African governments doing more to stop poaching of endangered species

poaching, rhinoThis 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.

Native Americans in Oregon hunt buffalo for first time in a century

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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]

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Shootouts kill five rhino poachers in South Africa

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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.]