Category Archives: Americas

Manufacturers of Furadan to pay $170 million

Dear Friends,

We just received this news from The Defenders of Wildlife

The mind boggles that a company can afford to do so much damage and make such payments

This article is in honor of Nosioki and her cub who were poisoned this week with pesticides, possibly Furadan which is manufactured byFMC and yet not permitte dfor use in USA where it is considered too dangerous for users, consumers and the environment. The product is NOT banned in Kenya although FMC claim to have removed the product from the shelves in the country.  It is alleged that the Furadan that was mopped up in Kenya was moved to Tanzania and Uganda from where it returns to Kenya in the boots of cars and on the backs of bicycles.


Even Lion Guardians couldnt prevent Nosioki from being killed with pesticide

Even the best conservation efforts by Lion Guardians couldn't prevent Nosioki from being killed with pesticide

WASHINGTON, D.C.–The Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency today announced that FMC Corporation, Inc. has agreed to spend a total of approximately $170 million — including the largest civil penalty ever obtained under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of $11,864,800 — to settle charges that it repeatedly violated the hazardous waste law at its phosphorus production facility in Pocatello, Idaho.

The government’s claims against FMC include numerous RCRA violations, the most serious of which involve mismanagement of ignitable and reactive phosphorus wastes in ponds. Storage of such hazardous wastes in ponds is prohibited by RCRA because of the potential threat to human health and the environment. The sediments in these ponds burn vigorously and persistently when exposed to the air, and a number of fires have been documented at these ponds in the past. The wastes in these ponds also generate phosphine and hydrogen cyanide, highly toxic gases that can cause serious health and environmental problems. FMC at times has reported elevated levels of phosphine around the ponds, and it is believed that migratory bird deaths in the area also may be attributable to phosphine poisoning.

“Everyone managing hazardous waste should be on notice that the federal government will strongly enforce the nation’s laws to ensure the safe operation of all facilities to protect public health and our environment,” EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. “The people of Pocatello deserve the clean, healthy air and water this settlement will ensure.”

“FMC for many years operated its hazardous waste ponds in disregard of the law and the people who live in and around Pocatello, Idaho, including members of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe. The people of this community deserve better than that,” said Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources. “That’s why today’s announcement is so important. It means cleaner air, cleaner water and healthier communities in the Pocatello region. It also puts industry on notice that the federal government will not tolerate illegal handling of hazardous waste.”

FMC will close surface ponds previously used to store and manage hazardous ignitable and reactive phosphorus wastes. In addition, FMC will construct a $40 million waste treatment plant to deactivate the phosphorus bearing wastes in order to avoid the inherent threats posed by the handling of such hazardous materials. This treatment plant will be subject to interim status and permitting requirements under RCRA, which will include public notice and comment prior to EPA approval. FMC also will implement upgrades to its facility to meet RCRA secondary containment requirements for all pipes, tanks, and other units handling these types of wastes. FMC also will undertake a comprehensive environmental management system to ensure future compliance with the law. Costs associated with all the injunctive relief required under the settlement are expected to exceed $90 million.

FMC is one of the world’s leading producers of chemicals and machinery for industry, government and agriculture. With sales of $4.5 billion to over 100 countries, the company operates 115 manufacturing facilities and mines in 24 countries. FMC’s Idaho facility is the world’s largest producer of elemental phosphorus, which is used in detergents, beverages, foods, synthetic lubricants, and pesticides, and is located on privately owned land within the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe’s Fort Hall Indian reservation. Operating at the present site since 1949, FMC processes about 1.4 million tons of shale ore per year, which produces about 250 million pounds of elemental phosphorus a year. The bulk of the wastes generated from these processes are hazardous wastes regulated under RCRA.

FMC also has committed to over a dozen Supplemental Environmental Projects (“SEPs”) with a capital cost of $63 million, which will significantly improve air quality in the Pocatello region through a reduction of approximately 436 tons of particulate matter per year in emissions of dust and soot at the facility. As a final SEP, FMC will conduct a $1.65 million public health assessment and education program to investigate the effects of contaminants generated by FMC on human health and the environment, particularly within nearby tribal lands.

Total injunctive relief costs of approximately $93 million, SEP costs of approximately $65 million, and a penalty of nearly $12 million will result in a total cost to FMC of approximately $170 million.

EPA Regional Administrator for Region 10, Chuck Clark, said, “The injunctive relief required under the settlement is sorely needed, both to bring the facility into RCRA compliance, and to protect the tribal members and surrounding community.”

“I applaud this settlement as one of the most significant environmental results in our state,” said Betty Richardson, U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho. “We have major industries which rely upon extraction and use of natural resources in Idaho. The message to timber, mining, ranching the manufacturing companies is that they must comply with environmental laws. I commend FMC’s decision to face up to their violations and commit to a more environmentally responsible future.

” The settlement has been codified in a Consent Decree that will be made available for public notice and comment for a period of thirty days. EPA will conduct two public availability sessions in Pocatello, Idaho within this time frame.

You can get the original article here

Cowboys and wildlife in Wyoming

Dear Friends,

I am in USA attending a fund raiser, participating in the Jackson Hole Film Festival and going to PopTech! I am in New York for our board meeting today but wanted to share the most amazing experiences I had in Jackson Hole Wyoming.

Jackson Hole Wyoming

But the thing I will remember most is the sight of cattle being driven from one ranch to another. The Sheriff stopped all the traffic so I had to get out and run to where the cattle were being herded across the road by the cowboys and girls. A fellow motorist stopped me and asked where the photos would be online …these are for you Mary Haworth. The following pictures were taken on the exhilarating morning of 3rd October.

cattle drive in Jackson Hole Wyoming

Motorists had to give way to cattle and cowboys for a good half hour

cattle drive in Jackson Hole Wyoming

Real cowboys with lasos!

cattle drive in Jackson Hole Wyoming

Bringing up the rear were the calves.

This was my first sight of Real American cowboys – Amazing!

The people of Wyoming are amazing, friendly and …well just like us Kenyans. THe countryside is like Kenya too ….full of wildlife, and especially big dangerous mammals! I saw my first Elk, moose and chipmunk

chipmunk in Jackson Hole Wyoming

Ok not big or dangerous but chipmunks are adorable!

elk in Jackson Hole Wyoming

Elk doe – these guys make a really eery weirdly haunting call all night – kind of sounded like whales singing. Bizarre!

moose in Jackson Hole Wyoming

Big daddy moose – check out his beard!

Grand Teton Mountains

Grand Teton… this mountain looks suspiciously like Mt Kenya doesn’t it? No wonder I felt so at home in Wyoming!

Paula Kahumbu

I love America!!

There’s so much to share about what I learned in Wyoming …coming next – stories of human wildlife Conflict that make lions sound like mice!

Research Suggests EPA Standard for Pesticide Safety Overlooks Poisons’ Long-term Effects

We received this press release from the good people at the University of Pittsburgh news section. I think it’s a wake-up call to government agencies charged with regulating pesticides. This gross oversight on the part of the EPA should scare you and make you ask yourself: ‘who is safe these days?’

The dangers that pesticides pose to wildlife is immense and although the researchers in this report used only amphibians, we can all imagine what implication these poisons would have on large mammals and other species. I am particularly reminded of the danger already posed by Furadan on lions and other predators, birds of prey and scavengers. Maybe you need to read along and see this for yourself, for these poisons are not only a danger to wildlife, but also to humans.

August 12, 2009
Contact:   Morgan Kelly
[412-624-4356 (office); 412-897-1400 (cell); [email protected]]

Pitt Research Suggests EPA Standard for Pesticide Safety Overlooks Poisons’
Long-term Effects

Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry article reports “lag effect,”
revealing that harmful effects can remain hidden until after EPA’s four-day
direct exposure test

PITTSBURGH-The four-day testing period the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) commonly uses to determine safe levels of pesticide exposure
for humans and animals could fail to account for the toxins’ long-term
effects, University of Pittsburgh researchers report in the September
edition of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

The team found that the highly toxic pesticide endosulfan-a neurotoxin
banned in several nations but still used extensively in U.S. agriculture-can
exhibit a “lag effect” with the fallout from exposure not surfacing until
after direct contact has ended. Lead author Devin Jones, a recent Pitt
biological sciences graduate, conducted the experiment under Rick Relyea, an
associate professor of biological sciences in Pitt’s School of Arts and
Sciences, with collaboration from Pitt post-doctoral researcher John
Hammond. The paper is available on Pitt’s Web site at

The team exposed nine species of frog and toad tadpoles to endosulfan levels
“expected and found in nature” for the EPA’s required four-day period, then
moved the tadpoles to clean water for an additional four days, Jones
reported. Although endosulfan was ultimately toxic to all species, three
species of tadpole showed no significant sensitivity to the chemical until
after they were transferred to fresh water. Within four days of being moved,
up to 97 percent of leopard frog tadpoles perished along with up to 50
percent of spring peeper and American toad tadpoles.

Of most concern, explained Relyea, is that tadpoles and other amphibians are
famously sensitive to pollutants and considered an environmental indicator
species. The EPA does not require testing on amphibians to determine
pesticide safety, but Relyea previously found that endosulfan is 1,000-times
more lethal to amphibians than other pesticides. Yet, he said, if the
powerful insecticide cannot kill one the world’s most susceptible species in
four days, then the four-day test period may not adequately gauge the
long-term effects on larger, less-sensitive species.

“When a pesticide’s toxic effect takes more than four days to appear, it
raises serious concerns about making regulatory decisions based on standard
four-day tests for any organism,” Relyea said. “For most pesticides, we
assume that animals will die during the period of exposure, but we do not
expect substantial death after the exposure has ended. Even if EPA
regulations required testing on amphibians, our research demonstrates that
the standard four-day toxicity test would have dramatically underestimated
the lethal impact of endosulfan on even this notably sensitive species.”

Andrew Blaustein, a professor in Oregon State University’s nationally ranked
Department of Zoology, who is familiar with the Pitt study, said the results
raise concerns about standards for other chemicals and the delayed dangers
that might be overlooked. Some of the frog eggs the Pitt team used had been
collected by Blaustein’s students for an earlier unrelated experiment, but
he had no direct role in the current research.

“The results are somewhat alarming because standards for assessing the
impacts of contaminants are usually based on short-term studies that may be
insufficient in revealing the true impact,” Blaustein said. “The
implications of this study go beyond a single pesticide and its effect on
amphibians. Many other animals and humans may indeed be affected similarly.”

Tadpoles in the Pitt project spent four days in 0.5 liters of water
containing endosulfan concentrations of 2, 6, 7, 35, 60, and 296
parts-per-billion (ppb), levels consistent with those found in nature. The
team cites estimates from Australia-where endosulfan is widely used-that the
pesticide can reach 700 ppb when sprayed as close as 10 meters from the
ponds amphibians typically call home and 4 ppb when sprayed within 200
meters. The EPA estimates that surface drinking water can have chronic
endosulfan levels of 0.5 to 1.5 ppb and acute concentrations of 4.5 to 23.9 ppb.

Leopard frogs, spring peepers, and American toads fared well during the
experiment’s first four days, but once they were in clean water, the death
rate spiked for animals previously exposed to 35 and 60 ppb. Although the
other six species did not experience the lag effect, the initial doses of
endosulfan were still devastating at very low concentrations. Grey and
Pacific tree frogs, Western toads, and Cascades frogs began dying in large
numbers from doses as low as 7 ppb, while the same amount killed all green
frog and bullfrog tadpoles.

The endosulfan findings build on a 10-year effort by Relyea to understand
the potential links between the global decline in amphibians, routine
pesticide use, and the possible threat to humans in the future.

A second paper by Relyea and Jones also in the current Environmental
Toxicology and Chemistry expands on one of Relyea’s most notable
investigations, a series of findings published in Ecological Applications in
2005 indicating that the popular weed-killer Roundup® is “extremely lethal”
to amphibians in concentrations found in the environment. The latest work
determined the toxicity of Roundup Original Max for a wider group of larval
amphibians, including nine frog and toad species and four salamander
species. The report is available on Pitt’s Web site at

In November 2008, Relyea reported in Oecologia that the world’s 10 most
popular pesticides-which have been detected in nature-combine to create
“cocktails of contaminants” that can destroy amphibian populations, even if
the concentration of each individual chemical is within levels considered
safe to humans and animals. The mixture killed 99 percent of leopard frog
tadpoles and endosulfan alone killed 84 percent.

A month earlier, Relyea published a paper in Ecological Applications
reporting that gradual amounts of malathion-the most popular insecticide in
the United States-too small to directly kill developing leopard frog
tadpoles instead sparked a biological chain reaction that deprived them of
their primary food source. As a result, nearly half the tadpoles in the
experiment did not reach maturity and would have died in nature.

News releases about Relyea’s previous work are available on Pitt’s Web site



The Curious Case of Pablo Escobar’s Hippos

On Tuesday, 14 July 2009, I received a phone call from a Colombian radio asking if I would agree to be interviewed. “About what?” I asked. “Drug lord, Pablo Escobar’s hippos”, they answered.

I was a bit startled knowing that Pablo Escobar had been assassinated back in 1993. I was afraid that maybe they had mistaken me for an accomplice or something of the sort and they were going to gun me down like they did the deceased Escobar. What I didn’t know is that the Colombian drug lord, one of the richest men on earth then, had a hacienda (ranch) where he had kept many exotic wild animals shipped in from different parts of this earth.

Of these were four hippos which Escobar had bought from New Orleans in the 1080s. When Escobar was gunned down in 1993, the Colombian authorities who took over the ranch did not know what to do with the hippos and so left them to roam the 20 km² Hacienda Napoles (Naples Estate).

In June 2009, three of the now more than 20 hippos escaped the Hacienda and were said to be roaming in the neighbourhood, destroying crops and threatening humans and their livestock. The Colombian Authorities after several complaints by residents and recommendation by security people, gave a go ahead for the hunting and killing these three ‘dangerous’ hippos.

Pygmy Hippo at the Nairobi Safari Walk

One of them was killed in June this year leading to uproar from conservation organizations in the country and elsewhere. And that’s why they were calling me to ask me if it was okey to kill the hippo. Whether we do that in Africa where hippos come from and specifically, what the situation would be in Kenya.

Well, my answers were simple: killing hippos is illegal in Kenya not only because they are classified as vulnerable species by the IUCN but also protected by Kenyan law. I however explained that in the event that a hippo kills a human being, the Kenya Wildlife Service is allowed by law to terminate the offending hippos life.

When asked what the authorities should do about the hippos, I said that the hippos should be captured by the wildlife authorities and brought back to the Hacienda. They should then ensure that they are contained within the ranch.

It is wrong that the hippos had been transported all the way from Africa, and then to New Orleans, and then to Escobar’s Hacienda, but since the mistake had been committed, then the only option is for proper and scientific management of the population. Not hunting them down like…er…criminals.

I was also asked whether the hippos should be brought back to Africa, of which I said that that would carry a huge cost that would be unnecessary. I would opt that such funds be spent in conservation of the hacienda hippos, or protecting hippos that are in Africa.

The situation with Escobar’s hippos could have been avoided if they were not shipped all the way from Africa to the hacienda. It all boils down to the question of trade in live animals, either legal or otherwise, especially species that are in danger of extinction. Large mammals like hippos, having found a place that they can thrive, and without their natural enemies, are likely to increase in number quite rapidly. These particular hippos had increased from 4 to more than 20 in less than 30 years.

Again, it is natural for hippos, and indeed all animals, once they become numerous and start to feel the strain of increased competion for available resources, to seek new territory with more resources. The lack of management of this hacienda population was in my opinion the cause of the need for the three hippos to move out. Chances are that this will happen again as the population continues to increase.

It is being reported that the Colombian authorities have called off the hunt for the other two hippos after the protest from conservation organizations for now. Some zoos have even offered to take at least one hippo each. We do hope that they find a solution to the problem. A solution that does not involve hunting down the hippos, and brutally murdering them.