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    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Posts Tagged ‘law enforcement’

An App To Help Cops Spot Illegal Wildlife

Posted by Richard Conniff on October 11, 2014

My latest for Takepart:

(Illustration: John Gould)

(Illustration: John Gould)

One of the unintended consequences of sending the United States military abroad is to promote illegal trafficking in wildlife. Young soldiers typically want souvenirs of their foreign service, and neither military patrol officers on bases abroad nor customs agents back home can usually tell whether, say, that fur hat is made from Eurasian lynx (illegal) or Corsac fox (not wonderful, but OK).

Heidi Kretser, a social scientist from the Wildlife Conservation Society, was living in upstate New York in 2008 when nearby Fort Drum was training and mobilizing 80,000 troops a year, many with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. She thought she could help with training programs, handouts, and a video about illegal wildlife products. But frequent turnover, especially among M.P.s, meant that it was difficult to train everyone, or make that training stick.

Later, she saw the problem firsthand in Afghanistan, where merchants coming onto military bases for weekly or monthly bazaars routinely sold fur coats from Eurasian lynx, skulls and horns of Marco Polo sheep, and even snow leopard pelts. Soldiers, contractors, and international aid workers also frequented the wildlife market known as “Chicken Street” in Kabul. Sweeps of bases by military police turned up hundreds of contraband wildlife products, and a survey back at Fort Drum found that 40 percent of soldiers had either purchased or seen other soldiers purchase wildlife products while abroad.

To help fix the problem, Kretser has produced a smartphone app called Wildlife Alert that gives law enforcement officers a mobile decision tree for figuring out whether or not a wildlife product from Afghanistan is legal. Writing in the journal Biological Conservation, Kretser and her WCS coauthors also announced the development of a similar app, called Wildlife Guardian, already being tried out by forest police and customs officers to address rampant illegal wildlife trafficking in China.

Neither app attempts to turn cops into taxonomists. The apps are merely tools, Kretser said, “that help people

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