rhino poaching Archives - Rhino Review

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.

Poachers nabbed in Etosha (Namibia)

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Ellanie Smit, The Namibian Sun | April 2, 2020

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Two alleged poachers were arrested last Friday for killing a rhino in Etosha National Park. According to the spokesperson of the environment ministry, Romeo Muyunda, the poaching took place in the north-eastern part of the park.

Two other Namibians were arrested at Oshakati last week for conspiring to poach a rhino. Mbakondja Tjatindi and Matias Kaurikengerua were found in possession of a hunting rifle and 45 rounds of ammunition.

Bail in Rhino Case

A Chinese national was granted bail last week in a poaching case involving two rhino horns. Yi Chen Yu was released on N$100,000 bail on 23 March.

His three Namibian co-accused – Absalom Fillimon, Nghiyelepo Edward and Paavo Ndawedwa Nepembe – were granted N$20,000 bail each. The case, dating back to June 2017, was postponed to 15 June for fixing of a trial date.

Original photo as published by The Namibian Sun: TARGETED: Two alleged poachers were arrested last Friday for killing a rhino in Etosha National Park. PHOTO: FILE

Horn Theft

In the matter regarding the theft of 33 rhino horns from a farm in the Outjo district, two of the accused, Petrus Iipinge and Pendapala Paulus, were granted bail of N$30,000 each on 23 March.

The other two accused, Ludwig Ndinelago and Fortunato Jose Queta, were remanded in custody. The matter was postponed until 14 May for further investigations.

Death Toll

Nine rhinos and one elephant have been killed by poachers this year. Muyunda said wildlife security will not be compromised during the coronavirus lockdown.

“Our anti-poaching activities will not be affected by this situation. In fact, we are stepping up. We know people are trying to take chances because of this lockdown, under the assumption that we have scaled down our security detail.

“The two suspects arrested underestimated our capabilities and this should serve as a warning to those who want to commit similar crimes – we are on full alert,” Muyunda warned.

12 elephants, 45 rhinos poached in 2019 (Namibia)

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Donald Matthys, Namibia Economist | April 3, 2020

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During last year, an estimated 12 elephants and 45 rhinos were poached during 2019, the ministry of environment and tourism’s wildlife crime report of 2019 shows.

The ministry seized 116 elephant tusks and 8 rhino horns during the year, however, the reported notes that the number of elephant tusks seized does not relate directly to the number of elephants killed in Namibia, as some tusks may originate from elephants killed in neighbouring countries.

The year under review saw wildlife crime cases registered (high-value species only) at 174 with 92 cases related to pangolin, 54 related to elephant and 32 related to rhinos (total of both species). According to the ministry, these include only those cases in which suspects were arrested or products were seized as cases in which only the carcass of a poached animal was discovered are not included, although an investigation was conducted.

Original photo as published by The Namibian Economist

Cases of conspiracy to poach rhino (pre-emptive arrest cases), were 17. About 28 wildlife crime perpetrators were convicted in 2019, all from poaching and trafficking of rhinos and elephants. According to the report, the highest incidence of wildlife crimes were in the central, eastern and northeastern parts of Namibia with the highest number of incidents were recorded in the Otjozondjupa region.

The ministry’s spokesperson, Romeo Muyunda said wildlife crime is much more than a conservation issue, adding it is organised crime with impacts at many levels.

“Economic impacts range from local livelihoods to national sectors such as tourism and conservation hunting. Human impacts range from community disruption to national security concerns. Namibia recognises the seriousness of this scourge and is dealing with it accordingly,” Muyunda said.

Muyunda stressed while the data available in the report portrays the serious impacts of wildlife crime on the main target species: pangolin, elephant and rhinos; it also highlights a variety of successes in the fight against wildlife crime.

“Foremost amongst these is the high number of pre-emptive arrests in rhino cases. Criminals are being arrested before they can kill a rhino. We are no longer simply reacting to dead animals on the ground, but are proactively stopping criminals in their tracks,” he said.

Sixteen arrested for poaching (Namibia)

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New Era Live| March 28, 2020

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The Namibia Police Force arrested and charged 16 suspects on charges of rhino or elephant poaching and conspiracy of elephant poaching last week.

Police also confiscated five firearms, rounds of ammunitions and a motor vehicle.
Among other items which were recovered during the anti-poaching operation are; varied wild life products such as  four elephant tusks, a pangolin skin , two duiker carcasses, one waterbuck carcass and one warthog carcass.

Original photo by Robin Moore


According to the police crime statistics report, at Kongola seven suspects were charged for illegal hunting of the protected game and another four offenders appeared before court for illegal possession of firearms without licences as well as illegal supply of arms and ammunitions.

At Dordabis four suspects were also apprehended for illegal hunting of the protected game. While at Nkurenkuru, four accused persons appeared in court for illegal position of firearms.

In a related charge at Okahao, one person was arrested for contravening Section 4(1) (a) and (b) of Controlled Wildlife Products and Trade Act 9 of 2008.

Lt Col Leroy Bruwer laid to rest

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RUSI Newsbrief| March 26, 2020

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His broken-hearted colleagues, friends and family mourned his death during a memorial service in the city on Tuesday. National key players in the war on crime vowed that his murder would not go unavenged.

Bruwer was shot on his way to work a week prior. His colleagues, as well as members of national and provincial government agreed that his killers must have been the subjects of one of his investigations. “However, none were named. Deputy police minister, Cassel Charlie Mathale, described those responsible for his death as “the trigger men and the ones who organised his death”.

He warned, “We will leave no stone unturned until we find them and they will be brought to book.”

National Hawks head, Dr Seswantsho Godfrey Lebeya, promised, “Although we are wounded, we will not rest until we have found those responsible for his death.

Original image as posted by the Lowvelder

“Lebeya listed highlights from Bruwer’s career with the South African police: “Since joining the police in 1990, Bruwer executed his mandate – to serve and protect – tirelessly and fearlessly,” he said.

He was promoted to the rank of police captain in 2009. In 2013, he moved from the SAPS to the Hawks, where he specialised in serious organised crimes such as poaching and cash-in-transit heists. In 2016, he was awarded the elite unit’s detective of the year award. During his career, Bruwer arrested various high-profile criminals.

Lowvelder regularly reported on his testimony against robbers and rhino poachers.

At the time of his death, he was due to testify against alleged poaching kingpins such as the notorious Petrus Sydney “Mshengu” Mabuza and Joseph “Big Joe” Nyalunga.

“He was a fearless legend,” recalled Pr Sean Bushby.

Regarding the suspects Bruwer would chase relentlessly, who are generally described as fear-inspiring, Bushby stated, “They feared him, because he wanted to do what was right.” He did this one day at a time, motivated by Matthew 6:25-34.

“He knew to trust God every day and to put His kingdom first.” This was echoed by Bruwer’s colleague and close friend, Col Johan Jooste.

“Lt Col Leroy Bruwer was the real thing. His values were to protect and serve without compromise.” He did this, in the words of Mathale, “with no expectation of proportional reward”.

Bruwer’s integrity, loyalty and devotion to God, his country, community, friends and family were honoured by every speaker who remembered him. This included representatives of the South African Police Union.

The MEC for safety, security and liaison, Cynthia Gabisile Shabalala, gave a warning to his killers: “They killed him purposely. Whatever they are trying to silence, will rise strongly.”

She urged anyone with information on Bruwer’s assassination to contact the police.


COVID-19 prompts closure of Indonesian parks, and a chance to evaluate

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Mongabay| March 23, 2020

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JAKARTA: Indonesian authorities have ordered a temporary closure of dozens of national parks and conservation sites to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus that has killed thousands of people worldwide.

Effective March 19, 56 conservation zones nationwide are closed to visitors indefinitely, according to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. In a statement, it said more sites, including zoos, could be added to the list depending on the situation. Affected sites include tourist favorites such as Mount Leuser and Way Kambas in Sumatra, Komodo in East Nusa Tenggara, and Mount Rinjani in West Nusa Tenggara.

“Besides being aimed at preventing COVID-19 from spreading further, this closure is an opportunity for these areas to rest and breathe,” Nanang Prihadi, the director for environmental service use at the environment ministry, told Mongabay in a text message. “For the operators, this [time] can be used to clean up, fix and maintain the facilities and the areas.”

Indonesia has reported 369 positive cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, and 32 deaths as of March 20. Among other measures the government has taken to curb the spread of the disease is a prohibition on flights from countries hit hard by the pandemic, and a suspension of the visa-on-arrival policy.

Original image from Mongabay: A Sumatran rhino with a caretaker at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park. Image by Rahmadi Rahmad/Mongabay Indonesia.

Park authorities say they will maintain their protection and monitoring of the conservation sites even in the absence of visitors.

“[This closure] shouldn’t mean that people will be able to steal from the park as they wish,” Subakir, the head of Way Kambas National Park, told Mongabay in a phone interview. “If anyone tries to encroach, we will capture them.”

Subakir said the rangers and staff at Way Kambas would continue working as normal, including attending to the park’s seven captive Sumatran rhinos and 69 Sumatran elephants. “But I’ve told them to keep their distance from each other and eat nutritious food. And if they feel unwell, they must immediately check with the doctor,” he said.

Subakir said the closure would likely impact the park’s revenues. Tourist receipts at Way Kambas topped 1 billion rupiah ($63,000) in 2019, but could fall to half that amount this year, Subakir said. He added that small local businesses around the park offering accommodation and meals to tourists would also be hit. “Everything related to tourism is going to be automatically disrupted,” he said.

Conservationists, meanwhile, have welcomed the closure order, saying it will reduce the risk of infection among rangers and staff. They also say it’s an opportunity for park operators to evaluate the impacts of tourism to the ecosystem in these areas.

“This can be a chance to understand if these zones have implemented actual ecotourism or merely nature-based tourism which is just a form of mass tourism with the focus on nature,” Darmawan Liswanto, a scientific adviser to the Titian Lestari Foundation, which advocates for environmental sustainability, told Mongabay in a phone interview.

Darmawan said mass tourism activities in some conservation zones have led to problems such as waste accumulation. “When the COVID-19 outbreak is over, I hope they won’t return to nature-based mass tourism as usual,” he said.

He also commended the park agencies’ commitment to protecting the areas amid the shutdown by continuing to carry out patrols, saying “I don’t think poachers are taking a break.”

Four suspected poachers arrested at Kruger National Park

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Times Live| March 23, 2020

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Four suspected poachers were arrested inside the Kruger National Park on Saturday.

“The four were arrested along the Pretoriuskop and Skukuza road. A heavy calibre rifle, ammunition and poaching equipment were confiscated,” Kruger National Parks spokesperson Ike Phaahla said.

He said the arrests were carried out by ranger, protection and air wing services with support from private concession colleagues.

“Further investigations are ongoing,” Phaahla said.

Original image from Times Live: Four suspected suspected poachers were arrested in the Kruger National Park on Saturday. Image: Henk Kruger

The four arrests bring to 11 the number of suspected poachers who have been arrested at the national park in a number of incidents since the start of the year. Seven suspected poachers were arrested in three separate incidents in January.

The ministry of environment, forestry and fisheries in February also released a report which noted a decline in the incidents of rhino poaching.

In 2018, 769 rhino were killed for their horn in SA. During 2019, rhino poaching continued to decline, with 594 rhino poached nationally during the year.

The department said this decline could be attributed to a combination of measures, including improved capabilities to react to poaching incidents and improved information collection and sharing among law enforcement authorities.


Slow growth in black rhino numbers cause for hope: Conservationists

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Agence France-Presse| March 21, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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The Economist | March 18, 2020

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

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

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

Original image from The Economist

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

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

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

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

Two suspected rhino poachers shot dead in KwaZulu-Natal game park (South Africa)

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Kaveel Singh, News 24 | March 15, 2020

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Two suspected rhino poachers have been killed in a shootout at the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, KwaZulu-Natal Environmental Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube said on Sunday.

Original photo as published by News24: Alleged rhino poachers captured with new technology being used at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal. (Supplied, KZN EDTE)

She said that “courageous field staff, who work in dangerous conditions”, encountered three armed suspected rhino poachers on the night of 6 March.

Dube-Ncube added that 28 rhinos had already been killed at the park this year.

“Two of the suspects were fatally wounded and died at the scene, while one suspect managed to escape. One heavy calibre hunting rifle, as well as knives, commonly used to remove rhino horns, were recovered at the scene by the South African Police Service.”

Dube-Ncube said one of the men who was killed was a well-known high-level rhino poacher. He had been charged with the illegal possession of rhino horns in 2017.

She said he was suspected of coordinating groups of Mpumalanga poachers to target Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.

Technology Comes to the Rescue

Dube-Ncube lauded the use of drone technology to combat poachers. She said it was part of a long-term strategy aimed at protecting the rhino population.

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

She said the cameras used artificial intelligence (AI) to identify people and sent an immediate alert to an operations centre which activated reaction units.

“On the night of 6 March an infrared camera detected three armed poaching suspects, and automatically alerted the operations centre, providing number of persons, grid reference and direction of the incursion.”

They were then located in the area and “challenged”, Dube-Ncube said.

“The reaction unit members who came under immediate threat defended themselves, which resulted in the two suspects being mortally wounded.”

She added that figures had shown that money earned in the illicit animal trade was more than $10bn.

“Such illegal activities have resulted in the loss of biodiversity and destruction of the ecosystem. Despite these alarming figures, we wish to commend communities that are working with us to fight rhino poaching.”