Monthly Archives

March 2020

Rhino census postponed (Nepal)

By Antipoaching, Conservation
Khabarhb| March 20, 2020

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CHITWAN: A rhino census that was scheduled to be conducted from coming March 23 has been postponed due to novel coronavirus fears.

The Chitwan National Park (CNP) had made necessary preparations to that connection after the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) sent a letter to that effect.

A pre-census training was set to be organized in Sauraha of Chitwan on March 20 and 21, according to CNP assistant conservation officer Prakash Upreti said.


About 100 people including the employees of CNP, the elephant breeding center and the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) were supposed to attend the training.

The rhino census was to be held in Parsa, Bardiya and Shuklaphanta national parks.

Rhino census was conducted before this in 1994, 2000, 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2015.

 

 

 

Three suspected rhino poachers found with pesticide denied bail (Zimbabwe)

By Antipoaching, Conservation
The Chronicle| March 19, 2020

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Three suspected rhino poachers who allegedly strayed into Bubye Conservancy in Mazunga area in Beitbridge district, where they intended to poison wildlife were on Thursday denied bail by the High Court.

Thinkmore Midzi (25), Nqobizitha Dube (34) and Wenzile Midzi were arrested in Bubye Conservancy after they were tracked down by park rangers.

They were found in possession of a pesticide which they intended to poison rhinos, which are a protected species.

The trio through their lawyer Ms Primrose Ncube of Ncube and Attorneys, filed an application for bail pending trial at the Bulawayo High Court citing the State as a respondent.

Justice Thompson Mabhikwa ruled that the trio were not proper candidates for bail and dismissed their application.

Original image as posted by The Chronicle


“The three applicants are facing a very a serious offence and there is no guarantee that if they are released on bail, they would not contemplate absconding. It is the court’s finding that under these circumstances you don’t qualify for bail and accordingly the application is dismissed,” ruled Justice Mabhikwa.

In their bail statement, the trio argued that there were no compelling reasons warranting their continued detention.

They further contended that there was no evidence linking them to the alleged offence.

They said the game scouts and police were falsely framing them after realising that they were likely to report them for assault.

“I am convinced that the respondents have no compelling reasons to deny my clients bail and the onus is on the State to prove so. There is no evidence linking them with the offence and this matter has no feet to stand on,” said Ms Ncube.

She allayed the State’s fears that her clients would abscond if released on bail.

“There is no reason for the applicants to abscond as the State case is weak. The accused persons have no previous conviction or any pending court case,” said Ms Ncube.

The trio had offered to pay $500 bail each and to report at Beitbridge Police Station once a fortnight.

They had also offered to continue residing at their given addresses until the matter is finalised as part of the bail conditions.

The State, which was represented by Mr Kudakwashe Jaravaza opposed the application, arguing that they were likely to abscond due to the gravity of the offence.

“The three applicants initially pleaded guilty to the first count of possession of a hazardous substance in violation of Statutory Instrument 268/18 of the Environmental Management (Control of Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2018. They were convicted on February 10, 2020 pending sentence before they changed the plea to that of not guilty,” said Mr Jaravaza.

“I submit that while bail is a right, the applicants are faced with a strong State case and clearly if released on bail they will abscond.”

According to court papers it was stated that on February 8, the trio allegedly entered Bubye Conservancy after scaling the fence and their intention was to poach rhinos.

The following day at around 7am, security guards manning the perimeter fence spotted some footprints and they got suspicious and alerted game scouts.

The game scouts teamed up with ZimParks rangers and followed the footprints which led them deep into the conservancy.

During tracking, the team came across some poison laced green mealies and cabbages along the way. They continued following the footprints and found the three accused persons. On being quizzed the trio failed to give satisfactory responses leading to its arrest.

On being searched, the game rangers recovered a machete, hacksaw, blades and the pesticide.

The accused persons led police detectives into the inner part of the conservancy and recovered six cobs of green mealie and two cabbages sprinkled with some pesticide.

The loot was deliberately dumped in an open space so that rhinos could consume and die.

 

 

A detective pursued rhino poachers. Now he’s dead

By Antipoaching, Conservation
The New York Times | March 19, 2020

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For years, the police detective had patrolled deep into South African parks and game reserves investigating rhinoceros poachers — including fellow police — in a country that is home to the vast majority of the world’s dwindling rhinoceros population.

The detective, Lt.-Col. Leroy Bruwer, had been well aware that the work was risky; he was assaulted and his car damaged two years ago in retaliation for testifying at a court hearing of a suspected poaching kingpin.

On Tuesday morning, Colonel Bruwer was driving to work when he was shot by gunmen with what appeared to be “heavy-caliber weapons” in the northeastern city of Mbombela, the South African police said. Colonel Bruwer, who was 49, died at the scene.

Police are now investigating the killing of the man known as “one of the best rhino cops ever,” a pivotal role in a key front in the global campaign to save the rhinoceros from extinction. South Africa, whose approximately 20,000 wild rhinos make up over 80 percent of the world’s remaining rhino population, is also the country most affected by rhino poaching, according to Save the Rhino, a British-based conservation group.

Original image from NY Times: About 600 rhinos were killed for their horns in South Africa in 2019, the government says.Credit…


In the past decade, poachers have killed more than 8,880 African rhinos, the charity says.

South Africa’s national police commissioner condemned the killing of Colonel Bruwer, and promised a thorough investigation. Two men were taken in for questioning on Wednesday, according to a South African media report.

The police said Colonel Bruwer had excelled in “cracking complex cases, particularly related to rhino poaching.”

Colonel Bruwer, who was commander of an organized crime investigation unit in Mpumalanga Province, was decorated as the unit’s best detective in 2016 for his role in bringing to trial three police officers suspected of rhino poaching in 2014, who were later found guilty and dismissed from the service.

Mpumalanga, the province in which Colonel Brewer was shot, has been struggling to thwart both rhino poaching and the often violent hijacking of armored vehicles transporting cash, said Brig. Hangwani Mulaudzi, a spokesman for the priority crimes unit, in a telephone interview.

In recent years, Colonel Bruwer led an investigation into a suspected rhino poaching kingpin — Petrus Mabuza, a businessman known as “Mr. Big” — and his testimony in a high-profile case involving Mr. Mabuza drew widespread attention.

Testifying in the case in October 2018, Colonel Bruwer expressed fear for the lives of those on his investigating team after supporters of Mr. Mabuza who were demanding his release assaulted the detective. Colonel Bruwer’s car was damaged as well, but it is unclear by whom. The prosecutor in the case was also threatened, the newspaper Lowvelder reported.

Mr. Mabuza was first charged on six counts related to rhino poaching and released on bail in July 2018. He was later arrested again and released again on bail in January 2019. His trial is set to continue later this year.

Colonel Bruwer’s passion for wildlife began in childhood. His father worked for many years at Kruger National Park, the site of frequent poaching incidents, said Kobus van der Walt, who worked closely with Colonel Bruwer and is a lawyer with Mpumalanga Province’s asset forfeiture unit.

Poaching investigations would often take Colonel Bruwer and Mr. van der Walt back into the park to assess crime scenes, the lawyer said in a telephone interview on Thursday. On these trips the detective would recognize “small animals, plants and — just by hearing — a bird,” Mr. van der Walt said.

Colonel Bruwer also stood out because of the meticulous case files that he submitted to prosecutors, Mr. van der Walt said.

“They were neatly typed, in a specific font to make them presentable and easy to read,” he said. “There were no gaps in his dockets.”

Demand for rhinoceros horns spiked in the 1970s and 1980s because of their use in traditional Asian medicines and their status as a symbol of wealth, and conservationists have since fought to protect the animals.

The number of rhinoceroses killed for their horns in South Africa dropped to 594 in 2019 — down from the 769 killed the previous year. However, South Africa’s environment minister, Barbara Creecy, announced in February that wildlife trafficking is still “a highly sophisticated form of serious transnational organized crime that threatens national security.”

The animals’ habitats are also at risk because land is being rapidly cleared for housing, logging and agriculture.

“Rhinos remain under threat from organized crime syndicates as well as availability of suitable habitat in the long-term,” the World Wildlife Fund said last month.

Jamie Joseph, director of Saving the Wild, a South Africa-based environmental organization that helped in the investigation of Mr. Mabuza, called Colonel Bruwer “one of the best rhino cops ever” and said that his death left “a void that might never be filled.”

She said in an email on Thursday that she also feared for the safety of others who assisted in the case. “If I am not next in line to be assassinated, then it is someone in my team,” she said.

But Mr. van der Walt said the detective’s killing would only intensify their drive to catch and prosecute poachers.

“If they kill 10 of us,” he said, “there are 20 more of us.”

 

 

Slow growth in black rhino numbers cause for hope: Conservationists

By Antipoaching, Conservation
Agence France-Presse| March 21, 2020

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The tentative recovery of Africa’s black rhino population was hailed by conservationists on Thursday as a cause for hopes that ambitious protection efforts could overcome the “acute threat” of poaching.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature said the number of black rhinos, which were once plentiful across sub-Saharan Africa, increased at a “modest” annual rate of 2.5 percent from 2012 to 2018, from an estimated 4,845 to 5,630 animals in the wild.

It said the population was expected to continue its slow increase for the next five years.

“While Africa’s rhinos are by no means safe from extinction, the continued slow recovery of Black Rhino populations is a testament to the immense efforts made in the countries the species occurs in, and a powerful reminder to the global community that conservation works,” said Grethel Aguilar, Acting Director General of IUCN in a statement.

Original image from The Jakarta Post: The number of black rhinos, which were once plentiful across sub-Saharan Africa, increased at a “modest” annual rate of 2.5 percent from 2012 to 2018, from an estimated 4,845 to 5,630 animals in the wild. (AFP/Joe Raedle/Getty Images)


“At the same time, it is evident that there is no room for complacency as poaching and illegal trade remain acute threats.”

Thousands of rhinos that once roamed Africa and Asia have been culled by poaching and habitat loss. Very few are found outside national parks and reserves.

Poaching is fuelled by a seemingly insatiable demand for rhino horn in Asia, where people pay huge sums for a substance — coveted as a traditional medicine — that is composed mainly of keratin, the same substance as in human nails.

The black rhino has three subspecies, one has recovered enough to be classified as “near threatened”, from “vulnerable”, while the other two remain critically endangered.

Africa’s more numerous white rhino — targeted by poachers partly because it has larger horns — has continued to suffer losses.

The Southern White Rhino subspecies declined by 15 percent between 2012 and 2017, from an estimated 21,300 to 18,000 animals, according to the IUCN, largely due to extensive poaching in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The other subspecies, the Northern White Rhino, remains listed as critically endangered, possibly extinct in the wild.

In February, Botswana said at least 46 rhinos had been slaughtered there in 10 months — reducing the country’s population of the protected animals by almost ten percent and prompting the government to warn that they could be wiped out in the southern African country by 2021.

The increase in black rhino numbers was dependent on continued robust law enforcement measures and efforts to encourage populations to reproduce by moving some rhinos to new locations.

But the IUCN, which released the statement as part of its Red List of 116,177 species, of which 31,030 are threatened with extinction, warned that the costs of keeping rhinos safe could hamper progress.

It said around half of white rhinos and some 40 percent of black rhinos were now conserved on private or community managed land and warned the trend towards rhinos being increasingly viewed as costly liabilities could threaten to limit or reverse the future expansion of the species’ range and numbers.

Black rhinos first suffered from hunting by European settlers. Later, poachers largely wiped them out, with the population declining from an estimated 37,807 in 1973 to a low of 2,354 in the mid 1990s.

 

 

Stray rhino causes panic at Jorhat district in Kokilamukh Forest (State of Assam, India)

By Conservation, Land conservation
The Sentinel Assam | March 18, 2020

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JORHAT: An adult rhino which came out from the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) has been wreaking havoc since the past one week at Aruna Chapori, Bhekuli Chapori and Molai Kathoni, i.e., ‘Forest Man of India’ Jadav Payeng’s forest, towards the northern side of Jorhat district in Kokilamukh Forest Beat under Jorhat Forest Division, said Tongkeswar Bayan, a Forest official on Tuesday.

To push back the adult male rhino, the Jorhat and Majuli Forest Divisions have brought in two elephants along with two Forest guards with arms and mahuts from KNP.

Original photo from The Sentinel Assam


They are looking for the stray rhino that has reached Jadav Payeng’s forest via the Brahmaputra shore belt.

On Sunday, the stray rhino had chased a team of Administration and Forest officials at Dhudang Chapori towards south Majuli. Somehow, the 10-member team fled the scene in a Bolero car that was parked nearby, said Forest sources.

 

Rhino kills Kaziranga National Park employee (State of Assam, India)

By Antipoaching, Conservation
The Telegraph India | March 18, 2020

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A forest staff was killed on the spot while another was injured by a rhino at the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) on Tuesday morning.

Bikudar Bora, a game watcher (GW) and Anil Kalita, a gardener, who were patrolling the southern side of Ajhar Katoni under Muna Tongi camp of the Kohora range were attacked by the rhino around 9.30am on Tuesday.

During the attack, Bikudar died on the spot while Anil was shifted to Kohora Model Hospital where he is undergoing treatment.

His condition is stated to be out of danger.

The park’s director P. Sivakumar said the deceased was a dutiful employee of the park. He said the rhino had attacked them suddenly and they could not escape.

Original photo from The Telegraph India: Bikudar Bora, a game watcher (GW) and Anil Kalita, a gardener, who were patrolling the southern side of Ajhar Katoni under Muna Tongi camp of the Kohora range were attacked by the rhino around 9.30am on Tuesday.


Assistant conservator of forest at Kaziranga, Ritupaban Bora, said 22 people had died following animal attacks in Kaziranaga since 1992 while 105 were injured since 1975.

“Among them, 11 persons died and 65 were injured in rhino attacks only,” he said.

Several individuals, including the staff and officers of KNP and organisations working for environment conservation like Aaranyak and Aashray, expressed shock and extended condolences to Bikudar’s family and paid respect to the departed soul.

Aaranyak’s chief executive officer Bibhab Kumar Talukdar said his demise was a big loss.

Aashray’s president Biren Saikia said Bikudar would be remembered by nature lovers for his sacrifice.

In a Facebook post by the Kaziranga National Park, the staff and the officers of KNP expressed their deep condolences on the demise of a “brave rhino lover” of the park.

The post said: “We express our deep condolence for the demise of Sri Bikudar Bora, a GW who died due to rhino attack at the southern side of Ajhar Katoni under Muna Tongi in Kaziranga range, Kohora. His supreme sacrifice will be remembered forever. May god comfort his bereaved family. May his soul rest in peace.”

Local short film “Baxu and the Giants” to stream globally

By Antipoaching, Conservation, Education, namibia
The Economist | March 18, 2020

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Multiple award-winning local short film ‘Baxu and the Giants’, telling the story of how Rhino poaching triggers social change in rural Namibia, will be available globally to stream and download for free starting 20 March.

The 29-minute film follows Baxu, a 9-year old girl who is in touch with nature and tradition but toughened by life in poverty, lives with her older brother Khata and an alcoholic grandmother in a village in Damaraland, Namibia.

Baxu and the Giants was commissioned by the Legal Assistance Centre with the aim of sensitising teenagers to the issue of poaching in Namibia. Producer Andrew Botelle (‘The Power Stone’, ‘Born in Etosha’) enlisted Director and Co-Writer Florian Schott (‘Katutura’) and Co-Producer/Co-Writer Girley Jazama (‘The White Line’) to craft an emotional story out of this difficult issue.

Original image from The Economist


Over the last six months, Baxu and the Giants screened in ten countries around the world, at over 20 Film Festivals and won multiple international awards, including the Award for Best Foreign Narrative at the San Francisco Independent Short Film Festival, three Namibian Theatre- and Film Awards (including Best Female Actor for 10-year-old Camilla Jo-Ann Daries), two international Cinematography Awards and two Awards at the Knysna Film Festival in South Africa.

Just in the last few weeks, Schott presented the film to over 500 school children in Los Angeles as part of the Pan African Film Festival and at the RapidLion Film Festival in Johannesburg, where the film was also nominated for ‘Best Humanitarian Film’.

In addition to that, the Legal Assistance started showing the film to thousands of learners all across Namibia and MaMoKoBo Video & Research is busy bringing the film to all corners of Namibia via mobile screenings, in partnership with the Save the Rhino Trust and the Ministry of Environment & Tourism.

Baxu and the Giants will be available to stream on the official website baxuandthegiants.com as well as on YouTube and Vimeo.

Two poachers killed after being caught by KZN game park’s hi-tech cameras (South Africa)

By Antipoaching, Conservation, Science and technology
The Independent Online | March 17, 2020

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DURBAN: Cutting-edge technology has been linked to intercepting a poaching incident at a provincial game park earlier this month.

Environmental Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube said two poachers were shot dead in Hluhluwe- iMfolozi Park because they used cutting-edge technology.

Dube-Ncube said the technology was inspired by the 4th Industrial Revolution to protect KwaZulu-Natal’s wildlife and eco-tourism.

She said staff at Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the Peace Parks Foundation and the national Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries had been working hard to install a number of technologies in the Hluhluwe- iMfolozi Park. This had been part of a long-term strategy aimed at protecting the rhino population.

Original image by The Independent Online: The three suspected rhino poachers were caught on a camera that used artificial intelligence.


“We have decided to invest in Smart Park connectivity and the integration of systems to ensure early detection and rapid response. One of the key instruments being used is the installation of infrared trap cameras linked directly to the Parks Operational Centre,” said Dube-Ncube.

“These cameras using artificial intelligence identify people and send an immediate alert to the Operations Centre who then rapidly alert and activate the relevant Reaction Unit and associated resources,” said Dube-Ncube.

The MEC said the incident earlier in the month where two poachers were shot and died at the scene, while a third escaped, was an example of the technology at work.

“An infrared camera detected three armed poaching suspects and automatically alerted the Operations Centre, providing the number of persons, grid reference and direction of the incursion. The Reaction Unit was immediately briefed and dispatched. The suspects were located in the area and challenged. The Reaction Unit members who came under immediate threat defended themselves, which resulted in the two suspects being fatally wounded,” Dube-Ncube said.

She said police managed to recover a heavy calibre hunting rifle and knives commonly used to remove rhino horns. One of the fatally wounded suspects was a well-known high-level rhino poaching suspect. He had been charged for the illegal possession of rhino horn in 2017. He had also been suspected of not only being directly responsible for a number of rhino deaths but of co-ordinating other Mpumalanga poaching groups to target Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.

Ezemvelo spokespers­­on Musa Mntambo said 28 rhinos had been poached in KZN since the start of the year.

KZN police on the hunt for fleeing rhino poachers (South Africa)

By Antipoaching, Conservation, Law & legislation
The Independent Online | March 18, 2020

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DURBAN: Police have launched a manhunt for a group of poachers who abandoned their vehicle and fled into bushes in the KwaZulu-Natal area of KwaMsane in the early hours on Wednesday morning.

According to police spokesperson, Captain Nqobile Gwala, police were conducting crime prevention duties in the early hours of the morning when they saw a vehicle on the N2 freeway.

“When the suspects spotted the police they abandoned their vehicle and fled the scene on foot into nearby bushes. Police officers searched the vehicle and recovered an unlicensed 303 rifle with ten rounds of ammunition, three knives and rope,” Gwala said.

She said the men were believed to have been rhino poachers. Gwala said police are investigating further and trying to trace the men.

Original image from The Independent Online: A group of men, believed to be rhino poachers, fled in the early hours of Wednesday morning after police intercepted their vehicle on the N2 in KwaMsane. Pictured are the items that police recovered from their abandoned vehicle.


Earlier in the week, it was reported that two suspected rhino poachers were shot dead at the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.

While the two died at the scene, a third person managed to flee. Police recovered a high-calibre hunting rifle and knives which were thought to be used when removing rhino horn. One of the men is believed to be a well-known poacher and had been previously charged for being in possession of rhino horn.

Meanwhile, the DA has called for decisive action to be taken to secure the future of rhinos.

“Ultimately, a strong message must be sent. Poaching gangs must know that force will be met with force, and convictions mean protracted jail sentences. Our rhino do not belong to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife – they belong to the citizens of our province and country. Decisive action is needed to secure their future,” DA KZN spokesperson on Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Heinz de Boer, said.

He said Ezemvelo rangers and security staff are at the sharp end of this low-key war that plays itself out in the deep bush of our reserves each day and government needed to support their efforts.

“Key to combatting the scourge of poaching is the proper equipping of rangers, a fundamental change in the minimum sentencing criteria for poaching – and the bolstering of support for specialist prosecutors and courts,” he said.

South Africa launches investigation after top poaching investigator murdered

By Antipoaching, Conservation, Law & legislation
Africa Times | March 18, 2020

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South African police chief General Khehla Sithole has pledged a comprehensive investigation after the “senseless” killing of decorated anti-poaching officer Lt Col Leroy Brewer.

Brewer, 49, was driving to work in Mbombela around 6:30 am on Tuesday, March 17, when he was ambushed and shot by an undetermined number of gunmen using high-caliber weapons. Investigations at the crime scene yielded several empty cartridges, while three bullet holes were found in the driver’s side window and one in the passenger window behind it. Brewer died at the scene of the crime.

Gen Sithole called the killing a “huge loss” to the South African police force and to the broader community, highlighting Lt Col Brewer’s sterling record: “[The colonel] always excelled in complex cases, particularly related to rhino poaching”.

Brewer’s work investigating powerful poaching syndicates in the Kruger earned him a number of accolades, including being named the best detective in elite anti-organised crime unit the Hawks.

Original image: Africa Times


He was particularly known for his determination to investigate any individuals involved in rhino poaching, including fellow policemen. Brewer’s commitment often put him at odds with less scrupulous colleagues. In 2016, for example, he himself was detained by police while he was trying to arrest two officers for ties to a poaching ring.

Rhino poaching has been declining over the past five years in South Africa as the government has made a notable effort to rein in the practice. A number of the country’s various law enforcement agencies—including the Hawks to which Leroy Brewer belonged, as well as park authorities and customs officials—have collaborated to go after international poaching syndicates, with increasingly impressive results.

In 2019, 564 rhinos were killed for their horns—26% less than in the previous year and less than half the number which were slaughtered in 2014, the peak year for rhino poaching in South Africa.

Despite the encouraging trend, rhino poaching remains a serious problem in South Africa. Organised crime networks have a major financial incentive to go after the endangered species. Rhino horn can fetch as much as $6000 per kilogram on the South African black market—and up to ten times that in Asia, where rhino horn is used in a number of traditional medicines.