Only 6 signatures – how successful was the Botswana Elephant Conference?

In the wake of the Elephant Summit held in Botswana in early December where urgent measures to halt the rampant illegal ivory trade were adopted one is left asking if it is enough? Against a backdrop of ever increasing levels of poaching across Africa the Summit was called to tackle the onslaught that threatens this iconic species. Statistics released at the summit indicate that 22 000 elephants were poached in 2012, an improvement on the estimated figure of 25 000 elephants poached in 2011, however ivory seizures in 2013 signal that elephant deaths in 2013 may reach 40 000.  “We have gathered to secure demonstrable commitment to undertake those measures…

UK government departments join to fight wildlife crime

For the first time two government departments are to join forces in order to help fight wildlife crime. The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will join with the Department for International Development (DFID) in funding programme to tackle the trade in wildlife. The campaign will see an extra £10 million devoted to tackling poaching and smuggling. Wildlife crime is seen as an easy option for many organised crime gangs as it offers rich pickings will low risk and low penalties if caught. However the rich rewards can have long-lasting impacts on the stability of governments and communities with wildlife crime funding terrorism and rebel movements. In the build…

Tourism – poaching’s silent witness

In 2011 tourism contributed R83,4-billion to South Africa’s GDP and last year more than 9-million tourists splashed out R76,4-billion across the country. As a major economic driver, South Africa’s tourism industry has traditionally been in a position of strength when applying pressure on the government to respond to major issues which negatively affect it. Likewise, South Africa has been an effective lobbyist in other African nations for which it acts as a tourism hub. But on the thorny subjects of ivory and rhino poaching the silence from our tourism sector leaders has been both deafening and puzzling. “The illicit wildlife trade and the resultant large-scale poaching of elephants and rhino…

Tanzania sacks 4 ministers over anti-poaching operation

Operation Tokomeza, Tanzania’s large-scale anti-poaching operation has been tarred by on-going claims of abuses by police and military as they enforce wildlife laws and investigate poaching activities. Now those claims of abuses have led to the sackings of 4 high profile ministers in the government. The four ministers are: Defence Minister Shamsi Vuai Nahodha, Interior Minister Emmanuel Nchimbi, Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Khamis Kagasheki and Lifestock and Fisheries Minister David Matayo. The decision was made on Friday to loud applause from MP’s in the assembly. A debate on the abuses had been held in the assembly and broadcast live for people to watch. The loss of Kagasheki and Nahodha…

Empty social housing – a consequence of bedroom tax or just bad management

There is no doubt that Britain is in the midst of a housing crisis and it is getting worse by the day. Despite record house prices and record rents the government deny that we are in the middle of a housing boom and keep pumping in government guarantees on mortgages and loans to drive up prices – putting the taxpayer at major risk in a couple of years once interest rates get back to normal. But why in the midst of a housing crisis that Britain has not seen for generations are there still empty social housing units and housing associations and councils complaining that they can not get tenants.…

Security engraving hopes for saving tortoises

With just 400 adult Ploughshare tortoises left in the wild conservationists are hoping to reduce their value to poachers by engraving security codes on to their highly decorative shells. Now critically endangered the ploughshare tortoise has seen it’s population plummet in recent years as poachers seek them out for supplies to the pet trade. The tortoise only live in north-west Madagascar and are so popular because of the high domed shell and intricate patterns. Many of the Ploughshare Tortoises poached from Madagascar will make their way to the pet markets of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Conservationists who are trying to protect the tortoise are now hoping that by engraving the…

Spiders opt for a side portion of veg with their meat

Far from being purely meat eaters it appears that some species of spider opt for a side portion of vegetable matter with their protein. A study by researchers from Exeter University has discovered that some orb spiders will eat pollen as well as predating on insects and that pollen can make up 25% of a spiders diet. Dr Dirk Sanders of the University of Exeter demonstrated that orb web spiders – like the common garden variety – choose to eat pollen even when insects are available.  He explained, “Most people and researchers think of spiders as pure carnivores, but in this family of orb web spiders that is not the…

German NGO to help support KWS families

German conservation organisation International Foundation for Nature (NABU) has signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) which will see an annual grant of 10,000 euros per year for the next 5 years being given to help the families of rangers killed on duty. The MoU was signed and announced yesterday (16th December) at the annual KWS Heroes Day at the KWS Headquarters. The ceremony also saw the adding of  4 more names to the memorial of rangers killed this year while protecting wildlife. The KWS Heroes Day has been an annual day of remembrance since 2005 and the memorial now contains 61 names of murdered rangers. The fund…

Iceland signs death warrants of 770 endangered fin whales

Last Friday the Icelandic government quietly signed off the quota of whales to be killed over the next five years. The total includes 770 endangered fin whales and 1145 minke whales. Despite Iceland’s only whaling company having increasing difficulty in finding a market for whale meat the government has decided to continue to issue annual quotas for the killing of whales. The quota which will run from next year will see the whaling company run by  Kristjan Loftsson able to harpoon and kill 229 minke whales each year and 154 fin whales each year. The market for whale meat in Iceland is shrinking and new markets are having to be…

Major tiger sanctuary announced for Indonesia

Indonesia’s forestry department has announced plans for the establishment of a major tiger sanctuary for illegally trapped and captured Sumatran tigers. With just 300 individual tigers left in the wild the new plan will be a major contribution towards helping prevent the extinction of the species. The tiger sanctuary will be developed in Riau province and will consist of semi-natural land that will be developed to replicate a true tiger habitat. The Forestry Ministry are working with experts from Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University (UGM) to get the tiger sanctuary established and it is hoped to be completed next year. Speed is of the essence if the  Sumatran tigers are to…

Keep calm and carry on…. feeding the birds

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has revealed that they are taking increasing numbers of telephone calls from the public concerned that no birds are coming to their feeders. RSPB experts though say don’t panic and carry on putting out small amounts of food. With such a good natural harvest this year together with the mild weather for the time of year, birds and other wildlife that would normally come to gardens to feed have no need of extra food. There are still fruit and berries on the trees and the ground is soft enough for birds to find insects and worms. Once the cold weather sets…

Former timber kingpin a threat to orangutans and investors

Potential investors should steer clear of a US$90 million initial public offering (IPO) in an Indonesian palm oil company due to the involvement of a former illegal logging kingpin and the potential impact on precious orangutan habitat, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) warned today. The company, Sawit Sumbermas Sarana (SSMS), currently holds a land bank of 78,000 hectares in the Indonesian province of Central Kalimantan and is seeking investment to expand its palm oil plantation area through an IPO on the Jakarta stock exchange scheduled for today (December 12). The founder of SSMS is Abdul Rasyid, who currently controls all of the shares in the company through family members.…

Emergency funding keeps Russia’s rare Amur tigers fed this winter

The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) has made an emergency grant to ensure that rare Amur tigers are kept fed and away from conflict with humans in the Russian Far East this winter. But the money won’t be used to dish out food directly to the tigers but to buy forage for the wild boar that make up fifty per cent of the big cats’ diet. The worst floods in 50 years and a shortage of acorns and cedar nuts in the Anyuisky National Park, which is home to about 20 rare Amur tigers, has meant that the predators’ favourite food is struggling to survive.  “The autumn flood water saturated…

Predators explore outside world in Malawi

Two lion cubs and two leopard cubs,  born several months ago in Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi,have emerged from their lairs and are being seen  by the conservation team and visitors to the park.  A sub-adult leopard has also been sighted. The progeny are the offspring of lion and leopard that were re-introduced into Majete during the past three years. The two lion cubs, whose mother is the lioness known as Shire (named after the Shire river ) are believed to have been born six to seven months ago and bring to five the number of lions in the pride at Majete. It has not yet been confirmed which of…

World’s police on look-out for rhino poacher

Interpol has issued a Red Notice at the request of Nepal police for a wanted rhino poacher, Rajkumar Praja. He is currently on the run after being sentenced to 15 years prison for rhino poaching and trading in rhino horn. A Red Notice is an international wanted persons alert that is sent to police forces around the world. Praja was part of an international gang that was involved in poaching rhino in the Chitwan National Park. Rajkumar Praja, 30, was part of a 13 member gang that was broken up earlier this year. Nepal’s request for the Red Notice has been welcomed by INTERPOL’s Environmental Security unit as further evidence…

Conservation Grade beats Organic for helping birds

Shoppers who want to help farmland birds when buying their Christmas vegetables this year should look out for Conservation Grade produce rather than organic. A new study by University of Southampton has shown that farms awarded Conservation Grade status are better for farmland birds than fully organic farms. The study shows that threatened farmland birds are likely to survive the winter better on conventional farms with specially designed wildlife habitats than on organic farms without. Conservation Grade farms require farmers to put in place measures to manage and establish specific habitats for wildlife. Comparing three different farming methods the researchers found that farmland birds survived the winter months better on…

Burglar who steals 2 fake rhino horns gets jail time

A burglar who broke into the Natural History Museum in Tring and made off with 2 fake rhino horns has been sentenced to 10 months in prison by judges. Darren Bennett, 42, of Leicester was caught after a glove he used to break into the museum was found by staff and DNA led the police to the burglar. Had the rhino horns stolen from Tring been real, they would have fetched about £240,000 on the black market. The real horns though had been replaced months earlier by plaster ones following a spate of horn thefts from museums across Europe. Tring Museum manager Paul Kitching was pleased with the sentence. “We…

New Crowdfunding for Wildlife and Nature

Wildlife News has now launched a new section of the web site to help wildlife organisations and people to connect directly with the public and raise funds for the project. With Wildlife News heading towards 18 years of operation next year it was time to step it up a gear and move the web site into a more pro-active approach to wildlife protection and conservation rather than just blogging and writing news stories about wildlife. At the moment our servers have a reasonable amount of spare capacity – apart from the occasional viral story – and putting that capacity to use in helping projects raise funds is something that we…

NGOs call on Mozambique to halt ivory poaching

Organizations concerned with escalating ivory poaching have called on the Mozambican government to halt rampant elephant poaching in its northern provinces. This follows an investigation by journalists Hongxiang Huang and Estacio Valoi published in Le Monde last week which suggests that blood money from ivory trafficking is being used to fund Frelimo and is fueling tensions in the run-up to the country’s elections in October next year.  Conservationists in northern Mozambique, where an average of three to four elephants are being poached a day, have implicated local authorities in the killing spree. Rangers say the weapons used include helicopters and heavy-caliber guns normally used by military forces. In Niassa National…