Monthly Archives

February 2020

Threatened birds and mammals have irreplaceable roles in the natural world

By Conservation No Comments
University of Southampton / Phys.Org | February 24, 2020

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A new study led from the University of Southampton has shown that threatened birds and mammals are often ecologically distinct and irreplaceable in their environment.

Mammals such as the Asian elephant and the Sumatran rhinoceros, and birds such as the great Indian bustard, Amsterdam albatross and the Somali ostrich are both highly threatened and ecologically distinct. the extinction of these species could therefore lead to the loss of unique ecological roles. The findings also highlight that the most distinct species are often charismatic, such as emperor penguins, wolves, sea-eagles and leopards.

Original photo as published by Phys.org.

The research was led by Dr. Robert Cooke, visiting researcher at the University of Southampton and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Gothenburg. He said: “The most ecologically distinct species often have unique roles in their environment but they are not directly prioritized in current conservation plans. This blind spot means that ecologically important species may be lost.”

The roles that ecologically distinct species have in the ecosystems they inhabit are wide ranging. Herbivores such as elephants and hippopotamus can impact vegetation structure and nutrient cycling, while predators, such as white-tailed sea-eagle, leopard, grey wolf and puma can prevent overgrazing, enhance productivity and limit the spread of disease.

The researchers calculated the ecological distinctiveness of all living birds and mammals based on six traits—body mass, litter size, length of time between generations, breadth of habitat, diet type and diet diversity. This enabled them to identify the most distinct species and combine this with data from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They also compared the list against previous research identifying animals which have inherent value to humans based on public perceptions of charisma.

The study concludes that the connection between the unique characteristics of certain birds and mammals, their threatened status, and their public popularity creates a new conservation opportunity. “The use of charismatic species to attract funding is controversial, as it can divert people’s attention to species that are potentially not the most threatened or ecologically important,” added Dr. Cooke. “However, here we show that charismatic species may be deserving of their elevated attention, due to their often-distinct ecological strategies and therefore potentially vital ecological roles.”

The findings have been published in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation.

More information: Robert S.C. Cooke et al. Ecological distinctiveness of birds and mammals at the global scale, Global Ecology and Conservation (2020).

DOI: 10.1016/j.gecco.2020.e00970

 

13 arrested for wildlife crimes (Namibia)

By Antipoaching, Illegal trade One Comment
Ellanie Smit, The Namibian Sun | February 27, 2020

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Thirteen suspects were arrested recently in connection with wildlife crimes, while five new cases were opened.

According to statistics released by the intelligence and investigation unit within the environment ministry and the protected resources division in the safety and security ministry, a total of three illegal wildlife products were also seized.

These included two rhino horns and one rock monitor lizard.

Of the 13 suspects arrested, nine were apprehended in connection with rhino poaching nd/or trafficking cases.

Other items that were seized during operations included five firearms, 58 rounds of ammunition and one vehicle.

A Namibian, Simeon Tulinane Nangolo, was arrested on 15 February in Klein Windhoek for housebreaking and the theft of rhino horns.

In another incident at Okahandja, Sylvanus Fimanekeinge Shikambe was arrested on 18 February in connection with an old case of conspiring to hunt a rhino.

Meanwhile at Okahao, three Namibian men were also arrested on 18 February for being in the possession of two rhino horns, while two hunting rifles, 30 rounds of ammunition and a vehicle were also seized.

Festus Simon, Johannes Kefas Valombola and Efriam Thikameni Malakiawere charged for contravening the nature conservation ordinance and illegally hunting a rhino, trespassing in a game park, being in possession of a firearm without a licence and unauthorised arms or ammunition. They were also charged for illegally hunting a rhino.

At Kahenge, two Namibians were arrested for being in possession of a rock lizard on 19 February. Joseph Nekome and Mpepo Thomas Mauze were charged with illegally hunting a protected species.

In another incident at Otjomuise, two Namibian men were also arrested on 19 February for being in possession of a firearm without a licence. Job Kapapi Katareko and Gabriel Upas were found with a hunting rifle.

At Okahao, Johannes Kefas was arrested on 20 February for illegally being in the possession of one hunting rifle and 11 rounds of ammunition, while Paulus Uusiku and Johannes Titus Endjala were also arrested that same day at Okahao for illegally being in the possession of a hunting rifle and 17 rounds of ammunition. The three men are all Namibians.

In another incident on 20 February at Werda, a Namibian, Rutombe Hepute, was arrested in connection with an old case of conspiring to hunt a rhino.

This vital anti-poaching school needs our support (Kenya)

By Antipoaching, Conservation, Education, Illegal trade No Comments
Cyril Christo, Opinion Contributor to The Hill | February 27, 2020

See link for photos & 4-minute video.

“I do not want to live on a planet where there are no lions anymore.” —Werner Herzog

I had the honor of finally meeting Bill Clark, an honorary warden of the Kenya Wildlife Service, at the first global march for elephants in New York in October 2013, initiated by the world beloved Dame Daphne Sheldrick who has rescued rhino and elephant orphans from the bush in Kenya for half a century. Bill has been at the forefront of anti-poaching for two generations and has invested utter dedication to combating the world’s ivory syndicates and black marketers in Africa and worldwide.

Some 60 percent of the world’s wildlife has disappeared in our lifetime, including one-third of its remaining elephants in the past decade. Bill has helped major operations against poachers and personally helped oversee the latest phase of one of the top law enforcement agencies in all of Africa, the Manyani Law Enforcement Academy in Tsavo, a life-support system for rangers in Kenya, which has the best anti-poaching record of any country on the continent. It trains rangers in countries bordering Kenya from Sudan to Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia and even far away Gabon. Started in the 1980s by the Kenya Wildlife Service, the battle for what remains of Africa’s and the world’s wildlife is now being waged.

Original photo as published by The Hill. (Photo: Cyril Christo)

The ivory trade has decimated elephants continentwide. Some 130,000 elephants, a third of Africa’s elephants, were massacred last decade, 55,000 or so in Tanzania. Yet perhaps no other species has had such a widespread ecological impact or is so necessary for savanna and forest rejuvenation and indispensable to countless other species.
But the rhino, too, stands on extremely fragile legs and the great roar of the lion could within 15 years be silenced forever. Depraved trophy hunters worldwide, whether they have a tiger in their sights or a giraffe, are abetting the destruction of the innocent. As Romain Gary once wrote, “On an entirely man-made planet, there will be no room for man either. All that will be left of us is robots.”

The Manyani school is fighting so that never happens.

The Manyani school, which means “many baboons” in the Wakamba language of southern Kenya, seeks philanthropic individuals who can address the decline of wildlife populations with donations. From the decimation of orangutan habit in the forests in Indonesia for palm oil, which ends up in our shampoo and cookies, to the flaying of the Amazon for cattle and soybeans, to the expansion of lumber extraction and palm oil plantations in the middle of the Congo, to imposing dams that threaten chimpanzee habitat in Guinea and the entire Selous reserve in southern Tanzania, the largest in Africa, humanity has totally imposed its will on the planet.

The sixth extinction, fueled by climate change, is becoming our legacy to future generations. Poachers and the illegal wildlife trade add a diabolical dimension of loss to already severely reduced wildlife populations, which will now be impacted by climate change. What will remain in a generation or two?

When rangers go out in the field they need to have the proper equipment, they need to have been trained so their presence acts as a major deterrent to would-be poachers. But the Manyani school needs financial support with infrastructure and curriculum development. There is a powerful and unique ethos the Manyani school seeks to instill that can be a model for Africa as a whole. When elephants are damaging corn fields and locals ask for help from Kenya Wildlife Service, the response is based on benevolence that seeks the best results with the least damage to elephants. Its institutional spirit is second to none and its ethos is one of trust. Its ethic seeks to lean away from a military boot camp to one of disciplined law enforcement.

Patrol aircraft also serve as deterrents, so that criminals realize resistance is futile. Good aircraft which can cover thousands of square kilometers from the far north to Tsavo and Amboseli in the south cost many tens of thousands of dollars. For most of this decade it has been a war, a war waged for what remains of Africa, and it is a war that must be won.

Already in the past decade, a third of Africa’s elephants have been lost, mercilessly destroyed by wanton criminals looking to sell ivory at the highest price. Even though China decided to close its markets in late 2017, Hong Kong and other south Asian countries have yet to do so. The illicit trade continues. The Manyani school serves as the highest example of what is possible to commander operations in the field and to protect what remains of the wild.

It is fair to say that without the elephants and whales humanity will collapse upon itself. We will have become another species. One ranger who daily risks his life to protect elephants — despite having lost his grandfather to an elephant — told us he is dedicated to saving the species. He said, “A world without elephants is a world without oxygen.” The Manyani rangers have received some support for the barracks they need to live in and train. They need more: field equipment, night vision goggles and even airplanes for patrolling the wilderness. Better facilities and running water is needed as never before. Those sacrificing their very lives and families to protect rhinos, lions and elephants in the bush are the heroes of our time.

It is a strange period of history when indigenous activists fighting for the future of their forests, their very environment, for life on earth are being killed by the dozens every year from the Philippines, to the Congo, Brazil and Mexico. It is sobering to realize that these people are fighting not only for their homeland, but also for our very place on earth. If we lose the other species it will no longer be worth being on this earth.

I invite those with conservation interests to contact Bill Clark working with the NGO Friends of Animals. He can be contacted at bill.clark.oasis@gmail.com. The next generation of children cannot be told we lost the lion or the cheetah or giraffe because we did not have the vision or fortitude to fight. One Samburu elder told me, “Without the elephants and the other species, we will lose our minds! There will be nothing to return to. All that will be left is to kill ourselves.”

It is time to fight and take a stance and give for the children of the future, both human and nonhuman. The Manyani school, with no equal in Africa, is fighting for what remains of the great Pleistocene megafauna that still inhabit the cradle of man. The Manyani school houses and trains those very rangers who will help Africa hold on to what remains of her priceless treasure, her wildlife.

When I was first in Kenya as a teenager of 15, the massacre of the innocents, the devastation that was imposed on Africa’s elephants had not yet begun. There were more than 1.2 million elephants then. Today, no more than 350,000 savanna elephants remain and poaching continues.

Some 40 percent of the giraffe population has been lost in the past 20 years and over 90 percent of the lions. The rhino is holding on for dear life. Supporting the Manyani school is a concrete vote for the future, because without the other beings, we will have no ballast. We will self cannibalize.

Those who have the means must support the rangers dedicating their lives to the animals, beings who were our first teachers. We have been awed by their power and grace, emotionally and spiritually for millennia. If the machine is the only thing we as adults will be able to bequeath the next generation, we will have lost the children. Without the animals, as the ecologist Paul Shepard expressed, the horizon on our future will close.

Manyani is a unique model for rangers across the continent. Extinction is the most unholy definition of our time. The only extinction created by man. We have to be held accountable. Because in the end, all the money in the world won’t bring back the tiger, the whales, the frogs, the elephant and yes even the insects whose populations are diminishing across the globe.

We must forge a clear vision of what we have become on this small planet and what we ultimately want to be as a species, because our very place on earth lies in the balance. The window to reverse course is closing fast and much depends on this decade, perhaps the last in which we can salvage not only the countless species that make up the tapestry of life, but also our souls. We won’t be given a second chance.

Learn more about Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson’s work at their website.

 

Truck kills two rhinos in Zambian national park

By Conservation, News No Comments
The Independent Online | February 27, 2020

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RUSTENBURG: Two white rhinos were killed when a truck hit them in the Mosi-oa-Tunya national park in Livingstone, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Original photo as published by IOL: Two rhinos died after a truck hit them at the Mosi -oa-Tunya National Park in Livingstone, Zambia. Picture: Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation

It said the truck with Namibian registration numbers hit the animals on the Livingstone-Kazungula road which passes through the national park.

Southern Province Minister Edify Hamukale told the broadcaster that he had instructed the department of national parks and wildlife, the road development agency and the road transport and safety agency to put up speed humps on the road within the park to avoid similar accidents.

He said it was also important to place visible warning signs indicating that wild animals often crossed the road within the park, to alert motorists.

New law to help tackle illegal trade, money laundering in Kenya

By Illegal trade No Comments
Ventures Africa | February 28, 2020

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Kenya is looking to curb illegal transactions while promoting transparency in the shipping industry with a new bill, which is being drafted by more than 19 government agencies and is expected to be tabled before parliament before year-end.

Under the law, importers and exporters would be compelled to identify the individuals or companies sending or receiving packages from around the world. Banks and other financial institutions also have to identify senders and receivers of funds as well as assess the risk that the transaction might be used for illegal purposes.

The new bill has been backed by Treasury and the judiciary who believe mandating import-export agents, shippers and brokers to carry out due diligence of their customers would help in the fight against money laundering, a problem that has long plagued Kenya and for which it had a demonetization last June.

Being the financial hub of the East African region, Kenya remains vulnerable to money laundering. This occurs in the formal and informal sectors, deriving from domestic and foreign criminal operations. Such criminal activities include smuggling, illicit trade in drugs, counterfeit goods and weapons, trade in illegal timber and charcoal, and trafficking of wildlife parts.

Moreover, Kenya is the economic and transport hub of East Africa as well with the country’s Mombasa Port being the major trade gateway for much of the region. This makes the region susceptible to the illegal movement of goods and over time, there have been partnerships among member countries towards fighting illicit trade.

While there is a lack of verifiable data on illicit trade or its associated costs, there is a general agreement that it results in major financial and social costs globally and brings about risks to economic growth and sustainable development. For instance, the trafficking of animal parts such as ivory, tiger skins, and rhino horns is estimated to be a $19 billion trade per year.

A 2018 survey by accounting consultant Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) reveals that 75 percent of the respondents in Kenya bore the brunt of economic crime that continues to trouble the country. Illegal trade and the wide availability of illicit liquidity also prevent fair and open markets from reaching their full economic potential and threaten state sovereignty, experts say.

“The criminal activities we experience in our financial institution linked to illegal freight trade has damaged and endangered Kenya’s economy,” Kenya’s Central Bank Governor Patrick Njoroge said while endorsing the proposed legislation.

The law, commonly known as Know Your Customer, once adopted, is expected to be aligned with the East Africa Protocol on the Prevention and Combating Corruption and Illegal Trade. “In future, banks will have to adopt the “Know Your Customer” scheme before any transaction is completed but at the same time ensure there are few barriers in doing business,” Njoroge added.

Wildlife trafficking in ethnic states Mongla the gravity center in the Golden Triangle

By Illegal trade No Comments
Mizzima | February 22, 2020

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If we are looking to find the culprits behind Myanmar’s wildlife trafficking trade, then we would do well to zero in on certain areas in the country’s ethnic states.

Today, people are beginning to link the dots as China’s coronavirus spreads rapidly and it is hard to avoid the verdict that there is a possible link to the wildlife trafficking trade and that Myanmar plays an important role in the equation.

As death toll rose higher and passed more than 1,100 death count, with more than 45,000 infected, while nearly 190,000 are under medical observation, snakes, bats and now pangolins are now suspected to be the triggers of the novel coronavirus, now officially dubbed as Covid-19, by the World Health Organization (WHO).

After testing more than 1,000 samples from wild animals, scientists from the South China Agricultural University of Guangzhou found the genome sequences of viruses found on pangolins to be 99 percent identical to those on coronavirus patients, the official Xinhua news agency reported, on February 8.

Original photo as published by Mizzima: A Cambodian animal keeper carries a male pangolin at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center in Takeo province, Cambodia. Photo: EPA

Researchers have identified the scaly mammal as a “potential intermediate host,” the university said in a statement, without providing further details. The new virus is believed to have originated in bats, but researchers have suggested there could have been an “intermediate host” in the transmission to humans.

In January after the outbreak of coronavirus China placed a temporary ban on all wildlife trade until further notice, which was welcomed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and urged China to permanently curb the trade.

“This public health crisis needs to be a wake-up call for the Asia-Pacific region that it is time to permanently close illegal and unregulated wildlife markets,” said Ron (Ryuji) Tsutsui, CEO of WWF Japan who is also the Chairperson of the “Asia Pacific Growth Strategy,” which is the WWF CEO’s group in the Asia Pacific Region. “If we don’t permanently end poaching and illegal trade of wild animals for bushmeat, for perceived medicinal value, or as pets, there will always be the threat of this kind of epidemic in the future,” according to the WWF statement of January 31.

WWF report titled: “Illegal Wildlife Trade in the Greater Mekong” wrote: “Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) occurs across the region – from remote corners of Myanmar and Laos, to markets in Bangkok and Hanoi – but its center of gravity is the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Myanmar, Lao PDR, and China meet. Here, casino-resorts, hotels, restaurants and markets openly sell illegal wildlife products with relative impunity. While it is understood that the majority of consumers in these markets are from Mainland China, buyers come from across the Greater Mekong and further afield in Southeast Asia, including Singapore.”

As such, the center of gravity being the Golden Triangle, two enclaves administered by United Wa State Army (UWSA) and National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) or Mongla become the outstanding culprits that have fueled the wildlife trade, with the latter literally inheriting the nefarious title of “Ground Zero for Wildlife Trade”.

Reportedly, Mongla is the main supermarket for wildlife trade, offering everything from mammals, birds to reptiles, while the UWSA capital Panghsang caters to a more upscale products in its city’s shopping facilities. But other wildlife trading points observation studies such as Myawaddy in Karen State have been taken into account, including the Golden Triangle portion of Myanmar’s Mongla in particular, in the form of final report by Dr. Sapai Min, Lecturer, Department of Zoology, University of Yangon.

Two Reports on Wildlife Trafficking

“A Final Report on Investigation of Wildlife Trade in Myanmar-Thailand Border Cities under Growing Trans-boundary Economic Trade,” a one-year survey (March 2016 to March 2017) by Dr. Sapai Min, Lecturer, Department of Zoology, University of Yangon, wrote:

“Tachilek and Myawaddy were focused as two main study cities on the border with Thailand. Items observed at the survey site included animal skins, whole animals and body parts, primarily for use in traditional medicine and for decoration; live animals on sale to be kept as pets and wild meat for food were recorded. Wildlife parts were not observed in Myawaddy on the border of Thailand. In Tachilek, a total of 35 species were recorded, of which 33 species are afforded to some degree of protection under Myanmar’s national wildlife legislation which are listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendices or in International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) globally threatened categories. Only 18 of the 35 species observed were not listed in the CITES Appendices. Eight of the 35 species were not legally protected in the Myanmar Wildlife Protection Law (MWPL). According to interviews with local traders and from direct observations, most of wildlife species were brought by middle men from everywhere in Myanmar. Furthermore, wildlife from Tachileik is traded not only with Thailand, using illegal routes to avoid Myanmar-Thailand check points but also with China through Mongla, the border town as the destination of traded wildlife species. Therefore, wildlife parts were seen for sale in Tachileik but not in Myawaddy, where the trade is locally prohibited.”

“Although there were no wildlife parts in Myawaddy, some bird species and reptiles species were recorded as pet species in Mae Sot in Thailand, opposite Myawaddy on the border of Thailand. According to the interview with birds shop owner in Mae Sot, some bird species were recorded coming from the Myanmar side,” the report states.

Another study entitled “A Final Report on Assessment of the Impacts of Wildlife Trade in Relation to Conservation in Mongla city, east of Shan State, Myanmar-China border city,” also written by Dr. Sapae Min says:

“Assessment of the impacts of wildlife trade in relation to conservation in Mongla city, east of Shan State, Myanmar-China border city, was conducted over one year (October 2014 to October 2015). A range of wildlife species was for sale at markets in Mongla city on the border with China. Items observed at the survey site included animal skins, whole animals and body parts, primarily for use in traditional medicine and for decoration; live animals were on sale to be kept as pets and wild meat for food. A total of 48 species were recorded, of which 33 species are afforded some degree of protection under Myanmar’s national wildlife legislation and/or are listed in the CITES Appendices or in IUCN globally threatened categories. Only 20 of the 48 species observed were not listed in the CITES Appendices. Fifteen of the 48 species were not legally protected in the MWPL.”

“In all, a total of 48 wildlife species were offered for sale. Out of these, 27 species of mammals, 14 species of birds and 7 reptile species were recorded as the traded species in Mongla market. Most of species been listed under nationally and/ or globally threatened categories under the Myanmar Wildlife Protection Law 1994 (MWPL), the IUCN Red List, and/or in the CITES Appendices,” according to the report.

Both studies include three tables, which are: Table 1. Mammals species, observed parts and their conservation status; Table 2. Birds species, observed parts and their conservation status; and Table 3. Reptiles species, observed parts and their conservation status.

Ten Most Trafficked Species

The ten most wanted endangered species on sale in the markets of Golden Triangle are tigers, elephants, bears and pangolin, four of which are the most widely traded species in the Golden Triangle – the border area where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet – according to a report from WWF. Rhinos, serow, helmeted hornbill, gaur, leopards and turtles round out the list of endangered species that are openly sold in a region, nefariously known as “Ground Zero” in the illegal wildlife trade.

According to estimates, thousands of elephants are illegally killed each year worldwide, producing hundreds of tonnes of ivory for export, with annual seizures amounting to tens of tonnes, according to the report of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in August 2019.

Reportedly, illegal trading of pangolins has grown over the past decade, and more than one million of the animals are estimated to have been killed.

Southeast Asian tiger skins, as well as the skins of other Asian big cats, are used for decoration and gifts, while their organs are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Bear bile, also taken primarily from the gallbladders of the Asiatic black bear, has long been used in traditional medicine as treatment for a wide range of inflammatory and degenerative ailments in East Asia and by Asians living in other countries.

Mongla the Wildlife Major Trafficking Hub

Mongla is located opposite Daluo, a Chinese border town in Yunnan Province, and approximately 258 kilometers from Mae Sai, a border town of Thailand, and approximately 80 kilometers north-east of Kengtung.

Technically the town is in Myanmar, but it is dependent on China for electricity, telecommunications, infrastructure and imports and exports. The main currency used in Mongla is the Chinese yuan.

Mongla, also known as Shan State’s Special Region 4, is a town that is nefarious for its casino, money laundry, flesh trade and illegal wildlife trading. Sai Lin, who led the breakaway faction from Communist Party of Burma (CPB) came to the area in the 1960s and after the CPB disintegration, he signed a unilateral ceasefire in 1989 in exchange for a freehand in the ruling of the Mongla area. His forces were renamed National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA).

“Myanmar has the perfect conditions for the illegal wildlife trade: abundant wildlife, conflict in border regions with little or no government control, located near the infamous Golden Triangle where all sorts of illegal trade thrives, and neighbours with China, where demand for illegal wildlife products is greatest,” Christy Williams, country director of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Myanmar) said, as reported in the Myanmar Times in August 2019.

According to the WWF report of 2017, Mongla was portrayed as the poster child of a notorious wildlife trade and its markets have been identified as some of the worst offenders in the Golden Triangle. Surveys detected at least 39 tigers traded between February 2009 and December 2013. It is estimated that about one-third of poached wild tigers globally pass through Myanmar.

Other wild cat species detected at Mongla include leopard, golden cat, and clouded leopard, with 49 whole elephant tusks, plus more than 3,000 items of carved ivory, detected in December 2013. The estimated retail value of ivory and pangolin products observed in December 2013 at Mongla exceeded $4 million.

Surveys conducted in 2015 have also demonstrated the availability of African species, including rhino horn, which were openly displayed as both jewelry and consumable chunks, with stocks in just three shops valued at more than $250,000.

“It is therefore clear that the wildlife markets of the Golden Triangle have direct links with the current rhino and elephant poaching crisis in Southern and Eastern Africa,” according to the WWF report.

Greater Mekong and Golden Triangle Linkage

A survey of Mongla wildlife trafficking cannot be complete without taking into account the Vietnam connection within the Greater Mekong market network, which also includes the Special Economic Zone or SEZ of Laos.

If one cares to look at the map from the report “Running Out of Time: Wildlife Crime Justice Failures in Vietnam,” issued by the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), in July 2019, Chinese tourist hot spots such as Mong Cai, Hoanh Mo, Tan Thanh, and Lao Cai, in Vietnam with gateways to China, are about the same longitude-level with Mongla and Special Economic Zone of Laos to the west, which have border-crossings with China.

The major import sources are mostly African countries and wildlife trading countries mostly ASEAN countries, with only Myanmar and Laos which have two-way trade of imports and exports.

Thus, Mongla acts as both a buyer and seller in relation to Vietnam, which the EIA report pointed out as the biggest player in wildlife trafficking with an international network.

“Based on publicly available seizure data, Vietnam is implicated in over 600 seizures linked to illegal trade. This includes a minimum of 105.72 tonnes of ivory, equivalent to more than 15,779 dead elephants; 1.69 tonnes of horn estimated to be sourced from up to 610 rhinos; skins, bones and other products sourced from a minimum of 228 tigers; and the bodies and scales of 65,510 pangolins,” according to the EIA report.

Kachin State

Besides Karen and Shan states, Kachin State is also involved in the wildlife trade but less obviously.

“Despite intensified nationwide efforts to curb illegal wildlife trade, Putao – a remote town in conflict-torn Kachin State that borders China — is a hotbed of the illicit activity, according to sources who saw first-hand the body parts of endangered animals being sold openly in markets and other public places,” according to a report in Myanmar Times on 16 March 2018.

Wildlife species’ body parts are available in Puta-o Bazaar, shops near Puta-o Airport and a bazaar at Mulashide village located near the town, according to activists.

Puta-o town is near the Hkakaborazi National Park, which is in line for listing as a world heritage site. Activists suspect the wildlife parts traded in the town came from the protected area.

“The northern Myanmar region has been identified as a potential transit and source place for the illegal trade of pangolins and their scales. In this study, we surveyed the trade links between Kachin State (northern Myanmar) and China and Kachin and India based on interviews, market surveys and online seizure data,” according to the research article “Illegal pangolin trade in northernmost Myanmar and its links to India and China,” published by Global Ecology and Conservation, in April 2017.

“Based on the results from interviews, we found that around 140–168 pangolins/year are smuggled into China via three different routes from Kachin to China. Scales are the most traded parts of pangolins in this part of Myanmar. Based on the online sources, 30 seizures of pangolin and their products were made on the Kachin–China route during 2010–2016, with all seizures made on the Chinese side of the border,” the report added to make the point of existing pangolin trade in Kachin State.

What Now?

To sum up, the ethnic states of Karen, Shan and Kachin are all involved in the wildlife trade to varying degrees.

While Mongla the Golden Triangle in Shan State is reputed to be the wildlife trafficking capital of the world, Karen State of Myawaddy mostly trades only with Thailand and the Kachin State hunters hunt overwhelmingly for domestic consumption, with perhaps the wildlife mammals’ flesh and body parts finding their way across the border into China. But the pangolin trade is an established fact, according to Global Ecology and Conservation research report.

And with the two-way trade between Greater Mekong countries, Vietnam in particular, Mongla will continue to be the hub of assorted wildlife trade.

For the time being, due to the coronavirus epidemic, although the wildlife trade, including the consuming of the flesh, is banned, the business probably will bounce back once the disease is under control and the ban lifted.

It should not be forgotten that China made it clear that the ban is temporary in nature.

“Raising, transporting or selling all wild animal species is forbidden from the date of the announcement until the national epidemic situation is over,” said a directive issued jointly by three Chinese agencies, in the aftermath of recent coronavirus outbreak in January.

In the same vein, Beijing announced a similar ban during the outbreak of SARS in 2002.

Besides, China, the major wildlife products consumer, is entrenched in its usage of wildlife species parts in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), including the love for exotic bushmeat which will be hard to curb.

With a value of between $7 billion and $23 billion each year, illegal wildlife trafficking is the fourth most lucrative global crime after drugs, humans and arms, according to World Economic Forum.

Ending the trade will be a tough call.

Some are hoping that China’s temporary ban on the wildlife trade will become permanent, not only to protect against new viruses but also to crack down on a trade that is leading to the extinction of many species of wildlife.

 

Anthrax ruled out as cause of 4 rhino deaths (State of West Bengal, India)

By Conservation, News No Comments
Pinak Priya Bhattacharya, The Times of India | February 24, 2020

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JALPAIGURI: The forest department has ruled out anthrax as the cause of four rhino deaths at Jaldapara national park last week.

“We sent viscera samples to Belgachhia lab and a private lab. The results were negative for anthrax,” a senior forester said.

The department has, however, stopped elephant safari in the park till Thursday to keep a watch on kunki elephants vaccinated over fears of an anthrax outbreak.

“The department needs to identify the disease and take measures at the earliest,” said environmentalist Shyama Prasad Pandey of Society for Protecting Ophiofauna and Animal Rights.

 

120,000-yr-old rhino found at second railway track (Slovenia)

By Archeology One Comment
Neža Loštrek, Total Slovenia News | February 25, 2020

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Last week one of the palaeontologists overseeing the construction site of the second railway track between Divača and Koper spotted bones that appeared as white stone.

It turned out that at depth of about 20 metres the excavator uncovered bones of an ancient rhino, who lived in the area at least 120,000 years ago, and perhaps much earlier.

Original illustration as published by Total Slovenia News: Stephanorhinus etruscus.

Astrid Schwar from the Karst Research Institute, who first spotted the finding, stated for Delo that the bones must have been laying in what was once a Karst cave, since parts of stalactites and flowstone were found nearby. While a full skeleton has not been found, there is perhaps enough to be eventually exhibited once it’s excavated, examined and preserved.

Irena Debeljak from Ivan Rakovec Paleontological Institute examined the site last Thursday, and found about a four-centimetre-long tooth which she ascribed with some certainty to one of the three species of rhinos that lived in the area of the Karst in the Pleistocene era.

She stated for Delo that the tooth might belong to a relatively rare species of rhino in that time and area, Stephanorhinus. But before any conclusions are made, Debeljak continued, the tooth needs to be carefully cleaned of flowstone and examined.

The works at the second track will now stall for a couple of weeks until palaeontologists complete their work. Adrijan Košir, from the Geological Survey of Slovenia, said that the rhino, especially in such a good condition, is a rare finding, but will not significantly delay the construction works.

 

After smuggling endangered rhino horns, woman fined $2,000 and gets probation (Los Angeles, California)

By Illegal trade, Law & legislation No Comments
Priscella Vega, The LA Times | February 25, 2020

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A woman convicted of participating in an Orange County-based scheme to smuggle the horns of endangered black rhinoceroses across the globe was sentenced this week to three years’ probation and a $2,000 fine, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Nhu Mai Nguyen’s probation period includes one year of home detention, authorities said. She also was ordered to forfeit 100 blocks of gold and $9,000 in cash seized from a safety deposit box, according to a document signed by Central Court District Judge Christina A. Snyder.

Nguyen told Snyder through a translator Monday, “I know that what I’ve done is wrong. If your honor would forgive me for what I did,” City News Service reported. Nguyen’s attorney, Mona Soo Hoo, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Nguyen is among six people who pleaded guilty in 2012 for taking part in an international smuggling ring, based in Garden Grove, that sold black rhinoceros horns to Vietnam and China between 2011 and 2012. Some believe the horns have medicinal powers.

Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring network, cites the poaching of rhinos for their horns as one of the main reasons the species is endangered.

In 2013, Nguyen’s boyfriend, Vinh Chuong Kha, also known as Jimmy Kha, was sentenced to 42 months in jail, for their involvement in the ring. His son, Felix Kha, was sentenced to 46 months. They also paid $10,000 fines and about $175,000 in restitution to the IRS, according to authorities.

“By taking out this ring of rhino horn traffickers, we have shut down a major source of black market horn and dealt a serious blow to rhino horn smuggling both in the U.S. and globally,” said Dan Ashe, then director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Federal wildlife agents in California and other states, working together on an investigation dubbed “Operation Crash,” cracked the ring by tracking hundreds of thousands of dollars through bank wire transfers and travel records.

 

Rhino death zone in Jaldapara National Park quarantined (State of West Bengal, India)

By Conservation No Comments
The Telegraph India | February 26, 2020

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The forest department has quarantined an area of around 3sqkm at Jaldapara National Park in Alipurduar district to prevent the spread of an infection that is suspected to have caused the death of five rhinos over the past week.

Foresters said no fresh deaths or illness has been reported in the past three days.

Last week, four rhinos were found dead at the Sishamara beat of the park. Another rhino carcass was found in the forest under the Malangi beat.

Original photo as published by Telegraph India: Forest guards in Jaldapara prepare to dart a rhino with arrows fixed with red markers for identification after vaccination (Picture courtesy: Bengal forest department)

“We have quarantined for 20 days the area at Sishamara where the carcasses were found. Our men are on vigil to prevent animals from getting into the area. Also, temporary energised fences will be erected to stop the movement of animals. All the six rhinos spotted in the area have been vaccinated, along with the pet elephants,” said Kumar Vimal, the divisional forest officer of Jaldapara.

Although the infection is yet to be identified, the anthrax spore vaccine has been administered, according to forest officials.

According to him, sanitisation of the stretch has begun. “Our men are spraying formalin and lime in the forest. After that, we will carry out a controlled burning of the grass, which is yet another preventive measure to stop the infection from spreading. The fence will be installed after that,” he added.

Seventeen other rhinos that have been seen close to the affected area have also been vaccinated and have been marked with red paints for identification. In Jaldapara, the rhino population is around 250.

Another forest official said when asked why only the rhinos at Sishamara have been vaccinated, said: “If an herbivore of any other species is found ill or its carcass is found with similar symptoms, vaccinations will be done immediately.”

Rajib Banerjee, the state forest minister, said they had decided to constitute a veterinary unit for wild animals with a pathological lab at Madarihat, the entry point to Jaldapara.

“The unit will be of help in many ways, and particularly during situations such as those that we encountered last week,” Banerjee over phone.

With no new deaths being reported since Sunday, the department has planned to conduct a herbivore count next month.

“The department has decided to conduct a herbivore count across the forests of the state from March 12 to March 14. After the deaths of rhinos in Jaldapara, we were a bit apprehensive about whether to go ahead or postpone it here. But now that no new deaths due to the infection has been reported, we will go ahead with the exercise,” Vimal said.