Tag Archives: CITES

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.

Home-grown corruption is killing Africa’s rhinos and elephants

Andreas Wilson-Spath, Daily Maverick
November 28, 2014
While the crisis is complex, with root causes in chronic poverty, the absence of sustainable economic alternatives and a burgeoning demand for wildlife products like ivory and rhino horn, the wheels of this multi-billion dollar industry are liberally greased by bribery and corruption at all levels of government in several African countries.
Even a cursory summary of the epidemic’s lowlights, makes for depressing reading:
Tanzania
Fast becoming Africa’s chief source of illicit ivory, Tanzania has lost two-thirds of its elephants to poaching since 2006. Collusion between corrupt government officials and criminal syndicates has been identified as the root cause. Game rangers provide critical information to poachers, police officers supply guns, Tanzanian Revenue Authority officers release containers of ivory for export, and ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party functionaries offer high-level protection for trafficking operations.
In 2012 a list of individuals involved in elephant poaching, including prominent politicians, was handed to President Jakaya Kikwete. The following year, four CCM members of parliament, among them the party’s Secretary-General, Abdulrahman Kinana, were named for their involvement. None of the individuals implicated have been investigated further or arrested.
In 2013, Tanzania’s Auditor General criticised the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism’s Wildlife Division for the significant quantities of stockpiled elephant tusks that have gone missing while in its care and for under-reporting official poaching figures.
Earlier this year, police officers supplied poachers with weapons and access to the famed Selous Reserve, taking delivery of the ivory once five elephants had been killed.
A recent Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) report notes that “the highest levels of the Tanzanian government” are ultimately responsible for the decimation of the country’s elephant population by failing to ensure that wildlife laws are enforced and by not achieving higher conviction rates when cases are brought to court.
Zambia
In 2013, Zambia’s Minister of Tourism and Arts, dismissed Edwin Matokwani, the Director-General of the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) along with a number of his colleagues on the basis of malpractice and corruption involving commercial hunting companies.
In the same year, Defence Minister, Geoffrey Mwamba, was caught at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport with three large bags of elephant tusks. He was released without charge after claiming diplomatic immunity. The tusks were confiscated by ZAWA, but reappeared in the luggage of a Chinese diplomat at the same airport two days later. No further action was taken.
Mozambique
Poaching incidents reported to the Mozambican police and border guard are rarely followed up, cases are known to be squashed pending the payment of bribes, and offenders are released uncharged after a “deposit” of cash has been made.
A “web of official complicity” involving administrative, judicial and tax authorities in the northern provinces of Niassa and Cabo Delgado, including the Criminal Investigation Police, prosecuting attorneys and the courts, facilitates the industrial-scale elephant slaughter in the region. Government officials are known to have supplied poachers with high-calibre weapons, provided access to protected areas and smoothed the transportation of ivory and rhino horn out of the country.
In 2010, twelve elephants were killed in Mecula District using weapons supplied by police. The following year, eight Frontier Guard members were caught selling 350 kilograms of seized ivory. Instead of facing punishment, they were transferred to a different area.
Since 2012, several tonnes of ivory have disappeared from Mozambique’s official stockpile. High-level collusion by government officials is suspected.
The ruling Frelimo party stands accused of using the proceeds of ivory sales from more than 50 elephants poached in Niassa National Reserve with military equipment to fund its 2012 congress in Pemba.
In return for a bribe, airport customs officers in Maputo are known not to search luggage leaving the country, while customs and police officers provide similar services for containers shipped out of Pemba by Chinese timber companies. Cabo Delgado police commander Dora Manuel Majante has been accused of facilitating the passage of ivory and other contraband through Pemba’s airport and harbour.
A considerable proportion of the hundreds of poachers arrested or killed in the Kruger National Park have been members of the Mozambican army, police and border guard.
Uganda
Earlier this year, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was asked to assist in the apprehension of high-ranking government officials involved in illegal wildlife trafficking. No action was taken.
This month, more than a tonne of stockpiled ivory went missing from a Ugandan government vault. A local newspaper claims that Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) officials in cahoots with traffickers are responsible for widespread ivory theft. Since then, six top UWA employees, including executive director Andrew Seguya, have been suspended pending the outcome of a police investigation.
Sudan
Militias allied to the Sudanese government are alleged to engage in elephant poaching operations as far afield as Chad, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), trafficking ivory via the government in Khartoum and its military.
South Sudan
Ending in 2005, the two-decade-long war between south and north Sudan reduced the local elephant population from more than 80 000 to less than 5000. Since then, ongoing internal military conflict between the official government army and rebel forces threatens to eradicate it altogether as soldiers butcher elephants and other wildlife for meat and ivory.
DRC
The DRC’s army is believed by many observers to be the leading poacher in the vast eastern regions of the country. Until leaving in 2011, Uganda’s occupying People’s Defence Force was also linked to poaching.
South Africa
A number of key officials canvassed by the Endangered Wildlife Trust in 2012 consider corruption connected to wildlife crime to be rife in South Africa, particularly with regards to issuing of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and TOPS (Threatened or Protected Species) permits. Formal action against corrupt officials remains the exception.
Zimbabwe
Elite members of Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF are controlling increasingly large tracts of wildlife areas in the country and some are believed to be supplementing their foreign currency income through elephant and rhino poaching there.
In 2013, poachers allegedly linked to well-know senior ZANU-PF members, police officers and Zimbabwe Wildlife Management officials used cyanide to kill more than 100 elephants in Hwange National Park (HNP).
This year, the country’s last free-roaming elephant herd, which is supposedly protected from hunting and culling by a Presidential decree, has come under threat. Defying a government directive, a woman named Elisabeth Pasalk, whose brother is a hunting safari operator, has illegally claimed part of the herd’s home range, established a safari lodge and declared the area a ‘conservancy’ – a common euphemism for ‘hunting concession’. Conservationists believe that the takeover was supported by “political influence from high places”, that illicit hunting is part of Pasalk’s plans and that the Presidential Elephants are the intended target. The Zimbabwean government has done nothing about the situation.
Time to act
The evidence is overwhelming: African governments are complicit in the wholesale slaughter of the continent’s wildlife heritage.
A number of them have made public commitments to stem the poaching tide. Tanzania, for instance, is a signatory of the 2014 London Conference Declaration on Illegal Wildlife Trade which calls for zero tolerance on corruption and President Kikwete has recently spoken in favour of a moratorium on all ivory sales. Yet Kikwete’s government has shown little intention of turning these promises into reality and remains deeply implicated in the disaster.
What’s needed is the political will to take drastic action – to identify and investigate corrupt activities related to wildlife crime at every level of government, to remove corrupt individuals – many of them well known – from office and to prosecute them under the provisions of the criminal justice system.
The international community, including CITES, bears part of the responsibility. By not fighting corruption vigorously enough, not sanctioning governments known to be corrupt, not enforcing international law, not establishing a total ban on international and domestic trading in rhino horn, elephant ivory and other wildlife commodities, and not calling for the destruction of all government stockpiles of such goods, they too are complicit in the unfolding catastrophe.
In July, the EIA and the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) called on the US government to implement trade sanctions against Mozambique for its complicity in the slaughter of elephants and rhinos in Southern Africa. President Obama’s government is yet to heed this urgent call.
Eradicating corruption will not end the disaster. But if we don’t stop the systemic corruption which is facilitating it, Africa’s poaching crisis will be terminal – an extermination order for rhinos, elephants, lions, pangolins and countless other irreplaceable species that will not survive the century in the face of unbridled human greed.

Hong Kong snubs calls to join Elephant Protection Initiative

South China Morning Post
29 November, 2014
Hong Kong officials have rejected requests by activist groups for the city to join an African-led conservation initiative for elephants that aims to shut ivory markets and stamp out the trade.
The groups, including the African Wildlife Foundation, Wild Life Risk and WildAid, wrote to the government this month asking it to join the Elephant Protection Initiative.
Hong Kong is one of the world’s biggest transit hubs and markets for contraband ivory, consistently ranking fifth for the quantity seized since the global trade in ivory was banned in 1989.
The Elephant Protection Initiative, started in February, requires partner states and organisations to work towards closing domestic ivory markets and to put all stockpiles beyond economic use. Five African elephant range states are part of the initiative – Botswana, Chad, Ethiopia, Gabon and Tanzania.
In a written response to the activist groups, Richard Chan Ping-kwong, senior endangered species protection officer at the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, said there was no need to adjust conservation measures already in place.
“While [Hong Kong] would not be able to join the ‘Elephant Protection Initiative’ … we will continue our unwavering efforts to implement the CITES provisions and maintain our enforcement momentum,” Chan wrote.
He was referring to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, an inter-governmental deal to protect plants and animals threatened by international trade. China is a signatory.
Hong Kong has banned all external trade of ivory but has a commercial licensing system to regulate the domestic sale of legal ivory. Chan said the system – which requires all who own commercial stocks of ivory in the city to obtain licences – was effective.
WildAid campaigner Alex Hofford expressed disappointment at the government’s decision. The city should “stand in solidarity with the five African elephant range states”, given its status as a huge ivory demand and transit point, he said.
“If Hong Kong could only join hands with them as the first non-range state to join the [initiative] … It could send a very strong signal to the city’s ivory traders that enough is enough, and that they should stop trading illegal ivory immediately,” he said.
Hofford said he suspected the government turned down the invitation because Beijing had voted against joining the initiative at July’s CITES Standing Committee meeting in Geneva.
Activists will protest against the government’s decision outside the China Goods Centre, a major ivory goods retailer, in North Point at 11am today.
Lawmaker Elizabeth Quat earlier this year asked the initiative’s secretariat to urge the Hong Kong government to join the programme. “Hong Kong now seems eligible to join the Elephant Protection Initiative as the city is currently undertaking the destruction of its stockpile and moving towards domestic legislation,” she had said.
At the beginning of the year the government began destroying 28 tonnes of its 29.6-tonne stockpile of confiscated ivory – the rest will be kept for scientific and teaching purposes. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said 11.4 tonnes had been destroyed and the incineration would continue until the middle of next year.

New Recruits To Guangxi Forest Police Receive Training To Counter Wildlife Trafficking

Laibin Guangxi, China, November 2014—More than 120 Forest Police officers were trained on aspects of wildlife crime and how to counteract it during a workshop on Combatting illegal wildlife trade and CITES implementation held in Laibin, Guangxi province earlier this month.

The meeting was organized by Guangxi Provincial Inter-agency CITES Enforcement Coordination Group (PICE-CG), in co-operation with TRAFFIC and other non-governmental organizations. Participants included frontline Forest Police officers, particularly new recruits who overall comprise more than 5% of the Forest Police force in Guangxi Province.

The first day of the workshop was chaired by Xiao Yu, Programme Manager for TRAFFIC, during which officials from Guangxi PICE-CG Forest Conservation Department spoke about relevant wildlife administrative laws and regulations, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) while the Director of Criminal Investigation with Guangxi Forest Police spoke about criminal investigation methods, the legal process and how to obtain and present evidence. Experts from Guangxi University spoke about identification of rosewood and other endangered plant products.

Other topics covered during the two-day meeting included a presentation by TRAFFIC on the current situation regarding illegal wildlife trade in physical and online markets, how to care for confiscated raptors (birds of prey), and a presentation by the Director of the State Forestry Administration’s Wildlife Criminal Evidence Identification Center on identification of wild animals and their associated products in trade.

Since 2011 three major enforcement actions to combat illegal wildlife trade have taken place in Guangxi. In January 2013, with support from Guangxi PICE-CG, TRAFFIC and others, Guangxi Forest Police confiscated 14 rhino horns, 1 Tiger fur and several ivory products. The rhino horn seizure is the largest to date in mainland China.

“More than 50% of all illegal wildlife product seizures made by provincial enforcement agencies in Guangxi have been made by the Forest Police, which is why regular training of the agency is key to determining the success or failure of enforcement actions in the region,” said Mr Yan Jiang, Director of the Nanning branch office of China’s CITES Management Authority.

Zhou Fei, Head of TRAFFIC’s Programme in China said: “Guangxi’s location on the border between China and Viet Nam makes it a hotspot for illegal wildlife trade. According to TRAFFIC’s market surveys, much illegal wildlife and derived products are smuggled into Guangxi then transported onwards to other provinces. Increased capacity within the Forest Police can greatly deter wildlife smuggling to and beyond the region.”

TRAFFIC has been helping build the capacity of enforcement departments in Guangxi province through consolidating information gathering methods and improving crime detection, for example through the use of detector dogs.

TRAFFIC’s capacity building work in Guangxi Province is generously supported by WWF Germany and CEPF.

For more information, please contact: Sammi Li, Communications Officer, TRAFFIC

Email: xiaojia.li@traffic.org

This article can be found in the following link: http://www.traffic.org/home/2014/11/26/new-recruits-to-guangxi-forest-police-receive-training-to-co.html

Thailand faces trade ban over ivory failings

By Jonathan FowlerJuly 11, 2014 3:03 PM

Thailand faces an international wildlife trade ban unless it reins in its ivory sector, which is a magnet for traffickers, global regulator CITES said on Friday.

“There have been years without any real action on the ground when it comes to controlling the illegal ivory market,” said Oeystein Stoerkersen, chairman of CITES’s governing body.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has set Thailand an August 2015 deadline to fall into line or risk wide-ranging sanctions.

Bangkok is under additional pressure to report back by January on steps to bolster recent laws on registering ivory importers, traders and legal stockpiles, that CITES claims are insufficient.

“Without that, Thailand will face a ban, and a suspension of all trade no matter what commodity it is, of the 35,000 species listed with CITES,” he told reporters.

A ban would prevent the country trading anything appearing on that list with another country, including orchids and exotic wood, which are significant export products for Thailand.

“I think that is a strong signal,” said Stoerkersen, adding that Thai diplomats at the talks had acknowledged that their country needed to do more.

But environmental campaigner WWF said the body should have hit Thailand harder, given that Bangkok pledged last year to smash the illegal trade but the quantities of ivory on sale rose sharply.

“A suspension of trade in all CITES goods from Thailand would have been justified,” said WWF analyst Colman O’Criodain.

Current Thai law allows ivory from domesticated Thai elephants to be sold, making it simple to launder poached African ivory, WWF said.

“Thailand’s market is fuelling the illegal assault on African elephants,” said O’Criodain.

The decision on Thailand came as delegates wrapped up a week-long CITES conference on trade in endangered species.

Earlier this week, CITES chief John Scanlon told AFP that elephants would be wiped out in some parts of Africa unless more countries got involved in efforts to prevent poaching and smuggling.

Over the past three years, more than 60,000 African elephants have been killed, far outstripping their birth rate.

Crime syndicates and militias in Africa have become increasingly involved in the multi-billion-dollar illicit trade, taking advantage of Asian demand for ivory to use in decorations and traditional medicines.

- ‘Next generation will not forgive us’ -

Stoerkersen said Thailand had become a “sink” for African ivory, sucking in imports bought by foreigners for export to other Asian countries.

“It’s more or less an unregulated market,” he said.

Along with China, Thailand is part of the “Gang of Eight” countries that have faced scrutiny over the ivory trade, but it is now seen as the key offender.

Speaking at the conference in Geneva, William Kiprono, who leads Kenya’s Wildlife Service, said his country is cracking down hard on poachers and illegal ivory traders.

He said that the country is currently recruiting hundreds more wildlife rangers, but said more action was also needed from consumers.

“In some places, they think that ivory just falls out of an animal just like feathers,” he said.

“We need to work together. If we don’t act, we are going to lose our wildlife, as Kenya, as Africa and the globe. And the next generation will not forgive us,” he said.

During the conference, CITES also banned trade in the emperor scorpion from Ghana due to unsustainable harvesting, and raised concerns about the illegal trade in cheetahs and snakes, as well as illegal logging.

This article can be found in the following link: http://news.yahoo.com/thailand-faces-trade-ban-over-ivory-failings-171518386.html;_ylt=AwrTWfyyQsNTwAkAhQjQtDMD

 

Belgium to Destroy Its Illegal Ivory Next Month

By Denise Chow, Staff Writer   |   March 26, 2014 03:57pm ET

Belgium is slated to destroy its entire stockpile of illegal ivory next month, joining the United States, China and several other countries in taking a stand against wildlife trafficking.

Earlier this month, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Laurette Onkelinx announced plans to destroy all the illegal ivory seized by customs, on April 9. A special ceremony will be held to mark the occasion, with dignitaries from the Belgian government present.

Onkelinx made the announcement March 3 at an event celebrating Belgium’s involvement in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is an international treaty to protect endangered plants and animals. [In Images: 100 Most Threatened Species]

“The Belgian government should be saluted for taking a firm and public stand on ivory trafficking and working to save the world’s threatened elephants,” Sonja Van Tichelen, European Regional Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said in a statement.

Rampant ivory poaching is causing precipitous declines in elephant populations, and the Wildlife Conservation Society estimates that 96elephants are killed each day by poachers in Africa. The ivory trade was banned in 1989, but the demand for ivory now is higher than ever, and lucrative black markets have emerged around the world.

“Not only are we losing an elephant every 15 minutes but the ivory trade is undercutting law and order in elephant range states and enriching organized crime syndicates — the slaughter of elephants must be stopped,” Van Tichelen said.

Belgium is set to join several other countries that recently destroyed their stockpiles of ivory. In February, France crushed more than 15,000 pieces of ivory, which included carvings, jewelry and other trinkets that were confiscated by customs agents.

In January, China, the world’s biggest consumer of illegal ivory, joined the effort by crushing 6 tons of its own ivory tusks and carved ornaments. The United States destroyed its ivory stockpile — collected from more than 25 years of confiscations and smuggling busts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — in November.

Officials in Hong Kong also announced their plan to burn more than 30 tons of elephant tusks and ivory products throughout the first half of this year. Recently, officials with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam announced they are considering crushing the country’s stores of rhino horn, elephant ivory and tiger bone.

This article can be found in the following link: http://www.livescience.com/44399-belgium-ivory-crush.html

Japanese appetite for ivory fuels poaching epidemic

Poorly controlled ivory sales in Japan are encouraging illegal trade in elephant tusks and large amounts of ivory are entering the domestic market.

Online selling and weak controls on domestic ivory sales in Japan are spurring illegal international trade in elephant tusks and contributing to a steep rise in poaching, activists said.

A lack of rules regulating the registration of raw ivory and the licensing of importers, wholesalers, manufacturers and retailers has allowed illicit stocks into Japan’s domestic market, according to the report by the independent London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

Under current rules, only whole elephant tusks must be registered with Japan’s Environmental Agency.

“Japan’s ivory controls are flawed and there is evidence that large amounts of illegal ivory … have been laundered into the domestic market,” said the report, which was co-authored by animal welfare group Humane Society International.

Urgent response required

“The current African elephant poaching crisis requires an urgent and swift response before populations are wiped out. The flourishing domestic ivory markets of Japan and China are now the key driving force behind Africa’s poaching epidemic and global illegal ivory trade.”

According to a 2013 study by the University of Washington, the annual number of African elephants being slaughtered to supply the illegal ivory trade is estimated to be as high as 50,000, or roughly one sixth of the continent’s remaining elephant population.

International trade in ivory is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), but its growth is being fuelled by legal domestic markets in countries such as Japan and China, where trade is being supported by the advance of e-commerce.

US President Barack Obama in February announced new restrictions on the commercial import of African elephant ivory, as well as on what sport hunters can bring back to the country.

Much of the ivory imported into Japan goes into making traditional name stamps, called hankos, that are used in lieu of signatures on documents.

Sales and advertisements stopped

The EIA said between 2005 and 2010, illegal ivory accounted for up to 87%of ivory hankos produced in Japan.

It named Japanese website Rakuten Ichiba as the world’s top marketplace for elephant ivory, citing more than 28 000 advertisements for products. Rakuten Ichiba is Japan’s biggest online shopping site with more than 87 million members.

Rakuten Ichiba is owned by Japan-headquartered Rakuten Group , which also owns British based Play.com, Canadian e-reader firm Kobo, and has a stake in social media site Pinterest.

Rakuten Group did not respond to several requests for comment.

“Amazon and Google have stopped all sales or advertisements of whale, dolphin and ivory through their Japanese e-commerce sites, and Rakuten must do the same,” the EIA said.

The article can be found in the following link:

http://www.health24.com/Lifestyle/Environmental-health/Animals/Japanese-appetite-for-ivory-fuels-poaching-epidemic-20140320

Kenya: Fighting Wildlife Security Threats

BY STEVE NJUMBI AND PAULA KAHUMBU, 13 MARCH 2014 On 31st January 2014 the Cabinet Secretary for Water, Environment and Natural Resources, Professor Judy Wakhungu appointed a 15 person task force on wildlife security chaired by Ambassador Nehemiah Rotich. The overall purpose of the task force is to identify the security threats to wildlife and their habitats, and examine the effectiveness of existing protection measures for wildlife across the country. The mandate of the team is to examine security arrangements, including human resources and capacity, equipment and facilities, and it extends beyond current threats to include emerging challenges. The team will not restrict their investigations to KWS operations, but will also look at other agencies involved in jointly managed areas including forests, ports and private conservancies. They will evaluate anti-poaching systems funding, morale, and even the public image of state agencies. By expanding the mandate to include such diverse factors, in effect what this team is doing is a detailed risk assessment for wildlife. After three months of research, data gathering, public hearings, and meetings, the team will compile a report with appropriate recommendations on strategies to strengthen the security management of wildlife and their habitats, including systems re-engineering. Importantly, the task force has the flexibility to gather information in whichever way it may find most appropriate to get this work done. Given the enormity of the crisis facing elephants and rhinos in Kenya, where rhino poaching has doubled in the last 12 months, and Kenya’s rise to become the world’s No. 1 country for transit of ivory, the importance of this investigation can hardly be overstated. Once renowned worldwide as the country where elephants were best protected, Kenya is now at the bottom of the bucket. Poachers are in control of vast landscapes, rangers are ill equipped, ill paid, and demoralized; those rangers who still go out on patrol risk being killed. Land from parks is being grabbed for highways, bridges and cities, while habitats in buffer zones and wildlife corridors are being destroyed. At the rate we are going, Kenya could see herself being sanctioned by CITES within the year, and by 2030 we will only have 2 of the big five remaining. We need to turn the situation around, and we need to do it now.

The announcement of this task of force is hugely welcomed by Kenyans from all walks of life. By our reading, the work is not limited to addressing the security operations of the KWS, but the safety of our wildlife and whatever affects it. The task is huge and feels almost impossible, but the opportunity is equally monumental. The findings of this task force could provide the key evidence that is required to effect strategic changes in KWS and transform the prospects of wildlife in Kenya. This is why we are volunteering to assist the team. Despite an atmosphere of threats and intimidation in the past, we will face the panels, share information and ideas, and be part of a process that transforms not only our wildlife but our country. We therefore encourage anyone who cares about the future of Kenya to volunteer information that can help the Task Force in their work. With objective pubic involvement, the task Force can inject into Kenyans legitimate ownership and responsibility to transform KWS into the organization that delivers this change. Bold structural and strategic reforms are badly needed for KWS to be able to meet it’s conservation mandate in the 21 st Century. If there ever was a moment in time to be patriotic it is now. It’s not just because it’s the right thing to do, it’s also the right time to do it. We have a First Lady who speaks out, a supportive president who changes laws, an enthusiastic and competent Cabinet Secretary, a KWS that is willing to change, and a public who really do care. It is our belief that only Kenyans can turn around the fortunes of wildlife, and we are proud to be part of the team that will deliver that dream. By being fearless we hope to infect others with our courage and determination to make Kenya safe for wildlife the world’s No. 1 nature tourism destination. The views expressed are the writers’ own and do not reflect those of their organisations. Paula Kahumbu is the CEO of WildlifeDirect while Steve Njumbi is the head of programmes, International Fund for Animal Welfare.
The above article can be found in the following link: http://allafrica.com/stories/201403130799.html?page=2

Police Issues Arrest Warrants Seized Ivory Dealers

Stephen Muneza, RedPepper
March 3, 2014

Police has issued two arrest warrants for two businessmen connected to the 832 pieces of ivory that were impounded by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) in October last year.

The arrest warrants have been issued against a Kenyan national Owino Odhiambo, who owns Silver Shipping Limited, a Kenyan registered company that was destined to receive the ivory and also export it to China.

The second arrest warrant is for a Congolese national Kayumba Emile Ogane. Ogane claimed the impounded ivory while it was with the URA. Ogane is the director of Ogane Company Limited which instituted the proceedings in the High Court at Nakawa. Ogane has however never appeared in person in Uganda.

The two arrest warrants have been forwarded to Interpol to arrest and bring the persons for prosecution.

They are wanted for the concealment of ivory that was smuggled through the DRC-Uganda border post of Bunagana. It is alleged that the Ivory was not declared to the customs officials at the border post. The 2.9 tonnes of ivory were being transported in a Congolese trailer registration number CGO 6816 AB19.

Congolese businessman Emile Ogano hired David Ochaya to be his transport agent. Ochaya then used Ocean Freight East Africa Limited containers and delivered the ivory undocumented to the inland container depot at Bweyogerere. While arguing the case before the Nakawa High Court, the lawyers of Emile Ogane said that their client had concealed the goods to hide them from the naked eye of the robbers, an argument that the court judge Masalu Musene accepted.
Last month, the judge ordered URA to return the impounded ivory to Ogane.

Interpol Director Arsan Kasingye said Interpol would embark on the search of the suspects to deliver them to the arms of Justice.

The environmental crime desk of Interpol in Lyon, France has since expressed concern at the fate of the ivory.

To import and export ivory, one has to get a licence from the home country and also a permit to trade in ivory from CITES or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

In October last year, URA impounded a container of 822 pieces of ivory; approximately 2.9 tonnes. The ivory was destined to go to Owino Odhiambo, a Kenyan national. After it was impounded, a Congolese national, Kayumba Emile Ogane claimed the ivory from the URA and instituted a suit for its release. In a landmark ruling, the high court Judge Masalu Musene ordered for its release, a judgement that has been widely contested by both the Uganda Wildlife Authority and URA.

URA has lodged an appeal at the Court of Appeal.

Police to defy court ruling on impounded ivory

By Jeff Andrew Lule, New Vision

Mar 03, 2014

Police plan to block the return of a consignment of seized ivory to a dealer as instructed by Justice Wilson Masalu Musene.

On Friday, the director of Interpol Uganda, Asan Kasingye said despite the court’s ruling, they will not allow to release the ivory easily in respect of Uganda’s commitment towards the conservation of the endangered species within the East African Customs and international convention.

Uganda Revenue Authority impounded 836 pieces of ivory in October last year, weighing approximately 3000kgs. The ivory was concealed in a container belonging to Ken Freight Forwarders in Bweyogerere, Wakiso district at the time of seizure.

Kasingye said though the owner Emille Kayumba Ogane, a Congolese national, claims to have imported the ivory from Congo through Bunagana border post lawfully, they need him to come and clearly explain how and where he got the ivory.

“It is very unfair to make such a ruling because someone claimed to have got the ivory from elsewhere. The world was very surprised with the ruling and all eyes are watching us. Can you imagine over 400 elephants were killed to get this ivory,” Kasingye said.

Kasingye stressed that the trade in ivory contravenes with the East African Customs Management Act 2004 and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species that puts stringent conditions on dealing in such endangered species.

“We think this case needed more time to work with all stakeholders before coming to a conclusion,” he noted.