The poaching of elephant tusks is a growing problem due to increased demand from Asian nations, the Kenyan newspaper Business Daily reports.
A loophole in the UN law regulating the ivory trade allows Japan and China to legally purchase some ivory from selected nations under tightly controlled contracts. This has encouraged poachers to smuggle their illegal goods to Asia. Once there, it’s much easier to unload them.
African nations are split on a global ivory ban, with Kenya supporting a ban and Tanzania wanting the trade to be legal. This basically comes down to whether nations want short-term profits by killing their wildlife and hacking their tusks off, or long-term profits from safaris and tourism.
Radio Netherlands reports that 2011 was a record year for ivory seizures, showing that at least some nations are taking the problem seriously. It also suggests, of course, that the trade is on the rise.
Authorities around the world made at least 13 large-scale seizures last year, bagging more than 23 tonnes of ivory. TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, says that represents about 2,500 elephants. The figure is more than twice that of 2010.
Photo courtesy Library of Congress. It dates to sometime between 1880 and 1923, showing poaching isn’t a new problem.
Zimbabwe has seen an increase in rhino poaching this year, the government newspaper The Herald reports.
At least 23 of the 700 or so black and white rhinos in the country were poached this year, but authorities managed to arrest 37 poachers and horn dealers. Rhino horns are popular for folk medicine, especially in Asia where they fetch high prices. One tactic of the poachers is to poison water holes, which kills not just the rhinos but any animal that drinks there.
More than $4 million is being spent to protect the animals, the government says, including implanting radio transmitters into the horns of 100 rhinos this year.
Zimbabwe isn’t the only country facing this problem. The Huffington Post reports that South Africa is doing more to train park workers on how to investigate incidents of poaching. Several poachers were killed in shootouts with authorities earlier this year, but that didn’t stop 341 South African rhinos from being poached in the first 10 months of the year, more than in all of 2010.
Photo of rhino in Matopos National Park, Zimbabwe, courtesy Susan Adams.
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.
The Royal Bengal Tiger and other animals are to get special protection from the government of Bangladesh.
The government is setting up a 300-member force to patrol the areas where the endangered tigers live. This is in reaction to recent poaching incidents targeting the tigers and well as other animals such as turtles and crocodiles. The poaching and smuggling of animals is a major international problem. There’s a huge demand for rare animals as pets, decoration, food, and as ingredients in traditional medicine. Many of the animals most in demand, like tigers and rhinos, are endangered.
Most of the Bengal tigers in Bangladesh live in the Sundarbans, a huge mangrove forest straddling the India-Bangladesh border. It’s designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its incredible variety of wildlife and is an important tourist draw for both countries.
[Photo courtesy Paul Mannix]
Two recent articles in the Nairobi Star highlight the Kenyan government’s efforts to preserve wildlife while keeping the human population happy.
Kenya has always been a top safari destination and tourism is a major source of hard currency. Unfortunately, tensions between people and wildlife are heightening in Kenya and all over Africa due to deforestation and population pressures. Earlier this month, elephants broke out of Tsavo West National Park, destroying crops and scaring villagers.
The Star reports that 490 new rangers in the Kenya Wildlife Service will be stationed around the country, assisted by community scouts who will act as liaisons between the service and locals. The Kenya Wildlife Service has erected 1,300 km (807 miles) of electric fences to keep wildlife out of farmers’ fields.
Meanwhile, the government said it’s cracking down on the illegal wildlife trade, although the source for the article, Ministry of Wildlife official Mohamed wa-Mwacha, was a wee bit vague as to just how that’s being done. He recently ran a workshop on improving monitoring of the trade. He and his colleagues face a big task. There’s a huge demand for rare animals and animals parts, as you can see by the regular posts here on Gadling about poaching and smuggling, and an organized international network of smugglers.
Hopefully the bad guys will get locked up, the good guys can plant their crops in peace, and the Kenya’s precious (and profitable) wildlife will be allowed to thrive.
[Photo of kid riding tortoise at Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy courtesy Chuckupd via Wikimedia Commons]