Poaching for Elephant Tusks, Rhino Horns, and Pangolin Scales

The iNews newspaper of 19 July 2022 reports on page 34 that elephant tusks and pangolin scales had been seized in Malaysia

Malaysian authorities said yesterday they seized a container of African elephant tusks, pangolin scales and other animal skulls and bones estimated to be worth 80 million ringgit (£15m).

The Customs Department said in a statement it discovered the contraband hidden behind sawn timber following checks on 10 July on a ship coming from Africa. This included 6,000kg of elephant tusks, 100kg of pangolin scales, 25kg of rhino horns and 300kg of animal skulls, bones and horns, it said.

Investigations are ongoing on the importer and shipping agent.

Ivory tusks, rhino horns and pangolin scales are believed by some to have medicinal properties and are in high demand in Asia.

The World Wildlife Fund said the illegal wildlife trade threatens the survival of many species and has led to a 60 per cent decline in population sizes of vertebrate species.

I looked up how much an average elephant tusk weighs, and its 23kg. So 46kg per elephant – which means that someone had killed 130 elephants to get that haul.

And around sixteen rhinos at 1.5 to 2.5kg per horn.

There is a huge variation in the number of scales on pangolins, varying with species, and an average of 0.47 kg per animal is very approximate, but let’s say 200 animals killed to make the weight of scales found.

Is that a lot? The United Nations page on pangolin scales shows that 69.3 tons of pangolin scales were seized in 2019. That’s 147,447 pangolins.

The title of this piece is ‘Poaching for Elephant Tusks, Rhino Horns, and Pangolin Scales’, and the key word is ‘for’. The animal is ignored. An elephant is a tusk with a body attached, an inconvenient, large and dangerous body. A rhino similarly. A pangolin is easy – scales with an easy to manage body attached.

Lignite Bad, Gas Good?

Lignite, sometimes called ‘brown coal’, is a soft, brown sedimentary rock that is essentially compressed peat, and it is used almost exclusively as a fuel in steam-electric power stations.

Lignite is a poor fuel. Compared to other types of coal it produces less heat and more carbon dioxide and sulphur. Some brown coal contains toxic heavy metals that get burned off or remain in the fly ash.

Lignite Or Bust

But if it’s all you’ve got then that’s what you burn, up and until someone points out what a bad idea it is environmentally.

The Garzweiler surface mine in Germany is an opencast lignite mine. It’s huge, a long scar stretching north west to south east covering 48 square km.

And now for the news. It’s going to get bigger. Because Russia turned off the gas tap, RWE who own the mine need more space. So an array of eight wind turbines near the Garzweiler mine are being removed to increase the opencast area so it can mine more lignite.

Under its licence, Energiekontor, which owns the wind turbines, has to dismantle the turbines by the end of 2023. Why, I don’t know.

Three turbines have gone, already. I guess that if the lignite mine did not need the space, then eight new wind turbines could have gone up. But that’s not what’s happening. So no gas, but lignite.

What is the overall balance of environmental cost? It’s worse, that’s clear. How much worse, I don’t know. But lobbyists at COP27 are promoting gas as a clean fuel…

Summer Branch Drop

Several areas of the Botanic Garden are roped off. A sign explains that is to protect visitors from the risk of falling branches as a result of Summer Branch Drop. That can occur when trees are drought stressed, and when they take up water after a period of drought. It is unpredictable, and not related to other indicators of tree health.

The Drought FAQ page of the Botanic Garden website mentions that branch drop can affect any tree but is particularly known to affect cedars, pines, oaks, beeches, chestnuts and poplars, as well as old trees.

Rain taken up by branches after drought can weaken them to the point that branch drop can occur – usually six to eight hours after heavy rain.

While some trees are sacrificing branches, others such as this Yoshino cherry, are curling up their leaves to limit transpiration.

Meanwhile, no real rain for almost a month.