Anecdotally, international trade in all 10 crocodile skink species, which come from New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Indonesia, seems to be on the rise. Yet no one has any idea how many of these lizards are caught in the wild each year, where they wind up, or whether or not their populations are being affected. This is because, like thousands upon thousands of other species, they aren’t included in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the 45-year-old treaty that’s supposed to ensure that international commercial trade of wildlife doesn’t send plants and animals careening toward extinction.

For species like crocodile skinks that are overlooked by CITES, trade “is largely a free for all,” says Chris Shepherd, executive director of Monitor, a nonprofit organization that works to end illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade. “We’re losing many of them because the trade is going on unnoticed.”
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Based on species’ conservation status, under CITES, animals and plants are added to one of three lists that determine levels of permitted trade. Highly endangered species are usually barred from trade, while less threatened ones can be traded with permits. Signatories to CITES—nearly every country in the world—record all their trades in an open database.

But plants and animals aren’t automatically listed under CITES. Instead, it’s up to the individual country to add species that are potentially threatened by trade to the appropriate list.

According to Shepherd, countries usually wait until a species reaches crisis mode before they propose a CITES listing. At that point, it may be too late to reverse the losses. And in many cases, crocodile skinks being one, studies of an animal or plant in the wild may be scarce, making it impossible to say how their populations are faring.

The problem, Shepherd says, is staggering in scope: “There are as many, or perhaps even more, non-CITES-listed species in international trade as listed ones.” Only 8 percent of the world’s 10,700 reptile species, for example, are recognized by the treaty. The crocodile skink isn’t one of them.

Picture of a ball python
Only 8 percent of the world’s reptiles are listed under CITES, the treaty that regulates international wildlife trade. Ball pythons like these, exported from West Africa by the millions, are not among them.PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEL SARTORE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PHOTO ARK

To shed light on this, Shepherd and co-author Jordi Janssen undertook a case study, published this month, of international trade in crocodile skinks. The Solomon Islands issues domestic protections for their crocodile skinks, and Papua New Guinea bans export of the lizards, while Indonesia issues annual export quotas for 3,500 individuals.

Few countries report trade in non-CITES species, but the U.S. and, to some extent, Europe, are exceptions. Shepherd and Janssen mined U.S. and European trade and seizure data for all traces of crocodile skinks. They also tried to examine imports into Japan—another large market for exotic pets, many of which are not listed under CITES—but found that the country’s customs agency doesn’t provide a more detailed description beyond “lizard.”

According to the study’s findings, 15,630 crocodile skinks entered the U.S. between 2000 and 2014. Nearly all were caught in the wild. Most came from Indonesia, but some came from the Solomon Islands, despite domestic laws that prohibit their capture and export. European authorities monitor only a few select species of crocodile skinks, but they still recorded 6,805 imports between 2000 and 2016. The researchers also spotted a number of crocodile skinks for sale at Japanese pet shops and expos, indicating that Japan is importing them.

All told, the available data for the crocodile skink trade were “confusing, irregular and far from complete,” Shepherd and Janssen reported. The sparse data they were able to dig up depended entirely on the diligence and willingness of importing countries to actually create records and make them publicly available.MORE WILDLIFE WATCH

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Indeed, most countries’ customs agencies only concern themselves with CITES-listed species, says John Scanlon, the former Secretary-General of CITES, who was not involved in the research. If animals arrive that aren’t on that list, “there is no check on whether the specimens have been legally sourced and there is no mandated reporting on the trade.”


This includes many threatened and even critically endangered species, and many more that are protected domestically in their home ranges. “They’re not on CITES because no one has championed them yet,” says Vincent Nijman, an anthropologist at Oxford Brookes University, in the U.K. “If no one proposes a listing, then nothing will happen.”

The problem disproportionately affects reptiles, amphibians, songbirds, invertebrates, fish, and small mammals—easily overlooked species that are nevertheless traded in the hundreds of thousands to millions each year. Local hunters in many countries increasingly report that many such animals are becoming harder to find or even have disappeared, Shepherd says, but most policy makers, activists, and conservationists remain oblivious to those species’ plights.

“By and large, people have a very limited view of what international wildlife trade is, because they always see the same few species, all of which are mammals and all of which are traded, at most, in the tens of thousands,” Nijman says. “For people who are actually more aware of the full scope of wildlife trade, tens of thousands is a Wednesday afternoon.”

Expecting countries suddenly to add tens of thousands of overlooked species to CITES is not realistic. “Who has time to look into all of these species and to figure out what the scope of international trade is and how it affects wild populations?” Nijman says. “You’d need an army of people—it’s simply not workable.”

To get around that, rather than list one species at a time, Shepherd advocates for adding whole groups of actively traded plants and animals, as was previously done for parrots, primates, raptors, orchids, and cats. This would behoove countries to monitor and report trade in all species that fell under the protective group umbrella, providing an early warning if populations begin to decline.

“Sure, people will complain that there’s a lot more paperwork, but I’d rather see a lot more paperwork being done than species disappearing,” Shepherd says. “If countries care about the conservation of their wildlife, then preventing overexploitation is essential.”


Water is an essential part of a Mother and Child’s life

Krienna Reni with a cup of clean drinking water with children of Lanvitvit village. Photo:VRCS Fern Napwatt
Krienna Reni with a cup of clean drinking water with children of Lanvitvit village. Photo:VRCS Fern Napwatt

Krieanna Reni, is a mother who has walked some distances to fetch water in the village of Lanvitvit, Aulua area South east of Malekula.

Ms Reni is a class 6 leaver and has children who she claimed were her great help in the daily chores she carried out as a mother.

“For a very long time now, we used to walk for less than half an hour to the big river to catch water in our containers and walk back to the village,” she said.

“It takes almost 2 to 3 times a day to go to the river for water to use in the activities we carry out at home.”

Reni reiterated that it was mostly mothers and children involved in the daily activity of fetching water from the big river.

“The water we use for cooking and swimming and we used to do our laundry at the river, dry them out in the sun and then carry back them when they are dried,” she said.

“Every day you see mothers and children with jerry cans and containers transporting water to the houses, it is seldom you see fathers helping out.”

With the new water system built by the French Red Cross and Vanuatu Red Cross Society, funded by USAID, Reni and her children are now smiling as they will access water from their doorstep.

“I am so happy because my children and i will not be walking a long distance for water anymore but turning on the tap from home whenever we want to,” she said.

“Now our children will kept clean, they will not thirst anymore and water is readily available for us as mothers to prepare our meals, wash our clothes and keep our children clean and healthy.

“We also want to thank God for providing our need through the donors who have collaborated in this project.”

Ms Reni and other mothers of Lanvitvit village can now access water at walking distance from their homes.

Source: Vanuatu Daily Post

It has long been said: “The eyes are the windows to the soul”. It’s a very poetic and metaphysical saying, and I always wondered what it really meant. Part of my personal difficulty was: what is the soul that the eyes are the windows to? Part of the physical brain? The personality? The conscious thinking mind? Our ‘feelings’?

When I looked around in my younger days, there was lots of so-called ‘soul’ music – it was intensely emotional and I didn’t like it. It was all about suffering, jealousy, need, desire, etc., things I would not consider ‘high enough’ to associate with the soul. But neither was there ever a good definition of ‘soul’. Some said it’s the personality, some said it’s the ghost of the body when you die, some said it’s your conscience, generosity, charity, good thoughts, etc., and there were many other different ways of seeing it. None of the ones I heard felt right…

A few years ago I noticed that when I would look into the eyes of Serge Benhayon, founder of Universal Medicine, they seemed to sparkle as if there was a light coming from inside them. It was different from what I could see in other people’s eyes. I could feel an enormous level of love, understanding and awareness in Serge. At first I didn’t make the connection between these feelings and the light in his eyes. I would look at my own eyes in the mirror and they just didn’t seem to have that same sparkle, that same light coming from them.

However, one day recently I looked in the mirror and oh my gosh, my eyes have got that sparkle too! It’s amazing, it’s visible, other people see it and they comment on it. In fact, my physiotherapist saw me for the first time in quite a while and she said: “Oh my God, your eyes!”

So it’s a definite tangible thing that can be seen physically.

I can only attribute the change in my own eyes to a period of ‘doing the work’, that is, working on myself, being a committed, honest student of my own life, livingness and evolution, increasing my awareness of my choices, taking on greater responsibility for the impact that I have on myself and others, becoming more loving and more understanding. From this has come a greater sense of wellbeing within myself that is emanated to other people. Over the years I’ve watched other people who have been on the same path of increasing awareness, responsibility and choice-changing,* connecting with their souls and hearts, and their eyes have begun to sparkle too.

I would bet that no scientist has ever studied the sparkling light in the eyes that develops as people develop more awareness, love, understanding and wisdom.

I’ll bet nobody’s ever put a ‘sparkle meter’ in front of people’s eyes and measured the difference, correlated with what they do and how they do it in their lives. What is their day-to-day livingness like – their quality of life, the quality of their energy as they go about it? How loving are they, how connected, how present? And is that directly correlated with the sparkling light that comes from their eyes? I say from my own experience, absolutely yes. This is an amazing science that conventional scientific and medical research has yet to explore.

Recently scientists have looked at the connection between the personality and the purely physical properties of the eye (lines and dots in the iris and retinal blood flow), which turn out to be genetically linked. The ‘look-at-me’ press burdens this research with headlines suggesting that science proves eyes are the windows to the soul. But the personality is a long way from being the soul … and what about the light in the eyes? Well, some other scientists have found that light does actually come out of the eye, however … and this is a big ‘but’ … the light was coming out of isolated eyes taken from a rat, and was a physical property of the eye’s natural luminosity, both spontaneously and in response to light shining into it.

This research still does not explain why humans who choose to live a life based on the soul would appear to have more light coming from their eyes.

Perhaps the commitment to live a soulful life produces physical changes such that the body is more open to the passage of light through it and emission from it. Is it possible that connecting with the higher light within oneself and others (far beyond merely physical light) makes a person more transparent and responsive to that same universal divine light, enabling more of it to be embodied and more to be transmitted? I’m beginning to experience and understand that a lot of things spoken of in the Ageless Wisdom Teachings are literal, not poetic or allegorical or metaphorical, but real, personally knowable and physically experienceable laws of Nature.

This discussion raises the subject of a different ‘light’ I’ve observed in human eyes. It is a kind of flat sheen, bright yes, but not sparkling with presence and awareness. In fact it is a faraway, absent, blissed-out appearance. I have seen it most in those (including myself in the past) pursuing new age quests or using psychotropic drugs to attain enlightenment.

Could there be two different kinds of light?

Two different kinds of energy that move through a human body and govern the type of light in the eyes, just as they govern all else? One type of energy bringing presence, connection, awareness, responsibility, understanding and selflessness, and the wisdom that comes from them … and the other type bringing check-out, self-orientation, and disconnection from reality and other people (despite a surface appearance of loving connection). I once saw the latter light in my own eyes, and knew that it was not from deep, true connection. Now I see the former … as others see it too.

My conclusion is that it’s the connection with one’s deepest innermost self that accesses the soul, and when that connection is made, it can actually be seen as a sparkle in the eyes. Not only that, but it allows one to fully connect with and see that light in others – looking out through a clearer window we can see more clearly into other windows, or, a clearer mirror reflects other mirrors more clearly.

So for me the sparkling eyes are the windows of the soul expressing through a physical human body. When a person lives life dedicated to the soul, makes the connection and is thus one with all other souls, the sparkle begins.

“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”
The Bible, Matthew, ch6 v22-23

*Changing choices such as learning to recognise and quit the many forms of addictions and comforts, healing one’s hurts, etc.

Listen to Heaven’s Joy song: Sparkling Eyes

NOTE from Elder Jhon Kwano:

I am not an English native speaker, so I have been trying to explain what I have seen myself and others have seen in my village.

I have seen and experience sparkling eyes. I have been searching for answers what this really is, and I found this article talks exactly what I was searching for years now. Thank God.

I have seen this kind of eye mostly in villages, among the elders, and one type in big city ever, I saw one monk coming out from monastery in Hong Kong, I think on Lantau Island, this sparkling eyes and I thought, “I know those eyes, but normally in my village, this is the first time I see it outside my village”.

Well, I tell you that not all villagers have sparkling eyes, but I can guarantee most of us do.



PNG and France: Bridging the gap through science

PNG Governor-General and French Ambassador to PNG at Parliament House, Port Moresby
PNG Governor-General and French Ambassador to PNG at Parliament House, Port Moresby

SCIENTISTS around the world, especially in France, are astonished by PNG’s large rainforest and its biodiversity, says France’s Ambassador Philippe Janvier-Kamiyama.

Janvier-Kamiyama was speaking at Government House in Port Moresby after presenting his credentials to acting Governor-General and Speaker Job Pomat.

“Your country has the third largest primary rainforest in the world, whose biodiversity is remarkable and of the highest interest to scientists, especially French,” Janvier-Kamiyama said.

“It is a precious asset for your country and for all humanity.

“Combining economic development with respect for the environment is a challenge that deserves to be addressed and we are also ready to work with you effectively and lastingly in this area.”

Janvier-Kamiyama also praised PNG for its “valuable support” during the Paris Summit in December 2015 to fight global warming.

“Your country is well aware of the challenges ahead as result of climate change, as it is already being impacted,” he said.

“Be sure that we will be on your side to come up together with the best paths for sustainable development and implementation of renewable energies.”
Janvier-Kamiyama said PNG would have the opportunity to showcase its potential to the international community in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in November.

“Apec is an opportunity to show all the members how much your country has evolved and how it is full of potential to continue its development and play an even greater role in the concert of nations,” he said.