As Conservation Efforts Increase, so do the Motivations and Resources of Poachers

The latest toll on Africa’s wildlife has been unthinkable. Our planet is dealing with an unmatched spike in prohibited wildlife trade, threatening to upset decades of development and conservation gains.  Innocent animals are being butchered for nothing more than skin and bones.

Successful conservation efforts over the last few years have actually presented a brand new problem for the ongoing struggle.  The success of the recently increased protection for the animals has actually created a scarcity for ivory, Rhino tusks, and other illegal wildlife resources.  This in turn has skyrocketed their respective prices.   For example, Rhino horns have recently commanded huge prices, upward of $100,000/kg, making them one of the world’s most valuable contraband substances, right on par with heroin.

With the illegal hunting of big game in Africa now being a multi-million dollar business, the level of sophistication and determination of the criminal poachers has increased tenfold.  The harder conservationists are working to protect the animals, the more people are attempting poaching.  They are now also equipped with with better weapons, support from millionaire distributors, helicopters, and counter surveillance equipment.

One of many horror stories from the high tech poaching industry is one of an entire herd of elephants being attacked with a tranquilizer gun.  While the animals were stunned the poachers moved in with customized surgical instruments to remove the tusks, leaving the Elephants to bleed out.  The entire operation was carried out in complete silence and only discovered from the ugly remains left behind.

This type of crime combined with the new level of commitment and resources from the perpetrators requires an even greater level of commitment and resources to combat it. Todays park rangers are more resemblant of soldiers than the science/nature types of park “yogis” we enjoy here in North America.  

Africa’s park rangers are now equipped with technology to help them combat the new-age criminals.  One of their most useful resources are drone autopilot systems. On African land in the deadly nights, poachers often stay invisible to the rangers just 100m away. With a wingspan of less than a meter, hand-launched drones with night vision can offer a helpful extra pair of eyes. Rangers at the base can easily operate the drone through two laptops, one showing the UAV’s vision via high-definition camera, while the other showing the map to follow the flight path.

Tracking the movements of animal herds is also a very effective way to provide protection for them.  By tracking the animals, rangers are also predicting the movements of the poachers who follow.  Using a series of GPS trackers on the animals themselves, solar-powered motion sensors on trees and posts, and new tracking systems which can be embedded within the horn of a Rhino, have all become new, high-tech methods to battle poaching.  The Rhino horn tracking system in particular has presented a very unique obstacle for poachers.  A tracking device is implanted in both the horn, and another part of the animal.  Should the horn become separated from the body of the animal, the trackers will know.  Also, should smugglers attempt to move the horn, they can be tracked and charged with greater crimes as the device can link the contraband back to the specific scene of slaughter and the specific animal that was victimized.This battle has also facilitated the emergence of unlikely heroes such as Brice Mouapele.  Brice is a pygmy and formerly an elephant poacher but when last year when Congo introduced its “poachers to protectors” program, Brice signed up.  The program is presented as an opportunity for poachers to escape their lifestyles by surrendering their weapons and providing information valuable to wildlife protection.  In return, they are granted an opportunity to join the ranks of the protectors and patrol the animal habitat for the other side.  Brice claims to love his new occupation and patrols the forest with renewed vigor and respect for animal life.

A New Travel Trend has Hospitality Venues Setting up in Uncharted Territories

Some people like to get away for a while.  To take a nice trip to a hotel or resort, away from the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives.  Then there are the people who are looking for something a little more.  Something that makes them feels like they are really away from it all; to the point where they are completely unreachable by anyone.  This type of travel is exploding in popularity and can be noticed by the emergence of many resorts that cater to Remote Access Travel.

To escape the world completely requires some distance.  For many, it is simply not enough, and far too uncomfortable, to pack a tent and head out camping.  To retreat to a crowded resort down south somewhere is great for the majority, but a steadily growing crowd is still looking for something different.  These people want to experience something more, and often without sacrificing the comforts of home.

A remote access travel destination has been the ideal solution for fulfilling such needs for many of these people in recent times.  For a resort to meet the criteria of “remote access” it must be only be accessible by air or water travel.  

Take your pick from some of the finest, most remote hospitality destinations in the world.

Berkeley River Lodge, The Kimberley, Western Australia, Australia

Well out of reach for most, the Berkeley River Lodge is perfect for those hoping to escape the ordinary.  Australia’s Kimberley coast is one of the Earth’s largest unoccupied regions and the perfect location for the Berkeley to set up shop.  Only be accessible through a private plane, boat or helicopter, you can enjoy the location while assured that you will not have to share. Enjoy gourmet meals, full five-star service, lots of wildlife, stunning views and different exploratory activities including visits to rock art sites and waterfalls.  This spectacular place does not come cheap, although there is certainly no luxury spared.  There are daily helicopter excursions available to expand the adventure used by guests to explore new fishing locations, wildlife hubs, and rare hiking locations.

Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

Renowned as one of the world’s most idealistic hospitality venues, the Taj Lake Palace is elegantly situated on a small island in Lake Pichola. Initially a summer palace for the 18th-century prince, the hotel’s soaring cupolas and white marble walls seem to float mirage-like on the water.  Courtyard lily ponds, airy terraces and sumptuous rooms invoke a sense of majesty and grandeur.  The Taj is accessible only by water and famous for its exotic boat excursions.  The spa boat is crafted for luxury and perfect for couples wanting to spend the day basking on the beautiful lake on the bow day bed, or rose petal Jacuzzi. In our day-to-day hectic of lifestyle, this Indian Lake Palace is a serene oasis where every visitor is treated like a celebrity!

Space Hotel, Low Earth Orbit

Well, the place is not built yet, but the Space Hotel is allegedly opening for business in 2016. A two-day Soyuz ride for GB£550,000 gets you to a room with spectacular view – 350km above the earth. Another GB£150,000 offers a five-day stay, in which you’ll orbit around the earth 77 times.  Currently under construction by the Russian company, Orbital Technologies, this place will only be accessible through a Soyuz spacecraft.  It plans to offer amenities such as gourmet foods, large portholes (windows), and your choice of a vertical or horizontal bed!

More and more guests are expanding their travel preferences while vendors scramble to keep up.  Fortunately for hoteliers, the majority of travelers are still bound to regular locations which are much more suitable for vendors to set up and supply.  However, the more affluent guests which are particularly valuable guests are starting to look for experiences away from the ordinary, which should hotels be able to offer, are extremely lucrative for both traveler and hotelier!

western university canada purple logo on white background dispenser amenities

Western University Begins Campaign to Become a National Leader in Sustainability

In Dispenser Amenities’ hometown London Ontario, the world-renowned Western University (Western) has launched a campaign to become the “greenest” campus in Canada. 

A few months ago, Dispenser Amenities’ Accounting Administrator and Western Alumni, Aja Lee, visited the Western campus when she noticed a large new structure erected at one of the major foot-traffic hubs of the university.  It was a waste cage partially filled with bags of discarded drink containers which were to be sent for recycling.  The signage on the front indicated that, moving forward, students are encouraged to use refillable beverage containers as opposed in place of disposable containers that contribute to landfill waste.

 The campus is on quite a roll in regards to their sustainability efforts.  Earlier this year, in March, they were awarded the Environmental Leadership Award by the London Chamber after being nominated by BFI Canada Inc, an industry recycling provider.  A few months later, in October, they also received the Ontario Sustainability Award by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.  IMG_3601 (2)

 In their continuing effort, Western has recently hosted an electronic waste collection event bringing in over 4000 pounds of electronic waste.  Environmentally, it is becoming increasingly important that electronic waste is properly disposed of because much of it contains highly toxic material.  

 Western introduced several other sustainability efforts in their campaign to be the greenest:

 A sustainability newsletter to keep students informed about how they can contribute to the effort.

  • A campus map available to all students including bike rack locations as well as publically available showers to encourage students to ride their bike to class.
  • A public dashboard mapping out the energy use and details from all of the different faculties.
  • Switching to all natural cleaning products.
  • Offering an environmental writing course to continuing studies students.

We are getting quite familiar with Western here at Dispenser Amenities.  On top of their having educated our amazing Accounting Administrator, and our having researched all of their great initiatives listed above, we had the pleasure of recently outfitting Brescia, one of Western University’s colleges, with our premium AVIVA III with Stainless Steel Basket Dispensers!

5Gyres’ Fight for Microbead Free Oceans is Moving Forward with Growing Support

“Once in our lakes and oceans, plastics are there to stay, unless they are eaten by organisms, or wash back up onto shore.” – Anna Cummins, co-founder of 5Gyres.

Tiny pieces of plastic can be found in many hygiene products, mass-produced by global manufacturers such as Aveeno, Olay, Carress, Dior, and many other lesser known companies.  These microscopic plastic materials are used to exfoliate skin during washing.  Because the product is used on skin during washing, nearly 100% of it is rinsed down the drain and into our waterways.  Once it reaches the water system the plastic becomes effectively invincible to any effort at removing it and quickly enters the oceans, lakes, gulfs, and rivers.

These beads are found in every ocean, bay, gulf, or sea in the world.  If you like seafood, it is not unlikely that you may have consumed some beads yourself.  What’s worse is that the plastic beads are extremely prone to absorbing other toxic chemicals which degrades or destroy the health of the animal which consumes them.

Many organizations around the world, most notably 5Gyres, have been working relentlessly to raise awareness about the issue.  Putting pressure on the companies who produce the microbeads is the only opportunity to end this attack on our oceans.


Steps Forward:

New York State has passed the first stage of the proposed ban which is more aggressive than the ones proposed in California and Illinois with clauses to phase out the material by 2016.  There is still more work to be done before the bill becomes active, but this is a beautiful start!

Microbeads are being voluntarily phased out by many companies such as Proctor & Gamble, Unilever, Estée Lauder, Clarins, and others who share concern for the environment.  The passed ban in Illinois, despite being labeled as a failure by environmentalists, did bring much needed attention to the issue and likely played a big part in the voluntary movement by these companies.

Setbacks: Illinois and California.

Earlier this year there was an aggressive bill proposed to the Senate of California and voted on last August.  The bill was rejected by a single vote.  5Gyres has since publicly accused the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) of lobbying officials with misinformation about their intentions including presenting weak/faulty science as well as alleging that the bill was also aimed to ban natural alternatives.

A bill in Illinois was the first passed in North America banning microplastics.  Despite being a big win for bringing much needed publicity to the issue, it was actually a failure to protect the environment because it still allows the use of “biodegradable plastics”.  This type of plastic is able to decompose in a controlled environment such as a composting facility, but the law was passed to protect the oceans where, unfortunately, it is unable to decompose for hundreds of years.


The Battle Continues:

5Gyres and their supporters are not only fighting this battle through publicity, science, and media.  They are also on the front lines volunteering and coordinating countless events to physically remove plastic from waterways.  The following is a quote from 5Gyres Texas Ambassador, Aly Tharp, who was present at the annual Lake Travis Underwater and Shoreline Cleanup helping with the effort and collecting names for an anti-microbead petition:

“I see how polluted and sick our society and habitat has become, and I want to do whatever I can to make it better. Plastic pollution is not merely ‘ugly’ to me, it’s innately violent and destructive. For me, not only does it represent the oppressive violence committed to support the dominating yet unsustainable social order of never-ending global markets based on plastic-wrapped materialism… If it’s true that 8% of petroleum production worldwide is going towards plastic production, then every and all unnecessary consumer plastic (the many millions of tons of it) is contributing to climate change, air pollution and ecosystem destruction, often at multiple levels within its very long lifespan. I want better, and I volunteer my time to build awareness and community, and to state the case that it’s high-tide for change.”

The great news is that we have organizations such as 5Gyres who will never give up.  Without dedicated people like this who knows what kind of shape our oceans would be in.  To get involved yourself and support this cause, please take a few quick minutes to sign the microbead petition.

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