Red pandas rescued in Laos stir fears over exotic pet trade

A handout from NGO Free The Bears shows one of three red pandas at the Free The Bears sanctuary after being confiscated from wildlife traffickers, in the Laos city of Luang Prabang. (Free The Bears via AFP)
Updated 07 February 2018
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Red pandas rescued in Laos stir fears over exotic pet trade

BANGKOK: The rescue in Laos of three endangered red pandas trafficked from China has raised fears the rare animals are increasingly being coveted by exotic pet owners.
Landlocked Laos, which borders China and Vietnam, is a key transit hub in the global trade in illegal wildlife, but experts say the discovery of red pandas there is virtually unheard of.
Six of the cat-sized bears were found on January 12 inside northern Laos during a random stop of a van traveling from China, one of their few remaining habitats.
Three died later after the rough journey but the remaining three were sent to a sanctuary run by the Free the Bears NGO in the northern tourist town of Luang Prabang, where they are recovering well.
“They have already made it through their initial two week quarantine period which has allowed us to move them to larger cages where they have more room to climb,” Rod Mabin, regional communications director with Free the Bears, said.
The group shared recent footage of the ring-tailed red pandas munching on leaves and eating fresh fruit while occasionally staring up in apparent puzzlement at the camera.
With habitats under threat in the Eastern Himalayas and China, red pandas are considered endangered and highly vulnerable to infectious diseases.
But their copper fur, cute appearance and small size also make them easy candidates for the exotic pet trade.
According to an assessment from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the interest in red pandas as pets may have grown partly in response to the increasing number of “cute” images of the animals shared on social media.
“This is a very unusual confiscation as red pandas had never before been seen in Laos,” Mabin said. “The most likely explanation is that the animals were destined for either a private zoo or the exotic pet trade.”
The animals are also targeted for their fur.
Ang Phuri Sherpa, Nepal country director for the Red Panda Network, said the mammals are difficult to find outside of their habitats in the dense bamboo forests across countries including Nepal, Bhutan, India, China and Myanmar.
Citing a Laos media report, Sherpa said an initial investigation indicated they were being brought for the pet trade or on the way to Thailand, stressing the need for countries to exert “extra effort curbing [the] illegal trade.”
Discussions are ongoing over where the creatures will live once fully recovered.
“Whether that is at the sanctuary in Laos or in the wild in China is yet to be determined,” Free the Bears Mabin added.


Canada acquires rare book previously owned by Adolf Hitler

Updated 24 January 2019
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Canada acquires rare book previously owned by Adolf Hitler

  • The book details certain cities' population statistics along with organizations and media outlets key at the time to North America's Jewish communities
  • The bookplate bears an eagle, and swastika, and the words "Ex Libris Adolf Hitler," indicating it was part of his personal library

OTTAWA: Library and Archives Canada announced Wednesday it had acquired a rare 1944 book that once belonged to Adolf Hitler.
Written in German, "Statistics, Media, and Organizations of Jewry in the United States and Canada" is a 137-page report produced in 1944 by Heinz Kloss, a famed German linguist who had contact with US Nazi sympathizers.
The book details certain cities' population statistics along with organizations and media outlets key at the time to North America's Jewish communities, Library and Archives Canada said in a statement.
"This work hints at the story of what might have happened in Canada had the Allies lost World War II. It also demonstrates that the Holocaust was not a purely European event, but rather an operation that was stopped before it reached North America," it added.
The bookplate bears an eagle, and swastika, and the words "Ex Libris Adolf Hitler," indicating it was part of his personal library.
"It is fundamental ... to acquire, preserve and make available documents no matter how controversial or contentious they could be," said Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada.
Hitler was an avid reader with a collection reportedly containing 6,000 to 16,000 titles.
Library and Archives Canada said the book was likely brought back to the US as a souvenir of war, as in spring 1945 American soldiers took thousands of books from the Nazi leader's second home near Berchtesgaden, in the German Alps.
The institution added it acquired the book from a reputable Judaica dealer, who obtained it as part of a collection owned by a Holocaust survivor.