Category Archives: Wildlife

Tanzania elephant & rhino populations recover

Tanzania presidency reported elephant and rhino populations have begun to recover after a government crackdown dismantled organized criminal networks involved in industrial-scale poaching and transporting the ivory to China.

A influential Chinese businesswoman running a poaching network on industrial scale, dubbed the “Ivory Queen” was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Tanzanian court in February for smuggling the tusks of more than 350 elephants, weighing nearly 2 tonnes, to Asian countries. Yang Feng Glan had been charged in 2015 along with two Tanzanian citizens with smuggling 860 pieces of ivory between 2000 and 2004 worth $5.6 million.

“As a result of the work of a special task force launched in 2016 to fight wildlife poaching, elephant populations have increased from 43,330 in 2014 to over 60,000 presently,” the presidency said in a statement this week, underlining the success of the case as a government victory over illicit ivory traffic.

The number of rhinos, an endangered species, had increased from just 15 to 167 over the past four years, the report says.

 

 

World giraffe day

Their habitat is being lost at an alarming rate, not to mention the myriad other threats they deal with, including poaching,  the trade in giraffe parts, giraffe skin disease, vehicle collisions, and droughts.

There are a lot of factors leading to the giraffe’s 40% decline in the last 30 years that are difficult to tackle as the human population grow around many giraffe populations is soaring; that giraffes are having to travel farther to find critical resources, like food and water, due to habitat loss.

Giraffes are brilliant animals. They are known to be very smart at adapting to their environment. Giraffes have learned to gulp, while drinking water, in order to avoid predators while in a vulnerable position. When it comes to sleep, it is not easy of being able to move in a matter of seconds in the body of a 1300 kg,  but they have adapted to be able to survive on 30 minutes or less of sleep a day.

Recently the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has been asked to consider listing giraffes under the Endangered Species Act through a lawsuit after it failed to respond to 2017 listing petition. This would help the species by limiting the U.S. trade in giraffe parts and sport-hunted trophies, among other benefits.

 

Botswana rare vultures massively poisoned

More than 500 endangered vultures died after ingesting three dead elephants whose carcasses were poisoned by poachers, the Botswana government said in a statement.

The 537 vultures and two tawny eagles were found dead in one of the country’s protected wildlife management areas (WMA) in the eastern Central District. Among the animals killed were 468 white-backed vultures, 28 hooded vultures, 17 white-headed vultures, 14 lappet-faced vultures and 10 cape vultures.

The government suspects poachers who killed three elephants had laced their carcasses with poison.

Conservationists have called the incident one of the largest documented killings of the threatened species.

The government said the mass poisoning was “dangerous and harmful to the environment” and it urged members of the public to “desist from such illegal acts”.

The area has reportedly been decontaminated and samples taken for a forensic laboratory analysis.

Vultures circling a carcass can be seen from miles away, so poachers often poison them to prevent their activity being tracked.

Most of the birds were white-backed vultures, which are classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Vulture black

Botswana lifts hunting suspension

Botswana’s Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism announced that “the government of Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension.”

The country’s new president, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, recently received in Kasane for five southern African heads of state whose countries are home to roughly half the world’s remaining elephant population, with an aim to forge a common strategy for elephant conservation in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA). The strategy does not explicitly mention hunting, but it paves the way for justifying it.

Under the pretext of ‘consumptive use’ – the idea that an animal will only be conserved if it is hunted or its parts are traded for cash – hunting was defended at the Kasane Conference as a silver bullet for elephant conservation. Speakers and ministers expounded myths that the world – and most African Elephant range states – have largely abandoned it.

Kitso Mokaila, Botswana’s Minister of Environment and Tourism, claimed that elephant population has surged to 160,000, from 55,000 in 1991, claiming  that there are ‘too many elephants.’

In 1983, Botswana’s elephant population numbered between 70,000 and 75,000. It had certainly not dropped to 55,000 by 1991.

The minister may have done well to consult the scientific reports of Northern Botswana, which estimates the population to be roughly 126,114. However the number doesn’t differ from the 2014 figure, indicating the population is stable, but not growing. 

A second myth: Botswana has exceeded its ‘carrying capacity’ of 54,000 elephants. This has become an expedient cover under which to justify elephant trophy hunting and even culling. The entire concept of ‘carrying capacity’ is arbitrary without relevance for vast, unfenced wilderness landscapes that adapt and maintain integrity without human intervention.

“Much of the research community, and many managers, accept that ecosystem structure and function are not about elephant numbers but instead about elephant distribution across a landscape and in relation to plant communities” scholars Phyllis Lee, Keith Lindsay and Katarzyna Nowak explain.

A large number of scientists wrote in Ambio that they did not see “any ecological reason to artificially change the number of elephants in Chobe National Park, either through culling or opening new dry season ranges.

What matters is not “carrying capacity” but dispersion and concentration. A high density of elephants in one area may prove to result in some ‘undesirable’ vegetation transformation, which is a good reason for keeping migratory corridors open without fences.

Even where apparent vegetation transformation occurs, however, the ecological benefits of keeping elephants as keystone herbivores should never be underestimated. They deposit seeds up to 90 km away from areas in which they feed, regenerating vegetation elsewhere and creating corridors for other animals to use.

A myth of hunting to solve the “population explosion problem” is ignoring that the population is stable – and potentially in decline. The truth is that hunting only decimates the big tuskers, reducing genetic diversity.

Trophy hunting is typically rationalised on the grounds that it only eliminates old bulls that are ‘surplus’ to herd requirements. Such small-scale elimination is, however, incapable of controlling an ‘exploding’ population, especially given that Botswana’s annual export quota was only ever between 420 and 800 elephants in the decade preceding the moratorium.

Moreover, there is no such thing as ‘surplus’ bull elephants. Dr Michelle Henley writes that “in the past, bulls over 50 years of age were considered redundant but more recent studies have found that bulls do not reach their sexual prime until they are over 45 years old.”

She also notes that older bulls, because they have protracted musth cycles, “often suppress the musth cycles of younger bulls, thereby maintaining social stability and lowering younger bulls’ aggression towards other species such as rhinoceros.

They are thus critical for ensuring functional herd sociology, transferring knowledge and disciplining delinquent behaviour among juvenile males.

Hunting is a fundamentally unsustainable, as the incentives are loaded in favour of over-consumption and rule-breaking.

Anyone who knows anything about hunting cannot honestly claim that a hunter, tracking a trophy bull with his client, upon finding a young bull carrying large tusks, would try to dissuade his client from shooting it”, a Botswana veteran Mike Gunn said.

Hunting quotas tend to be arbitrarily determined by the hunters themselves and over-exploited, which violates the ‘maximum sustainable yield’ principle.

Hunting will therefore never solve a population problem, but it does destroy herd sociology and ensures that big tuskers are being shot out.

In this respect, hunters are aiding the poachers – undermining, not supporting, conservation.

Bringing back hunting will solve human and elephant conflict (HEC) and increase benefits to local communities has proven to be wrong.

The fact is that hunting would only solve HEC if it were able to keep elephants within protected areas and reduce the scarcity of resources, such as water, especially during prolonged drought.

Part of the argument is that hunting generates revenue that accrues directly to local communities and thus disincentives both poaching and the killing of errant crop-raiders. Ironically, however, hunting is rooted in a colonial anthropology that castigated indigenous people groups as ‘poachers’ and colonialists as ‘hunter-conservationists’.

 

 

Uganda kidnappers demand $500,000 ransom

An American citizen who was kidnapped with her driver at Uganda’s most popular wildlife park by gunmen had failed to take an armed ranger as required by the park’s regulations, a spokesperson for the wildlife authority said.

Four armed men in Uganda‘s Queen Elizabeth National Park. according to CNN have used the victim’s phone to demand $500,000 ransom.

We strongly believe this ransom is the reason behind the kidnap,” a police officer said to CNN TV channel. They were ambushed and kidnapped near Katoke Gate between 5 pm and 7 pm on April, 2. “Other four tourists who were left abandoned and unharmed later contacted the base (lodge) and were quickly got safely out of any danger,” a press release said.

The Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) is Uganda’s most visited wildlife attraction.

Kimberley Sue Endecott (35), and Ugandan driver Jean Paul were on a game drive in the Park when four gunmen ambushed their vehicle in evening hours, police said. However, an elderly couple also at the scene were not taken and raised the alarm.

Militant groups as Somali Islamists or Congolese-based rebels operate in Uganda, but none of the group claimed responsibility for the armed incident. At present the regular crime is regarded as a privileged version of the assault.

There is ongoing police operation, however for the evident reasons, the details are not revealed.

Chinese poachers with $1 million rhino horns face justice

The seven Chinese stood before Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, magistrate Ms Rangarirai Gakanje.

They were not formally charged for contravening Section 45(1) (b) of the Parks and Wildlife Act Chapter 20:14 as read with Section 128(b) of the same Act.

The sections criminalise keeping, possessing, selling or disposing of any live specially protected animal, meat or trophy of any such animal.

The magistrate remanded the accused in custody. Prosecuting, Mr Bheki Tshabalala said the accused were found in possession of the rhino pieces.

On 22 December information was received that there were some Chinese nationals at house number 858 Aerodrome, who were suspected to be keeping rhino horns. Police applied for a search warrant and proceeded to the house on Sunday morning whereupon searching they recovered a plastic bag containing several pieces of rhino horn in one of the bedrooms used by Liu,” said Mr Tshabalala.

The prosecutor said several other pieces were found in a cardboard box and some stashed inside a mattress that had been cut for concealment. A digital scale was also recovered, the court revealed. Mr Tshabalala said the pieces weighed 20,98 kg and a veterinary surgeon confirmed that they were genuine rhino horns.

The total value of the pieces is $938 700. Mr Givemore Mvhiringi of Mvhiringi and Associates is representing the accused.

Zeng Dengui (35), Peicon Jang (35), Liu Cheng (23), Yu Xian (25), Yong Zhu (25), Chen Zhiangfu (30) and Qui Jinchang (29) were arrested following a search at their rented house in Aerodrome.

 

Mozambique ivory seized in Cambodia

Cambodian customs have seized more than three tons of elephant tusks from Mozambique following a notice from the US Embassy. The demand for ivory from China and Vietnam is a driving factor in Cambodia’s illegal wildlife trade.

The elephant tusks were hidden among marble in a container that was abandoned,” Sun Chhay, director of the Customs and Excise Office at the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port, told the AFP news agency.

The official said the ivory was sent from the southern African nation of Mozambique and it arrived in Cambodia last year. He also said the owner of the shipment did not show up to collect the cargo.

Officials said the tusks were discovered after a tip-off from the US Embassy in Phnom Penh.

It was unclear whether the smuggled ivory was destined for markets other than Cambodia.

 

 

 

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