African Swine Fever, caused by the African swine fever virus (ASFV) leads to hemorrhagic fever with high mortality rates in domestic pigs, but persistently infects its natural hosts, warthogs, bushpigs, and soft ticks of the Ornithodoros genus, with no disease signs. In domestic pigs and also in Eurasian wild boar (Sus scrofa) highly virulent strains can cause death of animals as quickly as a week after infection. The clinical symptoms of ASFV are very similar to classical swine fever, and can only be distinguished by laboratory diagnosis. The disease remained restricted to Africa until 1957, when it was reported in Portugal. A further outbreak occurred in Portugal in 1960. During the 1980s, the disease became established in the Iberian Peninsula, and sporadic outbreaks occurred in France, Belgium, and other European countries. Spain and Portugal managed to eradicate the disease by the mid-1990s. In 2007 outbreaks were observed in the Russian Federation, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Belarus. In August 2012, an outbreak was reported in Ukraine and in June 2013, in Belarus. In January 2014, African swine fever was confirmed in Lithuania and Poland. Hunters in areas where ASFV is known to occur are advised to exercise extreme caution.
The controversy on the Botswana government’s fracking leases and the Gem Diamond Mining project in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) was brought into the open again by protesters when President Ian Khama visited the London Conference on Wildlife Crime in February. Although the protest principally focused on the prohibition of traditional subsistence hunting in the CKGR and the eviction of the local San groups from the area, fracking for natural gas and diamond mining apparently are key causes for the relocation of local communities. For more than a decade, the authorities in Botswana have been quietly granting licenses to South Africa’s SASOL, Australian-based Tamboran Resources, Anglo American, Tlou Energy, Kalahari Energy, Exxaro and many more to drill for Coal Bed Methane (CBM). There was no public debate, particularly about the potential threats these large scale developments pose to the environment and communities. Fracking and drilling pose another worrying threat: CBM extraction requires vast amounts of water to be pumped out of the ground, which can significantly lower the water table. Unfenced buffer zones on the borders of other bio-diversity rich – and economically important – national parks, like Chobe and Kgalagadi, are already being drilled. In fact, it appears that the government has also granted some concessions within Chobe NP. Could it be that the ban on trophy hunting (and the presence of hunters in the concession areas) may be connected with natural gas operations in the country?
The Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) has announced the launch of the Migratory Landbirds Study Group (MLSG) at the inaugural meeting ‘Migratory landbirds: research, monitoring and conservation’ in Wilhelmshaven, Germany (26-28 March 2014). According to long-term datasets, African-Eurasian landbirds are affected by human-related habitat change across breeding and non-breeding grounds. Unsustainable taking and climate change are also considered threats.
Congo Basin Forest Partnership News
The main conclusions of the second meeting of the Sub Working Group on Protected Areas and Wildlife in Central Africa (SGTAPFS) from 25-27 February 2014 in Libreville, Gabon as reported by the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) addressed the draft guide on the creation of transboundary protected areas in Central Africa; the wildlife crime analytic toolbox; and prospects for collaboration between the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Commission des Forêts d’Afrique Centrale (COMIFAC) countries in the fight against wildlife crime. A series of recommendations were developed, which included the call to: finalize the sub-regional strategy for the sustainable wildlife use by indigenous and local communities in COMIFAC countries; and to use the Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolbox. The meeting, brought together experts in wildlife and protected areas from the Wildlife and/or Protected Areas Departments of COMIFAC countries, the COMIFAC National Coordinating Bodies of the Congo and Gabon, the Central African Biodiversity Working Group (GTBAC), the General Secretariat of ECCAS, the Executive Secretariats of COMIFAC and RAPAC, and development partners such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), among others.
Kenya & China
Kenya’s wildlife authorities praised China’s contribution in the fight against rhino and elephant poaching. According to KWS Director General William Kiprono Kenya has been engaging China at the technical and political levels in the areas of conservation and has received China’s support to combat wildlife poaching. “The Chinese government is supportive of Kenya’s conservation efforts. They are genuine people ready to work with Kenya and who are not happy with what is going on regarding poaching of elephants and rhinos…” China has offered to improve surveillance around Kenya’s national parks and game reserves alongside also assisting with capacity building to enable the KWS to deal with poachers,” Kiprono told journalists in Nairobi in March. Last year, Kenyan president got an assurance from China regarding the provision of latest equipment and technology to enable security agencies to undertake their mandate effectively.
Namibian media reported that three Chinese men were arrested at Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International Airport in April, with 14 rhino horns and a leopard skin in their possession. The three men were on their way to Hong Kong via Johannesburg. They had left China on March 9, arrived in Zambia the following day and entered Namibia through the Wenela border post on March 12 on tourist visas. The three appeared on charges of being in possession of and exporting controlled wildlife products. The prosecutor opposed bail since the value of the items involved is estimated at N$2.3 million and that the three men pose a very high flight risk. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism’s Director of Park and Wildlife Management also attended the court proceedings, but refused to comment on either of the poaching incidents. In another incident in April, two hand-reared white rhinos have been killed on a farm close to Windhoek and were found with their horns removed. Marcia Fargnoli, Save the Rhino Trust CEO, said there is little doubt rhino poaching is on the rise in the country. The owner of Shamvura Camp, Charlie Paxton, said several aspects such as Namibia’s rugged and vast terrain, its low population density, strong NGO presence and the conservancy program have enabled the country to provide a more effective rhino protection, with good monitoring systems and control. But Fargnoli added that there is no reason to believe that international criminal syndicates would target neighboring countries but not Namibia. Namibia is certainly on their radar, she said.
Deputy Minister of Water & Environmental Affairs, Rejoice Mabudafhasi met with her Vietnamese counterpart, Dr Bui Cach Tuyen in March, to bolster cooperation in controlling illegal wildlife trade. The Vietnamese delegation stayed for 4 days to learn from South Africa’s experience in biodiversity conservation and management. The visit to South Africa followed the signing on 6 May 2013 of an implementation plan in terms of the MoU on cooperation in the field of Biodiversity Conservation and Protection that was signed in Hanoi, Vietnam, in December 2012. The implementation plan was developed and is being implemented in accordance with the MoU and aims at promoting cooperation between the parties in biodiversity management, conservation and protection, law enforcement and CITES compliance.
Howard G. Buffett donated $24 million to South Africa’s national parks service to finance a 30-month high-tech campaign against rhino poaching and provide park rangers with a helicopter and other high-tech equipment, such as an aerostat balloon and land vehicles equipped with sophisticated electronic sensors, to track down poachers. The project also plans to place sensors on fencing along the border with neighboring Mozambique. Buffet also visited Tanzania. It is reported that he has promised to provide a helicopter and finance running costs for anti-poaching.
South Sudan created a new stand-alone Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife Conservation by presidential decree in March. South Sudan has several national parks, the world’s largest wetland known as the Sudd and the White Nile, also known locally as Bahr el Jebel, running through the entire country from the border with Uganda to the border with the Republic of the Sudan. The migration from Boma and the Sudd to Bandingilo National Park where once a year the massive herds of white eared kobs, Tiang and Mongella gazelles congregate will be the country’s number one tourism attraction once peace is restored, security of visitors assured and the red tape still in place when entering the country reduced to make visits by high spending tourists easy. For now though, even granted that the political will is there to make tourism a priority sector and to provide the legal and regulatory framework, regulate the sector and manage the wildlife resources, it will be some time to come before things will take shape.
Member of Parliament Athuman Mfutakamba told the Tanzanian Guardian on Sunday that the stockpile of more than 100 tons ivory at the MNRT headquarters warehouse in Dar es Salaam could generate more than 3000 jobs in ca. 200 institutions countrywide. Mfutakamba is Secretary General of the Association of Members of Parliament Activists for sustainable wildlife protection in Tanzania. The MPs also urged participatory policy implementation programs that encourage involvement of citizens in wildlife protection and conservation projects.
UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and African Tourism Ministers from Ghana, Guinea, Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe committed to join hands in finding a means to stop illegal wildlife trade. Participants reviewed the current situation, shared experiences, and discussed the tourism sector’s role in addressing poaching and illegal trade. Official representatives of the DR Congo, Gabon, Eritrea, Mozambique, São Tomé and Principe, Uganda and Zambia also attended the discussions. UNWTO is currently conducting a study to assess the importance of wildlife for the development of tourism in Africa, to be presented at the upcoming UNWTO Regional Commission Meeting for Africa (Luanda, Angola, 28-30 April 2014). The study will provide an overview of the economic value of wildlife watching tourism in Africa, including data on the dimension and characteristics of wildlife watching tourism in Africa based on surveys with tourism stake holders, and will serve as the basis for an upcoming UNWTO awareness campaign on the effects of wildlife crime on tourism in Africa and the communities depending on it for their survival.
Two US researchers concluded in a recent report that many endemic primates in the Upper Guinea forests of Liberia and Ivory Coast have been pushed to the verge of extinction. In Ivory Coast poaching is still prevalent in the country’s World Heritage Site Taï NP. The park’s primate research stations provide some protection but law enforcement is inadequate for protecting the entire park. The restrictions also pushed hunting pressure into the Konobo District of eastern Liberia. Animals poached in these cross-border forests are brought daily to the Daobly market. The researchers documented the amount of primate meat traded at this market and estimated that approximately 9,464 primates are sold at the Daobly market every year.
President Sata appointed Jean Kapata as new Minister of Tourism and Arts to replace Sylvia Masebo. In 2012 Masebo suspended the tender process of 19 hunting concessions, dissolved the board of directors of the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) and closed lion and leopard hunting. In March 2014 the Hunting Report siad that Masebo was under investigation for alleged professional misconduct and interference in ZAWA operations. Former Minister of Tourism and Arts William Harrington accused Masebo of abusing her ministerial office and breaching the Zambia Public Procurement Act as well as the Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of Conduct Act. After Masebo testified that President Sata directed her to dismiss the ZAWA management and dissolve the board, President Sata had fired Masebo on March 20.
A total of 30 poachers from Zambia gained illegal entry into Hwange and Zambezi National Parks on two separate occasions in March. Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority Public Relations Manager Caroline Washaya-Moyo said one of the poachers was shot and killed during a contact with Parks rangers while two others were injured and captured. 27 others escaped; 1 escaped into Botswana while the remained escaped into Zambia. Washaya-Moyo added that Parks rangers had alerted their counterparts of the escaped poachers. The Parks Authority recovered two heavy caliber rifles; ammunition; cell phones; 28 sacks containing clothes and food items and 37 elephant tusks.
Safari operators in Zimbabwe are expecting revenue from the animal trophy hunting season this year to rise from $65 million last year to $75 million spurred by a decline in regional competition. Safari Operators Association president Emmanuel Fundira said also that the resumption of normal activities in the Save Valley Conservancy could also help increase revenue. There has been an impasse in the conservancy after licenses of some concessions were withdrawn. “We are forecasting a growth of 10% mainly premised on the resumption of activities in the Save Conservancy where there has been an impasse for the last two years,” Fundira said. More hunters were expected in Zimbabwe as neighboring countries Zambia and Botswana were facing challenges in their safari operations. Fundira also warned that the introduction of 15% Value Added Tax on all foreign receipts could hamper growth. The Government through the 2014 National Budget introduced the levy on accommodation and tourism service payments by foreign tourists. The Safari Operators Association has since engaged the Government to review downwards or defer levying the new tax.