White Rhino Shot As Poaching Increases In Kenya

white rhino
Joachim Huber

A white rhino has been killed by poachers in Nairobi National Park in Kenya, the BBC reports. While it’s the first time in six years that a rhino has been killed in the park, unfortunately the poaching of rhinos in Kenya has been on the rise in recent years.

Kenyan authorities say that 35 rhinos have been killed in their country this year. What makes this incident unusual is that the park is only four miles from downtown Nairobi. Most poachers prefer more remote locations, but the high prices international buyers will pay for rhino horn are making criminals increasingly bold. One group of robbers even stole four rhino heads from an Irish museum.

Police in many African countries are getting tough on poachers. There have been firefights and even a plan to use unmanned drones to search for poachers.

While policing can be effective (over in Asia, Nepal’s rhino population is rebounding) the only thing that will stop the poaching of rhinos is to stop the demand. Rhino horns are valued in East Asian folk medicine, as are body parts from various other animals. Until these countries get serious about changing attitudes in their human population, Africa’s wildlife population will continue to be threatened.

Alleged Poacher Trampled To Death By Elephant In Zimbabwe

An elephant trampled a poacher to death in ZimbabweTwo 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]

Elephants May Be Extinct In Tanzania In A Few Years

elephants, TanzaniaJumbo 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]

Thieves Steal Rhino Horns From National Museum Of Ireland

rhino, rhino hornA gang of masked men broke into the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin on Wednesday night and made off with four rhino heads.

Museum officials said in a press release that the thieves overpowered a security guard and tied him up. They then entered a storeroom and removed the heads. The heads had previously been on display but had been put into storage a year ago for fear of their being stolen.

The security guard was eventually able to free himself and notify police. So far no arrests have been made.

Rhino horns are especially prized in Asia where they are used in traditional medicines. Police estimate the street value of the horns to be about $650,000. Normally rhinos are poached in the wild and their horns are smuggled to their destination. This photo, courtesy the UK Home Office, shows two rhino horns found wrapped in cling film, concealed in a false sculpture. These were from a different crime. The rhino horns from the Dublin museum have not been found.

This raid may herald a new phase in rhino poaching. With poachers facing increased policing, and even firefights, at national parks and rhinos becoming hard to find thanks to their being hunted to the edge of extinction, some may turn to taking horns from natural history collections.

[Photo courtesy the UK Home Office]

More Than 11,000 Elephants Poached In Gabon In Past Decade, Officials Estimate

elephantsThe West African nation of Gabon has one of the largest populations of elephants in the world, yet now they’re in danger of being wiped out for their ivory.

The World Wildlife Fund reports that a study done by itself in cooperation with the Gabonese National Parks Agency and the Wildlife Conservation Society found that up to 11,000 elephants were killed by poachers in Gabon since 2004. That may be up to 77 percent of the total population.

Most of the killings took place in and around Minkébé National Park, a vast and remote area that’s supposed to be a safe haven for wildlife.

The area is home to forest elephants, which are especially prized by poachers because their ivory is unusually hard and has a pink tinge to it, making it more profitable to sell on the international black market.

As we reported last month, the illegal ivory trade rose to its highest level ever in 2011. This is mainly due to a rising demand in Asia. While some African nations are investing in more law enforcement, corruption in both Africa and Asia is keeping the illegal trade in ivory alive.

Is it any wonder that another recent study found that elephants try to avoid humans?

The WWF is circulating a petition to stop ivory trade in Thailand. It says in part, “Thailand is also the biggest unregulated market for ivory in the world. Although it is against the law to sell ivory from African elephants in Thailand, ivory from domestic Thai elephants can be sold legally. As a result, massive quantities of illegal African ivory are being laundered through Thai shops.”

The petition already has more than 200,000 signatures, including mine. They’re trying to get to a million.

[Image of forest elephant in Ivindo National Park, Gabon, courtesy Peter H. Wrege]