Tag Archives: ivory

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

African, Japanese and international conservation NGO’s call on President Kenyatta and Prime Minister Abe to agree on measures to save the African elephant.

Nairobi, 26 August 2016: Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) is a conference held regularly with the objective “to promote high-level policy dialogue between African leaders and development partners.” Japan is a co-host of these conferences. Other co-organizers of TICAD are the United Nations Office of the Special Advisor on Africa (UN-OSSA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The next conference is scheduled for Kenya on August 27th and 28th 2016. It will be the first time the event will be held in Africa, previous conferences were all held in Japan.


TICAD has been an evolving element in Japan’s long-term commitment to fostering peace and stability in Africa through collaborative partnerships. In this context, Japan has stressed the importance of “Africa’s ownership” of its development as well as of the “partnership” between Africa and the international community. The exchange of views amongst the conference delegates serves to underscore the case for more, not less assistance from the major world economies. It is in this vein that Africa must seek Japan’s support in saving the African elephant which is undergoing an unprecedented slaughter due to demand for ivory. Japan continue to be a major consumer, and, therefore, has a special responsibility to act in the interest of Africa and elephants.


In part due to Kenya’s leadership position on the matter, most of Africa, Asia as well as the world’s developed nations agree that to save elephants, global ivory markets should be closed. Both the US President Obama and China’s President Xi have made commitments to close the domestic markets which will have a huge impact on demand. Now conservationists call on Japan to support China, USA and twenty-nine African countries by endorsing a plan to afford elephants the highest protection under international law.


The growing demand for ivory in Japan has come about due to thriving legal domestic ivory markets. Studies however show that these markets are used for the laundering of illegal ivory through loopholes in the regulations. Japanese conservation organizations estimate that in the three years between 2012, and 2014, at least 12 tons of whole tusks and pieces of ivory were sold on Yahoo Japan Auction site. These marketing and distribution channels have not been focused on by the law enforcement agencies.


In June 2014, the Government of Japan reported to CITES that there are 7,570 registered ivory dealers, 537 ivory wholesalers, and some 293 ivory manufacturers in Japan – the largest known numbers of any country in the world.[1]


Unlike China where ivory is bought for prestige, 80% of the ivory consumed in Japan is used for Hanko, the traditional Japanese seal used as the only form of official signature accepted by banks. But most people buy these products without knowing that they are contributing toward the elephant slaughter and illegal trade.


We urge Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the head of the Giants Club of African presidents supporting elephant conservation, and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, to seize this unique opportunity at TICAD6 to discuss the issue as part of their duty towards the development agendas of Africa and Japan.


We also urge the H.E. the First Lady of Japan, Akie Abe, an ardent conservationist, to join H.E. the First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta in raising awareness about elephants and their conservation needs.


Japan is one of Africa’s most important development partners. They have made major contributions and commitments to support conservation. Now the conservation community call for 5 actions to be agreed at TICAD:

  1. Japan to permanently close legal domestic markets of ivory, and aggressively close down online trading sites that deal in ivory, all to crush demand.
  2. Japan to suspend ivory registration immediately, to prevent loopholes that allow fraudulent registration and laundering of illegal ivory.
  3. Japan to support the Elephant Protection Initiative.
  4. Japan to strengthen cooperation on elephant conservation initiatives and combating the trafficking of ivory to Japan through joint investigations and mutual legal assistance.
  5. Japan’s Prime Minister and First Lady to jointly issue statements to discourage the selling and buying of ivory in Japan and to initiate an education and outreach campaign to Japanese citizens on the importance of saving elephants by stopping poaching and ending ivory trade.


Kenya is proud to be hosting the first TICAD conference in Africa and we look forward to positive outcomes of the discussions.


[1] (Japan, June 2014, pp. Government of Japan Report on trade control in ivory and ivoSC65, Doc 42.1 Addendum, Annex 2. )


You can download the English or Japanese version below.

Japanese version

English version


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

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.

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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

Trade in illegal animal products runs wild online (China)

November 30, 2014
Online forums and social networking apps have become the primary platform in China for trade in items made with parts of endangered animals, including ivory and rhino horn, according to a report published by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) on Nov. 25.
During a six-week period between March and April, the IFAW recorded 9,482 online messages in 16 countries on the trade of endangered species and related products, which are banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Of these, 2,106 messages advertising the sale of 18,590 banned items, amounting to more than 16 million yuan (US$2.6 million), were recorded in China, the IFAW report said.
The IFAW’s Wang Juan pointed out that 79% of the messages in China advertised ivory and related products, while 8% of them referred to rhino horn.
Wang also told Shanghai-based news website the Paper that many of these correspondences used codes to avoid censorship, referring to ivory as “white plastics” and “X teeth” and to rhino horns as “black plastics” and “XJ,” which stands for Xi Jiao, rhino horn in Chinese.
Search engine Baidu’s Tieba forum is a major platform for the illegal trade of animal products, according to the IFAW, with many sellers believed to be the producers or wholesalers themselves.
The Paper even found photos of ivory and related products displayed in one of the forums of Baidu Tieba by owners planning to sell them.
The popular instant messaging and social networking app WeChat also offers a private and easy way for sellers to solicit buyers, since private groups can be set up online and only members can view the messages.
Wang urged auction websites and social networking service operators to enhance their censorship policies and warn users that trade of endangered animal products is illegal. He also suggested that they offer users a channel to report such activities.
In addition, the IFAW advised regulators to expand its monitoring mechanism of the Internet to instant messaging software such as QQ and WeChat.


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.

Africa: New Report Commissioned By Born Free Usa Confirms Organized Crime, Government Corruption, and Militia Links to Elephant Poaching and the Ivory Trade

Born Free
21 April 2014

Washington, DC — “Ivory’s Curse: The Militarization and Professionalization of Poaching in Africa” reveals similarity between the illicit networks that enable terrorism, weapons, human trafficking, and ivory commercialization.

Today, Born Free USA and C4ADS released “Ivory’s Curse: The Militarization and Professionalization of Poaching in Africa,” one of the most shocking, rigorous and in-depth analyses of elephant poaching  and the ivory trade to date. The report examines links to violent militias, organized crime, government corruption, and ivory trade to Asia. It further exposes the widespread transnational illicit participants deeply interwoven into the system that moves ivory. The full report is available at www.bornfreeusa.org/ivoryscurse.

According to Adam Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, a global leader in wildlife conservation and animal welfare, “The elephant poaching crisis has reached historic levels and, shockingly, some elephant populations face extinction in my lifetime. Born Free USA sought to understand in a more robust way how destabilizing and corrupt individuals, as well as organized crime networks across Africa, place human security at risk and traffic in elephant ivory from slaughtered animals. Clearly, Ivory’s Curse shows that defense, military, national security, and foreign policy leaders must play a role in stopping the elephant massacre across the continent.”

Roberts explains, “Our findings shine a bright light on Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Sudan, and Kenya, where poachers move across borders with near impunity, slaughter elephants with complete disregard, and use the ivory to fund violent operations across the continent. Global leaders cannot stand by while the human tragedy and poaching crisis continue.”

Varun Vira, Senior Analyst at C4ADS and co-author of the report commissioned by Born Free USA, said, “Ivory is a conflict, crime, and corruption issue with severe human impact. It has been a conflict resource for decades, just like blood diamonds or coltan in Central Africa, only without the same level of global attention.”

One elephant yields about 20 pounds of ivory worth approximately $30,000. It is estimated that between 35,000 and 50,000 may have been killed in 2013. At this rate, the ivory trade could be worth one billion dollars annually, and will likely increase with the escalating retail price of ivory.

Ivory’s Curse provides detailed regional case studies on the ivory trade, including:

• From Sudan, government-allied militias complicit in the Darfur genocide fund their operations by poaching elephants hundreds of miles outside North Sudan’s borders.
• In the DRC, state security forces patronize the very rebels they are supposed to fight, providing them with weapons and support in exchange for ivory.
• Zimbabwean political elites, including those under international sanction, are seizing wildlife spaces that either are, or likely will soon be, used as covers for poaching operations.
• In East Africa, al-Shabaab and Somali criminal networks are profiting off Kenyan elephants killed by poachers using weapons leaked from local security forces.
• Mozambican organized crime has militarized and consolidated to the extent it is willing to battle the South African army and well-trained ranger forces for rhino horn.
• In Gabon and the Republic of Congo, ill-regulated forest exploitation is bringing East Asian migrant laborers, and East Asian organized crime, into contact with Central Africa’s last elephants.
• In Tanzania, political elites have aided the industrial-scale depletion of East Africa’s largest elephant population.

Vira explains, “Subsistence elephant poaching barely exists anymore. Impoverished locals may pull the triggers but they source to organized crime, which controls the scale of the poaching and nearly all profits. Saving both elephants and local communities will require moving from the bush into the world of global illicit networks in order to target transnational criminal profits. There are infinitely more young Africans willing to shoulder guns and kill elephants than there are containers full of ivory.”

Roberts concludes, “No one should ever buy ivory, but they should also contribute resources to organizations like Born Free USA that help equip rangers on the ground, and should pressure political leaders to take action to end the corruption. As long as supply chains remain unbroken and consumer demand remains insatiable, poachers will ply their deadly trade to supply the marketplace.”

Will this man’s tears save our elephants? (Kenya)

Daily Nation

March 30, 2014

When an elephant was killed last week at the Aberdare National Park, Mr Allan Wanyama, a game ranger, wept.

Cameras caught the distraught ranger, rifle in hand, crying as he stood desolately over the animal, which still had blood oozing from its wounds.

“It was a mixture of emotion and bitterness,” explains Wanyama, 24. “At that moment I would not have  spared any of the poachers. I almost lost my mind at the sight of the carcass of the animal, which was everybody’s favourite at the park.”

He adds that he had developed a close attachment to the animal during the period he had served at the park.

For Wanyama, painful memories of the friendly animal was the last straw.

The ruthlessness of the poaching cartels and the number of KWS officers whose lives have been cut short by the ruthless gangs had made him a bitter and worried man, hence his sadness at the death of the elephant that Sundaymorning.

“Looking at the carcass of such an animal is like waking up in the morning and finding your boss dead and realising that in a short time you face the possibility of being jobless.

The government has given me a gun and houses me to look after the animals. I felt let down,” he explains.

That morning, as Wayama and his colleagues patrolled the forest, they heard gunshots.

They headed in the direction from which the shots had come and soon came across the animal that had been killed. They interrupted the poachers because the tusks had only been partially removed.

“The poachers must have been on the alert and fled when they heard us approaching,” he says.

The fleeing poachers left food, assorted pairs of shoes, and a tent, an indication that they were so sure they would not be detected that they had camped in the forest.

The slain elephant was the biggest of the herd and, according to Wanyama, very friendly to tourists.

“He was not hostile and many people loved him because, instead of running away the way the others did, he would move closer, causing great excitement among the visitors,” he recalls.

Although some of Wanyama’s friends viewed his reaction as extreme and teased him about mourning an elephant, recent statistics on the poaching of elephants and rhinos in the country is no laughing matter.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) acting director William Kiprono says that in the past three months, poachers have killed 18 rhinos and 51 elephants. Last year, the country lost 59 rhinos and 302 elephants to poaching, while in 2012 it lost 30 rhinos and 384 elephants to the criminal gangs.

“We attribute the problem of poaching in Kenya and the rest of Africa to growing demand and the high prices being offered for rhino horn and elephant tusks in Far East countries as the ready market continues to spur the illegal sale of ivory and rhino horns,” he says, adding that poachers not only use sophisticated weapons, but have resorted to silent methods, which makes it difficult for rangers on patrol to detect their presence.

In parks such as Lake Nakuru, the rising water levels have caused grazing land for rhinos to shrink, forcing the animals to move to areas near the edge of the park, making them easy targets for poachers.

Besides, Lake Nakuru is located in a cosmopolitan area, so poachers easily sneak into the park, kill rhinos, and disappear into the town undetected.

Kiprono says KWS has adopted a multifaceted strategy that brings together law enforcement agencies, the Judiciary, and the community in an attempt to curb the menace.

“We have increased collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, both in the region and internationally, to ensure more robust intelligence gathering. The collaboration includes follow-ups on suspected poaching gangs, surveillance at all ports of entry and exit, and overt operations in wildlife areas,” he offers.

His views are echoed by Mr Aggrey Maumo, the KWS assistant director in charge of the Mountain conservation area, who says that poaching of rhinos and elephants is conducted by a complex web and that what they are fighting is just the low end of it.

“The main movers and shakers of this trade are very powerful people who have created very complex syndicates. It will take more than our efforts alone to crack it. All Kenyans must work with the authorities if we are to succeed,” he says.

According to a report released by the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) last month, the high prices that ivory fetches continue to drive the trade.

The reports reads in part: “With ivory’s market value reaching $900 (Sh77,400) per kilogramme in China, the financial stakes are high, and it appears sponsors are adopting bold new tactics to satisfy demand.”

“One criminal syndicate will gather a poaching gang together and that poaching gang will be assigned instructions to kill a specific herd of elephants or to provide a specific amount of ivory,” says Mr William Clark of Interpol’s Environmental Crime Programme.

“We are alive to the fact that wildlife, particularly rhinos and elephants, are increasingly becoming vulnerable because of high demand for their horns and ivory respectively. Poaching of this prized wildlife has become more organised, sophisticated, and international in nature,” Clark adds.

Despite the enactment of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013, which stipulates tough punishment for those convicted of poaching — including life imprisonment or a Sh20 million fine — the trade continues unabated.

Yet for people like Wanyama, the loss of every animal counts. He says the long and lonely hours spent in the wild with the animals not only make the rangers attached to them, it also allows the officers to know the individual character of some of the animals.

“Their behaviour is very similar to that of human beings; some are reserved while others are hostile. Yet others can decide to be naughty, always looking for the slightest opportunity to cause destruction,” he enthuses.

The ranger believes that his destiny with wild animals was determined when his parents named him Wanyama, which is Kiswahili for animals.

“My parents might have had cultural reasons for naming me Wanyama, but throughout school, fellow students often referred to me as a wild animal. Those are the things that shaped my destiny,” he says, gazing into the thick bushes.

He explains that in his Bukusu community, the name Wanyama is given to a boy born during the  circumcision period, a time during which people make merry and, therefore, most homes with initiates have meat in plenty.

And when KWS advertised for recruits, he applied and was successful. After training, he was posted to the Aberdare National Park, where he has served for three years.

“When I was employed, I knew that my responsibilities were to sustain, manage, and conserve wildlife. When one of your biggest animals dies, and if they continue dying at this rate, KWS will have no role in this country as there will no longer be any wildlife to conserve,” he laments.

He acknowledges that looking after the animals is an enormous task.

The rugged terrain, poachers who are getting more sophisticated by the day, and inadequate staff are some of the challenges Wanyama and his colleagues have to contend with daily. It is a job to which he gives his all irrespective of the weather, so it pains him when poachers kill an animal.

Wanyama says he has developed such a strong attachment to the wildlife that he would not trade his gun for any other profession. At home he keeps cows, goats, and doves.

Indeed, Maumo says that some of the rangers get so attached to the wildlife that when an animal is killed, they get deeply affected.

“We are aware that the officers work under difficult conditions but encourage them and try as much as possible to address the issues that arise from time to time.

“But wildlife conservation is not the responsibility of KWS alone. We are engaging with the neighbouring villages to help us fight the poachers,” he says.

Maumo says poachers have created an elaborate syndicate that calls for a multi-pronged approach to deal with.

It is notable that even as he talks of the involvement of criminal gangs, Kiprono acknowledges that 17 KWS employees have been fired over poaching, while 13 others were retired in the public interest, an indication that some insiders could be collaborating with the poachers.

And as long as that continues, poaching will remain a hard nut to crack.

Number of rhinos killed since January
Number of elephants killed since January
Number of elephants killed in 2013
Cost per kilogramme of ivory in China. 3.5 tonnes of ivory were seized in Mombasa last year!


Elephants are known to be highly social and intelligent creatures.

And now there is evidence that they engage in something like a group hug when a fellow elephant is in distress.

Mr Joshua Plotnick, who leads a conservation and education group called Think Elephants and teaches conservation at Mahidol University in Thailand, studied elephants at a park in Chiang Rai Province in Thailand to look for consolation behaviour.

As defined by Franz de Waal, Plotnick’s PhD adviser at Emory University, “Consolation behaviour involves bystanders responding in a reassuring way to an animal that is in emotional distress because of a conflict with another member of the group.”

“We’re pretty confident it’s relatively rare in animals,” Plotnick said in an interview, adding that there was evidence of the behaviour in apes, wolves, and some birds, and that there had been anecdotal reports of such behaviour in dolphins and elephants.

Elephants clearly have strong emotional connections to other elephants and are highly intelligent, so it made sense to think that they might console one another. To find out, Plotnick observed 26 elephants in six groups at a managed park.

When one elephant was disturbed, he said, other elephants gathered around it. They made high-pitched sounds and touched the distressed elephant, trunk to mouth or trunk to genitals, which are reassuring gestures among elephants.

Plotnick said that since he could not always observe the original source of the distress, he could not say that the behaviour met the narrow definition of consolation as it was not clear whether it followed conflict.

The elephants might have been scared by a person, dog, or, in some cases, a noise that humans could not hear. But he said that in every other way, the behaviour showed that they were acting to reassure the elephant that was upset.