The world is currently facing a devastating crisis with the outbreak of Ebola. Travelers fearful of Ebola are avoiding Africa or canceling long-planned safaris, creating dire consequences for the economy in Africa, tourism and government officials from various countries said. Safari operators and officials point out that those stricken West African countries (Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone) are closer to Madrid, Paris and London than they are to safari hot spots, such as South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Tanzania in the continent’s south and east.
Yet the wider world is probably not aware of the ways in which the underlying drivers of disease are linked to development and biodiversity loss, said Dr Jane Smart, Global Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group. Ebola outbreak highlights critical links between biodiversity loss and human health. Habitat change, associated biodiversity loss and human health are connected. In the specific case of Ebola, the virus is highly devastating to both human and Great Ape populations, representing both a human health and biodiversity threat. Ebola outbreaks have occurred from hunting and consumption of infected wildlife, which in turn poses a pressure on wild populations. The cause of the initial ‘spill over event’ is not clearly known for this outbreak but landscape change in the affected area is significant in recent years.
Colin Bell, who co-founded Wilderness Safaris in the 80s and Great Plains Conservation in 2006, claimed that half of the [photographic] safari revenue never reaches Africa in a debate on how tourism can assist in conservation that opened World Responsible Tourism Day at WTM. “Fifty per cent max of the dollar paid at this end ends up in Africa,” he said , and “sometimes that money ends up in Guernsey, the Isle of Man. That needs to stop; the tourism industry needs to look at where the money is going.” Bell also cited the example of one reserve in Africa where the water has been turned so toxic by waste from lodges further up the river that it is not safe for human-touch. “How is wildlife supposed to survive in that situation?” he asked. Read more HERE
The Australian Government seems to prepare an import ban for lion hunting trophies. This is primarily aimed at canned lion killings in South Africa, but will also include lions which have been taken under sustainable and fair chase conditions in the wild. “These animals, in many circumstances, raised in what are the equivalent of factory farms they are then released into a small area and shot as an allegedly trophy prize, but honestly it’s not fair, it’s not humane, it’s not 21st Century and on my watch it’s not acceptable,” Australia’s Environment Minister Greg Hunt said about the South African practice of canned killing of lion. This statement came while South African animal rights activist Ian Mitchler was on a campaign tour in Australia. He had shown films about canned killings to the Minister. “I think if Australians knew more, as this program is showing, then they would be rightly horrified,” Minister Hunt said. Australian hunters fear that this ban which is triggered by canned killing might be expanded by the Government to other hunting trophies. Read more HERE
A large illegal retail ivory trade continues unabated in Luanda, fuelled mainly by Chinese nationals. The recently-carved ivory items for sale in the Benfica market in the capital derive mostly from forest elephants of Central Africa, where numbers are in sharp decline. No vendors displayed any apparent concern that they were offering ivory for sale illegally, perhaps owing to the fact that official inspections and confiscations are extremely rare. Growing numbers of Chinese workers, and other East Asians coming to Angola, buy ivory in this market daily. It is vital that the Chinese Embassy and other East Asian embassies warn citizens from their countries working in Angola not to buy ivory. It is also imperative that the Angolan Government closes down the huge retial ivory market in Benfica. Read more HERE
In July 15 Vietnamese were jailed for 6 months each after being arrested in June following their arrival on a flight from Angola, via Ethiopia with a total of 790 kg of ivory in their package. Source Traffic Bulletin 26-2/2014.
Experts have raised fears that oil exploration in northern Kenya may displace elephants and destroy breeding places for other wildlife. Of concern is the Rimoi National Reserve in Kerio Valley, Elgeyo Marakwet County, which hosts large population of elephants. The little-known park has been swallowed by the Tullow Oil Kenya’s exploration Block12A, which also stretches to Baringo, Samburu, Turkana and West Pokot counties. KWS said the locals’ concerns are valid and that the 66-square kilometer Rimoi will be fenced with an electric fence to keep out human activities.
Poachers killed a black rhino at the privately owned Solio ranch in Nyeri county. An unknown number of armed poachers cut through an electric fence at the expansive ranch and killed the rhino with a gun. This comes barely two weeks after two suspects were arrested at Chaka trading centre in Kieni East looking for market for two rhino horns
Five Mozambique nationals have been arrested when trying to illegally trade in rhino horns and hoofs in the village of Magude, Maputo Province. One of the culprits, Manuel Sambo, a natural healer and resident in Mawanja, was indicted of providing rhino parts to the other four who are said to be residents of South Africa.
SANParks announced that 14 suspected rhino poachers have been arrested in the Kruger National Park over one weekend in mid-October in three highly successful operations. This brings the total number of poaching suspects arrested in KNP this year to 113 (status 19th October). In a joint operation with members of the SA Police Service on Friday morning, SANParks rangers stopped a vehicle near Skukuza and arrested five suspects. Later three other suspects were arrested in the Malelane area. In the Punda Maria section a joint SANParks and SAPS deployment, supported by the SA National Defense Force air wing made contact with and arrested three suspected poachers after a fire fight; two of the suspects were seriously wounded, one later died of his wounds in hospital. Hunting rifles, ammunition and poaching equipment were confiscated in all cases.
The case against four Mpumalanga men arrested in connection with the theft of 112 rhino horns valued at more than R116m was postponed to 8th December for further police investigation. The four accused – Gideon Mtshali, 51, Leonard Sizwe Malatjie, 34, Velly William Zwane, 43 and Selby George Khoza, 39 are all out on R20,000 (= ca. USD 1,900) bail each.
SANParks invited bids for rhino in newspaper ads under a plan to move 500 of the animals from KNP to safety to counter a wave of poaching. Potential buyers are asked to “make a written offer to purchase white rhino in batches of 20 or more”. Rhino are usually bought as an investment to attract tourists to a lodge for game viewing and for legal trophy hunts and are traded in an open market. Some ranchers also bought rhinos in the hope that trade in horn will be legalized at some point. But given the rising risks in owning rhino and the growing costs of keeping them secure, the planned sales might not get many takers. “You are asking someone to put a large amount of money on the table in a speculative venture,” Pelham Jones, chairperson of the Private Rhino Owners Association, told Reuters. Private rhino owners were already spending around R270m ($24m) a year just on security to protect their investment and the species, Jones said. Between 1991 and 2013, the average price of white rhino sold at auction increased to R277 351 from R180 247 – a rise of just 54%.
Two Vietnamese men, aged 25 and 26, were arrested at Johannesburg airport with a record haul of 18 rhino horns, weighing 41 kilos (90 pounds), during a one-hour stop at OR Tambo airport, Johannesburg on October 31st. They were on a Qatar Airways flight from Maputo, Mozambique to Hanoi, Vietnam and a “very credible” tip-off led authorities to ask passengers to leave the plane so they could investigate. South African police and customs officials said on Saturday Nov 1st, 2014 in a joint statement “this is the largest haul of rhino horns seized in one operation in South Africa”. It is believed the horns, which were still intact, were removed from South African rhinos. The two Vietnamese men were due to appear in court on Monday November 3rd. “They will possibly be charged with transporting, possession and dealing in endangered species,” said police spokesman lieutenant general Solomon Makgale.
When Tanzania announced to build a 53 km long road through Serengeti NP conservationists rang the alarm bell. A southern road, which would bypass the park, was therefore proposed as an alternative and Germany is presently financing the planning. Yet, strong national interest groups continue to push for a Serengeti highway. Rumors persist that finally the Government could give in and build the through road; apparently the Norwegian Government indicated being prepared to assist. The Tanzanian Mazingira Network, a Tanzanian conservation NGO, proposed to build alternatively a tunnel. Last year Kenya’s former Director of Wildlife, Richard Leakey, suggested building an elevated highway over the Serengeti and Paula Kahumbu, one of his closest associates even showed a sketch of such a bridge allegedly drawn by star-architect Daniel Libeskind in Facebook. A senior representative of a major international development agency was horrified when informed about these proposals and remarked: “I do not even find such proposals funny. At the end of the day they appear as concrete project proposals with a funding request in international development fora.”
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism has launched a five-year national strategy to combat poaching and illegal wildlife trade in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The strategy which will require USD 51 million. It will strengthen the capacity of the ministry in terms of conducting intelligence led anti-poaching, highly coordinated law enforcement, and improvement of rural livelihoods through enhanced community based management of natural resources. The strategy will also raise awareness in supply, transit and destination countries to help change attitudes towards wildlife crime and build international support. Financing is expected to come from donor countries. Read more HERE
Controversy surrounds a plan to build an international airport close to Serengeti National Park. Wall Street billionaire Paul Tudor Jones who runs a luxury lodge nearby will finance the airport, including the buildings. Jones has rented three hunting blocks covering over 1000 km2 in the area. The airstrip is said to facilitate photographic tourism in the Serengeti. It will not be tarred. Whereas local politicians support the project, the respective Minister for Natural Resources is said to oppose the project for environmental reasons.
The Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in partnership with The ICCF Group (International Conservation Caucus Foundation) and UNDP hosted the “Regional Summit to Stop Wildlife Crime and Advance Wildlife Conservation” in Arusha on November 7/ 8, 2014 to achieve trans-boundary collaboration on the poaching crisis and wildlife trafficking. Participants included leaders from 24 countries, including twelve African nations, leading conservation NGO experts, development institutions, and members of the business community. The Summit touched on two important topics: Regional Coordination on Poaching and Wildlife Trafficking” and “Regional Actions to Manage Wildlife Corridors and Shared Ecosystems”. Eight African nations committed themselves to stronger cross-border collaboration in the Arusha Declaration. Germany who is a major supporter of biodiversity protection (spending 500 Mio. EUR annually worldwide) committed to provide support for the Selous-Niassa-Corridor between Mozambique and Tanzania as well as for collaboration between Kenya Wildlife Services and the Tanzania counterparts. CIC Africa Ambassador Dr Ali Kaka represented the CIC International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation at this important meeting. A full summary will be available in the next African Indaba issue (February 2015).
The process of creating a Wildlife Authority is based on the Wildlife Management Act of 2009 and has been supported for several years by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ). In May 2014 the Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA) was finally gazetted. Benson Kibonde, a highly reputed senior wildlife officer, has been appointed as interim Director with the task to implement the road map and a board will be appointed before the end of the year. It is planned to have TAWA fully operational by July 2015. The authority will be based in Morogoro. GIZ will support TAWA in training matters, in working out a business plan and a communication strategy, in establishing an anti-poaching unit. Extensive training programs to inform employees of new regulations e.g. benefit sharing of rural communities, on decentralized administration and local authorities will be carried out in TAWA’s first year
A popular pastoralist is under arrest, as he supposedly poisoned six lions outside Serengeti National Park, after a pack of 17 lions attacked one of his cows. The local newspaper Daily News reported that due to increased human-wildlife conflict relations between locals and conservators in Western Serengeti are deteriorating.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has suspended five top officials after a ton of confiscated ivory worth over one million US dollars vanished from government strongrooms according to “The East African”-newspaper. UWA chief Raymond Engena said, following calls from the president to catch the culprits: “We have suspended five officials to allow investigations into how the ivory went missing.” They include the government-run UWA’s chief ranger, those who had access to the strongroom, as well as intelligence officers in the agency. Uganda is a key transit country for the illegal trade.
On October 18 the Zambian Parliamentary Conservation Caucus (ZPCC) and International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF) hosted a “National Conference on Conservation and Development Priorities and Partnerships: A Way Forward”. The conference included sessions on wildlife crime and policy and focused amongst other issues on the improvement of benefit sharing from natural resources with local communities, including also capacity development of the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA). Dr. Kaush Arha in his capacity as Vice President of ICCF played a pivotal role. Dr. Arha is also Vice President of the CIC International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation. … read more HERE
A gang of elephant poachers were cornered by rangers on the night of September 6. The shootout left one poacher dead and three seriously wounded, with one shot in the leg, one had his chin blown and the third one had his ankle shattered by bullets. The three are being charged with unlawfully hunting in a Safari area and possessing two elephant tusks each weighing 5kg after they allegedly entered Chete Safari in Binga where they killed an elephant and took its tusk. The accused were arrested by rangers after the shootout. Parks and Wildlife rangers appear to have adopted a shoot-to-kill strategy after two men suspected to be poachers were also shot dead by rangers near Victoria Falls.