Thursday, March 27, 2014
(Reuters) - Kenya plans to deploy surveillance drones to help fight elephant and rhino poachers and has introduced stiffer penalties for offenders, officials said on Tuesday.
Poaching has risen in recent years across sub-Saharan Africa where well-armed criminal gangs have killed elephants for tusks and rhinos for horns that are often shipped to Asia for use in ornaments and medicines.
"We will start piloting the use of drones in the Tsavo National Park eco system, one of the largest national parks in the world," said Patrick Omondi, deputy director for wildlife conservation at the Kenya Wildlife Service.
Omondi said the surveillance aircraft would be imported, but did not give details of how many or at what cost.
Tsavo National Park in the southeast is Kenya's largest, with sweeping plains and occasional water holes dotted with wildlife, including elephants.
"We attribute the problem of poaching in Kenya and other African states to growing demand and high prices offered for rhino horn and elephant ivory in the Far East countries," William Kiprono, Kenya Wildlife Service's acting Director General told a news conference in Nairobi.
Kiprono said Kenya had lost 18 rhinos and 51 elephants to poachers so far this year. Last year, 59 rhinos and 302 elephants were killed, compared with 30 rhinos and 384 elephants in 2012.
Kenyan officers seized 13.5 tonnes of ivory at the port city of Mombasa last year, mostly originating from other countries in the region. At least 249 suspects have so far been arrested this year and prosecuted for various wildlife offences.
In January, a Kenyan court convicted a Chinese man of smuggling ivory and ordered him to pay a 20-million-shillings ($233,000) fine or serve seven years in jail in the first sentence handed out since Kenya introduced a new anti-poaching law.
Conservationists hope the new law, which allows for longer jail terms and bigger fines, will deter criminal networks.
Kenya has emerged as a major transit route for ivory destined for Asian markets from eastern and central Africa.
The government says poaching is harming tourism, a major foreign exchange earner. FULL STORY HERE
Monday, March 17, 2014
According to the World Wildlife Fund, there were as many as 3-5 million African elephants in the 1930s and 1940s. However, due to loss of habitat and poachers seeking ivory and meat, elephant populations in Africa have significantly decreased.
Elephants are one of the must-see animals for anyone on a safari vacation, but they can be a dangerous menace to African villagers who must coexist with them. The elephant’s size is matched by its appetite, which drives them to raid crops grown by subsistence farmers. These conflicts can be deadly for both, as villagers and elephants clash over food.
Electric fences aren’t feasible in many areas due to lack of electricity, and other types of fences are also ineffective against such large, hungry creatures. However, researchers and conservationists may have found a simple solution — bee hives.
Unlike bears, which plunder bee nests for honey and comb without fear, elephants are known to avoid trees with beehives. Although elephant skin is 2.5 centimeters thick, they can still be stung in areas around their eyes and inside their trunks, which can be extremely painful.
Using this knowledge, researchers have discovered ways to use elephants’ fear of bees to protect them. The first is the “Beehive Fence” — a line of beehives set about ten meters apart that are linked with ropes or wires. When an elephant touches the ropes, the hives swing, the bees emerge, and the elephants retreat. In addition to providing protection from the elephants, villagers benefit from increased pollination of their crops, and they can harvest the honey as an added source of income (if they choose to use honey bees).
According to the Elephants and Bees Project, a collaboration between Save the Elephants, Oxford University, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, “We have field tested this Beehive Fence design in three rural farming communities in Kenya with over 85% success rate in all locations. Any type of beehive can be used although our project focuses on using Kenyan Top Bar Hives and Langstroth Hives as they swing efficiently in the Beehive Fence and provide optimum honey yields for the farmers. Beehive Fences are cheap to construct costing approximately $150 to $500 per 100m depending on what types of beehives are used.”
They have even written a Beehive Fence Construction Manual (go to link below to connect to this) to show villagers how to build the fences. FULL STORY HERE
Are you wondering why elephant poaching is at an all-time high when there was an Ivory Trade Ban put in place in 1989?
Some of you will remember the late 1980’s when there was worldwide outcry for elephants. Elephants were on the cover of Time Magazine, full page adds of hacked off elephant faces were sent around the world, people became aware and were outraged at the level of poaching that was taking place. IN 1979 there was an estimated population of 1.3 million, now down well below 300,000 in all of Africa - in Kenya 167,000 now down to around 30,000. Kenya burned it’s ivory stocks in 1989, and hallelujah CITES put a bad on trade in Ivory into place.
SO, why are we where we are now facing the extinction of the species?
Poaching DID slow down dramatically in the decade after the ban, and allowed some recuperation for decimated groups of elephants. Then, in 1997, the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species allowed a “one-off sale” of 40 tons ivory stockpiles for Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to Japan. That sale took place in 1999. Poaching soared with what was perceived as a reopening for the Ivory market. And, the price of ivory soared.
In 2002 Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa received permission for another “one-off sale” of 60 tons of ivory stockpiles, which was raised to 101 tons and took place in 2008, to China and Japan.
Far from satisfying demand, the increased availability of “legal” ivory has only spurred consumer appetite as a status product. China increased the number of it’s gov’t operated ivory carving facilities. There is no way to tell “legal” from “illegal” ivory. At every CITES meeting, southern African countries lobby to sell their ivory. In 2008 they managed to get the IUCN to downgrade the official status of elephants from endangered to vulnerable - to the shock of many of us.
Here on the ground it feels clearly that the impending extinction of the elephants makes those who deal in it only more eager to get every bit of it that they can... That they are out to kill every elephant so they can get the very last piece of ivory.
Thursday, March 13, 2014
Philippines to build elephant monument from destroyed ivory
Agence France Presse
March 13, 2014
The Philippines is to build an elephant monument from the ashes of seized tusks it destroyed in a landmark action against the ivory trade, an official said Thursday.
The ash will be mixed with concrete to build a giant sculpture of a mother elephant protecting her calf, said Josie de Leon, chief of the environment ministry's wildlife division.
"It is a reminder to everyone about the Philippines' historical action regarding the destruction of ivory," she told AFP.
The sculpture will stand about four metres (13 feet) tall when completed later this year at the same Manila park where the tusks were destroyed, de Leon said.
The Philippines crushed five tonnes of elephant tusks with a backhoe in June last year, becoming the first Asian country and the first country without native elephants to destroy illegal, confiscated ivory.
The crushed tusks were later burned in an animal crematorium in a demonstration of the country's determination to shed its image as one of the world's worst hotspots for illegal African ivory trading.
The Philippines took the landmark step three months after it was named by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as one of eight nations that was failing to do enough to tackle the illegal trade in elephant ivory.
It was criticised for its role as a transport hub for African ivory being smuggled into other Asian countries where it is used in statues, trinkets and other items to showcase wealth.
Demand is also high in the Catholic Philippines, with the ivory used for religious icons.
The United Nations and conservation groups have warned the demand for ivory is leading to the slaughter of thousands of African elephants each year, possibly leading to their extinction.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
I am Jacob Dadi, Field Coordinator for Amara Conservation. I was born and raised in Birikani village in Voi sub-county, Taita/Taveta County in Kenya. Brought up in a poor family, we are four siblings, two girls and two boys. Being the firstborn taught me to be caring and responsible for the young ones.
I was schooled in Voi, and while in primary school was appointed the class prefect from class four to class seven. I always wanted to be a doctor since my childhood, because I was very much impressed whenever I went to hospital and saw the doctors with their white coats, and was interested in working so I can be helping people. I liked being recognised everywhere I am for being helpful to people I meet, I was brought up in a very Christian way by obeying and fearing God.
Upon completion of my primary school... I stayed for some time before continuing with my education due to lack of school fees, but later I did my secondary education as a private student, my dream to be a doctor made me to push to this and achieve more in life. I was employed by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi in 2000 as an elephant keeper.
At the beginning it was a very challenging job, but after a while I was used to it and loved it much. I was moved to their desnaring department in 2002 and was transferred to Voi, we were the people who formed the Bura De-snaring Team, which was funded by Amara Conservation. I came to know Lori through this because she was coming to Voi and walking with us in the bush looking for snares, she also came with film equipment and we would visit schools and communities with her and show films.
Doing film shows was very interesting, because we were providing very important information to people, which they lacked and would not get anywhere else. I always asked myself lots of questions while doing desnaring, because we would walk in the bush every day and retrieve like 200 snares, sometimes without arresting a single poacher, was this helpful to us?
Or was giving them information the best thing to do? For sure I found Amara was doing the best and most crucial work in the community than any other person, as the saying goes that “the person who teaches you how to fish has really helped you more than the person who just feeds you” because once one knows how to fish you can feed yourself.
Amara Conservation with its film showing and conservation education works like teaching the fisherman. We help people to understand and own wildlife and all other resources and once they understand this, they don’t want to do harm to those any longer, they protect them.
For these reasons I quit working with Sheldrick and joined Amara Conservation full time in 2007, while I had been working part time for Amara in the evenings since 2003. My belief and prayer is that Amara will grow so it can reach many more people because we have been working in Tsavo some time but we have not been able to reach everyone.
There are many more areas to cover where people really need this information about conservation. Due to lack of information on conservation awareness people are doing a lot of wildlife and resource destruction without knowing the importance and benefits of these vital resources available to them.
I like what we are doing now under Lori’s Amara Conservation organization. Although I never became a doctor, I know that what I am doing is helping people in a very important way. I now help provide people with very crucial information about conservation for their own benefit, and once they see these benefits they are very happy. I love my work, I love Amara, and God bless Lori.
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Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Nairobi — The State has dropped ivory possession charges against a renowned Amboseli elephant conservationist Susan Soila and her son Robert Ntawasa.
Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Kioko Kamula told a Nairobi court that the evidence in the file against the two had been compromised.
Soila, the Deputy Director of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants and her son were arrested in May last year with 19 kilograms of ivory valued at Sh1.9 million.
They were later arraigned in court and were charged on three counts of having ivory without permission, found in their car when police arrested them in Emali.
They pleaded not guilty to all charges and were released on a bail of Sh200,000 each.
They had alleged through their lawyer Philip Murgor that they were framed by Kenya Wildlife Service rangers.
“This case serves as a good example as to why all KWS investigations on serious poaching of elephants and rhinos together with prosecutions should be directed and conducted by DPP’s office. My clients are grateful that they stand vindicated of the false accusations and that they can now resume their work in conservation in the country,” Murgor said after the charges were dropped.
Last year, poachers slaughtered 302 elephants in Kenya, while in 2012 KWS said 384 were killed up from 289 in 2011, from a total population of around 35,000.
In 2012 and 2013, more than 1,000 people were arrested for committing wildlife crimes.
A new report by INTERPOL on poaching recommended the need for greater information sharing to enable a more proactive and effective law enforcement response against trafficking syndicates.
The report for 2013 by INTERPOL’s Environmental Security Unit highlights the need for increased intelligence analysis in order to provide sound evidence for multiple count indictments where the trafficking is linked to fraud, tax evasion and money laundering.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Elephants, we all know, are in peril. We humans are waging what amounts to a war against them because they have something we want and cannot make on our own: ivory.
Earlier this month, we learned that the West African country of Gabon has lost more than half its elephants—11,000—in the last ten years alone.
People are shooting, poisoning, and spearing the animals at such a rate across the continent that some scientists already consider them "ecologically extinct." There are now fewer than 500,000 wild African elephants—maybe no more than half that number—and barely 32,000 Asian elephants.
They cannot fight against us; they cannot win this battle.
And the horror of what is happening to them is surely compounded in their minds by the empathy they feel for one another—an emotion that scientists have at last been able to demonstrate experimentally in elephants.
Elephant Empathy: One Example After Another
But why did it take an experiment? Research on elephants is full of examples of the animals apparently behaving empathetically—recognizing and responding to another elephant's pain or problem. Often, they even make heroic efforts to assist one another.
In Kenya, researchers have watched mother elephants and other adult females help baby elephants climb up muddy banks and out of holes, find a safe path into a swamp, or break through electrified fences.
Scientists have spotted elephants assisting others that are injured, plucking out tranquilizing darts from their fellows, and spraying dust on others' wounds.
A two-year-old African elephant baby climbs on the back of his mother in the Nyiregyhaza Animal Park in Budapest, Hungary, one day after the mother died. The baby stayed near the lifeless body of his mother for 14 hours after her death, and wept after the body was removed.
And on at least one occasion, researchers have watched an elephant struggle to help a dying friend, lifting her with her tusks and trunk, while calling out in distress.
Aren't such accounts sufficient for scientists to say unequivocally that elephants, like us, are empathetic beings?
Sadly, no. For various reasons—some scientific, some philosophical, some religious, some economic—we have set the bar exceedingly high for recognizing emotions (other than anger and fear) in other animals.
Saying absolutely that elephants (or other animals) are empathetic requires an experiment, something that is difficult to do in the wild. Experiments mean that these are not chance observations—the results are repeatable.
To show that elephants experience the same emotions another is feeling, scientists watched captive Asian elephants in a park in Thailand. They noted when one elephant was upset by something, such as by a snake in the grass, and they recorded her behaviors to see if there was a pattern.
There was. In response to a stressful event, an elephant flares out her ears, erects her tail, and sometimes makes a low rumble. Scientists watching elephants in the wild have reported the same behaviors. (See "Surprise: Elephants Comfort Upset Friends.")
Both in the wild and in this captive study, researchers have watched other, nearby elephants react to the other elephant's distress by acting in exactly the same way. Scientists call this emotional contagion.
The elephants also ran to stand beside their friend, touched her with their trunks to soothe her, and made soft chirping sounds. Sometimes one would even put her trunk inside the other's mouth, a behavior elephants find particularly comforting, the researchers say.
We do something very similar when watching a scary movie with a friend. When the main character is threatened, we feel his fear. Our hearts race, we may tremble, and for reassurance, we reach for our friend's hand.
The researchers also recorded what the elephants did when they were in the same locations with their same friends nearby, but nothing stressful occurred. In those moments, none of the elephants acted in an empathetic way.
By comparing the two types of events—stressful versus nonstressful—the scientists were able to say that "emotional contagion" occurs only when an elephant sees another in distress.
Some scientists may still argue that this is not sufficient evidence for true empathy, that the experiment doesn't reveal what's going on in an elephant's mind when she rushes to aid a friend or worries over a dying companion.
But the fact that elephants make any effort at all on another elephant's behalf suggests that they are at the very least highly aware and emotional beings, concerned in some manner for each other. FULL STORY HERE
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