SciBlogs

Archive October 2012

Smuggler caught with 16 Tiger Cubs Brendan Moyle Oct 29

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A colleague drew my attention to this story out of Thailand
BBC-News Thailand

The story is principally about a truck-driver, paid to smuggle 16 tiger cubs from Thailand into Laos. The driver was caught when he attempted to avoid a police checkpoint. With 16 cubs, it is practically certain these same from a 'breeding facility' within Thailand. Tigers can produce 4 cubs in a litter but less is also common. Getting 16 cubs from the wild within Thailand would involve a very serious effort in search, risks of mortality in transporting cubs out of the wild, and risks of being caught within the reserves. It would be much easier and less risky to get the cubs from a captive source. Such animals would also be more familiar with people and hence, more sedate to transport.

The interception is indicative of two enforcement issues. First, crossing borders is the riskiest aspect of the illegal supply chain. From an economic perspective, the 'black-market firm' is better placed to pass this risk on to people who are willing to bear it at a lower price. The driver said he'd been paid 15,000 baht ($US 490 or £300) for the job. The second is that the size of the shipment (16 live animals) shows that enforcement agencies are being ineffective. A good sign that enforcement is effective is reductions in shipment size. This is the easiest thing for smugglers to do to reduce their risks. It does inflate their other costs (fewer units transported each trip drives up the average costs). So, the fact they are making large shipments here mean that they have little to worry about from law enforcement.

The story implies that the cubs are being smuggled for parts for traditional medicines. This seems unlikely. It would be much easier to kill the tigers within Thailand and transport the parts in a more cryptic way. This would also mean the smugglers did not have live animals to care for and feed for the duration of the trip. I suspect the most likely explanation is that this is the nucleus for a 'tiger farm' within Laos. Thailand and Vietnam are known to have breeding of tigers occurring in 'commercial quantities'. This may now be a reflection of the attempt to do the same within Laos. With actual wild tiger numbers in Indo-China being critically low, captive sources of tigers are much easier to locate and transport.

This also means that the CITES resolutions that call upon certain range states to end such breeding is largely being ignored.

Tuesday #Travel – The beat goes on Brendan Moyle Oct 23

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This shot was from Jilin in Northern China. Jilin is one of the tiger-smuggling hot spots within China, which is really just a product of its geography. It has a border with the Russian Far East (and includes a relic population of Amur or Siberian tigers).

On one evening we went 'cultural' and part of the performance was these traditional Chinese drummers.

Test blog post Brendan Moyle Oct 23

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Yes, I have finally joined the world of smartphones proper. Which is as
good as time as any to try the email function out with a blog post

Sent from my Windows Phone

And the semester comes to an end Brendan Moyle Oct 18

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The part of the year where I lecture has (formally) come to an end. It's all sunshine, research and photos from here :)

The Birds of Spring Brendan Moyle Oct 08

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It's been a tough few weeks for photography as work pressure and turbulent weather has got in the way of employing the camera. I recently got a Sony 2x Teleconverter (off Trademe) and have been hoping to test it out. I've been happy with the 1.4x TC for a while but appreciate that image quality does take a small hit with a TC. On the other hand, my longest lens is a 300mm G prime. While this has superb image quality it isn't always long enough for nature photography. The 1.4x TC extends it to a useful 420mm focal length. The 2x takes it out to 600mm.

Once you start shooting at these kind of focal lengths (my rule of thumb, 500mm or more) stability is an issue. This is why tripods are normally used as an adjunct for the big lenses.

I didn't really have time to pack and setup a tripod however on Sunday, so I did it the hard way with a handheld shot. I'm usually pretty steady with a camera and lens (which helps with a lot of the macro shots I do), but cranked the shutter speed up to 1/1000 sec and ensured the camera stabiliser was working. This should buy me a few extra stops of stability.

Tuis are starting to increase in abundance our way, so I went out for some snapshots. Lighting conditions weren't ideal. I like to have a bit of directional light with our native birds, especially as they often have a metallic sheen to them when the sun hits them at certain angles.

Anyway, this is my hand-held, manual focus shot of a local tui.



It is done Brendan Moyle Oct 03

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Nerdnite has been achieved- and a big thanks to Ben for inviting me and the choice of an excellent venue.

There was a couple of minor hiccups on the drive over with short-lived, stomach wrenching anxiety-surges. But once I got there and started interacting it went fine. Plus I've also picked up some suitably nerdy information on cryptography and the tango.

I tried to impart numerous bits of advise to the audience on a range of topics- mostly on how to investigate illegal wildlife activity without getting shot, arrested or suffering acute alcohol poisoning. Along the way we discussed a bit on tiger conservation. Anyways, I'm in a good place at moment. And keen to do more of these sorts of events.