Tess killed this giraffe for fun. 


Tess killed this giraffe for fun. She smiles in front of his dead body and calls it a “dream hunt”! But we NOW have an unprecedented chance to help stop more vulnerable giraffes from being killed — starting by winning them international protection at a crucial wildlife summit in weeks! Sign now and share this with absolutely everyone to get our leaders’ attention!


Dear friends,

Tess killed this giraffe for fun.

She smiles in front of his dead body and calls it a “dream hunt”! It’s simply unexplainable why someone would be allowed do this. But we NOW have an unprecedented chance to help stop more vulnerable giraffes from being killed.

In weeks, countries from across the world are meeting for a crucial global wildlife summit. And for the first time ever, five African countries have proposed to put giraffes onto the list of protected species. This would be a game-changer and wake the world up to give giraffes the protection they deserve. And it’s urgently needed because the giraffe population is already down by 40%.

No one should murder animals just for fun, but we have a plan that could finally get giraffes the safety they need. Let’s all sign on now and then let’s make sure we share this with everyone we know!

Click here and let’s get giraffes the protection they deserve!

Here’s how Tess explains the rightness of her action: “Animals have no rights as they are animals not humans. Therefore you can’t murder them.”

She says that, likely knowing that giraffes are highly intelligent, emotional animals — who spend their evenings humming to each other to communicate. It’s time for all of humanity to see our animal friends as possessing rights, and being treated with dignity.

So if you disagree that they should be shot for fun, and believe that they should actually be protected from irresponsible game hunts, poaching, and habitat loss — then join us and let’s win them protection at this year’s CITES summit in May, the most important global conference on this issue. This will act as the first step in our Africa-wide giraffe protection plan!

So far, giraffes have gotten little attention, but with their population continuously dropping — it’s high time we ring the alarm bells, make this petition go viral, and have our governments act on our behalf!

Click here and let’s get giraffes the protection they deserve!

Life on Earth is so precious. And yet, some still think it’s all just a game and it’s the right thing to go and shoot animals for fun. The Avaaz community has stood up together when Cecil the Lion was killed or when Donald Trump tried to re-open the import of animal trophies — let’s do it once again for the giraffes!

With hope and determination,

Christoph, Sarah, Martyna, Risalat, Joseph, Rosa, Jenny and the rest of the Avaaz team


Fury over woman’s ‘sick’ giraffe hunting pictures (News AU)

Giraffes under Threat: Populations Down 40 Percent in Just 15 Years (Scientific American)

…giraffes HUM: Graceful giant of the African grasslands spend evenings humming to each other (DailyMail)

The Ebola outbreak in Eastern Congo is moving toward a major city. That’s not good.

With at least 680 cases, it’s already the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history.

People queue to wash their hands with chlorine water to prevent Ebola contamination at a symbolic polling station on December 30, 2018, in Beni, Congo.
 Alexis Huguet/AFP/Getty Images

At least 680 people have been infected with the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history, with 414 deaths so far, and the first Ebola outbreak in an active war zone, DRC’s eastern North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

But it could get worse: Health officials this week are concerned that Ebola appears to be spreading in the direction of Goma, a major population center in DRC.

Just this week, DRC’s health ministry confirmed four cases of the deadly virus in Kayina, a town in North Kivu, where fighting among rebel and militia groups has repeatedly interrupted the painstaking work of health workers who are responding to the outbreak.

Kayina happens to be halfway between Butembo, currently one of the outbreak’s most worrisome hotspots, and Goma, where a million people live.

So far, the outbreak has not affected DRC’s biggest cities. But Ebola in Kayina “raises the alarm” for Ebola reaching Goma, Peter Salama, the head of the new Health Emergencies Program at the World Health Organization, told Vox on Friday.

Goma is a major transportation hub, with roads and highways that lead to Rwanda. “These are crossroad cities and market towns,” Salama added. People there are constantly on the move doing business, and also because of the insecurity in North Kivu. Ebola in Goma is a nightmare scenario WHO and DRC’s health ministry are scrambling to prevent.

Together, they’ve deployed a rapid response team, including a vaccination team, to Kayina. And if the virus moves on to Goma, Salama says Ebola responders are ready. They’ve already mobilized teams there, set up a lab, and prepared health centers where sick people can be cared for in isolation.

But as Ebola expert Laurie Garrett wrote in Foreign Policy this week, Ebola in Goma could also trigger a rare global public health emergency declaration by WHO, escalating the severity of an already dangerous outbreak.

An Ebola vaccine has been no match for DRC’s social and political chaos


When Ebola strikes, it’s like the worst and most humiliating flu you could imagine. People get the sweats, along with body aches and pains. Then they start vomiting and having uncontrollable diarrhea. They experience dehydration. These symptoms can appear anywhere between two and 21 days after exposure to the virus. Sometimes patients go into shock. In rare cases, they bleed.

The virus is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids, like vomit, urine, or blood, of someone who is already sick and has symptoms. The sicker people get, and the closer to the death, the more contagious they become. (That’s why caring for the very ill and attending funerals are especially dangerous.)

Because we have no cure for Ebola, health workers use traditional public health measures: finding, treating, and isolating the sick, and breaking the chains of transmission so the virus stops spreading.

They mount vigorous public health awareness campaigns to remind people to wash their hands; that touching and kissing friends and neighbors is a potential health risk; and that burial practices need to be modified to minimize the risk of Ebola spreading at funerals.

They also employ a strategy called “contact tracing”: finding all the contacts of people who are sick, and following up with them for 21 days — the period during which Ebola incubates.

In this outbreak, there’s also an additional tool: an effective experimental vaccine. Since the outbreak was declared in August, more than 61,000 people have been vaccinated. But while the vaccine has tempered Ebola’s spread, it hasn’t overcome the social and political chaos in DRC, which has been called the world’s most neglected crisis.

“The brutality of the conflict is shocking,” Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “the national and international neglect outrageous.”

Presidential elections have “ratcheted up” the tension in an already tense situation

On December 30, after years of delays, voters went to the polls to elect a new president. In the days leading up to the election, tensions in North Kivu “ratcheted up,” Salama said. Protesters stormed Doctors Without Borders treatment centers in Beni, a recent outbreak hotspot, shutting them down for several days.

In January, the country’s electoral commission announced interim election results suggesting opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi had likely won the election. But leaked data and external analyses show there are irregularities with the voter count that point toward election fraud.

“All the outside observers — the African Union, the European Union, the Catholic Church — say the results of the election have been rigged,” and the people actually voted in Martin Fayalu for president, said Severine Autesserre, a political science professor at Barnard College, and author of the book The Trouble with the CongoWhen the final results are announced in the coming days, more protests and riots are likely to follow.

But though the political instability isn’t making the Ebola response any easier, the war in Congo’s eastern provinces is a far bigger challenge. The 25-year-long conflict has displaced more than a million people, and made the already dangerous work of an Ebola response even more deadly, Autesserre said.

Between August and November, Beni had experienced more than 20 violent attacks, which put the outbreak response there on pause for days at a time. That meant cases had gone uncounted, and Ebola continued to spread.

But there’s also some more encouraging news, according to Salama: The outbreak of more than 200 people in Beni, a North Kivu town marred by decades of violence, has been brought under control.

“Many people would have been extremely skeptical that the outbreak in Beni could be controlled as quickly given force of infection we were seeing in November and December, and the fact that we’ve had nothing but volatility and insecurity since then,” Salama said. “But the fact that Beni has had only one confirmed case in two weeks is giving us a lot of hope and optimism.”

As of Friday, the two biggest hotspots in the outbreak were Butembo, with 51 cases, and a neighboring city, Katwa, with 119 cases. But the outbreak is geographically dispersed. There are active Ebola cases in 12 of the country’s “health zones,” the districts around which the DRC’s health system is organized. Because of the insecurity and difficulty reaching people, only 30 to 40 percent are coming from known contact lists, Salama said. That means the virus might already be in places no one’s discovered yet.



Ending the ivory trade is key to securing a future for the world’s elephants, more than 20,000 of which are killed by poachers each year for their tusks. The international community is finally waking up to this theat. The USA and China have already introduced near-total bans. France has tightened up its legislation. Taiwan and Hong Kong have committed to act. In the UK, the Ivory Bill is currently working its way through Parliament.

These measures are encouraging, and while much remains to be done, they bring hope that one day the slaughter may end.

But it’s not just elephants that are threatened by people’s desire for ivory. The teeth from several other species, including hippos, walruses and narwhals, are also on the traders’ and traffickers’ wish lists.

Common hippos are much less common than elephants – as few as 115,000 remain across their rapidly reducing range in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet more than 38,000 individual teeth, 26 tonnes of teeth by weight, 6,550 hippo tusks, almost 6,500 ‘carvings’, and various other hippo products were legally traded between countries in the 10 years to 2016 – many destined for EU Member States.

Walruses are also in demand for their ivory. Between 2007 and 2016, more than 150,000 carvings, 12,500 items of ‘jewellery’, and various other walrus items including teeth and tusks were declared to have been traded internationally.

The distinctive long helical ‘tusk’ of the male narwhal, which is actually an elongated canine tooth, is also coveted. More than 2,500 tusks, 2,100 carvings and various other products from these toothed whales were traded commercially between countries in the decade to 2016.

Other species such as warthogs are also targeted for their teeth, although because they are not currently classified as threatened, data on international trade is lacking.

While the international community is rightly focused on protecting elephants, we must not forget that the trade in ivory for trinkets and carvings also threatens several other species. Some UK traders have already flagged increasing interest in hippo ivory as a replacement for elephant ivory to maintain the value of some objects from which the ivory has been lost or broken, or as a means of getting around a future ban on elephant ivory.

The UK’s Ivory Bill is very welcome, but it currently only covers elephant ivory. Thanks to Born Free’s efforts, the Government has committed to consulting on extending the ban to other ivory-bearing species once the Bill becomes law. For the sake of hippos, walruses, narwhals and others, we must hold them to this commitment, so the UK can act as an example to the rest of the world.

These precious and diminishing wild animals will only be safe once we end the demand for, and trade in, all ivory products for good.


‘It’s God’s plan’: the man who dreams of bringing intensive chicken farming to Africa

A US mega-farm, a Christian backer and Africa’s oldest industrial chicken producer are bringing the world’s super birds to reform central Africa’s food market and feed the poor


On the evening of 7 August 2018, a KLM charter flight left Amsterdam, landing 11 hours later at Kilimanjaro airport in northern Tanzania. Its young occupants were nodded through immigration and driven 50 miles to their new home, close to some of Africa’s most famous game parks.

These were no tourists hoping to see lions in the nearby Serengeti. The 2,320 little cockerels and 17,208 hens on the plane were a flock of European-bred pedigree Cobb 500 chickens, the world’s most popular breed. Their destination: a remote 200-hectare mega-farm under construction in the windy foothills of snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro.

Here, where wildlife and nomadic tribes have always roamed, Tyson, the world’s second-largest food company, has set up with Irvine’s, Africa’s oldest industrial chicken producer. With the backing of a devout Christian businessman, Donnie Smith, the three partners aim to revolutionise food production in central Africaand “save” people from hunger by growing chickens on an American scale. The little chicks and hens are the expeditionary force of an army of Cobb 500s to follow.

Irvine’s $20m (£15m) parent stock laying eggs on the high plains below Mount Kilimanjaro is just the start. In a year’s time they expect to be sending 500,000 fertilised eggs a week to a sister hatchery on the Tanzanian coast, where millions of one-day-old chicks will be sold to local farmers. In a few years they could be rearing and exporting 40m or even 50m broilers a year to neighbouring Kenya, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other African countries.

No one knows if they will flood the market and undermine local producers, or if they will improve food security in countries where millions of people regularly go hungry.

But they should make money. There is an insatiable appetite for chicken meat in African cities, and only a handful of industrial farms across the continent competing with imports from the US, Europe or Brazil.

Tyson sees central Africa as a promising new market. The corporate behemoth, which turns over $38bn (£30bn) a year, says it is “faith-friendly” and rooted in Christian values. It processes and sells about 11bn chickens a year worldwide, according to Bloomberg.

And for Donnie Smith (below left), the genial former chief executive of Tyson, from Tennessee, the Kilimanjaro plant is “God’s plan”.

Donnie Smith, former CEO of Tyson

Smith, who spent 35 years with Tyson, says he feels impelled by his faith to feed the world’s poor. He has already set up a small chicken charity in Rwanda that offers loans to small farmers to buy a few hundred birds. His mission now is to bring chickens to Africa on a grand scale.

“I am a Christian. I feel a call to use my poultry background and put that to work. Poultry is the most efficient converter of feed to meat; no religions are against eating poultry. If you want an impact on the poor, providing them with high-quality, affordable protein from chicken is the best way.

“Why Africa? The need is tremendous. I have travelled in sub-Saharan Africa and in the largest population centres you see fairly rapid progress, but [not] in rural areas. All my experience tells me that God wants me to work in Africa,” he says.

Nature’s Arnie Schwarzeneggers

The farm looks like aliens have landed. Planet Cobb sees giraffes on their way between national parks pass many low, 120 metre-long, 12 metre-wide, shiny white structures; Maasai pastoralists in woven red shuka blankets drive their cattle over land dotted with steel masts, tanks and towers. The snows of Kilimanjaro glisten above the clouds.

As happens all over Africa, many households in the few nearby villages keep chickens for eggs or to eat on occasional celebrations. But unlike the bright white Cobb 500s in their sealed sheds, these birds are scrawny, gaudy and all shapes and sizes. They look spectacular and taste strong.

In contrast, the Cobbs are nature’s Arnie Schwarzeneggers – all jutting chests, rippling thighs, big feet and bland flesh. These meat machines have been highly bred for 100 years to grow fast, bulk up their breasts and to eat only small quantities of cheap soya and maize.

Irvine’s new farm and hatchery in Dar es Salaam
Irvine’s farm
  • Irvine’s $20m farm and hatchery in Dar es Salaam

Today, the Cobb 500 is an industrial marvel. A parent hen will lay on average 192 eggs in its short 15-month life, more than twice as many as any backyard bird; and a young Cobb 500 broiler can grow from a day-old chick to a 2kg bird ready for the pot in just 33 days.

The Cobb is now the chicken that ate the world, identically bred in 120 countries and the first choice of most of the world’s big poultry farmers and fast-food chains from McDonald’s to Wendy’s, KFC and Zaxby’s.

No one has counted, but there are probably far more Cobb 500s alive than there are humans. The UN’s Food and Agriculture organisation (FAO) estimated in 2011 that there were 19bn chickens across the globe. Of those bred for their meat, nearly half are thought to be Cobbs. In the next few years chicken is expected to overtake pork and beef to become the world’s most popular meat. Cobb flesh by then could be in the diet of billions of people.

The multinational company Cobb-Vantress, which has developed the bird and is owned by Tyson, declined to speak to the Guardian. But, says Hal Herzog, a US author and anthro-zoologist: “Once its feathers are plucked, its feet and head chopped off, its gut scraped out and its blood drained, 73% of a Cobb 500’s carcass will be eviscerated yield.

“A broiler chicken’s bones cannot keep up with the explosive growth of its body.” He says that unnaturally large breasts may torque a chicken’s legs, causing lameness, ruptured tendons and twisted legs.

But the Cobb 500 is the likely future of food. With scientists urging people to eat less meat to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Cobb broilers are proving to have the best carbon footprint of all land-based animals. According to one calculation, kilo for kilo, a broiler emits five times less CO2 equivalent than lamb, and is environmentally better than cheese.

‘These birds live like kings and queens’

Adult breeding Cobb 500 chickens in a room containing 9,000 birds at Irvine’s farm in Kilimanjiro

To get the best, soft white meat from a Cobb 500 you need more than genetics, says Enzo Faglioni, the young Brazilian vet who is Irvine’s breeder operation manager at the farm. “You must minutely control the birds’ environment. They must be as comfortable as possible at all times, and be treated like babies,” he says. “These birds live like kings and queens.”

He accepts that commercial poultry farms have made welfare mistakes in the past, but says the lessons have been learned. No antibiotics are used unless there is an outbreak of illness, and no hormones are pumped into their feed.

To go inside the sealed, dark, windowless Kilimanjaro chicken sheds you must shower twice, brush your teeth, wash your hair and wear special clothes. When the doors are opened, there are identical white chickens as far as the eye can see.

Young Cobb 500 chicks drink from a mechanical water dispenser and are ready to be sold to local chicken farms
Each room contains around 9,000 birds and is strictly light and temperature controlled
Tumaini Kisirieli Kinyaha herds chicks to keep them active and prevent them from crowding in groups.
Stephano Erinest Mushi repairs the mechanical chicken feeder at Irvine’s farm
  • From top left: young Cobb chicks drink from a mechanical water dispenser; each room contains about 9,000 birds; herding chicks to keep them from crowding in groups; repairing the mechanical chicken feeder

There is a deep rumble of tens of thousands of clucks, interspersed with the crowing of many hundreds of cocks, and a whiff of ammonia. But random checks show no lameness, blisters or sores. The birds are not aggressive and look content. The mortality rate over their 15-month lifetime is said to be about 5%, far less than in the average European or American broiler house.

It is only when you get down on floor level that the large Cobb cocks attack. Feet out, wings flapping and beaks thrusting, they come at you hard. It hurts and all you can do is yell and run.

‘The need is great’

“This is how Africa can feed itself,” says Smith. The continent’s population is going to double to 2 billion people in the next 30 years and chicken is needed to provide the protein to avoid malnourishment and stunting, he says. “Chickens are good for the environment, too, because they need less land, less food and less water [than cattle and pigs] to produce the same amount of meat.

Villager Rahema Rashid feeds her free-range poultry

“We’re not there yet but we are making chicken more affordable. I don’t think that we will undermine other producers or traditional breeds. You will see two food systems running side by side.

“I believe that chicken will become the most affordable, complex protein on the African continent. We know what the future is going to look like and this is it. We want to access the future in Africa because the need is so great.”

Food security will be strengthened by improving the availability of broiler chicken products, confirms Anne Mottet, a livestock development officer for the FAO. But she emphasises the importance of small-scale operations. “Overall you want diversity of production sources. It’s more resilient than putting all your eggs in one basket. The more small-scale producers you have, the more resilient you are.”

Is sub-Saharan Africa ready for unchecked corporate concentration and the pollution and potential animal welfare problems that have plagued broiler-chicken production in Europe and the US?

Yes, says the Tanzanian government, which struggles to feed its fast-urbanising population and is a target for chicken imports from Europe and Brazil. Nearly a million people needed food aid in the country last year and Tanzania adds 1.6 million people a year. By 2035 its population will have grown by another 32 million.

Rose Sweya, owner of Kingchick chicken farm in Kigamboni district, Dar es Salaam

“Definitely we are ready,” says Rose Sweya (left), a young Dar es Salaam chicken farmer who is eager to buy thousands of Donnie’s day-old Cobbs to fatten up. She says she welcomes competition and that the demand for chicken is insatiable.

“People desperately need protein and chicken is the best way to get it. The population is growing fast so the demand is rocketing. Eating chicken was rare when I grew up. It was seen as the food of high-class people. We had it for celebrations, and on special occasions like Christmas. For most people it is still quite rare,” she says.

With British aid, her company, Kingchick, is investing heavily in four poultry farms and a processing plant. She expects to employ another 20 or more women and could be selling 2,000 Cobbs a week within a year.

“There was always this mentality that frozen supermarket chicken was not good and that village chicken was best. But this is changing. ”

Locally grown chickens in a market in Arusha, Tanzania
  • Locally grown chickens in a market in Arusha, Tanzania

Yet the arrival of the Cobbs is a mixed blessing for the villagers near the farm. It has provided well-paid work for some, but Maasai herders have complained that the farm’s high fences restrict their access to traditional pasture land. This, says Faglioni, has been resolved.

“Industrial-scale farming goes hand in hand with development,” he says. “We are changing the way that people eat and how they see the world. People here are proud that they are producing safe food for the country. They have money and can buy better food. We are offering a better way of life for both chickens and people.”

Inside the disturbing world of illegal wildlife trade

To expose criminals who traffic animals, Rachel Nuwer went undercover—even posing as a prostitute.

A recent report by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature showed that between 1970 and 2014 the vertebrate population declined by an average of 60 percent. While this was mostly due to habitat loss, the illegal trade in wildlife—whether rhino horn, tiger bone, or animals captured for the exotic pet market—poses a growing threat to many species’ survival. But as National Geographic contributor Rachel Love Nuwer writes in her new book Poached: Inside the Dark World of Wildlife Traffickingmany brave individuals and organizations are battling to expose the criminals—and save the animals.

Speaking from her apartment in Brooklyn, New York, Nuwer explained how superstitious beliefs in China and Southeast Asia are a driving force of the trade; how wildlife trafficking needs to be tackled by law enforcement, not conservationists; and how she disguised herself as a prostitute to go undercover at a tiger farm in Laos.

The global wildlife trafficking trade is worth an estimated $7 to $23 billion. Who runs it? Where are the hotspots? Who profits? What are the most affected animals?


The most obviously affected animals are the big, charismatic megafauna, like rhinos, elephants, tigers, and even bears. In reality, though, we’re talking about millions of individual animals of thousands of species. It spans poaching for jewelry, pets, traditional medicines, trophies, or wild meat, which some cultures consider a luxury item. This is a global trade. However, much of the demand for illegal wildlife products is in Asia, especially in China and Vietnam. That’s predominantly because wealth in those places has been increasing over the past decades, so people who previously could not afford things like ivory jewelry or rhino horn carvings now can do so. There’s more demand than there is supply.

There’s a misconception, especially in the media, that there are these Pablo Escobar-like kingpins controlling everything. While there is some evidence that a few people like that do exist, much of this illegal trade is made up of disorganized, opportunistic criminals. The guy in Zimbabwe killing an elephant and running its tusks to the nearby village won’t know the guy in the town, who then sells those tusks to the corrupt airport official who, in turn, doesn’t know who exactly the tusks are going to in Malaysia or Hong Kong.

That’s one of the reasons that it’s so hard to tackle this thing. It’s not like you can just knock out a couple of big guys at the top and you’ve solved it. Even when you do make arrests of so-called kingpins, they’re oftentimes readily replaced by their colleagues.

Most of us could draw an elephant or a rhino. But fewer could say what a pangolin looks like. Introduce us to this shy animal and explain why it is so highly prized that it now faces possible extinction.

Pangolins are definitely my new favorite animal since writing this book. They are better known here in the U.S. and the U.K. as scaly anteaters, which is funny because they’re not that closely related to anteaters. They’re more closely related to cats and dogs. They look like walking pinecones with feet, or tiny, odd-looking dragons.

There are four species of pangolins in Asia and four in Africa. Unfortunately, because they look so strange, people tend to attribute magical or medicinal properties to them. Traditional societies all over the world have different uses for pangolins, especially their scales. The biggest source of demand is traditional Chinese medicine, a version of which is also practiced in Vietnam. Their scales are boiled, dried, then ground up into a powder and served to women who are having trouble lactating, for example. In Vietnam their meat is also considered a delicacy. You call up a wild meat restaurant in advance and then it will either be prepared for you, or its throat will be slit on the spot.

Tigers worldwide are also facing particularly vexing challenges. Give us a picture of the illegal trade and the ancient superstitions, often driven by male sexual insecurity, that fuel it. Is there enough being done to combat these primitive beliefs?

Definitely not! There are an estimated 4,000 tigers left in the wild today. There’s many more than that in captivity. When I say captivity, I mean in people’s backyards in the U.S. and elsewhere, which is a completely different issue­—and then on so-called tiger farms in China and Southeast Asia. The tigers are bred, then slaughtered for their bones, meat, fur, teeth, and claws. Particularly sought after are the penises and bones, which are soaked in an awful-tasting rice wine and served, usually to men. They’re supposed to imbue men with the prowess and sexual energy of the tiger.

The Chinese have been really good about making a show of shutting down the ivory trade recently, but other than that there’s nothing going on to combat the illegal wildlife trade. President Xi has been cutting back on corruption, which means closing wild meat restaurants. But there’s no re-education campaign to discourage tiger use. In fact, investigations by conservation groups show that government officials are some of the most common purchasers of tiger bone wine in China and other Asian countries. They have no intention of closing this down.

WHY ELEPHANTS MAY GO EXTINCT IN YOUR LIFETIMENearly a hundred elephants are slaughtered each day in the wild, most for their ivory tusks. This killing of elephants by humans could wipe out the animals in the wild within a generation.

You visited a tiger farm in the Golden Triangle Economic Zone, in Laos, disguised as a prostitute. Tell us about that story and whether farms could be a solution to tiger trafficking.

[Laughs] I was quite nervous about visiting this place. It’s supposed to be a hotbed of crime, drugs, prostitution and yes, illegal wildlife trade. I had spoken with a woman named Debbie Banks, an excellent wildlife investigator working at the Environmental Investigation Agency in London, and she told me the only people who go there who are not Chinese, Vietnamese, or Thai are Russian or Ukrainian prostitutes, or else backpackers. I thought, okay, the former sounds a little bit more fun and I own some scanty clothes anyway, so I’ll go with that. I brought a friend and my husband from New York because I was nervous about going by myself. We wore ridiculous clothes and nobody seemed to notice or care about us, which was great. We could browse through these shops and look at huge quantities of ivory, rhino horn, and tiger products openly for sale, and we dropped by the Kings Romans casino where ivory and rhino horn were also openly displayed. We visited the tiger farm on the premises, where I was told clients can essentially go to shop for what animal they want to have for dinner at one of the on-site restaurants. This was an especially difficult experience for me; there were tigers pacing in small cages yowling mournfully, and a number of bears that were clearly suffering from cage-induced mania.

There’s definitely a constituency of people, especially in China and South Asian countries, who argue for what is called “sustainable use of wildlife products,” whether that’s selling ivory or raising tigers and rhinos for their body parts. But tiger farms have been closely linked with laundering of tigers illegally caught in the wild, then passed off as products. So tiger farms pose a critical threat to wild tigers. That’s not even to touch on the humane animal advocacy side of things. These animals live miserable lives.

It is estimated that 144,000 elephants were killed between 2007 and 2014 for their ivory, a drop in the overall population of 30 percent in just seven years. You attended an ivory burn in Kenya. Set the scene for us and explain the thinking behind this idea. Does it lower trafficking?

The first huge ivory burn took place in 1989. It was organized in Kenya by the paleontologist Richard Leaky. His idea was to create a spectacle that the world could not ignore. And it worked. A few months later it led to nations voting to give elephants the highest degree of international protection, which effectively banned commercial trade of ivory, which was an amazing accomplishment!

Whether the burns lower trafficking is not proven. But it’s not the primary goal of ivory burns; it’s an awareness-raising method to spread the word about the illegal wildlife trade. Another important purpose is to simply get the ivory out of circulation because a lot of the storehouses, particularly in developing countries, are notorious for leaking ivory and rhino horn out. You have 50 tons of ivory that you seize from some criminal and then a few weeks or months later that 50 tons has been reduced to 25, because of corruption. The big message is that ivory should never be traded. It has no purpose at all except for elephant tusks on elephants.

One of the many inspiring activists you met is a British woman named Jill Robinson. Tell us about her and the appalling trade in bear bile.

Jill is amazing. She was living in Hong Kong doing work on cats and dogs, when someone mentioned to her a bear farm for this bear bile trade, and her interest was piqued. She took a tour to a bear farm in mainland China and left the tour group at one point because she heard noises in the basement. She crept down these stairs to a dark room where she found cages and cages of bears in horrific condition, with open wounds. Jill had this moment of connection and wound up dedicating her life to ending bear farming for bile. Her organization, Animals Asia, has saved hundreds of bears from these farms and brought them to rehabilitation sites.

The thing about bear bile is that it’s one of the few traditional Chinese medicines that is efficacious. However, the active component, ursodeoxycholic acid, can be synthesized in a lab so you do not need bears to be put in these awful situations or kept in captivity. The problem is, users in China and Vietnam want this to be a wild, free animal, so they think they are absorbing the essence of this pure, strong thing.

At a conference in London earlier this month, it was suggested that the best way to curb wildlife trafficking, like the drugs trade, was to follow the money not, as is usual, the animal. What’s your view on this? Is enough being done to intercept these illicit funds?

That’s a great point! Definitely not enough is being done because virtually nothing is being done in terms of investigating the financial crime side of things. The problem with the illegal wildlife trade is that it’s so often seen as something in the purview of conservationists, biologists or ecologists. But that’s like giving botanists the job of tackling the cocaine and heroin trade. We need to get criminal experts involved, including money-laundering experts, because a lot of times the punishments that go with breaking wildlife laws are really weak. It’s a $100 fine for trafficking a rhino horn that might be worth $30,000! Money laundering laws would be much stronger. So I think crime is where we should be focusing. We need criminal experts, not wildlife experts, and we need to treat this like any other type of crime, not something special just because it involves wildlife.

There are bright spots in this story. Tell us about the Zakouma National Park in Chad, and what you think the future holds for trafficked animals.

The Zakouma National Park in Chad had an elephant population of around 4,000, one of the biggest herds in Central Africa, but in less than a decade that population fell to around 450. It was being absolutely hammered by Janjaweed poachers riding down from Sudan for this killing spree and taking the ivory back to sell. Everybody had resigned themselves to saying goodbye to those elephants. However, a spectacular non-profit organization called African Parks negotiated with the President of Chad to take over the park. Thanks to their efforts, poaching is virtually at zero, and the elephant population is once again growing. They’re even having new babies, which is huge!

There are other people who are giving it their all to save their countries’ wildlife. Thai Van Nguyen, the founder of Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, is a great example. He’s Vietnamese, his organization is entirely run by Vietnamese and he is the only person in Vietnam equipped to rehabilitate pangolins rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. Thai brings them back to his facility, rehabilitates them, and when they’re strong enough he and his colleagues take the pangolins to secret locations and release them.

People like Thai are buying time for the rest of us as we get our acts together and decide this is something we want to stop. And that animals are worth saving.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

7 Tons, One Shot

Hank Konrad: hunter


It’s not every day that you can walk into a local supermarket and find an African lion attacking a warthog right there by the checkout counters – unless you’re shopping at Hank’s Harvest Foods in Twisp.

The lion and warthog are among dozens of trophy animals from Africa, Canada and a smattering of other countries on display at the store, most of them sharing space with an assortment of merchandise stacked above the freezer cases.

“I ran out of room at home so I brought some of them down here for the kids to see,” explains Hank Konrad, store owner and passionate hunter.

Each animal has a story. For example, that male lion from Zambia that’s about to dine on the warthog was probably six or seven years old when he died. He had 19 females in his pride and is believed to have fathered three cycles of cubs, Konrad said. But after losing his pride and territory to another male, he was found wandering hungry and alone. He was so thin his ribs and spine stuck out, according to Jackson Konrad, Hank’s son, who was with him on the trip.

photoJudy and Hank Konrad pose with a greater kudu bull, a woodland antelope, taken for meat in Botswana last year while they were hunting in the Kalahari. Photo courtesy of Hank Konrad

“I tracked him for 12 days because I didn’t want to bait him,” Hank said. Finally, the lion came into the open. “He stopped and looked back.” It was the only moment Konrad had to take a shot and he didn’t hesitate.

The warthog is from Zimbabwe. “I shot him [on a different trip] so we could have dinner,” Konrad explained. The warthog skull that’s part of the exhibit is from the animal on display; the lion skull is not.

Both animals were restored to life-like prime by a taxidermist friend who lives outside Missoula, Mont. He’s worked on all the African animals for Konrad, who said he prefers poses and facial expressions that are as natural as possible – no snarls and added drama. He doesn’t discuss the business side of his passion, but Konrad said, “I’m not taking anything out of the store [to pay] for hunting.”

photoA male Himalayan Tahr, a wild goat with a lion-like mane, watches over grocery shoppers. Konrad shot it in New Zealand, where Tahr goats are hunted for meat. Photo by Karen West

And while he’s hunted many kinds of animals, Konrad said, “I’m not a scorekeeper kind of guy.” In fact, after about two dozen trips to Africa, elephants are the only animal he hunts there – unless “somebody wants something to eat.” Why? “Because it’s the biggest challenge… I’m not a killer. I’m a hunter.”

It takes absolute focus, he explained, to stand face-to-face with a charging bull elephant, knowing he wants to kill you and you want to drop him with a single shot to the brain so he dies instantly. Konrad said he’s never missed that shot. His elephant gun holds two .500 Nitro cartridges and the tracker who accompanies him also has a rifle – just in case.

One year he shot a bull that weighed 14,000 pounds. It was estimated to be about 70 years old, the upper end of an elephant’s lifespan. He only had one molar left in his mouth and couldn’t chew food properly, said Konrad, who started hunting as a child.

“I was born in the woods, outside Grangeville,” Idaho, into a family that raised some cattle, ran a small logging operation and worked as outfitters during elk hunting season, he said. His mother was a quarter Nez Perce and his dad a quarter Crow.

When he was in high school, Konrad recalled, “I used to get on the school bus every Friday with my rifle and my pack and nobody blinked an eye.” After school, he went to a ranch for target practice. “All the kids with pickups in the [school] parking lot had rifles in the rack,” he added. “Nobody shot anybody.”

He is a life member of Safari Club International, the Wild Sheep Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Mule Deer Foundation and the National Rifle Association. His three kids were trained in firearm safety and his six grandchildren will be, too. He said he opposes gun control.

He also said the United States government has gotten too big and is weakening the country. “We need to be self reliant again,” Konrad said. “We’ve taught our children that somebody else is responsible for everything. But that’s not the way it is.”

Self-reliance, by his definition, means taking care of your own – your kids, parents and the people in your own community — and not expecting the government to do it.

Konrad is legendary for quietly extending a generous helping hand in the community. “There’s nothing I won’t do for a working man but there’s nothing I’ll do for a man who won’t,” he said.

photoHank Konrad displays an 84-pound elephant tusk, one of the pair he has from his 2012 hunt in Botswana. Since the mid-1980s all elephant tusks being shipped from Africa are assigned a serial number to help track the ivory. Hunters must have permits and document their hunts with photographs. Konrad donates the hide and all meat to local villagers. Photo by Karen West

Hard work has been a hallmark of his life. He said his great-grandmother, Eva Cash, long ago told him: “All good things come to he who waits as long as he works like hell while he’s waiting.”

In 1975, Konrad moved to Twisp with his wife, Judy, a native of Lewiston, Idaho, and his brother and his wife. They bought the ‘Buckingham Palace’ grocery store, which was located where the Confluence Gallery is today.

“I worked 15 hours a day, seven days a week,” Konrad said. “I took a half-day off when Stephanie was born.” Stephanie is the eldest of the Konrad’s three children. She’s living in Wyoming, although her son works at the store. So do the Konrad’s other two children – daughter, Carlan, and son, Jackson, who runs the meat shop. Judy Konrad works in the office. Hank’s Harvest Foods employs 54 people, making it one of the largest employers in the valley.

Over the years, Konrad has had several businesses in addition to the grocery store including an excavating company and a well-digging business. He’s also invested in real estate. The family lives on a 1,000 acre ranch put together over the years up Finley Canyon, where the kids can learn about life by roaming the hills, hunting, fishing in the lake and riding their ATVs where grandpa designates so they don’t “tear up the land.” And you can bet they know the stories of the animals in his trophy room.

Konrad said he likes to travel “but I want to go into the bush and meet the real people.” Judy accompanies him and does some hunting, although she also travels with a group of friends to tourist sites and countries he doesn’t care about. His first trip outside the United States was with the U.S. Army to Vietnam, where he spent part of three different years. There he befriended an “old Frenchman” who talked to him about the place.

His passion for Africa was ignited years later when he saw some films about hunting there. It looked challenging. But the appeal has many facets – the expanses of land, the quiet, “tracking in the African bush and meeting the indigenous people who live out there” for whom hunting “is a way of life.”

photoAbout two dozen white tail and mule deer trophies are on display above the freezer cases. Photo by Karen West

Konrad said he hunts on government lands that are equivalent to our Forest Service lands, where the herds are managed and park rangers set the quotas on the number of permits issued.

The Safari Club promotes hunting and conservation by taking care of the animal populations, he said. It also sponsors anti-poaching teams. “Africa, right now, would pretty much be without animals if it wasn’t for Safari Club International.”

“Hunting is a positive thing for all animals because it gives them a value and without it, they’re gone,” Konrad said. “The trophy fee for an elephant can feed a village for a year, plus they get the meat.”

If he gets an elephant permit this year, Hank and Judy Konrad will make what he expects to be their last elephant-hunting trip to Botswana in August. The permits for where he wants to go may be auctioned off to some very wealthy bidders, he said, which could change his plan. That would be a bittersweet decision for a man who has tracked elephants up to 60 miles through the African bush that so strongly calls to him.


James Woods calls for ‘licensed hunting of poachers’ following Idaho game commissioner controversy

WARNING: Article contains graphic photo.

Oscar-nominated actor James Woods took to Twitter on Monday morning to denounce the practice of trophy hunting, presumably after learning of the controversy surrounding former Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner Blake Fischer.

“Honestly some things are just obvious, so please stop selling this nonsense that killing innocent wildlife helps conserve the species. It’s just bull—-,” posted Woods, alongside a link to an article concerning Fischer and his vacation in Africa, during which he claimed to have killed “a whole family of baboons.”

“Killing these glorious creatures is barbaric,” Woods added. “Just stop it.”


Woods also responded to critics on Twitter who defended conservationists, saying that he was specifically referring to the practice of trophy hunting.

“I eat hamburgers. Somebody does the killing. I’m not going to get holier-than-thou about hunters. If you’re a carnivore, then somebody has to do the killing. But killing for a “trophy” is absurd. What I’d really like to see is the licensed hunting of poachers,” he tweeted.

Woods also called hunting exotic animals on regulated land “vile,” and suggested that sport hunters should hunt each other to create a more “level playing field.”

Woods’ posts came days after news of Fischer’s trip to Africa came to light, along with photos of the animals Fischer and his wife had shot in Namibia, which included a leopard and giraffe, among others.

“First day [my wife] wanted to watch me, and ‘get a feel’ of Africa,” Fischer reportedly recounted in an email to over 100 friends and co-workers following his trip, according to a public records request from the Boise’s KBOI and The Idaho Statesman. “So I shot a whole family of baboons.”

Fischer, who resigned Monday following a request from Idaho Governor Butch Otter, had initially defended his actions, saying nothing he did was “illegal,” “unethical” or “immoral.” He also said he had paid a trophy fee to hunt certain species.


Still, his actions were met with criticism from former fish and game officials in Idaho who saw the email, with two calling for his resignation and another requesting an apology for what they called unsportsmanlike hunting practices — especially in regards to the family of baboons.

“I’m sure what you did was legal, however, legal does not make it right,” said Frank Trevey, a former Idaho fish and game warden, to Fischer after seeing the email.

Gov. Butch Otter had also reportedly asked for Fischer to resign earlier in the day, the Statesman reported, saying “every member of my administration is expected to exercise good judgment. Commissioner Fischer did not.”

Fischer apologized to Idaho’s hunters and anglers in a resignation letter obtained by the paper.

“I recently made some poor judgments that resulted in sharing photos of a hunt in which I did not display an appropriate level of sportsmanship and respect for the animals I harvested,” he said, in part.


Fischer was slated to serve a second term as a fish and game commissioner for Idaho, The Washington Post reported.

Fox News’ Edmund DeMarche contributed to this article.

“I didn’t do anything [currently] illegal.”

“I didn’t do anything illegal.”  

That was the feeble excuse made by Blake Fischer, the Idaho Fish & Game commissioner who—like so many others before him—posed grinning and gloating in one morbid photo after another with the animals he’d mindlessly murdered.

How many leopards must be reduced to props for these tweaked sportsmen’s arrogant pleasures, before the laws protecting them are brought into at least the 20th century?

He might not have done anything “illegal,” but impaling to death with arrows and posing alongside an entire family of freshly-killed baboons breaks a lot of taboos, besides being in excessively poor taste for a supposed wildlife official.

And although his actions may not currently be “illegal,” who could really blame someone for doing something in response that was?


Psychopathic killers should not be placed in charge of threatened, endangered, or other wild animal species. Please call for Blake Fischer to be relieved of his position by contacting the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at 208-334-3700 or posting a comment on the department’s Facebook page.

Eight critically endangered black rhinos die after drinking saltier water than they were used to when they were moved to a new reserve in Kenya

  • Tragic loss of endangered black rhinos thought to be caused by salt poisoning
  • Operation aimed to boost species population, but eight of 14 died in transit
  • Translocation of endangered animals is risky and involves putting them to sleep
  • Conservationists in Kenya demand responsibility be taken after sad news broke
  • Death toll is ‘unprecedented’ in more than a decade of such animal transfers

Eight out of 14 critically endangered black rhinos died after being moved to a new reserve in southern Kenya, wildlife officials admitted on Friday.

The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife said salt poisoning may have caused the rhinos to perish as they struggled to adapt to saltier water in their new home.

It has suspended the ongoing move of other rhinos with the surviving ones being closely monitored.

Eight critically endangered rhinos died of suspected salt poisoning while being moved from Nairobi and Lake Nakuru in Kenya

Eight critically endangered rhinos died of suspected salt poisoning while being moved from Nairobi and Lake Nakuru in Kenya

The black rhinos were being translocated to Tsavo East National Park in the hope of boosting species population

The black rhinos were being translocated to Tsavo East National Park in the hope of boosting species population

The relocation of endangered animals involves putting them to sleep for the journey and then reviving them in a process which carries risks.

But the loss of more than half of them is highly unusual.

Prominent Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu said officials must take responsibility and should have explained what went wrong sooner.

‘Rhinos have died, we have to say it openly when it happens, not a week later or a month later,’ she said.

‘Something must have gone wrong, and we want to know what it is.’

It was hoped moving rhinos to the newly created Tsavo East National Park from Nairobi would boost the population there, AP reported.

The wildlife ministry said ‘disciplinary action will definitely be taken’ if an investigation into the deaths indicates negligence by agency staff.

14 black rhinos were moved in all.

The death toll while moving from the capital to a national park hundreds of kilometres away has been labelled ‘unprecedented’ by the government.

‘Moving rhinos is complicated, akin to moving gold bullion, it requires extremely careful planning and security due to the value of these rare animals,’ Kahumbu added.

‘Rhino translocations also have major welfare considerations and I dread to think of the suffering that these poor animals endured before they died.’

In transit from two separate locations, eight out of 14 of the endangered black rhinos died while moving to Tsavo East National Park

In transit from two separate locations, eight out of 14 of the endangered black rhinos died while moving to Tsavo East National Park

There are an estimated 5,500 black rhinos in the world, a figure that has rebounded from just 350 that existed when the species was on the brink of extinction in 1983

There are an estimated 5,500 black rhinos in the world, a figure that has rebounded from just 350 that existed when the species was on the brink of extinction in 1983

In May, six black rhinos were moved from South Africa to Chad, restoring the species to the country in north-central Africa nearly half a century after it was wiped out there.

Kenya transported 149 rhinos between 2005 and 2017 with eight deaths, the wildlife ministry said.

Save the Rhinos estimates there are fewer than 5,500 black rhinos in the world, all of them in Africa.

Kenya’s black rhino population stands at 750, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

According to KWS figures, nine rhinos were killed in Kenya last year.

In May, three more were shot dead inside a specially-protected sanctuary in northern Kenya and their horns removed, while in March the last male northern white rhino on earth, an elderly bull named Sudan, was put down by Kenyan vets after falling ill.

The black was on the brink of extinction after a dramatic 98 percent decline in population from 20,000 in 1970 to about 350 in 1983, says WWF.

The decline was caused by escalating illegal poaching for illegal markets in the Middle East and Asia.

Black rhinos are considered critically endangered but its population has rebounded, although the species remains threatened due to poaching and habitat loss.

Nearly 90 elephants slaughtered near wildlife sanctuary in Africa, tusks taken by poachers



An aerial survey discovered bodies of 87 slaughtered elephants near a wildlife sanctuary in Botswana, Africa.

Many of the dead elephants were ripped of their tusks, and left with mutilated skulls — a sign of poaching.

Wildlife conservation organization Elephants Without Borders found the “alarming”rate of dead elephants while flying an aerial census supported by the Botswana government.

“People did warn us of an impending poaching problem and we thought we were prepared for it,” Mike Chase, director and founder, said in a statement.

The country recently disarmed its anti-poaching unit under president Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Chase told the BBC this is the largest incident of elephant poaching he’s ever seen or read about in Africa. The carcasses were found near the the Okavango Delta wildlife sanctuary, a popular tourist destination.

Poachers killed many of the elephants within the last few weeks, according to a poaching incident report obtained by NPR. Three white rhinoceroses were also killed in the same area over the past three months, according to the report.

Botswana is home to the world’s largest elephant populations and has been praised for its protection of elephants in the past.

More: Elephants rarely get cancer thanks to ‘zombie gene,’ study finds

The 2016 Great Elephant Census, which reported more than 130,000 elephants in Botswana, also revealed African savanna elephant populations were declining by 30 percent in 15 of the 18 Africa countries surveyed. A map from that report showed Botswana’s elephant population was in stable condition as neighboring Angola, Zimbabwe, and a small area of Zambia saw decreasing populations.

But, that trend could be changing, as Chase told the BBC “poachers are now turning their guns to Botswana.”

More: How the power of music brought peace to this elephant