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KNP ups security after rumours of China using rhino horns to make Covid-19 drugs (State of Assam, India)

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The Times of India | April 8, 2020

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GUWAHATI: The Kaziranga National Park has tightened its security to protect its animals – especially the one-horned rhino – after rumours spread that China is trying to use rhino horns to make drugs to fight Covid-19.

Nipu Kalita, officer-in-charge of Jakhalabandha Police station in Nagaon district, said, “I don’t know the source of the rumour but it would definitely encourage poachers to try their luck. Now it is easier for them to enter the park as the roads are deserted. So, we are patrolling the area day and night with a special focus on sensitive areas.”

Original image as posted by The Times of India


A rhino horn, depending on its size and density, can be sold at prices ranging anywhere between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 40 lakh. Rhino poaching in Kaziranga picked up during 2013 and 2014 when 27 rhinos were poached each year. Kaziranga National Park DFO Ramesh Gogoi said the park has always been under threat of poaching due to decreasing human movement owing to the national lockdown.

“The poachers usually cross the Karbi Hills and the NH-37 to enter the park. Usually, it is hard for them to enter without getting noticed as there are lots of vehicles and movement of people on a usual day. But due to the lockdown and decreasing security personnel, they might try to enter the park to kill rhinos,” added Gogoi.

He further said, “The whole trade of rhino poaching is based on superstitions. So amidst the rumour, we have tightened our vigilance across the borders, especially in the Karbi Hills. Thankfully, poachers have not been able to kill a single rhino in the park so far this year.”

Living with wild animals (Part Two): Eat them like there’s no tomorrow

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The Daily Maverick | April 8, 2020

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South Africa has embarked on a mission to commercialise and commoditise wild animals. See: Living with Wild Animals part one. It has legalised the sale of rhino horn, failed to close down deeply discredited lion breeding facilities despite a Parliamentary resolution to do so, sanctioned the sale to Asia of lion bones for the production of fake tiger wine, allowed unrestricted fishing of dwindling shark populations and made a strong pitch at the recent CITES conference to open trade of elephant and elephant parts.

Underpinning this are some startling new regulations.

Late last year, 32 wild animals, including lions, giraffes, white and black rhinos, lions and cheetahs, were listed under the Animal Improvement Act, effectively rendering them farm animals subject to manipulation and consumption. They were listed in order “to provide for the breeding, identification and utilisation of genetically superior animals in order to improve the [food] production and performance of animals in the interest of the Republic”.

 

Original image as posted by: Late last year, 32 wild animals, including lions, giraffes, white and black rhinos, lions and cheetahs, were listed under the Animal Improvement Act, effectively rendering them farm animals subject to manipulation and consumption.

Then in February, 98 more wild animals were proposed to be listed under the Meat Safety Act, including rhinos, hippos, elephants and crocodiles. According to the act, they may be “slaughtered for food for human and animal consumption”.

Given that the Covid-19 outbreak came from the consumption of wild animals, the implications of these moves are deeply worrying, particularly following the news that a tiger in the NY Bronx zoo caught Covid-19 from its keeper and the possibility that it could infect other big cats. Captive-bred lions in South Africa could become a dangerous virus reservoir.

The Animal Protection Index (API), which ranks 50 countries around the world according to their animal welfare policy and legislation, has rated South Africa as “C” overall and “E” with regard to wild animals, alongside Nigeria, China, Pakistan and Argentina. It falls behind Kenya and Tanzania, two other African countries that rely heavily on wildlife tourism. Its report can be downloaded here.

The stated mandate of the Department of Environment is “to give effect to the right of citizens to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being and to have the environment protected for present and future generations”.

Wild animals, however, are not citizens. The department’s prevailing mantra and that of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development  (DALRRD)  is “sustainable use of specimens” with no provision for their welfare. It’s also the song of the wildlife industry.

Welfare is a political hot potato between the departments of Environment and Agriculture. When I asked the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEFF) about animal welfare, they claimed this was the role of the Department of Agriculture. That department referred me to the NSPCA, a small, underfunded non-government organisation with few inspectors. The NSPCA is tasked with implementing the Animal Protection Act on behalf of government, but receives no state funding. Even Lotto funds to the organisation dried up two years ago.

In the parliamentary debate on wildlife regulations, questions about welfare were referred to the draft National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (NEMBA). This provides for “the use of indigenous biological resources in a manner that is ecologically sustainable, including taking into account the well-being of any faunal biological resource”. According to the National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Bill, the use of “faunal biological resources” must be “ecologically sustainable and take into account their well-being”.

Apart from the shocking description of a living creature in this way, there is no legal definition of what “well-being” might mean, rendering it meaningless as a protection. It is clear, according to many environmental organisations, that terms like faunal biological resources do not reflect the intrinsic value or sentience of wild animals and are in contradiction with their welfare and protection.

The environment minister recently appointed a high-level panel to look into wildlife issues regarding the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros, but departments are forging ahead before the panel has made any recommendations, effectively side-stepping it. The panel was appointed without public consultation. It’s predominantly composed of people involved in the use and exploitation of wildlife, including hunting, breeding, testing and slaughter.

There has been no requirement for panel members to publicly disclose their personal or organisational interests. Its terms of reference have not been made public and it’s not at all clear what the panel is meant to achieve.

The NGO EMS Foundation drafted a letter to the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Barbara Creecy, challenging the panel’s appointment, and another letter requesting that the TOPS regulations be withheld until there is further public consultation. Such regulations do not require parliamentary oversight but are forwarded to the National Council of Provinces, a body ill-equipped to give oversight on these issues. It’s clear that job creation at any cost and not animal welfare is at the root of government moves.

Recently, Creecy made a public statement on Twitter (later deleted) that: “It is not the animals that we need to worry about, it’s the people. After all, animals have been looking after themselves for hundreds of thousands of years. If we want to address these issues we need to focus our energy on the people.”

Within the overarching “development” framework and under the guise of poverty alleviation, South Africa is spearheading an aggressive “consumptive use” agenda of “if it pays it stays”. We are sacrificing wildness on the altar of use.

This is not new. Historically, the government has always taken a pro-consumptive use stance in relation to wild animals. Under apartheid this was so a few people, mainly white, could benefit and have private hunting grounds, but today this use is part of the language of development. It includes vague phrases like “green economy, wildlife economy, wildlife industry value chain” and “biodiversity economy”.

The legislative dyke against cruelty should be the Animal Protection Act (APA), but it’s out of date and legally hock-tied, being administered by the Department of Agriculture which appears to be operating counter to the act’s directives. Agriculture is therefore unlikely to initiate a case against itself, so the APA is therefore effectively neutralised and few convictions for cruelty have been secured using its constraints.

One of the major failings of the APA is that animals are viewed as objects and property and not as sentient beings with their own rights and needs. The act also limits most instances of cruelty offences with a requirement that the suffering is unnecessary. Without a clear definition of suffering, the protections against commercial uses of animals are rendered so narrow as to be functionally meaningless. Upgraded and given more teeth, it could protect the welfare of wild animals. However, it provides protection to animals only in the limited circumstances in which the criminal burden of proof can be established. It’s entirely “reactive” to specific incidences of harm and offers no prescription for animal welfare, kindness or care.

The direction in which South Africa’s environmental and agricultural departments are moving unfortunately reflects the UN’s questionable dictum of sustainable use but is out of step with our own higher courts and even the National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Bill (NEMLA). The bill, now under discussion and following the Constitution, uses the term “ecological sustainability”, requiring the integrity of whole systems be included in protection and thereby includes individual animals.

In 2016 the Constitutional Court handed down a judgment that elevated the welfare and protection of non-human animals to a constitutional concern. A minority view in that case held that animals are sentient beings capable of suffering and experiencing pain and are worthy of protection.

A later judgment in the North Gauteng High Court considered canned lion hunting to be “abhorrent and repulsive”. It found that even if captive lions are ultimately bred for trophy hunting and for commercial purposes, “their suffering, the conditions under which they are kept… remain a matter of public concern and are inextricably linked to how we instil respect for animals and the environment of which lions in captivity are an integral part of”.

In a Supreme Court case, the bench concluded that the rationale behind protecting animal welfare had shifted from merely safeguarding the moral status of humans to placing intrinsic value on animals as individuals.

This chimes with provisions in the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) which requires sustainable development to avoid the disturbance of ecosystems and loss of biological diversity. It insists on a risk-averse and cautious approach. How turning 130 wild creatures into farm animals relates to this is hard to imagine.

Why is any of this important? The world is presently witnessing an unprecedented, human-induced collapse of biodiversity and is in the middle of a global pandemic caused by the consumption of wild species often kept in cruel, unsanitary conditions. Laws insisting on animal welfare would prevent this.

An animal welfare approach insists that we regard with compassion individual creatures with which we interact. They each have intrinsic value, which limits the uses that can be made of them. The basic moral premise underlying wild animal welfare is that people ought to:

Understand how human actions affect the welfare of wild animals;

Consider wild animal welfare in making decisions about human actions; and

Take reasonable and practicable measures to avoid and minimise harm that human actions will cause to wild animals.

This would make cruelty more difficult, our relationship with animals less brutal, mass slaughter more socially unpalatable and could protect us from the next viral contagion that comes from eating wild animals. Much of the wisdom of the past, says environmental philosopher Thomas Berry, has become inadequate in the present:

“We are presently concerned with ethical judgements on an entirely different order of magnitude. The human community has never previously been forced to ethical judgements on this scale because we never before had the capacity for deleterious action with such consequences.”

Covid-19 has forced the world to reconsider its relationship with wild animals, but South African legislation is increasingly pointing in the wrong direction. It urgently needs a rethink.

 

Peace for rhinos as lockdown keeps poachers away – for now (South Africa)

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Dispatch Live | April 8, 2020

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SA’s rhinos and other vulnerable wildlife could enjoy a rare moment of peace as the 21-day lockdown stops poachers in their tracks.

With people confined to their homes and police and army vehicles patrolling the country’s roads, poachers will find it difficult if not impossible to carry on their business, say conservation experts.

“All the law enforcement actually benefits us,” said Maj-Gen (ret) Johan Jooste, project manager of environmental law enforcement and security at the department of environmental affairs.

Jooste said all national park security teams were fully operational, and noted that there had been no increase in poaching incidents since the lockdown began.

 

Original image as posted by Dispatch Live: RHINO CSI An investigator searches for the bullet at a rhino poaching crime scene in the Kruger National Park. Image: Paul Ash


“It may be safer in the bush than anywhere else,” he said. “Maybe this [poaching] curve is flattening.”

Private game reserve owners agreed that the increased army and police presence across the country would deter poachers.

Derek Lewitton, owner of a private rhino reserve in Limpopo, said the lockdown rules, such as only two people being allowed in a car at one time, would make it impossible for poachers to operate. “To poach requires a team of three or four guys who go in on foot, plus a driver,” he said. “Four men driving around at night on roads that are empty would be a high-risk endeavour. You can’t drive without lights because of all the roaming cattle. And if there’s a shot, somebody’s going to hear it.”

Lewitton said the reserve was completely locked down and being patrolled by a full complement of game guards. “We haven’t dropped our guard at all,” he said.

Any poachers who managed to evade the security patrols would then have to locate in the rhino in 3,000ha bush that has grown thick after good summer rains.

Pelham Jones, chairperson of the Private Rhino Owners’ Association (PROA), said the global travel ban that preceded SA’s lockdown would already have helped ease the pressure on rhinos and other vulnerable species.

“With the shutdown, the ability of poaching syndicates and smugglers is severely inhibited,” he said.

Jones cautioned, however, that the lockdown was only a week old and that it was still too soon to determine what the overall effect would be on poaching statistics.

A bigger worry was what would happen when the coronavirus crisis was over, leaving a devastated local economy and people desperate to earn cash or bring protein home to their families. “I anticipate a substantive increase in poaching and the abuse of natural resources,” he said.

Les Carlisle, group conservation manager for wildlife tourism company and lodge operator andBeyond said all security staff were in place at its camps and reserves. Vehicles were out on patrols, while all the usual protocols, such as social distancing and sanitised food deliveries to anti-poaching patrols, were being observed.

andBeyond, which operates 29 lodges in seven southern African countries, had closed all its camps to travellers in just 10 days.

And the local communities that had benefited from the company’s investment into a sustainable development conservation model would offer an extra layer of security, Carlisle said.

“More people are at home now,” he said, “and there are more eyes and ears to pick up illegal activity.”

“People depend on wildlife,” Carlisle said. “It’s at times like these that you really see the benefit of those investments.”

Although things are quiet for now, full moon, when poachers are usually most active, is still a week away.

Conservation economist Michael ‘t Sas-Rolfes said poaching would probably increase in the event of a chaotic end to the lockdown. “It will probably be site-specific,” he said. “Where there’s weakness, there is a greater risk it will be exploited.”

 

Villagers of Kaziranga National Park ‘protect’ wildlife (State of Assam, India)

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The Telegraph India | April 8, 2020

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The villagers on the fringe areas of the Kaziranga National Park have become more alert in conserving wild animals, including rhinos.

As a result of this awareness, the villagers of Kathcapori, Baruahchuk and Kanchikata apprehended a poacher, Gagon Eko, 35, at Lohore Chapori, 50km from here, on Monday.

Three men had planned to poach a rhino which had strayed from Kaziranga on February 24. But because of the strict vigil by the villagers, one of the poachers was caught. Two others managed to escape.

 

Original image as posted by The Telegraph India: A jawan gaurds a fuel tanker after it met with an accident near Rangia in Kamrup district on Tuesday.


The divisional forest officer (DFO), Eastern Assam wildlife division, Bokakhat, said the villagers are more sensitive in keeping an eye out for any outsider and so they easily caught the poacher. Kaziranga National Park director P. Sivakumar said the villagers showed good response to the appeal of participation in wildlife conservation.

The villagers later handed over the poacher to Kamargaon police with the help of the forest department’s patrolling team.

The police also recovered a single-barrel rifle, a double-barrel rifle, around 30 bullets, a dagger, special catapult, a silencer and medicines.

Two cases have been registered by the police and the forest department separately against the poacher.

The officer-in-charge of Kamargaon police station registered a case under the Arms Act, 1959, while the Kaziranga National Park authority registered a case under the Wildlife Protection Act.

Man jailed for trying to smuggle 11 pieces of rhino horn via Singapore to Vietnam

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Channel News Asia | April 8, 2020

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SINGAPORE: A South African man was sentenced to 17 months’ jail on Wednesday (Apr 8) for trying to smuggle 11 pieces of rhinoceros horn through Singapore to Vietnam.

Thurman Shiraazudin Aiden Matthews, 45, had travelled from South Africa to Vietnam, via Singapore, three times to familiarise himself with the route before carrying out the deed. He was promised 20,000 South African rand (S$1,550) by an unidentified Chinese man he had met in Johannesburg if he succeeded.

The man, whom he met in October 2019, offered him “the opportunity to earn some easy money” transporting wildlife products such as rhino horns or lion bones to Vietnam. Matthews agreed and was introduced to two Chinese women who coordinated the transaction.

On their instructions, he collected two suitcases and cash to buy return tickets and took a pre-arranged flight from Johannesburg to Ho Chi Minh on Jan 4 this year. He was told that a person would remove the two suitcases before the X-ray screening at the Ho Chi Minh Airport baggage department, and he could leave the airport without picking them up.

 

Original image as posted by: 11 pieces of horns belonging to the White Rhinoceros were found in the bags. (Photo: National Parks Board)


The horn pieces in the suitcases weighed about 22kg in total and came from five different white rhinos, which are protected under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act. Matthews took the flight from Johannesburg towards Vietnam, but was stopped while transiting through Singapore on the morning of Jan 5 this year.

Baggage Screening Officer Spots the Horns

A baggage screening officer reviewing X-ray images of transit luggage at Changi Airport Terminal 2 noticed a suitcase containing organic items shaped like horns and informed his supervisor.

Both suitcases, which were locked and wrapped in plastic cling wrap, were then removed for further inspection. Officers opened the suitcases in Matthews’ presence and found six pieces of cut horns, a laptop and snacks in the first suitcase.

Five pieces of cut horns, another laptop and more snacks were uncovered in the second suitcase.

The horns were wrapped with thin transparent plastic and covered in aluminum foil. The horns were sent to the Singapore Zoo for analysis, where they were confirmed to be from the white rhino species and taken from at least five rhinos.

Trade in white rhinos is strictly regulated, and Matthews did not have any valid South African export permit for the horns. He pleaded guilty to one charge of exporting the horns, belonging to a protected species, without a valid permit.

National Parks Board prosecutor Wendy Tan asked for at least 20 months’ jail, highlighting that at least five rhinos were killed for their horns. She added that Matthews admitted to travelling thrice to familiarise himself with the route, showing that he planned to smuggle the horns.

While Matthews has no convictions in Singapore, Ms Tan noted that South African authorities have provided unofficial records that Matthews was previously jailed for offences ranging from shoplifting and burglary to housebreaking.

He was released from a South African jail in March 2019 and was on parole until December that year. However, District Judge Adam Nakhoda said he would not place weight on these records, but would note them on the record.

Matthews a Mere Courier: Defence

Defence lawyer Sunil Sudheesan said there is scope for his client to be given below 15 months’ jail. He said his client was “a mere courier”, and that the Chinese man approached him, while the other accomplices “planned everything, packed everything and booked everything”.

He added that Matthews was jobless at the time and did not receive “a single cent” of the 20,000 rand he was promised. “The final ironic point I have to raise is that the accused person actually donates to the rhino conservation fund,” he said.

Judge Nakhoda said Matthews played his part by travelling and scouting the route, and certainly had a profit motive. “He may not have earned the money, but that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a profit motive involved,” said the judge.

Matthews could have been jailed for up to two years, fined a maximum S$50,000, or both. 

Black rhinos eavesdrop on alarm calls of hitchhiking oxpeckers to avoid humans (South Africa)

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Have a Go News | April 8, 2020

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In Swahili, red-billed oxpecker birds are called Askari wa kifaru, or “the rhino’s guard.”

Now a Victoria University study suggests this Indigenous name rings true: oxpeckers act as a sentinel-like first line of defense for critically-endangered black rhinos by calling out when they detect advancing poachers.

By tracking black rhinos in South Africa, behavioral ecologist Dr Roan Plotz found that rhinos carrying oxpeckers – which feed on the ticks and lesions found on rhinos– were far better at sensing and avoiding humans than those without the hitchhiking bird.

Conservation efforts have helped boost numbers of black rhinos in recent years, but poaching remains a major threat.

“Black rhinos have large, rapier-like horns and a thick hide, but they’re as blind as a bat. Hunters approaching from downwind could walk within five meters and not be noticed,” he said.

 

Original image as posted by Have a Go News: Close up of Oxpecker on a rhino


Dr Plotz used an experimental human approach trial to show that oxpeckers not only made up for a rhino’s poor eyesight by warning them of approaching humans, but also allowed rhinos to detect humans much faster and from a further distance.

His study found rhinos without oxpeckers detected approaching humans only 23 per cent of the time, but those carrying the alarm-sounding oxpeckers noticed them 100 per cent of the time.

And the more oxpeckers that a rhino carried, the further the distance of detection. Those carrying the birds were able to detect humans at an average distance of 61 meters—nearly four times further than rhinos without oxpeckers.

Once a rhino heard the oxpecker alarm call, it nearly always re-oriented itself to face downwind—its vulnerable sensory blind spot and, the direction from which humans favour hunting big game like rhino.

“These results suggest that oxpeckers are effective companions that enable black rhinos to better detect and evade encounters with humans,” he said.

Dr Plotz says that oxpeckers may have evolved this cooperative behaviour with rhinos as a way to protect their own valuable food source – ticks and parasites found on their rhino host — which have been increasingly driven to the brink of extinction by human overkill.

Ironically, oxpecker populations have also significantly declined in recent years, and are even locally extinct in some areas of Africa. This study suggests reintroducing the bird into rhino populations could bolster conservation efforts of both species.

Freixenet Copestick to support Care For Wild rhino charity with new wine brand

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The Grocer | April 8, 2020

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I Heart Wines owner Freixenet Copestick has teamed up with South African rhino protection charity Care For Wild to launch a new standalone wine brand.

The brand, called Care For Wild, features the charity’s logo on its bottles, and will see 20% of its entire margin donated to Care For Wild, which works to combat rhino poaching in South Africa and looks after orphaned rhinos whose parents have been killed by poachers.

It will debut with a trio of South African wines – red, white and rosé (rsp: £7/70cl), which will be followed by a more premium duo (rsp: £12/70cl). The launch would “put some much-needed life into the South African wine category, which is in 6.4% decline in the UK”, said Freixenet Copestick [IRI 52 w/e 23 February 2020].

Original image as posted by The Grocer: Freixenet Copestick Roughly 20% of all margin from the brand will go to the charity


Former England cricketer and longstanding supporter of the charity Darren Gough will serve as a brand ambassador for the wines in the UK.

Freixenet Copestick MD Robin Copestick said he had been “immediately captivated” by the charity’s story after meeting Gough at a charity fundraiser in December 2019.

The winemaker was “working on a number of fundraising ideas that will not only encourage further donations but that will also generate awareness for the charity and the wines themselves”.

Wildlife crime arrests up in 2019 (Namibia)

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The Namibian | April 8, 2020

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Arrests for wildlife crime involving high-value species like elephants, rhinos and pangolins, increased by 36% in 2019 compared to the year before.

This was disclosed in the 2019 combating wildlife crime report, which was jointly compiled by the environment ministry’s intelligence and investigation unit and the Namibian Police’s protected resources division.

“This report is the result of systematic data gathering and reporting on wildlife crime,” noted the director of wildlife and national parks in the ministry of environment, Colgar Sikopo.

In the introduction to the report, Sikopo explained that various stakeholders and partners, including the environment, the safety, and justice ministries as well as the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the Namibian Defence Force (NDF) and others, played a vital role in aggregating the statistics.

 

Original image as posted by The Namibian: SEIZED … Officers from the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, Namibian Defence Force and the Namibian Police, are the foundation of wildlife crime prevention in the country. Photo: 2019 Combatting Wildlife Crime Annual report


He also said these efforts have allowed for more comprehensive statistics to be shared with the media and the public, to the benefit of the country’s anti-poaching efforts.

“This has led to a surge in coverage on wildlife crime, which has facilitated public awareness and understanding, and also serves as a stern warning to criminals,” he said.

The report, which was released last week, indicates that in 2019, more than 360 arrests related to poaching of high-value species were made. One-hundred of these arrests were related to elephants, 160 to pangolins and 112 to rhinos.

In comparison, 267 arrests were made in 2018 – 69 for elephant-related crimes, 120 for pangolins and 84 for rhinos.

Sikopo said wildlife crime remain a serious threat to Namibia’s economy and biodiversity, as well as to local livelihoods.

Last year, 174 cases of wildlife crime involving high-value species were registered.

A total of 92 cases were registered for pangolin-related crimes, 54 for elephant-related crimes and 32 for rhino-related crimes.

The report reveals that the pangolin is by far the most-targeted high-value species with 21% of all registered cases recorded in 2019 involving this nocturnal animal. “These are often trafficked alive, [and] most live animals that are seized can be rehabilitated and released,” the report states.

The Namibian previously reported that of the 121 pangolins confiscated by law enforcement officers in Namibia last year, about 60% were dead.

While Namibia’s increase in the number of arrests for wildlife crime is commendable, only 11% of reported cases related to high-value species last year were finalised. About 77% of cases registered during that period are ongoing while 4% were withdrawn or struck from the roll and 8% are listed as ‘unknown’.

“Cases related to high-value species are often complex, requiring in-depth investigations and a variety of judicial procedures to be finalised. Many cases related to high-value species that were registered during 2019 are thus still ongoing,” the report noted.

According to the report, the capacity of the judicial system to deal with all registered cases is often stretched given that wildlife crime makes up only one facet of crime in Namibia where the system is inundated high rates of homicide, rape, domestic violence and fraud, among others.

The report elaborated that sensitive cases, including all those related to rhinos, must be submitted to the prosecutor general’s office, lab results from ballistics and DNA analysis take time and securing legal representation for the accused often causes postponements.

“These factors can lead to lengthy prosecution delays. It may thus take years for complex cases to be finalised. The importance of effectively prosecuting wildlife crimes is nonetheless recognised and a variety of initiatives are being undertaken to ensure more efficient finalisation of cases, the report states.

Shenzhen becomes first Chinese city to ban eating cats and dogs

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BBC | April 6, 2020

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It comes after the coronavirus outbreak was linked to wildlife meat, prompting Chinese authorities to ban the trade and consumption of wild animals.

Shenzhen went a step further, extending the ban to dogs and cats. The new law will come into force on 1 May.

Thirty million dogs a year are killed across Asia for meat, says Humane Society International (HSI).

However, the practice of eating dog meat in China is not that common – the majority of Chinese people have never done so and say they don’t want to.

Original image as posted by BBC: Most Chinese people don’t actually consume dogs and cats and never plan to.

 

“Dogs and cats as pets have established a much closer relationship with humans than all other animals, and banning the consumption of dogs and cats and other pets is a common practice in developed countries and in Hong Kong and Taiwan,” the Shenzhen city government said, according to a Reuters report.

“This ban also responds to the demand and spirit of human civilization.”

Animal advocacy organisation HSI praised the move.

“This really could be a watershed moment in efforts to end this brutal trade that kills an estimated 10 million dogs and 4 million cats in China every year,” said Dr Peter Li, China policy specialist for HSI.

However, at the same time as this ruling, China approved the use of bear bile to treat coronavirus patients.

Bear bile – a digestive fluid drained from living captive bears – has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine.

The active ingredient, ursodeoxycholic acid, is used to dissolve gallstones and treat liver disease. But there is no proof that it is effective against the coronavirus and the process is painful and distressing for the animals

Brian Daly, a spokesman for the Animals Asia Foundation, told AFP: “We shouldn’t be relying on wildlife products like bear bile as the solution to combat a deadly virus that appears to have originated from wildlife.”

Botswana kills five suspected poachers in effort to save rhinos

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Mqondisi Dube, Voice of America | April 3, 2020

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GABORONE, BOTSWANA: Botswana has seen an unprecedented rise in rhinoceros poaching in the last 12 months.

The government reports nearly 50 of the animals have been killed in the last 10 months, about one-tenth of the country’s rhino population.

Officials say at this rate, the black rhino population, which numbers just a few dozen, could be wiped out by the end of next year.

But Botswana’s security forces are taking the fight to the poachers. This week, five suspected poachers were killed in two incidents.

On Monday, one poaching suspect was gunned down in a confrontation with local soldiers. Four more suspected poachers were killed two days later, in the thickets of the Okavango Delta, home to most of the country’s rhinos.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has warned his government will fight the poachers, most of whom come in from neighboring Namibia and Zambia.

Original photo as published by VOA News: The Botswana government reports nearly 50 rhinos have been killed int he last 10 months, about one-tenth of the country’s rhino population.

“There are serious problems of poaching. Poachers do not bear a spear or a knobkerrie, or a knife, like some of those who break into households,” Masisi said. “Poachers bear sophisticated arms, and poachers are sufficiently radicalized to kill. So they are dangerous. 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.”

A Botswana soldier was killed last month during an exchange with suspected poachers in the northwestern part of the country.

A conservationist, Neil Fitt, said the recent killing of suspected poachers is proof the government and the Botswana Defense Forces are on the right path.

“Obviously the taking of any life is not to be condoned. One has to try not to do that,” Fitt said. “However, as I think we all know, in the last year or so, the poaching incidents in Botswana have increased dramatically. We have lost a lot of rhinos, and I am not too sure how many elephants we have lost. The fact that the BDF [army] are upping their game plan, I think, is a very good thing.”

Fitt warned poachers would try to take advantage of the reduction in tourism caused by outbreak of the new coronavirus.

“We must also remember this time, with the pandemic that we actually have, the tourism operations in the whole area has down scaled, which I believe the poachers will be trying to take advantage of,” Fitt said. “So there will be an upsurge of poaching activity.”

Botswana’s government denies the upsurge is due to a decision to disarm an anti-poaching unit last year.