Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Seventeen Rhino horns seized in Mozambique town

The Mozambican police last week seized 17 rhinoceros horns in the southern city of Matola.

The horns were in a Toyota Land Cruiser which was supposedly being driven to the northern city of Pemba. They were hidden inside the lining of the vehicle's boot.

Three men were arrested. They claimed to know nothing of the rhino horns. One man said that some Vietnamese friends had brought him from Pemba to Maputo to pick up the Toyota and drive it back to Pemba.

Several revent attempts to smuggle rhino horn through Maputo have been detected and so the smugglers may be trying to use other airports in Mozambique

Since the rhinoceros is extinct in southern Mozambique, it is more than likely that the 17 horns were taken from rhinos poached in South Africa's Kruger National Park.

Good - but Mozambique still hasn't satisfied the CITIES requirements in terms of its anto rhino horn smuggling action plan, and needs to do much more about this and also about elephant ivory poaching in Niassa National Park.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

So now, after the Ivory disaster of 2008 South Africa wants to legalise the trade in Rhino horn

In 2008, because South Africa’s elephant herds were growing, South Africa, along with Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, was permitted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to sell its stockpiled ivory, accumulated from natural deaths and managed culls, to “accredited traders” in China and Japan.

It’s now generally agreed that the sales were poorly designed and executed, and rekindled a dwindling market and opened the doors for illegal ivory to be laundered along with the legal sale.
Moreover, South Africa has since been suspected of misappropriation of funds raised from its sale.

A public hearing will take place on 25 and 26 March near Johannesburg to discuss the legalised trade in rhino horn.

Let's face it, someone somewhere wants to get their hands on the cash from the sale of the estimated $1 billon stockpile of rhino horn that the government holds. They are prepared to ignore the lessons of history to achieve this.

Rhinos are in more than enough trouble as it is without the trade being stimulated by the sale of yet more horn.

We all know that manageing it properly would cease to happen as soon as the twin scourges of greed and corruption became involved, regardless of what was promised.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Official complicity in Mozambican elephant slaughter

Extracts from a report released by the Oxpeckers organisation.

Environmentalists warned in mid-September that killing for ivory by organised syndicates was being carried out on an “industrialised” scale – between 1,500 and 1,800 elephants are being poached a year, mostly in northern Mozambique.

In Niassa National Reserve, the country’s largest game reserve, the World Conservation Society (WCS) counted 22 poached elephants in the first two weeks of September alone.“The killing of elephants in the north of Mozambique is reaching proportions never seen before. The killing of elephants is being industrialised,” said Carlos Pareira, an advisor to the WCS.

Between 2009 and 2013 Niassa’s elephant population was reduced from 20,374 to less than 13,000. According to the reserve’s administrator, CornĂ©lio Miguel, an average of five elephants are now being killed there daily.

In the Quirimbas National Park, the elephant population was reduced from about 2,000 in 2008 to 517 by 2011, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). Baldeu Chande, the administrator of Quirimbas, estimates the park now has a maximum of 790 elephants.

The investigation, started in November 2013, reveals a web of official complicity in the slaughter among administrative, judicial and tax authorities in the northern provinces of Cabo Delgado and Niassa.

The poaching networks on the ground consist of armed hunters: Mozambicans, Tanzanians, Somalis with high-calibre weapons. They smuggle their illegal proceeds through Mozambican ports, airports and borders, destined mainly for China or Vietnam.

Documents show that officials are facilitating these crimes. Some sell weapons and ammunition, military uniforms and boots, and others facilitate the release of detainees and the disappearance of evidence.

The investigation discovered 15 cases involving armed poachers in the Quirimbas National Park, dating to 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 brazenly walking around with AK47s were released.

One syndicate comprising four alleged poachers was arrested in Quirimbas in 2010 after killing three elephants. Charges were laid against Manuel Kachupa, Jorge Salimo, Luis Assima and Antonio Amisse, but they were released.

In another operation against the same group in 2011, 106 rounds of AK47 ammunition and 104,114 Meticais in cash were seized. This time Luis Assima, head of the group, got wind of the arrests and left the day before with another accused, Manuel Kachupa, to hunt with three automatic weapons.

Kachupa is a ringleader, but appears untouchable. In August 2011 he was captured with more than 90,000 Meticais in cash and a week later he was released after paying a “deposit” of 20,000 Meticais. In another case, after he was caught chasing a group of six elephants, he managed to escape with a rifle, ammunition and three elephant tails. He was re-captured and detained in the maximum security prison, but four days later he was released.

In the province of Cabo Delgado, the administrator of the district, Ancuabe Eusebia Celestino, and the chief secretary of the village of Muaja, Horace Radio, provided weapons used in the killing of so-called “problem” elephants which they said were destroying farms around the Quirimbas National Park.

In Quirimbas the administration has no autonomy to kill or cull elephants, either inside or outside the park. “Problem” animals must be dealt with by the provincial department of agriculture, and they must inform the park that they will send men to drive but not to slaughter the animal.

Of the elephants slaughtered on orders from the administrator during the past four years, neither the park administration nor the provincial directorate of agriculture of Cabo Delgado received any ivory. These facts were confirmed by both institutions.

Cabo Delgado police commander Dora Manuel Manjate, is accused of facilitating the passage of ivory, rubies and other illicit products for Chinese clientele. According to the security sources, Chinese clientele have contributed towards a new home and vehicle for Manjate – “a 4×4, one of those newer types, a make not assigned by the police.”

One of our sources in the harbour said that recently, at the behest of the commander Manjate, a policeman who tried searching a forestry container was locked up in a cell for eight days. “We’re afraid to search a container in the port when it belongs to Mofid.”

After confirmation in the geography department and from a member of the municipal council of Pemba, we tracked down commander Manjate’s home, located about 200m from the beach with a stunning side view of the sea. On entering the house, we found Mozambican workers and a Chinese company, CN-Balcony Buildings, busy with construction. According to them, the construction will cost in the region of one million one hundred thousand Meticais.

Research for this year-long investigation is supported by documentary and photographic evidence. The investigation was funded by The Fund For Investigative Journalism (FIJ).

For the full story go to  http://oxpeckers.org/2014/09/official-complicity-in-mozambican-elephant-slaughter/

Drones to be used as anti rhino poaching tools in Africa

Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology designed by Spanish engineers may be used to fight rhino poachers in national parks in Africa and elsewhere.

Four researchers from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) in Barcelona worked with Hemav, a company that promotes UAV and drone solutions, to design the drone. The drone is fitted with thermal vision and communications that can report suspicious activities in real time. It can also be used to find animals and build up a map of their movements.

The drone is made of styrofaom and has a battery powered electric motor which can keep it aloft for about an hour. It has a pre programmable auto pilot and onboard GPS so that it can be sent on a defined mission. It is much cheaper thn conventional helicopters and aeroplanes, and so could be viable even in smaller parks that do not make a lot of money from tourism.

Hemav is negotiating with parks in Ethiopia, Rwanda and South Africa. There is also interest from places in Brazil and Asia.

Sounds like a good idea to me - cost effective and a very powerful tool in the poaching war

Friday, 20 March 2015

Kenya High Court blocks bail for ivory poacher Fesial Mohammed Ali

Mombasa (Kenya) (AFP) - Kenyan prosecutors on Thursday successfully blocked a controversial decision to grant bail to the suspected ringleader of a global ivory smuggling gang, arguing he may again try to flee the country.

Appealing to the High Court, a top state prosecutor said the judge who agreed to allow Feisal Mohammed Ali out of custody pending trial had "completely ignored the fact that he is a fugitive who was brought to court under a warrant of arrest".

Ali is charged with possession of and dealing in elephant tusks weighing more than two tonnes -- equivalent to at least 114 slaughtered elephants and worth an estimated $4.5 million (4.2 million euros). He was arrested while on the run in neighbouring Tanzania.

The appeal came the day after a Mombasa court agreed to release Ali on a 10 million shilling (102,000 euro) bond on medical grounds, with the magistrate saying he did not believe Ali -- who denies all charges -- would would try to flee again.

That decision was met with outrage among wildlife campaigners, who said setting him free undermined a case seen as a test of Kenya's willingness and ability to prosecute cases linked to the mounting slaughter of African wildlife.

Paula Kahumbu, head of the conservation organisation Wildlife Direct, had branded the bail ruling as "ridiculous", while Frank Pope of Save the Elephants labelled it "depressing".

The ivory haul to which Ali has been linked was discovered by Kenyan police in June when they raided a car dealership in Mombasa, after which Ali fled to Tanzania.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

William Hague to be chairman of a task force on illegal wildlife trade for United for Wildlife

William Hague has agreed to be the chairman of a task force on the illegal wildlife trade for the Duke  of Cambridge's umbrella organisation United for Wildlife, which brings together conservation groups from all over the world to share ideas and put pressure on governments and industry.

 In central Africa, terrorist groups such as the Lords Resistance Army, Al Shabaab and Boko Haram are among the poachers killing 35,000 elephants a year for tusks that can sell for huge sums of money. Following the recent ban on Ivory imports into China, prices have jumped by 20%

The figures are stark, but William Hague has no doubt the problem can be successfully tackled.“As with the drug trade, the long-term solution is to eliminate demand,” he says, “but in this case we have an advantage we don’t have with drugs: this is not an addiction. This is an industry that only operates in a small number of countries and only among a small minority of their people, so it can be resolved.”