Posts Tagged With: Zambia

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. “

 

 

 

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

An Epic Move for Rhinos

crash in kruger © Scotch Macaskill

Crash in Kruger via Scotch Macaskill. A crash is a group of rhino-increasingly rare with the escalation of poaching.

After much speculation as to whether or not it would happen, the South African government has made it official. They have approved moving 500 rhino out of Kruger National Park.

Of the rhino to be moved, 260 will be sold to private buyers and another 250 taken to a safe location.

edna molewa

Edna Molewa, SA Minister of Environmental Affairs

Edna Molewa, Minister of Environmental Affairs, confirmed the possibility the rhino will be sent to Botswana and Zambia, where there will be “intense protection zones”.

According to Molewa, “this move, along with creating rhino strongholds could allow a total rhino population size of South Africa continue to grow.”

Botswana not only has better political and economic stability and a smaller population than South Africa, but they recently banned commercial trophy hunting and in 2013 adopted the controversial shoot-to-kill policy in place for poachers.

In Zambia, the rhino population had been decimated from previous poaching. But groups like African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Rhino are working on bringing rhino populations back to varying Parks. Possession of rhino horn or a conviction of poaching can receive a sentence of 20 years in Zambia. The Tourism and Arts Deputy Minister , Lawrence Evans said poachers and other people engaged in illegal wildlife trade would be dealt with severely.

Prev rhino move from SA to Bots mike cowton

Previous rhino translocation from SA to Botswana. Photo: Mike Cowton

Although logistically moving such a large number of 2 ton animals seems difficult to say the least, they’ve done it before. Between 1997 and 2013 there were 1500 relocated from Kruger. According to Molewa that move “has contributed significantly” to the rhino population.

rhino move via green renais epa

Helicopters have been donated to assist in the move. Photo: Green Renaissance/epa

Disclosure of exact location could endanger the rhinos, yet it would be all too easy to maintain small groups of rhino throughout varying reserves, just enough to avoid questioning; in the meantime, selling the majority.

Even more troubling-Who are the private buyers? Trophy hunters? China? Vietnam?

With the steeping shadow of suspicion looming over them, can South Africa really afford not to be upfront?

According to a report released to the SANParks board, rhino poaching has seen an average escalation of 70% a year. At the time of this posting, 660 have been slaughtered in the current year.

For more on South Africa’s rhino poaching plan: Edna Molewa’s Strategic Management of Rhinos

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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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No Country is Innocent

Illegal wildlife trade of horns and tusks is a lucrative worldwide business. In recent years it has exploded into a black market worth of approximately $20 billion a year.  No one seems to be exempt from this growing tragedy. Most obvious involvement lies in Africa, China and Vietnam; but Ireland, the US, and now even the Czech Republic and Poland have blood on their hands.

Black rhinoceros and Africa elephant, Africa

OPERATION CRASH
To police the snowballing issue,  the US  has stepped up involvement with Operation Crash. It is an ongoing nationwide criminal investigation led by the Fish and Wildlife Service, started in 2010,  that is addressing all aspects of US involvement in the black market rhino horn trade.

The first phase of this probe (focused on the unlawful purchase and outbound smuggling of rhino horn from the US) has resulted in 14 arrests and six convictions to date. Charges filed include conspiracy, smuggling, money laundering, tax evasion and bribery in addition to violations of the Endangered Species Act.

Recently a father and son team described by federal prosecutor as being “at the apex of the rhino horn smuggling pyramid” in the United States, has been sentenced to more than three years in prison on federal wildlife smuggling and money laundering charges. Their involvement in horn smuggling played a direct role in driving the price of rhino horn to nearly $25,000 per lb.

How are other countries faring? According to WWF (World Wildlife Foundation) data: Laos, Mozambique, Mynamar, Tanzania, Thailand, Vietnam, and Zambia are failing.

wildlife trade scorecard
WORLDWIDE PANDEMIC
It is imperative that each country step up laws and regulation on illegal trade. It is not just a Chinese or African problem. This is a worldwide epidemic and we’re in this together. While most countries see the wildlife trade as “an environmental problem”, WWFs President and CEO Carter Roberts warns “illicit wildlife trafficking compromises the security of countries. Much of the trade in illegal wildlife products is run by criminal groups with broad international reach, and the profits can be used to finance civil conflicts and terrorist-related activities. Illicit wildlife trafficking is also linked to other forms of illegal trafficking and money-laundering.”

There is something we can all do. We can be more conscientious and alert.  There are several steps the public can take to support the elimination of the illegal wildlife trade both abroad and domestically:

  • International travelers should avoid purchasing and/or carrying wild animal products, including meat, skins, and traditional medicines. Intentionally smuggled wildlife imports are often concealed in boxes or coolers; if you see a passenger carrying a suspicious container report it to Customs and Border Protection officials.
  • When traveling domestically, be aware of national and state laws regarding the transport of wild animals. Some laws differ among states.
  • We encourage you to make conscientious choices about your pet choices. Always make sure pets are captive-bred and choose pets that present minimal health and environmental risks (please visit PetWatch for more information), and can be adequately cared for in a captive situation. Please visit www.PetWatch.net for more information.
illegal trade routes
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