Conservation in the news: 11-17 September 2017

Conservation Watch’s round-up of the week’s news on national parks, protected areas and conservation in the Global South.

For regular updates, follow @conserwatch on Twitter.

[Tanzania] Write a letter for the Maasai
Survival International, September 2017
Since the colonial period, most of what used to be Maasai land has been taken over, for private farms and ranches, for government projects, wildlife parks or private hunting concessions. Mostly they retain only the driest and least fertile areas.
The most immediate threat to the Maasai is against those from Loliondo, an area in northern Tanzania. Here, Maasai villages have been burnt to the ground, and thousands have been evicted, allegedly to provide a safari hunting company, Otterlo Business Corporation Ltd (OBC), with easier access to hunting land.

11 September 2017

The U.N. Keeps the Pressure on Wildlife Criminals
By Cristián Samper (WCS), Huffington Post, 11 September 2017
The United Nations General Assembly took action today to ensure that global momentum addressing illegal wildlife trade will continue to build.
The General Assembly adopted a far-reaching resolution that keeps the illegal wildlife trade high on the global political agenda. At WCS, we commend all countries for their commitment to tackling the issue and we will continue to support countries around the world as they combat the illegal wildlife trade.

[Indonesia] Rampant illegal logging continues at national park
By Apriadi Gunawan, Jakarta Post, 11 September 2017
Despite tight security in the Mount Leuser National Park, concerns mount over continued illegal logging activities in the protected forest areas following the recent arrests of members of an illegal logging syndicate.
A joint team from the National Park and Forest Wildlife Protection Unit in Besitang, Langkat regency, North Sumatra, arrested three suspects on Wednesday. [CW: Subscription needed.]

[Indonesia] Javan rhinos face human incursions into their last remaining habitat
By Donny Iqbal, Mongabay, 11 September 2017
With an estimated population of around 60 individuals, the Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is among the world’s most Critically Endangered species. Once spread across much of southern Asia — from northeastern India to Vietnam, and south to Sumatra and Java in Indonesia — the species is now known to survive in just one habitat: Ujung Kulon National Park at the westernmost tip of Java.
Set aside as a protected area since the Dutch colonial era, Ujung Kulon has long been a safe haven and stronghold for Javan rhinos. But conservationists say this last habitat faces a number of threats, including incursions by humans.

[South Africa] Pride of lions still playing hide-and-seek in Fochville
By Karishma Dipa, IOL, 11 September 2017
The pride of lions that has been on the loose for the past few weeks in Gauteng could have been owned illegally.
This is according to Captured in Africa, a wildlife organisation which works with the wild cats.
Founder and director Drew Abrahamson told The Star that the animals had been roaming the Fochville area for about five weeks now.

[South Africa] Kruger Park rhino poacher sentenced to 20 year in jail
By Pelane Phakgadi, Eyewitness News, 11 September 2017
A rhino poacher who was nabbed at the Kruger National Park last year has been sentenced to an effective 20 years behind bars.
Thirty-year-old Mapoyisa Mahlauli was found guilty of various crimes related to rhino poaching.
He was caught with rhino horn and a rifle after a shootout with rangers in the park.

The Purest Hunt: Tracking Elephants in Zimbabwe
By Tim Herald, 11 September 2017
I recently returned from an African safari in the Zambezi Valley of Zimbabwe, where I led a group of friends and Worldwide Trophy Adventures (WTA) clients for a mixed bag of buffalo and elephant. I know elephant hunting can be controversial, so I’d like to get a few things straight.
First, elephants are not endangered. CITES issues permits in many countries, and if they were endangered, this wouldn’t be the case. Furthermore, where elephants occur, they are usually overpopulated. Zimbabwe has parks that are absolutely overrun with elephants. One park has more than 10,000 elephants, and the carrying capacity is about 1,500. Botswana’s Chobe National Park is drastically more overpopulated. What happens in these situations is the elephants leave the park for food and water, and there is a lot of human conflict.

12 September 2017

‘Keep it local’ approach more effective than government schemes at protecting rainforest
University of Cambridge press release, 12 September 2017
Conservation initiatives led by local and indigenous groups can be just as effective as schemes led by government, according to new research. In some cases in the Amazon rainforest, grassroots initiatives can be even more effective at protecting this vital ecosystem. This is particularly important due to widespread political resistance to hand over control over forests and other natural resources to local communities.

Stopping Wildlife Crime – How Can I Help?
By Bill Laurence, ALERT, 12 September 2017
Wildlife poaching has become a global epidemic. Imperiled wildlife need your help. And you really can make a difference.
Larger mammals, birds, and reptiles are being so widely persecuted that they often survive only in a few safe havens — the last remnants of intact, unhunted habitat.
Typically, these safe places don’t have roads — for that is how many poachers penetrate the forest to set snares or slaughter animals with automatic rifles.

[South Africa] Aim high for rhino security at annual golf day
By Elana Geist, The North Coast Courier, 12 September 2017
Warm up your golf clubs and sign up for SANParks tenth anniversary annual Golfing for Rhino Day at the Umhlali Country Club on Friday, September 15 from 10am.
Get your friends together and join the SANParks Honorary Rangers KZN region for a fun day on the green, while helping to raise money for the anti-poaching work.

[Tanzania] TANAPA Signs on to UAV Anti Poaching Surveillance Agreement
By Joseph Ronson, Life Pulse Health, 12 September 2017
One of the principal protection institutions in Tanzania, TANAPA, which manages the national parks, including such world renowned landscapes as the Serengeti, has signed on to a UAV anti poaching surveillance. Bathawk Recon, the UAV operator, and has been working together with the TCAA, the Military, the Ministry of Natural Resources and TANAPA to develop the operational option for three years.

Anthrax decimates hippos in Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park
Xinhua, 12 September 2017
An outbreak of anthrax has killed at least 42 hippos in south-central Tanzania’s famed Ruaha National Park, authorities have said.
Christopher Timbuka, Ruaha Chief Park Warden, said earlier investigation show the wild animals were killed by anthrax, an infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthraces.
According to the official, a survey carried between August and early September shows that death cases were found in three key areas, which are popular for hosting hippos in the sanctuary.

Thais go #IvoryFree with WildAid and USAID
The Nation, 12 September 2017
More than 30 Thai celebrities and some of the country’s most influential personalities have joined WildAid and USAID Wildlife Asia’s joint campaign, called “I am #IvoryFree,” to deter the purchase of ivory in Thailand.
Due to the global demand for ivory, up to 33,000 elephants per year are killed for their tusks. Many governments around the world have recently banned domestic sale of ivory and others are working to do the same.

13 September 2017

More precious than gold: 10 years of indigenous land rights under the UN Declaration
By Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Thomson Reuters Foundation, 13 September 2017
Ten years ago today, the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
After personally witnessing decades of injustice for the world’s Indigenous Peoples, I welcomed this global commitment to our rights. The lack of secure rights to own and manage our lands has been at the heart of our struggles for centuries now. The forests and rivers we rely on and have managed for generations are prime targets for either destruction – through mining, logging, and dams – or conservation. Either way, the fact that we live there has almost always been seen as an obstacle.

Indigenous peoples are dying in a global war for their lands
By Pamela Jacquelin-Andersen Climate Home, 13 September 2017
Imagine your survival depended on defending the right to live where you are standing right now.
Any day, the government could decide to start extracting oil or constructing a highway, exactly where your family goes to sleep every night, without consulting you. Just picture the mine or highway polluting the water you drink and poisoning the soil up to a point that crops can hardly grow. On top of this, every day you are pushed to speak a foreign language in a country that endangers your culture and way of life.

Indigenous peoples are fighting to save the Earth for all of us
By Pamela Leiva Jacquelin, Intercontinental Cry, 13 September 2017
Imagine that your survival depended on defending your right to live where you are standing right now.
Any day, the government could decide to start extracting oil or constructing a highway, exactly where your family goes to sleep every night, without consulting you. Just picture the mine or highway polluting the water you drink and poisoning the soil so completely that crops can’t even grow. On top of this, every day you are pushed to speak a foreign language in a country that endangers your culture and way of life.

By Andy Crump, Paste, 13 September 2017
Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau’s Trophy should find an audience among people with a sensitivity to animal suffering, but there’s a decent chance it won’t. Their documentary, an intimate, breathtaking examination of the overlap between conservation efforts and the big game hunting industry from Namibia to South Africa, is too unflinching and honest, too willing to put that suffering at its forefront as a necessary gesture for driving home its points about the unexpected ways its two focal points intersect.

FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH Guitarist Helps U.S. Veterans Deter Poaching in Africa, 13 September 2017
FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH guitarist Zoltan Bathory is working with Veterans Empowered To Protect African Wildlife (Vetpaw), a U.S.-based nonprofit organization funded by private donations, to help conservation efforts for rhinos and elephants in South Africa.
Every year, thousands of rhinos and elephants are killed by poachers in South Africa. With the number of rhinos and elephants left on this earth dwindling, Vetpaw is working hard to help conservation efforts in Africa.

Here, Ivory Traders Exploit More Than Elephants
By Jani Actman, National Geographic, 13 September 2017
The Congo Basin bursts with wildlife—monkeys swing from branches, leopards prowl, geckos scuttle up and down tree trunks. And the Baka, an indigenous group that has long inhabited the tropical forest in southeast Cameroon, are students of this rich biodiversity. They know where animals travel and when, and they know which tree bark can cure ailments such as difficulty breathing. (It’s called abanga).
“They’re real scientists in the forest,” says Hanson Njiforti in the short documentary above, produced by New York-based filmmaker Mariah Wilson for National Geographic. Nijforti is the director of WWF’s central Africa branch, which works on the ground in Cameroon to help conserve animals.

[South Africa] Rise in Limpopo lion poaching ‘worrisome’ – MEC
Capricorn Review, 13 September 2017
MEC for Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, Seaparo Sekoati, said he worries about the rise of lion poaching in the province.
Sekoati expressed this concern at the provincial offices in Polokwane recently.
Since early this year, 24 lions have been killed and 11 suspects arrested in connection with the illegal killing of lions in the province.
Sekoati said most of the incidents have occurred on private nature reserves in the Waterberg and Mopani regions.

[South Africa] Authorities unite in bid to curb rising rhino poaching
By Chelsea Pieterse, news24, 13 September 2017
There been a sharp increase in rhino poaching in KwaZulu-Natal and the provincial authorities are gearing up to fight back.
A total of 172 rhinos have been poached in KZN this year so far while the total number in 2016 was 95.

Maasai, migration and conservation: Tanzania snapshots – in pictures
By Marina Vernicos, The Guardian, 13 September 2017
In our weekly look at people’s travels through three of their Instagram images, Marina Vernicos reflects on her trek through northern Tanzania.
The Ngorongoro conservation area in northern Tanzania is a world heritage site, home to the vast Ngorongoro crater and roughly 25,000 large animals. Huge herds of wildebeest and zebra traverse its plains during their annual migration.

14 September 2017

The documentary ‘Trophy’ asks tough questions about big-game hunting and conservation
By Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times, 14 September 2017
The documentary “Trophy,” which shadows the worlds of big-game hunting and conservation, should come with two warnings. One, the movie is unflinching about showing creatures being killed and/or slaughtered — whether happened upon or filmed in the act. It’s not for the squeamish. But also, it may complicate your viewpoints about saving animals from extinction and killing them for sport, which, as laid out in director Shaul Schwarz and co-director Christina Clusiau’s alternately alarming and frustrating film, are intertwined in ways that defy cut-and-dried solutions.

PHD Teams Up with Jackie Chan, WildAid and The Nature Conservancy Group, in New PSA to Protect Pangolin Mammals
PHD press release, 14 September 2017
Newly formed PHD Collective has produced a live action/CG PSA featuring global superstar Jackie Chan and three animated CG pangolin mammals. The public service announcement promotes protection of the endangered pangolin species on behalf of the international animal advocacy group WildAid and The Nature Conservancy Group. PHD also recently completed production of ten additional PSAs for WildAid, including spots featuring talking elephants and rhinos.
In the new PSA, entitled “Jackie Chan – Kung Fu Pangolin,” which was shot in Los Angeles, Chan is seen instructing three small pangolins on how to perform various martial arts moves in order to protect themselves from human poachers.

[Democratic Republic of Congo] In Africa’s Oldest Park, Seeking Solutions to a Destructive Charcoal Trade
By Amy Yee, Yale Environment 360, 14 September 2014
On the wooded outskirts of Virunga National Park, a truck lumbers down a deeply rutted dirt road. The vehicle sags and sways precariously under the weight of its illegal cargo: enormous sacks of charcoal. In the eastern portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, most charcoal is made from trees illicitly harvested from Virunga, Africa’s oldest national park. Covering 3,000 square miles, Virunga is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to some of the world’s last mountain gorillas and other rare wildlife and plants. Yet it is common to see trucks, bicycles, and carts laden with bulging bags of carbonized wood leaving the park and heading to market.

Elephants living in fear: East Africa’s giants are so terrified of poachers they travel at night
By Sofia Lotto Persia, Newsweek, 14 September 2017
Elephants in East Africa are adapting their behavior to survive the greatest threat to their existence: poachers.
A study published in the peer-reviewed Ecological Indicators journal this week suggests that elephants are aware of the danger of poaching gangs and have begun moving at night to avoid them.
The research, carried out by the Kenya-based charity Save the Elephants and the University of Twente in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service, used GPS tracking and mortality data collected in northern Kenya between 2002 and 2012.

Initial survey results reveal a worrying decline in Guinea’s forest elephant population
By Lulu Sloane,, 14 September 2017
A new survey by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has highlighted the increasing risk in the density and distribution of forest elephants in Guinea’s Ziama Massif forest. This is the first time that such a survey has been attempted since 2004.
Due to the poor visibility in dense forest it is virtually impossible to rely on elephant sightings alone. Therefore, to be as accurate as possible, FFI replicated the methods used in the 2004 survey to enable easily comparable results. However, there were so few sightings of forest elephants during the study that an estimate of the population size could not even be attempted – suggesting a severe decline in numbers.

15 September 2017

What works in conservation? In-depth series starts next week
By Shreya Dasgupta, Mongabay, 15 September 2017
How do you solve a conservation problem?
Do you protect a wild leopard that has entered a village by removing it and releasing it into a forest far, far away? Or do you work with the people living in the village and help them live with the leopards and other wildlife that might stray into their backyards?
Do you save a patch of tropical forest by declaring it a protected area and keeping people out? Or do you let local communities take charge?
The answers to these questions are, as might be expected, not straightforward. But we do need answers.

Broadening diversity in biodiversity science
Arizona State University press release, 15 September 2017
In August 2015, the ASU Center for Biodiversity Outcomes Founding Director Leah Gerber and graduate student affiliate Beth Tellman from the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning organized a panel titled “Expanding diversity in the next generation of ecology.” This event attracted dozens of minority students who have led a paper just out in Science titled “Without inclusion, diversity initiatives might not be enough.”
Fewer young people are pursuing conservation science degrees and working in their professions after graduation — even as platforms to increase diversity persist. What is behind this disconnect?

China’s big cats get space to roam
By Liu Qin, China Dialogue, 15 September 2017
To save the endangered Siberian (Amur) tiger and Amur leopard, China is planning a new 14,600 square kilometre national park by 2020 on its border with Russia.
Stretching across an area nine times the size of Greater London, and 60% larger than Yellowstone Park, the national park will include territory from Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces. To make way for the park Jilin has abandoned plans for a new expressway and changed the route of a high-speed rail line.
The national park is a response to a population crisis threatening the two big cats. Human encroachment and the loss and degradation of habitat are believed to be responsible for the fall in numbers of the Siberian tiger, which is the largest of all the big cats, reaching 300 kilogrammes.

[Democratic Republic of Congo] Pygmy death shows need for land reform, group says
By Genevieve Belmaker, Mongabay, 15 September 2017
An organization that advocates on behalf of forests and forest peoples, Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), says that a key land reform issue is to blame for the August 26 death of a Pygmy native.
Christian Mbone Nakulire and his father Munganga Nakulire were looking for medicinal herbs in the forests of Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to FPP, Christian was shot and killed by armed park rangers who patrol the area for the regional conservation authority. His father suffered a gunshot wound to the right arm.

[India] RFO association threatens stir over poaching politics
Times of India, 15 September 2017
The Forest Rangers Association, Maharashtra, has threatened to strike work if action is taken against two range forest officers (RFOs) investigating the Pench tiger poaching cases.
On Friday, over 25 association members will meet principal secretary (forest) Vikas Kharge at Amravati where he will inaugurate the two-day conference of forest officers.

A Blue Economy: What Nigeria Could Learn From Seychelles
By Rafiq Raji, Premium Times, 15 September 2017
Some years ago, at an investor event in London, a prominent Africa-focused portfolio manager wondered if anyone knew where he could get research on Seychelles. The firm I used to work for at the time had perhaps the most comprehensive African macroeconomic research coverage, including on such countries as Sierra Leone, The Gambia and so on; which I incidentally covered at the time. But no, we did not cover Seychelles. The reason was not farfetched. It is a small country, even by African standards. When you think of Seychelles, what immediately comes to mind are its beaches and other tourist attractions. As it turns out, its economy is also well-run. Of course, I have since moved on to other things. But just recently, a contact wondered if my budding research firm, Macroafricaintel, had any report on the country. I wondered what spurred the sudden interest. She graciously explained that her curiosity was aroused by such innovative solutions coming from the country, like the proposed US$15 million blue bond, the proceeds from which would be used to fund the development of sustainable fisheries.

[South Africa] KZN tightens security to curb rhino poaching
Northglen News, 15 September 2017
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is tightening its security in an effort to prevent rhino poaching. MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Sihle Zikalala, unveiled the province’s anti-rhino poaching plans at a joint briefing between the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Department and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife at Spioenkop Nature Reserve.
“Ezemvelo has strengthened its manpower by recruiting an additional 18 security personnel, who will be deployed in 10 rhino reserves,” Zikalala, said. “A command control centre, whose function is to manage the deployment of security personnel and information management, has also been established in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.”

16 September 2017

[India] Tiger poaching: Forest secy hints at CBI probe
By Vijay Pinjarkar, Times of India, 16 September 2017
Sending a stern message to those politicizing Pench tiger poaching case, state principal secretary (forest) Vikas Kharge on Friday said it is a serious issue and those involved will not be spared.
“We will push for a CBI probe into the Pench tiger poaching case. The PCCF (HoFF) Shree Bhagwan has been asked to send a draft in this regard at the earliest,” Kharge told TOI.

[South Africa] Poaching ‘kingpin’ protests trial delay
By Ilse de Lange, The Citizen, 16 September 2017
The bail conditions of two of the accused were relaxed and one of them, a former Hawks warrant officer, will now be able to travel overseas.
The alleged ringleader of a rhino poaching syndicate, Hugo Ras, has complained bitterly to the High Court in Pretoria that he faced indefinite imprisonment because a trial date has not been set more than three years after his arrest.
Ras’ legal counsel said his client wanted to turn to the Supreme Court of Appeal now in an effort to secure bail as he still did not know when his trial would start or end and feared that the actual trial might run for up to 10 years.

17 September 2017

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