Experts say hunt was legal
Experts say hunt was legal
Two forest rangers have been killed by a violent mob in a Liberian rainforest after discovering a community illegally settling and hunting in the park, according to authorities.
“They ambushed them using single-barrel shot guns,” Darlington Tuagben, managing director of Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority told the Liberian Observer. One of the rangers died at the scene, while the other died in hospital a day after the attack. The ranger “was beaten and tortured to death”, said Tuagben. Four other rangers were hospitalised.
“This kind of behaviour is no longer in any civilised world including Liberia. It is barbaric and unacceptable,” said Tuagben.
The attack took place just one month after a ranger was tortured by other illegal settlers in the forest.
Sapo National Park is home to a variety of endangered species, including elephants, pangolins, pygmy hippos and western chimpanzees. It is one of west Africa’s most intact forest ecosystems.
The park was pillaged by poachers, loggers and miners during the Liberian civil war from 1990 to 2003, and the government and the United Nations have since implemented major resettlement programmes and PR campaigns to raise support for conservation. Farming, logging, construction, hunting, and human settlement have been illegal since 2003.
Despite conservation efforts by the government and NGOs, illicit activities inside the park have soared in the last decade. More than 1,000 people occupy Sapo illegally, according to Tuagben, who told the Liberian Observer that people remain hostile to park authorities and those trying to protect it. He said he has requested that the police deploy armed men to work alongside forest rangers.
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The African mammal’s population numbers in the wild have dipped below 100,000
The following essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research.
On April 19 of this year, five major wildlife protection groups petitioned the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to list the giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) as an endangered species. As the petition asserted, “the giraffe has suffered a major reduction in population size across its range primarily due to habitat loss, commercial overutilization, and severe poaching, and such decline continues unabated.”
If the Fish and Wildlife Service agrees to list the giraffe, a set of legal tools will become available to protect this iconic species. But how would listing in the U.S. help this African mammal, whose population numbers in the wild have dipped below 100,000?
While extinction can be a natural process, the current rate of extinction is anything but. Scientists estimate that at least 99 out of 100 species extinctions in the world today are the result of human action. Although people rarely intend to drive species into oblivion, as with the giraffe, they do so through the destruction of habitat, poaching and legal hunting. As the petition notes, “[g]iraffes once occupied much of the savanna and savanna woodlands of Africa…. [It] has undergone a 36 to 40 percent population decline over the past 30 years.”
More than a century ago, scientists began to notice the disappearance of once prominent species around the world. TheAmerican passenger pigeon, the Carolina parakeet and the Great Auk—once well-established in North America—disappeared. Other species like the American bison and many kinds of whales had once played central roles in important ecosystems but had been reduced to small remnant populations.
The existence of species is important to people for many reasons. Sometimes species provide clues for the development of medicines. Often they play a fundamental role in maintaining the functioning of ecosystems on which people depend. As Aldo Leopold—perhaps America’s most famous naturalist—noted,
“If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”
What would you say to a child who saw a giraffe in a book and asked where giraffes lived? Would you be comfortable saying they’re all gone?
In 1964, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) began tracking the conservation status of species on its “Red List.” Although the IUCN provides information only about the status of species, this is the first step in helping to limit extinction because it allows conservation efforts to be directed where they’re most needed.
A few years later in the United States, the federal government began keeping an official list of species in danger of extinction—what we call endangered species—and species likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future—threatened species.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA), passed in 1973, goes further than just identifying imperiled species. Under its terms, listed species are protected from actions “authorized, funded or carried out” by the federal government that may jeopardize their continued existence or adversely affect their essential habitat. Species members are also protected from direct harm by any person. Commerce in species protected by the ESA is generally a crime.
The purpose of the ESA is the “conservation” of protected species. In practice, that means bringing the species back to the point where it no longer requires the protection of the ESA. The law’s goal is not to preserve tiny populations on the brink of extinction but to recover species populations that are resilient enough to survive the bad luck which is so often part of living on the planet.
Listing is the public, administrative process whereby a species can become entitled to protection under the Endangered Species Act. It centers around one question: Is this creature or plant in danger of extinction? At the listing stage, the federal government can consider only scientific evidence in making its decision. Anyone can initiate the listing process via petition.
Evidence suggests the ESA works. A recent report in the Endangered Species Bulletin noted that of the 78 species first listed under the federal precursor to the Endangered Species Act in 1967, only four have been officially declared extinct after half a century. Many others, such as the California condor, the grizzly bear and the whooping crane, have seen remarkable recovery progress. Some, including the bald eagle, have even been removed from the list.
There are now 1,382 species of animals listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened or endangered; 711 live largely within the borders of the United States. For these species, the federal Endangered Species Act can help preserve habitat, require “consultation” on projects that need federal approval and make most hunting illegal.
The giraffe, of course, is not native to the United States. How would ESA listing help it? The habitat destruction and overharvesting that threaten the giraffe aren’t happening within U.S. borders.
The answer lies in the role the United States plays in buying and selling giraffe parts. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service database, over the past decade Americans imported more than 21,000 giraffe bone carvings, more than 3,000 skin pieces and 3,744 hunting trophies. If many people want giraffe parts, the demand can be too high for survival of the species. Heightened demand for giraffe products can encourage people to hunt illegally—for example, taking more giraffes than limits allow or hunting in places where it is not permitted.
An international treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (1973), known by its acronym, CITES, also addresses this problem. Countries that are party to the treaty meet periodically to list species that are threatened due to international trade. The treaty has two appendices for listing species: Appendix I results in an almost complete ban on commercial international trade; Appendix II requires all international trade in that species be monitored and subject to permits. The giraffe is not currently listed on either of the CITES appendices, but this does not prevent individual countries—such as the United States—from deciding to limit imports.
Around the world, markets for species parts are sometimes driven by traditional uses—things like carving ivory or using certain animal parts in traditional medicines. New uses fuel demand too; think of newly wealthy businessmen in Vietnam consuming rhino horn mixed with water or alcohol to show how rich they are. Sometimes, the two can converge: An increase in consumption of shark fin soup has been tied to a traditional celebration dish being served by more people as China’s middle class grew.
Listing on the ESA would require the federal government to limit imports of giraffe parts into the United States and would therefore help curtail global demand. The ESA cannot ensure habitat protection or require other countries to take affirmative conservation action to protect the giraffe. But listing in the U.S. would limit one important threat in which Americans do play a role.
A South African hunter is believed to have been eaten by crocodiles after human remains were found inside two beasts.
Scott Van Zyl, 44, vanished last week after going on a hunting safari with a Zimbabwean tracker and a pack of dogs.
The father-of-two, whose company runs hunting trips for foreign clients, is thought to have been eaten by crocodiles on the banks of the Limpopo River in Zimbabwe.
South African hunter Scott Van Zyl, 44, is believed to have been eaten by crocodiles after human remains were found inside two beasts
He vanished last week after going on a hunting safari with a Zimbabwean tracker and a pack of dogs
The professional hunter and his tracker had left their truck and walked into the bush in different directions.
Later that day his dogs returned to the camp without Mr Van Zyl. His rifle and belongings were found inside the truck.
Mr Van Zyl’s footprints were later spotted leading to the river bank and trackers found his backpack nearby.
Sakkie Louwrens, who was part of the search team, said police suspected two Nile crocodiles may have eaten Mr Van Zyl.
‘We found what could possibly be human remains in them,’ he told The Telegraph.
The remains are being tested by forensic experts to see whether they belong to Mr Van Zyl.
At least four people have been killed by crocodiles in Zimbabwe in the past month.
In March, villagers cut open a crocodile and found the remains of an eight-year-old boy inside the beast.
The shocking scene was captured by an eyewitness with a smartphone in the village of Mushumbi Pools in northern Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland Central Province.
Villagers suspected the crocodile had killed and eaten the young boy, and shot the animal dead.
Police shot the crocodiles and are testing the remains found inside them to see if they belong to Mr Van Zyl (pictured with his wife)
Zimbabwe has recently been hit by heavy rain, raising river and dam levels, which can bring crocodiles to areas where they are not normally seen.
A crocodile was recently shot dead in Beatrice, a farming community in the neighbouring province of Mashonaland East, with what were believed to be the remains of a fisherman in its stomach.
In November, last year a 13 year old boy who was fishing to pay for his school fees was killed by a crocodile in southern Zimbabwe.
Owen Chianga and his friend, Liberty Ruzivo, 15, were attacked by two crocodiles while they were fishing in the Save River near the village of Birchenough Bridge.
Nile crocodiles typically feed on fish, antelope and zebra, which they snatch from the shallows and before engaging in a twirling, drowning method known as ‘the death roll’.
It’s been a very stressful time for one of the mountain gorilla groups we monitor every day in Rwanda’s Volcanoes mountains. Isabukuru’s group faced the death of its leader late last month, and yesterday our trackers found one of the youngsters from this group caught in a snare.
Although no gorillas in the groups we protect had been caught in snares since November 2015, Fossey Fund staff have concerned about recent increases in the numbers of snares seen, many of which have been close to the gorilla groups. When our trackers arrived in Isabukuru’s group yesterday and noticed immediately that 3-year-old Fasha was not in the group, they began a search for him and found a deactivated snare nearby.
Soon they located Fasha by himself, with a long piece of rope around his ankle, attached to a bamboo branch. They were able to detach the branch, but the rope was wound tightly around his foot. This meant that a veterinary intervention would be necessary to have the rope removed, which requires sedation, and plans were made for this to happen today. Our trackers then waited in the forest for the rest of the day, until Fasha was able to move back to his group, since he was extremely stressed out and initially seemed to be going in the wrong direction.
Today the intervention was conducted with Gorilla Doctors veterinarians, and included nine staff from the Fossey Fund, as well as Rwanda park authorities (RDB). Initially, Fasha was located close to silverback Kubaha, who has taken over the group since former leader Isabukuru died on March 26. Fasha was one of three youngsters who were receiving special protection from Isabukuru, since they all had mothers who had transferred out of the group. Luckily, Kubaha has so far taken over this protective role.
As our trackers arrived in the group, they found Fasha and others still in their night nests. When Fasha fell asleep after being sedated with a dart, our trackers were able to chase the other gorillas and keep them away during the intervention. The rope had become very tight on Fasha’s now-swollen left ankle, showing that he or other gorillas had tried to remove it, and he’d also lost a few teeth, probably while trying to bite the snare off. But the rope was successfully removed, the wound cleaned and antibiotics given, all within about 30 minutes. After resting for a short while, Fasha started moving with the group and all were feeding calmly.
Trackers play critical role
The Fossey Fund’s gorilla trackers and researchers play a critical role in this kind of situation, since it is our daily following of every gorilla in each group we protect that allows us to notice when something is wrong and to make experienced decisions in handling the situation. If our trackers had not noticed Fasha was missing, had not been able to locate him, and had not made sure he returned to his group, it is likely the outcome would have much more serious.
Thanks to support from all of our donors, we are able to provide this kind of daily, intensive protection for all of the gorillas we monitor. Help us continue this work by donating here.
Only 120 wolves are estimated to remain in this national park and they are elusive, usually seen shortly after sunrise or just before sunset.
“They are almost at the brink of extinction. So my vision is to increase their number significantly,” said Getachew Assefam, coordinator of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program.
The movement of people move in search of fertile land in the highlands has put pressure on the park. Across the country less than 500 Ethiopian wolves remain in a few mountain enclaves, the Britain-based Born Free Foundation says.
Efforts are underway to move most of the settlers out of this national park in the hope of saving the remaining wolves. The local community currently uses more than two-thirds of the park’s area for grazing, agriculture and settlement, according to the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority.
The wildlife authority said 38 villages with a total of 3,000 people are living within the park’s boundaries.
Gichi village in the heart of the park had more than 418 households before the resettlement program began three years ago. Now there are none. Now the government is focusing on settlers in other areas.
The relocated settlers “are all now living in a better condition,” said the park’s chief warden, Maru Biadgelegn.
But some farmers said the compensation they received for the move is not enough.
Requests by The Associated Press to gain access to the resettlement area were denied. In a recent meeting, residents rejected the government’s compensation offer to resettle the remaining farmers.
“I believe we can come to an agreement on this in the future,” said one park resident, Zezo Adugna.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press
NAIROBI, Kenya — Finally, there’s some good news for elephants.
The price of ivory in China, the world’s biggest market for elephant tusks, has fallen sharply, which may spell a reprieve from the intense poaching of the past decade.
According to a report released on Wednesday by Save the Elephants, a respected wildlife group in Kenya, the price of ivory is less than half of what it was just three years ago, showing that demand is plummeting.
Tougher economic times, a sustained advocacy campaign and China’s apparent commitment to shutting down its domestic ivory trade this year were the drivers of the change, elephant experts said.
“We must give credit to China for having done the right thing,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, president and founder of Save the Elephants. “There is still a long way to go to end the excessive killing of elephants for ivory, but there is now greater hope for the species.”
Elephants have been slaughtered by the thousands in recent years in what appeared to be an insatiable quest for ivory. Employing a wide range of tools, including helicopters, military-grade weaponry and poisoned pumpkins, poachers have brought down herd after herd. The poachers have also killed scores of wildlife rangers.
The tusks have been spirited out through a network of African gangs and corrupt government officials. A vast majority of ivory ends up in China, where a rapidly growing middle class has coveted it for bracelets, combs, statuettes and other status symbols. That demand has pushed the price of ivory so high that the tusks from a single elephant could be worth more than $100,000. That, in turn, encouraged many hunters and traders in Africa to ruthlessly pursue more elephants.
This may be a sign of how a sustained global advocacy campaign can actually work. For several years, celebrities, political leaders and passionate wildlife advocates around the world have been urging China to put a stop to its ivory trade. In China, there are officially registered shops selling ivory and a thriving black market doing the same. Last December, China responded, announcing it was shutting down all ivory commerce by the end of 2017. It seems the price of ivory has dropped in anticipation of the ban; many analysts believe it will soon drop further.
Researchers for Save the Elephants said the Chinese ivory business seemed depressed, with vendors pessimistic about their future. Many are replacing ivory jewelry and trinkets with items made from alternative materials, like clamshell. According to the report, China plans to shut ivory factories at the end of this month and close all retail outlets by the end of the year.
But there still seem to be some high rollers out there who want their ivory.
In one store in Nanjing, researchers saw “a 38-layered magic ball,” made from ivory, selling for $248,810.
Don Jr. made his big debut tonight and some say he made a big splash and helped “humanize” his father. But he and his disgusting brother, Eric, deserve nothing but scorn for the series of wild animal kills that spread across Twitter tonight.
I was not aware of their depravity towards animals until tonight. The folks calling Don Jr. “Patrick Bateman” on Twitter were spot on.
From The Daily Beast:
Back in 2012, photos surfaced of the elder Trump’s sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, proudly posing with the carcasses of dead animals they hunted while on a big-game hunting expedition in Africa. The photos showed Donald and Eric posing with a lifeless cheetah, Donald clenching a knife along with the bloody, sawed-off tail of an elephant, and the pair posing next to a crocodile hanging from a noose off of a tree.
Here are Trump’s sons holding up a dead cheetah, all smiles:
I guess this is the dead croc:
More Daily Beast:
The Trump boys were hunting in Zimbabwe—the same country where Cecil was killed—and though Zimbabwean animal conservation groups looked into the incident, the hunt was deemed perfectly legal. Once the photos went viral online, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted (and then deleted): “Not a PR move I didn’t give the pics but I have no shame about them either. I HUNT & EAT game.”
Later, Donald Jr. clarified his thoughts on the big-game hunt in an interview with Deer & Hunting magazine in August 2012.
“I think what made it sort of a bigger story and kind of national and even global news was that I didn’t do what a lot of other people do, which is immediately start apologizing for what I am and that I’m a hunter and all this,” Donald Jr. told Deer & Hunter. “I kinda said, ‘No, I am what I am. I did all those things. I have no regrets about it.’”
CORRECTION: It has been noted several times in the comments that the Trump kids are holding up a dead leopard, not a cheetah. Apologies for the mistake. I relied on the news story instead of my own eyes.
Five wildlife rangers and three other men working in wildlife protection have lost their lives in four separate countries in the past month, highlighting the numerous hazards rangers and their colleagues face in protecting the world’s wild lands and species.
“It’s a tough week when we lose eight of our ranger family; some to poachers’ bullets and some to the other dangers that come with the territory,” said Sean Willmore, founder and director of the Thin Green Line Foundation, which supports widows and children of rangers killed in the line of duty.
“We are becoming accustomed to this sad reality. But we need the world community’s support to help provide training and equipment to prevent deaths and to support families left behind.”
On 17 February, a young ranger with the Kenyan Wildlife Service was shot dead by elephant poachers in Tsavo national park.
The ranger and a colleague were out on a de-snaring patrol when they came upon the tracks of known elephant poachers. The poacher ambushed the pair, killing one – officials have not yet released his name.
The other ranger pursued the poachers and reportedly killed one of them.
These particular poachers have become well known in Tsavo, which has one of the largest populations of savannah elephants in the world. A week earlier, the same group had shot and wounded an elephant, but abandoned it when they realised community scouts were on their tail. The elephant eventually perished from its wounds. Park rangers removed the animal’s ivory and sent it to Nairobi to keep it out of the black market.
The slain ranger was in his twenties and leaves behind a young wife. He had only recently graduated from the Kenya Wildlife Service Field Training school in Manyani.
“The threats [to rangers] are escalating and with that there is a corresponding need for increased support, which in many cases does not materialise.” said Chris Galliers, the chair of the Game Rangers Association of Africa and the International Ranger Federation African representative.
He added that rangers in Africa are working under difficult conditions with “reduced capacity, fatigue, and possibly the need for additional skills.”
“It creates a situation where cracks will begin to appear,” he noted.
Not all ranger fatalities are at the hands of poachers. Three rangers also died last week in the Democratic Republic of the Congo when their speed boat capsized in Virunga national park.
According to chief park warden, Jean Pierre Jobogo Mirindi, nine rangers were patrolling Lake Edward when a heavy wind capsized the boat. Local fishermen rescued six of the rangers, but three of them drowned after foggy conditions complicated the rescue: Bwambale Nyamikenge, Katu Mumbere, and patrol chief, Kasereka Mwana Zaire.
Virunga national park is home to a quarter of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. But militias and political instability have also made it one of the most dangerous parks in the world for rangers: 150 rangers have been killed in the park during the last ten years.
On 24 January two men working for African Parks law enforcement team died in a helicopter crash in Central African Republic. The pilot of the helicopter was also killed. The pilot, Shaun Barendsen was from National Airways Corporation, while David Fine, head of law enforcement, and sous-lieutenant Mbenga-Nzongomblo Ponce Pilate, assistant law enforcement manager, were African Parks employees based in Chinko.
In a statement African Parks said: “The helicopter we had chartered in Chinko, Central African Republic, to assist with our law enforcement work, crashed killing all three on board. The helicopter crashed on approaching the landing strip and we are trying to gain a better understanding of the cause of the accident. We are devastated by this tragic news, for the enormous loss of three committed and passionate individuals, and for the loved ones they leave behind, to whom we send our heartfelt condolences.”
Finally, in India, a 28-year-old forest ranger passed out while trying to stamp down flames in Bandipur national park. Officials say Murigeppa Tammangol died from asphyxiation, burns and brain damage. Tammangol leaves behind a wife and a three-month-old baby.
The local press blamed the fires on “miscreants” from nearby communities. But Bandipur national park is also in the midst of a drought, with two years of unusually dry conditions.
Three other people were injured in the blaze and are recovering in the hospital.
The Thin Green Line estimates that around 100 rangers are killed in the line of duty every year – approximately two per week.