Posts Tagged With: Chad

Gaining Momentum

Throughout history, the black market of ivory and horn has ebbed and flowed. Every so often, there come windows of opportunity to put an end to it black and white amboseli elliesaltogether. Momentum is with us and that time is now.

Kenya was one of the first countries to take a stand and destroy its ivory stockpile in 1989. Since then it’s become a symbol of conservation, a declaration of war against the poaching syndicates.

The Philippines, US and Hong Kong have all destroyed their stockpiles within the last year. France, Chad and Tanzania are the most recent countries to join the bandwagon.

As the fourth most lucrative illegal crime worldwide worth $19 billion, wildlife trafficking is gaining attention.

Last week the London summit for illegal wildlife trade brought together government officials from 50 countries. The focus was on specific actions of law enforcement and reducing demand for elephants, rhinos and tigers.

“We may be at a turning point, says Mary Rice, executive director of the U.K.s Environmental Investigation Agency. “The mood in the room today is that everyone is now finally- and really -acknowledging the problem, and that we’re moving closer to support a ban on all ivory from all sources.”

Key countries including Botswana, Chad, China, Gabon, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Tanzania, Vietnam, Russia and the US have agreed on actions to help eradicate the demand for wildlife products and strengthen laws. The US even announced a total  ban on commercial ivory, which is tremendous considering they were the second largest market for ivory.

With so many integral players on board, it begs the question “Where’s South Africa?”

zumaHome to 90% of the world’s remaining rhinos, South Africa’s support and committment is imperative. Yet, they were noticeably absent on the day of the conference, thus unable take part in any negotiations or to sign the London declaration.

President Zuma did briefly address poaching in his state of the nation address, saying

 “Our country continues to be the target of rhino poachers. Our law enforcement agencies are  working hard to arrest this scourge. We have also reached agreements with China, Vietnam, Kenya, Mozambique and other SADC countries to work together to stop this crime. We thank the business community and all South Africans who participate in the campaign to save the rhino.”

Yet with no action, an empty chair at the world summit, and such a pitiful conviction rate when poachers are arrested, it does not appear to be a priority to Mr. Zuma or the South African government.

“We need to fight smarter and take a proactive, targeted approach. We need the necessary resources to be provided to all relevant law enforcement agencies and our criminal justice system to equip them to combat this priority crime which threatens South Africa’s security, economy and national heritage.
We need to be explicit about the impact that loss of tourism income and jobs could have on our rural communities and we need to appreciate those putting their lives on the line to protect our national heritage.” -Jo Shaw, Rhino Programme Manager

Much of the world is ready and willing to make this happen. But how far, how fast, and how much can this work without the enthusiasm of South Africa?

Rhinos

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Wildlife Rangers: Unsung Heroes in the War on Poaching

ZAKOUMA NATIONAL PARK, Chad — Just before dawn, the rangers were hunched over in prayer, facing east. They pressed their foreheads into the dry earth and softly whispered Koranic verses, their lips barely moving. A cool wind bit at their faces.

All of a sudden, Djimet Seid, the cook, said he heard “one war whoop — or maybe it was a scream.”       

And then: “K-k-k-k-k-k-k,” the angry bark of a Kalashnikov assault rifle, opening up on fully automatic. In an instant, an entire Chadian squad of rangers was cut down with alarming precision… (NY Times 12-2012)park rangers

At least 60 Wildlife Rangers worldwide have been killed in 2012. (The exact number is a mystery, as it is believed that many more deaths go unreported)

As the duty of wildlife rangers has shifted from field biologists to military personnel, it is a struggle to catch up. Todays rangers are desperately in need of more funding, training and equipment. Seemingly a step behind the higher funded poachers, it hardly seems a fair war.

As the demand for tusks and horns has soared, poaching has evolved. The previous attack in Chad was carried out with military precision, making it necessary to be on guard for an ambush on any given patrol. Poachers have turned to AK-47s, land mines, and have even poisoned animal carcasses to kill off vultures, which serve as a warning signal to their presence.

The duties of game rangers vary from assisting with translocation of animals to patch burning to fixing pumps and generators. But their job can hardly be called routine when death can come at any time.

Recently I did a little “Q and A” with an experienced 14 year veteran ranger from Namibia. His name is being withheld to protect his identity.

Q: What is a typical day on patrol like for you?

“Well its early up….after breakfast of only food in tins we start patrolling to see if we can’t find tracks of animals or poachers…..after we find tracks we follow…..till we get what we want. Sometimes we have to walk hours and lots of km a day to see the Rhinos or any other wildlife. We get to camp at dark and still have to make food, after that we get a few hours of sleep. Then comes night patrol. We have poachers coming at night to shoot the animals so we  have to be alert at all times. We get so tired but we help each other to stay awake.

This goes on for 10 to 15 days in  one area then we move again to the next.”

Q: What determines where you patrol? And how many of you are there at a time?

“We help lodges and farmers that breed wild animals and try to protect them. We have no routine, we go as we think its time or on request of the owners. We also work on the highways; that we do with police or the army. We help with road blocks and patrol with them helping with tracking and so on. We are about 30 guys depending on how much money we can get (as I pay them for their families, and for their supplies). Sometimes its only 6 guys.”

Q: Where does the funding come from?

“We get donations from people and the places where we work also help us with food for the periods.”

Q: It seems you must have a lot to take with you-the essentials for camping equip and food, weapons,etc?

“The weapons are our own, the tents we buy from china shops here. They are cheap but not strong so we have to change them out about every second month or so. We take nothing from nature ….no hunting or fishing for food….we take all with us when we go.”

Q: Do you have a lot of run-ins with poachers?

“Yes. We have a lot of run- ins with poachers….its easy to meet them when you live with them in the bush.”

Q: What’s the most dangerous situation you’ve been in?

“Well in 2005 one of our unit members was killed in a shoot out, but we caught them after 2 days of tracking. We were on highway patrol when we came upon the poachers. They started shooting at us as they tried to drive off….luckily none of us got shot THAT night too.”

Q: What’s the most rewarding situation you’ve had?

“One area in Namibia had a poaching problem for about 3 years…they heard of us and asked for help. We went in with about 12 members. We caught the poachers; they were police and nature conservation members along with the tribe king’s son. That was my best bust ever…..just their faces said it all.”

Q: What do you wish you had to make your job easier, more effective?

“Funds to get better equipment….this will make any job better and easy to do. We would  like to go on horse back doing bush patrols and when we move from one area to another we would like to  have some type of transport to help with the load. It’s nice working by foot but it can drain your body very quickly.”

Q: How does this fit in with married life and family? Is it difficult or do you get used to it?

“Yes it’s not easy on our lives if you have a wife and kids, but my wife understands and she is also into nature. You will never get used to it -being away from home. It’s very hard work..meaning the sun is really hot here, and  animals don’t stay in one place,  you have to follow them to make sure they are safe so its long distance walking.  And at  the same time you have to be alert for danger like wild animals, snakes and poachers. It’s not easy but I think it’s the best job in the world.”

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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