Tag Archive | Africa

Western black rhino officially declared extinct


LONDON (CNN) — Africa’s western black rhino is now officially extinct according the latest review of animals and plants by the world’s largest conservation network.

The subspecies of the black rhino — which is classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species — was last seen in western Africa in 2006.

The IUCN warns that other rhinos could follow saying Africa’s northern white rhino is “teetering on the brink of extinction” while Asia’s Javan rhino is “making its last stand” due to continued poaching and lack of conservation.

“In the case of the western black rhino and the northern white rhino the situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation measures had been implemented,” Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN species survival commission said in a statement.

“These measures must be strengthened now, specifically managing habitats in order to improve performance, preventing other rhinos from fading into extinction,” Stuart added.

The IUCN points to conservation efforts which have paid off for the southern white rhino subspecies which have seen populations rise from less than 100 at the end of the 19th century to an estimated wild population of 20,000 today.

Another success can be seen with the Przewalski’s Horse which was listed as “extinct in the wild” in 1996 but now, thanks to a captive breeding program, has an estimated population of 300.

The latest update to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reviews more than 60,000 species, concluding that 25% of mammals on the list are at risk of extinction.

Many plants are also under threat, say the IUCN.

Populations of Chinese fir, a conifer which was once widespread throughout China and Vietnam, is being threatened by the expansion of intensive agriculture according to the IUCN.

A type of yew tree (taxus contorta) found in Asia which is used to produce Taxol (a chemotherapy drug) has been reclassified from “vulnerable” to “endangered” on the IUCN Red List, as has the Coco de Mer — a palm tree found in the Seychelles islands — which is at risk from fires and illegal harvesting of its kernels.

Recent studies of 79 tropical plants in the Indian Ocean archipelago revealed that more than three quarters of them were at risk of extinction.

In the oceans, the IUCN reports that five out of eight tuna species are now “threatened” or “near threatened,” while 26 recently-discovered amphibians have been added to the Red List including the “blessed poison frog” (classified as vulnerable) while the “summers’ poison frog” is endangered.

“This update offers both good and bad news on the status of many species around the world,” Jane Smart, director of IUCN’s global species program said in a statement.

“We have the knowledge that conservation works if executed in a timely manner, yet, without strong political will in combination with targeted efforts and resources, the wonders of nature and the services it provides can be lost forever.”


Rhino kingpins to be put behind bars


South African authorities are beginning to dismantle the sophisticated criminal gangs guilty of killing rhinos.

25 September 2012 | JeVanne Gibbs


This is according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for Nature’s African rhino programme manager Dr. Joseph Okori concurred by saying “Putting powerful kingpins behind bars for 10 or 20 years will send a strong message to others not to engage in criminal behaviour,” he said.

Under the theme ‘Five Rhino Species Forever’, World Rhino Day on Saturday aimed to mobilise South Africans to take a stand against rhino poaching and the illegal trade in rhino horn.

Acting head of communications of the South African National Parks Paul Daphne said the day highlighted the efforts that are being made to fight the scourge of rhino poaching around the world and reduce the demand for rhino horn.

“It is indeed worrying that we are still losing such a high number of rhinos but the increasing number of successful arrests and steeper sentences such as the combined 58 years imprisonment imposed on two suspected rhino poachers recently is encouraging.”

Gauteng Department of Environmental Affairs spokesman Albi Modise said the South African government views the illegal killing of rhinos in a very serious light and its commitment in addressing rhino poaching remains unwavering.

“It is clear we need to continue working with all stakeholders if this war on rhino poaching is to be won.

It is clear that this is an organised crime. And in dealing with organised criminals we need inputs and action from all South Africans in an organised manner.”

The latest statistics on rhinos poached in the country this year stands at 388, with the Kruger National Park having lost a total of 241 rhinos since the beginning of the year.

– jevanneg@citizen.co.za



Ivory for China: poaching soars


Jeffry Gettleman | Sydney Morning Herald

IN 30 YEARS of fighting poachers, Paul Onyango had never seen anything like this.

Twenty-two dead elephants, including several very young ones, clumped together on the open savannah, many killed by a bullet to the top of the head.

There were no tracks leading away, no sign that the poachers had stalked their prey from the ground. The tusks had been hacked away, but none of the meat.

Several days later, in early April, guards in the Congo’s Garamba National Park spotted a Ugandan military helicopter flying low over the park on an unauthorised flight but they said it abruptly turned around after being detected. Park officials, scientists and the Congolese authorities now believe the Ugandan military killed the 22 elephants from a helicopter and spirited away ivory worth more than $1 million.


”They were good shots, very good shots,” said Mr Onyango, Garamba’s chief ranger.

Conservation groups say poachers are wiping out tens of thousands of elephants a year. Some of Africa’s most notorious armed groups, including the Lord’s Resistance Army, al-Shabab in Somalia and Darfur’s Janjaweed, are hunting elephants and using the tusks to buy weapons. Organised crime syndicates are linking up with them to move the ivory around the world.

But it is not just outlaws cashing in. Members of some of the African armies the US government trains and supports financially – the Ugandan military, the Congolese army and newly independent South Sudan military – have been implicated.

The vast majority of the illegal ivory – experts say up to 70 per cent – is flowing to newly rich China, where the price has soared to $2000 a kilogram.

Last year, more than 150 Chinese citizens were arrested across Africa for smuggling ivory. There is evidence poaching increases where Chinese workers are. ”China is the centre of demand,” said Robert Hormats, a US official. ”Without the demand from China, this would all but dry up.”

In Tanzania, impoverished villagers are poisoning pumpkins for elephants to eat. In Gabon, subsistence hunters in the rainforest are being enlisted to kill elephants and hand over the tusks, sometimes for as little as a sack of salt.

The New York Times


Kerri-Anne’s personal battle


Kerri-Anne Kennerley, Erin Reimer | Yahoo News

In this exhilarating report, Kerri-Anne Kennerley travelled to Kenya to see one of the rarest species on earth — the northern white rhino.

There are only eight of this particular species of rhino left in the world, and out of that, only four that can potentially breed. These four were brought to Ol Pejeta Conservancy from the Czech Republic two years ago, with the help of wildlife organisation Flora and Fauna International and the great generosity of an Australian banker, Alistair Lucas.

Kennerley visited these rhinos along with Lucas, who was seeing them for the first time since they took their first steps on African soil two years ago.

These, along with all the other black and white rhino on the conservancy, are heavily guarded — they live behind electric fences on the 40,000-hectare conservancy. Armed guards patrol night and day, so heavy is the threat of poaching. Poaching has spiked in recent years due to the increased popularity of the use of ground rhino horn in traditional medicine in Vietnam and China.

“We have lost I think about nine rhinos, nine rhinos in the last fifteen years to poaching of which six have been lost in the last two years. So that gives you an indication of how the pressure from poaching has increased so dramatically in recent times,” said Ol Pejeta CEO Richard Vigne.

“Right now, the only way to secure rhino populations is to have armed security with a high capacity to operate both in daylight and at night to deter poachers. If you left rhinos in an unprotected area now, I would give them no longer than a week or two before they would be killed.”

So extreme is the threat in South Africa, where nearly 300 rhinos have been poached this year alone, that radical steps are being taken. Kennerley travelled to a farm on the outskirts of Kruger National Park, where rancher John Hume has taken to dehorning his rhinos every year in a bid to make them less appealing to poachers — an act he was driven to do after losing some of his stock to poachers. And Hume doesn’t want to stop there: he wants to create a legal trade in rhino horn to cut the poachers out of the picture.

In the meantime, World Wildlife Fund South Africa have taken another approach to safeguard the species, flying rhinos by chopper to better ground in a bid to increase breeding. Led by vet Dr Jacques Flamand, the Black Rhino Range Expansion project aims to create new rhino populations. They’ve run the project for eight years, with over 40 calves born during that time.

Related News: 

Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Flora and Fauna International

WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project


Repeated delays plague landmark rhino poaching case

© WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey

Repeated delays plague landmark rhino poaching case

The case against suspected rhino poaching kingpin Dawie Groenewald, his wife and their alleged co-conspirators has suffered yet another lengthy delay. The defendants appeared in a South African court yesterday where their request for an additional postponement was approved.

The eleven suspects are expected to be charged with hundreds, or even thousands of criminal counts, including illegal hunting, weapons and permit violations, illegally trading rhino horn, as well as fraud, racketeering and money laundering.

“A high level of criminal sophistication was required to orchestrate the killing of these rhinos, but this case demonstrates that no one is above the law, said the head of WWF’s African Rhino Programme, Dr Joseph Okori. “The world is watching and waiting for justice to be served.”

The carcasses of 20 rhinos were found buried on Groenewald’s property in late 2010. The rhinos were missing their horns, which are of high value on black markets in Asia, particularly Vietnam.

Groenewald and his wife operate a safari tour company and according to investigators, they are said to be the masterminds behind the killings. Other suspects in the case include veterinarians and veterinary assistants, professional hunters and a helicopter pilot.

“WWF is as impatient as the majority of the public about the delays in the process but we respect that justice has to follow its course,” said WWF-South Africa CEO Morné du Plessis. “We will continue to watch this case closely.”

The next hearing has been scheduled for October 19.

Rhino poaching in South Africa has spiked in recent years driven by demand for rhino horn in Asia. So far this year 181 rhinos have been killed in the country, according to government statistics released last week. Officials say that popular safari destination Kruger National Park has already lost 111 rhinos this year.

If not curbed, poaching rates could exceed the record 448 rhino deaths that occurred in South Africa in 2011.

“The international syndicates involved in poaching and illegal trafficking of wildlife products are not only reversing decades of conservation gains, they are disrupting economies and destabilizing society,” said Dr Carlos Drews, Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme.

“Governments can no longer ignore the threat these criminals pose to the security of their citizens and their wildlife. It will take a concerted effort by ministries of justice, customs, foreign affairs and border protection to take down kingpins who are flouting the rule of law across Africa and in Asia,” Drews says.

Historically, rhino horn has been used in traditional medicine to treat fever, and is sometimes carved for ornamental purposes. In Vietnam a new use for rhino horn has arisen as a purported cancer treatment, despite the absence of scientific support for the claim. Rhino horn has never been used as an aphrodisiac.

South Africa is home to about 21,000 of Africa’s 25,000 rhinos, and a quarter of the country’s rhinos are privately owned. WWF supports the creation of a comprehensive rhino registry to track the location and status of all African rhinos.

WWF also works with the South African government to improve forensic investigation of rhino crime scenes and to improve the knowledge and skills of the people who prosecute rhino crimes.

To help increase the number of critically endangered black rhinos, WWF has invested in range expansion. So far seven founder populations of black rhino have been released into new sites. Through the project, 120 black rhino have been translocated and more than 30 calves have been born.