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Category Archives: press releases
Richard Leakey calls on President Kenyatta to invoke Emergency Response on Elephant and Rhino poaching
19 March 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:Dr Richard Leakey, Founder –WildlifeDirect, [email protected]
“My fellow Kenyans, poaching and the destruction of our environment has no future in this country”
These were the words of President Uhuru Kenyatta at his inauguration almost exactly one year ago. Today in the year of the 50th anniversary of Kenyan independence, I am asking the president to put his words into action and declare a NATIONAL DISASTER. I ask him to invoke emergency measures to crack down on the poachers and to declare elephants and rhinos National Treasures under protection of the state. In 1989, President Daniel Arap Moi took such extraordinary measures and wildlife poaching was curbed within 6 months. I am certain that this can be achieved again.
Elephants and rhinos declining in Kenya
Though KWS are not making information public, already this year we have lost at least 14 rhinos, more than in the whole of last year. Rhinos have been gunned down in our national parks, often in broad daylight and from sites close to ranger posts. Rhinos have also been lost from heavily fortified private conservancies that were believed impregnable. KWS estimates the population of Kenyan rhinos at more than 1,000 of which just over 50% are in the National Parks. However, independent scientists doubt this figure and question the data – 38 rhinos that have not been seen for more than 3 years are still in the parks are still counted in the total. An independent audit of rhinos is conducted in all conservancies but not parks.
KWS report that fewer than 400 elephants are killed annually across the country. The results of a KWS census last month reveal that the elephant population in the Tsavo Ecosystem alone has fallen by 1,500 over 4 years. The census found 800 elephant carcasses.
Newspaper coverage and conservationists in the field also report that elephant are being shot and killed in Tsavo, Masai Mara, and Amboseli and other parks by poachers armed with automatic weapons. Many others are shot with poison arrows, causing unimaginable pain followed by slow death.
Kenya is the world’s hub for ivory smuggling
The latest Interpol report reveals that Kenya is now No. 1 in the world for ivory smuggling. The port of Mombasa serves as a staging post for ivory from Tanzania and many other countries. More than 13 tons of ivory were seized in Kenya last year and we can only speculate at the quantities that passed through undetected.
A study of trials in Kenya reveal that fewer than 4% of all convicted poachers are ever jailed. Interpol reveal that despite many ivory seizures in Kenya, no dealers have ever been arrested and prosecuted in court. A major rhino horn smugglers caught at JKIA was released. A Chinese ivory dealer was sent back to China. If a Kenyan threatened a Chinese Panda bear, he or she would face life imprisonment.
Current measures are not enough
Despite our best efforts, the new law, the creation of an elite force in KWS, the promises of the Judiciary and DPP, and the commitment stated by the President, our elephants and rhinos are being massacred across the nation.
Tough new laws that mean convicted poachers and traffickers can be given life sentences,have not resulted in a single offender jailed without the option of a fine. In a recent case a Chinese man was arrested in Riverside Drive where he was manufacturing ivory carvings and sending them out of Kenya through Chinese mules who are being sent to Kenya as “tourists”. He was sent back to China without ever going to a Kenyan court. Last week the court acquitted Chinese national, Ou Kai Ming, even though he had been caught red-handed by customs officials at JKIA.
On the ground poachers have a free rein in many places. KWS staff who attempt to do their job are under increasing threat of violence and at least 8 KWS rangers have lost their lives to poachers in recent years. Managers who allow poaching to happen on their watch are simply moved to other locations, instead of being held to account for their dereliction of duty.
Emergency provisions under status as National Disaster
The failure of leadership and resources at KWS is compounded by the failure of the state to recognize that this is not just a wildlife crime. The president can no longer ignore the fact that these criminals belong to international crime rings that pose a major threat to the economy and national security. In 1989 President Moi recognized that the country was facing a national crisis and acted presidentially to stop it.
I am calling on the president of the Republic of Kenya to address the problem because our national security agencies are not working together to combat this threat to national security. I am sure that the Ministry, NIS, CID, KWS all know who the top dealers and financiers of this bloody business are. They number fewer than 50 people, some of whom have been exposed in the media, but not one has been arrested to date.
In responding to the threat of piracy Kenya’s performance was exemplary. This is the kind of coordinated, fully committed response we need to the poaching crisis.
The voice and political will of our president are most critically needed if we are to win this war. The Kenyan public, corporations and our international partners will all respond favorably when decisive action is taken. The president cannot afford to leave a legacy for future generations of Kenyans that does not include elephant and rhinos.
Richard Leakey, 19 March 2014
WildlifeDirect is a Kenyan NGO and US registered 501(c) (3) organization co-founded in 2004 by Kenyan conservationist Dr. Richard Leakey, who is credited with putting an end to the elephant slaughter in Kenya in the 1980s and delivering an international ban on ivory trade. Kenyan Trustees include Irungu Houghton, Ali Mohamed and Philip Murgor. The CEO is Dr. Paula Kahumbu. WildlifeDirect is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. WildlifeDirect is dedicated to “Changing minds, behavior and laws to ensure Africa’s critical species endure forever.”
Hands Off Our Elephants, our flagship campaign comprises a winning combination of expertise including wildlife ecologists, communications specialists, lawyers, politicians, media representatives, strategists, and linguists, making us bold, influential, and successful. This African led initiative is supported by Kenya’s First Lady, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta as patron. The campaign has already mobilized the public in Kenya and driven legal reforms in Kenya and East Africa. WLD partners with civil society, government agencies and is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative on elephants.
Contact [email protected]
THE INCREASING THREAT
Poaching and illegal trade constitute the “most dramatically increasing threat” to the world’s wildlife, particularly for high value or the so-called iconic species like the elephant or rhino, said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner in a recent interview with Xinhua.
“We are seeing at the moment escalation both in terms of scale and also the violence involved in poaching on the African continent that we have not seen in a long time,” he said.
For example, he said, the threat is so real and serious that particular populations of elephants in certain parts of the continent may not longer be able to survive in 10 or 15 years. The number of rhinoceros is also decreasing dramatically due to rampant poaching, with only about a few thousand remaining in certain parts of Africa.
Governments worldwide have recognized that poaching, illegal trade, criminal networks and even the drug trade are intertwined with each other, posing a combined threat to national and global security. People are being killed in the war over wildlife by heavily armed poachers. Markets are in every different parts of the world while a thirst for monetary gains leads to a major erosion of national capacities to protect wildlife.
“This is why we are seeing these dramatic numbers increasing particularly with elephants and rhino poaching,” said the UNEP chief. “That is something that requires not only legislation, not only security interventions, (but) it requires also public awareness.”
“We need people to know that when you buy a piece of ivory that is illegally traded, you are directly contributing to threatening the survival of that species in due course,” he stressed.
THE UNDERLYING ILLS
At the macroeconomic level, the wildlife populations in Africa are earning African economies and nations a lot of money through tourism that allows the creation of infrastructure and millions of jobs, he said.
“But in the system of national accounting, we don’t really value that contribution of that natural capital to the gross domestic product,” said Steiner.”For that reason, there exists underestimation of the economic value of wildlife at the level of national economic and financial accounting.”
At the same time, in Africa in particular, and in other parts of the world as well, poverty is the major mechanism for those who want to make money to essentially buy people who will be going into the dirty work, including poaching, he said.
“Unfortunately we have seen that the market for ivory particularly in rhino horn have exploded in value. The wealth of the new middle classes allows an amount of money to be transacted in this illegal trade,” he said.
Corruption becomes a major corrosive force in it, with officials in countries being bought, as evidenced in cases time and again around the world. But corruption is not unique either to the continent of Africa, Asia or Latin America, he said. “When there is big money involved, there is corruption. Corruption is essentially eroding the laws and systems that are in place.”
But the most important impact the world can have is the public awareness, he said. “If people say to you why are you wearing ivory? Are you sure you know where ivory came from? It becomes no longer a issue of pride and social status, but rather a liability amongst your friends your community.”
“Then I think the illegal trader would struggle to maintain that kind of economy of crime that allows poaching to sustain itself at the moment,” he said.
“In the end, it is you and I who are buying these ivories. If you are not buying, then the middlemen have no business and the poachers have no incentives, and governments can concentrate on conservation investment on protecting habitats and managing wildlife.”
It is the responsibility for “our generation to protect and to maintain the wildlife for future benefit of our nations and our economies,” he said.
THE FOCUS TO COMBAT
Although in theory there could be authorized trade of wildlife products, like the ivory from elephants died of age or even ivory that is confiscated, right now the focus of most African nations is not so much as trade, but how to combat the illegal trade, he said.
“Therefore our intention both at the international level and in terms of national initiatives is to try to understand who are the people behind these trades. What are the networks they are using. How do they use money to corrupt officials obtaining false permits, certifications that are simply manufactured, and therefore are being used to allow these trades to take place, plus the trade that is hidden from public attention, smuggled in packages of other products, entering through harbors and by road into countries,” he said.
To combat the threat in a holistic and more efficient way, the transit countries, market countries and source countries have to work together,” he said. “That is why the instruments of the international system including the UN, Interpol, conventions are instruments that should allow us to be more effectively united against this illegal trade.”
He called for more support for countries in Africa that do not have the financial resources to fight the illegal trade, like monitoring by aircraft or offshore monitoring, x-ray equipment for custom officials to control the thousands of containers that leave this continent everyday and arrive on this continent.
Partnerships between the developed and developing countries should also be established in order to strengthen the capacity for shutting down the illegal trade, he added.
Uganda Radio Network
In a statement issued to the media, Dr. Maria Mutagamba, the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities says the decision by the High Court judge is against the laws in a country that outlaws trade in ivory and other protected species.
Uganda Wildlife Authority and Uganda Revenue Authority have lodged an appeal against the Nakawa High Court ruling ordering the tax body to release 2.9 tones of impounded ivory to Emile Kasumba Ogane. On October 17th, 2013, URA impounded a container with 832 pieces Ivory at Ken freight Inland Container Depot-ICD in Bweyogerere. The consignment was taken to URA customs stores for safe custody pending investigations of the matter and possible reprimand of the culprits.
Police was also notified for purposes of investigation to find the source of the ivory and have the people involved arrested and prosecuted. Preliminary investigations led by police Owino Odhiambo, Kenya national and a Congolese national Emille Kayumba Ogane. The Kampala Chief Magistrates court at Kampala issued arrest warrants for the said suspects and the police and other security agencies are still searching for the whereabouts of the suspects for purposes of effecting arrest.
UWA accused the suspects of acquiring or having possession of prohibited goods contrary to Section 200(d)(i) of the East African Community Customs Management Act 2004, and Being in illegal possession of wildlife protected species without permission contrary to the provisions of the Uganda wildlife Act. However, through Geoffrey Nagumya and Company Advocates, Ogane filed an application in court demanding the release of his ivory consignment arguing that he had a license to trade in the contraband goods from DR Congo government.
He also argued that the impounded Ivory was in transit to Mombasa and therefore could not be affected by the East African Customs Regulations and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. In his ruling on Monday, Justice Wilson Masalu Musene concurred with the applicant and ordered for the unconditional release of the 832 pieces of ivory. However, the ruling didn’t go down well with Uganda Wildlife Authority and Uganda Revenue Authority who said they could not allow the decision to go unchallenged.
In a statement issued to the media, Dr. Maria Mutagamba, the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities says the decision by the High Court judge is against the laws in a country that outlaws trade in ivory and other protected species. She says the decision also goes against the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. She says a team of lawyers from both UWA and URA have already launched an appeal. Mutagamba says their lawyers have also applied for an injunction to stay the execution of the court order.
Below is the full statement;
MINISTRY OF TOURISM, WILDLIFE AND ANTIQUITIES
PRESS STATEMENT ON THE RULING OF JUSTICE WILSON MASALU MUSENE IN MISCELLANEOUS CAUSE NO.49 OF 2013 KAYUMBA EMILE OGANE VS UGANDA REVENUE AUTHORITY OVER IVORY TRAFFICKING
We have received with shock; the ruling of Justice Wilson Masalu Musene that Uganda Revenue Authority should hand over confiscated ivory to their owners (criminal suspects who are on the run and have arrest warrants issued against them). The sector is in great shock over the ruling.
This case was filed by one Kayumba Emile Ogane against URA seeking orders for release of 832 pieces of Ivory confiscated by URA, that the Uganda Police, Uganda wildlife Authority and all other authorities in Uganda give effect to the release order.
Background to this case
On 17th October 2013, we received information from URA that a container with 832 Ivory had been discovered at Ken freight Inland Container Deposit (ICD) Bweyogerere. We immediately sent a team of law enforcement officers and wildlife experts from Uganda Wildlife Authority in company of police, who confirmed that the items were indeed ivory. The consignment was then taken to URA customs stores for safe custody pending the investigations of the matter and possible reprimand of the culprits.
The matter was accordingly reported to police for purposes of investigation to find the source of the ivory and to have the people involved arrested and prosecuted. The suspects identified by the preliminary findings were Owino Odhiambo (Kenyan national) and Kayumba Emille Ogane (Congolese national) who are still at large. The Chief Magistrates court at Kampala issued arrest warrants for the said suspects and the police and other security agencies are still searching for the whereabouts of these suspects for purposes of effecting arrest.
Offences committed by the suspects
Acquiring or having possession of prohibited goods contrary to Section 200(d)(i) of the East African Community Customs Management Act 2004,
Being in illegal possession of wildlife protected species without permission contrary to the provisions of the Uganda wildlife Act.
Status of the Criminal case
The investigations were completed, the file was sanctioned for prosecution, an agent of Kayumba Ogane, one Ocaya David was arraigned before court for prosecution as an accomplice to the commission of these offences under this matter, but was released on bail.
The main suspects Owino Odhiambo (Kenyan national) and Kayumba Emille Ogane (Congolese national) are still at large and the police and other security agencies are looking for them including Interpol and LATF.
At national level, Uganda as sovereign State, prohibited any dealing in wildlife species and specimens without permission and specifically prohibits possession, trade, import, export, re-export and re-import of wildlife products and species including ivory.
Elephants are listed among the highly endangered wildlife species under the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to which Uganda is party and bound by the resolutions. Any unauthorized trade in ivory and other related products is prohibited.
High Court Miscellaneous Cause No.49 of 2013 Kayumba Emile Ogane Vs Uganda Revenue Authority
As a ploy to defeat the efforts of the various agencies in investigating the illegal possession and purported transportation of illegal ivory, and to frustrate the prosecution of the offenders in the above case, the suspects through their lawyers decided to file the above suit seeking for unconditional release of the said ivory.
Hon. Justice Wilson Masalu Musene unfortunately agreed with the applicant that the ivory was unlawfully confiscated and ordered that the same be immediately released.
It is however very unfortunate and dismaying that such a ruling would be given with total disregard to the requirements of the law before such consignments can be allowed to transit which were never complied with.
It is also important to note that any import, export or re-export of wildlife species require clearance by the relevant countries Management and Scientific authority CITES which is the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities and Uganda Wildlife Authority respectively but which was never complied with. It is a legal requirement that any import, export or re-export of any wildlife species and or specimens through Uganda requires clearance by both Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities which I represent.
The suspect concealed the said goods and never declared to URA at customs points and only disguised the same as coffee meant for export. If the ruling of the honorable Justice is implemented, it will contravene the law and will cause absurdity to conservation as it will be setting terrible precedent by giving poachers and illegal wildlife traders a blanket protection.
We are very dismayed by the said Judgment and the likely implications it has for Uganda as a contracting Party to CITES Convention. But most importantly, the damage this has on tourism development and wildlife conservation in Uganda.
A team of lawyers of Uganda Wildlife Authority and Uganda Revenue Authority have already filed a notice of Appeal to challenge the Judgment
Application for an interim order to stay execution of the judgment and filing of the appeal will also be immediately done.
We shall decisively pursue the criminal prosecution of suspects (Owners of the confiscated ivory) until they are brought to book. Security Agencies continue to pursue these suspects who are at large.
I want to call upon all the organs of the State to proactively support Government effort to stamp out illegal wildlife trade and trade and trafficking in order to conserve our heritage and its associated tourism development which is a vehicle for social transformation of our economy.
For God and My Country
Hon. Dr. Maria Mutagamba
SHARON VAN WYK, Daily Maverick
In China the penalty for poaching an elephant is death. In Africa, it is considerably less. The irony in this is that the global trade in illegal ivory is driven, for the most part, by China, some of whose citizens are helping to lay waste to Africa’s elephants, largely without fear of retribution. By SHARON VAN WYK.
Earlier this year a Chinese smuggler, apprehended in Kenya whilst in transit from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Hong Kong, was fined a mere US$350 for the haul of 439 pieces of ivory found in his possession before being released. That’s less than US$1 apiece.
This one incident illustrates perhaps the biggest challenge facing those battling to save Africa’s elephant population from almost certain extinction at the hands of ivory poachers – outdated, and in some cases woefully inadequate legislation and penalties which, rather than acting as a deterrent, actually encourage poaching.
Add to the mix corruption and political malfeasance at virtually every level of government, and the word extinction looms larger than ever, unless swift action is taken by African countries to improve the laws supposedly protecting their wildlife. Justice is most certainly not on the side of elephants.
In Kenya the current wildlife act caps punishment for the most serious wildlife crimes at a maximum fine of 40,000 Kenyan shillings (around US$470), and a possible jail term of up to 10 years. With a black market price of as much as US$7,000 per kilogram, it is infinitely affordable to get caught with your fingers in the ivory jar. Which is what happened to four Chinese citizens who were apprehended attempting to smuggle thousands of dollars’ worth of ivory out of Kenya. Their punishment? Each was allowed to pay a US$340 fine and then go free.
Kenya is far from alone. In neighbouring Uganda, poachers are punished on the same level as petty criminals with small fines or suspended sentences. In Gabon a woeful maximum one-year sentence or approximately US$40,000 awaits convicted poachers, including repeat offenders, while wildlife traffickers in the Republic of Congo face up to five years in jail and risk having their sentence doubled if they are found to be repeat offenders.
Court punishment for a convicted elephant poacher in Tanzania can be as little as US$13. Tanzanian officials have said that in 670 cases tried between March 2012 and March this year, fines totalling US$109,377 were incurred. That’s an average of just under US$164 per case.
The recent cyanide poisoning of waterholes in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park by ivory poachers, which claimed the lives of more than 90 elephants, was met with surprisingly swift retribution by the country’s wildlife authorities, with three poachers each sentenced to 16 years behind bars and a collective massive fine of US$800,000.
However, recent reports from the Zimbabwe press suggest that the reason for this unusually harsh (for Zimbabwe) punishment is to deflect attention away from possible high-ranking government involvement in the killing.
The question, then, is whether it is possible to get it right in the fight against the ivory trade. In this respect African states can take their lead from Botswana, where effective anti-poaching is supported by strong leadership and political will from President Ian Khama and an effective judiciary, backed by tough wildlife legislation and strong involvement of the military. Indeed, the Botswana Defense Force is deployed to protect not just elephants, but all of the country’s wildlife.
Elephant range states are being urged to give similar unequivocal commitment to the implementation of necessary legislation, law enforcement and deterrent penalties needed to stem elephant poaching and the related illegal trade and trafficking in ivory at the forthcoming International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Government of Botswana Emergency African Elephant Summit which is being held in Botswana’s capital of Gaborone from December 2-4 this year.
The Summit is being hosted by President Khama and will bring together heads of state and representatives from both African elephant range states and key ivory trade transit and destination countries. DM
Sharon van Wyk is an award-winning conservation writer and wildlife documentary maker and works with the Conservation Action Trust – www.conservationaction.co.za
UN Security Council condemns devastation of natural heritage and notes that poaching and trafficking of wildlife are a factor that fuels the crisis in the Central African Republic
UN Security Council condemns devastation of natural heritage and notes that poaching and trafficking of wildlife are a factor that fuels the crisis in the Central African Republic
Geneva, 11 October 2013 – The United Nations Security Council has condemned the devastation of natural heritage in the Central African Republic and noted that poaching and trafficking of wildlife were among the factors that fuel the crisis in that country in its Resolution 2121 (2013). With this Resolution, adopted at its 7042nd meeting on 10 October 2013, the UN Security Council has also reinforced and updated the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in that country, and called for a political resolution to the conflict.
In May 2013 CITES Secretary-General John E. Scanlon expressed grave concerns over the deteriorating situation in the Central African Republic, after forest elephants were massacred in a World Heritage Site in the south-western corner of the country bordering Cameroon and the Congo.
Kenya Airways backs Anti-poaching Campaign
NAIROBI JULY 24, 2013 – Kenya Airways has joined the ‘Hands Off Our Elephants’ campaign that aims at ending elephants poaching and ivory trafficking through Kenya, as well as eliminating demand for the commodity around the world.
The campaign, which is spearheaded by Kenya’s First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta, has been put together by WildlifeDirect, a wildlife conservation charity, to create awareness, engagement and mobilization on the issue within Kenya, across Africa and around the world
Kenya Airways’ Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Titus Naikuni, said that conservation of elephants and other wildlife, is the responsibility of all Kenyan individuals, companies and government agencies.
“Elephants are part of our environment; therefore poaching them harms our country and national heritage. Mother Nature is very unforgiving when we change the balance in the environment. This is the reason we decided to get involved. As Kenya Airways, we do not condone poaching or delivery of poached ivory on our flights, and this message has been passed to our staff and passengers. Any of our staff found involved or abetting poaching will face the consequences,” Dr Naikuni added during a press briefing held in Nairobi.
Speaking during the briefing, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Judi Wakhungu, said that the government is stepping up anti-poaching efforts by deploying modern technology and modernization of the Kenya Wildlife Service; in addition to establishing a Canine Unit to detect movements of illegal ivory at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi and Moi International Airports in Mombasa.
“The government has also directed that all poaching cases be prosecuted as economic crimes, and revised penalties to higher fines of over Ksh1 million and sentences of over 5 years. Once the new Wildlife Bill is enacted, these penalties and sentences will be enhanced to make them punitive and discourage poaching and ivory traffickers,” Prof Wakhungu added.
The director general of the Vision 2030 delivery board, Mugo Kibati, said that elephants are a major factor in the success of the tourism industry, which is one of the major sectors in the economic pillar of Kenya’s Vision 2030.
“In our Medium Term Plan, we have set out to grow tourist numbers from the current 2 million to 3 million by the year 2017. However, this will not happen if our elephants disappear,” Mr Kibati told the press briefing.
In recent days, there has been a surge in cases of poaching, posing a threat to elephants. According to statistics from the Kenya Wildlife Service, elephant poaching has grown consistently over the last three during which 829 elephants were killed. Last year, Kenya lost 384 elephants to poachers compared to 278 in 2011 and 177 in 2010.
In addition to this, the country has been identified as one of the leading transit routes for smuggling ivory out of Africa, with several incidents of ivory seizures and recovery of wildlife carcasses in recent days. KWS estimates that more than eight tonnes of raw and worked ivory have been seized since 2009.
The demand for ivory in the Far East, particularly China, has attracted criminal cartels to Kenya, who are feeding the insatiable demand. Conservationists warn that unless the demand is extinguished, poachers will wipe out Africa’s elephants.
The CEO of Wildlife Direct, Dr Paula Kahumbu, lauded the government for welcoming the initiative which brings Kenyans together to save the country’s heritage.
“Kenya traditionally has been at the frontline in combating elephant poaching but we have lost that ground in recent years. It is essential that we work together and restore our leadership position in the world to ensuring that we protect our endangered species, and a global heritage. While we crack down on wildlife crime in Kenya, we also need the help of governments of Africa, Thailand, China and US whom we are asking to ban the domestic markets of ivory as legal markets are a cover for laundering illegal ivory. We will also appeal to the hearts of anyone buying ivory in these countries as they are contributing to the slaughter of African elephants,” Dr Kahumbu added.
In February, Kenya Airways signed a deal with Born Free Foundation, an international charity, to contribute towards anti-poaching campaigns and conservation of wildlife conservation in Africa, and partner to raise funds for such initiatives.
WildlifeDirect Wins ‘Innovation in Conservation’ Award
Nairobi, 02 December 2009 – Mongabay.com 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 mongabay.com 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.
Mongabay.com, 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. Mongabay.com 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 Mongabay.com 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:
For general inquiries contact:
Samuel Maina [email protected]
Kenya’s Prime Minister Urged to Help Ban Carbofuran
Nairobi, 06 November 2009 – On Friday, 30 October 2009, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would implement the agency’s May 2009 final rule revoking all tolerances, or residue limits, for the pesticide carbofuran. From 31 December 2009, therefore, any use of carbofuran in USA becomes a crime punishable with fines and jail sentences. Kenyan conservationists now want their government to follow suit and impose a total ban on carbofuran in the country.
Conservationists, led by the Nairobi-based NGO, WildlifeDirect, want the support of their Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, who on Monday, 2 November 2009, adopted a lion under the Kenya Wildlife Service’s (KWS) Wildlife Endowment Fund. It is a rare conservation gesture coming from one so high in Kenya’s political pyramid.
WildlifeDirect and its partners have been calling for a total ban on carbofuran in Kenya for about two years and they now see hope in the Prime Minister’s small but important gesture of adopting a lion – a species imperiled by this lethal poison. “Mr Odinga should now lead parliament in realizing the ban on this number one lion-killer.” says Dr Paula Kahumbu, Executive Director of WildlifeDirect.
Carbofuran, known in Kenya by its brand name- Furadan, which is manufactured by the FMC Corporation of Philadelphia, USA and is solely distributed in Kenya (and the rest of East Africa) by Juanco Limited – is known to have killed at least 76 lions in 5 years. Carbofuran is also responsible for the deaths of more than 300 vultures, and truckloads of other birds and animals according to scientists and the KWS.
Reports of human death due to carbofuran poisoning have emerged. WildlifeDirect spoke on phone with the heartbroken father of a child who died of Furadan poisoning. The report of this death first appeared on Kenya’s The Standard newspaper on Friday, 30 October 2009 saying that on Monday, 26 October 2009, the child had mistakenly ingested Furadan and died.
The child’s father informed WildlifeDirect that the child died on arrival at the Cherangani Nursing Home in Trans Nzoia East District in western Kenya. The father had bought the pesticide four months ago for use in killing insects in the soil when preparing his vegetable nursery. He says that he was not aware how dangerous the product is and was not informed by the retailer about the first aid approach in case of pesticide ingestion. He gave his child milk and crushed eggs – a method of dealing with poisoning widely used in Africa – instead of water as the label says.
This confirms that this poison is critically dangerous for Africans even those with sufficient levels of education like the bereaved man who is a teacher at a local primary school. The lack of the clear and utterly off-putting universal symbol of death – the skull and crossbones – dupes end users of the pesticide into thinking that its poisoning effects are mild.
The damage that carbofuran has caused to wildlife, the environment and humans is not unique to Kenya. Of the EPA’s 3 year determination, Steve Owens, the assistant administrator for EPA’s Office said that “The evidence is clear that carbofuran does not meet today’s rigorous food-safety standards.”
“If the pesticide is not safe for use in the US or Europe, where pesticide users are more informed, why would we think that the pesticide is safe for use in Africa?” asks Dr Richard Leakey, Chairman of WildlifeDirect.
This pesticide was developed for largely literate and highly regulated developed countries. In Africa, where most farmers are uneducated and where the regulatory bodies are under-resourced, users are exposed to greater danger. The product is often repackaged in small, affordable but unmarked packets that have no user instructions. “It is immoral to sell a pesticide as dangerous as carbofuran in Africa” Dr Leakey adds.
It gets worse for Kenya which is a large exporter of coffee to the US. Dr Michael Fry of the American Bird Conservancy says, “The revocation of all food tolerances has international implications, as imports of rice, coffee, bananas and sugarcane were previously allowed to contain residues of carbofuran.” He adds, “After this revocation, countries wishing to export these foods to the US must stop using carbofuran on these four major crops.”
Dr Leakey, who has been central to the call to ban this lethal poison, urges Mr Odinga to act now to stop this carnage. “The Prime Minister did well to adopt that young lion cub, but now is the time for him to lead in a much more significant action to save lions – declare them an endangered species in Kenya and enforce a total ban on carbofurans” he says.
This, according to WildlifeDirect, must be coupled with proper management of lions, compensation for depredation of livestock, incentives and rewards for communities and land owners to protect lions, plus effective enforcement by the wildlife authorities. These actions could bring the lion back from the brink of national extinction and restore the pride to Kenya’s national symbol.