[Unfortunately] No, Kenya is not introducing the death penalty for wildlife poachers

Articles shared tens of thousands of times online have reported that Kenya is planning to introduce the death penalty for convicted wildlife poachers. The articles quote Tourism Minister Najib Balala, who is supposed to have made the announcement during a meeting held on May 10, 2018. However, Balala was not at that meeting, and told AFP there was no such plan. Capital punishment is in theory permitted in Kenya, but the country has an effective ban on carrying out death sentences. No death row prisoner has been executed since 1987.

Kenya, like several other African countries, has seen its elephant and rhino populations decimated by illegal poaching to feed a booming international trade in tusks and horns. Elephant ivory is often carved into ornaments or jewellery and rhino horns are used in traditional Asian medicine, with China representing the biggest market for such goods.

The articles about the supposed death penalty plan began appearing online in May 2018, shortly after the meeting during which Balala was reported to have made the announcement.

Animal poaching is a highly emotive subject, and some articles reporting the announcement have racked up more than 100,000 shares each.

One post published by South African site News360, which we’ve archived here, has been shared online 123,000 times, according to data from social media monitoring site CrowdTangle. Another, published on the website of Joseph Mercola — a controversial alternative medicine practitioner in the United States — has been shared more than 100,000 times. A quick Google search reveals that the death penalty claim has been repeated on a large number of websites.

Existing penalties against convicted poachers have “not been deterrence enough to curb poaching,” the articles quote Balala as saying.

In many of the articles, it’s unclear when or where Balala was supposed to have made his announcement, but the News360 article linked to a similar report from Britain’s Independent news website, dated May 13, 2018.

Screenshot taken on April 11, 2019 of Britain’s Independent news website carrying the ‘death penalty for poachers’ story

That article, in turn, attributed the comments to China’s Xinhua news agency, which published a report from Kenya’s Laikipia County on May 11, 2018, carrying the remarks from Balala.

According to Xinhua, Balala made the comments “during the official launch of the northern white rhino commemorative stamps at Ol Pejeta Conservancy located in Laikipia County on the slopes of Mount Kenya”.

Screenshot taken on April 11, 2019 of the ‘death penalty for poachers’ story on Xinhua’s website

That event was organised by the Postal Corporation of Kenya. However, a post on the organisation’s Facebook Page revealed that Balala was not at the event and was represented by Patrick Omondi, a former director of research monitoring and strategic initiative at the ministry of tourism.

Screenshot taken on April 10, 2019 of a Facebook post by the Postal Corporation of Kenya

Omondi, who is now the biodiversity director at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), told AFP that he had read out a statement on behalf of the minister at the event in Laikipia, and there had been no mention of the death penalty.

“That is misinformation,” Omondi said. “I was the one reading the minister’s statement at the meeting and I can tell you nothing I spoke on behalf of the minister was related to the death penalty for poachers.”

He added: “I think in that meeting one of the local leaders casually said that poachers should be killed but nothing official came from the ministry.”

We asked Omondi if he still had a copy of the speech, but he no longer had access to it.

“It was a long time ago when I was in the minister’s office and since then I have been transferred to KWS. The secretaries at the office have also not been able to get the speech,”  he said.

We have asked the ministry if they can provide a copy of the speech, but they have yet to respond to AFP’s request.

But there is no record of any official statement from the Kenyan government announcing a move to introduce the death penalty for convicted poachers.

The Independent, at the time of publication last year, said they had reached out to Kenyan authorities for confirmation of the policy change. The website updated its article on Friday noting AFP’s fact-check and saying they had contacted Kenyan authorities again.

Kenya has no plans to introduce the death penalty for poachers

The KWS biodiversity director added that there was no plan to introduce the death penalty in Kenya as a punishment for poachers.

On March 31, 2018, during the funeral of the world’s last male northern white rhino, Balala had warned poachers they would face stiffer punishments — but made no mention of the death penalty.

“We are going to change our laws, Anybody who is caught with ivory or killing wildlife will be jailed for life. That is what we want to do,” he said. You can see him making the comments in this video:

The tourism minister has been advocating for stiffer punishments for poachers and in a phone interview with AFP on April 11, 2019, he said the current penalties were not proportionate to the damage caused by poachers.

“I have been pushing for harsher punishment because what we currently have does not add up at all. A kilo of ivory costs about $60,000 and the fine for a poacher who caught many kilos of ivory is only about $199,000. If you compare this, it seems to be a mere slap on the wrist,” he said.

“But this does not mean death penalty — that, I assure you, was taken out of context. We can have the fines increased, longer jail terms and ensure that the poachers do not easily get away by paying fines.”

Balala added that though poaching seems to be on the decline in Kenya,  campaigns to close down legal markets in Asia and elsewhere needed to be more vigorous.

Poachers convicted of the most serious offences in Kenya can in fact already be handed a life sentence under the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act of 2013.

The law sets out the punishments for various convictions, ranging from a minimum fine of one million shillings ($9,909) and/or five years in prison for those dealing in tusks, horns and other “trophies”, to up to 20 million shillings in fines and life behind bars for “endangered or threatened species”.

Kenya’s penal code allows for capital punishment, but in December 2017 the Supreme Court ruled that the mandatory issuing of the death sentence for crimes such as murder, treason and armed robbery was unconstitutional.

In practical terms, there is an effective ban on the death penalty in Kenya: no one has been executed since 1987, and in 2009 the then president Mwai Kibaki commuted the sentences of all those on death row to life imprisonment.

EDIT This post was updated after publication on April 12, 2019 after The Independent 
updated their story.

The story of rhino poaching, elephant trampling and man-eating lions is even more complicated

Craig Packer is the director of the Lion Center, a research and conservation center at the University of Minnesota. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)Lions eat people. In fact, they eat them all the time. And although the news last week focused on a suspected rhino poacher who was eaten by lions after being trampled by elephants, the story may tell us more about the hazards of poverty than about nature taking vengeance against the sins of mankind.

In southern Tanzania, lions attacked nearly 900 people in a 15-year period starting in the 1990s, and two-thirds of their victims died. The motive? Humans make a decent food source. These lions, who had lost most of their normal prey to habitat damage and human population growth, instead began consuming bush pigs, a native species that is also a serious and nocturnal crop pest.
Craig Packer

To protect their crops, subsistence farmers had to sleep in their fields at harvest time. Lions followed the pigs to the fields, and some learned to add sleeping farmers to their diet.
A similarly desperate situation has persisted for many years in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, which is located along the border with the much poorer nation of Mozambique. Impoverished Mozambicans seeking employment in South Africa have continuously attempted to cross Kruger Park on foot, and hundreds have ended up victims to Kruger’s many lions.
I once met a Kruger ranger who had recently performed a routine inspection of a dead lion in the middle of the park. Its stomach contents included a human hand.
In recent years, Kruger has attracted another type of illicit foot traffic: As home to one of the largest remaining populations of rhinos, it has drawn record numbers of poachers. From the point of view of a poor family in Mozambique, a single rhino horn is the equivalent of a year’s salary. The risks of getting caught by rangers, trampled by elephants or eaten by lions may seem insubstantial compared to the opportunity to feed your entire family for a whole year.
Not all rhino poachers are poor villagers — the trade in illegal animal parts can attract a broad section of corrupt society, including drug dealers and gun traders. And while I don’t know if last week’s suspected poacher was acting out of desperation or greed, the fact that he was on foot implies a similar dilemma as a Tanzanian farmer who must choose between the near certain loss of his sole crop of the year versus the risks of a lion attack.
So, when I read about the death of the Kruger rhino poacher, I thought first of the poverty that drives so many people toward danger. Add in Mozambique’s overwhelming humanitarian disaster caused by last month’s Cyclone Idai, and there’s even more reason to ask what drove this man into the park in the first place. The combination of rhino poaching, elephant trampling and man-eating lions may have captured the attention of the moment, but this man wasn’t the first — and he won’t be the last.
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In the industrialized world, we view lions and elephants with affection and an enduring sense of awe. But all-pervasive poverty is the root cause of the conservation crisis in Africa — land is increasingly scarce, elephants trample crops and lions kill livestock and people.
The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals aim to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030. If this lofty ambition were actually to be achieved, we might one day be justified in considering a trampled poacher to have received his just deserts, but until then, let’s also consider the possibility that his death might signify a much larger problem.

Big game hunter who has killed more than 5,000 elephants says he is ‘totally unrepentant’ after being named in investigation into plummeting numbers – and admits killing 60 lions, 50 hippos, and 40 leopards

Ad 00:12 – up next: “Elephant poacher says national parks have more elephants than space”

An African hunter who claims to have killed more than 5,000 elephants says he is ‘totally unrepentant’ about the deaths he has caused.

Ron Thomson, 77, who worked in Africa’s national parks for almost six decades, claims he was not hunting the animals for pure sport but was managing population that would otherwise have got out of control.

However, animal rights campaigners point out that elephant numbers are in steep decline and say ‘management culling’ is often used as a cover for trophy hunting.

Mr Thomson was forced to defend his record after a report by the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting branded him one of the world’s most prolific elephant killers.

On his website, Mr Thomson also claims to have killed 800 buffalo, 60 lions, 50 hippos and 40 leopards.

animal on the water: Campaigners rubbished Mr Thomson's claims, saying elephant numbers are in steep decline and 'management culls' are often used as fronts for trophy hunts© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Campaigners rubbished Mr Thomson’s claims, saying elephant numbers are in steep decline and ‘management culls’ are often used as fronts for trophy huntsThat total does not include kills he made while leading a culling team that shot 2,500 elephants and 300 hippos in Gonarezhou National Park in the 1970s.

Speaking to The Independent, he said: ‘I’m totally unrepentant, a hundred – ten thousand – times over for any of the hunting I’ve done because that’s not the problem.

‘The problem is we’ve got a bunch of so-called experts from the West telling us what to do. I’m a trained university ecologist – I must surely know something about this.’

During his career he has held posts including game warden of Hwange National Park, and was a professional hunter for three years.

He no longer routinely hunts, though said he would go again if invited, and instead writes books about his experiences, including God Created Man The Hunter.

On his website, he is described as ‘one of the most experienced African big game hunters alive today.’

In videos posted to the YouTube channel of his wildlife organisation, The True Green Alliance, Mr Thomson outlines his view of wildlife conservation.

a man looking at the camera: Ron Thomson, 77, says he is 'totally unrepentant' after killing more than 5,000 elephants during a nearly six decade career working in Africa's national parks© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Ron Thomson, 77, says he is ‘totally unrepentant’ after killing more than 5,000 elephants during a nearly six decade career working in Africa’s national parksHe argues that elephants are not an endangered species, that wildlife parks in southern Africa have ‘ten to 20 times more elephants’ than they can sustain, and that this is destroying the environment.

Without proper management, including culls, he argues that the parks will be overrun and endanger far more species than elephants alone.

Eduardo Gonçalves, founder of the Campaign to End Trophy Hunting, rubbished Mr Thomson’s claims – saying natural animal populations rarely ‘overstock’ themselves.

‘The African elephant population as a whole is in very serious decline,” he said, adding that ‘there are numerous instances of “management culling” being used as a cover for trophy-hunting.’

Mr Gonçalves’ report claims that, since the 1980s, elephant numbers in southern Africa have declined from 1.3million to just over 400,000.

In the same time period, hunters from around the globe have taken more than 100,000 trophies back to their home countries.

The group said there has been a four-fold increase in the number of elephant trophies taken in 2015 compared with 1985, and the jump in the amount of ivory taken over the same period was nearly twelve-fold.

Related slideshow: 14 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know Elephants Could Do (Reader’s Digest)

More on: Suspected rhino poacher is killed by an elephant and then eaten by lions in South Africa

(CNN)Only a skull and a pair of trousers remained after a suspected rhino poacher was killed by an elephant and then eaten by lions in Kruger National Park, South African National Parks said.

The incident happened after the man entered the park Monday with four others to target rhinos, according to a parks service statement.
An elephant “suddenly” attacked the alleged poacher, killing him, and “his accomplices claimed to have carried his body to the road so that passersby could find it in the morning. They then vanished from the Park,” police said.
His family were notified of his death late Tuesday by his fellow poachers, and a search party set out to recover the body. Rangers scoured on foot and police flew over the area, but because of failing light it could not be found.
The search resumed Thursday morning and, with the help of added field rangers, police discovered what was left of his body.
Police say they arrested three men and seized guns following the alleged poacher's death.

“Indications found at the scene suggested that a pride of lions had devoured the remains leaving only a human skull and a pair of pants,” the statement said.
Glenn Phillips, the managing executive of Kruger National Park, extended his condolences to the man’s family.
“Entering Kruger National Park illegally and on foot is not wise, it holds many dangers and this incident is evidence of that,” he warned. “It is very sad to see the daughters of the deceased mourning the loss of their father, and worse still, only being able to recover very little of his remains.”
Three individuals who joined the illegal hunt were arrested Wednesday by the South African Police Service, and officers continue to investigate what happened.
The suspects appeared in Komatipoort Magistrate Court on Friday to face charges of possessing firearms and ammunition without a license, conspiracy to poach and trespassing. A judge remanded them to custody and they will be back in court this week, pending a formal bail application.
The African rhino is targeted for its horn because of the belief among some who practice Eastern medicine that the horn has benefits as an aphrodisiac, making it more valuable than cocaine in parts of the world.
Lions left only the poacher's skull and a pair of his pants, officials say.

Of special concern is the black rhino, which is considered critically endangered after its population tumbled from about 65,000 to 1970 to 2,400 in 1995, according to Kruger National Park. Conservation efforts have boosted their numbers, and the world’s remaining 5,000 or so black rhinos live predominantly in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.
In 2016, there were between 349 and 465 black rhinos living at Kruger and between 6,600 and 7,800 white rhinos, who also suffer from poaching, South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs said.
Kruger is considered an intensive protection zone, and the government employs a range of resources to deter poaching, including aircraft, dogs, special rangers and an environmental crime investigation unit.
Of the 680 poaching and trafficking arrests made in 2016 by the South African Police Service, 417 were in and around Kruger, the department said. In September, the department announced that six men — including two syndicate leaders, two police officers and a former police officer — had been arrested for trafficking in rhino horns.

EXCLUSIVE: Disgraced trophy hunter who killed a sleeping lion REFUSES to comment on the shocking video showing him prey on the napping beast – as it’s revealed he’s killed over 70 big game

  • Guy Gorney, 64, of Manhattan, Illinois, is identified as the hunter in a shocking video who killed a sleeping lion   
  • DailyMail.com approached Gorney for comment, but the retired energy company executive refused to explain himself for the killing
  • The video is believed to have been recorded on a 2011 hunting trip in Zimbabwe
  • The guide can be heard congratulating Gorney on his kill, which he described as an ‘exceptional lion’
  • Gorney has admitted to killing at least 70 big game animals, including elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos and buffalo
  • The video garnered thousands of responses in outrage at the trophy hunting, including by comedian Ricky Gervais, Piers Morgan and golfer Ian Poulter 

The hunter who snuck up on a sleeping lion and then took three bullets to kill the magnificent beast has shown he is not so bold without his gun.

Retired energy company executive Guy Gorney refused even to try to explain why he would kill an animal as it napped when DailyMail.com visited him at his home.

‘I’m not interested in talking to you,’ he said on the doorstep of his half-million-dollar house on the windswept Illinois plains south of Chicago.

‘Private property,’ he added. ‘Take off!’ He then firmly shut the door.

An eight-year-old video of Gorney shooting the big cat in Zimbabwe surfaced this week, leading to outrage that he would kill an endangered animal as it slept.
Guy Gorney, 64, of Manhattan, Illinois, is identified as the hunter in a shocking video who killed a sleeping lion. He refused to comment on his kill to DailyMail.com at his doorstep

Guy Gorney, 64, of Manhattan, Illinois, is identified as the hunter in a shocking video who killed a sleeping lion. He refused to comment on his kill to DailyMail.com at his doorstep

The video of Gorney, a retired energy company executive, is believed to have been recorded in Zimbabwe in 2011

The video of Gorney, a retired energy company executive, is believed to have been recorded in Zimbabwe in 2011

Horrible moment trophy hunter shoots and kills sleeping lion
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Even as it lay motionless, enjoying the African sun, Gorney couldn’t take out the male lion with a clean shot from his high-powered rifle. Instead it woke after being hit and was seen writhing in agony before he could finish it off with two more bullets.

Gorney is then seen celebrating with Mark Vallaro, a professional hunter in Zimbabwe who was acting as his guide.

Vallaro is heard telling Gorney to stop shooting after the third bullet, then he says: ‘That, Mr. Gorney, is a very nice lion. A very nice lion.’

As Gorney approaches the lion, poking it with his rifle to make sure it is dead, Vallaro adds: ‘Beautiful. That is an exceptional lion.’

Gorney, 64, has been vilified for his actions, with comic Ricky Gervais — an outspoken critic of trophy hunting — calling him a ‘sniveling sadistic coward’ in a tweet.

Top golfer Ian Poulter also tweeted: ‘How brave you are. How pathetic shooting something that’s sleeping. This has to be STOPPED. #Coward.’

DailyMail.com columnist Piers Morgan said he felt ‘physically sick’ watching the video, saying: ‘Only someone with a severe mental illness could possibly enjoy doing what you did to that poor unconscious lion.

‘The ecstatic thrill it gave you suggests you’re a psychopathic monster devoid of any empathy or compassion.’

Gorney lives in a five-bedroom home in Manhattan, Illinois, a wealthy village 50 miles southwest of Chicago. A large wooden American flag hangs on his front door, along with a religious message. Two SUVs and a pick-up truck sit in the driveway with a large RV in the back yard.

This is the half-million-dollar Illinois home where Gorney was approached by DailyMail.com but  he refused comment, saying 'I'm not interested in talking to you. Private property. Take off!'

This is the half-million-dollar Illinois home where Gorney was approached by DailyMail.com but  he refused comment, saying ‘I’m not interested in talking to you. Private property. Take off!’

In the video, Gorney fires one shot, and awakens the unsuspecting lion to meet its demise

In the video, Gorney fires one shot, and awakens the unsuspecting lion to meet its demise

The lion can be seen writhing in pain on the ground, after being awakened by the attack

The lion can be seen writhing in pain on the ground, after being awakened by the attack

The lion can be seen writhing in pain on the ground, after being awakened by the attack

'Beautiful,' the guide says, as the video shows a closeup of the lifeless animal's face

‘Beautiful,’ the guide says, as the video shows a closeup of the lifeless animal’s face

He has visited Africa several times to kill big game, once boasting that he has bagged all of the ‘big five’ animals that are said to be the most difficult to kill on foot — the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo. Of the five, the buffalo is the only one that is not endangered.

‘You can say, why’d you shoot a lion?’ he said during a 2015 interview with WBBM-FM, a radio station in Chicago.

‘I love zebra, so shooting a lion probably saves 70 zebra a year, give or take. There’s all these kinds of balances in nature.’

However, his Facebook page, which he has now taken down, contained a photo of a zebra’s head in his vehicle with the caption: ‘Now how did this get in my truck?

A picture of his ‘trophy room’ showed 17 stuffed animals and two zebra skins.

He admitted in the old interview that his hunting is mainly for the thrill of the kill. ‘I really like hunting elephants,’ he said. ‘They’re difficult to track down. They’re incredibly dangerous.

‘The first elephant I got, I walked over 120 miles tracking elephants before I actually caught up to him and found him.

Gorney said he had a hard time understanding why people could accept deer hunting in the United States but not big game hunting in Africa.

‘If you have a picture of somebody with a deer, nobody seems to care. But if it’s an elephant, it’s a big problem. If it’s a lion – especially now – it’s a huge problem. But to me, either way, I’ve stopped a beating heart.’

He did not address the question of deer normally being killed to be eaten while big game is usually just for the trophy, or the fact that most species of deer are not endangered.

Gorney even invoked the memory of former president Theodore Roosevelt during the interview. ‘When I killed that buffalo that had hurt somebody, the people that had benefited from the death of that animal cheered. Clapped.

‘The ‘why’ is just the – I call it the adventure of it. Same reason Teddy Roosevelt did it.’

Last year Gorney got up during an open mic night for authors at the Book and Bean Café in Joliet, Illinois, a few miles from his home, where he said he ‘travels’ a lot’ and writes journals.

He said once in Africa he had been asked to deal with a lion that had attacked livestock. ‘When they get like that, they are not killing to feed, they are just killing, so they are particularly dangerous.’

In a 2015 interview, Gorney addressed violent reactions to trophy hunting by pointing out he can defend himself. Gorney is pictured with a hippopotamus that he killed

In a 2015 interview, Gorney addressed violent reactions to trophy hunting by pointing out he can defend himself. Gorney is pictured with a hippopotamus that he killed

In the interview from 2015 with CBS, Gorney showed no remorse for his 'hunting' habit, which at that time included killing 70 big game animals, such as elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo. Gorney is pictured with a rhino that he killed

In the interview from 2015 with CBS, Gorney showed no remorse for his ‘hunting’ habit, which at that time included killing 70 big game animals, such as elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo. Gorney is pictured with a rhino that he killed

'The "why" is just the – I call it the adventure of it. Same reason Teddy Roosevelt did it,' Gorney said. 'I really like hunting elephants. They’re difficult to track down. They’re incredibly dangerous. The first elephant I got, I walked over 120 miles tracking elephants before I actually caught up to him and found him'

‘The “why” is just the – I call it the adventure of it. Same reason Teddy Roosevelt did it,’ Gorney said. ‘I really like hunting elephants. They’re difficult to track down. They’re incredibly dangerous. The first elephant I got, I walked over 120 miles tracking elephants before I actually caught up to him and found him’

The hunter also appears to enjoy searching for prey - including moose and bear - closer to home, in North America, as well as the African bush where he bagged a sleeping lion

The hunter also appears to enjoy searching for prey – including moose and bear – closer to home, in North America, as well as the African bush where he bagged a sleeping lion

He said he volunteered to help, ‘literally putting himself in harm’s way.’

As he sat in a tree waiting for the lion to attack an animal he was using as bait, he heard a noise behind him and furiously began to plan in his mind how he was going to kill the lion if it attacked.

But the story ended when the animal that approached turned out to be merely a porcupine. He did not say whether he killed it anyway.

Since the furor caused by the newly released video, Gorney has taken down his Facebook page which showed him with his kills, including one of him straddling a lion while wearing the same clothes he had on in the video.

That was in stark contrast to 2015 when he told WBBM’s Steve Miller he would not remove the page due to public anger. ‘I thought about taking it down, but I really have a problem changing my behavior over people that are just over the top,’ he said.

The video of Gorney killing the lion was posted on the British Twitter account @Protect_Wldlife — which has nearly 335,000 followers — on Monday. The administrator says: ‘I am an advocate for wildlife. I expose animal abuse and abusers wherever they are. I will NEVER stop fighting for better animal rights and welfare.’

The account which shared the video is an animal rights advocacy account, based in the United Kingdom, according to the information on the page, under username @Protect_Wldlife

The account which shared the video is an animal rights advocacy account, based in the United Kingdom, according to the information on the page, under username @Protect_Wldlife

Top golfer Ian Poulter expressed his outrage over the killing, asking how Gorney can sleep at night

Top golfer Ian Poulter expressed his outrage over the killing, asking how Gorney can sleep at night

Others suggested penalties for the actions of Gorney as shown in the video. 'In my book that should be 5 years in jail. Grotesque,' one user wrote

Others suggested penalties for the actions of Gorney as shown in the video. ‘In my book that should be 5 years in jail. Grotesque,’ one user wrote

'Even if it was awake, the Poor Animal Shouldn’t be Killed AT ALL!!!!!!!!!!! EVIL B*****D!!!!!!!!!! [various emojis],' wrote another user

‘Even if it was awake, the Poor Animal Shouldn’t be Killed AT ALL!!!!!!!!!!! EVIL B*****D!!!!!!!!!! [various emojis],’ wrote another user

Many expressed objection over trophy hunting, in general, regardless of whether the animal was asleep at the time of its killing

Many expressed objection over trophy hunting, in general, regardless of whether the animal was asleep at the time of its killing

Many Twitter users called out the ‘cowardice’ of attacking the wild animal at rest.

‘A sleeping lion, wow what a big man!’ wrote one user, alongside an angry, cursing emoji.

Many expressed their objection to trophy hunting in general, regardless of whether the animal was asleep at the time of its killing.

‘This is not hunting, or sport…it’s murder #stoptrophyhunting #Fightforyourworld.’ user @verdiKate wrote.

‘Even if it was awake, the Poor Animal Shouldn’t be Killed AT ALL!!!!!!!!!!! EVIL B*****D!!!!!!!!!! [various emojis],’ wrote another user.

Others suggested penalties for the actions of Gorney as shown in the video.

‘In my book that should be 5 years in jail. Grotesque,’ one user wrote.

Another still called for a punishment in kind, replying, ‘More like fed 2 a pride of lions & eaten alive.’

Botswana’s Plan To Cull Elephants And Sell Them As PET FOOD Wins Ministerial Approval


Botswana is moving towards culling elephants by lifting its wildlife hunting ban after a group of the country’s ministers endorsed the idea, but the proposal has drawn heavy criticism. Botswana’ is planning to cull elephants and sell them as pet food wins ministerial approval.

The southern African country’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi had previously tasked a government subcommittee with reviewing the hunting ban – which had been put in place by his predecessor Ian Khama in 2014.

A Botswana Defence Force colonel near the marked remains of an elephant killed in the Chobe national park area

The committee decided to recommend lifting the ban last Thursday, and the country’s minister of local government and rural development Frans Solomon van der Westhuizen advocated ‘regular but limited elephant culling’, NPR reports.

Elephant meat canning – including for pet food production purposes – was also recommended by some.

Konstantinos Markus, a Member of Parliament who spearheaded efforts to eliminate the ban, argued that the ‘expansion of the elephant population in Botswana has impoverished communities.’

According to reports Markus said rural citizens of Botswana have grown hostile toward elephants, especially in the north where he said the animals have cut maize yields by nearly three-quarters.

Botswana is reportedly home to 130,000 elephants, according to the Great Elephant Census, but concern has been rising regarding the ‘growing conflict between humans and wildlife’.

The country’s Government has also said pinpoiting the precise elephant population is difficult partly because herds can roam across borders into other countries.

Botswana’s consideration of lifting the ban has drawn heavy criticism.

The Telegraph reported that an elephant conservationist who works with the country’s government called the proposed cull ‘short sighted’.

One Twitter user said she was ‘devastated’ to hear that the country was considering lifting the ban

The conservationist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the paper: ‘Botswana does have too many elephants, and there is huge elephant human conflict.

‘But this is not economically viable and it doesn’t take into account the reputational damage to the country. Better exploitation of sustainable tourism is a far better model.’

Online campaign group Elephants DC, which advances anti-poaching and anti-smuggling policies and has 35,000 Facebook folloewers, said: Botswana in the news for all the wrong reasons.

America should help NOW defend future impending poaching slaughters of the elephants. This nation is largest last haven of African elephants, many now whom are refugees after fleeing conflict elsewhere, in the world.’

One Twitter user said: ‘DEVASTATED to hear that @OfficialMasisi is considering lifting the ban on hunting elephants. It has even been proposed that the slaughtered elephants be made into ‘pet food’.

‘Please let Masisi know that if this is authorised, tourism to Botswana will dramatically decrease.’

African bush elephants in Botswana may lose their protection from the 2014 law

Regarding the idea that the African democracy could be set to cull the animals, one Twitter user said: ‘Conservationists around the world must join forces to ensure that this ludicrous idea never happens.

Elephants are the most majestic of creatures. Thousands have been slaughtered for their ivory, now this shocking development. Elephants will become extinct.’

Another said: ‘Guys gonna pls stop the savagery against the elephants… everybody likes elephants – they connect us into the history of life itself. The Queen and Prince Philip like to feed them bananas too. Cheers.’

But one social media user took a different approach, saying: ‘Do you know the struggle of someone in Shakawe who’s has to face this animals every other day? Have you ever had you crops completely erased by elephants. What really is your mandate?’

The country’s Government published a press release clarifying that ‘no decision has been taken’ regarding the hunting ban 

Last year, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Bill Oddie, Peter Egan, and a cross-party group of MPs rallied against proposals to lift the ban, claiming that allowing hunting could force the species to the point of extinction.

When the 2014 ban was imposed, the government had said it was moved to act after indications of ‘several species in the country’ showing declines.

The ban permitted hunting in registered and private game ranches. Some have argued that the rules may have been a detriment to the animals and people alike.

NPR reports that a spokesperson for conservationist non-profit organisation Elephants Without Borders said: ‘Some people are worried that elephants have recovered in greater numbers than the environment can sustain, and there is significant concern over increasing human-elephant conflict.

‘During the past 20 years the elephant range in Botswana has expanded by 53%, causing increasing concern about the impact of elephants on biodiversity, the viability of other species and the livelihoods and safety of people living within the elephant range.’

Botswana’s Government published a statement on Twitter outlining how it had not taken a decision regarding the committee’s recommendations.

It read: ‘The Government of Botswana wishes to inform members of the public that no decision has been taken with respect to the recommendations contained in the Sub Committee of Cabinet Report on the hunting ban that was presented to His Excellency Dr. Mokgweetsi E. K Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana recently by the chairperson of the said sub-committee.

Conservationists set Botswana’s elephant population at 130,000, but lawmakers claim the actual figure is much higher than this

‘As members of the public may recall, the moratorium on hunting was introduced in 2014 by Government and it was not meant to be a permanent decision. It is against this background that in June 2018, Government decided to consult with key stakeholders on the hunting ban in view of the increased human/wildlife conflict.

‘In this regard, a Cabinet Sub Committee on the Hunting Ban was established to conduct a nationwide consultative process that covered, holding kgotla meetings, consulting with individuals, local authorities, researchers and other key stakeholders.

‘Members of the public are reminded that consultation/therisanyo is the bedrock of out democratic dispensation as a nation. The long-standing peace, democracy and good governance experience that Botswana is often cited for, promotes social cohesion, unity in various communities, freedom of expression and equality before the law.

‘Therefore Government wishes to assure members of the public that it will uphold this principle and continue to engage with other important stakeholders before a decision regarding the recommendations is made.’

The statement was attributed to Carter N. Morupisi, Permanent Secretary to the President and Secretary to the Cabinet.

Botswana, which is roughly the size of France, has a population of around 2.3 million people and contains vast tracts of remote wilderness that make it a magnet for foreign tourists who want to view wildlife.

International tourism could generate £160m for Botswana this year, rising to £280m by 2021 – more than trophy hunters spend across the whole of southern Africa.

Source: Dailymail

How the sapphire trade is driving lemurs toward extinction

A rush for Madagascar’s gemstones is destroying remaining habitat for imperiled lemurs and other wildlife.

Indris, at two feet tall the largest of Madagascar’s lemurs, are big sleepers. The primates awaken two or three hours after sunrise, forage for leaves high in the canopy during the day (amid frequent naps), and choose their spot for the night well before dark.

Lemur Calls

Photographer Adriane Ohanesian recorded calls of the indri—the largest of Madagascar’s scores of lemur species—on the trail between between the mining community of Ambodipaiso and Antsevabe, which serves as the access point to sapphire mines in the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor.


On our trek into the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor, a protected area known by its French acronym, CAZ, photographer Adriane Ohanesian, translator-guide Safidy Andrianantenaina, and I often heard their calls. The sound, a bit like someone blowing a trombone for the first time, can carry up to a mile through the dense forest.

Left: Mine boss Laurence Asma shows gemstones the team of about 20 men she employs found in the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor (CAZ).

Right: Red fabric tied around a tree on the trail leading to a mining site marks a doany, a

… Read More


Laurence Asma, 41, stands with her pet common brown lemur outside a miner’s home at the main gem site in the CAZ, known as Tananarive.


We were hiking deep into the CAZ, a 1,470-square-mile stretch of rainforest joining two national parks that enables lemurs and other animals to mingle their populations, maintaining the genetic diversity that’s essential to their survival. Our goal was to witness firsthand the effects of illegal gem mining on some of the last remaining habitat for wild lemurs.


Our immediate destination, though, was the makeshift village of Ambodipaiso, a staging place for illegal sapphire mines that have turned parts of the CAZ into scarred, treeless wastes. Sapphires were discovered here seven years ago, and by 2016, tens of thousands of Madagascans had flooded in, illegally uprooting trees and diverting streams in hopes of finding gemstones to help lift them out of poverty. (Madagascar ranks 161 in the world in human development, according to the United Nations Development Programme, and 70 percent of its people live in poverty.)

Men carry a sieve, used to wash away dirt and reveal gold and gems, through the makeshift village of Ambodipaiso, a few miles from Tananarive.


A hundred million dollars’ worth of sapphires and other gems were smuggled out of Madagascar in 1999 alone, according to the World Bank. (This remains the most reliable study; recent estimates suggest the value today is about $150 million a year.) Most of the gem mining is done illegally in reserves, says Christoph Schwitzer, co-vice chair of the Madagascar primate specialist group with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the organization that sets the conservation status of animals and plants. The CAZ and other reserves, he says, “don’t receive anywhere near adequate protection on the ground.”

Madagascar has the third-highest rate of biodiversity on Earth, after Brazil and Indonesia. Eight of every 10 of its plants and animals are endemic. It has 300 species of reptiles and 300 of amphibians, 99 percent of them found nowhere else. Chameleons: 62 species. And along with the nearby Comoro Islands, Madagascar is the only place on the planet that’s home to wild lemurs—fully 113 species, the newest identified just last year.

The charismatic animals are a magnet for roughly 250,000 visitors a year who directly account for more than 6 percent of the country’s GDP and 5 percent of its jobs. Yet nearly all the lemur species are endangered—38, including indris, critically—and 17 have already gone extinct. Now conservationists and primatologists are gravely concerned about the effects of gem mining on remaining lemur habitat, as much as 90 percent of which has been lost to tree clearing and human incursion.

“Gems mining can be a significant driver of habitat loss,” Schwitzer says. “It can break a protected area relatively quickly.”

“People don’t care if it’s a strict protected area,” Jonah Ratsimbazafy, Schwitzer’s co-vice chair with the IUCN’s Madagascar primate specialist group, told me before I arrived in the country. “They just go—and massively—to extract stones, and nobody can stop them. It’s linked with corruption and poverty, and the laws are not really enforced. Without forest,” he added, “the lemurs cannot survive. There is no long term.”

Left: The tree canopy in Ranomafana National Park is home to 12 species of lemur, including one, the golden bamboo lemur, found only here.

Right: An indri, the largest of the remaining lemur species, clings to a tree in

… Read More


Government protections for Madagascar’s forests date to the 1700s, when King Andrianampoinimerina outlawed cutting live trees for firewood. But beginning in the late 1800s, French colonists began intensive logging to make way for export crops. Within several decades, some 75 percent of the country’s old-growth forest had been razed. In 1927, the French banned lemur hunting and created the first nature reserve in the African region, but by 1990, 30 years after Madagascar’s independence, half the remaining forests had gone.

In 2003 then President Marc Ravolamanana began a dramatic expansion of protected areas, quadrupling their acreage by 2016. Nevertheless, the eastern rainforest that encompasses the CAZ, with its indris and many other lemur species, kept contracting. From its original prehuman 27 million acres, it had shrunk to less than 10 million acres by 1985. Since then, according to research by Lucienne Wilmé, national coordinator for Madagascar at the World Resources Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization, deforestation in some parts has been accelerating.



Madagascar is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries. But its more than 100 species of lemurs, along with countless other endemic animals and plants, are threatened by forest clearing for gem mining, logging, and farming. In some protected areas, illegal mines are squeezing lemurs into ever shrinking rainforest patches.


Tree cover loss,


Tree cover


100 mi

100 km




Area Enlarged


Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor (CAZ)





Mozambique Channel


(Indri indri)

Kianjavato Ahmanson Field Station


(trading hub for gems from the CAZ)

Ankeniheny- Zahamena Corridor



Already some 90 percent of lemur habitat in Madagascar has been lost. Lemurs need contiguous forest for their populations to mingle, crucial for genetic robustness and long-term survival. Fragmentation of the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor (CAZ), which connects surrounding parks and protected areas, by unlawful sapphire mining puts indris and other species at risk.

Tananarive mine








In 2012, Madagascar’s government, acknowledging that it didn’t have either the money or the manpower for effective environmental protection, engaged Conservation International, a Virginia-based environmental nonprofit, to manage the CAZ. Although clearing of old-growth trees for agriculture, logging, and mining has been banned since 2015, half of one percent of Madagascar’s vestigial protected forests are disappearing every year, according to Eric Rabenasolo, director general of forests for Madagascar’s Ministry of the Environment, Ecology, and Forests.

Exactly how much clearing is for gemstone mining isn’t knowable because it occurs almost entirely under the blanket of the “informal economy”—jobs and activities not regulated by government. Gem deposits are shallow and easily uncovered, making identifiable industrial-scale operations unnecessary.

Local people switch opportunistically among mining, farming, and other kinds of work, so it’s impossible to ascertain how many people are involved in illegal mining. One estimate, published a decade ago in The Journal of Modern African Studies, by Rosaleen Duffy, professor of politics at the University of Sheffield, in the United Kingdom, put the figure at as many as half a million. That would make illicit gemstones Madagascar’s second largest employer after agriculture.


It was shortly before dusk when we arrived in Ambodipaiso. Although the village is far from any public water supply, power line, or cell phone tower, hundreds live here, providing goods and services for area miners, portering gear, and themselves digging for gemstones.

Left: Items for sale at a small shop in Ambodipaiso include beans, grains, and dried fish. Porters heft goods—including 110-pound bags of rice—14 miles over steep, muddy trails to supply the hundreds of miners in the area.

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A common brown lemur named Bridola (left) and a black-and-white ruffed lemur, Roki, are kept as pets and tied up in the back of a shop and restaurant near the village of Ambodipaiso.


That night Andrianantenaina and I bunked in a tiny shelter made of sticks, and Ohanesian slept in a tent. Before dawn I was roused by crowing roosters, banging pots, and a crying baby. I wondered if these sounds bothered the snoozing indris. When the darkness lifted, I emerged to see a woman feeding two lemurs a banana.

Méline said she bought them from a hunter who had killed their mother for meat. She’d named one, a common brown lemur, Bridola, and the other, a black-and-white-ruffed lemur, Roki. The IUCN lists brown lemurs as “near threatened.” Black-and-white ruffed lemurs are “critically endangered.”

Méline runs a shop with her husband, selling everything from rice and garlic to ramen and amoxicillin. “I have maybe four customers a day,” she said. “We don’t make any profit.”

In the forest, her lemurs would be eating young leaves, flowers, fruit, and insects, but Méline feeds them mostly bananas and rice. I noticed that the fur on their tails was sparse, indicating a dietary deficiency, according to Patricia Wright, a professor of anthropology at Stony Brook University, in New York State, and executive director of the university’s Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments. That bad diet would cause their premature death, Wright said.

Deforestation from mining, said Wright, is “a cascading problem” for lemurs, because “if they’re in a small fragment of forest, they’re not going to have enough to eat.” A family group of two to five indris needs about 20 acres of forest, and groups of other lemur species need up to a hundred acres to survive. For lemur populations to remain stable, the forest must be contiguous—lemurs are largely arboreal and won’t cross broad stretches of open ground to connect with other groups to find mates. They rely on various trees for food, and removing just one tree species can cause other trees and vegetation in the area to die off.

As more trees are cleared, lemur groups come into contact with one another, sparking fights for resources—another ledge in Wright’s cascade. And, she said, mine clearings make lemurs even more vulnerable because people don’t have to go so far into the forest to hunt them.

One man I spoke to in Ambodipaiso, Banjindray Elys D’Antoine, said he used to eat lemur when he worked in mines south of the CAZ. The meat is tough, he said, and must be boiled for a long time, then fried. I asked him how it tastes. “Like a cat,” he replied.

From Ambodipaiso, Ohanesian, Andrianantenaina, and I—accompanied by two off-duty police officers hired for security—set off on the seven-mile trek to the largest gem mining area in the CAZ. Local people jokingly call the site Tananarive, the French name for Madagascar’s capital, Antanarivo.

Within half an hour we heard the now familiar whoop of indris. Orchids grew in profusion beneath the thick canopy of trees, some as tall as a hundred feet, and on the path, we saw giant millipedes and a worm as long as my arm.

Four miles on, we came to Bemainty, where some 80 people live with no running water, electricity, sanitation, health care, or communications. Village leader Randriamatody (who like many Madagascans uses one name) told us about the night in 2016 when criminals attacked the village, stealing money that had been collected as fees from passing miners and killing Bemainty’s previous headman.

“Nothing like this happened here before the mine,” said a woman named Farah, who told us she’d been injured in the attack. Mining in the area, she said, brought the village “no advantage. All I got was this scar on my forehead.”


After two more hours on the trail, we came down a hill, and Tananarive opened up before us—a wasteland of mud, small shacks, and holes in the ground. Evidently, most of the sapphires here had already been extracted. Many miners, we were told, had returned home or gone to Ilakaka, a mine site some 400 miles to the southwest near Isalo National Park; others had gone to a new mine in the CAZ about 80 miles away near the village of Lakato. But some artisanal mining was still under way at Tananarive.

ILLEGAL GEMSTONE MINING THREATENS ENDANGERED LEMURS IN MADAGASCARMen, some wearing rice bags to protect them from splashing mud, work in a chain to dig a mine where they hope to find sapphires.

After a patch of trees is cleared, a log is laid across a nearby stream to divert it toward the target area. Water washes away the top layer of dirt, and a team of four or five miners gets to work digging. It can take several weeks to excavate a pit perhaps 30 feet in diameter and 12 feet deep. When the hole is about three feet deep, groundwater rushes in and is suctioned out with a mechanical pump. The excavated soil is washed through a sieve, which traps small stones that are examined for gems.

We met three young men, Mbola, 30, Soasite, 25, and Zanry, 20, who were noisily engaged in this final task. Soasite shoveled dirt from a pile onto a screen atop a wooden supporting structure. A hose attached to a pump in the diverted stream spewed water onto the dirt. The other two then shoveled the mud back up to the hose to be washed through the screen again. Mbola and Zanry wore empty rice bags with cut-out armholes to protect their clothes from the splashes. Mud covered their faces. The trio laughed constantly, and Andrianantenaina explained that they were having fun at the foreigners’ expense. During the half hour or so that we watched them work, they found no sapphires.

Almost none of the thousands-of-dollars-a-carat value of sapphires goes to the miners.

On the slope above, a woman called out to us. It was Laurence Asma, wearing leggings under a denim skirt, flip-flops with a U.S. flag motif, and a long-sleeved t-shirt that read “precious lovey dovey” in sequins. Her pet common brown lemur, Ani, crouched on her shoulder.

Asma said she’d moved here two years ago from Toliara, a city in the southwest. She said she runs several small mines at Tananarive that employ 20 men, down from the hundred miners who worked for her in 2016, at the peak of the sapphire rush.

“Too much stones here before,” she said. “Now, little.” Nevertheless, she said she intended to stay in Tanarive a bit longer. “I wait. I wait for Allah. Sometimes he bring me big stone, and I take to my village.” Her biggest find so far had been a sapphire that earned $3,500, a fortune in a country where the per capita income in 2016 barely nudged above a dollar a day. She split the proceeds evenly among the team of four or five who found it.

Left: Gem dealer Mohammed Murshid displays uncut sapphires in his home in Ambatondrazaka, the center of the trade in precious stones from the CAZ.

Right: A mud-splattered man holds part of a plastic jerrycan used to remove mud and

… Read More


Asma said she has a Sri Lankan backer in Antananarivo who sends money over the Orange mobile money network to buy rice for her employees and fuel for her three pumps. Every few weeks she travels to the capital to sell him the gemstones her team has found. The Sri Lankans, she said, “sell to Thai people, Dubai people.” Somebody, she added, gets a good price, but, no, she doesn’t, she said with a laugh.

Sri Lanka has been a source of sapphires for 1,500 years, and Sri Lankans, who have developed unrivaled expertise in grading, cutting, polishing, and trading the gems, dominate the trade in Madagascar. Murshid Mohammed, 29, is a dealer in Ambatondrazaka, the nearest substantial city to the CAZ and the main trading center for sapphires mined there. He says a high-quality blue sapphire of 25 carats from Tananarive costs him 300,000 Madagascar ariary—about $90.

A few months ago I saw a five-carat sapphire, cut and polished but not heat treated, listed online by a Florida jeweler for $19,600. Because of the way the international gem market works, almost none of the thousands-of-dollars-a-carat retail value of sapphires goes to the miners of Tananarive, and very little to local mine bosses like Asma.

Meager though her take is, Asma considers herself lucky to be running a relatively successful operation. “Too many people no eat three times” a day, she said. “You have no stone, no job.” She blames the government for failing to attend to the needs of Madagascans. “My president no good,” she said, referring to Madagascar’s leader at the time, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who was voted out of office last November.


Given both the seriousness of the threats to wildlife in Madagascar’s protected areas and the government’s lack of capacity for robust enforcement, grassroots groups have stepped into the breach. Elected members of volunteer community-based forestry organizations known as VOIs are now managing protected areas under the aegis of Conservation International and other environmental nonprofits.

Police in the town of Andasibe plan a raid on a nearby village to arrest men suspected of lemur poaching. By the time they could borrow a motorcycle to reach the village—far up an unpaved track—the suspects had fled.


After saying goodbye to Asma, we hiked back to the village where we’d left our car and drove to Moramanga, 70 miles to the southwest. We wanted to talk to Jean Yves Ratovoson, a VOI vice president accused of killing 10 critically endangered lemurs—nine indris and one diademed sifaka—in the CAZ. Police arrested Ratovoson, 51, early last year at a hunting camp near Andasibe, and he was in prison in Moramanga awaiting trial. If convicted, he faces four years in prison.

Ratovoson and I talked in the prison warden’s office. This was his first arrest, he said. He was a farmer, and he and his wife, a schoolteacher, have nine children.

He said he went on the hunt because he was angry. He had stood for election to the post of vice president of the Firaisankina VOI “to improve my community,” he said. But during patrols of the portion of the CAZ under the VOI’s stewardship, Ratovoson discovered that large-scale illegal logging was occurring, and he couldn’t get anyone to do anything about it. “Five trucks a day were coming out loaded with wood,” he said. “Pretty much the whole [area] was cut.”

Charged with lemur poaching, Jean Yves Ratosovon is held in the prison in Moramonga, awaiting trial.


He said he reported the logging to Conservation International’s director of the CAZ, Hantanirina Ravololonanahary. “They came to the forest to see but did nothing,” Ratovoson said. He paused, then said, “Why are people cutting trees not sent to jail like me? The law is the same.”

So when an acquaintance approached Ratovoson proposing that he join a lemur hunt in the CAZ, he said he figured, why not? “I thought, if they can [cut trees], then I will not have any problem. I knew hunting lemurs is bad, but I was angry about this situation.”

A letter Conservation InternationaI’s Ravololonanahary sent to Joanita Ndahimananjara, Madagascar’s environment minister at the time, describing action the organization took following the arrest makes no mention of the illegal logging report Ratovoson said he’d sent Ravololonanahary before the alleged lemur hunt.

Conservation International told me that Ravololonanahary wasn’t available for an interview and instead referred me to Tokihenintsoa Andrianjohaninarivo, the organization’s regional biodiversity scientist in Toamasina, a city on the east coast. I phoned and asked what happens when a report of tree cutting comes to Conservation International from VOI officials.

“We report to local authorities and organize a patrol to see the facts,” she replied. Then I asked about Ratovoson’s allegation that Conservation InternationaI’s director of the CAZ knew about his report of tree cutting and failed to act.

There was a long pause.

“Conservation International is the manager of the protected area but has not the ability to put people in jail,” Andrianjohaninarivo said. “All we have the right to do is talk to the forest service, and then they have to react. We have reported to authorities every infraction, but most of the time they’re not able to respond for lack of budget, or their people are somewhere else. If we don’t have the support of the authorities, we can’t do anything.”

When pressed, spokesperson Jenny Parker McCloskey later acknowledged that Conservation International had received a report of logging from members of the VOI with which Ratovoson was involved but that Ratovoson was not among those who made the report. She said Ravololonanahary referred the matter to officials in the forest service, who did not respond to repeated requests to verify that they had in fact received Conservation InternationaI’s report.

Andrianjohaninarivo’s explanation seems plausible. Police who arrested Ratovoson hoped to go after his accomplices, who’d fled during the raid, but the police chief, Yvan Randriamiarana, told me they lacked the necessary resources. The village where the suspects lived was some way up a dirt path, and they had no means of getting there, he said. “We don’t have a car or motorcycle. We have 10 gendarmes in Andasibe, and we should have at least 15 because the area is vast and the population is high.”

Given that the alleged lemur crime was by a VOI leader, says Steig Johnson, professor of anthropology at the University of Calgary and co-vice chair of the IUCN’s Madagascar primate specialist group, this incident “is particularly demoralizing. There’s a fundamental lack of adequate training and engagement with some of these communities. Nobody wins just if someone is prosecuted for the crime—we need to get at the root cause of this kind of wildlife crime in these communities.”

I asked a VOI volunteer, Abraham Rajotonirina, how the CAZ can be protected if its protectors themselves are hunting lemurs? It was Rajotonirina who, during one of the regular patrols he conducts looking for signs of illegal activity, had come across Ratovoson’s hunting camp. He reported it to a VOI vice president, Toto Jean Etienne, leading to Ratovoson’s arrest.

“Maybe someone needs to pay us to protect the forest,” he replied. “We’re working for free, but we do that because we love the forest. We need a better road so tourists can come and love the forest also.” With money, he said, the community would be able to pay “people to go out as scouts.” (A similar program in Tanzania, called TACARE, is showing results, bolstering local communities while conserving vital chimp habitat.)


After returning to the United States, I spoke with Vincent Pardieu, a gemologist who in 2016 brought the Tananarive sapphire rush to the industry’s attention with a presentation at the Gemological Institute of America, in Carlsbad, California. The institute identifies and evaluates stones and trains gemologists. Since 2012, Pardieu has been spreading the messageto the gem industry that illegal mining in Madagascar is not harmful to lemur habitat.

“Fake news” was how he characterized reports emphasizing sapphire mining’s ill effects.

“I could hear lemurs every morning—that’s proof lemurs are still alive,” he said, referring to a trip he took to Tananarive in 2017. “If lemurs are being attacked by miners, I don’t think you’ll hear them.” He insisted that despite news reports of deforestation around the site, “miners are not destroying the forest. They’re too busy mining—why would they go chop the forest? Again, a very good example of fake news.”

People in Madagascar are really suffering, and mining is a huge part of their livelihood.


Just One Elephant Remains in the Knysna Forest


Lorraine Chow, Feb. 07, 2019

A sobering 15-month study on the declining population of the southernmost
herd of African elephants has determined only one elephant, a mature female,
is free-roaming in the Knysna forest in South Africa.

The analysis – titled And Then There Was One – was recently published in the
African Journal of Wildlife Research.

For the study, researchers set up camera trap across the whole elephant
range from July 2016 to October 2017 and concluded upon analysis that the
female elephant, estimated at 45 years old, was by herself.

“Because elephants move along defined elephant pathways, we placed our
cameras on these paths and covered the elephant range evenly, with spaces
between camera traps no larger than the smallest range recorded for
elephants,” one of the study’s authors Lizette Moolman, a South African
National Parks scientist, explained in an article posted to the park’s

“In other words, an elephant would not reside in a gap area, between camera
trap locations, for the duration of the survey. The cameras were all active
for 15 months, and during this time the same female elephant was identified
in 140 capture events, always by herself. No other elephants were
photographically captured.”

Fellow researchers behind the study were shocked to find only one elephant
left in Knysna, as the gentle giants historically roamed the area in the

“The brutal reality is there is no longer a population of Knysna elephants,”
study co-author Graham Kerley of the of Centre for African Conservation
Ecology at Nelson Mandela University, told Business Day. “All the mystique
of the Knysna elephant is reduced to a single elephant left in rather tragic

Their numbers have declined dramatically over the past three centuries due
to hunting as well as human encroachment that has forced the elephants from
their natural habitats and squeezed them into smaller and smaller areas. The
Knysna forest was previously a site for rampant timber exploitation.

While the solitary elephant appears in relatively good shape, Kerley
explained to Business Day that she has swollen temporal glands with
excessive temporal streaming, suggesting she might be stressed from being

According to the National Elephant Center, female African elephants are
social creatures and usually roam in herds with a number of related female
adults and male and female offspring.

The maximum lifespan for females is more than 65 years, so the lone Knysna
elephant could be by herself for two more decades.

As for capturing her and moving her to other elephant populations, Kerley
noted that “would be dangerous for her and we don’t know if it would even be
of any value to her as she knows the forest and she might not be able to
settle into another area with other elephants.”

Images of her show that her breasts are undeveloped and her mammary glands
are shriveled, meaning she has likely never been pregnant or has not given
birth in a long time, according to Business Day. Artificially inseminating
her would be too risky to attempt, Kerley said.

“Considering all these factors, the debate about how we have allowed this
population to go functionally extinct and how to manage the last elephant is
very emotional and very serious as she is a symbol of how we are treating
biodiversity as a whole,” Kerley told the publication.

Original study >>

Stop enabling African Big Five trophy hunting

Special squads to crack down on illegal hunting

Published: February 26, 2019


LAHORE: The Punjab Park and Wildlife Protection Department has decided to crack down on those involved in illegally hunting rare birds and animals in the province.

Two special squads have been formed to take indiscriminate action against poachers. Constituted under the supervision of wildlife officials, each squad will have one an inspector, four watchers and a driver.

The decision was taken a few days after influential people of the Qadirabad area in Gujranwala district illegally hunted wild ducks and harassed wildlife department staff.

Reportedly, wildlife staff caught Danish Azeem Butt, who was previously nominated as honorary district game warden in Gujranwala, illegally hunting ducks at Head Qadirabad Game Reserve. Butt also threatened staff with dire consequences while brandishing a weapon and escaped with the birds he had hunted down.

Punjab Parks and Wildlife Protection Department Director General Sohail Ashraf called an emergency meeting over the weekend. During the meeting, it was decided that special squads will be formed to curb illegal hunting in the province.

Further, it was decided that Lahore Zoo Director Hassan Ali Sukhera will head both the squads. In addition, he will also submit a weekly report to the wildlife director general, detailing the action taken against poachers.

The director general stated that field officials across the province have been directed to cooperate with the squads. “The district wildlife officers and deputy directors will be penalised for incompetence if the squads conduct an operation against those illegally hunting in their area,” he stressed.

In the past, the department’s negligence and its employees were the major causes of illegal hunting of animals and birds in the province.

Every year, the department issues hunting licenses which rake in a revenue of approximately Rs15 million.

The licenses issued by the department allow the hunting of pheasants, houbara bustards, partridges, ducks and Chinkara deer. A large number of national and international hunters regularly participate in the events organised by the department.

Several well-known individuals have been caught hunting illegally during recent months. Former Punjab chief minister Ghulam Mustafa Khar was among them. Meanwhile, close companions of Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar also face illegal hunting charges in Dera Ghazi Khan.