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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…

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Rhino poaching statistics (Department of Environmental Affairs)

Rhino poaching statistics (Department of Environmental Affairs)

The Department of Environmental Affairs today, 24 July 2013 released the Rhino Issue Management (RIM) Report which emanated from the national consultation process to facilitate a common understanding of the key issues related to the protection and conservation of South Africa’s rhino population. The release of the RIM report comes as the number of rhino poached in South Africa increased to 514. To access the report, Click Here!

The Kruger National Park continues to bear the brunt of poaching with 321 rhino poached since 1 January 2013, while 54 have been killed for their horns in Limpopo, 53 in North West and 43 in KwaZulu-Natal. A total of 143 alleged poachers have been arrested this year.

The final report submitted to the Minister and Department of Environmental Affairs in January 2013 has greatly assisted the department in reviewing and updating its rhino response strategy outlined in the National Strategy for the Safety and Security of the Rhinoceros Population of South Africa (NSSSRPSA).

The RIM report incorporates current thinking on sustainable rhino conservation by acknowledged rhino specialists, ecologists and a range of other experts. It encapsulates viewpoints from Non-Government Organisations (NGO’s) both specialised and community based, civil society, and from traders, professional hunters, resource economists and ordinary citizens with a deep concern for the ethical and humane treatment of animals.

The consultation process resulted in clear agreement that the country’s rhinos should be conserved for the good of all humanity, and that every effort should be made to protect the threatened species from the sustained poaching onslaught by international syndicates earning huge profits from the sale of rhino horn.

The RIM report does, however, state that there is support to include commercial international trade in rhino horn as an integral part of South Africa’s comprehensive response strategy to address the continued illegal killing of rhinos. Source: Department of Environmental Affairs (South Africa) 

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