Asian countries commit to tackling wildlife crime at second annual meeting

The three-day Second Annual Meeting of the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) culminated today in Kathmandu, Nepal, where the eight South Asian countries finalized and endorsed the SAWEN Statute and updated their collaborative roadmap for fighting wildlife crime in South Asia. “Strengthening transboundary cooperation and collaboration for intra-country law enforcement initiatives through intelligence sharing on poaching and trade trends, along with exchanging knowledge and skill for fighting wildlife crime across South Asia” was the unequivocal concern of the representatives of the South Asian countries at this meeting that was held from 26-29 August 2014. This push from the SAWEN member countries places the region firmly in the spotlight of…

Oil or smoke – what’s killing the whales and dolphins of Ghana?

Over the last few years the number of whales and dolphins that are dying along the coast of Ghana have increased. Locals claim that deaths started to happen following oil drilling in the region while the country’s Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is claiming that local are killing the creatures and smoking them for sale as fish. The latest whale to wash ashore in the Western region of Ghana brings to a total of 21 whales since 2010 and 26 since 2008. The locals claim that the whale deaths have increased since the Jubilee Oil Field was opened and it is the drilling which is causing the large number of deaths. Oil…

First ever illustrated world bird classification published

Lynx Edicíons and BirdLife International have published the first ever Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. The checklist classification uses new criteria and recognises 462 new species which were previously treated as ‘races’ of other forms. The new total of 4,549 non-passerines implies that previous classifications have undersold avian diversity at the species level by as much as 10%. As a result today the world has 46 ‘new’ species of parrot, 36 ‘new’ hummingbirds and 26 ‘new’ owls. The work uses new criteria for determining which taxa qualify as species. These criteria are intended to create a level playing field, by which all bird species can be assessed…

Elephant population triples in Serengeti Maasa Mari – are they fleeing poachers?

Are elephants fleeing Kenya for the relative safety of Tanzania in the Serengeti? That is the question being posed as a new survey released this week shows that elephant numbers in the Tanzania sector of the vast eco-system have tripled in just 28 years. The areal survey was conducted by Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and was targeting the populations of elephants and buffaloes in the world’s largest ecosystem. The result was surprising with elephant populations in some areas of the Serengeti tripling in number since the last large-scale survey was undertaken in 1986. In the Serengeti-Mara region there was…

Parts of 2800 bears seized in Asia over a 12-year period

A new TRAFFIC analysis of hundreds of seizures sounds the alarm on Asia’s ongoing widespread bear trade and the need for immediate international action. The findings are published in Brought to Bear: an Analysis of Seizures across Asia (2000–2011) which studied bear seizures made over a 12-year period in 17 countries and territories across Asia and found that a staggering illegal trade in bears and their parts persists in the region. The analysis of close to 700 seizures revealed that a minimum of 2,801 individual bears would have been traded for their parts and derivatives between 2000 and 2011. The majority of reported seizures involved Cambodia (190), China (145), Viet…

Over half of South Africa’s ‘evacuated’ rhinos head to hunting ranches

The Public Protector has been requested to investigate the sale of 260 rhinos by SANParks to hunting companies. On the 20th July 2014 the Sunday Times published an article about the relocation of 500 rhinos out of Kruger National Park (KNP). SANParks vehemently denied these allegations but on the 12th of August Minister Edna Molewa confirmed that cabinet had given its approval on the 6th August 2014 for the evacuation of 500 rhinos for their continued safety. On the 13th August 2014, Oxpeckers.org released further information that 260 of these rhinos had been sold to three hunting safari companies in the Northern Cape: Winterhoek Safaris, Chapunga Safaris and Steyn Safaris. Apparently…

UK rejects claims of funding ivory stockpiles

The Foreign Office has rejected claims made by Tanzanian officials, including ministers, and reported in the media that the UK was to fund the storage costs of Tanzania’s ivory stockpile for 10 years. The information from the Africa Desk confirms that the UK will fund an inventory of Tanzania’s stockpile but will not be funding any treatment of the tusks or any storage costs of the estimated 120 tonne stockpile. This is at odds with some claims made publically by Tanzanian officials that the UK tax-payer would meet the costs of storage for 10 years ‘while a study is undertaken to determine the impact of poaching on the elephant population’.…

Terrorism link to missing pilot discounted

The search continues for missing US pilot Bill Fitzpatrick but a link to a terrorist attack on Kano Airport in Nigeria has been discounted by those involved in the search. Radio communications confirm that Fitzpatrick had left Kano Airport successfully. Bill Fitzpatrick went missing on Sunday evening on 22nd June. He was working for African Parks as a pilot on anti-poaching patrols. On the night he was on route from the United States and transporting a new spotter plane for the organisation. It was due to go on anti-poaching activities at the  Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Republic of Congo. On the Sunday evening he took off from Kano Airport in…

Minister Molewa refuses to disclose members of public panel

On Tuesday Minister Edna Molewa announced SA’s intention to implement an integrated management strategy to reducing rhino poaching – but the failure to change legislation related to the issue, the delay in signing a formal agreement with Mozambique following the signature of a MoU between the two countries, and the lack of decisive action against trafficking in rhino horn has conservationists questioning whether the government is truly committed to winning the war against poaching. According to the Minister, the strategy will  include boosting crime-fighting capacity in Kruger, establishing an Intensive Protection Zone in the hardest-hit areas of the park, translocation of rhino to lower-risk areas of the country and neighbouring…

Whale sharks bring in $10 million a year to the Maldives

One of the classic dive locations in the world is producing more income for the Maldives than previously thought. The whale shark population at South Ari atoll Marine Protected Area attracts an incredible 77,000 visitors each year and they spend US$9.4 million a year. The whale shark population at  South Ari is one of the few whale shark locations in the year where divers can be sure of experiencing these massive but gentle fish. The population is a resident year-round one and this small group of sharks account for nearly half of all Maldive shark tourism spend. The value of shark tourism to the Maldives has always been assumed to be high but…

Mock Ivory Burn sends clear signal to South Africa

All over the world today people who care are paying homage to the greatest of earth’s animals, the Elephant. In Cape Town, conservationists, sports stars and celebrities gathered in Blaauwberg Nature Reserve to celebrate World Elephant Day by igniting a fire of mock ivory against the backdrop of Table Mountain to raise awareness of the ongoing slaughter of African Elephants. They may face extinction in the wild with at least 20,000 elephants killed for their tusks last year, although many conservationists believe the death toll to be far higher. “The Cape Town Burn pays homage to the tens of thousands of elephants who have died needlessly to satisfy greed and…

Conserve living elephants don’t preserve the dead

It is the final fight to save elephants in the wild. Countries around the world are becoming more aware of the role that ivory stockpiles play in fuelling poaching and the deaths of elephants. Over the last 12 months countries have stepped up to the mark and destroyed or are destroying their ivory stockpiles to take the tusks of dead elephants out of the market place for good. Even China and Hong Kong, the two major destination countries of tusks have started to destroy their stocks. Other countries, in particular the United States, have gone further and introduced legislation that has effectively shut down the ivory trade in their borders…

Timber smugglers won’t heed China’s voluntary guidelines

Massive flows of illegal timber stolen from forests around the world will not be stemmed by voluntary industry guidelines currently being developed by the Chinese Government, environmentalists have warned. In formal comments recently submitted to the Chinese Government and published today, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has recommended the guidelines be replaced with a principled and legally enforceable ban on illegal timber trade into and within China. EIA’s comments were made in response to draft “Guidelines for Overseas Sustainable Forest Products Trade and Investment by Chinese Enterprises”, issued by China’s State Forestry Administration (SFA). In recent years, EIA has published a series of damning investigative reports exposing the methods and…

Neonicotinoids shuts down bees power plants

Neonicotinoids are a prime suspect in the loss of honey bees. They have been shown to interfere with the way that bees forage and navigate. New research now shows that the neonicotinoid pesticdes also impact on the way that cells in bees produce energy. Imidacloprid – a neonicotinoid – and Fibronil – a pyrazoles – have been shown to interfere with the actions of  mitochondrial bioenergetics. Mitochondria produces the power that cells need to do their work. Bees use a lot of energy during flight and any impact on the way that their cells produce energy can have devastating consequences. There is a growing body of evidence that neonicotinoids impact on…

Review of 5 Elephants by Rob Laidlaw

One of my most memorable zoo visits was to Toronto Zoo in 2012 with the Zoocheck Canada director, Rob Laidlaw. It was a great experience to see African Elephants, Toka, Thika and Iringa before they travelled across Canada and USA to their new abode at the Performing Animal Welfare Sanctuary in San Andreas, California. In my opinion, the transfer of the three Toronto Zoo elephants marks the greatest achievement in the history of Zoocheck Canada, a wild animal protection charity established in 2012. 5 Elephants is Rob Laidlaw’s personal endeavour to help human beings relate to elephants as individuals, both in the wild and in captivity. Given that elephants are…

Kenyan poachers go back to the future using spears and arrows

Modern technology is changing the way the poachers in Kenya go about their business killing elephants. Sadly this was shown on Sunday with the discovery of a still warm body of a 30-year-old tusker that had been killed by poachers and its tusks had been removed. The elephant had been killed by a poisoned spear. As modern technology becomes available to rangers to protect wildlife the poachers are changing tactics and going back to traditional methods of killing elephants. Gone are the AK-47s and back are the poisoned arrows and spears. Modern technology means that sensors can be placed around national parks that can instantly pin-point the sound of a…

Poachers running amok as rhino kills hit 618 for 2014

The South African rhino poaching epidemic continues unabated as the latest figures released today show that the killings have surged through the 600 barrier and now number 618 dead rhinos so far this year. That is an increase of 60 rhinos since the last figures published on July 11th. Looking back on the figures for July it shows a devastating loss of the rhino in South Africa – 122 of the creatures have been killed this month. It could have been worst as the first 11 days of the month say 62 kills. another 60 rhino have been killed since 11th. The latest stats have been released on World Ranger…

Elephant poachers penetrate South African borders again

A second elephant has been butchered for its tusks by poachers in Parfuri, northern Kruger National Park, 10km in from the Mozambican and Zimbabwean borders. SANParks officials discovered the two day old carcass with its tusks hacked out yesterday morning. No further details regarding the age or sex of the elephant were available and no suspects have as yet been arrested in connection with the crime. This is the second incident of elephant poaching in the Parfuri region of Kruger in recent months, highlighting the onslaught of elephant poaching predicted by conservationists, who have warned that rampant poaching in neighbouring countries would begin to spill over South African borders, and the…

British turtles are booming

It may take more than a day trip to the coast to see the booming turtle population but the numbers of green turtles on British dependency Ascension Island are booming. The latest survey shows that turtle numbers on the main beaches now total 24,000 nests – an increase of 500% since records began in the 1970’s The increase means that the beaches around the Ascension Island are now the second largest breeding population in the Atlantic Ocean. The future could be even brighter for the turtles and other wildlife as the governor signed in to existence 7 new nature reserves yesterday (28th July 2014) which included 3 main green turtle…