Conservation Watch’s news round-up: January 2018

Conservation Watch’s round-up of the month’s news on protected areas and conservation in the Global South.

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We’re trying out a new format – instead of each week, Conservation Watch will put out a news round-up once a month. Let us know what you think in the comments, below. And please tell us if there’s anything missing. Thanks!

The news links are grouped under the following sub-headings:

Human rights abuses

India: Tiger authority denounced by government experts for violating tribal rights
Survival International, 4 January 2018
India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is coming under increasing pressure over its illegal order banning the recognition of tribal forest rights in tiger reserves. The order prompted Survival International to launch a global tourism boycott in November.
Information released to Survival has revealed that India’s tribal peoples’ Commission (officially called the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)) has directly challenged the NTCA’s order in private meetings in Delhi. The Commission demanded that the NTCA suspend any planned evictions of tribal peoples, who have been dependent on and managed their forests for millennia.

Conservation giants implicated in public health crises among “Pygmies”
Survival International, 8 January 2018
A Congolese organization has recently raised concerns that conservation contributed to the deaths of several dozen children, mostly Bayaka “Pygmies,” during an epidemic in 2016 in the Republic of Congo – the latest in a long line of related reports.
The deaths have been attributed by a medical expert to malaria, pneumonia and dysentery, aggravated by severe malnutrition.
Conservation-related malnutrition among Bayaka children in this region has been reported since 2005 at least, as the Bayaka are prevented from hunting and gathering on their lands by wildlife guards through violence and intimidation.

Kenya forest death: activists blame EU for ignoring human rights warnings
By Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, 19 January 2018
The European Union has been accused of a fatally slow response to human rights warnings after the killing of an indigenous man at one of the projects it funds in Kenya.
Robert Kirotich of the Sengwer – one of the country’s last forest peoples – was reportedly shot by the Kenya Forest Service during a forced eviction for the EU-funded €31m water conservation project in the Mount Elgon and Cherangani Hills.

Complaint abandoned, but systematic human rights violations continue for indigenous Baka communities in Cameroon
By Anouska Perram and Catherine Clarke, Forest Peoples Programme, 30 January 2018
In September 2017, Survival International announced that it had withdrawn from OECD mediation with WWF, following its 2016 complaint lodged against them in relation to (inter alia) mistreatment of the Baka in Cameroon connected with its conservation activities. While Survival International’s formal complaint might be at an end, the serious abuses of indigenous peoples’ human rights associated with conservation activities in Cameroon (and elsewhere) are persistent, real and ongoing, and reflect fundamental problems with the approach of many large conservation actors.

[Tanzania] Fear and Silence in Loliondo
By Susanna Nordlund, View from the Termite Mound, 30 January 2018
After PM Majaliwa’s much delayed announcement of his decision how to “solve the conflict” over 1,500 km2 of important grazing land in Loliondo that the “investor” from Dubai, Otterlo Business Corporation, for years has lobbied to have converted into a protected area, silence has ruled Loliondo.
The PM’s decision, rushing through a legal bill before February/March to create a “special authority” (chombo maalum) that will manage the land, was a huge disappointment and caused great fear in those I heard from, and this makes the silence hard to explain. There had been hope that the village land would be left in the hands of villagers, with the condition that they form a WMA, which was the compromise proposal reached by the Arusha RC’s select (non-participatory) committee. A WMA carries considerable dangers in itself and had therefore been rejected for a decade and a half.

Protected areas

Israeli environmental initiative buys Peru jungle plot
By Brian Blum, Israel21c, 7 January 2018
The spectacled bear, the white fronted monkey and several kinds of jaguars can rest a bit easier now that an Israeli organization has agreed to purchase part of their habitat in the Peruvian Amazon jungle.
This is My Earth (TiME) has been running a crowdfunding campaign to buy 7,000 dunams (1,730 acres) of wild jungle in Peru. The area has a high number of species vulnerable to extinction.

Natural World Heritage Sites in trouble, especially in the Tropics
By Claire Asher, Mongabay, 11 January 2018
More than a third of United Nations World Heritages sites with natural Outstanding Universal Value are under threat, according to a recent report by the IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The first assessment of all 241 natural World Heritage sites globally found that 29 percent are of “significant conservation concern,” while a further 7 percent are worse off, with “critical concerns.”

Lao gov’t to submit Hin Nam Nor for UNESCO listing
Xinhua, 14 January 2018
The Lao government is to apply its Hin Nam Nor National Protected Area to UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites next year, local online newspaper Vientiane Times quoted an official as saying on Sunday.
According to the report, the 88,000-hectare national park, some 230 km east of Lao capital Vientiane in Khammuan province, is being nominated as a potential Natural World Heritage Site because of its unique limestone karst formations and the area’s rich biodiversity of wildlife and plants.

[Cambodia] Villagers evicted from national park
By Pech Sotheary, Khmer Times, 15 January 2018
Authorities are to force about 40 families in Koh Kong province to relocate from their homes in Botum Sakor National Park.
The villagers asked authorities to provide them with social land concessions, because they have no other place to live.
On January 5, authorities went to inspect the national park and found the families living there illegally in Andoung Toek commune. The land is earmarked for conservation only.
Choun Chanthoeun, 37, a local resident, said yesterday that over the past few days, authorities and an organisation related to the environment came and destroyed more than 20 people’s houses and crops.

[South Africa] Tourist anger over cattle grazing in Mapungubwe national park
By Tony Carnie, Daily Maverick, 15 January 2018
Recent sightings of cattle grazing in the Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site have alarmed visitors who fear that the animals will denude scarce grazing and jeopardise the park’s wildlife-based tourism attractions…
Ken Borland, a Johannesburg-based birdwatcher and wildlife lover, said: “I was horrified by the number of cattle from across the border that were in the park and had clearly pushed much of the indigenous game out of the riverine areas. We saw way less game along the Limpopo River than we are accustomed to seeing, and there were also people fishing in the river on the park side.

Protected areas threatened by overexploitation and human activity, study finds
CIFOR, 18 January 2018
Protected areas across the world are most threatened by unsustainable resource use and human disturbance, a new study has found.
The authors of this paper, published this week in Conservation Letters, looked at data from nearly 2,000 terrestrial protected areas to identify the most common threats they face. Unsustainable hunting and negative impacts from recreational activities were the most commonly reported threats by protected area managers, occurring in 61% and 55% of all protected areas considered in the study.

China’s first national park to open in 2020
Xinhua, 18 January 2018
China’s first national park in the Sanjiangyuan area will open in 2020, the administration bureau said Wednesday.
The park in the southern part of northwest China’s Qinghai Province was established to protect the headwaters of the Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang (Mekong) rivers.
The administration bureau of Sanjiangyuan National Park started trial operations of the park, a vast wetland and grassland area on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, two years ago.

Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MOTA) fails to protect tribal rights in tiger reserves
By manasi Karthik and Arpitha Kodiveri, POLLNet, 18 January 2018
On August 10th, 2017, eighty-five tribal hutments from the village of Vazhaithottam were razed to the ground. Irular and Jenu Kurumbar tribals classified as a ‘Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups’ occupied these houses that border the core zone of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in the State of Tamil Nadu.
A mere six months before this, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had issued a circular declaring that rights recognised under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 will not apply to Tiger Reserves in India.

Unsustainable hunting & recreational activities a primary threat to global protected areas: study
Down to Earth, 19 January 2018
A new study has found that protected areas (PA) across the world are the most threatened by unsustainable hunting, followed by tourism and forest fire. Published in Conservation Letters, it also states that the threat to the most remote forest is relatively low. Protected areas reported higher risk if they were in countries that suffered from corruption and a lower Human Development Index (HDI) score.
Such threats can cause destruction, degradation of ecology and biodiversity of the PA.

[India] Encroachers have taken up more than 670 sq km of forest area in Maharashtra: Hindustan Times
Scroll.in, 21 January 2018
Maharashtra has lost to encroachers forest area bigger than Mumbai, the Hindustan Times reported on Sunday, citing data that the Union Environment Ministry submitted to the Rajya Sabha in December 2017.
Encroachers have taken over 670 sq km of the state’s 61,579 sq km of forests. Greater Mumbai is 603 sq km in size. Nationally, encroachments have taken up 23% of the country’s land. It is almost 10 times the size of New Delhi, the daily reported.

[India] Protecting Assam’s rhinos
By B K Singh, Deccan Herald, 23 January 2018
The Kaziranga National Park is a fascinating habitat, and comes up in evaluation exercises of management of tiger reserves in the north-eastern states. Assam has 2600 rhinoceros, of which 2,400 are in the Kaziranga National Park (KNP). It is situated in the floodplains of the Brahmaputra River.
The ground level of the KNP was raised during an earthquake in 1950. The sediments carried by the Brahmaputra and rivers originating in neighbouring Karbi Anglong district are deposited. During monsoon, the rivers inundate the area, overflowing banks and filling low-lying areas of the KNP. The flood is an annual feature.

Peru’s massive new national park will protect two million acres of Amazonian rainforest
By Alex Butler, Lonely Planet, 24 January 2018
The incredible biodiversity of Peru’s Amazon region will gain new protections after the country announced a new national park the size of America’s Yellowstone.
The creation of Yaguas National Park was announced by the Peruvian government this week. Located in the northern region of Loreto, near the Colombian border, the park will help protect more than two million acres of rainforest. The park encompasses land around the Putumayo River, a tributary of the Amazon and a river system that is home to a wide variety of fish species.

[India] Development ups tiger extinction risk by over 50 per cent in protected areas
By Aniruddha Ghosal and Sowmiya Ashok, Indian Express, 29 January 2018
Changes in future land use, increased fragmentation of tiger habitat and the inevitable loss in genetic diversity puts tiger populations at small and isolated reserves at high risk of extinction. Unplanned development can increase the probability of extinction by over 50%, a recent study has found.
The study, Maintaining Tiger Connectivity and Minimising Extinction into the Next Century: Insights from Landscape Genetics and Spatially-Explicit Simulations, published in the February 2018 issue of the Biological Conservation journal, examined the population connectivity of tigers across nine reserves, and used genetic data to infer the impact of changing landscapes on the species and simulate their extinction probability in different scenarios.

Chile Increases Protected Natural Areas by 81%
teleSUR, 30 January 2018
Monday’s creation of the Network of National Parks of Patagonia was preceded by the largest donation of private lands in Chile’s history.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed a presidential decree Monday creating the Network of National Parks of Patagonia in Chile’s southernmost region. The network comprises 40,500 square kilometers.

[Mexico] Voluntary reserves an option for protection
Mexico News Daily, 30 January 2018
Encouraging landowning communities to voluntarily create their own protected natural reserves may help solve conflict arising from a top-down approach and ultimately lead to the protection of more land, a forestry expert has suggested.
The idea comes as an ambitious state government conservation plan in Jalisco faces opposition and legal action from ejidatarios, or community landowners, as well as the indigenous community and private landholders.

National Geographic Joins Forces with African Parks, the Wyss Foundation and the Republic of Benin to Protect Critical West African Ecosystem
Press release, 31 January 2018
Today, the National Geographic Society, African Parks, the Wyss Foundation and the Republic of Benin announced a groundbreaking partnership to help secure and rehabilitate one of the last remaining wild landscapes in all of West Africa, Benin’s Pendjari National Park. Together, the four partners are initially committing more than US$23M to safeguard the park.

Benin’s threatened Pendjari National Park gets $23.5m boost
AFP, 31 January 2018
Benin’s vast Pendjari National Park, one of West Africa’s last remaining wildlife refuges, will receive $23.5 million (18.9 million euros) to help protect it and fight poaching, donors announced in London on Wednesday.
The Benin government will provide $6 million (4.8 million euros), with the National Geographic Society donating $7.5 million (6 million euros) and the US Wyss Foundation stumping up the rest through the African Parks NGO, the groups said at a press conference.

Communities and conservation

Community-Based Conservation: Building Grassroots Demand for Democracy
By Peter Zahler, Michael Painter, and David Wilkie (WCS), CIHR Blog, 11 January 2018
Discussions about democracy, at least as reported in western news media, seem all too often limited to whether elections are “free and fair.” While this is clearly an important issue, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that free and fair elections are really an end product of an extended engagement with democratic processes.
First there must be a strong demand for democracy among the electorate, and even before that, there must be a broadly shared vision of what democracy is, what benefits it offers, and what it takes to make it work.

The conservation and livelihoods power of a community fund in Uganda
IUCN, 12 January 2018
The CECF recognises the gap of limited community access to credit facilities, and works by providing money for the establishment of a credit fund to communities who have collectively agreed to implement forest landscape restoration activities based on an environmental management plan. This means that environmental management is promoted, undertaken and monitored by whole communities to ensure receipt of the credit facility. The money itself can be borrowed and used for any purpose by households – for investments in income generating activities, paying school and medical bills, among others.

Legal recognition in the works for communities occupying Indonesia’s conservation areas
By Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay, 23 January 2018
The Indonesian government has acquiesced to the reality that local and indigenous communities already manage land within conservation areas, saying it will begin formalizing this de facto stewardship this year.
Some 5,860 villages are peppered throughout conservation areas covering a combined 221,000 square kilometers (85,330 square miles) of land, according to data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. National parks account for three-fifths of that land, and though these are ostensibly off-limits to human activity, the reality is that many communities have long existed in these areas, subsisting off the forest and its natural resources.

Conservation

[India] Who will protect wildlife from the conservationists?
By A K Ghosh, Down To Earth, 9 January 2018
According to the October issue of Protected Area Network, the government has approved felling 3,44,644 trees in 1,000 hectares (ha) of Palamau Tiger Reserve to facilitate work for the North Koel Reservoir Project in Palamau, Jharkhand. The project was approved in 1910 and started in 1970 with an estimated cost of Rs 1,652 crore. After 47 years, the project authorities calculated the environmental loss at Rs 51,065 lakh and benefit at Rs 12,21,515 lakh. The method of calculation of Cost Benefit Analysis including loss of ecosystem services has not been published. Ecosystem services include provisional service comprising food, water quality, natural medicines, ornamental resources, genetic diversity maintenance, regulation related services such as air & water quality, climate change, moderation of extreme events, erosion control, pollination, biological control, disease regulation of human health, and cultural and social services including landscape and amenities values, ecotourism and recreation, cultural values and education, art and research values.

Habitat on the Edges: Making Room for Wildlife in an Urbanized World
By Richard Conniff, Yale E360, 3 January 2018
One morning not long ago, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, I traveled with a Wildlife Conservation Society biologist on a switchback route up and over the high ridge of the Western Ghats. Our itinerary loosely followed the corridor connecting Bhadra Tiger Reserve with Kudremakh National Park 30 miles to the south.

Kenya: Why Prosecuting Cases Affecting Wildlife Is Key to Conservation Efforts
By Maureen Kakah, Daily Nation, 5 January 2018
Illegal entry into national parks, game reserves and other protected areas is the most rampant wildlife crime in Kenya.
However, prosecution of such offenders is fraught with numerous challenges that make the cases complex. Among these is how to balance the interests of communities around these protected areas and how to store the exhibits used as evidence.

With its Environmental Crisis, Is Laos Missing the Forest for the Trees?
By Erin Cook, The Diplomat, 6 January 2018
Laos’ reputation as having some of the most lush and diverse forests in the Mekong remains under serious threat after a December investigation by government officials found evidence of large-scale illegal logging operations in the southern Attapeu province, despite recent efforts to end the practice. Laos, which is left with just 40 percent of the country covered by closed canopy forests, is facing an environmental crisis with much of the remaining forests unhealthy and degraded.

New studies aim to boost social science methods in conservation research
University of Exeter press release, 11 January 2018
Scientists have produced a series of papers designed to improve research on conservation and the environment.
A group of researchers, led by the University of Exeter, have contributed to a special issue of the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution to examine commonly used social science techniques and provide a checklist for scientists to follow.
Traditional conservation biology has been dominated by quantitative data (measured in numbers) but today it frequently relies on qualitative methods such as interviews and focus group discussions.

Wildlife Detectives Pursue the Case of Dwindling Elephants in Indonesia
By Jon Emont, New York Times, 11 January 2018
This small agricultural village in the hills of Sumatra island, in the province of Bengkulu, is a testament to happy days in human-elephant relations: When the village — whose name translates to “Prosperous Elephant” — was founded in 1991, residents nursed an injured wild elephant back to health until it one day disappeared into the forest, never to be seen again.

How to design a conservation project: masterclass turns ideas into reality
By Jude Fuhnwi, BirdLife International, 17 January 2018
In November 2017, conservationists from four East African countries attended a masterclass in conservation project design. This has enabled them to create projects with the power to influence private companies, public policies, and secure the long-term future of the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot as it enters a new phase of conservation.

Rethinking environmental legislation to include the conservation ideas of tomorrow
Zoological Society of London press releae, 23 January 2018
Rewilding has potential to help address the current global biodiversity crisis, but its impact will be limited unless agreed definitions can be reached, backed by further scientific research and helped by a policy backdrop that enables greater integration with current environmental legislation. These are the key findings of a new study into the controversial technique, led by international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London) and published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Financing conservation

Impact investing: Conservation gets finance boost
By Helen Avery, Euromoney, 2 January 2018
Conservation finance got a boost in December when the Global Environmental Facility (made up of 18 agencies) allocated over $8 million to the Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation (CPIC). The Rockefeller Foundation also gave its in-principle support in providing grant funding.
CPIC was set up in 2016 and launched formally in September. It brings together non-profits in the conservation area, including the Nature Conservancy, Rainforest Alliance and WWF, with consultants such as Baker and McKenzie, impact investment managers like Althelia and development agencies, including the European Investment Bank. Credit Suisse was a founding member of CPIC and is the only commercial bank involved at that this point.

Assembling the pieces for ‘landscape-scale’ conservation investments
By David Bank, Imact Alpha, 10 January 2018
More than $3 billion in committed capital that has already been raised for investments in food and agriculture, habitat protection, clean water initiatives and other conservation projects was sitting on the sideline waiting for attractive deals last year.
That presents an enticing opportunity for developers who can package conservation projects that deliver both environmental and financial returns. The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International and other major conservation organizations are stepping up to stock that deal pipeline.

Wildlife law

China’s ban on ivory trade comes into force
BBC News, 1 January 2018
China has long been one of the world’s biggest markets for ivory, but as of 2018 all trade in ivory and ivory products in the country is illegal.
The move is being hailed as a major development in efforts to protect the world’s elephant population.
Wildlife campaigners believe 30,000 African elephants are killed by poachers every year.
State media said there had already been a 65% decline in the price of raw ivory over the past year.

Kenya to pile pressure on nations opposed to the ban on ivory trade
By Gilbert Koech, The Star, 4 January 2018
The state has shifted attention to countries that still enjoy thriving ivory trade, barely five days after China banned the trade.
Yesterday, PS State Department for Natural Resources, Dr Margaret Mwakima said she is optimistic others opposed to the ban will follow suit.
Mwakima said China’s decision is a major boost in the fight against ivory trafficking.

China Makes Good on Its Pledge to Curb Elephant Poaching With Ivory Trade Ban
World Politis Review, 12 January 2018
On Jan. 1, China implemented a ban on the domestic sale and processing of ivory, following through on a plan it had announced more than a year ago. The move should effectively cut off one of the major centers of demand that has incentivized the poaching of African elephants. In an email interview, Grace Gabriel, the regional Asia director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, explains why China decided to execute the ban, the likely impact on poaching and the remaining obstacles and risks to ending the ivory trade.

Britain’s ivory trade ban plan big step against poaching
Daily Nation, 14 January 2018
Kenya anticipates huge relief following the announcement of plans by the United Kingdom to ban trade in ivory.
The UK is one of the major ivory markets and the move will help Kenya’s bid to eradicate poaching of its elephants.
Poaching cases were higher in 2008-2012 but penalties against culprits led to a decline in elephant deaths by 78 per cent.

‘Tiger Farms’ Still Operate in Laos, Defying Trafficking Bans
Radio Free Asia, 19 January 2018
Three tigers were found killed near a protected forest zone in Laos early this week, drawing renewed attention to the presence in the country of so-called tiger farms, where the animals are kept for sale in spite of wildlife trafficking bans, sources say.
The dead animals were discovered by forestry officials in an area near the Nam Theun 2 dam in Khammouane province’s Nhommalath district, an official of the province’s wildlife protection department told RFA’s Lao Service this week.

China has banned ivory, but has the African elephant poaching crisis actually been stemmed?
By Raffaella Ciccarelli, news.com.au, 25 January 2018
With massive tusks that touched the ground, Satao towered over the rest of his herd.
One of the last great “tuskers”, the beast estimated to be around 50 years old was heralded as Kenya’s biggest, oldest, and arguably most iconic elephant. Tourists from around the world would flock to see Satao in his prime.
Yet his celebrity status, and the added protection it afforded him, was not enough to save Kenya’s most beloved bull elephant.
On May 30th, 2014, he was found dead. He was the victim of a poacher’s poisoned arrow. His face crudely hacked off. His ivory, gone.

Hong Kong Closes Loophole in Ivory Ban, Outlawing All Sales
By Tiffany May, New York Times, 31 January 2018
Hong Kong’s legislature voted on Wednesday to ban all ivory sales by 2021, closing what activists called a major loophole in the global effort to end the trade and protect elephants from poaching.
The ivory trade has been banned in most of the world since 1990 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or Cites, which Hong Kong and all but a handful of countries have agreed to honor. But the sale of antique ivory acquired before the 1970s had remained legal here. Elephant tusks and ivory statues, carvings and chopsticks are still sold in Hong Kong’s antique stores.

Poaching

Illegal Ivory Seizures Reveal That Poaching Networks Are Becoming Stronger and More Organized
By Shimon Shuchat, Elephant Listening Project, 1 January 2018
Over the past decade, the situation for wild elephants has become very dire. Between 2007 and 2014, African savannah elephant populations plummeted by 30 percent¹ ²and researchers estimate that their numbers are decreasing by roughly eight percent every year¹. In addition, between 2002 and 2011, African forest elephant populations dropped by 62%³. These declines are largely the result of increased poaching for ivory and are reflected in the trends of illegal ivory seizures by law enforcement. Analyses of these trends show that in addition to poaching being on the rise, wildlife trafficking rings have become stronger and the justice system has been largely ineffective in combatting the problem.

[South Africa] The hi-tech fight back against rhino poachers
By Tony Carnie, Times Live, 2 January 2018
Park rangers in Africa’s most famous rhino reserve are going hi-tech to push back against the relentless assault by horn poachers‚ thanks to a R10-million injection.
Plans to establish new “Smart Park” strategies in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal follow a deadly poaching onslaught in the 96 000-hectare reserve where the world’s last southern white rhinos were rescued from extinction just over a century ago.
KwaZulu-Natal suffered a record loss of 221 rhino during the past year‚ most of them in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi.

Networking and Collaboration: What We Can Learn from Zimbabwe’s Anti-Poaching Movement
By Dave Ford, Sustainable Brands, 3 January 2018
It’s never been more important to bring the poaching and wildlife conservation story to life, while also bringing together local and international stakeholders to build sustainable solutions to what has become a global issue.
Recent developments, such as the US lifting bans on certain elephant trophy imports and changes to the Mugabe government in Zimbabwe, add to the intrigue of what is already a fascinating place.

The strange figures behind a secret trade
By Misha Glenny, BBC News, 4 January 2018
Rhino poaching networks are typical of the structure of the new mafias in the global marketplace.
The term mafia used to conjure up images of Marlon Brando as Don Corleone in The Godfather, or Tony Soprano as the head of the mob in New Jersey. But in the early 1990s, mafias started to adapt to the new era of globalisation.
And just as multinational corporations are often opaque, spreading their operations across many territories and tax havens with complex supply lines, so too are the new mafias.

Rhinoceros DNA database successful in aiding poaching prosecutions
By Nicola Davis, The Guardian, 8 January 2018
A large database of rhinoceros DNA is successfully being used to prosecute poachers and those trading rhino horns, new research has revealed.
While numbers of the southern white rhino – the only wild subspecies of white rhino in Africa – have grown to about 20,000, fewer than 5,500 black rhinos are thought to exist in the wild, and both species are affected by poaching.
The animals’ horns are traded for their use in traditional Asian medicines, and poaching is soaring – in part as a result of rumours that a former politician in Vietnam was “cured of cancer” using a rhino horn remedy. Figures for 2016 suggest that poachers killed more than 1,050 rhinos in South Africa alone.

Sundarbans: A safe haven for poachers
The Daily Star, 8 January 2018
The report by a news agency that the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, is turning into a ‘sanctuary for poachers’ is indeed terrifying. The forest is supposed to be a sanctuary for its vast flora and fauna. Instead, it has become a safe haven for the poachers who hunt down its precious wildlife and for the smugglers who illegally snatch away its natural resources.

Grace Mugabe implicated in international ivory poaching syndicate
By Khuluma Afrika, Bulawayo, 12 January 2018
Investigations into illicit and illegal activities led and directed by the former first lady of the country Grace Mugabe have intensified, amid indications the government will make a huge statement soon regarding her involvement in ivory poaching, Khuluma Afrika reported.
Grace Mugabe, who is now subject to a forensic audit by the ruling Zanu PFs women’s league over “hundreds of millions” of party funds is also facing intense investigations regarding externalisation of assets and cash, involvement in setting up parallel money markets as well as illegal export of precious minerals.

Zimbabwe’s All Women Vegan Anti Poaching Squad Featured By BBC
By Maria Chiorando, Plant Based News, 12 January 2018
The BBC World Service has featured a remarkable group of women – part of a project called Akashinga (the brave ones) – who take on trophy hunters in Zimbabwe.
The women have been trained and employed to manage an entire nature reserve by Damien Mander, Founder of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation [IAPF] and a former Australian special forces sniper.
Mander and the squad all follow a vegan diet – a move Mander has said avoids the hypocrisy of saving one animal only to eat another.

Bangkok officials seize $450,000 worth of smuggled ivory from Suvarnabhumi airport
By Bhaswati Guha Majumder, International Business Times, 13 January 2018
Officials have seized large elephant tusks worth more than $450,000 in Thailand from the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. The poached ivory from Lagos was discovered in cargo.
Somkiat Soontornpittakkool, an official from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said that after analyzing the discolored tusks, authorities have claimed that they had been kept in storage for a long time.

[India] Rhino shot, poachers held at Kaziranga
By Pranab Kumar Das, The Telegraph India, 16 January 2018
A female rhino was killed on Sunday night under Bagori range of Kaziranga National Park. The poachers fled without taking its horn.
The incident took place at Daflang anti-poaching camp. Divisional forest officer Rohini Ballav Saikia said the poachers killed the female rhino at 9pm but were unable to take its horn as forest officials immediately reached the location on hearing gunshots.
He said that a search operation has been launched to track the poachers.

Andrea Crosta. The man who uses his intelligence network to prevent poaching and save endangered animals
By Tommaso Perrone, Lifegate, 17 January 2018
The first NGO that puts an intelligence network at the service of the planet. People who work in the shadows to eradicate poaching and save elephants along with other endangered species. This is the Elephant Action League, and we spoke to its founder Andrea Crosta.

[Indonesia] Watch Wildlife Crime Evidence Go Up in Flames to Protect Species
By Rachael Bale, National Geographic, 17 January 2018
A stuffed tiger, a frozen tiger carcass, a tiger skin, several sea turtles, a stuffed sambar deer head, a stuffed timor deer head, 28 python skins, a monitor lizard skin, two pieces of ivory, and a rhino horn were burned in the city of Medan, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, on January 10.
Government authorities and the nonprofit Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) organized the burn as a way to destroy high-value evidence from wildlife crimes to ensure the items don’t find their way back onto the black market. Once a trial is over, says Dwi Adhiasto, of WCS Indonesia’s Wildlife Crimes Unit, there’s no need to keep the products in storage.

Central Africa’s iconic mammals threatened by poachers, armed groups – UN environment wing
UN News Centre, 19 January 2018
Elephants, giraffes, rhinos and other magnificent mammals targeted in wildlife conservation areas of Central Africa are under threat of extinction, caught in the crosshairs of armed groups and highly-militarized poachers, the United Nations environment wing warned on Friday.
“The importance of engaging local communities in fighting poaching, and of enhancing their alternative livelihoods, has now been widely recognized across various national, regional and global fora” said Bianca Notarbartolo of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
“But such commitments have yet to be matched by enough effective implementation,” she added.

Gabon breaks ivory syndicate as countries ban trade and prices fall
Taiwan News, 19 January 2018
Officials in Gabon today announced the arrest of the West African country’s biggest ivory trafficking kingpin and his eight-member criminal syndicate. The operation was the result of a two-year inter-ministry investigation in collaboration with Interpol and France, and comes just weeks after China and Vietnam banned all ivory sales.
The Chadian national at the center of the elephant poaching network is suspected to have trafficked 600 tusks during 2017 alone. He has been wanted by Gabonese authorities for wildlife crimes since 2015.

Gabon says major ivory trafficking ring dismantled, 10 held
By Christopher Torchia, Phys.org, 20 January 2018
Gabon says a major trafficking ring that smuggled six tons of ivory out of the country in 2017 has been dismantled, in a victory against poachers who have killed large numbers of forest elephants in the Central African country.
The Chadian head of the syndicate, Abdoulaye Mohamoud Ibrahim, and eight accomplices, including his wife, son and daughter-in-law, were arrested on Nov. 1 after a two-year investigation assisted by Interpol and French law enforcement, Gabon’s national parks agency said. The ring’s “moneyman” was arrested three weeks later.

Animal Trafficking ‘Kingpin’ Arrested In Thailand
By Amy Held, NPR, 20 January 2018
Thai police toppled an accused kingpin in the global multi-million-dollar wildlife black market, with the arrest on Friday of Boonchai Bach in Nakhon Phanom, near the Laos border along the Mekong river.
For more than a decade, Boonchai is believed to have overseen a syndicate responsible for the illegal trade of wildlife poached in Asia and Africa, according to the anti-trafficking group Freeland, which describes him as a “kingpin” who has evaded capture for years.

No more elephants? Poaching crisis takes its toll in the Central African Republic
By Alexandra Popescu, Mongabay, 24 January 2018
Years of civil war and poaching have virtually wiped out elephants from one of their historical strongholds in Central Africa, an aerial survey conducted last year by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) indicates.
The survey, in northern Central African Republic, found surviving but small populations of giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), giant eland (Taurotragus derbianus), buffalo (Syncerus caffer) and roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus) — but not a single bush elephant (Loxodonta africana).

More than 1,000 rhinos killed by poachers in South Africa last year
By Josh Gabbatiss, Independent, 26 January 2018
The South African government has revealed the number of rhinos illegally killed last year, suggesting measures to reduce poaching have had limited success.
A total of 1,028 rhino were poached from 1 January to 31 December 2017, compared to 1,054 in the same period for 2016, “representing a decrease of 26 animals”, the environment ministry said in a statement.

Tanzania: Poaching Syndicate Exposed
By Sylivester Domasa, Tanzania Daily News, 26 January 2018
Key suspects in the massive poaching and wildlife trafficking were named yesterday, with the police given seven-day ultimatum to arrest and prosecute Wayne Lotter’s murderers.
Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Hamisi Kigwangalla released the first list of operators, owners of hunting blocks and officials in the ministry accused of supporting the poaching syndicate.

Militarisation of conservation

A.I. “predator” drones can now spot and track illegal poachers
By Stephen Johnson, Big Think, 6 January 2018
Poaching takes a brutal toll on the world’s wildlife every year. By the thousands, rhinos are for killed for their horns, elephants for their ivory, and tigers for their bones and exotic pelts. To protect these animals, rangers and conservationists must monitor enormous swaths of land, day and night, looking for poachers who trade on a black market estimated to total $40 billion. It’s impossible to stop every poacher.

Ex-SAS soldiers using their skills to protect endangered species from poachers
By Ben Leo, The Sun, 8 January 2018
Ex-SAS soldiers are using their skills to defeat poachers wiping out endangered species.
The Veterans for Wildlife charity uses volunteer fighters from the SAS and sister unit the Special Boat Service to protect animals.
The outfit has a database of about 1,000 Special Forces and regular veterans who help a host of organisations battling South African poachers.
Since setting up in 2016 they have given over 3,000 man hours, using years of experience in intelligence, surveillance, communications, weapons handling and medicine.

When wildlife conservation meets war
By Cathleen O’Grady, Ars Technica, 14 January 2018
Much of the world’s conflict happens in areas rich in biodiversity, and war makes conservation a complicated issue. In 2016, a group of researchers published a paper exploring important questions about conflict and conservation: can conflict be included in planning for protected areas? What strategies actually work when wildlife and warfare mix?

Animals are victims of human conflict, so can conservation help build peace in warzones?
By Esther Marijnen and Rosaleen Duffy, The Conversation, 16 January 2018
More than 70% of Africa’s national parks have been affected by war in recent decades, and wildlife has suffered as a result. That’s according to a new study by researchers from Yale and Princeton universities, which looked at data on 253 populations of large herbivores from 126 protected areas in 19 countries across the continent. The study’s authors, writing in Nature, say that frequency of human conflict was “the single most important predictor of wildlife population trends” – better than other factors like frequency of droughts or the size of a protected area.

Africa’s Largest Animals Decrease in Wartime
Voice of America, 18 January 2018
War can be deadly for wildlife, too. A new study reports that war is the biggest threat to Africa’s elephants, rhinoceroses, and other animals.
Researchers examined how years of conflict in Africa have affected populations of large animals. More than 70 percent of Africa’s protected wildlife areas have been within a war zone at some point in the last 70 years.
The more frequent the fighting, the greater the drop in animal populations, said Josh Daskin, an ecologist at Yale University. He was the lead author of the study, which was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Rhino Fortress: Shadowing an anti-poaching dog unit in South Africa
By Tyrone Marcus, Earth Touch News, 19 January 2018
Home to about 90 percent of the world’s rhinos, South Africa is the epicentre of a devastating poaching crisis that shows little sign of abating. The latest statistics show an average poaching rate of three rhinos each day. We sent our camera crew out to the frontlines of this conflict to follow a specialist canine unit tasked with protecting these threatened animals. Rhino Fortress follows an anti-poaching team and its specially trained dogs as they face armed poachers, dangerous wildlife and an unforgiving landscape.
We’ll be adding new episodes every week, so watch this space for updates. And keep scrolling for a first-hand written account of the filming journey in the words of one of our cameramen.

[Zimbabwe] Shoot to kill: Muchinguri
By Nokythaba Dlamini, News Day, 22 January 2018
Speaking at a graduation ceremony of 106 Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers, who recently underwent a three-month intensive anti-poaching programme in Hwange last week, Muchinguri said the country’s wildlife heritage faced extinction, hence, the need to adopt tough measures against poachers.
“Due to magnitude of wildlife diversity, poachers are attracted to rob our nation of its wildlife heritage. These poachers have become so daring to the extent using sophisticated methods such as poisoning our elephants in search of raw ivory in great demand on the black market,”she said.

Killing for conservation
By Zach Rosen, The Varsity (University of Toronto), 22 January 2018
I was lucky enough to travel to Tanzania over the winter break for a safari holiday with my family, spending most of my time in Serengeti National Park and the surrounding protected areas. It is impossible to travel through an area of such incredible natural abundance without wondering about its longevity. Nearly all of the species that tourists travel across the world to see — elephants, lions, leopards, and so on — are experiencing significant population decline. But in Tanzania and other African countries, the conservation of these species is more complicated than we might think.

[Cambodia] Trio trying to stop illegal logging allegedly killed by soldiers
AP, 31 January 2018
Soldiers in northeastern Cambodia, an area where illicit logging and smuggling are rife, killed a forest protection ranger, a military police officer and a conservation worker in apparent retaliation for their seizure of equipment from illegal loggers, officials said Wednesday.
Keo Sopheak, a senior environmental official in Mondulkiri province, said the three-person team was attacked late Tuesday afternoon after patrolling in the Keo Siema wildlife conservation sanctuary. He said the dead civilian was a Cambodian employee of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society.

Tourism

Hydropower station raises tourism alarm on wildlife conservation in Tanzania
By Apolinari Tairo, eTurboNews, 1 January 2018
Construction of the biggest hydropower generation plant inside the Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania had raised an alarm to wildlife conservationists fearing to see negative impacts on tourism development inside this biggest wildlife conserved area in Africa.
Conservation experts fear seeing the mega-power generation plant at Stiegler’s Gorge in the Selous Game Reserve, as it may hamper conservation of wildlife and nature in this biggest African wildlife reserve that is highly affected by elephant poachers.
They fear that the Stiegler’s Gorge hydropower generation plant would encourage industrial activities in northern parts of the Selous Game Reserve, famous for wildlife concentration in Africa.

Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park is the place to see leopards, but can it cope with hordes of visitors?
By Jamie Carter, South China Morning Post, 18 January 2018
The purr of engines can be heard as safari jeeps prowl around the jungle; their exhaust fumes dancing on the dawn mist at Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park. It’s like the warm-up lap at a Formula 1 race. Soon after 6.30am, the safari guide’s mobile phone rings. “Let’s go and see some chaos,” he says.
And we’re off. Our safari jeep does a U-turn, splashing through a puddle as we leave behind a crocodile making light work of a dead water buffalo. We’re here to see another predator.

Black rhino have returned to northern Kenya – and tracking them on foot is a dream come true
By Sarah Marshall, Xpose.ie, 24 January 2018
Crushing my body tightly against a boulder, I’m frightened to even breathe. Like the final moments in a thrilling blockbuster shoot out, I know at some point I’ll have to move; the question is not if, but when.
Behind this haphazardly stacked kopje sits 50 million years of natural history embodied in almost two thundering tonnes of flesh – the size and power of a BMW car with a notoriously volatile grump at the wheel.
An intruder in someone else’s wild, coarse environment, I know I’ll soon be rumbled. Yet as I peer over rocks into a crumpled face mapped with more contours than an ancient mountain range, all I want to steal is a glance.

Big game hunting

Big game hunters: We’re the answer to preventing extinction
WGNO, 12 January 2018
It’s a place where serious big game hunters hang out and network — kind of a supermarket for hunting enthusiasts.
Tens of thousands of them have come from all over the world to the annual Dallas Safari Club Convention & Sporting Expo.
Everywhere you look in this sprawling 800,000-square-foot convention you see weapons, gear and just about every type of hunting paraphernalia available. There are also lots of animals — none of them alive. Rhinos, lions, antelopes and various types of big game animals that have all been stuffed by taxidermists to be trophies in someone’s home or office.

PopPolitics: ‘Trophy’ Shows a Different Dimension to Big Game Hunting Debate
By Ted Johnson, Variety, 14 January 2018
Cecil the lion was one of the best known animals at a national park in Zimbabwe, but became an international symbol for the opposition to big game hunting in 2015 when he was killed by a Minnesota dentist.
As public opinion moves against so-called “trophy” hunting, the new documentary “Trophy,” which debuts on CNN on Sunday night, tries to show that the issue is far more complex than just banning the practice outright or prohibiting the importation of such species.

Exclusive: Trump Slams Elephant Hunting For Trophies, Skeptical Fees Go For Conservation
By Yashar Ali, Huffington Post, 27 January 2018
In an interview with Piers Morgan set to air Sunday night in the U.K., President Donald Trump used the word “terrible” to describe the initial decision last year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to overturn an Obama era ban on the import of elephant trophies.
Trump also says he does not believe the substantial fees that hunters pay to hunt elephants and other species actually go toward conservation efforts, as is often claimed, and instead are pocketed by government officials in other countries.
Trump confirms that the ban on importing elephant trophies from the African nations of Zimbabwe and Zambia will remain in place. That was not clear after he initially put the ban reversal on hold, pending further study.

‘I hunt wild animals because I love them’
By Radhika Sanghani, BBC, 31 January 2018
Philip Glass has been hunting wild animals since before he can even remember. It started with rabbits and squirrels, progressing to deer when he was 10, and now that he’s 46, he cannot begin to count how many animals he’s killed, let alone how many varieties.
“I’m a rancher in Texas, and predator hunting is part of my life,” he explains. “I shoot coyotes and deer to keep my sheep alive. But I’m also a trophy hunter. I’ve shot four out of the ‘big five’ in Africa: a lion, a leopard, a buffalo and an elephant. The only one I haven’t shot is a rhino.”

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