News From and About Africa
March 2014, Volume 12-2

Central African Republic
65% of Central Africa’s forest elephants were killed between 2002 and 2013, reported the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) at the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in February. WCS researchers said the forest elephant is being poached at an alarming rate of 9% per year. The 12-year study of Central African forest elephants took 80 sites in five countries into account. The study is a follow-up to previous research done by the same team, which revealed that the forest elephant population had been reduced to just 10% of its historical size and that the pachyderms occupy just one-quarter of the area they once did. John Robinson, WCS Chief Conservation Officer said that the numbers highlight the sense of urgency facing the elephant poaching crisis. He said that conservation commitments made by nations around the world “cannot fail or the African forest elephant will blink out in our lifetime.” “At least a couple of hundred thousand forest elephants were lost between 2002-2013 to the tune of at least sixty a day, or one every twenty minutes, day and night” said WCS researcher Fiona Maisels. The study revealed that the tiny nation of Gabon is home to about 60 percent of the remaining forest elephant population. Historically, the Democratic Republic of the Congo would have hosted the most forest elephants. “The current number and distribution of elephants is mind-boggling when compared to what it should be,” said Samantha Strindberg, a WCS researcher and study co-author. “About 95 percent of the forests of DRC are almost empty of elephants.” African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) are found exclusively in Central African nations. Just four years ago they were conclusively proved to be a separate species from African savanna elephants (L. africana).

Chad has seen its elephant population dwindle from 50,000 to 1,500 in the last half-century, now announced that it will join several other countries that have been destroying their ivory stockpiles of late. According to African Parks, Chad’s president burned the ivory on February 21 as part of the Zakouma National Park’s 50th anniversary celebration, following the London Conference.

The European Parliament approved an important Motion for a Resolution on Wildlife Crime on 15 January, with 647 positive votes, 14 against and no abstentions. The Resolution calls for measures against wildlife crime, placing it on the same level as human trafficking and drug trafficking. In the non-binding motion, the European Commission is urged to establish an EU plan of action against illegal wildlife trade, supporting wildlife law enforcement in range states and assisting them in fighting organized poaching and trafficking; it should also include the promotion of demand-reduction campaigns to black-list illegal products. IUCN supports these important elements of the motion for Resolution, as it has strong conservation benefits. However, in order to ensure a well-balanced position on this subject, IUCN recommends that EU institutions acknowledge the role that well-managed, sustainable use and trade can play in promoting effective wildlife conservation and species recovery; including for example, the South American vicuña and many crocodilian species. Luc Bas, Director of the IUCN EU Representative Office said: “The motion is an important step forward in the fight against wildlife trafficking, but unfortunately does not adequately consider the importance of engaging local communities as active partners in conservation, and the need to take into account their interests while ensuring efforts to combat wildlife crimes.”

Hong Kong
28 tons of Hong Kong’s elephant ivory will soon go up in flames—the largest stockpile ever burned, the semi-autonomous Chinese region announced Thursday. The decision makes Hong Kong the latest government to destroy its ivory, following recent burns by the United States and the Philippines. Hong Kong’s ivory will be destroyed over a period of two years, and any ivory confiscated in the future will be regularly disposed of, Hong Kong’s Endangered Species Advisory Committee Chairman Paul Shin said in a press conference.

INTERPOL released a report, ‘Elephant Poaching and Ivory Trafficking in East Africa: Assessment for an effective law enforcement response,’ which emphasizes the need for greater information sharing to enable more proactive and effective law enforcement against trafficking syndicates.  The report offers methods to enhance multinational law enforcement responses to elephant poaching and ivory trafficking from East Africa, as well as the identification of persistent law enforcement challenges. It recommends that East African elephant range States, and countries through which ivory transits, should create National Environment Security Task Forces (NESTs). It also recommends that East African elephant range States should use the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytical Toolkit to assess their effectiveness in addressing wildlife crimes and create, as needed, intelligence analysis and investigation units dedicated to tackling wildlife crime. David Higgins, Head of INTERPOL’s Environmental Security unit, noted that while there was global recognition of the problem of elephant poaching and ivory smuggling, a more integrated approach was necessary to secure a more effective response.

Kenya’s judiciary took another blow to its chequered reputation, when only a day after 40 magistrates had participated in a workshop about the new wildlife laws promulgated on 14th January 2014, and less than a week after the first landmark ruling which fined a Chinese ivory smuggler to 232,000 USD or 7 years in prison, another magistrate defied expectations and handed down a fine of 15,000 USD only. The new wildlife punishes poaching of elephants and rhinos with a fine of 232,000 USD or life imprisonment. To secure a conviction will however require watertight evidence, excellent prosecutions and judicial compliance discussed in a series of dialogues and trainings dubbed “Wildlife Crime Dialogue” organized by the Judiciary Training Institute.  Apparently, not all Kenyan magistrates attended!

Conservationists in northern Mozambique, where an average of three to four elephants are being poached a day, have implicated local authorities in the killing spree. Rangers say the weapons used include helicopters and heavy-calibre guns normally used by military forces. In Niassa National Reserve, where elephant numbers have dropped from more than 20,000 in 2009 to about 9,000 Frelimo has been accused of using the proceeds of ivory sales to fund its 10th anniversary congress in nearby Pemba last year. Alastair Nelson, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Mozambique, said the proceeds from ivory, which is smuggled via the nearby port of Pemba or across the border into Tanzania, were fuelling corruption in northern Mozambique.

Minister of Environment and Tourism, Uahekua Herunga, said he is pleased with the N$3, 7 million the government will receive from auction sale of the hunting permit for a black rhino bull. He hoped that the next auction sale would reach US$1 million. The minister said that “we should be allowed as a country to exercise our right to utilize our natural resources sustainably” and added that “there are other permits that will be issued this year to hunt rhinos and buffaloes”.

Netherlands (Delta/KLM Airlines)
Hunters planning to fly Delta/KLM or other airlines through Amsterdam on a hunting trip should expect long delays in processing their firearm transit permits. The Hunting Report has learned of several hunters experiencing difficulties getting the transit permit issued to them by the Dutch Customs office (Netherlands Tax and Customs Administration). The permit is required to transit through the Netherlands with firearms, even though the bags are never claimed and are merely passed from one aircraft to the next. It appears the Dutch Customs office is taking up to two months currently to process and issue the necessary transit permits and then only after continuous follow-up in the weeks prior to hunters’ trips.

Lanre Awoseyin, National Coordinator, Nigerian Hotels Association, said that adequate wildlife conservation would boost tourism development and attract more tourists to Nigeria’s 8 national parks, but underscored the need to improve wildlife conservation as part of efforts to boost the country’s tourism potential. He suggested that farmers had encroached deeply into the demarcated areas and urged the government to educate farmers around game reserves to desist from bush burning. Awoseyin reiterated that the law prohibiting poaching of wildlife was not stringent enough and noted that Nigerians’ taste for “bush meat” had somewhat encouraged poachers to continue illegal killing of wildlife. He underscored the need to regulate and reduce the consumption of “bush meat”.

South Africa
CapeNature and the Endangered Wildlife Trust announced the discovery of a population of the critically endangered riverine rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis, Thomas 1929), in the Anysberg Nature Reserve (Klein Karoo, ca. 81 000 ha) in December 2013. The riverine rabbit also known as the bushman rabbit or bushman hare is endemic to the Nama and Succulent Karoo areas and serves as an important indicator species for riverine habitat health. Until now this critically endangered species was known to occur exclusively on privately owned farmland or reserves. The Riverine rabbit typically has a black stripe running from the corner of the mouth over the cheek; a brown woolly tail, cream-colored fur on its belly and throat, and a broad, club-like hind foot. Its tail is pale brown with a tinge of black toward the tip. They feed at night and rest up in shallow scrapes during the day. Two types of droppings are produced. At night, when the rabbit is active, hard pellets are deposited. During the day droppings are soft, taken directly from the anus, and swallowed. In this way the riverine rabbit obtains vitamin B, produced by bacteria in the hind gut, and minerals such as calcium and phosphorus are recycled.

South Africa
On January 9th 2014, President Jacob Zuma handed over land from world renowned Mala Mala Game Reserve to the N’wandlamhlarhi Community Property Association. This process which forms part of government’s efforts to accelerate land reform programs will benefit 960 households. The Mala Mala claimants lodged claims against 21 properties consisting of 63 portions, measuring 65,000 ha. The claimed land included the Mala Mala Game Reserve, which is currently operating as an internationally renowned ecotourism destination. The Mala Mala settlement framework restores a total of 5 farms, consisting of 9 portions, having a total extent of 13,184 ha. After lengthy negotiations, the legal representatives of the land owners considered a settlement amount of 939.36 Million South African Rand (ca. 90 Million US Dollars) for the purchase of 13,184 ha which equates to R71,250 (ca. 6,850n US$) per hectare. “The total land value appears to be exorbitant, however it should be noted that this is prime game land attested to by expert witnesses in court,’’ said Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Mr Gugile Nkwinti.

South Africa
The total number of rhino poached in South Africa during 2013 increased to 1004, as the number of people arrested for rhino poaching-related offences climbed to 343,” said the Department of Environmental Affairs department on January 17th. Since the start of 2014, 37 rhino have been poached. In 2012, 668 rhino were poached, while 448 were killed in 2011. Since 2008, 2 778 rhino have been poached in South Africa. The Kruger National Park bore the brunt of rhino poaching in 2013 with the park losing a total 606 of the iconic animals to poachers. A total of 114 rhino were poached in Limpopo, 92 in Mpumalanga, 87 in North West and 85 in KwaZulu-Natal. The number of rhino poachers arrested during 2013 increased considerably with 343 being arrested, 133 of them in the Kruger National Park. In 2012, 267 alleged poachers were arrested. Since the beginning of 2014, six alleged poachers have been arrested.

South Africa
Eleven rhino poachers have been killed in the Kruger National Park (KNP) since the beginning of the year according to SA National Parks (SANParks). The poachers were killed by park rangers and members of the SA National Defense Force, in an attempt to curb rhino poaching in the park, SANParks spokesperson Reynold Thakhuli said. “They [poachers] operate in groups of four to six and are aggressive and engage and shoot at the rangers on sight, creating a daily life-threatening situation. Up to 15 heavily armed groups operate in the KNP at any given time, especially during the full moon period,” he said.

South Africa
Edna Molewa, South Africa’s Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs lauded the 21.8 million USD grant made to the Peace Parks Foundation by the Dutch and Swedish Postcode Lotteries towards the fight against rhino poaching as “the largest single contribution made by the private sector to combat rhino poaching and wildlife crime”. The majority of this funding will be spent on enhancing the existing efforts to protect rhino in South Africa, which hosts 83% of the continent’s wild rhino population. All other southern African rhino range states have been consulted during the development of this project and will form an integral part of the strategies designed. The main focus will be the devaluation of the horns of live rhino, through a combination of methods, including the physical devaluation and contamination of the horn, as well as the use of tracking and monitoring technology.  In addition Peace Parks Foundation also received 1.9 million USD.

South Africa
Some 400 endangered amphibians and reptiles from Madagascar have died from dehydration and improper shipping in South Africa, animal inspectors say. More than 1,600 animals were discovered crammed into two crates at the OR Tambo International Airport. The survivors are being treated at Johannesburg zoo. The animals, destined for the exotic pet market in the USA, had been without water and food for at least five days.

South Africa
Foreign trophy hunters spent R1.24bn in South Africa in 2012, R400m more than the Department of Environmental Affairs had estimated, says a report commissioned by the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa. The department’s calculations only included species fees and daily rates, and the report conducted by North West University included airfares, transport, ammunition, shipping costs, trophy handling, licenses and permits and additional tours. Regular hunters averaged about 9,000 a year, but “they are loyal, and spend a great deal of money” said the association’s CEO Adri Kitshoff. The report says average hunter’s daily fees were more than $3,300. They spent on average $7,891 on game and more than $17,000 on the full experience. About 88% of hunters were from the US and the average length of stay at the hunting destination was 10 nights with an additional three nights dedicated to sightseeing, the report said. Other hunters come from Denmark, Germany, France and Mexico, with growing interest from Russia.  South Africa’s hunting industry was valued at R6.5bn with an estimated 250,000 domestic hunters, says the association. It benefited the country by conserving animals and creating jobs, said Piers van der Merwe, one of the researchers for the report.  The report was conducted via a web-based survey which respondents completed from January to October last year. The most popular provinces were Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. Lion and kudu are the biggest income generators. Lions cost $18,438 each. Most of the lion shot are bred in captivity.

South Sudan
The Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has announced that South Sudan deposited its instrument of accession to the Convention on 17 February 2014. South Sudan is now the 194th party to the CBD. The CBD will enter into force for South Sudan on 18 May 2014.  The country supports important wildlife populations in Africa, and hosts one of the largest wildlife migrations in the world. Boma National Park, west of the Ethiopian border, as well as the Sudd wetland and Southern National Park near the border with Congo, provide habitat for large populations of kob and topi, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, hartebeest and lion. Sudan’s forest reserves also provide habitat for bongo, giant forest hog, red river hog, forest elephant, chimpanzee, and forest monkey.

The safari camps and lodges based  in the Selous Game Reserve have been seriously disturbed by an increased wave of elephant and rhino poaching in Tanzania and have therefore teamed up together and pooled ca. 40,000 US$  to aid anti-poaching activities in the Selous Game Reserve. The donation shows the trust, which the private sector has, in the present leadership of the reserve.

nyalanduTanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete announced on January 19th that he had appointed Mr. Lazaro Nyalandu as new Tourism Minister, taking over from Khamis Kagasheki who had resigned from the post in December 2013.The fight against poaching is one of the major challenges of the new Minister, who had served previously as Deputy to Mr. Kagasheki. The new Deputy Minister is Mr. Mahmoud H. Mgimwa, a MP from Iringa. Mr. Nyalandu’s predecessor, the serious and no-nonsense former Minister Mr. Kagasheki, is widely seen in the industry and by conservationists as the most efficient Natural Resources Minister the country ever had. He was forced to resign after accusations emerged about torture, corruption and atrocities during an exercise to arrest poachers. However, the leading forces in the so-called Operation Togomeza were the army and the police. Minister Nyalandu, a former ambassador and political heavyweight took responsibility for events, which did not fall under his responsibility. The general opinion in the conservation community is that he was a sacrificial lamb to offenses he never committed and is seen as a victim of corrupt officials and politicians, who succeeded to oust him so that they can go on squandering Tanzania’s wildlife and forest resources. In addition the Director of Wildlife, Prof. Dr. Alexander Songorwa, was transferred to the College of Wildlife Management Mweka as new Principal. His successor is Paul Sarakikya, a long standing Deputy Director of the Wildlife Division. The Division is presently transformed into a self-budgeting Parastatal, called Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA)

Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu said the country has a bulging stockpile of elephant tusks stored safely in state warehouses, but what Tanzania is going to do with them is something which hasn’t been decided yet. Destroying the ‘white gold’ seems to be out of question because the money from selling them could support conservation efforts. Two years ago, Tanzania requested CITES permission to sell off the ivory stockpile, currently weighing over 100 metric tons and counting, but the request was withdrawn. Thousands of stored elephant tusks that have been accumulating over the past 25 years are estimated to be valued at US $60 million. These are legally accumulated tusks from animals that expired naturally and ivory confiscated from people who harvested them illegally,” explained Mr Nyalandu, adding that all consignments were being treated as state trophies owned by the People of Tanzania.

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority announced that Nyakasanga hunting concession will be withdrawn from the Zambezi Valley auctioned hunting packages and that the auction as from 2014 will include Sapi and Tuli hunting areas only. The 2014 Sapi and Tuli hunting camps and Sapi fishing camps auction will be held on the 21st of March 2014 at the Rainbow Towers, Harare, Zimbabwe. MAC Auction Services will be administering the auction on behalf of Parks.

The number of rhino poached in Zimbabwe dropped sharply last year but decades of illegal killing have decimated the population and only 750 (450 black and 300 white rhino) remain, the director of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority said in March. Poachers killed 20 rhino in the country in 2013, compared to 60 killed in 2012 and 84 slaughtered in 2008. “In the late 1980s we had close to 2000 rhino and then poaching crashed the country’s rhino population over the past two decades,” he said.