Conservation in the news: 4-10 December 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.

4 December 2017

Secrets in the mist: New documentary reveals new theory on who killed gorilla conservationist Dian Fossey
By Warren Manger, The Mirror, 4 December 2017
Smiling with motherly affection at the orphaned gorilla clinging to her neck, this is how the world remembers­ Dian Fossey .
The incredible pictures made her the most famous conservationist on the planet, inspired the Hollywood classic Gorillas in the Mist and helped her save the species from extinction.
But they hide a darker side to her struggle, as desperation to save her gorilla family from poachers drove her to extreme lengths.
She is claimed to have tied up hunters, smeared them with gorilla dung, and whipped their testicles with stinging nettles.
She is even said to have kidnapped one poacher’s son.

[Tanzania] Disconcerting News from Loliondo
By Susanna Nordlund, View from the Termite Mound, 4 December 2017
After the stopping of the long, illegal “operation” on village land in Loliondo, in which at least 250 bomas were burned to the ground, men, women and children were brutally beaten, and cattle illegally seized, and after the almost too good to be true news from the new Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism that OBC – that organise hunting for Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai and that for many years have been lobbying for turning the 1,500 km2 of important grazing land that’s their core hunting area into a “protected area”, inciting conflict and violence – will have to leave before January 2018, there is some disconcerting news from Loliondo.
This blog post has many questions and few answers, but is already getting too old and must be published. I hope there will eventually be answers.

[USA] Elephants in Africa need to be protected, and believe it or not, hunting does this better than a ban
By Chris Cox, Fox News, 4 December 2017
For those Americans who care about the future of elephants on the African continent, the decision to allow the importation of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is the right one. Although the controversy surrounding this decision has clouded the truth and it may seem counterintuitive to some, allowing these imports is the very best thing we can do to save elephants.
Africa is an amazing place, and all those who visit the continent come away truly inspired by its endless beauty, its diverse people, and the remarkable wildlife that inhabit the landscape. For more than a century, Americans have traveled on safari to witness Africa’s wonders, including the apex of African wildlife, the elephant.

5 December 2017

The World Heritage State of Conservation Information System – 5 Successful Years!
UNESCO, 5 December 2017
Five years ago, on 5 December 2012, the World Heritage State of Conservation Information System was publicly launched. This database offers a trove of reliable information on the state of conservation of natural and cultural World Heritage properties since 1979 and the threats they have faced in the past, or are currently facing.
The State of Conservation Information System currently proposes over 3.400 reports on 547 World Heritage properties located in 143 States Parties and with close to 1,000,000 pageviews, it has become and vital tool for World Heritage stakeholders and a major source of information for all interested in heritage conservation.

Nat Geo’s True-Crime Gorilla Murder Mystery Is Based on a True Story
By Sarah Sloat, Inverse Science, 5 December 2017
There would be no mountain gorillas left on the planet if it wasn’t for Dian Fossey. A primatologist and conservationist who was mysteriously murdered in 1985, Fossey is credited with saving mountain gorillas from extinction. On Wednesday, 32 years after her death and on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, National Geographic will explore her history, her complicated persona, and the controversy surrounding her demise in a three-part miniseries titled Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist.

[Indonesia] Sumatran tigers fall 17 per cent and have just two strongholds
By Aylin Woodward, New Scientist, 5 December 2017
Sumatran tigers are running out of places to live. Their population fell by 16.6 per cent between 2000 and 2012, and the remaining tigers are trapped in shrinking forests.
“We’re really at a tipping point in terms of how much habitat is left that tigers need for their long-term survival,” says Matthew Luskin at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
The Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is a subspecies of tiger, only found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It is critically endangered, due to poaching, the expanding oil palm industry and rampant deforestation.

[South Africa] Get back to nature with unique African experience
By Brett Gibbons, Trinity Mirror, 5 December 2017
A prestigious private reserve in South Africa is giving holidaymakers the chance to sample work on a big game research project.
Shambala Private Game Reserve is launching a number of wildlife-based activities for 2018, including hands-on volunteering with the in-house game research team, magical Star Gazing and fishing excursions on the Douw Steyn dam.

[South Africa] High tech moves to fight rhino poaching
By Larry Bentley, Zululand Observer, 5 December 2017
As custodian of key White and Black Rhino populations, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has protected these iconic species and many of our country’s other natural assets for decades.
The recent shift in focus by organised crime and wildlife trafficking syndicates has resulted in tremendous pressure being exerted on Ezemvelo.
While they could forecast a potential displacement of poaching from other areas and prepare accordingly, the intensity with which Ezemvelo, and specifically Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP), has been targeted over the past year, was not something that could be predicted.

6 December 2017

Why gender is important for biodiversity conservation
UNEP, 6 December 2017
A recent meeting in Bangkok hosted by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity developed training materials to advance gender inclusion in biodiversity planning in the Asia-Pacific region.
“If we do not consider gender we increase the loss of biodiversity, due to mismanagement and unsustainable use, [and] the loss of important traditional knowledge, skills and experiences,” says one of the workshop participants, Soseala Saosaoa Tinilau, Tuvalu’s Director of Environment.

Kenya to benefit from EU’s Sh3.6 billion to fight poaching
By Graham Kajilwa, The Standard, 6 December 2017
Kenya is among East African countries set to benefit from Sh3.6 billion (30 million euros) from the European Union for fighting poaching. The funds are meant to strengthen anti-poaching in countries adjacent to the Indian Ocean in a new initiative to intercept smuggled wildlife products shipped overseas.And in line with this pledge, the EU yesterday signed a Sh2.06 billion (17.2 million euros) deal with three United Nations institutions that will work jointly in the venture.
As the host nation of the UN headquarters, Kenya was represented by Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu.

[South Africa] How the campaign against poaching in Kruger is fought
By Jonathan Katzenellenbogen, defenceWeb, 6 December 2017
The man who manages the campaign of South African National Parks (SANParks) against wildlife crime and corruption, says it is his “toughest job ever”. Maj Gen Johan Jooste retired as a Member of the Army General Staff, and after a time in industry was hired by SANParks five years ago as Head of Special Projects to help in the fight against a wave of poaching.
After years of rapid rises in “incidents” in the Kruger Park, including incursions by armed gangs, poaching, and shootouts with rangers, the situation has begun to improve. Incidents declined by more than 20 percent last year, and are further “tapering down” this year, says Jooste.

[South Africa] Eight held in anti-poaching breakthrough
By Gareth Wilson, Herald Live, 6 December 2017
Eastern Cape authorities have bust another rhino poaching syndicate after eight suspected poachers were nabbed during a dramatic 48-hour operation that saw the gang tracked to the Free State. The eight men, mostly foreign nationals, were arrested for allegedly conspiring to poach rhino on the Great Fish River Nature Reserve, between Grahamstown and Fort Beaufort, at the weekend.
According to authorities, the same gang could be responsible for wiping out an entire rhino population at the Wildschutsberg Game Reserve in the Stormberg mountains near Komani in October.

7 December 2017

The Time Has Come for an EU-Wide Domestic Ivory Ban
By Janice Weatherley-Singh, Wildlife Conservation Society, 7 December 2017
The EU has traditionally been a global leader in tackling the problem of wildlife trafficking and in encouraging other countries to take action. Last year it published a far-reaching Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking, which set out a comprehensive list of actions to address the problem.
So why is it dragging its heels when it comes to saving elephants and closing its domestic ivory market?

[India] Telangana’s protected areas most vulnerable to deforestation
By V Nilesh, New Indian Express, 7 December 2017
Protected forest areas of Telangana are the most vulnerable to deforestation in India, after those located in Assam, Meghalaya and Manipur. The Hyderabad based National Remote Sensing Center (NRSC) in collaboration with Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Kerala conducted a first of its kind study titled ‘Earth observation data for habitat monitoring in protected areas of India’, to monitor 175 protected areas in India using technique of remote sensing.

[Indonesia] Anti-poaching doubled tigers in Sumatra but deforestation pushing them nearer to extinction, says report
By Rahul K R, International Business Times, 7 December 2017
Despite the increase in the population of endangered tigers in the Sumatra Island, continuing deforestation poses threat to the endemic species in the unique island habitat.
The Rainforests in Sumatra which have been listed under Tropical Heritage zone by the UNESCO has been supporting many rare species but the extensive oil palm plantation in Indonesia has been rapidly depleting the forest cover in the Island, said reports.

[Tanzania] Take a look at these 5 shocking facts from Discovery’s Blood Ivory
By Laura Hanman, BT TV, 7 December 2017
Blood Ivory is a brand new documentary series to Discovery that explores the devastating effects of the illegal ivory trade in Tanzania.
Hard hitting and fascinating, a camera crew follows VETPAW (Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife) who, along with park rangers, are dedicated to putting a stop to this senseless industry.
These are five shocking facts uncovered in the first episode.

8 December 2017

Report: African wildlife threatened by militia poaching
AFP, 8 December 2017
Sudan’s Janjaweed, Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army and other notorious militias are wreaking havoc on wildlife in central Africa, poaching and trafficking elephants, hippopotamuses, buffaloes and other animals, a monitor said Friday.
The threat comes from “highly organized armed groups who are linked to human rights violations and ongoing political instability” as well as state actors, armed pastoralists and poachers, Traffic said in a report.

How trained dogs are helping Africa win the battle against poaching
By Kirstin Johnson, Independent, 8 December 2017
The multibillion-dollar illegal trade in African wildlife and their products is fuelling unsustainable levels of killing of elephants, rhinos, lions, and other critical species.
In many sites, the populations of these animals are plummeting. The desire for status symbols such as ivory, skins, and scales, as well as unsubstantiated claims about the medicinal properties of horns and bones, is driving some of Africa’s most iconic animals to extinction.

Wildlife Poaching and Trafficking Prevalent Across Central Africa’s Garamba-Bili-Chinko Landscape
Traffic, 8 December 2017
Foreign armed groups, including the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the Janjaweed (a Sudanese militia), and other non-State militias, are the main perpetrators of wildlife poaching and trafficking across Central Africa’s Garamba-Bili-Chinko Landscape, a region that straddles the northwest border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the southwest border of the Central African Republic, according to a new TRAFFIC report.
The investigation into the poaching and trafficking of wildlife across the landscape—comprised of the Garamba complex and the Bili complex in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Chinko reserve in the Central African Republic—reveals the enormous pressure placed on existing wildlife populations in these protected areas, particularly from such highly organized armed groups who are linked to human rights violations and ongoing political instability.

Abandoned by their sponsors, Madagascar’s orphaned parks struggle on
By Rowan Moore Gerety, Mongabay, 8 December 2017
Karimo and Célice could scarcely believe their luck. Four years of bumper corn harvests have allowed the husband and wife, who each go by a single name, to rebuild their house with a metal roof, buy several new humped cattle, and launch a side business putting on dances in the countryside with a pair of new speakers and an amplifier stacked on the verandah.
In July, Karimo rushed to show off the seed corn he put aside from their most recent harvest, producing four oversize ears with rows of perfect amber kernels. He fanned them out in front of him like a poker hand. “Each ear is one kapoka and a half!” he said with glee. A kapoka is a unit of measure typically made from a discarded condensed milk can. “Usually it takes two ears for one kapoka.”

Papua New Guinea gets its largest-ever conservation area
By Morgan Erickson-Davis, Mongabay, 8 December 2017
Papua New Guinea has been granted its largest-ever conservation area, a 3,600-square kilometer (1,390-square mile) protected area of rainforest in the country’s southeast that stretches from near the ocean up into the mountains. Called Managalas Conservation Area, the move is being celebrated by conservation organizations and local communities that have been working for 32 years to establish more protections for the region.
Managalas Conservation Area was officially declared on November 29 by Minister for Environment and Climate John Pundari and Northern Governor Gary Juffa at Itokama village.

[South Africa] Hluhluwe-iMfolozi ‘Smart Park’ geared to protect rhino
By Judi Davis, South Coast Herald, 8 December 2017
Kwazulu-Natal’s Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, where the southern white rhino was brought back from the brink of extinction 50 years ago, is often called the birthplace of rhino conservation – but it has recently been hard-hit by an escalation in rhino poaching.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, which manages the game reserve, has subsequently increased its efforts to develop more effective anti-poaching and resource management strategies. Its efforts have been bolstered by a promised R10,6-million donation from the Peace Parks Foundation for the implementation of advanced technology solutions that would for transform Hluhluwe-iMfolozi into a so-called Smart Park.

[South Africa] War against poaching intensifies
By Mariana Balt, Lowvelder, 8 December 2017
With at least 50 alleged poachers arrested in and around the Kruger National Park (KNP) during November, Frik Rossouw, senior environmental investigator for SANParks, hopes that 2017 may be the first year that more poachers are arrested than rhinos poached.
He spoke to journalists on the scene of such a poaching, while a forensic team was still busy gathering evidence after three rhinos were shot near Skukuza last week. Walter Mhlangani, Xongani Mathebula and Emmanuel Mdluli had already appeared in Skukuza Regional Court on several related charges.

Tanzania used as case study for quickly and cheaply identifying wildlife corridors in need of conservation
By Mike Gaworecki, Mongabay, 8 December 2017
As local wildlife populations around the world are increasingly forced to rely on reserves hemmed in by agricultural land, urban areas, and other human developments, it’s more crucial than ever that we keep corridors open between protected areas. So researchers at the University of California, Davis have developed a methodology that they say can help identify the most important wildlife corridors to keep open in a cost-effective and timely manner.
In a study summarizing their results published in the journal PloS one, the UC Davis researchers note that wildlife populations that are isolated due to not having access to corridors that allow them to move between protected areas can suffer from compromised genetic variability and are less able to shift their range in response to global climate change — all of which makes it that much harder to save a species from extinction, if and when it comes down to that.

To the rescue: Zimbabwe’s all-female anti-poaching unit
By Haley Jone Glover, Lady Freethinker, 8 December 2017
The International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting endangered wildlife species across the world, has recently launched a new program with a special name: Akashinga.
Akashinga, meaning “brave ones,” is a revolutionary project designed to provide disadvantaged women in Zimbabwe with meaningful employment as wildlife rangers and managers. The women in the program come from checkered backgrounds: some once gained income through trophy hunting, and many more are either orphans or widows, victims of violence or unemployed wives of imprisoned poachers.

9 December 2017

Less Than 350 Tigers Left In Malaysian Jungle, WWF Raises Alarm
Malaysia Digest, 9 December 2017
World Wildlife Fund Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) has raised concerns over the dwindling population of Malayan Tigers in the wild, saying that there is a need to protect the endangered big cat from extinction.
Its executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius S.K. Sharma said concerted effort from all parties were important in ensuring the survival of the species, which is also the national symbol of Malaysia.
“In the 1950’s, there were an estimated 3,000 Malayan Tigers. In 1990, statistics by Perhilitan (Department of Wildlife and National Parks) showed there were 500 tigers left.

[Philippines] Karapatan asks UN to probe ‘lumad’ deaths
By Jaymee T. Gamil, Inquirer.net, 9 December 2017
A human rights group has asked the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to look into recent alleged state-perpetrated violence against “lumad” (indigenous peoples) communities in Mindanao, particularly the “massacre” of eight farmers branded by the army as communist insurgents in South Cotabato, and a “food blockade” of relief aid for evacuees fleeing military operations in Surigao del Sur.
In a letter to Victoria Tauli-Corpuz on Thursday, Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay called for an “independent investigation” and for assistance to put a stop to what the group called a “spate of attacks” against indigenous communities.

[South Africa] Grim toll as captive lions poached, parts used for ‘medicine’
By Sheree Bega, IOL, 9 December 2017
For the past three years Dr Kelly Marnewick has been involved in a grim body count: keeping track of the mutilated lions poached on private lion breeding farms and sanctuaries.
Mostly, it’s the feet, heads and faces the poachers are after. “It’s a relatively new occurrence and is certainly something we’re watching very closely because of our concern about the impact on wild lions,” explains Marnewick, the senior trade officer at the wildlife in trade programme at the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

10 December 2017

Africa: Devastating report reveals widespread slaughter of giraffes and elephants for tails, tusks and meat
By Kristin Hugo, Newsweek, 10 December 2017
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the poorest countries on earth, and is also home to unprecedented animal poaching. A new report by TRAFFIC, the global wildlife trade monitoring network, documents the largest problems facing the wildlife of the DRC. Among them are local poachers, pastoralist herders, and the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Unfortunately for people and wildlife alike, 2012 didn’t stop Joseph Kony, the leader of a guerrilla group that aims to “cleanse” the population and install a theocracy. His group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, has been poaching elephants in advanced ways, such as by shooting them from helicopters. They transport the ivory north and sell it for money to buy weapons. Several other militarized groups poach animals to profit from illegal trafficking as well.

[India] Noted conservationist Jayachandran receives Sanctuary Wildlife Award
By Meera Bhardwaj, New Indian Express, 10 December 2017
Conservation warrior and leader from the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, Jayachandran S, has won this year’s prestigious Sanctuary Wildlife Award for his pioneering work in key protected areas of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.
The Ooty-based conservation activist and long-term conservation partner of Wildlife Conservation Society, India, has won the prestigious ‘Wildlife Service Award’ presented by the Sanctuary Nature Foundation. Since the last three decades, Jayachandran has been a key conservation leader in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and surrounding areas. In 1990, he started the Tamil Nadu Green Movement which has been actively assisting the forest departments in law enforcement and advocacy.

[Indonesia] Extremely Endangered Tiger Losing Habitat—and Fast
By Stephen Leahy, National Geographic, 10 December 2017
As Sumatran rain forests fall to palm oil plantations, their critically endangered tiger may soon vanish from the planet.
There are now only two regions on the Indonesian island with enough breeding females to sustain the species, according to a new study.
“The erosion of large wilderness areas pushes Sumatran tigers one step closer to extinction,” says study leader Matthew Luskin, research fellow with the Smithsonian Institution who’s based at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

[Malaysia] Gopeng Man gets off Lightly for Possessing a Dead Tiger. For Shame
Clean Malaysia, 10 December 2017
A small slap on the wrist is how conservationist groups see the sentence handed down in Ipoh to a man who was convicted of having been in illegal possession of the carcass of a Malayan tiger. The man was caught by Perhilitan officials as he was carrying the dead tiger on his motorcycle at an oil palm plantation in Gopeng in February last year.
He was charged under Section 68(2)(c) of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716) and, as the maximum penalty, he faced a fine of up to RM500,000 and a prison term of up to five years.
The Sessions Court in Ipoh, though, went easy on the accused, Wong Chee Leong. The court sentenced the 43-year-old man to a fine of MR100,000 and a single month in prison. If he fails to pay the fine, Wong will have to serve one year in prison.

[South Africa] EWT, African Parks on its conservation story
By Sue Ettmayr, Weekend Review, 10 December 2017
This occurrence managed to restore the population of the species that had in some parts of Malawi, been declared extinct some 20 years ago.
The cheetahs were taken from four reserves; the Mountain Zebra National Park, Amakhala Private Game Reserve, Phinda Private Game Reserve and Welgevonden Private Game Reserve and flown to the park in a FlyUlendo and Robin Pope Safaris sponsored light aircraft. The cheetahs now have more than 300,000 hectares of roaming space.

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