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
0

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.


Chip Wickham ushers in winds of change on the jazz scene

Updated 22 May 2018
0

Chip Wickham ushers in winds of change on the jazz scene

PARIS: The hotly hyped “British jazz invasion” has been the toast of international scenesters for some months now, with breathy adjective-heavy sprawls penned on both sides of the Atlantic paying tribute to a fresh generation of musos who grew up not in the conservatoires but the clubs, channelling the grit and groove of grime into a distinctly hip, 21st century strain of freewheeling, DIY improvised music.

Now the Arab world has its own outpost in the form of Chip Wickham, a UK-born flautist, saxophonist and producer whose second album grew out of extended stints teaching in the GCC. “Shamal Wind” takes its name from the Gulf’s primal weather patterns, and there’s a distinctly meditative, Middle Eastern vibe to the title track, a slow-burning, moody vamp, peppered with percussive trills, with hints of Yusef Lateef to be found in Wickham’s wandering woodwind musings.

There’s rather less goatee-stroking to be found across the four further up-tempo cuts, which swap soul-searching for soul-jazz, soaked in the breezy bop of a vintage Blue Note release. Recorded over a hot summer in Madrid, a heady Latin pulse drives first single, “Barrio 71” — championed by the likes of Craig Charles — with Spanish multi-percussionist David el Indio steaming up a block party beat framing Wickham’s gutsy workout on baritone sax.

Having previously worked with electronic acts, including Nightmares on Wax and Jimpster, one imagines the dancefloor was a key stimulus behind Wickham’s rhythmically dense, but harmonically spare compositional approach. Phil Wilkinson’s sheer, thumped piano chords drive the relentless nod of second single “Snake Eyes,” Wickham’s raspy flute floating somewhere overhead, readymade to be skimmed off for the anticipated remix market.

In truth, Manchester-raised Wickham is both too thoughtful, and too thoughtless, to truly belong to the London-brewed jazz invasion — Shamal Wind yo-yos between meditative meandering and soulful strutting with a wilful disrespect for trend.