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 - - 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