Conservation in the news: 20-26 November 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.

20 November 2017

Elephant advocates sue Trump administration on trophy hunting
By Ian Simpson, Reuters, 20 November 2017
Conservation groups sued the U.S. government on Monday over a plan to allow hunters to bring home elephant and lion trophies from Zimbabwe, following changing statements about the possible move by President Donald Trump’s administration.
The lawsuit in federal court in Washington was the latest move in a saga that began last week when a trophy hunting group said at a conference in Africa that the White House was ready to overturn a rule banning the import of elephant trophies, sparking a surge of criticism from wildlife advocates.

Biotech Startup Plans To Sell Fake Rhino Horns To Disrupt Poaching Market
By Chris Ogden, Lad Bible, 20 November 2017
It goes without saying that poaching is a terrible crime. Not only is it damaging for land-owners, it also sees innocent and often endangered animals being killed.
For that reason, you can understand why some companies have joined the fight against poaching, with one bio-tech startup company in particular, doing their bit to disrupt the market for rhino’s horns.
Two-year old startup Pembient, based in Seattle, WA, plans to ‘bio-fabricate’ rhino horns using 3D printing, making them genetically identical to the real thing. The company plans to create its fake horns from keratin – the same material found in fingernails and hair.

A Trump US policy reversal on trophy hunting imports would be terrible for African elephants
By Yomi Kazeem, Quartz, 20 November 2017
Last week, the Trump administration put the brakes on a proposed policy reversal on animal trophy hunting in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Several reports suggested the administration was reconsidering allowing the imports of elephant trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe into the US. The ban was put in place in 2014 by the Obama administration.
Even though the pause on the policy reversal might have something to do with a barrage of criticism from conservation groups, Trump said a decision will be made next week. But just how bad could things turn out for the elephant population in both countries if trophy hunting imports are allowed in the US?

Picking up good vibrations for elephant conservation
By Anahita Verahrami, Elephant Listening Project, 20 November 2017
As a recent graduate from Cornell, I’ve left with my pockets brimming with memories of extraordinary moments. My favorite moments come from my undergraduate research work with BRP, and specifically, The Elephant Listening Project.
The Elephant Listening Project (ELP) uses sound recorders to monitor and learn more about the behavior of forest elephants in Central Africa. African forest elephants, Loxodonta cyclotis — unlike their much better known cousins, the African savanna elephant, Loxodonta africana — are highly elusive, so observing them directly in their dense rainforest habitat is extremely difficult.

[Bangladesh] Poaching wild animals must stop
Prothom Alo, 20 November 2017
Bangladesh has cropped up on the US state department’s list of countries in special focus concerning the poaching of wildlife. It is a matter of concern that Bangladesh should be included among the 26 countries where this criminal offence of poaching animals takes place. The US state department report published on Friday stated, three types of crimes concerning animal poaching are taking place in 26 countries, including Bangladesh. Firstly, the animals are being smuggled out of the country. Secondly, the territories of these countries are being used as smuggling routes. Thirdly, the smuggled animals are being used in those countries.

[India] Western Ghats’ biodiversity ‘faces threat’, says report
Press Trust of India, 20 November 2017
Biodiversity in India’s iconic Western Ghats is facing a threat from forest loss, encroachment and conversion, says a global environment agency in its report.
It also put the hills in “Significant Concern” category in its new outlook in the conservation prospects of natural World Heritage sites.
The report, released recently by IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, at the UN climate change conference in Bonn, Germany, says pressure from the human population in the Western Ghats region is greater than that faced by many protected areas around the world.

21 November 2017

Experience or evidence: How do big conservation NGOs make decisions?
By Shreya Dasgupta, Mongabay, 21 November 2017
When a female Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), and then her daughter, died in India’s Burachapori Wildlife Sanctuary last year, conservationists were worried. The rhinos’ horns were intact, so they had not fallen prey to poachers. Their deaths were instead attributed to some “natural cause” that no one could pinpoint.
The pair had been introduced to Burachapori, in the northeastern state of Assam, as part of an ambitious and expensive scheme called Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV 2020). The plan aimed to increase rhino numbers in Assam and rewild protected areas like Burachapori and Manas National Park that once held their own rhino populations.

Elephant cries after seeing others slaughtered in saddest Christmas advert ever made
By Richard Hartley-Parkinson, Metro, 21 November 2017
This advert of an elephant crying may be one of the saddest Christmas adverts ever produced. The highly emotionally charged clip challenges the UK Government’s view that animals aren’t sentient beings and Donald Trump’s view that hunting ‘trophies’ should be allowed. It was produced by the World Wildlife Fund as part of their Just Like Us campaign.

With Good Governance We Can Protect Wildlife and the Wellbeing of Traditional People in Africa
By David Wilkie, Wildlife Conservation Society, 21 November 2017
In the Congo forest, Saatatu, my Efe (pygmy) friend and teacher, holds up his hand so I stop. Saatatu points about 50 feet in front of us. There, almost hidden in the fronds of a small shrub, stands a black-fronted antelope. If Saatatu’s bow arm is steady and his aim is true, we will bring meat back to camp tonight for all to share. Placing a leaf fletched arrow against the bow string, Saatatu draws — but the duiker somehow senses we are there and in a blur turns and disappears into the forest. Another hunt ends with nothing to show for it. We will gather some mushrooms we saw this morning but it will not be the same as having some meat to eat. Next time with luck.

The evolution of armed conflict in Africa
By Curtis Abraham, The Ecologist, 21 November 2017
The changing nature of armed conflict in Africa and its effects on the continent’s biodiversity and ecosystems has rendered these natural resources even more vulnerable than in previous times. The main reason, say experts, is the changes that have occurred in the scale, intensity and technologies associated with military conflicts and violent civil strife.
In 2009, Conservation International reported that over 90% of the major armed conflicts between 1950 and 2000 occurred within countries containing biodiversity hotspots, and more than 80% took place directly within hotspot areas. Most of these hotspots have suffered repeated episodes of violence.

This startup plans to end rhino poaching by counterfeiting illegal goods — and it could work
By Alexandry Micu, ZME Science, 21 November 2017
A Seattle-based startup plans to save the rhinos — by outselling the poachers. Key to this strategy will be bio-fabricating fake horns out of keratin, the substance hair and fingernails are made of, to tank the price of horns on the black market and drive poachers out of business.
There’s one pretty nifty concept in economics that has stubbornly defied policy ever since someone first thought of banning anything — supply and demand. It’s why the Prohibition worked about as well as a raft made of concrete and why the harder we push forth the “war on drugs” the less headway we make.

[Kenya] New technology is protecting animals from poachers in Africa
By Ken Foxe, Lonely Planet, 21 November 2017
Poachers in Africa are being targeted by sophisticated technology that constantly monitors the daily movements of elephants, rhinos, and other protected animals. The Domain Awareness System (DAS) is helping protect animals tracking vehicles, aircraft, and animals as they move around the natural environment.

[South Africa] Anti poaching team celebrates success
By Se-Anne Rall, IOL, 21 November 2017
Police are continuing their fight against rhino poaching with the Rhino 8 team having secured the arrests of several suspected poachers in the areas of Acornhoek, Skukhuza, Phalaborwa, Hluhluwe, Barberton and KwaMsane in the last month.
The Rhino 8 team comprises of various government departments including members from various disciplines of the South African Police Service, Customs and Excise, the South African National Defence Force and Ezemvelo and SANParks Game Rangers.

Lifting of ban on elephant trophy hunts cheers Zim, Zambia
By Emmanuel Koro, The Herald, 21 November 2017
The Trump administration’s move to lift a ban on elephant trophy hunts recently will certainly help to improve revenue streams for Zimbabwe and Zambia’s conservation efforts. The lifting of the elephant trophies import ban and the revenue to be gained will improve the socioeconomic well-being of the two Southern African countries’ poor rural communities and through this, create an incentive to conserve elephants.
Southern African countries have always argued for the use of their natural resources through activities such as elephant trophy hunting, trade in ivory, including rhino horn and warned that if this does not happen then communities neighbouring the national parks and game reserves would not see the need to conserve elephants and other wild species because they would associate them with costs and not benefits — literally view them as pest.

22 November 2017

Unquestioning defence of ‘militarized conservation’ is naïve (commentary)
By Leejiah Dorward and Paul Barnes, Mongabay, 22 November 2017
In a recent article, Niall McCann attacks critiques of the “militarization” of conservation by academics such as Professor Rosaleen Duffy of the University of Sheffield in the UK.
McCann’s position and argument not only fundamentally misunderstands and misrepresents the position of many committed conservationists but also uses an array of flawed and incomplete arguments to defend increasingly militant enforcement of wildlife crime. His arguments, if widely accepted, not only threaten the long-term survival of the species he wishes to save but risk setting conservation practice back decades by promoting colonial era views towards relationships between wildlife, local communities, and the international conservation movement.

Rangers’ lives would be put at risk if Trump reverses elephant trophy ban
By Sean Willmore (Thin Green Line Foundation International Ranger Federation), The Guardian, 22 November 2017
The announcement that the Trump administration is considering overturning the US ban on elephant trophy imports from Zambia and Zimbabwe is one that directly threatens the lives of African park rangers who are tasked with protecting elephants and their ecosystems.
Over the last 10 years, more than 1,000 rangers – who are employed by governments, NGOs and private companies – have lost their lives in the line of duty. Sadly, between July 2016 and July 2017, we know of 105 park rangers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

No, trophy hunting does not help save endangered species
By Lori Bell, Lady Freethinker, 22 November 2017
An estimated 100 African elephants are killed every day by poachers. While it’s clear elephants are endangered, the most effective way to protect them remains hotly debated. A minority of wildlife welfare advocates see trophy hunting as a way to “help” endangered species, arguing that countries can use revenues from hunting permits to fund conservation efforts.

Chinese Internet firms to share intelligence with govt on illegal wildlife trade
By Liu Caiyu, Global Times, 22 November 2017
China’s Internet giants formed an alliance on Wednesday and promised to share intelligence with government on the illegal wildlife trade on their platforms to combat increasing wildlife cyber crime.
The alliance was initiated by Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, and supported by eight other Chinese Internet companies to address the illegal wildlife trade online.
The announcement was made on Wednesday during a meeting hosted by the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC), China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Beijing.

Mozambique Proposes Resuming Hunting of Hippos
AIM, 22 November 2017
Mozambique is in favour of resuming limited sports hunting of hippopotamus, and intends to take this proposal to the next meeting of the Standing Committee of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), due to be held in Geneva next week.
In 2012, CITES decided to suspend the trade in hippopotamus trophies from Mozambique, since the size of the Mozambican hippo population was unclear, making it difficult to allocate quotas for sport hunting.
“Mozambique is working with the European Union, the United States and the CITES Secretariat, in order to resume the international trade in hippopotamus trophies”, said Bartolomeu Soto, the General Manager of Mozambique’s National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC).

[South Africa] 50 arrested for rhino poaching in the past four weeks
Mpumalanga News, 22 November 2017
Over the past four weeks, a total of 50 suspects have been arrested for various crimes related to rhino poaching in the areas of Accornhoek, Skukuza, Barbeton, Hluhluwe and KwaMsane.
Two of these suspects, a father and son appeared at the Mkhuhlu Magistrate’s Court on November 6, on charges of possession of unlicensed fire arms which may be related to rhino poaching. This is after two hunting rifles were found at their home in Calcutta near Hazyview.

23 November 2017

Makers of wildlife hunting laws should consult local people
environmentalresearchweb.org, 23 November 2017
“Hunting is a hot topic right now, with opinions sharply divided over whether the Trump administration’s recent proposals to roll back some restrictions on trophy imports from certain countries in Africa would be a good or bad thing for wildlife conservation,” ‘t Sas-Rolfes told environmentalresearchweb. “To make sense of these debates, careful analysis of the impact of different types of hunting in Africa is much needed.”
The Trump administration has delayed a decision on its plans to reverse the ban on the import of elephant hunting trophies from Zimbabwe. The ban was imposed by the Obama administration.

The War On Poaching: British Forces On The Front Line
Forces Network, 23 November 2017
The British Army’s Grenadier Guards have this week revealed a secret that they’ve been hiding for the past three months.
They’ve been in Malawi, East Africa, along with a mixture of other regiments, helping in the fight to prevent poaching.
A select few members of various regiments have been patrolling the 548 square kilometres of woodland and savannah that makes up the Liwonde National Park.

[Cambodia] Ministry to investigate Prey Lang land grabs
By Pech Sotheary, Khmer Times, 23 November 2017
The Prey Lang Community Network in Preah Vihear province has asked the government to investigate the building of homes in a protected area by a group of families claiming they were granted a social land concession.
Phok Hong, a PLCN representative, said the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 2016, and since then, about 700 families have grabbed land totalling nearly 5,000 hectares to build homes.

[Vietnam] Wild animals traded via agriculture export to China
Vietnam.net, 23 November 2017
The illegal trading of wild animals which mostly come from Africa is carried out by air and waterways through Laos, Cambodia to Vietnam, and then by road from Vietnam to China, the report said.
“The smugglers often hide the frozen animals or animal parts including ivory, tiger bones, or rhino horn among agricultural products being exported to China through border gates or open roads between the two countries.
The ministry also said that local customs officers have dealt with 42 wild animal smuggling cases so far this year in Vietnam with products mainly ivory, rhino horn and pangolins.

24 November 2017

What if there is a price tag on nature?
By Ananda Banerjee, Live Mint, 24 November 2017
If “natural capital” takes its course, the unaccounted value of nature—clean air, fresh water, wetlands, forests and many other “free goods from nature’s bounty” that keep us alive—will have an economic value and most probably be accounted for. For example, wetlands would have an economic value for water cycling—they soak up surface water, filter it and slowly release it back to the surface—and flood control mechanisms, and forests for carbon sequestration.

Is culture missing from conservation? Scientists take cues from indigenous peoples.
By Joseph Dussault, Christian Science Monitor, 24 November 2017
When you hear the word “ecosystem,” what do you imagine? Maybe you picture a grizzly bear pawing at salmon breaching a frigid stream, or a kaleidoscopic seascape of fish and coral. But you may have missed one critical element of the natural world: humans.
But not everyone draws such a clear line between humans and the natural world. Many indigenous peoples, for instance, view humans as vital components of thriving ecosystems. Drawing from that approach, some researchers suggest that a “biocultural” strategy – one that bridges science, community, and culture – might produce better long-term conservation and sustainability outcomes. But first, some experts say, we may need to rethink humanity’s relationship with nature.

Ending trophy hunting could actually be worse for endangered species
By Amy Dickman, CNN, 24 November 2017
I am a lifelong animal lover and vegetarian for whom the idea of killing animals for fun is repellent, and have committed my career to African wildlife conservation.
You might, therefore, expect that I would have been thrilled with Donald Trump’s suggestion – influenced apparently by media and animal rights pressures – that he could decide against the US importation of trophy-hunted elephants (and possibly other species such as lions).
However, I am fearful that impulsive and emotional responses to trophy hunting — no matter how well-meaning — could in fact intensify the decline of species such as lions.

[Cambodia] Oknha accused of logging in protected forest
By Phak Seangly, Phnom Penh Post, 24 November 2017
The environment minister has promised to investigate allegations that a tycoon-owned company is using a land concession to illegally log wood in a protected area in Preah Vihear province.
At a ministry forum on Wednesday, local residents and a representative of rights NGO Ponlok Khmer asked Environment Minister Say Sam Al to intervene to halt alleged illegal logging in the Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary by the Sam Oeun Sovan company, owned by Oknha Dy Duk.

India starts work on Rhino DNA database to curb poaching
By Malavika Vyawahare, Hindustan Times, 24 November 2017
India is creating a DNA database to hold genetic information of its rhino population in a bid to curb poaching of the endangered species whose horns are in great demand in the illegal wildlife trade.
The wildlife division of the environment ministry has directed the states where the mammal is found to start collecting samples.

[India] Pakke Tiger Reserve takes on poachers
The Arunachal Times, 24 November 2017
After three people were arrested with a tiger skin at Biswanath Charali, in the northern range of Kaziranga Tiger Reserve on November 16, the officials of Pakke Tiger Reserve rushed to be part of the investigation, after reports of the tiger being allegedly poached from Pakke Tiger Reserve surfaced.
The Forest Department of Pakke Tiger Reserve has also taken a lead role in working with the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau where they clamped down and arrested another highly organised poaching gang last month.

[Kenya] Internet of Elephants builds AR app to help wildlife conservation
blooloop.com, 24 November 2017
Nairobi startup – Internet of Elephants – is building an app-based game to help boost public awareness of wildlife conservation.
The Kenyan social enterprise aims to educate people about endangered species in an engaging way, turning animal migrations into a game. It’s a collaboration of technologists, conservationists, educators, game designers and strategists. Their stated aim is to create a stronger connection between people and wild animals.

African Parks: Game-changing efforts to conserve wildlife in Malawi
By Theodore Koumelis, Travel Daily News, 24 November 2017
A pioneering partnership between conservation non-profit African Parks and the British Military has reinforced efforts to combat poaching in Malawi. A team of Rangers in Liwonde National Park, which is managed by African Parks in partnership with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), spent 12 weeks between August and October this year with seven British Military soldiers building on skills to support the long-term protection of the park and its wildlife.

[Zimbabwe] Elephant trophy hunts created backlash
The Courier, 24 November 2017
Finally, one thing a divided nation — conservative and liberal politicians and commentators — can agree upon: Endangered African elephants shouldn’t be hunted for fun and profit.
After a public outcry, President Donald Trump put “on hold” a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finding “that the killing of African elephant trophy animals in Zimbabwe … will enhance the survival of the African elephant.”
The administration recently lifted a similar ban in Zambia.

Timber Export Ban meant to promote timber processing and manufacturing in Zambia
Lusaka Times, 24 November 2017
Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Jean Kapata says Zambia has placed a total ban on exportation of all forms of timber logs in a bid to promote timber processing and manufacturing in the country.
She also says government wants value addition to the raw materials that are being exported.
The Minister says the move will help Zambia create jobs through partnerships between the local people and foreign investors.

25 November 2017

[India] To curb man-animal conflict, forest dept takes to the sky
Times of India, 25 November 2017
The forest department on Friday unveiled the plans to use a drone on a trial basis to curb incidents of man-animal conflict in Coimbatore forest range.
The drone will be fitted with a camera and a system that will produce some noise to chase wild elephants away into the forest. If found successful, drones will be made available to the remaining six forest ranges in the district, said N Satheesh, district forest officer, Coimbatore forest division.

[India] Bear-attack trends highlight need for conflict mitigation
By Aathira Perinchery, The Hindu, 25 November 2017
It’s not wild elephants or man-eating tigers, but sloth bears that cause the most number of human deaths in central India’s Kanha–Pench wildlife corridor. An analysis of bear attacks in central India, published in PLOS ONE, shows that there is an urgent need for conflict mitigation and improvement of compensation schemes for victims.

Tokyo woman, 77, leads charge to save elephants in Vietnam forest
By Hiroko Saito, The Asahi Shimbun, 25 November 2017
Ethnic minority people and elephants have been living happily together like a family since back in the day in Vietnam’s Yok Don National Park.
Elephants have been a great help for these people by carrying timber and doing farm work.
The biodiverse forest is also a home for wild elephants.

26 November 2017

[India] Ganja farming exposes tiger reserves vulnerability
By Wilson Thomas, The Hindu, 26 November 2017
The destruction of a marijuana plantation-cum-nursery at Melkurumalai coming under Udumalpet range of Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) has exposed the vulnerability of State’s tiger reserves that are touted to be the most protected forest zones. The marijuana plantation was located deep inside the forest, to be precise five-hour-long drive from Udumalpet and four-hours of trekking thereafter.
A senior official of the Forest Department whom The Hindu spoke to on Sunday said that only a multi-tier security system including use of drones can protect the tiger reserves in the State from poaching, ganja cultivation, and other threats to the wildlife.

[India] Order freezing tribal rights in tiger reserves violates FRA, NCST tells tiger authority
By Nikhil M Ghanekar, DNA, 26 November 2017
The National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) controversial directive from March this year asking states to stop settlement of tribal rights inside tiger reserves violates the Forest Rights Act, 2006, and should be thus kept in abeyance, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) told NTCA in a meeting.
The NTCA, under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), had said in the directive to 17 tiger bearing states that the rights settlement should be halted as the guidelines to notify ‘critical wildlife habitats’ were not formulated. This was the responsibility of MoEF&CC, and the guidelines that were to be prepared in 2007 are still pending.

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