One of the world’s leading investigators into the illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn has been killed in Kenya.
Esmond Bradley Martin, 75, was found with a stab wound to his neck at home in the capital Nairobi on Sunday.
The former UN special envoy for rhino conservation was known for his undercover work establishing black-market prices.
The US citizen had recently returned from a research trip to Myanmar.
Bradley Martin was in the process of writing up his findings when he died, reports the BBC’s Alastair Leithead from Nairobi.
His wife found him in their house in Langata. Police are investigating the circumstances but suspect it was a botched robbery.
Our correspondent says Bradley Martin had spent decades risking his life to secretly photograph and document the illegal sales of ivory and rhino horn, travelling to China, Vietnam, and Laos to pose as a buyer – helping to find out the level of black market prices.
He first went to Kenya from the US in the 1970s when there was a surge in the number of elephants being killed for their ivory.
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Conservationists believe that the ivory trade is largely responsible for the world’s declining elephant numbers
His work on illegal wildlife markets helped pressure China to ban the rhino horn trade in the 1990s, and domestic sales of ivory, which came into force this year.
Fellow conservationists have been paying tribute to him on social media.
Skip Twitter post by @paulakahumbu
2/3 Esmond was at the forefront of exposing the scale of ivory markets in USA, Congo, Nigeria, Angola, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos and recently Myanmar. He always collaborated with Save the Elephants and worked with many of us generously sharing his findings & views.
— Dr. Paula Kahumbu (@paulakahumbu) February 5, 2018
Always sharply dressed with a colourful handkerchief falling from his top pocket, Esmond Bradley Martin would immediately cut to the chase, honing in on the latest issue that was consuming him.
He was a well-known and highly respected character in the conservation community – passionate and unwavering in his efforts to crack down on illegal wildlife crime.
In a major report last year from Laos, he and his colleague Lucy Vigne established that the country had the world’s fastest growing ivory trade.
They risked their own safety staying at a Chinese casino inhabited by gangsters and traffickers in order to visit the illegal markets and find out the latest prices by posing as dealers.
His life’s work was combating the illegal trade of wildlife and he produced a huge body of highly respected research and investigative reports.
He will be a huge loss to the international conservation community.
In an interview with Piers Morgan set to air Sunday night in the U.K., President Donald Trump used the word “terrible” to describe the initial decision last year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to overturn an Obama era ban on the import of elephant trophies.
Trump also says he does not believe the substantial fees that hunters pay to hunt elephants and other species actually go toward conservation efforts, as is often claimed, and instead are pocketed by government officials in other countries.
Trump confirms that the ban on importing elephant trophies from the African nations of Zimbabwe and Zambia will remain in place. That was not clear after he initially put the ban reversal on hold, pending further study.
The Fish and Wildlife Service, overseen by Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke, announced on Nov. 15 that it was rescinding an Obama administration ban on the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, saying money generated by the hunting goes toward conservation efforts.
“Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation,” the service said.
But the announcement on reversing the ban was met with scathing criticism from both the left and right. Powerful conservative media figures like Michael Savage and Laura Ingraham criticized Trump for the decision and called on him to keep the ban in place. Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres announced a campaign to persuade Trump to maintain the ban that quickly went viral through the hashtag #BeKindToElephants.
On Nov. 17 Trump tweeted, “Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!”
The announcement that he was putting the reversal on hold shocked many, primarily because his two eldest sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, are both avid hunters and have been criticized for hunting wildlife in Africa.
Trump also is closely aligned with the National Rifle Association, which strongly lobbies for trophy hunting rights. Two days after he made that announcement, he tweeted, “Big-game trophy decision will be announced next week but will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.”
That tweet led some to believe the ban would remain in place but no further announcement was made as promised.
In his comments to Morgan, Trump said, “Well, I changed it,” referring to reversing the move to end the ban.
He continued: “I didn’t want elephants killed and stuffed and have the tusks brought back into this [country] and people can talk all they want about preservation and all of the things that they’re saying where money goes towards ― well, money WAS going ― in that case, going to a government which was probably taking the money, OK? I turned that order around. You know, that was an order. I totally turned it around. Were you shocked that I did it?”
Morgan: “I was surprised.”
Trump: “I thought it was terrible. That was done by a very high level government person. As soon as I heard about it, I turned it around. That same day ― not even a day went by. No, I was not believing in [the conservation argument].”
The interview with Morgan is Trump’s first major sit-down interview with a non-U.S. television network and airs at 10 p.m. Sunday on ITV.
Police in central Liberia, Gbarnga, Bong County has announced the arrest of a hunter early Monday morning who killed his wife three months ago after fleeing the County to seek safe heaven at the Liberia/Guinea border.
According to a Correspondent of Liberian Broadcasting Corporation (LBS), the man in question has been at large after he killed his wife for not given him enough meat in his bowl, a situation; the Correspondent said over the past months has created fear in residents of the County.
The Commander of the Gbarnga Police Detachment, according to the LBS Correspondent has also confirmed the arrest of the alleged murderer and currently placed behind bars awaiting trial.
A thirty- two-year-old farmer has been shot dead at Warabeba, a suburb of Ayensudo in the Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abirem Municipality of the Central region.
The farmer and father of two, Atta Panin was allegedly shot dead by his friend Kofi Benya, who is a hunter.
The incident happened after the farmer went to the hunter’s house to demand a gun he had given him for his hunting expeditions.
The two had agreed to share the booty from the hunting expedition but the accused is said to have failed to honour his part of the agreement as he kept all the proceeds to himself; a situation which didn’t go down well with the deceased .
The accused is said to have entered his room to grab another gun which he used to shoot the farmer and bolted afterwards.
The farmer was subsequently rushed to the Central regional hospital by some residents who heard the gun shot.
The youth of the town upon hearing of the death of the farmer moved in to burn down the house of the accused in the town.
The case has since been filed with the Elmina police who are on a manhunt for the accused.
Tomorrow, CNN broadcasts the film “Trophy”, a pro-trophy hunting film.
The film was initially presented to CWI as a balanced look at trophy hunting. For that reason, we gave an interview for the film. Executive Director Carrie LeBlanc appears in Trophy, as one of only two primary dissenting voices against trophy hunting.
When we saw the completed film last fall, we were horrified. As it turns out, the films director manipulated and used an anti-trophy hunting protest we held in Las Vegas to their own ends and put a trophy hunter amongst our protesters to provoke response.
Trophy attempts, poorly, to make trophy hunters seem like sympathetic figures, instead of the killers they are.
While we are unhappy to be featured in a pro-trophy hunting film, we are glad to be a voice for the animals.
We encourage you to contact CNN and express your disgust that they would show a pro-trophy hunting film.
We also encourage you, particularly if you are a sensitive viewer, to opt NOT to watch Trophy. There are numerous instances of the brutal killing of animals, including an elephant, by trophy hunters.
Large-scale hunting is leading to a decline in the diversity of waterbirds in the state, say researchers.
Spotting a bar-headed goose, a Eurasian spoonbill or a painted stork in the wetlands of Tamil Nadu is becoming increasingly difficult because of the rampant illegal hunting of waterbirds. The hunting, at scales not mapped before, is triggered by demand from the market for wild meat and not subsistence hunting by a few, a new study by researchers at the Nature Conservation Foundation in Mysuru has found.
The researchers studied 27 wetlands in Tamil Nadu’s Kancheepuram district and interviewed 272 hunters over six months. Recording around 53 waterbird species across the wetlands during eight months of fieldwork in 2013 and 2014, they found that 47 species were being hunted, especially large and medium-sized birds. They also held that the hunting had contributed to a decline in the diversity of species found in the region, especially medium-sized insectivorous birds.
The study, based on a survey of hunters, concluded that the illegal hunting of waterbirds was market-driven and had grown in scale in the last 10 years. This contradicts previous findings by researchers that hunting is usually taken up by certain communities on a small scale purely for subsistence. Around 73.5% of the respondents reported monetary gain as the primary motive for hunting, sport and subsistence being the other reasons.
“The conclusions were in contrast to what we expected,” said Ramesh Ramachandran, an MSc student in wildlife biology and conservation at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bengaluru, who undertook this study as part of his dissertation. “We thought this was a traditional practice that had been there for hundreds of years. But it is a total commercialised mafia.”
The hunting of wild animals driven by a demand for wild meat, which is seen as exotic by some in the richer strata of society, is documented in some other parts of the country, particularly the tribal belts of Central India and the North East, but this research shows the same trend prevailing in Tamil Nadu as well.
Policeman to conservationist
Before taking up wildlife conservation studies, Ramachandran was a policeman in Karnataka and a member of a special cell tracking wildlife crime. “Because of his background, he brings an interesting viewpoint to conservation,” said KS Gopi Sundar, his mentor and scientist at the Cranes and Wetlands Programme of the Nature Conservation Foundation.
Ramachandran narrowed down his area of study to Kancheepuram, which has a large number of lakes and waterbodies, including two protected bird sanctuaries – Vedanthangal and Karikili.
His police training helped him track down communities that hunted wild birds and traded in their meat. He said he worked at winning their trust before presenting them with the questionnaire for the study. With a team of wildlife enthusiasts and informants, he visited them several times to get them to participate in the study.
At the end of their research, the team found that 92% of the hunting was done using locally crafted single-barrel muzzle-loading guns. A hunter on average went out four or five times a month and each trip yielded around 21 birds, which earned him an average monthly income of around Rs 13,000. The most commonly traded meat was that of the pond heron.
Around 71% of the respondents reported an increase in the demand for waterbird meat for consumption over the past decade. And the study found two distinct markets existing for the wild meat. It was sold at a fixed time slot, between 6 pm and 8 pm, to buyers who specifically sought it out. The remaining meat then made its way to restaurants and roadside food stalls near liquor shops where it was sold at much lower rates.
Around 75% of the hunters interviewed reported that they supplied birds to 426 eateries in the area. However, out of the 681 eateries surveyed, only eight acknowledged serving wild waterbird meat.
“It is significant that there is a market at work which sustains this trade and it stays under the radar,” said Ravinder Singh Bhalla of the Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning in Tamil Nadu. He added that hunting as a paid hobby was more prevalent than documentation suggested, since it was usually kept under wraps.
“What is remarkable is how this practice has stayed undocumented for what appears to be decades,” said Bhalla. “It would be too simplistic to attribute this to collusion by authorities alone. Social exclusion and lack of economic opportunities combined with cultural practices clearly have a role to play in this choice of livelihood by the hunters.”
Among the waterbirds that are being hunted are many migratory species, which India is bound to protect under the international Convention on Migratory Species. “Yet these are being sold on national highways,” said Ajith Kumar of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “A suitable method should be devised for controlling this, not just by forest officials harassing these communities and putting a few of them behind bars.”
Neglected field of study
The study has also brought to light the lack of research on wetland ecology, which Gopi Sundar claims is an extremely nascent science.
“Serious work that asks important questions has been largely missing,” the Nature Conservation Foundation scientist said. He pointed out that the majority of large waterbirds are found outside protected areas whereas much of ecological research is focused on protected forest areas.
So far, studies in the area of wetland ecology have dealt with ecological parameters such as the size of water bodies and vegetation, and their relationship with the populations and diversity of birds. This study is the first to have gathered information on hunting practices and factored these into trends of community structures and counts of bird species in each wetland, the researchers said. “This kind of analysis has never been done anywhere in the world,” said Gopi Sundar.
More than 20,000 trophy hunters are descending on Las Vegas this week to take part in a series of “pay to slay” auctions that have outraged animal rights activists.
The hunting jamboree, at which delegates will bid for the right to take part in 301 hunts that will eventually kill about 600 animals in 32 countries, is organised by Safari Club International (SCI), whose members include the notorious killer of Cecil the lion.
Safari company criticised for £1000 lion-hunting raffle
The four-day extravaganza at the Mandalay Bay hotel and convention centre on the Las Vegas Strip includes live music from country veteran Merle Haggard and Blood, Sweat & Tears.
The auction features an array of items including a white gold leopard broach – starting price $39,000 (£27,500) – and bullet gift certificates.
But the centrepiece of the event is unquestionably the auction of packages to hunt – and in some cases stuff – big game. Lots range from Iberian red deer and Pyrenean chamois to Australian water buffalo and African elephants.
The description of the 10-day Alaska Brown Bear and Black Bear hunt, which has a starting price of $75,150, reads: “This all-inclusive hunt is an outstanding option for hunters who want an all-in-one luxury hunting experience…in amazing areas boasting the highest density of bears in the world.”
US dentist Walter Palmer, who shot Cecil the lion, with another of his trophies
It adds: “Method of take is hunters’ choice.”
The Ultimate Hunters’ Market has been condemned by animal rights activists, amid a renewed focus on the ethics of big game hunting after SCI member and US dentist Walter Palmer killed Cecil in Zimbabwe last year.
Wendy Higgins, of Humane Society International said: “The auction site reads like a grotesque killing-for-kicks catalogue, in which the lives of the precious wildlife are sold to the highest bidder so that they can be slaughtered for fun.
“It is a tragic indictment on our society that, despite the global outrage over Cecil the Lion’s pointless killing, this scale of trophy hunting is still going on,” said Wendy Higgins, of Humane Society International.
League Against Cruel Sports chief executive Eduardo Goncalves added: “It beggars belief that there are still people who are excited by the prospect of slaughtering an animal for target practice and turning it into a trophy.”
The Safari Club International (SCI) is expected to raise more than $2.5 million from auctioning the mammal hunts alone, which have been provided from various hunt organisers.
The club runs the convention annually and it provides the majority of its income – most of which is used to lobby Washington.
Theunis Botha, a settler from Tzaneen, South Africa, was on a hunt in the neighboring country when four elephants charged at them.
One female elephant picked up Botha with her trunk after he had fired at the others, collapsing on top him when she was shot by another hunter. Botha was then killed, crushed to death.
While sympathies poured out for the hunter, those critical of big game hunting responded otherwise.
“You should be crying for the innocent elephant that was senselessly murdered not this idiot hunter who deserved what he got,” one person wrote on an online forum about his death.
Botha had his own big game safari company that toted wealthy foreigners on tours since the 80s. From a family of white settlers who arrived in South Africa in 1878, the hunter served in the South African infantry during the Angolan War but left shortly after.