BABY RHINO SHOT BY POACHERS WHO KILLED MOTHER, MIRACULOUSLY SURVIVES WEEK ALONE
The baby rhino was shot by poachers who killed its mother but survived after a week alone
Gary Schneider, 27, is the director of Working With Rhinos who reached the vulnerable orphan wandering alone with heart-breaking wounds, just in time.
Care for Wild Africa was contacted last Friday regarding a rescue of an eight-month-old female calf from a reserve in the Mpumalanga region, South Africa.
Mr Schneider, said: "The rhino is doing surprisingly well! She's drinking milk already, and we are very confident in her recovery.
"It's extremely uncommon for a baby to survive for eight days without her mother's milk, but she somehow did.
"Not to mention that she had a serious gunshot wound from the poachers that killed her mum."
Its mother was poached a few days before and only glimpses of the calf had been seen by the reserves anti-poaching unit who noticed that it had been shot in its front left leg.
A search and rescue team was deployed, however due to heavy rain the tracks of the rhino calf were washed away.
Mr Schneider said: "The small calf had run to a section of the reserve where there were extremely thick bushes which hindered the vision of the pilots, scouting it from the air.
"Nevertheless, extra trackers were called in from a neighbouring farm to help in the search.
The poachers killed the mother and injured the baby "Incredibly, nearly eight days after the poaching incident and with hope for the calf's survival, fading, the helicopter called to say they had spotted it.
Veterinarian Dr Albertus Coetzee and the reserves anti-poaching unit immediately set out to find and sedate the calf.
The orphaned rhino was then transported immediately to the Care for Wild Africa Rhino Sanctuary and is still undergoing treatment for the bullet wound
"As she fled from the poachers, they shot her as well because the little bit of horn that she does have is still worth a lot of money to them.
"If a baby rhino is seen without a mum, then it's generally an indication that something has happened to her which would initiate a search and an investigation. The rhino was some how able to walk the bush for eight days without milk, and surviving predators.
Mr Schneider said: "Most babies do not survive poaching incidents, and many of those that do are killed by lions or hyenas.
"She's currently being looked after at the Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary and is being treated by a team of incredible vets.
"She will begin the long road to rehabilitation where she will be able to get another chance at life.
HORNS OF A DILEMMA: LEGAL TRADE IN RHINO HORN COULD SAVE THE SPECIES
Wobbling left, then right, the two-ton animal stumbles and starts to fall. Twelve pairs of hands are there to ease it toward the dusty orange earth. A man wearing a blue work suit quickly straps an eye mask over the now-sedated beast; another slips in a pair of massive earplugs. A few measurements are taken, and then the reciprocating saw comes out. A worker turns it on and presses the whirring blade against the base of the rhino’s nubby horn, and white chips go flying.
Within a couple of minutes, the horn cleanly pops off, leaving behind a teardrop-shaped pattern of pink, white and black keratin – a biological material also found in hair and nails. Mission completed, Michelle Otto, a wildlife veterinarian, gives the rhino an injection – an antidote to the sedative she darted it with 10 minutes earlier. The team scrambles into two pickup trucks, and the rhino – its nose now sporting a stubby plateau rather than a peak – stumbles to its feet and trots off.
This procedure might strike an outsider as strange, but for workers here it’s nothing exceptional. Located 100 miles outside of Johannesburg in South Africa, the nearly 20,000-acre property, owned by a man named John Hume, is the world’s largest rhino ranch. Along with giraffes, sables and other animals, more than 1,400 rhinos call Hume’s Buffalo Dream Ranch home. Every 18 months, Hume’s animals undergo a painless procedure like the one performed today (it takes about that long for the horns to grow back). An average 13 dehornings take place two or three days a week. The horns are immediately microchipped and delivered by an armed escort to an undisclosed off-property location guarded by a private security company. Over the years, Hume has amassed some five tons of horn, which sits in his vault, and an additional ton is added each year. Someday soon, he hopes to be able to sell it all.
South Africa is home to approximately 80 per cent of the world’s rhinos. A third of those 20,000 animals belong to private owners such as Hume. Whether they live in a national park or on a private reserve, however, all rhinos are under siege by increasingly sophisticated and militarised poachers eager to get their hands on their lucrative horns. Unlike the rhinos dehorned on Hume’s ranch, those that cross paths with poachers do not walk away. Faces hacked off, they are left to die.
The horn is often smuggled to Vietnam or China, where it is highly prized by some. A wealthy individual may wear rhino horn jewellery, serve guests from cups made from the material, or prominently display an illegal rhino horn at home or work. Others use it as a purported cure for cancer, a party drug, or in traditional Chinese medicine. Though it is illegal to sell rhino horn both internationally and domestically in Vietnam and China, demand remains high, and as a result, the animals continue to be slaughtered. South Africa lost 1,175 rhinos last year and more than 6,000 since 2009. The government has received financial assistance from the US and anti-poaching donations in the millions from the likes of Warren Buffett’s son, but private rhino owners such as Hume bear the costs for protecting their animals. A burly, big-bellied 74-year-old with a bushy white beard, Hume says he “stupidly” fell in love with rhinos in 1993, when he purchased his first animal to kick-start his dream of spending retirement running a ranch. “I became aware of what wonderful natures they have but also that they’re facing extinction,” he says. “I thought the best way to make a difference is to breed them, and as a result, I have slowly but surely gotten myself into one hell of a corner.”
Hume spends around $175,000 (£140,000) per month on anti-poaching operations. He hasn’t lost a rhino in nine months, but he says the spending involved in achieving that success is not sustainable. Owning rhinos also puts him and his family in a vulnerable position. Private rhino owners and staff have been raped, stabbed and attacked by poachers trying to steal stockpiled horns. While 330 South Africans still keep rhinos on their property, 70 others have given up their animals in the past two years. As the difficulty and expense of keeping rhinos intensify, 85 per cent of the private owners – in addition to some conservationists, academics and government experts – have come to believe that legalising the rhino horn trade is the only way to save the species from extinction.
South Africa has a stash of more than 30 tons of horn, some of it intercepted from the black market, according to the Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA), a non-governmental group in South Africa (a 2014 study by South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs put the country’s total figure at 3.6 tons, however). Trade proponents argue that legalising rhino horn would satiate demand and collapse black markets while simultaneously providing much-needed funds for anti-poaching efforts and rhino conservation. Private breeders say they could collectively produce around 10 tons per year. But conservationists point to a hole in this logic: there’s no proof that poachers will stop killing rhinos. Many owners agree that legalisation won’t provide all of the answers. Strict law enforcement is also important, they say. “None of us bought rhino because we wanted to get into the rhino horn trade; we bought rhino because we’re rhino conservationists,” says Pelham Jones, chairman of PROA. “But if we can take pressure away from wild populations by selling off stockpiles, that will give us key years to secure populations and start to achieve some degree of market control.”
Selling rhino horn was once legal in South Africa. In 2006, for example, Hume sold 185 pounds for $83,250. But in 2009, the government put a moratorium on the trade, a move that some say harmed the animals it was meant to protect. “If demand is increasing, as it has over the last 10 years, and you don’t supply the market, then someone else is going to supply the market,” says Michael ’t Sas-Rolfes, a conservation economist and doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford. “That’s why we’ve seen a radical increase in poaching and illegal trade.”
The moratorium may end soon. Many rhino owners assert that it violates South Africa’s constitution because the government did not follow due process and because the moratorium blocks owners’ rights to sustainable use of wildlife. In 2012, Hume and another rhino owner brought a lawsuit against the government on these grounds, and so far the courts have ruled in their favour. A decision on an appeal is expected any day. “I have 100 sets of horns that I hope to have on auction within six weeks after a favourable result,” Hume says. The price, he guesses, would be about $4,500 per pound – 10 times what it was in 2006. Others vehemently argue that South Africa is incapable of controlling legal rhino horn trade. “The corruption here is absolutely enormous: We’ve got pilots, rangers, policemen, government officials and veterinarians involved [in poaching and illegal trade],” says Allison Thompson, director of the nonprofit Outraged South African Citizens Against Rhino Poaching. Crawford Allan, senior director of TRAFFIC (a wildlife trade-monitoring network) at the World Wildlife Fund, says legally-sold horns would create a smokescreen for poached horns. “The systems are not in place to secure the sales or supply, and the cost of poaching and trafficking is always going to be far cheaper than the sale of legal horn,” he says. Rhino keepers pay for land, veterinarians and protection; poachers pay for a few days of manpower and a vehicle. Thus, the price of an illegal horn would always be lower than a legal one, he says. “We’re not dismissing all trade in rhino horn forever, but right now it would be a disaster to legalise it.”
One of the biggest concerns, Allan continues, is growing the consumer base. Legalising rhino horn would send the message that it is a socially acceptable product, causing the market to expand to include those who can afford and do want rhino horn but refrain from buying it because they do not want to break the law. Research conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2014 on consumer preferences in China confirmed this is a threat. “I’m not at all opposed to trade under the right conditions, but I can tell you that the latent demand in China for rhino horn is much higher than what could be produced by farms and other available supply,” says Alexandra Kennaugh, the study’s principal investigator. Dex Kotze, founder of the South Africa-based nonprofit Youth 4 African Wildlife, agrees that the numbers do not add up. “If one per cent of people in China, Vietnam and Thailand use 1 gram of rhino horn per year, then the demand is nearly 15 tons,” he says. “If it’s 5 per cent, then it’s 372 tons – it’s massive.” He adds that those calculations do not take into account possible dormant markets in Japan, Singapore, the Middle East and other places where rhino horn was historically used.
How legal trade in South Africa would logistically work is still being discussed. Some have proposed opening rhino horn clinics that cater to Asian tourists and expatriates; others of developing a carving industry. That some or even most of the rhino horn legally sold in South Africa would likely make its way illegally to Asia – and that the very criminals currently behind the killing of rhinos may be involved – is not a deal breaker. “Morally, it is a huge concern to work with those individuals, but if we have to do business with the devil to ensure species survival, then so be it,” Jones says. He adds that it is the government’s responsibility to stop horn from leaking out of the country. It remains illegal to sell rhino horn internationally or to import it into any of the 183 countries that are signatories to a treaty called the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Ultimately, it is impossible to predict how things will play out should the rhino owners win their suit, but what little evidence does exist is not reassuring. In 2008, CITES allowed several African countries to conduct a one-time sale of over 100 tons of ivory – another wildlife product banned from international trade – to China and Japan. Anecdotal evidence, recently supported by a working paper published by economists in the US, indicated that the sale exacerbated the killing of elephants, likely because it stimulated demand and provided an easy means for laundering. Immediately after the sale was announced, poaching increased by 66 per cent and smuggling by 71 per cent, according to the analysis. While the ivory findings are not directly applicable to rhino horn, the paper’s lead author, Solomon Hsiang, chancellor’s associate professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, thinks there are some potential takeaways, including that meeting demand for rhino horn without stimulating poaching could be even more challenging than ivory. Unlike ivory, rhino horn is often consumed, so more is needed on a rolling basis. “Once these large stashes of rhino horn are gone, you’d have to be ready to do mass production – which I don’t think we are ready for – or else other suppliers are going to come in and poach,” Hsiang says. Such uncertainties do not sit well with many conservationists. As Allan says, “We can’t experiment with rhinos, because there are too few of them left.”
But whether he and others like it or not, a large-scale, real-world experiment is looming. Hume and others are unwavering in their belief that this seemingly unavoidable experiment will prove them right. “I’m telling you, I am not wrong,” he says. “And knowing rhinos, I am convinced that they would be very happy to make this small sacrifice to steer their species away from extinction.”
• Rachel Nuwer
To follow: The Independent Online
ANTI-POACHING TECHNOLOGY IN AFRICA LEADS TO DOZENS OF ARRESTS
World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) new anti-poaching technology, a combination of thermal imaging cameras and human detection software, is resulting in poacher arrests in eastern Africa. Nine months after the tech’s installation, more than two dozen poachers have been arrested in the Maasai Mara and two poachers have been apprehended at another undisclosed national park in Kenya.
This is one of the first times this technology is being used outside of the military and law-enforcement to protect wildlife.
“Poachers can no longer use the cover of night to run and hide. Their days of evading arrest are over,” said Colby Loucks, WWF’s Wildlife Crime Technology Project Lead. “Wildlife rangers now have the help they’ve desperately needed. This groundbreaking technology allows them to search for poachers 24 hours a day, from up to a mile away, in pitch darkness. It’s upping the game in our fight to stop wildlife crime across the region.”
In March, WWF, working with the Mara Conservancy ranger unit and the Kenya Wildlife Service, installed FLIR technology on a mobile wildlife ranger unit in the Mara Conservancy. It was also installed, with the addition of human detection software technology, in another Kenyan park. WWF’s technology project has one goal: to deter and arrest poachers unlawfully entering protected parks and illegally killing wildlife.
“This technology is invaluable in our night surveillance work. The ability of our rangers to distinguish potential poachers from a large distance is nothing short of remarkable,” said Brian Heath, CEO and Director of the Mara Conservancy. “The last three people our team arrested were flabbergasted as to how they were detected. Normally they simply sneak away when an ambush is sprung and avoid detection. Now, their heat signatures are picked up by the thermal camera. We’re catching them.”
WWF is working with FLIR Systems Inc., as part of a new collaboration to broaden the use of thermal imaging, and African Parks, UDS and Lindbergh Foundation’s Air Shepherd to install similar thermal imaging technology in drones. Anti-poaching drone test flights began in Zimbabwe and Malawi in October of this year.
WWF’s Wildlife Crime Technology Project is implementing this work with a $5 million dollar grant from Google.org. The grant supports innovative technology that will combat wildlife crime.
For more information, please contact:
Sarah Fogel, email@example.com, 202-495-4333
THE POACHERS PIPELINE: INVESTIGATING THE BLACK MARKET TRADE IN RHINO HORN
The illegal rhino horn trade is one of the most potent and corrupt in the illegal wildlife trafficking arena, resulting in the death of at least 6,000 rhinos in the last decade alone, leaving only 25,000 rhinos remaining. Rhino horn is also one of the most profitable products on the illegal wildlife black market, considered more valuable than gold and platinum.
On November 12th, Al Jazeera held a special screening of the most recent edition of its documentary series: “The Poacher’s Pipeline.” In the film, Al Jazeera investigators follow the illegal supply chain of rhino horns from the fresh kill in Africa to their sale in Asia, specifically in Vietnam and China. The investigation revealed that the rhino horn trade is largely made possible because of its consumer base, which is comprised of high-level government officials and politicians from Africa and Asia.
The documentary follows the sale of rhino horn from its conception, beginning in the Kruger National Park located in South Africa—referred to as “ground zero for the rhino crisis.” Park officials reveal that at least two-to-three park rhinos are killed each night by poachers, who are motivated by the high profit. A single horn can sell for up to $250,000, and the poachers often receive up to 10% of the proceeds, providing just enough motivation to participate.
The investigators also met with several mid-level dealers and importers, who claim they conduct their business with the cooperation of government officials in both Asia and Africa. One dealer, a Chinese restaurateur living in South Africa, detailed connections that make the trade possible—discussing his close ties with officials at the Beijing Airport and within the Chinese government who assist with the trade by facilitating the horn’s trip through customs to Africa. Another mid-level dealer, a massage parlor owner in South Africa, shared his connections to the Department of Interior and his relationship with the former Head of South Africa’s State Security Agency, who became a government minister in 2014. Throughout the documentary, the investigators provide concrete photographic evidence of the involvement of several senior government officials in the trafficking of rhino horn.
Despite action from wildlife trafficking advocates and organizations, such as the Wildlife Justice Commission, the sale of rhino horn remains a strong fixture in illegal wildlife trade. Despite at least 30 examples of abuse of diplomatic privilege by Asian embassies in Africa, the trade continues to be possible thanks to the assistance from corrupt government officials across the two continents. Government officials from both from both regions did not respond to Al Jazeera’s questions or comments regarding their investigative documentary.
One of the best ways to combat illegal wildlife trafficking is to report it to the appropriate authorities. The NWC is a Grand Prize Winner in the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, an initiative of USAID in partnership with the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, and TRAFFIC. NWC’s Grand Prize-Winning solution, the Secure Internet Wildlife Crime Reporting System, is a secure online platform, a one-stop shop through which whistleblowers can safely and anonymously file reports of wildlife crimes and gain useful information about how wildlife whistleblower laws work.
Watch Poacher’s Pipeline: http://www.aljazeera.com/investigations/the-poachers-pipeline/.
Prince William: We're still step behind wildlife traffickers
HANOI, Vietnam - Britain's Prince William praised Vietnam, China and other Asian countries for taking unprecedented steps to battle wildlife trafficking but said Thursday the truth is that rhinos, elephants, pangolins and lions are still being killed in horrifying numbers.
William, who is president of United for Wildlife , lauded progress in stemming trade in endangered wildlife since the London conference two years ago, particularly partnership between African governments to fight poaching. China has signalled a total ban on ivory trading, the U.S. already has banned it and other nations, including Britain, are considering it, he said.
Vietnam, one of major transit points and consumers of trafficked ivory and rhino horns, for the first time destroyed seized ivory and rhino horns last weekend, he said. "But here is the problem: We know that we aren't moving fast enough to keep up with the crisis," William told the Third International Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade in Hanoi. He said that the Great Elephant Census published this summer confirmed our worst fears about the shocking 30 per cent decline in the African elephant population in just seven years.
"So while we've made progress, the truth is we are still falling behind. A betting man would still bet on extinction," he said. Organized crime syndicates are much more agile, he said, adding that although authorities have stepped up controls at ports and borders, most illegally poached products are still slipping through the net.
"Attitudes on the use and purchase of illegal wildlife trade products are proving harder to shift than we might have liked," William said, alluding to mistakenly held beliefs that rhino horns provide a cure for cancer. "In this part of the world we have to acknowledge the truth that newly aspirational consumers are still demanding more, not less ivory and rhino horn."
He said the poachers are learning to be quiet and are much harder to track. "Their brutality continues to escalate with many more rangers killed since we gathered in London two years ago," he said.
Vietnam Vice-President Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh said that her country is facing many challenges in protecting wildlife and ensuring economic growth, such as raising awareness in local communities and improving their livelihoods as well as limitations in prosecuting and convicting criminals.
Ishaam Abader, deputy director at South Africa's Environmental Affairs Department, said that that the number of rhinos being poached has slightly dropped last year compared to 2014. However, the number of poachers entering wildlife parks has increased.
"So in essence we are winning the fight so to speak. But obviously if you use one strategy, the poachers use another strategy, we have to try to remain one step ahead of them all the time," he told The Associated Press on the sidelines of the conference.
He said that South Africa is developing multiple strategies to ensure the success of the fight to protect rhinos.
"We don't only focus on anti-poaching, we also focus on demand reduction and increasing rhino populations by diversity management," he said.
- See more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/prince-william-we-re-still-step-behind-wildlife-traffickers-1.2789748#sthash.dTg7Ky3W.dpuf
VIETNAM DESTROYS MASS RHINO HORMS AND ELEPHANT IVORY
The specimens came from about 330 African elephants and 23 rhinos, said Humane Society International.
LONDON – Vietnam destroyed nearly 2.2 tonnes of seized elephant ivory and 70 kg of rhino horns on Saturday, in one of its strongest moves yet to stop illegal wildlife trafficking.
The specimens, estimated to be worth more than $7 million on the black market, came from about 330 African elephants and 23 rhinos, said UK-based Humane Society International (HSI), which has been working with the Vietnamese government since 2013 to reduce demand for rhino horn in the country.
Vietnam is a transit point for elephant ivory for consumers in mostly China and the United States to make jewellery and home decorations, while the Southeast Asian nation is a major consumer of rhino horn.
“The destruction today is a clear indication of our government’s political determination to fulfil our international duty in conventions to protect wildlife,” said Ha Cong Tuan, Vietnam’s deputy agriculture minister.
The usage and trading of rhino horn is a criminal offence in Vietnam, but demand is strong due to a long-held belief in rhino horn’s medical power as an elixir, especially among the country’s growing middle and upper classes.
Saturday’s event added Vietnam to a list of 20 other countries that also have crushed or burned seized ivory and rhino horns.
“The illegal wildlife trade is very serious, organised crime,” British Ambassador to Vietnam Giles Lever said.
“The more efforts which Vietnam and the Vietnamese government can have to working with other countries to stop the illegal wildlife trade, I think that will really help Vietnam’s international image.”
The African elephant faces an unprecedented poaching and trafficking threat. Between 2010 and 2012, an estimated 100,000 elephants were killed illegally to meet global demand for ivory, HSI said.
Over the past decade, poachers killed more than 6,000 rhinos across Africa, with more than 1,300 poached in 2015 alone. With only about 29,000 rhinos of five species remaining in the wild, rhinos are facing a crisis, according to HSI.
“If we could do something to reduce demand here, reduce demand in China, maybe wipe it out, that will help rhinos in Africa,” said Teresa Telecky, director of the wildlife department at HSI.
Vietnam destroyed nearly 2.2 tonnes of seized elephant ivory. Picture: Supplied.
SHOULD TRADE IN RHINO HORN BE LEGALISED?
Last year, 1,175 out of a total of 22,000 rhinos in South Africa were slaughtered.
A heated debate is taking place as to whether there should be a legal trade in rhino horn.
In a Johannesburg conference room in September, the 181 countries that make up the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) voted to kill proposals to legalise rhino horn.
To those outside of conservation circles, legalising the sale of rhino horn seems nonsensical. The horn itself has no medicinal value and rhinos are already highly endangered, so why would we wish to create a legal trade where currently there is none? The tragic answer is that there may be no other solution.
Rhino poaching is a problem we all thought had been solved. South Africa, home to 80 percent of the world’s rhino, had a stable population at the start of the 21st century. In 2001, only six rhino were killed, by 2006, this had increased to 36. Last year, though, 1,175 out of a total of 22,000 rhinos in South Africa were slaughtered. If poaching continues to increase at this rate, the species could be extinct by 2025.
The burgeoning middle classes in China and Vietnam are largely to blame. Rhino horn has long been popular in Asian medicine, where it has been falsely endowed with the ability to cure cancer and hangovers, and as the population grows richer, demand for this valuable ingredient has risen exponentially. As a result, the value of a kilo of horn has hit US$65,000; gram for gram, it is now worth more than gold or cocaine.
Poachers in Africa come from poor rural communities, and the money they can make from selling one horn to criminal syndicates is life changing. Which means that no matter how many army officers or drones are put in place to protect the animals, rhino will continue to die while there is a demand in Asia and people in Africa desperate enough to risk their lives.
Should there be a legal trade in rhino horn?
Certain conservationists are arguing that a legal trade is the only solution, as it would incentivise local communities to fight poachers and keep their rhino alive. NGOs bitterly dispute this, saying that even talk of legalisation could set back their educational efforts in Asia by decades. Here John Hanks, South African conservationist and leading figure in the pro-legalisation campaign; and Patrick Bergin, CEO of the African Wildlife Fund, argue out this most incendiary of topics.
YES — John Hanks
“Anyone who looks at the poaching figures can see that the conservation community’s current stance, which focuses on demand reduction in Asia, is simply not working. Of course, education in China and Vietnam is essential but change takes a generation and if we don’t do something now, wild rhino won’t be around in a generation.
“The government and private individuals in South Africa have stockpiles of horn that could feed demand for at least two or three years. But we also need to create a self-sustaining local industry. Right now, rhino are only alive because Western governments and private individuals are funding our hugely expensive protection efforts, but their attention may turn elsewhere and we can’t keep begging for help. The animals need to pay for themselves. And the wonderful thing is that rhino can. Their horn grows back by a kilo a year, which means anyone who owns a rhino stands to make a lot of money, and the animals become worth more alive than dead.
“Private rhino owners — who are currently going into debt to protect their animals — and rural communities will therefore have a reason fight off poachers. Because the truth is, all the conservationists in the world won’t be able to keep these animals alive while the local Africans are not incentivised to do so.”
NO — Patrick Bergin
“The only way to stop this crisis is to stop the demand, and a legal trade instantly destroys that approach. If we start openly selling rhino horn, we’re sending mixed messages about whether it is morally wrong to buy horn, and we perpetuate the myth that it has some medicinal value. In the past, we have experimented with selling stockpiles of ivory to Asian countries, and the consequences were terrible. Money did not go to local communities, demand and prices for ivory rose, and an entire ivory industry sprang up in Hong Kong and China. Illegal ivory was sold as legal and nobody could differentiate between the two. The same thing will happen with rhino horn. African governments need to burn their stockpiles and keep their message simple: rhino horn is illegal.
“I also wholeheartedly reject the idea that demand-reduction isn’t working. Sure, we’re racing against the clock to educate people in Asia but serious campaigning has only been underway for a handful of years, and hasn’t been well funded until very recently. We are currently carrying out large-scale advertising campaigns in China and Vietnam using local and international celebrities, and the results have been extremely positive. There is already less demand for horn in parts of Vietnam, but any talk of a legal trade is damaging and needs to stop.”
Wild time: Zoo gala raises $1 million to save endangered rhinos
Once, hundreds of thousands of rhinoceroses roamed Africa. Today, scientists estimate that less than 30,000 of the magnificent mammals are left in the world. Leave it to the Houston Zoo to gather supporters together to raise funds for rhinoceros conservation efforts in the wild.
Gala chairs Nancy and David Pustka and Randa and K. C. Weiner hosted over 600 guests at the ninth annual Feed Your Wildlife Conservation Gala, which took place on the zoo grounds.Themed appropriately enough, “Saving Rhinos – Stories from Africa,” the special event honored former Houston Zoo director and the 2016 World Association of Zoos and Aquariums Heini Hediger award winner Rick Barongi, along with longtime Houston Zoo supporter Donald Kendall.
Proceeds, which topped one million dollars, will go to three causes: organizations that employ local people to guard rhinoceros in the wild, incentive programs that increase support for villages where rhinoceros populations are protected, and educational outreach.
Picture: David Pustka, Nancy Pustka, Randa Weiner, K. C. Weiner. Photo by Daniel Ortiz
Kloof Food and wine expo raises R11 000 for rhinosed news
THE Kloof Food and Wine Expo which was held at the Kloof Country Club for the The Zululand Rhino Reserve Foundation raised just over R11 000.
The Zululand Rhino Reserve which is in the Northern part of KZN was founded in 2011.
Their mission is to support the important conservation projects of the Zululand Rhino Reserve and uplift the neighbouring rural communities.
“Being home to The Big 5 along with wild dogs, cheetah and an abundance of rare bird life, the reserve has multiple conservation projects which has assisted in the steady growth of endangered species in KwaZulu-Natal,” said Chelsea Kruck, events and marketing manager at the Kloof Country Club.
She stated that this year, the reserve has been a victim of the worst drought to have hit the area in over 80 years, over and above fighting the devastating rhino poaching issue.
“This drought has put extreme strain on the upkeep of the reserve and has lead to two young rhinos being orphaned.
“This is why I stepped in with this fundraiser alongside Kloof Country Club to raise funds and most of all, raise awareness for the Zululand Rhino Reserve Foundation.”
Kruck said the reserve is very close to her heart as she was once an employee of a lodge on the reserve.
“After seeing the effects of the drought, I spoke with my general manager, Pam Mayberry and she was more than happy to assist and be part of The Kloof Food and Wine Expo fundraiser.
“Kloof Country Club’s staff all assisted with this event and awareness campaign. It was beautiful to have such a vast group of people supporting this good cause,” said Kruck.
People who would like to donate to the reserve can visit https://www.payfast.co.za/donate/go/zululandrhinoreservefoundation
Picture: Peter Meyer, Joanne Noel and Mark Meyer.
Endangered black rhino born at Des Moines zooUntitled news
(Photo: Rodney White/The Register) An unnamed endangered black baby rhino was born to Blank Park Zoo's mom Ayana and dad Kiano, the south side parkÕs rare eastern black rhinos, at about 11:23 a.m. Oct. 11 on the zoo's grounds. The female, 80-pound calf is likely the first endangered rhino born in the state of Iowa, according to the zoo, shown here Monday Oct. 17, 2016, at the zoo's rhino enclosure. "This is an extremely significant event, not only in Blank Park Zoo's 50 year history, but also for this critically endangered animal species," said Mark Vukovich, the zoo's CEO.
The rhino barn at Des Moines' Blank Park Zoo has a new inhabitant.
The unnamed 80-pound calf, a female, was born to mom Ayana and dad Kiano, the south-side park’s rare eastern black rhinos, about 11:23 a.m. Oct. 11 on the zoo’s grounds.
The birth was met with joy at the zoo, as well as in the rhino conservation world. Ayana’s ability to carry and deliver a healthy baby, one of just seven black rhinos to be born this year in zoos worldwide, is an important highlight in the fight against the species’ decades long decline, experts said.
“Every baby counts,” said Lisa Smith, director of animal programs at the Great Plains Zoo in South Dakota and an eastern black rhino expert. “Considering rhinos are so endangered, whether it is a captive or wild birth, it is really important to just add to the world's rhino population.”
Eastern black rhinos are listed as critically endangered by the World Wildlife Fund, and there are fewer than 1,000 in the wild and in captive populations combined, representing a 96 percent decline from the population’s height in 1970.
Des Moines' rhinos are two of just 58 eastern black rhinos housed in North American zoos, according to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, a leading zoological nonprofit organization. Only six of those 58 are breeding females.
“It’s so great that the baby is a female, because the black rhino population tends to be skewed toward male,” said Susie Ellis, executive director of the International Rhino Foundation, a nonprofit working to stop the world’s rhinos from becoming extinct. “Her reproductive potential is quite high and, hopefully, she will contribute greatly to the overall population.”
The birth is also a milestone for the zoo, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, said zoo spokesman Ryan Bickel. Having a baby rhino born at Blank Park is proof of the importance of the $4 million African exhibit installed in 2012 and the community’s ongoing support of the zoo’s conservation efforts.
“This is an extremely significant event,” Mark Vukovich, the zoo’s CEO, said of the birth.
A few days after the delivery, the baby followed around Ayana like a shadow. As Ayana paced about the rhino barn, moving from space to space and toy to toy, the baby never let Ayana get more than a few paces ahead. Trying to keep up with her mother, the baby hops and rears, not quite steady on her feet yet.
The calf’s delivery was “textbook,” Bickel said. The zookeepers and veterinarians watched the birth on cameras installed throughout the rhino enclosure, giving Ayana some privacy and allowing nature to take its course, but staying available to step in if needed, said Patrick Nepp, one of the rhinos’ keepers.
Keepers noticed Ayana displaying some birthing behaviors Oct. 10, but her water didn’t break until about 9 a.m. Oct. 11. Ayana had about 10 minutes of active contractions before the baby crowned.
“It was extremely emotional for me, because we have been waiting for this and anticipating it basically since I started here two years ago,” Nepp said. “I shed a few happy tears when it finally happened.”
“The baby's eyes are my favorite," he continued. "They sort of pop out, and I feel like she is giving me the side-eye sometimes. But really, what's not to love? She’s the cutest.”
The calf, likely the first endangered rhino born in the state of Iowa, was standing and walking within an hour after the birth and was attempting to feed within two hours, all signs of a healthy baby rhino, according to Chad Comer, a zoo curator.
Since the birth, Ayana has been an attentive mom and not aggressive with the keepers, as the zoo feared she might be, considering that she was a first-time mom, Comer said.
While the day-to-day routine for the keepers hasn’t changed much, there have been a few growing pains. To protect the baby, they had to remove the bigger toys that Ayana plays with, which weigh as much as the baby.
They also realized they had to baby rhino-proof the pen by adding wood panels when they figured out the baby was small enough to slip through the space between the enclosure’s bars.
“It’s like a baby gate, but for a rhino,” Nepp said.
Zoo population and the ‘tipping point’
The eastern black rhino population is at a ‘tipping point’ in the wild, experts said.
“Deaths, mostly due to poaching, will soon outnumber births,” Kevin Drees, Blank Park Zoo’s director of animal care and conservation, said in a statement. “The captive zoo population plays a role in survival of the species. ...This celebrated birth should raise awareness and bring attention to this critical wildlife situation.”
Ellis called the rhino population housed in zoos an “insurance population,” a group that can help make sure that the "critically endangered" label doesn’t turn into "extinct."
And, unfortunately, that insurance policy might come in handy sooner rather than later, Comer said. If poaching continues to rise, extinction is a real possibility.
“I have young children, and there is the possibility that they could see two species of rhinos go extinct in their lifetime," he said. "I would be happy if we could keep that to one species."
Of the five rhino species in the world, the Javan and Sumatran populations are virtually extinct, each having fewer than 100 animals total, according to the World Wildlife Fund. In 2011, a subspecies of the Javan rhino was officially declared extinct, and the northern white rhino is believed extinct in the wild and has just a few left in captivity.
"While we have no plan to reintroduce either of these ladies into the wild, that is an option," Comer continued. "We are doing our part to supply the world with the genetics of this animal, which, ultimately, will keep this animal alive."
The baby rhino will stay at Blank Park Zoo for at least a year, if not two, while Smith and a team with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums work out where she could live with a mating partner. The team looks at age, genetics and other factors in its digital database when making those decisions.
The baby will not be viewable on exhibit for a while, according to Bickel, as the family bonds and the zoo monitors the baby’s health.
The zoo will release more information soon on how the baby’s name will be selected.
“But she’s no less cute without a name,” Comer said.
Endangered black rhino born at Des Moines zoo http://dmreg.co/2emEyRm via @DMRegister
White rhino rescued in Zimbabwe after tyre gets stuck around horn
Vets from Aware Trust Zimbabwe have rescued a white rhino after it trapped its snout in a washed-up car tyre.
The rhino, a dominant bull named Mark, was unable to eat or drink with the tyre trapped around its snout.
Park rangers called vets after the rhino was unable to free itself.
The vets from Aware Trust, Keith and Lisa, travelled one-and-a-half hours to get to Mark.
The lake near where the rhino was grazing is known for being polluted and its banks are regularly littered with nets and tyres.
According to Aware Trust, the muscles a rhino uses to open its mouth are much weaker than those used to close it.
In order to free the animal safely, the vets were forced to use a tranquiliser dart.
"We found Mark, the dominant bull, lying close to his girlfriends, looking decidedly dejected and exhausted from his ordeal on this scorching hot day," Aware Trust Zimbabwe said in a Facebook post.
"Fortunately the tyre came off in a few minutes with man power, and we did not have to resort to cutting through it.
"Eleven minutes later he was antidoted (sic) and grazing again as if nothing had happened."
A VOICE FOR RHINOS
Wednesday 12 October 2016 15:49
BY: Nina Oosthuizen
The film, Stroop, takes a look at every aspect and ripple effect of the rhino poaching pandemic including the rhino orphans who are left behind, often senselessly hacked alongside the mother. (Susan Scott )
Bonné de Bod
Rhino poaching in Southern Africa is out of control, but there are people who work tirelessly in the field to try and fight what they call the war against poachers.
Two women have made it their life’s mission to inform the public about all aspects of the poaching crisis which is currently throwing the rhinos population into one of the worst declines in history.
In ten years time, we may never see a rhino in the wild again. Since 2010, South Africa has lost a staggering 5 600 rhinoceros to transnational organised crime.
South Africa is home to 80% of the world’s population of rhino but they are rapidly disappearing due to the Asian demand for their horn, fuelling poaching of the animals
Bonné de Bod and Susan Scott have been studying every aspect of the multiple layer crises facing the animal for over two and a half years and expect to release their ground-breaking documentary on the rhino crises, ‘Stroop’, meaning ‘Poached’ in early 2017.
De Bod says that it is their hope to be a voice and help educate the public before the species is completely lost.
“I want South Africans to be more involved and to take ownership. Rhinos are our heritage and they are desperately at stake. If we look back 10 years from now, this will be the turning point. Either we would have saved the species or we would have failed them and just have our memories of them in the wild and only see them in zoos."
Bonné de Bod explains that wildlife trafficking, inclusive of rhino poaching, has become one of the world’s largest transnational organised crime activities alongside the trafficking of humans, drugs and arms. Photo (below) by Susan Scott / Stroop die film
She further explains that addressing the crises starts with changing the mindset of millions of people who are hundreds of miles across the ocean.
The Asian demand is fueled by superstition as people believe that consuming rhino horn can cure diseases and uplift status. There is no scientific or physical evidence to back this belief system up.
“I’ve seen it first hand when filming for Stroop in Asia. From a woman showing me first-hand how she consumes rhino horn to dingy little back rooms where illegal dealers trade with it, as well as interviewing oncologists, telling me that even though they do believe that rhino horn can cure cancer, a lot of their patients do, and use a combination of chemotherapy and rhino horn.”
Back in South Africa, de Bod emphasises that a lot of poachers come from communities adjacent to the national parks.
Poachers from these communities are desperate for an easy buck due to tough economic times and the increasing Asian demand provides a source of funds through the illegal black market.
“In SA, it starts with poverty. At any given stage there are 15 gangs of poachers active in the Kruger Park. That’s quite a scary thought. The Kruger also borders Mozambique. So, you also have diplomatic issues between countries.”
Stroop die film is a crowd funded project supported financially by the public.
According to de Bod, it is a film by the public, for the public.
“South Africans will go watch the film and know that they were part of creating this necessary awareness about a species facing extinction. We will release it in the cinema, but we are also aware that not everyone will be able to get to a cinema. So, it will also be released digitally and we will have outdoor screenings around the country."
In 2007, 13 rhinos were butchered for their horns, fast-forward to 2014 and over 1200 were slaughtered in one year alone. South Africa is home to 80% of the world’s population with less than 19 000 left in the country. Photo by Susan Scott / Stroop die film
Most importantly, the film will be subtitled in Tsonga and Zulu and then taken to communities adjacent to the national parks.
De Bod emphasises that what makes this documentary different is that it takes a look at all aspects of rhino poaching.
“We look at the rangers, the men and women fighting on the battleground. We look at vets, researchers, scientists to understand how the forensic investigations process works. We work with the police, the Hawks, government to understand what is being done and what is not being done. We visit private rhino owners, the farmers; we look at orphan rehabilitation centres and then we take you straight to the world of the demand, Asia.”
For more information on how to help complete this documentary click here.
Watch a trailer of Stroop die film @sabc.co.za/news
JOHANNESBURG: TWO RHINO POACHERS SHOT DEAD
SA National Parks stated that two rhino poachers have been killed and six others arrested on Thursday. The six arrests and the shooting of the two poachers happened in two separate operations. The SA National Parks said that in the first operation, Crocodile Bridge rangers made contact with three suspected rhino poachers and in the pursuit, two were fatally wounded and the third managed to escape back into Mozambique. During this operation, a hunting rifle, ammunition, and other hunting equipment were recovered from the scene.
In the second operation, six suspects were arrested by the SANParks Environmental Crime Investigative Unit, with the support of the SA Police Service, in a follow-up operation outside the western boundary of the Kruger National Park. A hunting rifle, ammunition, and two cars were confiscated.
Arrests…Confiscation of Arms… GREAT JOB!
CONSERVATION OF NORTHERN WHITE RHINO
After the death of one white rhino, here's an update from the Ol Pejeta Conservancy on future plans for the survival of the other ones as only six now remain in the world. Suni was one of the only two breeding northern white rhinos left in the world.
A committee comprised of experts from Dv?r Králové Zoo, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, African Rhino Specialist Group IUCN, Back to Africa and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy are currently overseeing a project to ensure the survival of the northern white rhino. With the direction from the committee, Ol Pejeta has penned Najin and Fatu, the northern white females, with a southern white rhino male. Should they breed successfully, it is hoped that the females can produce several inter-crossed offspring.
Though the inter-crossed offspring will not be pure northern white rhino, this will help to conserve the northern white rhino genes. In future, there may be the inter-crossed offspring to be bred back with pure northern white rhinos. This will help in increasing the proportion of locally adapted northern white rhino genes in future generations of a healthy white rhino population.
Hopefully this will prove to be a very effective solution.
SAD NEWS: THE DEATH OF ONE WHITE RHINO
Very sad news from The Ol Pejeta Conservancy who announced the death of one of their northern white rhinos this weekend. Suni aged 34 years, did not die by poaching but was found dead by rangers. The cause of the death of the rhino is currently unclear.
The white rhino Suni was the first-ever northern white rhino to be born in captivity at Dv?r Králové Zoo. In 2009, he was translocated from the zoo to Ol Pejeta Conservancy together with one other male and two females. Unfortunately there are now only six white rhinos left in the world. Suni was one of the last two breeding males in the world and none are to have survived in the wild.
NELSPRUIT: STOLEN R166M RHINO HORN CASE POSTPONED
The case against the four Mpumalanga men arrested was postponed on Wednesday for further investigation. These four men were being arrested in connection with the theft of 112 rhino horns which was valued at more than R116m.
The case was previously postponed as the State prosecutor Ansie Venter was reportedly sick. The four men were accused of theft and housebreaking related to the pieces of rhino horn which were stolen in the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency offices in Mbombela. The accused are all out on R20 000 bail each. The case has been postponed for the 8th of December as there is a need for more investigation.
JOHANNESBURG – 6 RHINO POACHERS ARRESTED IN KNP
On Tuesday, six suspected rhino poachers were arrested in the Kruger National Park. The first arrest occurred in the Kingfisherspruit when some rangers were patrolling and saw three suspected poachers. The rangers called for support to be able to execute their duty more effectively. The suspects were apprehended and were found in the possession of a .458 rifle, ammunition and an axe.
The Rangers in the park’s Crocodile Bridge section followed the tracks of three suspected poachers and eventually, for backup, a helicopter was called. The three suspects were arrested and they had in their possession a 3.75 hunting rifle, ammunition, and an axe.
The park has been under terrific pressure from illegal hunters and lost over 500 rhinos this year. Hopefully, with so many arrests, the rate of poaching will decrease.
SOUTH AFRICA RHINO POACHING STATS AS AT 22 SEPTEMBER 2014
South Africa National Rhino Poaching Stats as at 22 September 2014 : 787
KNP (SANParks) - 503
MAP (SANParks) - 1
MNP (SANParks) - 0
Gauteng (GP) - 3
Limpopo (LP) - 103
Mpumalanga (Mp) - 45
North West (NW) - 47
Eastern Cape (EC) - 12
Free State (FS) - 4
Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) - 67
Western Cape (WC) - 1
Northern Cape (NC) - 1
JOHANNESBURG: PROCESS FOR RELOCATION OF KNP RHINO BEGINS.
The processes to enable the relocation of some of the white rhino of the Kruger National Park have started. To execute this relocation the Cabinet adopted a rhino management strategy to have a control over poaching.
"Relocation is the core of our approach, not only to combat poaching, but to ensure the continued growth of the rhino population," SANParks chair Kuseni Dlamini said in a statement.
The aim of this action is to move some rhino from the Kruger National park in order to create ‘rhino strongholds’ in different parts of the country, ensuring population growth. The rhino would be relocated from high-risks areas of the park to lower-risk areas and other safer parks.
Let’s hope that the relocation exercise will be effective!
DON'T BE AFRAID TO FAIL, BE AFRAID NOT TO TRY.
My name is Albina Hume. I was born in Ukraine and 12 years ago, at the age of 24, I came to South Africa to meet my husband, John Hume, known as the largest private rhino breeder in the world. I am writing to plea for rhinos’ future, to share my views and opinions about my very own experience and position with regards to the trade of rhino horns.
WHY LEGALISE TRADE IN RHINO HORN?
I am pro-rhino activist, which means I am against illegal trade in rhino horn that kills rhinos and people of South Africa, due to poaching activities. I support the idea of legalizing trade in rhino horn by method of harvesting, which is 20 minutes painless procedure for the rhino.
By making horn available legally on the market, where rhino would stay alive, I believe this would create opportunities and the right conditions for our rural communities to become proud rhino custodians instead of becoming rhino poachers. Such change of law would save the rhinos from extinction.
People in Asia have been using rhino horn for centuries and unfortunately the only way to supply the demand for horn was by killing rhinos. Such unregulated trade was banned by CITES in 1977. 36 years later, despite international ban on trade in horn some rhino subspecies gone extinct. Tragic!
South Africa is the only country in the world that made revolutionary step in rhino conservation by inviting private sectors to participate in rhino breeding programs. This allowed not only an increase in rhino numbers but also legal trade in rhino horn within borders of South Africa. Rhinos bred from the private sector, which right now stand 5000 rhinos, played a huge role in securing the national rhino conservation success.
By sourcing horns from natural mortalities and trophy hunting, private rhino owners ensured the wellbeing of rhinos in national parks, where was very little poaching.
2008, THE YEAR THINGS STARTED CHANGING:
Things changed starting around 2008 when the South African government restricted rhino trophy hunting on private owned rhinos due to scandals with pseudo hunts from Asian hunters.
Trophy hunting restrictions immediately produced a wave of poaching all over the country.
o 83 rhinos were poached in 2008- the highest number of poached rhinos ever in South Africa.
o For instance in 2007 only 13 rhinos were poached.
o More restrictions followed in February 2009 when suddenly national legal trade in rhino horn was banned without any explanations.
o From that date, despite a plethora of anti poaching measures, South Africa lost over 3200 rhinos through poaching, most of which are from national parks and tourist resorts.
o Poaching was increased from 13 rhinos to over 1000 in just 5 years!
MARKET DEMAND AND RHINO HORN SUPPLY:
What is obvious to me is that, trade in horn is not the real factor that’s killing our rhinos, it is in essence the METHOD that horns get supplied to the market that is the catalyst behind rhino poaching.
Unless the market demand is supplied legally and sustainably, through natural mortalities and humane dehorning where rhinos stay alive, we will still have to face the harsh reality of illegal trade that are being supplied by poaching: rhinos lives and horns being taken away in the most horrific manner.
As a result, hugely successful work done by South African government and private rhino owners and breeders are under threat and could be completely wiped away in just 5-10 years.
Rhinos should not be left to join the extinction list as we stand by with our arms folded, when there is a viable solution.
Author : Albina Hume, Rhino Owner & Founder of Future4Rhino
JOHANNESBURG: RHINO POACHER’S SENTENCE REDUCED
This week the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), reduced the sentence of a Thai national convicted of illegal trade in rhino horn from 30 to 13 years. In the judgment issued by the court on Thursday, Judge Mohamed Navsa said that the sentence of 30 years imprisonment is too severe and as well induces a sense of shock.
He is of opinion that the 30 years sentence is disproportionate when compared to the minimum sentences statutorily prescribed for other serious offences. In his judgment, Navsa specified that the accused, Chumlong Lemthongthai had to pay a fine of R1 m and if not, his sentence would be extended be five years.
The accused was arrested in 2011 when it was discovered that he obtained 26 permits from the environmental affairs department to conduct rhino trophy hunts. According to Navsa, the object was not to hunt rhino for trophy purposes but rather to engage unlawfully in trade in rhino horn. Chumlong Lemthongthai, unlawfully used customs documents in an attempt to have the horns exported.
WILL THERE BE A FULL STOP TO ALL THESE??
JOHANNESBURG: SANPARKS POACHERS REMANDED
Three SANParks employees appeared in the White River Court on Thursday. These people were arrested during a joint operation between SANParks and the SA Police Service on Sunday. They were accused of poaching rhino in the Kruger National Park and were remanded in custody. The accused were as well not asked to plead to charges of rhino poaching.
These three employees of SANParks were remanded in custody for further investigation and would appear in court again on the 3rd of October. They were in possession of a hunting rifle, ammunition, a vehicle and poaching equipment during their arrest, and were arrested shortly after the discovery of a freshly killed rhino in the park.
It is unfortunate that even the workers of the park are not trustworthy!
JOHANNESBURG - POACHING GANG IN COURT
Ten alleged members of a rhino poaching syndicate appeared briefly in the Hatfield Magistrate’s Court, Pretoria, on Monday. Among the suspected members, there were one police officer and one lawyer.
A Police Officer and a Lawyer?? Unbelievable!
The accused were arrested in four provinces. The lawyer applied for an urgent bail in the high court which was denied as the court indicated the charges against him was serious. Finally every accused is in custody.
The other accused are all between the age of 30 and 50. The group appeared on charges including theft, fraud, malicious damage to property, money laundering, intimidation, and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. They were involved in killing 22 rhino and mutilating two others between 2008 to 2012. In all, the syndicate allegedly illegally obtained 84 rhino horns and killed 22 rhino valued at nearly R22m.
The case was postponed to Monday for a bail application.
JOHANNESBURG – GLOBAL MARCH PLANNED AGAINST POACHING
A global march will be held on the 4th of October across 125 cities, demanding action to stop rhino and elephant poaching. According to Dex Kotze, coordinator of the global march, more than 35 000 elephants are killed every year in Africa for their tusks and we have already lost 700 rhinos this year. The numbers is very alarming.
In Johannesburg, between 10, 000 to 20,000 protesters are expected to turn up for the march, calling for stiffer penalties against poachers and traffickers of ivory and rhino horns. Petitions will be handed to the embassies of 19 countries, including China and Kenya. These countries are accused of failing to take sufficient action to combat the problem.
LET’S HOPE FOR THE BEST!
AMENDMENTS TO THE ELEPHANT NORMS AND STANDARDS
The South African Department of the Environmental Affairs had a recent stakeholder meeting to discuss proposed amendments to the Elephant Norms and Standards. It seems that the Department intends to remove all welfare-based provisions related to elephants. The Department states that difficulties are being encountered in enforcing and implementing the Elephant Norms and Standards.
The difficulties have been highlighted by the recent charges laid regarding the four elephant calves which have been illegally removed from the wild at Sandhurst Safaris. They were placed into captivity at Elephants of Eden and now at Knysna Elephant Park, an elephant-back safari operator.
According to the Department, instead of addressing its shortcomings in enforcement and implementation, it will be simpler to remove the pieces of the law that are being broken. This could allow the removal of the elephants from the wild to captivity, and they could be exported and imported, opening up an easy route to launder and trade with these animals.
JOHANNESBURG: NINE ARRESTS FOR POACHING
Nine people were arrested for rhino poaching in Limpopo and the North West during the weekend. Three of them were arrested on the Klaserie game reserve in Hoedshpruit, Limpopo. They had in their possession a high calibre hunting rifle, a silencer, a 9mm pistol, live ammunition, an axe and four cell phones. In other words, these people were well armed for poaching.
Near Vaalwater, three other people were arrested as the police noticed a suspicious-looking vehicle dropping them off on a road near the farm. These people were in possession of several arms.
Three Mozambicans as well were arrested at the Madikwe game reserve on Sunday for illegal game hunting. They were found in the possession of an axe, hunting rifle and ammunition. All the suspects will appear in court.
Hopefully, they will be severely punished which may serve as a lesson to others.
SOUTH AFRICA RHINO POACHING STATS AS AT 11 SEPTEMBER 2014
Latest rhino poaching figures (as of 11 September 2014):
- Kruger National Park (SANParks) - 489 rhinos poached
- MNP (Mapungubwe National Park?) - 1 rhino poached
- Gauteng - 3 rhino poached
- Limpopo - 103 rhino poached
- Mpumalanga - 43 rhino poached
- North-West Province - 47 rhino poached
- Eastern Cape - 12 rhino poached
- Free State - 4 rhino poached
- KwaZulu Natal - 65 rhinos poached
- Western Cape - 1 rhino poached
- Northern Cape - 1 rhino poached
JOHANNESBURG: AGAIN ANOTHER RHINO HAS BEEN POACHED!
Poaching is no more a surprising matter…another rhino has been shot and killed for its horn. The owners of the farm say that the surveillance footage shows four men breaking in the camp in the morning where the rhino was being kept. The rhino has been shot twice mercilessly and its horn has been cut off.
Unfortunately, all four men flee in different directions and no one has been arrested. According to the farm owner’s son, the rhino fought back before succumbing to its injuries. He even declared that the guys jumped over the fence into the camp and the rhino charged one of them. He then fired the second shot and the rhino fell. Consequently, another guy came in and they hacked the horn off. The situation is being more and more horrifying.
WHEN WILL IT STOP?
CAPE TOWN – RHINO SENT FOR PROTECTION BUT KILLED
Conservationists, police and the volunteers are busy tracking two poachers over the Magaliesberg after a rhino cow has unfortunately been poached. The rhino cow was rescued after her mate has disappeared a few weeks back from the liquidated Aloe Ridge Hotel and the Nature Reserve at Broederstroom.
Two shots have been heard at 02.10 on Monday morning and three minutes later the staff of the Glen Afric Lodge were on the poaching scene. Unfortunately, the horn has already been removed and the rhino was dead. The two poachers were escaping through the thick bush and the police patrolling in the area started the chase.
The police, several volunteers and even many of the Broederstroom community have been helping in the chasing of the poachers. According to the staff at Glen Afric, this support was amazing.
The staff are very optimistic on this matter and believe that the poachers will soon be caught.
JOHANNESBURG – NEW GUNFIRE DETECTION SYSTEM
The Saturday Star reported that a new gunfire detection system has been installed in the Kruger National Park. This decision has been taken in order to help in tracking potential rhino poachers. As part of its pilot project, there are microphones which were reportedly planted in undisclosed areas of the Kruger National Park.
The product “ShotSpotter” was originally developed by Californian company SST Inc to alert the United States of America police to incidents of gunfire. According to the Saturday Star, when a shot is fired, the origin of the sound would be triangulated and sent to the service provider in the US.
The system is very effective as the park would be alerted of the sound’s co-ordinates within 30 seconds and the system is able to detect the sound as far as 3km away.
Let’s hope that this will help in the conservation of the rhinos!
KRUGER PARK – TWO ARRESTED
Two suspects were arrested in the Kruger National Park (KNP). They were found in the possession of two rhino horns. The police spokesperson Lieutenant General SM Makgale stated that the SAPS team was busy conducting crime-scene investigations in the park when they were alerted that employees of a private company in the park were involved in the illegal dealing in rhino horn.
Consequently, the investigators followed up on that information which led to the arrest of a first suspect of 40 years old and subsequently another one of 55 years old. These rhino horns were found hidden in the bushes and confiscated.
According to Makgale, the horns were removed from an adult rhino with a possible age of 5 years. The suspects are believed to be involved in negotiations to sell the horns to a Mozambican national.
The suspects will now have to appear in the White River Magistrates court.
FINALLY SOME GOOD NEWS...POACHING WAR
Wildlife rangers in Kenya’s Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary are preparing for night patrol in the ‘war’ against poaching. The rangers are at work with camouflage uniforms, assault rifles, night vision goggles, thermal imaging devices and radios.
In late afternoon, Ol Jogi’s armed rangers get set for another tough night on patrol. The rangers on the frontline are actually risking their lives in order to protect the animals. Some men even spend the night on patrol creeping through the forests.
The rangers are well trained by the Kenya Wildlife Service and police, and as well obtained military training to be able to deal with the well equipped ‘enemy’. The rangers are doing an act of bravery and hopefully this will give good results.
JOHANNESBURG: RHINO ‘SALE’
According to the Sunday Times, Hector Magome was suspended as SANParks’ head of conservation in June after allegedly arranging to sell 260 rhinos without permission. This situation has become even more complex when the accused has spoken out in his defence.
Magome spoke out that, “... in a number of media ... articles, it is incorrectly stated that SANParks has sold 260 rhinos to private land owners in the Northern Cape”. He as well said that in this saga, it is the rhinos who are the losers.
Magome states that there was no selling of rhinos but however Northern Cape game farmer Wiaan van der Linde and retail tycoon Christo Wiese, supposedly paid R16m deposit eight months ago to buy 240 rhinos collectively. Van der Linde said his contract for rhinos was worth R40m and that SANParks had assessed his farm and issued transport permits for the animals but last week he received notification that his contract was “null and void”.
The conservation of rhinos is becoming more difficult with the increasing number of poachers and buyers!
LIMPOPO – Rhino Poaching
Again rhino poaching…when will it come to an end?
SA National Parks stated that a man has been arrested for alleged rhino poaching in Limpopo. He was caught at the Louis Trichardt Magistrate’s Court attending the bail application of four of his friends.
In August, the four were arrested for allegedly poaching in the Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site. All five accused would appear for a bail on 26 September.
There are many people who are still actively being involved in rhino poaching. The animals are being poached pitilessly. Several institutions are looking for various solutions for the conservation of the rhinos but it seems that it is making no difference for certain poachers.
Public hearings on rhino poaching
The Parliament’s portfolio committee on environmental affairs is starting public hearings on rhino poaching today to consult with rural communities and secure their help to fight in it. Meetings will be held around KwaZulu-Natal’s iMfolozi area, the historical home of the white rhino from Thursday to Saturday, around the Kruger National Park in Mpumulanga from 4 to 6 September and in the North West from 11 to 13 September.
Committee Chairperson, Jackson Mthembu, is of opinion that the surrounding communities should be part of that solution. He feels that it is primordial to seek for their opinion as they are nearer to where we have this scourge. They can provide with the best advice.
According to Mthembu, the communities that live there are also in danger because they include those who need to look after the upkeep rhino, people have to face the poachers who reside there. The committee was very much concerned by the alarming rate at which rhino poaching has escalated in the past six years.
Hopefully, the hearings will be effective!!
Poachers shielded from the police by powerful connections
Poaching has risen sharply across Africa during these last few years, fuelled by the continuous demand for ivory and rhino horn in Asia, used as a status symbol. The founders of WildLeaks, a sort of conservationist believes that poachers slaughtering Africa’s elephants and rhinos with impunity are often shielded from the police by powerful connections.
The founders of WildLeaks, say it is the first secure, online whistle-blowing platform dedicated to wildlife and forest crime.
"We got, for example, a very interesting leak on a very powerful individual in Kenya, linked to the government, who is behind the ivory trade," said founder Andrea Crosta. In order to get hold of that person, evidences are being gathered.
The project is targeting the top-end traffickers who cream off millions of dollars.
AUGUST 2014: RHINOS WON'T BE MOVED OUT OF KRUGER THIS YEAR
Rhinos at the Kruger National Park, South Africa, will not be moved this year, SanParks said on Saturday 23 August.
"We have missed the window to remove the animals because it is now getting warmer. The best time to move them is in winter," spokesperson Isaac Phaahla told Sapa.
The board of SanParks are looking into a plan to implement this move. The plan includes key decisions on where the animals would be kept.
Phaahla said the rationale behind the move was to grow the number of the animals while at the same time preserving their safety. According to him, the move will probably happen next year.
"The animals will only be moved to an area where they will be properly looked after and protected from poachers. They will only be moved to areas where there is expertise for their well-being," he said.
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: NATIONAL POLICE COMMISSIONER RIAH PHIYEGAS PLANS TO ASSIST SAPS OFFICIALS
The fight against poachers is going to be even more relentless, with a hot pursuit agreement between South Africa and Mozambique to allow South African National Parks officials to apprehend poachers and follow through with investigation across the border.
With the Eastern boundary of Kruger National Park being identified as a huge problem area, National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega, has revealed detailed plans involving a Special Task Force, dogs and forensic units to assist SAPS officials in their efforts.
The Department of Environmental Affairs is employing an integrated strategic management plan calling on the expertise of police to address cross border poaching.
Phiyega says officials have arrested more poachers in 2014 compared to 2013. Even if this sounds as good news, we have to appreciate that the challenge is enormous. Poachers are more and more on the alert with new techniques and weapons.
According to Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, translocation of rhinos is one of the interventions that need to continue to save the species.
As per our earlier article, plans to shift about 500 rhinos out of Kruger National Park are being discussed and there are indications that some will be moved to neighbouring countries. Molewa says "Part of the translocation will include the SADC countries in particular. Obviously work is ongoing, we are discussing with Botswana and Zambia.".
12 AUGUST 2014: WORLD ELEPHANT DAY
It has been launched in order to bring attention to the difficulties faced by the Asian and African elephants. If some people are actively focusing on poaching and ivory trade, others love and admire these animals. The elephants are respected and valued by many cultures around the world. They are even considered to be having the finest human traits as they show understanding, self-awareness and social intelligence.
On the other hand, the increasing rate of poaching, the loss of habitat, the human-elephant conflicts and the mistreatment in captivity are just a few to mention the situation of these gentle giants. There are several organisations who are investing themselves in the protection of the elephants in different ways. One of the various efforts involves reinforcement of the policies in order to reduce the rate of poaching and ivory trade, conserving the elephants and many others.
12 AUGUST 2014: CONSERVATION OF RHINOS
In Pretoria, the Minister of Environment Affairs, is expected to make an announcement today that a hundred of rhinos are to be evacuated from Kruger National Park in order to save them from poaching. According to the Sunday Times, this plan has been endorsed by the Cabinet although SANParks have been denying the move.
500 rhinos are expected to be moved, among which 260 will be sold to private buyers and 250 shifted to a safe place.
According to the SANParks, in March of this year, there has been a 70% increase on average every year in rhino poaching. Consequently, the government treated rhino poaching as an urgent matter in order to avoid the extinction of the animals.
On the other hand, the Black Rhino Expansion Project, partnership between the conservation groups which include World Wildlife Fund and Eastern Cape Parks, is helping in moving the rhinos to safer places.
The aim of this act is to increase the black rhino population by expanding its territory.
Where some are struggling to save the rhinos from extinction, others are looking for new poaching methods…WHEN WILL IT STOP!!
SOUTH AFRICA RHINO POACHING STATS AS AT 31 JULY 2014
Latest rhino poaching figures as per the DEA South Africa:
- Kruger National Park (SANParks) - 400 rhinos poached
- Marakele National Park (SANParks) - 0 rhino poached
- MNP (Mapungubwe National Park?) - 1 rhino poached
- Gauteng - 3 rhino poached
- Limpopo - 82 rhino poached
- Mpumalanga - 24 rhino poached
- North-West Province - 40 rhino poached
- Eastern Cape - 10 rhino poached
- Free State - 4 rhino poached
- KwaZulu Natal - 52 rhinos poached
- Western Cape - 1 rhino poached
- Northern Cape - 1 rhino poached
We have no words!
August 2014 JOHANNESBURG: A SECOND ELEPHANT POACHED
Some officials discovered a two-day-old elephant carcass with its tusks hacked out. It happened in Parfuri, 10km from Mozambican and Zimbabwean borders. No one has yet been arrested for the poaching and no further details is available in regards with the age or sex of the animal.
Elephant poaching was happening in the area and it was expected that at some point in time it may happen in the Parfuri region. The fact that the Parfuri region is in the vicinity of the Mozambican and Zimbabwean borders, it becomes more vulnerable to poachers attack.
The big question that we ask ourselves is WHEN WILL IT STOP!!
PRETORIA JULY 2014: KRUGER NATIONAL PARK IN THE NEWS ONCE AGAIN!
Kruger National Park is still in the news and again for a wrong reason!!! A male white rhino has been poached in the Kingfisher Section of the Kruger National Park.
Despite so much awareness and all the efforts, poachers are fearless and openly attacking the rhinos. According to a section ranger, some tourists heard shots and the matter was reported to the authorities. Since the beginning of the year more than 380 rhinos have been poached in the park. As this activity has become predominant, the Kruger National Park’s team is trying hard to protect the endangered species. Rhino poaching has today become their priority.
On the other hand, looking at the bright side of things, three more people have been arrested for they were suspected of poaching at Tshokwane camp, in the south of Kruger National Park. A case of poaching will be opened and investigations will be made. A water bottle lid was found next to a rhino carcass which may prove to be a very important clue for the investigation.
FROM RHINOS TO ELEPHANTS... WHERE WILL IT STOP?
The Kruger National Park is already struggling against the high rate of rhino poaching, but now it's also the turn of elephants!
Rhino poaching is an alarming act in the area and more than 1000 rhinos were slaughtered in South Africa last year, mostly in Kruger. The park has been spared from elephant poaching or more than a decade... until May this year. Recently, a bull elephant was found shot dead with its tusks hacked off.
Rhino is no more the only target of poachers!!! Those hungry beasts are seeking more!
The Head of veterinary services at South African National Parks assures that they are ready to fight against elephant poaching as they have acquired the necessary skills from their past experiences. But, unfortunately those skills and resources are already stressed as more than 500 rhinos have already been killed during the first half of the year. The poachers are also becoming quite sophisticated in their approach.
Rhino poaching has been rapidly growing from 17 animals being killed in 2007 to the killing of 1004 in 2014. Most of the rhino poaching occurred in the park, which shares a border with Mozambique.
This is an UNBELIEVABLE decline! Though there are poachers who have been jailed for their acts, it seems that no lesson is being learnt and certainly we need to find stronger deterrents to put a stop to these acts.
Africa Cries keeps on believing but we also need your support.
July 2014: FINALLY SOME JUSTICE BUT IS IT ENOUGH?
Mandla Chauk was arrested in 2011 by rangers and has finally been sentenced to 77 years of jail by a South African court. He illegally entered Kruger National Park which is one of the largest reserves in Africa, together with two accomplices.
He was charged with killing three rhinos, the illegal possession of arms and ammunitions, and rhino horn theft. One of the accomplices, as well was killed by the rangers during the arrest and consequently, Mandla Chauk was also charged with murder for the death of his partner in crime by the court.
Chauk’s long conviction is said to be the heaviest ever handed down in South Africa.
This may serve as a good lesson for the poachers but it is still too early to declare victory.
JULY 2014, PRETORIA: 11 PEOPLE ARRESTED FOR ILLEGAL RHINO ACTIVITIES
11 people implicated in the illegal trade of rhino horns have been arrested and face 1872 counts of racketeering. The figures are enormous and unbelievable. Among the accused there were veterinarians and professional hunters!
This group of people was allegedly involved in a ring that killed rhinos and traded in their horns. It is astonishing to see that though so much of awareness is continuously being done, people are still getting involved in poaching.
These people appeared in the High Court in Pretoria, under various charges related to rhino poaching, illegal hunting and racketeering. The trial had to be postponed pending the outcome of another matter regarding hunting legislation. Sources also said that there are documents in form of objections by the defence. The case has been postponed to 4 August 2015.
JULY 2014: MORE THAN 500 RHINOS KILLED BY POACHERS IN SOUTH AFRICA TILL DATE
We are in July and already more than 558 rhinos have been killed in South Africa this year. It is alarming and a shocking new record number of poaching deaths. Though several efforts have been made for the protection of the animals, the number killed is around 100 higher than at the same point in 2013.
South Africa has around 80% of the world’s rhino population, which is quite a lot. The 80% of the rhino population is estimated to be more than 25, 000 but the startling poaching figures are threatening the endangered species.
Today, poachers use more sophisticated weapons as semi-automatic rifles or poisoned darts before hacking off their horns. This makes their task easier.
Unbelievable that some people are trying to find new ideas for the protection of rhinos and others are busy finding new sophisticated weapons to make poaching easier!!
BLACK & WHITE RHINOS... HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT?
The two types of rhinoceroses, white and black are actually both grey. Though they are not different in colour, they are in lip shape.
The black rhinos have a pointed upper lip as they are usually browsers that get most of their sustenance from eating trees and bushes. They use their lips to pluck leaves and trees.
The White rhinos have squared lips. They graze on grasses walking with their huge heads and squared lips lowered to the ground. They usually take cover by lying in the shade under the burning sun, not forgetting that they are as well wallowers. They often look for a suitable water hole and enjoy rolling in its mud, coating their skin with a natural bug repellent and sun block.
One very important aspect to consider in rhinos is that they have a sharp hearing and a keen sense of smell. This results in the fact that they can find each other easier.
Today rhinos are on the verge of extinction.
This is a cry for help from Africa Cries… SAVE OUR RHINOS!
You can contribute to saving our rhinos: http://www.africacries.com/contribute_now.html
THANK YOU GRAND BAIE LA CROISETTE
We would like to thank the Grand Baie La Croisette team at for their help and support in furthering our cause. Africa Cries Machines have been installed in the Mall.
Rhino Poaching Stats June 2014
South Africa: 442 Rhinos killed as at the 06th of June 2014 and 496 as at the 30th of June ( data published by South African Department of Environmental Affairs). Alarming... 2-3 rhinos are being culled daily.
This heinous act is by no means isolated to South Africa, rhino poaching is surging across the entire African continent. It is a constant threat to the smaller rhino populations in Asia. Let's make a difference.
We believe we can at Africa Cries!
WHAT HUMANS GO THROUGH TO PROTECT THE RHINOS
Moving rhinos from an endangered spot to a safe area is a normal practice amongst conservationists. But how a normal task can turn into a life-threatening experience in a split second….
Watch Barry and Johnny getting attacked by a rhino here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeZ1DTdxdYQ (Graphic video).
What would have happened to Barry if Johnny had not intervened to distract the rhino.. BUT what happened to Johnny is even worse. However, rest assured. Even if our hero did spend some time in intensive care and had a “few” broken bones, he is definitely on the mend and raring to get on with things, just like Barry.
We can only say, Thank God these rhinos did not have any horns and Thank God we have people working their socks off to effectively dehorn and enforce extensive anti-poaching security.
But... WHAT HUMANS GO THROUGH TO PROTECT THEIR RHINOS heh!
THANK YOU BAGATELLE MALL OF MAURITIUS
We would like to thank the Bagatelle Mall of Mauritius team at for their help and support in furthering our cause. Africa Cries Machines have been installed in the Mall.
AFRICA CRIES NEW AFRICA-WIDE FUNDING INITIATIVE
To even further our cause for the Conservation of endangered animals, primarily White and Black rhinos in Africa through awareness and education, we have embarked on a new initiative across Africa.
Africa Cries will be placing Africa Cries Machines in Africa and the Outer Islands with an aim to create awareness worldwide and collect enough funding to meet its objectives:
o The purchase of a sizeable and suitable wildlife property to create a Sanctuary ‘’The Ark’’
o Set up of a research centre on site.
o Work with local institutions to establish a central DNA profile of each rhino (RhODIS), which could be used as evidence in court cases against rhino horn dealers
o To serve as genetic reference against inbreeding
Africa Cries relies on the support of its partners to help promote and promulgate this initiative.
Cops and ex ranger bail hearing postponed again
SKUKUZA – Three men suspected of killing a black rhino in the Kruger National Park (KNP) in May appeared in court on Wednesday to apply for bail.
Two police officers, Messrs Arnold Mashele and Morris Sehlabela and an ex field ranger, Mr Phineas Dinda were arrested on May 27. They face charges of corruption, trespassing conspiracy to commit a crime and illegal possession of firearm and ammunition.
The hearing was postponed until June 23 in the White River magistrates court. The state will oppose bail. Mashele and Sehlabela were stationed in Skukuza.
Alleged rhino horn thieves appear
Mbombela - Two men accused of stealing 112 pieces of rhino horn were remanded in custody by the Nelspruit Regional Court on Monday.
Ali Gideon Mtshali, 51, and Leonard Sizwe Malatjie, 34, were arrested over the weekend and charged with housebreaking and theft, a Sapa correspondent reported.
The 112 horns, weighing more than 80kg, were stolen from a strongroom at the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) offices in Mbombela in 20 April.
The pair were not asked to plead.
The Hawks said earlier that the two were not MTPA employees amid suspicions that the theft could have been an inside job.
The horns had been removed from live rhino in order to protect them from poachers.
Both men's lawyers claimed their clients were forced to confess to the crime. Enos Mazibuko, for Malatjie, said police injured his client and that he needed medical attention.
Magistrate Elize du Plessis postponed the case to 17 June.
Capture of rhino in Kruger
SKUKUZA – SANParks has been selling rhino for many years for the purpose of population management and income generation. However, as poaching incidents have reached unprecedented levels, the conservation role of this practice is becoming more evident.
Only last month, six black rhino were flown to Botswana, not only because a reserve there had requested additional animals from SANParks to augment its small population, but also to spread the risk of poaching.
The animal is being kept in a boma where clinical trials are conducted on how to improve the efficacy of anesthesia on these rhino.
White rhino are being sold on an annual basis to allow them to breed within other populations and obviously, Kruger’s risk is spread through this process as the animals are protected from potential poachers.
The team responsible for the capture comprised various veterinarians, researchers, capture staff and SANParks’ airwing. The process was slightly delayed as the helicopter had to respond to a poaching scene. Piloted by Mr Charles Thompson, it arrived at about 08:30.
The team wanted a white rhino bull of about five years old. The “target” wasn’t preselected, but spotted from the air in the Skukuza area, and darted. Dr Markus Hofmeyr explained that they tried doing this reasonably close to the tourism and management roads so that the truck could reach the animal with ease. Once it was darted, it was steered towards the road by the helicopter.
The dart contained an anaesthetic and tranquilliser which took effect within minutes. A team on the ground, consisting of six men, quickly blindfolded the animal and secured a rope around its horns with which it could be steered. It finally succumbed to the full effects of the anaesthestic and fell to its knees before rolling onto its side.
The team worked quickly. It became clear that it was a dangerous exercise as the rhino could still inflict serious injury with its kicking feet and horns.
Blood samples were taken and its oxygen and carbon dioxide levels were determined within minutes. More blood and stool samples were taken which would be analysed later.
The anaesthetic caused tremors and Hofmeyr said they were not quite sure what the mechanism was, but that it was drug related. It was quickly given a partial antidote to recover from this effect.The rhino’s horns were measured and fitted with microchips. With all the necessary samples gathered, it was given a light electrical shock to get it back onto its feet.
It was then steered into a crate which was lifted onto the truck and transported to the boma in Skukuza.
The rhino was released into its own camp and received a long-acting tranquilliser that would be effective for three days so that it could ease into its new environment. The time between darting and getting it into the crate, was only about 20 minutes.
The teeth of rhino poaching
Another 20 rhino were killed this past week, according to the NGO, Outraged Citizens Against Poaching (Oscap). This brings the statistics to 442 for the year. The most recent figures released by the Department of Environmental Affairs were 419 as of May 21.
In this second article in a series about the use of technology to combat the rampant poaching of our wildlife, We take a closer look at the use of trained canines in the war against poaching.
What are K9 units?
Trained dogs are used by private game reserves as well as in the Kruger National Park (KNP) to track down poachers, firearms and injured animals.
Their superior sense of smell makes them ideal for human scent tracking, detection of ammunition and locating carcasses. Their other characteristics also make them useful for protection of field rangers.
The most critical benefits that K9 units offer in terms of anti-poaching in the KNP, says Mr Isaac Phaahla, spokesman for SANParks, is that sniffer dogs can easily detect any organic material, like a rhino horn. They have also been successful in finding hidden firearms – some poachers create special hidden compartments in their vehicles to store rifles and ammunition.
Furthermore, the dogs cut down the time it takes for the park’s special-projects team to locate suspects, not only due to their remarkable senses, but also their mobility in difficult terrain.
According to Mr Conraad de Rosner, director of K9 Conservation, a private provider of conservation services, poachers are well aware of the canines’ presence and often avoid areas where they are known to be deployed.
“We have found chilli pepper powder and other substances on suspects,” he says. These are, however, not a deterrent for well-trained patrol dogs.
It takes time, De Rosner explains, to train them to a level where they are effective in tracking down armed and dangerous poachers. A dog is trained daily by one handler.
They accompany their handlers on daily patrols and remain at one another’s side 24/7. When an incident occurs, the dog’s main function is to indicate the direction and movement of the suspects while protecting the field ranger.
“The more, the better,” De Rosner says regarding the ideal number to effectively protect an area. The preferred breeds for the job are the Belgian Malinois for tracking and apprehension of humans, and the Weimeraner for locating wounded rhino.
Canine units have also been deployed and stationed in five areas in the KNP since 2012. There are plans to expand on the unit inside the park, with a part of a donation of more than R200 million recently by the Howard Buffett Foundation earmarked to establish so-called elite canine units. Sniffer dogs will also be deployed at all the entry points to the KNP.
There have been 53 arrests in the park in 2014 for rhino-poaching related crimes. In 2013, the total number stood at 133. From 2010 to 2012, 222 arrests were made in the KNP.
Phaahla says, “The units have made a great difference, the number of successful arrests have largely been due to them.”
Challenges in K9 deployment
Due to the time and energy required to train these dogs, they are an expensive acquisition, upwards of R60 000 each. Veterinary bills and food add to the expenses. Both De Rosner’s units as well those in the KNP benefit from Hills science plan, ensuring that they are in top condition, he says.
Costs to maintain effective unit in the park amount to nearly R1 million per annum, which include kennels, the handlers and uniforms.
Finding suitable candidates that are not afraid of gunshots or helicopters, as well as finding fully qualified handlers, are the biggest challenges the KNP faces in terms of counter-poaching deployment.
Assam rhino poachers killed
Two rhino poachers have been killed during an anti-poaching operation by forest guards in Assam's Kaziranga National Park, officials said Thursday.
The incident took place late Wednesday near Diphalu anti-poaching camp located in the Burhapahar forest range of the park, the officials said.
"Five to six poachers in a group entered the park but our guards launched an operation immediately, killing two of them," said a park official.
"Other poachers managed to escape. Two .303 rifles and some live ammunitions were also recovered from the spot," the official said.
The park, a Unesco World Heritage Site, has been witnessing a spate in poaching of one-horned rhinos since past two years.
According to official statistics, a total of 18 one-horned rhinos have been killed in Assam since January this year, while forest guards killed seven poachers in anti-poaching operations this year.
Drone ban hits local anti-poaching efforts
Nairobi - One of Kenya's largest game reserves has been forced to halt plans to use drones to monitor its endangered rhinos because of a government ban, park officials said Wednesday.
Ol Pejeta conservancy, home to four of the world's last remaining seven northern white rhinos, said they had planned to launch the 'aerial ranger', equipped with a thermal imaging camera to track wildlife in real time, this month.
But Kenyan authorities have banned the private use of drones, deeming them to be a security threat.
"We have had these plans in the works for over a year now, and we were set for the launch," Elodie Sampere, the conservancy's spokeswoman, told AFP.
"One of the things that has now arisen is that the Kenya government has put a ban in place on private sector drones for the time being."
The Ol Pejeta conservancy, a 90,000-acre non-profit private wildlife sanctuary in central Kenya, has been seeking ways to fend off well-funded and highly-equipped poachers.
On the Asian black market, rhino horn is sought after as an ingredient in traditional medicine and can be more expensive than the equivalent weight in gold.
Last year, 50 rhinos were killed in Kenya by poachers.
The idea to launch a pilotless drone programme in Ol Pejeta was mooted a year ago and some $46,000 was raised via a crowd funding platform.
Black rhino down: cops and ex-ranger arrested
HAZYVIEW – Two police constables stationed in Skukuza and a former SANParks field ranger was remanded in custody after their arrest on Tuesday night on charges of rhino poaching.
The suspects appeared in the local court on Thursday on charges of illegal possession of firearms, illegal possession of ammunition, conspiracy to commit rhino poaching, trespassing and corruption.
The accused are Mr Arnold Mashele and Morris Seshlabela, as well as Mr Phineas Binda, who was a field ranger in KNP for 25 years. Binda was relieved of his duties in September last year after a disciplinary hearing on unrelated charges.
The arrests came after a joint operation between the Hawks and officials of the Kruger National Park. Park rangers and the Endangered Species team of the Hawks were performing routine duties on Tuesday morning when they came across a black rhinoceros carcass.
After receiving a tip-off, the team pulled over a marked Skukuza police van. Upon further investigation, a suspected poacher, armed with a .375 hunting rifle and rounds of ammunition, was found. The constables could not give a satisfactory explanation when asked about the man and the weapon. According to sources, when Mashele and Seshlabela were apprehended, they claimed Dinda was a poaching suspect. What they couldn’t explain was why he was found in the back of the police van with the rifle, knives and a panga.The rifle, ammunition, a silencer and poaching equipment were seized.
The minister of environmental affairs, Ms Edna Molewa, congratulated the SANParks and SAPS officers who performed the arrests on their outstanding work. “The arrests sends a strong message that officials alleged to be involved in poaching will be arrested to face the full might of the law,” she said.
Maj Gen Simon Mapyane, the Head of the Hawks in Mpumalanga, applauded the team, under the stewardship of Col Johan Brits, for work well done. “Col Brits is going on pension this Friday, May 30, after serving the police for 39 years and eight days. He is leaving a legacy and has handed the mantle to the team,” Mapyane remarked. He added that the suspects were tasked with the responsibility to patrol the roads around the park and to confront suspicious vehicles, but it was clear that they were doing the opposite.
In court it was revealed that traces of blood were found in both the private vehicles of one of the accused and in the unmarked police vehicle. At the time of the suspects’ appearance, a forensic unit was still processing the blood samples taken.
The state requested that the suspects be remanded in custody in White River until further investigations is concluded in Skukuza. They will appear in Skukuza on June 4 for their bail application.
More arrests may follow.
Limpopo police arrest 5 suspected poachers
Johannesburg - Five men accused of rhino poaching have been arrested in Gravelotte, Limpopo police said on Thursday.
The men, aged between 26 and 38, were arrested on Wednesday after police were tipped-off, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said.
"The police receive a tip-off that five occupants of a white VW Polo were on their way to poach a rhino at a private game farm in Letsitele."
When the car was stopped at a road block police recovered a .375 Sako hunting rifle, a silencer, a butcher's knife, an axe, and eight rounds of ammunition. The men would appear in the Phalaborwa Magistrate's Court on Friday.
Police men arrested for rhino poaching
SKUKUZA – Three men were arrested last night in the Kruger National Park (KNP) on charges of rhino poaching. Two SAPS members staioned in Skukuza together with a third suspect, previously a corporal field ranger in the KNP, were arrested as a result of a joint intelligence-driven operation between the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) and officials of the KNP.
Park rangers and the Endangered Species team of the Hawks were on their routine duties when they came across a black rhinoceros carcass in the KNP on Tuesday morning.
The team pulled a marked Skukuza police van over after receiving information. On searching the van, a person suspected of being a poacher, who was armed with a .375 hunting rifle and rounds of ammunition, was found. When the constables were asked about the man and the rifle, they could not give a satisfactory explanation and were arrested.
During the operation the rifle, ammunition, a silencer and poaching equipment was seized.
“The SANParks and SAPS officials who affected the arrests are congratulated for their outstanding work. The arrest sends a strong message that officials alleged to be involved in poaching will be arrested and face the full might of the law,” said Minister Molewa.
The Head of the Hawks in Mpumalanga, Major General Simon Mapyane, applauded the team under the stewardship of Colonel Johan Brits for work well done. “Colonel Brits is going on pension this Friday, May 30, after serving the police for 39 years and eight days. He is leaving a mark and has handed the mantle to the team,” said General Mapyane.
“The suspects were tasked with the responsibility to patrol the streets around the park and to confront suspicious vehicles. It is clear that these members were doing the opposite,” added General Mapyane.
Both members are now facing charges of corruption and the person suspected of being a poacher is facing charges of being in the possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition. They will appear in the Skukuza Magistrates’ Court soon.
In another operation in the early hours of the May 27, rangers at Pretoriuskop made contact with a group of suspected poachers. During the incident, one of the suspects was fatally wounded and the remaining two managed to escape under the cover of darkness. Poaching equipment, a .458 hunting rifle and ammunition were recovered during the operation.
The Officer Commanding of the SANParks Rangers Corps, Major General (retired) Johan Jooste commended all the units that were involved in the arrests of the suspects. He added that the war was intensifying but the men and women in uniform were certainly up to the task.
“The incursions are now relentless and taking their toll on our resources, but we have men and women that are dedicated and fully committed to the cause, they are determined to win this war,” said Maj Gen (retired) Jooste.
These successes follow shortly after a very successful week of SANParks / SAPS operations both inside and outside the Kruger. Three foreign Chinese nationals were arrested in Gauteng on May 22 for possession and dealing in rhino horn, whilst six suspected poachers were arrested in the surrounding areas just outside the KNP and a further two arrested and two fatally wounded inside the KNP.
The Park has been under tremendous pressure from poachers, as it is home to over eighty percent of the global population of both white and black rhino that still roam in the wild. The animals are being illegally hunted for their horn, driven mainly by demand from South East Asia. Crime syndicates have been identified as the main culprits in recruiting those that kill the animals.
Since January 1, 2014, the Kruger National Park has lost 272 animals to poachers and 52 individuals have been arrested.
Of the total number of rhino poached, 48 rhino have been killed in Limpopo, 41 in KwaZulu-Natal and 26 in North West.
A total of 119 people have been arrested in connection with rhino poaching.
Maj Gen (retired) Jooste reminded South Africans that the battle will be won outside the reserves, when the kingpins are brought to book.
He urged those with information to make use of the Tip-off lines 0800 205 005, 08600 10111 or 32211; contact Crime Line where they will remain anonymous or their nearest police station with information. He also thanked his team for their commitment and dedication to the fight to save South Africa’s Natural heritage.
Chinese man convicted for smuggling rhino horns
Newark - A Chinese man who helped run an international smuggling ring that specialised in rhinoceros horns has been sentenced in New Jersey to nearly six years in federal prison.
Zhifei Li was given a sentence of five years and 10 months on Tuesday in US District Court in Newark.
The 30-year-old resident of Shandong, China, pleaded guilty last December to 11 counts, including smuggling and illegal wildlife trafficking.
The US attorney's office says Li paid three antiques dealers in the United States to help him smuggle the items to China. Thirty smuggled rhino horns plus other objects made from the horns and from elephant ivory were worth about $4.5m.
All species of the rhinoceros are protected under US and international law.
Agonising death of the King of the Jungle
It is a heartrending sight.
Wire snare caught so tightly around his neck he cannot eat, this young male lion is doomed to die a slow and agonizing death.
Within a matter of days he will be lying in the African bush gasping his last breath.
Nor is he alone in his grim fate. The sight is increasingly common in parts of the continent when a growing number of lions have fallen victim to poaching.
Some wander by mistake into snares that are meant for other animals such as antelope which are hunted by poachers for bush-meat.
Others, whoever, are being deliberately poached for their body parts.
There is now a growing demand for lion claws and bones in parts of the Far East for use in traditional medicines.
The huge animals are hunted more and more as a substitute for tigers, whose body parts have traditionally been used for the Chinese medicine market.
Tigers are now so scarce in the wild that poachers have turned to a another target.
A sharp increase in the lion bone trade suggests that these are being swapped for tiger bones. Pelts and claws are also being used.
Dr Pieter Kat, from LionAid, said: 'There has been a huge jump recently in the value of lion bones driven by the traditional medicine market, seeing as we have so few tigers.
'Since tiger bones are now so difficult to obtain there has been a switch to lion bones.'
In the 1990s, 1kg of lion bones were worth just $10, but now that has massively increased to $300 in 2010.
And its reflected in the figures that show the populations of lions are on a serious decline. There were an estimated 200,000 lions in Africa in the sixties. This has dropped massively now to just 23,000- 25,000.
A source said: 'Only a few weeks ago we saw this lion with a snare around its neck in Mikumi National Park in Tanzania.
'The park rangers tried to track it with the intention of trying to remove the snare from around its neck, but by the time they arrived at the location, the lion had disappeared into the bush.
'It wouldn’t have survived for many more days. Already the wound was gaping, open to infection and covered in flies.
'And it was so tight around its neck that it would have found it impossible to eat. It would have either died from infection or starvation.'
Just several days before that, two lions were found dead in Mikumi National Park, in Northern Tanzania, with their claws removed.
Tanzanian National Park Authorities have anti-poaching patrols, but with 25 per cent of Tanzania’s land set aside for conservation purposes, the area is a large area to police.
There are projects such as the SANA Project in Tanzania, set up by the Saadani Safari Lodge, to allow poorer communities to develop whilst protecting the national park areas.
It is hoped that projects such as these will help protect and preserve the wildlife for the future.
Binga District- Zimbabwe - Poachers worry Binga villagers
A2 farmers were resettled by the government during the chaotic land reform programme in 2002.
Villagers told Southern Eye on Saturday that resettled A2 farmers were not conducting any developmental projects in the area to generate sustainable income and depended on poaching.
“The area was formerly a game park that was home to a huge population of wildlife. But since the land invasion, the animals population has dwindled to alarming levels due to poaching activities between Gwayi and Jotsholo,” said a Binga youth activist Mcabango Mpande.
“The large herds of elephants, buffalos, impala, kudus and many other animal species which roam the bushes in the area are in danger of extinction. The neighbouring southern region villagers of Binga South who once enjoyed animal life and other related benefits due to the presence of animals foresee a bleak future for the children because of the poaching as they depended on tourism,” she said.
Another villager said they feared that most of these resettled farmers may abandon the land when there is no more wildlife left in the area.
“We are appealing to the government to intervene before there is no more wildlife left in our area,” Mpande said.
The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority revealed that the poaching of key species of animals within the Hwange National Park increased to 329 cases last year from 315 witnessed in 2012.
Wildlife mainly targeted included elephants, white and black rhinos, buffaloes and zebras.
However, the jumbos topped the list at 240 in 2012 up from 223 in 2011.
Poachers fatally wounded in KNP
CROCODILE BRIDGE – Rangers of the Kruger National Park (KNP) fatally wounded two poachers who opened fire on them in the early hours of Thursday. A third suspect escaped across the border to Mozambique, SANParks confirmed. A firearm, ammunition, equipment and a set of rhino horns were recovered at the scene.
The number of arrests in the KNP this year totals 52 and the number of rhino poached in the park at 266. The implementation of a combined action plan against poaching by South Africa nad Mozambique will be finalised and signed by the end of July, according to the department of environmental affairs.
This followed on the signing of a memorandum of understanding at Skukuza on April 17 by the minister of water and environmental affairs, Ms Edna Molewa, and the Mozambican minister of tourism, Mr Carvalho Muária.
Private rhino owners are also fighting a war
Private owners of rhino in South Africa are fighting their own war against poaching, says game-farm owner, Ms Sylvia Fick, who recently lost four rhino to poachers. “We receive no help from the government and live in constant fear,” she stated.
Fick recounted how they had accumulated rhino for their game farm in Limpopo and how excited they had been with the increase in numbers during the past three years. Their joy was, however, ruined upon the discovery of four carcasses in April. A fifth cow, mother to a calf of three months, was severely injured and is currently being treated in an effort to save her or at least give the little one more time to suckle. “We were devastated, especially because all our rhino had been dehorned in the past year.” The bit of horn that had remained was apparently hacked off with an axe.
A calf of about two months old was found at the body of its dead mother. It was taken in by Care for Wild Africa in Mpumalanga. The farm immediately requested that all their remaining rhino be dehorned, despite being warned by other private owners that it could lead to another attack due to corruption and collusion within the ranks of the parks board. “We don’t know what to do anymore, someone warned us not to let the police onto the farm because they also provide information to syndicates,” an exasperated Fick admitted.
According to Ms Kholofelo Nkambule of the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) the same is not the case in this province and the MTPA attempts to give assistance to private owners where mandated to do so.
It also upset Fick that millions of rand were being raised by NGOs for saving the species, yet, they as private owners needed to find money in order to secure their animals. They are, like several other game-farm owners they know, considering selling their remaining rhino. “We would need to erect a double fence around the whole property, employ more armed guards and set-up look-out points – things we simply can’t afford at this time!”
It is estimated that 20 per cent to 25 per cent of all rhino in the country are privately owned.
Rhino security is indeed a big problem, concurred Mr Pelham Jones, chairman of the Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA) of South Africa. This is the only entity of its kind in the country. Established in 2009, it also acts as a specialist group within the larger framework of Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA). According to Jones, PROA represents the majority of private rhino owners in the country.
He conducted a study in 2013 among members that calculated the cost per hectare per year of safe keeping privately owned rhino. “Our members spent roughly R262 million a year on security,” he told Lowvelder.
His statistics show that 717 of those belonging to PROA members were poached in 2013. And, Jones added, they are frustrated at the low level of support for private owners from the government. He also stated that there existed a “mixed” quality of service from law enforcement in the matter. “We are frustrated at the slow turnaround time by the Hawks.”
According to Fick, the organised-crime specialist who attended the scene of the crime on their farm merely wandered around the carcasses, before saying that they would return in three weeks to try and find the bullet casings.
Lowvelder asked for comment from the Hawks regarding the number of cases currently being investigated, particularly in terms of the number of criminals, apart from poachers, being investigated. It also asked whether detectives underwent any special training to deal with this specialised, highly syndicated crime and whether a budget had been allocated specifically for these investigations. Hawks spokesman, Capt Paul Ramaloko had not responded to the query.
Meanwhile, owners like Fick said that their situation was heartbreaking. “Should we stand fast and hope for change, or do we sell our rhino?” she asked. She had estimated the cost of added security for their rhino at R2 million, which would still not be enough to guarantee their safety. “Rhino in this country will go extinct because the system is not working,” she concluded. “Maybe I must start a Facebook page and ask for overseas funds, I really don’t know what to do.”
According to a recent report by Rynette Coetzeeof the Endangered Wildlife Trust and environmental crime prosecutor, Phil Snijman, entitled The status quo of compliance monitoring and enforcement of biodiversity and conservation legislation in South Africa, conflicting and confusing regulations hamper compliance monitoring and law enforcement in South Africa. “They create problems and loopholes and this affects enforcement and compliance efficiency,” says Coetzee. While investigating for their report, Coetzee also found that wildlife crime dockets opened by EMIs are often put at the ‘bottom of the pile’ because police are inundated with what is perceived as more serious criminal cases. At a recent conference in Onderstespoort, organised by the NGO Outraged Citizens Against Poaching (or OSCAP), advocate Antoinette Ferreira from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) indicated that the NPA have had convictions in almost all rhino cases driven through court., however detection rates of this crime stood at 3%. The conviction rate of poaching crimes was 85%. Most of these, however, were of poachers. Ferreira also mentioned that the SAPS had resolved to appoint specialist investigators to deal with endangered species crimes.
MEET AFRICA CRIES
Emma is from our marketing team, and she is actually at the Indaba to meet Lodge owners/marketing managers, and other hotels. We now provide a successful marketing tool to boost occupancies. We use everything about digital : websites, social medias, online advertising etc... We provide too a successful online direct booking for all kinds of Lodges. Note that all the profits from this subsidiary business help us to create awareness and education, to save the rhinos and other species.
Rhino horn trade conference held
A rhino trade conference has resolved to act against any proposals to legalise rhino horn trade.
“No matter what side of the trade debate we’re on, what we all want is for the poaching to stop,” said Outraged SA Citizens Against Poaching (Oscap) director Allison Thomson.
“We’ll have to agree to disagree on the trade issue, but make no mistake, we’re serious about working hard, both domestically and internationally, to put a stop to any proposals to legalise rhino horn trade.”
The Oscap conference was held on Wednesday and Thursday in Pretoria.
Thomson said the conference ended on a positive note with participants resolving to ensure that all South Africans were made aware of the risks associated with legalising rhino horn trade.
Representatives from the Environmental Investigation Agency were also present.
“We need to learn lessons from the ivory trade debacle,” said the agency’s Mary Rice.
“You don’t legalise a high-value product like ivory and put it in the hands of hundreds of millions of people and then wonder why elephant poaching has gone off the charts. The same is true for rhino horn.”
Seven appear for KNP rhino poaching
Phalaborwa - Seven people arrested in connection with rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park (KNP) appeared in the Phalaborwa Magistrate's Court on Monday, Limpopo police said.
Milton Mlambo, 33, and Phillip Shitlhangu, 29, appeared on charges of illegal possession of a fire-arm and ammunition, and conspiracy to poach rhino under the National Environmental Biodiversity Act, said Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi.
The matter was postponed to April 16, when they were expected to make a formal application for bail. They remained in police custody.
They were arrested in Gravelotte around 2.45am on Saturday. A hunting rifle, live ammunition, an axe and a panga were seized.
The other five other suspected poachers were arrested outside the KNP in the same area on Friday, Mulaudzi said.
They faced charges of possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.
Doctor Ngwenyama, 36, was granted bail of R10,000 bail. Thulani Siwela, 28, Given Mashaba, 30, Vusi Matsane, 45, and Robert Sondlani, 38, remained in police custody.
They were expected to formally apply for bail at their next appearance on Thursday.
The last 5,055: In search of Namibia's elusive black rhino
I'm crossing the Damaraland desert of northern Namibia on foot -- a few hundred kilometers -- clutching my "bear banger."
This device looks like a pen and fits in my pocket.
Triggered, it will explode with a loud bang, scaring animals without harming them.
I'm with my guide, Lloyd Camp, on the trail of the elusive black rhino in one of the few truly wild places left in the world.
"The worst thing we could do is to run away from an animal -- we'll be finished," Lloyd warns me.
Tragedy of the rhino
Driven to the brink of extinction, the black rhino's story is one of the most tragic wildlife crimes.
Due to poaching, 92% of the population has been wiped out over the past 30 years, and there are now just 5,055 left in the world.
These numbers are an improvement, however, from the lowest point of 2,500 in the 1980s and are thanks to conservation efforts and, perhaps surprisingly, tourism.
Firstly, in the early 1980s, Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) was formed to offer poachers a more secure livelihood as wildlife rangers.
In 2003, SRT partnered with Wilderness Safaris, an eco-tourism operator.
Their common vision was to view the rhino discreetly.
By accommodating tourists willing to pay money to track rhinos on foot, they provided employment for locals and income for monitoring and research.
After 30 years of work and 10 years of responsible tourism, rhino numbers increased fivefold.
Guides are essential to unlocking the experience.
Damaraland is now home to the largest concentration of black rhino on Earth.
The green crowns of ana trees dot the brown palette of the landscape, carrying thick, curled reddish brown fruits that desert elephants love.
Hours-old footprints of a bull elephant give us our first tracking opportunity.
We eventually catch up to him as he's eating from the thorny branches of an ana tree.
Waves of emotions rush through me as we stop and stand still.
He knows we're here. The encounter has begun.
"He's not bothered by us," Lloyd whispers to me. "It's a respectful sighting, the type that I really enjoy."
The next day at 6 a.m. the rangers and I leave Wilderness Safaris' Desert Rhino Camp.
After an hour's drive we see fresh rhino tracks on a riverbed and follow on foot.
Tracking soon becomes difficult, as there are no footsteps anymore, just rocks that have been moved.
Finding them is an exercise in mindfulness.
Tracking epitomizes abilities that humans have almost completely lost: to read the landscape and be aware of its smallest details.
As they walk, the rangers wave their hands as if in an ancient dance: open hands, palm forward, indicating each track or to inform others of a new direction.
Nobody talks, just a gentle whistle to attract attention.
Then we find fresh dung.
One of the rangers, Martin Nawaseb, squats to check its temperature. It's still hot.
Feeling close, we increase our pace and come to view a riverbed.
When tracking black rhino, it\'s important to view them from a respectful distance.
The rhino is there, grazing.
He raises his head toward us; he knows something's up.
Keeping ourselves at a distance, we sit in silence and enjoy the tranquil landscape.
Martin writes down the GPS position in his logbook.
Tracking is an effective way to understand animal behavior.
The importance of pride
Rangers in Damaraland are proud of their job and the community looks up at people like Martin.
"Poaching is essentially not an issue anymore in Namibia because conservation efforts put local communities at the center," says Jeff Muntifering, a scientific advisor at SRT.
"It's become socially unacceptable; poachers are viewed as stealing from the community."
He says in Mozambique it's the opposite: poachers crossing the border to kill animals in South Africa are considered Robin Hoods, risking their lives to bring back to the community the little money paid by international syndicates trading in illegal ivory.
Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/28/travel/namibia-black-rhino/
One of World's Last Sumatran Rhinos Dies at Cincinnati Zoo
One of the world's last Sumatran rhinoceroses died Sunday at the Cincinnati Zoo, marking a "devastating blow" to her rapidly dwindling species, zoo officials said.
Suci, as she was known, hailed from the rarest of all rhino species. The Sumatran rhino numbers no more than a hundred animals in the wild, almost all of them on the Indonesian island of Sumatra (see map), and is possibly the most endangered large mammal on Earth.
Loss of habitat due to logging and palm oil agriculture, as well as poaching for its horn for use in traditional Asian medicines, have led to the animal's demise.
The Cincinnati Zoo was the first facility to successfully breed the critically endangered species in captivity. The zoo has been working with Indonesian organizations for 25 years in its efforts to bring the species back from the edge of extinction. (Read "Rhino Wars" in National Geographic magazine.)
After the death of Suci at age 10, only nine Sumatran rhinos are left in captivity worldwide. Sumatran rhinos in captivity live an average of 35 to 40 years, according to the World Wildlife Fund. (Read about Suci in a 2013 article in National Geographic magazine.)
The zoo had been treating Suci for hemochromatosis-a genetic disease that causes too much iron to accumulate in the body-for several months, but her condition rapidly deteriorated over the weekend. Suci's mother, Emi, died from the same illness in 2009.
"Suci was a symbol of hope for her entire species, one that is quickly losing ground in the wild, and her absence will leave a great hole in our hearts," said Terri Roth, director of the zoo's Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife.
"The international community has a great challenge on its hands," she said. "If we don't act quickly, and boldly, the loss of this magnificent animal will be among the great tragedies of our time."
"This Is How Extinction Happens"
National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore, who had photographed the 10-year-old animal since she was a baby, called the news "heartbreaking."
"This is how extinction happens," he said. "The animal is down to so few that each loss is so devastating.
"The Cincinnati Zoo has done a fantastic job with keeping this species going with little to work with in terms of number of animals," said Sartore, who shot the above photo.
Sartore featured Suci in his Photo Ark project, which is built around photographing endangered species in zoos. (See more of Sartore's work: "Stunning Pictures: Ten of the Rarest Animals on Earth.")
He said that Suci's death shows that "you can't protect the animals from everything."
The photographer remembers Suci as a "charming animal" that was docile and good-natured.
"As long as the food held out," he said, "she was there for you."
Suspected rhino poachers to appear in court on Monday
Five suspected rhino poachers are due to appear in the Phalaborwa Magistrate's Court on Monday.
The men, aged between 30 and 45, were arrested on Thursday night, while allegedly on their way to kill a rhino at a nearby game reserve.
Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi says police noticed a Isuzu bakkie with three occupants parked in Gravelotte around 7.30 on Thursday night.
A black BMW X5 parked next to it. All the occupants from the bakkie got into the BMW, but before they drove off, police pounced on them.
During a search of the car, police found a hunting rifle with a serial number filed off, 20 rounds of live ammunition and three butcher knives.
Initial investigations have revealed that one of the suspects had previously been arrested.
The five face charges of possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.
Civil servant behind rhino, elephant slaughter
NAIROBI, KENYA: A top official enjoying State security with all the trappings of power could be behind rampant poaching in the country, it has emerged.
The official from Nyeri County has connections in Uganda, Tanzania and beyond, according intelligence details seen by The Standard and KTN television. KTN’s investigative piece by Dennis Onsarigo on the same premiered on the station last night.
The criminal runs a well-organised poaching cartel within and outside Kenya’s borders, using locals and foreigners and has links to serving and retired Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officials who are at his beck and call.
At the snap of a finger, he can make officers who do not obey his orders to disappear or be dismissed from work. Bizarre incident
July 7, 2013, will remain etched in the minds of Kenyans forever. On this day, 12 elephants were butchered in a single day in bizarre circumstances at the Tsavo National Park. Nearly one year later, the killings remain largely unresolved, even as more animals are felled by each passing day.
The cartel, which has the efficiency of an army, is also said to be responsible, in the last couple of years, for the demise of thousands of rhinos – the species hunted for its precious horns used for medicinal and other purposes, especially in China.
For the price of not less than Sh2 million for every rhino horn, the commodity is in such high demand that poachers would pull out all the stops to lay their hands on a rhino horn.
It is estimated that Kenya has just 1,000 rhinos remaining from 24,000 three decades ago, which translates to the country losing some 800 rhinos every year. Some of the slaughter occurs in highly protected parks and animal sanctuaries – sometimes under the very noses of KWS officials – which goes a long way to demonstrate the boldness with which the cartels carry out their operations.
A case in point is the shooting of three rhinos in May, last year, at the Nairobi National Park, a few metres from KWS headquarters, only three days after another rhino was gunned down at a high security animal conservancy in Meru. Now senior KWS officials say poaching in the country will not stop as long as the Nyeri poaching kingpin, who, they say, has created the biggest rhino horn demand chain in the history of East and Central Africa is not stopped.
“He has infiltrated the KWS, the police force and the State security and no one seems able to stop him,” say the officials who cannot be named due to possible reprisals.
Read more: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/lifestyle/article/2000107970/civil-servant-behind-rhino-elephant-slaughter
Kenya Wildlife Service says it needs help to tackle rhino, elephant poaching
NAIROBI, KENYA – Kenya's wildlife authority says it needs help to curb the escalation of killings of the endangered elephants and rhinos for ivory tusks and horns.
Kenya Wildlife Service chief William Kiprono said Tuesday that poachers have killed 18 rhinos and 51 elephants so far this year.
Kiprono denied that a poaching cartel exists within the organization and that steps are being taken to ensure that none of its employees engage in poaching.
Kiprono said that since 2009, 17 wildlife service employees had been fired and some prosecuted, three had been demoted and five others fined. He said 26 were investigated but no evidence found.
Last week Richard Leakey, famed scientist and founding head of the Kenya Wildlife Service, alleged the service had been infiltrated by powerful people enriching themselves from poaching.
172 rhinos poached since the beginning of the year
Three captive Sumatran rhinos raise conservation hopes
KOTA KINABALU: Sabah wildlife researchers are hopeful that three Sumatran rhinoceros now in captivity at a reserve will help save the species from extinction.
Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said they were examining the latest captive, a female Sumatran rhino recently translocated to the reserve to join two other creatures from the critically endangered species.
The female rhino was air-lifted by a helicopter to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve on Friday, about 10 days after its capture at the Danum Valley conservation area.
Researchers have named the female rhino Iman after the small river at the Danum Valley.
“Once Iman is settled into Tabin, we will review all potential options on how she can best contribute to her species,” Dr Ambu said.
“We hope that this success will act as a boost to international collaboration on the Sumatran rhino, and through the NGO Borneo Rhino Alliance (Bora), try to engage with our counterparts in Indonesia.”
He said the capture of Iman and two others – a male named Tam and a female named Puntung – was necessary.
“The Sumatran rhino is on the verge of extinction in Sabah. Bringing them into captive conditions allows us to maximise the chance that each rhino can help save the species,” Laurentius said, adding that the department had been working on this matter with Bora, WWF Malaysia and Yayasan Sabah.
Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the state Cabinet had decided a year ago to bring all remaining Sumatran rhinos into a managed, fenced-in facility.
“Our hope is to breed them with the neccessary local and global expertise,” he said.
“We also hope that with the continued support and expertise on rhino reproductive biology from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife based in Berlin, Germany, we will have baby rhinos soon,” Masidi added.
In this regard, he said while the Sabah cabinet had agreed to loan Tam to the Cincinatti Zoo for breeding as part of international collaboration, that move may not be necessary if Iman was proven to be fertile.
“The state Cabinet approval to send Tam to the United States was conditional upon our failure to catch a fertile young female rhino at Danum within a reasonable time to mate with Tam,” he added.
Armed guards on patrol 24/7 at rhino sanctuary as poaching reaches 'devastating' levels
The far east is no longer the sole focus of the fight against illegal ivory, with experts warning that the UK is increasingly becoming a “major hub” for the contraband.
Simon Burns MP believes an "unprecedented spike in the illegal wildlife trade" could undo all the work of conservationists in recent years.
Around 36,000 elephants are believed to be killed each year while demand for rhinos and other animals for traditional medicines is increasing.
Mr Burns told a debate in Parliament’s Westminster Hall that London is a major centre for the illegal trade, which is estimated to be worth as much as £12billion a year and funds other crime including terrorism.
His comments came as the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in Uganda revealed it has been forced to employ a security force of 80 armed rangers to protect its 13 rhinoceros.
Mr Burns said: "After decades of conservation gains, the world is now dealing with what I believe is an unprecedented spike in the illegal wildlife trade, threatening all the gains of recent years.
"The situation is, to put it starkly, devastating.
He added: "There is a significant problem and, although a considerable amount is being done by the international community, we seem to be, in many respects, on a losing wicket, because of the increased activity in different parts of the world by those who are prepared to engage in this illegal trade."
Mr Burns said in 2011, 23 tonnes of ivory was seized by authorities, which represents 2,500 elephants, across the globe - the worse year since 1989.
He said the situation affecting rhinos was "horrendous" with poaching occurring at a rate of one every 10 hours, an increase of 5,000 per cent between 2007 and 2012.
"But ironically, the world’s largest seizure of rhino horn, which included 129 horns, occurred in Kensington in central London—not somewhere normally associated with rhinoceroses," said Mr Burns, referring to a 1996 raid.
As well as animals being hunted, those guarding the creatures are also vulnerable to attack.
At least 1,000 park rangers have been killed in the last decade, and Angie Genade, executive director of Rhino Fund Uganda, said: "It's a very difficult job and one not appreciated by many.
"They are so vulnerable because rhino horn is believed to contain medicinal values."
She added: "The figure of poached rhino in the rest of Africa is nearly doubling every year. South Africa lost about 1,000 rhino to poaching alone during 2013."
Last month, representatives from 50 countries converged in London to discuss how to tackle the illegal ivory trade.
Also present at the summit were Prince Charles and Prince William.
Prior to the event the Duke of Cambridge launched a new organisation, United for Wildlife, to help combat the trade, and said in a video message: "We have to be the generation that stopped the illegal wildlife trade, and secured the future of these magnificent animals, and their habitats, for if we fail, it will be too late."
It was also reported Prince William wants all 1,200 ivory items in the royal collection to be destroyed.
Replying for the Government in the Westminster Hall debate, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs minister George Eustice said the trade ranked alongside "drugs, arms and people trafficking".
He added: "In February, we published the document “UK Commitment to Action on the Illegal Wildlife Trade”, which set out what we are doing across Government.
"We are committed to reporting against that commitment in a year’s time. Action is already under way. For example, as part of our commitment to fighting the illegal wildlife trade, the UK recently formally extended the convention on international trade in endangered species to the British territory of Anguilla.
"We have already announced that we will use a £10 million DFID [Department for International Development] funding package to support our partners in their efforts to tackle the trade, and we will soon announce how to apply for that fund."
Rhino poaching: Will government action match Howard Buffett's R255-million?
Early last year, having escaped the devastating floods in the northern section of the Kruger National Park by a whisker, I sat down with Dr David Mabunda, CEO of SANParks, and pondered the challenges being faced by him and his team as the scourge of rhino poaching continued to devastate the country's flagship national park.
He was faced with trying to keep SANParks staff strong enough to resist the seduction of easy cash in return for giving up Kruger's rhinos. At that time the going rate for delivering rhino tracks was R30,000. All of Mabunda's resources were taken up with the fight against poaching, to the detriment of every other aspect of running the biggest tourism attraction in the country, and the continent's premier conservation icon. Everything he needed to do to gain traction in the ongoing battle revolved around money, or, rather, the lack of it.
A year on and I have once more returned from Kruger, this time managing to avoid serious flooding in the south of the park. The war against rhino poaching has gotten worse, with no end in sight to the levels of carnage which seem to be spiralling ever higher. Million upon million is being ploughed into anti-poaching, but Kruger's rhinos are still being slaughtered with apparent impunity. Which raises the question: is it really just an issue of money standing between us and the extinction of a species?
It's a question made more pertinent in the wake of the high-profile donation made by the Howard G Buffett Foundation, which last week threw a whopping R255-million into the pot to fund a three-year campaign in which new methods of anti-poaching will be tested for their efficacy and possible deployment elsewhere in Africa.
Howard G Buffett is no stranger to those who move in conservation circles. The eldest son of billionaire investor Warren, this former politician, farmer and businessman was giving back to people and planet when corporate social investment was nought but a glint in a spin-doctor's eye. He's pretty much the real deal when it comes to fighting the good fight for food and water security in Africa, overcoming poverty and saving endangered or at-risk species. His foundation set up the Nature Conservation Trust in 2000, which has since been working in Africa on projects to conserve nature, restore degraded land, ensure the long-term survival of cheetahs and other carnivores "in situ" and to support research and improved practices agriculture for smallholder farmers.
Buffett is also a South African resident. What difference this pearl of information makes is unclear, but judging by environment minister Edna Molewa's gushing public response to the foundation's donation last Friday, the government is keen to leverage everything it can from the connection. And the money. Indeed, Molewa's speech personally thanking Buffett could teach Pavlov's dog a thing or two about salivation at the mere contemplation of a hearty meal.
There's nothing new in a government fawning over someone who has just done their job for them, but as the ANC eagerly chows down on Howard's all-you-can-eat buffet of new ways to save rhinos, one can't help but wonder if it will soon be reaching for the Rennies as its policy of "sustainable utilisation" rises up in protest.
It's this policy which has Molewa and her fearless leader, President Jacob Zuma, readying themselves for an assault on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to legalise trade in rhino horn. Buffett may indeed be spending his foundation's money on saving Kruger's rhino so that the government can cash in on them as it flogs off stockpiled horn and moves into the rhino farming business.
To be fair the R255-million, which will effectively be using Kruger and its rhinos as a real-life laboratory for an innovative programme of high-tech protection techniques, is "neutral" funding, but Molewa was careful to avoid dwelling on "sustainable utilisation" in her speech, in spite of the perfect opportunity it presented her with to push the government's policy and the widely criticised and seriously flawed pro-trade proposals. Instead, she briefly referred to the "sound principle of sustainable utilisation of our natural resources" which, she said, has always guided the government's policy positions at home and in its international engagements, before launching into a somewhat self-congratulatory back-slapping, lauding the success she says South Africa has had in combatting the illicit wildlife trade on the political front.
And it is this aspect which really holds the key to answering the question of whether money alone will save the rhino. What, specifically, has the government achieved in its efforts to combat rhino poaching at a political level?
"Good progress" is being made, says Molewa, on the implementation of the Action Plan on Co-Operation in Biodiversity Conservation and Protection signed between South Africa and Vietnam in May 2013, five months after the "successful" conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding between the countries in December 2012.
What, specifically, is "good progress"? Is it the fact that a "high level" Vietnamese government delegation is about to hit our shores later this month for a "study tour"?
Molewa also points to various international co-operation agreements the government has initiated with countries such as Mozambique, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. The fact remains that the agreement with Mozambique - acknowledged as pivotal in the current crisis - has yet to be signed. Why, logic implores, has this not been done?
And what of China - the lynchpin of it all? Don't panic - work to finalise the Implementation Plan putting into action the terms of the MOU signed between South Africa and China in 2013 relating to wetlands, desert eco-systems and wildlife conservation is also "progressing well".
Is this really the sum of South Africa's political assault on those who would wipe out our rhino, which represent 80% of the species left on this continent?
While China and its entourage of far-eastern states fan the flames of demand to unprecedented heights, the South African government has only just picked up the fiddle with the intention of learning how to play it while there are still rhino carcasses left to burn. DM
Face to face with the bloody horror of rhino poaching
Saturday morning, 16 March: We were getting together for a Lewa Wildlife Conservancy board meeting and as a newcomer I was excited to be part of this world-class operation. Lewa is a prestigious private conservation area in northern Kenya, famed for its rhinos and its annual marathon.
I had been thrilled when the chairman, Michael Joseph called me to his office last year and asked me “Will you join the Lewa board?” I had always wanted to learn from Lewa’s enormous body of knowledge, and to contribute to its successful rhino conservation programme. He didn’t need to ask.
Now in my first board meeting meeting, Mike Watson, CEO of Lewa Conservancy, took an urgent phone call, then returned and informed us that gunshots had been heard at nearby Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
I called Richard Vigne, CEO of Ol Pejeta. He confirmed one black rhino bull was dead, his horns gone. There was no need for words to describe the anger, defeat, upset and sorrow he was feeling. It was not lost on any of us that the events at Ol Pejeta, just a few dozen kilometres away, might well have been here at Lewa.
Despite the news, we went ahead with our board meeting, which was upbeat and concluded on a positive note. But all I was thinking about was how to get to Ol Pejeta, and I invited others to come with me. At first nobody wanted to. It would be depressing and besides, they said they all had other plans. I’m used to this reaction. Nobody wants to confront the horror of what is happening in its bloody face.
But after a few minutes of explaining why this is relevant to Lewa, I had a full car with members of board from both Kenya and the US. None of them had ever seen a freshly butchered rhino before. I didn’t tell them that neither had I. But I’ve seen enough dead elephants to know that it’s a life-changing experience.
We drove to Ol Pejeta, where Martin Mulama and his chief of security Serem welcomed us. Their faces revealed a despondency rarely seen in conservation. We set off for the rhino under a heavy cloud of dark emotions.
Some of us stood in the back of a pick-up which crashed ahead through the bush followed closely by all the others in a Land Rover. I asked Martin about the incident. As the vehicle bounced around, and branches caught my hair, Martin explained that gunshots were heard at 6 pm the previous evening somewhere deep inside the conservancy. Security was scrambled and the perimeter of Ol Pejeta sealed with road blocks. But it was too late. The killers had already gone.
The carcass was deep inside the middle of the 75,000 acre conservancy, and several kilometres off any track. Whoever killed this rhino knew the terrain. We ploughed through thick bush, zigzagging around hyena holes and ant hills and following the muddy tracks of cars that had gone before us. Then the car came to an abrupt halt and I jumped down. Serem pointed. The rhino was somewhere in the bush only a hundred metres away.
I walked quickly to where I knew he would be, anger and sadness driving me to look at the face of the lifeless animal. And there he lay, silently on his side, his massive grey body slightly bloated, his left legs suspended up in the air.
He had died in deep bush and was lying in a pool of his own blood that looked like black oil. His left eye was open staring unseeingly at us, a few flies buzzed around him. Bubbles of red frothy blood oozed his nose. His pointed white lips were slightly open.
It was hard to look at his face, his eye was staring up at me. His two horns had been cut off at the base with an extremely sharp instrument. They appeared almost surgically removed. His hornless face seemed misshapen – without his horns he hardly looked like a rhino.
Dead rhino with horns removed
Rhino killed by poachers with horns removed on Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya. Photograph: Paula Kahumbu
Martin explained the cuts on the rhino’s ear. Two precise notches had been cut into his ears when he was a calf to help identify him. All the rhinos here are notched. The notches told us that this was 15 year old Sheria. Ironically his name in Kiswahili means Law. After a pause Martin said “Law is dead”.
Apart from the bloody gashes where his horns once were, he seemed unharmed. There were no other wounds. I was confused, wasn’t he shot? If it wasn’t for Serem I would have missed the tiny bullet wounds that were almost impossible to see. He had been sprayed with bullets from an AK 47 but the entry points had closed over his thick grey-black rough skin.
Once I knew what I was looking I could see there were dozens of these wounds and I pictured the events of the night before. The deafening sound of gun shots, the acrid smell of gunfire, Sheria screaming and crashing through the bushes in a state of terror as he tried to escape the hail of bullets before he fell. I imagined that Sheria was still alive when they cut off his horns – he was probably watching them helplessly with his one open eye.
It would have taken a few minutes to cut off the horn, an eternity to Sheria. There were two murderers, one shooter and one guide. They worked quickly, silently, and escaped completely unnoticed save for the sound of bullets.
I squatted beside Sheria and leaned against his body. My arm on his massive leg, I reached out to touch his face. His body was warm, it felt as if he was still alive. I almost expected to feel him breathing. The only smell was fresh blood. I don’t recall any sounds, the world was utterly silent. We stayed there for an hour talking in low tones, touching, feeling.
Now Sheria’s name and photograph will be removed from the rhino monitoring list for Ol Pejeta, where every rhino is sighted by security officers each day. This incident comes exactly one month after another rhino shooting. That rhino was injured and miraculously is still alive.
The escalation of poaching at Ol Pejeta is surprising because this sanctuary has some of the best rhino protection found anywhere in the world. The population is completely fenced and anti-poaching investments include sniffer dogs, attack dogs, SAS-trained armed rangers, helicopters on standby, aircraft support, even military vehicles.
But the poachers are somehow outwitting us. They move with stealth, and are smarter and swifter. Even when they get caught they somehow subvert justice. Motivated by cash they will take huge risks – few poachers survive an encounter with KWS rangers nowadays.
The poaching in Ol Pejeta is a reflection of a national and continental crisis. Sixteen rhinos have fallen to poachers in Kenya this year already. More than 100 have died in South Africa. In Kenya all rhinos are in protected sanctuaries, yet none are safe. Rhinos are being gunned down everywhere, in national parks and private sanctuaries like Lewa and Ol Pejeta.
Kenyans fear that the problem reflects a breakdown in governance. The people charged with protecting these invaluable creatures are turning their guns on them instead. At this escalating rate, 120 rhinos will be gone by the end of the year, and Kenya’s herds will be in dire risk of blinking out.
Kenyans are furious and determined to change things. They are now calling on the president, His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta to declare elephants and rhinos national treasures and to make it his personal crusade to stop the poaching. Without political will, the game is over for these magnificent species.
Some people think it is too late, but we did recover from similar threats in the 1980s under President Moi’s leadership. And in Nepal, rhino poaching has been reduced to nil due to the personal interventions of President Baran Yadav. Kenyans want Uhuru Kenyatta to step up to this challenge - we simply cannot afford to give up.
Man caught in Vietnam aiport with 13 kg of rhino horn
Ho Chi Minh City customs authorities said Wednesday they have handed over a Vietnamese man and five rhino horns he was suspected of smuggling into Vietnam to the police.
According to Tan Son Nhat International Airport customs officers, they found the horns, weighing around 13.1 kilograms and worth some VND15 billion (US$711,000), in the man’s luggage Monday.
They said the horns came from African rhinoceros but not where the man flew in from.
The Ministry of Public Security is investigating.
As a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Vietnam prohibits the import, export, and trade of African rhino products for commercial purposes.
The country has faced criticism from international conservation groups for failing to fight poaching and the illegal trade in ivory, rhino horns, and tiger parts.
Good News for Animals in Nepal: A Full Year Without Poaching
On World Wildlife Day, March 3, Nepal celebrated 365 days with zero poaching. No rhinos, tigers, or elephants were killed.
It's the second year of such success in Nepal. In 2011 the country also had none, and in 2012 it lost just one rhino to poaching.
This achievement is particularly notable in the face of increased poaching elsewhere. Since February 28, according to press reports, Kenya lost three rhinos to poachers in the span of one week in heavily guarded Lake Nakuru National Park, and one more in Maasai Mara Game Reserve.
On February 28 in South Africa, the epicenter of the rhino poaching crisis, tourists in Kruger National Park found a blinded and mutilated rhino wandering alive. That horror prompted a social media storm and generated intense interest from the Belgian ambassador to South Africa and senior members of the European Parliament. (The personal secretary and aide to Belgium's deputy prime minister was one of the tourists.) In South Africa last year, 1004 rhinos were poached; so far this year, 146 have been poached.
Against this backdrop, Nepal's record stands out.
According to John Scanlon, secretary-general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Nepal's success is the result of "strong and committed leadership, excellent national collaboration among enforcement entities and with parks agencies, very effective engagement with local communities, and targeted intelligence-led enforcement actions leading to arrests of key players at the top of the criminal chain."
More than 700 criminals were arrested for wildlife-related crimes this past year, including many "kingpins."
"Efforts on the ground have been intensified, with rangers and the Nepal[ese] army patrolling protected areas with support from community-based antipoaching units outside the parks," notes Shubash Lohani, deputy director of the Eastern Himalaya Ecoregion Program at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
"In addition, active enforcement by the crime investigation bureau of Nepal's police has been crucial to breaking down the presence of illegal wildlife trafficking networks."
A joint operation in October 2013 by the Nepalese army and the special police led to the dismantling of a rhino poaching network and the arrest of Kathmandu-based kingpin Buddhi Bahadur Praja. Praja allegedly ran a cross-border smuggling enterprise from Nepal to Tibet and killed 12 rhinos over six years.
Also in December 2013, at Nepal's request INTERPOL issued a Red Notice for another notorious rhino poacher, Rajkumar Praja, a 30-year-old Nepali wanted for killing 15 rhinos in Chitwan National Park. Praja was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison.
Read more: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140312-nepal-chitwan-national-park-wildlife-poaching-world/
Rhino census begins at Gorumara national park
A census of rhinoceros will begin at Gorumara national park in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district from Wednesday. The objective of the exercise is to assess their population, the male-female ratio and monitor changes in the habitat of the animal listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
“The two-day exercise by the State Forest department will focus on direct sightings of the animal in about 110 sq. km area which includes the national park,” Sumita Ghatak, Divisional Forest Officer, Jalpaiguri, told The Hindu over phone.
Pointing out that no death of one-horned rhinoceros has been reported from the national park since the last census in 2012, she expressed the hope that the number would rise in this census.
In the census carried out in 2012 there were 43 rhinoceros in the national park which included 14 adult male rhinos and 11 female rhinos, Ms. Ghatak said, adding that the rest included sub-adult males, females and calves.
Commenting on the skewed male-female ratio, the forest officials said ideally the population ratio should be three female rhinoceros for a male rhinoceros. “One of the objectives of the census is to monitor the changes in the habitat of rhinoceros,” Ms. Ghatak, said pointing out that the census would help in identifying areas more conducive to their habitat.
Other than Gorumara, the Jaldapara national park in the same district is the largest habitat of rhinoceros in the State with their number being about 180. As per the last census, it is the second-largest habitat of the one-horned rhinoceros in the country after the Kaziranga national park in Assam.
146 rhinos poached
Numbers of rhinos poached is now 146 since the beginning of the year... Very sad...
Help us to raise awareness !
"Together we can make a difference" !!
Environmentalists oppose Assam govt's move to dehorn rhino
Guwahati: The Assam government's move to explore trimming of horns to save rhinos from poaching was today opposed by an environmental activist body which said it will affect biological growth of the animal and the risk from poachers will continue.
"The horn of a rhino is a part of its biological growth. With the help of the horn, the animal selects a mate for breeding. So removing the horn will be detrimental to the rhino population," Nature's Beckon Director Soumyadeep Datta told reporters here.
The rhinos use their horns also for behavioral functions like defending territories, protecting calves from other rhinos and predators, maternal care, digging for water and breaking branches.
Datta said a study by environmentalist Janet Rachlow revealed that 90 per cent of the dehorned white rhinos were poached within 18 months as the horns grow back very quickly.
If the horn is cut too close to the germinal layer, this could damage the horn base and lead to deformed horn re-growth or death of the individual rhino due to blood loss or shock, he said and cited the instance of a rhino death at Majuli after its horn was surgically removed by forest authorities in March 2013.
Last month, Assam Forest and Environment Rockybul Hussain had said the government will set up a committee to study if the horn of a rhino could be trimmed without any harm to the animal to save it from poaching.
Nature's Beckon also opposed to translocation of rhinos saying it was against nature.
"So far eight rhinos have been killed in Manas National Park by poachers. Before we translocate rhinos, the security aspect should have been checked properly," he said.
According to the NGO's estimates, about 12 rhinos have been translocated to Manas from Kaziranga National Park in the last three years. Coupled with natural breeding the rhino population at Manas had increased to over 20, of which eight had been killed by poachers for their horns.
"We have been demanding a CBI enquiry into rhino poaching for a long time. But the government is not accepting it," Datta added.
Massive search for mutilated rhino
A haunting photo of a de-faced rhino taken in Kruger National Park days ago has led to a massive search for the maimed animal - and has sparked online outrage across the world.
Its horns were deeply hacked off, below their base, exposing bloody tissue, and it is believed that the animal - if still alive - would be in agony.
Leading conservationist Dr Ian Player, who said on Sunday the cruelty of the suspected poachers was “personally wounding”, warned that the incident could damage South Africa’s tourism industry.
“This terrible incident, which is emotionally disturbing, is a cry that goes out into the world for the fate of the rhino,” the former ranger said.
Since the beginning of the year, 146 rhinos have been slaughtered for their horns across South Africa.
An intensive aerial and ground search was launched on Friday after visitors to the Kruger park reported seeing a wounded rhino wandering along a road near the Phabeni Gate, near Hazyview and about 60km from the border with Mozambique.
Several teams of rangers with sniffer-dogs and a helicopter surveillance crew were deployed to find the animal and track the poachers, but by late Sunday night they had not been successful, said SANParks’ acting spokesman, Reynold Thakhuli.
The rhino was yet to be found by Monday morning, said Johan Jooste, a retired major-general who is now the commanding officer of special projects at the park.
Rain and thick bush were making it hard to search.
Thakhuli would not release details of the people who saw the wounded rhino, saying it would be a breach of policy.
“We have the photograph, but I am not at liberty to disclose details,” he said yesterday.
The photo of the maimed animal was posted on Facebook on Friday and soon spread on the internet, eliciting thousands of emotional pleas from around the world for an end to rhino poaching.
Vienna film-maker, Reina-Marie Loader, who spent three months in South Africa last year filming her soon-to-be-released documentary, Horn, sent out an emotional plea after posting the photograph on her Facebook page.
“I am in tears over this, as I know the area well,” said Loader, who was born in South Africa.
“The cruelty of human beings against themselves and other living beings is just incredible and incomparable. I say against themselves as well because poachers who are capable of doing this to an animal must destroy parts of themselves in the process as well,” she said. “And that saddens me more deeply than words can say.”
Player, who co-established The WILD Foundation in 1974 to try to save the white rhino and is one of the founders of the Natal Parks Board, now Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, said he was deeply hurt by the latest attack on rhinos.
“I have devoted my life to them. I find it particularly, personally wounding,” he said.
“My life has been bound up with the rhinos since 1952 and I was personally responsible for getting them to the Kruger Park.”
Jooste said rangers had gone to the area of the sighting but could not locate the rhino.
“There has been rain on and off, which has made it difficult to find tracks, but parks personnel have not had a sighting of the animal,” he said. Jooste said there had not been much poaching at the park since January when 65 rhino carcasses were discovered.
“We’ve had a reasonable month in February, compared to January. We don’t claim victory, we don’t say it’s a trend or anything, but February has been a better month than most of the past year,” he said.
According to the Department of Environmental Affairs, there were 30 rhino deaths reported in the Kruger National Park in February.
Asked if there were signs of progress and co-operation with wildlife counterparts in Mozambique, Jooste said: “I would say all in all, yes. With the police this last week, there was a successful operation in the Limpopo National Park, and down south at the Sabie Game Reserve, the rangers did a hell of a job. In both instances, the co-operation with the police was good.”
Kruger National Park has been the epicentre of rhino poaching since 2008, and accounted for 606 of the 1004 rhino poached last year.
Conservationists have forecast that the tipping point towards extinction of the species has already been reached, with mortalities from poaching already exceeding the birth rate.
Kaziranga loses another rhino, horn chopped off
JORHAT: An adult rhino was killed by a group of suspected militants at Kaziranga National park on Sunday evening. The pachyderm's horn was chopped off before forest staff reached the spot.
The incident took place near the Gorakati anti-poaching camp in the Burapahar forest range bordering Karbi Anglong district at 7.30 pm on Sunday. A group of militants, equipped with AK series rifles, took shelter in the Karbi hills and shot the rhino dead for its horn.
"A strong group of militants were involved in killing the rhino. They used AK-47 rifles and fired at least 30 rounds during the attack. Our staff found empty cartridges from the spot," said park director M K Yadav. He added that on hearing gunshots, forest staff rushed to the spot and opened fire in retaliation, but in vain.
This was the seventh rhino killed in Kaziranga so far this year.
On January 25, a female rhino was shot dead and its horn was chopped off by poachers in Kaziranga. Park authorities said the government had taken up some new strategies to check poaching and work on a few such projects were underway.
The government is planning to set up at least eight towers for round-the-clock surveillance at the park.
Number of rhinos poached as today
108 rhinos poached since the beginning of the year... When will this stop???
Rhinos to be moved from South Africa to Botswana in anti-poaching drive
Up to 100 rhinos will be moved from South Africa across the border to Botswana's remote wilderness in an attempt to put them beyond the reach of rampant poaching, conservationists said on Wednesday.
The mass relocation comes after a record 1,004 rhinos were killed in South Africa last year and the failure of every measure tried so far to curtail the scourge, which is fuelled by demand for horn in Asia. The crisis is under discussion at a global summit in London on Thursday aimed at beating back the illegal wildlife trade.
The latest $8m (£4.82m) initiative was announced jointly by two conservation companies, Great Plains Conservation and &Beyond. They said each rhino would be tagged and microchipped for research and monitoring. A dedicated anti-poaching team will then work with Botswana's government to monitor the animals.
"There is a battle for Africa's wildlife raging as we speak," said Dereck Joubert, chief executive of Great Plains. "Rhinos are being poached at a rate of one every nine hours and the official number is 1,004 dead in 2013 alone.
"The unofficial number, because we simply do not find them all, is well over 1,000. Like everyone, I've been watching this desperate situation worsen, which is why Great Plains Conservation and &Beyond have decided to take action."
Joss Kent, chief executive of &Beyond, which relocated six rhinos from South Africa to Botswana last year, added: "Botswana has an excellent security system in place to protect these endangered animals and will be a safe haven for the relocated rhino.
"Translocations are fundamental to secure the ongoing survival of endangered species and this groundbreaking project aims to protect the species for future generations to enjoy. A project this size requires a strong partnership and a huge resource pool to pull it off."
The company said it would announce specific fundraising initiatives to enable tourism stakeholders, travel partners, tour operators and guests to help save the rhino.
South Africa National Parks welcomed the plan. Spokesman Isaac Phaahla told AFP: "The initiative would be a good one; we need every initiative to save the species."
South Africa is home to around 80% of the world's rhino population, estimated at more than 25,000. Most dwell in the vast Kruger national park, where more than 60% of South Africa's rhino poaching occurs.
Botswana's president, Ian Khama, is among the speakers at the London conference on the illegal wildlife trade. The landlocked southern African country can point to positive examples such as Khama Rhino Sanctuary, a reserve, where not a single animal has been poached since its creation 24 years ago.
The use of surveillance drones, the poisoning of rhino horns and the legalisation of the trade in horn have all been offered as solutions to South Africa's poaching crisis. The numbers killed have soared from 13 in 2007 to 333 in 2010, 448 in 2011 and 668 in 2012.
Prince William slams 'despicable' poaching
London - Britain's Prince William called on Wednesday for the "despicable" illegal trade in elephants, rhinos and tigers to be stamped out, ahead of an international conference to clamp down on poaching.
Representatives from 50 states have gathered in London for the talks, aimed at improving law enforcement in the - mainly African - countries where poaching is rife and stemming growing demand in Asia.
The London Summit on Illegal Wildlife Trade is being hosted by the British government and Princes Charles and William, who called it a turning point in the fight against trafficking.
"Tonight we are here with a single, shared purpose - to use our collective influence to put a stop to the illegal killing and trafficking of some of our world's most iconic and endangered species," he told guests at an evening reception.
"Never before has a group like this come together - in these numbers - to stop the illegal trade in wildlife. All of us in this room have a duty to make sure that tomorrow, 13th February, is a date that marks the beginning of the end of this despicable trade."
Around 25 000 elephants are killed each year by poachers, according to official estimates, and South Africa lost around 1 000 rhinos last year compared with just 13 in 2007.
Wealthy Asian consumers
Central African countries fare worst, with Gabon experiencing the biggest losses.
The rise is being fuelled by increasingly wealthy Asian consumers, who use rhino horn and tiger parts in traditional medicine and who demand ivory for jewellery and art works.
Rhino now trades at more than $60 000 per kilogram - more than the price of gold or cocaine.
Crucially, China's Forestry Vice Minister Zhang Jianlong will be at the summit, along with four African heads of state, from Chad, Gabon, Botswana and Tanzania.
Prince Charles and British Foreign Secretary William Hague will address the summit, which will also be attended by Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William, who recently came in for criticism after being pictured hunting wild boar.
Martial arts actor Jackie Chan and former Chinese basketball player Yao Ming will back the campaign with video messages due to be aired on Thursday.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) called for delegates to agree on the public destruction of stockpiles or seized wildlife products and for the introduction of bans on the trade in ivory until elephants are protected from poaching.
"In addition, increased measures to prevent the trafficking of ivory, rhino horn and tiger products are needed, including greater prioritisation of tackling wildlife crime by all relevant countries, improved intelligence sharing and greater monitoring of enforcement," it said.
"Measures are also needed to improve livelihoods, reduce poverty and therefore reduce the incentive to poach animals."
Sally Case, chief executive officer of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, called for domestic bans on ivory markets around the world, "especially in China and Japan".
Leaders, royals work to stop illegal wildlife trade threatening elephants, rhinos
The illegal wildlife trade takes the lives of 100 elephants a day, and rhino poaching increased by 5,000% between 2007 and 2012.
The six remaining subspecies of tiger are endangered, two of them critically. Three other tiger subspecies are already extinct.
Statistics like these are the reason it's time to treat the effort to stop the illegal wildlife trade "like a battle, because it is precisely that," says Britain's Prince Charles.
He and his son, Prince William, are among the high-profile global guests due to take part in the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade on Thursday, hosted by the UK government.
The fight against gorilla poaching Congo pygmies enslaved as poachers Rangers search for illegal ivory
Prince William also will attend talks hosted by the Zoological Society of London and a reception at London's Natural History Museum on Wednesday.
Charles and William released a nine-minute video message Sunday calling for the world to act.
"We have come together, as father and son, to lend our voices to the growing global effort to combat the illegal wildlife trade -- a trade that has reached such unprecedented levels of killing and related violence that it now poses a grave threat not only to the survival of some of the world's most treasured species, but also to economic and political stability in many areas around the world," says Charles.
William says he and his father are optimistic the "tide can be reversed."
"We have to be the generation that stopped the illegal wildlife trade, and secured the future of these magnificent animals, and their habitats, for if we fail, it will be too late," the younger prince adds.
William, whose wife Catherine gave birth to their son George last summer, said that since becoming a father he has become "even more devoted to protecting the resources of the Earth for not only my own son but also the other children of his generation to enjoy."
The video, which was recorded in November, ends with the pair saying the phrase "Let's unite for wildlife!" in Arabic, Vietnamese, Swahili, Spanish and Mandarin.
The aim is to be understood by as many people as possible living in the countries most affected by the illegal wildlife trade.
China and Vietnam are key markets for illegal animal products, such as bones, skin and tusks.
William, who has been a patron since 2005 of the wildlife conservation charity Tusk Trust, faced criticism Saturday in UK newspaper The Sun for reportedly going on a boar hunting trip to Spain with his brother, Prince Harry.
"Prince William has gone shooting -- a day before launching a campaign to stop wildlife being killed," the popular tabloid said.
Horn 'worth more than gold and platinum'
Prince Charles, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the Presidents of Botswana and Gabon are due to speak at the conference Thursday. The Presidents of Tanzania and Chad are also expected to be present.
The UK government says illegal ivory trade activity worldwide has more than doubled since 2007, with ivory selling for up to 1,200 pounds ($1,968) per kilogram.
"Rhino horn is now worth more than gold and platinum and is more valuable on the black market than diamonds or cocaine," a statement on the UK government website says.
With such lucrative profits to be made, criminals are eager to get in on the action. In 2006, only 60 African rhinos were poached, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The number has steadily increased to an estimated 1,000-plus in 2013.
One out of 13 elephants in Africa was killed illegally in 2012, according to the Zoological Society of London.
South Africa arrested more than 340 poachers last year -- but poachers sometimes fight back, making the work of park rangers dangerous.
At least 1,000 park rangers have been killed in the past decade, the UK government says.
Prince Charles said poachers make use of the kind of sophisticated weaponry used in warfare, hence his call to treat the fight against them like a battle.
The wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic argues that as long as demand for illegal wildlife products remains, criminals will seek to exploit it.
"Law enforcement efforts must continue to be at the front line in the battle to protect species in their range countries and in efforts to shut down markets for illegal wildlife products," said the network's director of policy, Sabri Zain.
"However, without a complementary effort to effectively address the persistent market demand that drives this trade, enforcement action alone may sometimes be futile."
Rhino horns sold on black market in Asia
Britain is to play host to a gathering in London in a bid to get an international agreement to stop the illegal trade in wildlife.
The trade is estimated to be worth more than £6 billion a year, with animals dying in great numbers to meet an appetite from unscrupulous dealers supplying people mainly in Asia.
Sue Lloyd-Roberts reports from Vietnam for Newsnight.
Have a look at the video: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-26127031
Rhino-poaching suspects killed in shoot-out
Two suspected rhino poachers were killed and two arrested at the Phinda Private Game Reserve in Zululand.
Musa Mntambo, spokesman for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, said the incident happened around 7pm on Wednesday.
“The Durban Organised Crime and Nyathi anti-poaching unit spotted four intruders and a shootout took place immediately,” he said.
“Two of the intruders were killed as a result.”
The men had on them an axe, a hunting rifle with a silencer and knives.
“With Wednesday’s arrest, we have now arrested eight people this year for rhino poaching, and the number of rhinos poached this year stands at eight,” Mntambo said.
All four suspects were from Mozambique and were suspected of being linked to numerous rhino-poaching incidents in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
Police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, said: “It is alleged that a group of unknown men entered the Phinda game reserve. When police officers approached them a shoot-out ensued, resulting in two suspects dying.
“Two other suspects, aged 40 and 42, were later arrested. An unlicensed firearm, axe and knife believed to be used in poaching were found on the deceased.”
Charges of illegal poaching and possession of an unlicensed firearm were opened by the police in Jozini. The suspects will appear in the Ubombo Magistrate’s Court soon.
Provincial police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni, said: “It is very important that we deal with these crimes by conducting such multi-disciplinary operations as police alone cannot win this battle. We will continue to hold such operations to (stop) syndicates that trade in our endangered species.”
Kevin Pretorius, the regional director of &Beyond, the holiday group that manages Phinda game reserve, said: “The onslaught facing our rhino population is dire, with 86 rhino killed last month alone.
“This relentless tide of poaching continues and thankfully there are dedicated, courageous people that are willing to sacrifice so much in order to save our natural heritage.”
We must act to save wildlife before it is too late
In the last few years, poachers killed around 60,000 elephants and over 1,600 rhinos.
At the same time the link between African criminals and terrorist activities – such as the Nairobi shopping mall attack – grew stronger.
It is impossible to know for sure the extent of the connection between wildlife crime and terrorist organisations, but the UN Secretary-General, the Kenya Wildlife Service and a number of non-governmental organisations have identified links to al-Shabaab and the Lord’s Resistance Army.
This deadly connection presents an opportunity for an unusual but necessary marriage. Military, security, development and conservation organisations must find uncharted common ground to effectively combat this issue.
Next week, world leaders will gather to raise awareness of this complex issue and, hopefully, come up with a plan of action to fix it.
Currently, the poachers have more sophisticated equipment than wildlife services and this discrepancy must be fixed.
Second, the effort should enlist the private sector. The security technology needed to protect wildlife is similar to the protection of other economic infrastructures.
Let’s hope that the London Summit will be a platform to defeat criminals and save wildlife in Africa before it is too late.
One man's war on the ivory poachers of Gabon
As a frenzy of ivory poaching in central Africa brings forest elephants to the brink of extinction, in Gabon a British-born zoologist has joined forces with the president to declare war on the hunters.
From the air the Minkébé National Park in the central African state of Gabon would inspire wonder in even the most jaded traveller. Its steamy equatorial rainforest stretches from horizon to horizon, unbroken by a single track or human habitation, punctuated only by occasional swamps and granite outcrops. It is a dense green jungle the size of Belgium, with towering trees – some hundreds of years old and 150ft high. The occasional giant with bright red foliage protrudes above the rest, catching the eye like a flicker of flame.
Minkébé appears impenetrable, virginal, a paradise uncorrupted by man. But that lush tropical canopy conceals temptation and evil in abundance. In the past decade as many as 15,000 of its 22,000 forest elephants have been slaughtered; destroyed by China’s lust for ivory and the avarice of its African accomplices. They have been killed by poachers with the help of illegal goldminers and Baka pygmies, the indigenous people of the forest. Supposedly a sanctuary, Minkébé has become a graveyard where the carcasses of elephants are devoured by carpets of maggots. There are no vultures to pick the bones clean; the forest is too thick.
Aerial surveillance is impossible so the killings became apparent only when the results of a survey based on dung findings were collated early last year. ‘It was worse than our worst nightmare,’ Lee White, the British-born zoologist who heads Gabon’s national parks agency, said. ‘Now,’ he added, ‘it’s a war.’
Across Africa, elephants are being slaughtered in record numbers, as a British government-sponsored summit for 50 heads of state and foreign ministers in London this month will hear. Up to 30,000 elephants a year are killed for their tusks, which now fetch about $900 a pound on the streets of Beijing or Shanghai. Elephant numbers have fallen from 1.3 million in the 1970s to barely 400,000 now.
Read more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/gabon/10606732/One-mans-war-on-the-ivory-poachers-of-Gabon.html
Wildlife wonders - creatures up close
From giant crocodiles and hungry polar bears, to spellbound sharks and inquisitive monkeys. The Natural History Museum has brought together stunning selection of images taken over more three decades by 10 of the world's greatest nature photographers.
See pictures on this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25763028
11 poachers killed in rhino war
Durban - South Africa’s rhino war for this year is off to another bloody start with seven poachers killed in a series of weekend gunfights with rangers in the Kruger National Park.
Eleven suspected poachers have been killed this month alone in the flagship national park by SA National Parks (SANParks) rangers and members of the SA Defence Force. Most of the gun battles happened at night after poaching gangs crossed the border from Mozambique.
At least 40 rhinos have been shot by poachers inside Kruger this month, with no let-up in the bloody rhino war that led to the record slaughter of 1 004 rhinos nationwide last year.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Officer Commanding the Kruger Rangers Corp, Major-General (Ret) Johan Jooste, revealed that there were “multiple incursions of up to 15 heavily armed (poaching) groups in Kruger at any given time”, especially during the full moon period when poachers were able to stalk rhinos at night in the hope of evading detection from the air and ground by anti-poaching patrols.
“They operate in groups of four to six. They are aggressive and engage and shoot at the rangers on sight, creating a daily, life-threatening situation,” he said.
Jooste said the recent recovery of a handgun at a contact scene suggested elevated levels of aggression from the poaching groups.
The latest deaths happened this weekend when there were four separate engagements between poachers and rangers in different parts of the 2-million hectare park.
SANParks said in a statement it was “appealing to the South African public to support efforts by rangers to stop the massacre of our natural heritage by greedy poachers, who are promised wealth by syndicates”.
Rangers also confiscated four hunting rifles, ammunition, poaching equipment and a pair of horns at the weekend.
The death of the seven latest suspects brings to 11 the number of poachers killed in contacts with SANParks rangers and military units this month.
Jooste said at least 123 rhino poaching suspects had been arrested last year inside Kruger. Nationwide, at least 343 suspects were arrested last year.
“We would like to ask the public, law enforcement agencies and our counterparts in Mozambique, to play their part, match the work that is being done by the rangers and we will reap the rewards and win this war,” he said.
SANParks did not respond to queries on Tuesday on how many suspected poachers had been killed in Kruger last year.
Last week, the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC noted that the death toll of 1 004 rhinos last year was the worst on record.
“The figure is more than 1.5 times the official figure of 668 rhinos killed for their horns in 2012 and brings South Africa’s white rhino population ever closer to the tipping point when deaths will outnumber births and the population will go into serious decline,” it said.
Mozambique was widely seen as both a transit point for rhino horn smuggling activities and an operational base for poachers who cross the border to kill rhinos.
“South Africa and Mozambique must decisively up their game if they hope to stop this blatant robbery of southern Africa’s natural heritage,” Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC’s rhino expert, said.
This year “must mark the turning point where the world, collectively, says ‘enough is enough’ and brings these criminal networks down. Rhino horn trafficking and consumption are not simply environmental issues, they represent threats to the fabric of society”.
42 Rhinos Poached this year
January is not even finished and there has already been 42 rhinos poached this year..
First lion cubs in 10 years spotted at Liuwa, Zambia
Two lion cubs have been sighted in Liuwa Plain National Park in Zambia, significantly marking the first birth of lion cubs in the park for well over 10 years. They were born three to four weeks ago to the protégé of the park’s famous lioness known as Lady Liuwa.
It is believed that this is the lioness’s second set of cubs and that she probably lost her first set due to inexperience. The father of the cubs is the park’s only male lion. The lioness has hidden her new cubs in thick bush, making it difficult to photograph them.
For more than nine years Lady Liuwa was a solitary, lonely lioness roaming the grassy plains of the park in search of fellow felines with whom to mate and hunt, the sole survivor after massive poaching and illegal trophy hunting wiped out the species in the park in the 1990s. The extraordinary story of how she turned to humans for companionship and how the conservation team at Liuwa Plain National Park helped to find her a family became one of the most moving wildlife films of all time to screen on National Geographic TV in 2010. Lady Liuwa has a dedicated Facebook and other social media profiles and has also featured prominently in the international media.
Lady Liuwa’s protégé, the mother of the two newly born cubs, was one of two young females introduced from Kafue National Park in 2011. Her sister was killed by a snare in 2012 and she, probably traumatised by this event, ran away towards Angola. In a dramatic rescue mission she was darted, airlifted back to the park, and placed in a fenced boma. African Parks then took the decision to place Lady Liuwa in the boma to encourage the two lionesses to bond. After two months the two lionesses were released back into the wilds and have since been inseparable.
Two male lions, which were introduced to Liuwa from Kafue in 2009, also headed towards Angola in mid-2012 and one was reportedly shot dead by villagers in Angola. His companion, who made it safely back to Liuwa is now the resident male in the pride and father of the two new cubs.
“We are overjoyed to have sighted the cubs and will closely monitor the new offspring to minimise threats to them,” said Liuwa Park Manager, Raquel Filgueiras. “The birth of the cubs will help safeguard the future of lions in Liuwa and strengthen the park’s tourism offering. It is an event in which all stakeholders including ZAWA, the BRE (Barotse Royal Establishment), the Liuwa communities and the park itself can be proud.”
Record number of African rhinos slaughtered by poachers in 2013, government says
The South African government has released a new report documenting a record number of rhinoceros killings last year – evidence of a fast-growing poaching wave that threatens the very existence of an already rapidly disappearing animal.
ABC News reports South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs says 1,004 rhinos were killed in 2013, an increase of 336 animals over the prior year, and the highest number of deaths since the agency began recording the fatalities.
The recent spike reportedly marks a vast departure from prior years, as only 36 rhinos were killed by poachers during the entire 16-year period spanning 1990 to 2007.
“These criminal networks are threatening our national security and damaging our economy by frightening away tourists,” Jo Shaw, a representative of the World Wildlife Fund’s South Africa chapter, reportedly said in a written statement.
“Rhino poaching and rhino horn trafficking are not simply environmental issues, they represent threats to the very fabric of our society.”
The news comes just one week after the Dallas Safari Club made headlines by auctioning off a permit to hunt a black rhino in the African nation of Namibia. The club says the permit was auctioned to raise money for efforts to protect and conserve the species.
The winner, Corey Knowlton of Texas, has since said he's had to hire full-time security due to death threats against him and his family after his name was leaked via the Internet.
ABC News cites the World Wildlife Fund in reporting only about 25,000 rhinos remain in Africa -- an incredible reduction from the more than 1 million that lived there at the turn of the 20th century.
Most of the survivors are reportedly located in South Africa -- and most of the poaching occurred in the nation’s Kruger National Park, a wildlife refuge, despite the recent addition of more park rangers and surveillance aircraft, like unmanned drones.
UKIP leads fight against stronger wildlife protection
In todays vote in the European Parliament just 14 MEP’s voted against the proposal to improve the fight against wildlife crime. Half of those 14 were British MEP’s and 6 of the 7 were United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) members.
The 7 British MEP’s who voted against the wildlife crime resolution were:
John Stuart AGNEW (UKIP)
Gerard BATTEN (UKIP)
Derek Roland CLARK (UKIP)
William (The Earl of) DARTMOUTH (UKIP)
Nigel FARAGE (UKIP)
Paul NUTTALL (UKIP)
Nicole SINCLAIRE (We Demand A Referendum)
The country with the next largest number of MEP’s who voted against the resolution was the Netherlands with 4 MEPs voting against the measure.
The remaining 7 rebels of the vote were:
Lucas HARTONG (Netherlands)
Patricia van der KAMMEN (Netherlands)
Daniël van der STOEP (Netherlands)
Auke ZIJLSTRA (Netherlands)
Philippe de VILLIERS (France)
Hermann WINKLER (Germany)
Zbigniew ZIOBRO (Poland)
The question has to be what does UKIP have against rhinos, elephants and tigers to make them vote against a measure that will help combat the illegal trade in some of the world’s most endangered species. Even Nick Griffin of the BNP voted to help protect wildlife.
It is so sad that any party is willing to play politics with species heading for extinction for no valid reason. It is extremely sad to see that action being undertaken predominately by one British political party.
Rhino Hunt Auction Stirs More Controversy
On Saturday evening the Dallas Safari Club (DSC) awarded the permit—which allows a hunter to kill one black rhinoceros, an endangered species, in Namibia—to the auction's anonymous winner for a reported $350,000. The club had said it hoped to raise between $250,000 and $1 million.
Soon after the auction, the winner was reportedly identified by a fellow hunter.
"Well, I was willing to go $340,000 for the black rhino, but Corey Knowlton went $350,000 and won the bid!" hunter Wes Mundy posted on the Facebook page for San Antonio-based Double Diamond Outfitters. "Plus there was another $100,000 donation!! DSC and their supporters came through in a huge way for conservation again tonight!!"
A minister from Namibia was reportedly "jumping up and down in elation at the result because the funds go to conservation efforts in the country." (Read more about the controversy surrounding the hunt.)
Guns for Conservation?
The DSC says all proceeds from the auctioned permit—one of five Namibia will allow this year—will go to support the Conservation Trust Fund for Namibia's Black Rhino.
The DSC has not returned a request for comment. The group had previously argued that the hunt will help wildlife officials manage the endangered animals and bring in much-needed funds for conservation efforts.
The auction took place during the club's 2014 meeting at the Dallas Convention Center, where security was on high alert after the DSC told the FBI that it had received "death threats" from animal activists over the auction.
One of the email threats said, "For every rhino you kill, we will kill a member of the club."
The permit was the first of its kind to be sold outside Namibia, though Americans have participated in legal rhino hunts there after obtaining permits through local brokers.
According to media reports, Knowlton is an active hunter who arranges hunts around the world. He is a consultant with the Hunting Consortium and has been linked to the company Sonoran Ultimate Hunting in Prescott Valley, Arizona, which arranges deer hunting trips in Mexico. The website coreyknowlton.com redirects viewers to the company's website, sonoranultimatehunting.net.
The nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund condemned the auction, saying it "could set a dangerous precedent for similar hunting clubs seeking to profit from selling rare permits to kill endangered animals."
The group's executive director, Stephen Wells, said, "The Dallas Safari Club should respect the intent of international regulations that attempt to conserve and protect endangered animals who should be preserved in the wild, not stuffed by a taxidermist for a Texan's trophy room."
The "hacktivist" group Anonymous is reportedly targeting hunters involved with the auction through its OpFunKill effort on animal welfare. The group claims it has disrupted Internet service on the websites Nambia.com, dallasconventioncenter.com, and dallasonlineauctioncompany.com.
In a manifesto, the group wrote: "Unspeakable and terrible things happen every second of every day while the whole planet is forced to watch, as these cold hearted soulless zombies cause horrific suffering and death to animals, both common, vulnerable and critically endangered species."
Last week Jeff Flocken, the North American regional director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, wrote in a NationalGeographic.com blog post that "the idea of creating a bidding war for the opportunity to gun down one of the last of a species ostensibly in the name of conservation is perverse and dangerous to buy into."
Flocken wrote, "If an animal like the rare black rhinoceros is worth the most with a price on its head, what possible incentive does this provide range countries and local people to move the species toward recovery when the biggest buck can be made short-term by selling permits to kill them to the highest bidders?"
He added that there are an estimated 1,800 black rhinos left in Namibia, out of a worldwide population of 5,055. The total figure represents a decline of about 96 percent over the past century, driven largely by habitat loss, poaching, and, in recent years, a market for the animals' horns in Asia.
Black rhino hunt permit auctioned in US
A permit to hunt and kill an endangered Black Rhino in Namibia has been sold at a US auction for $350,000 (£212,000).
The Dallas Safari Club in Texas says the hunt will help protect the species by removing an old aggressive rhino, and funding future conservation.
However, the auction has been fiercely criticised by conservationists, and has even drawn death threats.
Namibia is home to about a third of the world's 5,000 black rhinos, and issues just three hunting permits a year.
It is the first time a permit has been auctioned outside the southern African nation.
'A sad joke'
The auction was held amid tight security at a Dallas convention centre, where dozens of protesters had gathered.
The winning bidder - who has not been named - will hunt an old, non-breeding male rhino.
The organisers say such animals actually pose a threat to younger rhinos, which they sometimes charge and kill.
All proceeds will be donated to the Namibian government and will be earmarked for conservation efforts, safari club officials said.
An endangered east African black rhinoceros and her young one walk in Tanzania's Serengeti park (file photo)
Experts say growing demand for rhino horn in Asia is driving up instances of poaching
Animal rights groups described the hunt's conservation claim as "perverse" and "a sad joke".
"This auction is telling the world that an American will pay anything to kill their species," Jeffrey Flocken of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) told the Associated Press.
"This is, in fact, making a spectacle of killing an endangered species."
More than 80,000 people signed online petitions against the auction.
The FBI says it is investigating a string of death threats over the auction.
At present it is estimated that there are around 20,000 white rhinos left.
Experts say that growing demand for rhino horn in Asia is driving up instances of poaching.
It is being fuelled by the belief in countries like China and Vietnam that powdered rhino horn has medicinal powers and can impact diseases like cancer. Horns can sell for around $65,000 a kg.
Rhino hunt auction draws death threats
The FBI is investigating death threats made against members of the Dallas hunting club that intends to auction off a rare permit to kill an endangered black rhino, an FBI spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Katherine Chaumont said the agency is reviewing multiple threats against the Dallas Safari Club. The club on Saturday plans to auction a permit the African country of Namibia granted for the hunt. The group has said all proceeds will go toward rhino conservation efforts.
"The FBI is aware of the threats," Chaumont said. "If a violation of federal law is determined, additional action or investigation as necessary will take place."
The club's executive director, Ben Carter, said the threatening messages — about a dozen sent by email and posted on the group's website — appear to be orchestrated by people who oppose hunting. Other messages have been left with club sponsors criticizing support for the organization.
"I've had death threats on my family," Carter said. "We've had a number of death threats to our members and (threats about) what would happen if we sell the permit.
"Some crazy stuff," he said.
The auction is being held amid tightened security as part of the club's three-day annual convention in Dallas, which is expected to draw about 45,000 people. The group announced in October that it would auction the permit, one of only five offered annually by Namibia. The permit is also the first to be made available for purchase outside of that country.
An estimated 4,000 black rhinos remain in the wild, down from 70,000 in the 1960s. Nearly 1,800 are in Namibia, according to the safari club.
Poachers long have targeted all species of rhino, primarily for its horn, which is valuable on the international black market. Made of the protein keratin, the chief component in fingernails and hooves, the horn has been used in carvings and for medicinal purposes, mostly in Asia. The near-extinction of the species also has been attributed to habitat loss.
Carter said the permit could fetch $1 million. But organizers hope to at least break the previous high bid for one of the Namibia permits, which is $223,000.
Wildlife groups have criticized the promotion of a hunt targeting an endangered animal, but Carter said it's meant to cull aggressive rhinos in an effort to protect the larger herd. He said the Namibia hunt will focus on an older, nonbreeding male with a pattern of aggression toward other rhinos.
Carter said that wildlife experts say culling a herd is an acceptable habitat management practice.
"When you have the science and facts behind it, and people don't want to listen and just become emotional, you just wonder how people's brains work sometimes," he said.
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said culling a herd is acceptable for a population that's abundant, but not for a species on the federal endangered species list.
"We've had a standard for more than 40 years that you don't shoot an animal that's endangered," he said Wednesday.
Jeffrey Flocken, North American regional director of the Massachusetts-based International Fund for Animal Welfare, also said Wednesday that culling the herd is the wrong approach, given the limited number of black rhinos in existence. The better approach is to protect the rhino by establishing a secure habitat that welcomes the paying public to view the animal, he said.
"This auction is telling the world that an American will pay anything to kill their species," Flocken said. "This is, in fact, making a spectacle of killing an endangered species."
Kenyan rhinos cannot survive in the wild, says charity
Rhino Ark says animals are increasingly vulnerable to organised poaching gangs and should be protected in sanctuaries
After roaming free for millions of years, rhinos may be able to survive in Kenya only if they are protected behind fences in sanctuaries, a leading conservation charity has said.
Kenya has about 850 black and white rhinos out of approximately 25,000 in Africa, but more than 50 were killed for their horns in 2013, up from 30 killings in 2012, and those that remain are increasingly vulnerable to organised poaching gangs, said Christian Lambrechts, director of Nairobi-based conservation group Rhino Ark.
"The situation in the last year has deteriorated. The gangs are extremely well organised and people from inside the Kenya Wildlife Service have been found to be colluding [with them]," he said.
"There is a growing realisation that private land holders do not have the ability to safeguard all of them. Rhinos cannot remain in the wild. They must be brought into sanctuaries."
Lambrechts, a former UN Environment Programme (UNEP) officer, said up to 100 rhino could be eventually relocated in the Aberdare mountains in central Kenya, which has been surrounded by a 250 mile electrified fence built by Rhino Ark with the help of dozens of communities along its length.
"Kenya is lacking room for around 100 rhino. The Kenya wildlife service is looking to safeguard all the rhino in the country," Lambrechts says.
But he said the Aberdare fence, completed in 2009, did not stop poachers killing two out of the eight rhinos living in the hills this year.
"Never have fences been needed more, but they are not enough. The fence has not stopped organised poaching. Fences only stop opportunistic poaching. Nor are sanctuaries the complete answer. Rhinos are being lost from inside them too."
The problem of protectingProtection of rhinos is part of larger social and economic problems facing Kenya and other countries, Lambrechts said.
Unless conservation grapples with issues such as corruption and economic development, it is unlikely to succeed. The past two years had seen benefits for other wildlife in the Aberdare range and improvements in the condition of the forests and the catchment areas of rivers that provide much of the water needed by Nairobi and Kenya's expanding cities.
According to a UNEP study, the Aberdare fence, which cost £6.5m, provides benefits in "goods and services" worth £50m a year for 4 million people who live on the foothills and high slopes of the Aberdare range, where 30% of Kenya's tea and 70% of its coffee is produced.
The number of charcoal kilns has greatly reduced and there are far fewer cattle in the forests, said Lambrechts.
"Not only have other animals, like the bongo, recovered their populations since the fence was completed in 2009, but there has been a reduction in illegal felling of timber. Land values have increased, there is less contact between humans and wildlife and so less disease, and cattle rustling has stopped," he said.
"People living by the fence have found they can now harvest crops right up to it. It also gives their families security. Children can go to school without fear of encountering elephants and other wild animals."
The Kenyan government, aware of the importance of its five "water towers" – upland areas that provide 90% of Kenya's fresh water – is working with the group to erect similar fences around degraded Mount Kenya and Mount Eburu. More than 25 miles of the 258 mile Mount Kenya fence has been constructed and it is expected to be complete within 10 years.
The Mount Eburu fence will be more controversial than the others, however, because it encircles illegal settlements and will regulate charcoal burning and tree felling. About 2,500 families have been evicted and resettled.
"It's a hot issue," said Lambrechts. "There had been a free-for-all, with charcoal burners and illegal loggers. Charcoal burning will not be stopped but people will now need permits. The evictions were done sensitively and were pretty well organised. People moved ahead of the date they had to and went back to their families."
Other conservationists say fences may work in some areas but not others. Cathy Dean, director of Save the Rhino International, said: "I worry that fencing a wilderness area seems like a retrograde step, or an admission of defeat. What happened to deploying well-trained, equipped and motivated rangers, and outreach to local communities to bring them onside? – though I accept that the big bucks now paid for rhino horn means it's possible to corrupt many.
"The fear is that we will end up with just a few rhino populations in a highly militarised place. That is not attractive."
Lambrechts does not see the Kenyan fences as a return to the "fortress" conservation model pioneered in Kenya in the 1980s by Richard Leakey. This involved fences and armed patrols shooting poachers on sight but was shown to alienate communities, and often led to resentment of animals and landowners.
"The difference between this approach and the old model of 'fortress conservation', is that everything is now done for the community. In the old days it was against people. Now it's with people. The fences are built by them, maintained by them. People respect them. If people did not want a fence, they would just tear it down."
A Rhino Hunt To Save Rhinos? Dallas Safari Club Makes A Case For Its $1 Million Auction
Next weekend’s Dallas Safari Club convention will feature a flock of exhibitors, a herd of stuffed animals … and an auction that’s kicked up international controversy.
In our Friday Conversation, executive director Ben Carter talks about how the club hopes to raise as much as $1 million to protect the rare black rhino by auctioning off the right to hunt one.
Carter says the rhino to be hunted is an old bull that's past the point of helping sustain the herd.
This is the sixth such auction in Namibia, but the first to be held outside the country. Carter says 100 percent of the money raised will go toward conservation efforts.
Interview Highlights: Ben Carter On...
Mr Tord Magnuson endorsing Africa Cries
We are pleased to announce that Mr Tord Magnuson has endorsed Africa Cries in its cause and fight to stop the extinction of wildlife’s most endangered species; rhino, elephant, gorillas and lions. Africa Cries want to thank Mr Magnuson and we look forward to making a difference together.
Tord Gösta Magnuson (born 7 April 1941) is a Swedish business executive and the Consul General for Mauritius. He is married to Princess Christina, the youngest of the older sisters of King Carl XVI Gustaf.
Total number of rhino poached in 2013
A total of 946 rhinos poached this year, compared to 668 last year and 448 in 2011...
Nick Price endorsing AfricaCries
We are pleased to announce that the famous professional golfer, Nick Price, has endorsed Africa Cries in its cause and fight to stop the extinction of wildlife’s most endangered species; rhino, elephant, gorillas and lions. Africa Cries want to thank Nick Price and we look forward to making a difference together.
Nicholas Raymond Leige Price (born 28 January 1957) is a Zimbabwean professional golfer who has won three major championships in his career: the PGA Championship twice (in 1992 and 1994) and The Open Championship in 1994. In the mid-1990s, Price reached number one in the Official World Golf Ranking. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2003.
Read more on Nick Price: http://www.nickprice.com/index.html
More than 900 rhino killed in SA
JOHANNESBURG - More than 900 rhino have been killed in South Africa in 2013.
“543 of those have been poached in the Kruger National Park. However we are also cushioned by the fact the arrests have also been quite significant. In the Kruger National Park alone we have arrested 123 people,” said Reynold Thakhuli of South African National Parks.
SANParks said it is stepping up its efforts to protect the endangered species as the number of animals poached continues to increase.
In 2012, 668 rhino were killed, nearly 300 less than this year.
R100 000 reward for rhino poachers
Durban - Poachers who hacked two rhino and a calf seem to have been after more than their horns. The calf was beheaded. Its mother had her horns crudely hacked off, ears sliced off, and skin and flesh along her back removed.
A R100 000 reward has been put up by wildlife authorities for information that would lead to the conviction of the poachers. They are concerned at the new mutilations.
The trio were found in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park at the weekend, said chief executive Andrew Zaloumis.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesman, Musa Mntambo, said rangers had been on routine foot patrol last Friday in the remote Tewate Wilderness section, part of the Eastern Shores area.
They spotted a rhino calf roaming on its own. This was suspect because rhino young stay very close to their mothers. Rangers returned the next day to follow up and made the grisly discovery.
Mntambo said they found the mother rhino in the bushy grassland and the 2-year-old calf about 100m away. “It was estimated that they were killed about seven days earlier,” he said.
The carcass of the third rhino was also found.
Zaloumis said the animals had been shot in what he described as a “cold blooded murder”.
The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa Rhino Initiative Co-ordinator, Chris Galliers, said on Wednesday this rare removal of body parts other than horns was even more worrying.
“This is different. We can’t say they (poachers) beheaded the calf to save time because that would have actually taken longer and needed more effort to chop off and carry.”
He said he was most concerned about why the poachers had severed other body parts as well.
“Syndicates are in the business of marketing rhino horn and rhino-related products. The use of various body parts is something that is not unheard of. It would not be surprising if the other body parts were being marketed as an additional item for sale, promoted by illegal syndicates.”
At an estimated R645 000 a kilogram, rhino horn costs more than the rhino itself. Ezemvelo, in September, auctioned a female white rhino for a record R550 000.
Zaloumis confirmed the R100 000 reward. He described the poaching as a “most cruel and calculated assault”.
Mntambo said he had not seen this kind of mutilation recently.
He said although most of the poaching incidents were brutal, this degree of maiming was a stark contrast to a case where rhino had their horns neatly sawed off.
This happened in the Weenen Game Reserve in Northern KZN in October. Seven rhino were believed to have been drugged, their horns meticulously cut off with minimal bleeding.
At the time, Ezemvelo Rhino Intervention Co-ordinator, Cedric Coetzee, said it appeared as if the poachers had wanted to keep the rhinos alive. It was suspected they were drugged with etorphine (or M99), a drug available legally under strict conditions only for veterinary use and often used to immobilise large mammals.
The killing of the rhino in iSimangaliso was reported to the police. Zaloumis said they had also brought in investigators and advocates who specialise in wildlife crimes as well as forensic experts and labs to ensure leads and evidence were fully pursued.
“Wildlife authorities have had to step up their game as poachers became more sophisticated in their methods.”
According to the Department of Environmental Affairs, 940 rhino have been poached in South Africa since the beginning of the year. KZN has lost 84.
Of Tiger and Lion Bones and the Legalizing of the Rhino Horn Trade
At the CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP16) in Bangkok earlier this year, I attended a press conference where the South African Minister for the Environment announced that South Africa had tried a wide range of measures to curtail rhino poaching, but she confirmed that so far they had failed and it was now time to look at the option of legalizing the trade. This proposal will result in a heated debate for months or years to come. Discussions will be very polarized with neither side willing to make compromises on what they see as core principles.
I have visited several ranches in South Africa and seen happy, live rhinos enjoying what to me looked like a good quality of life. It made for a pretty convincing argument that having a dehorned rhino grazing with its calf is a better option than an orphaned calf trying to suckle on its slaughtered mother.
However, on my last trip to Laos and Vietnam, in October this year, I once again investigated the trade in tiger bone—another traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) product in the same league as rhino horn—and I found a situation that might have relevance when discussing the proposed legalizing of the rhino horn trade.
First, a bit more background on the tiger bone/cake trade, a demand which is most pronounced in Vietnam with tiger wine being the Chinese equivalent.
In 2010 a group of Vietnamese journalists managed to get into one of the biggest tiger farms in Laos. They reported that a tiger carcass was selling for $140 a kilogram. The buyers, usually from China or Vietnam, choose a live tiger and then pay per kilogram after the cat has been shot or electrocuted. Seven to 10 kilograms are deducted from the weight for the intestines. The price in 2010 per kilogram was quoted $140 per kilogram for cats above 100 kilograms, a little less for tigers below that. In October this year, a Swiss print journalist and myself managed to get a Vietnamese investigator to visit the same farm and film with a hidden camera. In 2010 the Vietnamese writers mentioned a stock of 100 tigers. Now the farm has over 300, plus some bears and clouded leopards. The farm is also being expanded to hold about 700 tigers. This will be achieved with breeding and importing other captive borne tigers, mostly from Thailand and Malaysia. Plus there are new such farms being set up. All of this is illegal under CITES resolution (14.69) passed in 2012 and stating:
“Parties (to the convention) with intensive operations breeding tigers on a commercial scale shall implement measures to restrict captive populations to a level supportive ONLY FOR CONSERVING WILD TIGERS. Tigers should not be bred for their parts or derivate.”
There has never been a valid explanation how tiger farming in any form will support the conservation of wild tigers since they cannot be reintroduced into the wild. Commercial captive breeding might be viewed as having the potential to satisfy demand and bring down prices of tiger parts and as such taking the pressure of the wild populations, however that seems not to be what is advocated with the above notification.
As with other such international regulations, the above is totally ignored in countries like Laos where even national laws do not seem to apply to rich foreign investors. The CITES enforcement regime would allow a country like Laos to be suspended with all legal aspects of the trade having to stop, but that is a measure of last resort as far as CITES is concerned. The policy seems to be to increase the number of member states irrespective of their ability or willingness to comply with the convention.
The breeding at this farm in Laos is clearly commercial, which appears to be legal in Laos. The cats are pumped full of antibiotics with weekly injections due to previous outbreaks of epidemics which not only killed a lot of tigers in many of the farms but in some cases also affected farm workers. The estimates are that this farm alone sells several hundred tigers a year to be turned into TCM.
In addition to the numerous tiger farms across Asia, increasing the supply far above what the poaching of the remaining wild tiger population could ever have produced, there are also the imports of lion bones and skeletons from South Africa which are sold as “tiger bone” to be turned into tiger wine (China) or tiger bone cake (Vietnam). We are talking of several hundred skeletons being exported and imported on an annual basis and during our investigations we were told of a three ton shipment about to arrive. CITES trade statistics show the export of 101 full lion skeletons from South Africa in 2010 and over 500 skeletons in 2011 (no figures are available yet for 2012).
When comparing prices for full tiger carcasses between Hanoi, the Laos and Vietnam border, and the prices quoted by the journalists in 2010, the ‘per kilogram’ rate now averages out at $200—a 30 percent increase since the Vietnamese media team visited three years ago. This despite the drastic increase in supply of both tiger and lion bone.
If we then put this in context with the estimate of only 3,000 tigers remaining in the wild and only a handful left in a country like Laos, the message is that prices are still going up, even more so for wild tigers (a wild tiger can be identified by the color and damage to its canines which are stained and chipped after a lifetime of hunting and catching wild prey, while a captive tiger has snow white teeth with no cracks or breaks as they are fed on chickens). The poacher today also gets more per kilo then he did three years ago and while it might still be a fraction of the sales price of $25,000 per carcass, it is still more than enough incentive for qualified tiger poachers to spread out from countries like Vietnam to far off destinations in Malaysia and Myanmar to get their hands on some of the world’s last wild tigers.
Returning to the trade in rhino horn and the debate to legalize or not, the question arises—would the same supply and demand scenario play out if the market was supplied with stocks of legal rhino horn?
Supposedly one of the main objectives of South Africa discussing the possibility of legalizing the rhino horn trade is to flood the market with stores of rhino horn which will cause the price (currently $60,000 per kilo) to crash, decreasing the incentive for poachers.
This is the opposite of what we have found in our investigations into the trade in tiger and lion bones. The additional supply from captive farming and the introduction of imported lion skeletons—which now exceeds by far the supply from the remaining wild tiger population—has not decreased the price. In fact, the price of tiger carcasses has increased drastically in the last three years.
There are many more tigers today in all of the countries involved in this industry than there used to be, but they’re captive bred and living in small cramped cages waiting to be electrocuted at the request of a Chinese or Vietnamese buyer.
Value additions to lion bones sold into the Traditional Chinese Medicine Market:
Trophy hunter in South Africa books a lion ‘hunt’ of a captive born cat for approximately $8,000-$25,000 (the cost of hunting a female is a fraction of the cost of hunting a male).
The taxidermist, in collaboration with the hunting company arranges for the sale of the skeleton to a large scale buyer in Laos for $1,500 per skeleton.
The importer sells skeletons in bags to Vietnamese buyers for $700-$800 per kg (a hundred kilo lion would yield about 18 kilograms of bone) or a sales price of about $15,000.
Vietnamese buyers from Ha Tinh province buy the lion bones by the ton and make down payments in the hundred thousands of dollars.
Bones are shipped across the Laos-Vietnam border with no CITES permits and in contravention of the treaty.
In Vietnam a 15 kilogram skeleton of a lion is mixed with approximately six kilograms of turtle shell, deer antler and monkey bone, and is then boiled down in large pots over a three-day period.
This yields approximately six to seven kilograms of tiger cake, which is then cut into chocolate like bars of 100 grams resulting into 60 or 70 portions which will be marketed as tiger bone cake.
Each bar will be sold at a price of around $1,000 to buyers who believe in the value of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the myth associated with the consumption of “tiger cake” which in most cases is consumed by being added to a glass of rice wine.
The skeleton of $1,500 will have been turned into a value added product (with the addition of bone material from other species) of some $60,000-$70,000.
Karl Ammann is a conservationist and wildlife photographer who has lived in East Africa for the last 35 years. He has authored and co-authored a range of titles covering wildlife and conservation issues. He has published features in a wide range of publications and produced a number of investigative documentaries which explored many aspects of the illegal wildlife trade.
920 rhinos poached this year
Numbers of rhinos poached this year is now 920...
Rhino poaching survivor pregnant
Port Elizabeth - A rhino which survived an attack by poachers in the Eastern Cape has fallen pregnant, the Kariega Game Reserve, outside Port Elizabeth, said on Monday.
The pregnancy of the rhino, named Thandi, came as people remembered former President Mandela, a man of hope, said the reserve's general manager Alan Weyer.
"As a nation and as individuals, we will forever be inspired by his strength and courage in the fight for what is right," he said.
Weyer said the pregnancy was a small step towards winning the fight against poaching, but that the reserve remembered Mandela's words when he said: "It always seems impossible until it's done."
The rhino survived an attack in which two bulls died at the reserve on 2 March last year.
Poachers tranquillised all three rhino with darts, and hacked off their horns, leaving them to bleed to death. One of the bulls died in the course of the night, but the other two were found alive and treated by wildlife veterinarian Dr William Fowlds.
"Their strength and courage prompted our rangers to name the surviving bull Themba and the cow Thandi - the isiXhosa words meaning hope and love respectively," Fowlds said.
The bull later died. The cow's wounds reopened this year in a suspected attack by a rhino bull, and it had to be operated on.
"Her story has touched the lives of so many people across the globe and her courage is reflected in our love for her and the species that she represents. The prospects of a successful pregnancy and birth represent the hope of survival," said Fowlds.
"In a crisis which threatens us with despair, that hope, as insignificant as it may seem for some, is what we cling to for dear life," he said.
After the poaching attack, a new bull was purchased for breeding on the reserve.
"We were very pleased when the new bull and Thandi were spotted mating by some of the rangers, and have had our fingers crossed for the best possible outcome.
News of Thandi's pregnancy was incredible and a real miracle if the tests are correct," said Kariega co-owner Graeme Rushmere.
He said a calf would be a real reward for the cow's courage and everyone’s efforts to save her.
"We hope that she is able to lead a normal and peaceful rhino life after her horrific ordeal. She has been an amazing ambassador for rhino and for the many dedicated people fighting the war to end rhino poaching. We are simply delighted," said Rushmere.
R.I.P Nelson Mandela
Mandela’s compassion extended to animals—he was a patron of the National Council of SPCAs, which works to improve the standards for animal welfare in communities in South Africa.
Read more: http://www.peta2.com/blog/nelson-mandela/#ixzz2mrjsLEtC
Rhino poacher sentenced to six years in Limpopo
A Mozambican man has been jailed for six years by the Makhado Regional Court for attempted rhino poaching, Limpopo police said on Tuesday.
Musa Simango, 19, was sentenced on Monday, Colonel Ronel Otto said.
He was found guilty of attempted rhino poaching, unlawful possession of ammunition, and trespassing.
The 19-year-old Mozambican national and two of his accomplices were cornered by a ranger in the Punda Maria area of the Kruger National Park in October. A shooting ensued. One man, Derrick Maluleke, 34, was killed. A third man escaped.
Rhino endangerment is a problem
Rhinos are majestic but well-armored beasts with thick skin and enormous protruding horns on their noses. Many people just see rhinos as large ferocious animals that roam the African plains and are considered among the most deadly animals in Africa.
So, why would anyone mess with a rhino — and what for? Well, in many Asian and Chinese cultures, it’s believed the horn of a rhino can cure many diseases, one of which is cancer. Due to these needs, many rhinos are being poached just for their horns. With rhino horns going for as much as $100,000 per about two pounds of horn, according to Sports Afield, it is said to be more valuable than gold, diamonds and illegal substances such as cocaine.
Poachers know this, and they continue to slaughter rhinos in pursuit of the extravagant amount of money available. A recent study found that poaching has more than doubled in recent years, and if this continues, rhinos could be extinct in the wild in about 20 years.
There have been many attempts to try to reduce the poaching of rhinos. In 1977, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora banned the trade of rhino horns.
Due to economic growth in many Chinese cultures, the demand for rhino horns has increased dramatically in the past five years. Many countries in Africa have increased security within their parks by hiring more rangers. A few years ago, some countries tried to help rhinos by cutting the animals’ horns off so poachers wouldn’t kill them.
This was unsuccessful for two reasons: One was that rhinos’ horns grow back, and the poachers would still kill them for just a little bit of the horn. Second was that after a poacher tracks a rhino for a day and sees one without the horn, the poacher will kill it for the simple fact that next time they poach, they won’t be tracking a hornless rhino.
There are still many ideas about how to stop poaching but not all are acceptable. The most effective way, as of today, is to increase security within rhino grazing areas, but with increased security comes the demand for more money. You can help save rhinos by donating a little money to rhino conservation programs. You’ll possibly save the rhino population for more generations to see.
Read more: http://www.alligator.org/opinion/columns/article_90379902-5b0c-11e3-843f-001a4bcf887a.html
South Africa's rhino fight takes to the air
29 November 2013
South African National Parks (SANParks) is to beef up its arsenal in the fight against rhino poaching with the deployment of a Gazelle military helicopter.
The Gazelle was donated by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation and African aerospace and defence group Paramount, and forms part of an on-going capacity building partnership announced a year ago. A Seeker MKII Surveillance aeroplane, also donated by the foundation, has been operating in the Kruger National Park since December 2012.
Speaking at the helicopter's unveiling at Letaba in Limpopo province on Thursday, SANParks CEO David Mabunda thanked the Ichikowitz Family Foundation for their involvement, which has included the provision of fuel, pilots, specialised training and operational capacity.
Ivor Ichikowitz, the chairman of the foundation and founder of the Paramount Group, said the Gazelle would give SANParks superior airpower in its fight against rhino poachers. The light attack helicopter has a maximum airspeed of 310 kilometres per hour and a range of 670 kilometres.
"A critical part of this helicopter's capabilities is its speed and the fact that the Gazelle has a night vision capable cockpit," Ichikowitz said, adding "Part of our contribution is to the training of the pilots to be able to fly at night, thereby fundamentally taking the war directly to the poachers."
Kruger rhino census
Mabunda, outlining the results of a census conducted a few months ago, said it was estimated that the Kruger National Park was home to between 8 400 and 9 600 white rhino.
SANParks scientists conducted the census using a 40% block count survey method. The census took three weeks to complete in September, making use of three helicopters with a total of 220 flight hours.
The bottom line, Mabunda said, was that despite escalating poaching, increased anti-poaching operations had ensured that there were relatively stable rhino numbers in the park since 2008.
"We are certain that without intense anti-poaching operations, Kruger's rhino population would have begun significantly declining by now."
Ichikowitz said that, with the Gazelle now part of SANParks' anti-poaching operations, "we hope that the fight for the rhino will reach a tipping point in 2014".
He added that his foundation was assisting SANParks with further training of its game rangers in advanced bush tracking techniques, and together with Paramount would be providing SANParks with tracker dogs and related training in 2014.
Read more: http://www.southafrica.info/news/rhinos-291113.htm#.Upiyu9rxvIU#ixzz2m37KSRTx
13 rhino poachers arrested in 2 weeks
Cape Town – Thirteen rhino poachers have been arrested in two weeks, bringing the total number of alleged poachers arrested since January to 285.
According to the Department of Environmental Affairs 267 poachers were arrested in 2012 highlighting an increase of 18 arrests with one month left in 2013.
“The reality is that without the input from various law enforcement agencies, the picture would have been much worse,” spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Affairs, Albi Modise, told News24.
Despite the concomitant increase in the number of rhinos poached for this year the department has lauded the combined effort of SANParks rangers, SANDF, and the police.
"Were it not for these men and women working at the coalface of rhino poaching in South Africa, many more of these iconic animals will have been poached this year," he said.
The number of rhino killed for their horns in South Africa since January has increased to 860. The majority of rhino (521) have been killed in the Kruger National Park (KNP).
The KNP borders Mozambique which is known to be fertile ground for illegal international crime syndicates.
The demand for illegal rhino horn from the Asian black market, where it is regarded as a status symbol, is believed to be the driver behind the rampant poaching.
According to earlier reports rhino poaching between 2008 and 2013 has cost the South African economy R1.1bn. Mostly due to loss of game land through risks of keeping rhino and expensive security measures.
South Africa is home to 25 000 rhino, around 80% of the world’s rhino population.
The rhino is dying – thanks to China and Vietnam. How can we end this evil trade?
Like most seven-year-olds, my daughter Lucy loves the big African animals. The waddling hippo, the stately giraffe, the gloriously prehistoric rhinoceros. So she was duly excited when I told her I was off to Zambia to see these creatures last month.
And see them I did. All except one.
The reason I didn’t see any rhino in Zambia is because there are no rhinos in Zambia (apart from a few reintroduced specimens kept in a box by German zoologists). There are, literally, none. Not one. Rhino count: zero.
Perhaps the absence of rhinos in Zambia is down to the fact that there weren’t many in the first place? Nope. In the 1970s Zambia had Africa’s third largest rhino population: 12,000. But through the 80s and 90s these were all shot for their precious horns. And this slaughter was and is done in the most disgusting ways: for brutal images see here and here (warning: very graphic images).
In about 2005 the poachers must have butchered the very last rhino in Zambia – like the man who cudgeled the last dodo on Mauritius. One wonders what went through their minds as they did it? Perhaps nothing, as they are villainous morons.
Sound like I’m angry? I am. It takes the enormous absence of a great animal to realise the enormity of its extinction. The annihilation of Zambian rhino was just a staging post: the obliteration of this remarkable animal is accelerating.
Rhinos have been poached to near-oblivion in most countries in the world, from Java to Kenya. Six days ago, one subspecies, the black western rhino, was declared extinct. The last great redoubt of the rhino is South Africa, where 22,000 are thought to survive: 80-90 per cent of the global population.
But the rhinos are not safe here, either.
Last month – this is not a typo, last month – 100 rhinos were poached in South Africa, making a total of at least 800 this year (double the rate of a few years back). Right now South Africa is losing four per cent of its rhino, annually, and things are accelerating. Much of the carnage is occurring in the best protected areas, like Kruger National Park.
Why is this happening? It would, I reckon, be easier for a certain kind of Lefty environmentalist, if they could blame Americans and Europeans. Some strive to do just that. But they are not involved in this evil game: it seems the main people to blame are east Asians, e.g. the Chinese and, in particular, the Vietnamese.
A minority of Chinese have got it into their tiny minds that rhino horn (essentially made of keratin, like fingernails) is a cure of all things, especially impotence. They are killing rhinos so they can get it up. The Chinese will pay $100,000 a horn to achieve this non existent effect.
Even more disturbingly, some nouveaux riche Vietnamese are using the horn as – wait for it – a hangover cure (which it isn’t). It is thought the awesome, status symbol price of powdered horn is actually part of the appeal – a form of bling. And these cretins are abetted by a tiny cadre of corrupt Africans, their heads turned by the mindblowing sums on offer: the rhino trade is worth a quarter of a billion quid a year.
To underline the evil, a large slice of the poaching profit is allegedly funneled – via militarized poaching syndicates in Mozambique – to terrorist groups like al Shabaab. Yes: the guys who killed the kids in Kenya’s Westgate shopping mall.
What can we do? If you’re as angry as me, your reaction is: shoot the poachers on sight. But they are already doing this, and it isn’t working. Some others are dehorning the animals, to make them less attractive, but the poachers kill the dehorned animals out of spite, anyway.
The only solution to the failed “rhino wars” is, probably, the most drastic of all: legalise the trade. Build vast rhino ranches. Shave some of the horns from domesticated rhino (this can be done painlessly: it grows back) and send it off to the idiots in Shanghai and Hanoi. This will bring down the price. Reduce the demand. Shunt the poachers and their helicopters out of business.
Meanwhile we must put intense pressure on East Asian governments, especially the Vietnamese, to arrest the traders and users of wild rhino horn. Punish them. Lock them up. Give them two years inside.
That should cure their hangovers.
And if we don’t do this? Before my seven-year-old daughter reaches adulthood, the only rhinos she will ever see will be in a zoo. And the plains of Africa will be emptied forever.
Rhino dies at Montgomery zoo
A Greater Indian rhinoceros has died at the Montgomery Zoo just a month after the death of her baby.
WSFA-TV reported that the female rhino named Jeta was 12 years old.
The cause of death isn't yet known, and zoo officials say tests from a necropsy could take more than a month to complete.
Jeta was most recently in the news after successfully giving birth through artificial insemination.
Jeta's baby, a rhino named Ethan, was considered a milestone in the zoological community. The 4-month-old baby appeared healthy, but it died in October of unknown causes.
The baby rhino was named after the south Alabama boy held hostage in an underground bunker earlier this year.
Rhino poaching figures increasing alarmingly
825 rhinos poached since the beginning of the year.
Poachers kill rhino in brazen attack
Isiolo - Poachers slaughtered a rhino in one of Kenya's best guarded wildlife parks, officials said on Tuesday, in a brazen attack highlighting the risks gunmen are taking during a surge of killings.
"Poachers infiltrated Lewa's borders during the full moon on 17 November and killed Meluaya", a 17-year-old black rhino suspected to have been heavily pregnant and with a two-year-old calf, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy said in a statement.
"Both horns were removed and the poachers got away with them."
Lewa's more than 60 rhino are monitored every day by special surveillance teams, part of a security force of 150 staff. They include armed rangers and dog handlers who patrol with bloodhounds around some 150km of electric fence surrounding the park.
Conservancy personnel also use aerial surveillance to monitor the animals and try to track poachers.
Lewa is privately owned but run as a non-profit dedicated wildlife area, and came to world attention when Britain's Prince William stayed there with Catherine before proposing marriage.
Poaching has risen sharply in Africa in recent years, with rhinos and elephants particularly hard hit.
Earlier this month, Kenya's Attorney General Githu Muigai said the country had lost 90 elephants and 35 rhinos to poachers so far this year.
Asian consumers who acquire smuggled rhino horn - which is made of keratin, the same material as human fingernails - believe that it has powerful healing properties.
Isiolo county deputy governor Mohamed Guleid condemned the killing and pledged to "do everything to protect our national heritage and pursue the killers".
Earlier this month Kenya started inserting microchips into rhino horns. Wildlife officials plan eventually to microchip all rhinos in the country, just over 1 000 animals altogether.
Inserting the chips entails shooting the rhino with a tranquiliser dart fired from a helicopter.
US offers reward for Laos elephant, rhino poachers
WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday offered a $1m reward to help smash a Laos-based poaching network which is slaughtering endangered elephants and rhinos for their precious horns and tusks.
The reward, the first of its kind by the US state department, targeted the Xaysavang network operating from Laos as far afield as South Africa, Mozambique, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and China.
"The involvement of sophisticated transnational criminal organisations in wildlife trafficking perpetuates corruption, threatens the rule of law and border security in fragile regions," Mr Kerry said in a statement.
He estimated that annual profits from wildlife trafficking reached as much as $8bn-$10bn, and were then pumped into other "illicit activities such as narcotics, arms, and human trafficking".
Another effect of poaching was that it "destabilises communities that depend on wildlife for biodiversity and eco-tourism", he said.
Offering the department’s first reward under the transnational organised crime rewards programme, Mr Kerry said the Xaysavang network "facilitates the killing of endangered elephants, rhinos and other species for products such as ivory".
He revealed that several major seizures of illegal wildlife products had been traced back to the network.
The lucrative Asian black market for rhino horn, used in traditional medicine, and ivory has driven a boom in poaching across Africa.
Police in the semi-autonomous Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar on Wednesday said they had seized a 12m container hiding several tonnes worth of ivory, according to estimates.
The seizure comes as authorities in Tanzania crack down on poaching amid a surge of killings of elephants and rhinos in the East African country.
The flight to freedom
Blindfolded and dangled upside down from a helicopter, rare black rhino is airlifted to safety from poachers
A rare black rhinoceros hangs upside down strapped by its ankles from a helicopter hundreds of feet in the air as part of a conservation drive to encourage more breeding.
While the sight might be unsettling to some, it is considered safer than transporting it on the ground because the animal spends less time under anesthetic.
This individual is the latest of about 140 black rhinos that have been translocated to new homes since the beginning of the WWF's Black Rhino Range Expansion Project.
The relocation, one of 10 which took place in the KwaZulu-Natal region of eastern South Africa, comes just days after the Western Black rhino, a subspecies of the black Rhino, was officially declared extinct after last being seen in 2006.
Project leader Dr Jacques Flamand said: 'We used to transport rhinos by lorry over very difficult tracks, or airlifted in a net. This new procedure has proved to be a safer bet.
'As a vet, this is my method of choice because it is quick and harmless to the rhinos, which is always our main concern in these operations.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2502994/Black-Rhino-Range-Expansion-Project-gets-black-rhino-airlifted-safety-poachers.html#ixzz2kcZycud1
The elephants' graveyard: Horrifying pictures show how more than 300 animals have been by poachers using cyanide
Ivory poachers wiped out hundreds of animals in Zimbabwe by poisoning watering holes with cyanide
More than 300 elephants died in agony after consuming contaminated water
Elephants need salt to survive and the hunters cynically knew they would be drawn to the poison
Ivory trade in which tusks can command £10,000 per pair driving more people into poaching
Zimbabwe’s environment minister has vowed to clampdown on illegal hunting
The withered corpse of an elephant cow lies next to the decomposing carcass of her calf in this horrifying image of what could be the worst massacre of wildlife in almost a quarter of a century.
Illegal hunters have killed more than 300 elephants, and numerous other safari animals, in Zimbabwe's largest national park by poisoning waterholes with cyanide.
The result of the indiscriminate killing has wiped out wildlife in great swathes of the once untouched wilderness of Hwange reserve which attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.
Conservationists have been particularly concerned by the ruthless use of cyanide by poachers to kill they prey.
The animals were struck down when ‘salt licks’ next to pools where they drink and bathe were contaminated with the deadly chemical.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2470219/Elephants-graveyard-300-animals-poisoned-poachers.html
Two white rhino poached in Zimbabwe
HARARE – Zimbabwe’s conservation efforts have been dealt another blow after poachers killed and hacked off the horns of two endangered white rhino in a park in the south of the country.
One of the rhinos was over 50-year’s-old and the pair were poached from the Matopos National Park, where an intensive rhino protection zone is in place.
The state National Parks and Wildlife Authority has dispatched a team of highly-skilled rangers from western Hwange and the southern city of Bulawayo to track the poachers.
The animals are believed to have been killed on Thursday.
The news will be a huge blow to conservationists and wildlife workers who are already dealing with the fallout from a huge elephant poaching scandal in Hwange National Park.
Fewer than 700 black and white rhino remain in Zimbabwe.
The authorities are hesitant to publicise the exact whereabouts or numbers of rhino for fear of attracting poachers.
Western Black rhino is officially extinct and the Northern White and the Javan rhinos will follow unless something is done, conservationists warn
A species of African rhino last seen in 2006 is now officially extinct, according to the world's largest conservation network.
The latest review of animals and plants by the International Union for Conservation of Nature found the Western Black rhino has been totally wiped out.
Conservationists have blamed poachers and lack of conservation while warning that other rhinos could follow.
According to the IUCN, Africa's Northern White rhino is 'teetering on the brink of extinction' while Asia's Javan rhino is 'making its last stand'
The subspecies of the Black rhino - which is classified as 'critically endangered' by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species - was last seen in western Africa in 2006, CNN reported.
Simon Stuart, chairman of the IUCN species survival commission, said: 'In the case of the western black rhino and the northern white rhino the situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation measures had been implemented.'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2490777/Western-Black-rhino-officially-extinct-Northern-White-Javan-rhinos-follow-unless-conservationists-warn.html
British army joins fight against elephant and rhino poaching
The British army is, for the first time in many years, taking a key role against the escalating illegal wildlife trade killing rhinos and elephants in Africa.
A total of 25 paratroopers in Kenya are on rotation at the army's base in Nanyuki, 200km north of Nairobi, and will provide training to Kenyan rangers who are battling increasingly militarised poachers.
Kenyan parliamentarians are currently considering proposals to increase the penalty for poaching from the current maximum punishment of three years in prison to lifetime sentences. Kenya said last month it was going to microchip the horn of every single one of the country's thousand rhinos in a bid to combat the trade, which is largely driven by demand from south-east Asia.
The environment secretary, Owen Paterson, who is in Kenya this week, said of the partnership: "Illegal poaching is having a devastating effect on some of the world's most iconic species and we must work together to tackle it. By joining forces with those on the front line in Kenya, our armed services will be able to provide training and support to the courageous people who put their lives on the line every day to protect these animals."
Brigadier Duncan Francis, defence attache based in Nairobi, said: "This is an excellent example of the British army taking positive action on an issue that is close to many people's hearts. It is also the first time that we have carried out this kind of work. The 25 members of the parachute regiment involved in this training will be making an immense contribution to securing the future of some of the world's most endangered species."
The soldiers will not take part directly in operations against poachers, but provide training on how to patrol better, working more effectively as a team, and what to do if they encounter poachers. Members of the Kenyan Wildlife Service, Kenyan Forestry Service, and conservation organisation Mount Kenya Trust will receive the training in the coming weeks.
An NGO-organised conference in London next February will discuss how to improve law enforcement to tackle the illegal poaching of elephant, rhino and tiger parts.
Rhino horn dug up in Centurion garden in Johannesburg
Rhino horns worth R17.3 million, some buried in a garden – that’s what police stumbled upon during a sting operation in Centurion, near Pretoria.
They arrived at a secure complex where they first found a car with a hidden compartment used for horns, microchip scanners, a bandsaw and hi-tech scales.
Two horns were in the car.
The following day, an eagle-eyed policeman noticed that soil in the garden had been disturbed, and six rhino horns wrapped in clingfilm were unearthed.
One of the horns was so fresh, it was later found to have been hacked from a rhino just a few days earlier.
The details of Operation Whisper, which bust the rhino-poaching syndicate, were revealed in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
Colonel Gerhard Vermeulen of the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory told how he had arrived at the crime scene to find two rhino horns in a car.
They had been stashed in a hidden compartment, between the rear seat and the boot.
“If you had opened the boot you wouldn’t have been able to see it,” said Vermeulen.
In the dock was Vietnamese citizen Gulit Chu Duc, 23, who was arrested on May 31 last year at the Centurion complex.
He has pleaded guilty to two charges related to the transportation and possession of rhino horns.
His arrest was the culmination of Operation Whisper, during which undercover SAPS members had sold two rhino horns in KwaZulu-Natal and then followed the contraband to Gauteng.
In a statement, Chu Duc said he had picked up a parcel from a person in Bruma, Joburg, and placed the parcel in his car.
Vermeulen told the court that in the garage he also found a rhino horn in a bandsaw.
“It appeared to me that someone was in the process of cutting up the horn,” he said.
On the floor were two micro-chip scanners.
He believed the scanners were used to locate microchips left in the horns.
The following day when Vermeulen searched the garden, he found six more horns.
The horns were sent for DNA testing and compared to a genetic rhino database. They got a match on one of them.
The horn belonged to a male rhino poached in the Hluhluwe Umfolozi game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal on the same day as the Centurion bust.
The animal had been killed a few days earlier.
A fingerprint matching Chu Duc was found on some of the plastic wrapped around the horn, said Vermeulen.
Advocate Mannie Witz said his client was not part of a syndicate – “What he is, is the most dispensable person in the world.”
He claimed the vehicle Chu Duc was driving was registered to the Centurion complex’s landlord, who also owned a game farm in Klerksdorp, where legal rhino hunts were conducted.
Witz said there were legal permits to hunt rhinos.
Vermeulen said no permits were found relating to the eight seized horns.
“If these horns were legally hunted, why would they need to transport the horn in a secret compartment or hide them in the garden?” he asked.
Chu Duc’s sentencing hearing will continue on December 6.
Rhino poaching was no smash-and-grab kind of crime, but had a highly organised structure.
This is according to Colonel Gerhard Vermeulen of the SAPS’s Forensic Science Laboratory.
Speaking in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on Friday, Vermeulen described how the price of rhino horns escalated as it moved up the crime syndicate. At the bottom level was the poacher – he said police had found that the poacher could make between R45 000 and R90 000 for each rhino.
Next level up was the local receiver in the area.
This was often the person who provided the firearm.
“It is difficult to determine what a level two will make, but in a recent case, we arrested a person who had several million rand in cash on him,” said Vermeulen.
“He told me this was one month’s earnings.”
Further up the chain was the national courier, who was often also the exporter, according to Vermeulen.
At this level, the horn’s value jumps to R500 000 a kilogram, he said.
Mozambicans take a stand against rhino poaching
Mozambicans living in South Africa are taking a stand against rhino poaching in the country.
A campaign to curb the slaying of rhinos has been launched in Mhinga village outside Malamulele in the north-eastern side of the Kruger National Park in Limpopo.
The campaign is being led by the Mozambican non-profit organisation - "Mvumbanu" - a Xitsonga/Shangaan word meaning togetherness.
Mvumbanu chairperson Admiro Maluleke says in many cases, rifles from the Mozambican civil war are used for poaching.
“When we discovered that people are killing these poor defenceless animals within our communities, this worried us a great deal. We thought it was a good for idea for us to educate our communities on preserving our wildlife not destroying it. We are going to be working with communities living on the border of South Africa and Mozambique and hopefully put a stop to the killing of rhinos.”
Texas hunters to auction permit to kill black rhino
Washington (AFP) - A Texas hunting club said Friday it aims to raise up to a million dollars for endangered black rhinoceroses by auctioning off a permit to kill one in Namibia.
"First and foremost, this is about saving the black rhino," said Ben Carter, executive director of the Dallas Safari Club, which is hosting the auction early next year.
Black rhinos are internationally considered an endangered species and the World Wildlife Fund says about 4,800 are alive in the African wild.
Carter said in a statement sent to AFP that the Namibian government "selected" his hunting club to auction a black rhino hunting permit for one of its national parks.
The permit is expected "to sell for at least $250,000, possibly up to $1 million. The Conservation Trust Fund for Namibia's Black Rhino will receive 100 percent of the sale price," said the statement.
Namibia has an annual quota to kill up to five black rhinos out of the southern African nation's herd population of 1,795 animals.
A single permit issued to a US hunter in 2009 to kill a black rhino fetched $175,000 for the Namibian Game Products Trust Fund which pays for conservation efforts, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Tim Van Norman, chief of the branch of permits at the FWS said the US government has not yet issued any permit to the Dallas Safari Club to return a rhino's carcass to the United States.
The individual hunter who is identified as the winner of the auction would first have to pass certain background checks and the animal chosen for the hunt would have to be approved as being beneficial to the conservation of the species for the US government to allow the trophy to come back inside US borders, he said.
Van Norman said Namibia has determined that older black rhino males that have already produced offspring and are in reproductive decline are the best targets for hunting.
"Black rhinos are very territorial so you will have an older male that is keeping younger males from reproducing," he explained.
"By removing these older males from the population, you get an increase in the production of calves. Younger males are able to impregnate the females that are in that area so you get more offspring than from some of these older males."
The DSC said the auction would take place at its annual convention January 9-12, 2014 in Dallas.
The winning hunter will have to hire a guide to lead the hunt and will be accompanied by Namibian wildlife officials.
Limited hunting is a conservation strategy that is supported by US wildlife officials, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species -- all of which list rhinos as endangered, according to the Dallas hunters' group.
The Humane Society of the United States described the news of the auction as "disturbing" and vowed to campaign against the issuance of a US permit to return the trophy.
"The world is seeing a concerted effort to preserve the very few black rhinos and other rhinos who are dodging poachers' bullets and habitat destruction," said Wayne Pacelle, president of the HSUS.
"The last thing they need are wealthy elites from foreign lands coming in to kill them for their heads."
He also questioned the ethics of wealthy, competitive trophy hunters who say they want to kill an animal in the name of conservation.
"Shooting a black rhino in the wild is about as difficult as shooting a parked car," he said.
"If these are multimillionaires and they want to help rhinos, they can give their money to help rhinos. They don't need to accompany their cash transfer with a high caliber bullet," he said.
Rhino owner claims law favours poachers
Multimillionaire John Hume believes the law is stacked against rhino owners, who, he says, sometimes have to risk their lives to protect their property.
Hume's son, Richard, appeared in the Malelane Magistrate's Court, in Mpumalanga, yesterday charged with attempted murder after shooting an alleged poacher on the Mauricedale game reserve, which the family owns, on September 24.
Hume, the biggest private rhino owner in South Africa, said that his son came across five men on the farm who had poached a warthog and a nyala on the reserve .
He shot at them and, though the circumstances of the shooting are still to be verified in court, one of the men - 28-year-old Sabelo Maphungla - was hit in the back of the head.
He was arrested along with two other men. The other two fled.
Said Hume: "I have a small army guarding my rhino and it is costing me a fortune every month.
But [the guards] are sh*t-scared of firing a shot at poachers because, if they were to hit them, they would also be charged with murder."
Mpumalanga police spokesman Brigadier Selvy Mohlala said the police viewed the matter as "serious" and "we believe he has a case to answer".
"The suspect was shot in the head and was rushed to hospital. He is still in hospital," said Mohlala.
Though most of Hume's rhinos have been moved to his farm in North West, there are still several on the Mpumalanga reserve on which the shooting took place.
Two weeks ago Hume lost a female rhino and her unborn female calf to poachers at his North West farm.
So far this year 746 rhino have been killed in this country, 63 in Mpumalanga.
Richard Hume's case was postponed to January 8 for further investigation.
The trial of the suspected poachers was postponed to November 6.
Rhino born in insemination experiment dies at Ala. zoo
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A baby Indian rhinoceros born in an experiment with artificial insemination has died unexpectedly at the Montgomery Zoo.
Zoo officials said the death of the 4-month-old rhinoceros named Ethan on Friday was "sudden and unexpected" and that the cause is unknown.
The 4-month-old rhino, Ethan, was named after Ethan Gilman, the Alabama boy rescued from a bunker after a six-day standoff in Midland City in February. Officials say the boy visited the zoo and bonded with the rhino's mother, who was pregnant at the time, WAKA-TV reported.
A necropsy will be performed to determine the cause of death, said Sarah McKemey, a public relations director for the zoo.
McKemey said nothing obvious was wrong with the rhinoceros prior to his death Friday.
Ethan made national news, with the "Today" show filming at the Montgomery Zoo for a story on the calf's milestone birth.
The Cincinnati Zoo had worked with the Montgomery Zoo to make the birth possible.
The sperm was collected from Himal, a male rhino at the Montgomery Zoo, to impregnate the female Jeta after the two proved too aggressive toward each other to mate.
Montgomery Zoo staff monitored the roughly 15-month pregnancy and reported afterward that the birth went well.
The Indian rhinoceros is an endangered species, and Ethan's birth was seen as a sign that artificial insemination could be a valuable tool to manage the remaining population, according to an article on the Cincinnati Zoo's website.
Monica Stoops, a reproductive physiologist with the Ohio facility, collected a rhino's sperm in 2004. It was stored at minus-320 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-195 Celsius) in Cincinnati for eight years before it was brought to Alabama, thawed, and used in the insemination procedure.
"This is the first known calf, of any rhino species in the U.S., to be produced by (artificial insemination) and be born and thrive in captivity," the Cincinnati Zoo said in a statement when Ethan was born. The zoo also noted that the Indian rhino is an endangered species and described the technique as "a repeatable and valuable tool to help manage the captive Indian rhino population."
Nepal arrests 14 over rhino poaching
At least fourteen alleged members of a gang of rhinoceros poachers have been arrested in Nepal, officials say.
Those arrested include Buddhi Bahadur Praja, the alleged leader of a cross-border smuggling ring.
Police accuse Mr Praja of killing more than 12 rhinos in Nepal in the past six years. There has been no immediate comment from any of those arrested.
Researchers say rhinos are killed so their horns can be used in traditional medicines, despite no proven benefits.
"It was a joint operation by the Nepalese army and the special police," Kamal Jung Kunwar, a senior official at Nepal's Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, told the BBC.
"Fourteen people have been arrested in this operation in the past three weeks. We have seized two guns and four bullets from the gang."
Mr Kunwar said it was the biggest arrest of poachers in a single operation in recent years.
"It was one of our informers who provided us vital clues about the location of these poachers," he added.
Nepal's protected forests were estimated by a census in 2011 to be home to more than 500 rhinos, most of them in Chitwan National Park, about 120km (75 miles) south-west of the capital Kathmandu.
Nepal faced a serious problem of rhino poaching about 10 years ago when the country was affected by civil war between government forces and Maoist rebels.
In 2002, about 37 rhinos were killed by poachers, triggering grave concern over the future of one-horned rhinos.
Their population dropped from an estimated 612 in 2000 to less than 375 in 2005.
But numbers have increased to more than 500 after a series of anti-poaching measures were taken by the authorities.
"This year so far only one rhino has been killed by poachers in Chitwan Park," Mr Kunwar said.
Officials say there are more than 1,000 Nepalese soldiers in the Chitwan national park involved in anti-poaching activities. They operate from more than 40 positions, some deep inside the forest.
Elusive Sumatran rhino caught on camera in Borneo
A Sumatran rhino, thought to be extinct in eastern Borneo, has been caught on camera in the rainforest.
Hidden cameras have captured images of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino on the Indonesian part of Borneo island, where it was thought to have long ago died out, according to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF).
Sixteen camera traps -- remote-controlled cameras with motion sensors frequently used in ecological research -- filmed the rhino walking through the forest and wallowing in mud in Kutai Barat, East Kalimantan province.
The footage, filmed on June 23, June 30 and August 3, is believed to show different rhinos although the WWF said confirmation of this will require further study.
There were once Sumatran rhinos all over Borneo but their numbers have dwindled dramatically and they were thought to now exist only on the Malaysian part of the island.
But the research disclosed Wednesday, a joint effort between the WWF and authorities in Kutai Barat, shows that the animal is still present on the Indonesian side of Borneo.
Have a look at the video on the link below:
REASONS WHY THE CURRENT SITUATION WILL FAIL OUR RHINO AND CAUSE THEIR EXTINCTION.
1. Our national parks probably have less rhino than we hope. Almost certainly they do not find or do not report all the rhino that are poached. With predators and scavengers evidence is quickly dispersed. All the rhinos that crossed into Mozambique when the fence was lifted are long dead and none have been reported as poached.
So if rhino numbers in our National Parks are less and getting lesser the poachers will obviously find it harder to find rhinos in our National Parks and that will put more pressure on commercial farmers, making it more likely that they will give up. The same situation will apply to our commercial farmers if the security in our National Parks improves. So either with the security getting better or our numbers reducing in our national parks the heat and the expense for our commercial farmers is ominous.
2. If private, commercial game farmers calculate their costs (capital, holding, feeding and security) correctly, they have no chance of paying their running costs, even if they sell all their progeny. As the security costs continue to rise they will realise this and dispose of their rhino instead of breeding with them.
3. Our local communities can never get to breeding rhinos (for the same reasons as above).
4. Any strategy to reduce demand in rhino horn is never going to work in time, considering we only have 20 000 rhinos left in S.A. and we are probably going to lose 1 000 of them this year alone. By 2016, we will probably be losing 2 000 rhinos per year. Keeping in mind that it is primarily adult, breeding rhinos that are poached, we probably only have about 2-3 years to come up with a viable solution for our rhinos. We have no problem with people trying to reduce demand for horn; we simply feel that it will not happen soon enough to save our rhinos. Nevertheless, any reduction in demand is good for rhinos.
If we happened to be stupid enough to listen to the idiots who say we should burn our rhino horn, the price on the black market will immediately double and so will the orders to the poachers, who would become more determined and find further ingenious ways to kill our rhino.
To a lesser extent, we are pushing up the price on the black market by stopping old horn from long dead rhino leaving the West. We are also stopping large South African stock piles from getting to the East.
It is simple logic that the less rhino horn that gets to the East the more orders will go to the poachers. So our actions are helping the poachers and killing our rhino. Unfortunately this is often driven by people who are so irrational and narrowed-minded in their views that they don’t care if our rhino go extinct. There are some individuals in the world that are so keen on collecting money from the rhino crisis that they do not want to see this logic. They are therefore also helping poachers to kill our rhinos.
There is only one answer to give our rhinos at least a fighting chance.
Kenyan Makes 900-Km US Trek to Fight Elephant Poaching
Jim Nyamu is a man on a mission. With Kenyan flag in hand, he has spent the past month crossing the northeastern United States on foot, stopping along the way to tell people how a growing demand for elephant ivory, especially in Asia, has fueled an increase in poaching that could drive some elephant populations to extinction.
Why United States? Because Americans, Nyamu says, aren't aware of the severity of the problem.
"Many people ask me the same question: '[Why should we as Americans] be bothered by the poaching which is happening?' " he says shortly after completing his 900-kilometer trek from Boston to Washington. "And I still say back to them that America is still the second leading consumer of ivory.”
Since his arrival in the nation's capital, where his visit has been timed to coincide with Friday's International March for Elephants — an event that includes simultaneous marches in about 30 cities around the world — he's been discussing the elephants' plight.
A primary challenge he encounters, he says, is that people often admire products made from ivory without associating the items with the elephants' demise — that when poachers cut off the elephants' ivory tusks, the animals usually die.
The World Wildlife Fund says nearly 100 elephants are killed every day in Africa, illegally, by poachers.
According to Crawford Allan, WWF North American international wildlife trade monitoring program director, poaching has been particularly devastating for a subspecies known as the forest elephant.
“Over the past 10 years, they have lost about 50 percent of the elephants in the forests of Africa and, therefore, in the next 10 years, there is a potential that all forest elephants will be gone completely," he says. "That whole subspecies will be gone, leaving the savannah elephants only in the rest of eastern southern Africa.”
Allan says deterring poachers who are often driven by organized, transnational criminal syndicates, is a massive challenge for African nations, whose rangers are often underfunded, poorly trained and lack the equipment required to cover vast swaths of land in order to protect elephant populations.
“You are looking for the needle in the haystack, literally, a lot of the times," he says. "Elephants are very big animals, but actually in a huge landscape, they are very, very small to find and detect. And so, it is very, very hard to protect those animals.”
As for Jim Nyamu, his foot campaign to raise awareness about poaching will not end in Washington, as he has recently planned long walks on the West Coast of the United States and in China.
635 rhinos poached since January 2013
Rhino killings jump following South African announcement on rhino horn trade
On the eve of World Rhino Day a new study has shown that the number of rhino killed each week has surged since South Africa announced its plans to establish a legal market in rhino horn. The study by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) show that before the announcement an average of 15.36 rhinos were being killed weekly and since the announcement the average has increased to 18.6.
The EIA claim that from January 1 to March 13,2013, an average of 15.36 rhinos were poached each week in South Africa. On March 14, Minister Molewa revealed her support at the meeting of the member nations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Bangkok, Thailand, for a legal international rhino horn trade. CITES has long banned such a trade.
Since the Minister’s announcement, a weekly average of 18.6 rhinos were poached between March 14 and September 19, totalling 505 rhinos. Today the 2013 total has now reached 663 animals, just five short of South Africa’s 2012 record total of 668 poached rhinos. Kenya and India have also reported increased numbers of their rhinos poached this year.
EIA President Allan Thornton said: “South Africa is stimulating an ever-increasing and unsustainable demand for rhino horn in Vietnam, China and other countries that is fuelling the rhino poaching epidemic. South Africa’s policy signal to the global marketplace that rhino horn is a smart investment commodity is unleashing a tsunami of destruction on South Africa’s rhinos.”
The news comes following the publication of a report by TRAFFIC and the WWF that three time more people in Vietnam want to use rhino horn than currently do.
Mary Rice, Executive Director of EIA’s London office, explained “Rhinos are already being slaughtered at an unsustainable rate to feed the demand for an unsubstantiated ‘medicine’ in Vietnam,”
She continued, “Powerful commercial interests in South Africa are seeking to cash in on their stockpiled horn at the expense of the conservation and survival of South Africa’s rhinos. Legalising rhino horn trade will reward the criminal kingpins behind the poaching, pushing rhinos inside and outside of South Africa ever closer to extinction.”
South African businessman behind elephant poisonings
Zimbabwean police are bringing their investigations into the deaths of at least 64 elephants by cyanide poisoning in the Hwange National Park to an end. They have revealed that a South African businessman is behind the killings and that he has been active in cyanide poisoning since 2009.
Police named him only as Ishmael and that he used a Chivu farmer and ivory buyer Farai Chitsa to distribute stocks of cyanide to local people in Pelandaba and Pumula areas of Tsholotsho.
Interrogations of those held over the poisoning case has revealed information that will be either acted on or stored for later use.
Chitsa was arrested when his truck became stuck in sands while collecting tusks from poachers. Two brothers – Sipho and Misheck Mafu - have also been arrested and have provided police and wildlife investigators with wide-ranging information.
Read more: http://wildlifenews.co.uk/2013/south-african-businessman-behind-elephant-poisonings/
KwaZulu-Natal becomes first state to poison rhino horn
Some private rhino conservancies have injected their rhino’s with chemicals so that the horns are poisonous for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine and yesterday (10 September) South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) became the first state authority to announced that they have also started to poison their rhino.
While the chemical cocktail that the state is using is claimed not to cause intentional deaths of those consumers popping rhino horn pills and powders, state officials do admit that the horns are now extremely toxic and consumption will cause ‘serious’ sickness.
Wildlife officials say that those who consume rhino horn originating from their state can expect ‘vomiting, diarrhoea, nerve disorders and other dose-related health problems’.
Part of the chemical cocktail is a bright red dye to warn people that the horn is poisonous to consume. Another benefit of the red dye is that it has been specially formulated to be easy for airport scanners to pick up. Even if the rhino horn has been ground to a powder before being exported the x-ray scanners will be able to pick up the powder in luggage.
The first rhino have undergone the treatment and they are located in the worse locations for poaching in KZN. Tembe Elephant Park and Ndumo Game Reserve along the border with Mozambique were the first areas to be included in the project.
Ezemvelo chief executive Bandile Mkhize said ‘We cannot sit back and watch this species disappear on our watch‘.
The cost of poisoning Ezemvelo rhino horns is being sponsored by the Stellenbosch-based Peace Parks Foundation, which was set up under the patronage of Nelson Mandela and international conservation donors.
The news of the poisoning of rhino horn by state authorities has received mixed reviews. While hailed as a new powerful weapon to help protect rhinos by conservationists there are some who are concerned over the ethical and legal issues.
An environmental lawyer in Durban questioned whether the legality of intentionally causing harm to another person and either put forward the notion that injecting a poisonous cocktail in a rhino horn was like using chemical weapons in war.
Meshack Radebe, provincial MEC for Environmental Affairs in KZN was not fazed by these claims and said that the emphasis should be on deterring the poacher and the illegal trade in rhino horn.
RESPONSE TO CRITICISMS AGAINST LEGAL TRADE IN RHINO HORN
The following are some of the primary criticisms against a proposed legal trade in rhino horn. We raise them here and provide our responses to each of them.
1. The demand is too great. There are not enough rhinos/horn to support it
This is an extremely valid concern. From historical records and the ongoing eradication of rhinos in Africa and Asia, it appears that the demand certainly is large and here to stay.
We feel that it is therefore imperative to encourage the breeding and protection of rhinos or we will most certainly see them go extinct. Rhino horn is a renewable resource and this resource can be increased if incentives are in place to conserve rhinos.
We also feel that in the government’s discussions with consumer countries, this concern should be a priority and it should be emphasized that any potential trade in horn stocks will have a ceiling limit. All consumer countries should be made aware of this limit and should be encouraged to respect it. This limit will naturally increase as rhino numbers increase.
Furthermore, logic dictates that if the demand is currently unsustainable and we take no steps to turn it into a sustainable one, we will fail to save the rhinos of the world.
In essence, we should at least try to meet some of the demand instead of hiding away from it out of fear that we may not succeed.
2. It is unethical to promote a ‘bogus’ product.
We feel that it is unethical to continue to apply the same ineffective policies of the past to a dying species. We also feel that bigotry in the modern-day global village is unethical and antiquated and that we do not have any right to apply Western medicinal and scientific principles to misunderstood Eastern philosophical healing systems and traditions. Aside from not having the right to do so, we feel that any campaigns to attempt to do so will be largely ineffective amongst consumer countries where Western principles are often regarded as irrelevant at best and with contempt at worst.
The simple fact is that the demand and the market for horn exist and we cannot bank on educational campaigns and pleas to save our rhinos. These tactics have not worked for tigers, bears or elephants and they are therefore unlikely to work for rhinos.
3. A legal trade in horn will facilitate the illegal trade in horn by creating a channel for it.
The channel for illegal horn already exists and is thriving with no competition at all – the introduction of competition in the form of a legal trade may go a long way towards correcting the perverse price aspect that currently fuels the poaching onslaught.
We have a fantastic rhino horn DNA database called RhoDIS in South Africa which will help to identify horn and fragments of horn, ensuring that all legal horn can be identified.
4. Better law enforcement and a clamp-down on corruption are needed to save the rhino, not a legal trade.
Market studies have shown that market trends are similar to other contraband – drugs, weapons, etc. Organized crime syndicates handle the market and generally co-opt and/or threaten government officials and others to help them. Bans on these products are unenforceable as evidenced by thriving Black markets. Threats as great as death to offenders are not even punitive enough and syndicates continue to operate despite them.
This is not to say that these measures should not be strengthened but it is clear that they cannot be expected to solve the problem.
5. Legal sales didn’t work for ivory so it won’t work for rhino horn.
I attach a table that compares aspects of the ivory trade to that of a proposed rhino horn trade to emphasize why the two should not be compared.
6. The private sector just wants to make money from horn sales.
The private sector has historically been an exemplary custodian, breeder and protector of rhinos and other wildlife and it is self-funded. Individuals are entitled to make money from their businesses and if the end-result is conservation and protection of wild species and ecosystems, all the better. If all conservationists were millionaires, the natural world and threatened species would not be in the devastating situations they currently face.
It is naïve to believe that conservation takes place in a vacuum, particularly here in Africa.
A further point is that the private sector only holds 25% of S.A.’s rhino populations so the government stands to gain the bulk of the funds generated from rhino horn sales – funds that are undeniably much-needed in the war against poaching.
7. Captive-bred populations of rhinos are ‘worthless’ in conservation terms.
Three distinct points make this assumption false.
Firstly, every single White rhino in a captive population is a candidate for reintroduction to a more extensive and/or natural environment. This is due to their generally placid nature (in other words, they may become relatively tame in captive situations but no tamer than the rhinos you see in the Kruger National Park); their niche as grazers (they will not struggle to find food in a more natural environment) and the fact that their horns regrow in a relatively short time period.
There is some debate over the genetic integrity of a captive-bred rhino population but this aspect would be easy to monitor through genetic mapping systems and ancestry records of rhinos. Furthermore, White rhinos have already been through a genetic bottleneck and most of them already stem from a very small gene pool.
Secondly, rhinos that are able to provide horn to the market from captive-bred populations will ease poaching pressure on wilder populations of rhinos. This fact is evidenced by the crocodile, ostrich and other game industries throughout the world.
Finally, male rhinos will have increased economic value and will not only be utilised in the trophy hunting industry. National parks that sell surplus male animals will be able to do so knowing that their animals will probably have a continued long lifespan on a smaller reserve.
Prince William awards Kenyan and Zimbabwean conservationists
Tom Lalampaa has won a conservation award for his work in northern Kenya by the wildlife charity Tusk Trust.
He was one of five nominees and received his prize from Prince William at an awards ceremony in London.
Mr Lalampaa runs an organisation that helps remote and sometimes feuding communities co-exist with wildlife in a 200,000 sq km (4.9m-acre) area.
Zimbabwe's Clive Stockil was also honoured with a lifetime achievement award for his work with rhinos.
Mr Stockil "is one of Africa's great conservation pioneers, who long before many others recognised how critical it is to engage local communities in the conservation of their natural heritage," one of the Tusk Conservation Awards judges said.
The judges said Clive Stockil was "one of Africa's greatest conservation pioneers"
"Despite many setbacks, Clive Stockil has never waivered from his overall commitment to conservation."
His career spans 40 years and in 1992 he helped create Zimbabwe's biggest private reserve in the Save Valley in the the south-east of the country, which is now home to one of the biggest rhino populations in Africa.
The lifetime Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa comes with a £30,000 ($47,000) grant.
'Model community conversation'
Mr Lalampaa is chief operations manager for the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), and the judges said he is a "key player in efforts to protect Kenyan wildlife and improve the lives of his people".
Some 212,000 people - many of them nomadic pastoralists - live in territory overseen by the NRT, which it describes as a "breath-taking patchwork of broken valleys, forested mountains, vast plains and arid acacia shrub land".
But droughts, poor soil and few roads, schools and hospitals can make life difficult for its inhabitants.
There has been conflict amongst the 10 ethnic groups in the region over grazing and water for livestock - and cattle raiding, armed banditry and poaching are also issues Mr Lalampaa deals with.
The NRT is an umbrella organisation which was established in 2004 and serves 19 community conservancies, helping them raise funds and giving them training and advice.
"With Tom's help, NRT is now widely recognised as the leading model for community conservation in Kenya - and increasingly across Africa - and has a proven impact on peace, livelihoods and conservation," the Tusk Conservation Awards said.
Conservationist Alasdair Harris was also honoured at the gala evening at the Royal Society in London, receiving a Highly Commended prize for his work with communities along Madagascar's coast.
The research director of Blue Ventures Conservation, his initiatives protect marine biodiversity and safeguard traditional coastal livelihoods, the Tusk Trust said.
Mr Lalampaa received a £15,000 grant and Mr Harris £7,500 to help with their projects.
This is the first year of the Tusk Conservation Awards and the event was the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's first joint engagement since the birth of their son in July.
Prince William is a patron of the Tusk Trust, which supports 57 field projects in 18 African countries.
Gabon's President Ali Ben Bongo was among the key invited guests, the trust said.
Africa Cries and Eazi Study working together to create awareness through education
More elephant carcasses found in Hwange as govt vows poaching ‘crackdown’
More elephant carcasses have been found in the Hwange National Park following the poisoning of water wells by poachers, bringing the number of dead elephants to 69.
Three more poaching suspects were arrested this weekend in an ongoing investigation by police officers and National Parks authorities, launched after 41 elephants carcasses were discovered in the park late last month. The latest arrests bring to nine the number of poachers arrested since the launch of the anti-poaching operation.
Another 28 elephant carcasses were also recovered this weekend. The elephants died after members of a suspected poaching syndicate laced salt with the toxic chemical cyanide and distributed the salt in a drinking pool used by elephants in Hwange.
Government officials have since vowed to crackdown on poaching, following a Ministerial delegation visit to Hwange over the weekend. The new Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Saviour Kasukuwere was flown to the national park along with Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi and Information Minister Jonathan Moyo to assess the situation.
“We will protect elephants alongside all our animals. This is a war we will win,” said Kasukuwere.
Johnny Rodrigues, the Chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, said that current poaching penalties are “very lenient.” He told SW Radio Africa stricter anti-poaching laws are necessary.
“The biggest problem is in the judicial system. The police and national parks don’t work together and when poachers do get arrested they get a slap on the hand and then soon they are back out there doing the same thing. The penalty for what is happening is actually very lenient,” Rodrigues said.
Kenya: KWS Moves 21 Rhinos to Borana Sanctuary
KWS has translocated 21 rhinos from Lake Nakuru National Park and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to the newly established Borana Rhino sanctuary in Laikipia.
Ten rhinos were moved from Lake Nakuru National Park while the other 11 were translocated from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. The week-long exercise, which started in the third week of August, was funded by the World Wildlife Fund, Zurich Zoo and US F&W in collaboration with KWS.
The translocation is aimed at establishing a new rhino population. This is to keep the established populations in Lake Nakuru National Park and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy productive by maintaining their numbers below their ecological carrying capacity levels.
The WWF species manager Robert Ndetei pledged continued support to KWS in its quest to conserve the last great species. He said the international wildlife body has had a long standing relationship with KWS.
Ndetei said the bodies collaborated in establishing Lake Nakuru and Tsavo East rhino sanctuaries and the creation of Intensive Protection Zone in Tsavo West National Park.
The rhino conservation policy since 1989 has centred on the creation of intensively protected fenced sanctuaries.
Black rhinos have steadily increased within the sanctuaries necessitating removal to avoid negative density dependent effects. However, many established sanctuaries still remain overstocked hence new secure habitats are required.
The current startegy dubbed "Conservation and Management Strategy for the Black Rhino in Kenya 2012-16" sets targets on restocking former free ranging areas which can support large populations.
It also targets the creation of Intensive Protection Zones and secure sanctuaries to achieve its strategic objective of population expansion to reach a confirmed total of 750 black rhinos by end of 2016.
Ten good reasons to save rhinos
1. Rhinos are critically endangered
At the turn of the 19th century, there were approximately one million rhinos. In 1970, there were around 70,000. Today, there are fewer than 24,500 rhinos surviving in the wild.
Three of the five species of rhino are “Critically Endangered” as defined by the IUCN (World Conservation Union). A taxon is classified as critically endangered when the best available evidence indicates that it meets any of a range of pre-determined criteria. It is therefore considered to be facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. The southern subspecies of the white rhino is classified by the IUCN in the lesser category of being “Near Threatened”; and the Indian rhino is classified as "Vulnerable"even this is considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.
In 2005, some of us are lucky enough to be able to travel to Africa and Asia to see them in the wild. In 2035, when our children and grandchildren have grown up, will they still be able to see wild rhinos?
2. Rhinos have been around for 50 million years
Rhinos have been an important part of a wide range of ecosystems for millions of years; we must not let them join the dodo in extinction.
3. Humans have caused the drastic decline in numbers
Poachers kill rhinos for the price they can get for the horns (used for traditional Chinese medicine and for ornamental dagger handles in Yemen); land encroachment, illegal logging and pollution are destroying their habitat; and political conflicts adversely affect conservation programmes.
4. Rhinos are an umbrella species
When protecting and managing a rhino population, rangers and scientists take in account all the other species interacting with rhinos and those sharing the same habitat. When rhinos are protected, many other species are too; not only mammals but also birds, reptiles, fish and insects as well as plants.
5. Rhinos are charismatic mega-herbivores!
By focusing on a well-known animal such as a rhino (or, to use the jargon, a charismatic mega-herbivore), we can raise more money and consequently support more conservation programmes benefiting animal and plant species sharing their habitat.
6. Rhinos attract visitors and tourists
Rhinos are the second-biggest living land mammals after the elephants. Together with lion, giraffe, chimpanzee and polar bear, the rhino is one of the most popular species with zoo visitors. In the wild, rhinos attract tourists who bring money to national parks and local communities. They are one of the “Big Five”, along with lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo.
7. In situ conservation programmes need our help
Protecting and managing a rhino population is a real challenge that costs energy and money. Rhino-range countries need our financial support, and benefit from shared expertise and exchange of ideas.
8. Money funds effective conservation programmes that save rhinos
We know that conservation efforts save species. The Southern white rhino would not exist today if it were not for the work of a few determined people, who brought together the 200 or so individuals surviving, for a managed breeding and re-introduction programme. Today, there are some 17,500 Southern white rhinos.
With more money, we can support more programmes, and not just save rhino populations, but increase numbers and develop populations. The Northern white rhino subspecies may just have become extinct, but it is not too late to save the rest.
9. Many people don’t know that rhinos are critically endangered
Not just that, but how many people know that rhinos also live in Asia? Or that two species have just one horn? Or that the horn is not used as an aphrodisiac? We have even heard some people say that they are carnivores!
If people do not know about these amazing animals and the problems they are facing, how can we expect them to want to do something to help save rhinos?
10. We all have an opportunity to get involved!
You can help us raise awareness of the plight of the rhino! The more we do all together, the more people will learn about rhinos and the more field projects we will be able to support. There are lots of fundraising ideas scattered in the 'Support us' section, as well as ways to donate directly to Save the Rhino. And there are rhino-themed games and puzzles in the 'Rhino info' section!
Southern white rhino now an endangered species
WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- The southern white rhinoceros has been added to the Endangered Species List, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced Tuesday.
That means all five rhino species, three native to Asia and two to Africa, now have the maximum protection possible under U.S. law. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the protections, including a total ban on importing products made from rhinoceros, will begin immediately.
In its official announcement, the department said the southern white has been successfully re-introduced into much of its historic range after being exterminated everywhere except South Africa. The department said one reason for the rule change is the species' close resemblance to the far more endangered northern white, which may be extinct in the wild.
"As both a transit point and consumer destination for illegal rhino horn products, the United States plays a vital role in curbing poaching and wildlife trafficking. Along with extending protection to the southern white rhino, we're evaluating additional regulatory and policy options in an effort to strengthen our ability to investigate and prosecute poachers and traffickers," said Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Powdered rhinoceros horn is a traditional remedy in Chinese medicine, and rhinoceros ivory has also been used for dagger handles in the Arabian peninsula.
In another move to protect a threatened species, the department announced Monday that more than 6 tons of elephant ivory now stored in a Denver-area warehouse will be ground up in October, The Denver Post reported. The ivory includes statues, jewelry and other trinkets fashioned from tusks as well as tusks.
At a White House conference, officials said they are considering other means of combating the slaughter of elephants for their tusks. These include a social media campaign in China, one of the primary markets for ivory, to reduce demand.
The National Wildlife Property Repository at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City is used to store all items coming from endangered species seized at U.S. ports, border crossings and airports. Officials say the repository holds so much ivory that just getting around has become difficult.
Plane donation helps to fight rhino poaching in Kruger Park
Cape Town - Rhino in the Kruger National Park will get additional protection with the donation of a light aeroplane to spot potential poaching activities.
The massive park makes it difficult for ground-based poaching prevention activities.
"The Kruger National Park covers an area of almost 19 633km² - that's roughly the size of Israel," said Bryn Pyne-James, senior general manager for SANParks fundraising.
"Protecting an area that large against poachers with ground-based vehicles alone is impossible, but with air support we have a chance," he added.
Rhino populations are coming under increasing threat and a large percentage have been poached in the national park.
According to the department of environmental affairs (DEA), 553 rhino have been poached in SA so far this year. Of these, 345, or 62%, have been poached in the Kruger Park.
Poaching is on course to nearly double the 668 total of 2012, which was also significantly higher than the 448 poached in 2011.
Rangers in the park had access to an aircraft, and it proved to be effective in deterring poachers.
"We initially used a four-cylinder Bantam light aircraft, which we traded up for a six-cylinder Bantam," said ranger Steven Whitfield. "It proved to be a very important anti-poaching tool."
However, that plane was destroyed in an accident in 2012 and this year, a chance meeting between Vox Telecom CEO Jacques du Toit and senior general manager of San Parks Fundraising, Bryn Pyne-James, resulted the telecoms company donating an aeroplane for use in anti-poaching operations.
"Conserving our natural environment is one of the core aims of our corporate social investment programme, and this was one of the most rewarding investments we could make," said Clayton Timcke head of Marketing at Vox Telecom.
Efforts against poachers are paying off, but more needs to be done on the demand side for horn before rhino populations begin to decline.
The DEA said that 148 poachers have been arrested in 2013, compared to 267 last year, and 232 in 2011, but the WWF said that the focus should be pointed to Asia while continuing to target local poachers.
"I absolutely agree Asia is the root of the problem - obviously in South Africa we must do as much as we can to protect the rhino, but that's not going to solve the problem. I think that's a key point," Dr Jo Shaw, Rhino Co-ordinator for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-SA) told News24.
The park is trying to raise funds to buy four additional aeroplanes to conduct anti-poaching activities.
KNP arrests 24 rhino poachers
Mbombela - Twenty-four suspected rhino poachers have been arrested in the Kruger National Park in the past two weeks, the water and environmental affairs department said on Thursday.
"The law enforcement agencies, and rangers in the Kruger National Park, are commended for their actions and commitment to the fight against rhino poaching," said Water and Environmental Affair Minister Edna Molewa.
The arrests brought to 191 the number of suspected rhino poachers arrested across the country since 1 January.
"Among the total number of rhino poached, 64 have been killed in Limpopo, 62 in KwaZulu-Natal, 62 in North West, and 42 in Mpumalanga," said Molewa.
She said 618 rhino had been poached since the beginning of the year, 381 of them in the Kruger National Park.
"The commitment to conservation requires the support of everyone in order to stem the tide of rhino poaching," Molewa said.
Rhino poaching - Alarming figures
2272 rhinos poached since 2008.
618 since the beginning of 2013.
Image source: http://mugieranch.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/the-tale-of-mugies-rhinos/
Statistics source: http://www.uniteagainstpoaching.co.za/
South Africa's rhino poaching toll passes 600 for the year
Poachers have killed more than 600 rhinos in South Africa so far this year, figures showed Thursday, with losses close to the total number of animals slaughtered in 2012.
South Africa is home to the world's biggest rhino population but killings have surged in recent years to reach 668 animals last year from just 13 reported incidents in 2007.
"The total number of rhino poached since the beginning of the year has increased to 618," said the department of environmental affairs.
More than half were killed in the giant Kruger National Park which borders Mozambique in the east.
The bloodbath is fuelled by black market demand in Asia where consumers falsely believe the horns, the same composition as fingernails, have powerful healing properties.
A total of 191 suspected poachers have been arrested this year, with 24 in the past two weeks.
India - First rhino calf born under ex-situ conservation programme
A rhino gave birth to a male calf in the Assam State Zoo here on Sunday night. This is the first calf born under the ex-situ conservation programme of the Asian rhino. Under the programme, the Assam State Zoo is the coordinating zoo and the Delhi and the Patna Zoos are the participating ones.
The programme aims at having at least 100 healthy rhinos bred in captivity.
The calf was born in an off-display enclosure, constructed with funds from the Central Zoo Authority. The mother, ‘Baghekhaity,’ was rescued from Kaziranga on August 10, 1991 at the age of one. The sire ‘Bishnu’ is zoo-born, aged 26.
Apart from the rhino, the Assam State Zoo has also been selected for ex-situ conservation programme of serow, golden langur, golden cat and grey peacock pheasant.
167 rhino poachers arrested in South Africa this year
Johannesburg - The number of rhino poachers arrested in South Africa this year has reached 167, the environmental affairs department said on Thursday.
"The increase in arrests comes as the total number of rhino poached in South Africa since January 2013 has increased to 587," the department said.
"The Kruger National Park remains hardest hit, having lost 362 rhino to poachers so far this year."
Of the total number of rhino poached, 60 were killed for their horns in both the North West and KwaZulu-Natal, 59 in Limpopo and 39 in Mpumalanga.
The department said government would intensify its efforts in the fight against rhino poaching with stronger international relations.
It had drawn up and negotiated a number of international memorandums of understanding and was in negotiations with countries like Mozambique.
Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa and Mozambique's Tourism Minister Carvalho Muaria agreed in June to a follow up a meeting between South Africa and Mozambican officials to discuss enforcement, environment, and tourism.
"The meeting is to be held in preparation for a further more comprehensive ministerial engagement with Mozambique," the department said.
"The parties will also be discussing comprehensive measures regarding common areas of action to be taken jointly by the countries, and possibly other parties involved in the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park."
This was aimed at combating poaching and the illegal trafficking of rhino horn, elephant tusks and other wildlife related products, with the meeting expected to culminate in an agreement between the two countries.
Poaching was also receiving more attention within the justice, crime prevention, defence and security council of the Southern African Development Community, facilitated by the SA National Defence Force.
Investec is contributing to raise awareness about rhino poaching in South Africa
" At the heart of Investec's values is our firm commitment to society and the environment. To demonstrate this commitment, Investec is responding to the plight of rhino poaching in South Africa by partnering with Dr William Fowlds through a conservation initiative, the Investec Rhino Lifeline.
Investec Rhino Lifeline aims to raise awareness of the rhino crisis and to respond through education, rescue and prevention initiatives. Investec Rhino Lifeline is a partnership with Dr Will Fowlds, a deeply passionate wildlife vet who has been exposed to the rhino crisis through his professional contact with rhino conservation projects and his first-hand experience in dealing with poached rhinos. "
'Surprise' Indian rhino born at Chester Zoontitled news
The birth of the first Indian rhino to be born at a Cheshire zoo was a "surprise", keepers have said.
The rhino, which has been named Komala, was born at Chester Zoo in July but has been kept from public for the first two months of her life.
Curator of mammals Tim Rowlands said keepers had had "a hunch" her mother Asha was pregnant, but were not sure.
He said it had been "rather marvellous to come in and find that Asha had a big bundle of joy [for us]".
The calf, whose Indian name means delicate, was "a proper little bruiser", he said.
Komala, who has almost doubled in size since her arrival on 7 July, weighed about 10 stone (65kg) at birth.
Mr Rowlands said her arrival had "raised a smile amongst the keepers", who have already welcomed three black rhinos in less than a year.
"Our rhino keeping team, and indeed the rhinos themselves, have had the most fantastic few months and clearly our Indian rhinos weren't about to be outdone.
"Although we had an inkling that Asha was pregnant, it was just that - an inkling and a hunch that comes with experienced keepers."
He added that Komala was both a "breeding first for us [and] a bonus for the population of Indian rhinos, which are yet another rhino species being put at risk as they are cruelly and brutally poached for their horn".
Eating Poison Is the Black Rhinos’ Secret to Desert Survival
In the dry season, certain animals have turned to the deadly milk bush for sustenance.
The desert has never been an easy place to make a living. There’s not usually much rain, and the vegetation is sparse and runty. Yet, when I was traveling not long ago in the arid landscape of Namibia, on the southwest coast of Africa, there was wildlife everywhere.
The animals seemed to have adapted to the desert in ways that flouted their very nature. One day, for instance, I watched as a giraffe spread out its front legs and canted its long neck down, not up, to browse on a stunted little thing known, unpromisingly, as the smelly shepherd’s tree.
Later, we stopped at one of the big clumps of milk bush that dot the landscape like haystacks in a Monet painting. The milk bush is actually a succulent, Euphorbia damarana, and it’s found only in this region.
Makumbi Swenyeho, a wildlife guide at Desert Rhino Camp, where I was staying, snapped open one of the pipe-like stems, which promptly bled a white latex liquid. It’s poisonous, he said, and effective enough that Bushmen hunters use it on the tips of their arrows. Contact with the skin can cause severe burning. According to local lore, 11 miners who had been brought into the area to work died just from eating food cooked over a fire built with milk bush branches.
But against all odds, black rhinos have adapted to make it one of their staple foods out here in the desert. They also like the haystack shape of the milk bush so much that they sometimes climb aboard and fall asleep. Locals refer to the flattened remains as a “rhino mattress.”
Gemsbok, big antelopes with a pair of three-foot-long unicorn horns on their foreheads, fled from us up the hillsides, looking like fanciful creatures out of a medieval bestiary. “They can go five or six days without water,” said Swenyeho. That’s remarkable not just because the daytime temperature in the Kunene region where I was visiting can rise to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, but also because a gemsbok can weigh up to about 500 pounds.
Now a new study in PLOS One reveals how the gemsbok do it. Like other antelope, they are primarily grazers, and get much of their water from grass. But the authors, from the University of Namibia and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, wondered what happens in droughts and dry seasons, when the grasses wither away.
The authors note that deserts are likely to spread as a result of climate change, leading to a loss of plant production, and perhaps also to species extinction.
“We therefore asked how antelope species respond to changes in food availability in semi-desert ecosystems,” the authors write. To find out they took tissue samples from gemsbok that had been killed by hunters, and profiled the isotopes left in the flesh by the foods the gemsbok had eaten.
The result: Gemsbok, like black rhinos, turn to the milk bush for sustenance in the dry season. Those pipe-like branches and the milky white liquid make up as much as 40 percent of their diet. No one knows how either species has adapted to handle the potent toxins in the milk bush. But the new study implies that, as the climate changes, other species hoping to avoid extinction may just have to figure out how to eat poison, too.
Rhino poachers shot and killed
JOHANNESBURG - Three rhino poachers were shot dead in the Kruger National Park on Saturday.
SANParks said rangers in the park made contact with a group of six suspected rhino poachers after tracking them for most of Saturday morning.
In the ensuing contact, three men were fatally wounded and three arrested.
One of the arrested men was wounded.
SANParks confirmed that two rifles, ammunition and equipment were recovered.
This comes after a week of successes in the war against rhino poaching.
In Mozambique, rangers had encountered three separate groups trying to poach rhino in the Kruger Park.
A suspect was also shot and killed at the Crocodile Bridge and two horns were recovered. More than 515 rhino have been killed in and around the country this year – the majority in the Kruger Park.
Pregnant rhino poached on doorstep of the Kenya Wildlife Service
Kenya Wildlife Service trumpet about new anti-poaching ‘crack unit' whilst rhino killed in its own back yard
August 2013. A pregnant white rhino has been killed by poachers in the Nairobi National Park. Whilst hundreds of rhino have been killed across eastern and especially southern Africa this year, this particular piece of butchery is all the more shocking as it happened within a few miles of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) HQ on the edge of the Nairobi National Park.
The KWS HQ sits on the edge of the park, and is bristling with staff and armed rangers (though as someone whose car was broken into whilst visiting KWS HQ perhaps this should be no surprise), and much of the park is fenced so it was thought to be a very secure place for the wildlife. However the demand for rhino horn in Asia has pushed the price so high that poachers are prepared to take more and more risks, and perhaps to pass on some of their illegal gains to others to turn a blind eye.
That is not to say that most people at the KWS are not dedicated to protecting the wildlife, and it must be remembered that two rangers have already lost their lives this year at the hands of poachers, and another was shot just last week at Lake Nakuru (Another centre for rhino rescue previously thought secure).
Elite Inter-Agency Anti-Poaching Unit
In an effort to step up the fight against the poaching scourge, the Kenyan Government has formed a special inter-agency crack-unit to combat poaching in the country. The anti-poaching unit named the Elite Inter-Agency Anti-Poaching Unit comprises of security officers from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the Administration Police (AP) and the General Service Unit (GSU).
The special unit, which shall be under the command of KWS, will undergo a joint training at the KWS Law Enforcement Academy (LEA) at Manyani before deployment to poaching hotspot areas of Narok, Tsavo and Isiolo.
The Government has committed to provide facilitation and equipment to support the Elite Inter-Agency Anti-Poaching Unit operations. The Government shall also deploy aerial surveillance support to enhance their capacity to deal with poaching incidents. The unit will be supported by the governments of Kenya, Unites States, China and the United Kingdom through their respective embassies in Nairobi.
A total of 190 elephants and 34 rhinos have been killed so far this year while KWS has lost two rangers in encounters with poachers. However, plans are underway to recruit an additional 1000 KWs rangers to overcome these challenges and effectively tackle poaching.
KWS has also adopted a multi-faceted approach to eliminate the poaching vice. The organization has actively engaged communities living next to wildlife sanctuaries through conservation education on the negative impacts of poaching. Consumers of illegal wildlife products, both local and international are being sensitized on their indirect contribution to poaching by buying such products. KWS also urges the Judiciary to mete out deterrent sentences to smugglers of wildlife products.
Rhino poacher jailed in Johannesburg
A man was sentenced in effect to 14 years in prison for poaching by the Nelspruit Regional Court on Thursday.
A Sapa correspondent reported that rangers arrested 21-year-old Leonard Mhlongo, from Mozambique, and his co-accused Kenneth Sibiya, in the Mjokwane section of the Kruger National Park (KNP) on 19 January.
They had killed and dehorned a black rhino cow and its calf.
Prosecutor Isbet Erwee told the court the two men were found in possession of three black rhino horns, two from the cow and one from its calf. She said a third suspect, who carried the rifle used in the killing, escaped when the two men were arrested.
The two faced charges of entering the KNP to commit a restricted activity without obtaining permission from management, and two charges of performing a restricted activity in a designated area.
"The other accused, Sibiya, skipped bail and has disappeared. Police are tracking his whereabouts," Erwee said. In a statement read out in court, Mhlongo, who worked in Mozambique and earned about R1 230 per month, said Sibiya fetched him from home and invited him to come work in South Africa.
"I did unlawfully cross and enter the border into the Kruger National Park with Sibiya. After we met up with another man inside the park, it was when I realised what they wanted us to do," he said.
"I had no authority to kill the two rhino and I request the court for a fine as I plan to raise R20 000 to pay,” he said.
In passing sentence, magistrate Edward Hall said that according to Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, if no solution was found to stop the killing of rhino, there would be none left in the country by 2026.
"It is a nationwide problem as we read in newspapers every day. The accused is from Mozambique and a second one skipped bail, which shows the attitude of poachers.
"To enter illegally in the KNP with a firearm is a planned criminal activity. The calf could have been saved and been there for generations to come, but it was killed together with its mother,” Hall said.
Hall said the number of rhino killed in the current year to August exceeded last year’s figure by 140.
He sentenced Mhlongo to four years in prison for entering the KNP illegally, 10 years for killing the rhino cow, and eight years for killing the calf. The eight years would run concurrently with the 10 years. Mhlongo was declared unfit to own a firearm.
Support President Obama's $10 Million Fight Against Wildlife Crime
Rhinos, elephants, and tigers are threatened by wildlife crime every day— ruthless individuals bribe officials and intimidate communities to acquire animal parts such as horns and tusks. Stand with President Obama and the WWF to strengthen wildlife enforcement in key African countries.
President Obama recently pledged $10 million toward ending illegal wildlife trafficking in Africa to prevent animal slaughter. The trade generates $7-10 billion per year, and as a result endangered animals have been hunted to near extinction— 300,000 elephants are killed every year. Moreover, criminal organizations and militant groups are responsible for murdering at least 1,000 park rangers over the last decade.
Kenya has announced a crackdown on illegal trading, but we need solidarity in our efforts. If these animals become extinct it'll be too late. Stand with WWF and end wildlife crime today!
Rhino born at Zoo Atlanta
A newborn eastern black rhinoceros can call Atlanta home.
Andazi, a 7-year-old rhino, gave birth to a male calf late Saturday evening, according to a press release from Zoo Atlanta. It is the first eastern black rhino to be born at Zoo Atlanta.
Deputy Director of Zoo Atlanta Dwight Lawson said the calf is in good health.
“The mom and calf are bonding and things appear to be going well,” Lawson said.
The calf does not have a name yet and a date for public viewing has not been determined, Lawson said.
Andazi and her 9-year-old mate, Utenzi, were recommended to breed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Rhino Species Survival Plan, according to the release. This is the first calf by Andazi and Utenzi and he will not share space with his parents. Black rhinos are solitary in the wild and only come together for breeding.
Lawson said the rhino population recently has taken a dramatic hit due to poaching. Being able to breed one is special, he said.
Andazi was confirmed pregnant in December 2012. Rhinos typically have one of the animal kingdom’s longer gestation periods ranging from 14 to 18 months, according to the news release.
Kenyan Government establishes special unit to tackle poaching
On 8 August 2013, the Kenyan Government announced that it has formed a special inter-agency unit to combat the increasing poaching in the country. The anti-poaching unit, known as the Elite Inter-Agency Anti-Poaching Unit comprises security officers from the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS), the Administration Police (AP) and the General Service Unit (GSU).
The unit, which will be under the command of KWS, will undergo a joint training at the KWS Law Enforcement Academy, before being deploted to poaching hotspot areas of Narok, Tsavo and Isiolo.
Speaking about the unit, the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary Prof Wakhungu said Urgent and decisive action now needs to be taken to eliminate the escalating poaching crisis which has now become both a national and economic issue
She went on to add that the Government has committed to provide facilitation and equipment to the unit and it will also deploy aerial surveillance support to increase the capacity to deal with poaching incidents.
The unit will be supported by the governments of Kenya, Unites States, China and the United Kingdom through their respective embassies in Nairobi.
Poached rhino Limpopo South Africa (C) Sarah NelsonWildlife poaching in Kenya is increasing at an alarming rate. The Kenyan Wildlife Service has announced that 34 rhinos and 190 elephants have been killed so far during 2013, while two rangers from the Kenyan Wildlife Service have recently lost their lives to poachers. In early August, there were also reports that a KWS ranger was shot and injured by suspected poachers during a gunfight in Lake Nakuru National Park.
On 9 August 2013, a female pregnant white rhino was killed and dehorned in Nairobi National Park, which is home to the Kenya Wildlife Services’ headquarters. The Park is heavily protected and located just 7km from Nairobi’s city centre. It is the first rhino poaching incident in the Park for six years, indicating the seriousness of the recent increase in poaching.
The Kenyan Wildlife Service hopes to recruit an additional 1000 rangers to overcome these challenges and effectively tackle poaching.
UPDATE - 540 rhinos dead by beginning of August 2013
With five months to go, South Africa’s rhino-poaching toll for 2013 had already shot well past the 500 mark. At a recent meeting in Johannesburg stakeholders have been taking stock of strategies to put a brake on the killing spree.
With 536 rhinos killed in the country by the end of July, it seemed highly likely that conservationists’ worst fear would come true. This is that the death toll for the year will surpass 2012?s shocking 668 and head for 1,000.
This would mean that humankind might for the second time in less than a century be threatening to wipe out this iconic animal that walked the planet for many millennia before us. The last time the rhino was headed for extinction was during the first half of the previous century. Then it was thanks only to the desperate efforts of a few park rangers that it got saved from mindless hunting.
At the rate it is going, say conservationists, the death rate will in three years’ time start exceeding births, and that would put South Africa’s white rhino population of about 20,000 in decline and pose an even more immediate threat to the endangered black rhino of which there are hardly more than 2,000 left in the country.
Yet, grim as the news was, the impression from the Johannesburg meeting was that good progress was being made with the development of a comprehensive strategy for tackling the scourge on many fronts. It was even tentatively suggested that the rate of killing could start being turned round within a year or so.
The initiative is being co-ordinated by central government’s Department of Environmental Affairs, whose deputy director general of biodiversity and conservation, Fundisile Mketeni, told the Johannesburg meeting: “We in government understand the rising anger at what is happening to our rhinos. But let us look at intervention holistically. We are in this thing together. Let us take hands.”
The audience was made up of police and military top brass, government officials, delegates from South African National Parks (SANParks) and provincial park agencies, private reserve and game ranch owners, environmentalists and a number of non-governmental organizations concerned with conservation.
The main theme was how to develop a cohesive strategy against the rhino poachers and their crime-syndicate bosses who recruit them from mainly poor communities and who smuggle the horn for the most part to Far Eastern destinations where it is taken in powder form under the age-old but sadly mistaken belief that it has curative and even stimulative qualities.
Discussions were centered on a report submitted to the Ministry of Environmental Affairs late last year by Mavuso Msimang, a former SANParks chief executive, who was appointed by government last year to gather views through public hearings and workshops on how best to tackle the problem of rhino poaching. His main conclusion, too, was that there was no “silver bullet” and that the only way of countering the menace was through a multi-pronged strategy.
Mketeni said he and his department agreed there was no single solution, whether it be more effective law enforcement, or reopening legal trade in rhino horn (which is being proposed as a way of undercutting the illegal trade and generating funds for rhino conservation). It had to be a comprehensive approach, he stressed.
From everything said, it is clear that law enforcement remains the main thrust of the operation. There has indeed been a steady improvement in the rate of arrests and convictions. This is put down in large part to better intelligence-gathering, more help from the public and more efficient detect-and-arrest operations by the National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit set up last year to coordinate operations between the police’s organized crime unit, the environmental crime agencies of national and provincial park services, the prosecuting authorities, and the customs and excise and revenue services.
A DNA bank developed at the University of Pretoria’s Onderstepoort veterinary faculty has proved of growing help in linking suspects to the dead animals, securing convictions.
As helpful has been a better understanding on the part of judicial officers of the complexities and the seriousness of the crime. It has seen tougher sentences being meted out, the most notable being the 40 years in prison given last year to Thai citizen Chumlong Lemtongthai for using prostitutes to pose as hunters so that he could sell rhino horn acquired under the guise of being legally obtained trophies to fake-medicine peddlers in the Far East.
Environmentalists hope such sentences will start serving as a deterrent to would-be poachers. They are also working at getting the judiciary to impose jail sentences rather than fines, which the criminals mostly have no trouble paying from the handsome proceeds of their crime.
To back up the wide-ranging campaign, the government is setting up a national rhino fund to help cover its spiraling cost. The idea is to ensure that public funds and donations made by the private sector get used in a more controlled way.
The aim is to set up a register of all rhino-protection organizations. So many have sprung up on the back of public sentiment that there has been growing concern that some of the money collected through can-shaking at shop fronts and other means is ending up in people’s own pockets.
The permitting system for legal hunts is also being tightened. The power to issue such permits resorts with South Africa’s nine provinces. The different and lax applications of the regulations have been leading to much abuse, as in the Lemtongthai case.
To try to overcome this by centralizing the permitting system would set off a constitutional wrangle because of central government’s intrusion into provincial competencies. To get around the problem, a law has just been passed that provides for the creation of a national database that will include a register of all professional hunters and hunting operators. Permit abuses could result in them being scratched from the register and losing their operating licenses.
Much of the discussion at the Johannesburg meeting was dominated by the controversial and sometimes emotional issue of whether to reopen legal trade in rhino horn. The idea is that the horn should come from the existing government and private stockpiles obtained mainly from natural deaths, confiscated booty and dehorning. Some argued it would bring better understanding of the market and allow better control of it. Others wanted to know how one may discourage a habit by feeding it.
Keith Lockwood, an economist and econometric modeling specialist, sounded a cautionary note. He agreed that part of the strategy should be to reduce demand for rhino horn such as through public information and education campaigns in countries like China and Vietnam, with which South Africa has concluded memorandums of understanding. But neither this nor legal trade was without complexities, he warned.
With the increased wealth of people in those countries being the major reason for the upsurge in demand for rhino horn, it would be a mistake to believe the market could be shrunk by educating consumers about the fallacy of its medicinal qualities. Research showed that the market was actually growing. It showed that for every one person using rhino horn, there were five who would have liked to use it if they had the means to get it.
Lockwood said care would need to be taken about how stockpiles of horn got released through legal trade. The syndicate bosses behind the poaching and smuggling were business people. A sudden drop in price as a result of stockpiles getting released too quickly could make the syndicates kill more rhinos to make up for lost revenue. Or, if opportunities got closed to them in one country, they would turn their business to other countries. They would even turn to other animals if it became too difficult to supply rhino horn.
“We need to move away from simplistic, dogmatic and idealistic solutions. Trade needs to be part of a bigger strategy. We need to look at protecting our biodiversity as a whole,” he warned.
Of all aspects of the anti-poaching campaign though, it is going to be what happens in Kruger National Park, home to nearly half South Africa’s rhino population, that will determine its success or otherwise. It is in that 20,000-square-kilometer (7,722-square-mile) stretch of mostly savannah that the deadliest battle is being fought to keep the criminals at bay.
Of the 536 rhinos killed in South Africa during the first seven months of 2013, no fewer than 334 perished in the country’s flagship park. This despite a drastic tightening of security, involving the deployment of police and military units and the use of drones and helicopters to assist a growing corps of combat-trained rangers who do day and night patrols of the park’s worst affected areas.
There is now hope of turning the situation around.
The worst problem has been that of poachers coming across the park’s 375-kilometer (233-mile) border with Mozambique to carry out their raids. It is a vast territory to patrol and the dense vegetation offers them good cover. More and more often encounters with the park’s security forces have been turning into shootouts in which mostly poachers died, though a ranger, too, was seriously wounded in one such skirmish recently.
Most irritating to Major General Johan Jooste, a military veteran from southern Africa’s bush-war era who heads up the park’s combined security forces, has been the ability of the poachers to escape by fleeing back across the border. Some, he says, will actually wave mockingly at their pursuers once back on Mozambique soil.
They might not be able to do so much longer. The two governments and their security agencies seem finally prepared to co-operate in getting at the criminals. They have even been talking about reviving the principle of “hot pursuit”, which will allow the park’s security personnel to go after poachers even when they cross the border.
On its part, Mozambique is preparing to pass legislation to turn wildlife offenses from misdemeanors into full-blown felonies. The view has been that its lax laws have been heavily responsible for drawing the big international crime syndicates to rhino-poaching operations inside its borders and to using Maputo harbor and airport as smuggling exits.
Much will depend on how quickly and how well the two sides’ security forces get to co-operate. Big-time criminals and much money are involved, and corruption runs deep on both sides. And there is considerable mistrust, even antagonism, that needs to be overcome before they can together start putting the poachers and their bosses on the back foot
Posted by Leon Marshall of Environmental Journalist, News Watch South African Contributor on August 6, 2013
European rhino horn smuggling ring uncovered...
Czech authorities have seized 24 white rhino horns and charged 16 suspected members of an international ring smuggling the horns to Asia. Details of the seizure were released by the country's customs department.
Customs and police officials revealed that the horns were worth approximately $5 million and were destined for Asia where they would fetch high prices on the illegal black market.
Police and customs officials said the criminal syndicates had links to 'pseudo-hunting' in South Africa. The gang managed to get around legal loopholes by employing proxy hunters who can get permission to legally shoot one rhino in South Africa and take the horn as a trophy, strictly for non-commercial purposes.
Concerns of Czech proxy hunters were reported by CITES earlier this year (see news article February 2013 Is the Czech Republic a new player in the illegal rhino horn trade?) when authorities became aware of an increase in hunting permit applications from other countries not historically associated with rhino trophy hunting including The Czech Republic and Poland.
Talking of the proxy hunters, customs officer Ales Hruby said "they were paid by the gang to hunt rhinos in the South African Republic bring the rhino horns as hunters' trophies to the EU,"
The Czech authorities did not give the nationalities of the suspects.
The suspects face up to 8-years in prison if found guilty.
Sources: http://www.savetherhino.org/latest_news/news/754_czech_authorities_uncover_major_rhino_horn_smuggling_case; http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/23/us-czech-rhinos-idUSBRE96M0JX20130723
Rhino death toll exceeds 500 by July 2013
More than 500 South African rhinos have been killed this year, official figures showed on July 24th, amid strong demand for horns on the Asian black market.
"As of yesterday (Tuesday), a total of 515 rhino have been killed so far this year," said the environment ministry's deputy director general Fundisile Mketeni. The lucrative Asian black market for rhino horn has driven a boom in poaching in South Africa, which has the largest rhino population in the world. Many of the killings are thought to be perpetrated by poachers from global syndicates.
On Tuesday Czech authorities charged 16 people from a gang that sent registered hunters to South Africa who returned with horns that were to be sent on to Asian countries. Customs officers seized 24 rhino horns, worth an estimated 3.9 million euros ($5.1 million). Last year, 668 rhinos were killed in South Africa, a record high that could be surpassed if the poaching continues at today's pace.
The army's deployment in the hardest-hit area, the Kruger National Park, has done little to stem the killings.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/07/24/over-500-rhinos-poached-in-south-africa-this-year/#ixzz2anop4kvN
South Africa: Rhino Poaching Update
PRESS RELEASE JULY 18 2013 - South African Government
The total number of rhinos poached in South Africa since the beginning of the year has increased to 488 with 142 alleged poachers being arrested.
The Kruger National Park has borne the brunt of rhino poaching since the start of 2013. A total of 300 rhinos have been poached in the Park since January 1. A total of 53 rhinos have been poached in North West, 52 in Limpopo, 43 in KwaZulu-Natal, 35 in Mpumalanga, three in Gauteng and two in the Eastern Cape.
Of the 142 alleged poachers arrested, 62 have been caught in the Kruger National Park and 30 in KwaZulu-Natal. A total of 27 suspected poachers have been arrested in Limpopo, 11 in North West province, nine in Mpumalanga and three in Gauteng. Five people have been charged with being couriers.
South Africans are urged to report incidents of poaching and tip-offs to the anonymous tip-off lines 0800 205 005, 08600 10111 or Crime-Line on 32211
Rhino deaths continue to climb
LATEST FIGURE - 467 Rhinos now dead. Six more than when this article was published Just four days ago:
New plan to flood the market with stockpiled rhino horn will knock the bottom out of the black market trade
South Africa, home to three quarters of the world’s rhinos, will apply to Cites – at the next meeting in South Africa in 2016 – to introduce regulated international trade in rhino horn. Environment Minister Edna Molewa made the announcement at a press conference on the 3rd July that South Africa will lobby for a one-off sale of their 18-ton stockpile of rhino horn to flood the market which will make prices plummet, slash demand and make the risks associated with poaching become untenable.
The situation is clearly desperate: all the money and commitment devoted to this cause, including a para-military operation in the Kruger National Park, is still not stemming the carnage. So far this year, at least 446 rhinos have been poached nationwide, and experts warn that the final toll for 2013 could reach 1 000.
Source : http://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/editorial-dilemma-of-the-horns-1.1542245
At least 446 rhinos killed so far this year
New figures from the DEA – 79 more South African rhinos were poached in June, at least 446 rhinos killed so far this year bringing the toll to 2100 since 2008. Experts warn that the final toll for 2013 could reach 1000.
Rhino killings to reach almost 1000 in 2013 at current rate
Latest figures issued by the DEA on 26 June 2013 show rhino deaths from poaching have reached 446 individuals since January. News reports now predict that, if this rate continues until December, poachers are likely to set a new record of almost 1000 rhino killings in South Africa in a single year.
Reflecting on Mandela - "The eyes have turned to my country"
Roland Vincent is glued to the news to stay informed of the health of Nelson Mandela ‘He is a great man who made history and it is not for nothing that the world is interested in him. As a South African, I have a deep respect for what he has done and for him’.
94 more Rhinos poached during April 2013
367 South African rhinos were poached from January until the end of May 2013. These figures issued by the DEA (http://www.stoprhinopoaching.com/statistics.aspx) bring the death toll to over 2000 since 2008 - approximately 10% of today’s remaining population of South African White and Black Rhino.
Rising illicit demand for rhino horn has pushed poaching of African rhinos to crisis levels. A new solution must be urgently found, please help Africa Cries to spread the word by watching and sharing our short films.
273 Rhinos Poached from January to 30 April 2013
273 rhinos were poached from January 2013 until the 30th of April. The amount has drastically increased and we are face with an alarming situation where we are doing our utmost to stop the slaughter of those poor animals. Join Africa Cries and together let us put an end to those cruelties.
Africa Cries Event Held at Blue Label Telecoms Johannesburg on the 17th April 2013.
Invitation to Blue Label Telecoms, Johannesburg.
Join film producer Roland Vincent, as he shows you the "Real Africa" in his heart-felt movies
Meet John Hume, the biggest Rhino owner in the world as he shares with us the problems and solutions for rhino.
We would like you to join us, as our guests at Blue Label Telecoms 75 Grayston Drive Morningside, Johannesburg on the 17th April 2013.
Time: 6.30 pm
Dress Code: Smart Casual
Tel.: 031 - 5640360
Master of Ceremonies: Terence Pillay
Invitation to The Ambassador Hotel, Sea Point
Join film producer Roland Vincent, as he shows you the "Real Africa" in his heart-felt movies
Meet John Hume, the biggest Rhino owner in the world as he shares with us the problems and solutions for rhino.
We would like you to join us, as our guests at The Ambassador Hotel Sea Point CT on the 25th April 2013.
Time: 6.30 pm
Dress Code: Smart Casual
Tel.: 031 - 5640360
Master of Ceremonies: Terence Pillay
Africa Cries Event in Durban- Endless Horizons
Africa Cries in partnership with Illovo Sugar & Blue Label Telecoms expose the desecration of African wildlife through indiscriminate poaching.
On the 20 March2012, Africa Cries unveils short films at the gala event hosted at the Endless Horizon's Hotel in Durban North, Durban, South Africa. Invited guest speaker, John Hume, the largest Rhino owner in South Africa
JOIN OUR CAUSE! Like us on Facebook and you might win your flight + 5 Night Stay in The Soroi Lodge - Serengeti.
Africa Cries - Interview at East Coast Radio in Durban
Roland Vincent, Director of Africa Cries Film Production was interviewed on East Coast Radio. We have to bring awareness to everyone about this dramatic situation.
203 rhinos were poached from January 2013 until the beginning of April. The amount has drastically increased and we are face with an alarming situation where we are doing our utmost to stop the slaughter of those poor animals. Join Africa Cries and together let us put an end to those cruelties.
JOIN OUR CAUSE! Like us on Facebook And you might win your flight + 5 Night Stay in The Soroi Lodge - Serengeti.
Last rhino standing
Poaching and greed stand in the way of a future for this doomed and iconic animal
VALUE is determined by the price people are willing to pay, and the sad reality is that rhino are worth more dead than alive.
Is this something we should just sit by and watch only to later reminisce about the days when rhino roamed? Will you be able to admit that you lived through their extinction and did nothing about it? This was discussed at a recent presentation for the launch of the Africa Cries - Making a Difference project at the Endless Horizons Hotel.
“The onus to protect our resources can no longer solely reside with the government, but lies with each of us, including private business,” said Illovo Sugar SA’s Darrell DE Wet, the sponsor of Africa Cries. Celebrity guests from around the country were left speechless after watching a short documentary on the savage butchery of the rhino population.
It is one thing to read the stats, quite another to witness a rhino with half its face hacked off, writhing in agony, trying to make sense of the trauma, stumbling around before dying a slow and painful death,” said De Wet.
“If we want our children to enjoy the privileges we have, we need to put up our hands and help with the plight of our wildlife. We can’t sit back and have our heritage taken away from us. We can no longer think someone else will assist.”
Guest speaker John Hume, the largest private rhino breeder in the world, gave a compelling talk on the statistics of poaching throughout the years and why it was necessary to legalize the trade of rhino horn. “We are losing the war, and it is almost too late.” Poaching, he explained, was lucrative, especially when the price of horn was unrealistically high.
“Poachers are killing a rhino for eight to ten kilograms of horn, whereas a live rhino will grow more than 60 kilograms of horn,” Hume said, painting a clear picture of why poaching has escalated, and how the law had killed any incentive to breed them. Hume needs four permits to dehorn a rhino, putting his entire operation at risk of leaks in the process and endangering his staff and rhino.
He then needs to find secure locations to store the worthless yet priceless horn.
The value of legalizing the horn trade outweighed the savage price
South Africa was paying for the ban on trade, he said.
“Rhino are worth more alive, if we legalize trade, and stop killing them for a horn that will grow back,” Hume said, despondent over failed attempts to save the rhino. He has dehorned 1 000 rhino over the years, and said it protected the males from themselves.
So why is it still easier to buy a hunting permit, or poach, than it is to breed and save this species from extinction? Visit www.rhinodotcom.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.africacries.com.
Illovo Sugar supports Africa Cries initiative
ILLOVO Sugar South Africa Limited hosted an informative fund-raising event in aid of Africa Cries Film Productions at the Endless Horizons Hotel, Durban last month.
Guests from various backgrounds and interests attended the event to support Africa Cries’ drive to raise awareness about South Africa’s rhino-poaching crisis.
Illovo hosted this event to demonstrate how business can be a part of a solution to the rhino’s plight. South African businesses must stand up and be counted if the country’s rich heritage is to be preserved.
“When the name South Africa is mentioned, images of our rich wildlife heritage come to the fore. But sadly this heritage is under threat," Illovo Sugar South Africa’s Darrell de Wet said.
"The onus to protect our resources can no longer solely reside with the government, but lies with each of us, including private business.”
Guests were treated to canapés and wine while watching the screening of film producer Roland Vincent’s wildlife production. John Hume, the owner of the most rhinos worldwide, gave an engaging talk on the problems and solutions that the rhino currently faces.
Pledge forms were available at the event to support Africa Cries Film Productions and in addition all proceeds from the event will go to Africa Cries.
De Wet said Illovo Sugar was committed to supporting the project through involving communities and promoting sustainable tourism.
203 Rhinos Poached from January to April 2013
203 rhinos were poached from January 2013 until the beginning of April. The amount has drastically increased and we are face with an alarming situation where we are doing our utmost to stop the slaughter of those poor animals. Join Africa Cries and together let us put an end to those cruelties.
Africa Cries First event!
We are proud to invite you to our first event.
Join Film Producer, Roland Vincent as he shows you the ''real Africa'' in his heart-felt movies.
Meet John Hume, The biggest Rhino owner in the world as he share with us the problems and solutions for the Rhino.
Discover more about our project, our upcoming movies and also our long term objective.
If you feel concerned, don't hesitate to contact us on email@example.com
Tanzania: Govt's Anti-Poaching Drive Gets Support
The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki, and the Deputy Secretary, US department of Interior, Mr David Hayes, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) here on Monday aimed at addressing the problem.
Ambassador Kagasheki said the MoU will further existing relations between the two countries in developing tourism and wildlife sector, to bring more economic benefits.
"The natural resources that the country is abundantly blessed with should benefit all Tanzanians, and this is part of steps to ensure that this is realized," he explained. The minister noted that the two governments are planning to hold a conference in Tanzania on poaching, to find ways to help rescue African elephants.
The US Deputy Secretary, Department of |Interior said Tanzania's tourism and wildlife sector has the potential to boost the nation economically. Mr Hayes, who was visibly impressed by the country's landscape, describing it as magnificent and wonderful, said the two governments have had a long partnership in the area.
"The MoU renews the commitment between the two governments," he explained. The chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resource and Environment, Mr James Lembeli, commended Ambassador Kagasheki for his good work at the ministry.
He said the MoU, signed between the two governments, will help bring to an end poaching in the country. Five WMAs were targeted including Ikona, Burunge, Enduimet, Mbomipa and Ipole, to begin cash for work programme to help develop needed infrastructure consisting of branding and marketing of WMAs, training of village scouts, hunting concession management training and development of a coordinated monitoring system.
Both USAID and US Department of Interior have provided assistance to WMAs in the country, through the cash for work programme. WMAs are community owned and managed conservation areas that work to conserve wildlife and their habitats at the same time bring benefits to local communities.
The US government has supported the establishment of WMAs in Tanzania since 1998, both in the form of policy and institutional development and implementation.
3 rhinos killed in North West
Central Africa: Head of UN-Backed Treaty
The head of a United Nations-backed treaty for the conservation of endangered species has welcomed a call from the Security Council for an investigation into the alleged involvement of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the poaching of African elephants and smuggling of their ivory.
"The historic call made by the UN Security Council reinforces concerns about the links between illicit wildlife trafficking and regional security in Africa," said the Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), John E. Scanlon.
"The CITES Secretariat is ready to work with its partners to support efforts to investigate the involvement of rebel militias in wildlife crime," he added. CITES is the only global convention addressing international trade in wildlife.
In a presidential statement issued last week, the Security Council called "on the United Nations and African Union to jointly investigate the Lord's Resistance Army logistical networks and possible sources of illicit financing, including alleged involvement in elephant poaching and related illicit smuggling."
The LRA was formed in the 1980s in Uganda and for over 15 years its attacks were mainly directed against Ugandan civilians and security forces, which in 2002 dislodged the rebels. Since then, they exported their activities to Uganda's neighbours, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
The armed group is notorious for carrying out massacres in villages, mutilating its victims and abducting boys for use as child soldiers, while girls are often forced into sexual slavery.
According to a CITES news release, some States are currently experiencing a serious spike in the illegal killing of African elephants and rhinos and the related illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn.
Data compiled from the CITES Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme suggests an ongoing increase in levels of illegal killing of elephants since 2006, with 2011 displaying the highest levels of poaching since MIKE records began in 2002. These findings are supported by information available from the Elephant Trade Information System, which confirms 2011 as the worst year on record for ivory seizures, with the period 2009-2011 including three of the top four years in which the largest quantities of ivory were seized.
In addition, the illegal killings of large number of elephants for their ivory are increasingly involving organised crime and in some cases well-armed militias.
For example, in Bouba N'Djida National Park, in northern Cameroon, up to 450 elephants were allegedly killed by groups from Chad and Sudan early this year. The poached ivory is believed to be exchanged against money, weapons and ammunition to support conflicts in neighbouring countries, according to CITES.
Another example of this type of poaching was the illegal killing of 22 elephants in the DRC's Garamba National Park in April this year - apparently shot from a helicopter with a high level of marksmanship and in a single raid.
With 176 Member States, CITES is one of the world's most powerful tools for biodiversity conservation, regulating international trade in close to 35,000 species of plants and animals, including their products and derivatives, ensuring their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of local people and the global environment.
In last week's presidential statement, the Security Council also strongly condemned the ongoing attacks and atrocities carried out by the LRA and urged that the United Nations regional strategy designed to tackle the threat be carried out as soon as possible.
The regional strategy, which was endorsed by the Council in June, focuses on five key strategic objectives to address the LRA threat. They include support for the full operationalization and implementation of the African Union regional cooperation initiative against the LRA; enhancing efforts to promote the protection of civilians; and expanding current disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration activities to cover all LRA-affected areas.
Rhinos, in Black and White
HUNTED ALMOST to extinction in the nineteenth century, the white rhino found refuge in the Imfolozi and Hluhluwe (pronounced shloo-shloo-wee) reserves, created at the turn of the twentieth century after their numbers dropped to around 100. By the time noted conservationist Ian Player was head warden of Imfolozi in the late 1950s, this cradle of rhino conservation held South Africa’s entire population of 650 animals. Determined to ensure the species’ survival, Player and his colleagues launched Operation Rhino in 1960, a translocation program that would move Imfolozi’s excess rhinos to other reserves in South Africa, to other African countries, and to zoos around the world, creating breeding programs that were unmatched in modern wildlife conservation. The fruits of this program are evident in South Africa’s significant white rhino population of more than 16,000, the very rhinos that are now under threat from poachers.
Millions of dollars are being pumped into save-the-rhino campaigns and anti-poaching activities both public and private, yet South African conservationists are anticipating a loss of 600 rhinos in 2012 (final counts were not available at press time), compared with 448 in 2011 and 330 in 2010. The main target is Kruger Park, which at 7,700 square miles is about the size of Israel and is estimated to have more than 10,000 rhinos—the largest population on earth. There were 252 Kruger rhinos poached in 2011, a 73 percent increase from 2010. Contributing to the spike is the fact that the park’s 500 rangers each patrol roughly 15 square miles (the International Union for the Conservation of Nature recommends at least one ranger per four square miles); furthermore, Kruger shares a 200-mile-long border with Mozambique, allowing poachers from that country to cross the border with relative ease. And though most rangers are reliable and honest, some have been lured into helping poachers in return for a slice of the high price for rhino horn: It sells on the Asian black market for almost $30,000 a pound, which makes it more expensive than gold. “This is a huge area to patrol, and you’re lucky if you find a set of footprints,” says Ken Maggs, head of the South Africa National Parks’ Environmental Crime Investigation unit. “The elements, the remoteness, and the vastness of the place are against you.”
Over my first seven days in the country, 18 rhinos are reported killed by poachers.
WILLIAM FOWLDS is a 41-year-old wildlife veterinarian whose family owns Amakhala, one of a group of privately operated Eastern Cape game reserves that have sprung up over the last two decades. They appeal to American and European tourists because they are malaria-free and stocked with wildlife brought in from other reserves. Amakhala received its first rhino in March 2003.
“The day the rhino arrived, the local children were given the day off from school. It was an amazing experience, and you could feel the change in the place just because of the presence of this animal. We took a giant leap forward that day from being a farm to becoming a wilderness.”
The rhino eventually gave birth to a male, which Fowlds named Geza and sold to a neighboring reserve. In February 2011, he received an emergency call from the staff at that reserve. They had found a rhino that had been darted by poachers with M99, a chemical compound 10,000 times more potent than morphine, and whose horns had been hacked off with axes. The rhino was still alive. Fowlds rushed to the reserve and recognized the rhino right away, despite its disfigured appearance. It was Geza.
“Seeing a living animal without a face was truly horrendous,” Fowlds recalls. “One leg was badly damaged, so he was stumbling around, faceless, with pieces of tissue hanging off his wounds. I darted him again, assessed his injuries, and decided to put him to sleep. That changed my life completely. I was transformed from someone who was quite hard and didn’t show his emotions easily into an emotional basket case, which I remain. We have to stop this hateful trade. But how long will it take to do this, and how much time do we have?”
NOT ALL of the rhino darting going on in South Africa’s private reserves is being done by poachers. In fact, some of it may well begin to turn the tide against them. Fowlds belongs to a small group of conservationists who are darting rhinos to take DNA samples that are then submitted to a central database at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Genetics Laboratory in Pretoria.
This program, known as RhODIS (Rhino DNA Index System), has been in operation for less than two years, and 3,500 animals are already in the database. Conservationists say that the potential of RhODIS as a crime-fighting weapon is enormous: DNA profiling can link those in possession of a horn to a particular crime, establish a connection between rhino blood found on perpetrators and a particular horn or carcass, and link end-users of horn with the dead animal. The program has already contributed to successful prosecutions for both possession and smuggling of horns. Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe are also beginning to submit DNA profiles to Onderstepoort. The $2,250-per-rhino price tag is steep, especially for cash-strapped conservancies, but Ken Maggs, the head of South Africa National Parks’ environmental crime investigation unit, says that RhODIS has been the single biggest breakthrough for criminal prosecutions.
Arrests of poachers and traffickers have increased from 165 in 2010 to 232 in 2011, with 170 already made by mid-2012. Sentences are also becoming more and more severe. For instance, a Vietnamese national who was convicted in 2009 of possessing four rhino horns received a $5,700 fine and a two-year suspended sentence. In early 2012, three Mozambicans who were caught poaching rhinos in Kruger Park were each sentenced to 25 years with no chance for appeal. At the center of the stiffer sentencing is magistrate Prince Manyathi, who has sent out a clear message that he will impose lengthy sentences on poachers and smugglers alike. In November, Manyathi sentenced a Thai man to 40 years in prison for leading a smuggling ring. Other magistrates are now following his lead.
TRADE IN RHINO HORN was outlawed more than 30 years ago by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), but white rhinos can still be bought and sold as livestock and even legally killed as trophies: Each year as many as 100 hunters—most of them American—pay upwards of $60,000 for permits that allow them to kill and export a South African rhino. Selling the horn, however, remains illegal. The growing demand for horn and the absence of any legitimate supply has driven the black market price of the average rhino horn as high as $400,000.
This grim economic reality has led to a groundswell in South Africa to persuade CITES to overturn its 35-year moratorium on the international trade in rhino horn. The ban is seen as a miserable failure by many, one that has merely driven the market underground, where it has made considerable profit for criminal organizations. Proponents of trade argue that the 20 to 40 tons of rhino horn in government strong rooms from natural deaths and confiscations, combined with a normal mortality of more than 650 animals a year, gives South Africa enough legal horn to satisfy demand, drive prices down, and force the black market and poachers out of business. A Central Selling Organization (CSO) would act as a broker, and most of the proceeds would go to the countries, parks, and individual farmers supplying the horn. South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs has already commissioned a feasibility study on international trade.
One of the leading proponents of the scheme is Michael Eustace, a former merchant banker and a founder of the African Parks Network, a nonprofit that partners with governments to help manage national parks. “The argument that demand from the East is insatiable doesn’t stand up,” Eustace says. “Legal trade will satisfy the market, leaving the criminals to trade at low prices and high risks.”
Those opposed to this plan contend that it could actually hasten the demise of the rhino. As evidence, they cite the spike in elephant poaching that came after CITES recently permitted the sale of ivory stockpiles after an outright ban on ivory sales for more than 20 years. “The legal sales of all those stored ivory caches have not stopped ivory poaching, nor brought down the price of ivory,” says leading South African conservationist Colin Bell. “The reality is that ivory poaching increased exponentially after the trade was legalized. I cannot imagine that selling the stockpiled horns from a few hundred or even thousands of rhino will be able to keep pace with potential Asian demand.” Bell says that the only way forward is to stop all rhino hunting immediately, to further increase fines for illegal possession, to radically step up anti-poaching efforts, and to “track down every one of the hunting permits issued to Vietnamese in recent years and find out what happened to those horns” (there is a widespread belief that many permits applied for by Vietnamese “hunters” were in fact procured by traffickers who then illegally sold the horn).
But even the emotionally charged Fowlds says that pragmatism appears to be the only solution. “Nothing we have tried is working, so there’s a sense of desperation. We have to try something else—and maybe that something else is the legal supply of horn.”
Ian Player, whose conservation work brought the white rhino back from the brink of extinction, also sees legal trade as a possible solution. “What needs to be stressed,” Player says, “is the huge difference between emotion and sentimentality. I am emotional about rhinos but not sentimental, and the problem is that most of the so-called pro-rhino organizations which have sprung up in recent years base their thinking on sentimentality. These are NGOs that have made their money through sentimentality, not through sound conservation beliefs.” There are now approximately 270 rhino conservation charities operating around the world—most of which appear to be decidedly anti-trade.
“If we don’t succeed in legalizing the horn trade through natural mortality,” Player says, “I think we could lose this battle.” Indeed, it was the success of Player’s Operation Rhino that led to the reintroduction of rhino hunting in 1970. And as he says, “Ironically, it is through the death of rhinos that there has been life. Hunting on private land with privately owned rhinos has helped plow a significant amount of money back into conservation and given these animals a market value.”
In South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal Province, home of Player’s great rhino conservation success, there is strong support in both the public and private sector for the introduction of trade in tandem with a program that makes local communities beneficiaries of profits made from wildlife, be it through tourism or the trading of assets such as rhino trophies. The Phinda conservancy, my last stop on this investigation, has a long tradition of community conservation work. It has a population of 160 white rhinos and 28 black rhinos and, despite its vulnerable location near the Mozambique border, has managed to buck the national trend by creating information networks in the community and a strong anti-poaching presence.
Consequently, both Phinda and the neighboring Imfolozi and Hluhluwe reserves reported an 18 percent drop in poaching between 2010 and 2011. Phinda’s Les Carlisle says that it is the “white glove and iron fist” conservation ethic they have practiced for 20 years which will save the rhino. “Everybody recognizes that if we win the hearts and minds of the community, it reduces the pressure on wildlife,” he says.
AT THE END of my first visit with Fowlds, he sat me down in front of his laptop and said he wanted to show me something that would be painful to watch. “If I thought the poaching of Geza was bad, I wasn’t prepared for what happened last March.” Again, he said, it began with a call from a nearby reserve. This time three rhinos had been poached using dart guns. One had died, but two had survived and, like Geza, were stumbling around the bush in terrible pain with their faces removed. Fowlds alerted a cameraman and headed out to help the stricken animals. Watching this wretched drama unfold on his laptop, Fowlds, who had seen this footage a hundred times, and I had tears running down our cheeks. He treated the male rhino, Themba (Xhosa for Hope), and the female, Thandi (Love), cleaning their wounds and stabilizing them. Themba lasted 24 days, but then rangers found him drowned in a shallow water hole. Thandi has miraculously survived.
I spent my last day in the bush with Fowlds. He wanted to show me Thandi, who is living in the Kariega reserve, where her horns were poached. Her condition has improved dramatically, and despite her disfigurement, she is prospering alongside another female white rhino and her calf.
We could not find Thandi and her companions in the open grassland, so we entered the thick bushveld on foot. This was risky behavior, because a spooked rhino charging out of dense vegetation could easily flatten fragile Homo sapiens. Fowlds laughed: “Just make sure you’re near a tree you can climb quickly if they come at us.”
In fact, Thandi and her traveling companions spent the afternoon carefully avoiding us. Normally, white rhinos can be found on the open grassland, grazing in the mild winter sunshine. But these three were keeping out of our way. It seemed appropriate behavior, given what we humans have visited on these magnificent creatures. Appropriate, too, that unarmed and on foot, it was man who was the most vulnerable creature in this wild habitat.
**SOS** 633 Rhinos Poached DEAD!
Tanzania: Local Firms to Boost Anti-Poaching Drive
TANZANIA is home to some of Africa's largest game reserves, but conservationists hold that many species are at risk of extinction due to poaching and this calls for swift measures by the state and non-state institutions to end the malpractice.
Stakeholders say low investments in the human resources and crucial facilities like helicopters for carrying frequent patrols and surveillance in the game sanctuaries are among factors that make poaching flourish.
Poachers are reportedly deploy sophisticated equipment and often outsmart anti-poaching operations. In South Africa, for example, where the poaching is rampant, it is alleged that poachers use helicopters to identify animals targeted for killing.
To support government efforts to curb poaching, ten hunting operators last week donated various equipment worth 42m/- to bolster the anti-poaching campaigns, the malpractice which is currently threatening wildlife existence in the country.
Speaking on behalf of the 10 hunting firms with hunting blocs at Rungwa Game Reserve, Kizigo/ Muhuwesi Game Reserve and Ecosystem, the Northern Hunting Enterprise (T) Limited Managing Director Mr Muhsin Abdallah said there was need to involve all stakeholders to curb the malpractice.
"Conducting patrols in the country's wildlife which is approximately 120,000 kms requires enough budget and incentives to game wardens, the fact that calls all state and non-state actors to team up and bring poaching to its end," he said.
The facilities donated include 15 tyres and three batteries for anti-poaching vehicles, 12 front and rear shock absorbers of Australian made vehicles, one injector pump, six injector nozzles, 10 tents, two satellite phones and 10,000 litres of diesel.
The companies which donated the facilities include Northern Hunting Enterprises (T), Palahala Safaris, Rungwa Game Safaris, Wembere Hunting Safaris, Robin Hurt Safaris, Bushman Safaris, Marera Safaris, African Buffalo Trackers, TAWICO and Wildfoot Prints.
To increase patrols in wildlife areas Mr Muhsin said his company and the other two have ordered three helicopters to facilitate the surveillance in Rungwa Game Reserve, Kizigo/Muhuwesi Game Reserve and Ecosystem.
"Conservation of wildlife resources has become an expensive undertaking due to the vastness of the area as well as increased demand for the trophies from some Asian countries," he said.According to a report released by the conservation group, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), last week, poor wildlife protection efforts by both African and Asian in response to skyrocketing poaching are putting the survivalof rhinoceroses, tigers and elephants at risk.
The report names Vietnam, Laos and Mozambique as the countries that do the least to combat poaching or trafficking of the endangered animals, whose body parts are highly valued in many Asian cultures for use in traditional medicine or as decorative items.
The report singled out Vietnam for failing to curtail the consumption and trade of rhinoceros horn, which it said had fuelled a poaching crisis in South Africa. According to international standards, the Manager of the Rungwa Game Reserve, the second after Selous Mr Julius Kibebe said each game warden is supposed to patrol an area of about 25 kms but due to insufficient resources they oversee an area of between 280 and 300 square kms.
In the meantime, the companies have made a special request to the government to increase the hunting period from five to around 20 years, which could be considerable for the firms to invest in key infrastructure projects like roads and bridges for easy access into the wildlife areas to curb poaching.
The Acting Director of Wildlife Division Mr Twaha Twaibu, representing the Director of Wildlife Division, called for co-operation from all the citizens to reveal the poachers to protect the country's wildlife resources, which provide unique attractions and one of the important sources of government revenues.
"The assistance from the hunting operators is an impact of the public-private partnerships (PPP) in the efforts to conserve the lucrative wildlife resources from rampant poaching," he said, adding that, "It is the first support of its kind from these firms since when hunting regulations enacted in 2010."
Mr Twaibu challenged other companies which secured hunting blocks in the period of 2013-18 to emulate their colleagues in support of the government efforts to protect wildlife for the present and future generations.
BY SEBASTIAN MRINDOKO, 18 DECEMBER 2012
South Africa: Sanparks Receives Reconnaissance Aircraft to Fight Rhino Poaching
Efforts to combat rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park were bolstered recently as the Ichikowitz Family Foundation and South African National Parks (SANParks) launched a new, state-of-the-art aerial surveillance solution to save South Africa's rhinos.
The unique specialist reconnaissance aircraft, The Seeker Seabird, incorporating highly sophisticated surveillance technology, was unveiled at Skukuza airport in the Kruger National Park (KNP). The unveiling was part of an announcement of a strategic cooperation between the Ichikowitz Family Foundation and SANParks which will see the Foundation providing SANParks with a number of solutions from the Paramount Group, an associated entity.
Speaking at the unveiling, Dr. David Mabunda, CEO of SANParks said: "We anticipate that by the end of this calendar year we will have lost about 650 rhinos throughout South Africa, 400 in the Kruger National Park. To date 598 rhinos have been lost to poaching, 364 in the KNP alone. South Africa is home to more than 80% of the world's rhinos, while the KNP is home to about 60% of South Africa's rhinos and accounts for 40% of the world's rhino population. While the combination of criminally slaughtered rhinos and natural mortalities has not reached a point of negative growth, we are seeing definite signs of a decrease in growth numbers.
Engaging with private sector
"The mindless slaughter of rhinos in the wild has called for a multi-pronged strategy. We are actively enlisting and broadening our engagement with the private sector to protect and conserve wildlife. The strategy is to reach out to a new set of stakeholders that would complement and fundamentally strengthen and provide the necessary intelligence to our existing efforts," Mabunda said.
"Our world-class electronic systems technology brings expert navigation and surveillance solutions to the fore to help in the search for suspected rhino poachers throughout the Kruger National Park," Ivor Ichikowitz, chairman of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation and executive chairman of Africa's largest privately held defence and aerospace company, Paramount Group said. "Advanced visual reconnaissance and surveillance will provide game reserve rangers with robust intelligence in their tireless mission to confront poachers.
"We will equip the Seeker Seabird with a FLIR Ball infra-red detector. This thermal imaging technology will deliver more enhanced and powerful observation capability to the Kruger National Park's rangers making it very difficult for poachers to hide. The plane demonstrates high degree of flexibility in terms of utilisation, use of operation and reliability. It is capable of flying at high altitude and at slow speeds with 270 degrees visibility. It can be forward positioned on short dirt strips and requires very limited logistical support," Ichikowitz added.
Attitudes are changing
"Attitudes about the importance of wildlife in South Africa are changing. The grim realities of environmental crimes committed against wildlife and rhino's in particular are being recognised with calls for tougher law enforcement and penalties. Initiatives like these are critical to motivate potential consumers to quell demand for wildlife-based products by appealing to their pro-environment instincts."
"SANParks is entrusted to protect our natural heritage. They are at the forefront of saving the rhino," said Ichikowitz. "Paramount Group is in the business of developing state of the art defence technology, technology which, through the Family Foundation, we intend placing in SANParks hands in the fight against poachers."
South Africa: Reward for Info Leading to Arrest of Poachers
Pretoria — The South African National Parks (SANParks) says it will offer a cash reward of R100 000 to anyone who can provide information that will lead to the arrest of poachers and a further R1 million for a successful conviction of a poaching syndicate mastermind.
This was announced by SANParks Chief Executive Officer, David Mabunda. on Wednesday.
"We are also happy to announce our partnership with South Africa's Crime Line, a ground-breaking initiative that allows members of the public to make anonymous SMS tip-offs on suspected crimes at any time of the day, courtesy of LeadSA, a Primedia and Independent Newspapers initiative," said Mabunda.
He also announced that SANParks had appointed a retired decorated army Major General to oversee the overall anti-poaching operations in the Kruger National Park, as part of its tactics to fight rhino poaching.
The introduction of retired Major General, Johan Jooste, 60, would conclude the foundation phase of a multi-pronged strategy against rhino poaching. "This strategy is to leverage on existing capacities and strategic alliances, while bringing the much needed thinking and innovation on existing gaps and loopholes."
Mabunda commended the KNP ranger who, three weeks ago, alerted SANParks officials and the police regarding an offer by suspected poachers to collude with them. He instead helped to stage a set-up that led to the successful arrest of the perpetrators.
"His honesty, commitment and diligence to the cause of protecting the rhino has not gone unnoticed, the organization will reward his good deed accordingly," Mabunda said.
South Africa has lost an unprecedented number of rhinos of which in the last five years most were killed in the Kruger National Park.
"This has resulted in warranted and unwarranted sanctions both internally and internationally on South Africa's strategy of managing the poaching of rhinos. It is therefore, our hope that the approach that we are taking at this moment, by engaging Major General Johan Jooste will in time bring the much needed invigoration in the fight against the decimation of our natural heritage."
Zimbabwe: Rangers Kill Poachers, Recover Weapons of War
National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers have killed two elephant poachers in the Dande Safari Area in Mbire north of Guruve and recovered weapons, among them mortar bombs.
Motor bombs are weapons of war and it is yet to be established why the poachers had such dangerous arms of war.
Items recovered include three mortar-bombs, one 3008 calibre hunting rifle, one 3008 spent cartridge, three live 3008 rounds of ammunition and six pairs of elephant tusks weighing 51,4 kg valued at US$12 850.
Parks public relations manager Ms Caroline Washaya Moyo on Monday said the two poachers killed were from Mashumbi Pools.
The other three poachers ran away.
"Our rangers had a contact with poachers which resulted in the death of two armed poachers from Mashumbi Pools in the Usanga Usanga hunting camp area of Dande Safari Area.
"Rangers observed a human spoor of five suspected poachers in the park and quickly made a follow up and it was during a contact that the two armed poachers were killed.
"The killed poachers are Andrew Mapfumo and Last Stephanie from Mazambara Village in Chief Chitsungo's area.
"In a bid to cover their tracks the poachers started a veldfire as they left the park," she said.
One of the deceased Andrew Mapfumo is a known poacher who has been involved in elephant poaching since 2005 and was convicted and served a custodial sentence at Guruve and Bindura prisons.
Meanwhile, another suspected Zambian poacher was shot and killed in Katombola, Hwange National Park last Saturday. Four others escaped through the Zambezi River. Parks rangers also recovered two rifles, 14 rounds of ammunition and food with Zambian labels.
"Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority continues to warn would be poachers that their efforts will be thwarted and the above cases should serve as a warning to those who are financing poachers that they are engaging in risky business," Ms Washaya-Moyo said.
**SOS**Record 618 Rhinos Poached for Horns in 2012
The number of rhinos killed for their horns in South Africa so far this year has shot up to 618. This is well past last year’s shock record of 448 and substantially more than the tally of 550 predicted at the beginning of 2012.
A total of 618 rhinos were killed illegally in South Africa in 2012, so far. With the black market price of rhino horn reportedly now in the region of $30,000 per pound ($65,000 per kg) -- more than gold -- trafficking has become a very big global business.
And still there is no sign of the onslaught letting up. This, despite tightened security and a range of strategies devised to counter the gruesome trend. Fears have even been expressed that the way it is going, the already endangered species could be extinct in a few decades’ time.
Worst hit by far has been Kruger National Park, South Africa’s flagship reserve that is home to about 12,000 rhinos. Its loss of 381 of the iconic animals so far this year is a serious worry.
Operations in the park have taken on the aspect of war, with poachers regularly getting killed in firefights with security staff. Tracker dogs fitted with GPS collars get delivered quickly by helicopter to the site of rhino killings to go after the poachers. Heavily armed reaction units follow by helicopter to take them on. Recently a small aircraft that is relatively quiet and can stay in the air for seven hours was donated to the park to carry out surveillance.
For their part, the poachers have become no less audacious. They have even started issuing death threats against park rangers. Operating mainly from Mozambique, which the park adjoins, they write messages in the sand near the border telling a specific ranger “we’re coming for you”, according to Kenn Maggs, head of the park’s criminal investigation unit.
The poachers are good bush operators, with most having military training and belonging to some kind of militia. “We have to adhere to the rule of the land. They don’t,” Maggs is quoted as saying.
Smaller provincial and private reserves have not been spared either. As has been happening around the country, poachers recently left behind the mutilated carcasses of another seven rhinos on a wildlife ranch not far from Johannesburg. Their horns were hacked out of their heads, the eyes of one gouged out and the ears and genitalia of others cut off.
That attack came in the face of a 40-year jail sentence handed down a few days earlier to Thai citizen Chumlong Lemtongthai for using prostitutes to pose as hunters so that he could sell rhino horn obtained as trophies in powder form in the Far East.
Investigations are continuing into how he was able so easily to obtain permits for trophy hunting. There has been growing concern at either the laxity or complicity of conservation officials in aiding the poachers and smugglers.
But environmentalists have been encouraged by the heavy sentences. They see it as proof that judicial officers are beginning to appreciate the seriousness of the situation. Earlier this year two Vietnamese citizens were given 18-year jail sentences for rhino-horn smuggling.
A rhino DNA bank being developed in a laboratory at the University of Pretoria’s faculty of veterinary science has been proving of growing help in linking suspects to the dead animals and so securing convictions.
Combined security operations are being carried out under the umbrella of the National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit that was set up last year. It consists of the police’s organized crime unit, the environmental crime agencies of national and provincial park services, the prosecuting authorities, and the customs and excise and revenue services. It also involves the defence force, which provides technical assistance and has deployed soldier patrols in Kruger Park.
But from the relentless increase in killings, and from the international nature and scale of the smuggling networks, it is clear that it is going to require something very remarkable to turn round the situation. There is just too much money in it for the criminals to let up.
While China with its booming economy, new wealthy classes and people’s mistaken belief in the medicinal qualities of rhino horn used to be the main market, a study carried out by TRAFFIC, the international wildlife trade monitoring network, has shown just how alarmingly the use of rhino horn has grown in Vietnam.
At the report’s release in Johannesburg earlier this year, TRAFFIC spokesman Tom Milliken told how rhino horn has turned from medicinal use into a status symbol. It has become customary for the fast set to at parties to disappear into backrooms to partake of dosages of rhino horn in the belief that it prevents hangovers, instils feelings of wellbeing and even serves as an aphrodisiac. It has become a favourite gift among the elites.
It has been acknowledged that international diplomacy would need to be part of the turn-round strategy. In pursuance of this, South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, has now, after several delays, at last signed a memorandum of understanding with Vietnam’s Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Cao Duc Phat, on “co-operation in biodiversity, conservation and protection.”
Conservationists are now waiting to see how seriously the Vietnamese authorities take their part in combating the scourge, such as by lending their cooperation in criminal investigations and by engaging in public awareness and education campaigns.
Milliken said that for the bilateral initiative to be really effective, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma needed to talk to his Vietnamese counterpart. “It needs high power.”
There have been closer contacts with the government of Mozambique as well, but for the diplomatic offensive to be effective, South Africa’s neighbor will need to introduce tough anti-poaching legislation and drastically step up law-enforcement operations on its side of the border to stop the relentless incursions into Kruger National Park and other reserves.
Just what the anti-poaching operatives find themselves up against has been described to me by South African National Parks (SANParks) chief executive David Mabunda:
“SANParks needs partners to help lift the fight to higher levels that will meet today’s sophisticated poachers who are armed with satellite cell phones, iPads, automatic weapons and GPS. We also need to gain a deeper understanding of the value chain, part of which is international.
“All these pieces of the puzzle will take time to come together. There are no instant results. The reality is that we are fighting a complex and sophisticated war (against an enemy) capable of reinventing itself like the HIV virus, but once locked into our radar will be cut out like a cancer and replaced with a strong law enforcement regime that will be capable of anticipating threats at a distance.
“We did not see this one coming and it found us wanting because since 1985 we had stopped investing adequately in wildlife protection. There was no threat, and we are now waking up from self-designed slumberland. Budgets have not been growing to meet the challenge. We were happy to invest more in the tourism side of the business to compensate for the declining state subsidy but never imagined the ‘mighty’ South Africa – the gateway to Africa’s economic growth – one day experiencing massive poaching like the rest of Africa and Asia.
“I’m confident we have regrouped, reinforced and focused; it’s just a matter of time before we start seeing positive results.”
Much hope of getting the strings together to turn the tide against poaching is being pinned on a report by Mavuso Msimang, a former SANParks chief and director-general of the national Home Affairs department, appointed by Minister Molewa earlier this year to conduct public hearings on the problem and submit recommendations to her Environmental Affairs department. He handed his report to her a few weeks ago. Curiously she seems in no rush to make his recommendations public.
During an interview I had with Msimang, he shook his head ever so slightly when I mentioned the dismal new record of rhinos killed. He has a pensive manner, a propensity for listening intently to what others say and, it appears, an ability to quickly get to the crux of issues. Which could be why stakeholders from across the board came forward in unexpected numbers to share their ideas with him.
The scope of the onslaught, the sophistication of the weaponry and horn-smuggling systems used, the brutalities accompanying all this, and a growing sense of helplessness tend to stir deep emotions, much anger and even despair. But according to Msimang, the enthusiasm with which submissions were made and the quality of the debates were impressive. Even parties who normally do not sit easily together exchanged ideas in the most civilized manner. Flare-ups were few.
Acknowledging that it was the minister’s prerogative to make his report public, he said he was meanwhile only able to talk in broad terms about his impressions and conclusions about the best way forward.
It quickly became clear that the submissions and his recommendations covered the gamut of aspects related to rhino conservation. What Msimang was most insistent about was that there was no silver bullet. It had to be a total strategy involving a variety of approaches and initiatives.
The single most vital aspect, though, remained security. There have been considerable successes from combined security operations, but there need to be further improvements. And high up the priority list should be improved intelligence, which can only be achieved by winning over local communities and getting their help in stemming the relentless onslaught. Education, training and more employment in parks and in conservation and security for members of such communities, all had a role to play.
Another aspect Msimang considers of particular importance is range extension of the species. Neighbouring countries like Zambia, Malawi and Namibia could all be given a bigger role in helping preserve the species by translocating animals to sanctuaries there for new populations to grow. It would however be suicidal, he noted, to try this in countries and places where the animals’ safety could not be ensured.
Msimang chose to steer clear of what he proposed regarding the contentious issue of legalising trade in rhino horn as a way of pulling the carpet from under the criminals. He did say, however, that CITES (the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species) needed to take a far more active role in the preservation of rhinos. Its present regulations were unfair to rhino owners. It needed to be more consultative.
The species was an international icon, which made it an international responsibility to, through CITES, assist South Africa with its protection. But first and foremost, it was the obligation of South Africans.
“We have done a marvellous job in rescuing this species and keeping it alive. We must now demonstrate our ability to withstand the onslaught. We have a historical and international obligation to save it. It would be a dereliction of our duty as a nation to allow this wonderful animal to disappear. History and humankind requires us to protect it,” Msimang said.
Posted by Leon Marshall of Environmental Journalist
South Africa: Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Mr Obed Bapela, Investigates the Root Cause to Rhino Poaching
Game reserves in both the North West and Mpumalanga have recently been hit by the ongoing scourge of rhino poaching. South Africa has lost a total of 588 rhinos to poachers since the beginning of 2012, the Kruger National Park remains the hardest hit, having lost more than 320 rhinos. On the weekend of 17 to 18 November, seven rhino carcasses were found in Finfoot Lake Reserve in the Klipkopspruit Farm in the North West.
In an attempt to get to the root cause of the problem, the Deputy Minister in the Presidency will be visiting the Pilanesburg Game Reserve to investigate why this poaching continues to hurt the wildlife industry.
"It has come to our attention that the issuing of permits for rhino hunting might be an exacerbating factor to rhino poaching. The Presidency is stepping in to ascertain how the system could be improved to ensure that the rhino poaching scourge is lessened in the coming year" said Bapela.
The objective of this visit is to assess and monitor the process of issuing permits for rhino hunting and to get first-hand experience of the work done in combating rhino poaching. Deputy Minister will also make a turn at the Licence Office in Veritas, to monitor and understand the system of issuing the licenses, and will be meeting with owners of Game Reserves to hear their side of the story.
The media briefing and meeting is scheduled to take place as follows:
Venue: Sun City Main Hotel, North West
Kenya: Poachers Arrested for Killing Eight Elephants
Four suspected poachers have been arrested by KWS personnel in connection with the killing of eight elephants last week. Tsavo conservancy area Assistant Director Wilson Korir says the four were arrested after a shoot out between them and the poachers.He says the four are also believed to be behind the poaching activities in the area.
Kenya: Vets Say Bullet Killed Lewa Rhino
The four black rhinos killed at the Lewa Conservancy by poachers last week have been identified. Rhinotek, an 11-year-old female rhino, was found dead at midday on Monday.
Initial assessments did not give a clear indication of the cause of Rhinotek's death, but further examinations by vets found out that she had died from a bullet wound in the stomach.
Nyota, a well known 20-year-old female and Serian, a seven year-old male, were shot dead at approximately 1am on Tuesday. Jazz, a male rhino, was found dead late on Tuesday afternoon.
The loss of the four brings down the rhino population in Lewa to just 71. Three of the rhino horn sets were still intact and have been recovered, but the poachers made away with the rest.
"These incidents serve as a constant reminder of the harsh reality and rapidly escalating threat faced by rhinos. Lewa is now more than ever determined to counter these threats by increasing our security," said Mike Watson, the CEO of Lewa Conservancy. Kenya now has just about 600 rhinos left.
BY RAABIA HAWA, 6 DECEMBER 2012
Experts alarmed by dramatic increase in elephant killings
Tens of thousands of elephants were killed across Africa last year and populations are plummeting.
In 2007 there were roughly half a million elephants in Africa. This number has steadily grown after the trade in ivory was banned in 1989, until the last decade. Now there has been a dramatic increase in the mass killing of elephants.
In February over 300 elephants were killed at the Bouba N'Djida National Park in northern Cameroon. This number represents nearly half of the park's population.In response, the army launched an offensive against poachers who were freely operating in the park.
Similar killings have been occurring across eastern and western Africa. Tanzania is losing around 30 elephants a day, according to its government. And while the incidents of poaching in South Africa's neighbouring countries are increasing, it is not yet an issue here.
Julian Blanc, acting co-ordinator and data analyst at Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (Mike), said: "While poaching levels in southern Africa are not as high as in other parts of the continent, they are steadily increasing."
Mike is a child of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), and it has kept track of elephant poaching since the trade in ivory was banned.
Link between deaths and consumer demand
Blanc said that levels of poaching were increasing at all nine sites they monitor in southern Africa. In the past the region had been seen as secure. Last year these levels, on average, reached an unsustainable point, where the rate of poaching exceeds the natural population growth, he said. "If this trend continues, the situation could become as serious as elsewhere on the continent," he said.
But Kruger National Park and Etosha did not seem to be affected yet, he said. This could possibly be due to the wealth of these areas and better governance. "The Mike programme has found strong relationships between poaching levels and poverty, with higher levels at sites where people are comparatively poor," he said.
And like with the boom in rhino poaching, elephant deaths are directly linked to demand in consumer markets. "If demand continues to increase we could see elephant poaching spreading to these populations that are still considered secure," said Blanc.
Bryan Coll, media liaison at the United Nations Environment Programme, said he was surprised elephant poaching was not an issue in South Africa, given the devastation happening elsewhere. But he did say there was "a lot of concern about trends across the continent". And if the easily accessible populations in the north start to run out, it will be natural for poachers to turn to Southern Africa, where half the continent's elephants still reside, he said.
In its big re-zoning plan this year, Kruger Park made several allusions to the future problems with elephant poaching. The document repeatedly mentions "the threat of elephant poaching looming on the horizon".
'Most serious crisis'
And in looking at the surrounding countries and their growing problems with poaching, it also warned: "Elephant poaching is already occurring in some of our neighbouring countries and is threatening to spill into the park."
In its mid-year report, Cites said the rising levels of seized ivory were a good indicator of the increase in poaching. The levels of seized ivory from 2009 to last year were three of the five highest since trade was banned. This trade mostly left ports in Kenya and Tanzania, destined for China and Thailand, it said.
At the time Tom Milliken, leader of the Elephant and Rhino Programme at wildlife monitoring organisation Traffic, said: "Evidence is steadily mounting that shows that African elephants are facing their most serious crisis since international commercial trade in ivory was generally prohibited under Cites in 1989."
Louis Lemmer, spokesperson for the Honorary Rangers, said that elephant poaching had not yet become a problem in this area because of the availability of rhino horn. "As long as there is rhino horn still available, ivory poaching will probably remain on a low level," he said.
But given the rise of poaching elsewhere and the existing syndicates for rhino poaching in the region, it is a problem "which can easily start growing in our area too", he said.
Lemmer said it had been a huge problem in the 1980s and it took a concentrated effort and a very long time to eradicate it. "The one luck we have within the horrible rhino poaching situation is that measures being put in place to protect our rhino will also benefit elephant conservation."
Kenya: Rhinos Killed
Four black rhinos have been killed in the past week bringing the population of the endangered species to 71 in Kenya. The rhinos died of gunshot wounds inflicted by poachers at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Isiolo. The poachers managed to get away with one of the rhino's horns.
BY NELLY GITAU, 6 DECEMBER 2012
South Africa to use aircraft against rhino poacher
The plane will be equipped with surveillance equipment including thermal imaging to detect poachers.
It will patrol over the Kruger National Park, a vast reserve that borders Mozambique and home to two-thirds of South Africa's rhino population.
So far this year 588 rhinos have been killed in South Africa, in what is being called a "relentless onslaught".
That figure has risen from just 13 reported cases in 2007 as organised and well-armed crime syndicates target the animals.
South Africa is home to the world's largest rhino population - an estimated 18,000 white rhinos and 1,700 critically endangered black rhino.
The rhino horn is highly prized in traditional Asian medicine, even though there is no scientific proof of its effects. It sells for around $95,000 (£60,000) per kilo, almost twice the value of gold.
Continue reading the main story
Rhino poaching in South Africa
2007: 13 reported cases
2008: 83 reported cases
2009: 122 reported cases
2010: 333 reported cases
2011: 448 reported cases
2012: 588 reported cases - to 4 Dec
Source: Traffic, the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network
The director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Jason Bell, said: "The killing of rhinos for their horns does not exist in a vacuum, but is a complex problem where values of tradition and culture have been corrupted in the name of commercial exploitation."
"Be it elephants and ivory, tigers and tiger parts, rhinos and rhino horn, the endpoint is the same - profit. And that profit is being chased down in the most brutal fashion by organised crime syndicates."
So far this year, South Africa has already armed some of its park rangers and deployed dog patrols to try and stop the poachers.
The surveillance airplane for the Kruger National Park was donated by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, whose chairman Ivor Ichikowitz said: "You have to fight fire with fire."
"This thermal imaging technology will deliver more powerful observation capability to the Kruger National Park's rangers, making it difficult for poachers to hide."
Prince of Sweden
We are endorsed by the Prince of Sweden, who has kindly offered his support to our cause, We thank him for helping us fight for what we feel is unfair and unjust to the endangered animals of Africa.
Breeders sell their rhino herds
Jozini - Prominent KwaZulu-Natal game rancher and rhino-breeder Karel Landman is thinking of selling all his rhino because of the national poaching crisis, rising security costs and the belief that rhino-farming is no longer financially attractive.
In a letter to fellow rhino owners, Landman said he had planned to breed a herd of more than 150 white rhino at his 7 000-hectare Pongola Game Reserve, near Jozini Dam.
Instead, he had sold an undisclosed number of rhino and moved the remaining animals (less than 20) onto a smaller 1 000ha section for security reasons.
“Presently I am considering selling all my rhino, something I did not even contemplate as an option before.
“The cost of security, as well as the risk of losing millions overnight due to illegal hunting, result in rhino farming not being an attractive option anymore.
“I am surprised to learn of how many people in our area alone have sold all their rhino.”
Landman says in his letter to the RhinoDotCom campaign that keeping rhino was no longer financially viable.
RhinoDotCom campaigns for the legalisation of rhino horn as a solution to the current rhino poaching onslaught, which has led to the poaching of almost 600 rhino this year alone.
It is lobbying the government to set up a central selling organisation which would hold regular rhino horn auctions, with the proceeds split between the government and private rhino owners, according to the ratio of how much each sector owned.
“We keep rhino because we are conservation-minded people,” said Landman, “but at the same time the reality is we need to make money out of such an investment to survive in the business of conservation.
“The present permit requirements, red tape and lengthy time frames make it extremely difficult to hunt or to move rhino, influencing price and demand. I could not sell one rhino hunt this season, although I have too many males which need to be removed from the reserve.”
Confidence in the future of private rhino ownership had become problematic, despite the lobbying and leadership role of other private rhino owners, such as Pelham Jones and John Hume.
Hume is the single-largest private rhino owner in the world and is believed to have more than 800 rhino, mainly at his Mauricedale Game Ranch in the Mpumalanga Lowveld.
“Will common sense prevail to allow controlled trade in rhino horn, which is the only long-term solution to the survival of our rhino?” Landman observed.
“Maybe the answer is not to get out, but to fight for our right to decide for ourselves on how to manage the rhino we own.” - The Mercury
December 3 2012 at 09:27am
By Tony Carnie
A black rhino named Phila has survived two poaching attempts in which she was shot a total of nine times, stands in a boma whilst being guarded round the clock by two police reservists. File photo: Jennifer Bruce
South Africa: Nambiti Private Game Reserve's Rhinos Dehorned
Criminal acts call for tough measures and that's the reason Nambiti Private Game Reserve's rhino population has been dehorned; the process having been completed on 22 November 2012.
"The whole exercise went off very well and I am extremely happy with the teamwork and professionalism we witnessed," said Clarke Smith, chairman of the KwaZulu-Natal game reserve. "It's distressing to have to tranquilise such magnificent creatures, but it is necessary and for their own good. I feel a lot more comfortable now that the entire rhino population had been dehorned."
This option, to beat the abhorrent and criminal act of poaching, was the result of much thought and debate. "We see dehorning as one of the strategies to address poaching and applaud any efforts to retain population integrity," said Francois du Toit, CEO of African Conservation Trust.
Pressure from external communities
"Our core focus is on addressing issues of pressure, particularly from external communities surrounding the reserves. To that end we hope to be able to work with Nambiti to develop community conservation agriculture as a means of building a natural resource-based economy, which will reduce pressure on pure tourism as a means of income for these communities."
According to veterinary surgeon Dr. Silke Pfitzer, dehorning a rhino does not hurt the animal provided the procedure is done correctly. Rhino horn, she said, was similar to finger nails and dehorning was like cutting a finger nail. Rhino horn grows back at the rate of about two inches every year which means this procedure has to be repeated.
"While it is sad to see these animals without their long horns, with tight security and guards, dehorning definitely helps deter poachers," she said, and explained that the monetary return on a little horn stump did not justify the risk. "Hopefully the poaching threat will be eradicated and then we can allow Nambiti's rhinos to grow their horns again," she concluded. A young female, a young adult bull, and a mature female underwent the process.
as the amount of animals being killed has risen so much that white and black rhino species are in risk of become severely endangered, even faster than predicted.
Uganda: UPDF Accused of Executing Poachers
Soldiers deployed in Murchison Falls national park have been accused of carrying out extra-judicial killings of suspected poachers.
The soldiers are reported to have killed at least 25 people from Nguedo and Buliisa sub-counties in Buliisa district between March and September this year. All the victims are suspected poachers, and their families say they can't trace their bodies. The UPDF offers back-up for game rangers in the park.
Nguedio sub-county chairman, James Jopato said he has identified 20 people missing in his sub-county. "I have been getting complaints from the community over their dear ones allegedly shot dead by forces operating in Murchison Falls national park," Jopato said.
The chairman added that some survivors have claimed UPDF soldiers shot their colleagues. Consequently, relatives of the victims have been pleading with the army authorities to return the bodies for burial. Recently, Jopato organised a meeting with a number of security officials in the park, including Major Lino Dramadri, the commander of the UPDF forces in the park. However, Dramadri denied knowledge of the killings.
Buliisa MP Steven Mukitale Birahwa says he is alarmed by the situation and has reported to the ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities as well as Parliament's committee on tourism. "We cannot go silent as taxpayers continue to disappear," said Birahwa.
The legislator condemned such killings, saying that legal action should be taken against poachers. "If one is suspected to be a poacher, he should be arrested, tried and sentenced according to the law but not shot dead," Birahwa says.
When contacted for a comment, the Army and Defence spokesman, Col Felix Kulayigye, neither denied nor accepted the army's role in the alleged killings, insisting that soldiers in the park are only responsible for animals and tourists.
"I cannot account for poachers. If they were tourists, I could be questioned. First of all, why do they go there, are they animals? My only advice to the wananchi is, never to go poaching," said Col Kulayigye.
**SOS** 588 Rhinos Poached in SA
Pretoria — The latest rhino poaching statistics indicate that a total of 588 rhinos have been lost to poaching since the beginning of this year, with the total number of arrests at 246.
The Department of Environmental Affairs says the Kruger National Park has lost 362 rhinos to poaching.
The North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo provinces continue to be a target for poachers, collectively accounting for the loss of 186 rhinos.
According to the department, 333 were poached in 2010 and this increased to 588 this year.
Of the 246 arrested individuals, 217 were at the level of poacher, 18 were couriers and 11 receivers.
Authorities urged members of the public to report incidents of rhino poaching or any tip-offs that could lead to arrests and prevention of illegal killings to 0800 205 005.
South Africa: Go After Rhino Poaching Kingpins
North West Premier Thandi Modise is confident that police are closing the net around the syndicate responsible for rhino poaching and are getting closer to the kingpins. This follows the arrest of two more people in Rustenburg on Friday morning bringing to 8 suspects arrested in connection with poaching of eight rhinos in Klipkopspruit farm over the past weekend.
"Though the network of the syndicate of cruelty and brutality against the rhino as a symbol of our ecology and rich heritage is crumbling, we would be satisfied with nothing less than the arrest of the kingpins behind the evil trade in rhino horns. We commend the Hawks' Rhino task team for its determination to clamp down on the scourge of rhino poaching and members of the community for the tip-off that led to this major breakthrough," Premier Modise.
Three suspects linked to the weekend incident were tracked down and arrested on Thursday night in central Pretoria, Katlehong and Alberton in Gauteng while 3 of the suspects one of whom is a game ranger were arrested in Lethabing township on Monday.
The Premier reiterated her earlier call to police to intensify the onslaught against syndicates involved in rhino poaching to face the full the full wrath and might of the law.
Modise had earlier this week said that the provincial government is considering requesting the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to assist it to overcome the scourge of rhino poaching.
She had also said that there is a need to clamp down on issuing of illegal hunting permits as part of intensifying law enforcement and crime intelligence to overcome the scourge of rhino poaching.
North West Premier Thandi Modise is confident that police are closing the net around the syndicate responsible for rhino poaching and are getting closer to the kingpins. This follows the arrest of two more people in Rustenburg on Friday morning bringing to 8 suspects arrested in connection with poaching of eight rhinos in Klipkopspruit farm over the past weekend.
23 NOVEMBER 2012
South African Government
The Value of Rhino Horn?
The End user price of Rhino horn is at present standing at $12.00 per grms equating to $120,000.00 per Kg. this amount will only escalate as the Rhino number dwindle. This is tragic for a product that has no medicinal properties whatsoever.
Washington — Even though medical science has proven that rhino horn does not cure cancer!
Washington — Even though medical science has proven that rhino horn does not cure cancer, there are plenty of people with money who believe it does and are willing to pay up to $30,000pkg to get it. The result: An increase in the slaughter of this endangered animal and an increasingly sophisticated breed of poacher.
Demand for rhino horns, elephant tusks and other wildlife parts has gone up in the last 20 years partly because more people have more money to spend, according to Robert Hormats, under secretary for economic growth, energy and the environment at the U.S. Department of State.
"If you have more money and you're the poacher, you can buy off more people, you can afford weapons," he said recently at the Washington Foreign Press Center.
Illegal wildlife trade is on the order of $7 billion to $8 billion per year, he said, which is comparable to the money criminals can get in drugs, arms or human trafficking.
And it's not just the animals that are being killed; some 100 wildlife rangers are killed each year in their efforts to protect a precious natural resource, he said.
Public education is crucial to ending this alarming trend, and to that end the United States is working with nongovernmental organizations as well as governments to increase public awareness via social media and other means. Hormats noted as an example his work with Harold Varmus, a Nobel Prize winner for his work in cancer research and the head of the National Cancer Institute at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Varmus did a blog post debunking the myth of rhino horn as a cancer cure that was picked up by some 300 publications.
Many people don't realize, Hormats said, that "you just can't take the rhino horn and grind it up. The rhino is killed to get the horn. ... Animals are killed to provide either ornaments for people, rugs for people, false medicines."
While it is hard to get an accurate number, Hormats said: "At the low end, there are at least 25,000 elephants killed every year illegally, and around 500 rhinos killed every year illegally. "
The United States is supporting programs worldwide to train wildlife judicial experts, border guards, police and court systems in what is needed to protect wildlife, Hormats said.
"No one country can solve this problem. It requires collaboration among a number of countries, and therefore, we want to make sure that it's not aimed at any one country," Hormats said. "So it's not us pointing fingers at other countries; it's demonstrating that we're working with other countries, and that everyone can do a better job and should do a better job in this area."
BY JANE MORSE, 20 NOVEMBER 2012
Army steps in to end rhino massacre
November 21 2012 at 07:53am
Durban - The army has been sent to the Swaziland and Mozambique borders to stop rhino poachers from moving between those countries and South Africa, Ezemvelo KZN chief executive Bandile Mkhize said on Tuesday.
He was addressing the province’s conservation portfolio committee on the rhino poaching crisis at a meeting in Durban.
So far, 570 rhinos have been poached in South Africa this year and, of those, 58 were in KZN.
At the weekend, eight rhinos died when poachers hit a reserve in North West. The Hawks arrested three men – one a park ranger – at their homes in Lethabo township near Brits on Tuesday.
The attack prompted North West Premier Thandi Modise to ask that the army step in as conservation bodies had neither the resources nor the skill to stop the massacre and extinction of one of South Africa’s Big Five.
This call has reverberated across South Africa as conservationists and wildlife authorities despair of stopping the killings.
Mkhize said on Tuesday that Ezemvelo was also involved in discussions with the army on the technological side of the rhino war.
KZN MEC Meshack Radebe, the political head of conservation, told Tuesday’s meeting that the fight to stop poaching was about the country’s heritage.
“We need to mobilise and sensitise all stakeholders, amakhosi, headmen, councillors and the rural communities about this war and the threat to our heritage. It is clear, given the move involved here, that poachers are prepared to kill and die for these horns,” said Radebe.
IFP MPL Inkosi Ngamizizwe Madlala said: “I am concerned that the killing of eight rhinos in North West will encourage these thugs here in KwaZulu-Natal to be more daring in their criminal deeds. We need to work hard to put an end to this scourge.”
The plan tabled by Ezemvelo will see the formation of a highly specialised task force for reaction and deployment in poaching hotspots. This strategy would be implemented through “good intelligence” rather than reactive measures, said Mkhize.
Part of the plan was for the agency to secure adequate funding and manpower to refocus its resources towards ensuring staff were trained.
“We have reintroduced a helicopter patrol at Hluhluwe/iMfolozi Park with a plan for expansion into other protected areas. A highly qualified information network for covert operations has been appointed and, through structured investigation between Ezemvelo and organised-crime units, we have managed to arrest two syndicates in Zululand,” said Mkhize.
Six new Land Cruisers had been ordered for rhino reserves and the agency had also compiled a security staff list which has been submitted to police intelligence for vetting.
The plan would focus on assessing risk and threats to 13 rhino reserves and five black rhino expansion project sites in the province.
A total of R28.1 million had been set aside for the anti-rhino poaching campaigns, but Ezemvelo was also involved in other fund-raising measures for this programme.
DA MPL Radley Keys said a move to “stem the tide of demand” of horns should be launched by engaging countries like China where the traditional-medicine market was driving demand. - The Mercury
Tanzania Minister Calls for Tougher Poaching Laws
THERE was a shocking revelation in the National Assembly at the weekend that poachers kill 30 elephants in national parks in a single day. This is unbelievable and yet it is happening!
An MP told the House that 800 tuskers are decimated each month. Going by this figure, the total number of elephants killed each year rounds off at 10,000. Now, who is to blame for literally allowing notorious criminals to commit such mayhem?
In fact, poachers have over the years been roaming in our national parks almost at will, killing game and stealing government trophies. Fortunately, anti-poaching efforts by the state organs responsible have resulted into the impounding of trophies worth 212.9m/- in Liwale District.
The seizure was made by a Special Joint Task Force formed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. The operation seized 80 firearms, 685 rounds of ammunition and 298 shell castings. The team attributed the success to support from members of the public. A total of 101 suspects were apprehended and arraigned in courts of law.
Poachers can only be controlled through better coordination, incisive use of better equipment and other stringent measures. Such measures include enlisting the services of Tanzania Wildlife Service (TWS), whose establishment is envisaged.
TWS is expected to become effective early next financial year. The government has already set aside 500m/- for ground work towards the launching of the unit. This will be another leap in the right direction. The outfit will be an autonomous state-owned establishment whose detail will be to protect and coordinate sustainable use of the wildlife resources.
TWS will help address a number of challenges including acquisition of working tools like inspection helicopters, communication facilities and other requisite equipment. There will also be a deployment of a crack squad of better-trained game wardens.
The government is also in the process of reviewing the 2005 Wildlife Conservation Act, a move that will include introduction of provisions that will call for stiffer penalties, longer prison terms and higher fines for anyone involved in poaching. Some academicians propose vigorous enforcement of wildlife protection laws in addition to fulfillment of a global agreement on the penalties that should be imposed on poachers and traders in illegal ivory and other government trophies.
Tanzania Daily News .
Prince of Sweden
We are endorsed by the Prince of Sweden, who has kindly offered his support to our cause, We thank him for helping us fight for what we feel is unfair and unjust to the endangered animals of Africa.
*SOS** 559 rhino killed to date for 2012
it doesn't take a lot of time to make a difference.... see what you can do to stop this massacre.
Rustenburg - A North West farmer is “shattered beyond belief” after seven of his rhinos were shot, hacked with machetes and dehorned.
The discovery, the latest in the spate of rhino poaching in South Africa, was made at a game farm on the Klipkopspruit Farm near Rustenburg on Friday.
The farm owner, Mark Lappeman, said his son had stumbled across what looked like an orphaned calf running around without its mother.
A helicopter was hired and, while scouring the bushes on Saturday, discovered three dead rhinos.
Four more dead rhinos, Lappeman said, were discovered about 100m away. They had all been dehorned. Among the killed rhinos, he added, was a five-month-old calf found lying next to its mother.
Lappeman said some of the dead rhinos had their eyes gouged out, others had their ears cut off, while a female had its genitalia cut off.
“I got these rhinos from the Natal Parks Board and have had some of them for 20 years. Now, they have been wiped out in a day,” said Lappeman, also describing the killings as “a massacre”.
“They used guns and machetes. These guys were so callous and knew what they were doing and wanted. I am absolutely shattered. So devastated.”
Lappeman said the orphaned calf was darted and moved to a place of safety for rehabilitation.
Police spokesman Captain Paul Ramaloko said the dead rhinos were not badly decomposed when they were found.
“They were still fresh carcasses,” he said, adding that no arrests had been made.
By late on Sunday, the police, including priority crimes, the Hawks, the forensic division and the dog units, were still at the farm putting together vital evidence.
A slain rhino found on Klipkopspruit farm outside Rustenburg, North West. Photo: Handout/Supplied
Lappeman said officials from the North West Park Board and the Asset Protection Unit had also visited the farm.
Two weeks ago, a North West farm owner said he was contemplating selling the rest of his animals after six rhinos were shot and dehorned. The rhinos were part of 11 that were shot by poachers.
Braam van Greunig, the owner of Hartzhoogte game lodge at Amalia, near Schweizer-Reneke, said he could not deal with poachers and feared for the rhinos’ safety, and for that of his family.
More than 550 rhinos have been killed this year – far surpassing last year’s toll of over 440 and 333 in 2010.
Early this month, Thai national Chumlong Lemtongthai was sentenced to 40 years in jail after he pleaded guilty to paying prostitutes to pose as hunters so that he could harvest rhino horns, which were sold on Asia’s traditional medicine market. The group is thought to have netted 26 rhino horns.
Last month, Environmental Affairs Department deputy director-general Fundisile Mketeni told Parliament that 224 arrests had been made in connection with rhino poaching. He said the Kruger National Park remained the worst-affected area, with 320 rhinos killed this year.
Parliament heard about funding constraints and vacancies in key positions having an adverse effect on the fight against poaching.
November 19 2012
By LEBOGANG SEALE
UP AND COMING DOCUMENTARIES PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY ROLAND VINCENT.
About the bonding between a human baby girl and a Rhino calf through an emotional lifetime.
"GONE FOREVER" FROM RHINO TO CONSUMER
Portrayal of the extreme measures of evil behind the poaching of Rhinos. This film will emphasize the importance of “The Ark” project as a sustainable solution.
The daily life inside the heard of Elephants with their matriarch Anastasia.
"THE DEEP CONGO"
A closer look at the tragic murders of gorillas for their hands and feet for human consumption - highlighting the necessity of our vision to conserve Africa’s wildlife.
RHINO COW, CALF KILLED IN KRUGER PARK
Johannesburg – The carcasses of a rhino cow and her calf were found without their horns in the Kruger National Park on Tuesday morning.
Kruger Park spokesperson William Mabasa said people in a safari vehicle found them.
“Rangers and police were called to the scene and they confirmed that the cow and the calf were indeed killed by poachers.
The investigation into the incident is continuing, and we are looking for the poachers.”
Earlier this month SA National Parks chief executive David Mabunda said 52 rhino had been poached in South Africa so far this year.
The hardest-hit areas continued to be the Kruger National Park and Limpopo province, with 26 and 13 rhinos poached there respectively, he said.
The two latest killings brought this number to 54.
Last Wednesday conservationist Ian Player said South Africa’s rhino population had already reached a crucial tipping point, and was close to extinction due to the surge in poaching since 2008.
“The red warning flags are up and anything could happen,” he said.
RHINOS ILLEGALLY KILLED IN SOUTH AFRICA
In January and February 2012, at least 80 rhinos were slaughtered in South Africa for their horns. If this rate continues, 660 - 930 rhinos are estimated to be killed by criminal syndicates by year end.