Posts Tagged With: environment

The Future Rewards those who press on…

 We don’t put a lot of weight into labels, i.e. republican, democrat, etc; but into actions. What will an elected official DO to help or hinder our animals, our environment?
The actions of our current President included an almost total ban on ivory trade in the US, forming an US Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, and incorporating wildlife trafficking laws into the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership)enabling more enforceable laws on countries who heavily trade.
obama-cites

President Obama issued the executive order to combat wildlife trafficking in 2013. photo: CITES

In fact under Obama, the US has  protected more endangered species due to recovery efforts than any other Administration in history.
 The new President elect’s agenda doesn’t seem to include much promise in the way of conservation efforts and the environment.
He has stated he would cut the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), saying the environment will be fine; and has surrounded himself with “a team advisers and financial supporters tied in with trophy hunting, puppy mills, factory farming, horse slaughter, and other abusive industries” (according to the Humane Society Legislative Fund President Michael Markarian)
trump-gop-ele-cartoon
 We sincerely hope that Mr. Trump’s actions are not as harsh and negligent as his words; and that the US pledge to fight wildlife trafficking continues in the way of legislature, attitude and ambition.
But while we hope, we also continue to fight.
 The victories of the last few years have not only lifted our hopes and ambitions, but have given them a backbone. We can’t forget how much has been started. That momentum will continue to drive us forward, to fight for every inch, every yard of progress in the coming months and years.
Our mission remains the same, our momentary disappointment is giving way to determination. As President Obama once said ” The future rewards those who press on…” We have been and will continue to fight to secure a future for rhinos and wildlife.
rhinos-by-chris-fischer

Photo: Chris Fischer

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What would Trump’s presidency mean for wildlife?

Trump’s opinion on the Environmental Protection Agency:

TRUMP: Environmental Protection, what they do is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations.

Q: Who’s going to protect the environment?

TRUMP: We’ll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2015 Coverage of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Oct 18, 2015

Trump and son Justin Appenzeller

Trump and son at an interview with Field & Stream. photo: Justin Appenzeller

On the governmental budgeting and handling of public lands, Trump eludes to leaning on his sons (avid trophy hunters and defenders of the killing of Cecil the Lion) for advice:

 “..the good thing is, I’m in a family where I have—I mean, I’m a member of the NRA, but I have two longtime members of the NRA. They’ve been hunting from the time they were five years old and probably maybe even less than that. And they really understand it. And I like the fact that, you know, I can sort of use them in terms of—they know so much about every single element about every question that you’re asking. And one of the things they’ve complained about for years is how badly the federal lands are maintained, so we’ll get that changed.”

During the same interview, his son Donald Trump Jr commented: “It’s really all about access. I mean, I feel like the side that’s the anti-hunting crowd, they’re trying to eliminate that access—make it that much more difficult for people to get the next generation in.”

On his sons’ trophy hunting:

trump boys kill leopard by hunting legends

Trump sons in one of several known trophy hunts. photo: Hunting Legends

“My sons love to hunt. They are members of the NRA, very proudly. I am a big believer in the Second Amendment. Eric is a hunter and I would say he puts it on a par with golf, if not  ahead of golf.”

Source: Daily Mail

On the building of the “wall” separating the US and Mexico:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service predicts that a solid barrier running along the entire U.S.-Mexico land border, like the “great, great wall” that Donald Trump wants to build, would affect 111 endangered species, 108 migratory bird species, and four wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries. That would be an ecological disaster..

Source: Slate.com

Trump on Circus elephants:

TRUMP circ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump on climate change:

Throughout the campaign Trump has challenged the urgency of addressing climate change using a variety of explanations from saying that the issue was “created by and for the Chinese” and that he believes climate change is merely weather. His energy policy proposals—to the extent that he has any—suggest a similar view. He has promised to “cancel” the Paris Agreement to address climate change and to expand the use of coal.

Source: Time

AYR, SCOTLAND - JULY 30: Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump drives a golf buggy during his visits to his Scottish golf course Turnberry on July 30, 2015 in Ayr, Scotland. Donald Trump answered questions from the media at a press conference held in his hotel. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Although Trump has called climate change a hoax, he recently set out to build a seawall to protect his golf course from it’s effects. Photo: Jeff Mitchaell/Getty images

 

 

 

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Successes in the Poaching War?

Kenya

Graph 1 Kenya

Kenya has been successfully slowing the rate of poaching over the last 2 years. Government is motivated and serious; in 2013 enacting the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, helping to strengthen the judicial system.

Although there is still work to be done, the overall numbers are promising. Elephant poaching is down 80%, and rhino poaching down 90%.

South Africa

Graph 3 South Africa

South Africa’s poaching rate has seen a slight decrease in reported numbers for the first time since 2008; yet remains dangerously high. Home to 80% of the world’s remaining rhinos, Kruger National Park sees the most poachings. Yet incidents outside the Park are on the rise, with poachers attacking smaller, more vulnerable private owners.

White rhinos @Kruger National Park

White rhinos @Kruger National Park

India

Graph 2 India

In 2015, there were 17 reported poaching in Kaziranga National Park; the largest of  four wildlife parks and sanctuaries in Assam, India; home to 90% of the remaining Greater one-horned rhinos.

Poaching seems to fluctuate here. One of the main triggers of higher poaching directly correlates with encroachers around the Kaziranga National Park. The more widespread the number, the higher the poachings.

Nepal
Graph 4 Nepal

                                The red is poaching deaths, the green is natural mortality.

2015 marked the third year of Zero poaching in Nepal (2011 and 2013 were the other two)

With 10 national parks, 3 wildlife reserves and 6 conservation areas, Nepal is setting the standard for conservation efforts worldwide. The government is committed to conserving it’s wildlife. With emphasis on community involvement, Nepal has entrusted about one third of it’s forests to the people. With local “policing” of the land and animals, not only has poaching stopped, there has been a reduction of poverty as well.

The absence of poaching has led to a 21% increase in the species of the greater one-horned rhinos.

greater one horn and baby assam forest

Greater one-horn (or Indian) rhinos @Kaziranga National Park

Graphs from: Poachingfacts

 

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2015 poaching stats: what do they mean?

South Africa DEA (Department of Environmental Affairs) has released the “official” 2015 rhino poaching statistics – 1175. This is a decrease from 2014 which was 1215.

Reason for optimism?

Keep in mind the following: Kruger is the size of Israel, not all carcasses are recovered in a timely manner, or at all.  The statistics also do NOT include the following:

One of the first babies of 2016 to have lost his mom to a poacher.

One of the first babies of 2016 to have lost his mom to a poacher.

  • poaching survivors (like Hope)
  • orphans whose mothers are killed, but they are NOT rescued and do not survive alone
  • unborn baby rhinos

While the DEA pat themselves on the back for a “decline” in numbers, reality is this month, there have already been 37 poached at the time of this post, and the orphanages are seeing no shortage of rescued orphans.

In fact there had been a 10% INCREASE in poaching activity in Kruger National Park, where the majority of poachings occurred.

Instead of taking the numbers as a fact, we must look at them as only an estimate. Any way you look at it, that’s 1175 too many. So while the government celebrates, we will continue fighting for change one day at a time.

 

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China’s one-year ban on ivory-what does it mean?

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photo: Tisha Wardlow/Fight for Rhinos

China’s State Forestry Administration said in a statement posted on its website that it would “temporarily prohibit” trophy imports until Oct. 15, 2016 and “suspend the acceptance of relevant administrative permits”.

Chinese media quoted the “relevant SFA official” as saying the temporary suspension was designed to give authorities time to evaluate its effectiveness, and possibly take further, more effective measures in future.

Are they feeling the pressure from the rest of the world? Are they serious about trying to make a difference? What good does a year do?

Pardon the skepticism, but let’s look at China’s track record.

“In 2002, China was the principal driver of the illegal trade and made very few seizures,” said Tom Milliken, director of eastern and southern African operations for Traffic, which monitors the trade and advises Cites.

In 2008 South Africa initiated a one-off sale of stored ivory. This brief sale, though legal, renewed interest and increased demand within the Chinese culture. Ivory prices skyrocketed, but the “legal supply” was exhausted. Immediately following this sale, according to CITES, “record levels of ivory were seized and sustained throughout the period 2009 to 2011.”

In January of 2014 and May of 2015 China destroyed ivory in a public crush. Yet China officially sanctions 36 ivory-carving workshops. Every year they assign a quota of 5 to 6 tons of “legal” ivory to the carving industry.

Counterproductive to say the least.

In fact according to the Environmental Investigation Agency, when you talk to the ivory dealers they say that amount of allocation only lasts one month. And so the other 11 months is illegal ivory. In an undercover investigation, the carvers admit “at least 90% of the ivory in China is illegal.”

ivory carving brent stirton

One of 36 ivory carving factories in China. photo: Brent Stirton

To think there will be no compromise to said “prohibition” within the year or that the government won’t deem the ban suddenly unnecessary is unrealistic.

But if there is a silver lining it is this: the very fact the  government feels compelled to alter a centuries old tradition by this display means they are feeling the world pressure. There is hope.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Key to stop Rhino Poaching

In a recent article, a frustrated prosecutor in South Africa made a comparison that rhino poaching cases are treated similarly to shoplifting cases.

Prosecutor Ansie Venter has been working poaching cases in the heart of rhino country for six years. With a high conviction rate, things should be looking up. But instead Venter says “I think it’s still getting busier by the day, but our hands are virtually tied”.

Last December there were 38 poaching cases in the court in just one day in Skukuza!

poached mom rhino with baby near

Rhino poached , her baby orphaned-a familiar scene in South African parks.

South Africa IS the epicenter of the rhino poaching war, but does not have specific legislation designed to address rhino poaching. To say laws need to be strengthened and government needs to become more focused is an understatement. But when the DEA (Department of Environmental Affairs) refuses to even release poaching stats, due to being “too busy”, the incompetence leaves little hope of change from the current party.

In addition to stiffer sentences, Terri Stander, the shadow Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, believes this:

Terri Stander

Terri Stander

“I believe there are three key areas (to stop poaching):

1. Intelligence needs to be strengthened to disrupt organised crime syndicates
2. There needs to be a concerted focus on demand reduction campaigns in consumer countries
3. Communities surrounding National Parks need service delivery to create an environment for job creation, but also education/awareness campaigns that renew the lost value of being responsible for SA wildlife.”
A multi-faceted, huge mountain to tackle, but not impossible. There is much at stake with winning this war. As Stander puts it  “I see rhino as the face of all wildlife crime – if we can get it right with the rhino – we can get it right with everything else.”
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Dear Ms. Edna Molewa,

We are an US-based non-profit dedicating efforts to secure a future for the world’s rhino. Half-way across the world, and not part of the all-important “South African” voters. But concerned citizens of the world none-the less.

We understand very well that the issue of wildlife poaching will not be easily or quickly solved. It is a multi-faceted issue involving anti-poaching strategies, education in Asian communities, and legal commitment from various countries. It is the last part of this puzzle which perhaps is the most frustrating.

Legal commitment can only be changed, affected or implemented by governments. Being home to the majority of the world’s remaining rhinos, it is South Africa’s responsibility and obligation to set the tone by enacting strict regulations, restrictions and ultimately consequences to combat poaching.

Legal trade has been an agenda on the table in your office for a lengthy amount of time. Without getting into all the of usual points of debate (as I’m sure you’re aware), ultimately  it is not something agreeable by CITES or much of the general public. It has also been historically shown as a dismal failure in the past when after the last “legal” trade on ivory occurred, poaching had actually risen. Repeating the same action bears the probability of devastating consequences to remaining rhino and elephant populations.

We recently sent you a tweet on the matter, only to be blocked. Tell me how we are to have faith in your government’s system when a simple tweet offends/upsets/annoys you? WE are upset, we are passionate, and we only want answers.

On behalf of Fight for Rhinos, we support Terri Stander’s request to receive updated information on poaching arrests and convictions.

Too much has been denied, hidden, changed and twisted in the news to convince us that the government is doing what is in the best interest of wildlife. Yes, you have South African issues, but THIS is a world issue. And the world needs its wildlife. Firstly it is about the rhinos, but it also about the elephants, lions, and the entire environment. As Minister of ENVIRONMENTAL Affairs, surely you must understand the importance of it all.

Please explain why the government continues to pursue trade…what is actually being DONE, not just talked about? What can the world do to help you?

Sincerely,

Tisha Wardlow
Fight for Rhinos

Rhino and babe by chris minihane

photo by Chris Minihane

 

 

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Update on South Africa’s “Strategic Rhino Management Plan”

Five months ago Edna Molewa, South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs, announced the “Strategic Rhino Management Plan”. It comprised elements of better intelligence and law enforcement involvement, strengthened anti-poaching efforts, and translocating rhinos into safer zones.

After the worst year of poaching in history, Molewa reported on the progress of the strategy in a media briefing today.

Here are the highlights:

Translocation Update: The program is ongoing and continues to be a success. In the last quarter of 2014, 56 rhinos had been moved out of poaching hotspots and translocated from certain areas within the Kruger National Park (KNP) to an Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) as well as well as to other more secure areas .

In addition, approximately 100 rhinos have been translocated to neighboring States during 2014, through both private partnerships and government initiatives.

rhino relocation cornel can heerden

Rhino relocation  (Cornel Van Heerden)

Rhino Sales Update: Twenty bids were received during the SANParks tender process for the purchase of white rhino from the Kruger National Park.

Proceeds from the sale of rhino will be allocated to a ring-fenced fund that will be ploughed into conservation projects, including rhino conservation.

Security and habitat suitability assessments are to be carried out following site inspections at the properties owned by the leading bidders.

Proactive anti-poaching initiatives: During 2014 there was increased collaboration between provincial, national and international law-enforcement agencies, as well as the criminal justice system and prosecution service.

Protection Zones, including the Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) have been set up and are fully functional.

An Intelligence Working Group on Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWG), coordinated by the National Intelligence Coordination Committee (NICOC) has been established and has started work.

forensics at rhino poaching courtesy of kruger

Forensics plays a large part in prosecution of rhino poachers. (Sibongile Khumalo)

 

Forensics: Space for the SAPS Environmental Forensic Laboratory has been identified.

Funding has been transferred to the University of Pretoria Veterinary Genetics Lab to increase capacity to process rhino DNA routine samples and to cover the costs of DNA kits

Forensic trailers have been procured and are in the process of being fitted with equipment and branded.

Arrests, investigations and prosecutions: The number of alleged poachers, couriers and syndicate members arrested has risen from 343 in 2013 to 386 in 2014.

A conviction rate of 61 per cent was secured: a figure we as the DEA remains confident will be improved. At the end of October 2014, with six months to go, the conviction rate stood at 50 per cent.

In addition there was mention of additional “training programs” at the airports and with magistrates, as well as community involvement initiatives.

molewa file picture

Molewa 2014

 

According to Molewa: “We as the Department of Environmental Affairs remain confident that the integrated strategic management of rhinoceros plan is bearing fruit.

However, in the light of increased poaching numbers, it is clear that existing interventions need to be strengthened.

As we count the cost not only in terms of financial costs, but also loss of human life and risks to national security; it is important to re-emphasise that South Africa and other countries impacted by these activities, cannot win this fight alone.”

 

 

 

 

 

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The commonality of Rangers and Poachers

Why do poachers poach? For the money of course. Desperation fuels the need. South Africa’s current unemployment rate sits at 25%, one of the highest in the world. While Mozambique’s is at 17%.

With Kruger National Park right in the middle, this makes for the most unfortunate situation for our rhinos. With just one horn, these men stand to better their families forever.

Rhino in Kruger via Giltedge Africa

Rhino in Kruger via Giltedge Africa

Youth unemployment is especially low; in 2013 it was as high as 63%. With underlying issues of a high drop-out rate in schools and a lack of experience and skills, these people have little chance of successfully finding a job.

The majority of South Africans who commit crimes, including poaching are married and unemployed who never complete standard 8 education. 

A number of government initiatives for education and unemployment have been issued in the last few years, but it seems too late for the current generation.

Ironically the reason poachers poach is the same reason rangers do what they do. For a source of income.

 As Ken Maggs, the head of the environmnetal crimes unit in SANParks explains about rangers,  “You’ll get some individuals that are really heart and soul conservationists, but generally speaking, it is a job, and jobs are not easy to come by,” says Maggs, “To have a job is really important.”

When asked, most poachers would choose a safer, more reliable method of bringing home a paycheck if there was an option.

 As one local poacher explained: “I don’t bear a grudge against the rangers. We’re all just trying to do the best for our family. If I was offered a job as a ranger, I wouldn’t have to poach.” But, the fact is that there just are not enough jobs to go around.

The reality is communities are fighting against one another in a war in which there are no winners. They’re trying to put food on the table for their families, while the wealthy do as they’ve always done; the Asians following a pointless trend of horn, the politicians turning a blind eye and basking in their own luxuries. And of course, an innocent species caught in middle.

President Zuma's home complete with amphitheater and pool.

President Zuma’s home complete with amphitheater and pool.

 

*Mediterranean Journal of Social Science:Crime and Unemployment in South Africa; Revisiting an Established Causality: Evidence from the Kwazulu Natal Province  N.G. Tshabalala, PhD 

*The human victims in the fight over rhino poaching in Africa by: Kenichi Serino

 

 

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South Africa’s Latest Embarrassment in Poaching Saga

Keeping rhinos safe in the bush is tedious, exhausting work. Rangers spend long hours in the elements, patrolling vast areas on foot, putting themselves at risk every day.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it were easier? Too bad there’s not a list of known poachers on a website or in a book somewhere. Oh wait…there is!

Terri Stander

Terri Stander

South Africa’s DA shadow Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Terri Stander stated that intelligence is a weakness for SA in the fight against poaching. Holding up a list, Stander said:

Why is it that I can have a list of 72 suspected poachers in my hands, but not one of these have been properly investigated let alone convicted? You can even call them on the listed telephone numbers.”

Yet one more embarrassment on the backs of the South African government. Money exchanging hands to sell rhino to hunting outfitters, money unaccounted for from the Dutch lottery, translocation plans made only to fall through, as the “window of opportunity” was missed, now this. Where does it end?

 “Our rhino are dying because of ineffective systems — a lack of the required political will, alleged complicity in poaching by security and policing services, lack of information sharing between our enforcement agencies and judicial sanction that is not yet swift or severe enough,” Stander said.

In Edna Molewa’s rhino poaching statement in early August,  the “Strategic Management of Rhino” was announced. It calls for managing rhino populationsinternational collaboration and intervention, and bolstering existing interventions.  One of those existing interventions included Improved intelligence gathering and analysis capability.

SA police service timeslive

photo: Gallo

Part of the solution has been to create a special investigation unit as a branch of the South African Police. It will ONLY focus on rhino poaching. All operational members of this unit, which are made up of all detective heads of the member countries, are situated and operating at the borderlines.

Molewa said  “It is the SAPS’ hope that there would be better communication and collaboration between government departments and to improve database systems sharing..”

Now that this unit exists, what will happen with that list?

rhino poaching stats SA

 

 

 

 

 

 

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