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)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Kenya introduces15 year jail sentence, US$120 000 fine for rhino, elephant poachers

With a booming demand for rhino horns and ivory in recent years, poaching wildlife in Africa has become devastatingly lucrative business. This year in Kenya alone, some 21 rhinos and 117 elephants have been butchered to feed that demand, their parts fetching a high price on the black markets of Asia. But now, in a step to counter the illicit incentives of illegal hunting, the Kenyan parliament this week approved to significantly increase the penalties for poachers caught robbing the nation's most precious natural heritage for their own financial gain. Poachers can now expect to face fines up to $120,000, along with jail sentences of 15 years. Prior to the measure, the legal consequences of poaching seemed rather paltry, resulting in fines of $480 and 2 years in jail. "Kenya's elephants declined from 160,000 in 1960s to 16,000 in 1989 due to poaching. Today Kenya is home to only 38,500 elephants and 1,025 rhinos," said MP Chachu Ganya on the parliament floor. "These animals are a major tourism attraction and anyone who threatens them is committing economic sabotage and should be treated as such." Increasing the penalties for poachers is just one of the measures Kenya has taken recently to curb the practice and protect wildlife. In addition to security forces assigned to patrol wildlife reserves, aerial drones fit with infrared thermal imagining devices are also being deployed to monitor parks from overhead, particularly a night when poachers are most active. Sadly, despite ongoing efforts to reduce poaching, the problem has hardly quelled as rhinos and elephants across Africa have been pushed either to extinction, or alarmingly close. It may be too soon to tell whether Kenya's harsher penalties will prove an effective deterrent, but it certainly is a step in the right direction and hopefully a model for other nations to follow. Source: Mongabay