Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Kenya to crackdown on poaching crisis

Written by Oscar Nkala Monday, 18 February 2013 11:04 The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) plans to install boundary alarm systems and employ an additional 1 000 game rangers to protect national game reserves.This is in response to a spike in poaching activity which saw at least 15 elephants killed in January. KWS director William Kiprono told Somali-based Sabbahi Online the country also needed more aircraft to maintain surveillance over game reserves as well as vehicles and rifles to boost the reach and firepower of game rangers against organised local and international poaching syndicates. He said the alarm system, connected to reserve fences, will go a long way in helping rangers pinpoint and react in the shortest possible time to boundary violations. The alarm system will detect intrusions and use the short message service (SMS) to alert listening posts, showing exactly where tampering or breaking of fences has occurred. Research conducted by KWS shows the new alarm system can cut intrusion into game reserves by 90%.“This system will be able to stem runaway poaching and we see it as the long term solution to save animals from being wiped out by poachers. Tampering with fences includes animals interfering these structures, but it also shows attempts by poachers to tear down the fence. The signals will show exact locations so game rangers can react timeously,” Kiprono said. As part of its game reserve security revamp programme KWS will recruit 1 000 more game rangers, buy more aircraft for surveillance and more advanced rifles and other weapons to out-match poachers, who are often well-trained riflemen and sophisticated enough to sometimes use helicopters to drive herds of elephants around game parks to more secluded points of slaughter. The agency's fight-back against poaching also includes public education and poaching awareness programmes targeting communities around major game reserves and poaching flashpoints. “Elephants are sliding into the endangered species group. This poaching trend is not acceptable and cannot be tolerated. That is why we have to come up with more tactics to tackle this menace. “Last year, we lost more than 384 elephant and 19 rhino; in 2011 we lost 289 elephant and 29 rhino. In January alone over 15 elephants and seven rhino were killed by poachers,” he said. Last August KWS commissioned the construction of the first wildlife forensic and genetics laboratory for the East Africa region in Nairobi. The laboratory is expected to provide critical support for investigation and prosecution of wildlife-related crimes. It will also provide services for tracking the genetic status of declining wildlife and determining gene pools requiring special protection. KWS is also fighting for its own credibility following allegations that some serving and former game rangers are involved with armed Somali poaching gangs blamed for the poaching scourge. The government is yet to decide on whether to deploy paramilitary police and the army to crack down on the poaching crisis which conservationists fear may spiral out of control in the absence of robust short and long term interventions to secure the parks. Tour operators in Kenya have called on government to deploy moreadvanced technology including drones to monitor movement of poachers and wildlife in the parks. Source: www.defenceweb.co.za

Namibian poachers laugh their way out of court

Four men were found guilty in the Katima Mulilo District Court on 11 February on four counts of hunting of protected game and possession or dealing with elephant tusks. They were also found guilty on two counts of possession of ammunition without a firearm capable of firing said ammunition and possession of a fire arm without a valid license. They pleaded guilty to all charges. They were arrested on separate occasions in different villages in the eastern Caprivi.Lubasi Elvis Lubasi (32), Mwemba Brendan (36), Sililo Samwele Rodricks (32) and Duscan Nyambe Liwakala (38) were found guilty on counts 1 and 2. Liwakala was also found guilty of being in possession of ammunition (four bullets) without being in lawful possession of a fire arm capable of firing said ammunition. On count one the accused were sentenced to four years imprisonment without an option of paying a fine and on count two to one year imprisonment without a fine. Liwakala was charged and was given an option of paying a fine of N$500 or spend three months behind bars on count three and to N$2000 or 12 months in jail on count four.All the accused poachers conducted their own defenses, while the state was represented by public prosecutor Roger Sibungo. Source: Informate.com (Namibia)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Poachers kill over 11,000 elephants in Gabon

Yaoundé, Cameroon (6 February 2013) - A new study confirms what has been long suspected: elephant populations are being decimated to the point that the survival of the species in Central Africa is now in question. According to a study by the Gabonese National Parks Agency, WWF and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), poachers have killed an estimated 11,100 elephants – between 44 to 77 per cent of the population –in parts of Minkébé’s National Park and its surroundings in northern Gabon since 2004, when it held Africa’s largest forest elephant population. “The situation is out of control. We are witnessing the systematic slaughter of the world’s largest land mammal,” said Bas Huijbregts, head of the Central African strand of WWF’s global campaign against illegal wildlife trade. “Some reports lead the world to believe that the ivory war has moved from the Central Africa region to other parts of the continent. This is wrong. What has changed is that these criminals are now also attacking the better protected elephant herds in Eastern and Southern Africa.” “But here in Central Africa, unnoticed to the world, elephants are losing this war at lightning speed.” Fiona Maisels, a conservation scientist at WCS who has been analyzing the survey data, said that the data pointed to a regional crisis. “The Minkébé data are representative of trends across all remaining forest elephant strongholds in the region, not to speak of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is believed to hold 7,000 to 10,000 elephants, or less than ten per cent of its population twenty years ago,” Gabon, Maisels explained, represents only about 13% of the forests of Central Africa but is home to over half of Africa’s forest elephants. The Minkébé National Park, in turn, is home to Gabon’s biggest elephant population and to probably the largest forest elephant population in Africa. “At least until these data came out,” she said. Over in in the Central African Republic (CAR) - which in the mid 1980’s held up to 80,000 elephants – poachers are taking advantage of the political instability to wipe out the country’s remaining elephant, which can now number in the thousands. Speaking from Bayanga in southwest CAR, Guian Zokoe, who is in charge of the Dzanga-Sangha Protected Areas for the CAR Ministry of Water and Forests, says poachers have killed at least 17 elephants around the Ngotto forest in the south of the country in the past few days. Unconfirmed reports by villagers hint that some sixty elephants were also killed further north, near the town of Yaloke, he said, adding there were reports of killings throughout the country. “The Central African Republic’s new government has to send its armed forces to stop these poachers before they hit its last elephant stronghold, Dzanga-Sangha, a recently declared World Heritage Site.” “It is not just a question of protecting CAR’s natural resources, but of stopping these armed groups from waltzing around the country and terrorizing local populations wherever they go,” Zokoe added. How to end poaching Although solutions to effectively address the poaching crisis in the region are varied, what can be concluded is clear: left unaddressed, Central Africa’s elephants will follow the footstep of their western black and northern white rhinoceroses, both hunted to extinction. “Governments in the region such as Cameroon, Chad and Gabon are recruiting more rangers and send their armies to fight these poachers. But that is not enough,” Huijbregts says.“The international intelligence community needs to get involved in this fight as soon as possible, in order to identify, track and put out of business these global criminal networks, which corrupt governments, erode national security and hamper economic development prospects.” But Huijbregts explained that to effectively put an end to the poaching crisis, countries in in East Asia would need to address their exploding demand for ivory, which is resulting in record prices.“Unless the governments of the region and demand countries treat this issue as an international emergency we cannot rule out that, in our lifetime, there will no longer be any viable elephant populations in Central Africa,” Huijbregts said. Source: WWF Media Release