Thursday 30 October 2014

Good news for Mozambique’s anti-poaching efforts

A historic agreement between the government of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano Foundation and Peace Parks Foundation will strengthen Mozambique’s efforts to combat wildlife crime by supporting the development of dedicated anti-poaching operations in and around Limpopo National Park, an integral component of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and Conservation Area.

The project implementation contracts signed in Maputo on 29 October 2014 follow on the memorandum of understanding between Mozambique and South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs in the field of biodiversity, conservation and management, signed on 19 April 2014. The Department of Environmental Affairs chairs the Rhino Protection Programme Steering Committee, which also includes South African National Parks, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Peace Parks Foundation.

Mr Werner Myburgh, Peace Parks Foundation CEO explains that the agreements will see current efforts to combat wildlife crime in and around the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and Conservation Area being expanded, with effectively more efforts on multiple fronts. “Many of the actions will be taken jointly by Mozambique and South Africa. Wildlife crime is often transnational by nature and transfrontier conservation areas and agreements such as these signed today, offer an important platform to counter the decimation of our protected species.”

The project makes provision for the upgrading of field communications technology used by rangers, as well as a shared radio communications systems across the international border. The agreement further includes providing training and equipment to rangers and improving rangers’ working conditions in Limpopo National Park, which abuts Kruger National Park. Together the two parks form a core component of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.An essential component of this project entails supporting the judicial system in Mozambique to effectively implement the new Conservation Areas Act that will bring about much stiffer penalties for anyone involved in illicit wildlife product trafficking.

Cooperation with the Mozambican government will also be extended via Peace Parks Foundation’s partnership with the Joaquim Chissano Foundation’s Wildlife Preservation Initiative. This includes launching an anti-poaching and counter-trafficking programme and the deployment of sniffer dogs on trafficking routes. A noteworthy element of this programme is the establishment of research capabilities in Mozambique to support the effectiveness of the programme and policy making.

Four or five elelphants a day are being killed in Mozambique

Most of Mozambique's elephants are found in the far north, in the Niassa National Reserve, and in the Quirimbas national park. Four per cent live in the south (in Maputo and Gaza provinces, mostly along the border with South Africa), and 30 per cent live in the centre of the country, mostly in Tete.

It is the Niassa and Quirimbas elephant herds that are being annihilated by organised criminal gangs, in what is described as a national disaster.

An aerial survey of the Quirimbas Park in 2013 found 854 live elephants, and 811 carcasses. A similar survey in the Niassa Reserve in 2011 found 12,029 live elephants and 2,627 carcasses. Estimates are that one elephant a day is being killed in the Quirimbas park and three or four a day in the Niassa reserve.

Mozambique is now seen internationally as one of the countries which is not taking action against elephant poaching. The lax attitude of the authorities can be seen from the fact that ivory is publicly on sale in Maputo. Buyers (Asian) can pick up raw and worked ivory at markets in the capital, under the noses of the police. Almost half of the poachers in Niassa are Tanzanian - but they depend on corrupt officials on both sides of the border to get the ivory out and to purchase more ammunition.

Recently poison has been used on at least five small lakes in Tete. This method kills not only elephants, but anything else that drinks at the lakes.

Criticism is levelled at the slow and inadequate response of the police and courts. Even when poachers are caught and fined, the fines are often not paid. This harms the morale of the game wardens, who are entitled to 50 per cent of the fines. The police failed to recognise the authority of game wardens, even though the law entitles the wardens to carry guns, and obliges the police to collaborate in protecting wildlife resources.

Friday 24 October 2014

Rapid Response Team trained for anti poaching activities in Ruaha NP Tanzania

The Tanzanian government, working with the SPANEST  (Strengthening the Protected Areas Network in Southern Tanzania) project is training a rapid response team (RRT) that will be deployed to handle incidents of poaching in Ruaha National Park and surrounding area. The RRT, about 38 selected rangers, is currently being trained by international experts on sophisticated combat techniques and handling of communication equipment such as GPS systems and firearms.

SPANEST has been conducting anti-poaching campaigns around the more than 64 villages living around GRL and GKKL areas, trained TANAPA rangers, and did maintenance of roads around the park. One of the chievements recorded so far by  the SPANEST project is a 56 per cent decrease of poaching in Ruaha National Park where a total of 36 elephants were killed in 2013/2014 compared to 82 in 2012/13.

(I suspect these figures are very much on the low side but the trend is what is important).

Also, over 400 kilometres of roadwork in RNP have been maintained using a motor grader provided by SPANEST which has improved accessibility to the park and helped to improve response times to suspected incidents of poaching.

Park Chief Warden, Dr Christopher Timbuka said poaching incidents have gone down by about 60 per cent, attributing the achievements to combined efforts from stakeholders and government's 'Operation Tokomeza.' "'Operation Tokomeza' helped us a lot, we have a mountain of firearms seized following the government's special operation in our stores," he said, explaining that they are still continuing with anti-poaching efforts through the government's National Task Force.

"We are now continuing with the task force on anti-poaching, seizing arms and arresting poachers, and I can say that this year the situation is very good," he added. Although he didn't have statistics readily available, Dr Timbuka said between July and October this year there have been very few incidents of poaching.

Thursday 23 October 2014

United Nations launches an emergency fund to fight elephant poachers in the Garamba National Park

The United Nations Rapid Response Facility has launched an emergency appeal to raise funds to fight elephant poachers in the Garamba National Park in the DR Congo.

Despite increased action by Garamba National Park rangers (run by African Parks), between April and July this year 78 elephants were killed. This represents 4% of the parks elephant population.

The main perpetrators are armed groups, of which most important is the Lord’s Resistance Army. There are also incursions from groups in South Sudan  and others within the DRC such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR),and also possible  illegal military involvement from Uganda

The Rapid Response Facility, a collaboration between the United Nations and Flora and Fauna International, has launched an emergency appeal to help boost anti-poaching patrols in the park. The appeal will add to the funds already given to the ICCN (Congolese Nature Conservation Institute) and African Parks Network.

While parts of DR Congo are beginning to return to normal following large-scale civil war and military unrest the Garamba National Park is in eastern DR Congo which is still effectively a war zone. A number of rebel groups, predominately from Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi have failed to disarm or leave the country.

There are fears that poaching could increase dramatically over the next few months as rebels try to maximise their income from exploiting the Garamba National Park and its surroundings before the UN deadline to disarm expires. The major rebel groups have been given till January to disarm or leave the country.

After January the United Nations have threatened to launch major military operations in partnership with the DR Congo military against the rebels.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Rhino poachers shot and arrested in the Kruger

SANParks rangers shot and killed a suspected rhino poacher in the Kruger National Park on Saturday morning, according to Limpopo police.

The park rangers noticed three men within the Punda Maria - Boxahuku Mountains at the Kruger National Park and ordered them to stop. The men allegedly shot at the rangers, who then returned fire.One suspect died at the scene and another sustained gunshot wounds to his left knee and right thigh. The third suspect surrendered and was arrested.

One hunting rifle with 11 rounds of ammunition, an axe, a knife and three cellphones were confiscated.

The deceased suspect was believed to be wearing a Mozambican soldier's uniform while the other two were  dressed in the SANParks uniform.

The surviving suspected poachers are facing a range of charges including rhino poaching, attempted murder, trespassing, possession of an unlicensed firearm and impersonating a SANParks official.

Meanwhile, in a joint operation conducted on Friday, the South African Police Service and SANParks arrested five suspected poachers in the Tshokwane Section of the Kruger National Park.
The five were arrested after two vehicles, suspected of being involved in rhino poaching activities, were stopped and searched.

A .375 hunting rifle, silencer and ammunition and other poaching related equipment were recovered in the operation.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

When the buying stops, the killing can too

Pangolins are now the most highly trafficked mammals in the world. Sadly these mammals might become extinct before they become known to the general public.

We always hear about elephants and rhinos being threatened but rarely is there any coverage on pangolins.

These cute, armour-plated creatures are being illegally trafficked to East Asia for both their meat and
their scales, which are – like rhino horn and manta ray gills – used in traditional medicines. The Asian Pangolins have been completely decimated and now the African Species are being heavily targeted.

It is only because of such high demand that illegal poachers have been trafficking and slaughtering
thousands of pangolins a year. ‘When the buying stops, the killing can too.’

Monday 20 October 2014

Australia to ban import of lion trophies from South Africa

A permanent ban on the importation of lion parts, including trophies, is planned by Australia. This was announced after South African conservationist Ian Michler met with Australian Environment Minister, Greg Hunt and other Ministers of Parliament in Canberra earlier this month.

Canned lion hunting, or ‘captive’ hunting as the breeders and hunters refer to it, is a type of hunting
where lions are bred specifically to be shot in confined areas. Around 700 hundred a year are killed. What anyone gets out of this baffles me - there's no proper hunting skill involved in shooting a semi tame disoriented lion in a paddock.

There are now over 100 facilities, containing between 6 000 and 8 000 predators in South Africa. Cubs are also bred to supply the ‘walking with lions’ industry. These places offer visitors the opportunity to interact with lion cubs and sub-adults under the pretext of conserving them. Again, it is ridiculous to let cubs interact with humans and then somehow think they can safely be released into the wild.

Instead of being used for any purpose connected with conservation, many of the lions are sold on for
canned hunting once they become too boisterous for punters to walk with them.

South Africa seems incapable and unwilling to do anything to curb this barbarous industry.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

UN Envoy calls for increased efforts to protect Garamba National Park

During a visit to the 4900km2 Garamba National Park, the top UN official in the Democratic Republic of
Congo (DRC) urged national and international actors to step up efforts in preserving the natural resources
and rich biodiversity of the Park  which is located in the north-eastern part of the country bordering
South Sudan and close to Uganda.

"Armed group activity is eastern DRC is largely funded by the proceeds from illegal trade and trafficking
of the country's rich natural resources," said Mr. Martin Kobler, who heads the UN Organisation
Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO)."Our efforts to track down these negative forces must also address the drivers of the conflict," he added in a statement released by his office today.

Poaching has greatly reduced the wildlife population in the Garamba National Park. Despite intensified
anti-poaching efforts, more than 60 elephants have been killed in the Park only since April 2014.The main perpetrators are armed groups, of which most dangerous is the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). It is
also thought that there is probable Military involvement as a Hind helicopter with Military style paintwork
has been observed over the Park on several occasions and families of elephants have been found dead  -
shot through the head from above. The tusks and trunks had disappeared and no trace of the poachers was ever found.

Mr. Kobler also prasied the efforts of the park rangers and others who help to protect Garamba. The park
has been run by African Parks, in partnership with the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la
Nature (ICCN) since late 2005.

Also with Mr. Kobler on his park visit were the Deputy United States Ambassador, the Moroccan Ambassador and members of the MONUSCO team.

Chinese Internet companies to stop trading in Wildlife products

Chinese internet companies will begin to stop the online trading of wildlife and wildlife products from Friday.

At a seminar in Hangzhou City in east China’s Zhejiang Province, representatives of nine well known
companies, including Alibaba and Tencent, promised not to provide any opportunities for promotion and trading of wildlife and related products on their platforms.

The companies called on the public to boycott wildlife products to protect rare species. Trading online has made such activities easier to execute and easier to conceal, said an official overseeing import and export of rare species.

An investigation in eight Chinese cities by the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, found 3300 elephant tusks and 330 stores selling illegal ivory.

Dealers often use instant messaging services and online threads to spread their messages, making
enforcement of the law all the more difficult, according to International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Thursday 9 October 2014

UNEP-GEF Rhino Project launched in South Africa

Environment Minister Edna Molewa on Wednesday announced the official launch of the UNEP-GEF Rhino Project.

“The project is aimed at strengthening law enforcement capabilities to combat wildlife crime, with a specific
focus on rhino,” she told reporters in Pretoria.

The co-operation agreement between the United Nations Environment Programme and her department was signed on 8th of May this year. Key partners include the SA Police Service, the University of Pretoria’s Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL), SANParks, CITES, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

“The UNEP-GEF Rhino Project seeks to strengthen our law enforcement capabilities through improved forensic capacity, strengthened data gathering systems, and enhanced co-operation mechanisms at an international level,” Molewa said.

Speaking at the event, deputy director general legal authorisation, compliance and enforcement, Ishaam Abader, said forensic technology, which involved DNA sampling of rhino horns, would aid the prosecution of poachers and smugglers.

“The use of the forensic technology is actually for better prosecution. For example, if we can identify where
a particular rhino came from using forensic technology, we can then assist in the prosecution of cases.”
Chief director enforcement Frances Craigie said the project would help build up a rhino DNA database.
The project’s focus was on the use of forensic technology to combat rhino poaching, information sharing and
analysis among national law enforcement agencies, and co-operation and exchange of information at an
international level.

Interpol to establish Environmental Crime office in Nairobi

The International police organisation Interpol announced  on Tuesday that it would establish a team to target ivory trafficking and more generally, environmental crime, in Africa.

The new team, based in Nairobi, will help further Interpol's Project Wisdom, which combats elephant and rhinoceros poaching and the illegal trade of ivory, AFP reported.

"The global fight against illegal trafficking has just been given a significant boost," said Australian High Commissioner Geoff Tooth as the initiative was unveiled at the Australian High Commission in Kenya.

Incidents of Vulture poisoning in Namibia on the increase

The poisoning of vultures in the Northeast parts of the country is believed to have had far reaching consequences for them beyond the boundaries of Namibia.

Poisoning incidents where large numbers of vultures perished have increased. It is thought that the vulture
populations from Namibia, Botswana and possibly Zambia and Zimbabwe could be affected. This was revealed by the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Uahekua Herunga on Wednesday in commemoration of the International Vulture Day. Herunga said widespread use of poison to control predators in the farming areas of Namibia, historically contributed to the decline in vulture populations throughout the country.

In Namibia, the Lappet-face, the White-backed, White-headed and the Hooded vultures are listed as endangered, while the Cape and the Egyptian vultures are already extinct. The current population of Vultures in Namibia is unknown.

"We need to raise the awareness, and the education of the general public if we are to put a stop to the
unnecessary killing of wildlife species and the endangering of human lives through irresponsible poison use. I
believe that many irresponsible uses of poisons and pesticides results from lack of awareness and education," the minister said.

Namibia is a summer feeding post for many African-Eurasian migrant bird species. Pesticides are  thought to be a key reason for the decline in the number of birds migrating to Southern Africa. Other wildlife at risk
includes all birds of prey, insect-eating mammals such as aardwolfs, hedgehogs and pangolins, insect and seed eating birds, water-fowl, insects, amphibians and fish.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Malawi to tackle long term increases in poaching

Lilongwe — Weak wildlife legislation and lower fines imposed on poachers, have been blamed as being a major factor for the increase of illegal ivory and other wildlife poaching within the country.

Director for National Parks and Wildlife in the Ministry of Information and Tourism, Brighton Kumchedwa said this in an interview on the sidelines of the celebration of World Animal Day which falls on 2nd of October.

"The highest penalty that has been given to the culprits so far is K1 million which is not enough. And the inconsistencies in giving out theses penalties by the Magistrates is another drawback as well, some are imposing a lower fine and other a bigger one," he said.

According to available figures, the national population of elephants is down to 2000 from 4000 ten years ago. In Kasungu alone, the country had 2000 elephants in the late 1980's but there are now only 150 remaining.

Most of the Ivory is destined for the illegal markets in China.

Mr Kumchedwa further stated that "We have also come up with a team of security agents of the government that includes Police, MDF, immigration, ACB and so many others. We have been working as a team from April this year and this has improved the situation as wildlife cases are being handled in courts. That is a result of efforts that government is putting in by pulling together all stakeholders who matter in as far conservation of wildlife is concerned".

The government has also engaged the private sector in the conservation of wildlife as it plans to concession out Liwonde National Park and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve just like it did with Majete Game Reserve to African Parks.

Good - they are doing a fantastic job in difficult areas such as Garamba in Dr Congo and Zakouma in Chad.