Tag Archives: wildlife rangers

Orphaned elephants and thousands of murdered wildlife rangers – victims of the brutal ivory trade

Tom Parry, DAily Mirror
Feb 06, 2014

Meet Quanza , an elephant orphan who was one year old when she saw her mother shot dead with an assault rifle before her tusks were hacked off by poachers.

Quanza’s two sisters went the same way and the young calf was spared only because she had no ivory worth wasting a bullet on.

She is one of the thousands of African elephants left orphaned as crime syndicates linked to terrorism sell prized “white gold” to the Far East.

But the violent massacre of defenceless creatures has a human cost too.

More than a thousand wildlife rangers have been murdered by poachers in 35 different countries over the last decade.

They include Jonathan Mancha, shot dead by gun-toting Somalis in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park where Quanza was born, leaving seven children between 15 and three without a father.

Jonathan, 37, had been chief ranger for 15 years when told a poaching gang was at large.

He was off duty but that didn’t stop him waving goodbye to his family, jumping in his Kenya Wildlife Service jeep and heading for the scene of the massacre.

That was the last time they saw him.

I meet the family in a tiny, stifling hovel down a rutted mud track. Old newspapers cover the wooden walls.

Older brother Tim, who has stepped in to support the children, tells me Jonathan was a hero.

Widow Alfonzina, 50, has to go outside as we begin to speak. She can’t bear to be reminded of what happened.

Tim recalls: “He was told by another ranger that men, he called them butchers, had killed a giraffe and an elephant.

“He said, ‘I’m not going home while poachers are slaughtering animals’.

“It was believed these were Somali poachers and I warned him that Somalis shoot to kill, not to scare.

“John and the other rangers had to go out into the bush on foot and they spotted the poachers. There were four of them, lying down.

“The rangers opened fire but the poachers retaliated and John was shot in the thigh. The bleeding was so bad that he died very quickly.

“No one could stop the bleeding. The poachers had better weapons.”

The killing of rangers on the poaching frontline is one issue David Cameron and African heads of state will discuss at a London conference on the £12billion illegal wildlife trade next week.

Gangs linked to al-Shabaab fire their assault rifles indiscriminately at rangers often armed only with wooden batons, then flee over the border to lawless Somalia.

In just one national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 183 park rangers were killed in 10 years.

In Amboseli, where 1,500 elephants roam freely on the dusty plains, watching 13ft-high bull elephants tear up grass with their trunks as their calves follow meekly behind is an awe-inspiring sight. It seems inconceivable anyone would kill them simply for their ivory.

Yet the vast empty space beneath Mount Kilimanjaro is too large to be patrolled adequately, and that makes the animals vulnerable.

In October 2012, Quanza was beside her mother Qumquat, the leader of the family, when poachers strafed their herd with AK47 bullets.

She was one of three elderly mothers killed, targeted for her long tusks which would fetch up to £80,000 in the Far East.

The poachers had lain in wait on the Amboseli herd’s migration route to the forests of Tanzania.

Rangers found Quanza standing next to her mother’s rotting carcass, the family’s only survivor.

It is stories like this that made Jonathan risk his life.

As I talk to his brother in the half-light of the mud-floored room, Jonathan’s children play in the overgrown yard outside.

They are too poor to afford school.

“I will always believe that he died a gallant soldier,” says Tim.

“He protected those elephants as though they were people. He was a very dedicated man who was passionate about wildlife.”

Happily for Quanza, her story has a happier ending.

Unable to survive alone, she was sedated and flown to an elephant orphanage in the Kenyan capital Nairobi run by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Now tended by keeper Amos Lakalau, she spends her days with other orphans in woodland and sleeps in a guarded enclosure.

Once rehabilitated, she will be returned to the wild.

Dame Daphne Sheldrick, 80, who tells me Quanza is likely to have seen her mother’s face hacked apart with an axe to get at the tusks, says: “It takes two years for the gestation of a baby elephant compared to nine months for man.

“This means it takes a long time for herds to regenerate if the older adults are targeted.

“Our anti-snaring teams are always catching poachers and alerting the authorities but the next day they are out again.

“They are laughing at them.”

Dame Daphne, honoured in 2006 for her lifetime’s work, adds: “There is no doubt that ivory smuggling syndicates are involved in arms and drugs.

“It is undoubtedly linked to terrorism, to al-Shabaab. The syndicates have become extremely rich through killing elephants.

“Corruption has always been a problem. The poachers have the connections to bribe their way out of prison.”

Prices of more than £100 a kilo for ivory in Kenya mean big money for the poorest people.

“The temptation is enormous,” she says. “In Kenya there are no social security benefits so a man has to live by whatever means he can.

“The key lies in China. As long as there is a demand for ivory, elephants will be killed.

“Until the sale of ivory is banned completely there will be a problem, and China will be seen as the villain.

“In China ivory is seen as a status symbol. It is considered white gold.”

I realise the enormity of the challenge when I meet ranger Moses Sinkooi, 30, and his team of three in a simple hut up a rocky hill.

It’s a far outpost, a small dot on a vast horizon.

The team monitor 5,000 acres on foot and the odds are stacked enormously against them.

“Three elephants were shot dead near here,” Moses tells me.

“It’s hard. There are only four of us and many of them.”

But the dedicated rangers will not give up… because, until the politicans take decisive action , they are the last line of defence for the animals they care for.

Advertising campaign changing minds in China on ivory trade

Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com
October 16, 2013

For three years, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has been running advertizing campaigns in Chinese cities to raise awareness on the true source of ivory: slaughtered elephants. A recent evaluation of the campaign by Rapid Asia found that 66 percent of those who saw the ads said they would “definitely” not buy ivory in the future.

Conservationists in China say that one of the reasons ivory remains popular in the country is due to a public misconception about how ivory is obtained. According to previous polling by the IFAW, 70 percent of Chinese believed that elephants simply dropped their ivory tusks like human teeth, and did not know that elephants were slaughtered en masse for their entrenched tusks. IFAW’s three year campaign was meant to change this erroneous perception.

“The ads explain that ivory products come from dead elephants and encourage consumers to reject elephant ivory,” explains Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia Regional Director for IFAW, in a press release.

Elephant poaching has skyrocketed in recent years. Experts now believe that around 30,000 elephants are likely slaughtered annually for their tusks. Forest elephants in Central Africa have been hit the hardest, but few populations worldwide are considered truly secure. While some governments have responded by adding wildlife rangers and increasing penalties for poaching, many experts say that tackling the demand side will be key if elephants are ever to roam again unmolested. China remains one of the largest destinations for illegal ivory, but demand in many other countries—including Thailand, the Philippines and the U.S.—is also fueling the trade.

According to the Rapid Asia report, IFAW’s advertisements in China, which have reached 75 percent of people in targeted cities, have had a significant impact. Comparing groups who had seen the ads to those who haven’t, the report finds that those exposed to the ads were less likely to buy ivory in the future: 92 percent of those who saw the ads said they would “definitely” or “probably” not buy ivory, compared to 82 percent of those who had not seen the ads. More importantly, the campaign appears to have cut in half people who are most likely to buy ivory (i.e those classified as “high risk” for purchasing ivory), down from 54 percent down to 26 percent.

“It’s very exciting to see that our campaign has definitely resonated with the Chinese public and achieved its intended outcome,” said Gabriel. “What’s more encouraging is to see Chinese people are not prejudiced against elephants. Once they know the bloody slaughter of elephants behind each piece of ivory, the majority not only rejects purchasing ivory but tells their friends and family to reject it as well.”

The report found that more educational campaigns would help reduce demand further, including emphasizing the massive-scale of the current elephant poaching crisis and that buying ivory stimulates the illegal trade.

“This highlights the need for continued campaigning to sway people to avoid buying ivory,” the report reads, adding “there is an opportunity to take the campaign to the next level.”