Posts Tagged With: Zimbabwe

Jimmy the “pet” rhino

In 2007, photographer David Hulme came across a baby black rhino near the body of his poached mother. He took the little orphan to family friends, Anne and Roger Whittall, in Zimbabwe.

They named him Jimmy. Incredibly, they successfully raised him, and he quickly became a part of the family, bonding with Anne and befriending the family dogs. Even years after he was released, he still came to visit them regularly.

Jimmy Rhino at dining table by caters news agency

Jimmy rhino at kitchen window by caters news agency

Jimmy Rhino still visits Carters News Agency

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Mabuya the survivor

We wanted to share with you the story of resilience and survival this holiday season. Mubuya the rhino, has been beating the odds for most of her life, yet continues to persevere.

mabuya the blind rhino

Mabuya. photo: International Rhino Foundation

In 2005 while moving rhinos from an area overrun with poachers to a safer area in the Bubye Valley, a female rhino named Mabuya was tranquilized and readied for her move. The capture team immediately noticed scars indicating that she had been caught in a neck snare. Later, while drilling into her horn to place a tracking device, the veterinarian noticed an AK-47 bullet was lodged deep within her horn.

She had already survived TWO poaching attempts!

Three years later, Mabuya was in the midst of another attempted poaching.  This time when the team arrived at the crime scene, they discovered that Mabuya’s new calf had been killed. She and her sub-adult calf had survived.

Last year, Mabuya was discovered wandering blind and alone, separated from her sub-adult calf. She was quickly captured and brought in for medical attention. She had been shot through one eye and had a severe ulceration on the other. For days, a caretaker visited Mabuya to apply eye medicine and hand-feed her browse she had collected from the surrounding area.

During treatment, she miraculously gave birth yet again to a calf. This calf was later removed for hand rearing when he developed health issues.

Mabuya and baby

Mabuya and her baby. photo: International Rhino Foundation

Unfortunately, Mabuya never regained her sight. She was taken in for 8 months for closer monitoring and care. Then the decision was made to release her and let her have as normal a life as possible. She shares resources with other rehabilitated rhinos, and is monitored through her tracking chip regularly.

Thanks to our friends at the International Rhino Foundation for supporting Mabuya and the team who tirelessly care for her!

 

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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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Which Country is a Poacher’s Haven?

All eyes are on South Africa as the epicenter to the war on rhino poaching. As the death toll rose to over a 1000 in 2013, this year is shaping up to be comparable to that.

But rhinos, just as poachers, know no borders. So what is happening in the surrounding countries?

south africa and surrounding 2

Namibia ~ From 2005 to 2010, there were no reported poachings. 11 have been killed since then, with 4 all in this past year. Namibia has deployed soldiers in anti-poaching units to stop the escalation.

Environment and Tourism Minister Uahekua Herunga said “We have created a permanent unit made up of the army and all security services solely dedicated to anti-poaching. “The unit will be in place forever, or until poaching has been drastically reduced.”

Botswana ~ Working on sustaining its rhino population, they have recently relocated up to 100 rhinos from South Africa. Botswana is home to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, a model for conservation, with no animals being poached since it’s founding 24 years ago.

“Our number one focus has been to make local people aware that these animals are worth more alive than dead,” Moremi Tjibae, the sanctuary’s chief warden.

whities in kharma

White Rhinos in Kharma Rhino Sanctuary

Zimbabwe ~ The bright spot for rhinos here is the Lowveld Rhino Program. Approximately 80% of the country’s surviving rhinos are in Lowveld Conservancies. Poaching levels dropped by 66% in 2013. Although it’s a comprehensive conservation program, it is hard to know if the drop is from stricter penalties or with less than 1000 rhinos, if they have simply become harder to come by.

Mozambique ~ The biggest thorn in the side of conservationists in southern Africa-where poachers and crime syndicates are so brazen, they reside in an area known as “Poacher’s Alley”, a neighborhood built on the blood of rhinos and elephants.

They have a blatant disregard for the rules of CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora). Not only do they ignore the rampant poaching, there is evidence the state is complicit in the activity.

“Many of the crime syndicates have moved their base of operation from South Africa to Mozambique, where they are able to act with impunity,” said Susie Ellis, executive director of IRF, a nonprofit rhino conservation organization with field programs around the world. “Mozambican poachers are highly organized and are slaughtering rhinos and elephants on a daily basis, while the Mozambican government turns a blind eye.”

poached mom rhino with baby near

Mozambique is thought to be responsible for 80-90% of the poaching in Kruger National Park.

It has become so out of control that on 3 July, the Environmental Investigation Agency petitioned President Obama to sanction Mozambique for their continuous role in rhino and elephant poaching.

With Obama’s Executive Order to combat wildlife trafficking announced a year ago, this is in direct and obvious violation.

“…the United States shall promote and encourage the development and enforcement by foreign nations of effective laws to prohibit the illegal taking of, and trade in, these species and to prosecute those who engage in wildlife trafficking, including by building capacity”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Equal Opportunity Genocide

Thai poaching  ring-leader Chumlong Lemtongthai

Thai poaching leader-Chumlong Lemtongth

Dawie Groenewald, Sariette Groenewald

Dawie & Sariette Groenewald, convicted rhino poachers from South Africa.

rhino with US flag

American trophy hunters.

Kenyan poachers

Kenyan poachers set to appear in Nairobi court.

Russian trophy hunter

Russian trophy hunter Rashid Sardarov.

Our rhinos are dying. In Kenya and Sumatra, in Zimbabwe and Assam…killed by poachers, by trophy hunters…from Thailand, South Africa, America, Kenya, Russia, and yes…China.

It is a fact that China and Vietnam are the driving force, the demand for our rhinos’ horn. The frustration of this can become overwhelming at times, I admittedly find myself thinking…”China again?!”.  But it’s easy to confuse China for the Chinese, a.k.a. the forest for the trees. Not All Chinese use rhino horn any more than All Americans are trophy hunters.

Racism and bias are intolerable. There is no time or space for this in the fight to save our rhinos. We must set aside our differences, ignore our borders, and unite to save them. For just as many people globally who seek to destroy them, there are just as many of us across the planet who fight to protect them.

Remember-we’re in this together.

 

 

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Nigerian Kidnappings: The Link to Poaching

Rhino and elephant poaching is detrimental not only to the rhino and elephant, but to global security. Poaching profits fund terrorist activity, like the kidnapping of over 200 girls in Nigeria.

funding terrorism

On April 16, armed men took 223 girls from their beds in the middle of the night at their school in Nigeria.  They disappeared into the dense forest near the Cameroon border, and have not been seen since. Boko Haram is the Islamic extremist group responsible. They especially oppose the education of women, and it is believed the militants are selling the girls to be brides of their tormentors.

The Nigerian based  Islamic extremist group fights with advanced weaponry and equipment, which is in high contrast with the poor surroundings of the country. Their funding is vast and somewhat unknown.  In part, they may be receiving funding from other terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda, they also reap benefits from robberies, and poachings.

Boka Haram poaching activity is connected to both rhinos and elephants and spans Cameroon, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

boko harem by reuters

Boko Harem (by: Reuters)

In addition to Al-Quaeda, they are linked to the Somali group, Al-Shabaab, who claimed responsiblity for the Westgate mall attack in Nairobi in 2013. A major portion of that groups’ activities are reportedly funded by poaching as well. Claims are that up to three tons of ivory are bought and sold every month through a coordinated supply chain.

Andrea Crosta, executive director of the Elephant Action League (EAL), has studied Al-Shabaab activity and states that the group makes enough through ivory to support around 40 per cent of the salaries paid to militants.

The issue of poaching is being recognized as a global threat. In 2013,  US President Obama took a strong stance on poaching, issuing an executive order to combat wildlife trafficking.obama

“The survival of protected wildlife species such as elephants, rhinos, great apes, tigers, sharks, tuna, and turtles has beneficial economic, social, and environmental impacts that are important to all nations,” it reads. “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.”

One of the methods governments utilize to defuse terrorist organizations, is through tracking their funding. Knowing they are using the wildlife to fund themselves should be reason enough to enact tougher tracking and penalties for poaching. Obviously stopping poaching will not put an end to terrorism, but it would stop enabling them, making it more difficult for them to carry out their inhumane activities.

In the meantime, there are hundreds of families in Nigeria desperately awaiting news on their daughter’s lives. Peace and prayers go with them.

Please sign the petition to draw attention and action to the kidnapped girls: Bring Back Our Girls

where are our chibok girls

Nigerian women demonstration, looking for help to free the girls.

 

(*African Daily News, Huffington Post, The Washington Times)

 

 

 

 

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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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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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To Market

What happens AFTER a rhino is poached?

rhino horn timetable

via WWF

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Shades of Gray

rhino auction protest

Protesters at the Dallas Safari Club January 12th.

The Dallas Safari Club has auctioned off the life of a black rhino for $350,000.

In light of this recent atrocity, trophy hunting has come to the forefront of the social consciousness. The elitist hobby of killing for the thrill  has been going on since the 19th century, with nearly 18,000 participants a year.

Today, with the black rhino population in serious decline, each life is crucial to the species. It is a wonder that anyone could place higher value on their death, than their life. Endangered species are labeled as such to provide them extra levels of protection. Hunting them to “save” them flies in the face of logic.

Yet, some argue that hunting helps conservation. What do they mean by that?

Countries condone trophy hunting for a couple of reasons:
1. to make money – the money brought in from the hunting fee goes toward community conservation
2. to help control wildlife populations – keeping wildlife at reasonable numbers for the health of the species
3. to rid areas of “problem” animals –  i.e. elephants or cape buffalo that destroy crops

elephant huntedThe hunters pay fees, differing amounts depending on the size of the game.  Allegedly, these fees and the resulting meat are given to the communities.

With human/wildlife conflict a growing concern, many countries permit trophy hunting where only older males or repeated crop or cattle raiders are targeted. This provides a win-win for the village: the pest animal is removed and they receive monetary support.

Is it working? How much money is the community receiving? And how do they spend the money?

According to David Hulme, author and conservationist, its working well in terms of conservation.  Zimbabwe is having high conservation success, primarily because of the hunting community.

“Here in Zimbabwe hunters have been on the frontline of the poaching wars. They were at the forefront of massive rhino evacuation exercises, moving them from the Zambezi valley to safer areas. Pretty much the only rhino left in Zimbabwe are in the large conservancies, owned and operated by hunters.
Hunters here in Zim  also organized and carried out the first ever live adult elephant translocation exercise, moving whole herds from drought stricken Gonarezhou national park to the conservancies.”

The Save Conservancy in Zimbabwe, an area Hulme is quite familiar with, is one such example.

The conservancy used to be denuded cattle land and is now the largest privately owned conservation area in the world, at 1 million acres. In 1990 there were a handful of lions there, now there are hundreds, 20 odd rhino, now there are 130, 20 odd elephants now there are 1500, no buffalo now there are thousands.. “said Hulme.

big five james jean

Big Five by: James Jean

And what about the community? The Zimbabwe government is currently backing a project that allows trophy hunting of elephants, warthogs, giraffes, buffaloes and impalas. The project is well established, with the hunting fees being used to build a school and a clinic. This added income is especially helpful to the people during the dry season, when crops and livestock are not viable.

It’s hard to argue with the wildlife growth or community benefit. It’s been working in Zimbabwe for years. Yet what seems to be helpful in one area is a disaster in another.

South Africa remains the largest trophy hunting industry on the continent.  Frustratingly, they are one of only two countries to allow the legal hunting of rhinos. Of course with the rhino being endangered and this being home to the remaining 90% of them, this is a nightmare.

rhino awareness graffiti by Faktor

Rhino awareness graffiti in S.A. by: Faktor

Encouraging  legal hunting, while trying to crack down on illegal hunting (poaching) seems difficult, if not impossible. Rich foreigners with cash in hand stepping into impoverished communities make it all too easy for corruption to flourish.  In the end, it comes down to money. The communities need it, the hunters have it, and the animals are the product to be bought and sold.

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Thank you David Hulme for reminding me the world is more than black and white.
R.I.P.

david hulme 3

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