Nature Explored

by Chris Dunford








Poaching News Archive 2013



Wildlife Rangers give their lives

Some 1,000 wildlife rangers – a third more than the entire losses of the British military in Iraq and Afghanistan – have been killed across Africa in the last decade in trying to save the continent’s great fauna.

Police and the Kenya Wildlife Service have found poachers with everything from the Israeli Galil assault rifle to American M16s, although AK-47s remain their most popular weapon.

The going rate for a gun in Kenya is around $100, a fraction of the amount that can be made from the ivory harvested from just one elephant. A pair of tusks can easily be worth $50000.

Largest ever Ivory Seizure in Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 11th December 2012 – Royal Malaysian Customs have made their largest ever seizure of ivory in transit through the country, finding 1,500 pieces of tusks hidden in wooden crates purpose-built to look like stacks of sawn timber.

The ivory, stashed in ten crates which were divided between two containers, was shipped from the port of Lomé in Togo and was headed to China, the Selangor State Customs Director Dato’ Azis Yacub told a press conference.

The two containers, declared to be carrying “wooden floor tiles acajou”, were held on December 7th. After removing the top layer of the crates, officers found the ivory in a secret compartment measuring about one metre deep.

The consignment was estimated to be worth around $20 million.

Selous aerial Elephant census

The result of the September/October 2013 Selous aerial census has been announced by the Tanzanian government: there are an estimated 13,084 elephants left.

In other words, about 80% of Selous' elephants have been killed in the last six years; poached for the ivory trade.

The result was announced by Assistant Director of Wildlife, Prof. Kideghesho, during the opening of the 9th TAWIRI Scientific Conference in Arusha, last Wednesday 4th December. The census was of the whole Selous ecosystem, including Mikumi National Park.

During this time – Poachers could make $300 a tusk, grossing more than $34 million. Middlemen sold to sellers in the city for about $1000 a tusk, total profit $23 million. Sellers passed onto exporters for $1400 a tusk, total profit $23 million. In China one pound of ivory sells for about $1000, making the gross value of Selous’ elephants worth billions. This big money has attracted organized crime, corrupt officials, and terrorist groups like Al-Shabab.

Namibia Call to Ban Poisons

The discovery of hundreds of poisoned vultures close to an elephant carcass deliberately poisoned by poachers in Bwabwata National Park in August has prompted conservationists to push through an urgent protocol to establish regional legislation to ban over-the-counter poisons and pesticides.

‘The use of poisons, both deliberate and unintentional, is the single biggest killer of vultures,’ said Holger Kolberg, principal conservation scientist in the Ministryof Environment and Tourism.

About 500 vulture carcasses were found, but it is believed that at least 1000 birds died in the incident, as many would have succumbed far away. Africa cannot live without it's vultures and their numbers are plummeting.

Thirty Nations approve urgent measures to tackle the Elephant poaching crisis

Gaborone, Botswana, 2nd December 2013—Delegates gathered to discuss the plight of the African Elephant at a summit convened by the Government of Botswana and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

The countries agreed on 14 measures to protect the animals fter meetings this week.The steps include classifying poaching as a serious crime, strengthening cross-border law-enforcement and reining in demand for ivory in Asia with information campaigns.

Elephant poaching and ivory trafficking will be introduced as standing agenda items on National Security Committees.

Nations that took part in the Gaborone summit included those where the animals live, ivory-trade transit countries,ie. Malaysia and the Philippines, and nations with high demand for ivory such as China and Thailand.

Seven countries—Botswana, Germany, Somalia, United Kingdom, United States, Zambia and Zimbabwe—have already signed the Urgent Measures agreement, while Ministers from the other countries represented at the meeting are expected to do so by the end of this month.

Rhino Poaching latest

Up till November 28th of this year another 891 Rhinos have been lost due to Poaching in South Africa alone, mostly in the Kruger National Park. The Kruger shares a long border with Mozambique, where many of the poachers are coming from.

US Government destroys store of seized ivory

The U.S. Government has publicly destroyed six tonnes of seized African and Asian elephant ivory that had accumulated following enforcement action in the country over the past 25 years.

The ivory, which consisted of whole and carved tusks, smaller carvings and other objects, was crushed yesterday at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Denver, Colorado. Federal agency representatives, range State ambassadors, congressional delegations, celebrities and journalists were invited to attend as observers.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the move to destroy the illicit ivory was aimed at sending a clear message that the U.S. will not tolerate ivory trafficking and the toll it is taking on elephant populations, particularly in Africa.

Royal Thai Customs intercept three attempts to smuggle tortoise and freshwater turtle in less than a week

Bangkok, Thailand, (8 November, 2013) – Thailand continues to be a major hub for the illegal trade in tortoises and freshwater turtles. This week alone, three smuggling attempts have been thwarted, all arriving at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport.

Thai Royal Customs arrested a Pakistani national on a flight from Lahore, with four suitcases containing 470 Black Pond Turtles Geoclemys hamiltonii, a species completely protected in its native Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal. They are becoming increasingly rare in the wild.

In an earlier seizure on Monday (November 3rd), Royal Thai Customs officials at the same airport recovered 72 Black Pond Turtles and eight other turtles, including six Crowned River Turtles Hardella thurjii, one Three-keeled Land Tortoise Melanochelys tricarinata and one Indian Eyed Turtle Morenia petersi, from two bags that were emitting a rotting smell. The bags had also arrived on a flight from Bangladesh.

Just two days later, Royal Thai Customs officials discovered another load of tortoises and freshwater turtles, in two uncollected suitcases at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport, including the heavily trafficked Indian Star Tortoise Geochelone elegans. Subsequent checks revealed 423 Indian Star Tortoises and 52 Black Pond Turtles.

The animals have been placed in the care of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

The White Gold of Jihad - Elephant and Rhino poaching is funding terrorism

According to the US International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF), "Ivory and rhino horn are gaining popularity as a source of income for some of Africa’s most notorious armed groups, including Somalia’s al-Shabab, the Lord's Resistance Army (L.R.A.), and Darfur's janjaweed".

The organisation adds, "Wildlife products have become a substantial source of income for terrorist organizations in Africa."

Three years ago, the Elephant Action League (EAL) conducted an 18-month undercover investigation into the link between Al-Shabaab and the illegal trafficking of ivory through Kenya. The findings, made it clear that Al-Shabaab has been actively buying and selling ivory to fund its militant operations and that ivory trafficking could be supplying up to 40% of the funds needed to keep them in business.

Read this appalling story at: The Elephant Action League

Question - When will the Western Governments take Wildlife Crime seriously?

Miniscule Fines no deterrent to poaching

Earlier this year a Chinese smuggler, apprehended in Kenya whilst in transit from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Hong Kong, was fined a mere US$350 for the haul of 439 pieces of ivory found in his possession before being released. That’s less than US$1 apiece.

This one incident illustrates the woefully inadequate legislation and penalties which, rather than acting as a deterrent, actually encourage poaching.

In Kenya the current wildlife act caps punishment for the most serious wildlife crimes at a maximum fine of 40,000 Kenyan shillings (around US$470), and a possible jail term of up to 10 years. With a black market price of as much as US$70,000 per kilogram, it is worth the minor inconvenience of getting caught. Four Chinese citizens who were arrested attempting to smuggle thousands of dollars worth of ivory out of Kenya paid a US$340 fine and then walked free.

Court punishment for a convicted elephant poacher in Tanzania can be as little as US$13. Tanzanian officials have said that in 670 cases tried between March 2012 and March this year, fines totalling US$109,377 were incurred. That’s an average of just under US$164 per case.

The Shining light seems to be Botswana where sucessful anti-poaching is supported by strong leadership and political will from President Ian Khama and an effective judiciary, backed by tough wildlife legislation and strong involvement of the military.

The rest of Africa needs to get serious, and clean out the High level corruption and involvement in the trade.

Rhino Poaching latest

Up till October 11th of this year another 746 Rhinos have been lost due to Poaching in South Africa alone, mostly in the Kruger National Park. The Kruger shares a long border with Mozambique, where many of the poachers are coming from.

Tanzanian Minister suggests poachers should be shot onsight

Speaking at the International March for Elephants last week, Khamis Kagasheki, the Tanzanian Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, said

"Poachers must be harshly punished because they are merciless people who wantonly kill our wildlife and sometimes wardens. The only way to solve this problem is to execute the killers on the spot."

Minister Kagasheki, who appeared furious with increasing poaching incidents in the wildlife-rich country, warned that illegal hunters have wealthy international barons backing them thus are well equipped with advanced weaponry and can also usually afford to mount a legal defence.

The head of Tanzania's wildlife watchdog said human rights issues do not count on the matter and Tanzania would not listen to anyone when it came to implementing the order.

Me - I'm thinking about sending him some money to buy bullets.

Thanks to Hilary and Chelsea Clinton for launching the New CGI project to Save African Elephants from Extinction

The Wildlife Conservation Society, African Wildlife Foundation, Conservation International, International Fund for Animal Welfare, And World Wildlife Fund Announce an $80M Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action: Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants

Conservation groups announced today a three-year $80 million Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action that will bring together NGOs, governments, and concerned citizens to stop the slaughter of Africa’s elephants, which are being decimated due to poaching for ivory.

The Commitment Makers and their partners commit to funding and facilitating partnerships to advance a new three-pronged strategy that will catalyze a global movement to coordinate and leverage influence, constituencies, and resources to protect key elephant populations from poaching while reducing trafficking and demand for ivory.

Funding for this commitment has been provided by public and private sources, including U.S., European, and African governments; along with multi-lateral institutions, foundations, and concerned individuals. Nations joining in the commitment include: Botswana, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, South Sudan, Malawi, and Uganda.

As one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, valued at $7-10 billion annually, illegal wildlife trade ranks fourth globally in terms of value, behind the trafficking in drugs, people, and counterfeiting. Notorious extremist groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Janjaweed, and al-Shabaab poach ivory to fund terror operations.

For the full story go to the The Wildlife Conservation Society Website .

Shame on America!

I find out today from the Wildife Conservation Society that the biggest (Legal) Market for Ivory after China is non other than the United States of America.

So one one Hand the Americans are funding Anti Poaching and on the other they are fueling the demand. Something is very wrong here.


Protection for the Southern White Rhino

Washington — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is taking immediate action to protect the Southern White Rhinoceros under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The ESA provides a safety net wildlife and plants and has prevented the extinction of hundreds of threatened species, as well as promoting the recovery of many others.

By extending ESA protection to the White Rhino — the last remaining unprotected species of rhinoceros — USFWS is closing a loophole that has been exploited by poachers and traffickers seeking to cash in on demand for rhino horn from China and the Far East. This move will aid international law enforcement efforts to fight poaching and stem the flow of illegal Rhino horn.


Motion activated cameras used to catch Poachers

The Instant Wild project, designed for the Zoological Society of London by Cambridge Consultants, is a way to use motion-activated cameras to find rare animals in Kenya. But the same technology can be used to photograph poachers in the act.

Cameras take pictures when their motion sensors detect movement. Then these cameras transmit those pictures back to a hidden transmission unit, which contains a Raspberry Pi computer with a satellite uplink to the Iridium satellite network to the London Zoological Society servers.The pictures are compressed and trnasmitted.

Humans count among the animals that can be recorded and identified–bad news for poachers. Cambridge Consultants and the Zoological Society of London are now providing that data to the Kenya Wildlife Service, which battles local poaching.There are plans to expand it by 100 more units this year and 250 more next year.


Call for Stiffer Penalties Against Poachers

Zimbabwe's Environment, Water and Climate Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has called on Government to impose stiffer penalties to deter poachers from killing wild animals in national parks. 58 elephants were last month poisoned by poachers who added cyanide to a water hole at the Hwange National Park.


Rhino Poaching latest

Up till September 13th of this year another 635 Rhinos have been lost due to Poaching in South Africa alone, mostly in the Kruger National Park. The Kruger shares a long border with Mozambique, where most of the poachers are coming from.


Vultures Poisoned by Poachers

It seems that poachers are lacing the carcasses of recently killed elephants with poison in order to kill the vultures that are homing in on the kill. They don't want circling Vultures to alert Rangers to their presence. Several hundred vultures at one time have been poisoned. The Vulture population in Africa is crashing anyway, and now there are accelerated losses. With no vultures you'll need a gas mask to cross the Serengeti due to the stench of dead Wildebeeste

Kerri Wolter, the head of VulPro, said "The rate of decline and the impact we are having on vultures is such that many birds will disappear from the landscape of Africa within the next 30 to 40 years."

Already the African white-backed vulture, is now seen as "endangered" with numbers decreasing by 90% in West Africa.


Mountain Gorillas Foil Poachers

Young Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda have been seen using their bare hands to destroy snares set by local poachers. In the past, only silverbacks were seen to do this, but now younger gorillas are learning how to deal with one of the biggest threats to their survival.

Now - if only they could learn to shoot as well.


Are Senior Officials in the Tanzanian Government behind the Poaching epidemic?

There are signs that senior officials within the Tanzanian government, including unscrupulous security officers, are behind Elephant poaching and trade in bloody ivory.

Members of Tanzania’s Parliamentary Committee on Land, Natural Resources and Environment have pointed a finger to senior government officials from key departments responsible for wildlife conservation and security officers for taking part in illegal poaching of African elephant and trade in bloody ivory.

Chairman of the Committee Mr. James Lembeli said senior officials from the government of Tanzania are benefiting directly from wildlife poaching, which is why anti-poaching campaigns fail to curb elephant and rhino killing.

His committee raised serious questions to the government of Tanzania over its position in fighting the killing of elephant and rhino, where poachers use high-caliber guns to shoot them, while others apply poisoned fruits to kill the African elephant.

Tanzania, an elephant slaughter house, is rapidly losing its elephant population as poaching continues unabated. The committee pointed an accusing finger to a section of military and senior police officers for running poaching and illegal trade in bloody ivory.

The Committee members said it is difficult to know the exact number of elephants killed in Tanzania every year, but reports from independent conservation charities show an average of 850 elephants killed every year inside protected parks.

It is estimated that only 70,000 elephants are living in key protected areas today. A census carried in 2009 counted 109,000 elephants in those areas (protected parks).


White Rhino killed by poachers in Nairobi National Park

It was the first such killing in Nairobi's National Park in six years, Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) spokesperson Paul Udoto said.

Poachers shot the rhino on Friday, and took its horn, he was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

He said 35 rhinos had been killed in Kenya so far this year - compared with a total of 29 in 2012.

Nairobi National Park is located only 7km (4 miles) from the centre of the Kenyan capital, and is described by KWS as "the only protected area in the world close to a capital city".

Just how bad will it get?



Illegal ivory seized at Hong Kong's Port of Kwai Chung

Hong Kong customs officers have confiscated elephant tusks worth more than $2.2m on the illegal ivory market.

The ivory was hidden beneath planks of wood in a large container that was sent from the African country of Togo.

Officials say this is their largest seizure since 2010, and is likely to have come from baby elephants.

Over a thousand pieces of ivory were confiscated. It's not rocket science to work out how many elephants that equates to.



Obama launches poaching crackdown

The White House is launching new initiatives to fight illegal trafficking of rhinoceros horns, elephant tusks and other products decimating Africa’s native species.

Obama issued an executive order on Monday [while visiting Tanzania] that sets up a task force to craft a national strategy to combat criminal trafficking and an outside advisory panel to inform the effort.

“Poaching and trafficking is threatening Africa’s wildlife,” Obama said “The entire world has a stake in making sure that we preserve Africa’s beauty for future generations.”

The State Department will provide $10 million for training and technical assistance to aide South Africa, Kenya and other nations, while the Interior Department will “enhance” regulations that address illegal trafficking, the White House said.

“We’ve also had a massive diplomatic campaign, including under the leadership of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when she was at the State Department, convening people at state and making this a big diplomatic part of our policy,” said Grant Harris, the National Security Council’s senior director for Africa.



Rasperry Pi to fight poaching in Kenya


The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) will use next generation camera traps, equipped with automated sensors, to better protect threatened wildlife. Sensors will be able to instantaneously transmit alerts of gunfire, vehicle movement and human presence.


Wildlife crime is one of the largest illegal trades in the world. Rhino poaching increased by over 40% from 2011-2012, posing a real threat to communities and tourism operations that depend on wildlife.

Over two years, ZSL plans to reduce poaching incidents in a threatened Kenyan protected area by 50%, providing greater protection for endangered rhinos, elephants, and more. Ultimately, increased awareness of effective patrols will deter poachers, reduce threats and increase security for local community groups and wildlife rangers.

Visit The ZSL Website for the full story.

Rhino Poaching latest

Sadly I heard today that up till May of this year another 292 Rhinos have been lost due to Poaching in South Africa alone, mostly in the Kruger National Park. The Kruger shares a long border with Mozambique, where most of the poachers are coming from.