Friday, January 22, 2016

CITES suspends 14 African countries from trading in endangered animal and plant species

13:30 / 21 Jan 2016 By Oscar Nkala GABORONE, January 21 (ANA) – The Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has ordered 14 African countries to suspend all trade in endangered animal and plant species after they failed to comply with its restriction regulations. In a press statement issued soon after a CITES Standing Committee meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland, to prepare for the 17th Convention of Parties meeting for Johannesburg in September this year, the watchdog said the suspensions demonstrated its willingness to enforce trade regulations to encourage legal, sustainable and traceable trade in wildlife. The suspensions were imposed on Angola, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Benin, Cameroun, Madagascar, Senegal, Nigeria and the Central Africa Republic for unaccountable trade dealings in protected species which include elephant, cheetah, rhino, pangolin, sharks and high value timber among others. Nigeria and Angola have been slapped with commercial trade bans on elephant products species which will only be lifted if they submit individual progress reports on their National Ivory Action Plans (NIAPs) which are meant to stop the illegal ivory trade and elephant poaching. “The Standing Committee adopted a series of recommendations to suspend trade that will affect a number of parties (to the convention). These include the suspension of trade with Guinea Bissau, Liberia and Venezuela in all CITES-listed species for failing to make sufficient progress in preparing and adopting national legislation to implement and enforce CITES and the suspension of all commercial trade with Angola, Laos and Nigeria for failing to report on progress with NIAP implementation. “These recommendations also include the suspension of trade with Bhutan, Central African Republic, Congo, Grenada, Guinea, Mali, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Panama, Rwanda, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu for failing to submit annual reports on trade in CITES-listed species if no annual reports are received within 60 days, as well as the suspension of trade with Benin, Cameroon and Ghana in chameleons and with Guinea and Senegal in sea-horses,” CITES said. The Indian Ocean island nation of Madagascar was suspended from trading in high-value timber species which include five rosewoods and 43 palisanders and 233 species of ebonys due to its failure to stop illegal logging and illegal exports of the products. The Standing Committee also suspended all trade in African grey parrots with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) because the country has repeatedly exceeded approved export quotas. The DRC was also found to have no scientific data on the status of the populations of the endangered birds. According to the CITES National Legislation Project, 88 countries and 13 dependent territories still needed to strengthen their legal frameworks for the effective implementation of regulations to combat illegal trade in wildlife. These include Algeria, Belize, Bolivia, Comoros, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritania, Mozambique, Pakistan, Paraguay, Rwanda, Somalia, United Republic of Tanzania and Bolivian Republic of Venezuela. – African News Agency (ANA)

One poacher killed as Zimbabwean game rangers recover 10 elephant tusks

By Oscar Nkala 10:37 / 22 Jan 2016 GABORONE, January 22 (ANA) – A suspected poacher was on Wednesday night shot and killed by game rangers of the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (PWMA) during a gunfight which led to the recovery of 10 elephant tusks and the arrest of other members of an ivory trafficking syndicate in the Matusadona National Park in northern Zimbabwe. In a statement released early on Friday morning, the Matusadona Anti-Poaching Trust said the raid, which also involved police detectives, started around midnight on Wednesday following a tip-off which suggested that a group of men were looking for customers for elephant tusks. “In the middle of the night on the 19th of January a team of law enforcement personnel infiltrated a group of poachers attempting to sell 10 tusks of elephant ivory. When the law enforcement team (known as the Black Mambas) attempted to arrest one of the poachers, another produced a knife and tried to stab one of them. “At the same time, another poacher who was hiding in an ambush position nearby opened fire on the Black Mamba team who reacted swiftly. A gun battle ensued and ended with the Black Mambas killing one poacher and recovering 10 elephant tusks,” the group said. However, the anti-poaching unit said a close examination of the recovered tusks and updated information at hand proved that they were not harvested from Matusadona National Park as no elephants were killed in the area in the past few days. The group said there was a possibility that the tusks were from elephants poached in Hwange National Park which lies almost 300 kilometres south-west of Matusadona. “This operation is a prime example of just how dangerous these anti-poaching operations can be. A huge respect and thank you should go to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) personnel who were involved in bringing this poaching syndicate to an end. MAPP continues to bring these results at a vast expense and we can only operate as effectively as our funding allows us,” the anti-poaching unit said. The poacher who was killed was taken to a mortuary while his detained accomplices are expected to face charges of poaching and illegal possession of elephant ivory when they appear in court soon in the lake-side town of Kariba. Zambian and Zimbabwean poachers have reportedly taken advantage of the patchy rains experienced in the past two weeks to conduct long-duration operations in the Matusadona, Bumi Hills, Hwange, Matetsi and Zambezi National Parks in the Zambezi Valley. – African News Agency (ANA)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Zimbabwean poaching kingpin freed as police bungle case

A Harare businessman said to be the ringleader of a poaching syndicate was last Friday dragged to the courts on allegations of smuggling six ivory tusks stolen from the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks). George Seremwe, 44, appeared before magistrate Elijah Makomo represented by lawyers Admire Rubaya and Oliver Marwa who contested his remand, arguing that their client was over-detained by the police. The attorneys said Seremwe was arrested on January 13 at around 5 am only to be brought to court after 48 hours had lapsed in violation of his constitutional rights. The investigating officer in the case admitted they had transport challenges and could not bring the suspect to court in time. Magistate Makomo ruled in favour of the refusal of remand application and Seremwa was released. The complainant in the case, Zimparks, is being represented by Chamunorwa Mashange. According to court papers, Seremwe of Avondale, is the owner of Nzou Safaris in Muzarabani. Prosecutors say, acting in connivance with trophy hunter Nesbert Mukora, professional hunter James Mackenzie, and Shephered Guzhe a senior ranger with Zimparks, the suspect allegedly acquired six tusks whose origin has not yet been established. Prosecutors say, with his knowledge of the ivory industry, Mukora purportedly engaged buyers for the tusks. Court heard that sometime in June, Mukora brought Chinese nationals Cong Yuling and Dong Anmin to his accomplices after indicating they had a hunting quota which could accommodate the six tusks they wanted. The accused went on to charge $45,000 and $30,000 deposit was paid. Knowing that the tusks did not originate from his Safari company, Seremwe allegedly went on to engage the services of professional hunters Mackenzie and Joseph Chitambwa to purport that they hunted three elephants, court heard. On June 6, the accused registered two elephant tusks in Yuling’s name at Zimparks headquarters. Registration was facilitated by Gushe who then went to Mukora’s house in Ruwa where the tusks were being kept and serialised them. The accused were paid a total of $60, 000 by the Chinese nationals and shared the money. To cover up the illicit deals, they then applied for a hunting permit from Zimparks for one elephant as per Mukora’s existing quota. Seremwe also applied for an additional permit to hunt two more elephants which he was granted. Acting on the misrepresentation by the accused, Zimparks facilitated the exportation of the six tusks as if they were legitimately acquired from Nzou Safaris. But investigations carried out in Muzarabani Rural District Council later revealed that Seremwe never hunted an elephant since the inception of a partnership agreement in 2011. Prosecutors told the court that as a result, Zimparks suffered prejudice of its good name after the tusks were smuggled to Asia using fake documents. After his arrest, it was also reported that Seremwe allegedly demanded another $20,000 saying it was for a Government minister that he was dealing with to facilitate the documents. Source: Conservation Action Trust/New

Friday, January 15, 2016

Zambian poacher killed in shoot-out with Zim game rangers

By Oscar Nkala GABORONE, January 13 (ANA) – A suspected Zambian poacher was on Tuesday killed during a shoot-out with game rangers in Zimbabwe who have pursued them through Hwange National Park, Victoria Falls-based rhino conservation group Bhejane Trust said. At least 20 heavily armed Zambians are reported to have crossed into the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe to escape a hot pursuit unit of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), which killed one and injured several in a fire-fight at Chobe National Park in Botswana on Thursday last week. In a brief statement released last night, Trevor Lane, chairman Bhejane Trust, praised parks rangers for subduing the heavily armed poacher who was killed in the main camp area of Hwange National Park early on Tuesday. “There was a successful contact at Boss Long One in the Main Camp area of Hwange National Park. One Zambian poacher shot dead and an AK rifle plus 15 rounds and three magazines recovered. “The parks call sign was led by newly transferred ranger from Zambezi Park, Simon Muchatibaya. The new management in Main Camp seems to be producing results,” Lane said. Zimbabwean Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (PWMA) game rangers and a special police anti-poaching unit have been on the trail of the poachers since receiving a tip-off about their arrival from Botswana police last Thursday. The large group crossed into Zimbabwe in the hope of trekking through Hwange, Matetsi and Zambezi National Parks. It is believed they were aiming to reach the Zambezi river and paddle across it into Zambia by canoe. On Sunday, two members of the Zambian group, on the verge of succumbing to heat stroke, surrendered to Zimbabwean police after losing their way and wandering through the forest in a heat-wave that ended on Monday. According to Bhejane Trust, the Zambians have killed one elephant since they crossed into Zimbabwe last week. Meanwhile, Zimbabwean security forces have intensified the search in all the three game sanctuaries. Pickets and ambush points have been set up along the Zambezi River to keep the crossing points under surveillance. – African News Agency (ANA)

Former Botswana president loses 89 zebra to heat wave as record breaking high temperatures persist

By Oscar Nkala GABORONE, January 14 (ANA) – Former Botswana President and wildlife rancher Sir Ketumile Masire this week revealed that 89 out of the 300 zebra at his private farm in the south-eastern part of the country had died due to the heat wave and water scarcity since January 6. The revelation came days after the Botswana health ministry announced an increase in the number of human deaths, from three to five, due to the heat wave. Addressing a press conference at his residence in Gaborone on Tuesday night, Masire said hundreds of other animals, including eland, gemsbok, hartebeest, kudu, and impala, were under threat due to the lack of water, which worsened last month following the bursting of a 32km-long pipeline that supplies water to the farm. “I had about 300 head of zebra, but 89 have died since January 6 in the ranch where I also keep eland, gemsbok, hartebeest and wildebeest, among other animals. “A pipeline that supplies water to the animal reservoir burst some time ago, and with insufficient water, the zebras have started perishing,” Masire said. The former president said he had approached the department of wildlife and national parks with a proposal to de-stock. He proposed selling some of the animals when it became clear that they would fall victim to the water crisis. But, Masire said he had failed to get any help. According to the department of meteorological services, a maximum daily temperature of 44 degrees Celsius was recorded for the first time in 72 years in the northern town of Maun on Thursday last week. On the same day, the capital Gaborone also recorded its highest temperature of 43 degrees Celsius, breaking a record that was set in 1944. – African News Agency (ANA)