Posts Tagged With: Tanzania

For some, poaching is a “second job”

In a 2015 study of admitted poachers in the largest park in Tanzania, 4 out of 5 admitted to poaching for food or income. But not all of them poached due to extreme poverty (in need of food and shelter) .  For many it was a means of supplemental  income. In fact only 8% used poaching as their only source of income. by Conservation and Society

                                                                                                                   Out of 171 poachers, 60 had some form of employment.

The poachers with other means of income were using poaching as a means to advance their families out of day to day living.

“While our poachers and their households had adequate food and shelter, most lacked abilities to send children to school, or advance themselves in any meaningful way,” said Eli Knapp, lead author of the study.

 

This changes the popular assumption that people only poach out of absolute need.

For more on the study by Conservation and Society, see: Probing Rural Poachers in Africa: why do they poach?

Ruaha National Park, largest park in Tanzania, photo: Lonely Planet

 

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The History of Rhino Poaching

To think an animal’s body part is worth its weight in gold is mind-blowing to say the least. So how did this lucrative practice begin? Who decided a rhinoceros horn is the key to solving all ailments?

17th century rhino horn cups

17th century Chinese cups carved from rhino horn

In Greek mythology, rhino horns were said to possess the ability to purify water. The Persians from the 5th century BC used carved vessels from horn to detect poisoned liquids. This belief stuck and existed well into the 18th and 19th centuries among European royalty.

Between  100 BC and 200 AD during the Ming and Ching dynasties, the Chinese thought the same. They used the horn in carvings of plates, bowls and cups. The cups being especially prized to detect alkaloid poisoning, something that was treacherously common at the time.

dagger

Traditional Yemen dagger

Reports of Yemens’ use of the horn dates back to the 8th century. Although their fondness of horn is preferred in decorative use as opposed to medicinal. It is fashioned into ceremonial dagger handles known as jambiyas . This is a status symbol for young men. It epitomizes manhood. The quality of the horn was important because it possesses a translucent quality, that only improves with age.

The use of the horn for medicinal purposes was recorded as early as 1597, in the Chinese “Pen Ts’ao Kang Mu”.  In it there are mentions such as “the best horn is from a freshly killed male” and “pregnant women should not take horn as it will kill the foetus”. It also lists the many uses of horn ranging from stopping nightmares and curing possessions to curing headaches and dissolving phlegm.

rhino horn medicine

Chinese “medicine” made from horn

In earlier time it was not just the horn, but also blood, and urine used for medicine. This was a commonality of the Chinese, Burmese, Thai, and Nepalis.

In the early 1980s, it was even used as an aphrodisiac by the people of India. This myth probably stems from the fact that breeding pairs stay together for two to three days, and sometimes even weeks. Mating takes place several times a day and lasts for an hour or more at a time.

rhinos mating 2The earliest reports of horn trade (in addition to tortoise shell and ivory) were reported as leaving ancient East Africa for Arabia in 50 AD.

Throughout the history of trade, various countries have been involved: Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Yemen, China, Hong Kong, Sumatra, Singapore, Thailand, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa are the most prominent. Various efforts have been made in these countries to legalize and/or ban the trade as well.

What is the most interesting point in the history of the horn trade is that during times horn could be legally traded, illegal trade still flourished.

Thirty species of rhino once roamed the planet. Now  thousands of years later, there remain just five. Human greed, consumption and ignorance have cost the rhino. They are teetering on the brink of extinction. Will history teach us nothing?

rhino cave painting

Chauvet cave, France- rhino cave painting dating back 30,000 BP (before present time recordings).

Information obtained from TRAFFIC and Richard Ellis: Poaching for Traditional Chinese Medicine

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Reading, Writing and Anti-Poaching

According to studies, children’s academic performance in science, math, English and social sciences increase when they have experience with nature and the outdoors—not to mention their sense of ownership and responsibility to their surroundings.(Wildlife Federation)

kenyan school childrenSo it only makes sense to include conservation as part of their education. Afterall, who better to entrust our future generations of rhinos and elephants to than the children?

There are organizations throughout Africa who give the opportunity of conservation education to children. But Kenya has taken it a step further,  getting with the times by introducing anti-poaching and conservation curriculum to secondary schools in the Masai Mara and Serengeti areas.

We decided to introduce lessons on wildlife conservation to these schools to sensitise communities that neighbour the Mara and Serengeti parks on the need to end poaching. The students will visit villages to educate locals on the dangers posed by the menace,”
 said Nick Murero, the Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem Coordinator.

In the areas of Kenya and Tanzania, tourism is a multi-billion dollar business, essential to the livlihood and economies of both countries. It only makes sense to teach the value of wildlife to the children; in theory, it will spread to the local villages, planting the seed of hope for future generations.

             What You Can Do For Your Children

We can all teach our children the importance of protecting our planet. It is our global responsibility.

*Encourage appreciation of nature and wildlife through taking hikes and camping
*Read books to and with your children
*Subscribe to conservation/wildlife magazines and websites
*Teach respect through involvement (i.e recycling, adopting or fostering shelter animals, writing letters to congressmen)

Many conservation/anti-poaching groups offer materials to children to help educate and raise awareness to the plight of our dwindling wildlife.  See the following for resources:

International Anti-poaching Foundation
Save the Rhino
Children for Africa
National Geographic Kids
WWF green books

“WE HAVE NOT INHERITED THE EARTH FROM OUR FATHERS, WE HAVE BORROWED IT FROM OUR CHILDREN”

boy with maalim baby rhino

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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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Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

okavango rhino

A previously translocated rhino, now in Okavango Delta in Botswana.

The latest development from Kruger National Park is the possibility of moving approximately 500 rhino in an effort to stop the slaughter. Although no details are confirmed with this massive relocation, there is speculation that Botswana may be one of the destinations.

Botswana is one of a few countries who have adopted the controversial shoot-to-kill policy in answer to relentless poaching.

There will always be arguments about whether or not it is an ethical solution. But does it work?

In Swaziland game rangers have permission to shoot-to-kill people suspected of poaching wildlife on the monarch’s land and protects them from prosecution for murder in some circumstances.

Ted Reilly, the chief executive of Big Game Parks (BGP), which runs the major national parks in Swaziland on behalf of the King, holds a Royal Warrant to allow him to shoot-to-kill.

Reilly has said ‘Our guys aren’t to be messed with. If they [poachers] come after rhino they’re going to get hurt, and if he gets killed or maimed, well, you know, who’s to blame for that?’

Results: In the last 20 years, Swaziland has only lost 3 rhino to poaching.

Warning to poachers.

Warning to poachers.

In Kaziranga National Park, India, forest guards actually receive a cash  bonus to their salary if they successfully wound and kill a poacher. Furthermore, the forest guards will not be prosecuted for the shooting , whether in self-defense or as a pro-active ambush or attack.

The issue of indemnity for armed wildlife guards is an important one for many field programs, whose staff risk being caught up in lengthy court cases and even prison, while acting in the line of duty.

kaziranga rhino 2

Indian Rhino in Kairanga National Park.

Results: Kaziranga has lost 20 rhino so far this year, and a total of 20-40 have been poached every year since 2005.

Zimbabwe has enacted shoot to kill. Their results? There were 20 rhino poached in 2013 and 60 in 2012. This was a drop since their record high of 84 in 2008.

Tanzania had a shoot-to-kill policy for a short time. It was proving to be extremely effective.

Soldiers, police, game rangers and forestry officers had been involved in a month-long crackdown on poachers, code-named Operation Terminate, in October. But the operation was suspended after an inquiry by MPs uncovered a litany of arbitrary murder, rape, torture and extortion of innocent people.

But officials admit elephant deaths have risen dramatically since the government abandoned the policy against poachers

The deputy minister of natural resources and tourism in Tanzania, Lazaro Nyalandu said 60 elephants were butchered in November and December, compared with just two in October.

tan ele

Tanzania is losing 30 elephants a day to poaching.

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Although shoot-to-kill is not fool-proof, as the most greedy of poachers will poach; it does convey the strongest stance possible in a countries’ willingness to stop the slaughter of our wildlife. If Botswana is indeed the recipient of Kruger’s rhino, maybe their shoot-to-kill hardline stance on poachers will finally stem the blood flow.

 

 

 

 

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Breaking the Silence on Poaching

Summit photo

Namibia, Tanzania, Togo, and Gabon leaders meet with the US Sec of State to discuss wildlife trafficking.

Washington DC:  African leaders and the US Secretary of State sit in a casual setting, exchanging niceties and discussing the decimation of our world’s wildlife, mainly elephants.

This week is the US African Leaders Summit, bringing together 50 African leaders and President Obama. Topics of discussion during the three-day summit include security, trade and governance.

During the wildlife trafficking discussion, Tanzania’s President, Jakaya Kikwete, seemed frustrated over the lack of unity throughout neighboring countries.

“The elephants are killed in Tanzania,” said Kikwete, “but the consignment [of ivory] came from Kampala, Uganda. And moved through Mombasa,” the main port of Kenya. “So there is definitely need for working together.”

Togo

Tusks from Gabon’s forest elephants were tracked through Togo en route to Asian countries.

The President of Togo, Faure Gnassingbe, expressed concern over elephant poaching, which is ironic as there are no elephants there. He stated tusks confiscated in Hong Kong and Malaysia were traced back to Togo.

 

 

Gnassingbe said, “This is an embarrassment. We don’t want to be seen as a country that kills elephants it doesn’t have.”

After months of investigating the source of ivory was discovered. He said “Many of those tusks came from…(he then turned apologetically toward his left to Gabon’s President, Ali Bongo Ondimba)….my friend’s country.”

Gnassingbe went on to say that until the US brought this up, Gabon had never mentioned the issue of poaching. In fact, this is the first time many of them have had this discussion in a group setting. This begs the question “Why is there no continental strategy to end poaching?”

When asked what they would like from the US to combat poaching, the overall consensus was equipment. The ranger death toll is escalating, as they are deep in a war in which they are outmanned, outgunned and under trained.

Namibia asked for helicopters, Tanzania requested night vision goggles, Togo wants infrared scanners, and Gabon-military support.

But in addition, Ondimba apprehensively brought up the “elephant in the room”; diplomatic pressure on China, stating-

 “Let’s kill the market. We’ll save the animals, we’ll also save human being.”

gabon forest eles

Gabon forest elephants

 

 

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Paving Paradise: the Road to Disaster

The Serengeti is a National Heritage Site, home to one of the most highly diverse groups of animals and habitats on the planet. The majestic serengeti mapecosystem stretches from Tanzania to Kenya, and 80% of it is currently protected by both governments.

The Serengeti is an infamous tourist destination, giving ample opportunities to view the Big Five, and of course the Great Migration. The Migration is an annual phenomenon, during which time hundreds of thousands of wildebeests, zebra and antelope move in herds from one grazing area to the next, spanning approximately 1800 miles.

Tourism is a significant part of Kenya’s economy, and it has emerged as the top foreign exchange earner in Tanzania last year as well.  According to Africa Travel and Tourism, basing on its great potential, the sector has much to be confident about in 2014.

Paving Paradise

construction in serengetiIn 2010, the Tanzania government announced a plan to construct a paved commercial highway across the Serengeti.  They believe this will more easily facilitate trade and travel, linking the country’s coast to Lake Victoria and countries to the west, including Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The group Serengeti Watch conducted a survey of over 300 scientists from varying countries who all concluded this would have adverse effects on the Migration. The annual routes of millions of animals would be disrupted, the area would become fragmented, and obviously the human-wildlife conflict would become an urgent concern. (Not to mention, making life “easier” for the poachers and game hunters.)

wildebeests migration

This photo taken during the Migration, in nearly the exact place where the proposed Serengeti highway would bisect this part of Serengeti and Loliondo. Not far from this spot there are survey ribbons hanging on trees.

Since then, there has been international public outcry, as obviously this disturbs one of the most precious ecosystems in the world. Serengeti Watch has brought attention to this devastating  proposal and last year a legal case was filed by Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW). In addition, on Tanzania’s behalf, Serengeti Watch contacted dozens of organizations and more than three hundred experts in an attempt to find expert witnesses. Sadly, no one came forward, out of fear of serious repercussions in their ability to enter, work or remain in Tanzania in the future.

yes to the southern routeAlternative Plan: the Southern Route

In addition to the Serengeti Watch, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, African Wildlife Foundation and many other conservation groups and NGO’s are pushing for a route AROUND the Southern end of the park. This will accomplish the goal of connecting Arusha with the Lake Victoria region which is one of the “purposes” of the highway.

It would help five times as many people and would cost less. The Frankfurt Zoological Society estimates that it would only take 1 HOUR longer to drive!

Although this seems a feasible compromise, protecting both the wildlife and the opportunity for further development, it is still not decided.

The Way It Stands

Currently there will be paved roads on both sides of the Serengeti, connecting Arusha with the Lake Victoria region, things are in the final stages of planning. Contractors have been selected and the government of Tanzania has funds in its  2013-2014 Budget.

The roads will not be built within the Serengeti National Park itself, but they will border it and cross areas where large numbers of wildebeest and zebras migrate. Wildlife will be forced to cross tarmac roads with commercial traffic, including the Wildlife Management Area in Loliondo.

For updates,  join Serengeti Watch on facebook: STOP THE SERENGETI HIGHWAY

Please sign and share the petition to:  Protect Tanzania’s wildlife.

mandela save environment

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From Tusks to Trinkets

Look at your watch. An elephant was just slaughtered for his tusks. In 15 minutes, another one will die. This is the current rate of poaching, this IS the bleak reality. THIS is why the world is starting to pay attention.

15 min

IVORY STOCKPILES

Sept 9, 2013: USA announces it will be destroying its 6-ton stockpile of illegal ivory it has collected over the last 25 years.

June 21, 2013: Philippines destroyed it’s 5-ton stockpile of elephant ivory.

2011: Kenya burned 5-tons, and another 12-tons in 1989.

1992: Zambia burned 9.5 tons.

Who’s next?  It’s a trend that needs to continue. If the elephants are to be saved, a strong message has to be sent to would-be poachers, collectors, traders….WE WILL NOT TOLERATE KILLING OF OUR WILDLIFE.

Is it too much to hope for Hong Kong, Thailand, and China to do the same?

How about South Africa? Or Tanzania?

Tanzania is home to the largest ivory stockpile in the world, and so far shows no intention of giving up its collection.  In Feb 2013, National Geographic visited the warehouse where the $50 million ivory is stored. The government argues it could be sold to assist conservation efforts and bring money to what is one of the poorest nations. Yet, they spend nearly $75,000 a year to secure it.

Destroying the stockpile would remove that cost, eliminate opportunity for corruption and theft, as well as showing a commitment to the trade ban.

IVORY DESTRUCTION

Ivory is used to make trinkets, carvings; frivolous things. (Trading LIFE for a THING…a terrible habit of humanity today.) Part of the desire for it, is it’s strength.

It is precisely this durability that makes it difficult to destroy. Burning it only works if it is at a high temperature for a long period of time; otherwise it is only charred, while the inside is left intact. In fact, this is exactly how sellers of the ivory used to proof it was the real thing by passing a lighter or match over it, demonstrating it wouldn’t burn.

This means some of the tusks that were previously burned could have been recovered and made it back into the black market.

crushing ivory

Even crushing it is difficult. After much fanfare and a public display including a road roller in the Philippines, it was discovered they still needed to hammer the fragments with a back-hoe scoop, then incinerate them in an animal crematorium.

Let’s face it, tusks were meant for elephants. Not as necklaces or piano keys, and certainly unfathomable to think about how to destroy them.

To help bring awareness to the elephants, please donate if you can to the Times Square Billboard. The Elephant in Times Square. Let’s shout it to the rooftops, and tell the world what is happening to our majestic elephants.

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Tour Guide Gives Eye-Opening Safari

February 2013,  Tanzania/Kenya area  The day started like so many others for the tour operator (name withheld to protect his identity). He was driving his clients on a jeep safari through a lovely isolated area in the highlands near a river. They spotted  a herd of elephants with young ones across the river.  Suddenly there was a commotion; the elephants all started to trumpet and run. The matriarch stopped and started doing mock charges toward a bush in the riverbed.  Then they noticed about 15 tribesmen running and throwing spears at the elephants.

not actual elephant from that incident

not elephant from that incident

For a moment, the operator and the clients were all in shock. But then the operator started to yell and shout at them until they ran away. He made it back to their start point where he contacted the game warden.

safari

I spoke with the Tour Operator (T.O.) about his surprising experience.

How long have you been running your tour operation?

T.O. -For six years

You are in an isolated area, without many other game drivers around. Why did you choose this location?

T.O. – I wanted a challenge and to try to promote the “real” African experience.

Have you ever run into a poaching attempt before?

T.O. – No.

I know you are not allowed to carry guns in the park, so what can you do to stay safe?

T.O. – Yes, only licensed rangers can carry weapons.  It seems with the new Game Warden, they are taking it more seriously and are adding more anti-poaching units.

Who do you call if there is an issue?

T.O. – The Park officials.

Poachers are getting so brazen. They don’t seem to care if it is night or day or if there are people around. Are you worried this will happen again?

T.O. – Yes we are. All we can do is have more APUs (anti poaching units) set around the game drive routes.

I believe you mentioned rhino are gone in that area. Are there many elephant left?

T.O. – Yes that’s right. Elephants are still here, but declining.

Do you think the  government is doing enough to combat poaching?

T.O. – I feel now there is more publicity.

What was the reaction of your clients on the drive?

T.O. – They were speechless.

Do you now tell your clients this could occur? And if it does happen again, what will you do?

T.O. – I do talk to them about it so they are aware. I would again try my best to make noise.

What would you like to say to the poachers?

T.O. – Many things!!! Stop killing innocent creatures is one (to be polite).

Do you have any advice on what people can do to help?

T.O. – STOP buying ivory and other materials. Be aware and report any incidents you encounter. Support wildlife!

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