Tag Archives: africa

Tracking Technology Deployed to Help Keep Giant Tusker from Crops

Nairobi September  16, 2016: One of Kenya’s largest tuskers has been fitted with a GPS tracking collar to allow Kenya Wildlife Service and their non-governmental partners to prevent him from raiding the farms surrounding Amboseli National Park.

Known as Tim, the iconic bull elephant has gained international fame on account of his tusks, but local notoriety because of his habit of entering farms in the Kimana area to feed to crops. The tracking collar gives rangers on the ground the ability to track the tusker’s movements and deploy into farmland areas when he approaches and chase him from the area using a variety of deterrents.

“We are committed to exploring effective methods to keep our communities safe while securing all of our elephants,” said Kitili Mbathi, Director General of KWS, who took part in the operation.

The 47 year-old bull has been monitored by the Amboseli Trust for Elephants since he was born in December 1969 to a cow named Trista. His grandmother was the matriarch Teresia, leader of Amboseli’s TD family. After the operation to fit his tracking collar, Tim began walking towards the Trust’s research centre, and spent a morning resting there.

“It will be wonderful to see his life in even finer detail now that his every move is being followed,” said Cynthia Moss, Founder of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants.

The tracking system developed and donated by Save the Elephants will allow rangers from KWS and Big Life to monitor his movements using mobile devices and a VHF tracking antenna. When Tim crosses a virtual line near farmland, an alert will also be sent to warn them to prepare for his arrival. The high-tech GPS tracking collar was made by Kenyan firm Savannah Tracking.
Nairobi, September 16th, 2016:

“Tim’s new collar should give rangers a crucial advantage in preventing conflict between farmers and this iconic elephant, while also helping us to understand how to plan landscapes to keep our two species apart,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants.

KWS and Big Life rangers will be on call 24 hours a day to respond. “Despite being injured twice while raiding farms, Tim seems unable to resist the temptation of ripe tomatoes. Now with a collar that shows us his location at any time, our problem animal control teams will be able to be one step of ahead of him and keep him away from farms. Another great example of technology enabling conservation,” said Big Life Director Richard Bonham.

WildlifeDirect raised the funds that will to support the KWS and Big Life Foundation ground teams.

“To collar a majestic wild animal so that he can live out his life in peace and safety is an unnatural act. To build fences where farms have been allowed to encroach on historic migration paths in order to protect the lives of both settlers and animals – those, too, are unnatural acts. But if that’s what it takes to protect our wildlife, I support and encourage all of it,” said WildlifeDirect’s Board Director Scott Asen.

About KWS – www.kws.org About Big Life – www.biglife.org

About WildlifeDirect – www.wildlifedirect.org

About Amboseli Trust for Elephants – www.elephanttrust.org

About Save the Elephants – www.savetheelephants.org

Download Press Release here

For More Information Contact:

Paul Gathitu – KWS Spokesperson +254 723 333 313

Frank Pope – Save the Elephants COO +254 725 777 552


Nairobi, 09 August 2016: This week, WildlifeDirect is celebrating World Lion Day and World Elephant Day by taking 100 children to Samburu National Reserve for a 3 day camping expedition from 12th -14th August 2016. The expedition brings participating children aged 9 – 14 drawn from 10 schools in Nairobi Urban slums, Laikipia, and Samburu.

World Lion Day is marked on 10th August and World Elephant Day on August 12, 2016 to raise awareness about the plight facing elephants and lions and also to encourage people around the world to work together to support the conservation of these magnificent creatures.

To celebrate these days this year, WildlifeDirect has partnered with the Perfect World Foundation, the Embassy of the United States of America to Kenya, the Kenya Wildlife Service, Save the Elephants, Ewaso Lions Project, Samburu Reserve and Mpala Research Center.

These field trips are much more than a day out for the children, they are an opportunity for discovery, learning and fun. Children will work with scientists to study the elephants and lions, record data and engage Samburu elders in conversations about the culture and heritage. Kenya’s famous Richard Turere the inventor of Lion Lights, a device used to deter lions from livestock will be amongst the children attending the day. WildlifeDirect is conducting this camping tour with children following recommendations from young Kenyans a year ago that children want to visit parks and undertake meaningful activities to help conserve the national heritage.

WildlifeDirect is a Kenya and US registered charitable organization founded by Richard Leakey and chaired in Kenya by Senior Advocate and former Director of Public Prosecutions, Philip Murgor. WildlifeDirect campaigns for justice for wildlife to ensure Africa’s magnificent wildlife endures forever.

Follow our expedition via twitter and the hashtag #WatotoPorini.

To document the three day event starting from Friday to Sunday, please contact: Patricia Sewe, Communications Manager
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: +254 (0)705-515709

Notorious Kenyan Ivory Trafficker Jailed for 20 Years and Fined USD 200,000

Nairobi, 22 July 2016: Today a Mombasa Law Court pronounced judgement in a landmark ruling of Feisal Mohamed Ali and five others.

Feisal Mohamed Ali was found guilty of illegal possession of ivory under Section 95 of the Wildlife Act (2013). He has been sentenced to 20 years in jail and fined 20 million shillings (USD 200,000) – the minimum was 1 million (USD 10,000) and a jail sentence of 20 years (the minimum was 5 years).

The other 5 co-accused were acquitted. Prosecution shall be appealing against the ruling on acquittal of the 5 accused while the defense team of the 6th accused will appeal the conviction and sentence.

The outcome of this case shows Kenya’s seriousness in handling wildlife crime. This is the biggest ivory trafficking case in Kenya’s history and the outcome is being monitored keenly by conservationists and the legal fraternity.
As she handed down her landmark sentence, Judge Hon. Diana Mochache said that poaching is a menace in Kenya. She stated that Kenyans never understood why poaching happens, and declared that one must not wear ivory ornaments. She warned of grave consequences if something is not done drastically to stop the poaching and that children would only know elephants from what they read. She reminded the court that in Kenya, we don’t have many elephants, and that elephants are the source of pride and heritage in Kenya. She noted that elephants are so adored that companies like Nakumatt use the elephant in their branding. But more than150 elephants were killed to supply the ivory involved in this case and she stated that this was why the court must put away the people who commit these crimes.

The trial had been challenged from the start, and has been heard by three different magistrates. Another inquiry connected to this case is ongoing with regards to the tampering of evidence.
Feisal and 5 co-accused were arrested in association with a seizure of 2.1 tons of ivory (314 pieces) on 5th of June 2014. They were charged with illegal possession of ivory under Section 95 of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (2013).
“This is an excellent result for the people of Kenya and for elephants. It shows that with the necessary support from KWS, ODPP and the judiciary, a just and powerful result can be delivered. It would have been a better outcome if he was sentenced life imprisonment considering the magnitude of the crime and its implications for wildlife,” said former Director of Public Prosecutions, Philip Murgor.

It is the first time that Kenya has prosecuted a large ivory seizure to conclusion and it sends a very strong message to poachers and traffickers that Kenya will not tolerate them.
WildlifeDirect congratulates the ODPP team whose prosecution was challenged by seven defense lawyers. The case has taken 2 years, and famously involved the arrest of Feisal Mohamed Ali in Tanzania following an Interpol red notice after he escaped Kenya when initially charged. He remained a fugitive for 7 months and was arrested on Christmas Eve in 2014. Feisal is the only accused person in this trial who was held in custody throughout the period despite several attempts to obtain bail.
WildlifeDirect has been watching brief on behalf of civil society, communities that derive their livelihoods from wildlife in Kenya.


WildlifeDirect is a Kenya and US registered charitable organization founded by Richard Leakey and chaired in Kenya by Senior Advocate and former Director of Public Prosecutions, Philip Murgor. WildlifeDirect campaigns for justice for wildlife to ensure Africa’s magnificent wildlife endures forever.

Press contact: Patricia Sewe, Communications Manager, WildlifeDirect
Email: [email protected]

African Nations Call On the World to Help Them Save African Elephants

Montreux, 29 June 2016: The African Elephant Coalition (AEC), comprising 29 African countries, are calling on the world to join them in saving elephants. The Montreux Manifesto, agreed at a meeting of the Coalition in Montreux, Switzerland from 24 to 26 June, launches a social media campaign – #WorthMoreAlive, #EndIvoryTrade, #Vote4Elephants” – to gain support for their five-part package to put an end to the ivory trade and afford elephants the highest protection under international law.

The AEC’s package, consisting of five proposals to the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in September-October in Johannesburg, South Africa, is designed to reverse the poaching crisis facing elephants. Taken together, the proposals would ban the international trade in ivory by listing all elephants in CITES Appendix I, close domestic ivory markets around the world, encourage better management of ivory stockpiles and where possible their destruction, end further debate in CITES on a mechanism to legalize ivory trade, and limit exports of live African elephants to conservation projects in their natural habitat.

“The Montreux Manifesto shows that our message is clear.”, says Bourama Niagaté from Mali, a member of the Council of the Elders for the Coalition, “we need to all pull together for the sake of Africa’s elephants.”

The Coalition expressed its deep concern about the crisis facing elephants and its conviction that a ban on international and domestic trade in ivory is the best way to protect elephants.

“CITES saved African elephants from certain extinction 27 years ago by listing them on Appendix I,” says Vera Weber, president of the Swiss-based Fondation Franz Weber, a partner organization of the AEC, which facilitated the meeting. “Since then the protection of elephants has been weakened, and poaching has escalated. The AEC has charted a path to relist elephants on Appendix I and ban the ivory trade once and for all.”

The Manifesto appeals to governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations for their support, and calls on citizens around the world to ask their respective governments and CITES representatives to support the five proposals and to help the Coalition in its mission to list all elephants in Appendix I.


The five proposals submitted by the AEC to CITES are:

1. Listing all elephants in CITES Appendix I
The proposal seeks to unify all African elephant populations and their range States in one Appendix I listing, ending split-listing through the transfer from Appendix II of the populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The African elephant as a species is not constrained within State borders, nor indeed are national populations. Many are shared with more than one country, arguing for a unified approach to their regulation under CITES. This action seeks to gain the maximum protection for elephants by simplifying and improving enforcement and sending a clear message to the world that ivory cannot be legally traded under international law.

2. Closure of domestic ivory markets
This proposal calls for closure of all domestic markets for commercial trade in raw and worked ivory. Closing all internal markets in range, transit and end-user consumer States would drastically reduce opportunities for the laundering of poached ivory, under the guise that it is antique, “pre-Convention” or otherwise legally acquired. It would also reinforce the message that all ivory sales should be stopped, as they are dangerous for elephants.

3. Ivory stockpile destruction and management
This proposal builds on two earlier papers submitted to the CITES Standing Committee in 2014 and 2016, which led to recognition by the Committee of the destructions of ivory stockpiles by governments since 2011, and a recommendation to develop guidance on stockpile management. It endorses ivory destruction, encourages the highest possible standards of stockpile management, and requests the CITES Secretariat to provide the best available technical guidance on stockpile inventories, audit, management and disposal, including DNA sampling to determine the origin of items in the stockpile.

4. The Decision-Making Mechanism for a process of trade in ivory (DMM)
The proposal recommends that the CoP should end negotiations on the DMM. In view of the concerted global efforts to reduce demand for ivory, the existence of negotiations on a DMM process to legalize trade sends precisely the wrong message – that a legal and sustainable ivory trade is possible, and could reopen in the not-too-distant future. The DMM not only poses unacceptable risks for elephants, but has also generated valid objections among Parties, as shown by the fact that CITES has been unable to make any progress in negotiations after 9 years.

5. Restricting trade in live elephants
The proposal aims to end the export of African elephants outside their natural range, including export to zoos and other captive facilities overseas. Such exports provide no direct benefit to conservation of elephants in their range States (as noted by the IUCN-SSC African Elephant Specialist Group), and there are considerable objections within Africa on ethical and cultural grounds. African elephants, along with their ivory, should remain in Africa.

· The African Elephant Coalition was established in 2008 in Bamako, Mali. It comprises 29 member countries from Africa united by a common goal: “a viable and healthy elephant population free of threats from international ivory trade.” The meeting in Montreux from 24-26 June will be the seventh meeting of the Coalition since it was founded.

· The 29 member countries of the African Elephant Coalition include: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Togo and Uganda. Of the 29 countries represented in the Coalition, 25 of them are African elephant range States, comprising the majority (68%) of the 37 countries in which African elephants occur in the wild.

· Fondation Franz Weber (FFW), based in Switzerland, actively fights to preserve wildlife and nature in Africa and works worldwide to protect animals as individuals through the recognition of their rights and the abolition of inhumane practices.

· The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was established in 1973, entered into force in 1975, and accords varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants. Currently 182 countries are Parties to the Convention. The 17th Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) will be held in Johannesburg from 24 September to 5 October 2016. The Conference meets every three years.


· Vera Weber, Fondation Franz Weber: +41 (0)79 210 54 04 / [email protected]
· Don Lehr, Media Relations Consultant: +1 917 304 4058 / [email protected]
· Patricia Awori, AEC Secretariat : +254 722 510 848 / [email protected]


The ivory trade kills people too

Aaron Hall and Andrea Crosta, Al Jazeera
January 24, 2015
If you buy ivory, you kill people.
This is the new reality in an illicit trade responsible for large-scale human exploitation, government corruption, and the funding of rebel movements, terrorists, and criminal syndicates around the world. The imagery and narrative of the global ivory trade is now well known – replete with rotting elephant carcasses littering African national parks, well-tailored ministers and heads of state burning ivory stocks for the camera, and law enforcement officials smiling in front of ship containers of seized ivory.
While, there is no doubt of the many faces of the global ivory trade, there is one element that is too often overlooked – that of the human toll.
The human toll of the ivory trade is the negative impact on the individuals and communities exploited along the chain of custody from Africa, to Asia, and points beyond. It is not just about elephants.
This trade is historically and inexorably linked to the exploitation and enslavement of vulnerable communities in Africa and Asia. It includes governments and countries sucked deeper into the morass of corruption, mismanagement, and taxpayer abuse wrought from public officials supporting criminal interests.
Far reaching implications
It includes the lives affected by the introduction of other illegal activities that overlap with the groups and individuals engaged in the ivory trade – including the trafficking of weapons, drugs and humans.
Like diamonds, gold, coltan or timber; ivory is taking its own place as a conflict resource in sub-Saharan Africa.
International criminal syndicates, corrupt government officials, and some of the world’s most notorious terrorists and militias are fuelling the global trade in illegal ivory.
In 2012, an 18-month investigation conducted by the Elephant Action League (EAL) in collaboration with Maisha Consulting, estimated that the Somalia based al-Shabab organisation was drawing up to 40 percent of funds for salaries from ivory smuggling.
Other groups like the Seleka rebels in the Central African Republic, the Janjaweed in Sudan and the Lords Resistance Army in central Africa have all been tied to ivory smuggling as a means to raise funding for arms and operations. Further, elements of several regional governments in Africa and Asia have been implicated in facilitating the extraction, trade, and export of ivory for personal profit.
The underground ivory supply chain increasingly destabilises already unstable states, and the growth and sophistication of global smuggling networks is outpacing international efforts to stop them. At the same time, the rate of poaching is outpacing the time needed to attempt the behavioural change – in the primarily Asian consumption markets – necessary to stop the demand for it.
What that means, is that in conjunction with new innovative awareness campaigns in Asia, more action is needed on the ground in Africa to prevent the negative social, political, and economic impacts that are derivative of the ivory trade.
Militarising ivory trade
In part, that immediate action must include governments and citizens from western, African, and Asian states facing the responsibilities of addressing the human death and exploitation it perpetuates.
Given the increased complexity and militarisation of the trade, new innovative approaches will be required to reduce it.
In conjunction with new innovative awareness campaigns in Asia, more action is needed on the ground in Africa to prevent the negative social, political, and economic impacts that are derivative of the ivory trade.
This will demand mitigation strategies that occupy a unique space at the nexus of the fields of environmental conservation, public policy, peace and security, counterterrorism, and human rights.
While certainly challenging, addressing the trade through the lens of the human toll potentially presents opportunities for the creation of new tools to pressure necessary policymakers and citizens to take additional action.
For instance, building the law enforcement and witness protection capacity of affected states around the world. Crowdsourcing information through anonymous whistle-blowing mechanisms like WildLeaks.org has proven incredibly effective, however, there is a gap in the ability of states to protect the individuals providing critical information and act on tip-offs.
Informants must know they can be protected and local and international law enforcement must be able to act immediately.
The environment of impunity for corrupt state and private sector individuals involved in the trade is also a fundamental barrier to mitigation. Exploring tough sanctions on individuals and states involved in the trade could make the business of ivory more costly for those involved.
It was the spike in the value of ivory over the past five years that exacerbated this problem. It will be correlated losses from the cost of doing business that will stop it.
In addition to punitive measures, creating public awareness campaigns specifically on the human toll in countries like China and Thailand could go a long way in stemming demand. Showing both governments and consumers in these states that behind every ivory trinket made and sold is a trail of human suffering and exploitation in Africa – something most citizens of those countries are unaware of.
Addressing the trade through the human angle requires a multi-faceted approach incorporating all aspects of those impacted. In conjunction with African and Asian partners it affects our collective security, economic development and partnership, and obligation to the protection of human rights and shared history.
So while wildlife and wildlife conservation is the traditional medium to approach the issue of poaching and trafficking, it is becoming imperative to develop strategies and campaigns that also put a human face on the destruction and exploitation globally.
Andrea Crosta is the founder of Elephant Action League and WildLeaks.
Aaron Hall is an East Africa-based independent consultant and adviser to Elephant Action League/WildLeaks.

Asia’s World City: epicentre of the ivory trade

Conservationist Richard Bonham has been combating the ivory trade in Kenya for 40 years. Now the ‘white Maasai’ is shining a light on Hong Kong’s dirty little secret, writes John Vidal

Most tourists who walk into Hong Kong’s many licensed ivory stores and carving factories browse the displays of statues, pendants and jewellery and accept the official assurances that it all comes from sustainable sources.

But not the reserved middle-aged man who last month went into a shop in Queen’s Road Central. What started with a few polite questions about the provenance of the objects on show turned swiftly to confrontation. Within minutes he was furious and the owner had threatened to call the police.

Having spent nearly 40 years trying to protect elephants and other African wildlife from poachers, Richard Bonham says he was shocked to see, for the first time, the Hong Kong stores where most of the world’s ivory ends up. The statistics, he says, show that Africa’s elephant population has crashed from 1.3 million in 1979 to about 400,000 today. In the past three years alone, about 100,000 elephants have been killed by poachers and more are now being shot than are being born. Rhinos are on the edge, too.

For a Hong Kong shopkeeper, each trinket is something to profit from. But for Bonham, they tell a story of cruelty, desperation and exploitation.

“I wanted to see for myself. Yes, I was angry. There’s no other word for it. I saw the shops with huge stocks that, despite the import ban, are not dwindling. Yet the [Hong Kong] government has chosen not to recognise or address the lack of legitimacy of their trade.

“The experience of seeing the end destination of ivory was important to me. It completed the circle from seeing elephant herds stampeding in terror at the scent of man, from seeing the blood-soaked soil around lifeless carcasses to whimsical trinkets in glass display cases.”

Bonham is a co-founder of the Big Life Foundation, which, with help from conservation organisations such as Tusk, now employs more than 300 community scouts to protect the wildlife on 800,000 hectares of wilderness in the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem, in southern Kenya, at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro.

In London last week to receive the Prince William Lifetime Achievement Award for conservation, he produced a Hong Kong government document that showed how the former British colony holds more than 100 tonnes of ivory despite a 25-year-old import ban that was meant to eliminate all stocks 10 years ago. It is proof, he says, that the Hong Kong government knows its traders have been topping up their stocks with “black”, or illegal, ivory from poached elephants, yet does nothing.

Back in Africa, he says, the trade causes carnage and impoverished environments.

“I have watched [the number of] elephants in the Selous Game Reserve, in Tanzania, drop from over 100,000 animals to probably less than 10,000 today and that number is still falling. During a one-hour drift down the Rufiji River three years ago I was seeing up to six different elephant herds coming down to drink. Now I see none – they’ve gone, back to dust and into the African soil, with their ivory shipped off to distant lands. There is a silence on that river that will take decades to fill – if at all.”

But despite the statistics, he says he is upbeat for conservation, at least in the Amboseli National Park, in Kenya, where Bonham lives among the Maasai.

“It’s not all bad news, it’s not too late. We have got poaching there more or less under control. We are seeing elephants on the increase and lions, which 15 years ago were on the verge of local extinction, have increased by 300 per cent. But probably more importantly we are seeing local communities setting aside land for conservancies and wildlife.

“Our recipe has been simple. We are dealing with communal Maasai lands – a 6,000 sq km ecosystem. We have employed 300 guys from the communities and placed them around the park in outposts. They know the people, so it’s a huge informal network. They have a vested interest in stopping poaching. They are all on a salary and incentives.

If they recover a firearm or ivory, each team gets about US$1,000. If they recover bushmeat from hunters they get less.

Since 2011, they have made 1,420 arrests and 3,012 weapons have been confiscated.”

The compensation scheme costs about US$300,000 a year to run, with money coming from Western wildlife groups and the profits from a small tourist lodge that Bonham set up.

The work is a mix of education, development and conservation, he says. Big Life has built schools and the Maasai have been taught to use a global positioning system and bloodhounds to track poachers.

“There are several types of poacher. One group comes over from Tanzania. They are sometimes armed, sometimes bushmeat guys. Then there are gangs from Somalia and guys from the communities. People get shot. I’ve been threatened many times. But my game scouts are risking their lives every day out in the bush. So why should I be any different?

“The communities who live with these wild animals are spurred on by a new awareness and economic incentives made available through conservation. They now own and drive the process; they fight for conservation, not against it. One of our sergeants said to me the other day, when we found an elephant carcass with its face hacked away, ‘When I started this job I was just doing it for the money. Now, when I see this, I get angry … very angry.’” But he accepts his community game scout approach to conservation may not work everywhere.

“What we have done would not necessarily work in other areas, like Tsavo, which is eight times larger than Amboseli.” But it could be applied on its boundaries, he says. “In the long term, I think the only way that wildlife [in Africa] will be protected is with fences.”

The lessons have been learned over a lifetime on the frontline of conservation. Bonham’s parents came from a now extinct generation of British colonial wildlife guards. His father, Jack, was one of Kenya’s first game wardens and lost a leg to an elephant; his mother was the daughter of another warden. He himself is now known as Enkasi – “the white Maasai”.

“My first wildlife memory, at the age of five, was hanging on to my father’s shorts watching him shoot what at that time was considered vermin. It was a black rhino. For a very young kid to see his father shoot a rhino left a very strong impression. There was this huge dead animal.

My wife’s grandfather, also a colonial game warden, was given the task to shoot 1,000 rhino in one small area to clear land for settlement. That was only 60 years ago. Today a large part of my life is spent protecting the last eight remaining rhino from this very same population.

“It is extraordinary how things have changed. It was such a different world in those days. A game warden’s job then was anti-poaching and protection but a huge part of it was dealing with problem animals, like rogue elephants. There was only one form of control then, and that was lethal. You shot them.”

These days, he and his teams avoid killing where possible but predators such as leopards, lions, cheetahs and hyenas are a constant problem.

It’s a mystery to wildlife conservationists and animal welfare advocates how, with such high demand from mainland tourists (many of whom have little awareness of the poaching crisis in Africa), the total amount of “legal” ivory in Hong Kong has changed so little in the last three years. According to Hong Kong government statistics, the total stood at 116.5 tonnes in 2011, 118.7 tonnes in 2012 and 117.1 tonnes last year. In that time, the number of holders of licences to possess ivory increased from 431 to 447. So, why isn’t this stockpile going down?

The change from 2011 to 2012 is explained by the government as “a net increase of 2.2 tonnes of registered ivory from non-commercial to commercial purpose”.

It’s an open secret that many tourists who come to Hong Kong smuggle ivory products back home. Fines and penalties for ivory trafficking remain low: six-month sentences were handed down by a Hong Kong magistrate to 16 Vietnamese ivory traffickers caught red-handed at Chek Lap Kok airport in June.

Ivory-buying tourists are indirectly fuelling the global illegal wildlife trade – the fourth largest type of illegal trafficking, after those in drugs, arms and people. Furthermore, the sale of an ivory trinket from a store in Mong Kok, Sheung Wan or North Point could be financing terrorist militias in Africa, such as al-Shabab, Boko Haram or the Lord’s Resistance Army.

The Hong Kong government, which says it still has 18 tonnes of seized illegal ivory from the 28 tonnes it began incinerating in May, could do so much more to raise awareness about this urgent issue. It could start by legislating for a complete ivory trade ban, to help save the magnificent African elephant before it’s too late.

Alex Hofford is founder of Hong Kong for Elephants and a wildlife campaigner for WildAid.

“An elephant can trample a crop in 10 minutes. This year we have had four people killed by them. We try to scare them. We have guys out at night. We use bangers and paintball guns to shoot chilly bombs. When one hits an elephant, they get a whiff and a sore nose. But they realise that big bangs are not dangerous. They learn.

“I am not optimistic [generally] about the elephant or the rhino. But there are solutions. The whole reason it is happening is because ivory is so valuable. You will never succeed with law enforcement on its own.

You must get the price down. There’s a lot of temptation.” According to Bonham, one elephant’s ivory can fetch as much as US$10,000.

“In the 1980s the market for ivory was Japan, Europe and the EU. The Bloody Ivory campaign educated people and the market fell.

“Kenya is passing a new wildlife act making killing an elephant much more serious. That helps. But you have to get the price to drop. Policing is not enough. It has to come from both ends. China, Kenya – everyone must act.”

Guardian News & Media


Hong Kong continues to be a hub for the illegal ivory trade

It is a little known fact that the blame for the elephant poaching crisis of the 1980s, which resulted in the global ivory ban of 1989, can be laid squarely at the feet of Hong Kong’s ivory traders. And they’re still at it.

Although it has been proven that Africa lost 100,000 elephants from 2010 to the end of 2012, no one in authority in Hong Kong is questioning how the city’s ivory traders are still able to dip into stocks that should have been depleted long ago. (Traders were allowed to keep and use any stocks of ivory they had when the 1989 ban came into effect.)

Local concern groups have recently been staging protests outside some of the stores that still openly sell ivory in the city – ivory that is almost certainly sourced from elephants killed illegally since 1989. A quick carbon-14 test to verify the age of the ivory would probably confirm this.

I met Richard Bonham, of the Big Life Foundation, while he was in Hong Kong a few weeks ago, and was happy to share with him the data I have been collecting on the city’s dirty little ivory-trade secret, so he could take them to a wider audience. Looking at the graph I shared with Bonham (see page 30), it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that local ivory traders are topping up their supposedly legal stocks from somewhere.

The city’s ivory traders appear to be making fools of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. Of course, much of the ivory smuggled into Hong Kong is bound for the mainland, but it seems probable that a substantial amount remains in the city, to be sold to tourists.

This article can be found in the following link: http://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/article/1659309/asias-world-city-epicentre-ivory-trade

The difficulties of measuring elephant tusk and rhino horn exports

Ben Hamilton, The Guardian
9 December 2014
In mid-November, Interpol announced a list of nine wanted men involved with poaching and wildlife trade. One of these men was the alleged “ringleader of an ivory smuggling ring in Kenya”, Feisal Mohamed Ali.
Earlier in the year, 46 countries signed an agreement in London aimed at tackling the illegal wildlife trade.
But how much ivory is actually leaving Africa?
The Convention on international trade in endangered species (CITES) keeps records and assigns quotas for any wildlife export, from live animals to skin samples. For elephants, CITES issues quotas to a few countries in Africa allowing the export of tusks, taking in account regional elephant populations and how much hunting would be sustainable.
In many countries, the sale of ivory is illegal, but the collection of tusks as hunting trophies is not. Many African countries claim that trophy hunting and the tourism it brings is valuable to their economy.
Below is a map of these exports since 2000. The red indicates the amount of tusks exported, and the dark circles indicate the countries quotas. The lighter red accounts for exports recorded as “trophies”. The blue areas shows the elephant population range.
Most of the exports occur in the south of the continent, despite the elephants’ range reaching through central Africa to the west.
South Africa appears to have consistently broken their quota which has been growing steadily from 86 in 2000 to 300 in 2013.
The largest exporter is Zimbabwe and the second largest is neighbouring Botswana. However, Zimbabwe never breaks its quota of 800 tusks, besides in 2003 when the quota was not renewed, only to return the following year at an increased 1,000.
Botswana breaks quota several times. In 2000, including “trophies”, Botswana exported 368 tusks, which is eight over its quota.
After years of high exports close to quota, in 2006 its quota is expanded to 540 and its exports increased in kind. In 2008 exports explode to 6,505. The following year its quota grew again to 800, but its exports shrink down to similar levels to before 2000.
Such an anomaly may be due to errors in reportage; each year, countries are required to fill out reports of how many exports and imports occurred for each species under CITES observation. When reports between importer and exporter don’t match, totals are counted twice.
This may also explain South Africa’s over exportation of ivory. However, a look into similar data for rhino horn unveils a familiar pattern.
Only two countries have been given quotas for the export of Rhino horn, Namibia and South Africa, both set at five horns. However, before these quotas were put in place in 2005, South Africa had been reportedly exporting horns, all of which belonged to the white rhino.
South Africa also recently reported that the amount of discovered poached rhinos in 2014 had exceeded 2013 numbers, reaching 1,020. This continues the trend since 2007 which has seen poached rhinos dramatically increase from just 13.
Again, though, many other countries have no recorded exports and very few recorded deaths. One CITES report claimed that 80% of 2013’s large scale seizures of ivory occurred in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda, indicating a high threat of poaching. And yet, all these countries report relatively low levels of ivory or horn exports.
Keeping accurate records is vital to knowing what exactly is happening on the ground. These result can either be duplicated due to problems in standardising record keeping, or in the huge task of monitoring the trade.
There are also frequent accusations against governments in Africa and Asia, the end result for a lot of these items, in aiding poachers or smugglers, or fixing records.
Its from these records that population estimates are made and action plans can be created. With skewed data, intentionally or unintentionally, the fight to preserve species is that much harder.

Uganda suspends officials after ton of ivory stolen from vault

Agence France Presse
November 18, 2014
Kampala (AFP) – Uganda’s wildlife authority has suspended five top officials after a ton of seized ivory worth over a million dollars vanished from government strongrooms, its chief said Tuesday.
Interpol has been called in to aid in investigating the incident, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) chief Raymond Engena told AFP, following calls from the president to catch the culprits.
“We have suspended five officials to allow investigations into how the ivory went missing,” Engena said.
They include the government-run UWA’s chief ranger, those who had access to the strong room, as well as intelligence officers in the agency.
“We are cooperating with the police to establish the people behind this crime, and we have also involved Interpol in the investigations,” Engena said. “The people behind this will be found and dealt with decisively.”
The UWA said a routine check had found that 1,335 kilogrammes (2,943 pounds) of ivory had vanished from supposedly secure stockpiles, which officials estimated to be valued at some 1.1 million dollars (880,000 euros).
Staff are feared to have been working with the very traffickers they are meant to stop to steal and sell on the confiscated tusks.
Some corrupt officials are believed to have taken the ivory claiming to use it to ensnare potential traffickers, but then later selling it themselves.
Poaching has risen sharply across Africa in recent years fuelled by rising demand in Asia for ivory and rhino horn, coveted as a traditional medicine and a status symbol.
Uganda is a key transit country for the illegal trade.
More than 35,000 elephants are killed across Africa every year for their tusks.

China bemoans its people’s behavior in Africa—including undergarment ivory smuggling (Tanzania)

By Lily Kuo, Quartz
July 14, 2014
China is a major economic presence in Africa, injecting billions of dollars in trade and economic assistance to build out the continent’s infrastructure, but that doesn’t mean that Chinese companies are always on their best behavior. According to Lu Youqing, China’s ambassador to Tanzania, Chinese businesses are constantly causing problems as they fight over contracts and try to bribe local official.
“Our people just cannot shake their bad habits,” Lu said, in an interview (link in Chinese) with the Chinese paper Southern Metropolis News yesterday. “Tanzania hosts ambassadors from about 70 countries, but none of them needs to constantly worry like us about consular protection issues,” Lu added.
China’s growing investment and business ties with African countries has long been a subject of criticism among observers within and outside of Africa. Recently, Chinese leaders have also taken to admitting to problems while describing them as just “growing pains” in Sino-African relations. But rarely have officials been as frank as Lu, especially regarding one of China’s oldest African allies and top foreign investment destinations.
Lu complained about Chinese nationals attempting to smuggle ivory out of Tanzania, one of the world’s main ports for smuggling the banned animal product—hiding the illegal commodity under the hoods of their cars or even inside their undergarments. China is the world’s top destination (pdf, p. 30) for illicit ivory, according to the United Nations, and the thousands of Chinese nationals working in Tanzania have only exacerbated the illegal trade.
These problems don’t appear to have impacted ties too much. After Chinese firms plowed $2.5 billion into Tanzania last year, China has become Tanzania’s largest foreign investor, and Tanzania is currently pushing for ways to attract more Chinese tourists.

Huge Haul of Smuggled Ivory Came From Kenya (Cambodia)

By Khy Sovuthy and Simon Henderson, The Cambodia Daily

May 23, 2014
The three-ton haul of illegal elephant ivory seized by port officials on May 9 originated in Kenya and was then shipped through Malaysia to Cambodia in two freight containers, the chief of Sihanoukville Autonomous Port’s customs and excise department said Thursday.

The General Department of Customs held a press conference Thursday to provide the first update since May 12 on the investigation into Cambodia’s biggest ever seizure of illegal ivory. But customs officials did not mention whether the investigation had identified any person or persons responsible for the smuggled ivory, and declined to respond to questions on the identity of the smugglers.

“After investigating this case we have discovered that the 3,008 kg of ivory was transported from Kenya in Africa,” Kin Ly, the head of the Sihanoukville port’s customs and excise department, told reporters.

He explained that port authorities were alerted about the containers by the regional intelligence liaison office of the Customs Enforcement Network, a global intelligence service monitoring shipping cargo.

The containers were supposed to be carrying beans from Malaysia, but a scan after their arrival at Sihanoukville revealed a cargo of more than 500 elephant tusks.

Most of the elephant tusks smuggled through Southeast Asia are bound for Vietnam and China, which have lucrative black markets for ivory, and Bun Chiv, deputy chief of the port’s customs office, said Thursday that the final destination of the Kenyan ivory was almost certainly not Cambodia.

“Cambodia was not the destination country for this ivory,” he said.

Neither he nor Mr. Ly would answer questions regarding the shipping company that consigned the containers, Olair Worldwide Logistics, which has two office listings in Phnom Penh and one in Sihanoukville.

The company is registered with the Ministry of Commerce as having three shareholders: Seang Sokhorn, Eang Chantha and Huy Soly.

Neither the company nor the shareholders could be reached Thursday.