Zimbabwe’s elephant culling plan stirs debate

Zimbabwe’s elephant culling plan stirs debate (msn.com)

Enock Muchinjo  23 hrs agoLike|12

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Harare, Zimbabwe – Africa’s elephant population has been dangerously declining – but not in Zimbabwe.a baby elephant standing next to a body of water: Authorities estimate more than 100,000 elephants live within Zimbabwe's boundaries [File: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters]© Authorities estimate more than 100,000 elephants live within Zimbabwe’s boundaries [File: Philimon B… Authorities estimate more than 100,000 elephants live within Zimbabwe’s boundaries [File: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters]

Authorities in the southern African country estimate that the number of its mammoth mammals currently stands at slightly more than 100,000 – up from 84,000 in 2014, when the last census was conducted – for a carrying capacity of about 45,000.https://www.dianomi.com/smartads.epl?id=3533

The surplus has prompted the government in recent weeks to mull the mass killing of elephants – something the country last did in 1988 – as a population-control option in order to protect other wildlife, as well as the country’s vegetation.

“We are overpopulated when it comes to elephants in this country,” Tinashe Farawo, spokesman of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority (ZimParks) told Al Jazeera.

Authorities maintain the growing elephant population poses a risk to other animals by causing habitat destruction, and has also led to an increase in the instances of dangerous human-wildlife interaction, with dozens of deaths reported in recent years.

“We have vultures that breed in trees. The vultures are no longer breeding in Hwange (National Park); they have moved to other places because elephants have the habit of knocking down trees,” Farawo said.

He noted that the plan is still in its “formative stages” and a final decision has yet to be made, but stressed that culling is permitted by Zimbabwe laws.

But the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), an environmental and human rights watchdog in Zimbabwe documenting poaching, opposed the plan.

“Culling will eventually lead to extinction of these elephants,” spokesperson Simiso Mlevu told Al Jazeera.

“This is just the beginning,” he said. “Very soon we will be forced to travel to other countries just to see an elephant.”

Earlier this year, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the African forest elephant as “critically endangered” and the African savanna elephant as “endangered”, citing a surge in poaching and loss of habitat for the declining numbers.

According to the Swiss-based group’s latest assessments, the number of African forest elephants dropped by more than 86 percent over a period of 31 years. Meanwhile, the population of African savanna elephants fell by at least 60 percent over the past half a century.

Zimbabwe has the continent’s second-largest elephant population after Botswana, which boasts about a third of Africa’s 415,000 remaining elephants.

Other options

Besides culling, another option considered by Zimbabwean authorities is to move elephants from areas with a high population. But both are hampered by lack of funds, Farawo said.

“It’s an expensive process and right now we have no money,” he added. “In 2018, we moved 100 elephants and the exercise cost us $400,000.”

Farawo said ZimParks, a government body, requires at least $25m annually for its operations. But the body has not received any funding from Zimbabwe’s cash-strapped government since 2001.

Farawo said his organisation needed revenue to conserve elephants but its finances took a big hit in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic severely affected the country’s tourism industry.

In late April, Zimbabwe said it was planning to sell hunting licenses to kill 500 elephants to generate revenue. Trophy hunters are expected to pay between $10,000 and $70,000 depending on elephant size.

The 500-elephant hunting quota, which is separate from the culling plan, is allowed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), according to Farawo, who said that “elephants must pay for their upkeep”.

“The elephants also have to take care of themselves, so we must be allowed to trade in order for that to happen,” Farawo said.

“[This] means that money must be generated, revenue coming off the elephants. Right now, tourism is dead, so people aren’t coming to see the elephants.”

But Mlevu, of CNRG, said that culling would affect tourism – a position echoed by John Robertson, a prominent Zimbabwean economist.

“It inflicts serious damage on wildlife,” Robertson told Al Jazeera. “Losing wildlife also reduces the prospects of tourism, which the country heavily relies on.”

Audrey Delsink, wildlife director of Humane Society International/Africa, said killing elephants has “a traumatic effect on the remaining population”. She said it is for that reason that authorities in South Africa are using contraception as a population-control option.

Noting that 76 percent of elephant populations in Africa cross borders, Delsink told Al Jazeera: “Management actions taken at an incorrect scale can have massive consequences and ripple effects that extend far beyond the targeted zone, area or population.

“Therefore, Zimbabwean management choices could have devastating consequences for transient elephants. The situation in Zimbabwe appears to be not so much about elephant numbers per se, but rather about funding the management authority – the elephants are simply a means to this end.”

JFK Passenger Had 35 Live Finches In His Pants, Jacket: Feds


A man from Guyana — Kevin Andre McKenzie, 36 — is accused of smuggling the birds that are prized in singing contests, authorities said.

Matt Troutman, Patch StaffVerified Patch Staff BadgePosted Tue, Apr 27, 2021 at 4:45 pm ET|Updated Tue, Apr 27, 2021 at 5:02 pm ET


One of 35 finches found stuff in hair curlers that customs officials said they found on a man accused of smuggling the birds through JFK Airport.
One of 35 finches found stuff in hair curlers that customs officials said they found on a man accused of smuggling the birds through JFK Airport. (United States District Court Eastern District Of New York)

NEW YORK CITY — A passenger flying into John F. Kennedy International Airport tried to smuggle a flock of finches into the country, authorities said.

Customs officials found 35 live finches stuffed in hair curlers concealed on the passenger — Kevin Andre McKenzie, 36 — Monday, according to a federal criminal complaint.

The birds are prized for singing contests in Brooklyn and Queens, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent who filed the complaint wrote.https://45560797dd1b5e4c83b3b21ac05689ab.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“In such contests, often conducted in public areas like parks, two finches sing and a judge selects the bird determined to have the best voice,” the complaint states. “Many who attend the singing contests wager on the birds. A finch who wins these competitions becomes valuable and can sell for more than $10,000. Although certain species of finch are available in the United States, species from Guyana are believed to sing better and are therefore more valuable.”

McKenzie is a resident of Guyana, authorities said. He flew from the South American country and arrived at JFK, where customs agents searched him, the complaint states.

They found the birds stuffed in hair rollers concealed beneath his pants legs and jacket, the complaint states.

A criminal complaint shows bird-stuffed hair curlers authorities said they found Monday on a man they accused of smuggling. (United States District Court Eastern District of New York)

“The defendant told agents that he had been offered $3,000 to smuggle the birds into the United States,” the complaint states. “He was paid $500 before the flight, and he expected to
receive the remaining $2,500 when he exited Customs.”

United States law prohibits importing wildlife and specifies commercial birds must be quarantined for 30 days to prevent the spread of diseases such as bird flu.

McKenzie faces a charge of intentionally and unlawfully importing and bringing into the United States merchandise contrary to law. He was released on a $25,000 bond.

AFRICA: Migration as a solution to the overpopulation of elephants in Botswana?

By Jean Marie Takouleu – Published on November 5 2020 / Modified on November 5 2020

AFRIQUE : la migration comme solution à la surpopulation des éléphants du Botswana ?©Steffen Foerster/Shutterstock

The governments of Botswana and Angola have set up a joint initiative to promote the migration of elephants to Angola. This solution could save Botswana’s elephants, which are at the root of tensions between the authorities and farmers.

Botswana has long been regarded as Africa’s elephant sanctuary and is now seeking to reduce its pachyderm population. The animals, whose range is gradually shrinking, are also being hunted by farmers, who are accused of destroying plantations. The problem is such that the elephant issue is now at the heart of election campaigns, with politicians no longer hesitating to propose the culling of pachyderms outright.

But the solution may lie elsewhere, including the migration of these animals to other wilderness areas. The Botswana authorities are seriously considering this option. In fact, they have launched an initiative with the Angolan government to create crossings to allow elephants to move from northern Botswana to southern Angola. This is in fact an ancient migration route that elephants used to use to escape the harsh dry seasons of northern Botswana and spend this time in the lush vegetation of south-eastern Angola.

Demining the migratory corridor

But Angola’s civil war between 1991 and 2002 reduced the movement of pachyderms and other wildlife, forcing them to confine themselves to Botswana and other neighbouring countries. According to the Angolan authorities, before the civil war Angola had a population of 100,000 elephants. Today, the country has only 10,000. Although calm has since returned to the Angolan reserves, elephants are still reluctant to return to Angola and their migration corridor is still littered with mines laid during the civil war.

This is why the Angolan and Botswana authorities are now working to clear the pachyderm migration corridor of mines. In addition, the Angolan government has already allocated 60 million dollars for mine clearance in the south of the country. But more funds will be needed to facilitate the migration of the largest land mammal.

Financing the development of migration corridors

According to the authorities in both countries, additional funds are needed to remove obstacles to elephant movement, including the dismantling of cattle fences, the protection of migration corridors and the education of local communities. “Angola needs to prepare for the planned migration and restocking of elephants and other wildlife in the country,” says Tamar Ron, an ecologist and biodiversity consultant with the Angolan government.AFRICA: Migration as a solution to the overpopulation of elephants in Botswana?

An elephant in Kissama National Park in northwest Angola ©Gabs 1510/Shutterstock

“Southern Angola provides prime habitat for elephants and, if conditions are safe for elephants, they will return to Angola in large numbers. It is natural for elephants to leave areas with high elephant numbers and seek out areas with fewer elephants for safe food and water,” says Mike Chase, founder of Elephants Without Borders, an organisation that works on elephant research.

A deconfinement solution for elephants

The migratory solution advocated by the Angolan and Botswana governments should deconflict the 135,000 elephants of Botswana, the vast majority of which live in an area of 520,000 km2, in the Kavango-Zambezi Transboundary Conservation Area (Kaza). It is located in a five-border region in Southern Africa. Kaza includes most of the Upper Zambezi River Basin and the Okavango Basin and Delta. The area includes the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, the south eastern tip of Angola, southwestern Zambia, the northern Botswana wilderness and western Zimbabwe.

Rare animal photographed alive for the first time in the wild


WildCRU is trying to make a difference.ByChristian Spencer | April 2, 2021https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.448.1_en.html#goog_1373678144Volume 20%This video will resume in 10 seconds 

Story at a glance

  • A rare species was spotted.
  • Scientists can now use camera traps, instead of bushmeat hunters, to find an animal’s whereabouts.

Camera traps, devices used to capture wildlife using motion sensors, are saving the animals from bushmeat hunters and spotting rare animals in the process.

In the West African country of Togo, researchers were able to see images of the Walter’s duiker, a petite African antelope species, for the first time in the wild, according to Gizmodo.

Rare species of aardvarks and a mongoose were also discovered roaming the wild in Togo using camera traps. 

“Camera traps are a game changer when it comes to biodiversity survey fieldwork,” University of Oxford wildlife biologist Neil D’Cruze told Gizmodo. “I’ve spent weeks roughing it in tropical forests seemingly devoid of any large mammal species. Yet when you fire up the laptop and stick in the memory card from camera traps that have been sitting there patiently during the entire trip—and see species that were there with you the entire time —it’s like being given a glimpse into a parallel world.”

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For bushmeat hunters, who specialize in gathering wildlife in rural communities, their services, considered illegal and an unsustainable over-hunting practice, are no longer needed for biologists to gather information. Some bushmeat hunters would kill rare animals to sell their rare carcasses to market.

The Walter’s duiker was discovered in 2010 when bushmeat specimens were compared to other known duiker specimens. However, recent images of the Walter’s duiker are the first scientists have ever seen. Few and far between, some rare species do not make the endangered listing because of the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies them as “data-deficient.” 

The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, a Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford in England, also known as WildCRU, is trying to make a difference.

“This graceful antelope has, for the last 200 years, displayed a great talent for avoiding scientists, but proven tragically less adept at avoiding nets, snares and hunting dogs,” zoologist at the University of Oxford David Macdonald said. “Plotting their whereabouts in bushmeat markets is roughly analogous to plotting the habits of deer in the UK by mapping their occurrence on butchers’ slabs.”

Should Trophy Hunting remain legal?


Omila, Science And Environment WriterOpinion / Science And Environment

Read Time:4 Minutes

“Ever since we arrived on this planet as a species, we’ve cut them down, dug them up, burnt them and poisoned them. Today we are doing so on a greater scale than ever.” – Sir David Attenborough

I start my article with this quote not only out of respect to its author, climate change activist David Attenborough, but due to its succinct message.

This quote is so brilliant because it can be interpreted in so many ways. This quote encapsulates how we, as the human species, have affected every element of the earth’s circle of life through our insensitive desire to be at the top of the food chain.

The “them” can apply to anything: fossil fuels, wildlife, the ocean and, most importantly, the animals that we live side by side with.

In my eyes, I see this quote as a message to the world and its leaders on why trophy hunting (the act of killing a wild animal for sport) should not remain legal any longer.

Most people struggle to understand why hunters want to take life from such beautiful animals.

The statistics from a 2016 report from the International Fund for Animal Welfare found that 1.7 million hunting trophies were traded between nations between 2004 and 2014, of which 200,000 were endangered.”

Even though this data was collected a few years ago, it still highlights the ever increasing number of trophies being exported and traded, meaning more and more animals are being killed. Which I believe needs to stop.

There is an ongoing biodiversity crisis on our planet. Biodiversity refers to the variety of animals and life on earth and sadly this is ever decreasing. A statistic from CareOurEarth says that the current rate of global extinction is 100 times higher than the average over the last million years.

Serious action needs to take place in order to prevent any more of the Earth’s biodiversity from being lost- and this must start with change. Trophy hunting laws might be a good place to start.

File:Cecil the lion at Hwange National Park (4516560206).jpg
Walter Palmer’s killing of Cecil made international news in 2015. It is estimated that hunting has led to the lion species’ gene pool shrinking by 15 percent in the space of 100 years.

This lion, Cecil, lived in Hwange National Park in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe. On the 2nd July 2015, he was killed by American trophy hunter Walter Palmer. Cecil was allegedly lured out of his enclosure then shot with a bow and arrow and left there in extreme pain. Palmer then came back the next day to shoot the lion. On discovery that Palmer had a permit, making the murder legal, controversy arose. A petition was created to change laws on big game hunts in Zimbabwe.

There have been numerous cases where hunters have told journalists and news broadcasters that there is a conservation side to trophy hunting. Some argue that the land allocated for trophy hunting provides protection to species’ habitats and can benefit local communities with both employment and wildlife (when done correctly).  Canned hunting in particular means the animals are bred and the species are saved from otherwise definite extinction in the wild.

And yet the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation found that that only 3% of hunting revenue went to causes such as helping communities. This tells us that there is only a minor contribution to communities and they are able to cope with or without the revenue brought in, even before any ethical considerations.

These so called acts of conservation make the wildlife into an economical asset, which does not solve the problem- rather, it endangers species by giving them an economic value that humans might seek out. The treatment of species which are not yet endangered as assets to be collected or traded will surely lead them to the same fate as those already under threat.

Fortunately, there are wildlife conservation examples to be seen, mainly in Africa, which help preserve suffering species from game hunting. An example is The Makalali Game Reserve ,which is one of South Africa’s private reserves. Their aim is to counteract illegal hunting and wildlife trade by game hunters preying on critically endangered animals. The conservation area gives shelter to the animals known as ‘The Big 5’: lions, elephants, leopards, buffaloes and rhinos.

File:Herd of Elephants.jpg
Elephants are in the top five most sought after animals for trophy hunters.

These animals are the most likely to be hunted due to their distinctive features; whether that is tusks from an elephant or a fur coat from a leopard- these are financial opportunities to hunters, who will either illegally or legally sell these items as commodities, or keep them for their own display.

The ban of trophies being imported to the UK through new laws has seen improvement, and is expected to dis-incentivise hunters who can no longer bring their trophies home. This is a glint of hope but there is a lot that still needs to be done.

I end this article with yet another quote by Sir David for the younger generation to ponder on.

“Cherish the natural world, because you are a part of it and you depend on it.”

Feature lion image © Kevin Pluck via Wikimedia Commons

Cecil the lion picture via Wikimedia Commons © Daughter#3

Antelope in the grass © Stevepb via Wikimedia Commons

Elephants picture © Benh Lieu Song via Wikimedia Commons

Test drilling for oil in Namibia’s Okavango region poses toxic risk

Test drilling for oil in Namibia’s Okavango region poses toxic risk (msn.com)

Jeffrey Barbee  4 hrs ago

Colorado and Wyoming brace for severe snowstorm and potential blizzard conditions this weekendBrazil plunges into crisis as a second wave and deadly new variant overwhelm hospitals

The Canadian oil and gas company ReconAfrica began exploratory drilling in Namibia upstream of the wildlife-rich Okavango Delta in January. According to the company’s aerial imagery and an independent review, they don’t appear to have taken what experts say is an environmentally responsible measure to protect the local water supply from contamination.a group of giraffe standing on top of a grass covered field: Botswana. Okavango Delta. Khwai concession. Pack of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) looking out for prey.© Photograph by Danita Delimont, Alamy Stock Photo Botswana. Okavango Delta. Khwai concession. Pack of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) looking out for prey.

Namibia is a water-scarce country, and when news of the company’s project became more widespread, communities expressed concern that contaminants from drilling would seep into shallow aquifers that supply drinking water and irrigation for crops.https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/test-drilling-for-oil-in-namibia-s-okavango-region-poses-toxic-risk/ar-BB1ewtEC?ocid=msedgdhp

Conservationists also worry that contamination from the test drilling could affect wildlife in the vicinity—elephants, Temminck’s ground pangolins, African wild dogs, martial eagles—and in the UNESCO-recognized Okavango Delta some 160 miles downstream.

A large waste, or reserve, pit next to the first test well appears in a video that ReconAfrica posted on its website on January 10. Such pits are for storing the mud, fluids, and other materials—which may contain dangerous chemicals or be hypersaline—that come up when drilling for oil or natural gas. In British Columbia, Canada, where ReconAfrica is based, it’s standard industry practice to line these pits with an impermeable barrier that prevents chemicals from seeping into the earth and groundwater.a train is parked on the side of a dirt field: tktk© Photograph by John Grobler tktk

ReconAfrica spokesperson Claire Preece told National Geographic in October 2020 that drill cuttings would “be managed in lined pits.” She also said that “ReconAfrica follows Namibian regulations and policies as well as international best practices.” According to Namibian law, the company must “control the flow and prevent the waste, escape or spilling” of petroleum, drilling fluid, water or any other substance from the well.

In the company’s video, no lining is visible.

Namibian journalist John Grobler, who visited the site on January 23, confirmed to National Geographic that the reserve pit was unlined and had liquid pooling in it.

“From an environmental aspect this is grossly unacceptable, and from a social aspect [it] is reckless and disgraceful,” says Jan Arkert, a consulting engineering geologist based in Uniondale, South Africa, who has worked for decades on drilling-related projects. “The communities are totally dependent on groundwater for domestic and agricultural purposes, and any contamination to the aquifer will be all but impossible to contain and clean up.”

Video: Radioactive contamination (AFP)

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Arkert says that if the company chose to line the pit now, after drilling has started, it would be complicated. It would involve multiple steps, including removing the waste already there and disposing of it at a suitable facility, preparing the underlying gravel layer to ensure it won’t puncture the liner, and then installing the liner itself, which might have to be imported. Each step, Arkert says, is time consuming and likely would take at least three to four weeks.

“It looks to me like drilling fluids from the rig are being discharged into the unlined reserve pit,” says Matt Totten, Jr., a former exploration geologist for the oil and gas industry who has worked on projects in the United States, after he examined ReconAfrica’s video and still images. “Notice the dark brown discolored areas in the pond next to the rig where drilling fluids would be discharged.”

After reviewing another aerial video from drill site published by the German news program VOX on March 4, Totten confirmed that the now very full pit still “appears unlined and likely filled with a mixture of rainwater and drilling fluids.”

ReconAfrica did not respond to multiple requests for comment about its reserve pit.

To get permission from the Namibian government to drill exploratory wells, ReconAfrica had to do an assessment of their environmental impacts. The company’s resulting report referred to a waste “pond” and noted that it would “scrape all waste that has collected in the pond and dispose of these and the pond lining at a suitable site.”

Arkert, who joined a Zoom conference on oil and gas development in Africa on February 17 hosted by the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers, asked Scot Evans, the CEO of ReconAfrica, why the company didn’t line the pit.

Evans didn’t answer the question directly but said that in Canada the fluid “is used as fertilizer.” He added, “We are going to have a little experiment when we are done with the local [agriculture] people to introduce fertilizers to the community.”

According to Arkert, that answer “can only be described as bizarre,” because Evans is referring only to the drill fluid. But what’s particularly dangerous are naturally occurring compounds such as benzene, ethylene, toluene, and zylene, as well as radioactive water, which come to the surface if petroleum is discovered. The “brew that is stored in the unlined containment pond will be a cocktail of toxic liquid waste, fit only for disposal in a hazardous landfill site,” Arkert says.

Other experts agree. Water coming up the well when drilling into oil and gas formations “is typically saline, contains oil and grease, and can contain toxic organic and inorganic compounds, and naturally occurring radioactive materials,” says Surina Esterhuyse, a geohydrologist with the University of the Free State, in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Some of those chemicals have been proven to cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive disorders in people, according to a 2016 study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

According to a 2009 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report, reserve pits can contaminate farmland, streams, and drinking water sources and “can entrap and kill migratory birds and other wildlife.”

It is unclear what protocols ReconAfrica has followed for its first Namibian test well reserve pit to protect the area’s fragile ecosystem.

Wildlife Watch is an investigative reporting project between National Geographic Society and National Geographic Partners focusing on wildlife crime and exploitation. Read more Wildlife Watch stories here, and learn more about National Geographic Society’s nonprofit mission at nationalgeographic.org. Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to NGP.WildlifeWatch@natgeo.com

Algeria declares state of emergency over bird flu

OIE detected bird flu hotspot in Ain Fakroun town Tuesday

Abdurrazzak Abdullah   |10.02.2021Algeria declares state of emergency over bird fluFILE PHOTO

ALGIERS, Algeria

Algeria declared a state of emergency after World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)’s announcement of H5N8 bird flu outbreak in the country’s east, said Minister of Agriculture Abdelhamid Hamdani Tuesday. 

In a press conference, Hamdani said: “The source of this virus is migratory birds and we [Algeria] have put all regions on alert in anticipation of any emergency.”

He stressed that “the epidemic was contained in Ain Fakroun town which appeared in there.”

On Tuesday, OIE detected a bird flu hotspot in Ain Fakroun town of Oum El Bouaghi city.

Laboratory analyses revealed the spread of bird flu in the town, which infected 51,200 chickens before isolating the town.

The risk of humans potentially contracting the highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu virus cannot be excluded, although the likelihood is low, according to the World Health Organization.

*Bassel Barakat contributed to this report from Ankara


Unexplained Elephant Deaths Resume in Botswana, State Says

Antony Sguazzin  6 hrs ago

Unexplained Elephant Deaths Resume in Botswana, State Says (msn.com)

Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID, According to ScienceStorm could produce feet of snow along stretch from California to MaineUnexplained Elephant Deaths Resume in Botswana, State Says

(Bloomberg) — Botswana’s wildlife department is probing the unexplained death of 11 elephants in the Moremi Game Reserve, raising concern that a neurotoxin in waterholes that killed at least 330 of the animals last year may have returned.a close up of an elephant: Detail of an elephant at the Mashatu game reserve on July 26, 2010 in Mapungubwe, Botswana.© Photographer: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Detail of an elephant at the Mashatu game reserve on July 26, 2010 in Mapungubwe, Botswana.

“There is no evidence of illegal activity thus far as elephant tusks were found intact,” the Environment Ministry said on Facebook on Friday. When elephants are poached, their tusks are removed and the ivory sold illegally.

Scientist found last year that toxins produced by a cyanobacteria resided in the silt below the surface of waterholes used by elephants. A severe drought was believed to have led to the emergence of the neurotoxin. The investigation put an end to months of speculation about the cause of the animals’ death.a close up of an elephant: Detail of an elephant at the Mashatu game reserve on July 26, 2010 in Mapungubwe, Botswana.© Photographer: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Detail of an elephant at the Mashatu game reserve on July 26, 2010 in Mapungubwe, Botswana.

Botswana’s 135,000 elephants, the most in any one nation, have become a political issue because farmers say they destroy their crops and occasionally trample people. Yet the animals are key to the country’s tourism industry, which was worth some $2 billion a year before the coronavirus pandemic.

(Updates with tension over elephants in final paragraph)

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Wildlife watchdog told to take action after report finds Zimbabwe’s baby elephants sale violated rules Young captured elephants held in pen in Zimbabwe prior to being exported to China


Tracy Keeling
4th August 2020
Zimbabwe loaded 32 baby elephants onto a China-bound plane in October 2019. It had sold off the young animals, who it had separated from their wild families a year earlier, to an unnatural and torturous life in zoos. Zimbabwe authorities went ahead with the baby elephants’ export in the face of legal action. It also did so just before the global wildlife watchdog, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), implemented a landmark rule change that would have made the export impossible.
Zimbabwe, however, isn’t guaranteed to get off scot-free with its much criticised move. A recent CITES report accuses the country of not only contravening the “will” of CITES members, but the “good faith” and “spirit” of the Convention overall. It also asserts that, regardless of the landmark rule change that was about to come into force, Zimbabwe contravened prior provisions of CITES.
The report’s authors call on CITES’ Animals Committee to take “appropriate steps” after considering its findings. Such a step would be removing the elephants from the distressing situation they now find themselves in, and giving them the chance to live out the rest of their lives in relative comfort.
Rule change
Zimbabwe and a number of other nations that African elephants call home have been easily able to sell them on to non-African countries for display in zoos until very recently. But parties to CITES – which are nation states – voted to change the rules at the 2019 conference. The definition of what constitutes an ‘appropriate and acceptable destination’ for export of elephants was limited to “in situ”
conservation programmes. Simply put, the change means that African elephants should stay in Africa.
The rule change came into force on 26 November 2019, 90 days after the vote. This grace period between parties approving resolutions and them coming into force is to allow countries time to adjust their national laws and policies to fit the incoming CITES’ requirements.
But Zimbabwe used the time to export the young elephants it had captured in 2018 to China. At the time, elephant biologist and wildlife director at Humane Society International/Africa, Audrey Delsink, said:
We are left feeling outraged and heartbroken at this news today that the Zimbabwe authorities have shipped these poor baby elephants out of the country. Zimbabwe is showing total disregard for the spirit of the CITES ruling as well as ignoring local and global criticism. Condemning these elephants to a life of captivity in Chinese zoos is a tragedy.
Now two parties to CITES, Burkina Faso and Niger, have submitted a report to the authority’s Animals Committee. The report looks at exports of live elephants from African nations since 2010 in the context of CITES’ various rules, such as countries having to find ‘appropriate and acceptable destinations’ for them.
Zimbabwe has outstrippped all others in sheer numbers of exports. The report found it has exported 144 young elephants, mostly to China, since 2010. Namibia came second, with 24 elephants. The report spotlights Zimbabwe’s 2019 export in great detail. The report states that, at the time of writing in May, the elephants were in Longemont Animal Park close to Hangzhou. It continues:
Undercover video footage shows the elephants separated from each other in barren, indoor cells. Many appear to be very young (2-3 years).
Recent photographic evidence from China indicates that the elephants have undergone inhumane training by mahouts, presumably to prepare them for entertainment use. There are unconfirmed reports that some of the elephants are going to Yongyuan Biotech Company. The reason remains unknown.
Against the rules, by any measure
The report further assesses whether the export complied with CITES provisions. It notes that Zimbabwe can only export an elephant to ‘appropriate and acceptable destinations’ that are “suitably equipped to house and care for it”, due to a resolution that came into force in 2000. Parties have added further provisions over time. As a result, the scientific authorities for both the importing and exporting country also have to be “satisfied” that the export ‘promotes in situ conservation’, i.e. conservation in the place the elephant comes from. Furthermore, the
2019 landmark rule change, as already mentioned, limits what constitutes an ‘appropriate and acceptable destination’ to those that are ‘in situ’.
Burkina Faso and Niger argue, however, that, by any measure, Zimbabwe’s hurried export of the young elephants didn’t abide by CITES’ provisions.
The report says:
there is no publicly available evidence suggesting that the safari park in Shanghai which received the 32 young elephants from Zimbabwe in October 2019 –or any of the likely further destinations –can be considered as “suitably equipped to house and care for” live elephants, and thus meet the recommendations in the non-binding guidance, or that this particular import would promote in situ conservation. …
By any reasonable metric, the conditions of the transfer and housing are demonstrably inhumane.
Highlighting the 2019 rule change and the fact that, as part of that change, parties explicitly recognised elephants are “highly social animals” and removing them from their social groups has “detrimental effects” on their “physical and social well-being”, the report said the
not only contravened the will of the CITES Parties, it undermined the good faith and the spirit of the Convention.
Mighty and toothless
In short, the CITES report by two of its member countries is scathing about Zimbabwe’s actions. It asserts that, no matter how you look at it, or what resolution you test it by, the country’s choice to fly out the young elephants was flawed.
The parties recommend that the Animals Committee considers the report’s findings on the Zimbabwe 2019 export, in relation to the ‘appropriate and acceptable destinations’ condition, and takes “appropriate steps”.
The report doesn’t clarify what those steps should be.
CITES essentially plays god as an authority. It’s immensely powerful, deciding the fate of countless earthly beings, by controlling the trade in them – alive and dead. But it’s fairly ineffective when it comes to cracking down on wildlife trade offenders. The illegal trade in wildlife, for example, is booming (as is the legal trade). And what action CITES is empowered to take against Zimbabwe, and indeed China, for their apparent transgressions is unclear. South African journalist Adam Cruise told The Canary:
The appropriate steps would be haul Zimbabwe over the coals but just how CITES does that is the question. They are pretty toothless in that regard as they cannot really ‘do’ anything after the fact but simply an acknowledgement that Zimbabwe and by extension CITES were wrong and this sort of export will never happen again may be enough. Sadly, the elephants cant go back in the wild, that’s for sure.
Amid a global pandemic likely to have been caused by the wildlife trade, and a biodiversity crisis, the global wildlife watchdog increasingly appears unfit for purpose. A functional authority would reverse this trade and force the return of these young elephants to Africa, for rehabilitation and care in a wildlife sanctuary. If CITES is unable, or unwilling, to do that then really, what is the point of it?

This L.A. hunter killed an elephant. Now he’s a PETA target in bid to end trophy hunting

An African elephant in the wild.



In mid-December, Aaron Raby shot and killed an elephant. Hours later, he had a piece of it for dinner, with a side of sliced tomato and avocado.

A self-described “blue-collar” Los Angeles crane operator, Raby paid more than $30,000 for the once-in-a-lifetime experience — traveling more than 10,000 miles to South Africa to shoot and kill the tusked pachyderm. He then paid roughly $10,000 to have its head preserved as a souvenir of his adventure.

Yet Raby may never receive his trophy — which is still in South Africa being prepared by a taxidermist — if California enacts new legislation, Senate Bill 1175.

The legislation, which has passed the state Senate and is expected to pass the Assembly on Tuesday, would prohibit the importation and possession of animal parts from a list of endangered and threatened African species, including elephants, lions and rhinos.

“It’s time to wake up and realize that we’re in the middle of a mass extinction event,” said Sen. Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park), who wrote and shepherded the bill through the Senate.

Similar legislation passed both the Assembly and Senate two years ago but was ultimately vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who called the trophy ban “unenforceable.” Stern said circumstances have since changed, and is confident the current governor, Gavin Newsom, will sign this year’s bill.

For Raby, the consequences of his latest kill are just starting to unfold. After the hunt, he posted images of his trophy on Facebook, YouTube and AfricaHunting.com, a website for hunters.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal rights activist organization, independently obtained video of the elephant shooting, which it released Monday and plans to use in a late-session campaign to ensure passage of Stern’s legislation.

Raby said he has faced threats and online harassment before, such as when he posted an image of himself with a lion he had killed. But the PETA campaign is sure to bring him a new notoriety, and deepen the debate about trophy hunting.

“I don’t understand why this is anybody’s business but my own,” Raby said. “What I did is legal. I didn’t break a law. They’re going to place a ban because a bunch of … crybabies that don’t like hunting.”

California has become a focus of the trophy fight partly because the federal government has vacillated on banning such imports. This year, the Trump administration approved the import of a lion trophy from Tanzania, the first since lions began receiving protections in January 2016 as a threatened species.

Fearing the administration may approve more trophy imports, wildlife advocates are hoping California will provide a line of defense.

For years, trophy hunting has also quietly divided conservation biologists. Last fall, that split became publicly acerbic within the pages of the prestigious research journal Science.

Some experts argue the practice provides funding for local communities, raises money for wildlife management and gives people who live near dangerous or destructive animals — such as lions and elephants — an incentive to conserve them instead of kill them.

An African elephant is pictured on November 17, 2012 at Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. AFP PHOTO MARTIN BUREAU (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)


Does trophy hunting ‘enhance survival of the species’? Trump administration policy allowing elephant trophies stirs debate

Nov. 16, 2017

Others say there is no evidence that trophy hunting provides these benefits, and, even if it did, they question whether killing and dismembering such creatures justifies those ends.

The scope of the imports is vast. In 2017 alone, more than 650,000 wildlife trophies were imported to the United States, including species considered internationally rare or threatened, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service.

Last winter, after years of diligently saving, Raby embarked on a two-week hunting expedition in South Africa, led by a pair of experienced safari guides.

A video of the hunt, which PETA shared with The Times, shows a startled elephant facing the hunter and his phalanx of guides and trackers. As the young male pachyderm looks on — his ears widening — the guides set up a tripod upon which Raby places his rifle.

Raby shoots, and the bullet hits the elephant in its head. The elephant crumbles to his knees. Over the next 2½ minutes, Raby shoots the elephant four more times — three more hitting the animal’s head. The footage shows the elephant breathing heavily, groaning, bleeding and struggling to get up.

Raby’s guides continue to encourage him to get a cleaner shot. They never offer or attempt to intercede to quickly end the animal’s suffering.

The video cuts off before the elephant dies, although later footage — which Raby posted on YouTube and his Facebook page — shows crews skinning and deboning the elephant.

Raby has killed hundreds of animals across North America, as well as in Europe, Africa and Russia. Photos of his forays can be viewed on his public Instagram page, including one that shows a dead wolverine and another in which he is hugging a dead leopard.

The elephant was the culmination of Raby’s African “Big Five” quest. He’d already killed a lion, rhinoceros, Cape buffalo and leopard.

Raby said he hunts not for the kill, but for the experience and adventure of the hunt — living outdoors, cooking around a campfire, tracking an animal and immersing himself in the wild.

He also notes that lions regularly kill agricultural and pastoral animals — and occasionally people — while elephants can destroy homes and crops.

“We pay a lot of money to hunt these animals,” Raby said. “If we didn’t hunt, that land would be converted into cattle ranches and there’d be poaching. They don’t want lions killing their cattle or elephants destroying their crops.”

Mike Axelrad, a trophy hunter from Texas, said hunting provides financial incentives that prevent poaching. He said animals are often poisoned if considered a nuisance — a painful and often prolonged death.

Craig Packer, a biology professor and director of the University of Minnesota’s lion research center, said there are examples of successful trophy-hunting conservation preserves in countries such as Namibia and Zimbabwe — in which the proceeds from international hunting expeditions have provided funding to conserve wildlife habitat and employ people from local communities.

Unfortunately, he said, in most places, these reserves don’t translate into the desired outcomes because the money spent by hunters — a lion hunt can range from $20,000 to $70,000 — doesn’t come close to the kind of money needed to conserve biodiversity and manage habitat. Or employ enough people to have a meaningful effect on a community.

In addition, corruption in many countries and regions often makes it impossible to know where the money is going, to whom, and how the hunts are regulated.

“Many of these hunting preserves are fly-by-night operations. Business owners swoop in, sell big takes, and leave. They aren’t in it for the long term,” he said.

Others dispute Packer’s examples of hunting’s benefits.

“The emperor has no clothes,” said Adrian Treves, a conservation biologist at the University of Wisconsin and director of the Carnivore Coexistence Laboratory.

Treves says there are no concrete data supporting the idea that hunting promotes biodiversity, habitat conservation or local employment and engagement. Proponents tend to repeatedly cite the few studies that bolster the argument for hunting, creating a body of research that boils down to “self-citation,” he said.

An even bigger issue, said Chelsea Batavia, a conservation biologist at Oregon State University, is ethics.

“We know these animal are intelligent, they have emotional capacity and they have complicated social lives,” she said. Even if proponents could demonstrate that trophy hunting benefits conservation, she added, “do the ends justify the means?”

The debate, she said, needs to be seen in the context of colonialism, in which European traditions were and still are imposed upon Africans. What is needed, she said, are alternative conservation measures that aren’t issued from the top or from outside, but supported and embraced by local communities.

PETA is requesting that officials from South Africa investigate Raby’s hunt and, in particular, the prolonged death of the elephant.Newsletter

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In a letter to officials at the Balule preserve, Jared Goodman, PETA’s vice president and deputy general counsel, said the kill violated the preserve’s requirement that animals are provided with “ethical and humane” treatment and that its guides comply “with the highest moral and ethical standards in recognition of a reverence for life and good sportsmanship.”

As for Raby, he said he’d leave California if Stern’s legislation becomes law.

“We’re not all bloodthirsty, psycho machines that people make us out to be,” he said. “I promise you, I can read an animal better than someone who is against hunting. They say they like animals, but they don’t know anything about them.”