On 5 April 2015 Customs officers in Perth seized 110 kg of elephant tusks. The shipment was from Africa and in transit to Malaysia.
Botswana imposed an almost complete ban on hunting wildlife — by bushmen as well as overseas visitors — in January 2014. Once the source of much-needed income [through trophy hunting], elephants have [now] become a major nuisance to villagers living on the edge of Chobe National Park. Botswana’s environment minister Tshekedi Khama said “Hunters only employ people during the hunting season. (Tourism) is throughout the year, that’s why we prefer it.” But some wildlife experts and safari operators fear the ban could be detrimental. “Hunting of elephants can be used as a way of sustainably generating revenue for elephant conservation,” said Julian Blanc (CITES). For Amos Mabuku, chairman of the Chobe enclave conservation trust, the government has forgotten the everyday reality that there are too many elephants near villages “The attitude of local people has changed, it’s becoming negative,” he said. “We used to tell the community ‘conserve elephants’, so that you get profit. But now why conserve?” he said. (Source MG Africa).
Zakouma National Park with 305,000 ha is heralded as a model for elephant conservation in one of the most difficult regions in Africa. Its success can be attributed to management strength, a multi-tiered anti-poaching system and effective community engagement. Faced with military-trained poachers from Sudan, Zakouma NP deploys guards on horseback and motorcycle and has a Rapid Response Unit. 11 regional airstrips support aerial surveillance, a central control room coordinates anti-poaching operations and field intelligence, and satellite collars were fitted onto elephants so their movements could be monitored around the clock. The wooded savannah interspersed with gallery forest and seasonally-inundated floodplains, harbors abundant wildlife, including 8,000 buffalo, numerous Roan antelope, Kordofan giraffe, Lelwel’s hartebeest, tiang, kob and red-fronted gazelle, plus all the major predators and the only greater kudu population in the Sudanian zone. Chad is currently drawing up a national elephant protection plan and is aiming to promulgate new national parks. More details at www.african-parks.org.
The State Forestry Administration announced the phasing out of the country’s domestic ivory trade in Bejing in May when nearly 1,500 pounds of confiscated elephant tusks and carvings were crushed. “Under the legal framework of CITES and domestic laws, we will strictly control ivory processing and trade until [its] commercial processing and sale are eventually halted,” said Zhao Shucong, SFA minister without giving a time frame. (Source: Sinosphere)
Central African Republic
The Chinko Project covers 1,760,000 ha. This transition zone between woodland, savannah and tropical rainforest systems contains a phenomenal biodiversity, which includes primates, ungulates, carnivores, and forest and savannah elephant. Erik Mararv, a professional hunter born and raised in CAR co-founded Chinko Project to protect the remaining wildlife. He operated on a shoestring budget along with 5 co-founders. In late 2014 the project merged with African Parks. An immediate priority is preventing poaching from Sudanese cattle herders. A designated corridor has been created to allow cattle to traverse the area. Counteracting organized groups of elephant poachers from Sudan is more challenging and training a more effective anti-poaching unit is high priority. In 2015 an Eastern Giant eland breeding program will be implemented, with 20 animals to be captured and bred for later reintroduction into the wild. More information at www.chinkoproject.com and www.african-parks.org.
Congo, Democratic Republic of
The 780,000 ha Virunga National Park has lost more game rangers on duty than any other park on earth – 150 rangers have been killed since 2004. Last year a park ranger was killed and two injured in an ambush by militia, whilst park director Emmanuel de Merode was shot and seriously wounded outside the park. Home to 25% of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas the park also protects eastern lowland Grauer’s gorillas and chimpanzees, as well as the Okapi. There is no doubt that Virunga’s wildlife would have ceased to exist were it not for the fortitude of the committed and courageous rangers. More information at www.virunga.org.
Kenyan airport authorities arrested a Vietnamese man in May carrying $82 000 worth of rhino horn between Mozambique and Hanoi, when he was on a stopover in Nairobi (Source Mail & Guardian Africa).
Mozambique’s elephant population dropped from just over 20,000 to about 10,300 between 2009 and 2014, reflecting rampant poaching by organized crime. The 2014 figure was recorded during surveillance flights between September and November. Mozambican ministry and police set up a new force to patrol conservation areas (Source AP).
On May 12, Mozambican police seized 340 elephant tusks and 65 rhino horns from a house in Matola in Mozambique’s largest-ever confiscation of rhino horn and elephant ivory. Two Chinese citizens were arrested. The confiscated haul was held in custody at the Maputo police headquarters in a storeroom reportedly secured with just three padlocks. On May 25 thieves raided the storeroom, making off with 12 horns. Four state officials guarding the store were arrested on suspicion of aiding the theft. A further two suspects were arrested for producing horn replicas to switch with the stolen horns. Colman O’Criodain, WWF wildlife trade analyst, said Mozambique was under scrutiny by the CITES Standing Committee for its failure to combat rhino and elephant poaching and this breach could lead to sanctions. John Scanlon, CITES secretary general, said: “We are extremely concerned by news of [this] theft [from] a police facility after a very successful seizure” (Source Mail & Guardian Africa).
An aerial survey in November 2014 covering over 50% of the 407,000 hectare Gorongosa National Park revealed a huge rebound in the populations of most large animals, with 71,086 herbivores counted across 19 species. Overall Gorongosa protects remarkable biodiversity, with 398 bird species, 122 mammals, 34 reptiles and 43 amphibians identified. For more details visit the Gorongosa Restoration Project at www.gorongosa.org.
A quote from a blog of a reformed anti-hunter “It’s difficult to say and accept, but trophy hunting is key to conserving wildlife … Before this trip [to South Africa], I would have never considered trophy hunting as a viable solution to conservation. But I think it is. You only have to look as far as Kenya to see the appeal. The Kenyan government has outlawed hunting of any type, and has since lost over 70 percent of its wildlife. In South Africa, when trophy hunting was introduced, the wildlife population doubled.” For the full article please read Amy Roberts: Killing to conserve
Charly Seale head of the Texas-based Exotic Wildlife Association’s Second Ark Foundation is part of a project likely be the largest attempt outside Africa to move rhinos out of harm’s way. “This is not for the faint of heart or for the faint of checkbook,” said Seale, pointing out no public money will be sought. The Second Ark Foundation has some experience since it worked to preserve the addax and the scimitar-horned oryx. Most of the rhinos would be under three years old, typically darted in South Africa, transported by truck and shipped as air cargo. The rhinos would be housed on 100,000 acres-plus (40,000 ha-plus) ranches in south or southwest Texas. Rhinos DNA sequences would be stored in a database and microchips placed in the rhinos’ horns. If things go well in Texas, and South Africa can put a lid on poaching, the Lone Star-raised rhinos could eventually be returned to Africa. Alan Warren, who is part of the Texas group, said “It’s not about hunting, it is about preserving and saving the species from certain annihilation in South Africa” (Source Reuters).
Isilo (isiZulu for King) the largest elephant in the Tembe Transfrontier Park on the South Africa/Mozambique Border apparently died a natural death in the south-west section of the park last year. The tusks disappeared over the border into Mozambique. To date they have not been traced. Watch the Youtube movie with the magnificent Isilo HERE.
Tanzania’s elephant population has fallen to 43,330, a drop of several thousand from the previous survey. In 1976 Tanzania boasted seven times as many elephants but successive waves of poaching since have endangered whole populations. Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Lazaro Nyalandu claimed the figures were a “mixed bag” with increases in some areas overshadowed by a dramatic fall in Ruaha–Rungwa from 20,000 in 2013 (34,000 in 2009) to 8,272 last year. WWF’s Carlos Drews said the disappearance of so many elephants from Ruaha–Rungwa could only be explained by the involvement of the international crime gangs (various media sources).
Elephant numbers increased to more than 5,000 from fewer than 1,000 decades ago because of improved measures to protect elephants, the Wildlife Conservation Society said in a statement. The Uganda Wildlife Authority, a state agency that was established in 1996, was key to the success. (Source AP)
On January 14 a Miami District Court heard an auction house owner pleading guilty to illegal trafficking and smuggling rhino horn and objects made from rhino. The defendant will pay a fine of 1.5 million US dollars and also faces imprisonment.
Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) joined Friends of Animals (collectively, “Wildlife Advocates”) in the FoA suit regarding the importation of the trophies from two black rhino legally harvested in Namibia earlier this year. In the court papers ZCTF chairman Johnny Rodrigues asserts that he is against all trophy hunting in Africa. Interestingly the paper submitted by the Wildlife Advocates – including the Zimbabwean Mr. Rodrigues – states: “The continued status of the rhino as one of the so-called African big five sport trophies (rhinos, lions, elephants, tigers, and water buffalos) continues to undermine conservation efforts by effectively commodifying [sic] the species and decreasing the stigma attached to the killing of rhinos. (Source Conservation Force Case 1:15-cv-00653-ABJ Document 5 Filed 05/21/15 on Page 14 of 26).
Gonarezhou NP with 505,000 ha harbors 89 mammal including some 10,000 elephants and buffalo numbers are up from 2,274 in 2009 to over 4,000( 2013 aerial survey). Lion numbers have doubled to over 60, whilst wild dog numbers have increased from 40 in 2009 to more than 100 today. The park is part of the 3.5 million ha Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park straddling the borders of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) manages Gonarezhou in partnership with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. There are now plans to reintroduce black rhino and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest.
Compiled by Gerhard R Damm