Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ex-policeman, accomplices get total of 24 years in jail for elephant poisoning

A former Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officer, who connived with four villagers and poisoned to death 23 elephants using cyanide was Monday sentenced to four years in prison for disposing hazardous substances and illegal possession of ivory, by a court in the northern town of Hwange
. However, magistrate Lindiwe Maphosa remanded William Ncube, 53, to a later date on another case of illegal possession of ivory where he is being charged without two of his accomplices because he pleaded not guilty to the charge. Accomplices Sikhumbuzo Sibindi, of Fatima Village and Elvis Nkomo of Bhangale Village all from Chief Mabhikwa in Lupane who were also slapped with four-year prison sentences each for violating sections of the Environmental Management Act. Two other accomplices who pleaded guilty to illegal possession of ivory, Mkhululi Ncube, 36, and Johannes Munkombwe, 29, were each slapped with 10 year prison sentences for committing the offence. The two were further slapped with four years each for violating the EMA Act and were also ordered to pay the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority $850,000 compensation for the 20 elephants they killed. The poisoning took place between August last year and last month at Ngamo Forest and the elephants they killed together with the tusks were valued at $1,1 million. Ncube was implicated by his accomplices as the supplier of the cyanide. On the other hand, Ncube told police investigators that he was introduced into the act by some people some of them in Government departments. The five mixed cyanide with water and put it in buckets which they deposited in the bush where the elephants drank. In August last year Ncube took out two tusks of elephants and in September this year he killed three jumbos using water laced with cyanide. He went on to kill two more elephants last month in connivance with Sibindi and Nkomo. Mkhululi Ncube and Munkombwa received an undisclosed quantity of cyanide from Ncube and using the same modus operandi, killed 20 elephants and took away 34 tusks. About 5.67 kgs of cyanide was recovered at Munkombwa's homestead while 4kgs was recovered at Ncube's homestead buried in a kraal. Sibindi, Nkomo, Mkhululi Ncube and Munkombwa said Ncube had promised them money. A statement by an official from the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority which is included in the record showed that a total of 149 jumbos have been poisoned and killed by poachers from February this year to date.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tanzanian security forces intercept 50kg of elephant ivory

Zanzibari defence and security forces have seized a container full of elephant tusks which was in transit to overseas. The ivory was impounded at Malindi port of Zanzibar, Tanzania’s semi-autonomous region by the anti-smuggling force in collaboration with intelligence officers after they received a tip-off. The container was filled with plastic bags, each containing about 50 kg of ivory. It was impounded a week after Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said that poaching of elephants in Tanzania was alarming and vowed that no stone will be left unturned in the hunt for poachers. According to the latest figures, poachers kill an estimated 30 elephants every day in Tanzania. The number of elephants in the country has dropped from 130,000 in 2002 to 109,000 in 2009, and wildlife experts have warned that the entire population could be wiped out by 2020 if the poaching continues. Source: Wildlife Extra

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Kenyan police gun down two poachers

Two suspected poachers have been gunned down by security personnel at Matigari in Laikipia West sub-county. Speaking to the Star yesterday, Laikipia county police boss Angelus Karuru said the two were tracked from Ol Pejeta Conservancy at 12.30am. A gun, four bullets and a motorcycle were recovered. "Two Kenya police reservists at the conservancy spotted the suspects and pursued them," Karuru said. After an hour's chase, the reservists caught up with the suspects at Matigari where a shootout ensued. Karuru said police officers from Rumuruti police station heard the gunshots and proceeded to the scene. The bodies of the unidentified suspects were taken to Nyahururu District Hospital mortuary.Karuru urged residents to volunteer information that could lead to the arrest of more criminals. Mid last month, Kenya Wildlife Service rangers shot dead a suspected poacher and injured another at the neighbouring Solio ranch in Laikipia Central sub-county. Mountain Region Conservancy assistant director Aggrey Maumo said a gang of three suspected poachers had gained entry into the ranch with an aim of killing a rhino. He said one of them, believed to be in his 30s, was shot dead while another escaped with gun wounds in the incident. The body of the unidentified suspect was taken to Nyeri Provincial General Hospital mortuary. Maumo said aerial and ground surveillance have been intensified in the ranch and others in the area, to curb poaching activities. Poaching incidents have escalated in the region in the recent past, with several rhinos having been killed. Source: The Star (Nairobi)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Zim poaching crisis: 300 elephants estimated dead through cyanide poisoning

Aerial images taken by a team of British hunters seems to show that cyanide-poisoning has been used to kill 300 elephants in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe's biggest nature reserve - three times the original estimate. The full extent of the devastation wreaked in Hwange, the country's largest national park, has been revealed by legitimate hunters who discovered what conservationists say is the worst single massacre in southern Africa for 25 years. Pictures taken by the hunters, which have been obtained exclusively by The Telegraph, reveal horrific scenes. Parts of the national park, whose more accessible areas are visited by thousands of tourists each year, can be seen from the air to be littered with the deflated corpses of elephants, often with their young calves dead beside them, as well as those of other animals. There is now deep concern that the use of cyanide – first revealed in July, but on a scale that has only now emerged – represents a new and particularly damaging technique in the already soaring poaching trade. Zimbabwean authorities said that 90 animals were killed this way. But the hunters who captured these photographs say they have conducted a wider aerial survey and counted the corpses of more than 300. Poachers killed the elephants over the past three months by lacing waterholes and salt licks with cyanide. Animals are drawn to them during the dry season in the already arid and remote south-eastern section of the 5,660-square mile park. After the elephants died, often collapsing just a few yards from the source, lions, hyenas and vultures which fed on their carcasses were also struck down, as were other animals such as kudu and buffalo that shared the same waterholes. Zimbabwe's authorities say the cyanide has been planted by villagers who sell the elephants' tusks for around £300 each to cross-border traders. They can be resold in South Africa for up to £10,000 a pair, according to court papers relating one recent incident, sometimes re-emerging as carved artefacts such as bangles in Cape Town's craft markets. Zimbabwe has one of Africa's biggest surviving elephant populations, since herds in neighbouring regions of Eastern and Central Africa have been severely damaged by poaching, and half of the country's estimated 80,000 elephants are thought to live in Hwange. Conservationists say the African elephant is so much under threat from habitat loss, conflict with humans and illegal poaching and hunting that on present trends it could die out within 50 years. In 2011, at least 17,000 African elephants were killed for their tusks according to Cites, the international body that focuses on endangered species. Ivory is highly prized as a "white gold" in Asian countries where a growing middle class is seeking safe investments, and United Nations wildlife experts say the trade in illegal ivory has more than doubled since 2007. The poisoning was first uncovered by a European hunter and his Zimbabwean guides who spotted a dead cow and her calf as they flew over the park in a helicopter. As they flew lower they saw scores more. The corpses of endangered white-backed vultures which had fed on the toxic carcasses were dotted near each dead elephant. "We couldn't believe our eyes," one hunter, who did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals from poachers, told The Telegraph. "We thought at first that they must have been shot. There were too many to have died of thirst or hunger." They flew back to camp and drove into the park after alerting government rangers as they went. "We found that elephants we saw from the air were not shot, but the tusks were gone," the hunter said. His group spotted a man walking into the park carrying a four-gallon bucket and a packet. They watched him dig a hole for the bucket in the sand, lower it in and then mix powder from the packet into the water. Zimbabwe's National Parks and Wildlife Authority sent investigators and police to the area, where there are normally few patrols. The water was discovered to contain cyanide – available cheaply for use in informal gold mining that is conducted locally. After further investigation police arrested eight men from a village in the Tsholotsho district which borders the park, along with a number of fellow officers who were allegedly bribed to ignore the poachers, and a Harare-based cyanide distributor to whom more than 100lbs of the poison were traced. So far, 14 people have been arrested since the first poisoning was discovered. As news of the killings spread, the Zimbabwean authorities took usually swift and harsh action – putting captured poachers before the courts where they were given sentences of up to 16 years in prison along with stiff fines. When Saviour Kasukawere, Zimbabwe's environment minister, visited a village just outside the park two weeks ago she was told that the poachers had acted out of desperation as their crops had failed and tourism fees from hunters and safari operators had dried up. Caroline Washaya-Moyo, a spokesman for Zimbabwe's National Parks, said 10 more poisoned elephants were found last week, none of which had been dead for more than three weeks, suggesting that the poisoning had not stopped. She said she was "surprised" by the report that 300 elephants had died, but conceded that ZimParks only begun its own aerial survey last week. "We did find that (looking for carcasses) is more efficient from the air," she said. Police have discovered tusks near a railway line which passes through Hwange and last week found more, hidden in a concealed compartment of a luxury bus on the way to South Africa. Some of the carcasses have now been burned, Mrs Washaya-Moyo said, but others had been kept for further investigation. Mrs Washaya-Moyo said they were struggling to persuade those in custody to identify the organisers. "It is a pity that they all seem so reluctant to identify the big people involved, as ivory, like the rhino horn, is not used in Zimbabwe. It is used by foreigners," she said. Tom Milliken, programme leader for the Elephant and Rhino Traffic network, a conservation organisation, said he was "astounded" by the scale of the killings. "This is the largest massacre of elephant in this part of the world for the last 25 years," he said. "This (use of buckets of water) is seductive for elephants at this dry time of year when they're looking hard for water. Cyanide is a new weapon against wildlife." Tim Snow, a South African expert on wildlife poisoning, said the emergence of cyanide in poaching was "really scary". "Quite apart from these elephants' deaths, what about all the other animals using that water source and scavenging from those corpses? The knock-on effect must be horrendous," he said. Cyanide has not been used in poaching before because in most countries it is strictly controlled and its use in agriculture had been phased out, he said. "In Zimbabwe, because of the challenges they are facing, I would imagine it's a free for all," he said. "If this is a gold mining area then that's where the investigators should be looking. If controls are not put in place, its use could become rife." Conservationists say ZimParks needs 10 times the number of rangers it currently has to be able to prevent cyanide from being used again. Thys de Vries, one of Zimbabwe's best known professional hunters and conservationists, said: "There are some very good people out there but they are short of resources and need help." Source: Telegraph, UK

Elephant poacher gets 15 year-jail term as cyanide poisoning deaths mount in Hwange

Another suspected member of a poaching syndicate has been sentenced to serve 15 years behind bars, following the poisoning and killing of eleven elephants in the Hwange National Park last week. Akim Masuku of Chezhou Village in Hwange who pleaded guilty to the charge of contravening the Parks and Wildlife Act (illegal possession of ivory) was slapped with the lengthy custodial sentence by Hwange provincial magistrate Rose Dube. His co-accused Normal Ncube from the same village pleaded not guilty and will be tried in due course. He was remanded in custody to October 30th.Namatirai Ngwasha prosecuting for the state, told the court that Parks rangers found carcasses of 11 elephants about 38 kilometres from the Hwange Main Camp while on a routine patrol. The officials followed spoor that led them to Masuku and Ncube and they found them in possession of 200 granules of cyanide and 13 elephant tusks, leading to their arrest. Cases of poaching are on the rise in Zimbabwe. Recently an estimated 300 elephant carcasses were discovered in Hwange and its surrounding districts. Almost all the elephants were poisoned with cyanide by poachers who hack off the tusks for the lucrative illegal ivory market. Numerous other animals have died as a result of the cyanide. Last month, three other members of a syndicate were sentenced to at least 15 years each behind bars, following the poisoning of 81 elephants in the Hwange Park. The poachers are paid a fraction of the value of the elephant tusks and are often the ones who are caught and pay the price. Meanwhile the heads of the syndicates continue to get away with the crime. A recent Mail and Guardian report on Zimbabwe’s poaching said that some of those involved are senior officials in government. They quoted the head of one of Zimbabwe’s largest tour operators who said: “Our government knows some of those behind this. I know for a fact names have been passed to the government, but there is nothing being done.” Source: Online

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Senior police detective, 3 surbodinates on trial for extorting $10 000 bribe from Hwange poachers

By Thabang Mathebula, 7 October 2013 A POLICE detective assistant inspector and three colleagues who allegedly received a US$10,000 bribe from poachers suspected to have poisoned to death 95 elephants in Hwange National Park have appeared in court. The four were remanded in custody by Bulawayo magistrate, Gladmore Mushove, on Monday. Detective Assistant Inspector Alois Gakata, Detective Sergeant Wellington Jena, Detective Constable Shadreck Rore and Detective Ronald Dube allegedly took the huge bribe to release an impounded vehicle used by a suspected poaching syndicate. The four were named by several of the alleged poachers who have been arrested as the officers who took the money in order to release their Toyota Hilux. The truck was transporting elephant tusks to Harare when it was intercepted. Daniel Mba, Mthandazo Tshuma, Mai Rumba, Anna Mvereche and Elfina Mzizi had all been placed under arrest but were allowed to walk after the money was paid, it is alleged. Robert Maphosa, Thabani Zondo and Dedani Tshuma have already been jailed for poisoning the elephants using cynanide in search of elephant tusks being sold in lucrative Asian markets. Four other suspected poachers will soon appear in court facing charges of poaching and using cyanide without permission. Source: The Voice of America

Monday, October 7, 2013

Kenyan customs service seizes two tonnes of ivory, pangolin scales at Mombasa port

Kenya Revenue Authority officers on Friday impounded a container with two tonnes of ivory which was packed in between bags of sesame seeds at the Mombasa port. The 40-foot container arrived in Mombasa via railway from Uganda and was destined for an oil manufacturing company in Turkey. The officers counted 686 pieces of ivory weighing 1.95 tonnes. They also ceased 45kg of scales believed to be from Pangolin, an endangered reptile species found in subsaharan countries. The KRA and Kenya Wildlife Service officers said they cannot establish where the animals were captured and killed even though the cargo is from Uganda. According to documents seen by the Star, 23,750kg of sesame seeds were being transported to Melmet vegetable oil industries in Turkey while Cosmo Freight International Company was the clearing agent. Speaking to Star yesterday KRA’s southern region senior assistant commissioner Fatma Yusuf said they are working closely with officers from other departments to carry out forensic investigation on the ivory. “We have to do a forensic investigation to determine the origin of these animals,” she said. She however said they cannot establish the value of the scales as it is the first time they have intercepted such a trophy. Source: The Star, Nairobi

Friday, October 4, 2013

12 Chinese men arrested for elephant and pangolin poaching in Gabon

Twelve Chinese men were arrested for poaching in Gabon after being found to have a Winchester rifle, elephant meat, pangolin scales elephant meat and ivory jewellery. Gabon's Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux (ANPN), said it arrested the twelve, all thought to be Chinese nationals on suspicions of poaching. The 12 men were found in possession of large quantities of elephant meat and pangolin scales, as well as a Winchester hunting rifle and several pieces of ivory. Joseph Vivien Okouyi Okouyi, Senior Curator of parks of northeast of Gabon "Not only were these Chinese men consuming elephant meat, but they were also in possession of ivory jewellery. We have not yet discovered the tools or the ivory they used to create the jewellery." With 80% of its territory covered by forest at and with an 800 kilometre of coastline, Gabon is a paradise for a huge variety of species and wildlife, including forest elephants, giant pangolin, antelopes, gorillas and many birds. However, poaching continues at a disturbing level, fuelled by burgeoning demand from the Asian black market for ivory, which leads to the loss of many animals; more than 20,000 elephants have been slaughtered by poachers since 2004, according to a recent survey. "This organized crime must now be fought like the like drug trafficking, using similar methodologies and by deploying more resources" said Christian Long, technical director of the ANPN. Source: Wildlife Extra (UK)

Cyanide dealer who supplied Hwange elephant poachers freed on $100 bail

The manager of a Harare-based company that is alleged to have supplied sodium cyanide to a poaching syndicate that poisoned and killed more than 90 elephants and other wild animals at Hwange National Park, Elvis Ncube, yesterday appeared in court. Ncube (30) of number 11 Frederick Booth Road, Hillside in Harare, a human resources manager for Servcor Zimbabwe Private Limited Company situated at Number 47 Plymouth Road, Southerton, was not asked to plead when he appeared before Bulawayo magistrate Ms Gladmore Mushove. He is facing charges of contravening Section 137(1)(g)(2) of the Environmental Management Act, Chapter 20:27, which prohibits storage of hazardous substances at unlicensed premises. Ncube was remanded out of custody to 16 October on $100 bail. As part of his bail conditions, Ncube was ordered to report once every week on Fridays at Cranborne Police Station in Harare, to reside at his given address and not to interfere with witnesses.Allegations against Ncube are that between October and November last year, he allegedly acquired three tonnes of sodium cyanide and stored it at his place of residence. He allegedly sold the chemical to different unnamed individuals including the poaching syndicate who were not licensed to deal in cyanide, a classified hazardous chemical in terms of the country’s laws.Seven members of the poaching syndicate that used the cyanide have since been arrested and separately appeared in court facing charges of poisoning the elephants and other wild animals at Hwange National Park. Two of them, Clever Khumalo (44) and Sipho Mafu (54) recently told the court that they had been operating for the past five years.The two are being charged with delivering, or offering toxic substances and also illegally possessing ivory and were remanded in custody to Tuesday. Mafu and his brother Misheck and Farai Chitsa are also set to appear in court tomorrow in another case of hunting without authority and violating the EMA Act.Three of the poachers – Robert Maposa (42), Thabani Zondo (24) and Dedani Tshuma (25) were last week sentenced to 16 years in prison each for illegal possession of ivory and contravening Section 73 (1) of EMA Act. Maposa and Zondo were further ordered to pay $600 000 restitution to the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority by 31 December 2013 and Tshuma was also ordered to pay $200 000 restitution by the same date. Ms Caroline Matanga is representing the State. Source: Chronicle

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tanzania considering US proposal to use drones in anti-poaching ops

Written by Oscar Nkala, Tuesday, 01 October 2013 The Tanzanian government says it is considering proposals from private American conservationists who are offering to help the country fight endemic rhino and elephant poaching using unmanned aerial vehicles, as the parks authority steps up the recruitment of game rangers to tighten security around game sanctuaries. Tanzanian ambassador to the United States Liberta Malamula told US online media that the offers of help from unidentified American citizens followed President Barrack Obama's visit to Tanzania on July 1 this year when he promised to help improve anti-poaching operations and discussed the possibility of using unarmed UAVs to help the Tanzania National Parks authority complement overstretched game rangers in patrolling its wildlife sanctuaries. "I have held talks with drone experts and they have helped clear the negative perception I had about them. I have received the proposals and the talks are ongoing. One area, they said, was the training of more rangers. There were even suggestions that the U.S. government can help us with these drones," Mulamula said. In his visit to Tanzania, Obama and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete discussed the possibility of using unarmed UAVs to combat rampant elephant and rhino poaching in the Tarangire, Ruaha, Mikumi, Selous, Serengeti and Lake Manyara national parks among others. If approved, the project would be funded from the US$10 million fund set up by President Obama to help Kenya, South Africa and other regional countries including Tanzania to acquire and deploy high-technology tracking, observation and ground patrol systems to protect endangered rhino and elephant populations in areas hard-hit by poaching. As part of efforts to improve anti-poaching operations, TanParks has recruited 100 youths who will undertake a three month-long training course prior to deployment as game rangers across the country's game sanctuaries. The authority said the recruits have already completed the selection process and will begin the military training segment of the course on 1 October. TanParks reported that it has also set up, trained and deployed a crack team of 40 rangers for rapid-reaction operations to poaching alerts within the country's game reserves. More than 1 000 poachers were arrested in Tanzanian national parks between April and June this year. 248 of the suspected poachers were arrested in the Serengeti National Park, which is home to huge rhino and elephant populations. Source: www.defenceweb.co.za

Police detectives connived with Hwange 'cyanide' poaching syndicate, says trial witnesses

By Leonard Ncube BULAWAYO – The poaching syndicate that has been killing elephants by cyanide poisoning in Hwange National Park has been operating for the past five years. This was revealed by two members of the alleged syndicate when they appeared before Bulawayo magistrate Ms Gladmore Mushove. The poaching syndicate that has been killing elephants by cyanide poisoning in Hwange National Park has been operating for the past five years. The poaching syndicate that has been killing elephants by cyanide poisoning in Hwange National Park has been operating for the past five years. Clever Khumalo (44) and Sipho Mafu (54) are being charged with delivering, or offering toxic substances and also illegally possessing ivory in contravention of the Parks and Wildlife Act and the Environmental Management Act.The two are jointly charged with Sanelisiwe Dube of 15099 Nkulumane 12 who is still at large. They were allegedly selling the ivory in Harare and South Africa. In their warned and cautioned statements, Khumalo of 59864/2 Iminyela Flats and Mafu, of Pelandaba Village in Tsholotsho, said they committed the offence in the company of Mthandazo Tshuma, who is on the run and several other people from Bulawayo and Harare. Khumalo said Mafu supplied him with 25kg of ivory in 2008 which he sold to a Mr Mutemwa in Harare for $1 000. He said in 2010 he got 54 kg of ivory from Tshuma of Binga and used it to make bangles which he sold in Cape Town, South Africa for $13 000. Khumalo said Mafu supplied him with 130kg of ivory in 2011, which he smuggled to South Africa using a cross border commuter omnibus operator commonly known as umalayitsha but alleged that he lost the consignment to robbers. He said last year he was introduced to a person identified as Mr Albert Buzizi, a former teacher at Mpopoma High School who supplied them with 50kg of cyanide, which they used to poison the jumbos. Khumalo said he took the cyanide to Mafu’s homestead in Tsholotsho and in August last year, Mafu supplied him with 240kg of ivory after poisoning some elephants. Some of the members of the syndicate, according to Khumalo, were a woman identified as Mrs Anna Moyo of Number 16734 Millas Road, Romney Park, Mr Daniel Mba who knew the buyer in Harare, Tshuma, a woman identified as Mai Rumbi from Harare, another woman identified as Anna Mvereche and a Ms Elfina Mzizi. He said last year in August they used Mrs Moyo’s vehicle after she allegedly lied to her husband that she wanted a car to visit her ill sister in Kwekwe and the husband gave her a Toyota Hilux to use, not knowing that she had been hired to carry the ivory. According to Khumalo and Mafu’s statements, the syndicate was intercepted by police in Harare and fled from the scene leaving the vehicle, which was then impounded. They said some policemen led by an officer only identified as Gankata demanded $10 000 bribe to release the vehicle after tracing it back to Mrs Moyo’s husband in Bulawayo. The syndicate allegedly gave the police $3 000 and three officers from Harare allegedly came to Bulawayo after seven days to collect the balance of $7 000. Khumalo and Ncube said a man identified as Gumbo was facilitating the transactions and when they accompanied the police officers back to Harare, they stopped in Norton when the officers phoned Gankata and they drove to his house with the money. While in Harare, Khumalo and Mafu alleged that they slept at Cranborne Police Station at a cottage belonging to a policeman identified as Musoma. Mafu told the police that after receiving the cyanide, he would either apply it on the soil where elephants spent time or in buckets full of water which he would submerge in the ground for jumbos to drink.Mr Buzizi, whose statement was also recorded by the police, said he used to work at NFS Chemicals, a company which supplied different kinds of chemicals. He said they would sell the cyanide only to people personally known to the company executives because they had no EMA certificate of storage and sale. Mr Buzizi said he sold a drum of sodium cyanide to Dube because they were long time friends and she later gave it to Khumalo who then supplied it to Mafu. He said Dube told him that they had a gold mine claim and wanted to use the cyanide at the mine. Khumalo and Mafu would next appear in court on 8 October and they are remanded in custody. Mafu also has another case of hunting without authority and violating EMA Act, in which he is jointly charged with his brother, Misheck and Farai Chitsa and they will next appear in court on 4 October. Miss Concilia Ncube is representing the State. Source: Chronicle

Thursday, September 26, 2013

'Poison' poachers sentenced to 16 years in prison, to pay $800 000 compensation

THREE out of the eight suspected poachers who were arrested last week for poisoning water ponds in the Hwange National Park resulting in the death of about 81 elephants were yesterday jailed for between 15 and 16 years. Thabani Zondo (24), Robert Maphosa (42) and Dedani Tshuma (25) were convicted on their own pleas of guilty of contravening the Environmental Management Act and illegal possession of ivory when they appeared before Hwange provincial magistrate Rose Dube. Zondo and Maphosa were jailed for an effective 15 years with labour and ordered to restitute $600 000 to the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority of Zimbabwe by December 31. Tshuma was sentenced to an effective 16 years with labour and also ordered to pay $200 000 by the same date. However, there was a separation of trial with the remaining five — Misheck Mafu (46) of Thula Line in Tsholotsho, Alexander Ngwenya (42) of Tshabalala, Farai Chitsa (34) of Old Pumula, Nqobizitha Tshuma (25) of Northend and Tinashe Sengwayo (22) of Northend in Bulawayo — expected to appear in court on October 4 facing the same charges. They were all remanded in custody. The poaching syndicate, with four members based in Bulawayo, allegedly poisoned and killed about 81 elephants at Hwange National Park. A total of 17 tusks valued at about $120 000 were recovered.The gang would allegedly target pools frequented by elephants at the national park and use salt laced with cyanide to kill the jumbos. They were arrested after game rangers discovered two elephants dead and dehorned and reported the matter to the police. Investigations led to the discovery of more rotting carcasses of dehorned elephants.There were tracks from the dead animals that led to Mafu’s homestead which police followed leading to the breakthrough arrest. Mafu then implicated members of his syndicate. Source: Southern Eye

Monday, September 23, 2013

447 kg of Zimbabwean elephant ivory seized in Dubai as Hwange cyanide-poisoning toll hits 81

A crack team comprising Zimbabwean police, intelligence and Parks and Wildlife Management Authority officers has apprehended two members of a suspected tightly knit poaching syndicate that smuggled 447 kilogrammes of ivory to Dubai. The ivory was stashed under a wooden artefact and cleared at the Harare International Airport in July, destined for Dubai as an unaccompanied parcel. Deputy Police Commissioner-General Innocent Matibiri yesterday said investigations were in progress. “Information we have shows that sometime in July, a wooden artefact was flown to Dubai as an unaccompanied parcel. However, through our intelligence networks with operatives in Dubai, it was discovered that there were pieces of ivory that weighed 447 kilogrammes stashed under the wooden sculpture. “There have been arrests. We are still carrying out investigations; that is why the suspects’ names are still being with -held. It is quite obvious that this is a syndicate that involves people in Dubai. As we speak, we have since arrested two people who have implicated five accomplices.” According to details made available yesterday, a female clearing agent with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority stationed at the Harare International Airport was suspected to be part of the scam.The woman is said to have checked the wooden artefact and authorised it to be flown to Dubai as an unaccompanied parcel. When questioned by police, she claimed that she thought the parcel was a wooden artefact. She also revealed that it had been brought to the airport by a 42-year-old man who works for a travel agent known as Huber Hells based in Avondale, Harare. Police later picked up the man who then implicated five other people. The discovery of the ivory at the airport in Dubai comes after more than 60 elephants died from cyanide poisoning at Hwange National Park. The Park’s national area manager, Mr Trumber Jura, said game rangers who were on patrol discovered 13 carcasses on May 22, 2013 and noted that the poachers had poisoned seven salt licks. “The carcasses we have discovered are now 81 and we have managed to recover 50 tusks since the poisoning of the salt licks began in May. To date, 16 poachers have been arrested and two buffaloes, one kudu, two painted dogs and several vultures have died as a result of drinking water from the salt licks. “A lion has also died after eating meat from an elephant carcass,” said Mr Jura. Deputy Commissioner-General Matibiri said police are still trying to establish whether the 447 kilogrammes of ivory discovered in Dubai are linked to the mass elephant killing here in Zimbabwe. ends

Friday, September 20, 2013

Kenyan website to name and shame poachers

A website to name and shame poachers in Kenya - PoachersExposed.com - has been launched by wildlife campaigners. Those charged or convicted of links to poaching will be listed, Kenyans United Against Poaching (Kuapo) said. "This is not just about the poacher who is shooting the bullet but the middle man and the average Joe caught trafficking rhino horn or ivory," Kuapo's Salisha Chandra told the BBC. It is also hoped the data will reveal trends to help fight poaching. Meanwhile, a similar project to track corruption in Mali has been launched by the French government, which has given more than 100,000 euros (£84,200; $135,400) in aid to the West African country. Continue reading the main story “If people are being publicly named this will definitely cause them to think twice about trafficking,” Salisha Chandra Kuapo. The French Aid to Mali website lists the projects being financed, reports on how they are progressing and allows people to confidentially report concerns or delays via a text message. Poachers Exposed also allows informers confidentiality - and hopes the information will reveal patterns of conviction by region, court and magistrates."There are concerns that all along the chain there are issues of evidence not being collected properly, to judges not fully understanding the impact of the crime, to leniency and corruption," Ms Chandra said. Where available, photos of the accused will be posted on the website alongside details of the court case or charge sheet."If people are being publically named this will definitely cause them to think twice about trafficking," Ms Chandra said. At the moment, the site only lists the case of Moses Njuguna Ndungu, who was found guilty of possession of trophy and dealing in trophy and was sentenced to four years in jail on 7 September. "It gives communities strength to talk about these people as well. But more than that, we are also building a database of information that we will analyse for trends," Ms Chandra said. Kuapo was set up in January and has civil society and community groups amongst its members as well as well-known personalities. File photo of a white rhino in Kenya Last month, a white rhino was shot dead in one of Kenya's most secure parks There are about 25 active members working for the group around the country.Website designers put together Poachers Exposed for free and Kuapo members are updating the information, which will be verified before posting, in their own time, Ms Chandra said. Kuapo is also one of the administrators for the crowd-sourcing site RafikiyaWanyamaKenya, which records reported attacks on wildlife. About 100 elephants are killed each year in Kenya by poachers.The Kenyan government banned trade in ivory in 1989, and levels of elephant poaching subsequently declined, but there has been a rise in the illegal practice in recent years.Last month, the Kenya Wildlife Service said 35 rhinos had been killed in Kenya so far this year - compared with a total of 29 in 2012. There is a huge demand for African ivory in Asia for use in ornaments and conservationists suspect that most of the poached rhino horn is destined for traditional medicine markets in South East Asia, where it is believed to contain powerful healing properties, despite there being no scientific proof of this. Source: BBC

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Several elephants massacred as poachers raid game park in Ivory Coast

Several elephants have been killed by armed poachers in the Mount Peko reserve in western Cote d’Ivoire, according to local residents. Villagers of Bagohouo told Xinhua Monday that they were “dumbfounded” to see several elephants killed by gunshots and their tusks removed. “In the last few days, the poachers have increased night attacks against the elephants. We have already informed the forestry authorities about the presence of armed individuals in the reserve,” said Gaspart Guei, a local resident. “Out of a population of many elephants a few years ago, we have (now) just three elephants,” Benoit Yrou, another villager, said. The Mount Peko national reserve of 34,000 hectares constitutes one of the largest national parks in Cote d’Ivoire. The massacre of elephants comes at a time when Cote d’Ivoire’s international football star, Yaya Toure, has vowed to“do everything possible” to fight poaching of elephants in Africa. In 2011 alone, the UN estimated that over 17,000 elephants were killed in protected zones.In Cote d’Ivoire, where the number of elephants fell dramatically, there are only 800 elephants remaining across the country. Experts have warned of the serious threat to elephants in Cote d’Ivoire, calling for more efforts to protect the endangered animal species. Source: Online

Monday, September 16, 2013

28 more cyanide-poisoned elephant carcasses recovered in Hwange National Park

POLICE in conjunction with the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority yesterday arrested three more suspects and recovered an additional 28 carcasses of elephants which were allegedly poisoned and killed by poachers at the Hwange National Park. The latest arrests bring to nine the number of poachers arrested since the launch of the anti-poaching operation, with a total of 69 carcasses having been found so far. The officer commanding police in Lupane District, Chief Superintendent Johannes Govo, said they also recovered several tusks worth thousands of dollars and snares believed to have been used by the suspects. “We have intensified our patrols at Hwange National Park and so far we have recovered 69 carcasses of elephants which were killed by poisoning. We have since established that the suspects are working as an organised syndicate targeting pools frequented by elephants at the national park and use salt laced with cyanide to kill the jumbos,” he said. At the beginning of the month police arrested a six-man poaching syndicate with four of its members based in Bulawayo that allegedly poisoned and killed 41 elephants at Hwange National Park. The suspects, Sipho Mafu (53) and Misheck Mafu (46) of Thula Line in Tsholotsho, Alexander Ngwenya (42) of 7654/15 Tshabalala, Farai Chitsa (34) of A6297 Old Pumula, Nqobizitha Tshuma (25) of 14 Taylor Avenue in North End and Tinashe Senwayo (22) of 2 Hofmeyer Square also in North End in Bulawayo have since appeared in court. Chitsa is believed to be the mastermind of the poaching gang as he was believed to be the one who supplied the cyanide and is thought to be the one in charge of selling the tusks. Chief Supt Govo said they had since deployed teams at various hot spots in the national park. “We are working in conjunction with Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and we are conducting 24- hour foot anti-poaching patrols near the Pelandaba area in Tsholotsho which borders the national park,” he said. Some of the tusks were kept at one of the camps where one of the suspects was detained. Chief Supt Govo said they were now in the process of covering spots with cyanide to avoid the death of more animals and birds such as vultures that were likely to feed on the carcasses of the elephants. “We are covering all spots that have cyanide,” said Chief Supt Govo. Source: The Chronicle

Friday, September 13, 2013

Kenya translocates black rhinos to newly-established sanctuary

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has successfully translocated a number of rhinos from Lake Nakuru National Park and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to the newly established Borana Rhino sanctuary in Laikipia. The rhinos were moved from Lake Nakuru National Park while the others were translocated from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. The composition was so designed to avoid in-breeding. The week-long exercise (August 26-31, 2013) was funded by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Zurich Zoo and US F&W in collaboration with Kenya Wildlife Service. The translocation is aimed at establishing a new rhino population and keeping the established populations in Lake Nakuru National Park and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy productive by controlling their numbers below the ecological carrying capacity levels of the respective areas. Kenya's rhino conservation policy since 1989 has centred on the creation of highly protected fenced sanctuaries. Black rhino numbers have steadily increased within the sanctuaries necessitating removals to avoid overpopulating any one area. However, many established sanctuaries still remain overstocked so secure new habitats are required. Goal of 750 black rhino The current Conservation and Management Strategy for the Black Rhino in Kenya 2012-2016 sets targets on restocking former free ranging areas which can support large populations, as well as the creation of intensive Protection Zones (IPZ) and secure sanctuaries in order to achieve its strategic objective of population expansion to reach a confirmed total of 750 black rhinos by end of 2016. Focus is placed on promoting creation of more government, private and community rhino sanctuaries to achieve the vision of a population of 2,000 black rhinos in Kenya managed in their natural habitat in the long term. Borana rhino sanctuary, which is privately owned, was one of the new areas targeted in the strategic plan for rhino population expansion. Source: Wildlife Extra (UK)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ex-army man, wildlife sevice employee among the three poachers shot dead in Kenya

One former Kenyan Defence Forces member and one employee to the Kenya Wildlife Service were among the three suspected poachers who were on Sunday night gunned down by KWS rangers at the Kyulu section of the Tsavo National Park. One gun and several bullets were recovered from the suspects during the 10pm shoot out. The KWS identified two of the dead as one KWS fence attendant who was based at the Ngulia Rhino sanctuary and a former KDF officer. One of the suspects reportedly escaped on foot. KWS assistant director in charge of Tsavo conservation area, Robert Obrien said the men were going to Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary where they are suspected to have been planning to poach rhinos. He said the KWS Ngulia Rhino sanctuary attendant was leading the suspects in the mission. "We had been suspecting the man but finally got him. He is behind the killing of rhinos in Ngulia. So we laid ambush along the way some few metres from the Mombasa-Nairobi highway. The four alighted from a taxi and when they were ordered to stop, they instead shot in the air and our men responded swiftly by gunning down the three," said Obrien told the Star on from the scene of the incident yesterday. He said one of the suspects who escaped on foot, was pursued by the rangers but dropped a panga along the way and is still at large. "We are still pursuing the suspect until we get him. We discovered that one of them is a Kenya army officer whose job identification card expired in 2005. We are not sure whether he retired or not but we are still investigating," said Obrien. He said they recovered three pangas, one axe, three different types of poison, fresh pineapples, a pair of gloves, face masks and four loaves of bread. Obrien said the poachers poison the pineapples before feeding them to rhinos and elephants. "They carry the bread to eat during their poaching mission," he said. At least five rhinos have been killed at the sanctuary in the recent past. So far, Kenya has lost 214 elephants and 36 rhinos to poaching this year. Source: The Star (Nairobi)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

KWS rangers shoot three poachers dead at Tsavo

Nairobi — This happened after they defied orders to surrender and instead fired at Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers who had laid an ambush. One of the suspects is believed to have escaped with injuries according to the KWS officials. KWS communication manager Paul Udoto says that rangers had laid an ambush for the last 10 days in the park when they encountered the poachers. A rifle with six rounds of ammunition among other assorted equipments was recovered from the suspects. Other items included two machetes, a knife, two pieces of assorted poison, an axe, two mobile phones, a leather bag, some food and water. Police officers from Mtito Andei police station have visited the scene of crime to conduct further investigations. The government is faced with a major challenge of poaching mainly targeting elephants and Rhinos, sparking fears of a possible extinction in the near future. Last week (September 6) KWS successfully translocated 21 rhinos from Lake Nakuru National Park and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to the newly established Borana Rhino sanctuary in Laikipia. Ten rhinos were moved from Lake Nakuru National Park while the other 11 were translocated from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. KWS spokesperson Paul Muya says the translocation is aimed at establishing a new rhino population and keeping the established populations in Lake Nakuru National Park and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy productive by maintaining their numbers below their ecological carrying capacity levels. "We want to establish a viable stock of the recommended number by the International Union for Conservation of Nature of up to 21 rhinos," he said. Muya noted that the number of rhinos breeding at the Lake Nakuru National Park had increased enormously creating concerns that it may lead to a food crisis for other wildlife at the park. "We have currently 140 rhinos in the park," he revealed. "Black rhinos have steadily increased within the sanctuaries necessitating removals to avoid negative density dependent effects. However, many established sanctuaries still remain overstocked hence new secure habitats are required." The current Conservation and Management Strategy for the Black Rhino in Kenya 2012-2016 sets targets on restocking former free ranging areas which can support large populations, as well as the creation of Intensive Protection Zones(IPZ)and secure sanctuaries in order to achieve its strategic objective of population expansion to reach a confirmed total of 750 black rhinos by end of 2016. Source: The Star (Nairobi)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Three 'cyanide poachers' appear in court as Hwange elephant death toll hits 116

A total of 116 elephants died as a result of poisoning of water bodies by poachers in the Hwange National Park during the past eight months, a senior Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority security officer told police. In a statement to the police during investigation after 41 elephants were found dead last week, Mr Amos Gwema, the authority’s senior investment and security officer said 97 of the cases were linked to three of the poachers who were rounded up last week after poisoning 41 elephants with salt laced with cyanide. “Since January 2013, 116 elephants died in Mokona area through poisoning and 97 of these cases are linked to the accused persons who applied cyanide and killed 41 elephants,” said Mr Gwema. “Zimbabwe is a member of the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species of fauna and flora (Cites), an international body regulating trade in wild animals and agreements between governments and what is happening is threatening these animals’ survival. We suspect the number of poisoned animals will keep growing as investigations are still ongoing,” said Mr Gwema. Three of the six men who were arrested last week appeared before Tsholotsho resident magistrate, Mr Carrington Karidzangundi, on Friday. The trio is being charged with contravening Section 24(1)(b) of the Parks and Wildlife Act, Chapter 20:14 ‘hunting without authority’and Section 73(1) of the Environmental Management Agency Act, Chapter 20:27. Brothers Sipho Mafu (54), of Sakhile Line in Tsholotsho, Misheck Mafu (46) of Thula Line also in Tsholotsho and Farai Chitsa (34), of House Number 6297 Old Pumula were not asked to plead and were remanded in custody to 20 September. Mr Liberty Mcijo, of Lazarus and Sarif is representing the trio. Ms Liane Nkomo for the State said on 27 August this year, game rangers at Hwange National Park got a tip off that there were poachers in the game park. ends

Friday, September 6, 2013

Namibia to export wild elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards and cheetah etc, to Cuba

August 2013. Some 150 animals, including elephant, large carnivores, small predators, antelope and vultures will form part of a huge consignment of wildlife being donated to the Cuban government as part of an agreement between the two countries. The South Africa National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) has expressed its disgust at the Namibian government's decision to capture animals from the wild for transportation to Cuba. This action will be particularly distressing for animals that live in close knot families, especially elephants, whose family ties can be very close. Wildlife Extra questions why, when there are surplus zoo animals all over the world, so many need to be removed from the wild for this venture? The NSPCA expresses concern that these wild-caught animals are to endure a long and stressful flight to their new destination and also raises questions as to whether or not any animal welfare organisation has checked the facilities and standards of care at their end destination. It is understood that the animals will be kept in a national zoo-type park, where some animals will be semi-free but still confined. It is saddening to note that these animals will be taken out of their natural habitats and sent to a strange land where they will be deprived of freedom and be totally dependent on humans for their daily needs. Considering the inhumane culling of seals taking place in Namibia at the moment and the world-wide outcry, this latest action by the Namibian government and its Ministry of Environment and Tourism raises serious concerns regarding this country's stance on animal welfare. Perhaps something for animal lovers to consider when considering Namibia as a holiday destination. Source: Wildlife Extra (UK)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hwange: Poachers kill 43 elephants after lacing water pans with cyanide

Zimbabwe's Chronicle reported that police broke a syndicate of six poachers that killed and took the horns of 41 elephants in Hwange. The poachers laced salt with cyanide and put it around large pools where the elephants normally went to drink water. When they died their tusks would then be cut off and taken back to their homes. The poachers were caught after rangers heard gunshots and went to the scene. They followed the tracks back to a house that was used as a storage space. One of them was then convinced by the police and rangers to phone the rest of the gang and come to the house, where they were arrested. Police recovered 17 tusks worth R1.2-million in total.The newspaper also reported the local chief inspector saying: "What they are doing is very cruel because it does not end in the death of the elephants. Animals that feed on the dead elephants will die and those that feed on these will also die [because cyanide stays in the system]." The poaching of elephants on the continent has dramatically increased. A report released at this year's Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species gathering, "Elephants in the Dust – The African Elephant Crisis", said at least 25 000 elephants were killed in Africa last year. The trade in ivory – which is illegal – doubled since 2007, it said. In Tanzania, 30 elephants a day are killed for their tusks, rapidly cutting down Africa's second largest herd. The government predicts that at this rate 10 000 elephants will have been killed by the end of this year. The problem has not yet reached South Africa, but it is rife in neighbouring countries. Julian Blanc, acting co-ordinator and data analyst at Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (Mike), said: "While poaching levels in Southern Africa are not as high as in other parts of the continent, they are steadily increasing." Their research linked poverty with poaching, and for now this was less of a problem on the South African side of the park, he said. Elephant poaching was a problem in South Africa in the 1980s, but it was stamped out and populations have steadily increased since then. SANParks is, however, planning for an increase in poaching, with its planning documents warning about "the threat of elephant poaching looming on the horizon". Source: Mail and Guardian

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Namibia: Elephant poachers poison 600 endangered vultures to thwart law enforcement agents.

Approximately 600 vultures recently died after ingesting poisoned elephant corpse in Namibia’s Bwabwata National Park. Most of the birds were African white-backed vultures (Gyps africanus,which is classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Vultures flock to the carcasses of illegally killed African wildlife, and conservation cops follow the flocks to track poachers. Like mobsters assassinating witnesses and informants, elephant and rhino poachers poison the carcasses of their quarry to kill vultures and thwart law enforcement efforts. To make matters worse, the vultures are in the middle of their breeding cycle. Many of the 600 dead vultures’ orphaned chicks will likely starve without both parent’s care. “By poisoning carcasses, poachers hope to eradicate vultures from an area where they operate and thereby escape detection,” said Leo Niskanen of the IUCN in a press release. “The fact that incidents such as these can be linked to the rampant poaching of elephants in Africa is a serious concern. Similar incidents have been recorded in Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia in recent years”. In West Africa, vulture populations have declined by 42 percent over the past 30 years. Rueppell’s vulture suffered the worst with a decline of 85 percent. African vultures face chemical dangers besides poachers’ poisons. Agricultural product retailers in Africa now offer the veterinary drug, diclofenac, which contributed to massive vulture mortality in India, according to the World Organization for Animal Health. Diclofenac builds up in the bodies of vultures after they feed on dead cattle treated with the anti-inflamatory drug. Kidney failure may eventually kill the vultures after they accumulate enough of the drug.In India, the loss of the vultures resulted in an explosion of the feral dog population and the rabies virus that the canines carry. Source: Online

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Kenyan civil servant found with 17 elephants..as Chinese woman gets two-and-a-half years for ivory smuggling

A Kenyan civil servant was on Monday arraigned in court and charged with poaching after being in possession of 17 elephant tusks. Michael Kyalo Mateng'e, who works in Mwingi East District, Kitui County was arrested over the weekend and appeared for charging at the Kitui Magistrates Court. KWS spokesman Paul Muya told Capital FM News that the arrest is a result of the tough measures they have taken to curb poaching in the country. He implored members of the public to join in the fight against the poaching of wildlife. "The local people are being used to poach through a chain of cartels involved in poaching. But if we work together, this war against poaching can be won," he stated. The officer was released on a bond of Sh5 million pending the hearing and determination of the case on September 9. On August 22, a Chinese ivory smuggler was sentenced to two and a half years in prison in a landmark ruling hailed for sending a powerful warning to poachers and smugglers. The illegal ivory trade, estimated to be worth between $7 billion and $10 billion a year, is mostly fuelled by demand in Asia and the Middle East, where elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns are used in traditional medicine and to make ornaments. "A precedent has been set by this sentencing, it is a sign that our judiciary is waking up to the scale of the crisis and the damage that is being done to our animals," KWS spokesman had told AFP. Chen Biemei, 30, was jailed for 31 months for trying to smuggle 6.9 kilograms of worked ivory she had disguised as 15 bags of macadamia nuts. Chen, who pleaded guilty, was stopped and arrested on August 14 as she tried to fly to Hong Kong. Source: Capital FM, Nairobi

Friday, August 16, 2013

Singapore ships suspected ivory container back to Kenya

A container believed to be carrying ivory has been sent back to Mombasa after authorities seized it in Singapore, Kenya's Daily Nation reported Tuesday (August 13th). "The container was among those seized earlier and returned to Kenya. But somehow, it disappeared," said Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Director Arthur Tuda. "Through our efforts and our foreign security colleagues, we intercepted it and, as I speak, it is expected at Mombasa port anytime." Containers carrying ivory destined for Malaysia were seized at Mombasa port in late July and early August. The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Kenya Ports Authority and KWS are in search of others. Two poachers and two rangers have been killed this month as efforts to contain poaching intensify, Tuda said. KWS, KRA and police also suspect the involvement of top officials in poaching and ivory smuggling, including two businessmen from the Coast region, a central Kenyan member of parliament and a Rift valley governor. They have been linked to a container of ivory intercepted at Mombasa port last month. Source: Sabahi Online (Washington DC)

Kenya nabs Chinese woman - 6.9kg of ivory recovered

A Chinese woman was arrested at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport Wednesday night (August 14th) in possession of 6.9 kilograms of ivory worth 1.2 million shillings ($13,700), Kenya's The Standard reported. The middle-aged woman was due to travel to Hong Kong with the ivory, which was disguised as macadamia nuts. Airport Police Chief Joseph Ngisa said the woman was expected in court on Wednesday. "We are trying to establish where she stayed and if there is more ivory," he said. Kenya is working to stem illegal poaching, as 190 elephants and 35 rhinos have killed since the beginning of the year. In the Mara Conservancy, rangers announced the recovery of 10 kilograms of elephant tusks worth 2 million shillings ($22,800) Sunday following a tip-off from citizens, Kenya's The Star reported.
Source: Sabahi Online (Washington DC)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pregnant white rhino killed by poachers in Kenya's Nairobi National Park

August 2013. A pregnant white rhino has been killed by poachers in the Nairobi National Park. Whilst hundreds of rhino have been killed across eastern and especially southern Africa this year, this particular piece of butchery is all the more shocking as it happened within a few miles of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) HQ on the edge of the Nairobi National Park. The KWS HQ sits on the edge of the park, and is bristling with staff and armed rangers (though as someone whose car was broken into whilst visiting KWS HQ perhaps this should be no surprise), and much of the park is fenced so it was thought to be a very secure place for the wildlife. However the demand for rhino horn in Asia has pushed the price so high that poachers are prepared to take more and more risks, and perhaps to pass on some of their illegal gains to others to turn a blind eye. That is not to say that most people at the KWS are not dedicated to protecting the wildlife, and it must be remembered that two rangers have already lost their lives this year at the hands of poachers, and another was shot just last week at Lake Nakuru (Another centre for rhino rescue previously thought secure). New
Elite Inter-Agency Anti-Poaching Unit In an effort to step up the fight against the poaching scourge, the Kenyan Government has formed a special inter-agency crack-unit to combat poaching in the country. The anti-poaching unit named the Elite Inter-Agency Anti-Poaching Unit comprises of security officers from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the Administration Police (AP) and the General Service Unit (GSU). The special unit, which shall be under the command of KWS, will undergo a joint training at the KWS Law Enforcement Academy (LEA) at Manyani before deployment to poaching hotspot areas of Narok, Tsavo and Isiolo. The Government has committed to provide facilitation and equipment to support the Elite Inter-Agency Anti-Poaching Unit operations. The Government shall also deploy aerial surveillance support to enhance their capacity to deal with poaching incidents. The unit will be supported by the governments of Kenya, Unites States, China and the United Kingdom through their respective embassies in Nairobi. A total of 190 elephants and 34 rhinos have been killed so far this year while KWS has lost two rangers in encounters with poachers. However, plans are underway to recruit an additional 1000 KWs rangers to overcome these challenges and effectively tackle poaching. KWS has also adopted a multi-faceted approach to eliminate the poaching vice. The organization has actively engaged communities living next to wildlife sanctuaries through conservation education on the negative impacts of poaching. Consumers of illegal wildlife products, both local and international are being sensitized on their indirect contribution to poaching by buying such products. KWS also urges the Judiciary to mete out deterrent sentences to smugglers of wildlife products. Source: Wildlife Extra

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

August 2013. Emile N'bouke, who has been suspected of being a leading an ivory smuggling network for more than twenty years, has been arrested in Togo's capital, Lome. Some 700 kilos of ivory were confiscated from his premises during the arrest. There are thought to be less than 100 in Togo today, so the large quantity of ivory being channelled through Togo is coming from other countries. Togo is thought to have become a major export hub for illegal ivory from all over West and Central Africa, including Chad and Cameroon, both of which have had major problems with elephant slaughter recently. Many of the tusks found are small and appear to be from young animals, or Forest elephants which have smaller tusks than their savannah cousins. According to Togo's laws, the maximum length for trafficking in illegal wildlife products is just 1 year in prison, which is painfully lenient. The US State department said "We commend the Togolese authorities on their recent efforts to halt the illegal trade of ivory in West Africa by arresting a notorious wildlife trafficker on August 6. This arrest represents an important step in protecting valuable African wildlife and investigating criminal organizations. We urge Togolese authorities to conduct a full investigation and hold accountable to the fullest extent of the law those who engaged in the trafficking of ivory. As demonstrated by the Executive Order signed by President Obama on July 1 during his visit to Africa, combating wildlife trafficking is an important priority of the United States. We will continue to work with partner nations to support efforts to put an end to this illegal activity, which threatens security and the rule of law, undermines conservation efforts, robs local communities of their economic base, and contributes to the emergence and spread of disease. Source: Wildlife (UK)

Friday, August 9, 2013

13 rhino horns and 1,120 elephant tusks seized in Hong Kong

Following an intelligence tip off from Chinese authorities, Hong Kong Customs seized a huge haul of illegal wildlife items. During the operation, Hong Kong Customs seized a total of 1,120 ivory tusks, 13 rhino horns and five leopard skins, inside a container shipped from Nigeria to Hong Kong. Acting on the intelligence, Hong Kong Customs monitored two suspicious containers shipped from Nigeria. On August 6, Customs officers detained the two containers, which were declared as containing "Red Cam Process Wood" for inspection and found 21 sealed wooden crates, disguised as timber, hidden at the rear of one of the containers. Whilst Wildlife Extra applauds the work of the authorities, and all of those that have made the many seizures of ivory and other wildlife products recently, it seems that very few, if any, arrests are made in conjunction with these seizures. It seems very odd that it is so difficult for the authorities to be able to trace the owners/shippers of these items. Additionally, if the authorities know or suspect that there are illegal items on board, can they not track the containers to their destination and seize them, and those responsible, there? Under the Import and Export Ordinance, any person found guilty of importing unmanifested cargoes is liable to a maximum fine of $2 million and imprisonment for seven years. Under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance, any person found guilty of trading endangered species for commercial purposes is liable to a maximum fine of $5 million and imprisonment for two years. Source: Wildlife Extra

Saturday, July 13, 2013

South Africa tiger and lion hunts, live exports exposed

According to the CITES database, from 2007 - 2011 South Africa exported (or re-exported) 19 tigers ‘trophies', 7 tiger skins, 2 tiger bodies and 151 live tigers! Quite why and how tiger trophies are exported from South Africa is anyone's guess, though there have long been rumours that hunting outfits in South Africa have been offering tiger hunts. One of the licences for a tiger trophy was actually declared as a ‘hunt trophy' with the specimen being ‘taken from the wild'. This trophy was exported to Pakistan. Additionally, two more of the trophies were ‘taken from the wild', though not declared as hunting trophies (what other sort is there?) and the rest of the ‘trophies' having been bred in captivity and privately owned. Aside from the trophy to Pakistan, of the rest, 3 went to Lebanon, 1 to Austria, 2 to Norway, 6 to the UAE, 1 to Qatar, 1 to Poland and 2 more to Pakistan. That sounds about right. If this is true, there can be no such thing as a wild tiger hunt in South Africa, so the hunt must have been a canned hunt. IE, a tame or semi-tame tiger in a restricted, fenced in area. 151 live tigers were exported, which is an extraordinary number. A few may have been en-route to other countries (15 were exported to Botswana - Why the sudden need to tigers in Botswana? As far as I can tell there are no zoos in Botswana. Reeks of hunting to me.), but it is still a very worrying trend. 76 tigers went to the UAE, perhaps en route elsewhere, perhaps not, but either way, it is worrying. 20 tiger were exported to Vietnam, and 14 to Myanmar, which is sinister. Both countries have native tiger populations, and both are known hubs for trading in illegal tiger products, so there is little chance that those tigers are still alive. Lions Over the same period, South Africa has exported hundreds of lions, thought mostly in kit form (Trophies, skeletons, skins and bones), with hundreds going to the USA, and large quantities also going to Russia, Vietnam, Norway, Mexico, Laos(a lot of bones), Spain and China. Source: Wildlife Extra (UK)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Chadian police arrest poaching kingpin wanted for slaughter of 89 elephants in one night

Chadian authorities captured a man they accused of leading a group of poachers that killed 89 elephants in a single night in March, Environment Minister Mahamat Issa Halikimi said. Hassan Idriss, also known as Gargaf, is suspected of slaughtering 192 of the animals since August, Halikimi told reporters in the capital, N’Djamena. Idriss, who was presented to journalists along with 124 tusks that were seized when he was captured on June 13, led a gang of more than 50 poachers who hunted the pachyderms on horseback, he said. “It is unacceptable that lawless men roam our forests and carry out massacres of large animals when efforts to protect the environment in our country are well recognized internationally,” Halikimi said. The killing of the 89 elephants on the night of March 14 and 15 was the worst poaching incident in the region since February 2012, when 300 of the animals were killed in Cameroon. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that the illegal trade in wildlife is worth $19 billion a year, the fourth-largest illict market after narcotics, counterfeit products and human trafficking, according to its website. Idriss has been operating in the central Cameroon-Chad border region since 2011, Halikimi said. In addition to the attack in March, Idriss is also accused of poaching 63 elephants in August 2012, and a further 40 in October in which five Cameroonian forest rangers were killed, he said. Chad plans to establish a monitoring centre to step up the fight against poachers, Halikimi said. Source: AP

Kenya customs service seizes more than 3 tonnes of ivory destined for Malaysia

MOMBASA, Kenya — Officials at Kenya’s Mombasa port impounded more than three tons of illegal ivory disguised as peanuts for export to Malaysia, the second such seizure there in less than a week. The ivory was seized on Monday and had been declared as 240 bags of peanuts, Paul Mbugua, a spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service, said in a statement Tuesday. Kenyan revenue officials said the ivory was worth more than $700,000, the biggest seizure so far this year. Last week officials at Mombasa’s port seized a substantial consignment of illegal ivory disguised as sundried fish marked for export to Malaysia. Two more suspicious containers — one from Uganda and the other from Congo — were due for verification, officials said Tuesday.The big seizures highlight East Africa’s growing problem of poaching and the illegal trade in ivory, as demand for it increases in Asia. According to CITES, the international body that monitors endangered species, the illegal ivory trade has more than doubled since 2007. Kenya’s elephant population fell from 160,000 in 1960s to 16,000 in 1989 due to poaching. Today Kenya is home to only 38,500 elephants. Most of the ivory impounded on Monday likely came from Botswana, South Africa, Congo, Cameroon, and Mozambique, according to Arthur Tuda, a Kenya wildlife official responsible for the coast. If most of the ivory is being smuggled from countries other than Kenya, it suggests Mombasa’s port is becoming a favorite for ivory smugglers and traders. Tuda said three clearing agents at Mombasa have since been arrested over their alleged involvement in the illegal ivory trade. Kenyan officials have intercepted six major ivory consignments being smuggled through the port in the last three years. They were destined for Hong Kong, Cambodia, United Arab Emirates, China, Thailand and Malaysia. Tuda said that, unless wildlife poaching is declared “an economic crime” with heavy penalties, the problem is likely to persist in Kenya and elsewhere in the region where poachers do not face serious consequences if they are caught. The ivory seized last week at Mombasa’s port originated from the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Kenyan revenue officials warn that ivory smugglers are becoming smarter and have devised means to beat scanners. The ivory seized last week stank of fish and repelled sniffer dogs. The officials say the ivory is often chopped into small pieces, polished and neatly cut into small cubes and circles that disguise their ivory shape during the scanning process. Tuda, the Kenya wildlife official, said the growing number of ivory seizures was the result of greater surveillance by wildlife and revenue officials, who increasingly have to physically search suspicious containers. Last month Beatrice Memo, Kenya’s customs commissioner, announced new regulations to curb ivory trade through the port of Mombasa that include full scrutiny of all goods destined for the Middle East and Asia. The new procedures also call for all exports there to be packed under the supervision of a joint team of wildlife and revenue officials, police, and others. Source: Associated Press

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Zim parks authority butchers two elephants

At the beginning of last week, we received a report from a farmer in Marondera that 2 female elephants were on her farm eating her barley crop. We heard that National Parks intended to shoot the elephants before they injured someone so we asked them to please give us a chance to try and relocate them. They agreed to wait a couple of days so we set about trying to organise the relocation.
Keith Dutlow and Lisa Marabini of AWARE Trust very kindly offered to dart the elephants, using their own tranquiliser free of charge. They also offered a donation of USD1 000 towards the costs. The next problem was to decide where to take the elephants and we asked Hamish Rudland, who already has 13 elephants in the Umfurudzi, if we could take them there. He agreed and offered us a 30 ton truck to move the elephants.We also needed a high-up crane to load the elephant crates and the elephants and a dangler trailer to facilitate the loading. We approached a local crane hire company to ask for a quote to hire their crane. They estimated the cost at around USD4 000 and wanted the money up front. This was a major problem for us because we had intended to do the relocation and then put out an appeal for the funds afterwards. We explained the situation to them but they wouldn't budge which greatly disappointed us. National Parks have their own relocation unit but it seems they only use it to move animals which are to be exported. We managed to find a dangler trailer but it was only available on Tuesday this week. We were then informed by Hamish Rudland that he had changed his mind about taking the elephants at Umfurudzi because he didn't want these 2 wild elephants mixing with his domesticated ones. We now had the added problem of a truck to move the elephants. Alro Shipping came forward and offered us a truck free of charge. We are extremely grateful to Alro who have often come forward to help us, never asking for any payment. A big thank you to Riley Travers of Imire who spent 4 days continuously tracking an monitoring the elephants. We asked Riley to appeal to Marondera National Parks to give us until Tuesday this week to relocate the elephants. They weren't keen and seemed desperate to shoot them. In view of all the problems we were facing, we felt the best option would be to fire shots into the air to try and force the elephants to go back to the North, where they came from but National Parks refused to do this, stating that it would be too dangerous. Sadly, we heard yesterday that the elephants had moved to within 2 km of Marondera town and National Parks shot them, fearing that they would hurt someone. We are very disappointed in National Parks and in certain Zimbabwean companies who put money before the welfare of our wildlife. We have now lost 2 young elephants who had their whole lives ahead of them. Source: Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (Harare)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Four poachers arrested, 37 elephant tusks recovered in Namibia's Bwabwata National Park

A sting operation over the weekend led to the arrest of four men in connection with what is believed to be one of the largest consignments of elephant tusks to be confiscated in the Bwabwata National Park recent years. The joint operation between the Namibian Police (Nampol) and officials from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism led to the arrest and confiscation of 37 tusks from a truck at the Kongola checkpoint in the early hours of Saturday morning. The four men are Namibians, while the person suspected of being the mastermind behind the syndicate of wanton slaughter, a Zambian national, managed to slip away from the police. The four men appeared briefly in the Katima Mulilo Magistrate's Court yesterday on charges of dealing and unlawful possession of controlled game products. They are set to make another court appearance on August 19 and have been denied bail with magistrate Loretta Jagga saying the case is very serious and that they could interfere with police investigations. The suspects have been identified as 32-year-old Zambian national Mike Panza, who got away, Charles Isak Fredricks (46), Andreas Niivundo (35), Sydney Kilapile Malonzi (25) and 50-year-old Richard Nanjunga Malonzi. The deputy director for the north-eastern regions in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Cletius Maketo told New Era that law enforcement agents have been monitoring the Zambian national, Panza, since his arrival in Katima Mulilo last week. "He kept the tusks in an unoccupied house somewhere in the location, while he stayed at a B&B in town. From Thursday we were monitoring him and Friday we received information that he would load the tusks into the truck. "They did not load the tusks at the truck port, instead they went to load near the Mpacha airport. Three smaller vehicles came and loaded the illegal goods. We wanted to strike then, but decided to wait for them at the Kongola check point," Maketo said. Last week police also arrested a Zambian national, Mulenga Kasenge (32) at the Singalamwe border post carrying elephant tusks cut into small pieces to fit in a travel bag. He appeared in the Katima Mulilo Magistrate's Court on a charge of dealing and unlawful possession of controlled game products. Police seized some charms, apparently to make the poachers evade police detection, several rounds of ammunition and ten elephant tusks cut into 23 pieces in that sting operation. Kasenge, a nurse by profession at Imusho in Zambia, is still in police holding cells at Katima Mulilo. He was not asked to plead and was denied bail due to the seriousness of the crime. Panza is the suspect, whom the police believe is the mastermind in the ivory smuggling syndicate and who facilitated the purchase of ivory tusks and arranged for their transportation. Panza was also found with large sums of money amounting to about N$21 570 at the same roadblock, but in a different vehicle. Seargent Kisco Sitali, the police regional spokesperson, said it was Panza who during interrogation revealed the names of the suspects from whom he bought the tusks. "We got a tip off and mounted a roadblock at Kongola. When Panza was arrested he told us where he bought the elephant tusks and the suspects from Lizauli were arrested on the evening of Saturday," said Sitali. According to him the present case has no connection with the bust of illegal elephant tusks at Singalamwe border post last week. "This is a separate case and we are still on the hunt for suspects who escaped in the previous case. They are on foot and we ask people in the villages that if they see people they are not familiar with, to report them to the police. Their identities are known," said Seargent Sitali. Last year MET officials said 18 elephant carcasses were discovered in the north-eastern Bwabwata National Park killed by gangs of marauding poachers for their precious ivory, which is in high demand in Asian countries. Source: Online

Monday, June 17, 2013

Kenya Wildlife Service suspends more than 30 game rangers suspected of complicity in poaching

June 2013. Kenya Wildlife Service has suspended more than 30 senior personnel who are under suspicion of participating in or helping poaching gangs operation in National Parks across Kenya. Kenya has always struggled against poachers targeting elephants, but the scourge of elephant poaching in Kenya has increased recently, and there has also been a surge in rhino poaching in the last month or so. Susan Soila Sayialel, a deputy director of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, and her son, Robert Sayialel, who also works for the trust, have been arrested and charged with being illegally in possession of 19 kilogrammes of elephant ivory. Soila and her son claim that they have been framed by staff of the Kenya Wildlife Service. Kenya to clamp down on wildlife crime _ Big increase in punishment for poachers Poachers will receive greater penalties if caught killing elephants in Kenya after a new bill was passed by the Kenyan Government - a move welcomed by international wildlife charity Care for the Wild. President Uhuru Kenyatta and his cabinet approved the Wildlife Conservation and Management Bill and Policy, which will massively raise fines and potential prison sentences for those caught poaching. Those found guilty could also lose property gained through poaching; while officials involved in poaching will lose their jobs. More rangers and a crack enforcement team will also be employed. Philip Mansbridge, CEO of Care for the Wild International, said: "It's taken a long time coming, but this is excellent news. Kenya has been under attack from poachers for a long time now, but has offered no defence in terms of penalties for offenders. At least now, poachers know that if they are caught in Kenya, they will be properly punished. "Care for the Wild has been running anti-poaching patrols in Kenya for many years, and the work has become very dangerous. We needed the government to show that they were protecting the people who protect the wildlife - and they've taken a step in the right direction." Mr Mansbridge added that responsibility for the poaching crisis could not fall solely onto the Kenyan Government. Care for the Wild has been calling for the G8 group of nations to divert foreign aid into fighting wildlife crime - which is becoming increasingly responsible for national security issues. "The world has been watching this crisis unfold, and the world is talking about it. But now the world has to act. Elephant poaching will not only lead to the sickeningly sad destruction of the most iconic of animals, but it is increasingly intertwined with growing poverty, ethnic rivalry, terrorism and civil war. This is no longer a wildlife problem, it's a world problem. "This month, the G8 leaders meet in Northern Ireland. At their disposal is $90 billion of foreign aid. A plan exists, drawn up by elephant range states, to counter poaching - it costs $97 million, but they haven't been able to raise it. For the equivalent of just 7p per person from each of the G8 states' aid budgets we could start to squash this poaching problem. Please G8 - don't leave this until it's too late." Source: Wildlife Extra

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

DRC Congolese soldiers selling firearms arms to elephant poachers, says M23 rebels

The M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo are accusing government forces of selling guns to elephant poachers. The rebels, who have been fighting the Kinshasa government since April last year, say that the poachers have intensified their hunt for Ivory due to the availability of guns they buy at a giveaway price from the government soldiers. M23 spokesperson Colonel Vianney Kazarama told URN on phone from the rebel base in Bunagana that they have information linking government forces to poaching. He says through their intelligence and from the poachers they have arrested, they have established that the government forces who are near the rebel territory are selling off ammunitions to get money for upkeep. The DRC government could not be reached by our reporter for a comment on the matter. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, the population of elephants in eastern Congo has fallen by about 50% over the past decade due to poaching and conflicts in the region. An estimated 17,000 elephants were killed by poachers in 2011 alone. DRC is among eight countries heavily implicated in the ivory trade. In March this year, a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) conference issued a warning to the eight countries that they have until July 2014 to reduce the trade in ivory or face sanctions. The other countries are Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania among others. An October 2012 report by UN Office of Humanitarian Coordination Affairs said more than 475,000 people had been internally displaced across Oriental, North and South Kivu provinces. The report added that more than 50,000 people had taken refuge in neighboring Uganda and another 25,000 in Rwanda following the crisis. Presently, the rebels and the Congolese government are involved in peace talks in Uganda under the International Conference on Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). The negotiation is intended to review the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 23 March 2009, a date the rebels coined to get their name, M23. Source: Red Pepper (Uganda)

Monday, June 10, 2013

World Lion Day to kick-off efforts to save dwindling lion population

An upcoming celebration that highlights the importance of lions to the environment --World Lion Day -- takes place on August 10. The African Lion & Environmental Research Trust, or ALERT, a conservation and restoration charity, is one of the organizations that will help to kick off the event. The non-profit organization said the lion is a national icon in Africa. But the lion population has plummeted 80 to 90 percent since 1975 due to a growing human population and illegal poaching. World Lion Day aims to highlight their plight. ALERT said the cats are an important component of the food chain, helping to keep animal populations in balance, and they said there is an overwhelming need for reintroducing disease-free lions back into the wild. Many countries depend on lions for millions of dollars in tourism annually. ALERT aims to generate long-term solutions so African communities and wildlife can live in harmony. The NGO is the first to successfully introduce designated areas for the protection and rehabilitation of lions. David Youldon is the Chief Operating Officer, COO, for ALERT. “World Lion Day was an idea based around our experience that when we’re talking about lions with people, so few people appreciate that this is a species that is under severe threat. There are certainly people suggesting that they could go extinct in the next 10 to 20 years, and we were looking for a way to try and raise awareness of the issue, and call for people to support individuals and organizations, so that in Africa and in India as well-- to try and save the species,” explained Youldon, who also pointed out that several problems are putting lion survival at risk. “Lions are faced with many threats, but the biggest one is the loss of their habitat, as humans continue to encroach on the land that the lions need, even into protected areas. And that’s coupled with a loss of the food source for lions, and humans are poaching out many of the species on which lions rely. Once you have those two things come together, habitat loss and prey-based depletion, lions are being forced into conflict with people,” said Youldon. The conflict is often seen when lions attack livestock, which provokes herders to retaliate. The COO said it is a conflict that lions simply can’t win. “These lion populations that are left are now isolated from each other. So, they’re becoming inbred because there’s no natural gene flow between populations. There are disease threats, and that seems to be increasing as humans and our livestock interact with wild animals more frequently. And it will probably become more of an issue as climate change affects how diseases transfer within populations,” he explained. As predators, lions keep the natural balance by killing the old and sick of their prey. Youldon also emphasized the impact this predation has on the wild life population. “They also actually control the number of animals of some other species. For example, zebra and buffalo are very dominant herbivore species, and their numbers are mostly controlled by [predators], rather than natural death or death and disease. If those species are not being controlled by lions, then their numbers can grow, and they can start to out compete other herbivore species. Therefore you get a loss of overall biodiversity within an area. Without lions, those smaller predators can increase in number and cause an even greater conflict with humans than lions do because they live in much higher densities than lions do.” Youldon stressed that lions are revered throughout many cultures around the world, making them an economic benefit the economy through tourism. He explained that “most people coming to Africa, that is the one animal that they want to make sure that they see. So an area with lions draws tourism. The lion is also culturally important, not just within Africa, not just in India where they currently exist, but the lion is a key symbol for so many cultures whether they’re American, or British, or German, or French, or Chinese, you’ll find the lion very deeply held within almost every culture on earth.” ALERT and its partners will spend the coming months drumming up attention and support for World Lion Day which will be celebrated on August 10 in Livingstone, Zambia. Source: Voice of America

DR Congolese poaching kingpin and warlord arrested with 12 elephant tusks

Jean Marie Mabamza, a Congolese man believed to be a ring-leader of an elephant poaching gang that targeted Gabon's Mwagna National Park has been arrested in a joint operation by Gabon and Congo authorities. Marie Mabamza, the ring-leader of a large network of poachers, was arrested on Congolese territory when he came to collect ivory and weapons from his fighters. At the time of his arrest, Jean Marie Mabamza was in possession of 12 ivory tusks, two military weapons and a quantity of ammunition. During questioning by the authorities, the defendant admitted that his employees hunted in a nearby Gabon reserve. The arrest of Jean Marie Mabamza is the result of some strong cooperation that is increasingly taking place between officials of Gabon and Congo. The Mwagna National Park and bai (Forest clearing) is sacred to the pygmies a haven forest elephants, monkeys, forest hogs, bongo antelopes, sitatungas and duikers. Source: Wildlife Extra

Friday, June 7, 2013

Kenya to deploy surveillance cameras to track poachers in Tsavo National Park

NAIROBI Kenya, Jun 4 – The fight against rhino and elephant poachers in the Tsavo has received a boost in the form of a Sh70 million grant to deploy state-of-the-art camera traps in the vast conservancy. This was after conservationists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) won the grant from Google’s Global Impact Awards to install a network of next generation cameras to help stop rhinos being slaughtered by gangs of armed poachers. The crucial funding will see cameras with automated sensors installed in poaching hotspots within months – saving hundreds of animals over the next two years. As well as instantly transmitting images of park intruders to the rangers, the cameras can detect vehicles from vibrations and triangulate the sound of gunshots, so that park rangers can pinpoint the location of poachers and intervene immediately. A public surge of support for the project saw huge numbers of people vote online for ZSL to receive this critical funding ahead of nine other finalists. “These life-saving cameras will help stop the slaughter of rhinos, which has seen more than 1,000 killed in Africa in just eighteen months,” ZSL’s field conservation director, Prof Jonathan Baillie, said. Kenya Wildlife Service Director, William Kiprono, said the award was a milestone in the protection of critically endangered species in large areas such as Tsavo which are more difficult to manage. “We appreciate the continued partnership and collaboration with the Zoological Society of London which we have had for more than 20 years in veterinary services, species and ecological monitoring.” Kiprono also thanked Google for organising the innovative cyber competition and the online voters globally who made it possible. “This funding fits well with the KWS vision of “saving the last great species and places on earth for humanity” and the national strategy of having 2,000 black rhinos conserved in their natural areas.” “Technology is just one of the means to help us better protect endangered species in larger areas such as Tsavo,” Kiprono added, noting that Kenya and other parts of Africa have been experiencing an all-time high in poaching incidents and needed help. The KWS Director noted that the government was committed to reviewing wildlife policy and law with a view to enhancing penalties to deter poachers and traffickers in contraband wildlife products. This year alone Kenya has lost 24 rhinos to poachers, including seven countrywide last week, some in the Tsavo. Kenya had 631 black rhinos and 394 white rhinos by the end of last year. Kiprono called on other stakeholders to support conservation of endangered species through other means including but not limited to diplomatic approaches, education and public awareness campaigns. KWS Rhino Coordinator Ben Okita said the Google funding through ZSL was a much welcome proactive reaction to the global poaching crisis. “This will go a long way in protecting the endangered black rhino while we seek more sustainable and long term solutions to the poaching problem.” Source: Capital FM, Nairobi

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Ugandan fugitive warlord Joseph Kony poaching elephants to sustain LRA rebel group

KAMPALA, Uganda – Members of a militia run by fugitive African warlord Joseph Kony are killing elephants across Central Africa to support Kony’s struggling group, according to a report by watchdog organizations that are urging the expansion of programs to encourage defections from the Lord’s Resistance Army. The Enough Project, the Satellite Sentinel Project and two other groups said in the report released Monday that the LRA has turned to elephant poaching “as a means to sustain itself,” and that the militia uses money from the illegal trade in ivory to acquire food and other supplies. “With prices at record-high levels, trading illegal ivory offers the LRA another way to sustain itself in addition to its habitual pillaging,” the report said. “Former senior fighters who defected from the group report that the LRA trades ivory for arms, ammunition, and food.” The report said Kony, a cruel warlord who is accused of using boys as fighters and girls as sex slaves, gave the order to butcher elephants for their ivory as far back as 2010. Former captives say that LRA groups in Central African Republic and Congo “trade ivory with unidentified people who arrive in helicopters.” In February Ugandan troops operating in Central African Republic discovered six elephant tusks believed to have been hidden in the bush by the LRA. Ugandan army officials said at the time that they were acting on information given by an LRA defector who said Kony long ago instructed his fighters to find ivory and bring it to him. Experts say that Africa’s elephants are under increased threat from habitat loss and poachers motivated by rising demand for ivory in Asia. About 70 years ago, up to 5 million elephants are believed to have roamed sub-Saharan Africa. Today fewer than a million remain. The elephants of Central Africa, a region long plagued by armed conflict and lawlessness, are especially vulnerable. Much of the harvested ivory ends up as small trinkets. The new report said Congo’s expansive but poorly protected Garamba National Park, which once was used by LRA commanders as safe haven, is the source of some of the ivory that ends up before Kony. But Garamba’s elephants also are being targeted by “members of the armed forces of (Congo), South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda,” the report said, citing the concerns of park rangers there. It said the LRA is part of “the larger poaching crisis that puts wild African elephants at risk of local extinction.” Facing pressure from U.S.-backed African Union troops tasked with eliminating its leaders, the LRA -which used to have several thousand men – is now degraded and scattered in small numbers in Congo, South Sudan, and Central African Republic. Fewer than 500 LRA rebels are still active in the bush, according to the Ugandan military, but they can conduct hit-and-run operations that terrorize villagers and move across the region’s porous borders in small groups. Source: Online

Monday, June 3, 2013

Namibia game reserve loses 18 elephants, 5 buffaloes to poachers in 1 month

MUTJIKU - San communities resident in the Bwabwata National Park in Northern Namibia and the parks authority have reported the slaughter of 18 elephants, 5 buffaloes, 5 kudus and one anteater by poachers between April 13 and May 12, 2013. According to local newspaper New Era, the communities blamed the sudden spike in poaching incidents on the mushrooming of illegal settlements, populated by illegally settled Angolans, east of the town of Omega. Briefing government officials during a meeting at Mutjiku in the eastern Kavango region, San community leaders said poaching only became a problem in the past few year when a group of people from Angola migrated into the park to set up settlements. "There are many Angolan nationals east of Omega who are even farming with cattle. We also had cattle but government told us that we cannot (farm with them)," said Thaddeus Chedau, the chairperson of the Kyaramacan Association through which the San are involved in tourism projects. He said the San living within the Bwabwata National Park want the government to employ them as game wardens in local parks because they have the indigenous knowledge which is needed to track poachers. "Why must government employ people from outside who have no love for the animals, they just come here? We have our own game guards, but they cannot do much to stop the poaching, because they are unarmed. Our community game guards always report that they hear gunshots near the Angolan border but they are afraid of attend to the crime scenes because we are unarmed," said Chedau. Environment ministry’s parks and wildlife director Colgar Sikopo confirmed that a total of 18 elephant carcasses were discovered recently at Bwabwata National Park. Last year, Namibia lost 78 elephants to poachers, some of them alleged to be Chinese and Zambians. The Kyaramacan Association has 27 community game guards, five field officers and 16 community resource monitors. Overwhelmed by poaching at Bwabwata, the government briefly deployed the Namibian Defence Force (NDF) for a crackdown which lasted for two weeks in December 2012. Source: New Era (with additional reporting by AEP)