Saturday, November 12, 2011

Big game hunting useless to African economies, says IUCN

A comprehensive study ordered by IUCN on big game hunting as a tool for conservation in Africa has been released and translated into english, click here to read the full report on big game hunting.

Hunting used to have, and still has, a key role to play in African conservation. It is not certain that the conditions will remain the same. Hunting does not however play a significant economic or social role and does not contribute at all to good governance.

The question, however, can be summarised today as: can we do conservation better than big game hunting has up until now, in those areas where big game hunting is practiced? This is not at all sure, all the more so in that big game hunting pays for itself.

The advent of consideration of environmental services and sustainable financing makes it possible to envisage financing these networks from a new angle. The environment is increasingly seen as a global good which cannot be used exclusively for individual interests or those of a minority.

In modern protected area networks, hunting areas still have an important role to play in conservation: that of financing and maintaining the peripheral areas around conservation blocks.

The scale of big game hunting in Africa

Around 18,500 tourist hunters go big game hunting in Africa every year. Hunts are organised by approximately 1,300 organisations that employ around 3,400 guides and 15,000 local staff. On average, a hunting safari organisation will only have an average of 14.5 hunt clients per year and each guide will only take 5.5 hunters out annually.

The Places

Big game hunting areas take up huge areas of land: for the 11 main big game hunting countries, the surface area occupied is 110 million hectares, in other words 14.9% of the total land area of these countries. In addition to these hunting areas, protected areas occupy, in these 11 countries, 68.4 million hectares, i.e. 9.4% of the national territory.

The sum of the hunting areas and protected areas therefore represents 24.3% of the surface area of these countries. This leaves a proportion of the country for human habitation that is difficult to reconcile with the development of these countries, the population density of which averages 34 people per km.

Animals Killed

Tourist hunters kill around 105 000 animals per year, including around 640 elephants, 3 800 buffalo, 600 lions and 800 leopards. Such quantities are not necessarily reasonable. It can e noted for example, that killing 600 lions out of a total population of around 25 000 (i.e. 2.4%) is not sustainable. A hunting trip usually lasts from one to three weeks, during which time each hunter kills an average of two to ten animals, depending on the country.

Financial Flows

The annual turnover for big game hunting in Africa is estimated at $US200 million, half of which is generated in South Africa and the rest in the other countries of Sub Saharan Africa. The contribution to the countries' GDP is 0.06% for the 11 main big game hunting countries.

The contribution to national budgets is also low: one percent of the land classified as big game hunting territory contributes 0.006% to the government budget. The contribution of hunting to the national budget is highest in Tanzania, where it is still only 0.3% and uses 26% of the national land area.

Returns per hectare in big game hunting areas

On average, big game hunting generates a turnover of $US1.1/ha in the 10 big game hunting countries (excluding South Africa), which is very low compared to agricultural use (300 to 600 times more), in a context where the peripheral zones of protected areas are already occupied.

This figure does not reach the minimum ratio for the cost of developing a protected area (at least $US2/ha), and can be seen as the sole explanation for the gradual degradation of hunting areas. The local community's share is around $US0.10/ha (or 50 FCFA/ha), explaining their lack of interest in preserving hunting areas and their continued encroachment and poaching.

Low productivity of big game hunting

On average for these 11 countries, the surface area occupied by big game parks is 14.9% of national territory, and the contribution of big game hunting to the GDP is 0.06%. This makes the economic productivity of these hectares very low. This information shows that hunting is not a good option for land use, in particular in a context where priorities are to reduce poverty and establish food security.

However, big game hunting (unlike small game hunting) is essentially carried out on land exclusively reserved for that purpose. The least productive countries per hectare are Ethiopia (hunting areas have virtually disappeared there), Burkina Faso and Benin (where hunting trips are very cheap), Cameroon (where hunting areas are under high pressure from agriculture).

These are the countries where closing down of hunting could make the biggest contribution to development by freeing-up land that is not very economically productive (but what would the consequences be for conservation?). These are also the countries where it is most difficult to change local communities' attitudes to conservation, due to the lack of any gain for them.

Source: Wildlife Extra

Chinese nabbed in ivory haul on Vietnam-Chinese border

November 2011: Weighing more than a tonne and hidden inside bundles of cloth, more than a tonne of ivory has been confiscated from a river boat near the city of Mong Cai, close to the country's border with China.

Vietnamese officials say that scientific analysis confirms that all 211 items seized during the raid last month were, as suspected, African elephant ivory. Three people, all Chinese citizens, have been arrested and taken into custody for further questioning.

'This is an important seizure, TRAFFIC commends Vietnamese Customs on this important seizure, which is indicative of the increasing illegal trade of ivory within South East Asia. It is imperative that the origin and destination of the shipment be identified by authorities,' said Chris Shepherd, Deputy Regional Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.

‘It is vitally important that officials investigate the movement of ivory from Vietnam into China and prosecute those involved. This will require a coordinated effort among enforcement agencies in Asia and Africa. Only through joint co-operation between producer and consumer countries can the trafficking of ivory be effectively tackled.'

Officials believe that the shipment was intended for buyers in China and it is thought to have originated from Africa. Globally, illicit trade in ivory has been escalating since 2004 and demand from Asia is considered to be the leading driver of elephant poaching in Africa.

‘Since 2009, Vietnamese authorities have seized 9.3 tonnes of elephant ivory and earlier this year Chinese authorities apprehended another 2.2 tonnes of ivory moving across the Vietnamese border into a remote area of China,' says TRAFFIC's ivory trade expert, Tom Milliken.

‘These grim figures are testimony to just how active this illegal trade route is.'
This incident comes shortly after Vietnamese authorities seized more than 200 kg of ivory being smuggled in the north central province of Nghe An in September. Three men connected to the shipment were arrested by local authorities and are currently being held awaiting prosecution.

Finally, as a shocking ‘hot-off-the-press' footnote, according to a Vietnamese media report, customs in the port of Hai Phong seized 300 kg of ivory on at the beginning of the month. It is said to be imported by a company based in Mong Cai.



Oscar Nkala Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Early this month, parks director-general Vitalis Chadenga had a field day telling a sleepy assemblage of British, French and local journalists that the local independent media has been peddling lies and falsehoods to the effect that Zanu PF politicians, of which he is one, are part of the poaching syndicates responsible for the ongoing plunder of Zimbabwe's dwindled rhino population.

According to Chadenga, the poaching crisis is not an inside job but the work of sophisticated foreign syndicates, and allegations that most Zanu PF bigwigs are smart poachers are a callous lie told over and over by an independent media bent on destroying what remains of the tattered image of the country and by extension, reverse the gains of the reverred liberation struggle.

While Chadenga was busy searching for scapegoats, whistle-blowing site Wikileaks released an insightful cable in which American officials qouted ex-parks official and professional hunter Don Heath naming Zanu PF ministers and associates who are making a 'killing' from conservancies abandoned in haste by white farmers as they ran for life since 2000.

The US officials interviewed Heath to find the best ways of curtailing the safari businesses of Zanu PF leaders placed on the US and European Union sanctions list without causing a collapse of the hunting industry and at the same time, avoiding negative impacts on conservation efforts which include the survival of such endangered species as the African rhino.

The cable reveals as follows: "Establishing a connection between Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) and their safari interests is difficult as these individuals are often careful to hide their direct involvement in the business.

According to Heath, the following Office of Foreign Accountant Control-sanctioned individuals are known to have a stake in a safari area concession, safari operator and private land/ private hunting reserve: former environment and tourism minister Edward Chindori-Chininga (Gwaai Valley Conservancy); Jocelyn Chiwenga, the wife of army commander Constantine Chiwenga (Matetsi Unit 6 Safari Area); local government minister Ignatius Chombo (Chiredzi River Conservancy) and agriculture minister Joseph Made (Gwaai Valley Conservancy."

"The others are former mines minister Amos Midzi (Gwaai Valley Conservancy); home affairs minister Kembo Mohadi (Gwaai Valley Conservancy); Zanu PF national chairman, also former ambassador to South Africa, Simon Khaya Moyo (Gwaai Valley Conservancy); mines and mining development minister Obert Mpofu (Gwaai Valley Conservancy), information minister Webster Shamu (Chirisa Safari Area and a 51 percent stake in Famba Safaris).

"His (Shamu's) wife also has a separate interest in the Chete Safari Area, but she is not on the sanctions list, Charles Utete (Gwaai Valley Conservancy); former CIO director-general Paradzai Zimondi (Charara Safari Area), Lovemore Chihota (Matetsi Unit 7) brother of Specially Designated National Phineas Chihota; Thandi Nkomo-Ibrahim, the daughter of former vice-president Joshua Nkomo (Tuli Safari Area), a sister to Specially Designated National Louise Nkomo who is the spouse of Specially Designated National Francis Nhema, the minister of environment."

The rhino conservation lobby is worried that unlike the political cables which appear to have altered inter-and intra-party relations for good due to the explosive disclosures made by some politicians who used the most descriptive terms to question the presidential qualities of their party leaders in secret meetings with the Americans, this environmentally friendly salvo from Wikileaks has been ignored - simply.

Unlike the politically sensitive Wikileaks disclosures which have sparked witch-hunts in both Zanu PF and the MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, no one in this country seems worried about the wholesale plunder of wildlife in the conservancies despite mounting evidence.

Week in week out, we are confronted by news reports or network alerts of Zanu PF supporters invading one conservancy after another with encouragement from senior politicians, some being the same cabinet ministers who are supposed to ensure that normalcy prevails. Each time, the rhino and elephant population is always the first on the firing line because of the high value attached to ivory.

We know of many conservancies in the southern Gwanda and Beitbridge districts where poachers have now finished the rhinos and are now going for zebra and leopard for their skins, which we understand are bought for R800 by a very rogue South African taxidermist based at All Days, 100 km west of Musina across the border in South Africa.

We of the rhino lobby in Zimbabwe are deeply concerned and fear that the attitude displayed by Zanu PF proves that unlike the deeply embarassing and humiliating political satire that came out of Wikileaks which is being investigated quite furiously by the parties in government, the same people see no need for a parallel investigation into the poaching scandals exposed in the same way.

One reason could be that top Zanu PF officials are named as the lead plunderers, but all Zimbabwean leaders owe the worldwide rhino lobby a better explanation than sheer impunity and egoism for failing to deal as decisively with the rhino poaching crisis just as they pursue the so-called 'political issues' with energetic zealotry.

We posit that in countries where the rule of law is respected and not frowned upon like in ours, such allegations would have by now led to a high-level commission of inquiry into the operations of the concerned individuals and safari operators regardless of whether they are the chairpersons of village burial societies or the national chairpersons of the dominant political Mafioso.

However, we do so at the same time acknowledging that Zimbabwe may not be in a position to do so because the rule of law was the first to die of the ravages of the Third Chimurenga in which conservancies were invaded and the owners fled leaving rhinos and elephants wondering at the mercy of poachers who could not be arrested simply because they belong to Zanu PF, the president's party.

The cable also reveals wholesale corruption in the awarding of lucrative safari concessions in Gwayi, Hwange and the Matetsi safari areas with most concessions awarded without going to public tender. In some cases, Zanu PF regime insiders are known to have used their political links to bulldoze their way in to grab concessions at below market prices.

Zimbabwe needs a thorough audit of the concession holders, especially in the Hwange and Matetsi areas where some have held on to concessions since 1985 and the leases are renewed annually without ever going to tender.

Zimbabwe also needs a commission of inquiry into how the most lucrative hunting concessions in Gwayi, Hwange and Matetsi were, and continue to be allocated only to Zanu PF officials, their wives and close relatives. This country needs an honest parks and wildlife management authority led by professionals and not political party representatives as is the case now.

Instead of making a career out of denialism, Chadenga will be doing the nation proud if he tells the truth because from our own investigative sources inside the parks authority, we know that the department is fully aware of the who is who among the Zanu PF poaching elite.

Mugabe donates jumbos to China, two rhinos killed


Zimbabwe has donated 3 elephants to China. This was in appreciation for the fact that China helped President Mugabe's wife build an orphanage for 1000 children.

On the 19th May this year, President Mugabe reaffirmed the Presidential Decree, protecting the Presidential Herd of elephants. We do not know where the 3 donated elephants came from but on the one hand, the president is promising to protect the elephants, and on the other, he is giving them away - subjecting them to a long traumatic journey which they may not even survive.


Towards the end of October, Charara residents spotted an injured hippo on the flood plain. The hippo was clearly suffering and at least 2 people reported the matter to Kariba National Parks and asked them to come and put the animal out of its misery. Four days later, National Parks had failed to respond and the hippo died. If National Parks had only responded quickly, this poor animal could have been saved a lot of pain and anguish.


Two rhinos were killed by poachers in the Mazunga Conservancy area of Beit Bridge. One of the poachers, Lloyd Ndou was shot by game ranchers and is now fighting for his life. His four accomplices have escaped with rhino horns worth $120 000.

Source: Zimbabwe Conservation Taskforce

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

WWF urges nations to tackle elephant, rhino slaughter


WWF calls on representatives of world governments and other groups attending the CITES meeting in Geneva this week, to stem the growing global trade in illegal ivory and rhino horn.

The 61st meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is taking place during an escalating crisis for rhinos and elephants due to increased poaching and the growing illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn.

“We hope that this reinvigorated Committee – with new members and a new chair – will be prepared to take decisive action to ensure that governments follow through on the commitments they have made under the Convention,” says Dr Colman O Criodain, WWF International’s policy analyst on wildlife trade issues.

No place in traditional medicine for rhino horn

WWF believes that South Africa, home to most of the world’s rhinos, has shown a willingness to respond to the poaching crisis but needs to do more to regulate the issuance of hunting permits and to create a more robust approach to prosecutions. So far in 2011, South Africa has lost at least 250 rhinos to poaching, a rate that could exceed last year’s record of 333 killings if not curbed.

Vietnam is the major destination for illegal horn, yet it appears to be doing little to address the problem. This is despite recent allegations that many horn consumers are, in fact, government officials. In Vietnam, a new use for rhino horn as an alleged cancer treatment has emerged in recent years.

WWF is also concerned by reports of illegal trade to Thailand and allegations of rhinos being farmed in China for their horns. In a letter being presented to the Committee today, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) expert Lixin Huang emphasizes that rhino horn was purged from the Chinese pharmacopeia in 1993 and that it has no proven cancer treating properties.

“There is no evidence that rhino horn is an effective cure for cancer and this is not documented in TCM nor is it approved by the clinical research in traditional Chinese medicine,” Huang writes.

Speaking as president of both the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, Huang says she is committed to protecting endangered species. The misinterpretation about rhino horn “shows little respect for the TCM profession and medical practices, and is harmful to rhino conservation efforts,” Huang writes.

Ivory markets must be controlled

A report on elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade being discussed at this week’s meeting identifies China and Thailand as the two most important raw ivory consuming countries in the world. WWF calls on China to improve its already strong enforcement efforts by strengthening its ivory management regime and by offering more support to the African countries where poaching and illegal trade are most prevalent.

Thailand is a major end destination for poached ivory that is intended for the tourist market. This week, the Committee should establish a deadline by which time Thailand must have finalized and implemented the necessary controls to curtail its domestic ivory markets. Thailand is the host country for the next meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties.

Finally, African countries that are most remiss in terms of failing to control domestic ivory markets – namely, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria – should also be strongly encouraged to deal decisively with the problem.

“Obviously, elephants and rhinos are at the front of our minds in going to this meeting,” O Criodain says. “However the agenda includes many other important issues, such as improved regulation of trade in mahogany, fisheries issues and, of course, tigers. We wish the new Chairman, Mr Øystein Størkersen of Norway, every success in facing the formidable challenge of bringing the meeting to a successful conclusion.”

The CITES Standing Committee is comprised of 19 countries, selected on a regional basis, and oversees the business of the Convention in between meetings of the Conference of the Parties.

Source: WWF

Monday, August 1, 2011

Zim rhino poachers denied bail

MASVINGO, ZIMBABWE-Six suspected rhino poachers who were arrested in Harare last week after being found in possession of two rhino horns worth US$120 000 have been denied bail.

Masvingo provincial magistrate Mr Timeon Makunde ruled that the six were likely to abscond because they were facing a serious offence.

They are alleged to have dehorned a white rhino in Save Valley Conservancy in the Lowveld.

Peter Makaye (44), Tsumei Nemabwe (39) both from Bikita, Godfrey Nyambuya (34), Nelson Abraham (34), David Murara (37) all from Mutare and Charles Makuro Muzenda (43) from Chitungwiza had applied for bail

on Tuesday when they appeared before Mr Makunde charged with contravening the Parks and Wildlife Act.

Mr Makunde remanded the six - who were represented by Mr Rodney Saratoga and Mr Johannes Ruvengo - in custody to August 5 for trial.

Charges against the six arose on June 29 this year when they allegedly went to Matendere Ranch in the wildlife rich Save Valley Conservancy where they allegedly killed a white rhino and dehorned it.

They allegedly took the two rhino horns to Harare where they intended to sell them. However, they were arrested after two of them Abraham and Nyambuya were arrested while trying to sell the horns at Sam Levy Shopping Centre in Borrowdale, Harare.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Zim nabs three more poachers, seizes 8 kg ivory

Zimbabwean police say they have arrested three more men and recovered elephant ivory weighing at least 8 kilogrammes.

Local media reports quoted Detective Inspector Bright Matimbe, spokesman of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Border Control Unit saying the three men were arrested in Chitungwiza, a dormitory town of the capital Harare.

Detective Matimbe said the three are being held in custody pending the conclusion of further investigations.

The latest catch comes hot on the heels of the arrest last week of 10 men, including four ex-members of the Zimbabwe National Army, for poaching and illegal possession of rhino horns.

They were arrested in Harare while trying to sell some the horns to Chinese dealers.

-African Environmental Police-

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Angolans, Zambians held as Nam nabs elephant poachers

FOUR men were arrested in the Caprivi Region on Saturday in possession of four pairs of elephant tusks. Authorities suspect the men illegally hunted four elephants close to or inside the Chobe National Park in Botswana before smuggling their booty across the border into Namibia.

One of the four men is a Namibian citizen, while the other three are from Angola. A fifth member of the poaching gang, a Zambian national, is still on the run.

The men were arrested in the Caprivi after a joint operation between Namibian and Botswana anti-poaching authorities was launched last week. A public tip-off to the wildlife authorities first stated that the men were hunting buffalo and hippo in the area.

Colgar Sikopo, Deputy Director of Wildlife Management in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, said an investigation started immediately after they received the alert from the Caprivi Bamunu conservancy that people from the area were involved in illegal hunting.

Authorities followed the trail of the suspects, which led across the border into Botswana. Although they were hot on the heels of the suspects, the killing of four elephants “just alongside the Chobe National Park” could not be stopped.

Sikopo said the arrests took place on Saturday and they suspect the illegal hunt took place on Friday.Anti-poaching authorities confiscated an AK47 assault rifle, a .308 rifle and a shotgun from the poachers.

The suspects will appear in the Katima Mulilo Magistrate’s Court tomorrow. The men face a charge of illegal possession of elephant tusks, unlawful possession of rifles and unlawful possession of ammunition.

Sikopo said it is difficult to determine what the estimated value of the tusks are.
He said depending on the “quality of the elephant”, a trophy hunter will pay between N$100 000 to N$150 000 per elephant.

Sikopo said yesterday that poaching in Namibia is decreasing with the help of conservancies.“But there are still isolated incidents of illegal hunting of elephants, especially in the Caprivi”.

He said the last cases of illegal elephant hunting were recorded in 2010, when four elephants were killed during an illegal hunt.International reports however suggest that there is a rise in elephant poaching again, despite intense conservation efforts to stop the traffic in tusks to Asia.

Source: The Namibian

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spike in Zim elephant, rhino poaching

Harare - Zimbabwe's wildlife service chief says rhino poaching has risen sharply in recent weeks, with raids organised by sophisticated poaching syndicates.

Parks and Wildlife director general Vitalis Chidenga said on Tuesday seven endangered rhinos were killed in southern Zimbabwe from early December to Jan 19.

He says that represents about one-third of all 22 rhino poached in 2010. Chadenga said the poachers were well-equipped and that "big money" syndicates even used aircraft for poaching missions and reconnaissance.

He says five of the rhino were shot in Matopos National Park south of Bulawayo in the restive western Matabeleland province.


On May 18, 2011, I compiled, filed and got this story published on The Daily News, read on to understand why Vitalis Chadenga is abusing his position as parks director to lie so as to reduce the magnitude of the poaching crisis in Zimbabwe:

Poachers armed with AK47 rifles last week gunned down another black rhino in the Intensive Conservation Area around the prestigious Sinamatela range of the Hwange National Park and engaged parks rangers in a fierce gunbattle before fleeing the scene without their booty.

Although the horn was recovered, the poachers escaped and none have been arrested so far. Matabeleland North provincial police deputy officer commanding Assistant Commissioner Musarashana Mabunda said the poachers abandoned an axe and a loaded AK 47 rifle and fled the scene without de-horning the animal.

"On May 12, gunshots were heard some 15 kilometres from Number 3 village in the Sinamatela area. When parks rangers attended to the scene, there was a fierce confrontation with the poachers who then ran away leaving behind an AK47 rifle and an axe. Police attended the scene and the horn, worth around US$120 000, was recovered," he said.

Assistant Commissioner Mabunda said there is a serious upsurge in big game poaching in the safari areas throughout Matabeleland North while armed crimes were all too common. "There has been an increase in gun crimes such as stock theft, armed robbery of service stations and lodges all along the Zambezi River and big game poaching is a big problem in the safari areas."

The Sinamatela killing is the second rhino slaughter to hit Zimbabwean game sanctuaries within a month following the death of the de-horned Save Conservancy Valley rhino which was shot five times but regained consciousness after the poachers had de-stumped and left it for dead.

The rhino eventually died last week in the hands on local and international veterinary experts who have been struggling to save its life. Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force chairman Johnny Rodriguez said the slaughter of the rhino in Sinamatela is distressing and blamed it on the lack of an effective national anti-poaching strategy.

"This is the second death this month after the Save Valley Conservancy one which died last week after nearly a fortnight in intensive care. But all this points to the lack of a coherent, effective anti-poaching strategy. The battle against poaching will never be one as long the parks, the security services people and those high up in ZANU PF and government remain players in this carnage," Rodriguez said.

Fourteen rhinos have been gunned down by poachers in game sanctuaries across Zimbabwe since the beginning of the year.

South Africa, which has lost nearly 400 rhinos since the beginning of the year, has declared poaching a national emergency and deployed its armed forces to crack down on the Kruger National and other syndicate-poaching infested game sanctuaries along the border with Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Although poaching persists as evidenced by the slaughter of two more black rhinos in the Northern Province last week, the army's anti-poaching operations have netted several Mozambican and South African syndicates who were operating in the Greater Kruger zone.

Armed forces chiefs says intelligence gathered from arrested poachers is helping the force in turning tide against the poaching syndicates. No comment could be obtained from the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

Source: News24/AEP

Monday, July 25, 2011


Marnus Steyl, a South African lion breeder and safari operator has emerged as a key supplier of millions of rands worth of rhino horn to a ruthless south east Asian wildlife trafficking syndicate.

Steyl allegedly stood to make at least 16 million rand in just 13 weeks this year by supplying 50 sets of rhino horn to a Laotian company fronting for the syndicate.

It has been established that the Xaysavang Trading Export-Import Company - which reportedly operates from a hotel in central Laos - placed the order on April 23rd.

The requisition which was signed by one of the company directors states bluntly, "1 month can shoot 15 rhino." Chumlong Lemtongthai, a senior Xaysavang director and Thai citizen was arrested 2 weeks ago at a house in Edenvale, Johannesburg.

Lemtongthai's "man on the ground" in South Africa, Punpitak Chumchom was recently forced to leave the country. Marnus Steyl allegedly locates the rhinos that are to be hunted.

The trophies are then exported to Thailand and Laos where they are ground up and sold on the black market for medicinal purposes. Lemtongthai's arrest was the culmination of a year long investigation by the South Africa Revenue Service, aided by the Hawks.

Source: Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force

Sunday, July 24, 2011

10 arrested as Zimbabwe police seize rhino, elephant horns

HARARE, ZIMBABWE - Jul 22 2011 12:44

Authorities in Zimbabwe have arrested 10 people for poaching and unlawful possession of elephant tusks and rhino horns that they were suspected of selling to buyers from China, police said Friday.

The suspects, including four former soldiers and four farmers, were arrested in two separate operations and were apparently targetting Chinese buyers. "I can confirm the arrests but I can't comment further," said national police spokesperson Oliver Mandipaka.

In the first operation, six suspects were found with two fresh rhino horns weighing 4.6kg when they fell into a police trap at a local shopping mall, according to the state-owned Herald newspaper.

The horns were valued at $120 000 by the national wildlife authorities. The other group was arrested while trying to sell four elephant tusks in the capital, the paper said, adding that both groups had approached a Chinese businessman trying to sell him the horns.

Poaching for rhino horns and elephant tusks is a major problem in Zimbabwe, where wildlife management deteriorated during the country's decade-long economic crisis.

Conservation groups have built protective pens for the targetted black rhino, with only a few hundred remaining in the country. Parks authorities say poachers have killed at least 10 rhinos since the beginning of the year.

Source: AFP

Thursday, July 14, 2011



We have received a report that a group of Chinese people are mining for uranium in the Mushumbe Pools area in the North of Zimbabwe. In addition to destroying the environment and killing a variety of wildlife in the area, it is alleged that they have killed 9 elephants by leaving loaves of poisoned bread for them to eat.


Two young elephants were allegedly slaughtered by ZANU PF supporters targeting wildlife conservancies in the Lowveld. A young elephant bull and a lactating cow were left with their heads cut off but with their tusks intact.

The elephants were part of a popular herd that had become a tourist attraction. The herd was started in 1982 when some elephants were orphaned in the drought and reared by hand. They were therefore an easy target for the thugs because they trusted humans, having been bottle fed as youngsters.

Source: ZCTF

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Irish syndicate ripping rhinos off South Africa

Law enforcement agency Europol said several arrests have been made in a bid to smash an Irish syndicate involved in the illegal trade of rhino horn.

The agency warned countries that they should be on alert for the gang which targets auction houses, museums and has allegedly sourced fresh horns to be harvested in South Africa.

Europol’s Patrick Byrne said. “These people…use violence and intimidation and they do not care about the product or how they gain it. They are just in it for criminal profits.”

The gang has allegedly been involved in drug smuggling and money laundering reaching from America to China.

South Africa lost over 300 rhino to poachers in 2010 and is fast approaching that number in 2011.

Source: Eyewitness News (SA)

Breakthough against rhino poaching as South Africa nabs Thai kingpins

A Thai national believed to be a kingpin in the illicit trade of rhino horns was arrested yesterday morning in a major breakthrough against rhino poaching.

The 43-year-old man was arrested at a house in Edenvale, east of Johannesburg, in a joint operation by the South African Revenue Service (SARS), the Hawks and forensic investigator Paul O'Sullivan.

The man, who is due to appear in court tomorrow, was searched by SARS officials at OR Tambo International Airport when he entered the country on June 13.

According to SARS spokesman Anton Fisher, officials found various documents on the man - including an order for 50 sets of rhino horns, a computer and a cellphone.

Said Fisher: "The suspect allegedly obtained rhino- hunting permits under false pretences in terms of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).

"Such permits issued under Cites are specifically for trophy hunting and not for the illicit trade in rhino horn."

It is believed that once the animals were killed on supposed trophy-hunting trips in South Africa, the rhino horns were sent abroad by the suspect who paid, on average, about R65000 per kilogram for the rhino horns.

Fisher added: "The arrest follows an extensive investigation by SARS officials into the activities of the suspect and a trading (import/export) company based in Laos (in south east Asia)."

Yesterday's arrest comes after the successful prosecution of another Thai national, Punpitak Chunchom, for the illegal possession of lion claws and teeth.

He was deported last week. Both Chunchom and the man arrested are employed by the same export company.

The "hunting" of the rhino is believed to have taken place at a farm in North West.

It has also been established that more hunting was planned until the end of the year and that the poachers were hoping to kill at least 15 rhino a month and ship the horns to Thailand.

Last year, in the Kruger National Park alone, more than 146 rhinos were poached for their horns.

The current wave of poaching is being committed by sophisticated criminal networks using helicopters, night-vision equipment, veterinary tranquillisers and silencers to kill rhinos at night while attempting to avoid law enforcement patrols.

O'Sullivan commended SARS and the Hawks for having "done an excellent job in combating this scourge".


Friday, July 8, 2011

South Africa: 200 rhinos killed since January 2011, sa ys parks department

Nearly 200 rhinos have been killed in South Africa during the first half the year, according to statistics from the national parks department. The rate of poaching, if not curbed, could exceed 2010 levels when a record 333 rhinos were killed in the country.

193 rhinos killed in 2011 so far - 126 in the Kruger alone
South Africa has lost at least 193 rhinos during the first six months of 2011 with Kruger National Park continuing to be hardest hit. The world famous safari destination has already lost 126 rhinos to poaching this year in addition to 146 killed there in 2010.

"Poaching is being undertaken almost without exception by sophisticated criminals, sometimes hunting from helicopters and using automatic weapons," says Dr. Joseph Okori, WWF's African Rhino Programme Coordinator.

"South Africa is fighting a war against organized crime that risks reversing the outstanding conservation gains it made over the past century." South Africa is home to the largest populations of African rhinos, including white rhinos and critically endangered black rhinos.

In response to the recent poaching crisis, law enforcement measures have been increased resulting in 123 arrests and six successful convictions so far in 2011. Last year South African authorities arrested a total of 165 suspected poachers and convicted four. Judicial proceedings are ongoing for many of the suspects.

"We are pleased to see more successful convictions of poachers," said Dr. Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF South Africa. "Applying strict penalties for wildlife crimes such as rhino poaching will demonstrate the South African government's commitment to maintaining this important part of the country's heritage."


In June, neighbouring Swaziland lost its first rhino to poaching in nearly 20 years sparking fears that the crime wave could be spreading. Authorities in Swaziland arrested three suspects within days of the killing, but have since released them on bail.

WWF opposes the granting of bail to poaching suspects due to the gravity of their crimes and their high flight risk. Suspects at large continue to pose a threat to rhinos and can cause delays to judicial proceedings.

"We cannot allow poaching to proliferate across rhino range countries," Dr. Okori says. "Swift prosecutions of wildlife crimes and strict sentences for perpetrators will serve as a deterrent to potential criminals. Poachers should be shown no leniency."

‘Traditional medicine'

Rhino poaching is being fuelled by demand for horns in Asia, where they are highly valued for traditional medicine, although rhino horn has no scientifically proven healing properties.

"The poaching surge shows no sign of abating," says Tom Milliken, Elephant & Rhino Programme Coordinator with TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring group. "Only a concerted international enforcement pincer movement, at both ends of the supply and demand chain, can hope to nip this rhino poaching crisis in the bud."

WWF and TRAFFIC provide technical assistance to wildlife management authorities and support greater inter-agency law enforcement cooperation. In May WWF financed the purchase of an ultralight aircraft for rangers patrolling against poachers in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province.

Source: Wildlife Extra (UK)

TRAFFIC is a joint programme of WWF and IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

South Africa: 173 rhinos killed between January and June

South African environmental affairs Minister Edna Molewa says 173 rhinos were killed by poachers around the country between January 1 this year and June 3.

Molewa said over the same period, 121 poachers had been caught.

Of the 173 rhinos slaughtered for their horns, 120 were killed in the Kruger National Park (KNP) -- four of them black rhinos, the rest white.

A further 21 were killed in Limpopo, 11 in KwaZulu-Natal, seven in the Eastern Cape, five in Gauteng, four in North West, three in Mpumalanga, and one each in the Free State and Western Cape.

"We are recording many successes in this war against rhino poaching. The number of arrests this year alone gives an indication that our efforts to fight this are bearing results," she said.

On efforts to curb the crime, Molewa said SA National Defence Force troops were patrolling the KNP's border with Mozambique.

In May this year, an SANDF patrol in the Houtbosrand area of the KNP was shot at by three poachers. The troops returned fire and killed them.

An AK-47 assault rifle, a Bruno .458 hunting rifle, two axes and two cellphones were found in the men's possession.

Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu warned at the time the army would "fight fire with fire", saying they would not allow criminals to operate in the country's national parks.

The SANDF started guarding the park's borders in April last year, in an effort to curb the surge in rhino poaching.

Sisulu said by the end of 2013, the SANDF would be patrolling the full length of South Africa's land borders with Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

300 vultures killed for juju in SA per year..

By Andrea Spath

Granted, they are perhaps not the most attractive birds to look at, but they have been much misunderstood and unfairly prosecuted.

Many people consider them ugly, dirty and disease-riddled pests that the world would be better off without. In many parts of the world — vultures occur on all continents except Antarctica and Australia — they are under threat, making conservation efforts crucial.

Vultures fulfil a crucially important role in the natural environment — one that they are uniquely adapted to, contributing “services” that few other species can provide.

“They may look mean,” says Kerri Wolter, manager of the Vulture Programme of a South African non-profit organization called Rhino & Lion Wildlife Conservation, “but they are gentle and intelligent birds.”

Vultures are very sociable creatures that live in colonies ranging in size from a few to several hundred individuals. They form lifelong breeding pairs that share incubation, feeding and chick-care responsibilities.

Wolter and the Vulture Programme’s work is particularly focused on saving the Cape Vulture, Africa’s largest vulture species. Confined to Southern Africa, they are endangered in Swaziland, critically endangered in Namibia and extinct as a breeding species in Zimbabwe.

Only about 2,900 breeding pairs remain in the wild, mostly in South Africa, Lesotho and Botswana, and unless conservation efforts are successful, they may be facing population collapse and eventual extinction.

Vultures occupy the very top echelon of the food chain and are a crucial indicator species of overall environmental health. If vultures aren’t doing well, something in the whole ecosystem is out of kilter.

By quickly consuming the remains of any dead animal, they help to control vermin and decrease the spread of some diseases, including botulism and anthrax, which could otherwise infect livestock.

Vultures also alert farmers to the presence of dead livestock on their land and they do the job of safely disposing of these carcasses for free.


There are a number of reasons why Cape Vultures and vultures in general are increasingly threatened in the wild. Some of them, like the fact that they need seven years to reach sexual maturity and only produce a single egg per year, are natural, but most are caused by humans:

-Inadvertent or deliberate poisoning. Chemical residues in the carcasses of domestic livestock may be poisonous to vultures. In South Asia, for instance, the presence of traces of the veterinary anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac in diseased cattle has been responsible for a catastrophic decline in vulture populations.

- Residues of pesticides like organophosphates can have similar effects. Some farmers put out poison-laced carcasses to kill predators like jackals, which also end up killing vultures. Injuries and fatalities from electrocution or mid-air collisions with electricity pylons and power lines.

-Poaching for so-called traditional medicines. Dried vulture brains smoked in cigarettes are supposed to offer visions of the future and are used to help with gambling and business decisions. It has been estimated that some 300 vultures are killed in South Africa for this purpose every year.

Decreased availability of safe food. Most vultures are reliant on carrion and are unable to kill prey, disturbance of breeding sites and colonies. We are also losing these wonderful birds to loss and transformation of habitat due to changes in land use.

Andreas is a book shop manager and freelance writer in Cape Town, South Africa. Follow him on Twitter: @Andreas_Spath


No arrests over Namibian white rhino murder

WINDHOEK – The carcass of a white rhino whose horns were removed was found by conservationists at a lodge near Waterberg Plateau in the Otjozondjupa Region more than a week ago.

According to the Chief Inspector of the Namibian Police Protected Unit, Jackson Kamwangha, the carcass was found at the privately owned Wabi Game Lodge in the Waterberg area.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), Dr Kalumbi Shangula, confirmed the incident noting that the horns were missing from the carcass at the time of discovery.

“We however do not know whether it was poaching or if the rhino died of natural causes,” he said.

Shangula said the rhino could have died of natural causes and whoever removed the horns could have done so when he/she saw the carcass.

This could however only become clear after investigations are completed, he added.

If indeed this was a case of poaching, then the country has to be concerned, as this might be the start of rhino poaching spreading from neighbouring South Africa, where almost one rhino a day is killed by poachers.

Nobody has yet been arrested in connection with the incident, Kamwanga confirmed.

The only rhino-killing incident in recent times was reported last year, when a rhino was found with a bullet wound in northern Kunene.

Source: New Era (Nam)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mozambican probes 50 alleged ivory crates

The Mozambican tax authorities are investigating 50 containers loaded of wood following a denouncing that they might contain wood prohibited by the Mozambican law to be exported, the Maputo daily paper Noticias reports Saturday.

The interdiction of those containers, which were ready to be shipped in the Maputo port, will last until the investigation is concluded in an operation that includes the police, agriculture experts and the owner of the cargo, said the paper.

The police says it received an anonyms report this week saying that unspecified quantities of wood is about to be illegally exported through the port of Maputo, and it allegedly includes tips of ivory and horns of rhinos.

The Maputo daily Noticias says it received a similar report which said that first class wood is to be illegally exported when only processed wood is allowed to be exported according to Mozambican laws.

On Friday night, the communications and image director of the tax authorities together with police authorities and representatives of the agriculture confirmed that the verification in the containers would start on Saturday morning.

According to Noticias, authorities received the report last Sunday and till then they were still in the process of negotiating and changing correspondences with involved authorities from the agriculture ministry that is when the Maputo port managers decided to allowed investigations.

The first investigations resulted in the discovery of wood logs, for that fundamental reason, the 50 containers will now be investigated for further details.

Zim loses 200 rhinos to poaching, says parks authority

Zimbabwe has lost more than 200 rhinos to poachers in the last four years as locals increasingly network with international syndicates in the illegal trade of horns, the country’s news agency New Ziana reported on Thursday.

It quoted a wildlife management official as saying that most of the country’s wild animal species, including the endangered rhino, are under severe threat from organized poaching syndicates.

Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority board chairman George Pangeti said a collaborative approach among stakeholders is required to combat the poaching.

“We have many endangered plant and animal species, powerful African symbols such as the rhino, flagship species whose future is under severe threat,” he was quoted as saying by the news agency.

Experts blame the rise in rhino poaching to a lucrative market in Asia where the rhino horn is used in traditional medicine. Zimbabwe used to boast of a rhino population of more than 1, 000 about a decade ago but the figure has significantly dropped to below 800.

According to the International Rhino Foundation, Zimbabwe ’s black rhino population numbered 490 individuals and 280 white rhinos in 2008. Zimbabwe is home to the fourth largest population of black rhinos in the world.

But despite decimation of the rhino population, conservationists remain hopeful that rhino population will continue to grow as the number of rhino deaths in the country has not yet exceeded the number of births.

Source: Xinhua

Chinese oiling African poaching syndicates

Another carcass has been found. On the Kuku Group Ranch, one of the sectors allotted to the once nomadic Maasai that surround Amboseli National Park, in southern Kenya. Amboseli is home to some 1,200 elephants who regularly wander into the group ranches, these being part of their original, natural habitat.

“But in the last few years, everything has changed,” a member of the tribe told me. “The need for money has changed the hearts of the Maasai.” In 2008, post-election ethnic violence followed by the global recession halved tourism to Kenya, making the wildlife in the parks even harder to protect.

Then, in 2009, one of the worst droughts in living memory hit much of the country. More than 400 elephants in Amboseli died. The Maasai lost many of their cows and are still struggling, while the price of ivory is higher than ever, so increasing numbers of them are risking the misfortune that killing an elephant could bring on their families, according to their traditional thinking, and are getting into poaching.

There are brokers just across the Tanzania border who are paying cash—around $20 a pound—for raw ivory and selling it to the Chinese. Or perhaps there is a series of transactions, a series of middlemen, but ultimately what is not being picked up by the Kenya Wildlife Service’s sniffing dogs at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, in Nairobi, is making its way by all kinds of circuitous routes to China, where raw ivory is now fetching $700 or more a pound.

Ninety percent of the passengers who are being arrested for possession of ivory at Jomo Kenyatta are Chinese nationals, and half the poaching in Kenya is happening within 20 miles of one of the five massive Chinese road-building projects in various stages of completion.

Source: Vanity Fair

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mating season..

This advert on a Chinese owned shop in Namibia openly offers rhino horn pills to you and me. And we wonder if it Dr Lee's shop in Swakopmund is not the destination of many horns so brutally taken off the muzzles of our rhinos. Will those in Namibia please ask Dr Lee about his business?

VW Amaroks boost rhino rescue effort

More than 170 rhinos have already been killed in South Africa this year for their horns.

In 2007 the number was 13, in 2009 124, and in 2010 a massive 335 rhinos. Worse still, says Wilderness Foundation CEO Andrew Muir, is that the number of rhinos lost is expected to reach close to, or even exceed 400 rhinos in 2011.

“We are seeing the beginning of a crisis if we do not address this problem collectively. Continued poaching may even reverse “one of the greatest success stories in conservation”.

Muir notes that there were only 400 white rhinos remaining in the world in the 1800s, with this number turned around to reach 20 000. “We, as a collective conservation community, literally saved this species.”

However, the rise of rhino poaching over the last few years – in some quarters associated with the rise of the Chinese and Vietnamese economies and, with it, the deep-seated belief in the unproved medicinal qualities of rhino horn – has spelt disaster for South Africa’s national and private game parks, housing 90% of the world’s rhino population.

The estimated black market value of an average rhino horn is R500 000, or around 20% more than the gold, says Muir. In an effort to assist in protecting the country’s rhino population, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has announced the sponsorship of six Amarok bakkies to the Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative.

The R2-million sponsorship is part of a partnership between the local arm of the German vehicle manufacturer, and the Wilderness Foundation, the pioneers and administrators of the Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative.

The Amaroks were handed over to the conservation agencies in the high priority areas of Mpumalanga, North West, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, such as the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency.

The vehicles will be used to train and educate park rangers on rhino poaching, and to quickly reach poaching scenes, especially to preserve the evidence necessary to secure successful prosecution, says Muir.

He adds that the long-term solution in stemming rhino poaching lies in the successful prosecution of offenders, political will, here and in Asian countries, and prevention.

He especially applauded a memorandum of understanding signed only last week between the South African Police and its Vietnamese counterparts.

Source:Creamer Media

Monday, June 27, 2011

DNA-profiles for all Southern African rhinos

The University of Pretoria has joined the country's wildlife parks in the fight against poaching with a massive project to profile the DNA of all Southern Africa's rhinos.

In what will be a world first, the university's department of veterinary science and SANparks, which manages all South Africa's national parks, will compile a database of the DNA profiles of all the country's 22000 black and white rhinos, as well as of rhinos in Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana.

The database will enable investigators to match rhinos that have been killed by poachers to horns found in their possession.

It is likely to lead to a larger number of poaching convictions and tougher sentencing. The project began informally in 2009 with fewer than 100 DNA samples but the database now contains more than 2000.

Cindy Harper, head of veterinary science at the University of Pretoria, said: "In the last month the project received about 1000 DNA profiles from rhino populations in national parks and the private sector. They were from poached animals, from stock piles and from hunting trophies."

She said the primary intention in the compilation of the database was to support poaching investigations. She said the university was supplying SANparks with DNA sampling kits.

The kits were developed by SANparks' environmental crime investigation unit, the police forensics laboratory and the university's veterinary genetics laboratory. Harper said the university has produced and distributed the first 1000 kits with the support of a R100000 grant from SA Breweries.

SANparks CEO David Mabunda said the project would make it more likely that poachers will be charged not only with possession of rhino horn but also with illegal hunting and theft.

"This will go a long way towards changing the trend of suspects found in possession of rhino horn being charged only with possession because the horns in their possession will be linked to carcasses lying somewhere in a national park or reserve," he said.

He said the DNA kits were expected to give prosecutors more ammunition in demanding stiff sentences for poachers. A total of 333 rhino were lost to poachers last year and 182 have been killed since January.


Animal species wiped out in Okavango Delta, Masai Mara

The Okavango Delta in Botswana has suffered "catastrophic" species loss during the past 15 years, researchers have announced in the latest sign of a growing crisis for wildlife in Africa.

Some wild-animal populations in the delta have shrunk by up to 90 per cent and are facing local extinction, according to the most comprehensive aerial survey undertaken there.

The findings come after a study this month showed dramatic declines in animal numbers in the Masai Mara wildlife reserve in south-western Kenya, raising anxiety about the effectiveness of conservation across the continent.

"The results were unexpected," says Mike Chase, the founder of Elephants without Borders, which did the aerial survey of the region. "There has been a cosy pretence that wildlife is thriving and doing well in the Okavango Delta. Our survey provides the first scientific evidence that wildlife is declining, and pretty sharply, too."

Chase's study found 11 species declined by 61 per cent since a 1996 survey in Ngamiland district, the location of the delta. Ostrich numbers were worst hit with a 95 per cent drop, from 11,893 animals to 497 last year. About 90 per cent of wildebeest have also been wiped out, along with 84 per cent of tsessebe antelope.

Chase says a drought in the 1980s and 1990s plus bushfire, habitat encroachment and poaching are the main reasons for the nosedive. "The causes are multiple and complex but drought is the overarching one," he says.

Poaching also has had a big impact, Chase says. Not all species experienced decline. Hippos increased, at 6 per cent a year, and the world's biggest elephant population appears stable, with about 130,000 animals.

"Wildlife is dynamic and, with a little help from fantastic conditions, anti-poaching measures and some government assistance, it will rebound," Chase says.

The Okavango Delta is not the only tourist destination in Africa to face a loss of natural bounty. Researchers have found that in Kenya's Masai Mara, numbers of impala, warthog, giraffe, topi and Coke's hartebeest have declined by more than 70 per cent in three decades.

Source: Guardian News & Media

Seven poached elephant carcasses found in Zim's Gonarezhou Park

Masvingo - Zimbabwe's Gonarezhou National Park, which is part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, has been hit by an upsurge in cross-border poaching of elephants with nearly 20 jumbos killed for their tusks over the past nine months.

Last week, game rangers on patrol in the Gonarezhou National Park discovered seven elephant carcasses at a watering hole near the popular Chipinda Pools. They had been shot and their tusks had been removed.

Late last year, ten elephants were killed in Gonarezhou with Zimbabwe government officials and wildlife experts concluding that well-connected international poaching syndicates were to blame.

Gonarezhou joins South Africa's Kruger and Mozambique's Limpopo national parks to form the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. Experts say the three countries must work together to bust the poaching syndicates or risk losing tourism revenue.

Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority public relations manager Caroline Washaya-Moyo told The Southern Times that preliminary investigations suggested that international syndicates were behind the increased poaching.

'We have adopted a number of strategies, including working with other law enforcement agencies locally and regionally, as a way of containing poaching,' said Washaya-Moyo.

She said training of rangers on the latest methods used by poachers was a continuous process and called for greater regional co-operation in such activities.

There have been calls in the past for Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe to beef up their cross-border patrols in the area so as to apprehend more poachers. The lucrative market for elephant tusks and rhino horns in the Middle and Far East sees poachers investing a lot of money in equipment to evade rangers.

The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park is the world's largest wildlife sanctuary and is home to over 500 different animal species.

Its creation was predicated on increasing regional integration in Southern Africa.

Source: Southern Times

Monday, June 20, 2011

10 520 bushmeat, commercial poaching incidents recorded in Zim's Save Valley Conservancy


An international team of wildlife conservation researchers says controlling rampant poaching and the illegal bushmeat trade will remain extremely difficult as long as Zimbabwe continues to face political and economic instability.

The findings are contained in a report entitled 'Ecological and Financial Impacts of Illegal Bushmeat Trade In Zimbabwe' by Professor Lindsay and others from the Pretoria University's Mammal Research Institute.

It focuses on the alarming state of poaching in conservancies in the South-Eastern Lowveld and exposes the negative impact of the resettlement of hundreds of ZANU PF supporters in wildlife zones inside the Save Valley Conservancy.

In an abstract accompanying the full report, Professor Lindsay said the illegal bushmeat trade has emerged to become one of the most serious threats to Zimbabwe's faltering efforts at wildlife conservation.

"Under conditions of political instability and economic decline illegal bushmeat hunting has emerged as a serious conservation threat in Zimbabwe. Following settlement of game ranches by subsistence farming communities, wildlife populations have been eradicated over large areas.

"In several areas still being managed as game ranches illegal hunting is causing further declines of wildlife populations (including threatened species such as the wild dog Lycaon pictus and black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis), and threatening the viability of wildlife-based land uses."

The report also found 10,520 illegal hunting incidents recorded from August 2001 to July 2009 in the Save´ Valley Conservancy alone. It says 84,396 wire snares were removed while 4,148 poachers were caught in the same period. It said nearly 6 500 wild animals were butchered during this period and estimated the country's future financial losses from illegal hunting in the Save Conservancy to be in excess US$1.1 million year.

"Illegal hunters’ earnings account for 0.31–0.52% of the financial losses that they impose and the bushmeat trade is an inefficient use of wildlife resources. Illegal hunting peaks during the late dry season and is more frequent close to the boundary, near areas resettled during land reform and close to water. Illegal hunting with dogs peaks during moonlight periods."

The report identified they key drivers of the bushmeat trade in the South-East Lowveld as poverty, unemployment and food shortages, settlement of wildlife areas by impoverished communities that provided open access to wildlife resources, failure to provide stakes for communities in wildlife-based land uses, absence of affordable protein sources other than illegally sourced bushmeat, inadequate investment in anti-poaching in areas remaining under wildlife management and weak penal systems that do not provide sufficient deterrents to illegal bushmeat hunters

Prof Lindsay said their study goes further to highlight several management and land-use planning steps required to maximize the efficacy of anti-poaching and to reduce the likelihood of high impacts of illegal hunting in the country. He said for anti-poaching efforts could succeed only if they are aligned with the regular temporal and spatial patterns of illegal hunting.

Among the recommendations, the researchers said government should impose conditions to ensure that those who get leases for hunting and tourism concessions invest adequately in the national anti-poaching campaign.

They also called on the government to create legislation that bans the making of fences using wire that can be made into snares and cautioned that Land reform involving game ranches should integrate communities in wildlife-based land uses and ensure spatial separation between land for wildlife and human settlement.

"Means are required to create stake-holdings for communities in wildlife and disincentives for illegal hunting," Professor Lindsay said. Zimbabwe faces a serious poaching scourge that has decimated wildlife in conservancies across the country.

The Save Valley Conservancy, Hwange National Park and the Matopos National Park have been hardest hit by poaching. The country has lost 14 rhinos to poachers since the beginning of the year.

Source: AEP

Friday, June 17, 2011

South African leopard, cheetah fast running to extinction

The legal and illegal trade in Leopards and Cheetah is substantially impacting on populations of these two species. In December 2010 the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) arranged a workshop to determine whether current South African hunting quotas for Leopards and the lack of any hunting quotas for Cheetah in the country are justified. The final report from this workshop is now available.

The legal trade of Cheetah in South Africa is poorly regulated with some so-called ‘breeding centres’ sourcing their animals from the wild. The trade in live Cheetah in South Africa is fraught with irregularities and loop holes in the permitting system. The Conservation Breeding Specialist Group Southern Africa (CBSG) and the EWT held a Population Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA) for Cheetah in 2009. This workshop identified the removal of Cheetah through uncontrolled live trade and products, together with illegal hunting, as major threats to Cheetah survival on both a local and regional level.

In 2005 the EWT and the CBSG held a PHVA to evaluate the current status of Leopard in South Africa, collate all available data and make informed recommendations on the management and conservation of this species. It estimated that illegal local hunting accounted for 43% of annual Leopard harvest, and suggested that even small Leopard populations can withstand the occasional removal of animals if illegal hunting is eliminated. The Red Data Book of Mammals of south Africa lists the greatest threat to Leopards as being are hunting, trapping, poisoning and general persecution.

In 2004, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) quota for Leopard Panthera pardus hunting in South Africa was increased from 75 to 150 animals. This was done despite a lack of adequate information on the size and trends of the national Leopard population. Evidence suggests that a significant number of Leopards are also hunted illegally in South Africa.

South Africa does not have a CITES quota for Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus trophies, although sectors such as the wildlife ranching and trophy hunting industries, are calling for that to change. The largest part of South Africa’s Cheetah population occurs outside protected areas on privately owned cattle and wildlife ranches and as a result, conflict with landowners is common. Little is known about the status and growth trends of the Cheetah population in South Africa and the legal trade in live animals appears to be a major threat to Cheetah survival.
The CITES non‐detriment finding (NDF) assessment process is used to determine whether quotas of species affected by trade are justified. The December 2010 workshop, which was attended by 17 experts including scientists and government representatives, undertook an NDF assessment for Leopards and Cheetah. Both species listed are on CITES Appendix I, which states that trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Since there is an existing quota for trade in Leopards in South Africa, the process assessed the suitability of the current export quota for this species. For Cheetahs, the exercise assessed whether a CITES quota would be justified.
Recommendations from the workshop:

For Leopards the findings support ongoing retention of a quota of 150 trophy Leopards in South Africa, however this needs to be done with key interventions to:

• improve monitoring of trophy hunting;
• improve monitoring of other forms of harvest including illegal off-take of Leopards;
• improve and standardise data capture and reporting;
• implement monitoring of Leopard populations;
• develop a national management plan for Leopards; and
• improve relationships between stakeholders involved in managing and utilising Leopards.

For Cheetah it was found that it would be inadvisable to issue a quota for the species at this time
due to inadequate knowledge of the population size and population trends of this species, inadequate information on the scale and impacts of illegal harvesting (most notably illegal damage‐causing animal control and extraction of live wild animals for the captive trade), and a feeling that a quota for trophy hunting of Cheetah should not be issued until problems associated with the trophy hunting of Leopards are resolved. A number of recommendations were made for key interventions that are necessary before a Cheetah trophy hunting quota can be considered:

• An improved understanding of Cheetah abundance and trends in populations;
• Improving understanding of illegal off‐takes;
• Improve regulation of the captive industry; and
• Implementing improved systems for permitting and recording of Leopard hunting. Until problems associated with the trophy hunting of Leopards, which are a more common species, are resolved, trophy hunting of the much rarer Cheetah should not be considered.

The report findings have been presented to, and accepted by, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) Scientific Authority and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). Through these channels the findings will assist in the regulation of trade in Leopards and Cheetah on the CITES appendices going forward.

To address the trade threats to Leopards and Cheetah, the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Carnivore Conservation Programme, in conjunction with SANBI, is implementing a project to assess the scale and impacts of consumptive utilisation of Leopards and Cheetah, and their body parts. Programme Manager Kelly Marnewick says: “We plan to work closely with all stakeholders including government, NGOs and all other industry members, to ensure that trade in these two species is managed in a sustainable way and that the populations of these key species in South Africa thrive.”

This EWT’s Carnivore Conservation Programme promotes carnivore research with an emphasis on implementing sound management strategies. Its vision is to develop southern Africa into a region where carnivores are managed in an ecologically and economically sustainable way, free from irrational and unnecessary persecution.

The report was funded by Brenda Potter, The Meredith Bequest (in memory of Courtney & Margaret Meredith and Tony Harris), Menzo Cards, Scovill Zoo, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and Bob Boden. The venue was provided by the Johannesburg Zoological Gardens.

Source: Endangered Wildlife Trust (SA)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Meet Obama the rhino

by Bonnie Allen

Obama, all two thousand pounds of him, stands next to his mother. He’s grey, with stumpy legs, a wide mouth, and two horns on his snout.

Obama is a two-year-old rhinoceros. He lives at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in central Uganda, where he gets secret-service style protection.

Robert Ayiko, a ranger, leads the way through tall grass and dense bush.
Ayiko, who’s dressed in a green camouflage army uniform, has a machine gun slung across his shoulder.

“This is AK-47. The magazine carries 30 rounds,” he said. “Poachers also carry guns. They are our enemies now. If we are lucky to see them first, we can catch them or shoot them.”

Ayiko, a retired soldier in charge of security here, has orders to shoot if he finds an armed poacher inside the rhino sanctuary.

Suddenly, he cups his fingers over his mouth and whistles to alert Obama’s babysitters that we’re approaching. “It’s better than radios,” Ayiko said.

“Poachers also carry guns. They are our enemies now" (Photo: Bonnie Allen)

Obama was the first rhino born in Uganda in 27 years. He got his name because, like the U.S. president, his father is from Kenya, and his mother from America. She was donated by the Disney Animal Kingdom.

“The mother is too aggressive,” Ayiko said. “Obama is just taking the character of the mother. Because the mother is too aggressive, Obama is really protected.”

This 30-square-mile rhino sanctuary has armed guards, perimeter foot patrols, an electric fence, and constant monitoring.

All this security is to stop a repeat of history. All of Uganda’s rhinos – hundreds of them – were killed by poachers in the early 1980s. Rhino horn, which is made of thickly matted hair and keratin, is a precious commodity. One pound of ground rhino horn can fetch $40,000. In Asia, it’s used in traditional medicines to treat headaches and fever.

“It’s ridiculous,” says Angie Genade, executive director of Rhinofund Uganda, who dismisses the idea that rhino horn has any medicinal qualities.

Genade said there’s market for rhino horn in China, Vietnam, and also the Middle East. “Yemen uses rhino horn as dagger handles. It’s a status symbol,” she said. “The price of rhino horn is worth more per ounce than gold right now.”

Genade said that rhino poaching has reached an all-time high.

“South Africa lost 333 rhinos last year to poaching. This year – up to end of April – 140 rhinos,” she said. She added that poachers now are using helicopters. “It’s just become so professional. It’s become a very lucrative business.”

Six years ago, Rhinofund Uganda flew in six southern white rhinos to start a breeding program. Since then, four babies have been born, and two adult females are pregnant again. The latest rhino born there was Obama’s younger sister. She’s the first female rhino born in Uganda in 30 years.

The rhino sanctuary – with all its security – costs more than $400,000 a year. Tourists, who arrive daily to see the rhinos, now cover two thirds of that.

But Genade is worried about the rhinos’ future. In a few years, Obama and some of the other rhinos will be moved out of the sanctuary into a national park. Uganda’s parks have little security. Elephants and lions are frequently poached. And rhinos outside of protected areas rarely survive.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

South Africa: Special intelligence unit set up to crack poaching scourge

A specialised intelligence and policing unit has been appointed to crack down on poaching syndicates that are decimating South Africa's rhino population.

The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure, or Natjoints, the same team that controlled security and intelligence measures during last year's World Cup and quelled a 2009 outbreak of xenophobic violence has now begun working on bringing a swift end to poaching.

National police spokesperson, Sally De Beer, says they have been called in amid fears that poaching levels in the country have spiralled out of control - with an estimated one rhino being killed every day. She says they have started in the Kruger National Park, and have already arrested two poachers. She says breakthroughs in KZN are expected soon.

"We have activated our provincial joint operational and intelligence structure, and similar operations will be launched throughout the country in all the government-owned and private game reserves," she said.

"We know that KZN has a problem, and we have had an arrest and conviction from your province lately, so we are very hopeful that we are going to get on top of this crime trend."

Source: Eastcoast Radio

Poachers arrested in Swazi rhino killing

Poachers arrested in Swazi rhino killing

Swazi police have arrested two suspected poachers in connection with the country’s first rhino killing in 20 years, a spokeswoman said.

A traditional healer and his nephew were arrested after rangers at Hlane Royal National Park at the weekend discovered a female white rhino lying in a pool of blood with its horn hacked off, police spokeswoman Wendy Hleta said.

“We have enough evidence to charge these two for now,” she told AFP.

Mike Richardson, spokesman for the company that runs Swaziland’s national parks, said it was difficult to quantify the loss.

“She is a breeding animal and represents a sizeable percentage of our rhino population. What is probably more damaging is that our defences have been cracked. That air of invincibility has taken a hammering.”

He added that weapons found with the alleged poachers looked “as if the rifles were brought in from over the border. They seem to be pretty high tech. The horn is believed to have moved into South Africa.”

Swaziland does not release the size of its rhino population, but conservationists have put the number at around 100.

Demand for the horn is fuelled by its use in Asian traditional medicine. Poaching has soared in neighbouring South Africa, home to 21,000 rhinos, with one of the animals killed almost every day last year.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ex-cop, Zim trainee professional hunter in court for rhino poaching

A SUSPECTED poacher hunting black rhino was happy to be found after he was charged down by elephants and stalked by lions, a Victoria Falls court heard.

Nkululeko Sibanda allegedly sang like a canary after his arrest at Nakavango Estate in July last year.

He led a combined force of local police and rangers from the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) to a house in Chinotimba township where four other suspects had taken refuge.

An AK47 rifle allegedly used in poaching activities was recovered. On Monday, a court adjourned to June the trial of Mike Tichaona Mahanzu, Nkululeko Sibanda, Sifiso Sibanda, Tembo Tshuma and Zambian national, Emmanuel Namusa, who face a combined sentence of 100 years if convicted of poaching and firearms offences.

Magistrate Peter Madiba heard how a disoriented Sibanda was rescued by rangers after a face-off with elephants and lions while out hunting black rhino for a pre-arranged South African buyer.

The other four men allegedly made good their escape, leaving him behind. He spent the night being stalked by lions and elephants before being found the following morning.

Nakavango Estate, previously known as the Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve, is the site of Rani Resorts’ Stanley and Livingstone Hotel. Through a partnership with Rani, it is also home to the Ranger Training Academy of the non-profit IAPF which recruits, trains, equips and deploys game rangers throughout the country.

The IAPF, in a statement, said poaching had not assumed a “disturbing trend” with individuals working in the wildlife industry growingly being implicated in poaching. Mahanzu is a former member of the ZRP Support Unit based at Nakavango Estate while Sifiso Sibanda was training to be a professional hunter.

Conservationists say 14 black rhino have been gunned down by poachers in game sanctuaries across Zimbabwe since the beginning of the year.

Last year, the country’s black rhino population, which numbers around 600, had a -6% growth rate. In April, the Director of National Parks and Wildlife, Vitalis Chadenga, claimed that between January 2010 and March 2011, 2,572 people had been arrested for poaching.

Source: New

Mozambican soldiers arrested for poaching in South Africa

Police believe that an international poaching syndicate employing Mozambican soldiers is behind the killing of at least 50 rhinos across SA this year, says a Cape Argus report.

This follows a shootout with police early on Friday morning, when two men were killed and a third injured at a private game reserve near the Kruger National Park. According to the report, a police source said they arrested seven people, including the wounded suspect, who had been put under police guard at a hospital in Mpumalanga.

Police said they uncovered the suspected syndicate after receiving a tip-off that a gang was planning to poach rhinos at the private game reserve. The nine-man alleged poacher gang, which is thought to be part of a larger poaching syndicate, is believed to have been staking out the game park for several weeks, according to a source.

The report quotes a police officer as saying: 'During initial investigations we discovered that seven of the suspects are from Mozambique, with two of them apparently being members of the Mozambican Defence Force.'

The report notes that the suspected poachers are due to appear in court soon on charges of possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition.

And, in more rhino conservation news, an impassioned plea to stop the wildlife slaughter has brought rhino activists and a SA artist together for one of the biggest anti-poaching campaigns in SA's wildlife history.

Source: Legal Brief (SA)

US$13.6 million for elephant, rhino conservation

Washington, DC --( The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) awarded over $13.6 million in Multinational Species Conservation grant funding for 216 projects in 2010 through its Wildlife Without Borders program to provide support for conservation efforts for Asian and African elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, great apes, and marine turtles around the globe.

In recognition of an unprecedented international decline of certain flagship species, the U.S. Congress established the Multinational Species Conservation Funds, which are dedicated to saving some of the world’s fastest disappearing and most treasured animals in their natural habitats.

The Service administers these funds through the Wildlife Without Borders Species Programs, awarding grants to efforts aimed at conserving globally-valued endangered species found outside U.S. borders.

“These grants provide vital support for the conservation of some of the world’s most endangered and charismatic animals.” said Service’s acting Director Rowan Gould.

The funds help support community conservation efforts, anti-poaching and law enforcement initiatives, mitigation of human-wildlife conflicts and capacity building, monitoring and evaluation, outreach and education, promoting wildlife health, partnership building and protected area management, along with a wide variety of other essential conservation activities.

In 2010, the multinational species conservation funds were used to leverage over $18 million in matching funds resulting in over $33 million being provided to help to conserve African and Asian elephants, rhinos, tigers, great apes and marine turtles throughout the world.

Examples of these projects include: providing emergency protection to African elephants in Gabon by implementing training programs and supplies for anti-poaching missions; translocating rhinos from an area of high human-wildlife conflict to Manas National Park in India; mitigating the impacts of roads on tigers and their prey to reduce casualties in Malaysia; improving law enforcement and monitoring of Asian elephants to reduce poaching in Thailand; protecting and safeguarding the largest known population of eastern chimpanzees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and protecting hawksbill marine turtle nesting populations in Nicaragua through beach patrols and nest monitoring.