Tag Archives: poaching

Nepal Celebrates Over 2 Years of Zero Rhinos Poached

While poaching is reaching record highs in Africa, the same can’t be said for Nepal. It has been more than two years since a rhino was last poached in Nepal on May 2, 2014.

This is the first time Nepal has two consecutive years without poaching. And it’s a major factor in the rise of the greater one-horned rhino population to 645 animals, the highest recorded number in the country thus far.

Chief-Planning Division and Spokesperson of the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation Krishna P. Acharya says:

“This exceptional success is based on a combination of high-level political will, and the active involvement of the park authorities, Nepal Army, Nepal Police, conservation partners and local communities.”

Nepal’s success has been achieved by a coordinated national response, involving new approaches and improved protection efforts in national parks and surrounding areas. Nepal is already looking to maintain this success and hopes to launch “Mission 2nd May 2017” to celebrate 3 consecutive years of zero poaching.

Country Representative of WWF Nepal Anil Manandhar says:

“The zero poaching success has allowed Nepal to launch other projects to conserve its rhinos, including the recent translocation of five rhinos from Chitwan National Park to Bardia National Park. Nepal has shown that countries can stop poaching and we are confident that its integrated conservation machinery will ensure that the rhino population continues to grow.”

 
 
Featured image by Ted / CC BY-SA 2.0

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How Elephant Societies are Surviving the Poaching Crisis

As many as 100,000 elephants fell victim to poaching in just two years, between 2010 and 2012.

In the elephant poaching world, poachers target males first because they have the largest tusks and then they move on to females. You’d think this latter move would break up elephant societies, as they are matriarchal, but that isn’t the case.

So how do elephant societies survive such an aggressive onslaught?

A new study found that the elephants’ extended families are stepping up to lead the societies when matriarchs were killed. The elephants’ social structure is maintained because the middle-aged females – who were now the oldest in the group – took over leadership roles. These females had enough social knowledge to recreate patterns they learned from the elders.

The study reviewed 16 years of data on elephants from Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve, tracking which individual elephants associated themselves with others. The elephants were identified by ear shape, body markings, or other unique characteristics.

Photo by Brad / CC BY-ND 2.0
Photo by Brad / CC BY-ND 2.0

Doctoral student at Colorado State University who coauthored the study, Shifra Goldenberg, says:

“It shows that elephants are socially resilient. In a highly social species, they depend on social bonds, so the fact that we haven’t seen social collapse is good news.”

Still, there are other unknown implications to losing the oldest females, including its effects on elephant calf survival, communication patterns and long-term knowledge of the area and range.

Featured image by Vaughan Leiberum / CC BY 2.0

Poachers Have Killed Half of the Elephants In Mozambique In Just 5 Years

A government survey showed that over the past five years, the number of elephants in Mozambique has dropped from 20,000 to 10,300 due to poaching.

That’s a 48% decline in just five years. And 95% of those elephant deaths occurred in remote northern Mozambique, which has the Niassa National Reserve, reducing the region’s population from 15,400 to 6,100.

The drastic decline is due to the illegal wildlife trade and a lack of governance. Many of the poachers came to Mozambique from Tanzania, where the market was bleak from its decimated elephant population.

Director of WCS in Mozambique, whose organization manages the Niassa Reserve, Alastair Nelson says:

“The major issue is one of governance. The north has always been a remote and poorly governed area, with an underlying level of corruption. Some district police and border guards are being paid off, some even rent out their own firearms.”

Photo by O.Taillon / CC BY-ND 2.0
Photo by O.Taillon / CC BY-ND 2.0

Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, has been slow to start fighting the poaching problem. Before June 2014, poachers were simply fined for illegal possession of a weapon. But after international pressure, the country adopted a new law criminalizing the killing of protected animals.

In May, Mozambique police completed the country’s biggest-ever search and acquisition of illegal wildlife products. They seized 1.3 tons of elephant ivory and rhino horn – the outcome of killing about 200 animals.

Sadly, an estimated 30,000 elephants in Africa are killed illegally for the ivory trade each year. There are around 470,000 wild elephants left in Africa, according to a survey by Elephants Without Borders. A century ago, there were several million.

 
 
Featured image by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo / CC BY 2.0

Ghana’s Birds Are Disappearing Because of Poaching and Illegal Logging

Since 1995, half of Ghana’s bird population has been wiped out. Deforestation, on the other hand, has risen by 600%.

Researchers have found that poaching and illegal logging has destroyed Ghana’s wildlife, with studies showing dramatic declines in mammals and now birds. A paper by several researchers including Nicole Arcilla, a postdoctoral researcher at Drexel University who studied in Ghana’s forests counting the birds, found that the number of forest birds there has dropped by more than 50% since 1995.

The researchers also found that several species had disappeared altogether. They counted 46 forest bird species, compared to 71 from 20 years ago. And of the species they did observe, some of the numbers had declined by as much as 90%.

Photo by wagon16 / Public Domain Mark 1.0
Photo by wagon16 / Public Domain Mark 1.0

On the other hand, legal and illegal logging in the Ghana forests has increased by 600%, a number at which the forest will be gone if it continues. 80% of the logging is still illegal, which directly decimates the bird’s habitat but also gives more access to poachers. Arcilla says:

“The logging is so intense that it’s literally deforestation. Within a generation they’re all going to be gone. It’s just a terrible tragedy if we let it happen…Everywhere we went there were wire snare traps, which are completely banned in Ghana, but they’re everywhere. Even the smallest amount of law enforcement could change that, but there isn’t any.”

The good news is that even with the decline in bird numbers, the forests still housed many of the species from before. They can recover, if we allow them to. This means action must be taken to protect Ghana’s forests and the species that still dwell there, including forest patrols, roadblocks and eco-tourism. Arcilla says:

“These problems can be solved. Ghana is a resilient, vibrant country. There are a lot of people in Ghana who will help solve these problems if they are supported by the international community.”

Featured image by Francesco Veronesi / CC BY-SA 2.0

Thailand Destroyed Its Ivory This Year to Join in Fight Against Wildlife Crimes

Thailand destroyed more than two tons of ivory in August, sending a loud and clear message in the fight against wildlife trade.

The industrial crusher in Bangkok ground up elephant tusks, carved ivory and other trinkets – most of which came from elephants poached in Africa. Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha led the event, and was joined by government representatives, international diplomats and conservationists.

World Wildlife Fund’s Janpai Ongsiriwittaya, who played a major role in conducting an audit of the Thai ivory stockpile, says:

“Thailand’s ivory destruction is more than just a symbolic event since it follows a series of important steps that the country has taken to tackle illegal ivory trade in the past year. For too long Thailand has been exploited by wildlife criminals as both a gateway and marketplace for ivory poached in Africa and Asia. This event aligns the commitment of the Thai government and the will of the Thai people with the global priority of stopping the illegal ivory trade.”

Photo by Kate Miyamoto, USFWS, USFWS Mountain-Prairie / CC BY 2.0
Photo by Kate Miyamoto, USFWS, USFWS Mountain-Prairie / CC BY 2.0

The ivory destruction occurred after several important laws passed to combat the illegal ivory trade. Approximately 30,000 African elephants are killed each year for their ivory, which then makes its way to other countries. And for years, Thailand was home to the world’s largest unregulated ivory market. But after facing intense global pressure and potential trade sanctions under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the country is now cracking down on the issue.

This year, the Thai government passed several important laws and regulations on the trade, and implemented a National Ivory Action Plan. For it, all ivory had to be registered by April 21, which resulted in people reporting more than 220 tons of elephant ivory. In April alone, Thai Customs seized more than 7 tons of illegal African ivory. The government also declared that the African elephant is now a protected species in Thailand.

Ongsiriwittaya says:

“Considerable progress has been made this year but there will be challenges ahead with implementing these new regulations, clamping down on illegal traders and reducing demand.”

But Thailand continues to send messages to the world about its determination to put an end to ivory trafficking and wildlife crime. In July, Thailand co-sponsored a historic UN General Assembly resolution to address illegal wildlife trade. And the ivory destruction in August only reinforced its stance.

Featured image by Ivy Allen, USFWS, USFWS Mountain-Prairie / CC BY 2.0

U.S. and China Team Up to Fight Illegal Wildlife Trade With a Ban on Ivory

The two largest markets for ivory are working together to put an end to its illegal trade. The U.S. and China have agreed to enact almost a complete ban on the import and export of ivory to help minimize elephant poaching.

The ban covers “significant and timely restrictions on the import of ivory as hunting trophies” and unspecified “significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory.” It follows China’s decision in May to phase out the legal, domestic manufacture and sale of ivory products.

Photo by Ben Haeringer / CC BY-ND 2.0
Photo by Ben Haeringer / CC BY-ND 2.0

China is the largest market for poached ivory and the U.S. is estimated to be the second largest. Slashing the supply of ivory to the Chinese market is critical to decreasing the number of African elephant deaths due to poaching.

According to a March 2015 survey by WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation and Save The Elephants, support for this ivory trade ban is high. 95% of people surveyed in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou believed the government should impose the ivory ban. In addition, the survey showed that awareness about ivory poaching increased by 50% since 2012.

The White House said that the U.S. and China would cooperate with other nations in a complete effort to fight the wildlife trade.

 
 
Featured image by Diana Robinson / CC BY-ND 2.0