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Current International Update

International developments reported in the current issue of ELR's Weekly Update appear below. For previously reported international news, please use the filter function on the left. For older material reported between 2000 and 2010, visit the Weekly Update Archives.

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GABON VOWS TO PUNISH THIEVES OF PROTECTED HARDWOOD

Country: Gabon

On May 13, Gabon's president vowed to find and punish the people responsible for the disappearance of over 350 containers of protected kevazingo wood. Authorities had uncovered and seized illegally felled kevazingo wood in Owendo in late February and early March, but much of the wood disappeared in April. The stolen kevazingo is estimated to have a market value of at least $241 million. Forestry is a major industry for Gabon, but the kevazingo tree, which can take 500 years to grow to its full height, is protected by law.

MEXICO CITY CANCELS SCHOOL DUE TO AIR POLLUTION

Country: Mexico

On May 16, Mexico's education ministry cancelled schools in the capital and surrounding areas due to elevated levels of air pollution. Weather conditions combined with dozens of brushfires burning in and around the city have produced a blanket of smoky haze, triggering city authorities to declare an environmental emergency earlier in the week. On May 16, the Environment Department announced that firefighters are combating an average of 100 fires a day in brush, scrub, agricultural, and forest land through the country.

JAPANESE COURT MULLS HALTING DOLPHIN HUNTING

Country: Japan

On May 17, court hearings began on halting dolphin hunting in the western Japanese town of Taiji. Taiji has long maintained that the hunts, which involve driving hundreds of dolphins into coves and clubbing then to death, are a traditional part of its livelihood as the town has hunted dolphins and whales for thousands of years. An animal welfare group, a marine activist, and a man who grew up in Taiji filed suit, arguing that dolphins are protected under Japanese animal welfare laws, but are subjected to "extreme acts of cruelty" in these hunts.