This Woman Hunts People Who Hunt Endangered Animals In Africa

The African Wildlife Foundation reports that rhinos, elephants, and other types of African wildlife may go extinct in our lifetime, and the effects of poaching are definitely not to be taken lightly.

For example, the number of Black Rhinos has dropped by 97.6 percent since 1960, and it’s very clear that unless some invested interest and heavy force is given to help reduce the rates of poaching, many animals will go extinct, and the whole planet will feel the effects of that.

One way U.S. activists are trying to put an end on poaching is by enlisting retired vets to take part in an organization that puts their years of experience in combat training to work overseas. The organization is called VETPAW (Veterans Empowered To Protect African Wildlife), and it’s entirely focused on protecting wildlife from being illegally hunted.

Kinessa Johnson, a US Army veteran who served 4 years in Afghanistan is a recent addition to the group, and she and a team arrived in Africa to take on a new mission. According to her, they’re there to do some anti-poaching, take down some bad guys, and do some good.

She and her team of fellow vets arrived in Tanzania, and she says that she has already noticed a decrease in poaching activity in her team’s area because their presence is known.
Her team’s primary focus is to train park rangers and patrol with them to provide support.

She says that African park rangers lost about 187 men last year over trying to save rhinos and elephants, and the training they will provide includes field medicine, marksmanship, and counter-intelligence.

Dozens of elephants killed in Botswana

Baby elephants are seen in the photo: Baby elephants, orphaned by poachers, are now being cared for at a new sanctuary in Botswana© Elephants Without Borders Baby elephants, orphaned by poachers, are now being cared for at a new sanctuary in Botswana

of nearly 90 elephants have been found near a famous wildlife sanctuary in Botswana, conservationists say.

Elephants Without Borders, which is conducting an aerial survey, said the scale of poaching deaths is the largest seen in Africa.

The spike coincides with Botswana’s anti-poaching unit being disarmed.

Botswana has the world’s largest elephant population, but poachers have been breaching its border.

The scientist carrying out the extensive wildlife survey said many of the 87 dead elephants were killed for their tusks just weeks ago – and that five white rhinos have been poached in three months.

“I’m shocked, I’m completely astounded. The scale of elephant poaching is by far the largest I’ve seen or read about anywhere in Africa to date,” said Dr Mike Chase from Elephants Without Borders.

“When I compare this to figures and data from the Great Elephant Census, which I conducted in 2015, we are recording double the number of fresh poached elephants than anywhere else in Africa.”

That census estimated a third of Africa’s elephants had been killed in the last decade and 60% of Tanzania’s elephants had been lost in five years.

Botswana has had a reputation for an unforgiving approach to poachers and had largely escaped the elephant losses seen elsewhere.

Despite a lack of fences on the international border, data from tracking collars showed elephants retreating from Angola, Namibia and Zambia and deciding to stay within the boundaries of Botswana where it was thought to be safe.

Incidents of poaching in the country were rare because of armed and well-managed anti-poaching units.

With 130,000 elephants, Botswana has been described as their last sanctuary in Africa as poaching for ivory continues to wipe out herds across the rest of the continent.

The first sign that was changing came two years ago when the BBC flew with Mr Chase close to the Namibian border and he discovered a string of elephant carcasses with their tusks removed for the first time.

But these latest killings have been found deep into Botswana – close to the protected Okavango Delta wildlife sanctuary, which attracts tourists from around the world.

“People did warn us of an impending poaching problem and we thought we were prepared for it,” said Mr Chase, who pointed to the disarmament of the country’s anti-poaching unit as a cause.

“The poachers are now turning their guns to Botswana. We have the world’s largest elephant population and it’s open season for poachers.

“Clearly we need to be doing more to stop the scale of what we are recording on our survey.”

Botswana’s 2018 Wildlife Aerial Survey is only half-way through and conservationists fear the final figure of poached elephants will be a lot higher.

The survey area is split into sections, or transepts, and the plane flies back and forth like a lawnmower cutting the grass – turning at each end to ensure nothing is missed.

“Fresh carcasses” are those lost within the last three months, but many of those recorded had been killed within the last few weeks.

Conservationists fear the scale of this new poaching problem is being ignored as it is bad for the country’s reputation.

“This requires urgent and immediate action by the Botswana government,” said Mr Chase.

“Botswana has always been at the forefront of conservation and it will require political will.

“Our new president must uphold Botswana’s legacy and tackle this problem quickly. Tourism is vitally important for our economy, jobs, as well as our international reputation which is at stake here as being a safe stronghold for elephants.”

 Ivory investigator killed in Kenya

One of the world’s leading investigators into the illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn has been killed in Kenya.

Esmond Bradley Martin, 75, was found with a stab wound to his neck at home in the capital Nairobi on Sunday.

The former UN special envoy for rhino conservation was known for his undercover work establishing black-market prices.

The US citizen had recently returned from a research trip to Myanmar.

Bradley Martin was in the process of writing up his findings when he died, reports the BBC’s Alastair Leithead from Nairobi.

His wife found him in their house in Langata. Police are investigating the circumstances but suspect it was a botched robbery.

Our correspondent says Bradley Martin had spent decades risking his life to secretly photograph and document the illegal sales of ivory and rhino horn, travelling to China, Vietnam, and Laos to pose as a buyer – helping to find out the level of black market prices.

He first went to Kenya from the US in the 1970s when there was a surge in the number of elephants being killed for their ivory.
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Conservationists believe that the ivory trade is largely responsible for the world’s declining elephant numbers

His work on illegal wildlife markets helped pressure China to ban the rhino horn trade in the 1990s, and domestic sales of ivory, which came into force this year.

Fellow conservationists have been paying tribute to him on social media.
Skip Twitter post by @paulakahumbu

2/3 Esmond was at the forefront of exposing the scale of ivory markets in USA, Congo, Nigeria, Angola, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos and recently Myanmar. He always collaborated with Save the Elephants and worked with many of us generously sharing his findings & views.
— Dr. Paula Kahumbu (@paulakahumbu) February 5, 2018

Always sharply dressed with a colourful handkerchief falling from his top pocket, Esmond Bradley Martin would immediately cut to the chase, honing in on the latest issue that was consuming him.

He was a well-known and highly respected character in the conservation community – passionate and unwavering in his efforts to crack down on illegal wildlife crime.

In a major report last year from Laos, he and his colleague Lucy Vigne established that the country had the world’s fastest growing ivory trade.

They risked their own safety staying at a Chinese casino inhabited by gangsters and traffickers in order to visit the illegal markets and find out the latest prices by posing as dealers.

His life’s work was combating the illegal trade of wildlife and he produced a huge body of highly respected research and investigative reports.

He will be a huge loss to the international conservation community.

Illegal trade of turtles destablising Pakistan’s ecological system

By Sana Saif
Published: November 7, 2017

The turtles are being illegally exported to China, Taiwan, Vietnam and other Asian countries, as they are eaten or used for medicinal purposes and in the preparation of artificial jewellery. PHOTO: FILE

The turtles are being illegally exported to China, Taiwan, Vietnam and other Asian countries, as they are eaten or used for medicinal purposes and in the preparation of artificial jewellery. PHOTO: FILE

The illegal trade of endangered turtles might be a lucrative industry but it is upsetting the natural order of Pakistan’s wildlife environment.

These turtles are a natural filter and key components of eradicating water pollution as well as various bacteria which is harmful for human health. But, due to the illegal trafficking, they are disappearing from Pakistan fast.

The turtles are being illegally exported to China, Taiwan, Vietnam and other Asian countries, as they are eaten or used for medicinal purposes and in the preparation of artificial jewellery.

A turtle bought for a mere Rs200 is being sold after being smuggled to the aforementioned countries for a whopping Rs150,000, which amounts to $1,500. The wildlife department’s poor performance can be gauged by the low number of cases registered in the last 10 years against the smugglers, which stands at 69.

These turtles can be found in wetlands, such as lakes, rivers and ponds, and are crucial in maintaining a balance in the ecosystem as they prey on plants that grow underwater, small insects, snails, worms, and dead marine animals and fish, clearing water bodies of germs and harmful bacteria.

The Chinese are reportedly associated with the turtle trafficking business in Pakistan. Influential Chinese at the helm of some Pakistan-China projects are alleged to be directly involved in the bootlegging of turtles.

49 turtles confiscated from Burnes Road aquariums

On August 18, 2014, a consignment of 229 black-spotted turtles was seized at the Pakistan-China border. A month later, on September 20, 2014, a shipment of 218 black-spotted turtles was seized at the Karachi airport. On the same day, 230 Pakistani black pond turtles were caught at a hospital in Karachi.

A couple of years later, on April 7, 2016, 62 turtles, tightly wrapped in a curtain, were seized in Shanti Nagar by the Karachi police. Of these turtles, 49 died. On April 28, 2016, 170 black-spotted turtles were seized from the Super Highway. On September 10, 2016, a shipment of
780 black-spotted turtles was recovered from Defence Housing Authority in Karachi.

Survey results

In 2003, the Sindh wildlife department, in coordination with the zoological survey department of Pakistan, conducted a survey to collect data on turtles in the Indus River. The survey concentrated on the waters linking Sukkur Barrage, Guddu Barrage and Jamal Din, as well as the waters around Kandhkot. Another survey was conducted just two years later, in 2005, and two species, Pangshura Smithii and Chitra Indica, which were included in the previous survey results, were missing from the results of the second survey.

Malaysia seizes smuggled tortoises worth $300,000

In 2009, reports showed the Indus River was home to eight species of turtles. However, by 2012, there were just three types of species left, which included two hard-shelled spotted pond and Indian roofed turtles and one soft shelled peacock turtle.

Data collected in 2014 found that the soft shelled Indian flap shell turtles were the highest in number among other species of turtles, but sadly, a 2015 survey reported that this species had gone missing. In 2016, some surveys argued that all sweet water turtles’ existence was endangered.

From 2006 to 2008, the wildlife department registered 22 cases of illegal smuggling of turtles from various cities such as Sukkur, Rohri, Ghotki, Pannu Aqil, Abro, Guddu, Kashmore and Kandhkot. Between 2009 and 2014, 37 smugglers were arrested in Sukkur, Khairpur, Dokri, Kashmore, Kamber-Shahdadkot, Guddu and Larkana for the illegal trade of turtles.
Likewise, from 2014 to 2017, nine cases were registered in connection with the illegal smuggling of black spotted turtles.

‘Karachi biggest market for endangered species’

Before 2007, sweet water turtles in Pakistan were not included in the endangered species list, but now, they are considered an endangered species in all provinces of the country. In 2014, the Sindh government added eight species of turtles in ‘Sindh’s Most Endangered Wildlife Species’ list. The turtles located in the waters on either side of the Indus River (till the Kotri Barrage) are the prime targets and prey of the smuggling mafia.

Initially, the process of fishing out these turtles was done by amateurs, but it is now being done by expert fishermen and locals who specialise in this type of fishing. Turtles weighing between two grammes and two kilogrammes are caught and sold to a middleman for Rs200 to Rs500.

The clearing and forwarding expenses at the airport have seen a significant rise in their price and these turtles can cost up to Rs4,000.

Therefore, each shipment’s cost may vary between Rs1.2 million and Rs1.5 million and includes 200 to 250 units. The demand for these turtles in the international market is great, with each unit costing around $1,500.
Hence, a smuggler gets a hefty return on his ‘investment’ per shipment.
Barely one in five smugglers is caught by the authorities and even if they are caught, they get out of it by paying a minimal fine.

Wildlife dept recovers eight endangered falcons

The demand for black spotted turtles in China is very high as they are considered a symbol of good luck by people who keep the turtles in their homes. Chinese and Taiwanese pharmaceutical companies also use the turtles for medicinal purposes. These turtles are also used for making jewellery and leather as well as trinkets for tourists.

The chief controller of the Sindh wildlife department, Saeed Baloch, said that officials of the department recently recovered 68 soft-shelled Chitra Indica turtles from the Karachi airport. Their insides were dried up and ready for smuggling. An FIR was registered against the smugglers and they were fined Rs5.44 million, according to the Sindh Turtles and Tortoise Protection, Conservation Act, 2015. The Sindh government also seized two bags worth of smuggled turtles in 2015. Each bag carried 218 turtles.

Baloch also said that people in interior Sindh catch turtles due to poverty, lack of education and unemployment, as it is a lucrative business. A joint operation of the federal and provincial governments, along with law enforcement agencies will soon be launched against the smuggling mafia.

Why a ‘pirate’ who has tried to stop whalers near Antarctica is stopping
 August 29 at 3:29 PM

Crew members aboard the Sea Shepherd vessel the Bob Barker react as the Japanese whaling vessel Yushin Maru 3 crosses close to its bow during a six-hour-long ordeal at close quarters in the Antarctic in 2014. (Simon Ager/Sea Shepherd Australia/Reuters)

Every year, Japanese boats with the word “RESEARCH” stenciled on the side head to the Southern Ocean to hunt for hundreds of whales. And every year since 2005, Paul Watson has used pirate-like tactics to try to stop them.

The ships of Watson’s Sea Shepherd Conservation Society nestle up to the back of the large Japanese factory boats that winch whale carcasses up a ramp for processing. Staying so close, Watson says, is a risky but nonviolent way of preventing the vessels from hauling in whales.

“We thought the best way to do this was to intervene directly,” Watson told The Washington Post. He and other international critics say the whales aren’t killed for research at all. “We block their ability to load dead whales and if we do that, they can’t hunt.”

But now, Sea Shepherd is stopping.

The organization said the Japanese have used military-grade satellite tracking to evade Watson’s whale-hunt-ending ships, which simply can’t get close enough.

In the past two years, Watson said, his organization’s ships have only caught glimpses of the Japanese whaling vessels.

“Every time we approached them, they would be just over the horizon,” he told The Post. “They knew where we were at every moment. We’re literally wasting our time and our money.”

It amounts to about $4 million per expedition, nearly a third of the nonprofit’s total yearly budget. And that wasted money could be better used to protect other marine animals around the world, Watson said, instead of endlessly chasing Japanese whalers.

The nonprofit group has been operating in the oceans near Antarctica since 2005, when it took the Farley Mowat, a “battered and slow vessel” out to thwart whalers, according to a news release.

Over the years, they added five other vessels, including one named after “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, and they claimed more and more successes.

At the same time, they’ve been engaged in other efforts to prevent poaching and illegal fishing across the globe. The battles aren’t just at close quarters in the high seas but are also in international courts of law.

Watson said one judge deemed him a pirate because of his tactics. Over the past 40 years, Sea Shepherd has engaged in embargoes and sunk several ships in the 1970s and 1980s. That was decades ago, Watson said, but he conceded that even blocking the whaling vessels involves dangerous maneuvering at close quarters.

Watson was one of the founding members of Greenpeace in 1969, but was expelled seven years later for what the organization deemed violent actions. He said he took a club away from a man who was attacking baby seals.

A Post story in 1979 dubbed him the “angry shepherd of the seas.”

“People sometimes say I have a suicide complex,” Watson told The Post’s Henry Mitchell for that story, which detailed his attempt to get between whalers’ harpoons and their intended target. “Well, in fact I enjoy being alive, more than most people. But people can’t believe a man will risk death to save whales. That’s what they can’t understand. So they think I’m crazy or that I attach no value to my life.”

Watson conceded there’s an air of oceanic vigilantism to what he does, but he told The Post that in his four decades of protecting sea animals, no one has been killed or injured. And he believes some of the people he’s trying to combat are violating international laws. The rest, he said, are just outright poaching. He described Sea Shepherd as an “interventionist anti-poaching organization.”

“Our opposition are criminals,” he said Tuesday. “These people are operating against the law. We shouldn’t be out there doing this. The governments of the world should be doing this. We would gladly step aside if they would do what they’re supposed to be doing.”

The legalized whaling is particularly vexing, Watson said, because the Japanese say they are killing the animals in the name of research.

As The Post’s Rachel Feltman wrote in 2015: “Most of the whales won’t end up in laboratories, but on dinner plates. Japanese officials claim that the specimens will be used to study the health and migration patterns of minke whales, but some argue that these research vessels have never been anything but a way around commercial whaling bans imposed in 1986.”

Even then, Wired wrote in 2015, only a small percentage of Japanese eat whale meat. The magazine cited a 2006 poll conducted by the Nippon Research Center that found that 95 percent of Japanese people very rarely or never eat whale meat. And the amount of uneaten frozen whale meat stockpiled in Japan has doubled to 4,600 tons between 2002 and 2012.

And the Japanese government spends about $50 million a year to heavily subsidize whaling, according to National Geographic. The staunchest advocates say it is a centuries-old tradition — and that no outside nation or international treaty should be able to tell the sovereign nation what it can hunt.

2015: Japan resumes ‘scientific’ whale hunts
Japan restarted its “scientific whaling” program on Dec. 1, 2015 after a year-long hiatus, amid international condemnation for the practice. (Reuters)

“And just as the whale has become symbolic for environmental groups like Greenpeace, it has, in response, become symbolic for the Japanese, too,” Wired wrote.

Kazuhiko Kobayashi, an agronomy professor, told the magazine that the “strong condemnation of whaling by the foreigners is taken as harassing the traditional values.”

While Watson’s role in the conflict has been paused, he emphasized that his group isn’t abandoning whales in the south seas. They’re simply trying to be practical as they figure out a better way to do it.

They still claimed a victory of sorts, having saved whales for a dozen years, and shined a light on whalers’ practices.

“The Japanese whalers have been exposed, humiliated and most importantly have been denied thousands of lives that we have spared from their deadly harpoons,” a statement from Sea Shepherd said. “Thousands of whales are now swimming and reproducing, that would now be dead if not for our intervene.”

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Top Ten Misconceptions About Sea Shepherd


    Sam SimonImages credit: Sea Shepherd

    By MarEx 2017-04-14 21:23:38

    MarEx spoke to Captain Paul Watson, Founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, to get his views on misconceptions about the organization.

    Is Sea Shepherd an eco-terrorist organization?

    No, none of us work for Monsanto. Seriously, since I established Sea Shepherd in 1977, we have not caused a single injury to a single person nor have we suffered a single injury to any of our crew. We don’t carry guns, and we operate within the boundaries of the law. None us have been convicted of a felony crime.

    We work in partnerships with government agencies like Mexico, Ecuador, Gabon, Italy and Liberia within their territorial waters. In International waters, we intervene against illegal activities in accordance with the United Nations World Charter for Nature that allows for intervention by NGO’s to uphold international conservation law.

    Is Sea Shepherd a protest organization?

    I established Sea Shepherd as an anti-poaching organization to intervene against illegal activities. We are not a protest organization. We investigate, document and directly intervene against illegal activities that exploit marine wildlife.

    Does Sea Shepherd comply with marine safety regulations?

    Sea Shepherd looks on marine safety as a priority in all our operations. We have an unblemished record for safety. Not one crewmember has been lost or seriously injured in 40 years. Every ship is equipped with more than adequate safety and fire fighting equipment and all crewmembers are subject to training and regular safety drills. On major campaigns like the Southern Ocean, the ships carry a medical officer with substantial medical resources.

    Sea Shepherd campaigns can be risky and I do insist that all crewmembers be aware of the risks that will be undertaken. When critics say we put our crew at risk, they are right, but our position is that risking our lives to defend endangered species or threatened habitat is an acceptable risk and far more noble than risking lives to defend oil wells, real estate, corporate interest and religion.

    Is Sea Shepherd a U.S. based organization?

    No, in fact Sea Shepherd is not actually an organization but rather a collective of numerous national entities, all registered independently within their own nations. Sea Shepherd is more of a movement with representation throughout Austral-Asia, North and South America, Europe and Africa.

    Sea Shepherd Global based in Amsterdam is the coordinating center for all Sea Shepherd entities except for Sea Shepherd USA, which is prohibited by the U.S. Federal Court from direct association with other Sea Shepherd entities that oppose illegal Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean. The ships are registered in the Netherlands, the USA, Barbados and Australia.

    Why is Sea Shepherd so small compared to other organizations?

    After 40 years, we could have been a much larger organization like Greenpeace or Oceana. However, from the beginning we decided we would not be a fund raising bureaucracy. We do not spend large sums of donor money on fund-raising and promotion. We don’t hire people to stand on the streets to sign up members. We don’t spend money advertising.  We keep the administration to a minimum and the ships are 90 percent volunteers.

    Support comes from word of mouth, visits to the ships and from people watching Whale Wars or seeing our documentaries. We want people to know that when they donate to Sea Shepherd the money goes to ships and campaigns. Sea Shepherd believes that the passion of our volunteers accomplishes more than having an organization with a large bank account.

    Some members of the public believe we must have tens of millions of dollars to operate our ships and campaigns. The truth is we don’t. We operate 10 ships on a budget of less than five percent of the Greenpeace budget.

    Are Sea Shepherd ships manned with experienced and nautically trained professionals?

    Not in the traditional sense. Our ships are registered as yachts so we do not need to comply with strict manning regulations. Our crews are volunteers from all over the world from all walks of life. Back in 1911, Ernest Shackleton was criticized for not having a professional crew. He answered that he needed men of passion, not professionals.

    The fact is that I could not pay professionals enough to do what our volunteers do for little or no wages. We look for experienced deck and engine officers. If we can’t find an experienced engineer, we do hire one if need be. Our officers train the volunteers.

    We have had astrophysicists and math teachers serving as watch officers, we have had motorcycle and truck mechanics working in the engine room. We have had retired naval, coast guard and merchant officers.

    On major campaigns, we always carry a qualified medical doctor in addition to crew with EMT certification. It’s a balance between experienced and inexperienced crewmembers. All volunteers are vetted by a crewing director.

    Over forty years we have never lost a crewmember nor has any crewmember suffered a life-threatening injury. The ships hold monthly fire and safety drills or more if there is a change of crew.

    Is Sea Shepherd an animal rights organization?

    Some media describe Sea Shepherd as an animal rights organization. However, Sea Shepherd is not an animal rights organization. Sea Shepherd is a marine conservation organization specializing in anti-poaching activities. This misconception may be because all Sea Shepherd ships are 100 percent vegan vessels. They are vegan vessels for conservation and environmental reasons considering the ecological damage the meat and fishing industries are causing.

    Is Sea Shepherd a leftist movement, or is it a right-wing movement?

    The conservative call us liberal, the liberals call us conservatives. We are neither left nor right.  Sea Shepherd does not hold a political position on anything. We are not left nor right, we are in front. We are motivated only by conservation principles. Our clients are the marine species we defend.

    Does Sea Shepherd carry and use weapons?

    Despite accusations that we use firearms, we don’t. None of the ships have any guns onboard. Instead we the ships are armed with a far more powerful weapon – cameras.

    A favorite accusation from Sea Shepherd critics is that you are not qualified to be a Captain and therefore should not call myself a captain. Is that true?

    I find this accusation amusing, because it tends to come from week-end sailors or fishermen who rarely go out of sight of land. The truth is that I don’t hold a commercial ticket nor would I want to. Our ships are all registered as yachts, and I am qualified to be a yacht master.

    I was trained as a seaman with the Norwegian and Swedish Merchant marine, as a fireman with Canadian Pacific Steamships and I served in the Canadian Coast Guard on weather ships, buoy tenders and as a hovercraft rescue officer. I was first mate on all Greenpeace campaigns from 1971-1977.

    My qualifications have not been questioned or denied by any ports of call we have entered or cleared and my experience is deep-sea, ice navigation and trans-ocean including leading ten expeditions to the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. If I was not qualified I would not have been able to command our ships since 1978 until the present day.

    The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.