Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Kenya launches major security operation to track down the killers of four rhinos

Kenya's wildlife authorities on Monday launched a major security operation to arrest poachers who killed four rhinos in the past week across the East African nation. Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said the rhinos were killed in Lake Nakuru National Park, Solio Ranch (Nyeri), Ngulia Sanctuary (Tsavo West National Park), and Meru National Park. "Security teams are following crucial leads and expect to catch up with the perpetrators of the heinous crime," KWS Corporate Affairs Manager Paul Udoto said in a statement released in Nairobi. The wildlife agency has enhanced the round-the-clock surveillance at all Kenya's entry exit and entry points while sniffer dogs and their handlers have proved incorruptible and have once again outsmarted the smugglers. The East African nation says it's at a point where it cannot allow further poaching of wildlife because the animal numbers have been reducing at an alarming rate. Most recent statistics from the KWS for instance indicate that the number of elephants for instance has reduced from a high of 160,000 in 1970s to below 30,000. KWS said between the 1970s and 1980s Kenya lost over 80 per cent of her elephants, mainly due to intensive poaching of elephants for ivory. Udoto said the East African nation has lost 21 rhinos and 117 elephants to poachers since the beginning of 2013. Out of these elephants, he said, 37 were killed in protected areas while 80 were outside protected areas. "These numbers include last week poaching incidents. Last year, Kenya lost 384 elephants and 30 rhinos to criminals, a worrying trend that is not sustainable," he added. Kenya lost 289 elephants to poaching in 2011 and another 384 elephants in 2012. Lion is also one of the most endangered animals not only in Kenya but across Africa. Kenya has an estimated 1,800 lions, down from 2,800 in 2002. The country had 30,000 lions in the 1960s, KWS data reveals. Source: Capital FM, Nairobi

Friday, May 24, 2013

Three orphaned black rhinos released back into the wild in Zimbabwe

The big day finally arrived. The team started early to avoid any unnecessary unsettling changes in the orphaned rhinos' normal morning routine. Straight after their morning bottles of milk, both rhinos were tranquilized. Once the drugs took effect, the capture team moved in, notching both rhinos' ears for future identification purposes, drawing blood to analyze for health/disease checks, and fitting a horn transmitter to the older Bebrave to aid post-release monitoring. Loading tranquilized BeBrave for reintroduction After his mother was killed by poachers, BeBrave was all alone. To minimize his stress, he was hand-reared with another young animal, an eland named Sparky. Sparky and BeBrave lived together for many months before black rhino orphan LongPlaying arrived. On the day of the translocation, Sparky watched closely over the fence - unaware that he was to be next.Our plan? To release all three hand-raised animals together to maximize their comfort in their new home - after all, they had been amicably living together for well over a year! The drive to the release area took nearly 2 hours, which is short by normal translocation standards. A quiet water point, not normally used by the only other known rhino in the area,BeBrave and LongPlaying back in the wild was chosen in the hope that the two young rhinos will be able to establish new home ranges without having to fight for their space. BeBrave and LongPlaying quickly joined up before quietly walking off down the road - a rewarding sight after a year-and-a-half of daily human care and interaction! Sparky, the hand-raised eland, was released at the same water Sparky the eland is released point. Our hope was that thethree friends would re-join each other in the bush. However, it appears that a herd of wild eland came through to drink at the release water point later that same day and Sparky has not been seen in the company of the young rhinos since - which we think is a good thing! Hopefully he has settled in well with his new herd. Source: International Rhino Foundation

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Nigerian poachers arrested with hippopotamus teeth

Bauchi — Two hunters have been arrested with bush-buck and two teeth of hippopotamus' suspected to have been poached from Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi State. Head of Interim Management committee of Yankari Game Reserve, Adamu Jibrin Aliyu told newsmen in Bauchi that the suspects were arrested by the police and games rangers during a joint patrol along Mainamaji village near Yankari in Alkaleri Local Government Area of the state. Jibrin said one of those arrested killed the bush buck with a locally made gun while his colleague used a sharp knife to remove the teeth of hippopotamus. He reiterated the commitment of the state government to protect the animals and plants in the game reserve, adding that the government has introduced motivation for the rangers to live up to expectation towards protecting the game reserve. While answering question from newsmen separately the suspects who gave their names as Yahaya Yahaya and Aliyu Abdullahi all of them of lushi village in Bauchi Local Government Area admitted that they committed the offence.Yahaya said he was the one who shot dead the bush buck while Abdullahi said he wrestled with the hippotamous and he removed its two teeth with his sharp knife. Last two weeks a woman was arrested with ivory, two heads of water bucks crocodile which she bought from hunters that poach animals in the game reserve and over 50 elephants have been confirmed killed by suspected hunters in the game reserve last year. Source: Daily Trust (Lagos, Nigeria)

Botswana deploys helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, troops and game scouts to track down elephants poachers

Five elephants were killed in the NG32 concession in Maun, Botswanalast week and had their trunks and tusks cut off with what is thought to be a power saw. The three were ambushed as they walked slowly through the bush near a supply track, leading to remote luxury lodges from the Boro gate in the buffalo fence close to Maun. About 9km into the bush the armed poachers lay in wait and shot dead the three elephants for their ivory. Hunting and safari personnel say the killings were brutally carried out with at least one power saw being used to cut off trunks, rip out the tusks, and mutilate the heads. The poachers, it is believed, had the use of a truck onto which they loaded the ivory and then carried on with their killing spree – and killed the 4 th elephant . Later, in the Kopano Mokoro Community Trust area, the carcass of a 5 th elephant was also discovered. It is not known if the killers of the first four were also responsible for the 5 th . This week, a massive operation was launched to flush out would-be poachers in the Okavango delta with helicopters and fixed wing aircraft assisting security personnel on the ground as they tracked the poachers. The Wildlife coordinator for Maun, Bolt Otlhomile, confirmed the arrest of 6 poachers in NG32 near Xhuruxharaga, close to Maun. The six suspects, all local people, were taken into custody for possession of two elephant tusks. They are likely to face charges of unlawful hunting which carries a P100 000 fine or 5 years imprisonment.There is no indication as yet whether the six were responsible for the poaching of the 5 th elephant. Otlhomile urged all Batswana “to work hand-in-hand with wildlife scouts, police, tribal chiefs, members of the community and conservation bodies to combat poaching and problem animals which kill people in the region time and again. “The Wildlife department is currently training special scouts to help the community because of the escalating poaching rate and problem animals in Ngamiland.” The special scouts are to operate in remote areas. The discovery of the dead elephants has horrified safari operators and the hunting fraternity and they say poaching can be prevented if hunting is allowed to continue after the year-end deadline announced by the government earlier this year. “Hunters are the policemen of the bush. Poachers wouldn't dare try to kill animals if there are hunting parties nearby as they know they will be pursued and caught,” said one hunter. Meanwhile, the Kalahari Conservation Society (KCS) says it is seriously concerned about escalating incidents of poaching. Sophia Walters, the society's public relations consultant, said in an interview published in Gaborone recently that the “KCS views poaching as a serious threat to Botswana's wildlife. “ Source: Ngami Times, Maun, Botswana

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Six rhinos translocated from SA's Phinda Game reserve released back into the wild in Botswana

&Beyond has announced that six rhinos translocated from South Africa have been officially released to roam free in the Okavango Delta. The entrance to the boma where the animals have been acclimatised for the past few weeks was opened and one or two rhino ventured out at a time, returning to feed. Upon feeding, four rhino went out to explore, leaving two bulls behind. They were walking with intent, stopping to graze and drink water every now and then.It has also been confirmed that one of the three females is actually pregnant and will deliver a calf in five to six months’ time. All six rhino have been collared and microchipped for research and monitoring purposes and they will be tracked daily by the &Beyond research team. The information gathered will help guide and secure future translocations.Guests visiting the lodges in the Okavango Delta will also be able to enjoy guided nature walks with our expert guides to view these endangered animals in their new home. “Rhino poaching in South Africa has reached critical levels with two to three rhino poached every day and &Beyond continues to do all we can to protect this species,” read a statement from the company. Three suspected rhino poachers were arrested in the town of Jozini, just north of &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve on May 10th 2013.They were intercepted in a joint operation by the Phinda Anti-Poaching Unit (Nyathi APU Security), SAPS Empangeni Canine Unit, EKZN Wildlife and SAPS Durban Organised Crime Unit. With poaching at an all-time high, &Beyond therefore decided to move these six rhino from Phinda all the way to Botswana where they will be protected 24/7. Botswana has a strong security and monitoring framework in place whereby the Department of Wildlife Anti-Poaching Unit and the Botswana Defence Force help to protect the species. Source: Online

Monday, May 20, 2013

Vietnamese rhino horn dealers get light sentences in US court

The judge went easy on two Vietnamese rhino horn traders in the United States yesterday when she sentences one to 42 months and another to 46 month in prison. This was less than the sentences that the US Federal prosecutors called for. The father and son were also fined and ordered to pay compensation. Vinh Chuong “Jimmy” Kha, 50, and Felix Kha, 27, both of Garden Grove were arrested and charged last year with conspiracy, smuggling, wildlife trafficking in violation of the Lacey Act, money laundering and tax evasion. Vin Chuong Kha was sentenced to 42 months and Felix Kha was sentenced to 46 months. The prosecutors had called for 5 years and 6 years respectively. The judge, Christina Snyder, decided to reduce the sentences by a year each after hearing please from other family members and the story that Vinh Chuong Kha had left Vietnam when under communist control to bring up two sons single-handed in the United States by waiting on tables. The defendant claimed that they were not involved with the killing of any rhino as they were involved with the trafficking of old rhino horns from personal collections. They began the trade after stumbling across old rhino horn at an auction. The Kha’s began their rhino horn smuggling activities in 2008. Prosecutors though said that by creating a market and supplying a market for rhino horn they were guilty of encouraging the killing of rhino in Africa. Further the Kha’s were also involved with the bribing of a Vietnamese official with $150,000 to allow a shipment of rhino horn to go through customs. In addition to the prison sentences the pair were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine each and were also ordered to pay a $185,000 tax penalty. The pair also had their share of $2 million worth of rhino horns and proceeds of crime seized.A third defendant in the case, Win Lee Corp a company owned by Vinh Chuong Kha, was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine. All three defendants were also ordered to pay a total of $800,000 of restitution payments to the Multinational Species Conservation Fund, a statutorily created fund that is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to support international efforts to protect and conserve rhinos and other critically endangered species around the world. Source: Wildlife News (UK)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Deputy director of Kenyan elephant trust charged with illegal possession of ivory

By Kevin Heath, May 13th, 2013 One of the top officials of an elephant campaigning group in Kenya has been charged with illegal possession of ivory after 19Kg of ivory was found in the back of her car. Her son has also been jointly charged. Soila Sayialel is the deputy director of Kenyan campaign group Amboseli Trust for Elephants and was in charge of the community development arm of the charity. The group operates in the Kenyan Amboseli National Park. Sayialel and her son was arrested on Sunday and charged three counts of having ivory without permission. They have today been released on bail and will be pleading not guilty when their trial comes to court on June 17th. Robert Sayialel also worked for the Amboseli Trust for Elephants as a Technical Support Assistant.The couple were stopped by police about 90 miles south of Nairobi and the tusks discovered in the back of the car. The value of the ivory was estimated to be about US$20,000. The Trust has released a short statement in support of their employees but are consulting with lawyers before making any further comment. Soila claims that they have been framed by officials of the Kenyan Wildlife Service because of their work in protecting elephants. The Amboseli Trust for Elephants has an administrative, fund-raising and advocacy office in the United States, a program management office in Nairobi, and a field research office and camp in Amboseli national park. The Nairobi office provides a base for administration, project support and field support. It has been working with and studying the elephants of the park since 1972. The details of the three charges are: being in possession of Government trophies, dealing in trophies without a dealers’ license and failing to make a report of the trophies to the authorities. A KWS spokesman, Paul Mbugua, has said that the investigation into ivory poaching has been widened to include the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. “We have launched investigations into the activities of the Trust and once we find that it is engaging in wildlife related crimes then action will be taken against it,” warned Mbugua. Source: Wildlife News

Botswana calls for shoot-to-kill policy to deal with rhino poachers

The Deputy Speaker of the Botswana Parliament, Pono Moatlhodi, has called for the immediate introduction of a shoot to kill policy to tackle poachers targeting rhino and elephants in the country. His call for a new tougher stance against the poachers comes just days after Mozambique declared that the Limpopo National Park lost its last 15 rhino to the poachers. With the rising demand for rhino horn and elephant ivory from China and Vietnam there is the real fear that the loss of rhino from the Limpopo National Park could just be the first in a line of national parks that will lose their populations. Moatlhodi said that introducing the shoot-to-kill policy is essential to protect both the rhinos and the tourist trade of the country. Protecting the wildlife that the tourists come to see is essential if the country is to widen the strength of the economy and move beyond just being a diamond producing nation. He said that there are particular concerns for the rhinos and elephants of the Kasane region in the north of Botswana which is particularly popular with tourists. While the Botswana army has been deployed to patrol areas with high incidents of poaching particularly along the borders with Zambia and Namibia, Moatlhodi believes that giving permission to rangers, soldiers and police to shoot to kill while out on duty they will be much more effective at tackling the poachers. Saving the high profile species of elephants, rhino and gorillas will ensure that the growing tourism industry in the country has a long-term future. Source: Online

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Tanzanian elephant population faces extinction within 7 years

Tanzania's jumbo elephant population could be wiped out in seven years if poaching continues at current rates, chairman of the parliamentary committee on land, environment and natural resources James Lembeli told the National Assembly recently. According to the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), Tanzania had about 109,000 elephants in 2009, but fewer than 70,000 in 2012. "If this poaching trend is left unchecked, obviously the elephant population will disappear in the next seven years," Lembeli said, according to Tanzania's The Guardian. "This is a national disaster. The government and its agencies should take serious measures to address the problem." Lembeli called on the government to review the Wildlife Act of 2009, institute harsher punishments for poachers, hire more game rangers and procure adequate facilities and modern weapons to fight poaching. To this end, he requested a budget for his committee of almost 75.7 billion shillings ($46.5 million) for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. Source: Sabahi Online (Washington DC)

Tanzania to deploy army, drones in new anti-poaching campaign

By Deodatus Balile DAR es SALAAM — Tanzania is taking steps to combat the rise in elephant and rhinoceros poaching by deploying army personnel and camera-equipped drones to engage in anti-poaching operations. According to the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, poaching has drastically reduced the elephant population to fewer than 70,000 in 2012 from about 109,000 in 2009. Amid outcries from lawmakers about the increase in poaching, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism Khamis Sued Kagasheki told parliament on Thursday (May 2nd) that President Jakaya Kikwete has authorised the deployment of army units for anti-poaching operations. "The president has issued the order," Kagasheki told parliament. "I have talked to Minister of Defence and National Service [Shamsi Vuai Nahodha] and we are at the final stages. I do not say when, but we are going to do something that will be remembered by generations to come." This is the second time the military has aided against poaching. In 1989, "Operation Uhai" helped the elephant population rebound after it reached a low of about 30,000, when it had been about 110,000 in 1976. Opposition lawmaker Peter Msigwa said he supports the president's decision to send in troops to ward off poachers, but said the government should have taken this action five years ago. "In 2008, the poaching problem was as big as it is now," he told Sabahi. "The public outcry to deploy the army was high, but the government did not want to listen to us." Countries should unite to stop the worldwide trade in "dirty tusks", he said, as this fast-growing illicit trade comes at the expense of Tanzania's natural resources. Before parliament on Friday, Gosbert Blandes, a lawmaker representing Karagwe district, said the proposed military operation should begin immediately."I want the minister to say now when is the operation starting? What are we hiding? It has to be immediate and not otherwise," he said. Kagasheki declined to reveal details about the plans for the military, saying that disclosing every detail could end up aiding poachers. However, he said it would start "soon" and that this time troops would use sophisticated equipment to help them ambush poachers. Opposition leader Freeman Mbowe said he was satisfied with the government's intention to use the army to fight poaching, but said the government should do more. "As a deterrent measure, we should change our laws to say clearly that whomever is caught involved in poaching should be sentenced to death," he told Sabahi. DRONES TO BE DEPLOYED Tanzania National Parks spokesperson Pascal Shelutete said the park service will use drones -- small, pilotless, remote-controlled aircraft equipped with cameras -- to monitor who enters the parks."It is a kind of improved closed-circuit television camera, which will facilitate monitoring all parks 24 hours," Shelutete told Sabahi, adding that the cameras are connected to computers via satellite. Similar projects have been implemented around the world. The World Wildlife Fund has a fleet of pilotless planes, which have helped protect Nepal's elephants, rhinoceros and tigers.In addition, projects in other African wildlife reserves are aided by the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), which helps fund the acquisition of drones for conservationist efforts. "We are fighting a war against well-armed and informed poachers," the IAPF said on its website. "In the context of reducing poaching in dangerous environments, [unmanned aerial vehicles] provide a broad-reaching, safer and more cost-effective solution, allowing rangers to monitor a much greater mass of land whilst reducing their own exposure to dangerous and armed poachers." Tanzania's Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism Lazaro Nyalandu asked citizens to join the efforts against poachers by reporting to the authorities anything they see or hear linked to poaching. "The government cannot fight poaching war in isolation. We need to join hands as Tanzanians to fight poachers as a way to preserve our natural resources," he said addressing parliament on Friday. "Let us build the habit of reporting anything we are seeing likely to endanger our elephants, rhinos and all other natural resources." Source: Sabahi Online (Washington DC)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Last 15 known rhinos killed in Mozambique's Gaza National Park

The last known rhinoceroses in Mozambique have been wiped out by poachers apparently working in cahoots with the game rangers responsible for protecting them, it has emerged. Wildlife authorities believe the poachers were able to track the rhinoceroses with the help of game rangers working in the Limpopo National Par The 15 threatened animals were shot dead for their horns last month in the Mozambican part of Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which also covers South Africa and Zimbabwe. They were thought to be the last of an estimated 300 that roamed through the special conservation area when it was established as "the world's greatest animal kingdom" in a treaty signed by the three countries' then presidents in 2002. The latest deaths, and Mozambique's failure to tackle poaching, has prompted threats by South Africa to re-erect fences between their reserves. Wildlife authorities believe the poachers were able to track the rhinoceroses with the help of game rangers working in the Limpopo National Park, as the Mozambican side of the reserve is known. A total of 30 rangers are due in court in the coming weeks, charged with collusion in the creatures' deaths, according to the park's administrators.Conservationists say the poorly-paid rangers were vulnerable to corruption by organised poaching gangs, who target rhinoceroses for their horns which are prized in Asia for their reputed aphrodisiac and cancer-curing properties. The trade in rhino horn has seen the numbers of rhino killed spiral in recent years. Over the border in Kruger, the South African part of the transfrontier park, 180 have been killed so far this year, out of a national total of 249. Last year, 668 rhino were poached in South Africa, a 50 per cent increase over the previous year. Kelvin Alie, from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said the fact that the rangers may have been turned while working on such an important conservation initiative "speaks volumes about the deadly intent of the wildlife trade. They will stop at nothing to get to their quarry," he said. "It is tragic beyond tears that we learn game rangers have now become the enemy in the fight to protect rhino from being poached for their horns." A spokesman for South Africa's environment minister said she would be meeting her Mozambican counterpart in the coming weeks amid concerns that the country is not pulling its weight in the battle against poaching. "Clearly the open fence agreement has become an open season for poachers," Albi Modise said. "Rangers in the Kruger National Park are engaged in daily battles with Mozambican poachers." Dr Jo Shaw, from the World Wide Fund for Nature, said the rhinoceroses had probably crossed into Mozambique from Kruger. Whereas killing a rhino in South Africa can attract stricter punishments than killing a person, in Mozambique offenders generally escape with a fine if they are prosecuted at all. "Rhinos being killed in Kruger are mostly by Mozambican poachers who then move the horns out through their airports and seaports," she said. "With huge governance and corruption issues in Mozambique, it's a huge challenge." Source: Online

Central Africa Republic: Poachers kill 26 elephants in single raid

At least 26 elephants were killed in Central Africa after a group of armed poachers raided a protected sanctuary on Monday (May 6), according to wildlife officials. Seventeen poachers armed with Kalashnikov rifles entered Dzanga-Ndoki National Park in the Central African Republic earlier this week, representatives from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in a statement. The poachers made their way to the Dzanga Bai, an open area where anywhere from 50 to 200 elephants gather daily to drink nutrients and mineral salts in the sands. At least 26 elephant carcasses, including four calves, were counted in and around the Dzanga Bai on Thursday (May 9), WWF officials said. All had had their tusks removed, Jules Caron, head of communications for the WWF's anti-poaching program in Central Africa, confirmed to LiveScience. Wildlife representatives described the Dzanga Bai scene as an "elephant mortuary," and it was evident that local villagers had started taking meat from the remains of the dead animals, they added. [Elephant Images: The Biggest Beasts on Land] "The killing has started," Jim Leape, WWF's international director general, said in a statement. "The Central African Republic must act immediately to secure this unique [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] World Heritage site. The brutal violence we are witnessing in Dzanga Bai threatens to destroy one of the world's great natural treasures, and to jeopardize the future of the people who live there." Poachers continue to kill elephants and strip them of their ivory tusks to sell on global markets, despite a ban on ivory poaching that was instituted in Africa in 1989. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, some 25,000 African elephants are killed every year. "The elephants here face a sure death as criminals obtain ivory, which fuels even more violence in [the Central African Republic]," Cristián Samper, the Wildlife Conservation Society's president and CEO, said in a statement. "On my recent visit to Dzanga Bai, I stood in awestruck silence as I watched hundreds of elephants gathering in this incredible area. WCS stands with our conservation partner WWF calling for immediate action to stop the killing of these elephants." The Dzanga Bai area is known to locals as the "village of elephants," because of the herds of elephants that assemble there every day. Because the poachers raided the sanctuary, however, no elephants have been seen at the Bai, WWF officials said. The Central African Republic has been a hotbed of violence and political instability since the beginning of the year. In April, the WWF and other conservation organizations were forced to leave their field offices next to the Dzanga Bai due to security concerns, agency officials said. "The international community must also act to assist the Central African Republic to restore peace and order in this country to safeguard its population and its natural heritage," Leape said. "WWF also asks Cameroon and the Republic of [the] Congo to assist the Central African Republic in preserving this World Heritage Site, which not only encompasses the Bai, but also includes large neighboring areas of these two countries." The WWF fears poachers in the region will take advantage of the Central African Republic's political turmoil for their gains. The 17 individuals who raided the Dzanga Bai this week presented themselves as part of the country's transitional-government forces. They have since left the sanctuary, but WWF officials are concerned that poaching will continue unless the area is secured. "The events in Dzanga Bai are a vivid reminder of the existential threat faced by forest elephants in Central Africa," Leape said. "Populations of this species have plummeted 62 percent over the past 10 years. The unfolding tragedy in Dzanga Bai must also spur the governments of China and Thailand to act on their commitments to shut down the ivory markets in their countries that are fueling this illicit trade."

Poachers kill last black rhino at Kenya's Ngwesi game park

May 2013. On the 2nd of April 2013, Omni, the only black rhino on Il Ngwesi Group Ranch was speared to death by poachers. His carcass was found two days later, with a poisoned spear lodged inside his body. His horns were intact. Translocated from Lewa in 2002, Omni's presence to the people of Il Ngwesi was very symbolic. It was a first for rhino conservation in Kenya when the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) agreed to return a black rhino back into a newly established community-owned rhino conservation area. Until the 1970s, the area had a very large black rhino population that completely disappeared after the massive slaughter during the years that followed. Omni's significance in Il Ngwesi could not be overstated; he was the only black rhino to live on the land since the 1970s, and his presence offered the possibility of reintroducing the species to their previous homeland as well as a way to share with the world at large the community's interest in using conservation to promote the welfare of their people and open up new commercial and employment opportunities through conservation. Devastated by Omni's death, the Il Ngwesi community with help from other stakeholders (KWS, NRT, Lewa and Borana Conservancy) immediately launched an investigation into the killing. Community elders called for a meeting and decided to use modern as well as traditional methods to catch the poachers. The elders gave the culprits 10 days (from the 15th to the 24th of April) to confess or face dire consequences, including curses. On the 24th, during the second community meeting, two men confessed to killing Omni. Three other men were also identified to have participated in planning the act. The community has since pressed charges. One suspect is still at large, but four of them have been arraigned in court and have all confessed to the crime. The entire investigation has been a community-led initiative, using the arm of the law alongside a traditional cultural approach to expose the culprits within this small society. The entire process has been driven by the community's deep pride in Omni, recognising the benefits he attracted through tourism and a desire to see an expanding rhino population thrive on Il Ngwesi. Source: Wildlife Extra

DR Congo poaching kingpin arrested, 18 elephants tusks seized

May 2013. African Parks is pleased to report that a major anti-poaching breakthrough has been made in Congo's Odzala-Kokoua National Park with the arrest of the kingpin of a regional ivory poaching and trafficking ring. The arrest of Ngondjo Ghislain, alias "Pépito", represents a coup for park manager Leon Lamprecht and his law enforcement team who have been working in extremely difficult circumstances to combat poaching in and around Odzala in recent months. Pépito had long been suspected by park management to be a major poacher in the region, however, concrete evidence of his involvement was difficult to obtain. He was exposed in March when another wanted poacher, Iwelengue Mity, was arrested after two years on the run and gave details of Pepito's activities. Mity was in turn was fingered by two other poachers arrested in the park in recent months. Odzala's recently launched firearm amnesty programme also played a major role in the arrest of Pepito, Owners of illegal firearms could surrender their firearms and receive temporary work as eco-guards. Statements from two people surrendering their firearms named Pepito as the person supplying the firearm or ammunitions, or as the buyer of ivory. An arrest warrant for Pepito was issued by the regional prosecutor in Ewo and the park's anti-poaching team arrested him and an accomplice a few days later, with the assistance of the local Gendarme. After being taken to the Gendarme building, however, Pepito's collaborators started rioting outside the building and park staff were forced to move him at night to Ewo where he is currently facing prosecution. Information gathered by the park's intelligence officer indicated that several park eco-guards had been collaborating with Pepito by providing him with information on park patrol routes and planned ambushes. Following the arrest of Pepito, several suspected eco-guards were interrogated and evidence gathered of Pepito's alleged activities, which include supplying hunters in local villages with firearms and ammunition to hunt elephant on his behalf. The ivory is then allegedly carried by porters from Mbomo through the forest, past the control post at Ebana, before being transported by road. "Pepito allegedly has influential connections that previously secured him immunity against prosecution, and we are very relieved to have him behind bars," says Lamprecht."I would like to pay special tribute to the prosecutor in Ewo who issued the warrant for Pepito's arrest and who has insisted that proper judicial processes are followed." 18 tusks and firearms seized In a separate anti-poaching blitz in April, Operation Nettoyage de Kelle, the park's law enforcement team joined forces with Lossi Gorilla Sanctuary just outside Odzala after discovering evidence of considerable poaching in the Kelle area. Intelligence reports indicated that Pepito and his poaching gangs had moved into this area as a result of anti-poaching operations inside the park. One day after the joint operation commenced, eco-guards from Lossi managed to arrest a poacher carrying two tusks weighing 32 kg. The arrest led to the location of another cache 65 km west of the town of Kelle containing 16 more tusks (weighing 16.2 kg), as well as two AK47 firearms, nine magazines and 106 rounds of ammunition. Further investigations are continuing. African Parks would like to commend the following people and organisations for helping to achieve this breakthrough amidst very trying circumstances: Odzala Park manager, Leon Lamprecht, law enforcement manager, Mathieu Eckel, and park intelligence officer, Nicaise Ngoulou, for their unwavering commitment to stopping elephant poaching at Odzala. The Odzala eco-guard teams for helping to arrest Pepito and other perpetrators. The NGO, PALF, for monitoring the judicial process and in particular for their help in ensuring Pepito's incarceration. Pascal Goma, the Lossi conservator, and his eco-guard team for their dedication in arresting the poacher in Kelle. The Mbomo Gendarme and the Kelle Police. The Ewo prosecutor for his incorruptible dedication towards combating the ivory trade.