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.