Tag Archives: African Wildlife Foundation

In Kenya, Justice Catches Up With Elephant Poacher

Noah Sitati, A Voice for Elephants, National Geographic
November 18, 2014
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An elephant poacher in Kenya is finally behind bars, thanks to a local magistrate and coordination between the wildlife authority and two conservation partners.
In late 2013, community game scouts undertaking an anti-poaching patrol near world-renowned Amboseli National Park in southern Kenya came across a fresh elephant carcass.
Not surprisingly, the elephant’s two tusks were missing. The scouts, guided by tracker dogs and accompanied by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers, managed to track down the poacher, arrest him, and confiscate the two elephant tusks and python skin in his possession.
The pursuit and arrest of Kerumpoti Leyian wasn’t celebrated for long. After posting bail, Leyian failed to show up for his scheduled court appearance and all but disappeared. This was a demoralizing blow to the scouts who tracked down Leyian and recovered the tusks before they could be smuggled abroad, likely to China, where they’d be cleansed of their bloody origin, polished, and carved.
In spite of the setback, the scouts, who operate with a team of tracker dogs under the direction of Big Life Foundation with support from the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), continued to monitor Leyian’s home. They also worked the extensive informant network they’d built up in the area for any tips as to his whereabouts.
Time passed, and it began to seem that here again another elephant poacher had evaded justice.
Then in July, the game scouts received intel that Leyian had returned to his village but was living with a relative. They scrambled and with help from KWS re-arrested Leyian. This time, he was not granted bail.
Law Enforcement Workshop Raises Awareness
In the same month that Leyian was being taken into police custody for a second time, KWS and AWF were hosting a workshop for 35 magistrates, revenue authority officials, immigration officials, prosecutors, and county administrators from districts adjacent to Kenya’s Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks.
The workshop aimed to sensitize attendees to the seriousness and complexity of the illegal wildlife trade, drawing particular attention to the illicit industry’s impact on Africa’s elephants and rhinos.
The workshop also focused on Kenya’s new Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, which six months before had come into force, empowering Kenya’s courts to deal harshly with convicted elephant and rhino poachers and traffickers.
No longer would the country’s wildlife criminals get a mere slap on the wrist for their offenses. Under the new law, anyone involved in the illegal wildlife trade could be hit with a maximum penalty of $233,000 or seven years in jail.
In January 2014, a Chinese man arrested in Nairobi and convicted of ivory smuggling became the first to feel the full brunt of the new law when he was ordered to pay $233,000 or serve seven years in jail.
Many participants in the workshop were not aware of the scale and devastation of the illegal wildlife trade, nor of the harsher penalties allowed under Kenya’s new wildlife law.
They highlighted the many challenges in bringing alleged poachers and traffickers to justice, from poor techniques in evidence collection to a lack of general knowledge among police and magistrates about the new wildlife act.
Magistrate Evans Mbicha (at back in checked shirt with glasses) at the July training workshop. He subsequently sentenced Leyian to seven years in jail.
Magistrate Evans Mbicha (at back in checked shirt with glasses) at the July training workshop. He subsequently sentenced Leyian to seven years in jail. Photograph by Noah Sitati/African Wildlife Foundation.
At the close of the workshop, Honorable Evans Mbicha, a magistrate from Kajiado District, joined his colleagues in vowing to do more to combat the illegal wildlife trade.
From now on, they gave assurance that they would deal sternly with poachers and traffickers convicted of their crimes. When Leyian appeared in Mbicha’s courtroom last month, he was sentenced to seven years in jail.
Power of Partnership
The year-long effort to bring one of Kenya’s elephant poachers to justice highlights two important things.
First, as demonstrated by Kenya’s new wildlife act, Tanzania’s new anti-poaching national strategy, and the U.S.’s national strategy to combat global wildlife trafficking, countries everywhere are prioritizing shutting down the illegal wildlife trade.
The sentencing of Leyian in Kenya comes amid news of the U.S. indictment of two South African brothers for their alleged operation of a rhino horn trafficking ring, suggesting that the law is finally closing in on poachers and kingpins alike.
Second, combating an illicit industry as pervasive and global as the illegal wildlife trade will require partnerships and coordinated efforts at the regional, national, and global level.
Conservation groups bring resources and different types of expertise that can help to extend and enhance the rule of law in many countries—and in the far-flung counties, districts, conservancies, group ranches and chiefdoms—in which they work.
Game scouts on patrol in the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem, southern Kenya.
Game scouts on patrol in the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem, southern Kenya. Photograph by Fiesta Warinwa/African Wildlife Foundation
The arrest of Leyian could not have happened without cooperation and coordination between Big Life Foundation game scouts and Kenya Wildlife Service staff.
And were it not for the July workshop facilitated by KWS and AWF, Leyian may have been charged with a petty offense and received a lighter sentence.
Leyian’s arrest and sentencing bring attention to some rare successes that often go unreported.
During the past couple of years, anti-poaching patrols have intensified and expanded in certain areas of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, and elephant poaching in those areas has declined as a result.
Wildlife authorities and game scouts on both sides of the border are coordinating their patrols and sharing information and in some cases resources to intercept and track down poachers and traffickers.
Recently, community scouts, magistrates, and others in the law enforcement establishment in Tanzania have requested similar training as that provided to their Kenyan counterparts in July.
Only by working together and joining in smart partnerships will we put the poachers, traffickers, and kingpins out of business.
For the elephants of the Amboseli–Tsavo ecosystem, they can rest a little easier now knowing that one less poacher is stalking them in the bush.
Noah Sitati is Kilimanjaro Landscape Manager for African Wildlife Foundation and Jeremy Goss is Conservation Project Manager for Big Life Foundation, both based in Kenya. AWF and Big Life are working together and with national wildlife authorities in the Amboseli–Tsavo ecosystem of southern Kenya, and across the border in Tanzania with another local NGO, Honeyguide Foundation, to counter wildlife poaching and trafficking.

Yao Ming Campaigns to Lower Ivory Demand and End Sales

by Megan Thompson

March 5, 2014

On March 3rd, former NBA superstar Yao Ming delivered a very important petition at the opening session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultation Conference. With this first step, Yao is urging his home country of China – currently the world’s leading ivory consumer – to ban the sale of ivory and help end the current poaching crisis that is threatening endangered elephant and rhino populations worldwide.

Yao was able to experience the crisis firsthand when he traveled to Kenya and South Africa to film a documentary on illegal poaching. After returning home, he launched a campaign in partnership with WildAid, the African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Elephants to reduce the demand for ivory and rhino horns.

Since its foundation, the campaign was been very successful in China and has yielded encouraging results. This January, government officials crushed more than six tons of ivory to send a message to those in the ivory trade. On February 27th, many of China’s top businessmen pledged to never purchase, possess or gift ivory – a huge step for a culture that has considered ivory an important present and sign of respect.

Huang Nubo, WildAid China Board Chairman, said “[a]s China grows up, Chinese companies should do the same and take on more social responsibility. This is why we are joining efforts to protect our planet’s wildlife. We hope this ethic becomes engrained in us and is passed down to future generations.”

This is not the first time Yao has stepped up to protect threatened animals in his country. After Yao participated in a past campaign with WildAid, President Xi’s administration banned dishes including shark fin from state banquets. This was a great commitment for the country since, before the ban, shark fin soup was considered a sign of status and was expected at most important gatherings. Since shark fin dishes were excluded from state banquets, China’s demand for the fins has dropped by 50%.

Uganda: China Joins War Against Illegal Trade in Ivory

By Simon Musasizi, The Observer

16 January 2014

The fight to save Africa’s elephants has reached China, arguably the biggest market for ivory – the single most important reason the giant beast is quickly becoming an endangered species.

China recently destroyed six tons of confiscated ivory, raising hopes for progress in the war against illicit trade in the commodity, most of which comes from Africa. The destruction of the ivory took place in Dongguan city in the southern province of Guangdong, a major hub for the ivory trade.

The statistics tell a much deeper story. In 1930, there were between five and ten million wild African elephants; by 1990, when they were added to the list of critically endangered species, only about 600,000 remained. By 2009, the elephants in Africa stood at 500,000. Most fingers have been pointed at China as part of the reason behind this decline. China’s rapid economic growth continues to build a burgeoning middle class that can afford–and is demanding greater quantities for ivory.

Recent surveys indicate that a large portion of China’s population is unaware of the death toll to create ivory and rhino horn products. Many think ivory is grown on trees in Africa; they have no idea that their current demand for ivory is estimated to claim the lives of as many as 35,000 African elephants annually.

“Excess demand for ivory is the root of the elephant poaching crisis. All other efforts to stop the killing of elephants will be useless if the world doesn’t stop buying ivory. China’s leadership could save Africa’s elephants,” said Dr Iain Douglas-Hamilton, CEO of Save the Elephants, in a press statement issued by Brian Adams, WildAid US Communications Director.

In the statement, WildAid, Save the Elephants, and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), applauded China’s decision as a way of sending out a message to Chinese of how devastating their luxury has had on the African wildlife. In 2013, the NGOs, along with former NBA superstar Yao Ming and actress Li Bing Bing, called on China to raise awareness about elephant poaching, to reduce the demand for ivory, and protect endangered wildlife.

“The demand for illegally-traded ivory negatively impacts Africa’s tourism industry and reportedly contributes to funds used by terror and insurgent groups,” said WildAid’s Executive Director Peter Knights.

WildAid spearheaded a campaign in 2006 to reduce the demand for shark fin soup in China. Through its partnership with Save the Elephants and AWF, similar public awareness tactics are being used to inform consumers of the impact of ivory demand.

“As the largest ivory market in the world, China has a significant role to play in combating the illegal trade in ivory,” said AWF’s CEO Patrick Bergin.

“We commend the Chinese government for taking this important first step and hope it signals their sincere and growing commitment to help end the elephant slaughter in Africa.”

Uganda has faced its fair share of illegal trade in ivory. Last year, cases of confiscated ivory were on the rise, with the biggest catch coming from Bweyogerere, where Uganda Revenue Authority impounded ivory amounting to 1,903kg (worth Shs 6.4bn) in containers destined for Mombasa. The consignment had 832 pieces of ivory, which means that about 416 elephants were killed.

Later, some Chinese and Guineans were arrested with 116kg of ivory at Entebbe airport. Towards the end of 2013, another consignment of about 1,000kg was impounded at Entebbe airport. Earlier there were other several cases around Fort Portal town, which is situated close to some national parks.

According to Abiaz Rwamwiri, AWF Uganda’s communication officer, AWF has launched dual public awareness campaigns aimed at combating illegal wildlife trafficking from the suppliers and the buyers.

“‘African Voices for Wildlife’ is taking place in Africa; the ‘Say No’ campaign is focused in Asia,” he said.

The campaign, which will be popularised through advertisements on billboards, at airports, on buses, among others, will prominently feature Africans expressing outrage, distress and sorrow about the current poaching epidemic and the impact this could have on them and future generations.

China – Guangzhou Ivory Crush

By WildAid

WildAid, Save the Elephants, and the African Wildlife Foundation applaud China’s decision to destroy an estimated 6 tons of confiscated ivory in Guangzhou today. In 2013, the NGOs, along with former NBA superstar Yao Ming and actress Li Bing Bing, called on China to raise awareness about elephant poaching, reduce the demand for ivory, and protect endangered wildlife.

“Today’s ivory crush is a significant step in raising public awareness and will hopefully lead to similar events throughout China,” said Yao Ming, who, alongside The Duke of Cambridge and David Beckham, will appear in a public service message to be broadcast by China’s leading television stations beginning this month.

China’s rapid economic development continues to build a burgeoning middle class that can afford—and is demanding in greater quantities— endangered wildlife products, such as ivory. The current demand for ivory is estimated to claim the lives of as many as 35,000 African elephants annually.

“The demand for illegally traded ivory negatively impacts Africa’s tourism industry and reportedly contributes to funds used by terror and insurgent groups,” said WildAid’s Executive Director Peter Knights.

WildAid spearheaded a campaign in 2006 to reduce the demand for shark fin soup in China. Through its partnership with Save the Elephants and the African Wildlife Foundation, similar public awareness tactics are being used to inform consumers of the impact of ivory demand.

“As the largest ivory market in the world, China has a significant role to play in combatting the illegal trade in ivory,” said African Wildlife Foundation CEO Patrick Bergin. “We commend the Chinese government for taking this important first step and hope it signals their sincere and growing commitment to help end the elephant slaughter in Africa.”

Recent surveys indicate a large portion of China’s population is unaware of the death toll to create ivory and rhino horn products, yet a greater number of residents support government enforced bans. (Read the ivory and rhino horn surveys.)

“Excess demand for ivory is the root of the elephant poaching crisis. All other efforts to stop the killing of elephants will be useless if the world doesn’t stop buying ivory. China’s leadership could save Africa’s elephants,” said Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton, CEO of Save the Elephants.

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