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World may be on lockdown, but more people than ever are going on safari

By Conservation
Jen Murphy, BizNews | April 6, 2020

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More than half the world may be on lockdown, but more people than ever are going on safari.

Jarryd Du Preez, a guide at andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, recently fielded questions from safari goers in India, Chile, Bahrain, Germany, Canada, the US, the UK, Saint Lucia, and Russia as he pointed out two white rhino calves hidden behind an adult female. Can you tell the sex of the calves? (They were males.) Are poachers a danger? (Always.)

Africa’s golden light cast its magical glow as a soft breeze rustled through patches of shrubbery called stinking grass. “What does stinking grass smell like?” someone asked.

Success came so fast and furiously that within four days, the company was supplementing its efforts with twice-daily, three-hour-long “WILDwatch” broadcasts in collaboration with WildEarth on Facebook and YouTube, where the longtime purveyor of safari videos is also garnering record-setting numbers.

These livestream game drives aren’t just a promising pathway toward economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic, says Robinson. They’re also a desperately needed balm for quarantine wanderlust and, in less obvious ways, an important lifeline for the animals on screen.

Original photo as published by BizNews

Beyond Armchair Travel

Like andBeyond, Singita — which operates 15 ultra-luxe lodges and camps across four countries in Africa — has been livestreaming virtual game drives twice daily on Facebook and Instagram since March 25. They’re led by resident photographer and former guide Ross Couper, whose broadcasts have included a female leopard and her two young cubs, the roaring Nkuhuma pride of lions, and parades of elephants.

“Giving our viewers a daily, live glimpse of our wilderness areas reminds one of the simplicity of nature,” says Couper. “It’s soul restoring.”

The drives also elicit important discussions about conservation. While answering viewer queries about how social distancing works in the bush (no more than two rangers in a Jeep, sending home all but a few staffers kept on to maintain lodges), Couper and his colleagues have spent time discussing the importance of not sheltering in place within a game reserve: It would put the animals at risk.

Without guests, they explain, guides at these lodges have taken on additional patrolling responsibilities. Fewer tourist vehicles mean fewer eyes and ears on the ground. And that means more potential poachers.

Coronavirus vs. Conservation

“If tourism collapses, the ripple effect could wipe out decades of proactive conservation work on the continent,” warns Luke Bailes, Singita’s founder and chief executive officer. Financial strain among rural communities tends to link directly to a rise in illegal bushmeat hunting and poaching, he explains.

Then there’s the question of conservation NGOs running out of money in the absence of tourism revenues.

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, which operates nine lodges in Kenya, has also recently launched live safaris. CEO Mike Watson says the halt in tourism will deplete more than 22% of the Conservancy’s core revenue, or roughly $1.2m in 2020 — all money that ordinarily supports wildlife conservation and vital community programs. Worse, he’s anticipating increased poaching pressure in the coming months; some reports in Asia are touting rhino horn as a cure for this coronavirus.

“Without guests staying with us to experience Africa’s most extraordinary wilderness areas, our ability to fund their ongoing protection will erode fast,” says Keith Vincent, CEO of Wilderness Safaris, referring to the small conservation levies baked into the price of luxury trips. (It often costs as little as $5 per person, per night, but adds up.) On April 2, his 41-camp company joined its friendly rivals in sharing guided nature walks on Instagram stories and, where Wi-Fi allows, Facebook Live and Instagram Live.

“It is in difficult times like these that we need to come together with creative solutions to ensure a sustainable future for ecotourism,” Vincent says. He hopes that creating grassroots awareness of these issues might inspire small donations to compensate for the incremental fees that customarily fund philanthropic work.

Striking the Right Tone

Given the urgency of the pandemic and its downstream implications on wildlife, social media managers such as andBeyond’s Robinson are trying to toe the lines between sensitive marketing, philanthropic calls to action, and pure escapism.

A refreshing alternative to the Netflix series Tiger King, footage of hippos laughing in a watering hole and baby elephants at play has gotten people yearning for the bush at a moment of insatiable wanderlust. “This is getting me through quarantine” and “wonderful escape from isolation status” are common sentiments shared by viewers. Many say they “can’t wait to take a trip in 2021.”

It’s too early to tell if they’ll follow through with bookings, says Robinson, but she hopes that “if people engage with our guides and fall in love with andBeyond now, they’ll keep us top of mind when they are ready to book.”

Singita’s game drives engage viewers in a deeper way than still images on social feeds do, says  Lindy Rousseau, marketing director. She adds that live safaris have yielded a 351% increase in impressions and a 407% increase in engagement, with comments skewing more toward optimism (“you are giving me hope”) than the superficial (“wow, pretty”).

This engagement has helped maintain a trickle of inquiries and some new bookings for later this year and 2021. Every bit matters for a company with just 298 guest beds in its entire portfolio. Deposits for future trips can help retain Singita’s 1,600 employees, including 130 poachers-turned-game scouts.

Not everyone has the good fortune of being able to livestream from the bush; Beks Ndlovu, founder of African Bush Camps, says his camps are too remote for reliable Wi-Fi. But many small safari businesses are still finding ways to get in on the trend. For example, Tswalu, a private game reserve in South Africa, and Angama Mara lodge in Kenya have been streaming Q&As with resident researchers and photographers.

Says Wilderness Safaris’ Vincent: “We hope that when we all come out of this crisis together — stronger and more unified — the world’s intrepid travelers will come back to visit us in Africa to experience life-changing journeys that make a difference.”

How to Help

If planning a trip isn’t possible, consider donating to any of these organizations — all working in collaboration with the outfitters mentioned above.

Singita Lowveld Trust Anti-Poaching Unit is a highly skilled team of tracking dogs and handlers that pursue intruders and sniff out rhino horn and ammunition at Singita Sabi Sand in South Africa. The annual operation costs $240,000, one trained tracking dog, $7,000. Donations of any amount are accepted here.

Wilderness Safaris’ Wildlife Trust funnels funds to its many projects, including the Scorpion Anti-Poaching Unit in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe and ranger teams that guard desert lions in Namibia.

Empowers Africa is a US fiscal sponsor that supports programs in sub-Saharan African, ranging from Pangolin.Africa to the Cheetah Conservation Fund.

Africa Foundation, andBeyond’s community development partner, has prioritised water and sanitation projects to increase communities’ resilience to Covid-19.

Rhinos without Borders is accepting donations to help offset the monitoring of andBeyond’s translocated rhinos in Botswana during this time.

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy offers options, from adopting a rhino to covering educational costs for local students in high school or university.

Natural Selection Covid-19 Village Support Program is fundraising to transport food parcels to remote villages in Botswana and Namibia amid this unprecedented emergency

Interior Dept. drops trophy hunting council amid court fight

By Uncategorized
The Associated Press | February 10, 2020

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WASHINGTON: Facing significant legal challenges, the Trump administration has disbanded its advisory board created to help boost trophy hunting and relax federal rules for importing the heads and hides of African elephants, lions and rhinos.

In a filing to a federal court in New York, an official with the Department of Interior said the two-year charter for the International Wildlife Conservation Council had expired and that there were no plans to renew it. The board held its final meeting in October.

The council was created by then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former Republican congressman from Montana forced to resign amid a corruption scandal. A 2018 investigation by The Associated Press showed that the board was stuffed with big-game hunters, including appointees with direct ties to President Donald Trump and his family.

A coalition of environmental groups later sued, alleging that the board’s one-sided makeup violated the law governing the creation of federal advisory boards. The government’s decision to terminate the board, first revealed in a court filing on Friday, was hailed as a victory by those seeking to blunt its influence.

“I have little doubt our litigation spurred the administration’s decision to abandon the IWCC and walk away from its biased and un-transparent practices,” said Zak Smith, international wildlife conservation director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We’re glad the Trump administration is closing shop on this ridiculously misguided council and we await a full accounting of its tainted work product.”

An avid hunter who adorned his Washington office with animals preserved through taxidermy, including a snarling grizzly bear, Zinke created the council to represent a “strong partnership” between federal wildlife officials and those who hunt or profit from hunting. In its 2017 charter, the council included among its duties “recommending removal of barriers to the importation into the United States of legally hunted wildlife” and “ongoing review of import suspension/bans and providing recommendations that seek to resume the legal trade of those items, where appropriate.”

The council met five times over the last two years, issuing a report in December that provided a description of the presentations the board had received. However, the council’s members ultimately did not vote on making any formal recommendations to the Interior Department.

Eric Alvarez, the acting assistant director for International Affairs at the Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a written statement to the court that the council’s final report to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt would not be regarded as anything more than “correspondence,” since it was not adopted in a public meeting. Alvarez went on to say that the council’s initial charter expired on Dec. 21.

“Because there is not a valid charter, the terms of all members of the IWCC have also terminated,” Alvarez told the judge. “I am not aware of any plans to bring back this discretionary committee or any new committee with a comparable mission or scope in the future.”

In a separate filing on Friday, the Justice Department asked the federal judge overseeing the lawsuit to dismiss the case, citing the wildlife council’s dissolution.

The Interior Department’s press office did not immediately respond Monday to a phone message and email seeking comment.

The AP’s 2018 review of the backgrounds and social media posts of the 16 council members Zinke selected showed they were likely to agree with his position that the best way to protect critically threatened or endangered species is to encourage wealthy Americans to shoot some of them, funding conservation and anti-poaching efforts by paying hefty license fees to cash-strapped African countries.

Zinke’s hand-picked appointees included celebrity hunting guides, representatives from rifle and bow manufacturers and wealthy sportspeople who boasted of bagging the coveted “Big Five” — elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and Cape buffalo. Most were members of Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association, groups that had sued the Fish and Wildlife Service to expand the list of countries from which trophy kills can be legally imported.

Zinke resigned in December 2018 amid several investigations that he had misused his office for personal gain. He quickly joined Turnberry Solutions, a D.C. lobbying firm whose clients include oil and gas companies and Native American tribes.

Phone messages seeking comment from Zinke about the wildlife council’s dissolution did not receive a response.

Despite tweets from Trump describing big-game hunting as a “horror show,” his administration has expanded the list of African nations from which the body parts of sport-hunted elephants and lions can be imported.

Donald Trump Jr. spoke last weekend at the annual convention of Safari Club International in Reno, Nevada. As part of the festivities, the pro-trophy hunting group auctioned off a weeklong Alaskan “dream hunt” aboard a luxury yacht with the president’s eldest son.

The Fish and Wildlife Service issued a controversial permit in September to a Michigan trophy hunter to import the skin, skull and horns from a rare black rhinoceros he shot in Africa. The hunter paid $400,000 to an anti-poaching program to receive permission to hunt the male rhino bull inside a Namibian national park. A critically endangered species, there are only about 5,500 remaining in the wild.

“The end of Trump’s thrill-kill council is a huge victory for elephants, lions and other imperiled animals targeted by trophy hunters,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director for the Center for Biological Diversity, which was a party to the lawsuit. “It’s still critical to address this biased committee’s past legal violations and prevent self-serving advice from trophy hunters from poisoning federal wildlife policies.”

South Africa: Wild animals at risk of ‘genetic pollution’

By Conservation
Tony Carnie, The Guardian | January 29, 2020

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The South African government is under fire for permitting gene manipulation ventures that could have a damaging effect on the continent’s wildlife.

Lions, rhinos and cheetahs are among the wild species at risk of irreversible “genetic pollution” from breeding experiments, scientists have warned.

South African game farmers have increasingly been breeding novel trophy animals, including some freakishly-coloured varieties such as the black impala, golden wildebeest or pure-white springboks.

Some hunters pay more to bag unusual trophies, but now the South African government is under fire for permitting further gene manipulation ventures that scientists say could have a damaging effect on the continent’s wildlife.

Original photo as published by The Guardian: The South African government is under fire for permitting gene manipulation ventures that could have a damaging effect on the continent’s wildlife. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Writing in the latest issue of the South African Journal of Science, a group of 10 senior wildlife scientists and researchers have criticised the government for quietly amending the country’s Animal Improvement Act last year to allow for the domestication and “genetic improvement” of at least 24 indigenous wildlife species – including rare and endangered animals such as rhino, cheetah, lion, buffalo and several antelope species.

The researchers warn that: “A logical endpoint of this legislation is that we will have two populations of each species: one wild and one domesticated … domesticated varieties of wildlife will represent a novel, genetic pollution threat to South Africa’s indigenous wildlife that will be virtually impossible to prevent or reverse.”

Lead author Prof Michael Somers, a senior researcher at the Mammal Research Institute at the University of Pretoria, says the government should scrap the controversial law amendment which lumps together rare and endangered species such as rhinos with rabbits and domesticated dog breeds.

Somers and his colleagues say the act typically provides for domesticated species to be bred and “genetically improved” to obtain “superior domesticated animals with enhanced production and performance”.

These animals “can also be used for genetic manipulation, embryo harvesting, in-vitro fertilisation and embryo transfers,” say the scientists.

They argue that the law will not improve the genetics of the affected wildlife species but rather will pose ecological and economic risks as it will be expensive and almost impossible to maintain a clear distinction between wild and domesticated species.

Somers and his colleagues say the government did not appear to have consulted either scientists, government wildlife agencies or the general public about the controversial move.

Last year, in response to concerns that the legal amendment would remove the listed species from the ambit of conservation legislation, the government’s environment department issued a statement to emphasise that that game breeders would still have to comply with the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act and regulations concerning threatened or protected species.

But Somers and his co-authors remain concerned, saying that in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, where there is close cooperation between game breeders and the provincial conservation organisation, the authorities still had difficulty keeping track of what happens on game farms and in enforcing legislation.

The “golden wildebeest” is a novel species derived through the ranching and selective breeding of the common or blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), much darker animals whose coats are typically a deep slate or bluish grey colour. Moves to allow more intensive genetic manipulation of several wildlife species in South Africa have raised the concern of scientists around irreversible genetic pollution of the original wild species. Photograph: Prof Graham Kerley/Nelson Mandela University

“This new law will add to this difficulty, and will likely be less controlled in some other provinces,” they said, adding that the genetic consequences of intensive or semi-intensive breeding of wildlife species were “negative and considerable”.

“Intensive breeding through artificial (non random) selection of individuals for commercially valuable traits (eg horn size/shape, coat colour) represents humans taking over this natural process. Such artificial selection by humans is even more powerful than natural selection in creating distinct phenotypes within very short time frames.”

Michael Bruford, a professor of biodiversity at the University of Cardiff and co-chair of the Conservation Genetics Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, added his support to the concerns raised. “The Convention on Biological Diversity’s 2020 targets clearly state that signatory countries should minimise genetic erosion (loss of genetic diversity) in domestic, socio-economically and culturally valuable species,” he said.

“However you regard these species – and they cannot reasonably be classified as domestic animals – South Africa’s proposal will very likely lead to genetic erosion, in contravention of the CBD target,” he added. “This proposal also comes at a time of rapid environmental deterioration, when we need to be increasing the resilience of our species by ensuring they retain as much genetic diversity as possible”.

 

Trophy hunting fuels ‘colonial race and slave injustice’, MPs warned as they consider imports ban (UK)

By Uncategorized
Jane Dalton, The Independent | January 20, 2020

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Trophy hunting is reinforcing deep apartheid-era social and racial inequalities in Africa, an economist will tell the UK government this week as it considers a ban on imports.

Organised hunting of endangered wildlife, including elephants and lions, mostly benefits wealthy white landowners while exploiting black workers by paying them “pitiful” wages, according to Ross Harvey, an independent South African environmental economist.

Mr Harvey’s report comes in response to a government consultation on whether to ban imports of hunted animal bodies and parts, such as skins, tusks, heads and paws in Britain.

The document is being delivered in Parliament on Wednesday before the consultation ends on Saturday.

Switching to other types of tourism would create 11 times as many jobs in South Africa, and they would be more highly skilled roles, Dr Harvey said.

He told The Independent research suggested workers on South Africa’s 9,000 or more wildlife ranches were exploited as deeply as during apartheid — and possibly more so.

“Labourers on ranches and hunting concessions, who are mostly black South Africans, earn pitiful wages,” he said. “A median income for them is 3,500 rand (£185), so it contributes to exploitation and inequality. Together with Brazil, South Africa is the most unequal society on the planet.”

The average monthly salary in the country is about R30,000 (£1,600) and the minimum wage is more than R4,000 (£212) a month.

In 2018, the World Bank identified South Africa as the most unequal country in the world, with black people at the highest risk of poverty.

Dr Harvey’s report, seen exclusively by The Independent and which draws on more than 40 expert and academic pieces of research, argues trophy hunting could be phased out over five years, saying it “perpetuates a colonial and apartheid-era master-slave dynamic”.

The study concludes: “For South Africa alone, land currently allocated to hunting could provide 193,000 jobs instead of only 17,000.

“Moreover, the quality of hunting jobs is highly questionable, and evidence suggests that South Africa’s conversion of agricultural land to game ranching has worsened job security and deepened inequalities.

“This is the very opposite of community empowerment, which non-consumptive tourism is better able to accomplish.”

Hunting jobs in particular are mostly related to tracking and cleaning, he said, whereas tourism based on photography requires a lot more labour and the pay is better because the jobs are more highly skilled.

Not every hectare of hunting land lends itself to photography, he acknowledged, but alternatives include high-tech schemes that pay local residents to restore forests and profitable conservation projects.

Hunt supporters say organised shooting on dedicated land protects wildlife elsewhere.

And permit fees, which can run into the tens of thousands of pounds in the case of animals such as elephants, can be put towards conservation or benefit local communities, they claim.

Hunting companies also argue that they remove only older males so do not harm wildlife populations.

But Dr Harvey, a former researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs, a think tank on sustainable economics, disputed this, saying such bulls remain reproductive for almost their entire lives. Killing them also skewed population dynamics and made younger males “delinquent” and aggressive, he said.

South African safari operators promote holidays to UK tourists who may shoot captive-bred lions in fenced areas from which there is no escape, and trophy imports are rising.

The number of British hunters bringing back the parts from farmed lions more than doubled in the three years after the highly publicised death of Cecil the lion, compared with the three years before, official figures show.

Imports after the 2015 shooting jumped to 59, against 27 before. In 2007 just four lion trophies were brought into Britain, but in 2017 the figure was 15, according to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).

The government consultation will also consider other options, including tighter controls and a ban applying only to certain species.

 

Rhino poachers now hack off lions’ faces and paws, pull teeth (Mozambique / South Africa)

By Antipoaching, Conservation
Tony Carnie, Times Live | January 17, 2020

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Rhino poaching gangs appear to have added a new and grisly commodity to their illegal wildlife shopping lists – the hacked-off faces and feet of wild lions.

A new study by wildlife researchers suggests a trend is emerging among poachers along the Mozambique-SA border in which lions are killed for their body parts, notably their teeth and claws.

Writing in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation, researchers Kristoffer Everatt, Rae Kokeš and Carlos Lopez Pereira warn that at least two recent shipments of lion teeth and claws poached in Mozambique were destined for Vietnam, while Chinese tourists were reported to be fuelling a similar demand for these products in Kenya.

Everatt and his colleagues said they reported the first cases of “harvesting” lion heads, faces and paws near the SA-Mozambique border in 2014 and that in all subsequent targeted lion poaching cases in the Limpopo National Park these body parts had also been removed.

“This increase in the removal of heads or faces and paws from lions in and around Limpopo National Park, along with the confiscations of lions’ teeth and claws at the Mozambique airport, indicates a recent demand specifically for lion canine teeth and claws.”

In all of the lion poaching cases in which only teeth and claws were taken, the poachers involved were working on foot.

“In such a situation it is likely that poacher’s selection for teeth and claws over removing full skeletons is a way of optimising their return while reducing the costs. It is also possible that established rhino and elephant poaching syndicates and traders already operating in the region have simply added lion parts to their list of illegal wildlife products.

“This hypothesis is supported by interactions we documented between lion and elephant poaching which included the use of poached elephants as bait to kill lions and a seized shipment containing a mix of elephant ivory with numerous lion teeth and claws destined for Vietnam.”

Everatt acknowledges that while the study is based on a limited number of poaching cases adjoining the Kruger National Park, he believed the sudden trend should be reported in light of the potentially “devastating impact it could have on other lion populations across Africa”.

“We strongly recommend that African governments, protected area managers, conservation organisations, researchers and the global conservation community be vigilant and quick acting towards addressing this emergent and serious threat to wild African lions, and other big cats.”

The study also draws a potential link between the latest trend in teeth and claws and SA’s increasing role in exporting lion bones and other lion products to the Far East.

In a ruling late in 2019, Pretoria High Court judge Jody Kollapen held that SA’s lion bone export quotas for 2017 and 2018 were unlawful.

At a continental level, researchers estimate that Africa’s total population of wild lions has plummeted to somewhere between 37,000 and 20,000 – compared with more than 400,000 in the mid-1950s.

SA has a population of about 3,000 wild lions and well in excess of 6,000 captive lions which are bred by the hunting and lion bone industry.

We strongly recommend that African governments, protected area managers, conservation organisations, researchers and the global conservation community be vigilant and quick acting towards addressing this emergent and serious threat to wild African lions, and other big cats.

In his judgment, Kollapen voiced concern over the apparent lack of consideration towards animal welfare issues in deciding on export quotas and also noted that SA predator breeders initially sought an annual lion bone quota export of 3,700 skeletons.

The SA Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries later announced a 1,500 skeleton quota for 2017 and 800 skeletons for 2018.

“What in essence occurs is that the quota is signalling to the world at large and the captive lion industry in particular that the state will allow exports in a determined quantity of lion bone,” said Kollapen.

“It cannot be correct to assert that such signalling can occur at the same time as indicating to the world and the industry that the manner in which lions in captivity are kept, will remain an irrelevant consideration in how the quota is set … Simply put, if as a country we have decided to engage in trade in lion bone, which appears to be the case for now, then at the very least our constitutional and legal obligations require the consideration of animal welfare issues,” the judge said.

Last week, four men were arrested in Mabule village in North West for alleged possession of lion bones. Police said the animal was reportedly killed in Botswana and the suspects allegedly transported the bones to SA to find a buyer.

Last October, police also arrested two Zimbabweans and a Congolese and confiscated more than 340kg of lion bones that were seized at OR Tambo International Airport en route to Malaysia.

According to Michele Pickover, head of the EMS Foundation animal welfare group, the growth of SA’s lion bone trade has created a parallel market for other lion body parts including claws and teeth.

Asian tigers have long been used for traditional medicine and other purposes, but as their numbers decline this has fuelled increased demand for African lion body parts as a substitute.

Pickover fears this demand could have dire consequences for Africa’s wild lions, especially if well-organised rhino horn syndicates operating from SA add lion to their operations.

The department of environmental affairs, forestry and fisheries has not responded to requests for comment on the latest study on lion body-part poaching.

However, in July 2018 the department said there had been no discernible increase in poaching of wild lion in SA, but acknowledged that “there appears to be an increase in poaching of captive-bred lions for body parts (heads, faces, paws and claws)”.

“If there is ongoing demand for lion bone and the supply from captive breeding facilities is restricted, dealers may seek alternative sources, either through illegal access to stockpiles or by poaching both captive bred and wild lion.

“South Africa has learned through its experience with rhino and abalone poaching that these illegal supply chains are very difficult to disband once they become established, and seeks to avoid such a scenario materialising,” the department said.

According to the latest lion poaching study in Limpopo National Park, Africa’s wild lion populations are estimated to have declined by approximately 43% over the past 21 years.

Everatt and his colleagues documented at least 49 lion killings in the Limpopo, Kruger and Banhine national parks between 2011 and 2018. They said there was also a noticeable increase in the use of poison to kill lions from 2013 onwards and that all targeted lion-poaching events involved poisoned meat, baited snares or traps.

 

Lions, rhinos touted for Lake Zone parks (Tanzania)

By Conservation
IPP Media | December 2, 2019

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Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) authorities intend to introduce white rhinoceros, gorillas, monkeys, lions and other species into the recently created protected areas in the Lake Zone.

Speaking here at the inauguration of Rumanyika Game Reserve in Karagwe district and Ibanda Game Reserve in Kyerwa district both in Kagera Region, TANAPA Conservation Commissioner Dr Allan Kijazi said late last week that the animals will be introduced to Burigi-Chato National Park as well as Rumanyika Game Reserve.

However, he said TANAPA will first conduct a survey to understand location where either of the species would have better chances of surviving and thriving.

Original image as published by IPP Media: Tanapa Conservation Commissioner, Dr Allan Kijazi.

Officials of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism attended the inaugural event at Murongo ward in Kyerwa District.

Dr Kijazi thanked Kagera residents and their leaders for mutual cooperation in safeguarding animal resources and urging them to continue with tireless efforts to make animals thrive in the newly created conservation areas.

The minister, Dr Hamis Kigwangala, warned poachers and hackers in the national parks and game reserves to stop immediately that rough business, lest they face more than 30 years imprisonment.

“We are tracing poachers and hackers of animals at every corner, some of whom kill our animals for meat, and actually their days are numbered, as now we have fewer areas to cover and all our strength is directed there, Serengeti zone being one,” he declared.

Dr Kigwangala said in the near future the wildlife bodies will set up special wild animal slaughterhouses for bush meat enthusiasts. “I am not in a position to see our country’s wealth devastated by rogues, thus I’ll effectively empower anti-poaching military units to overpower the poachers whenever they might be,” he emphasized.

The rate of killing elephants had sharply dropped and rhino killings are largely unnoticeable, being the effects of curbing the unlawful business. The abundance of wildlife found in Rumanyika and Ibanda game reserves includes elephants, statungas, giraffes, warthogs, hippopotamuses and a wide variety of birds. `

 

Lion trophy approved for import into U.S., stirring controversy. Here’s why that matters.

By Conservation
Rachel Fobar, National Geographic | September 16, 2019

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A Florida trophy hunter has permission to import what is thought to be the first lion trophy from Tanzania since January 2016, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, an Arizona-based nonprofit that advocates for endangered species.

In that year, two subspecies of African lions were listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, meaning that those lions can be killed for trophies only if it can be shown that the hunts would enhance the survival of the species in the wild.

In May, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency that oversees trophy hunting imports to the United States, approved a hunter’s application to import the skin, skull, claws, and teeth of a lion killed in Lukwati North Game Reserve, a hunting concession leased from the government and run by Tanzanian safari operator McCallum Safaris. That’s according to records obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Tanya Sanerib, international legal director for the Center for Biological Diversity. (See more from FOIA: We asked the government why animal welfare records disappeared.)

The hunter, whose identity could not be confirmed by National Geographic, originally applied to import a lion trophy from Tanzania in November 2016. It’s unclear exactly when he killed the lion. Nor is it clear whether the trophy has been imported. The permit to do so, issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service, expires in May 2020, a year after it was issued.

African lions have disappeared from 94 percent of their historic range, and populations have halved, to fewer than 25,000 since the early 1990s, according to the nonprofit Wildlife Conservation Network. The main causes of the decline are retaliatory killings of lions that attack villagers and depletion of their prey animals. Tanzania is home to 40 percent of Africa’s lions.

Sanerib, who calls the country a “stronghold” for lions, worries that the decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service could be a signal that the Trump administration will “open the floodgates” for future Tanzanian trophy imports for lions and other species, including elephants. The news of this approval of a lion import comes on the heels of a decision last week to allow a U.S. hunter to import a black rhino trophy killed last year in Namibia.

According to Laury Marshall Parramore, a spokeswoman with the Fish and Wildlife Service, “Legal, well-regulated hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation.”

Sanerib says she’s concerned about the lack of detail in the Fish and Wildlife Service’s determination that this hunt enhances lion conservation in Tanzania. She claims that the service didn’t do due diligence when approving the import permit. As part of her FOIA request, she says she obtained emails in which the service asked general questions of Tanzanian government officials, such as whether they were monitoring trophy hunting.

“Those are not the basic questions that I think that our government should be asking before we approve these types of practices. We should be way down in the weeds, getting all of the details to ensure that these programs are actually going to enhance the survival of species.”

“Organizationally, we’re opposed to trophy hunting—we don’t think we should be killing threatened and endangered species,” Sanerib says. “But if we are going to do it, if it is going to happen, Fish and Wildlife Service needs to follow the law, and they really need to ensure—and this is their own regulatory requirements—that this program has all the adequate safeguards to ensure that it’s going to be sustainable for the lion population.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service did not respond to a request for specific information about how this hunt benefits lions in Tanzania and for reaction to Sanerib’s concerns.

The lion decision is particularly troubling given Tanzania’s history of mismanaging trophy hunting, Sanerib says. In 2017, Hamisi Kigwangalla, Tanzania’s minister for natural resources and tourism, revoked hunting concession lease permits that previously had been issued to companies for a low set fee, citing a need for greater transparency about the process. The government then began auctioning off concession leases instead. But according to biologist Craig Packer, who had studied lions in Tanzania since the late 1970s, only undesirable concessions were put up for auction, a move he calls a “halfhearted” effort to reform.

Kigwangalla did not respond to a request for comment.

In 2015, Packer was barred from entering the country after he characterized the nation’s trophy hunting industry as corrupt. Trophy hunters are supposed to target only older male lions, thought to be less crucial to reproduction, but Packer says there was no accountability or oversight by Tanzania to ensure that this was happening. As trophy hunting declined in popularity, Packer says, concession operators charged hunters fees so low that they couldn’t possibly be providing enough revenue to maintain roads, hire rangers, and prevent illegal farming or grazing in the hunting reserves.

Whether this particular trophy import is good or bad depends on whether the hunt was shown to have a conservation benefit, Packer says. If the U.S. is rewarding responsible hunting operators, it will incentivize others to follow suit. “As long as the sport hunters are showing that they’re making a positive impact, good on them,” he says. “It would be great if the system is actually forcing some kind of reform.” But, he adds, the Fish and Wildlife Service “has no way of confirming whether Tanzania’s well-meaning policies are really being implemented.”

Representatives from the Tanzania Wildlife Authority, which implements the country’s Wildlife Conservation Act, the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, an organization under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism that conducts wildlife research, and the Tanzania Tourist Board did not respond to requests for comment about how the country manages its trophy hunting.

John Jackson, a member of the International Wildlife Conservation Council, an advisory group to the Secretary of Interior, is the Florida hunter’s attorney. Jackson welcomes more frequent trophy imports from Tanzania and says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been “too slow” to issue these permits—a pace Jackson calls “inexcusable.” Since 2016, he says, many hunting operators have had to surrender their lands because of a lack of revenue, which leaves the animals in those lands unprotected. More frequent trophy hunts would allow concession operators to afford anti-poaching safety measures. “Hunting is the single most important mechanism to save lion,” he argues.

Jackson disagrees that Tanzania’s trophy hunting is mismanaged. As home to about 40 percent of Africa’s lions, he says, the country has “managed to save more lions than anybody else.”

“I wish there was another country equal to it,” he says. “It’s easy to criticize people, but it’s much more important to work with them and support them.”

Sanerib says Tanzania deserves credit for having a “phenomenal system” of protected areas but that its lion conservation success has been despite trophy hunting rather than because of it.

Elephants Too?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s findings for lions also could apply to elephants, Sanerib says. In 2014, the Obama administration effectively banned trophy imports of elephants from Tanzania because of a poaching crisis in the country and concerns about the management of its trophy hunting industry. Sanerib says this lion trophy import decision may indicate that the Trump administration plans to overturn that ban.

In 2017, the service reversed the ban on elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe. “So we have some history—some very recent history—to point to as evidence of them, I would say, leaping before they take a look,” Sanerib says. (After President Trump tweeted his dissatisfaction with the Zimbabwe decision, the service reversed course and decided to evaluate applications on a case-by-case basis. Since then, no elephant trophies are known to have been imported from Zimbabwe.)

Anna Frostic, the managing wildlife attorney for the Humane Society, says the decisions to issue lion and black rhino trophy import permits indicate that there are more to come. She says the Fish and Wildlife Service “is making these decisions behind closed doors and without the input of independent scientists and the public.”

“The issuance of this one lion trophy import from Tanzania will likely be replicated and applied to the more than 40 other applications for Tanzania lion trophies that are pending,” she says.

Even though Tanzania is a stronghold for lions, she says the fact that overall lion numbers are dwindling means this potential new pattern is “extremely concerning.”

“The decision to legitimize that type of activity,” Frostic says, “is not only unethical and scientifically unjustifiable but is unlawful” based on the decision’s merits and because of the service’s lack of transparency in its decision making.

Animal interaction stopped – The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve says NO to cub petting

By Conservation
Brent Lindeque, Good Things Guy | September 9, 2019

Read the original story here

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA: The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve in the Cradle of Humankind will no longer be offering cub petting to the public, with immediate effect.

For 30 years, the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve has shared its love of wildlife with South Africans and visitors from across the world. But times have changed. Under the new ownership of the Bothongo Group, the reserve is refocusing its efforts on animal welfare.

“As new owners, we have acknowledged that what was acceptable in 1990 when the reserve first opened to the public, may no longer be acceptable in 2019,” says Jessica Khupe, Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve Brand Manager.

“Human beings have always wanted to get up close and personal with wild animals,” says Khupe.

Understandable as this is, studies have shown that it is not good for animal welfare.

Original photo as published by Goodthingsguy.com. (Photo: Supplied)

“Recent campaigns have highlighted the global problem of cub petting and unscrupulous operators both locally and abroad. Simply put, it is not necessary to touch an animal to connect with the importance of wildlife conservation. We’d also like to make it very clear that we are utterly opposed to the abhorrent canned hunting and lion bone trade.”

Recently appointed Chief Operations Officer of the reserve, Mike Fynn, explains: “Breeding and rearing animals for the purpose of cub petting and interaction is not only undesirable from an animal welfare perspective, but it’s also not a sustainable business model. From now on, we will focus on educating the public about wildlife and the importance of conservation. This is why, with immediate effect, we choose to put a stop to cub petting at the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve and sincerely hope that other facilities responsibly follow suit.”

Over the past few months, while under new stewardship, the reserve has initiated a three-year plan to upgrade all of its public facilities, habitats and wildlife enclosures, which will be remodelled around the welfare and wellbeing of its animals. Many of them are species that are endangered, thanks to human activity and habitat loss.

According to Fynn, the reserve team will dedicate themselves to a new internal mantra of being a ‘nurture reserve’.

In addition, he says they will commit to the following:

· We will strive to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse and contented animal collection, and we will work with local and international institutions and bodies ensuring that we play our part in managing the long-term survival of endangered and threatened species.

· We pledge not to sell or exchange any of our animal family, especially our lions unless it’s to a reputable accredited facility and/or licensed wildlife institution.

· We will breed animals only if this serves a conservation purpose.

As animal lovers, we understand how charismatic African wildlife is. But the truth is that our love for our animals may inadvertently harm them, even though we don’t mean to.

“To those of our visitors who are disappointed that they can no longer cuddle a lion cub at our reserve: this is the right thing to do,” says Khupe.

She adds that she’s excited about this new journey: “We take the opportunity to re-welcome the greater public, wildlife stakeholders, tour operators and travel agents to actively support our reserve as it evolves into a BIG, must-see destination, that provides an authentic and informative wild animal experience for generations to come. Our wildlife family now has a voice again.”