Author Archives: Paula

200kg of smuggled ivory seized in Vietnam

200kg of smuggled ivory seized in Vietnam

Straits Times
Sep 30, 2011
HANOI (AFP) – Vietnamese police have seized more than 200kg (440 pounds) of ivory believed smuggled from abroad, state-controlled media reported on Friday.

Officers arrested three Vietnamese transporting the banned cargo on Thursday in a van through the north-central province of Nghe An, the reports said. Pictures of the haul showed more than two dozen tusks.

Police could not be reached for comment by AFP and it was unclear where the latest shipment was headed.

Ivory seizures are reported periodically in Vietnam, where customs officials last year seized two tonnes of elephant tusks illegally imported from Kenya and destined for China, according to state-controlled media.

Article at the following link:

Zimbabwe: Conservancy ‘Decimated’ By Land Invaders

Zimbabwe: Conservancy ‘Decimated’ By Land Invaders

Alex Bell, SW Radio Africa

30 September 2011

Land invasions at the Chiredzi River Conservancy are escalating out of control, with warnings that the area faces catastrophe if nothing is done to stop the destruction.

The Conservancy forms part of the Trans Frontier Conservation Area which is the world’s largest inter-regional conservation park, encompassing land from Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. But in Zimbabwe lawlessness and the illegal seizure of land means areas like the Chiredzi River Conservancy are being destroyed.

Hundreds of land invaders have moved into the Conservancy and have caused serious damage to the delicate ecosystem there. The invaders have been tearing down trees, destroying the foliage and poaching the animals in the conservancy, in a surge of destruction that could be irreparable.

Charles Taffs, the President of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), told SW Radio Africa on Friday that they are “hugely concerned,” especially regarding the “tragedy facing the elephant herd there.” He explained that a herd of 70 elephants are being harassed, threatened and hunted by the land invaders, with no intervention from the government.

“The animals’ territory is being completely taken over. Wherever they go they get chased by people with burning sticks and dogs. They can’t even get a drink of water because their watering holes have been polluted by people using the water to wash,” Taffs explained.

Some of the elephants have already been slaughtered, and Taffs warned that they face being wiped out if no one intervenes. He explained that local councils have now threatened to kill the animals, because they are leaving their territory in search of safety, putting them on the path of local villages.

“This is totally out of control and everything is being totally destroyed. It destroys the area, it destroys tourism, and it destroys whatever reputation Zimbabwe might have. It is like the land reform programme all over again in that no one has won, everyone has lost,” Taffs said.

SW Radio Africa has also been told that the rapid clearing of the conservation areas is causing serious environmental degradation, including severe erosion, massive deforestation, destructive fires, along with the rampant poaching. The land invaders are said to be using poison, snares and dogs to hunt for game, causing extreme suffering to the wildlife.

“The coalition government cannot allow the lawlessness and destruction of Zimbabwe’s heritage, our future and that of our children to continue. It is critical that they now take a stand, resolve the escalating crisis and restore the rule of law,” Taffs said.

You can see this article here

Kenya’s lions on the brink of extinction: three more lions poisoned in Masai Mara


13 May 2010

Kenya’s lions on the brink of extinction: three more lions poisoned in Masai Mara

Conservationists have warned that Kenya’s lion population is in danger of becoming extinct within a few years if nothing is done to stem a wave of poisonings that have already left at least eight of the charismatic predators dead in recent weeks.

In the latest incident, the carcasses of two lionesses and a young male were found late last month near Lemek, apparently killed in retaliation for attacking domestic cattle. In their investigation, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) arrested a local cattle herder who admitted he had used a pesticide to poison the lions along with his neighbours.

The suspect showed investigators a container with the remains of the poison he had used to lace a cow carcass that the lions ultimately ate. The container had traces of a pink powder that the authorities suspect is a form of carbofuran – a deadly pesticide commonly used in the horticultural industry.  KWS has sent samples of both the lion carcasses and the pink substance for toxicological tests to confirm what it was that killed the predators.

KWS took the suspect to the police but despite the evidence and his admission of guilt, he was released shortly after. According to anonymous sources, a local politician intervened on his behalf.

This incident brings to 8 the number of confirmed lions poisonings in recent weeks across southern Kenya; the other five occurring near the Amboseli National Park.

In their National Conservation and Management strategy for Lions and Hyenas, the Kenya Wildlife Service estimates that only 1,970 lions remain across the country, and said  “poisoning is perhaps the greatest threat to predators and scavenging birds”.

KWS confirms that 2010 has started off badly for lions – in addition to 8 confirmed poisonings, more than 10 other lions have been killed in other circumstances; A lion was shot in or near Buffalo Springs Reserve, Samburu District, by local police, while others have been speared near Amboseli  National Park

The situation is now so serious that the conservationist and chairman of WildlifeDirect Dr Richard Leakey has again called for the government to take action.

“The future of tourism in Kenya is at risk if dangerous pesticides like Carbofuran (sold locally as Furadan) remain on the market. Time and again, we’ve seen these substances used to slaughter our national heritage and destroy one of our greatest economic assets.  Yet the authorities continually fail to follow up cases of abuse and prosecute the culprits. The Kenyan government must show that it is serious and take swift action to ban deadly pesticides like Furadan and enforce the law.

“If we fail to put a stop to poisonings, our lions could go extinct in a matter of years; a catastrophic loss for anyone who cares about our national heritage, but also a devastating blow to the tourism industry that currently brings in hundreds of millions of dollars to our economy. ”

Carbofuran is the active ingredient in pesticides most widely used to kill wildlife such as lions and leopards. It is also used to kill fish and birds for human consumption. Carbofuran is a neurotoxin that is deadly to fish, birds, cats and even humans. Kenyan conservationists are calling on the Ministry of Agriculture to ban the pesticide due to it’s environmental impacts. It is not permitted for use in the European Union where authorization for its’ use was withdrawn in 2007. Nor can it be used in the USA where it is produced due to a recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that revoked all tolerance for carbofuran residues on food. This means that carbofuran residues must not be found on locally produced and imported food items. The decision was implemented on the 31st December 2009.These decisions could affect Kenyan food exports if the product remains in use on export crops. In addition, Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency recently conducted the risk and value assessments for carbofuran and its end-uses on food and feed crops and also recommends a ban of the product.  Conservationists in USA have conducted an online petition and gathered more than 80,000 signatures urging the Kenyan Government to do the same.

After incidents of lion poisoning in Kenya became public in 2008, the manufacturers of Furadan, FMC withdrew Furadan from Kenyan shelves. However, the product is still not officially banned and can be found in some agro-vet stores. The active ingredient, carbofuran, is still available in other over-the-counter pesticides.

WildlifeDirect is a conservation charity registered in USA and Kenya, and based in Nairobi. We enable conservationists at the front lines to tell their stories and raise awareness about their work through over 80 blogs from the field on the website platform The Chairman of WildlifeDirect is Dr. Richard Leakey and the Executive Director is Dr. Paula Kahumbu. Visit for more information

Furadan: WildlifeDirect is campaigning for the de-registration or total ban on the active ingredient of Furadan, carbofuran in Kenya due to the threats it poses to users, consumers and wildlife. This pesticide threatens the survival of lions, vultures, fish species and many other mammals and birds In Kenya. Furadan is produced in USA by FMC and is sold locally by Juanco SPS as an agricultural insecticide. For more information on our campaign against wildlife poisoning visit

KWS is the government body responsible for wildlife conservation in Kenya.  For more information visit

For other photographs or more information please contact Paula Kahumbu [email protected], or call 0722685106, or 020 2602463

WildlifeDirect News – No 15, December 2009

We have good news from WildlifeDirect. We have just been named winners of the Mongabay “Innovation in Conservation Award” for 2009. This is a great honor. We are especially happy as this gives us recognition in more networks thus increasing our reach. Of course we have you – and our bloggers – to thank for keeping our site alive.

Elsewhere, lions continue to be persecuted and deliberate poisoning continues – the most recent incident happening in Tanzania and executed by Maasai herdsmen from both Kenya and Tanzania. Read more in the newsletter to get the latest from the conservation frontline


WildlifeDirect Wins Mongabay Award

Award gives us prominence at for a month

Mongabay bannerMongabay announced on 1 December 2009 that WildlifeDirect was the winner of the “Innovation in Conservation Award” for 2009. It was a great honor and a boon for WildlifeDirect especially in these lean times.

This award recognizes organizations using unconventional and highly effective approach to conserving forests and biodiversity, such as WildlifeDirect’s use of blogging and social media tools to raise profiles of field conservationists and raise funds to support their work at the conservation frontline.

Rhett A. Butler, the founder, while announcing the award at describes WildlifeDirect,

“WildlifeDirect provides a platform to more than 100 wildlife bloggers in dozens of countries across Africa, Asia, and South America. Through their posts, which often include photos and videos, WildlifeDirect bloggers provide first-hand information from the front lines of conservation, building awareness for their projects and a means for attracting contributions, which are used from everything from paying ranger salaries to buying field supplies.”

This award also carries a cash reward that WildlifeDirect will use to support it’s operational costs so that we can continue to provide the vital service we provide to our partners and bloggers.

You can help us support our bloggers by donating at Baraza blog

Climate Change and Poverty in Africa

The story of a Nairobi domestic worker Rhoda.

WLD Newsletter bannerWith the UN Climate Conference (CoP15) going on in Copenhagen, WildlifeDirect sought to find out how climate climate change will affect poverty reduction programs in Africa.

Paula Kahumbu interviewed Rhoda, a domestic worker in Nairobi Kenya to find out she and her young family are coping with climate change. Rhoda, who lives in the outskirts of Nairobi, has no electricity in her house, uses charcoal and paraffin (Kerosene) to cook her meals and owns no car. What would be her impact on climate change? How has climate change impacted her life?

You can read and listen to Rhoda’s story on Baraza

Lion Killed Then Laced With Poison

Tanzanian and Kenyan Maasai Spear a Lions in Serengeti

Killed LionA lion has was speared to death by Maasai from both Kenya and Tanzania in a joint retaliatory hunting party (Olkiyioi) inside Tanzania. This happened after the lioness supposedly killed a cow and a donkey.

Though the local community didn’t want any authorities to find the lion’s carcass, the Lion Guardians were able to use one of their informers in the area to show them where it was. The adult lioness, said to be part of a pride of 5 other sub-adults and 1 large male was found in the place she died. Her ears, tail, paws and canines had been removed – the latter two said to have been taken for sale.

More worrying still, it seems that around 3 days after the lion’s death, someone returned to the carcass and laced it with a blue granulated poison (of similar description to Furadan). Samples were taken and the carcass burned to ensure that scavenging animals could not be harmed – hyena and other lion tracks had been seen near the site. Thankfully no poisoned animals have yet been found.

Read more about this incident on the Lion Guardian’s blog.

WildlifeDirect Wins ‘Innovation in Conservation’ Award

WildlifeDirect Wins ‘Innovation in Conservation’ Award

Nairobi, 02 December 2009 – announced on Tuesday that WildlifeDirect is the winner of the Innovation in Conservation Award for 2009. According to Mongabay, “The prize, which includes a cash donation and prominent placement on the web site and newsletter for the month of December, is granted each year to an organization using an unconventional and highly effective approach to conserving forests and biodiversity.”

The Kenya-based conservation charity, WildlifeDirect, was recognized for its work of promoting and raising funds for conservation through blogs by rangers, scientists and community conservation groups in Africa, Asia and South America. “We’re thrilled to win Mongabay’s Innovation in Conservation Award,” said Paula Kahumbu, Executive Director of WildlifeDirect in a Mongabay article published by Mongabay’s founder Rhett A. Butler.

WildlifeDirect founder and Chairman, renowned anthropologist and conservationist, Dr Richard Leakey, was particularly happy about this award. “Recognition from Mongabay through the Innovation in Conservation award is very much appreciated during these difficult times. WildlifeDirect is doing exactly what it promised – helping field based conservationists to be able to stay at work and keep our endangered species safe even during difficult economic times.” he said., which aims to raise interest in wildlife and wildlands while promoting awareness of environmental issues has featured several articles originating from WildlifeDirect’s bloggers and continues to support WildlifeDirect in raising the profile of the blogs. is considered one of the leading conservation news sites in the Internet.

Previous winners of this prize include Health in Harmony from the Island of Borneo in 2008 and the Amazon Conservation Team of Brazil in 2007.

This prize comes at a time when WildlifeDirect is going through a tough financial period and struggling with continued optimum performance during these hard economic times. With the exposure afforded by the millions of readers, it is likely that WildlifeDirect will receive a fundraising boost that could bring the much needed funds for conservation work and for paying WildlifeDirect’s bills.

For the purpose of this release:
Rhett A Butler’s article on Mongabay is to be found here:

Dr Paula Kahumbu’s reaction to the prize is posted here:

Rhett A Butler of can be contacted on: [email protected]

Dr Paula Kahumbu of WildlifeDirect is available for interviews. Email her: [email protected]

For general inquiries contact:
Samuel Maina [email protected]

WildlifeDirect News – No 13, October 2009

Every now and then, someone who’s made great contribution to their kind finally departs from the land of the living. It does not matter whether that someone is human or not, those who were close to them grieve their passing – even when their time had come.

Such is the case of Titus, the gorilla silverback who came to world attention through the Hollywood film about Dian Fossey’s life among the gorillas in Rwanda, ‘Gorillas in the Mist’. Titus is credited, by those who knew him, or knew of him, as a great, calm and caring gorilla king.

Titus has departed to be with his ancestors, and his friends, both human and non-human, bemoan the loss to the species. He did his species good, that is why we dedicate this newsletter to the wonderful father and leader.

Rest in Peace, Titus.

Titus Takes Final Bow

‘Gorillas in the Mist’ star dies in Rwanda

On Wednesday, 14 October, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund announced with great sadness that 35 year old Titus, the oldest known gorilla silverback in Rwanda and the star in the film ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ had died that morning.

Born in 1974, Titus had been the ‘king’ of his group for many years despite having gone through a tumultuous childhood plagued with death of parents and siblings in the hand of poachers. Despite his ‘underdeveloped and spindly’ appearance as described by Dian Fossey in the film ‘Gorillas in the Mist, he overcome the challenges of his childhood to become a ‘an unusually even-tempered and skillful leader’ as observed by the Fossey Fund.

Observers, according to the Fossey Fund report, believe that constant contests for leadership from newly returned son Umushikirano – nicknamed ‘Rano’ –  may have hastened the death of the elderly legend.

Titus played a great role as the icon of his species. His immortalization in the 1988 Hollywood film on Dian Fosseys life, ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ and the 2008 documentary of his life ‘The Gorilla King’ aired on BBC served to raise awareness about the 700 or so mountain gorillas that still cling to the Virunga Massif on the joint border of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

YoG Ambassador Ian Redmond, who knew Titus since infancy, said: “The death of any individual who plays such an important role in his community is a sad occasion.”

Read more and support Titus species at the Gorilla Protection Blog

The Last Days of ‘King Titus’

Gorilla Doctor Jan Ramer recalls the dusk of the gentle king.

Newly installed gorilla doctor, Dr Jan Ramer received a call informing her that Titus burial siteIhumure, Titus little son, was in bad health and she should go give her a checkup. Little did she know that those were the last days of both father and son.

When Jan found the two in the Rwanda side of the Virunga forest after a long and physically challenging trek, she found Ihumure looking really bad. Titus was also looking tired but healthier. Jan remembers Titus looking her in the eye – a humbling experience – and describes this brief moment thus:
At one point Titus looked me in the eye, and it took my breath away. His clear, brown, kind eyes were looking into mine. I was meeting a living legend and I felt very privileged.”

Like a father and son spending their last moments in life together, Titus stuck very close to Ihumure. Titus was tired. He had had severe altercations with other silverbacks (his now silverback son Umushikirano – or Rano) in the last two weeks and he had an injured wrist probably from these confrontations. For all we know, Rano, who was not far away from where Titus and Ihumure were, may have been waiting for Titus to take the final bow from his illustrious life.

Two days later, Titus was near death, he had not moved from his nighttime rest and was barely alert. Titus was dying. After various discussions between Jan, others at Mountain Gorilla Vet Project (MGVP), including Magdalena (Magda), Jean-Felix and Veronica, Jan found out that this is how silverback gorillas fade away. Shinda took the same path.
“We determined that there was little we could do for Titus.   We prepared for the necropsy. The mood was heavy at MGVP headquarters.”

Titus was looking better the next day and was eating a little. Two days later the trackers relayed the bad news. Titus was dead.

As would be expected, Rano was now the king of the group. Ihumure was devastated. Titus was his only aly. He stayed by Titus body most of that day. Rano tried to move the group away from Titus but they kept circling around his dead body. Jan says;
<“There are no words to truly express the feelings of loss that were palpable in this gorilla conservation community for the past several days.

Titus was buried near Dian Fossey up at the original Karisoke Research Station site. Ihumure died the night after Titus was buried. In Jan’s words,

His little body was brought to MGVP headquarters for a necropsy, and this time we found the cause of death.  He had severe trauma to the kidney and an intussusception of the bowel (one piece telescoped into another). We could not have saved him.

Titus was old and has contributed a lot to his species, but Ihumure was too young to die. RIP Titus. RIP Ihumure.

You can help Titus group and other mountain gorillas by supporting the work of the Gorilla Doctors. Go to their blog and donate now.

Dr Lucy Spelman: From Gorillas to Otters

One ‘Gorilla Doctor’ who may also be mourning the death of Titus is Dr Lucy Spelman. She spent many hours with the mountain gorillas in the Virungas and although she just left recently and is now taking care of otters in Guyana, she has fond memories of these patients and these ones that she worked with in the Virungas.

Dr Spelman had good success blogging at WildlifeDirect. In her website, she says;
“My first blog, “Gorilla Doctors,” ran from October 2007 through July 2009.  I loved writing about my patients-and reading everyone’s comments.  Even better, the blog did what it was intended to do.  It raised thousands of dollars for the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project.  Though most of the donations were small, they added up.”

It wont surprise you therefore, to learn that Dr Lucy Spelman is back at WildlifeDirect, this time blogging about otters in her new blog, Saving Otters – big and small. She hopes that the otter blog can achieve as much success as the gorilla blog, if not more.

Go see what Dr Spelman has in store for you in her blog.

News Snapshots

Things you need to know

WilidlifeDirect News: Issue 1, July 2008

The Gorilla Murders documentary that aired on the National Geographic Channel on 1 July 2008, and is also the subject of an investigative article in the National Geographic magazine, has captured attention the world over. This issue of our monthly newsletter has also focused on primates in danger. Read on to discover the challenges on the ground and how your donations are making a difference.

Gorilla Murders Documentary On Nat Geo Prime

Tragedy is also main feature on the July 2008 National Geographic magazineRugendo Masacre
The news of the brutal execution of five Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) on 22 July 2007 – first reported on the mountain gorilla blog – shocked readers worldwide. When ICCN Ranger Paulin Ngobobo, who blogs at Gorilla Conservation Blog, narrated the events that led to the discovery – in the southern sector of the Virunga National Park – of the slain gorillas on that overcast morning in July, his sadness literally sprung out of the text. It was a sad day indeed.

Almost a year later, the National Geographic Channel has aired an investigative documentary into this grisly and outrageous murder. The video was broadcast all over the US on 1 July 2008 at 10:00pm EST. The Gorilla Murders documentary goes further than just speaking of the sad death of the 5 gorillas: it uncovers an elaborately corrupt charcoal racket, a pointless war in eastern DRC that has repeatedly wounded conservation efforts, and the selfless sacrifice that enables the ICCN rangers to protect – where possible – the remaining mountain gorillas (of which only 700 or so still thrive in the wild).

Writer Mark Jenkins, who co-narrates The Gorilla Murders documentary, has also written the feature article – Who Murdered the Virunga Gorillas? – in this month’s issue of the National Geographic journal with photographs by Brent Stirton. The online version of this articles is 12 pages long.

Our Chairman, Dr Richard Leakey, after reading the print version on the National Geographic journal said:

I am delighted that National Geographic has given such prominence to this species. The fate of the mountain gorilla ranks as one of the most important conservation challenges of the current time.

Meanwhile, the three baby gorillas orphaned after this masacre, Ndeze, Mapendo and Ndakasi are doing well under the care of gorilla doctors at the MGVP.

Follow the story of the Virungas southern sector rangers here and see a clip that the rangers have uploaded here to showcase Diddy’s contribution to the National Geographic documentary. Follow the progress of the orphans at the MGVP Blog.

Tshiaberimu Gorillas Dying from Disease

Survival of the population of 19 gorillas hangs in the balance.Mt Gorilla

With the death of two adult female gorillas between February and May 2008, conservationists are worried that the Shigella bacteria could severely cripple the viability of the fragile gorilla population on Mount Tshiaberimu. A recent report on the Tshiabiremu blog indicates that only three breeding female adults remain in this annex of the Virunga National Park.

This tragedy obviously places the local gorilla population in a very precarious position. The fact that the disease is still rife in the area – and blood has been reported in the dung of these three females – is a cause for further worry.

Shigellosis – as the disease caused by the Shigella bacteria is called – is normally not necessarily fatal but when contracted by a primate already heavily weakened by intestinal worms, as was the case of Molo, the second gorilla to die from the disease this year, it can lead to death.

Now the Mount Tshiaberimu Conservation Project seeks help in raising funds to eradicate the disease among the gorillas and to prevent further deaths within the population that currently numbers 19 in total. They have indicated here what they need to boost their efforts to save the last remaining breeding females and – by extension – the entire population of the Tshiaberimu gorillas.

J.A.C.K Puts Your Donations to Good Use

Baby chimps now safe thanks to the new gate.Chimps at J.A.C.K

Franck and Roxane’s chimpanzee rescue project, J.A.C.K, whose mission is to end illegal trade in chimpanzees, recently upgraded their Refugee Center. They constructed a new entrance gate to regulate human traffic especially to the quarantine area.

The quarantine area is very close to the entrance and – before the installation of the gate – anyone could have wandered in and get close to the quarantined primates. This puts both the humans and the baby chimps in danger should either be carrying a cross-specific infectious disease.

Get the details of the works and pictures of progress here and visit J.A.C.K regularly to stay up to date with the happenings at the Refugee Center.