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.

Rare white rhino butchered as Swaziland records first poaching case in 20 years

CONDOLENCES from the country and many parts of the world are pouring into the Big Game Parks following the brutal killing of a 2 000 kilogram, rare white rhino which was found dead and de-horned on World Environment Day (Sunday) morning at Hlane.

This was disclosed by Big Game Parks’ Tourism Executive Michael Richardson, who said since the news of the death of the rhino were released, a lot of people both from and outside the conservation front had written to them expressing their condolences and disgust at this wanton waste of the country’s wildlife heritage.

“It has been very touching while also spurring us to work harder to ensure that this rhino will be the last that will go to the poachers. It has also strengthened our resolve to ensure that the culprit(s) are found and brought to book. We hope and believe that with such support, we will be successful in our quest,” he said.

Richardson explained that the country’s record of strict and tough anti-poaching laws had to be protected at all costs while also acknowledging that those responsible better be aware of the risks and consequences they had placed themselves in.

He said the country had a proud record in rhino protection spanning to close to 20 years and recognised the world over. “For example, in neighbouring South Africa, 330 rhinos were murdered in 2010, while already 150 had been killed this year, and that this is the first and only rhino to be killed in Swaziland in the past 20 years is a record every Swazi had to be proud of.”

Richardson explained that they could not rule out any outside influence in the murder, saying foreigners, could have thought Swaziland was a soft target for rhino poaching. He continued that whatever the case, local involvement could only be as a result of coaxing by outsiders.

“There is nowhere in the country a rhino horn can be sold, so local involvement could be a result of outside encouragement. But we are still exploring leads and cannot yet exactly say who could be involved while it was important that we look at all possibilities,” he said.

The Big Game Parks have put up an award of E10 000 to any person who can produce evidence that could lead to a conviction over the rhino murder.

On the other hand, Hlane MP Mduduzi Magagula also stated that he did not believe locals could be wholly involved in the grisly murder. The MP, whose constituency borders the Hlane Game Reserve, observed that residents only poached buck and Impala, from which they hoped to get meat to feed their families. He was adamant that South Africans could have come and used locals who had knowledge as to which part of the reserve the rhinos habited.

“But the truth is that the attack of the animals at the reserve is a direct attack on the Swazi national heritage. This is why the police and all concerned should not rest till the culprits are found and punished. I cannot dispute that locals used to poach rhinos, but that was long ago and they had since learnt their lesson, while realising the importance of such a heritage. Overall, I also send my condolences to Big Game Parks over such a sad development,” he said.

Source: Swazi Observer

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

African merchant of death 1: Ukraine

Ukraine has consistently been among the 10 largest arms exporters in the world during the past two decades.

An estimated 18 per cent of Ukrainian arms exports during 2005–2009 were for recipients in sub-Saharan Africa, specifically to Kenya (or Southern Sudan), Chad, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Ukraine has supplied surplus aircraft, tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery, SALW and ammunition to armed forces in sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, Ukrainian companies and individuals have supplied other services related to arms transfers and participated in combat missions for African armed forces.

Concerns have been raised in recent years regarding Ukrainian arms exports to Africa. Ukrainian-supplied arms have been used by government forces against armed groups in Chad, the DRC and Equatorial Guinea in recent years, with Ukraine continuing deliveries to Chad and the DRC.

Ukrainian, Kenyan and Southern Sudanese officials deny that Ukrainian deliveries of tanks, artillery and ammunition to Kenya have been re-exported to Southern Sudan, despite evidence to the contrary.

Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

Footnote: We believe that these are the same arms that end up being used to slaughter elephants and rhinos where there are no more Africans to be shot. Let us tell Ukraine to stop being a merchant of death and remind them that their economy is far too dead that they cannot hope to shore it up by peddling death into Africa.

SADC defence chiefs to discuss maritime security

The chiefs of the armed forces of the Southern African Development Community will be meeting next week in South Africa to discuss a maritime safety strategy for the regional bloc in light of the increased probability of piracy and other crime at sea in its territorial and adjacent waters.

“The South African government will work with all SADC countries to fight piracy, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu said yesterday at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on piracy and trans-border crime. “ This is our obligation to ensure smooth movement of goods in the SADC waters. We continue to work with all SADC countries and institutions to address piracy,” Sisulu said in Pretoria.

She also committed to again meeting her counterpart Filipe Jacinto Nyussi next month and a joint exercise in Mozambique and South African waters before September.

The MoU partnership and cooperation include joint training, the sharing of information and intelligence as well as joint patrols and “ongoing support in military developments”. Sisulu's office added the MoU will see South Africa and Mozambique “working together for the promotion of maritime security in SADC’s Indian Ocean, with particular emphasis on the Mozambique Channel extending to the broader SADC waters.”

At the signing ceremony, the ministers agreed that SADC countries must work together to stop piracy, which has the potential to negatively affect SADC trade and movements of goods.

“The government and people of Mozambique sent me to extend their appreciation of our cooperation and partnership. It is true what affects Mozambique also affects South Africa and we are committed to working with the SANDF in fighting piracy on SADC waters,” Nyussi said. “We also need to build stronger ties with all other countries within SADC in order to fight piracy effectively.”

Cabinet mandated the South African Department of Defence in February to develop a maritime security strategy following an incident of piracy in Mozambican waters in December. The strategy was approved by Cabinet last month.

The Joint Operations Division of the South African National Defence Force deployed the SA Navy frigate SAS Mendi and air assets to Mozambique in March to conduct patrols and gather intelligence as part of Operation Hopper. The Mendi has since been relieved by the SAS Amatola.

Secretary for Defence Mpumi Mpofu said the short- and medium-term goals of the strategy are deterrence and enforcement of state authority at sea. “This will be the deployment of maritime surface and air assets in SADC waters to extend deterrence beyond South African waters.”

Piracy was a source of serious concern as it had an effect on the country and region’s ability to trade, the Pretoria News says. “With 30% of the world’s oil supply passing round the Cape (and) through the Mozambique Channel, piracy lies at the heart of South Africa and the region’s maritime security,” Mpofu said.

“There are many challenges, including the vastness of the areas affected. In 2005 the reach of pirates was 165 nautical miles off the coast, but now it is 1300 nautical miles.”

The global economic cost of piracy was an estimated US$12 billion (about R81 billion) a year, Mpofu said. Naval forces were spending US$2 billion per annum fighting piracy, she said. Ransoms cost an estimated US$148 million a year, the prosecution of pirates US$31 million, and the cost to regional economies is $1.25 billion.

South Africa’s approach will include engaging the Somali transitional federal government through the African Union, lobbying the international community to strengthen the AU Mission in Somalia, and seeking a regional SADC response to piracy, the Pretoria News added.

The meeting also noted cases of rhino poaching incidents in the Kruger National Park and called on law enforcement officers of both countries to work closer to stop rhino poaching. The ministers sent a warning to poachers that both governments have declared war on poachers.

South Africa and Mozambique will work closely in all military matters and cooperate in protecting the SADC waters and the trade that operates from there. Sisulu added that the assets of the SANDF are available to fight piracy and all cross border crimes.

Meanwhile, the Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique yesterday reported Norway's State Secretary in the Foreign Ministry, Erik Lahnstein, said in Maputo on Monday that his nation was keen to help patrol the coast of Mozambique to help fight piracy.

Speaking at a workshop on "Piracy in the Indian Ocean" organised by the Norwegian Embassy, Lahnstein said his country intended to support East African coastal states in fighting this problem.

"I have visited countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Seychelles and Mauritius all of whom have problems related with piracy", he said. "Norway wants to help these African countries in combating piracy, as we know that it may cause catastrophic effects for the economy of their countries, so we will patrol the entire Indian Ocean".

According to Lahnstein, Norway has been supporting Mozambique in combating crime and piracy through a trust fund of 30 million Norwegian crowns (about US$5.6 million, R38.1 million) allocated to the United Nations for this purpose.

AIM added Lahnstein said that, sometime between September and December, a maritime station will be set up in an east African country yet to be defined (but which could well be Mozambique) that will act as a base for sea and air patrols, scouring the Indian ocean for signs of pirate activity. Thus as from about October, Norwegian air force planes are likely to be patrolling the Mozambican coast, AIM added.

"We haven't yet decided in which country we should place these resources, but since Mozambique is one of the countries that are on the pirates' route, and is committed to fighting against this phenomenon, it is probably here that patrol planes will be stationed", said the Norwegian official, cited in Tuesday's issue of the independent newsheet "Mediafax".

The workshop was intended to examine the measures and practices that are being taken at global, regional and national levels to combat piracy and to assess the measures taken by other nations to address this problem.

AIM noted that on December 27 pirates seized the Mozambican fishing vessel "Vega 5" with a crew of 19 Mozambicans, three Indonesians and two Spaniards. The pirates took the ship to Somalia, turned it into a pirate "mother ship", and used it in attacks against merchant shipping in the Arabian Sea.

An Indian anti-pirate patrol engaged the "Vega 5" in a gun battle on March 12, overwhelming the pirates and setting free 13 of the original crew - 12 Mozambicans and one Indonesian.

“The other seven Mozambican and two Indonesians are missing at sea, presumed drowned.” The two Spaniards were released last month after the pirates were paid what was described in the Spanish media as "a multi-million dollar ransom".

Source: Defence Web

SA winning war against rhino poachers??

South African Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife yesterday said it was pleased with the low number of rhino reported poached in the province but insisted that it was "too early to claim victory".
Current Font Size:

The conservation group said the province was the least affected last year, with only 39 losses from the 333 rhinos which were poached across the country. The statistics from South African National Parks showed that the Kruger National Park led with 146 losses, followed by North West at 57 and Limpopo with 52.

Ezemvelo spokesman Maureen Zimu said only nine rhinos were poached in the province this year, with seven poached from the conservation area and two from private parks. Zimu said two arrests were made and firearms confiscated. The suspects were still to be tried.

She said Ezemvelo's current programme, involving communities and the appointment of ''rhino cops" to report any suspicious activities, was proving to be crucial in curbing future poaching.

"Poachers strike at any time and without warning. We are encouraged that the statistics show that we are working hard to protect the animals . [It] indicates that we are winning a war against this heinous act," said Zimu.

She said one of the group's plans to further strengthen its campaign was the appointment of Jabulani Ngubane, who holds the position of rhino security intervention co-ordinator. Zimu said Ngubane was working around the clock with other law-enforcement agencies in a bid to tighten rhino security.

"White rhinos are in much greater demand than the black ones because of their natural behaviour. Black rhinos are dangerous and charge at the sight of a threat, whereas white [rhinos] are friendly, which is advantageous for the poachers and they seem to be aware of it," said Zimu.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesman Brigadier Phindile Radebe said they were working closely with the Ezemvelo to arrest poachers.

South Africa: Rhino poachers escaped from police custody

Police have appealed for help in catching three suspected rhino poachers who escaped from the holding cells at the Badplaas police station three months ago.

The three – Lucky Maseko, 28, Mduduzi Mathebula, 23, and Joseph Sifunda, 40 – escaped after allegedly cutting through cell bars on March 18, said police spokesperson Lt-Col Leonard Hlathi.

“The three were awaiting trial when they escaped from jail. The bars were cut open and the three accused escaped,” said Hlathi.

Mandla Khoza and Masoka Dube

Police have appealed for help in catching three suspected rhino poachers who escaped from the holding cells at the Badplaas police station three months ago.

The three – Lucky Maseko, 28, Mduduzi Mathebula, 23, and Joseph Sifunda, 40 – escaped after allegedly cutting through cell bars on March 18, said police spokesperson Lt-Col Leonard Hlathi.

“The three were awaiting trial when they escaped from jail. The bars were cut open and the three accused escaped,” said Hlathi.

They were facing charges of poaching and the illegal possession of firearms and were due to appear at the Carolina Magistrate’s Court.

“We do not know how they gained access to the tools they used to saw through the bars.”

He advised the public not to approach the three but to contact the police if they saw the men.

Mpumalanga, which is home to some of the country’s premier game reserves, has recently experienced a surge in rhino poaching, a problem that is on the increase countrywide.

The South African National Parks (SANParks) has also appealed to the public to help put those involved in rhino poaching behind bars.

Parks spokesperson Wanda Mkutshulwa said whistle-blowers should feel free to come forward, even if the evidence implicated SANParks officials.

“No cow is bigger than others, so if the evidence points to some of the parks officials, they will be investigated,” said Mkutshulwa.

She said the evidence needed to be concrete, however, to ensure an arrest and conviction.

She warned that baseless allegations would not be entertained and stressed that, to date, no parks officials or rangers had been found to be part of the poaching problem.

Mkutshulwa said anyone with information about rhino poaching should phone the nearest park or report the matter to police.

On May 19 three suspected poachers were shot dead by soldiers patrolling the Kruger National Park.

Mkutshulwa said more than 159 rhinos had been killed in the Kruger this year. She said private rhino owners were losing a lot of money due to the rampant killing of white and black rhino.

According to SANParks, 333 rhino were killed in South Africa last year. In 2009, 122 rhino were killed in the country, compared to only 13 that were poached in 2007.

In September, an official report implicated two senior Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) officials in rhino poaching in the province.

MTPA chief executive Charles Ndabeni implicated top officials in a report submitted to the former economic development and environmental affairs MEC Jabu Mahlangu.

The report has never been made public. – AENS

They were facing charges of poaching and the illegal possession of firearms and were due to appear at the Carolina Magistrate’s Court.

“We do not know how they gained access to the tools they used to saw through the bars.”

He advised the public not to approach the three but to contact the police if they saw the men.

Mpumalanga, which is home to some of the country’s premier game reserves, has recently experienced a surge in rhino poaching, a problem that is on the increase countrywide.

The South African National Parks (SANParks) has also appealed to the public to help put those involved in rhino poaching behind bars.

Parks spokesperson Wanda Mkutshulwa said whistle-blowers should feel free to come forward, even if the evidence implicated SANParks officials.

“No cow is bigger than others, so if the evidence points to some of the parks officials, they will be investigated,” said Mkutshulwa.

She said the evidence needed to be concrete, however, to ensure an arrest and conviction.

She warned that baseless allegations would not be entertained and stressed that, to date, no parks officials or rangers had been found to be part of the poaching problem.

Mkutshulwa said anyone with information about rhino poaching should phone the nearest park or report the matter to police.

On May 19 three suspected poachers were shot dead by soldiers patrolling the Kruger National Park.

Mkutshulwa said more than 159 rhinos had been killed in the Kruger this year. She said private rhino owners were losing a lot of money due to the rampant killing of white and black rhino.

According to SANParks, 333 rhino were killed in South Africa last year. In 2009, 122 rhino were killed in the country, compared to only 13 that were poached in 2007.

In September, an official report implicated two senior Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) officials in rhino poaching in the province.

MTPA chief executive Charles Ndabeni implicated top officials in a report submitted to the former economic development and environmental affairs MEC Jabu Mahlangu.

The report has never been made public. – AENS

SANDF arrests four more poachers

The South African National Defence Force has arrested four more poachers. The military says two were arrested in the Kruger National Park (KNP) on the north-eastern border with Mozambique while the other two were detained in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

The SANDF in a statement says the first two alleged poachers were apprehended in the Ndololwanini area of the park at 10am on Friday. “One of the alleged suspected poachers armed with an AK47 allegedly pointed the soldiers on foot patrol with the rifle, was shot and wounded on the right foot,” the statement added.

The suspects were handed to the South African Police Service at Skukuza area. They had in their possession an AK47, with a magazine and twenty three rounds, CZ550 hunting rifle, nine rounds, axe, knife and three rhino horns.

In a separate incident early on Sunday, troops and police conducted “a planned operation” in and around Belfast Trust in KZN. While thus engaged, two suspect poachers were arrested. “It is alleged that these suspects have been involved in poaching activities in- an around the KNP area during the month of May.”

The SANDF deployed a company (about 165 troops) into the KNP in April after an absence of several years. Some 333 rhinos were killed in South African parks 2010, 122 in 2009 and 83 in 2008, versus only ten being killed in South Africa’s parks in 2007. Some 159 have already been gunned down this year.

The surge in the number of rhinos killed follows an increase in the demand for rhino horn in Vietnamese and Chinese traditional medicine, despite the fact that the horn contains no medicinal properties as it consists of keratin, the same material human finger nails and hair is made up of.

Researchers say that some people in Vietnam believe that rhino horn can cure cancer. As Asia’s rhino population has been pushed to the brink of extinction by hunting and deforestation, consumers have been looking to South Africa to meet their demands.

According to the WWF, South Africa has more than 80% of Africa’s total rhino population. Former Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Buyelwa Sonjica, last year said South Africa had around 19 000 white and 1750 black rhinos.

In military says in cases where rhino-poaching manifests as a cross-border crime activity, the SANDF will act against it within the framework of its present mandate in terms of Section 18(1)(d) of the Defence Act of 2002.

“The SANDF contributes and plays a very critical role in the curbing of rhino-poaching as part of their support to SAN Parks along the Kruger National Park which borders the neighbouring countries. The Constitution stipulates that the SANDF shall protect the territorial integrity and safeguarding the sovereignty of the republic. In this regard, the SANDF is in the Kruger National Park to ensure that this mandate is carried out.”

Since returning to the KNP, soldiers have scored several successes against poachers. Late last month soldiers shot and wounded three poachers in the Houtbosrand area north of the Olifants River. All three later died.

“The poachers fired on the SANDF soldiers who returned fire,” spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Marinda Meyer said at the time. “An AK47 rifle, one Bruno .458 hunting rifle, two axes and two cell phones were found in their possession.”

In April SA Army soldiers deployed in the KNP arrested four Mozambican nationals, also for suspected poaching. They were in possession of a hunting rifle, cell phones, binoculars and axe.

The SANDF is currently deployed along stretches of the Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho borders. At the end of the financial year 2012/13 the SANDF hopes to patrol the entire 4471 kilometres frontier between South Africa and Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, and Lesotho.

Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu has warned poachers that the military will return fire in the KNP and other areas along the border. “The SANDF will do anything to protect our national asserts, we will not allow criminals to do as they wish in our parks, we also want to send a very strong message that poachers who shoot at soldiers must know that we will return fire with fire”, the minister said.

Source: Defence Web

Involve African elephant range communities in conservation, CITES told

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe - The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation says the conservation of endangered animal species in Africa can succeed only if the benefits are shared equally with the rural communities which live side by side with the wild animals.

Addressing delegates to a European Commission (EC) wildlife conservation reform meeting which sought ways of co-opting practical guideline from the Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBRNM) wildlife conservation model into the existing Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conservation model, ICGWC expert conservationist Rolf Baldus said severe restrictions on the culling of elephants and trade in endangered species as imposed by CITES should be relaxed to ensure that rural communities which suffer huge losses annually to wild animals share the benefits of local conservation programmes.

“CITES decisions must take into account the needs of rural people, who live side by side with the wildlife that we want to conserve. In the long run it will be impossible to protect wildlife against the interests of rural people who bear the costs, but rarely get the benefits of conservation.

"They have the means to exterminate the endangered species and can do so if it improves their living conditions and if we neglect them. Total protection restrictions such as those imposed by CITES will become counter-productive to the protection of animals if they continue to violate the interests of rural people,” said Baldus.

He said the sustainable hunting of species like elephant, lion, leopard and other game can provide considerable revenues for conservation while improving the livelihoods of the poor rural subsistence farmers who are always the losers in the worsening human-animal conflict.

"Total protection of wildlife which can be selectively and sustainably hunted does not support its survival. If no mechanism is found that better represents the interests of rural people at CITES, the Convention will fall short of its objectives in the case of a number of high profile species. As a consequence this will also adversely affect their habitats, which they share with thousands of other species which are not even listed for protection in the Convention," Baldus added.

The human-animal conflict remains a serious problem in Zimbabwe where communities living adjacent to game sanctuaries suffer heavy crop losses annually to rhinos, elephants, buffalo and other small game while carnivores like lions, hyenas, leopard, and wild dogs hunt down their livestock.

In areas bordering the Hwange National Park, there are many cases where humans have been mauled or trampled to death as they try to scare the animals off their fields.

Despite having a huge and largely uncontrolled wild elephant population which is in perpetual conflict with its human neighbours, the CITES regulations forbid Zimbabwe from culling the beasts.

As part of a strict 'total protection' conservation policy which is aimed at allowing the elephant population to grow after heavy poaching which decimated it between 1980 and 1992, CITES banned Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania and Kenya from trading in elephant products.

More than 60 participants from governments, non-governmental organisations and community-based project leaders from across the world attended the special EC session which was held in Vienna, Austria last late last week.

Source: African Environmental Police

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chinese syndicates wiping out African elephants, rhinos

NAIROBI - China’s influence in East Africa is fueling an upsurge in elephant poaching, gunrunning, and corruption according to a report on U.K. television Friday.

A Channel 4 reporter spoke to people in villages and cities, wildlife managers, rangers, government officials, and illegal ivory sellers in Kenya and Tanzania—all of whom said China is the main buyer of banned ivory.

Filmed secretly, sellers told the journalist from Unreported World that during a presidential visit from Chinese Communist Party leader Hu Jintao in 2009, two hundred kilos of ivory was bought by Chinese diplomats and taken out of Tanzania.

The sellers did not say if Hu knew of the trade, but did say that a prominent diplomat from the Chinese Embassy frequently bought large amounts of ivory from them.

Kooky Gorman owns a wildlife park in Kenya. Accompanied by armed rangers, she took the reporter to many spots in her park, where elephant carcasses rotted, their heads split open to make it easy to saw the tusks off.

Many hides showed multiple bullet holes. The lead ranger said the killers had used AK47 automatic weapons to spray herds. The shootings were indiscriminate, killing young and old.

Gorman said the weapons were bought from neighboring Somalia where the civil war has continued since 1991.

The intensity of the poaching has been increasing for the past two years. In 2007 six elephants were poached from her park. In 2008, twenty-eight were poached. Fifty-seven were poached in 2009.

She says there is a threat of elephant extinction.

The Kenya Wildlife Service has strong rooms full of tusks and carved ivory taken during raids and confiscated at Nairobi airport. It has about 65 tons to 70 tons estimated at $10 million.

The U.N. recently rejected Zambia and Tanzania’s request to hold a one-off sale for their ivory stockpile, valued of approximately $15 million.

Since trade in ivory was stopped in 1989, some countries have been allowed to do a small amount of business in ivory if they have good conservation measures. Zambia and Tanzania are currently prohibited from any trade in ivory. The International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) annual meeting in Doha disregarded arguments that the sale could help police wildlife parks and stop the burden of protecting the horde of ivory.

Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania has 40,000 elephants.

On the TV program, a police informant who lived nearby in a village known for its illegal ivory deals said armed groups of 30 often came from Dara Salam in Senegal to take back ivory in 440-to-660-pound batches. (An average tusk weighs about 4.4 pounds.)

The informant, whose face was not shown for fear of reprisals, had had his house burned down recently.

Another man, who did not want to be identified as he had received death threats, was a safari operator who brings tourists to the Selous Reserve. “I think the wildlife department knows exactly what’s going on here,” he said. “There are some members of the games department who are poaching to supplement their pay and feed their families.”

He said he thinks movers are coming from China and the Far East to take bones and that they are in collusion with local authorities.

He said they could not get through the 15 to 20 policed roadblocks without help from “some very well-placed people.”

One illegal dealer said he had friends in airport security. “It’s no problem with money,” he told the reporter. “If you have money, it’s easy.”

There is a small industry carving the poached ivory for the East Asian trade. “Many people from China come and buy,” he said. There is a market for trinkets, seals, and chopsticks.

Chinese regime officials told Unreported World that they are against the illegal ivory trade and that Chinese diplomats did not illegally purchase or export ivory by misusing diplomatic immunity in 2009.

Most villagers have stood by while violence around the poaching continues. They felt threatened and were unable to prevent the elephant deaths. Now, many see tourism as the main way they can earn a living, so they are protecting the animals and habitat as much as they can.

Source: The Epoch Times

Southern Africa: Rhino Poaching a Concern to the Region

DEPUTY Namibian Prime Minister Marco Hausiku has warned that cross-border rhino poaching could reverse the big success made in rhino protection in southern Africa.

"Rhino poaching is a cause for concern for all the range states and it needs all our attention and focus to address it," said Hausiku when he opened a meeting of SADC ministers responsible for natural resources, wildlife, fisheries and forestry in Windhoek yesterday morning.

Hausiku said the region was successful in bringing rhino species back from the brink of extinction, but it looks like poaching is going to reverse this success.

He said cross-border environmental crimes in southern Africa are becoming problematic as they erode the gains made over the past decade.