Monthly Archives

June 2020

Wildlife traffickers setting up fake zoos on Facebook to sell endangered pangolin scales

By Antipoaching, Illegal trade
Matilda Coleman, UpNewsInfo | June 25, 2020

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Wildlife traffickers are openly marketing critically endangered pangolins and their scales on Facebook, setting up profiles for fake petting zoos that direct prospective purchasers to personal WhatsApp numbers exactly where specials are created.

In an investigation published Wednesday, the Tech Transparency Undertaking identified half a dozen public posts marketing pangolin scales only by seeking for the title of the animal written in Vietnamese. Several of the pages presented pangolin scales, which are utilised in conventional Chinese medication.

The Tech Transparency Undertaking is a exploration initiative by the Campaign for Accountability, a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization.

“The pangolin is the world’s most trafficked animal,” the Tech Transparency Project’s executive director, Daniel Stevens, advised Information. “And it’s still easy to find these animals to buy on Facebook.”

Two of the pages identified by the Tech Transparency Report had been taken down by Facebook following Information contacted the platform for comment.

Facebook explained it isn’t going to tolerate the unlawful trading of endangered wildlife and their components on our platforms and will consider down pages or occasions and linked accounts when they are identified to violate these policies. The site’s moderators use a blend of technologies, reviews from NGO partners, reviews from our neighborhood, and human critique to detect and take away violating information.

“We prohibit the trading of endangered wildlife or their components,” a spokesperson for Facebook told News. “It can be unlawful, it can be incorrect, and we have teams devoted to stopping exercise like this.”

The principal way traffickers promote pangolins on Facebook is by generating fake listings for zoos. On 3 pages viewed by Information, the moderator had listed the profile as a zoo or animal rescue services, even although the pages had titles like “Pangolin Scales for Sale in Vietnam” and “Rhino Horns and Pangolin scales for sale in China.” Several of the pages also direct prospective purchasers towards WhatsApp numbers.

“We discretely hunt and sell Rhino Horn and pangolin scales contact us for more information on purchase, WhatsApp me,” 1 web page go through.

Sarah Uhlemann, global system director and senior lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, advised Information she wasn’t stunned that the Tech Transparency Project’s researchers had been ready to discover pangolins on Facebook. Uhlemann explained she was ready to discover on the net vendors the identical way that the Tech Transparency Undertaking group did: by googling the word “pangolin” in simplified Mandarin.

“It’s not that tough to discover,” she explained. “I would say that the Vietnamese link is not surprising to me.”

Uhlemann explained that the Vietnamese Facebook customers marketing pangolin scales are almost certainly linked to a greater network that traffics African pangolins from nations like Nigeria to Vietnam and then into China. “We’re seeing a lot of scales coming out of Nigeria and usually shipped with ivory,” she explained. In accordance to Uhlemann, the pangolin scales are commonly powdered, mixed with other Chinese herbal medicines, and then offered in a mixture that can be consumed in a pill it is touted for a range of utilizes, such as lactation, skin illness, and palsy.

And demand for pangolins has not diminished regardless of the animal’s population getting decimated in China and are labeled as endangered or critically endangered about the globe. In accordance to an April report from the United Nations Workplace on Medication and Crime, seizures of illegally hunted pangolins from Africa and meant for Asian markets have elevated tenfold because 2014.

“One operation last April seized 25 tons of African pangolin scales — representing an estimated 50,000 dead pangolins — with a market value of some $7 million,” the UN office’s executive director, Ghada Waly, explained in the report. “Between 2014 and 2018, the equivalent of 370,000 pangolins were seized globally.”

The Tech Transparency Undertaking identified a different pangolin trafficker who designed a Facebook occasion web page in South Africa. The occasion, which was viewed by Information, was titled, “Sandawana and Pangolin Animals on Sale Worls [sic] Broad.” The occasion incorporated a WhatsApp quantity and advertised a “love spell using Pangolin oil.”

Simply because pangolin trafficking pages are directing prospective customers to encrypted WhatsApp channels, it is tough to estimate the dimension of these operations. The most well-liked of these pages had 336 followers as of Wednesday. The Tech Transparency Undertaking also identified a nevertheless-lively public submit that advertised pangolin shells, which a Vietnamese herbal medication retailer published final June. It had 100 feedback from interested purchasers.

In accordance to Richard Thomas, a spokesperson for Website traffic, a nongovernmental organization that tracks the international trade of wild animals, Facebook is not the most prevalent way to website traffic pangolins, but it can be utilised to promote the animals’ scales.

“Most pangolin trafficking tends to be large shipments of scales, mainly moving between Africa and Asia,” Thomas advised Information. “Social media platforms aren’t a common means used for pangolin trafficking, but if someone has got a pangolin or pangolin parts for sale, it might be one of the ways they use to advertise that.”

Facebook is an lively member of the Coalition to Finish Wildlife Trafficking On the net, which brings with each other organizations from across the globe in partnership with wildlife groups like Website traffic, the Planet Broad Fund for Nature, and the Worldwide Fund for Animal Welfare. Coalition members have eliminated or blocked above three million listings for endangered and threatened species and linked merchandise from their on the net platforms.

Nonetheless, in a secret complaint filed in 2018 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, a group of wildlife advocates accused the platform of serving commercials on pages marketing physique components of endangered animals, such as elephant ivory, rhino horns, and tiger teeth.

A single of the largest debates in the globe proper now — which animal the novel coronavirus originated from — also occurs to implicate pangolins.

COVID-19, the illness induced by the novel coronavirus, is imagined to be zoonotic, originating in animals and jumping to people. COVID-19’s genetic similarity to RaTG13, a virus identified in 2013 in bats in China’s Yunnan province, has led numerous scientists to recommend COVID-19 commenced in bats and passed to an intermediary animal prior to infecting people. What can make the scaly animals an intermediary suspect is the similarity in between proteins in a coronavirus identified in Malayan pangolins’ lungs and the proteins in COVID-19

Vincent Racaniello, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University and host of the podcast This Week in Virology, advised Information he doubted pangolins had been the host.

“These viruses originated in bats. How they got into people, we don’t know,” he explained. “The remaining question is how it got to people, but that will require more wildlife sampling.”

Prior to delving into pangolin trafficking, the Tech Transparency Undertaking published a report final month exposing personal Facebook Groups belonging to risky extremists who had been working with anti–coronavirus lockdown protests to recruit new members.

“Our goal here is to show how big of a problem this is,” Stevens explained. “It’s really only public shaming that will make a difference to them.”

Can CITES be fixed? Practical suggestions that make sense are being ignored

By Conservation, Illegal trade
Opinion / Africa Geographic | June 25, 2020

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There is no escaping the fact the mechanisms driving CITES are categorically failing the species that the treaty was enacted to protect.

The system has come under fire over recent years from numerous directions, including a comprehensive report jointly compiled by the EMS Foundation and Ban Animal Trading, which exposed several failing points throughout the process in South Africa’s trade in wildlife with China. There is little question that the CITES permit system is outdated and inefficient, providing far too much leeway for abuse and illegal operations. Recent international focus has steadily shifted from outright condemnation of the illicit trade of wildlife to the realization that this has to be remedied alongside the process of bringing the legal trade under some degree of control.

CITES was meant to provide this control – it is the main treaty and organization that governs the international trade in over 36,000 species of plants and animals. From a sympathetic perspective, the underfunded organization is faced with having to manage the polarized demands and requests of over 183 member parties, to find a way to reconcile ideological disagreements and trade realities with some form of middle ground. And it is not succeeding. So, what is the answer? Some call for the system to be scrapped altogether, and others suggest fixing the existing system from within.

A CITES Overhaul

Nature Needs More (NNM) and For the Love of Wildlife (FLOW), Australian non-profit organizations, have compiled a full report into the substantive changes they believe would help to control the legal trade in animal species, which in turn will prevent the illegal trade from exploiting loopholes. Africa Geographic approached Nature Needs More with several questions relating to their numerous recommendations, open letters, and requests for meetings with CITES and their response speaks to the dedication shown in looking for practical solutions. The organization’s starting point is that CITES-regulated legal trade in flora and fauna has an estimated worth of US$320 billion per year, while the CITES core budget to administer legal trade is US$ 6 million per year. The disparity in those numbers is enormous, to the point of absurdity, and utterly contrary to other international trade models. CITES needs to modernize, says NNM (a position difficult to dispute), and they propose three steps to affect this modernization:

1.      Implementing an ePermit system through cost recovery

The current CITES systems are not managing the massive increase in trade volume that has occurred since its inception in the 1970s. While a handful of developed countries have implemented bespoke electronic permit systems at great expense, a low-cost solution exists and is available to all Parties to the treat. Only one, Sri Lanka, has fully implemented the eCITES system – the others claim a lack of funding. NNM approached world-leading experts in trade analytics who described the CITES trade database as the “worst designed and most impenetrable data source they have ever come across”. But this cannot be rectified until the various countries have all implemented an electronic permit system so that the data comes from one unified source.

2.      Reverse listing

Reverse listing is the opposite approach to the one currently adopted by CITES. The basic CITES starting point is that all species can be traded unless restricted on one of the Appendices, which means that species can be traded until it is proved that they need protection. Recent research shows how this has failed, with some species waiting over nineteen years for classification. A reverse listing system would base the default position on no trade and shift the burden of proof to those promoting the trade.

3.      Industry contributing to the costs of trade

In reality, due to signatory country arrears, CITES receives less than $6 million per annum – and yet has to regulate, monitor and enforce trade worth about US$320 billion. This disparity, the organization argues, can only be resolved by regulations that will force the industry to pay the cost of regulation. This would be similar to the European Medicines Agency which has an annual budget of $350 million, of which 90% comes from industry member fees.

Electronic Permits – An Undeniable and Imminently Doable Priority

At present, the forgery and modification of paper import and export permits are so common as to be considered the norm, rather than the exception. This allows dishonest exporters and importers to lie about whether traded species are captive-bred or wild-caught, the volumes included on the shipment, the species included in the shipment and intended final destination of the imported species. This, in turn, makes it almost impossible to estimate the scale of either legal or illegal trade, as the records are patchy and, at times, non-existent. It is not difficult to understand why NNM, FLOW, and other such organizations point to the implementation of electronic permits as a priority.

According to them, rolling out an ePermit system which would function within existing customs structures would cost about US$150,000 per country, less than $30 million in total (a figure confirmed by UNCTAD and CITES). Yet communications with CITES, as well as from UNCTAD and governments in signatory countries all point to the fact that funding is the critical issue in preventing the rollout of the eCITES BaseSolution. One CITES official even suggested to NNM that it would need a donation from a philanthropist to get the ball rolling.

To be clear, the suggestion is that an international trade industry valued at $320billion per annum requires philanthropic donations to implement the most basic of monitoring systems.

According to a 2016 World Bank Report, $200 million was spent over six years for “promoting the sustainable use model” as part of the funding to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. NNM and FLOW have therefore questioned why $30 million could not be made available to better manage the existing trade if $200 million can be found to promote even more trade in wildlife.

Philanthropy or the cost of business?

One of NNM’s suggestions is that businesses that benefit from the trade in wild species could be called upon to cover this once-off cost. They mention luxury brand companies such as Kering, LVMH,  and L’Oréal as examples – all companies that use CITES-listed species in their products. At this stage, there is no legal or political pressure on these companies to do so. Still, when NNM approached the Global Fashion Agenda, they responded that their brands and retailers have a low level of knowledge in this area. Given that the trade in wild species is one of the driving factors behind the loss of biodiversity, says NNM, this speaks to a failure on the part of organizations that should be raising awareness with brands that use these species. Such a lack of knowledge would not be the case under a reverse listing system, explains NNM, as the industry would have played their role in proving that trade was sustainable.

Furthermore, those that profit the most from the trade – the importers – contribute almost nothing apart from token costs. NNM explains that when they approached governments about industry contributions, the governments were more receptive. For any other major industry, it is standard practice for the industry to bear at least part of the cost – why should the wildlife trade be any different?

CITES Response

NNM and FLOW reported to us that they sent their first letter to the then Acting Secretary-General David Morgan in 2018, with no response. After months of trying, they once again contacted the new Secretary-General to reiterate their suggestions and request a meeting. This meeting was agreed to in an email in March 2019 but never materialized, and all further attempts to contact the Secretary-General have been ignored. To date, they have had no further contact or received any comments or responses to their proposals.

The organization also proposed that CITES provide transparent and verifiable trade analytics for the top 50 listed species over the last decade – a request that would, in theory, go a long way to proving that the “sustainable use” model is working. The request was made during discussions with the IUCN and CITES representatives who were specifically addressing sustainable use and was met with a significant degree of deflection. NNM says that they will repeat the request in a more formal setting later this year.

Final Thoughts

The process of drafting, signing, and enacting a treaty is an invariably protracted process and setting up the foundations for a system of monitoring trade even more so. While ideological differences make CITES an inevitably controversial topic, the fact remains that it is an existing framework. Its systems are antiquated, and its enforcement seems to be tragically limited, yet when organizations like NNM and FLOW come forward with substantive suggestions for change, they are met with lumbering inertia. And that responsibility rests with the Member States – the force to change this inertia can only come from them.

But while NNM and FLOW have recognized this and set out to lobby various representatives of the governments concerned, the truth remains that in many instances, controlling wildlife trade is not a priority for many countries.

The reality is that a complete cessation of wildlife trade is not going to happen in the foreseeable future and, as NNM explains, “[w]e need to move to the point of introducing real and pragmatic solutions to ensure that the legal trade system is suitable for current and future trading volumes.” The impetus for this change has to come from the governments that purport to act as guardians of their country’s wild species.

The above is a summary of the proposals put forward by Nature Needs More and For the Love of Wildlife.

The full reports, background and proposals can be accessed here: Three steps to modernize CITES

Rhino poaching has come down in Assam: Data

By Antipoaching
The Sentinel | June 26, 2020

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GUWAHATI: Rhino-poaching activities have significantly come down in Assam what with only 29 killed by poachers across the State during the last four years (from June 2016 till May 2020). While a total of 512 rhinos died during this period, 483 rhinos died due to various natural and climatic causes, reveal data of the Office of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Wildlife & Chief Wildlife Warden.

Refuting reports in the social media over the alleged rising death rate of the one-horned rhinoceros in Assam, Deputy Conservator of Forest (Publicity) Wildlife wing KK Deuri when contacted told The Sentinel, “Among the natural and climatic reasons that led to the death of 483 rhinos during the period are old-age, various ailments, natural calamities like floods, and clashes with its own species and other animals like tigers.

“About 80 to 100 rhinos annually die due to natural calamities. Altogether 27 died during the floods in 2016; 40 in 2017; and 25 rhinos died in the floods of 2019. From 2012 to 2015, while 332 rhinos due to natural and climatic causes.”

Dwelling on poaching activities, he said, “The present government’s active policy to curb poaching has delivered the results. The formation of a special force for the protection of rhinos with its personnel armed with sophisticated weapons has boosted the morale of the Forest guards. As a result, the number of rhinos falling prey to poachers has significantly come down. While 106 rhinos were killed by poachers in Assam between 2012 and 2015, only 29 were hunted by poachers from June 2016 to May 2020.

In Assam, three National Parks and one Wildlife Sanctuary are natural habitats of the one-horned rhinos. As per the 2018 estimation of the department, there are 2,650 rhinos in the State. Of them, 2,413 are in the Kaziranga National Park (KNP), 34 in Manas National Park, 101 in Orang National Park, and 102 in the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary.

Rohit Sharma: Indian Hitman now is also a ‘Rhino Man’ (India)

By Conservation
Shefali Bindiya, Inside Sport | June 29, 2020

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Indian opener Rohit Sharma joined WWF India as its Brand Ambassador for Rhino Conservation in 2018, to help build awareness of the need to conserve the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros or the Indian Rhino. In a campaign launched on Animal Planet to commemorate World Rhino Day on September 22, Rohit pledged to do his bit to save the “vulnerable” species from extinction.

WWF-India has been working on rhino conservation for over four decades and has been instrumental in many milestones and successes in protecting the Greater One Horned Rhino or the Indian Rhino.

Recently, Rohit Sharma shared an inspirational post to his official Instagram handle, the 33-year-old posted It feels amazing to be a part of the rhino conservation story in India.

“Through my association with @wwfindia, I have learnt a great deal about the species and the amazing work being done by WWF India in collaboration with Forest Departments, local communities and other partner organisations to protect the Greater One-Horned rhinos across the country. I recently sneaked a peek into the life & journey of Amit Sharma, the Lead of the Rhino Conservation programme at WWF India, through the decades. It’s one of the most captivating stories I’ve come across & encourage you to give it a read!” he captioned the post.

Recently, Rohit completed his 13 years of international cricket on June 23,2020.He made his debut for India during an ODI match against Ireland at Belfast on this date in 2007.Even he took to official Twitter handle to thank his loved ones as well as his fans for always supporting him in living his dream.

“Grateful for 13 amazing years and counting… never thought that playing in the gullies of Borivali would lead to this some day, me living my dream,” the Indian opener had tweeted.

Rohit last appeared for India during a T20I series against New Zealand in February before a hamstring injury ruled him out of action and coronavirus pandemic further delayed his return.

Success on rhino IVF gives hope for rare species locally

By Science and technology
Caroline Chebet, The Standard | June 29, 2020

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Researchers have announced a breakthrough in scientific reproductive techniques following the creation of four southern white rhino embryos, a milestone set to shine light on the anticipated procedure on northern white rhinos in Kenya.

The milestone was realised in European zoos by the same team that is to perform the same procedure in Kenya in the race to save the northern white rhino species.

It is expected that the same expertise will be used on the northern white rhinos, a project that has been put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Very exciting news from the rhino IVF team in Europe who have managed to create four southern white rhino embryos using the same methods they will use on the northern whites. All this gained knowledge and experience will help them later when they resume their work with the northern whites, ensuring that their very rare eggs are given the best possible chance to survive when the time comes,” Ol Pejeta Conservancy said in a statement.

The team from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, the conservancy added, was meant to continue with the procedure at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia County. The team was slated to harvest ovum at the end of April from the remaining two female northern white rhinos.

Ovum Pick-Up

“The team from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research were meant to come to Ol Pejeta for another ovum pick-up at the end of the April, but of course, due to Covid-19, this had to be postponed. Nevertheless, they continued their research by harvesting eggs from a southern white rhino female in Serengeti Park, Hodenhagen, Germany, and then maturing the oocytes in the Avantea lab,” the conservancy said.

Covid-19 has made it impossible for key scientists and veterinarians to travel, dealing a blow to the race to save the rare rhinos from extinction.

The race started in August 2019 after a consortium of scientists and veterinarians successfully harvested eggs from the two female rhinos.

Another awaited procedure that involves transferring of the three fertilised embryo to surrogate southern white rhinos is expected to take place at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

“We hope to resume the procedure once travel restrictions are lifted,” Dr David Ndeere, Kenya Wildlife Services head of veterinary services, said.

Ol Pejeta CEO Richard Vigne said the pandemic has dealt a blow to plans to serve the rare rhinos from extinction. “The pandemic has had adverse impacts. In the race to save the northern white rhinos, it was planned that the eggs from the two females be harvested after every three to four months to maximise on survival rates. However, that has since been put on hold as a result of the pandemic,” he said.

Floodwaters drown large areas of Kaziranga National Park, 2 rhinos dead

By Conservation
Hemanta Kumar Nath, India Today | June 29, 2020

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The flood situation in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park the global stronghold of the one-horned rhinoceros – worsened on Monday after floodwaters inundated more than 65 per cent areas of the world heritage site.

Five animals including two one-horned rhinos have died in Kaziranga National Park during the current flood.

The forest personnel deployed in the national park have recovered two carcasses of one-horned rhinos inside the park area so far.Three hog deer died after being hit by vehicles. According to the park authorities, floodwaters have submerged 146 camps out of total 223 camps in the park.

Three camps of the park have been vacated due to the current flood situation.

On the other hand, many wild animals including one horned rhino, deer, elephants have taken shelter at highlands constructed inside the park and many animals came outside the park and moved towards the nearby Karbi Anglong hills area after the deluge hit most of areas of the park.

Many animals including herds of wild elephants, hog deer, swamp deer have moved to the nearby Karbi hills areas by crossing the National Highway 37 which is passing through the national park.

The park authorities and district administration have restricted the speed limit of all vehicles on National Highway 37 and introduced time cards to vehicles coming from both sides of the national park to provide security to the wild animals.

On the other hand, over 9.67 lakh people of 22 districts of Assam have been affected in the second wave of flood.

According to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) reports, the floodwaters have submerged 72,246 hectares of croplands and affected 9.67 lakh people 2086 villages in 22 districts Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Biswanath, Darrang, Nalbari, Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar, Dhubri, South Salmara, Goalpara, Kamrup, Morigaon, Hojai, Nagaon, Golaghat, Jorhat, Majuli, Sivasagar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, West Karbi Anglong.

Nearly 29,000 people have taken shelter at 144 relief camps set up by the administration in the flood-hit districts.

Nineteen houses and an old hostel of a senior secondary school have been damaged in a flash flood in upper Djongu region of North Sikkim district, an official said on Sunday. The flash flood also affected 35 families, he said. Triggered by heavy rainfall over the past few days, the flash flood damaged the properties at Passidang village and its surrounding areas on Saturday, the official said.

The local administration has evacuated the affected families to the Public Health Engineering (PHE) department’s building at Passidang, the official said.

MLA from Djongu constituency Pinstso Namgyal Lepcha along with District Magistrate Tenzing T Kaleon and Superintendent of Police North Ongmu Bhutia visited the affected areas on Sunday.

The Rhino Files: Rhino conservation during a pandemic

By Conservation, Tourism
Helge Denker, The Namibian | June 25, 2020

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“It’s an absolute disaster!” That’s the consensus among a government-NGO coalition seeking to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19 on community conservation in Namibia.

The pandemic has interrupted the intricate link between conservation and tourism. All leisure travel has been brought to a sudden, devastating standstill. The ripple effects go far beyond the travel industry, severely affecting rural livelihoods in communal areas.

In the north-west, it’s a disaster drastically compounded by years of severe drought. Communities here have suffered devastating livestock losses. Wildlife populations have been decimated too.

Raymond Peters coordinates the annual Erongo-Kunene game count for conservancies and the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism via the Nacso Natural Resources Working Group. He feels that game sightings from the just-completed 2020 count may be similar to 2019 (the final results are still being compiled).

Yet numbers are much lower than anything else he has experienced in 20 years of the count. The loss of tourism income has harshly exacerbated a very dire situation.

The B2Gold Rhino Gold Bar initiative, announced in January, has also come at a very critical time, when normal conservation structures are in real trouble.

While the Rhino Gold initiative was designed as a sustainable financing mechanism for the long-term conservation of free-roaming black rhinos in north-western Namibia, it has the flexibility to make funds available immediately for short-term needs.

B2Gold managing director Mark Dawe has emphasised that the donation is about much more than rhino conservation; it’s about supporting communities – “they will be the beneficiaries”.

Close to N$3,5 million generated from the initiative was already distributed in May to Save the Rhino Trust (SRT), Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), and the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF) to pay the salaries of rhino rangers in various rhino conservancies and help local communities.

The rhino rangers in conservancies normally supported by Ultimate Safaris are also receiving Rhino Gold funds via the tourism operator.

The B2Gold initiative can meet most of the funding needs for rhino protection in the north-west over the next 12 months. In short, this is how it works: A thousand ounces of gold from the Namibian operations of B2Gold were donated in the form of 100 gold bars, embossed with the image of a black rhino cow and calf. The bars are sold to collectors at the spot price of gold, with a 15% conservation premium added.

The 15% is channelled directly to rhino custodian communities and anti-poaching activities; the remainder goes into a capital fund where returns provide a continuous flow of finances. The initiative is coordinated by a committee made up of representatives from the Namibian Chamber of Environment (NCE), SRT, IRDNC, MEFT and B2Gold.

The NCE exemplifies the partnerships that enable Namibian conservation successes. The chamber represents more than 50 member NGOs and liaises with the private sector and government to enable conservation action. Director Chris Brown played a central role in the B2Gold initiative. He understands the urgent needs of rhino conservancies and has facilitated the rapid dispersal of funds.

Simson Uri-Khob, CEO of SRT, is adamant that rhino conservation in communal areas is impossible without direct community involvement. He quickly adds that a strong tourism presence is vital too. Beyond the direct funds that tourism brings, the active presence in the area is an important deterrent.

Field patrols are central to anti-poaching initiatives. Facilitated by USAID support, rhino patrol effort in the north-west was increased to 1 200% of pre-poaching levels – with the result that no incidents were recorded here during 2018-19, and only one event was registered this year. Patrol teams are made up of community rhino rangers and police officers. B2Gold funding is able to bridge current funding gaps to ensure that patrols can operate without interruption.

I travelled to the north-west a few days after the national lockdown was lifted in early May. The dual effects of drought and Covid-19 were striking – very little livestock, very little wildlife, no tourists. Yet in all the rhino areas I visited, the fresh tracks of rhino rangers were right there alongside the tracks of the rhinos.

While driving through some of the back country of rugged hills and barren rocky terrain with police officers, they wondered out loud how people can live here – what they could possibly make a living from. Rhinos and tourism are a big part of the answer. One that is currently on shaky ground.

To address some of the wider issues around the indefinite tourism stop and the loss of revenue for conservancies, Nacso partners and the MEFT are working with both local and international funding partners to secure emergency funding.

The aim is to be able to support not only the conservancies, but also the tourism and conservation hunting operators who have joint-venture and concession agreements. If conservancy tourism is left to collapse, it will be extremely difficult to rebuild.

Illegal wildlife trade needs to be penalised: FATF

By Conservation, Illegal trade
Esha Roy, The New Indian Express | June 26, 2020

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The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) released its first-ever report on illegal wildlife trade (IWT) on Thursday. FATF is an independent inter-governmental body that develops and promotes policies to protect the global financial system against money laundering, terrorist financing and the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The report comes amid increasing international concern that the crime could lead to more zoonotic diseases in the future. Estimating the proceeds of IWT to be between $7 and $23 billion per year globally, the FATF has suggested to all member governments that the financial aspect of wildlife trade needs to be looked at more carefully, and that money laundering laws should be applied to wildlife trade since the proceeds enters the global market through money laundering.

“The illegal wildlife trade is devastating our wildlife and putting the global ecosystem at risk. Time is running out. To ensure the survival of endangered species, we need to build strong public-private partnerships to prevent, detect and disrupt this activity, following the money that fuels it and the organised crime gangs, poachers and traffickers behind it,” said FATF president Xiangmin Liu.

“The illegal wildlife trade (IWT) is a major transnational organised crime that fuels corruption, threats biodiversity, and can have significant public health impacts. In particular, the spread in recent years of zoonotic diseases underlines the importance of ensuring that wildlife is traded in a legal, safe and sustainable manner, and that countries remove the profitability of illegal markets,” states the report.

In its report, the FATF pointed out that following the money allows countries to identify a wider network of syndicate leaders and financiers involved, and to reduce the profitability of the crime. It also stated that syndicates invovled in the crime are usually engaged in other illegal enterprises, and that tackling IWT will help dismantle such networks.

“Combating criminal organisations through their financial flows is a significant legal and investigative tool to prevent wildlife trafficking and the potential proliferation of zoonotic diseases,” it stated, suggesting the use of money laundering offences since they carry more severe penalties in many countries.

While the exact connection between the trading of pangolins and pangolin scales to the Covid-19 outbreak is yet to be established, researchers across the globe are looking into possible ties.

“While hunters can receive from USD 2.5 to 9 per kg of pangolin scales, the price in demand countries is usually around USD 200 per kg, but has reached as much as USD 700 per kg (between 100% to 600% mark-up). Between 2016 and 2019, countries confiscated an estimated 206.4 tonnes of pangolin scales across 52 seizures globally, which amounts to USD 41-144 million in sales in destination countries,” read the report.

India has also been a source country for illegal pangolin trading.

Talking about the extravagant mark-ups of illegal wildlife trade, the report points out that the price of rhinoceros horn can reach about $65,000 per kg, but has also been known to be as low as $9,000 per kg, according to US authorities. Criminals trafficked approximately 4,500 African rhinoceros horns between 2016 and 2017, generating estimated proceeds of between $79 and 292 million.

While the price paid to elephant poachers can be just $200 or less, in destination markets ivory can be priced at between $500 and $1,000 per kg (150 per cent to 400 per cent mark-up).

Syndicates involved in wildlife crime usually poach, harvest or breed wildlife in countries that are rich in biodiversity and/or where there may be weaker law enforcement oversight and criminal justice — or in source countries. Similarly, most syndicates involved in such crime transit the wildlife through other countries to obfuscate the end destination. Transit countries typically include trade and transport hubs or countries with higher levels of corruption. The laundering of the proceeds occurs across source, transit and destination countries.

“To hide the real country of origin, criminals involved in IWT often divert containers or shipments through third countries, and switch the bills of lading or vessel. For the sale of the illegal wildlife, jurisdictions identified common use of cash, mobile or social media-based payments, and third party payments,” says the report.

Countries highlighted that criminals are relying on “established” methods to launder proceeds from IWT, including the placement and layering of funds through the formal financial sector. In particular, countries reported that criminals involved in IWT are placing and layering funds through cash deposits (under the guise of loans or payments), e-banking platforms (e.g., electronic payment services that are tied to a credit card or bank account) and licensed money value transfer systems (MVTS) like ‘hawala’, ‘hundi’ and ‘fei chen’ which are usually community-based and draw on a network of brokers across countries to facilitate international transfers without money physically crossing borders. Third-party wire transfers through banks are also used.

Criminals involved in IWT also use shell and front companies to conceal payments and launder their money. Countries identified that criminals are primarily using shell companies to facilitate transfer of value between syndicate members, between buyers and sellers, or to hold assets. At the same time, criminals use front companies, which generally conduct legitimate activities simultaneously to illegal ones, to both facilitate the movement of the wildlife and to co-mingle licit and illicit proceeds.

Wildlife traffickers often use front companies that have connections to import-export industries to help justify the movement of goods and payments across borders (eg, plastics, timber, frozen foods, or artwork). Another common trend is the misuse of front companies with connections to the legal wildlife trade such as taxidermists, farms, breeding facilities, pet shops and zoos.Other industries that may be more vulnerable to misuse include traditional medicine, décor, jewellery and fashion, said the FATF.

Legitimate pet stores and private “zoos”, “farms” or “parks” are often used to facilitate the illicit pet trade in many countries (such as Asia and the Americas) and are used to justify trading, breeding, or otherwise exploit protected wildlife. The financial flows associated with this type of IWT activity are often significant, stated the report, mentioning that “tiger zoos” with a large number of tigers have profited from selling tiger cubs and parts. A captive tiger can be sold for anything between $2,000 to $30,000 while a lion from a private zoo can cost $10,000 to $25,000.

“New technologies play an important role in facilitating communication and non-face-to-face payments between buyers and sellers for illegal wildlife. In particular, encrypted communication platforms and illegal wildlife marketplaces hosted via social media sites, online vendor platforms, and the dark net increase the ease with which wildlife transactions can occur between buyers and sellers,” stated the report, adding that VPN connections disguise the location of wildlife traffickers.

CS Najib Balala presides over naming ceremony of rhino calves at Meru National Park

By Conservation
Asher Omondi, Tuko | June 25, 2020

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See link for photo & tweets.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has confirmed Kenya has 17 white rhinos and 14 black rhinos calves that have been born in the last one year. Balala made the revelations when he toured Meru national park rhino sanctuary for a naming ceremony for the baby rhinos.

During the ceremony, the CS named two calves after his grandchildren Waliya and Layan while Maara MP Kareke Mbuiki named one after his son Mark.

Tourism Chief Administrative Secretary Joseph Boinnet also named one after his Barago village while Safina Kwekwe Tsungu named one Rotok after her son. One was also named Nyathomo by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) director general John Waweru after his daughter.

The KWS said each namer will contribute KSh 100,000 for each rhino named and the funds from these contributions will go towards a Rangers Welfare Fund to be established in all Rhino areas.

During the function, Balala paid out KSh 230,000 as part of human wildlife compensation in as a result of crop damages made by wildlife. As a result of perennial human-wildlife conflicts, the CS commissioned the construction of the 53km fence at the Meru national park southern boundary.

Suspected poacher killed as Botswana battles rampant rhino deaths

By Antipoaching
By Niyawira Mwangi, CGTN Africa | June 28, 2020

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This week, Botswana soldiers shot a suspected poacher in a gunfight that happened in the Okavango Delta, Botswana’s military said, where poaching has reached unprecedented heights.

Botswana’s anti-poaching unit has killed 19 suspects since 2019, as the government employs a shoot-to-kill policy.

According to Botswana Defense Force’s Major Mabikwa Mabikwa, poachers are using sophisticated weapons of war and communication equipment adding that the army is up to the challenge.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi recently said the military will not hesitate to shoot poachers.

“Poachers are sufficiently radicalized to kill, so they are dangerous,” said Masisi. “We put an army in place to defend this country, so any intruder is an enemy. And unfortunately, as with any war, there are casualties.”

Rhinos are the most targeted by poachers with 56 of the endangered animals killed in the last two years.

The government recently decided to dehorn all the rhinos and relocate them to secure private locations.

The principal veterinary officer from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Mmadi Reuben said in addition to dehorning the rhinos, anti-poaching efforts will be intensified.

“We expect to see the results. It (dehorning) is meant to disincentive,” Reuben said.

“This does not in any way replace our anti-poaching strategies that we put in place. In fact, we up our anti-poaching operations and augment them further to ensure that any perpetrators that come in, they are brought to book.”

The Okavango Delta is wet and challenging to navigate, with some areas inaccessible by road. Most poachers cross over from neighboring countries.