Africa’s last hunting Bushmen have given formal notice of their intention to sue Government over its “unlawful and unconstitutional” attempts to starve them off their ancestral land in Central Kalahari Game Reserve. In 2006, Botswana’s High Court ruled that the Bushmen have the right to live, and hunt there. Despite the ruling, not a single hunting license has been issued to them. A Bushman spokesperson said, “President Ian Khama and his brother Tshekedi decided to ban hunting without consulting us. It was a calculated move to starve us out of CKGR.”
Ngamiland MP Arone asked Government in August to lift the blanket hunting ban since the banning decision was not done in good faith and the community not consulted. The community did not agree with the Government’s assertion that “trophy hunting has led to the decline of wildlife species”. The ban has however led to the collapse of many development trusts under CBNRM for lack of income. Maun West MP Moremi added that the Okavango Research Institute noted that the government’s decision to ban hunting was not science-based but political. Minister Tshekedi Khama rejected the statements and mentioned that there was a decline in wildebeest and springbok [Editor’s Note: Botswana is not known as a country where many springbok and wildebeest are harvested by visiting hunters].
On September 1st the ivory of around 100 elephants (197 tusks) was seized at a local checkpoint near Yaoundé. The offenders escaped. The tusks are believed to be from the southern part of Cameroon, around the border to Gabon.
163 UN member states met in Nairobi last June for the UN Environment Assembly. Poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products was one of the central topics. In a resolution the Assembly expressed its deep concern about the increasing scale of illegal trade in wildlife and its products, including trophies, and its adverse economic, social and environmental impacts. The Assembly encouraged its members to join this fight, mobilize the necessary resources and show a policy of zero tolerance towards all illegal activities, including corruption associated with the illegal trade in wildlife. The Assembly explicitly stressed its respect for the legal and sustainable trade in wildlife products. According to the international terminology this includes legal hunting trophies. Countries were called upon to protect such trade. The resolution also calls for the full engagement of the communities in and adjacent to wildlife habitats as active partners in conservation and sustainable use and enhances communities’ rights and capacity to manage and benefit from wildlife.
Organized crime syndicates are slaughtering between 1,500 and 1,800 elephants a year in the southern African country. During a two-day meeting of Mozambican officials, law enforcement agents and diplomats in the capital, Maputo, Carlos Pareira, an adviser to WCS, informed participants of the worsening situation in Niassa GR, where “in the first two weeks of September alone we counted 22 elephants that had been killed.” Mozambique has previously been criticized by CITES as one of the world’s worst failures in combating poaching and threatened with sanctions. A new law passed in June and going into effect at the end of 2014 toughens penalties for poaching, including hefty fines and jail terms of up to 12 years.
6 suspected poachers were arrested on Sept. 7 in a joint operation of police and game scouts. 12 tusks and 2 rifles were confiscated. Officials estimated that this group has killed 39 elephants in 2014.
SA National Parks and SA Police Service came under fire for inefficiency and mismanagement in the fight against rhino poaching. Lawyers involved in anti-rhino poaching initiatives at the Kruger NP have submitted a complaint against SANParks to the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Public Protector requesting a thorough probe of the reasons for the increase in poaching despite the presence of the military and anti-poaching technology (Source Beeld).
SANParks tried to use a gagging order to plug leaks about boni awarded to Bryn Pyne-James who raises money to help in the war against rhino poachers. Pyne-James, who earned nearly R3m for 11 months’ work, is paid a basic monthly salary of R95,000. He apparently was awarded five “merit bonuses” between June 2013 and April this year, amounting to R1.4m. A SANParks spokesperson said that a detailed review of the utilization of all sponsorship funds and the respective governance is currently under way (Source Sunday Times).
Lions and tigers from Port Elizabeth’s Seaview Predator Park are being sold to game farms known for canned shooting and the exporting of animal bones. One of the farms has been linked to Laos-based Xaysavang Network, described as one of the most prolific international wildlife trafficking syndicates in operation. Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism MEC Sakhumzi Somyo confirmed that the park has sent 22 lions to Cradock hunting reserve Tam Safaris since 2008. Two tigers have been sent from the park to the country’s leading bone exporter, Letsatsi la Africa, since 2008 (Source The Times).
The SA Police Service’s role in combating poaching, particularly in its intelligence gathering mechanisms, has been called into question. More than 3,394 rhino have been killed in SA since 2008, Democratic Alliance MP Teri Stander said during a parliamentary debate showing a list of 72 names of suspected poachers known to the authorities. “Why is it that I can have a list of 72 suspected poachers in my hands, but not one of these have been properly investigated let alone convicted?” she said. Inkatha Freedom Party MP Judith Nkomo said there was no central database or system which tracks and co-ordinates anti-poaching efforts nationally (Source BDlive).
A high-powered high-tech, gunfire-detection system is being piloted in SA’s flagship Kruger NP in order to fight rhino poaching. ShotSpotter, a product of the California company SST Inc. has previously been used in crime-ridden urban US neighborhoods to alert police to gun fire. In SA it has already yielded the arrests of an undisclosed number of poachers this year (Source The Guardian).
The highest penalty imposed in SA for the illegal possession of ivory has been handed down in the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court. Cheng Jie Liang – a Chinese national who has been living in SA since 2003 – has been sentenced 10 years’ jail and R5m fine for possessing one ton of elephant tusks. He was told 3 years of his jail sentence would be suspended – provided he paid the fine within a year (Source Cape Times).
An amount of R8 m from the Asset Forfeiture Unit was handed to SANParks as part of criminal proceedings against a member of a poaching syndicate who was arrested during the course of the year, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa told Parliament. The funds will go into the national conservation agency’s budget and be utilized in the ongoing battle against rhino poachers. The Minister also allocated R103 million from the departmental budget over the next two financial years for “the sole purpose of combatting rhino poaching”.
The conflict is having serious effects on elephant populations which reportedly declined over the years of the civil war from more than 80,000 in the 1960s-70s to an estimated 5,000 in 2013. The remaining elephants are under threat from South Sudanese Armed groups (SPLA), LRA and criminal gangs. The power struggle between President Salva Kiir and forces loyal to Riek Machar also had devastating humanitarian consequences and is further reducing the options of sustainable wildlife tourism.
Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) reported the suspected poisoning of 2 male elephants, found dead outside Mosi-Oa-Tunya NP. ZAWA officers extracted material to confirm the cause and exactly what herbicides were used. In previous cases, Carbofuran, a toxic chemical to poison water bodies was used. In 2013 poisoning was recorded from North Luangwa where the total number of poached elephants stood at 49, and 300 vultures that were found at the Elephant carcasses.
The African Wildlife Conservation Fund reports a very successful African wild dog denning season in the Zimbabwean lowveld, with never-before-recorded packs located and photographed in Gonarezhou National Park.