Posts Tagged With: Congo

World Ranger Day 2017

Today is an opportunity to give rangers the appreciation and respect they deserve. When laws are weak, technology is expensive, and the price on an animal’s head is high, the only thing literally standing between a poacher and rhino, is the ranger.

We salute you all! Thank you for your dedication, bravery and efforts. You truly are our heroes.

Photo: Bruce Adams

 

 

 

 

 

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Rhino conservation is going to the dogs

Nairobi stray trained in apu by jeremy goss

This Nariobi stray was trained and utilized in a Kenyan APU. Photo: Jeremy Goss

With the ability to hear at a distance 4x greater and at a higher pitch,
the amazing ability to feel or sense energy,
and with a sense of smell 1,000 to 10,000,000 times more sensitive than a human
dogs are the perfect anti-poaching weapon.

Like the superman of an anti-poaching team, they can work long hours through harsh conditions, picking up the trail of a poacher without hesitation. They can search a car in 3-4 minutes, while it can take an hour to search with humans alone. And they are relentless to reach their goal.

Utilized everywhere from  Kruger National Park, the Congo, Kenya, and Zambia; they are trained to track poachers, to locate ivory and horn, and even to repel from helicopters.

dog propeling from copter by paramount group

K9 Conservation Training practicing repelling with ranger and his canine companion. Photo: Paramount Group

The most frequently used breeds are Bloodhounds, Weimaraner , Malinois, and Antaloian Shepherds. Dog selection is based partially on specific working conditions and most importantly on personality and demeanor.

According to Megan Parker, from Working Dogs Conservation in Montana, “bad” dogs don’t make great pets, but their personalities are perfect for conservation work.

The perfect example of this comes from a “bad” dog named Ruger. Found in an animal shelter and highly “unadoptable”, he has successfully been trained in anti-poaching work. The first anti-poaching canine in Zambia, Ruger has put away 150 poachers to date. And all this work for what? A reward of a game of tug-o-war with his favorite chew toy.

shelter dog helps rangers

Ruger with the Delta Team in Zambia. Photo:unknown.

With all the perks of working with dogs, perhaps Damien Bell, director of Big Life Tanzania, sums it up best.

“Apart from their incredible tracking abilities, dogs are wonderful to work with because they don’t have any political agenda—they can’t be compromised. “

 

 

 

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The Rape and Pillage of Africa’s Wildlife

The Chinese are welcomed into parts of Africa with increasing regularity to “work” and “aid” Africans with economic gains. With the intent of modernizing infrastructures (roads and railways), or to mine minerals or to offer government incentives, they have become integrated into at least 24 countries across the dark continent over the last five years.

chinese investment in africa 2010

A delicate and controversial marriage to say the least, as they seemingly covet Africa’s jobs, land and minerals.

One thing that cannot be denied is the boldness with which they have exploited Africa’s wildlife. According to Born Free USA,  “Chinese illicit ivory traffickers in particular have been arrested across nearly every single African range state, and operate at nearly every point along the ivory supply chain.”

Tanzania – In a report from the Environmental Investigation Agency, interviews with poachers claim they have sold ivory to members of the Chinese Embassy. It also links a surge in the Tanzanian ivory market during an official visit from a Chinese naval task force and even claims that members of President Xi Jinping’s entourage smuggled ivory out of Tanzania on the presidential plane during his visit in March 2013.

 Republic of Congo – Asian migrant laborers are involved in the logging industry here (70-75% of which is illegal), and are in direct contact with elephants and other area wildlife. It has been suspected their presence has been responsible for increased poaching.

congolese worker watched by chinese foreman

Congolese worker being watched by Chinese foreman. photo: Saturday’s Daily Telegraph

Mathieu Eckel, head of the APU in Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Congo has been watching activity of the Chinese construction camps in the area. He said “We’ve had many stories that involve local poachers and Chinese, but to get the Chinese you have to find them with the ivory”.

In previous attempts where workers in the area had been caught red-handed, corruption or incompetence of Congolese Prosecution has led to no charges being filed. (CNN Report)

Gabon – After seeing elephant skins hanging outside a construction camp, rangers raided the camp and seized carved chopsticks, horns sheared from a Bongo antelope, the scales of a pangolin, a quantity of unworked ivory, and breakfast: several servings of roasted elephant trunk.

Lee White, the head of Gabon National Parks said, “The suspicion is they were hiding the finished pieces (of ivory) in timber containers which were being shipped to China.”

Zimbabwe – Perhaps one of the most controversial and heartbreaking moves comes from the government allowing China to come into the National Park and remove elephants for their zoos, many of them have been infants ripped from their mothers. Zimbabwe’s defense- the sale of the elephants is needed to raise funds for conservation efforts. 

Zimbabwe elephant herd

A herd of African elephants drinking at a muddy waterhole in Hwange national Park in Zimbabwe. Photograph: Zdenek Maly/Alamy

Rhinos of course have also been a target. John Pameri, head of security and chief ranger at the Lewa Conservancy in Kenya believes the recent influx of Chinese construction workers into Kenya has helped to renew awareness among locals and crime networks that rhino horns can be sold for thousands of pounds on the black market.

“Our local intelligence suggests some of the poachers come from Somalia, but the demand is from the Chinese workers,” Pameri stated.

lewa rhino

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is one of the two main rhino sanctuaries in East Africa. Luckily in 2014, with high security, they managed to evade any poaching incidents. photo: Lewa Conservancy

The Kenya Wildlife Service has also noted a correlation between the influx of Chinese labour and poaching, and has blamed the crisis on the increasing number of Chinese nationals living in Kenya. (There are currently between 3000-10000 Chinese living in Kenya).

Other victims found at these construction sites include giraffes, pythons, leopards and even local dogs being poached and consumed by the workers. In Zimbabwe authorities found 40 rare tortoises at a worker’s home, most of which were merely skeletal remains left after consumption.

But the culprits are not just in the construction sector, Chinese merchants often sell cheap trinkets and clothing in small shops throughout Africa, but the real money is in their back door business of wildlife trade. One such area revealed in an investigation by Hongxiang Huang and Oxpeckers exposed Katima, Namibia as a central hub of trading between trans-border African smugglers and Chinese shop keepers and traders.

Many of these shop owners are linked to the ivory trade in the guise of buying and selling of ivory souvenirs and artifacts for export and sale to tourists, which is perceived to be legal.

South Africa is seeing the largest flux of Chinese migrants. Wildlife trafficking syndicates here continue to brazenly sell rhino horn and ivory at the Chinese markets in SA’s own capital cities, even in the face of global attempts to crack down on the illicit trade in endangered species.

The Chinese have a poor track record when it comes to wildlife conservation, but African countries must accept responsibility for protecting their own wildlife. The price of losing the land and animals is too great to pay for any economic gain.

elephant coming

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Teacher’s Take on Ending Poaching

As a teacher in special education, if there’s one thing I know well, it’s PBIS: Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports.

The idea of PBIS is replacing punishment-based strategies (reprimands, loss of privileges) with more positive student support (rewards, incentives). In other words: “After you finish your work, you can have recess” instead of “Finish your work or you will stay inside.”

Technically the end is the same, but the approach is more inspiring. Rewards are more motivating than punishment is a deterrent.

Dangling the Carrot

dangling carrot

Poaching can be looked at much the same way. Save the animals, earn a job (via tour guide, hotel/camp employee, driver, etc). See the benefits of the wildlife in your backyard and take advantage of preserving it.

The perfect example of positivity and motivation is in Zimbabwe’s Lowveld Rhino Trust. They provide financial support to schools in the community. The catch is if area poaching is on the increase, the funds get pulled to apply toward extra anti-poaching measures instead. As long as poaching is down, the schools reap the benefit. This program is supported by community pressure-no one wants to be the poacher on the receiving end of village scorn when the children are deprived of education. (See previous post: Zimbabwe Leads the Way).

Another success story is the Amnesty Scheme in the Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Congo. Poachers are asked to turn themselves in. Why would they do such a thing? For the chance to apply for a job as a park ranger. This has proven to be a winning situation all around; poaching is lessened,  rangers employed, and intel given and acted on resulting in arrests. (See previous post: Second Chances: Success in the Congo).

Sustainable Solution

Bullets and jail time are definite and necessary deterrents. There must be consequences for the decimation of elephants and rhinos. “Shoot to kill” policies and harsh legal penalties demonstrate a country’s strength, conviction and determination to end poaching.

BUT reward and incentive is more sustaining. Showing people what animals can mean to their culture, their livelihood, their families-THIS is what will carry over and have lasting effects. Making money off wildLIFE as opposed to a once off fee for their death is the way toward the preservation of Africa’s elephants and rhinos.

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports-it works for kids AND adults.

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Rhino Girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Darkest Before the Dawn

It is all too easy to get lost in frustration and despair in the war for rhinos. Each life means so much, and each death weighs heavy in the heart, BUT each victory is just as significant.

My gift to all of you this holiday season: HOPE.

mama and little one rhinoThere is reason to believe we can bring the rhino back from the threat of extinction. We can stabilize the population, control the poaching.

#1-Thanks to programs that transform poachers to rangers like what  AfricanParks  has done in the Congo,  minds are changing. (see: Second Chances: Success in the Congo)

#2-Community incentives that give people a reason to be invested in their own wildlife and rewarded for that investment, like in Zimbabwe (see: Zimbabwe Leads the Way)

#3-Zoos have a new role in conservation, through in-depth scientific analysis (of rhino dung) they have learned more successful methods of breeding rhinos including use of artificial insemination. (see: Rhino Dung Research)

#4-There is a plethora of technology being integrated into the war on poaching (drones, microchips, poison injections into the horn,etc.)

#5-Awareness is spreading! The elephant poaching billboard in times square was a huge endeavor (see: The Elephant in Times Square). Ad campaigns in China and Vietnam, and education in Africa are helping. There has also been increased celebrity involvement (Leonardo Dicaprio, Prince William, Yao Ming,  Jackie Chan,etc. )

#6-The US is increasing involvement in wildlife trafficking with President Obama taking a stand, pledging funds to anti-poaching efforts in Africa and creating the anti-poaching Task Force.

#7-There is now military involvement in Kenya from the British paratroopers, helping to train rangers. (see: British Paratroopers Train..)

#8-South Africa has stepped up military involvement in the parks. (see: War on Poachers Intensifies)

#9-All of the people on the ground who work tirelessly from the rangers at the parks working to protect the rhino,  to the the Rhino Orphanage and other groups who rehabilitate the orphans after a poaching,  to the veterinary staff and the behind the scenes organizations who work to fund all of it.

WHITE RHINOS
With numbers as low as 50 left in the wild in the early 1900s, the southern white rhino has now increased to over 20,000 and has become the most populous of all the rhino species.

BLACK RHINOS
Large-scale poaching of the now critically endangered black rhino resulted in a dramatic 96% decline from 65,000 individuals in 1970 to just 2,300 in 1993. Thanks to the persistent efforts of conservation programs across Africa black rhino numbers have risen since the early 1990s to a current population of 5,055.

We CAN do this.

Dr William Fowlds, DVM in South Africa is seeing a difference.

The international momentum against wildlife trafficking is starting to rattle some sabers. I can’t say the same for our corrupt systems and poor political competence. However, there is a groundswell of positives even in SA and we have to simply keep going. If we put ourselves on the line, we will turn this tragedy around.”

So please don’t give up! Fight for them!
You can join the fight and help greatly by donating to Fight for Rhinos.

RhinoLargeDONATE  $20 usd in someone’s name for the holidays and we will send them a certificate congratulating them for their contribution to the survival of the rhinos.

Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.  ~Lin Yutang

Categories: Good News, Making a Difference, Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Second Chances: Success in the Congo

Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Congo – Nowadays it takes cooperation and innovative thinking to combat poaching. African Parks (who manage the OKNP) has achieved success by doing just that.

For almost a year now, they have been conducting a plan they refer to as the “amnesty scheme”. Through word of mouth, poachers have been encouraged to turn themselves in. The catch? For giving up their weapons and their intel-they were offered an opportunity to apply for a ranger position in the park.

The result? 56 poachers turned themselves in; of them, 45 completed training for park employment.

Currently some are employed as eco-guards, protecting the park wildlife, and some have been given jobs as eco-monitors, recording information and conducting surveys.

More than just a gesture of goodwill, the program has paid off in the arrests of high level poachers and kingpins in the ivory trade.

Thanks to the success from the program, the park plans on launching a second amnesty scheme, along with a recruitment drive to attract more eco-guards.

Ecoguards in Congo (courtesy of

Photo: courtesy of Wildlife News

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On the menu: Bushmeat

What is the Bushmeat Crisis?

Bushmeat is the term used to describe any wild animal used for food, living in the “bush”. It is most common in reference to the area of Western and Central Africa. This can be apes, lemurs, rhino, elephant, antelope,etc.

endangered lemurs killed for bush in mada

Endangered lemurs in Madagascar killed for bushmeat.

Today bushmeat is important both as a food source and a trade item for poor families in rural and urban areas in Western and Central Africa. It is also often a status symbol for urban elites trying to retain links to the “village”, and often commands a high price in city restaurants.

The commercial bushmeat trade is in direct competition and threatens the livelihoods of rural communities dependent on these resources to meet their basic needs.

“People in the Congo Basin eat as much meat as do Europeans and Americans; approximately 80% of animal protein is derived from wildlife.”

While wildlife has been hunted and used for food since the beginning of time, things have changed considerably. The population density in these areas is greater than the animal population, in addition, factoring in the number of threatened and endangered species, the wildlife can no longer be viewed as a free, sustainable resource.

forestry road

Forestry road through Gabon.

The Logging Industry’s contribution

The growing problem of the bushmeat industry is exacerbated by the construction of new roads to facilitate logging and mining operations, allowing poachers easy access to remote forests. Truck drivers also get involved, as they are routinely bribed into carrying loads of up to 200kg of bushmeat, including gorillas and chimpanzees, out of the forests.

Why not raise cow, chickens and goats?

Domestic “farm” animals are raised in the rural and urban households, but they are viewed as savings and insurance, since inflation is high and access to banks or credit is extremely limited. Even if they wanted to use their animals for a protein source, the area is plagued by tsetse flies which cause the disease, animal trypanosomiasis, making it unfeasible.

Of course hunting in the short-term yields immediate benefits, yet in the long run, this damages their economies in the future.

What does this mean for the environment?

While deforestation is also a  threat to wildlife, over hunting is comparable, if not  worse to the Western and Central African areas. Even in places where there is intact forests, there are no large animals, This is known as Empty Forest Syndrome.

     “Experts estimate that the bushmeat trade could eliminate all viable populations of African apes       within the next five to 15 years.”

Loss of wildlife means a loss of seed dispersing animals that play a key role in determining tree composition and distribution. Over time this will potentially cause irreversible global damage.

Human health jeopardy

gorilla hands

Gorilla hands are considered a delicacy in the Congo.

In addition to environmental and economic consequence, the increased contact between humans and wildlife populations raises the risk of people transmitting animal-derived diseases. Consumption of bushmeat has been linked to zoonoses, including anthrax, ebola, monkeypox, HIV, SARS and foot and mouth disease. Additionally, there is also risk of transmitting human diseases to apes and other species.

Global Concerns

Not just an African issue, thousands of pounds of primate parts, antelope, and other bushmeat are smuggled annually into the United States and Europe. The environmental concerns, the health risks and the responsibility are ours to share. From Lion meat tacos in Florida to  Rat meat in London it’s becoming a black market pandemic.

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King of the Jungle Dethroned

Africa’s rhino and elephant aren’t the only animals facing extinction, the African Lion is threatened. It is extremely rare to see a lion over 3 years of age in the wild.??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

*Over the last 50 years, the lion population has plummeted from 200,000 to less than 25,000

*Sadly, the rate of decline is accelerating. While the countries of Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire and the Congo have already lost their lions, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda expect them to be gone within ten years.

lion map

FACTORS EFFECTING LION POPULATION

Habitat loss and human conflict is partially to blame for their loss. The loss comes from the gradual depletion of the savannah. In an ecosystem that was once larger than the United States, there is only about a quarter of that left today. From this shrinking habitat, comes a population growth which increases human/lion conflicts. People move into an area, bring in livestock which is inadvertently bait for the lions; then when the lions come in and do what their predator skills dictate they do,  the people kill the lions. It’s  a losing situation on both sides.

Trophy hunting/canned hunting is also a factor. (See previous post: https://fightforrhinos.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/shooting-fish-in-a-barrel/). This is entirely preventable. There are currently 160 farms in South Africa alone who legally breed lions just to be hunted. Although the hunts are not completely confined to bred animals, as some ranches capture wild lions and smuggle them in. In a five-year span ending in 2011, there have been 4,062 lion trophies exported out of  South Africa.

These lions were bred to be killed at a ranch that offers canned hunts.

These lions were bred to be killed at a ranch that offers canned hunts.

Canine distemper and tuberculosis have also been widespread.  In 1994 and 2001 there were major Distemper outbreaks  resulting in a the demise of a third of the population.  Tuberculosis  started with infected cattle and moved to buffalo which was ingested by the lions. About 25 lions die each year from TB. Just as importantly, it  has an effect on social behavior, as males are weakened by the chronic disease, leading to a faster territorial male turnover and consequent infanticide, eviction of entire prides and a decrease in  lion longevity.

lions storm

NEGATIVE AFFECTS OF LION DISAPPEARANCE

If this top predator disappears, it will devastate an entire ecosystem. Lions play an integral role in the food chain, regulating the herbivores (i.e zebra, buffalo). Without the big cats, the “prey” will out-compete other animals, causing a reduction in biodiversity and eventual extinction.

Tourism will become non-existent. People go on safari to see not only the lions, but the lion’s prey (zebra, gazelle, buffalo). At the current rate of decline with  Africa’s big 5 (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo, and leopard) there will be NO safaris.

It seems difficult for people to grasp that the “King of the Jungle” is vulnerable and needs help. But without human intervention, it seems the lions may be a species of the past, only to be seen in pictures. We can’t let that happen.

For more information on lions and how to save them please go to these organizations:

 http://www.lionaid.org/

http://lionalert.org

extremely rare to find a male lion older than the age of three – See more at: http://right-tourism.com/issues/cruel-sports/canned-hunting/#sthash.OsWKD5HF.dpuf
extremely rare to find a male lion older than the age of three – See more at: http://right-tourism.com/issues/cruel-sports/canned-hunting/#sthash.OsWKD5HF.dpuf
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