Nearly 90 elephants slaughtered near wildlife sanctuary in Africa, tusks taken by poachers

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/09/04/elephants-killed-wildlife-sanctuary-africa-poachers/1188864002/

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An aerial survey discovered bodies of 87 slaughtered elephants near a wildlife sanctuary in Botswana, Africa.

Many of the dead elephants were ripped of their tusks, and left with mutilated skulls — a sign of poaching.

Wildlife conservation organization Elephants Without Borders found the “alarming”rate of dead elephants while flying an aerial census supported by the Botswana government.

“People did warn us of an impending poaching problem and we thought we were prepared for it,” Mike Chase, director and founder, said in a statement.

The country recently disarmed its anti-poaching unit under president Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Chase told the BBC this is the largest incident of elephant poaching he’s ever seen or read about in Africa. The carcasses were found near the the Okavango Delta wildlife sanctuary, a popular tourist destination.

Poachers killed many of the elephants within the last few weeks, according to a poaching incident report obtained by NPR. Three white rhinoceroses were also killed in the same area over the past three months, according to the report.

Botswana is home to the world’s largest elephant populations and has been praised for its protection of elephants in the past.

More: Elephants rarely get cancer thanks to ‘zombie gene,’ study finds

The 2016 Great Elephant Census, which reported more than 130,000 elephants in Botswana, also revealed African savanna elephant populations were declining by 30 percent in 15 of the 18 Africa countries surveyed. A map from that report showed Botswana’s elephant population was in stable condition as neighboring Angola, Zimbabwe, and a small area of Zambia saw decreasing populations.

But, that trend could be changing, as Chase told the BBC “poachers are now turning their guns to Botswana.”

More: How the power of music brought peace to this elephant

Rescued jumbo dies of injuries caused by snare trap


KOTA KINABALU: A juvenile male Bornean pygmy elephant has died a week after he was found with an injury on his front left leg caused by a snare trap at Ulu Segama Forest Reserve, Lahad Datu.

Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) public relations officer Siti Nur’Ain Ampuan Acheh said the five-year-old pachyderm died on the way to the Borneo Elephant Sanctuary in Kinabatangan at about 8.40am on Sunday (Sept 2).

Siti Nur’Ain said the elephant was rescued on Aug 26 after it was found with an injury on its leg caused by the trapping device.

She added that a team comprising a veterinarian and wildlife rangers was dispatched to the location to rescue the injured animal.

image: https://www.thestar.com.my/~/media/online/2018/09/02/13/43/pygmydead2.ashx?la=en

One of the last pictures taken of the weakened elephant before it succumbed to its injuries.

“They managed to capture the elephant and initiated treatment. He suffered a severe and deep wound which had already reached the bone.

“The elephant was also in poor physical condition and weak,” she said.

Siti Nur’Ain said the animal did not respond well to the treatment and died while being transported to the sanctuary for further treatment.

“Post-mortem was conducted to determine the cause of death.

“Findings revealed that the elephant died due to septicaemia which originated from the severe snare trap injury,” she explained.

SWD is investigating the manager of the adjoining plantation.

The latest death brings to 26 the number of elephants killed this year.

Read more at https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/09/02/rescued-jumbo-dies-of-injuries-caused-by-snare-trap/#SpKg03ghkPIccXti.99

Hunter charged with federal crimes for allegedly leading illegal elephant hunts

A South African man is facing federal charges for his role in allegedly helping a Colorado hunter illegally kill endangered elephants in Zimbabwe and offering similar services to an undercover federal agent, according to an indictment unsealed Monday in Denver.

Professional hunter Hanno van Rensburg, 44, of South Africa is facing charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and violations of the Lacey Act and Endangered Species Act, which prohibit the hunting and trade of threatened animals, including the African elephant, according to the indictment filed by the U.S. Attorney in Colorado. A warrant has been issued for van Rensburg’s arrest.

Federal prosecutors allege that in 2015, van Rensburg was paid $39,195 to help a Colorado hunter shoot an elephant outside of Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park. Van Rensburg and the Colorado hunter — who is not named in the indictment — tracked the wounded animal inside the park, the indictment states.

Van Rensburg and the Colorado hunter, according to the indictment, “agreed to pay and paid a bribe to the game scouts of between $5,000 and $8,000 so that they could shoot elephants other than the one that was first shot and wounded and kill an elephant inside Gonarezhou National Park, in violation of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wild Life Act.”

The indictment alleges that to export the elephant’s ivory, Van Rensburg conspired to tell Zimbabwean authorities that his client, the hunter from Colorado, was actually from South Africa.

“To conceal this contrivance, van Rensburg quizzed Colorado hunter on the layout of his house so that Colorado hunter could convincingly answer such questions and successfully represent himself as a South African resident,” according to the indictment.

Federal authorities also allege van Rensburg attempted to sell a similar illegal elephant hunting trip to an undercover agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. According to the indictment, in 2017 van Rensburg told the agent to bring around $9,000 dollars on the trip for “extras,” as in bribes.

Hunters are required to buy “tags” if they want to hunt an elephant in Zimbabwe, and van Rensburg allegedly reassured the agent that a limited number of tags was not a problem.

“But you know about Zimbabwe, how it works,” van Rensburg allegedly told the agent, according to the indictment. “If they need another tag, they get another tag. You know, that’s the negative part of it. The system is so corrupt. If they need to get it, they will get it. If the client pays the money they will find another tag. I am straightforward with you. Corruption is the rule in Africa.”

Van Rensburg did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but one of his former clients is coming to his defense.

Charlie Loan, a hunter who is unrelated to the current case, said the indictment comes as a surprise. Loan said he was part of a small group that hired Van Rensburg and his guides for a 10-day South African hunting safari in 2012.

“One of the things that we were all really impressed by was the fact that they put a lot of emphasis on conservation,” Loan told ABC News. “Conservation was key in his mind, and that went through his entire staff.”

Tell the Trump Administration: Stop Promoting International Trophy Hunting!

https://act.nrdc.org/letter/trophy-hunting

In a new low, the Trump administration has created an advisory council dedicated exclusively to promoting the killing of imperiled wildlife species for sport.

Filled with trophy hunters and gun industry lobbyists, the International Wildlife Conservation Council now wields considerable influence over America’s international hunting policies, putting the future of vulnerable species like elephants, lions, and giraffes at grave risk.

Tell Interior President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to stop promoting international trophy hunting and immediately dismantle the IWCC.

Your message will be sent to:

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
President Donald Trump

Subject line:

Dismantle the International Wildlife Conservation Council

(Consider adding your own thoughts — personalized messages are especially effective)

Your Information

First name*
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Email address*
Street address

DONALD TRUMP JR. SHOULD BE DEPORTED FOR HUNTING ELEPHANT, PETA BILLBOARD DEMANDS

President Donald Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr. deserves to be deported for hunting and killing an elephant and other wildlife, animal rights activists demand.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) announced Friday it plans to put up a billboard in towns bordering Mexico features an infamous image of Trump Jr. holding a knife and the tail of an elephant he apparently shot abroad.

“Deport callous cheating opportunists now! All nations have their undesirables. Kindness welcome,” the billboard slated for El Paso and Laredo, Texas, states

Killing the myth of hunting as conservation

http://www.all-creatures.org/articles/ar-myth-hunting-conservation.html

by Fran Silverman, FOA Friends of Animals
March 2018

The Trump administration is making it easier for Americans to go to Africa, shoot elephants and lions and bring their body parts home as trophies to mount on walls – all in the name of conservation….

Hunter supporters use unscientific bear sightings to inflate numbers and livestock conflicts to scare the public to justify bear hunting.

elephant and calf
Image from Memories of Elephants

If it sounds ridiculous, it likely is. So say this out loud and tell me how it sounds.

Shooting endangered and threatened species will help save them.

Here’s another one.

Hunters are helping keep you safe by killing black bears.

In honor of National Wildlife Week, let’s parse these statements.

Supporters of black bear hunts assert that the bears are a nuisance at best and a safety hazard at their worst. They point to unscientific bear sightings to inflate numbers and livestock conflicts to scare the public. Killing them will solve this, they say. And the hunters then get to take home the bears to mount or use as rugs. Nice reward for saving all of us.

On a national level, the Trump administration is making it easier for Americans to go to Africa, shoot elephants and lions and bring their body parts home as trophies to mount on walls – all in the name of conservation.

The thing is, the science doesn’t back any of this up. This month a new study published in Science Advances found issues with the science cited in the “North American Model of Wildlife Conservation,” which guides hunting policies. The study found that what counts for science is rarely defined. In fact, a majority of the science in management plans surveyed — 60 percent — contained fewer than half of criteria for the fundamental hallmarks of science, which include measurable objectives, evidence, transparency and independent review. The report reviewed 62 U.S. state and Canadian provincial and territorial agencies across 667 species management systems.

“These results raise doubt about the purported scientific basis of hunt management across the U.S. and Canada,’’ it concluded.

The claims of hunting as conservation of endangered and threatened species also don’t stand up to scientific scrutiny. There aren’t any documented, peer-reviewed studies that show that lawful hunting does not overall disadvantage the species being hunted. Emerging studies, in fact, indicate that legal hunting can increase demand, promote black-market trade of sport-hunted animals and reduce the stigma associated with killing wildlife.

The African elephant population has plummeted by 30 percent in seven years, with just 350,000 left in the world where once there were millions. The population of lions has declined by 42 percent, with just about 20,000 left. Additionally, a new study by Duke University found that poaching and habitat loss have reduced forest elephant populations in Central Africa by 63 percent since 2001.

Yet, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it was lifting a ban on trophies from several African nations and will allow them on a case-by-case basis. This action, coupled with the Department of Interior’s creation of an International Wildlife Conservation Council comprised of hunting industry representatives whose stated goal is to advise the agency on the benefits of international hunting, removing barriers to the importation of trophy-hunted animals, and reverse suspensions and bans on trade of wildlife, sends the message that the only way to save these majestic creatures is to make sure it’s easier to shoot them to death.

On a local level, here in my home state of Connecticut where FoA is headquartered, I listened intently as supporters of a bill to kill 5 percent of the black bear population in the lovely Litchfield County region insisted it was necessary to prevent bear-human conflict. Bears are killing livestock! Bears are getting into garbage cans! Knocking over bird feeders! Scaring hikers on trails! Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!

I’m not making light of a bear encounter. They are formidable. But the science and the math for a shoot-first approach doesn’t add up. First, bears are shy and attacks are more associated with human behavior than the population of bears, studies show. To ward them off if you are a hiker, wear bear bells, carry bear spray. Worried about your backyard farm animals? Install an electric fence. Certainly, don’t feed bears, keep your doors shut and remove bird feeders in the spring.

The truth is black bear attacks are super rare. In the past 20 years, there’s been 12 fatal black bear attacks in the U.S, yet thousands of black bears have been slaughtered in legal hunts. More than 4,000 bears were killed in New Jersey alone since bear hunts were legalized there under Governor’s Christie’s reign before the new governor halted them. In New York, more than 1,000 black bears were killed in hunts last year.

Yet, along with that news in New York about the success of its 2017 bear hunt, there was this item buried in a press release from the N.Y. Department of Environmental Conservation: 19 humans were injured by hunters last year and one was fatality shot, a woman who was just walking her dogs in the woods by her house. In fact, between 2011-2017, there’s been 14 humans killed by hunters and 131 injured in New York. In Connecticut, hunters have killed one human and injured 13 between 2011-2016. The number of bear fatalities in both these states? Zero.

The more I dug into fatal black bear attacks verses fatal hunting incidents, the more alarmed I became. In just six states I reviewed where bear hunting is allowed or being considered, there have been 500 humans injured by hunters and 63 killed. The stories are sad. People who were fishing when they got shot by an errant hunter’s bullet. Hunters shooting each other and themselves. And there was Rosemary Billquist, a 43-year-old hospice volunteer who was the woman from upstate New York shot dead last fall by her neighbor.

When FoA testified against a black bear hunt in Connecticut, pointing out the hundreds of injuries and startling number of humans killed by hunters, dispelling the myth that bear sightings at all indicate bear populations and showing there is a weak correlation between the number of bears in a region and bear-human conflict, the majority of lawmakers on the state’s environment committee saw the light and voted down the hunt.

But black bear hunts are still legal in a majority of states. It’s estimated that 40,000-50,000 black bears have been killed in hunts. But the fact is the number of fatal black bear attacks are rare.

Human hunting related deaths and injuries – not so rare.

The number of U.S. residents who hunt is dwindling every year. Yet, the damage they are doing to wildlife and other humans is astounding.

Elephants are becoming rare. So are lions. Shooting them to hang on walls doesn’t conserve them.

The math is the math and the science is the science.


Friends of Animals’ Communications Director Fran Silverman oversees FoA’s public affairs and publications. Her previous experience includes editor of a national nonprofit consumer advocacy site, staff writer and editor positions and contributing writer for The New York Times.


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Conservation groups sue to overturn trophy hunting decision

(CNN)Several animal conservation groups are challenging in court the Trump administration’s recent decision to consider big game trophy import applications on a case-by-case basis.

The groups — which include the Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society International and Humane Society of the United States — said Tuesday that they are asking a federal court in Washington, DC, to rule that the US Fish and Wildlife Service did not follow the proper process to make its March 1 decision, which withdrew a series of Endangered Species Act findings that apply to some African elephants, lions and bontebok, a type of antelope.
The groups also say the decision violates the Endangered Species Act.
Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle told CNN that the department is reviewing the amendment complaint.
Tuesday’s filing amends a lawsuit the conservation groups filed in November, when the FWS, under Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke, announced it would accept applications on elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia.
In November, President Donald Trump then ordered that decision be blocked and called trophy hunting a “horror show.”
In December, a federal appeals court ruled in a separate trophy hunting case brought by proponents of the practice, including Safari Club International, ordering FWS and the Department of Interior to reconsider past decisions on trophy imports.
And a few days after the March 1 decision, Zinke told Congress no applications have been approved under the case-by-case guidelines.

Conservation groups oppose pro-hunting slant of new Trump admin panel

US to allow some imports of elephant trophies 01:48

(CNN)Members of a new Trump administration pro-hunting council met Friday for the first time, drawing objections from other conservation groups that say hunting is not the answer to saving big game species.

Hunters and supporters of trophy hunting hold nearly every seat on the International Wildlife Conservation Council, which Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke created to advise him on “the conservation, wildlife law enforcement, and economic benefits that result from US citizens traveling to foreign nations to engage in hunting.”
Several members spoke in favor on Friday of trophy hunting in certain regions of Africa and Central Asia, saying it provides important funding for conversation efforts.
“Hunting is the crux of all of this. Without hunting, there is no other industry there,” said member Cameron Hanes, a member of the council who’s a bow hunter. “The messaging is what’s poor. To me, hunters haven’t done a very good job of it.”
Conservationists who oppose trophy hunting say the panel is one-sided.
“Noticeably missing from this council are qualified representatives of the broader conservation community with scientific credentials and direct experience with the management of successful conservation programs,” said Masha Kalinina of Humane Society International.
She spoke during a portion of the meeting reserved for public comment; her group is not represented on the council.
Peter LaFontaine, of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said he had nominated a member for the council who was not accepted. The group is a “really strange way to focus on conservation,” he said.
The council includes the president of Safari Club International, a pro-hunting group that gives awards for trophy animal kills; an official from the National Rifle Association; several self-described hunters; and two hunting-oriented television personalities.
Members selected as their chairman Bill Brewster, a former Democratic congressman from Oklahoma. A 2014 profile of Brewster in the NRA publication American Hunter notes he has hunted in all 50 states.
“There is a conspicuous conflict of interest concern hanging over this council,” Kalinina said. The businesses of many members, she said, would benefit from relaxed regulations on hunting, such as imports of trophies like African elephants and lions.
The issue of trophy hunting was cast in the spotlight in November, when the Fish and Wildlife Service under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke decided to overturn an Obama-era ban on importing elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia to the US.
After the issue made headlines, President Donald Trump announced he was putting the decision “on hold” to review the “conservation facts.” He later called trophy hunting a “horror show.”
Earlier this month, the Department of Interior reacted to a court order by saying it will consider big game trophy imports from several African countries on a “case-by-case” basis.
The department has not yet issued any trophy permits under that policy, Zinke told Congress at a hearing this week.

Everything to Know About Trump’s New Trophy Hunting Council

(C) Elizabeth Heyd

In early November—the same week the Trump administration announced its disastrous decision to allow elephant and lion trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia—the administration decided to create an advisory committee, the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), to advise Trump on how to enhance trophy hunters’ ability to hunt internationally.

Yup, that means the administration now has a council dedicated exclusively to promoting the killing of more imperiled species, like elephants and lions, for sport. The council’s mandate includes counseling Trump on the economic, conservation, and anti-poaching benefits of trophy hunting, of which there are very few. Sadly, Trump doesn’t want advice on the many drawbacks of trophy hunting.

The committee’s duties are similarly biased. They include “educating” the public about trophy hunting; ensuring federal programs support hunting; making it easier for U.S. citizens to import trophies; ending trophy import bans and suspensions (despite the fact our country heavily favors them, as shown recently), and using the pretext of “regulatory duplications”  to eviscerate protections for foreign species under both the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (even though the U.S. law and the global treaty do different things).

Many conservation groups—including NRDC, World Wildlife Fund, Humane Society, Center for Biological Diversity, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare—urged the administration to abandon this dangerous proposal. Many also urged the council to, at the very least, include members from the conservation community. Instead, the Department of Interior went ahead with this flawed idea.

Even more shocking, all but one of the 16 discretionary members the administration chose, hunt foreign species that are subject to import permits, represent an organization that promotes hunting of such species, guide hunts for such species, or is a “celebrity hunter” who  glorifies hunting of such species. Yes, I’m talking about people that head the NRA and Safari Club International. This insanely biased membership ensures that all committee decisions will benefit hunters  at the expense of iconic species already on the brink.

Oh, did I mention that we, the public, will pay for these members to travel to Washington, D.C. twice a year for meetings?

The IWCC was created under a statute called the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which was promulgated to ensure that advice by the various advisory committees is “objective and accessible to the public.” The law states that advisory committees must also be “essential,” “in the public interest,” “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented” and “not be inappropriately influenced by . . . any special interest.” Clearly, the administration forgot to read the law when they formed this committee as it violates each and every requirement!

The first meeting of this council is scheduled for March 16 from 9:30 am-4:30 pm. While advance RSVP is required—the council is clearly trying to shield its actions from the public eye—we will keep everyone posted on what occurs.

Unfortunately, there’s one thing we all know without attending: this council spells disaster for elephants, lions and other imperiled foreign species that we all treasure.

Trump’s cave to elephant and lion hunters

Editorial:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-edit-elephants-africa-trump-trophy-20180307-story.html

“I watched him beating his bunch of grass against his knees, with that preoccupied grandmotherly air that elephants have. It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him. At that age I was not squeamish about killing animals, but I had never shot an elephant and never wanted to.”

— George Orwell, “Shooting an Elephant”

Well, some people do want to shoot elephants, for reasons that are all but impossible to fathom. Their meat doesn’t appeal to Western palates; they aren’t so abundant that their numbers must be reduced; and taking part in a guided hunt costs tens of thousands of dollars. But the Trump administration, after some delay, has sided with the shooters against the prey.

Elephants are unusually intelligent creatures with rich social lives and elaborate means of communication. They are also under unending siege. In the past three decades, the number in Africa has plummeted by two-thirds, leaving just 400,000. About 20,000 are killed each year for their tusks.

Some African governments allow them to be taken by trophy hunters. One of those sportsmen is Donald Trump Jr., who in 2012 was photographed holding the bloody tail of a slain elephant.

Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tried to discourage this macabre pastime by outlawing imports of elephant trophies from specified countries. African elephants are listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, and the law says their body parts may be brought in only if “the killing of the trophy animal will enhance the survival of the species.”

In Zambia and Zimbabwe, the agency was not convinced that the governments’ policies served the purpose of conserving elephants. So Americans who wanted to shoot an elephant so they could bring back its head to hang on the wall were out of luck.

Last year, the agency announced it would lift the ban. But the decision sparked furious criticism, even from some conservative commentators — and prompted President Donald Trump to block it temporarily.

The president tweeted that he would be “very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.”

Now, however, his administration has quietly given its sanction to the practice — not just for elephants but also for lions. Instead of forbidding trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe, the FWS said it would grant permits on a case-by-case basis, under criteria it has yet to state.

How Trump squares this step with his previous objections is hard to guess. The latest FWS move followed a ruling from a federal appeals court that the Obama administration failed to use required procedures in issuing its ban. But that verdict didn’t require abandoning the policy. The agency could have started over and followed the rules as spelled out by the court.

The biggest threat to these beasts is not legal trophy hunting but killing by poachers who want to harvest their tusks for the ivory trade. The good news is that progress has been made in suppressing that commerce. Last year, China said it would stop all sales of ivory, and Hong Kong moved to ban them all by 2021. The black-market price has dropped sharply since 2014, reflecting a decline in demand.

But legal trophy hunting doesn’t help, because it gives a sheen of legitimacy to the whole business of slaughtering elephants for their body parts. In January, Trump proudly said, “I didn’t want elephants killed and stuffed and have the tusks brought back.” It’s not too late for him to stop it.