Posts Tagged With: corruption

Devils in the Details

There are certain times our voices matter immensely. This is one.  Please take a few minutes to send an email to: mboshoff@environment.gov.za

Comments MUST be subitted by MARCH 10th!help-me

Edna Molewa, South Africa DEA, has announced her intentions of allowing legal trade of rhino horn. As days go by, more dirty details arise, exposing the corruption at the heart of this political fiasco. There seemingly will be NO restriction on the amount of horn able to be traded!

Latest dirty laundry of horn trade: Bombshell hidden in draft rhino regulations 

“The concern of the international community is that while rhino horn prices have dropped by 50% in the last few years in Vietnam due to massive public education efforts, this will confuse the message, greatly expand the consumer base and facilitate laundering, making poaching even worse. Exactly what happened when ivory trade was re-opened in China.” -Peter Knights, WildAid

If you’re reading this, please take a couple of minutes to send an email! (Keep them simple, factual and please no profanity or too much emotion.)

 

For details: Drafted regulations on proposed horn trade

 

Categories: Making a Difference | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Many Faces of Poaching

poacher arrested with bush meat

Poacher arrested with bush meat.

The Poacher:

The poor man living in a hut with a pregnant wife and 3 skeletal children. One perhaps with a tear running down a sunken cheek, the wife begging the husband to find them enough for a meal. Finally, in exasperation the man reluctantly sets off on a dangerous, one-time mission to take part in killing an elephant or rhino. The few dollars will feed his hungry family for a week (if he makes it back alive).

Is this what you imagine when you think of a poacher?

Think again. Although  poverty is one aspect of poaching and can be a reason, it does not account for all of it. In fact, wealth is the driving force behind the most  destructive killings: mainly  our elephants and rhinos.

There are two types of poachers:

1) Subsistence Poachers – they target small game, have low technology, and hunt for food.
2) Commercial Poachers – they operate with organized groups for rare animals (elephants/rhinos) and  utilize advanced technology.

game farmers in sa part of rhino poaching ring

S.A. Game farmers convicted in rhino poaching ring.

Individuals who poach in poor communities are doing it for one of two reasons. Either they need the meat, in which case it is usually smaller animals who typically do not have as much effect on the ecosystem, as it is usually less often. Or there is a wealthy source seeking parts from an animal, such as the ivory of elephants or horn of rhino, and this has a more devastating impact on the environment.  In the second case, obviously without the demand, there would be no poaching.

In 2012, the wildlife monitoring network Traffic, issued a report showing  a direct correlation between the rising income in Vietnam and the rising demand for ivory and horn. In addition as a use for “medicinal cures”, it has become the status symbol of the elite in Vietnamese society, used during business deals and social gatherings, the rhino horn is ground to a powder, mixed with water and drunk.

Chumlong Lemtongthai

Chumlong Lemtonthai, convicted rhino poaching ringleader

With horn and ivory worth their weight in gold, it is the prized commodity taken and sold by everyone who can get their filthy hands on it.

So while the rich business men are vying for ego boosts in Vietnam, there are poaching syndicates taking advantage and making this a business of their own. These syndicates are  equipped  above and beyond the occasional villager poaching for his family, they have militia training, equipment and resources at their disposal.

seleka rebels in CAR

Seleka rebels: The CAR president has ordered the dissolution of the group.

Some of these groups are involved with  organized terrorist groups such as Somalia’s Al-Shabab, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and Darfur’s Janjaweed.  One group in Sudan, the  Séléka rebel coalition  is suspected of the 2013 mass slaughter of 26 elephants at the Dzanga-Ndoki national park in the CAR. The previous year, the same group was responsible for 300 elephant deaths.

In addition to subsistence and commercial poaching, in a 2013 study done by Evidence on Demand, the lines sometimes become blurred into what they term as a hybrid poacher.

For example: the rise in commercial hunting for bushmeat shows how traditional subsistence poaching has been transformed in response to the arrival of logging companies in remote forests where a workforce has to be fed. Likewise, the Chinese construction camps who allegedly seek ivory, and possibly bushmeat would fall into that category.

Sophistication, technology, and an expanding market  make for ambitious and deadly modern-day poachers. But poaching has no ethnicity, age or economic barriers. It is an equal opportunity evil in which the end is always the same. With 96 elephants and nearly 3 rhino a day being slaughtered, it hardly matters WHO is killing them, just that they are.

your greed my extinction

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Building Bridges or Killing Elephants?

China’s ever-increasing presence in African countries can’t be ignored. Since the 90’s, China has been staking its claim in oil, infrastructure and mining projects across the dark continent. What does their business mean to Africans? Is this an economic investment or a global takeover? Either way, what can’t be denied is the environmental sabotage in their wake. (See previous post: Africa’s Asian Invasion)

They have built  controversial damns across the continent (Gabon, Ghana, Zambia, Ethiopia, and Sudan) which have had adverse environmental impact. For example, in Ghana  the  Bui Dam Project  is flooding nearly a quarter of the Bui National Park, destroying habitat for rare hippos, forcibly resettling 2,600 people and affecting thousands more.

bui dam

Bui Dam

They are also responsible  for long-term river and farmland pollution from mining projects in South Africa and Ghana.  One recent project, the China-Africa Sunlight Energy has received permission to mine coal in  Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.  This is a delicate and crucial wildlife area that mining will likely damage, as well as exposing the wild animals to poaching.

But perhaps the most obvious infraction on mother nature is in the killing of the elephants to smuggle their ivory.

Chinese construction camps in Africa have long been suspected of smuggling ivory. A CNN report reveals that numerous camps in the Republic of Congo and neighbouring countries are suspected of facilitating the large-scale ivory trade.

tbd

Rangers hunting the hunters in the Congo.

Although workers at the camps have at times been caught red-handed, prosecution does not come easy. Actual investigation of the camps is even more difficult, as in once incident  a regional prosecutor blocked an anti-poaching unit from searching a camp – even though ivory pieces were found there.

According to  CNN, when asked about the incident, the prosecutor said the search was halted because the translator for the Chinese was away and they couldn’t conduct a search without explaining to the Chinese why it was happening.

Many of these camps are set up near small villages, which have their own track record of poaching involvement.  Poor villagers, ivory-hungry workers-a potent combination; but add in law enforcement turning a blind eye, it’s a complete disaster.

tbd

Ranger examining elephant trunk after poaching in the Congo.

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Damned if They Do, Damned if They Don’t

To trade or not to trade?  Always a hotbed of debate concerning rhino poaching

But since South Africa is entertaining the idea of a “one-off” sale to sell the current stockpiles of horn, things have taken a dismal turn indeed.

Here are the scenarios: #1) Trade IS allowed as a one-time only option– wetting the appetite of the Asian market, like throwing a chicken into a hungry hoard of crocodiles. This will undoubtedly  send poaching rates soaring.

#2) Trade is allowed on a regular basis but cannot be monitored enough to stop poaching, and with the number of rhinos currently surviving, there are not nearly enough of them to keep up with the monstrous demand.

#3) Trade is Not allowed.  In order to make up for lack of profit, will the “farmers” sell their rhinos off  to trophy hunters? Will they be sold off to the highest bidder (who may happen to reside in China or Vietnam (where there are already rhino “farms”)?

black rhino dehornIf trade passes, they’re doomed, if it doesn’t will we see them traded/sold anyhow? If money cannot be made through horn trade, will the SA government up the ante and increase the number of “big game” hunting permits handed out? Will they still make attempts to prevent poaching?

Sadly, it seems there is no great solution, our rhino are living in a bloody sea of corruption. Caught up in man’s greedy grasp, killed for parts of their bodies, being stomped out in the name of ignorance. It is only through taking a stand we give them a voice, continue to fight and NOT stand by in passivity.

Please join me in sending a message to CITES to tell them we are watching, we care about our endangered species: https://www.causes.com/campaigns/33363-lobby-the-cites-secretariat-the-178-member-parties

For more information on trade vs no-trade in rhino horn, please see previous posts: To Trade or Not to Trade and Kill the Trade or Kill the Rhino.

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Mixed Messages on Worldwide Wildlife Trafficking

TOP 5  Illegal Activities in the World:

1)Drugs
2)Human Trafficking
3)Counterfeiting
4)Arms
5)Wildlife Trafficking

Finally someone has brought serious attention to the public eye on the lucrative illegal wildlife trade, the 5th biggest avenue of corruption and criminal activity in the world. Upon his visit to parts of Africa, President Obama announced his wildlife initiative plan.

THE U.S

Obama’s new campaign to fight wildlife trafficking includes an executive order, $10 million in funding, a task force and a presidential advisoryobama wildlife init council. The campaign will focus on helping affected countries establish and enforce better trafficking laws;, supporting regional cooperation; training their police and rangers; and beefing up their law enforcement and intelligence-gathering capacities. It will also use a new “Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program” to offer bounties for poachers and push for more modern technologies to identify and capture them.

The issue has also been presented with China in an effort to address the demand side of the trade in animal parts, primarily rhino and elephant. Both President Obama and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton have discussed this with them.

 SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

It means the U.S is publicly going on record to show no tolerance for the continued decimation of  animals on our planet, as well as putting emphasis on the seriousness of the criminal syndicate. Now valued between $7 billion to $10 billion a year, the lucrative trade funds many  corrupt operations i.e. drugs, human trafficking, weapons, and gang activity.

The U.S is  second only to China in partaking in the black market of wildlife trade. This admittance and commitment will step up regulations here, as well as setting the bar for the rest of the world.

The President stated “The survival of protected wildlife species … has beneficial economic, social, and environmental impacts that are important to all nations. Wildlife trafficking reduces those benefits while generating billions of dollars in illicit revenues each year, contributing to the illegal economy, fueling instability, and undermining security.”

The Philippines Contribution

In a monumental move to battle the illegal wildlife trade, the Philippines were the first Asian country to publicly destroy it’s stockpile of ivory. On Friday it started the destruction of 5 tons of seized ivory.A road roller crushes smuggled elephant tusks at the Parks and Wildlife center in Quezon City

Ramon Paje, Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said “The Philippines will not be a party to the massacre and we refuse to be a conduit to this cycle of killing,”

Although on the surface, they are sending a strong message, according to DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, there are still 8 tons unaccounted for. There is currently an investigation to determine its whereabouts.

What about South Africa?

Shortly after Obama’s’ visit, South Africa announced plans for a one-time selling of its stockpile of ivory. Ironic this should come on the heels of the President’s visit. The debate on legal horn trade rages on, but the timing of this decision seems to undermine the seriousness and conviction of the statement from the U.S.

With the U.S. and even the Philippines stepping up,  it seems momentum is on the side of wildlife. So why wouldn’t S.A. simply destroy theirs as well?

History has proven legal trade does NOT work. In 2008 the ban was lifted on ivory, which opened the flood gates and escalated elephant poaching , which they are still being massacred for.  Repeating this for the rhino would be the same disaster.

no to trade

Please let your voice be heard.  South Africa’s move toward petitioning CITES to legalize the rhino horn trade will decimate the species..    

Please write! #-SayNoToRhinoHornTrade
Email: info@cites.org

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Takes a Village

How far would you go to help your neighborhood? What would you do to protect it? In the US we have “neighborhood watches” for that very purpose. In northern Kenya, they have a watch group- a grass-roots squad of rangers  formed to protect the elephants and rhino from poachers.apu

Essentially a conservation militia, these volunteer villagers are fed up and taking matters into their own hands. The ordinary citizens are arming themselves and taking to the bush to fight back. Not necessarily out of a “Have you hugged an elephant today?” attitude, but to protect the money the elephant (and rhino) bring to their villages.

The safari/tourist industry is a successful and integral money-maker for Kenyans. An economic staple, tourists bring in more than a billion dollars a year. Much of that money is contractually bound to go directly to impoverished local communities, which use it for everything from pumping water to college scholarships.safari

The safari industry also provides 500,000 jobs for the community; everything from cooks to safari guides to accountants. Contrary to the general belief the safari jobs can pay quite well.

In addition to the poachers “robbing” the community of its wildlife, villagers are also turning against them because the illegal wildlife trade fuels crime, corruption, instability in the community. Here in northern Kenya, poachers are diversifying into stealing livestock, printing counterfeit money and sometimes holding up tourists. Some are even buying assault rifles used in ethnic conflicts.

Is this key to future conservation efforts? Nothing else seems to be working. Everything from high tech drones and military deployment to removing or poisoning horns and tusks is being tried; yet poaching rates are still soaring. Perhaps with the local people appreciating and protecting their wildlife, the elephant and rhino still stand a chance.

no poaching

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

Who ARE the Bad Guys?

Veterinary team prepares to dehorn a rhino.

Veterinary team prepares to dehorn a rhino.

*Night vision goggles

*Silenced weapons

*Darting equipment

*Bullet proof armour

*Helicopters

With a checklist like this, we could be talking about an army. Yet it is also the equipment used by the modern-day poacher. With the horn fetching more on the black market than cocaine or even gold, everyone wants a piece of the pie. The low-level men who DO the poaching are being funded by higher level organizations with whatever supplies are necessary to bring in the “goods”.

The level of corruption runs far and wide. Militias, rebel groups, intelligence officials, Irish gangsters , Vietnamese diplomats, Chinese scientists, copter pilots, antiques dealers and recently an American rodeo star who used Facebook to find  horns, are all getting their hands dirty with poaching. Even Thai prostitutes and pimps are getting involved. The prostitutes were hired by a criminal syndicate to obtain hunting permits (through some loopholes) and got “professional” hunters to make the kill and bring in the horn.

Of course poverty-stricken villagers often turn to poaching to support their families. A corrupt minority of game farmers, professional hunters, and safari operators are involved as well. But what I believe is the highest level is betrayal is the involvement of veterinarians. 

The veterinarians who work with large mammals have access to M99-a drug that is 1000 times more powerful than morphine. The supply is restricted, and supposedly only accessible by vets. Yet somehow poachers are getting their hands on this potent tranquilizer.

The majority of vets work tirelessly and fervently , giving the victims of poaching round the clock care and treatment to save their lives. Along with the rangers in the anti-poaching units, veterinarians ARE the foot soldiers in this war, an integral part of rhino and elephant survival.  As a former member of a veterinary staff, I know all too well the highs and lows of the job. There is no 9-5, no glory, and certainly not a high level of pay. But where is their passion? Their hearts have hardened, their patients betrayed in the name of greed; an unforgivable evil.

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