Monday, January 26, 2015

American hunter heads to Africa for controversial $350 000 Namibian rhino slaughter

An American hunter is expected to travel to Namibia next month to kill an endangered black rhino after the country’s hunting season opens. Last year, Corey Knowlton offered US$350 000 to win himself the bid for the rhino kill in an auction which was offered by the Dallas Safari Club (DSC).
According to National Geographic, the U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service is now grappling with the decision on whether Knowlton should be granted a license to bring the rhino’s head back as a trophy. Since trade in any rhino parts is restricted by international law, the hunter must get a special permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service to import the trophy. The permit requires showing that the animal was killed in the name of conservation and that bringing it home also helps that cause. The DSC says all proceeds from the auctioned permit will go to support the Conservation Trust Fund for Namibia’s Black Rhino though trophy-hunting opponents criticise this reason, explaining that the idea of killing endangered animals to help save them sends mixed signals that the animal is worth more dead than alive. There are an estimated 5,000 black rhinos left in the wild. Soon after winning the bid last year, Knowlton said his hunt is motivated by a desire to help conservation, telling CNN: "It's not an egotistical thing, it's a belief in conservation from me. I'm a member of a group of people who care enough to put their money where their mouth is." Defending his love of hunting further, he told WFAA news in Texas: "I want to be intimately involved with a black rhino. Whether I go over there (in Namibia) and shoot it or not shoot it, it's beyond the point." Source: Mail and Guardian/Online

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Two Burundian poachers arrested in Tanzania with 25 elephant tusks

Tanzanian police recovered 25 elephant tusks from two Burundian refugees traveling from Katavi to Mwanza by bus, Tanzania's The Guardian reported Thursday (January 15th). Tanzanian police arrest 2 caught with illegal ivory Tanzania tourism minister defends anti-poaching campaign as ivory seized 25 suspected poachers arrested in Kigoma The 42 kilogrammes of ivory are valued at around 148.5 million shillings ($83,000). The two passengers aroused police suspicions when they boarded the bus carrying three large bags. "We were very suspicious with the size of the bags and hence decided to open them," said Katavi Regional Police Commander Dhahiri Kidavashari. "After a search we found the 25 pieces of tusks and decided to take the suspects to Katavi police headquarters where we are still interrogating them. They will be sent to court any time." Tanzania has recently increased its efforts to fight poaching, after the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism launched a five-year initiative in October to fight poaching. An ivory-smuggling 'kingpin' was arrested in Tanzania in December and has since been charged in a Kenyan court. Source: Sabahi Online

Monday, January 19, 2015

Dallas Safari Club cancels controversial Namibian elephant hunt, offers male leopard hunt in Mozambique

DALLAS - A Texas hunting club has cancelled plans to auction the right to kill an African elephant after the donor of the hunt withdrew the offer, the club's executive director said on Saturday. Ben Carter of the Dallas Safari Club told The Associated Press that the donor of the hunt, a had withdrawn his offer. The African elephant is earth's largest land animal. The World Wildlife Fund, the world's leading conservation group, regards it as “vulnerable,” a step below “endangered” and defined as “facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.” The Dallas Safari Club faced international criticism last year for auctioning a permit to shoot an endangered black rhino. That hunt has been postponed until the winner gets permission to import the carcass from Namibia. This year's auction prizes still include a 14-day trophy hunt in Mozambique for an adult male leopard. Animal welfare activists demonstrated across the street from the Dallas hotel where the club's convention was taking place. Angela Antonisse-Oxley, of the Dallas-based Black Rhino Project, said trophy hunts aggravate the serious problem of big game poaching in Africa. “A bullet is not going to save them,” she said. In an earlier statement, Carter said that “elephants, lions and leopards are not listed as endangered species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and, in fact, are overpopulated in certain areas of Africa.” “These species are commonly hunted in a legal, sustainable way, and where populations need to be managed,” the statement said. The opportunity to kill the endangered elephant was offered by the Gobabis Gymnasium School in a raffle tickets which sold single tickets for N$1 000 per ticket. The elephant trophy hunt was offered as the first prize in a lavish full package that consisted of transportation of the winning hunter from Windhoek's Hosea Kutako International Airport, 10 days accommodation with all hunting permit fees, meals and non-alcoholic drinks included. A tracker and a vehicle were also offered together with field preparation for the trophy and snapshots to name a few. The raffle started running into trouble when the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET)said it was not aware that Gobabis Gymnasium was selling raffle tickets which offered an elephant trophy hunt as a grand prize and started investigations which led to the cancellation of the hunt, won by an American citizen. Meanwhile the Dallas Safari Club is still offering a male leopard trophy hunt in Mozambique. Source: Online/AEP
. Source: AP

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Interpol catches Zambian ivory dealer wanted in Botswana

A public appeal as part of an INTERPOL operation focusing on individuals wanted for environmental crimes has led to the arrest of a Botswana fugitive in Zambia. Ben Simasiku had fled from Botswana in 2012 after he and three other suspected illegal ivory traders were arrested in possession of 17 cut pieces of elephant tusks weighing approximately 115 kg.
He is one of the targets highlighted by INTERPOL’s Operation Infra Terra (International Fugitive Round Up and Arrest) and featured in a public appeal for information. Launched on 6 October, INTERPOL’s Operation Infra Terra brought together investigators from 21 of the participating countries at the INTERPOL General Secretariat headquarters to directly share information on more than 130 suspects wanted by 36 countries for crimes including illegal fishing, wildlife trafficking, illegal trade and disposal of waste, illegal logging and trading in illicit ivory. Details of the wanted persons, their suspected locations and any other potentially identifying information was collated and analyzed, before being sent to involved countries for further action. During the operation, investigators from Botswana and Zambia exchanged information on Simasiku – including his suspected location in Zambia – with the support of INTERPOL’s Fugitive Investigative Support (FIS) unit. In parallel, the Zambia Wildlife Authority received a tip from a member of the public regarding a person in possession of ivory in the city of Livingstone. Through collaboration with the Zambia Police, 32-year-old Simasiku was arrested on 2 December, when police also recovered jewellery made of ivory. “Crimes that harm the environment are not always looked upon as ‘serious’ crimes, which is something INTERPOL hopes to change through actions such as Operation Infra Terra. This arrest demonstrates a change in attitude: that all fugitives will be sought to face justice, regardless of the crime they have committed,” said Stefano Carvelli, Head of INTERPOL’s FIS unit. “This case also demonstrates how increasing public awareness of how people might encounter criminal activity in their daily lives is critical for police. The alert individual who provided the tip to the Zambian police played an important role in the arrest. “I would like to congratulate all those involved, and encourage the public to remain vigilant to assist police worldwide in locating and arresting the remaining fugitives wanted as part of Operation Infra Terra,” concluded Mr Carvelli. Simasiku is currently awaiting extradition to Botswana. Source: Online

Monday, January 12, 2015

Poachers kill 14 elephants in Botswana's Chobe National Park

Security agents have launched a manhunt for a Namibian tycoon suspected to have brutally slaughtered a number of elephants in Chobe national park. This follows the discovery of 14 elephants by Botswana’s anti poaching unit that were killed recently. Information reaching Sunday Standard indicates that Botswana authorities are currently negotiating with their Namibian counterparts to assist in tracking down a Namibian tycoon believed to have links with the poaching of elephants late last year around Chobe region near the Namibian and Botswana borders. It is understood that Botswana police have gathered intelligence suggesting that the suspect might be the ring leader of a poaching syndicate that frequently clashes with the country’s anti poaching unit. The poaching syndicate is believed to have a specialised vehicle that is able to travel on water and land and is often used in poaching activities. Detective assistant superintendent Ookeditse Moseki of Narcotics, Fauna and Flora Unit at Kasane police station said, “it is true that we are investigating a case in which about fourteen elephants were brutally killed by poachers and their tusks removed.” He explained that sometime in late October and early November last year they discovered about five dead elephants during routine patrols and became suspicious the way they were killed as their tusks were also removed. Moseki added that while still searching the crime scene they later found another nine dead elephants. Moseki stated that they became more suspicious because where the elephants were killed was not easily accessible by road or foot but the poachers had managed to reach the area as there were marks that indicated there were poachers around the area. He further stated that they approached the department of Surveys and Mapping to confirm whether where the elephants were found killed was in Botswana or Namibia. “They did confirm that the animals were indeed on the Botswana side. We are not yet sure what kind of transport they used to reach the area but we strongly suspect that they might have used a specialised vehicle that could easily reach such an area,” he said. According to Moseki, the poachers used AK47 rifles and about fifty rounds to kill an elephant as well as axe to remove the tusks. “The act is very brutal as such a weapon is not meant to kill such a huge animal,” he said. There is a certain Namibian suspect whose name keeps on cropping up during our investigations. We are considering joint investigations with our Namibian counterparts but this does not mean he might be the prime suspect until we have made an arrest,” he indicated. Source: Sunday Standard, Botswana

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Namibia: N$100 000 bounty offered for capture of rhino poachers

Save The Rhino (SRT) Trust Namibian chairman Samson !Uri#Khob has announced a reward of N$100 000 is offered for information which will lead to the arrest of the person or people behind the recent poaching of five rhinos at Palmwag concession area. !Uri#Khob said the reward money which was partly donated by the public, will be handed over by the police. “Poaching is very serious and we call upon people who have any information to come forward so that the poachers can be arrested,” !Uri#Khob said. A concerned !Uri#Khob said that SRT needs more human resources from the Namibian police to tackle poaching which is a huge concern in the Palmwag concession area. “We want more action on the ground and needs police assistance in this vast area,” !Uri#Khob said. Pamphlets printed in Otjiherero, Damara/Nama and English with information on procedures related to reporting rhino poaching were distributed in Kunene region this year. Yesterday a representative of the SRT had a meeting with the Kunene regional police chief James Nderura at Opuwo. Nderura said the media will be briefed on Friday about the discussions. Last year more than 20 rhinos were lost due to poaching in Namibia. Recently a rhino cow and her calf were poached in the Palmwag concession area. A decision to dehorn Namibia's rhinos, in an attempt to combat the rhino poaching crisis in the country, has met with a mixed response. Namibia's tourism industry is the third largest contributor to the country's GDP, and the killing of iconic wildlife such as rhinos and elephants negatively impacts on Namibia's reputation as a tourist destination. Anyone who has information of a wildlife crime being committed or planned is urged to SMS the toll-free and confidential wildlife crime alert number 55555. Source: Namibian