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Sensitise public to win war against poaching (Tanzania)

BY DANIEL SEMBERYA, The Guardian
1st December 2014
Poaching of elephants is a serious issue in southern Tanzania as well as other districts where elephants are free to stray outside the  national park surveillance.
Findings show that the number of elephants in two wildlife sanctuaries in Tanzania indicated a sharp fall by more than 40 percent in just three years, as poachers increasingly killed the animals for their tusks.
Given the estimated total elephant population in Tanzania as being between 110,000 and 140,000; it was feared that with such a large drop in numbers over such a short period of time this may wipe out the country’s elephant population within 7 years.
Speaking to some selected media when handing over anti-poaching banners to the Julius Nyerere International Airport authority in Dar es Salaam last week, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)’s country Director Bell’Aube Houinato said in order for Tanzania to win the war against elephant poaching it needs to sensitise and raise awareness to the public.
Various reports cite Tanzania as the largest supplier of poached ivory and illegal wildlife trade.
“Evidence shows that in areas where people have been empowered and sensitised to appreciate and value what they have for the future generation, incidences of poaching have significantly dropped,” he explained.
He said poachers have been succeeding in their missions because they usually get cooperation from the local people around because of poverty among them.
He said the twenty banners they have given to JNIA have message written in Chinese language because China is the largest importer of poached ivory. Chinese prize ivory for decorative and medicinal value.
He said WWF has also established their office to China, which is the demand side to sensitise them on the impact of continuing involving in that illegal wildlife trade.
Meanwhile, WWF has trained JNIA’s Airport personnel from different units on how they can easily detect and identify products that are made of ivory.
“The trade is real and is happening in front of them.
“He said the training offered by WWF to Julius Nyerere International Airport staff is meant to empower them with skills that will enable them identify ivory products that have been passing in front of them unknowingly,” he noted.
“We are coming in as a civil society organisation and an international organisation to support airport staff through training, education, materials, raising awareness and ensuring they are able to curb the trade.”
WWF boss said that his organisation has started with JNIA, but they have plans in future to provide similar support to other airports and seaports in the country, because the borders are open,
Houinato said since Tanzania was a source, transit and consumer of ivory products, there should be effective measures at the ground so as to stop wildlife products on transit through its airports.
He said his organisation has been educating the local community on how to manage wildlife and eventually benefit out of them through the partnership with the government.
Speaking when receiving the banners offered by WWF, Julius Nyerere International Airport, (JNIA)’s Director Moses Malaki said the banners have been written in Chinese language to convey the message to the Chinese.
“We don’t oppress them, but it is a reality that the Chinese are the great dealers in this illegal ivory trade adding that of recent a Chinese national was apprehended after body check and found that he had rounded his whole body with beads,” he explained.
He said after the checking was intensified to detect and identify products made of ivory at the airport, many of these Chinese business people are now taking ivory products being turned into the form of beads and bracelets. And worse enough they make big holes in some carvings and insert some ivory made products.
“Previously checking at the airport had focused mainly at detecting weapons, knives and other sharp instruments that hijackers could easily use to hijack aircraft, as a result many business people used that loop hole to transit ivory products and drugs through the airport unnoticed,” he revealed.
He said this new crime of taking outside national trophy is the one that forced the airport authority to request WWF who knows and can easily identify all products made of wildlife products to come and train their personnel on how to detect ivory products that have been passing through the airport undetected.
“We are joining hands with the government to wage war against poaching, that why this training involves the police, airport staff, people dealing cargos, security people and other government machinery.”
These personnel are being trained to detect and identify things that are made of ivory and stop their transit through the airport.
“The objective of the training is to empower them with important knowledge that will enable them identify the various items that have been prohibited by the government.”
He said, “Previously we lacked this knowledge because when we detected foreign thing in one of the bags of passengers we had to wait for officials from wildlife section, and sometimes we had to delay the journey of that passenger. But with this training these trained officials will no longer wait for officials from the wildlife section to come and identify the unknown thing.”
Other key stakeholders in the sector are of the opinion that if concerted efforts are not taken by the government, elephant extinction in Tanzania would bring serious consequences in the tourism industry.
Presently, the estimated number of African elephants is about 0.5 million in the entire African range states.
Tanzania recently has lost more elephants to poaching than any other country. In 2013, it lost 10,000 – or 27 a day.
The country had 142,000 elephants in 2005; the agency predicted that, at the current death rate, the number would fall to about 55,000 in 2015. The elephant population at the Selous reserve alone fell from 70,000 in 2006 to just 13,000 in 2013.
Because of its scarcity, ivory also is an investment commodity.
Report show that Tanzania is the biggest source of illegal ivory seized around the world.
Elephants are slaughtered at the parks – Selous, a reserve in southern Tanzania, is one of the hardest hit.
The ivory is collected in villages and brought to the port in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s capital. It is loaded into freighters and shipped to destinations in Asia, including Hong Kong, Manila and Haiphong, Vietnam, before ending up in China, where it is cut, carved and sold as decoration or used in medicine.
None of this would be possible without the cooperation of Tanzanian authorities, said Shruti Suresh, an EIA wildlife campaigner.
“Seeing that there are several tonnes of ivory going through government posts, past government officials, it is clear that this corruption permeates through the highest levels of government,” Suresh said.
The insatiable demand for ivory, mostly from Asia, has had devastating consequences for elephant populations.
The environmental agency said Tanzania had lost two-thirds of its elephants in less than a decade, mostly to poachers.

Counting the cost of East Africa’s poaching economy

Organised crime gangs generate staggering profits smuggling ivory and rhino horn

AFP

Published: 15:33 March 23, 2014

Nairobi: Organised crime gangs in East Africa are generating staggering profits smuggling ivory and rhino horn with impunity, experts say, threatening both an irreplaceable wildlife heritage and key tourism industries.

Kenyan and Tanzanian ports are the “primary gateway” for ivory smuggled to Asia, where demand is fuelled by increasingly affluent markets, especially in China, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warns.

Last year, seizures of ivory shipments reached “record levels”, according to a recent Interpol report.

“Large-scale ivory shipments — each one representing the slaughter of hundreds of elephants — point to the involvement of organised crime networks operating across multiple countries,” Interpol said.

 Poaching has risen sharply across Africa in recent years.

Organised gangs with insider knowledge and armed with automatic weapons and specialised equipment such as night vision goggles, brazenly use chainsaws to carve out the rhino horn or remove elephant tusks.

Veteran Kenyan conservationist Richard Leakey has now warned that drastic action must be taken, saying that known ringleaders in Kenya are operating with “outrageous impunity”.

The rise in poaching, with animals being slaughtered inside even the most heavily guarded national parks or conservation areas, show that the poachers have little fear of tough new laws designed to stem the wave of killings, he said.

“They could not operate with the impunity we are seeing if you did not have some form of protection from law enforcement agencies,” Leakey said, as he made an appeal for Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to take action.

“It is a problem of a few criminals… the ringleaders are known,” he added, claiming that a core group of around 20 to 30 people were organising the mass poaching but that none had faced justice.

It’s a lucrative business: a kilo of ivory is worth some $850 (Dh3,121) in Asia, with UNODC suggesting ivory smuggled to Asia from Eastern Africa was worth over $31 million in 2011.

But such short-term and finite profits generated by the spate of killings are threatening the far more valuable tourism industry, which in Kenya and Tanzania is the second largest foreign exchange earner after agriculture.

“The African elephant is not currently deemed ‘endangered’ as a species, but its decimation in Eastern Africa could be devastating,” UNODC’s report read.

“In addition to the reduction in genetic diversity, its loss could seriously undermine local tourist revenues, a key source of foreign exchange for many of the countries of the region.”

But the region’s two large container ports — Mombasa in Kenya and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania — are also notorious trafficking hubs, funnelling more elephant tusks to Asia than all of central, southern and west African nations combined.

The two nations made up almost two-thirds of all large shipments of ivory seized across the entire continent from 2009-2011, according to the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), a tracking database run by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.

Seizures of containers crammed full of tusks — often hidden under foul-smelling fish or dried chili peppers in a bid to confuse sniffer dogs or discourage detailed searches — are regularly found.

Much of the ivory smuggled is destined for China, whose rapidly growing economy has encouraged those enjoying disposable income to splash out on an ivory trinket as a sign of financial success.

“Growing affluence in China, where possession of elephant ivory remains a status symbol, appears to have rendered China the world’s leading destination for illicit ivory,” the UNODC report added.

The smuggling of rhino horns is a bigger problem for Southern Africa, which has far more of the endangered animals. It is often done by air, due to the value of the horn and its smaller size.

But scores of East African rhinos are also being killed despite wildlife rangers often risking their lives to protect them.

 Few convictions

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 Action is being taken including far stiffer sentences for wildlife crime, with Tanzania this month jailing a Chinese ivory smuggler to 20 years in jail, and Kenya introducing tough new laws with comparable penalties.

But many escape justice: a recent study by the Kenyan conservation campaign group Wildlife Direct found that just four percent of those convicted of wildlife crime in the past spent time in jail.

Tanzania last year launched a crackdown on suspected poachers, operating under what was reported to be a shoot-to-kill policy and making sweeping arrests.

Leakey, 69, a Kenyan national and former head of the government’s Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), said with the “right management” stemming the poaching was “not an impossible” task.

He was key in stemming the rampant poaching of the late 1980s, bringing in extreme measures to combat poachers including sending helicopter gunships into national parks, and organising the iconic burning of stockpiled ivory.

“It is not valuable, it is tragic rubbish,” Leakey said, waving an ivory carving seized from a smuggler, the tiny tusk of a baby elephant.

“It is putting at risk our heritage… you can regrow a crop but you cannot regrow a wildlife species that disappears.”

This article can be found in this link:

http://gulfnews.com/news/world/other-world/counting-the-cost-of-east-africa-s-poaching-economy-1.1307699

CJ Mutunga welcomes new anti-poaching law

BY ELIJAH CHEMOBO, The Star
January 31, 2014
The Judiciary has thrown its weight behind the punitive Wildlife and Conservation Act, which sets a maximum life imprisonment or a fine of Sh20 million for poachers.

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga said the Kenya Wildlife Service, Judiciary and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions will now collaborate to end poaching.

“With new laws and effective inter-agency cooperation, we will nab and jail the ivory dealers. This will stem the flow of ivory and quickly secure our elephants and rhinos,” said Dr Mutunga as he officially opened the dialogue meeting on wildlife crimes in Nairobi on Wednesday. Mutunga said his office is committed to ensure the reforms succeed. He said there is no doubt the new law and reforms court reforms will transform the wildlife crime situation in Kenya.

Environment Secretary Judy Wakhungu said the penalties will make poaching non-profitable.She said the wildlife sector is a key pillar of Kenya’s economy as it is the backbone of the tourism industry. “We have now classified wildlife crimes as economic crimes so that they attract stiff punishments for those involved,” Wakhungu said.

She said they will also work closely with the Judiciary in understanding the gravity of wildlife related crimes. “The custodial sentences and fines will now reflect the damage that the illicit trade brings to the wellbeing of Kenya,” Wakhungu said.

The first casualty of the new law is a Chinese Tang Jian, who was fined Sh20 million after he was caught with ivory weighing 3.4kg at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. If he is unable to pay the fine, he will be jailed for seven years.

Wakhungu said Kenya is a source and a transit destination for ivory and other illicit wildlife products. She said her Ministry, the Judiciary and related stakeholders will work with the international community to ensure that demand for wildlife products is eliminated.