Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Furadan again

Each week the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation puts out several excellent shows that fit into the “Investigative Journalism” box. Recently (May 26th) the host of one of those shows, Rick MacInnes-Rae, did an in-depth report on environmental issues from Cambodia and Russia’s Lake Baikal. I have added below the email letter I sent to the comment box on the show’s email address. Not long afterwards Rick contacted me to find out how to pronounce my name so that he could read the piece on air. Of course he edited it a bit, as all good hosts are likely to do. I have asked if I can make a copy of the email as an audio clip, but have not yet heard back from Rick or the copyright folks at CBC. If they do give the go-ahead I will add it to this blog. (By the way, the name is pronounced like the famous Dimple Haig scotch)

Meanwhile if anyone wants to hear the show they can get at it though the CBC web site. The full 50 odd minutes of each show lie under Dispatches, June 16, 2008 -- Mumbai, India, Montreal, Iraq, Managua, Nicaragua, Woodland Hills, California 
or Dispatches, May 19, 2008, Cambodia, Siberia, Oxford, Beirut, and Washington.

I missed the May 26th show that has a cryptic précis that goes “Pygmy elephants versus palm oil.” I’ll pick that one up as it would seem to fit the theme.

So here is my letter in response the Cambodia & Baikal reports of May 19.

It was good to hear this evening that Dispatches continues to tell people about wildlife and conservation issues all over the world. The stories from Cambodia and Lake Baikal are part of that genre, and it is important that you folks continue that line.

Another story that might interest you and your listeners is the use of the agricultural pesticide carbofuran, sold in East Africa as Furadan, which as been wreaking havoc on wildlife populations. The chemical is not only effective as an insecticide, and no doubt proves useful in crops ranging from cotton to maize, but it is also a deadly poison, in minute amounts, for large mammals and birds. I have been taking Canadian veterinary students to Uganda for several years, where we link up with students and faculty from the Makerere University’s Department of Wildlife and Animal Resource Management and study the complicated matrix of the human x livestock x wildlife interface. We have witnessed first-hand how lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park have been poisoned in revenge killings. It is not only lions. An entire clan of hyaenas was wiped out late last year, and vultures have virtually disappeared from the park. Where we saw hundreds in 2007, we saw only one in February this year. The cattle herders in the park have become adept at hiding their use of the poison and are alleged to now be using it preemptively. If a small calf is killed by being given a dose of Furadan orally, and then left to die in the open, any predator feeding on the carcass will also succumb. A recent example of this occurred in Kenya’s famous Maasai Mara when a poisoned hippo (a crop raider?) was partially consumed by lions. Four of them developed signs of poisoning, and two of them died.

There are lots more factors around this subject, but I hope that this note will stimulate you sufficiently to pick up on a possible story and highlight an increasing threat to conservation in Africa.

Another great investigative journalism show, well worth a listen whenever you get the chance, is the CBC's As it Happens. Go for it.

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