The State of Biodiversity in Africa, to be released in 2015, was presented to African leaders and policy makers by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre at the 15th African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) in Cairo. Demand for and consumption of natural resources results in land use change, overexploitation and overharvesting of species, legal and illegal logging, illegal hunting, and pollution created by urbanization and industrialization. Over 3 million hectares of forest are lost yearly due to the conversion of agricultural lands to meet food and biofuels needs. The report makes recommendations in areas such as addressing the illegal trade in wildlife, through increased law enforcement; using initiatives such as the REDD+ forest restoration and conservation initiative; implementing conservation actions on a greater scale; improving governance to strengthen links between wildlife management and community development; and mobilizing resources from private and global funds, to establish practicable systems of payments for ecosystem services.
Uganda has over 6.5 billion barrels of commercial oil resources and prepares to embark on the production phase, while Kenya with an estimated one billion barrels of recoverable oil targets to start production in 2017. Tanzania has huge offshore gas resources in the south of the country. Rwanda is currently seeking firms for oil and gas exploration in the Lake Kivu area. All these activities could lead to environmental degradation if there are no stringent laws and policies to guide development activities.
The Hukuntsi Sub-district chairperson said the sub-district experiences an increase in poaching particularly in Zutshwa, where poaching had turned from subsistence to commercial. A poaching syndicate apparently operates underground butcheries to sell game meat. Also, human-wildlife conflict remains prevalent in Kgalagadi North (Source: AllAfrica).
The government contemplates changing the boundaries of the 780,000 ha Virunga NP, home to around a quarter of the world’s mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) to accommodate oil exploitation. Any border changes of the World Heritage Site would have to be approved by the UNESCO (Source: www.Mongabay.com).
30 elephants were killed within 2 weeks in Garamba NP by a group of northern Sudanese poachers according to African Parks (Source: Jeune Afrique)
Footage recorded as part of a chimpanzee study in the Batéké Plateau NP by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology’s Pan African Program and released by Panthera shows a male lion wandering along an elephant path. Experts believe the lion travelled up to 250 km from DR Congo. The lion had entered the national park in November 2014; the question whether the male is solitary or part of a new breeding population is still unresolved.
In 2011 Zhuo Qiang founded Mara Conservation Fund (MCF) and started launching awareness campaigns in China. Zhou runs the 73 km2 Ol Kinyei Conservancy in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem and some 100 Chinese volunteers come to Kenya to work on conservation projects each year. MCF plans to translate Swara, the quarterly magazine on wildlife conservation and public face of the East African Wildlife Society into Chinese to reach people in China.
3 people believed to be part of a poaching cartel, among them a police officer from Nairobi, were arrested early March as they tried to sell a rhino horn to a KWS officer in Nairobi.
Many sitatunga apparently have been killed in a vast fire which destroyed 10,000 ac in the Birei-Kapsisiywa swamp. The fire is suspected to have been started by an individual.
Suspected ivory smuggler Feisal Mohammed, who was arrested by Interpol on December 22, was released on a Sh10 million cash bond in March. Detectives say that the Mombasa businessman is the leader of an international poaching syndicate in East Africa and has enjoyed protection from security agencies and state officials.
The PHASA Conservation & Empowerment Fund has donated more than 15 million Rand over the past decade to anti-poaching, research, training, social responsibility and empowerment initiatives. Toyota South Africa made a vehicle available to the Fund.
A 32-year-old Chinese national found in possession of 5 kg of rhino horn and chucked abalone was arrested at Cape Town International Airport on 24 March 2015
19 black rhino made available through the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency were released at an undisclosed location to create the 10th breeding population in WWF South Africa’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project as part of WWF South Africa’s five-point rhino plan to reach a target of 3 000 black rhino. One of the key objectives is to grow the population as rapidly as possible by harvesting animals from populations that are at or near ecological carrying capacity and using these animals to create new populations. This harvesting stimulates growth in the donor population.
The Hawks arrested 5 suspected rhino poachers in Mpumalanga almost 5 months after 8 rhinos went missing from the Ohrigstad NR. Two of the suspects confessed to killing another 2 rhinos in the Pretoriuskop area of Kruger NP. The suspects appeared in court; 3 had their cases withdrawn, 2 remained in custody.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Tanzanian government launched an initiative to protect East Africa’s largest elephant population. Funded by USAID, the plan aims to reduce poaching and protect biodiversity across the 115,000 km2 ecosystem of the Southern Highlands and Ruaha-Katavi Protection Program (SHARPP) in 4 focal areas: Wildlife Management Areas, livelihoods, habitat conservation, and elephant monitoring and protection. SHARPP plans to complement existing anti-poaching activities with aerial surveillance, detection dogs, spatial monitoring, and anti-trafficking strategies as well as the introduction crime-scene management.
In March, Ugandan Wildlife authorities confiscated 500 kg ivory en route to Singapore at Entebbe airport. The ivory pieces were immersed in cassava flour and sealed in 4 metal containers.
In mid-March Tourism and Arts Minister Jean Kapata announced that Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) will be transformed into a government department. The Zambia Wildlife Act will be repealed. The ministry will absorb ZAWA staff and functions into a new agency to oversee wildlife and game parks. ZAWA had accumulated debts of over 1 million US dollars and ZAWA staff had gone several months without pay.
USFW&S announced that “trophies, parts or products of elephant taken in Zimbabwe during the 2015 hunting seasons will not be allowed to be imported into USA. The trophy import suspension for 2015 or future hunting seasons could be lifted if additional information on elephant status and management becomes available, including utilization of revenue generated through sport hunting by U.S. citizens”. John J. Jackson III of Conservation Force commented that “this is not final but an invitation for more action and information”.