Watch: Vet shares inspiring story of black rhino that survived poaching attempt (South Africa)

By Antipoaching, Rescue and rehab No Comments
Stefan de Villiers, Lowvelder | May 22, 2020

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It is believed that there are just over 5,000 black rhinos left in the world, critically endangered.

Thus, the survival of each and every one of the species is paramount to its continued existence.

This is why a dedicated team has been doing everything in their power to ensure the well-being of Goose, a female black rhino, who escaped the clutches of poachers near Satara Rest Camp in 2018.
“It soon became obvious that she had severe injuries on her hind leg. It is suspected that she was shot by poachers. After her foot got infected, the sole of her foot fell off,” said SANParks veterinarian, Peter Buss, who in the video below shares the in-depth details of her recovery.

“She will never have a normal foot again due to the extent of her injuries. We hope that she will be able to walk on it again, and hopefully later have calves,” said Buss.

He is part of a large team of vets, rangers and specialist animal carers who in collaboration with Saving the Survivors have spent the past 20 months using groundbreaking techniques to ensure the rhino’s survival.

Limerick man accused of rhino horn trafficking extradited to US

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Paul Neilan, The Irish Times | May 22, 2020

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A Limerick man has been extradited to the United States to face allegations of trafficking endangered rhino horns after an early morning arrest by 20 armed gardaí, the High Court has heard.

John Slattery (30), who changed his name to John Flynn by deed poll, of Old Barrack View, Fairhill, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, is accused of three offences of wildlife trafficking in the US.

At Friday’s High Court sitting, Mr Justice Paul Burns heard Mr Slattery had been arrested in the early hours of the morning before the court hearing, even though he was still on bail, and that he was to be taken to a Texas prison.

Mr Slattery’s bail was due to expire on Friday at midnight. It had been granted on condition that he present himself to Henry Street Garda station in Limerick within 24 hours of being notified. His extradition was delayed due to coronavirus.

Taxidermy Shop

US authorities allege he and two others travelled to a taxidermy shop in Austin, Texas, to buy the horns for $18,000 (€16,500) and then travelled to New York and sold them for $50,000 (€45,900). It is alleged that between April 2010 and November 2010 Mr Slattery bought two further horns for $10,000 (€9,100).

At Friday’s High Court hearing, counsel for the Minister for Justice, Lisa Dempsey BL, confirmed Mr Slattery had been “surrendered to the US authorities”.

Barrister Mark Lynam, for Mr Slattery, told the court he was “uneasy about how matters have transpired”. “Mr Slattery was taken from his home this morning by, I’m told, 20 armed gardaí,” Mr Lynam said. “He was taken from his home and put on a plane. I’m very surprised it happened that way because Mr Slattery is someone who is in a high-risk category in respect of Covid-19.

“He’s going to a prison in Texas and there’s been a reported 40 deaths in prisons in Texas in the last two weeks,” he said. Ms Dempsey said his case was “dealt with in a manner deemed appropriate” by the Garda.

Malawi: Final witness testifies against Chinese in Malawi wildlife crime case

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Harold Kapindu, The Nyasa Times | May 22, 2020

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The final state witness, Criminal Investigator Sub Inspector Ikraim Malata on Wednesday testified in the high profile wildlife case involving a Chinese national, Lin Yun Hua.

Magistrate Chipao Presiding Over the Case

Lin Yun Hua, who is dubbed Malawi’s most wanted suspected wildlife trafficker and notorious kingpin , appeared before the Lilongwe Magistrate Court answering charges of money laundering offense and dealing with government trophy.

During the cross and reexamination, investigator Malata emphasized on the point that the leads led to Lin Yun Hua who already pleaded guilty to the charge of Illegal possessions of specimen of listed species, 103 pieces of Rhino horn.

In his remarks, prosecutor Andy Kaonga said the State is happy, stressing that all the witnesses are very important to the case. Chief Magistrate Violet Chipao then adjourned the case to 8 June 2020 for judicial notice. Speaking to Nyasa Times after the adjournment, defense counsel Chrispin Ndalama said the defense is patiently waiting for the judicial notice.

“In criminal law, the accused is innocent until proven guilty. The state has brought their witnesses and now we are waiting for the court to make a determination on whether my client has a case to answer,” Ndalama said.

Some of the witnesses who have testified in the case includes South Africa based veterinarian, University of Pretoria Director of veterinary, genetics and laboratory, Dr Cindy Kim Harper and Liwonde National Park Field Operations Manager Lawrence Munlo.

Lin Yun Hua was arrested on 16th August 2019 in Lilongwe (Area 3) following a 3-month manhunt by Malawi Police Service. In November 2019, Lin Yun Hua pleaded guilty to the charge of Illegal possessions of specimen of listed species.

Facts were presented and court convicted him on his own plea of guilty.

A total of ten Chinese and four Malawian nationals have been arrested were arrested in 2019 in relation to the syndicate in question and are at various stages of trial.

Rhino poaching drops significantly during COVID-19 lockdown

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The South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries | May 22, 2020

The Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has announced that South Africa has experienced a significant decline in rhino poaching since the lockdown commenced.

April 2020 saw a marked decrease in rhino poaching countrywide, with the fewest rhinos poached in the Kruger National Park in a single month since September 2013.

“This could be attributed to the reduction in rhino poaching activities to the disruption of the supply chain resulting from the national travel restrictions, including limitations placed on movement across the country,” explained Minister Creecy.

A total of 14 rhino were poached across the country during April – the first month of the national Covid-19 lockdown. A total of 46 rhino were poached nationwide in March 2020.

“We believe that the closure of our borders and the complete shutdown of international air travel removed the key way that syndicates used to supply horn to transit and consumer countries,” said Minister Creecy.

In the Kruger National Park five rhino were poached during April 2020, compared to 46 in April 2019.   In KwaZulu-Natal six rhino were poached, two were killed in Mpumalanga and one in North West Province. In April 2019, a total of 61 rhino were poached nationwide.

Significantly, not a single rhino has been lost in the Intensive Protection Zone of the Kruger National Park since the start of April. This has not happened in this particular part of the Greater Kruger area in a single month since 2007.

The sharp decrease in rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park last month comes after the park recorded that the number of births equalled the combined natural and poaching deaths for the first time in five years by the end of 2019.

Despite the lockdown, incursions into the Park by rhino poachers have continued.

There has been an increase in the effectiveness of the K9 unit using free running hounds supported by rapid reaction through air support and improved mobility.

Minister Creecy applauded Rangers who continue to apply technology to support early detection and follow-up operations.

Between January and April 2020, 33 poachers were arrested and 20 heavy calibre firearms confiscated.

Following an intelligence-driven operation, police arrested three suspects in Limpopo after they were found in possession of six rhino horn. The two men and a woman have been changed with trafficking of rhino horn.  During the arrest, six rhino horn, a sizeable amount of cash, three vehicles and a number of hunting knives were confiscated.

Pertaining to bushmeat poaching, rangers continue to remove between 80 and 150 snares from especially the western boundary of the park.  It should be noted that poaching for bushmeat in the Kruger National Park has not increased because of the lockdown.

Because of the nationwide lockdown, SANParks has closed park entrance gates to tourists.  This has had an impacted on poaching as poachers are now unable to use drive-in and drop-off tactics they had previously utilised to kill rhino for their horn.

“The dedication of essential staff, particularly our rangers, anti-poaching and canine (K9) teams who remain on high alert in all our national parks during the Covid-19 national lockdown, is to be commended,” said the Minister.

Four caught in possession of a rhino horn and protected plants (South Africa)

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Ntwaagae Seleka, News24 | May 17, 2020

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Four men are expected to appear in court on Tuesday after they were caught in possession of protected flora and a rhino horn.

The four – aged 23, 30, 36 and 46 – were arrested on Saturday in Citrusdal in the Western Cape.

Police spokesperson Colonel Andrè Traut said the arrests were carried out by the Malmesbury Stock Theft Unit, Vredendal Crime Intelligence and members of the Cape Nature Reserve.

“In our pursuit to ensure that offenders of the law are brought to book, our members conducted a clandestine operation yesterday (Saturday) in Citrusdal, which led to the arrest of four men.

“They were apprehended in possession of a variety of protected flora and a rhino horn. The value of the confiscated items is yet to be determined.

“The suspects are due to face charges of dealing in protected flora and the possession of rhino horn in the Citrusdal Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday,” said Traut.

Amid lockdown, poaching attempts increase rapidly across India

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Reethu Ravi, The Logical Indian | May 17, 2020

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In the wake of the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, with officials focusing on enforcing lockdown and the public confined to their homes, instances of poaching have seen a sharp rise across India.

According to reports, armed poachers have been moving inside national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the country. As officials also depend on local people to receive tip-offs on suspicious activity, the lockdown has inadvertently cut down such tip-offs which the poachers have taken advantage of.

In a recent case, an adult male Indian rhinoceros was found gunned down and its horn hacked off at Kaziranga National Park (KNP) in Assam on Saturday, May 9.

This is reportedly the first incident in thirteen months, after a drastic decrease in poaching since 2019. Upon investigation, the park authorities found eight empty bullet cartridges from an AK-47 assault rifle at the scene suggesting that the crime was well-organised.

“The carcass of the adult male rhino was found by our personnel on Saturday evening at the Agaratoli range of the park with its horn missing. It seems the poaching incident took place on Wednesday,” P Sivakumar, Director of KNP, was quoted by Hindustan Times.

“This is the first case of use of AK-47 rifles to kill rhino in the Agaratoli range of the park. Only trained groups who know how to handle such arms can indulge in such kind of poaching. We suspect they had come from the nearby Karbi Anglong district,” he added.

According to reports, due to the lockdown, wildlife is moving closer to human habitations, making them vulnerable to poachers. The lack of vehicles on the highway near KNP has also witnessed animals moving closer to the boundaries. Officials say that since the start of the lockdown in late March, attempts of poaching have increased in and around the park. Since then, at least six attempts to kill the rare animals were thwarted by park rangers and the Special Rhino Protection Force (SRPF) set up by the state government.

According to The Hindu report, on April 11, an SRPF member suffered bullet injuries during an encounter with a group of poachers in the Biswanath division of KNP. Two days later, the police in Biswanath district arrested six people for attempted poaching and assault.

Further, on April 13, the police in Sonitpur district arrested five people involved in attempted poaching at the Nameri National Park. “Lockdown appears to have given rhino poachers free time to regroup and plan strikes in Kaziranga after more than a year.

The poachers know there will be demand for rhino horns in China and other consumer countries in Asia after the pandemic-induced slump is over,” KNP Director P. Sivakumar told the media. Hunters can earn nearly $150,000 for one rhino horn or around $60,000 per kilo on a black market.

According to police officials, the detained poachers had confessed that they planned to “stock up on animal body parts” during the ongoing “lean period” to strike it big when the demand from smugglers increases. Since July last year, the SRPF have been deployed across the park to keep a check on rhino poaching and related activities. Since 2016, poaching of the one-horned rhinos fell to a drastic low.

Only 3 poaching incidents were reported in 2019, with the last one being reported on April 1, 2019. Following the poaching incident of the rhino, Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer Parveen Kaswan, in a series of tweets, explained why the Indian one-horned rhinos are vulnerable to poaching. “The Indian one-horned rhino, despite being blessed with a thick hide/skin, has a major disadvantage: an abysmally poor eye-sight.

Hence, it demarcates its “territory” by its dung/excreta and it triangulates its destination via the smell of its dung,” he tweeted. “So, if u want to catch this majestic beast, all u need to do is simply find patches of rhino’s dung in marshy/swampy lands.

Poachers precisely exploit these two traits of a rhino: its poor eyesight and its territorial imprint with its dung. Once they find traces of rhino dung, they lay traps for the rhino in and around that area by digging the ground,” he added. He further added that peak time to poach a rhino is between 1 Am and 3:30 Am, as the pitch darkness, combined with the poor eye-sight of the rhinos, makes them fall into the trap laid by the poachers.

“The Rhino, despite its tough skin across the body, has relatively softer skin around its horn. So, the poachers inject tranquillizer in the soft area around the horn & once, it phases out due to soporific sedatives, the poacher cuts the horn with a razor-sharp knife, that is specifically designed for this purpose,” Kaswan said.

“If the cut is made on its skull such that no nerve has been damaged, then, under medication and care, the rhino can regrow its horn in 2-3 yrs. But if any connecting nerve has been ripped off, while pulling the horn out, I’m afraid there is no hope,” he added.

Meanwhile, Rajasthan has also seen an increase in poaching of wildlife across the state. In over the last one month, the wildlife flying squad of the Rajasthan forest department has registered six cases of illegal hunting of chinkara(Indian gazelle) – the state animal – in Jodhpur.

Six poachers were also arrested. Chinkaras are designated an endangered animal under Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protecting Act, 1972. In a recent incident on Sunday, May 10, 17-year-old Mukesh Bishnoi fought off armed poachers, who shot a chinkara in Jodhpur.

For his bravery, the teenager was also given a certificate of appreciation by the Akhil Bharatiya Bishnoi Mahasabha. Mukesh, along with team member Pukhraj, had gone for night patrol when the incident occurred. They are a part of the 15-member team who protects the chinkara and has been going on night patrol every day to keep vigil since the lockdown started, reported Hindustan Times. Other than chinkara, blackbuck, mongoose, and peacocks have also been poached in many parts of the country.

According to a Down To Earth report, the illegal transport of birds has also increased amid lockdown, with trading conducted at the Nepal border through Uttar Pradesh. For hunting wild animals, including a tiger and deer, people were also arrested Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka. Meanwhile, on April 30, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate, issued an advisory to all the states and union territories to check poaching in all reserves, parks, and sanctuaries. Following this, Rajasthan Forest and Wildlife Department has ramped up efforts to protect animals.

They have identified 16 species which have been subject to illegal trading and poaching. The species in the list will be monitored and their population will be kept under strict vigil.

A rhino’s best friend: Dogs are trained to hunt poachers in Africa

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Jane Flanagan, The Times | May 16, 2020

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From beagles to bloodhounds, man’s best friend is being drafted in to help to save the lives of dozens of rhinos in South Africa’s battle against poaching.

Although dogs have long been used for security in Kruger National Park, which is roughly the size of Wales, the poaching crisis has given them a new role. Each animal in the reserve’s K9 fast response unit has been trained from birth in a task best suited to the strengths of its breed.

Foxhounds and beagles are naturally equipped to track poachers, detect weapons and find poached horns. Belgian Malinois, agile dogs similar to German shepherds, are also adept at “bite work” and detaining intruders.

“All these dogs can track, it’s in their genes, and now they are imprinted on human scent like narcotics dogs are on drugs,” said Johan van Straaten, from the Southern African Wildlife College where the dogs are trained from puppies.

He described the use of free tracking dogs — which are off the lead — as “a game-changer”. Such dogs are often deployed in packs and can run poachers to ground far faster than people, with handlers following in helicopters. Staff at Kruger estimate that K9 patrols are achieving a success rate of nearly 70 per cent compared with 5 per cent by units without a canine capacity.

Depending on the breed, a dog’s sense of smell is estimated to be between 1,000 and 10,000,000 times better than humans’ and they can hear four times further. Dogs arrive at the college as very young puppies and begin training immediately. Breeds used include Texan black-and-tan coonhounds, Belgian Malinois, foxhounds and blueticks which are drilled in free tracking, incursion, detection, patrol and apprehension. The animals are usually only deployed to the field at the age of 18 months.

South Africa is home to about 80 per cent of the world’s last remaining rhinos and has lost more than 8,000 to poachers between 2008 and 2018. Kruger and its adjoining private parks have become the epicentre of the crisis and account for more than half of the country’s lost rhinos.

The park’s anti-poaching force is now the most sophisticated in Africa — but comes at a cost of £11 million a year.

Still, the investment is having a positive effect: in 2019, 564 rhinos were killed for their horns in South Africa, down from 769 in 2018 and fewer than half the number slaughtered in 2014.

Where once rangers were conservationists, their role has become increasingly military. More than 1,000 rangers have been killed around the world in the past decade in the effort to protect animals from the demand for tusks and horns. The trade in illegal wildlife is estimated to be worth approximately £16 billion a year, with the demand driven mostly by Asia — where imported animal products are prized as status symbols and as supposed remedies.

A rhino poacher in Africa reveals why —and how — he kills the animals

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Paula Froelich, The New York Post | May 16, 2020

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Much has been written about the decimation of rhino populations in Africa due to poaching. Due to COVID-19, the problem has worsened as gangs in Mozambique take advantage of the lack of tourists and guards in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, killing nine rhino already.

Since lockdown, six rhino in Botswana have been slaughtered for their horn.

Why do the poachers do it? In all the coverage of the rhino disaster — about the demand from China, the gangs who control the racket and the horrific on-the-ground images — the people who commit the actual murder of the animal have largely remained silent, until now.

In 2016, award-winning journalist Godknows Nare spent six months in the epicenter of rhino poaching, around the perimeter of Kruger National Park, interviewing poachers and their families.

Shortly after he returned, I talked with Nare about his time with the poachers. (Nare, who had received death threats for several years due to his work exposing the inhumane prison system in Zimbabwe as well as his investigations into corruption in South Africa, was shot and killed outside his home by Johannesburg Metropolitan Police in 2017. Three officers were arrested and put on trial for murder, later to be acquitted.)

“At first I thought [poachers] were just cruel criminals,” Nare told me. “But then you engage with the people, you live with the people … There are villages just around the Kruger National Park, [where people] live on social grants because there is no more land to farm … You just need to fill up your stomach. Then you can think about other things.”

Mpumalanga, in eastern South Africa near the border of Mozambique, is a hotbed for poaching recruitment. One local poacher who uses the Skukuza area of Kruger to hunt, said on camera: “I have been a poacher for a long time now. I used to poach elephants, but now we are targeting rhinos … A lot of my family members get paid to poach [and do it] because of circumstances. There is no work, no money and no food.”

According to Martin Bornman, a director of the African Conservation Experience, there is close to a 70 percent unemployment rate in the communities that surround Kruger, a population of almost 2 million people. The average salary for a general worker — if they can find a job — in Mpumalanga is just $8,628 a year.

While Kruger is the epicenter of poaching in South Africa, many say it doesn’t have to be this way. In contrast, the Phinda game reserve south of Swaziland is run by the luxury company &Beyond and had such a surplus of rhino that it relocated some to Botswana in 2016.

Bornman explained: “In South Africa, whoever owns the land owns the animals on the land. What happened in Phinda was a group of wealthy individuals bought the land and returned it to the local tribes in exchange for a contract to manage the property. The local tribes now protect and police their land, making it almost impossible for poachers to penetrate. They also work for [&Beyond] and everyone makes money off the animals.”

And while the government-run Kruger park saw 1.8 million visitors last year — with average guest costs ranging from $225 to over $5,000 a night, for a considerable cash flow — outside the park, where many communities don’t have electricity or running water, it’s another story.

Sboniso Mhlongo, a suspected poacher, told Nare: “We only get free water from Skukuza. There is a dam and we go there with drums of water to fetch and then we push the water back in wheelbarrows. There are no other benefits to the community.”

Another Mpumalanga resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said on tape: “Rhinos are government property and we need to eat. We are stuck without any income.”

It is this desperation that leads many people to poach.

“Poaching makes me good money,” said the anonymous poacher. “After poaching and getting money, I can open a small business and prosper.”

He outlined how the deed is done: A lookout will alert a group, comprised of six or seven people, of a rhino’s location. Then, “we usually leave at 4 p.m. and get to the park at six, when it’s dark.” After finding the rhino, “we shoot it, and then there is another team with machetes. While [the rhino] is still kicking and fighting, we are working [on the horn]. They quickly cut out the horn and once that is done, we run out.”

Often the rhino is not killed right away, but dies a painful death either during the horn extraction or shortly thereafter.

“After removing the horn, we go to our boss to deliver it,” the anonymous poacher said. “We are usually a group of at least 6 or 7 people and he will give us each a 15 thousand rand [$810] fee …I don’t know how much they sell [the horn] for.”

The average price for a three-kilogram rhino horn, at $77,548 per kilo, is $232,644 — down from a high of $300,000 in 2013, but still an astronomical number that fuels the Chinese and Vietnamese cartels behind the illegal wildlife trade.

The on-the-ground poachers put themselves at risk. In April of 2019, a poacher was killed by an elephant and then eaten by lions. They are also at risk of being shot and killed by guards, police or each other.

“[Park] rangers use R1 [guns] and we shoot at them if they fire at us,” the anonymous poacher said. “[There can be a] huge fight and people die … when we fight, they shoot at us and we shoot back, and we kill some [rangers]. If they defeat us, we usually run out. Once, we were busy working on a rhino and the rangers came and a shootout ensued and one of our men died. We go there knowing that death is a possibility. It’s dangerous, but we go anyway.”

June Mabuse, whose brother Henry — a suspected poacher — was shot dead inside Skukuza, said: “We are being killed like animal, but it seems like the animals are now more valuable than human life. I don’t understand how.”

At Henry’s funeral, which was attended by most of the community, Mabuse was asked about why his brother was killed. He said: “because we are poor. There is no work, and people are going in there to try and put food on their tables and are being killed. If you counted how many people were killed versus the animals, there are less animals dead. Thousands of people have been killed in that park and only hundreds of animals. There are people who benefit [from Kruger] — and it’s definitely not us, but it belongs to all of us … In a way, our government is killing us.

“We don’t know what else to do. No one I know around here works at Kruger,” June continued. “There is lots of employment [at the park]. But we are never hired. Most of the people come from outside our neighborhood … We who live nearby — a walk away  — will never get hired. We are now forced to relocate to Johannesburg to look for work. The Kruger Park is not helping any of us. It is killing us.”

Across town, the poacher, who was waiting on word about another rhino, said: “Life and death are the same … there is no other option.”

Paula Froelich is the founder and editor of the online travel magazine for women, A Broad Abroad. Instagram @pfro

Conservation must not be a COVID victim

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John Scanlon, for The Independent | May 13, 2020

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Several hundred miles north of a dwindling Ebola outbreak, rangers at Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are most concerned with how the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to play out around the world.

Up until this year, Ebola was perhaps the scariest disease on the planet. Arising at times when human activity expands into and damages the West and Central African rainforests, the disease set off a global panic in 2014 when seven cases appeared outside the African continent. But in 2020, COVID-19 is now the scariest, with its impacts slamming all facets of the global economy.

With so many funding sources decimated, everyone expects a precipitous drop in conservation efforts this year. In Garamba, the fear that poachers will take advantage of the situation is almost palpable. But more than just Garamba’s endangered wildlife hangs in the balance.

The world has entered a crisis of extinction, with almost all of its biodiversity under some kind of threat. In 2019, a report released by scientists from 134 UN member states found that the planet’s natural ecosystems have declined by an average of 47%. Approximately one million plant and animal species were found to be threatened with extinction.

The report emphasised that conserving the world’s most intact ecosystems has to be a global priority, a finding echoed by a report released at the start of 2020 by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The WEF report noted that the severe decline in biodiversity threatened food security, public health, and commerce around the world, and could magnify the worst impacts of climate change.

In that light, Garamba provides a success story for low and middle-income countries that have limited capacity to invest in nature conservation. Grants from donor countries and philanthropists have funded the park enforcement and community engagement, which in turn has curtailed poaching.

Elephant poaching alone has dropped by more than 90% in the past four years, and, concurrently, studies show that elephant populations are now recovering. The number of critically endangered Kordofan Giraffes in the park has stabilised and even started to increase again as the park prepares to explore the viability of tourism and additional revenue generating activities.

The giraffes and elephants and other charismatic large animals are obvious benchmarks for success, but Garamba’s story extends beyond their recovery. The park has succeeded because of the partnerships built with the local communities, who have lived in and managed this area for generations. Out of the park’s 523 employees, 95% are DRC nationals with 74% coming from the local province of Haut-Uele.

Garamba supports two local schools and its mobile health clinics and hospital served nearly 25,000 community members in 2019. Additionally, water sources for 24 villages have been constructed or rehabilitated, bringing clean water to more than 7,000 people.

Keeping this economic development in mind, one can easily make the point that these investments help countries meet many of the commitments made in UN conventions and agreed global goals—from sustainable development and public health to biodiversity conservation and climate change.

While international tourism revenues for 2020 are fast disappearing, it remains imperative for business, donors and governments to continue to invest in conservation, not only for its own sake, but to help avert the next pandemic, mitigate climate change and retain tourism appeal.

We need to be creative in achieving this goal by tapping business, national governments and donor budgets. As the benefits of effective nature conservation extend well beyond wildlife populations and attractive scenery—including health, development and security benefits—so too must the sources of financing. It would take a fraction of the program budgets in these other fields to deliver on nature conservation.

When they do, we can keep more natural places intact and allow endangered ecosystems to recover. Research finds that such efforts are successful; an analysis of conservation spending between 1992 and 2003—a total of $14.4 billion spent by 109 countries—cut the rate of biodiversity decline in each country by an average of 29%.

These successes have been noticed and embraced by a growing number of nations. Rwanda, for example, has grown its tourism industry by investing in conservation. One quarter of almost $10 million invested last year was to support Volcanoes National Park—one of the few places in the world where mountain gorillas can be found. As a result, tourists coming to see these primates have generated $19.2 million of revenue in 2019 alone, along with many decent local jobs.

While this revenue stream will not hold steady in 2020, the gorilla population can continue its recovery after decades of decline only if the protected areas are maintained and if conservation programmes can continue to be adequately funded during and after this pandemic. This will require a collective effort of business, government and donors; the tourists and the jobs will not return if the gorillas disappear.

The same reasoning motivates the rangers at Garamba to redouble efforts amidst warning signs of a surge in wildlife poaching.  Gains have been made but they are fragile. If enforcement programmes cannot remain vigilant and lose the engagement and support of local communities, the modest recovery of the Kordofan Giraffe can be swiftly reversed.

The impacts of the 2014-16 outbreak of Ebola were terrible and the current COVID-19 pandemic has caused incalculable social and economic distress, but the next disease to emerge from damaged nature could be even worse.

Nature conservation has never been more important and we cannot risk it becoming another victim of COVID-19—it must become an investment priority of business, donors and government. If not, I fear we may find ourselves back in the same bleak place in the not too distant future.

John E Scanlon was Secretary General of CITES from 2010-2018 and is now the Special Envoy of African Parks


Take all measures to prevent poaching of animals in Kaziranga: Sonowal (State of Assam, India)

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The Shillong Times | May 14, 2020

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GUWAHATI: Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has directed the administration of five districts adjoining the Kaziranga National Park to ensure protection of wildlife from poaching and provide the animals adequate relief during flood.

Considering the setback faced by the tourism sector during the coronavirus-induced nationwide lockdown, Sonowal also asked the officials to prepare a plan to rejuvenate tourism at the Kaziranga National Park, declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The chief minister said this while reviewing preparation of Golaghat, Nagaon, Sonitpur, Biswanath and Karbi Anglong districts on wildlife protection during the forthcoming monsoon season in a meeting, held at Kaziranga in Golaghat district, on Tuesday.

To strengthen anti-poaching drive at the park famed for one-horned rhinoceros, the chief minister asked the district administration and the forest department to engage village headmen, tea garden sardars and people with strong grassroots connection living in the adjoining areas in the wildlife protection endeavours.

Mentioning that Kaziranga National Park (KNP) has global importance, Sonowal said that any untoward incident that takes place in the park draws attention of the people worldwide.

Noting that the Assam governments strong measures have led to considerable drop in the number of poaching at the park, Sonowal said fast track courts set up by Gauhati High Court as per the state governments request have so far convicted several poachers and handed them exemplary punishment. He observed that steps of this kind have instilled fear in the mind of poachers and left positive impact on wildlife protection.

He also stressed on the need to make the wildlife protection measures of the forest department more visible and directed the department to fill up all vacancies.

The forest department was further directed to carry out a survey to assess the impact of the highlands developed inside the park on the wildlife and its use by the animals during flood.

He also asked the park authorities to be prepared with adequate food stock so that it could be provided to the animals during flood.

In view of African swine fever infection reported in different parts of the state, the chief minister urged officials of the five districts to ensure that intermingling of domestic and wild pigs does not take place.

Due to African swine fever, movement of domestic pigs are restricted to stop the infection from spreading.