Two poachers illegally hunting inside Zimbabwe’s Charara National Park had the tables unexpectedly turned on them recently. The two men slipped into the reserve unnoticed where they had hoped to kill an elephant and harvest its ivory tusks for sale on the black market in Asia. But their excursion ended up going horribly wrong leaving one of the men in the hands of the authorities and the other poacher trampled to death by the very creature he was hunting.
Solomon Manjoro, along with his partner Noluck Tafuruka, allegedly entered the park a few weeks back in hopes that they could bag an elephant, grab its tusks and get out before anyone knew they were there. Apparently Manjoro manged to wound one of the big pachyderms but failed to deliver a killing shot. The enraged animal then charged the men, knocking Manjoro to the ground and trampling him to death. His body was discovered some time later.
Tafuruka managed to escape the wrath of the animal and ran off into the park. He was later detained by authorities who discovered him wandering the premises with an illegal firearm. His capture led to the arrest of a third man living in the capital city of Harare, although what his role in this story is remains a mystery.
Considering the number of elephants that are being slaughtered on a daily basis in Africa, the story of one poacher getting killed by the animal he is hunting hardly seems like justice. Still, I couldn’t muster a single ounce of sympathy for the guy. I’m just sad that his friend “Noluck” managed to get away relatively unscathed.
[Photo Credit: Kraig Becker]
Jumbo Elephants may disappear from Tanzania within seven years if current poaching trends continue, Sabahi news service reports.
The Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute counted 109,000 elephants in 2009. In 2012, the number had sunk below 70,000. This is due to a surge in poaching. Elephant ivory commands high prices on the international black market. If current trends continue, the elephants could be entirely wiped out within seven years.
The decline in elephants is a step backwards. In the 1980s, during a period of heavy poaching and lax enforcement, the population dipped as low as 55,000. Thanks to better legal enforcement and protection, elephants made a major recovery. Now all that hard work may be ruined.
This comes after sobering news that rhinos are now extinct In Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park. These localized extinctions make it hard for species to maintain a viable population. Groups of animals get smaller and further separated, reducing the available breeding stock.
More detail on the elephant situation in Tanzania can be found in this government report.
[Photo courtesy Muhammad Mahdi Karim]
Poachers in Kenya may have added a new weapon to their arsenal as they continue to look for ways to illegally harvest ivory in the African country. Earlier this week a series of wildfires ignited on and around Mt. Kenya and officials believe that they were started by poachers looking to draw attention away from their nefarious activities.
Officials at Mt. Kenya National Park scrambled more than 100 firefighters to combat the fires, which sent wildlife fleeing for safety at lower altitudes. The blaze scorched hundreds of acres of forests along the slopes of the mountain, which is Africa’s second tallest at 5199 meters (17,057 feet). Typically, these types of fires are ignited naturally by lightning, but the region hasn’t had storms of any kind in recent weeks. The fact that they also sprung up near important structures, such as a school, has also fueled suspicion as to their origins.
As we’ve reported numerous times on Gadling, illegal poaching has become a serious problem throughout Africa. Elephants and rhinos are the biggest targets as their tusks and horns fetch large sums of money in Asia where they are commonly used in traditional medicines. Those two species have been hunted to near extinction in several regions of the continent and despite increased anti-poaching operations they continue to be killed at an alarming rate.
The concern is that while park officials were busy putting out these fires, the poachers were hunting the elephants that were forced off the mountain by the blaze. It is too early to tell if they managed to slaughter any of the animals, but authorities fear that they could see the hunters employing fire in future poaching operations as well.
[Photo credit: Chris 73 via WikiMedia]
Government officials in Cameroon have announced that poachers have already killed more than 200 elephants in 2012, which is a startling number considering we’re only about six weeks into the year. A growing demand for ivory in Asia is blamed for the massive rise in poaching, which is having devastating effects on the pachyderm population in central Africa.
On Friday, Gambo Haman, the governor of Cameroon’s North region, claimed that poachers from the Sudan and Chad are illegally crossing his country’s borders and hunting the elephants for their tusks. He said that the poachers are well-armed, regularly travel on horseback, and are receiving help from locals, who are often eager to see the elephants killed in order to protect their crops.
In January, the carcasses of 146 elephants were discovered in Cameroon, and so far this month, another 60 have been added to that total. It is feared that the number of animals that are actually being killed is much higher however, as not all of the bodies are discovered, particularly if they are being slain in remote regions of the country.
In response to this rise in these illegal activities, the Cameroon government has created a team of soldiers who are trained to rapidly respond to threats from poachers. That team is too small to effectively cover the entire country however, and they have often found themselves outgunned by the bandits they are pursuing. Haman said that a team of six soldiers from Chad were recently killed when they clashed with poachers in that country. The incident was a sober reminder of the dangers these soldiers face.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) have also commented on the recent rise in poaching in Cameroon. They described the situation as dire, saying that the current level of killings there is unprecedented in scale. In 2007, a census of the population of elephant herds in the country estimated that between 1000 and 5000 remained. If this level of poaching continues, there is a real possibility that there will soon be no elephants left in the entire region.
A growing demand for ivory, particularly in Asia, has led to a substantial rise in the number of large-scale seizures of the banned material, and a steep increase in the poaching of elephants. So much so, that the populations of the animals in parts of Africa are now in serious decline.
According to a new report from wildlife-watchdog organization TRAFFIC, 2011 was a record year for ivory seizures. In the past twelve months, 13 large-scale seizures, defined as more than 800kg – or 1763 pounds – have taken place world wide. The combined weight of those seizures is in excess of 23 tons, which is the equivalent of roughly 2500 elephants killed. In contrast, in 2010 there were only six such seizures, totaling 10 tons.
Most illegal shipments of ivory are bound for China, where they are commonly used in traditional medicines. TRAFFIC officials believe that the majority of those shipments originate in Kenya and Tanzania, where elephant populations are now in a sharp decline. A recent census of herds in Tanzania for example, recorded a 42% drop in the number of elephants between 2006 and 2009.
The illegal poaching of elephants mirrors what we’ve seen recently with rhinos as well. Those animals are valued for their distinctive horns, which are also in demand throughout Asia. 2011 was a particularly bad year for those creatures too, as the black rhino was declared extinct in West Africa.
Efforts are being made to put a halt to the brutal killing of these animals and to stop the poachers from trading in these illegal goods. But it seems that demand is simply too high and the risks and punishments are too low. If you’ve ever wanted to see these amazing creatures in their natural habitats, you may want to do so soon. At this rate, the rhino and elephant may be gone from the wild in our lifetimes.