Friday, 28 November 2014

Baby elephants abducted in Zimbabwe destined for Chinese Zoo

The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF), has issued a disturbing report claiming that wildlife in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park is being abducted and shipped to Chinese zoos.
This has apparently been going in since April. Tourists are now reporting that they are seeing the capture of baby animals in the Park.

So far 34 baby elephants between the ages of 2 ½ and 5 years old, 7 lions and about 10 sable antelope have been rounded up for shipping but investigators were not allowed to get close enough to the compound to photograph as security there has become extremely tight. It is expected that the animals will be shipped by container trucks to Maputo in Mozambique where they will be transferred to a livestock freighter and sent on an arduous sea passage to China.

In 2013 three young Zimbabwean elephants were transported to China. One died as a result of the freezing conditions and the remaining two are now in poor health. There were six more elephants earmarked but they were returned to the wild after ZCTF brought a high court application against the wildlife management authority.

 - See more at: http://africageographic.com/blog/baby-elephants-abducted-for-chinese-
zoo/#sthash.txbHx0CQ.dpuf

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Mozambique is doing next to nothing to halt poaching in the country

In a year long investigation, started in November last year and supported by photographic and documentary evidence, Oxpecker’s Estacios Valoi revealed how a number of administrative, judicial and tax authorities in Cabo Delgado and Niassa provinces were complicit with the poaching syndicates, enabling poachers to gain access to weapons and protected areas and turning a blind eye to ivory and other illegal goods being smuggled through Mozambican ports, airports and borders.

His report reads: “… documents show that, despite the laws, officials are facilitating these crimes. Some sell weapons and ammunition, military uniforms and boots, and others expedite the release of detainees and make evidence disappear. The investigation discovered 15 cases involving armed poachers in the Quirimbas National Park, from between 2009 and 2013, which were forwarded to the criminal investigation police, the prosecuting attorney and the provincial court – with no outcome. Even some poachers who had been brazenly walking around with AK-47s were released.”

The report goes on to tell how a “deposit” of 15 000 meticais can allegedly secure a poachers release from prison and how the district administrator of the Cabo Delgado province, Ancuabe Eus├ębia Celestino, and the chief secretary of the village of Muaja, Horace Radio, arm poachers with weapons to cull “problem” elephants around the Quirimbas National Park. This despite the fact that they have no authority to kill animals – so called “problem” animals must be dealt with by the provincial department of agriculture.

In September this year environmentalists warned that between 1500 and 1800 elephants in northern
Mozambique are being poached per year. According to the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) Niassa’s elephant population was reduced from 20 374 in 2009 to less than 13000 in 2013. In the Quirimbas National Park, the elephant population is now estimated at about 790 elephants.

 Mozambique is one of Africa’s main transit hubs for the trafficking of ivory to Asian markets – a great deal of which is shipped out through the northern region’s main port, Pemba.The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has previously criticised Mozambique for being one of the world’s worst failures in combating poaching.

 In 2013 the country, together with Vietnam, was ordered to come up with an action plan to substantially increase its efforts against poaching and illegal ivory trade or face tough international trade sanctions.Although it was late to respond to Cites’ call, Mozambique has thus far managed to escape sanctions through a number of superficial measures. It has passed draft legislation that will, in theory, increase penalties against poachers. Whereas in the past poachers were slapped with a small fine they could now face prison sentences of between eight and 12 years, and fines of between $4 425 and $88 500.

 The draft, however, still needs to leap the hurdles of bureaucracy before it is passed into law. Given
Mozambique’s record of poor implementation at a judicial level, it remains to be seen how effective the law will be in terms of actual prosecution. In 2013, for example, Mozambique showed a considerable increase in the number of fines issued for poaching related crimes, yet less than 3% of those fines were ever paid.

In April this year Mozambique signed a memorandum of understanding with South Africa in which the two parties agreed to strengthen relations to enhance the protection of endangered species. Part of the agreement was to adhere to CITES and other relevant international, regional and sub-regional conventions and protocols. The terms remain vague, however, and an implementation agreement has yet to be signed.Most recently Mozambique forged an agreement with South Africa which supports the development of dedicated anti-poaching operations in and around Limpopo National Park, which joins the northern part of Kruger to form the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and Conservation Area.

 On the surface, Mozambique has recently made a great commitment in the war against poaching, but on the ground nothing has changed and the drafts and agreements serve as mere bluster to hold international sanctions at bay. This is particularly evident in the north of Mozambique where the systematic slaughter of elephants continues, aided and, in cases, instigated by government officials who claim to be protecting them.

The Environmental Investigation Agency and the International Rhino Foundation have petitioned the Obama government to take action against Mozambique under the Pelly amendment – which authorises the US to impose sanctions on any country that contravenes an international conservation agreement. In this case the CITES agreements.Although it has paid lip service to CITES, Mozambique has effectively cocked a snoot at the international community by dragging its heels and failing to take measures to halt poaching.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Manta Ray parts worth $671 million to the tourist industry have been intercepted in Bali

The  Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries of the Republic of Indonesia and the WCS (Wildlife
Conservation Society’s) Wildlife Crimes Unit have made their largest seizure of manta ray gills and
arrested one person. The 103kg of gill plates represented 85 manta rays and each was worth $7.8 million to the Indonesian dive industry over its lifetime.

The raid took place on 7th November when officials, working on part of a larger investigation, at a house near to the  Pengambengan Negara fisheries landing area in Bali.

The latest raid follows on from follows three arrests earlier this month and in October involving illegal trade of manta ray meat and gill plates, sawfish snouts, and sea turtle meat.

While the financial loss of the 85 rays to the fisheries industry has been put at $20,000 by the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries it is the loss to the tourism industry that really shows the devastation that poachers and illegal fisheries are having on the country.

The 103 kg of gill plates is thought to have come from about 85 individual manta rays. Each manta ray would normally live for 40 years in the wild and are a major tourist draw bringing in divers from across the world to swim with these amazing fish.

Recent studies have shown that each manta ray of Indonesia brings in just under $200,000 a year in tourist income or about $7.9 million over it’s 40 year lifetime. To discover the equivalent of 85 dead manta rays in one raid is a major blow to the industry.

With the value of live manta rays being many more time that of a dead manta ray – the gill plates fetch between $250 and $500 a kilo in the markets of China – authorities need to get serious in tackling the trade.

The law in Indonesia was changed in February this year to make rays protected throughout its territorial waters. The waters of Indonesia at 6 million sq. kilometres is now the largest safe haven for rays in the World.

Sentencing for those caught trading or catching manta rays have also been increased recently. Those caught now face up to 6 years in prison with a fine of up to $125,000.

Another good reason to burn Ivory

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has launched a special investigation after it was discovered that ivory worth more than $1 million was stolen from protected stockpiles in the country. Routine checks by the Uganda Wildlife Authority noted that there was a shortfall of 1.33 tonnes of tusks recovered from poachers.

The special investigation has been launched amid fears that staff from the Uganda Wildlife Authority are working closely with traffickers to remove seized ivory.

The investigation is being led by the Ugandan Inspectorate General of Government – the country’s anti-corruption specialists.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

40 000 Maasai told to leave homeland in Loliondo as foreign hunters move in

Tanzania has been accused of reneging on its promise to 40 000 Maasai pastoralists by going ahead with plans to evict them and turn their ancestral land into a reserve for the royal family of Dubai to hunt big game. The compamy involved is the Ortelo Business Corporation (OBC), a luxury safari company set up by a UAE official close to the royal family. The OBC has operated in Loliondo for more than 20 years with clients reportedly including Prince Andrew.

Activists celebrated last year when the government said it had backed down over a proposed 1 500 sq km “wildlife corridor” bordering the Serengeti National Park that would serve a commercial hunting and safari company based in the United Arab Emirates.Now the deal appears to be back on and the Maasai have been ordered to leave their traditional lands by the end of the year.

Maasai representatives will meet the prime minister, Mizengo Pinda, in Dodoma today to express their anger. They insist the sale of the land would rob them of their heritage and directly or indirectly affect the livelihoods of 80 000 people. The area is crucial for grazing livestock on which the nomadic Maasai depend.

An international campaign against the hunting reserve was led last year by the online activism site
Avaaz.org, whose Stop the Serengeti Sell-off petition attracted more than 1.7 million signatures and led to coordinated email and Twitter protests.Alex Wilks, campaign director for Avaaz, said: “The Maasai stare out from every tourism poster, but Tanzania’s government wants to kick them off their land so foreign royalty can hunt elephants there. Almost two million people around the world have backed the Maasai’s call for president Jakaya Kikwete to fulfil his promise to let them stay where they’ve always lived. Treating the Maasai as the great unwanted would be a disaster for Tanzania’s reputation.”

A spokesperson for Tanzania’s natural resources and tourism ministry said : “It’s the first I’ve heard of it. I’m currently out of the office and can’t comment properly.”

I'm thinking that the Loliondo is essentially part of the Serengeti ecosystem, so they want to shoot those same animals the people like you and I pay a lot of money to go and see, and donate a lot more to conservation groups to help protect. This is madness. Hunting should be banned.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Giraffes are increasingly in the poachers sights

The Tanzanian national animal, the Giraffe, is increasingly becoming endangered as poachers have now turned their attention to the species.

The biggest ruminant and the tallest mammal, the Giraffe has the honour of featuring on the prestigious court of arms of several governmental institutions and the Tanzanian currency.

In 1998 the IUCN estimated the total number of Giraffe in Africa to exceed 140 000. By 2012, it was estimated that they had dropped to fewer than 80 000 individuals; indeed, in some areas traditionally regarded as prime giraffe real estate, numbers had dropped by 65 per cent.

There are nine subspecies, the commonest in East Africa are the Reticulated Giraffe and the Maasai Giraffe. Reticulated Giraffes are found in Kenya North of the Tana River, Ethiopia and Uganda. The numbers of these have dropped from 28000 in 1998 to about 4700 today.

Maasai Giraffes are found throughout the rest of Kenya and Tanzania and are the most numerous subspecies, with about 37000 left. Still a very low number.

Giraffes are now on the receiving end of poachers bullets with their illegal slaughter becoming more widespread in various parts of East Africa.

There is a pervasive rumour that the marrow from the thigh bone of a Giraffe is a cure for HIV, and this is fueling the killing. The meat is also in demand by the bushmeat trade.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The United States will partner with China and African countries to tackle the poaching crisis

The United States will partner with China and African countries to root out the menace of poaching, a visiting U.S. high-level official said on Monday.

Catherine A. Novelli, the Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and Environment, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview on Monday that Washington will offer material and technical assistance to revitalize the fight against wildlife crimes in Africa.

Delegates from eight African countries, China and the United States have attended a conference on wildlife trafficking in Tanzania to explore new strategies to contain wildlife crimes.

The U.S. official said Washington will forge a partnership with China to strengthen response to wildlife crimes in Africa, stressing that China has responded positively to a request by the United States to support war against poaching of African elephants and rhinos.

"It was encouraging to witness a size-able delegation of Chinese officials attend the wildlife trafficking conference in Tanzania. Our Chinese colleagues are responding positively to anti- poaching message," Novelli said.

America and China have agreed on a raft of interventions to halt wildlife trafficking in Africa, she said, noting that both countries have rallied behind public awareness targeting tourists, businesses and ordinary citizens.

The United States has also endorsed several legislative and policy tools to boost the war against
environmental crimes in Africa.

Of course it would help if China banned the sale of Ivory.

South Africa tries to justify legal rhino horn sales again

South Africa is trying to have us believe that it is seeing success in combating rhino poaching in recent months and, to ensure the trend continues, the country is considering legalising trade in rhino horns to stop the killing of the animals.

Rose Masela, head of national wildlife information management at the South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), said her department has covered some ground in slowing the rate of rhino poaching.

“If we hadn't made the interventions that we did we'd probably be seeing the rhino population going toward extinction maybe in the next few years,” Masela told journalists from the Foreign Correspondents' Association of Southern Africa yesterday at Bloomberg's Johannesburg office.

So how come we are on course to lose More rhinos this year than last year? (979 so far this year -1004 last year)

Adding, Masela said legalizing the trade in rhino horn is one solution government is mulling. She said this will drive down the price of rhino horns, hitting the poachers in the pocket in the process. “There's very little we can do about the belief in the use of rhino horn that exists in other countries. Legalization would be a more medium-term solution,” she said.

The next step could be proposing to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, an international agreement between governments, that rhino horn trade be legalized, said Masela.

Have they learned Nothing after the same proposal was passed in 2003 and 105,000kg of Ivory was sold to China and Japan in order to flood the market, reduce the price to stop the poaching. Look where we are now!

The demand is insatiable;the price of ivory has skyrocketed from US $5/kg in 1989 to a wholesale price of US $2,100/kg in China in 2014. Retail prices are said to be much higher.

Why do I get the feeling that some people are set to make a lot of money from this?

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Extracts from Speech by the Chinese Ambassador Dr. Lu Youqing On the Regional Summit to Stop Wildlife Crime and Advance Wildlife Conservation held in Arusha Tanzania.

"As a member country of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the Chinese government has always attached great importance to the protection of wildlife, promulgated a series of laws and regulations, and set up a National Inter-Agency CITES Enforcement Collaboration Group (NICECG) mechanism. Chinese State Forestry Administration has set up a special armed anti-poaching team."

"China leads the world on severe punishment in cases of wild animal protection violation including ivory smuggling and its products. It has also actively participated in international law enforcement cooperation to crack down criminal activities on smuggling and trade of ivory and its products. In February 2013, the Chinese government carried out successfully Operation COBRA, a cross-continent joint special operation to combat illegal wildlife trade together with 22 countries in Asia and Africa."

"The Chinese Embassy in Tanzania holds a tough attitudes to wildlife crime and requested all the Chinese citizens in Tanzania abide by Tanzania law and never involve in any wildlife crime."

"Wildlife conservation and bio-diversity protection is to safeguard our common home and is a shared task of all countries. In the fight of anti-poaching and illegal wildlife trade, Chinese government is always together with Tanzania and all countries in the world."

So, if all this is true WHY DON'T THEY BAN THE SALE OF IVORY IN CHINA  instead of turning a blind eye to the illegal Ivory imports - stolen from African countries who they claim to be friends with?

China could put a stop to the poaching, the loss of life and the decimation of the World's Treasures by a single act of  Leadership.

Three Rhino carcasses found in Kunene region of Namibia

Three Black Rhino carcasses were discovered in the Kunene region this week, two weeks after another carcass of a black rhino bull was found in Etosha.

This discovery brings Namibia's official total loss of rhinos to poachers this year to a record high of
18, comprising 15 black and three white rhino. Some claim the number could be higher.

A look at recent statistics shows that at least 26 rhinos, black and white, have been poached in Namibia since 2009, mostly this year.

The decision to dehorn Namibia's rhinos, in an attempt to combat the rhino poaching crisis in the country, has met a mixed response. The strategy's costs, its effectiveness and the opportunity for corruption have all been cited as challenges. Furthermore, a source with close ties to rhino conservation in Namibia said law enforcement probes into rhino poaching "leave much to be desired".

Namibia's tourism industry is the third largest contributor to the country's GDP and the killing of iconic wildlife negatively impacts Namibia's reputation as a tourist destination, decreasing tourism's
contribution to the treasury.

Friday, 7 November 2014

New EIA Report: Vanishing Point – Criminality, Corruption and the Devastation of Tanzania’s Elephants

A new report reveals that Chinese-led criminal gangs are conspiring with corrupt Tanzanian officials to traffic huge amounts of ivory, a trade which has caused half of Tanzania’s elephants to be poached in the past five years – even diplomatic visits by high-level Chinese Government delegations have been used to smuggle ivory.

In the major new report Vanishing Point – Criminality, Corruption and the Devastation of Tanzania’s Elephants, released on the eve of a major regional wildlife crime summit in Tanzania, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) details how the country’s elephants are being slaughtered in vast numbers to feed a resurgent ivory trade in China.

In December 2013, an official visit by a Chinese naval task force to Tanzania’s capital city port of Dar es Salaam spurred a major surge in business for ivory traders, with one dealer boasting of making US$50 000 from sales to naval personnel. In addition, a Chinese national was caught trying to enter the port with 81 illegal tusks intended for two mid-ranking Chinese naval officers.

Earlier that year, in March, the visit of a large official delegation accompanying Chinese President Xi Jinping to Tanzania created a boom in illegal ivory sales and caused local prices to double.

Tanzania is the largest source of poached ivory in the world and China the largest importer of smuggled tusks. Tanzania’s world famous Selous Reserve has seen its elephant population plunge by 67 per cent in just four years, from 38 975 animals to 13 084. Based on available evidence, Tanzania has lost more elephants to poaching during this period than any other country – 10 000 in 2013 alone, equivalent to 30 a day.

Vanishing Point further reveals how some politicians from Tanzania’s ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party and well-connected business people use their influence to protect ivory traffickers. In 2013, former Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Khamis Kagasheki named four CCM MPs as involved in elephant poaching and stated: “This business involves rich people and politicians who have formed a very sophisticated network.”

A year earlier, a secret list of the main culprits behind the crisis was handed to Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete by intelligence sources, containing the names of prominent politicians and business people regarded as untouchable due to links to the CCM; most people on the list have not been investigated further or arrested.

As far back as 2006, EIA investigators were told by Mwenge suppliers that some Chinese embassy staff were major buyers of their ivory. An official of Tanzania’s wildlife department even offered to sell the investigators tusks from the Government’s ivory storeroom and to put them in touch with a dealer who could provide ivory from the Selous Reserve.

EIA Executive Director Mary Rice said: “This report shows clearly that without a zero tolerance approach, the future of Tanzania’s elephants and its tourism industry are extremely precarious. The ivory trade must be disrupted at all levels of criminality, the entire prosecution chain needs to be systemically restructured, corruption rooted out and all stakeholders, including communities exploited by the criminal syndicates and those on the front lines of enforcement, given unequivocal support. All trade in ivory, including all domestic sales, must be resolutely banned in China which has failed to comply with CITES ivory controls.”

- See more at: http://africageographic.com/blog/chinese-criminal-syndicates-and-corruption-behind-tanzanias-elephant-meltdown/#sthash.jQh1byTC.dpuf

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Tanzania Praised for Anti Poaching efforts in Selous

THE international community has complimented Tanzania for her anti-poaching drive after going for four months without a single reported killing of an elephant in the Selous Game Reserve, the largest in Africa.

The Selous was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 due to the diversity of its wildlife and undisturbed nature.

The reserve covers a total area of 54,600 sq km (21,100 sq miles) and has additional buffer zones.
Speaking recently during a joint Selous expedition, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Lazaro Nyalandu, expressed satisfaction with the ongoing coordinated efforts in combating wildlife poaching and trade.He noted that application of sophisticated preventive measures in addition to commitment among game rangers has helped to improve the situation dramatically. "Control over poaching is a commendable achievement. Purchase of a surveillance helicopter and hire of game rangers made a big difference," Mr Nyalandu said.

Results from a wildlife census conducted in October and November, 2013, show a dramatic decline in elephants in the area to just 13084. Wildlife surveys taken in the Selous in 1976 indicated that some 109,419 elephants inhabited the area.

The reserve has suffered such a heavy elephant poaching for ivory, that in the last four years alone, the Selous has lost 67 per cent of its elephants. It's one of Tanzania's, if not Africa's, most brutal killing fields.

Recently, the government officially established the Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA), an independent organ which will not only help increase revenues through Tanzania's national parks, forests and game reserves but also improve significantly wildlife conservation techniques.

It was announced that in the 2014/15 financial year an additional 500 game rangers would be hired to bring to 930 the number of rangers on the ground. These will be deployed to cover the designated wildlife habitat of 112,000 square kilometres.

Rhino Smugglers arrested on flight from Maputo

Maputo — The South African authorities have announced the seizure on Friday of the largest ever haul of rhinoceros horns. Embarrassingly for the Mozambican authorities, the horns were being transported on a plane that had come from Maputo. The final destination of the two smugglers was Vietnam, where rhino horn is peddled as a miracle cure for everything from hangovers to cancer.

Two men, whose names were not revealed, were intercepted in the international departures section of
Johannesburg airport, after a detector dog reacted very strongly to one of their bags. Between them, the two men were found to be carrying 34 large pieces of rhino horn, weighing a total of 41 kilos, which Muller described as "the single biggest rhino horn seizure ever".

The two Vietnamese citizens had been travelling on the scheduled Qatar Airways flight from Maputo to Doha. This flight makes a short stop in Johannesburg, and the passengers from Maputo are normally asked to stay on board. Following a tip off the passengers were asked to disembark with their hand luggage.