U.S. charges South Africans in illegal rhino hunting case

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/23/us-usa-alabama-rhino-idUSKCN0IC2NH20141023

(Reuters) – A South African company has been indicted in Alabama for selling illegal rhinoceros hunts to Americans and secretly trafficking in the endangered animals’ horns, which sell on the black market at prices higher than gold, prosecutors said on Thursday.

The 18-count indictment charged Valinor Trading CC, which operated in the United States as Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris, and company owners Dawie Groenewald, 46, and his brother, Janneman Groenewald, 44, with conspiracy, Lacey Act violations, mail fraud, money laundering and structuring bank deposits to avoid reporting requirements.

All species of rhinoceros are protected under U.S. and international laws, including the Lacey Act, which addresses illegal poaching and wildlife trafficking, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“This case should send a warning shot to outfitters and hunters that the sale of illegal hunts in the U.S. will be vigorously prosecuted regardless of where the hunt takes place,” Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division Sam Hirsch said in the statement.

The whereabouts of the Groenewalds, and whether they have hired a lawyer, could not immediately be determined.

National Geographic magazine reported that Dawie Groenewald was arrested in 2010 in South Africa, along with 10 others and that a multi-count case has been under way for four years.

Both Groenewald brothers are South African nationals. Janneman Groenewald lived and operated out of Alabama’s Autauga County, where he maintained company bank accounts.

Nine American hunters paid up to $15,000 per animal for a total of 11 hunts sold at hunting conventions and gun shows in the United States between 2005 and 2010.

None of the hunters was charged because prosecutors said the hunters were tricked by the Groenewalds into believing they were shooting legally at “problem” rhinos. The Groenewalds obtained no hunting permits from the Republic of South Africa or local government, the indictment said.

The hunts took place at a ranch in Mussina, Limpopo Province, South Africa co-owned by the Groenewalds and American investors, according to the indictment.

After killing or capturing a rhino, the hunters posed for photos with the carcasses that appeared on company marketing brochures, the indictment said. Dawie Groenewald, who supervised the hunts, then cut off the horns with chainsaws and knives.

The population of rhinos, indigenous to southern Africa, is being decimated by poachers who supply a demand for horns for decorative and supposed medicinal purposes, prosecutors said.

The investigation was part of ongoing Operation Crash, named for a term used to describe a rhino herd, led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It has resulted in 26 arrests and 18 convictions, with prison terms as high as 70 months for illegal rhino hunting or trafficking in horns.

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Global March for Elephants, Rhinos & Lions – October 4, 2014

hollywood march

Dear Friends,

Please excuse the heavy news, but this is too important not to share.

  • 100,000 elephants were slaughtered for their ivory tusks in the last 3 years.
  • Over 1,000 rhinos were killed for their horns last year.
  • Wild lion populations are in alarming decline due to “trophy” hunting and the lion bone trade.

We’re losing these animals. The good news is, you can help save them.

On October 4th, people in over 115 cities around the world will march with one voice to save these iconic endangered species.  

MARCH WITH US IN LOS ANGELES

We’ll gather at the La Brea Tar Pits Park in front of the Page Museum (5801 Wilshire Blvd, LA 90036) at 11am and march down Wilshire Blvd to the South African Consulate.

Promote your group or business

We’re encouraging people to bring signs promoting their business or group. We know that ALL people want to save these endangered animals, and we want the media and the world to see that.

 

Bring the kids!

After the march we will return to the park for a festive, educational event. Experts acting as animal ambassadors will help people understand the crisis facing each animal and take action to save them. The program includes speakers (stay tuned for celebrity info!) and music by African drummers, the talented Kat Kramer, and the Agape International Children’s Choir.

Find us Facebook

Join the Los Angeles Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1449025795334300/

NOT IN LOS ANGELES? #FINDYOURCITY

London, Rome, Johannesburg, Austin, Chicago, Nairobi, Mombasa, Arusha, Seattle, Kilimanjaro, New York, Toronto, Boston, Baltimore, New Orleans… The list of cities marching goes on and on. Visit the global website to find a full list, as well as a wealth of other information, such as strategy and objectives of the march, graphics and other media, march merchandise, and much more.

http://www.march4elephantsandrhinos.org

HELP US RAISE MONEY

Organizing an event like this is expensive. We have to print flyers, posters, signs, banners, and educational materials. We have to rent sound equipment, tents and tables and chairs. Please donate if you can. Any help, no matter how small, is greatly appreciated.

Donate here: https://www.youcaring.com/GMFERL-LA

SPREAD THE WORD

Please SHARE this email far and wide. Many people don’t know elephants, rhinos and lions face extinction. Even if they’re aware of the crisis, they don’t know they can take action to help save them.

We hope that you’ll march with us on October 4 to help prevent the extinction of these endangered species. On behalf of Earth’s threatened elephants, rhinos, and lions, thank you!

With love for the animals,

Susan

Susan Campisi, Co-organizer

Global March For Elephants, Rhinos & Lions – Los Angeles

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global website: http://www.march4elephantsandrhinos.org/

LA website: http://www.saveourwildlife.org

LA Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1449025795334300/

email: march.for.elephants.rhinos.LA@gmail.com

BREAKING: Facebook removes hunting photos of Texas teen that raised ire

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http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-usa-texas-hunting-facebook-20140702,0,2940032.story

Reuters

July 2, 2014

DALLAS (Reuters) – Facebook has removed some photographs of a Texas teenager posing with freshly killed animals she hunted during a recent safari in South Africa that had been criticized by users as inappropriate, the company said on Wednesday.

Kendall Jones, 19, a cheerleader at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, set off a social media storm after she posted a series of photos of animals she killed, smiling in one picture as she hugs a lifeless leopard hanging limply from her arms.

Facebook said some photos were deleted from her page because they violated its policies regarding animal images.

“We remove reported content that promotes poaching of endangered species, the sale of animals for organized fight or content that includes extreme acts of animal abuse,” the company said. It did not provide specific information about the photos removed.

Comre Safaris, a company in South Africa that organizes licensed hunts, said the number of animals killed by Jones fell within a quota set by the country’s wildlife department.

Jones defended her actions, saying in a Facebook post she took inspiration from former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, a hunter and conservationist.

“How can it be possible that someone can love the earth, and take from the earth in the name of conservation? For some folks, they’ll never understand. For the rest of us … we were born that way. God Bless Teddy,” Jones said.

But criticism was heavy, with one post branding the hunts barbaric garnering 20,000 comments. More than 130,000 people signed an online petition asking Facebook to remove Jones’ photos, saying they promoted animal cruelty.

“You can see the thrill in her expression and eyes from these photos that she enjoyed the KILLING of these animals,” read one post.

Many cash-strapped African governments allow a small number of big game animals to be killed each year, using the money from the sale of hunting licenses for conservation.

The hunts are held under international guidelines meant to ensure they do not adversely affect overall species numbers.

Compassion in conservation: Don’t be cruel to be kind

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http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22229740.200-compassion-in-conservation-dont-be-cruel-to-be-kind.html#.U6L6w2dOVy2

June 2014 by Marc Bekoff and Daniel Ramp

Killing and harming animals in the name of conservation is not just unethical, it is counterproductive

EARLIER this year, a hunter based in Texas paid $350,000 for the dubious privilege of being allowed to kill a male black rhino in Namibia. The rhino, Ronnie, was past reproductive age and deemed to be a danger to other wild rhinos. Profits from the hunting permit are supposed to be ploughed back into conservation in the country.

A few weeks later, keepers at Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark killed Marius, a healthy young male giraffe, publicly dissected him and fed his remains to the zoo’s carnivores because he didn’t fit into their breeding programme. Several offers to rehouse him were declined on the grounds that the facilities were unsuitable.

The same zoo later killed four healthy lions because a male lion they wanted to introduce to a female may have attacked them. Then Dählhölzli zoo in Bern, Switzerland, killed a bear cub over fears his father would kill him.

These cases made headlines and caused global outrage. But they are just the tip of the iceberg. Zoos often kill healthy animals considered surplus to their needs: around 5000 a year in Europe alone. This isn’t euthanasia, or mercy killing, but “zoothanasia”.

The killing of “surplus” animals is just one example of people making life-and-death decisions on behalf of captive and wild animals. These are difficult decisions and various criteria are used, but almost without exception human interests trump those of the non-human animals.

Often, for example, animals are harmed or killed “in the name of conservation”, or for the “good of their own (or other) species”. The result is unnecessary suffering and, commonly, a failure to achieve sustainable and morally acceptable outcomes.

Increasingly, scientists and non-scientists are looking for more compassionate solutions. Compassionate conservation, a rapidly growing movement with a guiding principle of “first do no harm”, is just such an approach. It is driven by a desire to eliminate unnecessary suffering and to prioritise animals as individuals, not just as species. It is also a route to better conservation.

Although one of us, Marc Bekoff, has been writing about the importance of individual animals in conservation for more than two decades, it took an international meeting at the University of Oxford in September 2010 for compassionate conservation to get a big push. There have since been three more meetings. NGOs are becoming interested and a Centre for Compassionate Conservation has been established at the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.

One sign that the influence of compassionate conservation is growing is that conservationists are questioning the ethics of producing captive pandas as ambassadors for their species. These animals have no chance of living in the wild and their existence is increasingly seen as indefensible.

Biologists are also re-evaluating the merits of reintroduction projects. The reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park, for example, resulted in numerous wolves dying or being killed “for the good of other wolves”. The surviving wolves also lack protection, especially when they leave the park. As a result, scientists are concerned that the project is failing.

Other reintroduction projects are being similarly reappraised. A team at the University of Oxford assessed 199 such programmes and found potential welfare issues in two-thirds of them, the most common being mortality, disease and conflict with humans.

Urban animals also get into the mix. Marc was recently asked to apply the principles of compassionate conservation to a project in Bloomington, Indiana, which proposed to kill numerous deer even when no one knew if they were causing a problem. In Cape Peninsula, South Africa, non-lethal paintball guns are being used to reduce conflicts between baboons and humans.

Compassionate conservation is also offering solutions to previously intractable conflicts. Innumerable wolves, coyotes, dogs, foxes and dingoes are killed by livestock farmers, often by trapping or poisoning. A recent study showed that poisoning dingoes by dropping tainted meat from aeroplanes changes the dynamics of the ecosystem and reduces biodiversity.

Management of this problem is being revolutionised by the use of guard animals such as Maremma sheepdogs, donkeys and llamas. These guardians bond with the livestock and protect them, not only reducing losses but also costing considerably less than shooting programmes. Even colonies of little penguins in Australia are now protected from foxes by Maremma sheepdogs.

Compassionate conservation is also changing the way researchers tag animals. This is an integral part of conservation as it enables scientists to identify individuals and estimate population sizes. But it is often harmful or painful and can reduce the animals’ fitness, which compromises the usefulness of the data collected. More researchers are now using methods that don’t stress animals or alter their behaviour, such as unobtrusive tags or remote camera traps.

There is often conflict between those interested in animal welfare and those interested in conservation, with the latter viewing concern for the well-being of individuals as misplaced sentimentalism. It is not.

Compassion for animals isn’t incompatible with preserving biodiversity and doing the best science possible. In fact, it is a must. Mistreatment of animals often produces poor conservation outcomes and bad science. It is also immoral. Only through compassion can we advance global conservation.

This article appeared in print under the headline “Cruel to be kind?”

Marc Bekoff is professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He edited Ignoring Nature No More: The case for compassionate conservation (University of Chicago Press). Daniel Ramp is director of the Centre for Compassionate Conservation at the University of Technology, Sydney

DNA Links Rhino Horns to Namibia

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By Werner Menges, 19 May 2014

DNA tests done in South Africa indicate that the rhino horns allegedly
discovered in the luggage of three Chinese men at Hosea Kutako International
Airport at the end of March were of Namibian origin.

This was revealed by the national head of the police Protected Resources
Unit, Detective Chief Inspector Barry de Klerk, during a bail hearing in the
Windhoek Magistrate’s Court in Katutura on Friday.

De Klerk told Magistrate George Mbundu that samples from the 14 rhino horns
found in two suitcases at the airport were sent to South Africa for a DNA
analysis to be carried out.

The DNA profiles of the samples were compared to DNA profiles on record in
the Rhino DNA Index System (RhODIS) database, and the results showed that
all of the horns came from Namibia, De Klerk testified.

The RhODIS database was developed by the University of Pretoria’s Veterinary
Generics Laboratory with the aim of keeping a record of the unique DNA
profile of individual rhinos, which could then be used to prove the origin
of rhino horns confiscated from suspected smugglers.

De Klerk said one of the horns found in the suitcases at the airport was
micro-chipped; it came from a white rhino that had been imported into
Namibia from South Africa some years ago.The three men applying to be
granted bail – Chinese nationals Li Xiaoliang (30), Li Zhibing (53), and Pu
Xunin (49) – are suspected to be the foot soldiers being used by the
faceless figures in control of an international wildlife poaching and
smuggling syndicate, De Klerk said.

The three accused were arrested and charged with possessing and exporting
controlled wildlife products after 14 rhino horns and a leopard skin were
found in two suitcases that two of them – Li Zhibing and Li Xiaoliang – had
checked in as part of their luggage on a flight on which they were supposed
to leave Namibia on 24 March.

All three men have claimed during their bail hearing that they did not know
what was in the suitcases. Li Zhibing told the magistrate last week that a
Chinese citizen living in Zambia had asked him to take the suitcases to
China. He said he was promised US$3 000 as payment if he delivered the
suitcases to someone in Shanghai.

He also told the court that he had asked Li Xiaoliang to book one of the
suitcases in as part of his luggage. Pu Xunin denied having any involvement
with or knowledge of the suitcases.

However, De Klerk testified that closed-circuit television recordings at the
Windhoek Country Club Hotel, where the three men stayed the night before
they were due to leave Namibia, showed that the two suitcases in which the
rhino horns were later found were first taken to Pu’s room, where he and an
unknown man then spent about an hour with the pieces of luggage, before the
suitcases were moved to the room of the two Lis.

De Klerk said that poachers, who have killed hundreds of rhinos in South
Africa in recent years, could try to target Namibia’s rhino population next.
The country’s courts should make it clear to would-be poachers and rhino
horn smugglers that Namibia would not be a soft target for them, he said.

The bail hearing is scheduled to continue on Wednesday.

http://allafrica.com/stories/201405191469.html

China Steps Up: Politician Pledges A Whopping $100 Million To Stop Poaching‏

China, a notorious source of demand for a massive illegal wildlife trade, is stepping up its game to save wildlife with a massive $100 million donation to combat poaching in Africa. The Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, announced the fund during a visit to the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa.

The fund is not a moment too soon — an estimated 22,000-35,000 elephants are killed every year by poachers, while last year poachers killed over 1,000 rhinos in South Africa alone. The funds will surely be helpful to curb supply of wildlife products in Africa, but meanwhile campaigns are working to stem demand from Chinese consumers, who value exotic animal products in traditional medicine and ivory ornaments.

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It’s Terrible About Those Death Threats

I don’t know who is sending would-be rhino Corey Knowlton all those death threats we keep hearing about, but I think it’s just terrible.

It’s terrible they waited until after he’d killed all those other 120 species—from every continent—that line the walls of his trophy1613918_577895065613412_412557772_n room. Too bad they held off until he had a chance to murder one of every species of wild sheep in existence, for instance. It’s a shame the 35 year old lived long enough to become the co-host of a hunting show on The Outdoor Channel which extols the virtues of snuffing out wildlife and encourages animal assassination in the name of sport.

It’s an absolute tragedy they waited until he won last week’s Dallas Safari Club auction to hunt a black rhino in Namibia. Now, unless the threats are in fact serious and carried out in the coming weeks, he will get the chance to destroy yet another undeserving sentient being in the name of ego, selfishness, arrogance and hedonism.
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For those not keen on lethal action, here are 3 things you can do to help:

1) PETITION: http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=104&ea.campaign.id=24844
2) PETITION: http://www.ifaw.org/united-states/get-involved/protect-black-rhinos-trophy-hunters
3) FB page with USFWS contact info and sample letter for writing to ask them to deny permit: https://www.facebook.com/events/242483775925213/

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Corey Knowlton? Yup, I Hate Him Too

Corey Knowlton is the hunter who won the right to kill an endangered rhino in the Safari Club auction. This is part of trophy room (Big Horn Sheep section – Knowlton claims that he has hunted “over 120 species on every continent” – obviously many animals per species)…

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…and this is what Grumpy Cat has to say about him:

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“Endangered” Hunter Auctioned off to Save Species

Believing the spin that “hunters are an endangered species,” trophy-hunter hunting group, the Sahara Club, a conservation group dedicated to preserving the hunter herd for future generations of trophy-hunter hunters to harvest, auctioned off asuccessful anti-hunt chance to hunt an aging, expendable hunter to raise funds for their cause. Taxidermy services will also be awarded to the winning bidder. Proceeds will be used to enhance hunter habitat for the species known taxonomically as Homo huntsman horribilis and will go towards funding more logging roads to allow access for their trucks and four-wheelers, as well as building more conveniently located gas station/mini-marts, taverns and mobile home parks.

Biologists blame a long history of inbreeding for the decline in hunter fertility and viability. When asked about the ethics of hunting down and killing this unfortunate individual, a Sahara Club spokesman stated, “Overall I think it will be a good thing. While it may bad for this individual hunter, it is in the interest of conservation of the hunter species.” If the auction idea proves to be a success, the group plans to hold similar events for loggers, ranchers, commercial fishermen and other resource extractors also said to be endangered species by industry spin doctors.

Individuals chosen to be hunted down and harvested can thank the Safari Club for recently coming up with the idea of auctioning a rhino trophy hunt on an endangered black rhinoceros.

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(This has been another installment in EtBG’s “Headlines We’d Like to See.”)