This year in Africa, the fight between law enforcement and poachers of endangered species has flared into a war.
In the first two months of 2011, nine poachers were shot dead in South Africa. Despite this, poaching is up. In that nation alone, 333 rhinos were killed in 2010, and there have been 309 rhinos poached so far this year. It looks like the illegal hunters are set to break a grisly record.
Now South Africa is holding talks with Vietnam to reduce the demand for rhino horn, which some Asians use as an aphrodisiac and as a cure for cancer. Sometimes the horns are kept whole as curios or for religious rituals, as this 1930s photo of a Tibetan monk from the Bundesarchiv shows. The two governments are working on a plan to fight organized syndicates that trade in animal parts.
South Africa isn’t the only country seeing trouble, and isn’t the only country fighting back. In Zimbabwe, poachers have been poisoning water holes so they can kill animals silently and avoid detection by park guards. At least nine elephants, five lions, two buffaloes, and several vultures are known to have died.
Meanwhile, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are going to sign a treaty to cooperate across their borders to stop poaching of mountain gorillas and other species. The treaty also sets up joint research and education about the region’s diverse flora and fauna.
In the old days, the Cayuse people used to rely on the buffalo hunt. Like many other Native American tribes, the buffalo gave them meat, hide, bone, grease, bone, and other materials. But once European settlers swept across the continent the buffalo all but disappeared. The Cayuse haven’t had a buffalo hunt in a hundred years.
All that has changed now that the Cayuse have won the right, initially given to them in a treaty dating back to 1855, to hunt buffalo on Federal land. It’s the latest in a string of victories for Native Americans in various states pushing for traditional hunting rights. In 2006, the Nez Perce and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai won the right to hunt on Federal land outside Yellowstone National Park, although they are forbidden from hunting within the park.
White settlers hunted the buffalo nearly to extinction by the early twentieth century. A couple of generations of careful management has helped the population rebound, and they’re now classified as “Near Threatened“, which is a lot better than “Endangered”.
Now the Cayuse and Shoshone-Bannock of Oregon have begun to hunt again. In addition to hiking, swimming, bird watching, logging, and a host of other uses, Federal land now has a new use, or an old one.
[Photo courtesy John Hill]
A Polish hunter has taken a trip to court to file charges against his German tour operator. According to the hunter, the tour agency failed to help him fulfill his dream of shooting an elephant.
Feel free to read that last part again – he is suing the company, because he was not able to kill an elephant.
The company in question, German based Jaworski Jagdreisen specializes in hunting trips, allowing tourists to shoot wild boar, red stag, sheep, pheasant and more. Their trips are organized all around the world, but they claim Latvia is currently a “hot destination”.
In his complaint, the customer identified as Waldemar I. claims there were absolutely no elephants anywhere near his hunting location in Zimbabwe. The tour operator fired back saying:
“From what I know, (the hunter) should have seen elephant excrement there”
Mr. I. is claiming damages worth $130,000 and will know whether he’s entitled to the money on February 15. To top it all off, he’s claiming these damages after the tour operator sent him on a second trip where he actually did manage to kill a male elephant. Some people are just never happy with anything…
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Five rhino poachers were killed in two shootouts with South African police this week, the BBC reports. Three were killed in Kruger National Park, one of the most popular game reserves for safaris in South Africa. Two others were killed near the border with Mozambique. Poachers often cross borders in an attempt to evade the law.
Two rhino horns were found among the poachers’ belongings.
Poaching is a serious problem in Africa, with South African rhinos, especially white rhinos, a favored target. Last year 333 rhinos were killed in South Africa. Police have been clamping down on poachers but their activities continue and the heavily armed criminals often get into gunfights with police and park wardens. African nations are having mixed results fighting poachers. Some countries have managed to reduce illegal hunting, but other nations are still struggling with the problem.
[This beautiful shot of two white rhinos is courtesy JasonBechtel via Gadling’s flickr pool. It was taken in Ohio, of all places! At least these beautiful animals are safe there.]
It sounds like a throwback to a colonial age of pith helmets and native porters, but big game hunting is still popular in South Africa. In fact, it’s on the rise.
A recent study by a South African professor says that some 200,000 South Africans engage in the sport, plus an unknown number of tourists. This translates to millions of dollars in revenue every year and thousands of jobs. There are also knock-on bonuses such as increased hotel and retail revenue.
The study urges the Department of Tourism to “promote the industry aggressively” as a means for rural development.
The most popular animal to hunt is springbok, pictured here, followed by impala, blesbok, kudu and warthog. Much of the hunting is actually for meat, but trophy hunting is also in demand. Classic big game such as leopard and elephant, so popular with the pith helmet crowd, are now illegal to hunt. Some of these animals are endangered and all have much smaller populations than in the past, thanks to human encroachment into their lands and, you guessed it, too much hunting. South Africa now has rules in place to hopefully stop this from happening with animals such as the impala and springbok.
Photo courtesy Bourlingueurs.com.