Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Only 6 northern white rhinos left worldwide, species on verge of extinction

The death of a Northern White Rhino has left the species on the brink of extinction as now only six remain in the world, and just one breeding male. The 34-year-old rhino, called Suni, was one of four Northern Whites residing on Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a not-for-profit organisation situated in Kenya’s Laikipia County. He was born in captivity at Dvůr Králové Zoo in Czech Republic and transported to the conservancy in 2009, along with one other male and two females in a bid to try and rescue the species. A statement from the conservancy said: “Our rangers found him on the morning of October 17th, 2014, dead in his boma. Suni was not a victim of poaching and we have yet to establish the cause of his sudden death. The Kenya Wildlife Service vets will conduct a post mortem as soon as possible. “We will continue to do what we can to work with the remaining three animals on Ol Pejeta in the hope that our efforts will one day result in the successful birth of a northern white rhino calf.” The other three Northern White Rhinos are located in the Czech Republic and San Diego Zoo's Safari Park. The Northern White Rhino and the Southern White Rhino are the two subspecies of the white rhinoceros. The Northern’s former range covered several countries in East and Central Africa, including northwestern Uganda, southern Chad, southern South Sudan, the eastern part of Central African Republic, and northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Source: Wildlife Extra

Friday, October 24, 2014

Musina Mafia kingpin Dawie Groenewald indicted in US for money poaching, trafficking and laundering

The owners of Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris were charged with conspiracy to sell illegal rhinoceros hunts in South Africa in order to defraud American hunters, money laundering and secretly trafficking in rhino horns, announced Sam Hirsch Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division; George L. Beck, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama; and Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The indictment was unsealed today in Montgomery, Alabama following the federal indictment. The indictment charges Dawie Groenewald, 46, and his brother, Janneman Groenewald, 44, both South African nationals, and their company Valinor Trading CC (d/b/a Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris) with conspiracy, Lacey Act violations, mail fraud, money laundering and structuring bank deposits to avoid reporting requirements. The Lacey Act, the nation’s oldest criminal statute addressing illegal poaching and wildlife trafficking, makes it a crime to sell animal hunts conducted in violation of state, federal, tribal and foreign law. According to the 18-count indictment, from 2005 to 2010, the Groenewald brothers traveled throughout the United States to attend hunting conventions and gun shows where they sold outfitting services and accommodations to American hunters to be conducted at their ranch in Mussina, South Africa. During the time period covered by the indictment, Janneman Groenewald lived in Autauga County, Alabama, where Out of Africa maintained bank accounts and is accused of money laundering and structuring deposits to avoid federal reporting requirements. Hunters paid between $3,500 and $15,000 for the illegal rhino hunts. The defendants are charged with selling illegal rhino hunts by misleading American hunters. The hunters were told the lie that a particular rhino had to be killed because it was a “problem rhino.” Therefore, while no trophy could be legally exported, the hunters could nonetheless shoot the rhino, pose for a picture with the dead animal, and make record book entries, all at a reduced price. Meanwhile, the defendants are alleged to have failed to obtain necessary permits required by South Africa and cut the horns off some of the rhinos with chainsaws and knives. The indictment alleges that the defendants then sold the rhino horn on the black market. Eleven illegal hunts are detailed in the papers filed in federal court, including one in which the rhino had to be shot and killed after being repeatedly wounded by a bow, and another in which Dawie Groenewald used a chainsaw to remove the horn from a sedated rhino that had been hunted with a tranquilizer gun. The American hunters have not been charged. \ “We are literally fighting for the survival of a species today. In that fight, we will do all we can to prosecute those who traffic in rhino horns and sell rhino hunts to Americans in violation of foreign law,” said Sam Hirsch, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This case should send a warning shot to outfitters and hunters that the sale of illegal hunts in the U.S. will be vigorously prosecuted regardless of where the hunt takes place.” “These defendants tricked, lied and defrauded American citizens in order to profit from these illegal rhinoceros hunts,” stated U.S. Attorney Beck. “Not only did they break South African laws, but they laundered their ill-gotten gains through our banks here in Alabama. We will not allow United States’ citizens to be used as a tool to destroy a species that is virtually harmless to people or other animals.” “The fact that defendants used American hunters to execute this scheme is appalling - but not as appalling as the brutal tactics they employed to kill eleven critically endangered wild rhinos,” said FWS Director Ashe. “South Africa has worked extraordinarily hard to protect its wild rhino population, using trophy hunts as a key management tool. The illegal ‘hunts’ perpetrated by these criminals undermine that work and the reputation of responsible hunters everywhere.” Rhinoceros are an herbivore species of prehistoric origin and one of the largest remaining mega-fauna on earth. Adult rhinoceros have no known natural predators. All species of rhinoceros are protected under United States and international law. Since 1976, trade in rhinoceros horn has been regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty signed by over 170 countries around the world to protect fish, wildlife and plants that are or may become imperiled due to the demands of international markets. Nevertheless, the demand for rhinoceros horn and black market prices have skyrocketed in recent years due to the value that some cultures have placed on ornamental carvings, good luck charms or alleged medicinal purposes, leading to a decimation of the global rhinoceros population. Like hair or finger nails, rhino horn is actually composed of keratin and has no proven medical efficacy. As a result, rhino populations have declined by more than 90 percent since 1970. South Africa, for example, has witnessed a rapid escalation in poaching of live animals, rising from 13 in 2007 to a record 1004 in 2013. Illegally killed rhinos like the ones charged in this prosecution are not included in the published statistics of poached animals. An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The investigation of Out of Africa is part of Operation Crash (named for the term “crash” which describes a herd of rhinoceros), an ongoing nation-wide effort to detect, deter and prosecute those engaged in the illegal killing of rhinoceros and the unlawful trafficking of rhinoceros horns led by the Special Investigations Unit of the Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement in coordination with the U.S. Department of Justice. Thus far there have been 26 arrests and 18 convictions with prison terms as high as 70 months. (See attached Crash Fact Sheet). Throughout the course of the investigation on the current charges, U.S. authorities received substantial cooperation from South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority and a specialized endangered species unit within the organized crime unit of the South African Police Service. That unit is known as the Hawks. Additional assistance has been provided in this case by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, in Montgomery, Alabama and the Autauga County, Alabama Sheriff’s Office. The Out of Africa case is being prosecuted in the Middle District of Alabama by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon K. Essig and by Richard A. Udell, Senior Litigation Counsel with the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. The Out of Africa investigation is continuing. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance. Source: Online

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nambian accomplice for Chinese poaching syndicate gets 3 years in prison

A FINE of N$20 000 or three years behind bars is the price an Okahandja resident has to pay for helping an alleged Chinese ivory smuggling syndicate to transport three elephant tusks from Rundu to Windhoek two years ago. After pleading guilty to a charge of possession of controlled wildlife products on 7 October, Immanuel Petrus was sentenced in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court on Friday. Magistrate Justine Asino sentenced him to a fine of N$20 000 or three years in prison. Petrus and three co-accused were jointly charged with a count of dealing in or possession of three elephant tusks in Windhoek on 8 November 2012. Petrus' trial was separated from that of his co-accused - George Ndala Mashala, Buchard Garureb, and Henri Eric Arthur Aucamp - after he pleaded guilty. In a plea explanation, Petrus admitted that he possessed three elephant tusks, valued at close to N$44 000, in Windhoek on 8 November 2012 without a permit. He also said he knew it was unlawful to possess the ivory, which is a controlled wildlife product.He told the court that he was attending a funeral at Rundu when he received a call from Mashala, asking him to deliver three tusks to a lorry for transportation to Okahandja. According to the arrangement, Petrus was supposed to receive the tusks from people unknown to him. Petrus said Mashala promised to pay him N$1 500 for his role.He said after he had returned to Okahandja, Mashala asked him to transport the tusks to Windhoek. Petrus did that, too. He said he handed the tusks over to Mashala, who was in the company of Garureb. Petrus said he was in a taxi, waiting for his promised payment from Mashala, when the police arrived and arrested him.The police allegedly found the three tusks in Aucamp's house in Windhoek.Their trial has been postponed to 24 November. Mashala, a Congolese, is also facing a similar charge in another case pending in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court. In that case, Mashala, two Chinese, Hou Xuecheng and Sha Zhiwei, an Indian, Rajaiyah Ranjith Kumar, and a Rundu resident, Hamutenja Stanislaus Hamutenja, allegedly possessed or dealt in four elephant tusks in Windhoek's Northern Industrial Area on 11 June. After a month and a half in custody, Hou was granted bail of N$30 000 on 29 July. He is now back behind bars, though, after he was arrested last week for the theft of animal skins from a taxidermist at Otjiwarongo. The police are alleging that Hou bought the stolen animal products, valued at nearly N$340 000, from two Namibians for N$10 000. Source: Namibian

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chinese poacher re-arrested as Namibia busts zebra, leopard skins syndicate

TWO Namibian men and a Chinese national appeared in the Otjiwarongo Magistrate's Court on Friday for dealing and/or possession of stolen wild animal skins valued at N$337 400. The Otjozondjupa police regional crime investigations
co-ordinator, deputy Commissioner Moses Khairabeb told Nampa in an interview on Friday that the three were arrested on Thursday in Windhoek with a variety of wild animal hides. The two Namibians are 29-year-old Tiesto Shaningi and Setson Shikuyele (27) and Chinese national Hou Xuecheng. Hou owns a shop at China Town in Windhoek. Khairabeb said the men were arrested following a tip-off that seven zebra skins, two jackal skins, a leopard skin, and a monkey skin were sold to Hou in Windhoek. He said the skins were stolen from the Taxidermy Studio in Otjiwarongo. The two Namibians are employees of that factory, and had broken into the factory at an unknown time last Saturday or Sunday to steal the hides. Khairabeb said they sold the animal skins to Hou for N$10 000. Hou was earlier this year apprehended, and appeared in court in Windhoek for allegedly dealing with elephant tusks without a permit. He indicaated that he will engage a private lawyer, while Shaningi and Shikuyele said they will apply for State-funded lawyers. They were remanded in custody, and their case was postponed to 3 November 2014 to allow them to acquire legal representation. Police investigations continue. Source: Namibian

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Interpol issues warrant of arrest for Kenyan poaching kingpin

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 16 – Interpol on Thursday issued an international arrest warrant for Kenyan national Feisal Mohamed, on suspicion of involvement in the illegal ivory trade. According to Interpol, Mohamed is said to be behind three tonnes of ivory confiscated in Mombasa on July 9 last year, when the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) impounded a consignment weighing 3.2 tonnes at the Port of Mombasa. The consignment was intercepted in a 20-foot container awaiting shipment to Malaysia. At the time, KRA Public Relations and Corporate Affairs officer Fatuma Yussuf said the ivory tusks were packed in Kenya. Yussuf had also said documents indicated that the ivory was disguised as groundnuts, wrapped and some stashed in sacks. Arthur Tudor, the director Kenya Wildlife Service’s Coastal region, said the kind of ivory originated from elephants from the savannah that include Kenyan national parks and neighbouring countries . Following the seizure, police initiated investigations on the exporter in Nairobi, the consignee in Malaysia and the clearing based in Mombasa. Two alleged smugglers were on July 12 charged over the consignment but denied the charges. Abdul Halim Sadiq and Ghalib Sadiq Kara were charged in the port city Mombasa for being in possession of the stash of elephant tusks. An arrest warrant was also issued for businessman Mohamed. In the warrant issued on Thursday, the international police organisation called on member states to arrest Mohamed if he sets foot on their territories. On Wednesday, Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo said tight measures were set to be put in place to assist in the fight against the poaching menace in the country. Kimaiyo said he had already met key stakeholders in the sector to strategise on the way forward as the threat continues to persist despite various efforts by the government and other stakeholders. “We are giving a very strong warning to the poachers…their days are numbered,” he warned. “They will face the full force of the law. We are not going to relent on the issue of poaching and we are going to deal with it firmly.” He said the current trend threatens to bring down the tourism sector which remains a major income earner but warned that police will not relent in the war. “Even if they are armed with any kind of sophisticated weapon, we shall deal with them. We have more sophisticated weapons than they have,” he stated.
WANTED: FEISAL MOHAMMED Source: The Star, Nairobi

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

World wildlife population declines 52 per cent since 1970, says WWF

A new report undertaken by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has revealed that wildlife species around the world have continued to sharply decline, and numbers are today at a staggering 52 per cent less than in 1970. The Living Planet Report 2014 measured over 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish in order to assess the state of the world’s biodiversity. The report concludes that unsustainable human consumption is responsible for the continued decline of the world’s species, citing overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution, and global warming as the causes. Using data from the report, a Living Planet Index (LPI) was created to reflect the state of all 45,000 known species. Jonathan Baillie, ZSL’s Director of Conservation, explains: “We have all heard of the FTSE 100 index, but we have missed the ultimate indicator, the falling trend of species and ecosystems in the world. If we get [our response] right, we will have a safe and sustainable way of life for the future.” The most alarming decline in species populations was in freshwater ecosystems, where numbers have dropped by 76 per cent since 1970. The number of wildlife living on land had fallen by 39 per cent, and marine animal populations had also dropped by 39 per cent in the same time period. Of marine animals, turtles were the most hard hit, with their numbers dropping by 80 per cent due to the destruction of their nesting grounds and casualties from fishing nets. The biggest declines in animal numbers since 1970 were found to have occurred in developing countries, while conservations efforts in rich nations had seen small improvements in population figures. However, the report also stated that wealthy nations are importing goods produced by habitat destruction from developing countries, which means that they share in the responsibility of the decline in biodiversity in low-income nations. A second index in the Living Planet Report calculated humankind’s ecological footprint in order to measure the scale it is using up natural resources. It calculated that today’s average rate of global consumption would need 1.5 Earths to sustain it. Looking at just the United States, however, it calculated the country would need a total of four planet Earths to sustain it, while Kuwait was found to be the worst offender in terms of its carbon output. Speaking on the report, David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of WWF-UK said: “The scale of the destruction highlighted in this report should be a wake-up call for us all. But 2015 – when the countries in the world are due to come together to agree on a new global climate agreement, as well as a set of sustainable development goals – presents us with a unique opportunity to reverse the trends. We all – politicians, businesses and people – have an interest, and a responsibility, to act to ensure we protect what we all value: a healthy future for both people and nature.” Source: Wildlife Extra You can view more findings from the Living Planet Report on WWF’s website.