Archives For poaching

Exposing the Hydra - IvoryDespite being the focus of numerous investigations and exposés regarding the country’s role in the international illegal wildlife trade, Vietnam continues to be a primary hub for ivory trafficking.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has released a report Exposing the Hydra: The growing role of Vietnamese syndicates in ivory trafficking documenting the findings of a two-year undercover investigation. (Download the full report at this hyperlink).

Investigators successfully infiltrated several ivory trafficking syndicates operating in Mozambique, South Africa, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, building a detailed picture of how these criminal organizations are structured, how they cooperate with one another and how they also traffic other endangered species such as rhinos and pangolins.

In contrast to China, which closed its domestic legal ivory market in January and stepped up enforcement against ivory trafficking, the Government of Vietnam has not demonstrated serious commitment to tackling wildlife crime, says the organization. Instead, the past decade has seen Vietnam serve as a prominent transit route for large ivory shipments to China as well as overseeing a growing carving industry and one of the world’s biggest markets for ivory sales.

The report states that since 2009, 56 tons of ivory have been seized in Vietnam and a further 20 tons linked to Vietnam seized in other countries. This is equivalent to ivory sourced from approximately 11,414 elephants.

EIA estimates that since 2015 the ivory traffickers identified during the course of their investigation have been linked to seizures totalling 6.3 tons of ivory and 299 kilograms of rhino horn, including the recent record seizure of 50 rhino horns in Malaysia in August 2018. Between January 2016 and November 2017 there were at least 22 successful shipments of ivory from Africa, with an estimated weight of 19 tons and potential revenue of $14 million.

Source: EIA International and Maritime Executive, 16 September 2018

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STROOP – Journey into the Rhino Horn War, is getting a lot of attention all the way around the world at the moment and its clear to see why!

The film tells the shocking and touching story of the ongoing poaching of the rhinos and the trade in its coveted horn. Four years in the making, this labour of love saw de Bod and director Susan Scott sell their houses, leave their jobs and move in with their mothers in order to document what is happening in the fight to save the rhino from extinction.

The locally made documentary film, has just been awarded the 2018 Green Tenacity Award by the judges of the Eighth Annual San Francisco Green Film Festival, coming ahead of the film’s world premiere at the festival which will run from Thursday September 6 through to Friday, September 14. STROOP was one of 26 final films selected out of 350 submissions and one of five to win awards – a huge credit for producer, Bonné de Bod.

It was supposed to be a 6-month project but soon turned in to a dangerous and intense expedition for which the passionate duo often found themselves in immense danger. In an exclusive first, de Bod and Scott filmed special ranger units inside the world-famous Kruger National Park and at the home of the white rhino, the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park and travelled undercover to the dangerous back rooms of wildlife traffickers and dealers in China and Vietnam.

The result is a hard-hitting – and ultimately moving – documentary that challenges and shocks viewers.

Says Bonné “We are over the moon at receiving this prestigious award and it makes all our hard work and dedication to this film that much more worthwhile. Hopefully, it also means that the recognition will create additional awareness and encourage even more people to see the film when it releases.”

According to the festival’s criteria, the Green Tenacity Award is given to filmmakers “who show great tenacity in exploring crucial environmental issues in their work.”

Made solely with crowdfunding and grants – the film shows why this hunted and targeted species deserves to live in dignity, free from exploitation by illegal traders, poachers, money men and corrupt governments.

STROOP – Journey into the Rhino Horn War will premiere in South Africa in February 2019 after its film festival run overseas.

Source: sandtonchronicle.co.za, 22 August 2018.

Vietnam Ivory Seizure

Customs officers in Vietnam seized more than two tons of elephant tusks, eight days after confiscating an ivory shipment weighing nearly a ton, authorities said. Picture: Pornchai Kittiwongsakul

Customs officers in Vietnam seized more than two tons of elephant tusks, eight days after confiscating an ivory shipment weighing nearly a ton, authorities said on Monday.

The estimated 4.4 million dollars worth of ivory was disguised as logs and hidden within a shipment of timber from Nigeria.

The cargo was posted to the same company listed as the receiver for nearly a ton of elephant tusks and rhinoceros horn from Mozambique that was discovered on August 13, said Ho Xuan Tam, Da Nang Customs Department spokesman.

Company officials have denied wrongdoing.

The poaching of elephants and rhinoceros and the trafficking of their tusks and horns are outlawed under international efforts to protect endangered species. But the illicit trade from Africa to Asia has grown with rising prosperity creating demand in Vietnam and China.

While elephant ivory is valued for its aesthetic appeal, folk superstitions prize rhino horn for its supposed medicinal and aphrodisiac qualities.

A single gram of ground rhino horn possesses a street value of 133 dollars. Rhino killings reached a record 1 215 last year, 10 times the number killed in 2009, according to the conservation group WildAid. Source: IOL

A Kenya Wildlife Services officer stands near a burning pile of 15 tonnes of elephant ivory seized in Kenya at Nairobi National Park [Picture - Carl de Souza - AFP]

A Kenya Wildlife Services officer stands near a burning pile of 15 tonnes of elephant ivory seized in Kenya at Nairobi National Park [Picture – Carl de Souza – AFP]

Campaigners say rising demand in Asia is fuelling the poaching of elephants in Africa and the smuggling of ivory

Campaigners say rising demand in Asia is fuelling the poaching of elephants in Africa and the smuggling of ivory

Officials travelling to Tanzania with Chinese President Xi Jinping went on a buying spree for illegal ivory, an environmental activist group has said.

In a report, the Environmental Investigation Agency cited ivory merchants who said demand from the delegation in 2013 had sent prices soaring.

China denies the allegations, saying it consistently opposes poaching. Read the following blog – Tanzania – Chinese ivory spree during presidential visit. authored by Africa – News and Analysis.

With record levels of global ivory seizures in 2013, mostly in ports, a new Interpol report highlights the need for greater information sharing to enable a more proactive and effective law enforcement response against trafficking syndicates.

Large-scale ivory shipments – each one representing the slaughter of hundreds of elephants – point to the involvement of organized crime networks operating across multiple countries. Head of Interpol’s Environmental Security unit, David Higgins, said while there was a global recognition of the problems of elephant poaching and ivory smuggling, a more integrated approach was needed for a more effective response.

“Ivory seizures are clearly an important step in stopping this illicit trade, but this is just one part of a much bigger picture,” said Higgins. “If we are to target those individuals behind the killing of thousands of elephants every year, who are making millions at the cost of our wildlife with comparatively little risk, then we must address each and every stage of this criminal activity in a cohesive manner.

The report ‘Elephant Poaching and Ivory Trafficking in East Africa – Assessment for an effective law enforcement response’ was launched at the Canadian High Commissioner’s Residence in Nairobi, Kenya.

While poaching in Kenya has reduced due to more pressure by security agents on poachers, the country is being used as a transit route with the port of Mombasa becoming a favorite for poachers. The ivory is packaged in shipping containers for transport to the port, and interception of the majority of ivory has occurred in maritime ports with the loot hidden in shipment containers usually concealed by other lawful goods.

Uganda though a landlocked country is becoming a transit route for the ivory, mostly from Tanzania. Tanzania was the leading source of illegal ivory in the East African region last year. At the same time, the port of Mombasa accounted for the largest volume of seizures in Africa with a total of over 10 tonnes of illegal ivory intercepted between January and October 2013.

Approximately 30 elephants are killed in Tanzania daily amounting to more than 10,000 animals annually. An estimated 22,000 elephants were killed illegally continent wide in 2012.

Tanzania’s elephant population has continued to plummet in recent years and in Selous Game reserve which boasted the world second largest elephant population at 70,000 elephants in 2006, the numbers have fallen to an estimated 39,000 elephants in 2009 and currently stand at 13,084 elephants.

There is global concern about the problem. The Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference, held in London this month, agreed key actions to stamp out the illegal wildlife trade. During the conference, chaired by Foreign Secretary William Hague and attended by the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, world leaders from over forty nations vowed to help save iconic species from the brink of extinction.

The London Declaration contains commitments for practical steps to end the illegal trade in rhino horn, tiger parts and elephant tusks that fuels criminal activity worth over $19 billion each year.

Key states, including Botswana, Chad, China, Gabon, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Vietnam, along with the US and Russia, have signed up to actions that will help eradicate the demand for wildlife products, strengthen law enforcement, and support the development of sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by wildlife crime. Continue Reading…

black-rhino-2Rampant poaching in Africa is a cause of major concern to wildlife organizations. Many rhinos are killed every year mainly for Asian markets. In Vietnam, rhino horn is believed to be miraculous, able to heal cancer.

A total of 158 rhino have been poached since the beginning of the year, according to the South African Department of Environmental Affairs. Over 630 rhino were killed by poachers in South Africa during 2012.

If the killing of rhinos continues to increase, African wild rhinos could disappear within a few years. The best protected rhinos live in Kenya. Four of them, known as northern white rhinos, are the last of their kind. Each one of them has four bodyguards to guarantee its survival. But most of the other 25,000 rhinos in Africa do not enjoy such protection. The trade in rhino horn is illegal. However it is flourishing, most of the horn coming from South Africa, where most rhinos live. Hunters are willing to pay up to 20,000 euros ($26,000) to shoot a rhino and take the trophy home.

Rhino poaching on the rise

Rhino poaching has increased tenfold in the last five years, according to the nature and animal protection organization World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The conference singled out Vietnam as the main importing country and Mozambique as a major transit country for rhino trafficking. This is the first time that countries were named at CITES.

Vietnamese believe that rhino horn powder can cure cancer

The two countries now have a few months’ time to address the problem constructively. Mozambique is poor but CITES’ regulations are also valid there. To learn how to fight against poachers effectively, the country may seek advice from environmental and conservation organizations. In the case of Vietnam, lack of political will seems to be the major problem. Even Vietnamese embassy staff were involved in the illegal horn trade. Vietnam is now under pressure. By January 2014, Vietnam as well as Mozambique have to prove that they are able to fight against horn trafficking from southern Africa, or else sanctions will be imposed.

Superstition hikes the price

In addition to stricter controls, the WWF and other animal welfare organizations are implementing awareness campaigns. In Vietnam there is a belief that the powder from the horn of the rhinoceros can help against fever, prevent a hangover or even cure cancer. These claims however, are dismissed by scientists. The horn consists of the same material as fingernails and hair. Nevertheless, Vietnamese are willing to pay more than 40,000 euros per kilogram, more than the price of gold.

Thousands of wild rhinos have been killed and their horns trafficked to Asia

South African biologist Duan Biggs says awareness campaigns and banning illegal trade control will not help to solve the problem. Shortly before the CITES conference, Biggs, together with three other scientists, wrote in the journal “Science”, calling for the legalization of the horn trade. “We have a buffer of a very healthy population of rhinos to work with,” Biggs said. He is convinced legalization is the right course to take. If that doesn’t work, it can always be stopped again. “If we wait longer and the current situation continues, we will lose the opportunity to try an alternative strategy.”

Legal breeding instead of illegal slaughter

Since horn grows like fingernails, rhinos should be bred specifically for the horn trade. The horn could be cut off when the animal is under anaesthetic. That way the animal doesn’t suffer pain. This is done to a quarter of the animals living in South African private game reserves, where dead animals’ horns are not allowed to be sold. If these horns are legally harvested and put on the market, prices and poaching would decrease, argues Biggs.

The WWF and many other organizations vehemently opposed the legalization theory. A boom in demand and even worse poaching could result if horns are on the market in large quantities and at cheaper prices. “A change from the elite-trend to mass-trend will be like lighting a fire that will be difficult to extinguish”, said a WWF spokesperson.

The dynamics of illegal rhino poaching paint a vivid reality. Is this really any different of narcotics and money-laundering, human-trafficking and counterfeiting? I think not. In many instances its the same ‘operators’ at play preying on weak human instinct and a complete lack of morals!  On the other hand I suppose, based on the reasoning of scientist Biggs, one could say legalising narcotics and prostitution would be the ‘right thing to do’ since we have a “buffer of healthy unemployed woman and youth” ???

A record number of African rhinos were illegally killed in South Africa this year, driven by the use of their horns in Chinese medicine and a spreading belief in Southeast Asia, unfounded in science, that they may cure cancer. The street value of rhinoceros horns has soared to about $65 000 a kilogramme, making it more expensive than gold.

South Africa, home to more than 20 000 rhinos, or about 90% of all the rhinos in Africa, lost 455 rhinos to poachers, as of Tuesday, to eclipse the 448 killed in all of 2011, the environment ministry said in a statement. Around 15 animals a year were lost a decade ago, showing the impact of rising demand from Asia.

The number of rhinoceroses dying unnatural deaths in South Africa, either through illegal poaching or legal hunts, has now reached a level likely to lead to population decline, according to a study by Richard Emslie, an expert in the field. Poaching increased dramatically from about 2007 as a growing affluent class in China, Vietnam and Thailand began spending more on rhino horn for traditional medicine, where it was once used for ailments such as devil possession.

About half of poaching takes place in Kruger National Park, the country’s flagship park covering an area about the size of Israel, where soldiers and surveillance aircraft have been deployed in recent months to slow the carnage. The park has been the focal point of an arms race as gangs of poachers sponsored by international crime syndicates have used high-powered weaponry, night vision goggles and helicopters to hunt the animals, investigators said. Source: Polity.org.za

According to the latest data from South Africa’s department of environmental affairs (20 June 2012), the total number of rhinos poached  since the beginning of this year now stands at 251 with the number of arrests at 170.

The North-West, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo provinces continue to be targeted by poachers, collectively accounting for 86 of the total rhinos poached this year. The Kruger National Park, alone, has lost a total of 149 rhinos since the beginning of this year.  At this rate the carnage will almost certainly exceed the 448 slain last year.

Thus far, a total of 170 arrests have been made of which 147 of the arrested were poachers, 10 receivers or couriers, six couriers or buyers and seven exporters.

Elephant and rhino poaching is surging, conservationists say, an illegal part of Asia’s scramble for African resources, driven by the growing purchasing power of newly affluent Asians.

A film made by UNTV and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) can be seen on YouTube on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3m7FOXOLbY. Rhino horn has long been used in traditional medicines in China and Vietnam and the film quotes a doctor at Hanoi’s biggest hospital who sings its praises. According to the film, rhino horns have also been stolen from museums and private collections in more than 15 countries. Source: DoEA

South Africa is considering whether to approach the international community with a proposal to trade in rhino horn, Environment Minister Edna Molewa told MPs on Wednesday. Opening debate in the National Assembly on her department’s budget, she said this included engaging “major role players, including international and regional partners [and] potential consumer states”.

Molewa’s remarks come 10 months ahead of the 16th congress of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), set to take place in Bangkok, Thailand, in March next year. According to reports, South Africa is sitting on an estimated 20-ton stockpile of rhino horn; some of it in private hands, some stored by conservation authorities. The price of the horn, should the Cites moratorium on trade be lifted, has been estimated at more than R500,000 a kilogram.

Molewa has declined to say how much rhino horn is held by government-managed parks and reserves.”Due to security risks, the department cannot publicly announce the amount of stocks being held by these agencies”. On Wednesday, she said her department was involved in an “extensive” preparatory process ahead of the Cites congress.

“This will include discussions on whether or not to approach the international community with a proposal to trade in rhino horn.” On the rhino poaching crisis in South Africa, Molewa said 199 rhino had been killed so far this year. “We are very, very deeply concerned,” she told the House. Earlier, briefing journalists at Parliament, Molewa said South Africa would not table a document at the next Cites meeting calling for the rhino horn trade moratorium to be lifted.

“No, not this time around. We are still considering all options, as well as probabilities towards that direction. We have not decided yet. Let it be clear. “We are still doing some very serious work in analysing whether we need to move in that direction or not.”

Among the things that needed to be done before trade could be resumed was “to ensure we get to know who the partners are on the other side”.Policies had to be in place “that do not allow any shenanigans to operate in the system,” Molewa said. “There are just too many things to do before we can place the discussion before the conference of parties. We are not yet there.”

Hmmmm! Would seem that the temptation for monetary profit is so compelling – R500,000/kg. Given the frequent outbursts at incidence of poaching and the horror pictures which normally accompany such reports how about burning the rhino horn reserves? That will send a clear message on government’s concern and intent.There exists a similar parallel where the importation of second-hand motor vehicles are banned in South Africa, but condoned because certain neighbouring countries want them. The old adage – ‘laws are meant to be broken’ comes to mind.  Source: SAPA