Conservation in the news: 25 September – 1 October 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.

25 September 2017

New report exposes widespread abuse funded by big conservation organizations
Survival International, 25 September 2017
A new Survival International report details widespread and systematic human rights abuses in the Congo Basin, by wildlife guards funded by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other big conservation organizations.
The report documents serious instances of abuse between 1989 and the present day in Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic (CAR) by guards funded and equipped by WWF and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the parent organization of New York’s Bronx zoo.
It lists more than 200 instances of abuse since 1989, including pouring hot wax onto exposed skin, beating, and maiming with red-hot machetes. These incidents are likely just a tiny fraction of the full picture of systematic and ongoing violence, beatings, torture and even death.

Wildlife charities fund abuses of pygmies in Congo Basin: report
By Matthew Ponsford, Reuters, 25 September 2017
International wildlife charities are funding anti-poaching squads that arrest, torture and kill indigenous ‘pygmy’ people for hunting in their ancestral forests in the Congo Basin, according to a charity for tribal people.
Conservation organizations including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have backed ranger teams who have forced forest dwellers out of national parks in Cameroon, Central African Republic, and Congo Republic, said the report by Survival International.

Botswana to remain tough in war against rhino poaching: minister
Xinhua, 25 September 2017
Stiff and strict measures will remain enforced to counter rhino poaching in Botswana, the conservation minister said Sunday.
In a statement to commemorate World Rhino Day, Environment, Natural Resources Conversation and Tourism Minister Tshekedi Khama said strict efforts to conserve rhinos will not be softened.
“As it is the case with all other wild animals, the rhinoceros have had its well and woe times over the years,” said Khama.

[India] Madhya Pradesh loses two more young tigers; 15 in 9 months
By P Naveeni, Times of India, 25 September 2017
Madhya Pradesh lost two more young tigers from its reserves in the last 24 hours, taking toll to 15 since January this year. Thirty tiger deaths were reported died in 2016.While a two-year old tigress was found dead inside a well in Bandhavgarh tiger reserve (BTR), Umeria district on Monday, male cub was found in Pench national park (PNP), Seoni district.

[India] Does govt want to destroy wildlife sanctuaries?
Deccan Herald, 25 September 2017
The Supreme Court’s sharp criticism of the central government’s decision to reduce the radius of eco-sensitive zones around national parks and wildlife sanctuaries from 10 km to 100 metres is right and well-deserved. The court has termed the decision an “arbitrary exercise of powers”, which will lead to the destruction of parks and sanctuaries. It expressed surprise and concern over the decision and asked the government whether it wanted to destroy wildlife, forests, rivers and sanctuaries, instead of protecting them. Under the Wildlife Conservation Strategy adopted by the Wildlife Board of India in 2002, the area within a 10-km radius from the boundaries of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries were notified as eco-sensitive zones under the Environment Protection Act. The Supreme Court had also endorsed this. But the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has quietly reduced this buffer zone from 10 km to just 100 metres through a series of notifications since 2015.

Two Indonesian soldiers found to be smuggling dozens of porcupines
By Binolia, Mongabay, 25 September 2017
Two soldiers were caught trying to smuggle dozens of Malayan porcupines (Hystrix brachyura) across provincial borders, the latest arrest of a military officer for wildlife trafficking.
The porcupines are prized for the bezoar stones that form in their stomachs, a component in traditional Chinese medicine thought to cure a range of ailments, from dengue fever to cancer.

Tanzania: Sniffer Dogs to Track Down Poachers, Animal Trophies
By Mussa Juma, The Citizen, 25 September 2017
Sniffer dogs will now be used to track down poachers and illegal traders in animal trophies under an initiative by the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF).
The illegal hunters and smuggled trophies would be tracked using the dogs in the protected areas such as the national parks, game reserves and exit points such as the airports, ports and border points.

Over 50 multinationals bid for construction of hydropower dam in Tanzania’s game reserve
Xinhua, 25 September 2017
At least 50 multinational companies have expressed their bids for the construction of the Rufiji hydropower project at Stiegler’s Gorge in the Selous Game Reserve, one of the largest faunal reserves of the world, located in the south of Tanzania.
President John Magufuli said in Arusha city on Saturday that the bidding has attracted 50 foreign companies after the Ministry of Energy and Minerals announced the tendering process in August this year.

Zimbabwe: Lucky Rhino Mum Survives Attack in Zimbabwe – Conservation Groups
news24Wire, 25 September 2017
A rhino mum is recovering after an attack by armed poachers in southern Zimbabwe, conservationists announced on World Rhino Day on Friday.
“Unity”, as this rhino has been named by her carers is “clearly in considerable pain and discomfort and has a long road to recovery ahead of her”, said the Save Valley Conservancy in a post to Facebook.
She is being looked after – with her calf, who does not appear to have been attacked – by a skilled team. Save Valley Conservancy posted photos of the pair, with evidence of an injury to the mother.

26 September 2017

Pygmies illegally evicted from ancestral land for ‘conservation’: activists
AFP, 26 September 2017
Wildlife guards funded by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other conservation groups have carried out systematic abuses against tribes in central Africa, an activist group claimed on Monday.
Survival International, a British rights group, published a report containing more than 200 reported incidents against the Baka and Bayaka Pygmies in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic since 1989.
It claimed some of the world’s largest conservation organisations, including the WWF and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), illegally evicted the tribes from their ancestral homelands “in the name of conservation”.

[South Africa] Anti-poaching aided from the sky
By Mariana Balt, Low Velder, 26 September 2017
Aerial support for KNP anti-poaching endeavours received a boost when, in celebration of World Rhino Day, MyPlanet Rhino Fund announced it would donate about R1,2 million to buy it a Foxbat A-22LS aircraft.
The administrators of the fund said in a statement last week that technology would improve aerial support for the anti-poaching unit. Aircraft form a critical component of anti-poaching efforts.

[South Africa] Poaching is rife in poorer communities
By Sakhile Ndlazi, IOL, 26 September 2017
Major-General Johan Jooste, head of Special Projects at SANParks, says rhino poaching will not end while communities where rhinos are found are poor.
He was speaking at the launch of ENACT, a crime-monitoring network dedicated to fighting organised crime, to coincide with World Rhino Day last week.
“As long as you have poverty you’ll have crime. And we need to share the wealth in order to at least curb rhino poaching,” he said.
Poachers were often recruited from impoverished communities by wealthy networks, and were lured by payment to kill for rhino horn.

Locals charged with terrorism in Swaziland
By Helene Eloff, Low Velder, 26 September 2017
Three Lowvelders who were charged with poaching and terrorism in Swaziland last month will apply for bail in the country’s High Court tomorrow.
In Swaziland, the Suppression of Terrorism Act acknowledges poaching as an act of terrorism.
Sources confirmed that the accused are two Swaziland citizens, Muzi Dlamini and Sipho Mhlanga, Lowvelders, Isaac Mkhabela and Stanley Khlakalufu (a police reservist) and a third man whose identity remains unknown because his only form of identification was fake.
A Mozambican accomplice was killed during their arrest on August 11 near the Hlane Royal National Park.

[UK] $10m endowment will secure the future of world leading environment conservation initiative at University of Cambridge
Cambridge University press release, 26 September 2017
Thanks to a $10 million endowment from Arcadia, the charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, a world-leading initiative in Cambridge is now developing unique new approaches to some of the biggest challenges facing the planet today.
As life on earth comes under pressure as never before, with threats including habitat destruction, pollution, invasion by alien species and climate change, a complex, multifaceted response that transcends disciplines, organisations and borders is critical to the protection of the planet’s diversity. The future of humanity is also dependent on the living resources that we share this planet with, which provide many fundamental services such as oxygen, clean water and food.

27 September 2017

Can religion help save the planet’s wildlife and environment?
By Curtis Abraham, The Ecologist, 27 September 2017
Dekila Chungyalpa visited Bodh Gaya, a religious site associated with the Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Gaya district in Bihar, northwestern India in 2007. It is here where Buddha is said to have obtained enlightenment and where Chungyalpa experienced an epiphany of her own that would create an unbreakable bond between religion and nature conservation.
The Sikkim-born conservationist was here to attend a talk on compassion towards animals given by the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, spiritual head of one of the major Tibetan Buddhist lineages.

[China] National park plan has ambitious goal to open lands by 2020
By Zheng Jinran, China Daily, 27 September 2017
China released on Tuesday an overall plan on the development and management of national parks, which calls for the strictest measures to protect the country’s natural beauty and pass it on to generations to come.
By 2020, China will formally set up a batch of national parks and establish a new national department to take charge of the comprehensive management of these parks, according to the plan. By 2030, the system will be further improved and the management more efficient, it said.

[South Africa] Communities urged to help curb rhino poaching
Corridor Gazette, 27 September 2017
World Rhino Day was celebrated on Friday and SANParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni urged law-enforcement agencies, communities, neighbouring countries and other stakeholders to join forces to protect rhinos.
“Our rangers are doing their best inside, but we need to replicate their efforts outside our parks to disrupt criminal activities,” he stated.
Mketeni said that 243 rhino had been poached in the KNP this year. There has been a slight decrease in rhino poached nationally, but the high number is still worrying. However, the increasing number of successful arrests and steeper court sentences for convicted poachers is viewed as encouraging.

[South Africa] Northern Cape rhino poaching has Dundee links
By T Worley, Northern KwaZulu-Natal Courier, 27 September 2017
A man implicated in the poaching of two rhinos in the Colesberg area has been arrested in Forestdale, Dundee.
Members of the Glencoe Stocktheft Unit, Warrant Officers Kruger and Rheeders and Constable Khoza swooped on a container tuckshop in Forestdale last Wednesday afternoon.
They apprehended a Malawian national who claimed to be working on behalf of another person at the tuckshop.
The Glencoe Stocktheft Unit was asked to trace the man who fled a game farm in Colesburg, in the Northern Cape, after two rhinos had been poached in July.

28 September 2017

Whether you’re vegan or meat-eater, this big-game hunting doc will make you squirm
By Michael O’Sullivan, Washington Post, 28 September 2017
The battle lines in the hunting debate are clear — but only to the most vocal partisans on each side of the war.
That’s according to a fascinating new documentary that challenges the conventional wisdom about animals. In “Trophy,” we watch a confrontation unfold between two people: Texas sheep farmer Philip Glass, an avid recreational hunter (including of big game in Africa), and an anonymous protester at an anti-hunting rally. Glass — a devout Christian who doesn’t believe in evolution, and who justifies his lethal pastime by saying that God granted man “dominion” over animals — attempts to rattle the angry protester by noting that she probably eats meat. “I’m a vegan,” she shoots back, with a tone of self-righteousness.

Poachers target Africa’s lions, vultures with poison
AP, 28 September 2017
Hundreds of vultures in Namibia died after feeding on an elephant carcass that poachers had poisoned.
Poachers in Zimbabwe used cyanide to kill dozens of elephants for their ivory tusks. In Mozambique three lions died after eating bait infused with a crop pesticide.
Poisoning Africa’s wildlife is an old practice, but conservationists fear such incidents are escalating in some areas, saying relatively easy access to agricultural chemicals and the surging illegal market for animal parts are increasing pressure on a number of already beleaguered species. The threat is compounded by the indiscriminate nature of killing with poison, in which a single contaminated carcass can take down a range of animals, particularly scavengers such as vultures.

[India] Salman Khan gets relief in blackbuck poaching case, Jodhpur court dismisses plea against him
Hindustan Times, 28 September 2017
A trial court in Jodhpur dismissed the plea of former forest officer Lalit Bodha against Bollywood actor Salman Khan, for misleading the court in connection with the 1998 blackbuck poaching case.
In October 1998, Salman Khan was charged with poaching two blackbucks at Jodhpur’s Kankani village. Khan was also charged with possessing an unlicensed .22 rifle and a .32 revolver which he allegedly used in poaching the blackbucks.
During the shooting of Sooraj Barjatya’s movie, Hum Saath Saath Hain in 1998, Salman allegedly went on a shooting expedition along with actors Saif Ali Khan, Neelam, Sonali Bendre and Tabu, killing two blackbucks in Kankani village. Following protests by the local Bishnoi community, a case was later filed against Salman and the other actors.

[India] Eco-conservation being viewed as anti-national activity: activist
The Hindu, 28 September 2017
The governments in the country are viewing environmental conservation efforts as “anti-national activities”, Magsaysay-award winning river conservation activist Rajendra Singh has said.
Giving away an award instituted in the name of environmental activist Kallen Pokkudan to District Congress Committee president T. Siddique here on Thursday, he said that there would be good governance in the country only if the ecology was conserved. Progressive governments should be able to solve environmental issues amicably. Stressing the need for water literacy to counter global warming, Mr. Singh said that the issue should not be mixed up with politics.

[Kenya] Is it time we changed approach to conservation?
By Daniella Maroma, Daily Nation, 28 September 2017
A few days ago, Kajiado Governor Joseph Ole Lenku was in the news yet again.
This time, however, he was not goofing on Al-Shabaab massacre at Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi with his burning mattresses theory.
He was threatening that Kajiado residents, whose lives greatly depend on pastoralism, be allowed to graze in the surrounding national parks or they would kill wild animals that trespass into their land.

How effective is conservation in Madagascar? Series starts next week
By Rowan Moore Gerety, Mongabay, 28 September 2017
To travel in Madagascar is to be reminded of just how small we are relative to our pale blue dot of a planet, or even its fourth largest island.
Travel times in Madagascar are often counted in days. When I was planning my trip to report the “Conservation in Madagascar” series on the successes and failures of conservation work there, one piece of advice I got was to “avoid traveling over land whenever you can.” I was dissuaded from visiting one protected area about 200 miles from Toliara, in the southwest, because I was told it would take five days to reach it. To get to another, where a flock of rare ducks was discovered 15 years after researchers thought the species had gone extinct, I learned that traveling the last 25 miles would take close to a full day, not on foot, but in a rented 4×4.

[Malaysia] Poaching suspected in one of two elephants deaths in Sabah
By Julia Chan, Malay Mail, 28 September 2017
Sabah Wildlife authorities have confirmed reports of two dead Bornean Pygmy Elephants here, with one believed to be the work of ivory poachers.
Sabah Wildlife Director Augustine Tuuga said they found two elephant carcasses within a span of two weeks at separate locations in Sabah’s east coast district of Tawau and Sandakan.
“The death of the elephants is true but the death of the elephant found in Dumpas was not due to poaching,” he said when contacted by Malay Mail Online.

29 September 2017

Hollywood films can save the planet – or endanger it
By Kitty Knowles, The Memo, 29 September 2017
“You have never been a more endangered species than you are at this moment,” jests the sloth bear Baloo in Jon Favreau’s recent CGI adaption of the The Jungle Book.
Mr Pangolin in Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book.
Baloo is speaking to a small scaly creature, a pangolin, and his joke references the precarious real-world status of pangolins in southern and eastern Asia.

[India] Wildlife Crimes Down Over A Decade: Environment Ministry
Odishatv.in, 29 September 2017
Ahead of the Global Wildlife Program (GWP) involving 19 Asian countries, to be held here on October 2 to address the issue of illegal wildlife trade, the government on Friday said wildlife crimes in India have dropped in last 10 years.
Stating that India was playing a leadership role in managing wildlife, Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan stressed that the numbers of free ranging animals had gone up.
“The number of rhinos, tigers and elephants is in fact increasing,” the minister said.

Kenya Celebrates the Success of Rhino Conservation
By Jonathan Odongo, Fair Observer, 29 September 2017
Rhino conservation efforts in Kenya demonstrate that it is possible to overcome poaching.
As the world marked the 2017 World Rhino Day on September 22 to celebrate all the five species of rhino – black, white, Indian, Sumatran and Javan — Kenya’s Lewa Wildlife Conservancy celebrated four years of successful protection of the species against poaching.
The celebration that attracted various stakeholders in wildlife protection in northern Kenya – the Kenya Wildlife Service, the police, the Northern Rangelands Trust, local communities and members of the judiciary — was marked by a 5-kilometer patrol, “A day in the Life of a Ranger,” to immerse participants in the daily life and drama faced by those fighting to protect Kenya’s wildlife.

[Myanmar] Thousands of local people protest against expansion of Khakaborazi National Park
By Phanida, Mizzima, 29 September 2017
Local people from Putao, Machanbaw, Nogmung staged a protest demonstration on September 28 over designating more areas in the World Heritage Khakaborazi National Park as it undermined their livelihood.
Rawang Literature and Culture Committee Putao Township Chairman M Yawshu said, “In designating the new areas of the world heritage national park, the restrictions imposed on local people barred them from entering the area so that they could not work. Our elders discussed this and then decided to stage a protest against the designation of additional areas to this heritage park.”

[Tanzania] Park rangers use IoT in mission to save endangered black rhinos
By Nicholas Fearn, Internet of Business, 29 September 2017
Connected tech company The Internet of Life has teamed up with conservationists the ShadowView Foundation to protect endangered black rhinos with IoT sensors.
The organizations have implanted LoRaWAN-equipped sensors directly into the horns of these animals, giving park rangers the ability to monitor their whereabouts and activities to keep them safe from poachers.
Part of a wider LoRaWAN IoT Smart Parks solution that’s being rolled out in several national parks across Africa, this phase of the operation was conducted in Tanzania.

[USA] Harrison Ford on conservation: ‘Nature is my god’
By Rozanne Roberts, Washington Post, 29 September 2017
Most of the guests oohed and aahed over the live animals — a Chinese alligator, a red macaw, South African penguins and more adorableness — at Thursday’s gala for the Smithsonian National Zoo.
But not Harrison Ford. The actor and passionate conservationist doesn’t do cute.
“My favorite animal is the human being, because it has the capacity to change the world in a way that other animals do not,” he said in an interview before the dinner. “And it has the capacity to protect all animals, not just the cute ones.”

30 September 2017

Fifa, and a species in peril
By Ananda Banerjee, Live Mint, 30 September 2017
In the coming week, youth teams of 24 countries will kick off the Fifa Under-17 World Cup, in India. The sport of football, or “the beautiful game”, is trying to revive the glory days of the 1950s and 1960s. India won gold in the 1951 and 1962 editions of the Asian Games and finished fourth in the 1956 Olympic games.
At the forefront of promoting this major international sporting spectacle is Fifa’s mascot Kheleo—an anthropomorphic character representing the clouded leopard, an endangered cat. The name is an amalgamation of two words— “khel” (meaning sport) and “leo” from the leopard. The U-17 World Cup will be played in six cities—New Delhi, Goa, Kochi, Guwahati, Kolkata and Navi Mumbai—from 6-28 October.

[India] Wildlife smuggling continues in frontier areas
By Nihi Sharma, Hindustan Times, 30 September 2017
The Pithoragarh case in which three leopard skins were smuggled from Nepal highlights the flourishing illegal cross-border wildlife trade despite the presence of central armed police forces in frontier areas.
Earlier, the Sashastra Seema Bal and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have helped in cracking several wildlife crime cases. Ironically, the ‘carrier’ in Pithoragarh was arrested a few days after the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and the Wildlife Institute of India discussed a strategy with Nepalese officials on checking illegal wildlife trade, and discussed strengthening border vigilance.

Plantations in Sabah losing millions because of elephants
By Tracy Patrick, FMT news, 30 September 2017
Oil palm plantations are losing millions from damaged crops, sometimes spanning 30 hectares in total, when elephant herds raid the area, says the Sabah Wildlife Department.
Its director Augustine Tuuga told FMT that smallholders were hit the hardest as they could sometimes lose up to six hectares of crops in just one night.
“Elephant raids are a major problem for plantations in areas where elephants are found.
“These herds damage oil palm trees and eat the shoots, causing the companies to incur big losses,” he said, adding that Sabah Softwood Bhd for example, reported a loss of RM3 million a few years back.

[Philippines] DENR mulls arming forest rangers
By Jaymee T. Gamil, Inquirer.net, 30 September 2017
Following the murder of a barangay chair and environmental enforcer in Palawan earlier this month, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, a former chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), started mulling the possibility of arming environmental patrollers with guns.
In a statement earlier this week, Cimatu revealed that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) would ask the military and the police to train foresters in security protocols and the use of firearms.

1 October 2017

Ford Provides $20,000 in Grants for Educational and Conservation Efforts in Africa
The News Wheel, 1 October 2017
Ford Motor Company last month donated $20,000 USD in grants to education and conservation projects taking place in Kenya, Mozambique, and Tanzania.
Of that total, $10,000 will be provided to the Africa Foundation to help push forward with its education program in Tanzania and Mozambique. A portion of those funds will also be used in Tanzania to aid in the task of facilitating Black Rhino relocation by destroying alien vegetation. The other $10,000 is being given to the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust to help the Maasai community preserve the Greater Amboseli-Tsavo Ecosystem in Kenya.

[Kenya] ‘White bone’ has admirable agenda, larger-than-life protagonist
By Walt Braun, The Mercury, 1 October 2017
“White Bone” is a story about Kenya. More specifically yet, it’s about corruption in Kenya. Exhibit A, hardly fiction, would be last summer’s election, the results of which the country’s supreme court nullified while calling for another vote this fall.
“White Bone” also is about exploitation, which, along with widespread corruption, has hindered progress in multiple areas in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa for generations, if not centuries. The Chinese are among antagonists in this novel; they’re investing heavily in Kenya and other parts of Africa while consolidating as much control over the continent’s natural resources as possible.
The Europeans, also in the name of progress, did much the same thing in previous centuries, and the United States, while often being a force for good, hasn’t been entirely altruistic.

[Malaysia] Wan Junaidi: ‘Hunt animal poachers down’
The Star, 1 October 2017
No effort must be spared in bringing the wildlife poachers behind the senseless killings of Bornean pygmy elephants and turtles to justice, says Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.
“The Ministry strongly urges the Sabah Wildlife Department and other agencies in Sabah to work tirelessly to find the perpetrators of these heinous crimes against our turtles and other wildlife as soon as possible,” the Natural Resources and Environment Minister said in a statement on Saturday.
Dr Wan Junaidi said he was appalled by and condemned the blatant lack of regard for the welfare of turtles by unscrupulous groups of people living in Sabah’s coastal areas.

[Tanzania] Loliondo herders against sale of their livestock
By Zephania Ubwani, The Citizen, 1 October 2017
Livestock keepers in Loliondo area within Ngorongoro district whose cattle were confiscated by the game rangers during a recent operation against grazing in protected areas have reiterated their anger over the auctioning of their animals.
They said they were paid ‘peanuts’ after their cattle were sold as a punishment to them for grazing them within or on the fringes of Serengeti National Park and portions of the Loliondo Game Controlled Area where grazing is prohibited.
Up to 600 head of cattle which were found in prohibited areas were auctioned on August 18th, this year through Ubapa court broker.

[Thailand] Humans must learn to live with elephants, say experts
By Pratch Rujivanarom, The Nation, 1 October 2017
Forest preservation measures and a better understanding of animal behaviour will help find a sustainable solution to the problem of crop destruction by wild elephants, according to wildlife experts.
There have been several reports in the past month of wild elephants encroaching on farmland near the forest, especially in the Eastern Region, destroying crops and sometimes hurting people and damaging personal belongings.

[USA] Former Wisconsin chief warden helping train African game wardens to fight poachers
By Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1 October 2017
When Randy Stark started his career as a conservation warden, his duties included helping protect Wisconsin’s famous prehistoric sturgeon population.
Poaching of the valuable fish, whose eggs can command high prices, was a problem in a state with the largest concentration of lake sturgeon in the world.
“One of the first things I did as a young warden was to sit on the banks of the Wolf River at night and wait for people who came to grab the sturgeon,” said Stark, who started with the Department of Natural Resources in 1984.

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