A vehicle belonging to a senior military official has been seized on allegations of ferrying ivory after a road chase that involved Manyara National park rangers on Friday evening.
The event happens only weeks after police officers were caught with ivory in Serengeti National park and two others lynched a few days later in an incidence related to poaching, shows how complex poaching is in the country, with a network spanning rouge elements in the security and defense forces.
In the Lake Manyara incident last Friday four soldiers were alleged to be in the vehicle and one of them (name withheld) who was driving the vehicle was caught by the rangers after the vehicle had overturned at Kigongoni village near Mto wa Mbu township in Manyara district at 9pm. He was being held for questioning by the Police.
The Arusha Regional Police Commander Liberatus Sabas said he was not in a position to speak to the media on the issue because he did not have details.
When contacted for comment yesterday morning he said he was driving and could not talk for long over the phone.
When called later in the day he said he still has not details on the issue but he brief the media today.
“I always want to gather all the details before I speak to the media. I will do so tomorrow,” Mr Sabas said.Sources from the Police said the three passengers of the vehicle escaped with three pieces of ivory. Two ivory pieces remained in the vehicle.
The director of the Tanzania National Parks Authority Allan Kijazi confirmed the event took place but could also not offer more details.
“I am in Tanga travelling with the Parliament Committee on Lands, Natural Resources and Environment. I have not details to give you though I have heard about the incident, please contact the Police for more details,” he told The Citizen in a telephone interview.
The unprecedented escalation of poaching in the country has caught the country unawares. Poaching has already frustrated the coutnry’s bid to sell its ivory stockpile. Last month the government withdrew an application to sell to China and Japan over 100 tonnes of ivory valued at over $55.5million (about Sh88.8billion). The request had been submitted in early October last year and was due to be discussed at the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) meeting in March in Bangkok.
The situation is so dire that the Iringa urban legislator (Chadema), Rev Peter Msigwa wants to table a private motion on anti-poaching in the upcoming Bunge sessions commencing in Dodoma next week. Mr Msigwa says it is unacceptable that 67 elephants are killed every day, or 23,000 annually or quarter of them in Tanzania.
He said his research showed that the war against anti poaching lacked political will amoung decision makers, public officials, politicians, businessmen and other stakeholders due to conflict of interest that surround the whole business.
Rev Msigwa told reporters at the weekend that he was grateful that his notification letter met speaker’s approval and that his private motion would be tabled in the up coming bunge sessions.
“Tanzanians should pray that no bizarre incidents that happens to an extent of postponing or subjecting to rejection of the topic” he said.
But the ministry also wants to act to tame poaching. One way to reduce poaching is trough the creation of the Wildlife Management Authority.
Briefing reporters after attending the Land, Tourism and Environment committee’s meeting at the weekend that discussed the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) report, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Lazaro Nyalandu said the government was in the final efforts of forming the Tanzania Wildlife Authority, (TWA) as a measure of curbing the problem poaching.
According to Mr Nyalandu, TWA is founded to tackle identified challenges that contribute to the increased poaching trend in the country such as inadequate manpower and poachers change in technological approaches.
He said contrary to old poaching days, the present poaching is done through use of up to dated weapons such as short guns or machine guns something that demanded a new approach in combating the problem.
“TWA will be empowered to undertake employment decisions to curb the manpower shortages and practice other strategic plans that will finally help in containing the situation which is obvious critical” he said.
According to Mr Nyalandu the intensified poaching incidences in the country were caused by attraction brought by the Asian market that raised ivory the demand for ivory and therefore required for more supply.
Another reason outlined by Mr Nyalandu was the overcrowding of imported cheap and small weapons in the country’s markets something that increased accessibility to natural resources poachers.
“Our responsibility will be to help TWA address these challenges to ensure natural resources in Tanzania benefited the general public” he emphasized.
The rhino has been named South Africa's newsmaker for 2012, based on the extensive media coverage around the slaughter of the creature for its horn, the National Press Club said on Saturday.
It is the first time that such recognition has gone to an animal, as poaching figures reach all-time highs. "Stories of rhino poaching dominated the headlines throughout the year, the story was covered extensively locally and internationally," said Antoinette Slabbert, chairperson of the National Press Club. Poachers are increasingly targeting South Africa's rhinos, and last year killed a record 668 of them in parks across the country. "We made this decision after a long and serious thought," Slabbert said, adding "there wasn't any other bigger story than this." The plight of the pachyderm eclipsed the shooting of 34 mineworkers by police during a strike at Lonmin platinum mine in August, and a host of prominent political news. "People need to understand that we selected a newsmaker not a news event, the Marikana shooting was a news event, with many faces," Slabbert said. South Africa is home to about three-quarters of Africa's 20,000 or so white rhinos and 4,800 critically endangered black rhinos. "While the rhino has dominated headlines for all the wrong reasons, the media has played a fundamental role in informing not only South Africans, but the world, about the massive tragedy that is unfolding in our country," Slabbert said. Rhinos are victims of a surging demand for their horns, which some people in Asia think have medicinal properties. The claim is widely discredited. South Africa and Vietnam last year signed a deal to tackle the trade and several Asian nationals have been arrested for involvement in poaching. The number of rhinos poached in the country rose sharply over the last five years, from 13 in 2007 to 448 in 2011. (c) 2013 AFP
The carcasses of nine rhino have been found in the Kruger National Park since the start of 2013, spokesperson Ike Phaahla said on Wednesday.
"The horns of all nine carcasses were removed and that is a clear indication that they were poached," said Phaahla.
"No arrests have been made and investigations are ongoing. I cannot provide further details as the conservation crime unit follow certain procedures and once investigations are complete they will compile a report."
He said the carcasses were found in a period of two weeks.
On 8 January two white rhino were shot and killed on the Houtboschrand section of the park.
Managing executive at the park Abe Sibiya said indications were that the animals were poached by a group from Mozambique. The carcass of a white rhino was found after rangers in the Lower Sabie saw three suspected poachers and a shoot-out ensued. The three suspected poachers escaped but left behind a bag containing a set of rhino horns and a high-calibre hunting rifle.
Phaahla could not provide more details of the other six carcasses until the investigations are concluded.
On 10 January, the national environmental affairs department said five rhino had been killed in the country since the beginning of the year.
Three of those were in the KNP, one in the North West and another in Mpumalanga.
The department said on Wednesday that the figure had not been updated.
In 2012, 668 rhino were poached and 267 arrests were made.
Phaahla said one of the methods to fight poaching was to appoint retired major general Johan Jooste to command the conservation unit. He started on 7 January.
"We have given him space and want him to concentrate on his main task so that we can have an impact on the number of animals poached," Phaahla said.
He said the park had offered a R1m reward for any tips leading to the successful prosecution of a rhino syndicate or its mastermind.
African elephants are being killed in their thousands, on a scale not seen for 20 years, threatening the very survival of the species in the wild. Gabriel Gatehouse investigates.
Three elephant corpses lay piled on top of one another under the scorching Kenyan sun.
In their terror, the elephants must have sought safety in numbers - in vain: a thick trail of blackened blood traced their final moments.
In December, nine elephants were killed outside the Tsavo National Park, in south-eastern Kenya. This month, a family of 12 was gunned down in the same area.
In both cases, the elephants' faces had been hacked off to remove the tusks. The rest was left to the maggots and the flies.
"That is a big number for one single incident," said Samuel Takore of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). "We have not had such an incident in recent years, I think dating back to before I joined the service."
Mr Takore joined in the 1980s, and his observations corroborate a wider pattern: across Africa, elephant poaching is now at its highest for 20 years.
During the 1980s, more than half of Africa's elephants are estimated to have been wiped out, mostly by poachers hunting for ivory.
But in January 1990, countries around the world signed up to an international ban on the trade in ivory. Global demand dwindled in the face of a worldwide public awareness campaign.
Elephant populations began to swell again.
But in recent years, those advances have been reversed.
China to blame?
An estimated 25,000 elephants were killed in 2011. The figures for 2012 are still being collated, but they will almost certainly be higher still.
Campaigners are pointing the finger of blame at China.
The Northern Rangelands Trust acts like an anti-poaching paramilitary force
"China is the main buyer of ivory in the world," said Dr Esmond Martin, a conservationist and researcher who has spent decades tracking the movement of illegal ivory around the world.
He has recently returned from Nigeria, where he conducted a visual survey of ivory on sale in the city of Lagos. His findings are startling.
Dr Martin and his colleagues counted more than 14,000 items of worked and raw ivory in one location, the Lekki Market in Lagos.
The last survey, conducted at the same market in 2002, counted about 4,000 items, representing a three-fold increase in a decade.
According to the findings of the investigation, which has been shared exclusively with the BBC, Nigeria is at the centre of a booming trade in illegal African ivory.
An Asian appetite for ivory, seen here in Hong Kong, has fuelled poaching in Africa
In 2011, the Nigerian government introduced strict legislation to clamp down on the ivory trade, making it illegal to display, advertise, buy or sell ivory.
And yet, says Dr Martin, Lagos has now become the largest retail market for illegal ivory in Africa.
"There's ivory moving all the way from East Africa, from Kenya into Nigera," he said. "Nigerians are exporting tusks to China. Neighbouring countries are exporting a lot of worked ivory items (to Nigeria).
"So it's a major entrepot for everything from tusks coming in, tusks going out, worked ivory going in, worked ivory going out, worked ivory being made."
Paramilitary poacher hunters
The BBC visited the Lekki Market in Lagos. Wearing a hidden camera, a reporter from the BBC's Chinese Service was immediately approached.
Speaking Mandarin Chinese, a Nigerian trader offered "xiang ya" - "ivory". There were piles of carved items for sale, ivory bangles, combs, chopsticks, and strings of beads.
Mr Loldikir says arresting poachers is a waste of time - his men shoot to kill
Another trader proffered two whole tusks, on sale at just over $400 per kilo. When asked how much raw ivory he could provide, he offered to supply 100kg or more.
Increasing prosperity in China, coupled with a large influx of Chinese workers and investors across Africa, has sent demand for ivory soaring.
Kenya runs one of the most effective anti-poaching efforts in Africa.
As well as the KWS (the government-run wildlife protection service) local communities and private conservancies are providing their own armed rangers.
The Northern Rangelands Trust is such an organisation. It runs a "Rapid Response Unit" of about a dozen armed men, who camp out in the thorny scrubland of northern Kenya following herds of elephants and tracking poachers.
The unit is essentially a state-sanctioned paramilitary force. The commander, Jackson Loldikir, and his men wear camouflage fatigues and are armed with Kalashnikov rifles.
Campaigners say Lagos is now the largest ivory retail market in Africa
Theirs is a dangerous job. While out on patrol with the BBC, the group was charged by a herd of nervous elephants.
A ranger had to fire a warning shot in the air to avoid being trampled.
Mr Loldikir says arresting poachers is a waste of time. Prosecutions are rare and the perpetrator is likely to get off with a small fine.
And so Mr Loldikir and his men say they are forced to take more drastic measures.
"When we meet a poacher, we just kill," he said. "It's the only way to protect the animals, just to kill the poacher."
Injuries, even deaths, are not uncommon, on both sides.
"In May, we heard a shot. We met five poachers. They had killed an elephant. So we shot them. We killed one and we recovered two guns. And one of our scouts was also injured."
But the poachers seem undeterred. Conservationists in Kenya are warning that at the current rate, elephants could soon disappear from the wild altogether.
"If the price continues to rise as it is and the killing of elephants continues, within 15 years there will be no free-ranging elephant in northern Kenya, I'm quite sure," said Ian Craig, who runs the Northern Rangeland Trust.
"Wherever there are unprotected elephant and there are firearms, people are going to kill them. They're just worth too much money."
And what applies to Kenya applies also to the rest of Africa.
In a continent where guns are plentiful and poverty is widespread, the rewards of poaching simply outweigh the risks.
The country's government said 668 rhinos were killed within its borders in 2012, up from 448 in 2011.
Rhinoceros poaching soared to a record high level in South Africa last year. The country's government said 668 rhinos were killed within its borders in 2012, up from 448 in 2011, according to the World Wildlife Fund, an international conservation group.
A whopping 425 of those deaths last year occurred in Kruger National Park, a top safari destination and home to South Africa's largest population of both black and white rhinos. That figure marks a sharp increase from the 252 rhinos killed in the park in 2011.
The poaching boom is largely due to heightened demand for rhino horns in Asia, where the grim prizes are believed to have medicinal properties and are seen as highly desirable status symbols, especially in Vietnam. TRAFFIC, a nongovernmental global network that monitors wildlife trade, recently issued a report describing how some affluent Vietnamese individuals often use the horn as a hangover cure and general health tonic, grinding it up and mixing it with water or alcohol.
Huge stockpile of 'white gold' that has been seized by customs officers needs to be better secured, says head of conservation group
A leading expert on elephant conservation has urged the government to step up security at a top-secret location housing a massive stockpile of elephant ivory. She cited fears it may be targeted by criminal syndicates looking to steal the lucrative contraband known as "white gold".
"It's always a concern having a stockpile in any location," said Grace Ge Gabriel, regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which has been tracking the illegal trade in ivory for more than a decade.
"Last year in Tanzania and Zambia, stockpiles were stolen. It's important to keep up security, because employees were implicated in both those ivory thefts - an indication of the level of corruption in these countries."
Ivory traders must register by January The Nation All businesses involved in the trade or production of ivory items must register by next month, the government says.
"If we find that any shop or manufacturing facility is involved in the use of illegally-trafficked ivory, we will revoke their business licence," Theerapat Prayurasiddhi, deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), said yesterday.
The DNP will also require them to adopt a system that clearly identifies the origin of the ivory.
Domesticated elephants have identification papers so their ivory can be sold, according to Thai law.
IT'S a case of up then down for Kenya's second largest population of elephants. After a promising growth spurt, the elephants are now dying faster than they are being born. The decline is being blamed on illegal poaching, driven by Asia's demand for ivory.
The Kenya Wildlife Service recently conducted a census of the Samburu/Laikipia population, the country's second largest. It found that the population lost over 1000 elephants in just four years, and now stands at 6361. Previous censuses in 1992, 1998, 2002 and 2008 had revealed a growing population, which appears to have peaked at 7415 in 2008.
By some estimates, more than 30,000 elephants were slaughtered across the savannas and forests of Africa and Asia for the ivory trade during 2012. The carnage represents as much as 4 percent of the world's elephant population. Accordingly, some conservationists are warning that elephants face imminent extinction in some of their range countries.
But biologist mapping hot spots in Africa says delivery of DNA samples has stalled
Hong Kong's massive stockpile of seized ivory could help in the hunt for poachers who are killing tens of thousands of elephants across Africa, a leading US biologist says.
But the scientist, who tracks the poachers by analysing DNA from seized tusks, says local officials are not donating samples fast enough for him to pinpoint the latest poaching hot spots.
"Hong Kong has been, in the past, very co-operative," said Dr Samuel Wasser, director of the University of Washington's Centre for Conservation Biology.
Wasser said he received samples of seizures in Hong Kong in 2006 and 2008 with the help of Interpol's wildlife crime investigators. But requests for samples from the most recent seizures - more than six tonnes of ivory worth almost HK$50 million confiscated by customs in the past three months - have been stalled.
"They are willing to help, but they want to wait for the case to close first before donating," he said. "But the information could be useful for prosecutions. There's a real sense of urgency."
In 2001, Wasser started a genetic map of Africa's elephant populations using dung samples. Since 2002, he has overlaid DNA data extracted from seized tusks onto the map, which shows clusters of poaching activity.
"More often than not, it is repeated poaching in the same areas," he said. "If we get an idea of where the hot spots are, you can attack and choke the trade at the source."
Wasser wants about 150 samples from Hong Kong, all about the size of a US dollar coin and taken from the base of the tusk. "It's just like a criminal database," he said. Using a peanut-sized sample and a freezer mill, the sample is ground into a fine powder, which then shows genetic material needed to create a DNA fingerprint, he explains.
"Samples are very important so we can have an idea of where ivory is being poached," said Bill Clark, Interpol's wildlife crime officer. "Asia needs to work more closely with Africans when a seizure is made."
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department was not available for comment.
At a press conference yesterday in Tanzania shadow minister Rev Peter Msigwa called for a special independent probe into poaching in the country which is now getting out of hand. He is calling for the probe to have wide-ranging powers as claims are made of senior politicians now being implicated in poaching gangs.
The unsupported claims of politicians and senior government officials being involved in illegal wildlife trading comes as investigations continue into senior police officers being behind a major poaching ring in the country.
Speaking in Dar es Salaam, Rev Msigwa said that up to 25% of global ivory seizures now seem to originate from elephants of Tanzania. He claims that reliable sources involved with wildlife in Tanzania acknowledge that the country is now losing at least 23,000 elephants a year from its national parks and reserves – the equivalent of 67 elephants a day being poached.
Msigwa explained, “As MP for Iringa Urban Constituency, I have mandate in defending our natural resources and effectively curbing increased poaching, which takes place in the national parks.”
While he was not naming names in relation to senior politicians Msigwa said that in the next parliamentary session he will be calling for an independent and high level probe into the poaching syndicates operating around the country.
Coimbatore, often referred to as the Manchester of South India, harbours hundreds of factories and multinational companies, which need land and other resources. Despite this, the wild side of Coimbatore awaits any nature enthusiast, with a wide range of flora and fauna. From Walayar in the South to Sirumugai in the North, forested areas surround a good part of Coimbatore. With 6 major elephant corridors in the district, there is regular movement of these large mammals along the forest fringes.
Coimbatore Forest Division has been witnessing a rise in Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) for the past couple of years. The unfortunate part is that elephants are harassed badly by onlookers, leading to retaliation. To understand the situation, we made a visit to forest areas in Coimbatore, where we were greeted by the sight of a trumpeting, distressed elephant running scared at the edge of the forest. What had caused the largest terrestrial mammal in the world to lose its nerve?
On the outskirts of Coimbatore city, brick kilns stand in the place of what used to be an elephant corridor used by generations of these gentle giants. It appears that ‘elephant-taunting’ has become a spectator sport in the region. A well-connected network of local informants sends messages to people interested in the ‘game’ when elephants are spotted. As soon as word spreads about a herd’s location, the crowd pours in on motorbikes, cycles and on foot. Our enquiries revealed that although there are local residents involved in such acts, most of the people who take part in the ‘game’ are migrant brick kiln workers from faraway places.
One day, we received news from our local contact about a herd of elephants coming to the edge of the forest. By the time we reached the spot, we were shocked to find ourselves amidst a mob of local youths, about a hundred strong, who were jeering and howling at a herd of elephants and provoking them. The matriarch positioned herself between the crowd and the herd, trying in vain to calm the young members of her family. Sometimes the men, mostly youths trying to prove their machismo, walked right up to the elephants to instigate them and induce some reaction. The elephants reacted by mock charges now and then, when the men came too close. The poor animals did not know how to respond to the audacious advances of the unruly mob.
The elephants were clearly traumatized, as reflected by their constant distress calls. These seemed to goad the people further to amplify their howling. The elephants appeared to be waiting for nightfall to cross the clearing and move into the next forest patch, which is contiguous with the Nilgiris landscape. The barbaric spectacle we witnessed seems to be a regular affair, and the crowd seems to draw a sadistic pleasure from confronting the gentle giants and elicit some sort of distress response.
Sunset came to the rescue of the pachyderms and the crowd started fleeing, as the elephants would have the upper hand in the darkness. We could observe from a distance that the herd was making an attempt to cross the elephant proof trench dug by the forest department to make their way to the adjacent forest patch. Thus the dusk heralded the end to the trauma of the elephants for the time being, and we made our way back to our camp convinced that this daily scene was a recipe for a disaster waiting to happen.
Post script: The state of affairs were communicated to the District Forest Officer, Coimbatore Forest Division, who was prompt in deploying his field staff close to all possible places through which elephants could cross. A week later however, our worst fears came true, with The Hindu reporting the death of two persons as a result of similar incidents.
“It is absurd for a man to kill an elephant. It is not brutal, it is not heroic, and certainly it is not easy; it is just one of those preposterous things that men do like putting a dam across a great river, one tenth of whose volume could engulf the whole of mankind without disturbing the domestic life of a single catfish.”
The sight of an old bull elephant is something few of us have the privilege to experience. His features are broad and craggy, the outlines of his ears as frayed as the edges of a battle flag. Not as beautiful as the handsome younger fellows who strut around, but magnificent and grand nonetheless.
On my second day out in Samburu, we encountered a bull who had not been seen for at least two years. He had short, a-symmetric tusks and a great wide head with tattered ears. After some asking around, he turned out to be Napoleon – one of the few over forty in this population, and known for many years. One rainy day we came upon the sight of Napoleon in solemn company with not one, not two, but three other equally distinguished elders. They were Obama, Edison, and Kenyatta. I noticed they all had rather small or broken tusks. In the mix were two younger bulls. All were peacefully munching, and eventually moved off, trailing one another into the misty downpour. Why were they gathered together in this spot and why did they leave together? Mysterious.
Convention of elders
I am thrilled whenever we see these old boys, not just due to their sheer bulk but mainly because such venerable age is rare in this population. Sadly but unsurprisingly, males with big tusks are prime targets for poachers. Perhaps Napoleon had evaded them because his short tusks offered less payoff for the risk. But poaching has even extended to the females, with their more slender tusks, and calves who are mere collateral damage.
The source of ivory. Photo courtesy of Chris Leadismo, Save The Elephants
My second week here we heard reports that a massive bull had been killed. In their haste, the poachers had left part of the tusks still embedded in the skull, which had to be cut out and destroyed by Kenya Wildlife Services. In addition to the tusks, eerily, they had taken parts of his ears and genitalia.
We had the sad task of visiting another elephant carcass at a nearby conservancy, for a MIKE report (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants). MIKE documents both natural and human-caused deaths. The body had mostly decomposed, being at least a month since the animal died, though the stench was still pervasive. This smell of death is familiar to me, from Uda Walawe. While it was initially thought that this death was natural because the tusks had been found on it, closer inspection of the jaw and skull showed at least one definite bullet hole and two other possible ones. We imagined that it must have been shot elsewhere and wandered into the protected area before dying. By the size of the skull and the structure of its teeth, it appeared to be a male only 12-14 years old. Perhaps it wasn’t even the main target.
Suspected bullet hole.
The small size and emerging teeth indicate a young animal.
Another female was shot up so badly she couldn’t walk. Her hind leg and shoulder on one side were shattered – if she were darted, she would fall and never get up. When the patrols and veterinarian found her she had to be put down. More recently, a collared female was killed – a unique individual named Dvorjak who had modified her range to move from the Lewa Conservancy to the Samburu/Buffalo Springs area. On the same day three other poached carcasses were found – the body of a young female in her twenties, a young male in his teens, and a nine-year old. All lay facing the same direction, with labyrinthine trails of hyenas cris-crossing about them. How many more hidden carcasses were there? Even the rangers were unnerved by this disturbing site.
One more massacre. Photo courtesy of Chris Leadismo, Save The Elephants.
In my mind I can’t help envisioning the last moments of these animals – that young male, shot in the head and face, bleeding to death, unable to eat, suffering before he died. Was he a bystander, as they gunned down someone else? The young female – I imagine they shot her first, and the others ran to her as she went down. Perhaps they were caught be surprise, perhaps they rallied in defense. They would die too. Brutal beyond words.
In Sri Lanka, where I work, a large shipment of ivory was confiscated last year. It was traced back to Kenya.
Kenyan ivory confiscated by Sri Lankan customs to go to temples?
To our collective disgust, it has been reported that this confiscated ivory, these teeth of animals that died most horrific deaths, are to be distributed among Buddhist temples. Among them, the most sacred Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, resting place for a tooth of the Buddha himself. What an obscene perversion of all that he stood for, the non-materialistic philosophy based on universal love endorsed by that great teacher! Ivory should NOT be temple décor and should be protested widely.
The buying and veneration of ivory needs to stop.
Back in the reserve, my spirits are lifted at the sight of every elder – matriarch and patriarch alike. Elders are venerable, among humans and elephants; they command respect. With the wet season, a few big bulls are wandering in that had not been seen in so many months – or indeed, ever before. In the midst of all these casualties, a few old timers and males in their prime have managed not only to survive, but expand their ground. There are new Old bulls in Samburu!
Leakey, the newcomer
One of these is Leakey – a striking sight with his colossal head and formidable, oddly displaced tusks. His head alone seems to comprise half his weight, it’s so massive. By the girth of his trunk, he has to be easily the oldest elephant I have ever seen in my life. He is quite a calm animal for all that, and this funny profile makes me chuckle. He seems to be filling a vacuum left by those claimed by the poachers.
The other day, we were also briefly charged by an animal whom Jerenimo could not immediately recognize. He was showing signs of musth, and towered at us for a split second like a mushroom cloud. Though we were quick to accelerate away, instead of sitting at a distance and watching sensibly, I was quite baffled when a second later I found dear Jerenimo reversing us back at him. I was particularly impressed given that there are the mangled remains of a previous Toyota at the entrance to camp as a monument to the might of a mature bull in musth. But my faith in Jeronimo’s experience, and concentration on taking pictures of his ears for identification, dispelled any nervousness. Fortunately, the mystery bull chose to pace away from us.
Little baby boys are playing in the long wet grass. Some will grow up to be big boys. A few will live to be old boys. Long may such hulks continue to roam these woodlands – in Africa and Asia.
NAIROBI — Officials in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa have impounded more than 600 pieces of ivory, weighing two tonnes, they said Tuesday, the latest in a series of seizures by Kenyan authorities.
"They were labelled as decorating stones and were headed to Indonesia from Tanzania," a police source based at the port told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The head of operations at the port, Gitau Gitau, confirmed the seizure, but said no arrests had been made. Gitau said the documents used to ship the cargo would be used to track its owners, and added that the seized ivory is valued at more than $1 million (750,000 euros).
Two weeks ago, officials in Hong Kong seized more than a tonne of ivory worth about $1.4 million in a shipment from Kenya.
The international trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after elephant populations in Africa dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to some 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.
Ivory trade is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
East African nations have recently recorded an increase in poaching incidents. A week ago, a family of 11 elephants was killed in a Kenyan park in what officials called the country's worst incident of its kind in the past three decades.
The killing led to an aid appeal by Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga to help the country deal with the escalating poaching menace. Despite the fact that tourism plays a major role in east African economies, poachers have recently expanded their operations to areas previously thought to be safe from poaching.
According to the Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya lost at least 360 elephants last year, up from 289 killed in 2011.
In October last year, Tanzanian police seized over 200 elephant tusk pieces valued at around $1 million dollars from 91 different animals.
Four people were also arrested in the raid and a total of 214 tusk pieces were recovered from the house of a Kenyan living in Tanzania's economic capital Dar es Salaam, officials said.
At the time of the arrests, police said they believed the ivory came from elephants in Tanzania, and that smugglers had hoped to take the tusks by road into Kenya.
Some experts have attributed the increase in poaching to an upcoming meeting of signatories to the CITES treaty in Thailand in March, which may be prompting ivory dealers to boost their stocks in speculation that the conference might result in a lift of the ban on the ivory trade.
The illegal ivory trade is mostly fuelled by demand in Asia and the Middle East, where elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns are used to make ornaments and in traditional medicines.
Africa is home to an estimated 472,000 elephants, whose survival is threatened by poaching and the illegal trade in game trophies, as well as a rising human population that is causing habitat loss.
Poaching of both rhino and elephant has reached alarming levels in Kenya. The recent killing of a family of 12 elephants in Tsavo East National Park by a gang of poachers has raised the level of alarm both nationally and internationally.
Several factors have been cited to explain the upsurge in poaching in Kenya and indeed the rest of Africa. The most important factor has been the growth of the Chinese economy with a growing middle exhibiting an insatiable appetite for ivory.
It is on record that the average Chinese person is unaware that an elephant has to die for their tusks or horn to be removed. They believe that tusks and horns are harvested from live animals and that they grow again like teeth.
Reducing the demand for ivory is the key to ending this tragic loss of elephants. This calls for stricter law enforcement in China and transit countries that facilitate the movement and sale of ivory and public education and awareness campaigns to ensure that the people of China understand the impact of the ivory trade on Elephants.
Equally important are the decisions made by the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Trade in ivory was banned in 1989 after the unprecedented slaughter of African elephants during the 1970s and 1980s. The elephants were placed under the highest level of protection by CITES and all international trade in ivory banned.
In subsequent years, CITES has allowed some elephant populations to be down listed, affording them less protection and allowing trade in ivory from these populations.
CITES also made the unfortunate decision to allow China to buy ivory from these countries despite glaring evidence that the trade controls in China were inadequate resulting in high volumes of illegal trade. The next CITES Conference of Parties is coming up in March this year.
To save elephants from decimation, the parties will be called upon to support a proposal by members states of the African Elephant Coalition led by Kenya to amend the text of the CITES convention towards tightening ivory trade controls.
A third factor in the trade is the challenge faced by elephant range states in securing free ranging elephants and rhinos and protecting them from poaching.
The investment required to provide security for these animals is a major strain on government departments. Kenya Wildlife Service is one of the best wildlife management agencies in Africa.
South African National parks are equally highly regarded. It is notable that in 2011 and 2012, both agencies recorded unprecedented levels of poaching despite having highly trained, well equipped and dedicated personnel. It is scary to imagine what is happening to elephants and rhinos in countries that are less well prepared to fight the poaching menace.
Equally important is the weak penalties afforded to those found guilty of killing and trading in wildlife trophies across Africa. Wildlife crime has traditionally been viewed as low level crime and the impact of the loss on national economies has remained a hidden cost.
This is despite evidence that the global wildlife trafficking is as profitable as the illicit drugs trade and the illegal arms trade to the underworld.
To stem the poaching menace, wildlife crime must be recognized for its impact on African economies and be treated accordingly in the national laws.
Stiff penalties for wildlife crimes are bound to be a deterrent. In Kenya, the wildlife act has been under review since 2006 and it is unfortunate that parliament is coming to the end of session without passing this law that would have afforded stiffer penalties for offenders. In the absence of this law, the legal fraternity must scrutinize other statutes in our laws that can be used to punish offenders.
Finally, public outrage is an important aspect in causing the government to pay attention to the poaching menace. Unfortunately this is lacking in Kenya.
Kenya is in the middle of heightened political activity. Politicians will only pay attention to what they perceive to be important to the citizens.
Wildlife based tourism contributes significantly to Kenya's GDP and it is strange that the tourism industry remains silent when wildlife is being killed at unprecedented rates. It is equally disturbing that communities that are bound to suffer the most as the poaching menace threatens tourism remain silent.
There seems to be a pervasive view that wildlife in Kenya belongs to KWS. This is far from the truth. Wildlife is a natural heritage bestowed upon this country for us and our children and we need to get angry when a band of criminals choose to profit and decimate our natural resources.
Dr. Winnie Kiiru is the director CHD-Conservation Kenya and a trustee at the Kenya Wildlife Service.
How many slaughtered African elephants does 1.3 tonnes of ivory tusks represent? It is hard to tell when they are cut into 779 pieces and hidden amid other container cargo. This is the latest ruse employed by smugglers to try to fool Hong Kong...
How many slaughtered African elephants does 1.3 tonnes of ivory tusks represent? It is hard to tell when they are cut into 779 pieces and hidden amid other container cargo. This is the latest ruse employed by smugglers to try to fool Hong Kong customs inspectors on the lookout for an illegal and lethal trade. More than 100 would seem a conservative estimate. It may be debatable whether the elephant or the lion is king of the African plains. But there is no question that this socially organised giant of its own domain needs protecting from human predators driven by greed.
Read The dirty business of the lucrative ivory trade from Africa to Asia latest on ITV News. All the World news
They call it white gold, but it's a dirty business, and the rising amounts being seized by customs in China suggests more than half the illegal ivory in the world is being smuggled into the Chinese market.
Officially there is a legal trade, set up in China in 2004; the idea was that if you saturate the marketplace with legal ivory sold by African countries, tonnes of tusks from elephants which have died of natural causes or been legally culled, then the price would drop and the illegal market would die off and not the endangered animals.
Soldiers in Nepal are on the hunt for a wild elephant after it strayed into villages in the southern part of the Himalayan nation and killed four people in three months.
The elephant walked into a thatched house in Gardi village adjoining Chitwan National Park, 82 km (50 miles) south of Kathmandu on Saturday, pulled an elderly couple from bed and trampled them to death, said Shiva Ram Gelal, assistant district administrator from Bharatpur, the nearest city.
Park officials say the same beast killed two other villagers fewer than three months ago.
The authorities found more than 1,000 smuggled tusks hidden in mahogany shipments, in one of the biggest seizures in history.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Malaysian authorities said Tuesday that they had uncovered more than 1,000 smuggled elephant tusks hidden in secret compartments in two shipments of mahogany, a staggeringly large seizure that several conservationists said was the biggest in history.
The pressure on Africa's elephants is increasing. Asia's markets are demanding ivory and criminal networks are all too willing to provide fresh supplies. The animals are not even safe in national parks.