As components of ecosystems, human beings and their interactions have profound effects on the structure and function of ecosystems which, conversely, often have profound effects on human habitats, human health and even socio-economic development."
It is simply reprehensible that one country is looting the global commons, harvesting 100 million sharks per year and depleting the global oceans, brutally murdering our elephants and rhinos merely to fuel the insatiable desires for material wealth and status-quo.
The good news is a 2012 ban on shark fin at China's state functions has cut deep into the market for this traditional but controversial delicacy, and given a major boost to a small but growing effort to take shark fin off the menu at restaurants across the country. Hopefully the Chinese government will now move towards shunning ivory chopsticks and artwork, inspiring the cessation of legal and illegal ivory trade in that country, as many Chinese celebrities like Jackie Chan and Yao Ming are making their voices heard regarding these issues.
The broader question is, do global leaders have the political will to divest some of the military funding and or resources towards ending this ruthless onslaught against our natural world before it's too late? After all what's the point in stockpiling WMP when our only home - Planet Earth - is being destroyed? If immediate measures are not taken to address wildlife crimes, our global natural treasures will be obliterated in short order, leaving behind an uninhabitable planet for our children and grandchildren, and threatening the survival of the very species that created the WMD.MORE ON HUFFPOST:
On the second day of the shoot, standing onthe ice, I was knocked flying by a leopard seal that came hurtling out of the water and realised too late I wasn’t a penguin. At that moment, I knew first hand why emperor penguins rocket out onto the ice. To double or triple their speed, they use a lubrication of micro-bubbles released from their feathers that cut down the friction of feathers against water. The challenge was to catch this in a single, clean moment and with artistry. The water was crystal clear but with hundreds of penguins exiting the hole, the scene was chaos. Diving an hour at a time in the -1.8°C water, trying to maintain perfect buoyancy so as to not to move a muscle, I waited, with the scene framed in the viewfinder. Finally a single penguin in full-on bubble-release mode came shooting by, air coming out of its lungs, bubbles pouring out of its feathers. Shooting at 10 frames a second, I just caught it. Ross Sea, Antarctica, 2012; Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, 16- 35mm lens, Seacam housing, 1/1250 sec at f5, ISO 400.
Whiskey was named after the drink his owner gave him. When he stopped being a cute pet, he was chained by his neck in a dark, wet, disused lavatory behind an auto-repair garage. I used a little flash mixed with a slow shutter speed to bring out the horror of his solitary confinement, the walls smeared with excreta where he had managed to hit them as he twirled around in his dance of madness. He was a tortured creature, a metaphor for what we do to these animals. Release came through the Burundi Chimpanzee Conservation Program, affiliated with the Jane Goodall Institute, but it was too late. He already had liver disease. Bujumbura, Burundi, 1989; Canon T90, 35mm lens, ¼ sec at f2.8, Kodachrome 64
his is my most iconic image, copied more than any other – the split second before the grizzly moved his head and shut his jaws on the sockeye salmon. At the time, no one believed the picture was real. But it was shot on film, the result of planning and luck. I made the image at the now-famous Brook Falls, where the grizzlies congregate annually �to feast on salmon coming upriver to spawn. Every day, I’d hike the two miles from my tent to the viewing platform, set up my tripod and focus on a group of bears stationed above the falls. They would stand for hours waiting for salmon to leap near enough to grab with their paws or catch in their mouths. The exposure, speed, depth of field and serendipity would be more critical than usual. The composition would have to be tight enough to make a viewer feel the spray from the cascading water and the rush of sockeye salmon against his legs, to smell the great bear’s breath – that was the tension I wanted. I saw the moment several times, which was special enough, but it happened so fast and there were so many variables that it was weeks later, when the film was developed, that I knew I’d caught that millisecond between mouth opened and mouth closed. Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park, Alaska, USA, 1988; Nikon F3, 600mm lens + 1.4x teleconverter, 1/1000 sec at f9, Fujichrome 50.
Cranes are among my favourite birds. They led me to go on my first trip away from home, following the common cranes as they migrated across Europe. My next dream was to see the red-crowned cranes – their plumage so very white, their landscape so snowy. When it’s very snowy, I’m smiling, and it is the same with the cranes. They dance. When the flakes of snow are very big, the couples sing and dance even more, each mirroring the other’s move. You can tell they’re excited because the flash of red on their crowns becomes more red. On this trip, 10 years after I first photographed cranes in Japan, I managed to catch an impression of the perfect symphony of their courtship dance, with snow falling like confetti. I was so happy to see that their numbers had increased. But they are still endangered, and their survival still depends on humans putting out food in winter. Tsuiri, Hokkaido, Japan, 2011; Nikon D3s, 600mm lens, 1/5000 sec at f4, ISO 320
This is an image I’d walked around with in my mind for a while. But in all the weeks I had worked at this waterhole, this was the only time that the conditions were perfect. I’d come every morning and afternoon, making myself a fixture in the landscape, sometimes working through the night. On this particular evening, a herd of bulls came to drink. For a short time, a group gathered across the water from me, just as the full moon started to rise, with the pink light of the dying sunset reflecting back onto the landscape and the elephants – a primeval scene of ancient Africa. To capture the full reflection of the elephants, I had to wade waste-deep into the water. That was tricky, as a bull coming behind me could have put me in an uncomfortable position. But I’d learnt a lot about body language from local guides who’d worked with elephants on foot, and these elephants were relaxed. I used a wide-angle lens and a neutral-density filter to reduce the contrast between the sky and the landscape. For me, the picture has a monumental message – the last mega-mammals on Earth, running out of time. Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park, Botswana, 1988; Nikon camera, 24mm lens
I have met many polar bears in the vast, icy Arctic landscapes. But this bear was in the most breathtaking setting I had ever seen. Our small expedition vessel got as close as 15 metres from its breakfast table. But rather than a closeup, I wanted to show the bear within the whole, magnificent scene. I waited until it lifted its head from its meal of ringed seal and then took a series of shots as a panoramic stitch. It’s a picture that can be interpreted in many ways. When it was made, the timing was perfect to highlight the latest news about the effects of climate change in the Arctic: less summer ice forces the bears to hunt where they find ice – along the edge of glaciers. But it also illustrates the interaction between landscape and animal, as well as the harshness of nature and the food chain. But maybe I like it because it’s simply telling a story about nature. Svalbard, Norway, 2005; Canon EOS-1Ds Mk II, 28-300mm lens, 1/250 sec at f9, ISO 320, two frames stitched�
These horses truly have a wild spirit – the most I’ve ever seen in horses – which is what I wanted to capture. But when the herd raced past with great exuberance, I wasn’t quite ready. I’d gone to this unique wildlife refuge north of Amsterdam to test new camera equipment. But my fingers weren’t yet familiar with the camera, and I was using a long telephoto with a 2x extender – a combination never to use with the sort of flimsy tripod that I was borrowing. The resulting images were a surprise. One might even call this frame quite a lucky accident. I particularly like it as it reminds me of the ancient paintings of horses on the walls of the caves in southern France – a subject close to my heart. This refuge is a rewilding experiment to replicate Europe’s prehistoric past, and these Polish konik horses are the closest we’ll ever get to the tarpans that once roamed Europe. I was simply doing what my ancestors did with their cave paintings 30,000 years ago, trying to capture the magic of animals – nearly the same animals. Little has changed in this quest, though I don’t think we’ve yet matched that cave art. Oostvaardersplassen Preserve, the Netherlands, 2010; Nikon D3S, 700mm lens, 1/1250 sec at f9, ISO 1600
I came late in life to the ice, but now ice is in my blood. I’ve been seduced by icebergs, and over the past few seasons, I’ve been working on them at every opportunity. I think of icebergs as a perfect metaphor for the sea – only a small percentage is visible to us. We were lucky to find this bergy bit with a small group of chinstrap and gentoo penguins squabbling on top of it. I made a few frames of the idyllic scene before they began to push each other off, and slide down one side, pop up on the other and start over again. I love the combination of grey sky, white ice and black penguins against the colour of the water, and the curve of the wave with just a little bit of reflection underneath. I was excited when two gentoo penguins circled the ice under water, providing perspective. Look how much ice there is below water. One of the greatest joys of shooting half-and-half is that there’s always a surprise – especially the way the surface receives the light. Danko Island, Antarctica, 2011; Nikon D3, 14-24mm lens, 1/125 sec at f22, ISO 400, Seacam housing, Sea & Sea YS- 250 strobes.
Malui is the dominant female in a group of western lowland gorillas, and she is usually a morose and moody character. On this occasion, her group had come out of the forest to feed on plants in the swampy bai [clearing], just when there was a mass emergence of hundreds of butterflies. Most of the gorillas were avoiding the butterflies. But when Malui saw them, she got a gleam in her eyes. I saw it and positioned myself with the light behind me. Three times she ran through the area where the butterflies were, savouring the experience of the explosion of wings. It was a game she clearly enjoyed. My feeling was one of surprise and elation – surprise because her behaviour was out of character and elation because that was probably what she felt. Bai Hokou, Dzanga-Sangha Dense Forest Special Reserve, Central African Republic, 2011; Canon EOS-1D, 200mm lens, 1/1600 sec at f5.6, ISO 800.
The greater bulldog bat is ugly – hence the name. But it’s one of my favourite bats. It fishes on the lake surrounding Barro Colorado Island, using its long claws like rakes to collect insects on the surface. It also catches minnows. The bat researchers had created a small lake to study the bats’ sonar more easily. I made use of it. But getting the set-up right took weeks. The bats fly in fast and low, scanning for the bumps of fish lying close to the surface. I wanted perfect symmetry in the shot. In the end I used nine flashes. Three were fired from above and one from behind. Five faced the possible flight path – two straight on, two low down and close to where it would catch a fish, to get the underside of the wings, and one low shooting along the water under the camera. I thought the bats would never catch a fish. They have habits – one just hung up beside the water and watched. So I had to bet on a favourite fishing spot and then try many, many times. But in the end I got the shot, showing a bat doing something that is absolutely amazing. Barro Colorado, Panama, 2006; Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 70-200mm lens, 1/200 sec at f16, ISO 100.
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