Tag Archives: Malawi

Time to hunt down the ‘kingpins’ of wildlife crime

Sarah Morrison, The Independent
February 6, 2014
World leaders are being urged to crack down on the masterminds behind gangs that make billions from animal carcasses

The dangerous criminal networks that run the global wildlife trade have been allowed to persist and prosper as a result of “chronic government failures” to treat them seriously, experts have warned, days before the world’s biggest conference on international wildlife crime.

The £12bn industry is the world’s fourth biggest illegal trade after narcotics, human trafficking and counterfeiting. But despite arresting traffickers and seizing wildlife parts, law enforcers have failed to arrest or convict the criminal masterminds wreaking havoc across Africa, according to a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), which has been investigating the trade for more than three decades.

“Despite record seizures of illegal ivory, not a single criminal kingpin involved in the international illegal trade of ivory has prosecuted and convicted to date. That is a damning indictment. With less than 3,500 wild tigers left, elephant numbers plummeting and rhinos under attack again, we need to get it right,” said Mary Rice, executive director of the EIA.

We know time is running out. Around 100 elephants are killed every day for their ivory, and conservationists warn that in some parts of Africa formerly great populations could be wiped out in just five years. Last year was reportedly the worst on record for rhino poaching in South Africa; 1,004 animals were killed – a 50 per cent increase on 2012. Almost 6,000 Asian big cats have been identified in trade over the past 13 years and at least 45 tonnes of ivory were seized in 2013, a haul believed to be the largest in a quarter of a century.

But as world leaders and heads of state prepare to fly into London for the conference, where they will try to find a solution to global wildlife crime, the report warns that “greater effort is needed to build evidence against the main culprits who lead the smuggling syndicates without getting their hands dirty”. The EIA suggests that this will require detailed detective work involving intelligence sharing between agencies, and internationally, and the use of forensic techniques.

The report, In Cold Blood: Combating Organised Wildlife Crime, draws attention to the most notorious wildlife crimes in history, from the discovery of 31 tiger skins, 581 leopard skins and 778 otter skins in Tibet in a routine vehicle search in 2003, to the recovery of 532 elephant tusks in Singapore a year before. In neither case were the leaders of the networks prosecuted.

A picture emerges of highly intelligent criminal syndicates that commission the mass slaughter of animals, forge documentation, commit tax fraud, and constantly evade justice. “For decades, criminal gangs have been devastating our environment and driving both iconic and little-known species to the brink of extinction. Undermining democratic structures and fostering corruption at every level, these individuals have been operating with [impunity] for decades,” Ms Rice added.

But world leaders are finally acknowledging the scale of the problem. Yesterday, the UK government announced it would fund the National Wildlife Crime Unit for another two years. The French government also crushed three tonnes of seized ivory, two months after it announced its national action plan against poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. This follows the destruction of seized ivory by Gabon, the US, the Philippines and China.

“Illegal wildlife trade can be serious, organised and global,” said Sabri Zain, director of policy at Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring network. “Every country has a part to play to ensure the criminal networks behind it are dismantled.”

The Independent, with its sister titles, is running an elephant appeal supporting Space for Giants, a charity determined to defend Africa’s elephants. But we want to halt all wildlife crime.

Our petition calls for world leaders to commit to better training and resources for rangers; to provide better education in places such as Asia, where consumer demand is driving up poaching; to stamp down on corruption and implement laws against those involved in the trade; to help local communities develop sustainable livelihoods; and to uphold the ban on the international trade in ivory.

Six of the worst:

The Singapore ivory seizure

When the Singaporean authorities were tipped-off in 2002 about a vessel supposedly carrying stone sculptures from Malawi, they discovered the largest batch of ivory seized since the 1989 international ban. It totalled 7.2 tonnes, over six tonnes from slaughtered elephants, sourced largely from Zambia.

The seized container was reportedly just one of 19 suspected shipments by an organised ivory syndicate. Japan was its final destination. Despite a small fine issued to the shipping agent, none of the key players were prosecuted.

Chand big cat case

When it emerged that all of the tigers in Sariska Tiger Reserve, India, had been poached in 2005, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation began investigating.

The Delhi City Crime Branch intercepted telephone calls reportedly leading to Sansar Chand, one of the most notorious tiger traders in history – who was first arrested in 1974. When he was arrested in June 2005, it was estimated his network controlled 50 per cent of the illegal market in tiger and leopard skins. He and his associates reportedly had at least 57 court cases pending against them.

He was charged under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime, a landmark charge against a wildlife criminal. Members of Chand’s family have reportedly continued trading.

Tibet animal skins case

When police in Sangsang, Ngamring County, Tibet, conducted a routine vehicle search in 2003, they discovered a huge collection of skins from Asian big cats and other species: 31 tiger skins, 581 leopard skins and 778 otter skins, valued at $7.6m.

Some of the tightly packed skins had bullet holes in them and had Delhi newspapers stuck to their rear. The three people in the car were suspects were found guilty, convicted and sentenced to death in October 2004, subsequently reduced to life imprisonment. The convictions did not result in identification of the leaders of the smuggling syndicate.

The Teng Group ivory case

A shipping container of used tyres arrived in Cameroon from Hong Kong in 2006. It was emptied, loaded with timber and dispatched again for Asia. But when custom officials in Hong Kong X-rayed the container, they found 3.9 tonnes of ivory tusks concealed behind the timber, in a specially-modified compartment. It was a record seizure for Hong Kong at the time, representing at least 400 slaughtered elephants.

Paperwork reportedly indicated the transport of at last 12 previous shipments, along the same route. The shipments were reportedly linked to the ‘Teng Group’ – a notorious syndicate connected to money laundering and drug trafficking with connections to Nigeria. The criminal syndicate has so far evaded the law.

Sham rhino hunters

Thai national Chumlong Lemtongthai was arrested in South Africa in 2011 and charged with illegally obtaining hunting permits to fraudulently export rhino horns. He pled guilty to 52 counts. The following year, he was sentenced to 40 years in prison – reduced to 30 on appeal. But it’s not just Asia.

Last year, the Czech authorities arrested 15 people connected to sham rhino hunts in South Africa. In total, 24 rhino horns have been seized in the Czech Republic in the past few years.

Gir lion poaching

Organised poachers targeted the last remaining population of Asiatic lions, found in Gir National Park, India, in 2007, in a bid to feed the international market the bones it craved.  Suspects were arrested in  possession of lion claws and traps, their fingernails were clipped for evidence of lion blood and samples of blood-soaked clothing were taken.

A bandage found at the scene connected the suspects’ DNA with the location. Ultimately, 36 poachers were convicted and a major trader network was exposed.

These case studies are taken from an EIA report.

Sign our petition to stop the illegal killing of elephants now.

WildlifeDirect & Conservation Partners Announce Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action: Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants

***NEWS RELEASE***

CEO Dr. Paula Kahumbu represents Kenya’s “Hands Off Our Elephants” Campaign in Meeting with Hillary & Chelsea Clinton

Commitment’s Goal: Stop the Killing, Stop the Trafficking,
Stop the Demand

Commitment Makers include: Wildlife Conservation Society,
African Wildlife Foundation, Conservation International, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and World Wildlife Fund

Commitment Partners: African Parks Network, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Frankfurt Zoological Society, Freeland Foundation, Howard Buffett Foundation, International Conservation Caucus Foundation, National Geographic, Save the Elephants, TRAFFIC, WildAid and WildlifeDirect

Nations joining in commitment include: Botswana, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, South Sudan, Malawi, and Uganda

NEW YORK (Sept. 26, 2013) – Conservation groups announced today a three-year $80 million Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action to stop the slaughter of Africa’s elephants, decimated due to poaching for ivory. Dr. Paula Kahumbu, CEO of WildlifeDirect, met with former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea, of the Clinton Foundation. “We are proud to join forces with these two formidable women who are dedicating real commitment and power to this cause,” Kahumbu said; “It is notable that Hillary herself raised the issue of the connection between the slaughter of elephants and the slaughter of humans by terrorist groups who fund their attacks by this greed. I only regret that President and First Lady of Kenya could not be here because of the tragedy in Nairobi, but am proud Africa was well represented at this table.”

The Commitment Makers and their partners commit to funding and facilitating partnerships to advance a new three-pronged strategy that will catalyze a global movement to coordinate and leverage influence, constituencies, and resources to protect key elephant populations from poaching while reducing trafficking and demand for ivory. Funding for this commitment has been provided by myriad public and private sources, including U.S., European, and African governments; along with multi-lateral institutions, foundations, and concerned individuals. Nations joining in the commitment include: Botswana, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, South Sudan, Malawi, and Uganda.

These funds will be used to support national governments to scale up anti-poaching enforcement at the 50 priority elephant sites including hiring and supporting an additional 3,100 park guards. In addition, anti-trafficking efforts will be increased by strengthening intelligence networks and penalties for violations and adding training and sniffer dog teams at 10 key transit points. New demand reduction efforts will be implemented in 10 consumer markets over the next three years.

Further, leaders from African nations led a call for other countries to adopt trade moratoria on all commercial ivory imports, exports and domestic sales of ivory products until African elephant populations are no longer threatened by poaching.

The commitment was announced at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting underway in New York City. CGI’s 2013 theme, Mobilizing for Impact, explores ways that CGI members and member organizations can be more effective in leveraging individuals, partner organizations, and key resources in their commitment efforts.

Today’s announcement is the culmination of work by Secretary Clinton while serving as Secretary of State, as well as Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton’s engagement, who visited conservation sites on a trip with the Clinton Foundation to Africa this summer. Together, they have convened the NGO’s and nations to ensure rapid progress to a solution to prevent the extinction of Africa’s elephants and the proliferation of the violence caused by the criminal syndicates wiping out the elephants.

In addition to the funds already committed, the partnership urgently seeks additional partners to provide $70 million in financial or in-kind support over the next three years to reverse the decline of Africa’s elephants.

African elephants are being lost at an unprecedented rate, and the demand for ivory shows no decline. Tens of thousands of elephants are being killed illegally each year across Africa with some 35,000 lost in 2012 alone.

In addition to uniting national leaders and concerned groups and citizens, the commitment will focus attention on the national and global security implications of wildlife trafficking. As one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, valued at $7-10 billion annually, illegal wildlife trade ranks fifth globally in terms of value, behind the trafficking in drugs, people, oil and counterfeiting. Notorious extremist groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army, the janjaweed, and al-Shabaab poach ivory to fund terror operations.

Commitment Makers include: Wildlife Conservation Society, African Wildlife Foundation, Conservation International, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and World Wildlife Fund.

Commitment Partners are African Parks Network, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Frankfurt Zoological Society, Freeland Foundation, Howard Buffett Foundation, International Conservation Caucus Foundation, National Geographic, Save the Elephants, TRAFFIC, WildAid and WildlifeDirect.

The commitment runs through 2016 and addresses the problem on three fronts: stop the killing; stop the trafficking; and stop the demand:

Stop the Killing: The Commitment will scale up “on the ground” anti-poaching enforcement in African range states to reduce the amount of illegally killed elephants to below 50 percent.

NGO partners will support government efforts to scale up law enforcement in and around 50 key protected areas in Africa that together harbor approximately 285,000 elephants, or some two-thirds of the entire African population. NGO partners pledge to support the anti-poaching efforts of over 5,000 park guards at these sites. Partners project that this investment will reduce the average percentage of illegally killed elephants (PIKE) across these sites from 66 percent to 48 percent, with elephant population decline halted in about half of the 50 sites (PIKE less than 50 percent). Thus this effort will take the commitment halfway to its ultimate goal, reversing the decline in Africa’s elephants.

Stop the Trafficking: Partner NGOs will support governments in identifying and implementing priority actions to combat trafficking in ivory. A complimentary range of urgent actions will be used to strengthen enforcement capacity at ports and markets; increase intelligence-led crackdowns on illicit networks; secure ivory stockpiles, and reform laws and penalties can be tailored to rapidly reduce trafficking.

This commitment includes an African government led call for other countries to adopt trade moratoria on all commercial ivory imports, exports and domestic sales of ivory products until African elephant populations are no longer threatened by poaching. Government partners will initiate and support an African range state-led call to other range, transit and consumer countries to declare or restate domestic moratoria on all ivory and ivory product sales and purchases.

The partners commit to helping governments to reduce the number of large scale ivory shipments by 50 percent from 2011 baseline levels (the worst year on record for these ivory seizures) and extrapolating for changes in enforcement effort. In addition, the partners will work with governments to improve the potential detection and prosecution of illegal ivory trade by increasing the number of law enforcement officers and judiciary trained in Africa and Asia by 50 percent compared to 2011 levels by 2016.

Stop the Demand: The Commitment will target key consumer markets to increase awareness about poaching and illegal ivory trade, including generating 10 million actions taken via social media platforms to reduce ivory consumption and highlight the impact of ivory sales on the African elephant.

NGOs will use increased awareness to drive behavioral changes that will reduce consumption as well as result in “grassroots” political pressure on the governments of key consumer countries. Partners will work together to reduce the demand for ivory among potential consumers by both increasing awareness of the issues and providing mechanisms for civil society to take action. Partners pledge to take action, both individually and collectively, to reduce the stated intention to purchase ivory by at least 25 percent in key markets by the end of 2016 as measured by market research conducted at regular intervals throughout the duration of the commitment. This will be achieved by producing awareness content/materials and improving penalties and prosecutions that will spur behavior change and/or online action in key consumer countries. To measure success, standardized, replicable, scalable public opinion polls and surveys will be conducted within priority consumer countries.

Wildlife Conservation Society President and CEO Cristián Samper said: “On behalf of all the NGO partners involved in this initiative, I’m proud to announce that the Wildlife Conservation Society and their partners commit to providing $80 million over the next year to protect elephant populations by stopping the killing of elephants, stopping the trafficking in ivory, and stopping the demand for ivory across the world. We thank the Clinton Global Initiative, Sec. Clinton and Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton for helping to convene all the partners and for their long-time dedication to end this crisis. I know, together, we can move beyond extinction stats to the solutions to save elephants.”

African Wildlife Foundation CEO Patrick Bergin said: “We cannot hope to reverse the dramatic decline in elephant populations in Africa without addressing all three parts of the problem: the poaching of elephants on the ground in Africa, the global trafficking of ivory, and the insatiable demand by consumers for ivory products. This joint Commitment to Action demonstrates how much the resolution of this crisis relies on the coordination of efforts by multiple parties, from conservation organizations to governments around the world. African Wildlife Foundation thanks the Clinton Global Initiative for providing all of us with an opportunity to elevate the visibility of this crisis, and we personally thank Sec. Clinton and Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton for shining a spotlight on Africa’s elephants.”

Conservation International’s Co-founder, Chairman and CEO, Peter Seligmann, said: “We applaud the Clinton Global Initiative for bringing this issue to the world stage, and greatly appreciate the deep and sustained personal involvement of Secretary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, as well as that of our NGO, Foundation and government partners. Wildlife trafficking is directly connected to the global economy and security. It weakens ecosystems, fuels terrorist organizations, and threatens livelihoods. Conservation International is proud to be a part of this Commitment to Action, as it is in all of our enlightened self-interests to put an end to this deadly trade.”

Azzedine Downes, IFAW President and CEO, said: “The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) committed to this partnership from the outset because it represents the kind of large-scale and strategic collaboration it will take to save African elephants. Animal welfare and conservation organizations, range states and consumer countries, law enforcement and communities that live around the elephants—we all need to work together on a common plan if there is to be any hope of success.”

Carter Roberts, President & CEO of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said: “We know how to solve this crisis. What’s been missing is a united front from governments, NGOs and the private sector to scale up resources to stop the killing and crush the demand. Look at what has been done with conflict diamonds and fur from endangered species. The more people are aware of the consequences of what they buy, it changes what they do. We need to do the same with elephant ivory and rhino horn and tiger bone. What person would buy these things if they knew they slaughtered the most magnificent animals in the world? Because when people buy parts of these animals, they are contributing to the catastrophic killing taking place right now.”
Increasing consumer demand for ivory, particularly in Asia, is causing the price of ivory to skyrocket and is driving elephant poaching. Today’s ivory traffickers are primarily well-organized syndicates that operate as transnational criminal networks and often participate in other illegal activities, including trafficking in narcotics and weapons, and with links to terrorist networks. The poachers not only threaten the lives of elephants, but at least 1,000 park rangers have been killed in the line of duty over the past ten years, as they try to protect elephants and other wildlife.

Dr Paula Kahumbu with members of the CGI group in New York

Dr Paula Kahumbu
with members of the
CGI group in New York

###

About the Clinton Global Initiative
Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an initiative of Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 150 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date CGI members have made more than 2,300 commitments, which are already improving the lives of more than 400 million people in over 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued at $73.5 billion. CGI also convenes CGI America, a meeting focused on collaborative solutions to economic recovery in the United States, and CGI University (CGI U), which brings together undergraduate and graduate students to address pressing challenges in their community or around the world, and, this year, CGI Latin America, which will bring together Latin American leaders to identify, harness, and strengthen ways to improve the livelihoods of people in Latin America and around the world. For more information, visit clintonglobalinitiative.org and follow us on Twitter @ClintonGlobal and Facebook at facebook.com/clintonglobalinitiative.

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