Tag Archives: elephants

Massive death of Botswana elephants

More than 350 elephants in Botswana have mysteriously died since May, in a phenomenon that some scientists have charachterised as a “conservation disaster”. No full investigation has been conducted so far, no explanation provided, however there have been some tests on a number of carcasses, which have exclused some of contageious deseases, typical for the speaces, but the cause of death remains unexplained.

The elephants — which massively died in the swampy Okavango Delta — still had their tusks intact, suggesting that the ivory poaching was not behind it. A flight over the delta in May by researchers with Elephants Without Borders, a wildlife conservation organization, first spotted 169 carcasses, that number increased rapidly to 356 in June, when the conservationists took another flight over the area.

Botswana’s Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation, and Tourism is aware of the problme, and the relevant department has verified 275 of those elephant carcasses, according to a statement from the African Wildlife Foundation.

Already, officials have ruled out anthrax, the carcasses tested negative for that bacterium, said Scott Schlossberg, a research consultant for Elephants Without Borders.

The bacterium that causes anthrax disease, called Bacillus anthracis, occurs naturally in soils, where it can stay inactive as spores for decades, scientists reported in 2019 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Grazing animals can ingest anthrax-tainted soils along with plants or while drinking from watering holes.

This isn’t the first elephant die-off in the region; more than 100 elephants died over a two-month period in the fall of 2019 in Botswana’s Chobe National Park, primarily driven by drought. Some of those deaths may have been due to anthrax, as the elephants would have ingested soil (possibly contaminated with anthrax spores) while grazing around dried-up watering holes and across wilted grasslands.

Tanzania ports exploited by traffickers

The vulnerabilities in maritime transportation and customs are being exploited by criminal traffickers in African sea ports. Container shipping facilitates the movement of wildlife goods, and maritime companies and their assets, wittingly or unwittingly complicit in wildlife trafficking, face legal, financial and reputation risks, according tot the Maritime Executive.

That’s the key message from a report into wildlife trafficking through Tanzania‘s ports which has been published ahead of a workshop organized in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, by TRAFFIC, UNDP and UNODC.

The report highlights wildlife trafficking through Dar of Salaam and Zanzibar. Whilst there have been no reported seizures linked to the ports since August 2015, there have been seizures of illicit wildlife products in the region of Dar es Salaam in recent years.

Tanzania is a biodiversity hotspot with one of Africa’s most significant elephant populations which have faced unprecedented levels of poaching recently. Tanzania, alongside neighboring countries, Kenya and Uganda have been implicated in this trade for the last decade, linked as source and exporters of ivory as well as transit countries for consignments gathered from elsewhere.

Along with ivory, Tanzanian’s ports have been used to move illegal products such as wildlife, timber, narcotics, arms and precious minerals. Source nations include Kenya, Malaysia, UAE, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Philippines and Taiwan, with illegal products shipped to China, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

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’.

 

 

Elephant language of survival

Nowadays Researchers believe that migration is just one survival mechanism elephants have developed in response to poaching, conflict, urbanization, agriculture, and other pressures in Africa.

In 2016, one elephant made a treacherous 209 km journey over three weeks from the relative safety of Kenya to conflict-ridden Somalia, all under the cloak of darkness. Morgan, as the researchers called him, remained in Somalia for just a day and a half before turning back.

“We don’t know the precise reason for his migration into Somalia,” says Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants (STE), a UK charity headquartered in Nairobi that conducts research on elephant behavior and ecology, “but we suspect it was to mate.”

“Moving by night was an extreme form of survival in a region where elephants are under threat from poaching,” adds Douglas-Hamilton. “He was the first elephant on record to visit in Somalia in 20 years.”

Inspired by the elephant’s journey, researchers at the University of Twente in the Netherlands worked with Save the Elephants to conduct a study last September on African elephant migratory patterns. They found that some elephants in sub-Saharan Africa have started travelling at night to avoid the threat of poaching that usually occurs during the day.

Elephants also have developed sophisticated gestures, sounds, infrasound, and chemical secretions  to relay messages to one another for survival purposes. “Through various means, elephants can suggest that the group moves on, that they sense danger, or that they are in distress,” says Douglas-Hamilton.

Petition to Zuckerberg to ban ivory trade on Facebook

As many other goods ivory trade moved online, and in many cases it is sold via Facebook. The animal defenders have launched a petition addressed to the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg  to ban ivory trade from social media.

Did you know that thousands of Facebook posts promote the sale of elephant ivory, rhino horns, tiger teeth, and other endangered species’ parts? The easy trade of wildlife body parts on Facebook is fueling the brutal poaching industry, encouraging hunters to keep slaughtering Earth’s most vulnerable animals in horrifically brutal ways.

“Animals endure excruciating deaths at the hands of poachers. Elephants, for example, are attacked with poison arrows, and take an agonizing 15 to 20 minutes to die after being hit. Once the elephant is dead, the poachers hack off their tusks. Because the rest of the elephant is “worthless” to them, the poachers often use battery acid to eat away the elephants’ flesh when they are done.

“Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has admitted that more could be done to stop wildlife traffickers from using the network for their sales, but fails to see the urgency, stating they will solve the problem “over time.”

“Facebook is contributing directly to the rapid extinction of some of the world’s most highly threatened species, and undermining international trade laws designed to preserve animals on the brink of disappearing forever.

“Sign this petition to urge Mark Zuckerberg to treat this dire situation with the weight it deserves, and take swift, effective action to stop all wildlife trade on Facebook.”

Link to the Petition here:

https://ladyfreethinker.org/sign-facebook-stop-selling-poached-animal-parts/

 

MEPs demand to stop ivory trade

Despite the international ban on ivory trade imposed by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in 1989, global demand for ivory is fueling elephant poaching. Any legal domestic and international market for ivory stimulates the demand and allows the laundering of illegal ivory. While the EU has been a leader in supporting international initiatives to fight illegal ivory trade, it is clearly facing difficulties to close its own domestic ivory market.

According to EU regulations, the sale of ivory goods is only allowed for antique ivory, acquired before March 1947. But new ivory pieces are being treated to look antique and permits are forged to launder illegal ivory from poaching. Moreover, the EU Member States are used as transit countries to smuggle illegal ivory from Africa to Asia.

Ivory trade is a global phenomenon and the failure from the EU to prevent illegal trafficking would hamper the international effort to put an end to the poaching of elephants and to its ecological, economic and societal consequences. The European Parliament has adopted three Resolutions  calling on all EU Member States to introduce a full ivory trade moratorium. In March 2018, more than 30 African countries called on the EU to shut down its ivory market, stressing that the antique ivory exception is used to smuggle newer ivory to Asian markets and feed global demand.

The Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals met on Thursday 31 May to discuss ivory trade in the European Union. The poaching of elephants and trade of their ivory threaten the very existence  of the species. The European Commission will announce in July its response to a recent consultation on ivory trade as part of its review on the implementation of the EU Action Plan Against Wildlife Trafficking.

The Intergroup meeting will be chaired by Jacqueline Foster MEP (ECR – United Kingdom), Vice-President of the Intergroup, who has extensively worked on the issue of wildlife trafficking during this parliamentary term.

Trump retreats on imports of hunting trophies

President Donald Trump said in a tweet on Friday he is putting a decision to allow imports of elephant trophies on hold after a torrent of criticism from conservation advocates and across social media.

Trump’s reversal came hours after his administration released a rule on Friday to allow hunters who kill elephants in Zimbabwe to bring their trophies back to the United States, which had been banned by the Obama administration.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement that he had spoken with Trump and “both believe that conservation and healthy herds are critical.” He said the “issuing of permits is being put on hold as the decision is being reviewed.”

Early word of the planned change had drawn protests from conservationists, who said it could deplete already at-risk elephant populations. It also caused a social media firestorm, with opponents posting photos of President Donald Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric, avid hunters, posing with dead wild animals.

 

UK to ban ivory items

The sale and export of almost all ivory items would be banned in the UK under plans set out by the government.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced a consultation to end the trade in ivory of all ages – previous attempts at a ban would have excluded antique ivory produced before 1947.

The government says there will be some exemptions, for musical instruments and items of cultural importance.

Conservation groups have given a guarded welcome to the plan.