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Rhino toll reaches five in Jaldapara National Park (State of West Bengal, India)

By Conservation, News No Comments
The Telegraph India | February 22, 2020

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Two more rhinoceroses died in the Jaldapara National Park on Friday, taking the death toll to five in the past 72 hours.

Although the Bengal forest department said the cause of the deaths could be established only after test reports were available, some environmentalists said communicable diseases like anthrax might be the reason.

All the five rhinos are adult females and four of them died in the Sisamara beat of the park in Alipurduar district. The carcass of one rhino had been found in the Malangi beat on Wednesday night. The foresters had rescued a rhino calf which had been found near a carcass in the Sisamara beat.

Mounted on pet elephants, dozens of forest guards have started patrolling the Jaldapara park to find out if more rhinos or other herbivores are ill or dead.

Sources in the forest department said a rhino had been found dead in the Sisamara beat on Friday morning. Later in the evening, another rhino that had been spotted ill in the same area died.

Original photo as published by Telegraph India: Forest guards mounted on pet elephants patrol the Jaldapara park to look for ill or deceased rhinos.
Picture courtesy: Bengal forest department

“However, what left us surprised is that the calf that had been rescued on Wednesday from near the carcass of a female rhino that we suspect was its mother is doing well. If rhinos have died from any communicable disease, then the calf should also have the infection. We have kept it under the observation of vets,” said a senior forest officer.

The state animal resource development department has also been engaged to keep tabs on the rhinos in Jaldapara.

The foresters asked the residents of villages adjacent to the park to prevent cattle’s grazing in the Sisamara area as a precaution. “We would also make sure that no other wild herbivore enters Sisamara. If any animal is noticed, it will be steered to other areas of the park,” said the forest officer.

Ravikant Sinha, the principal chief conservator of forests, said: “We are trying to make the Sisamara beat a no-entry zone for other animals.”

Asked about the probable cause of the rhinos’ deaths, he said the forest department was yet to receive reports of tests on the samples of the carcasses. The samples had been sent to Calcutta.

Rhino Leaves Park

An adult male rhino walked out of Gorumara National Park in Jalpaiguri on Friday. It crossed NH31C and is roaming forests in the fringes of the park. A team of forest guards has been deputed to keep a watch on the animal.

Fight against wildlife trafficking gets boost (Namibia)

By Antipoaching, Conservation, namibia, News No Comments
Albertina Nakale, New Era | October 10, 2019

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WINDHOEK: The United States of America continues to boost assistance towards Namibia’s fight against wildlife trafficking.

This week, United States Ambassador Lisa Johnson handed over two Toyota Land Cruisers to the project “Combating Wildlife Trafficking in Namibia”, through a donor-funded project managed by the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF).

One vehicle will be used by NNF in the Windhoek area and the other by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in Kunene.

The project is the third in a series of three projects funded by the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

Namibia is known around the world for its natural beauty and diverse wildlife. Tourists flock here in thousands every year for a chance to see rhinos, cheetahs and elephants roaming wild and free in the Land of the Brave. But in the last few years, Namibia has begun to confront a new kind of environmental challenge.

Poaching in one form or another has been around for decades, but trafficking in endangered wildlife products, particularly rhino horns and elephant tusks, has increased sharply in Namibia in just the last few years.

Original photo by Robin Moore

The U.S. funded project also aims to reduce poaching and trafficking of protected animals and their body parts originating from Namibia.

It also works to strengthen Namibia’s domestic criminal justice institutions to successfully carry out enforcement, investigation and prosecution of wildlife crimes. The project directly supports the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Namibian police to implement a comprehensive set of on the ground anti-poaching interventions.

The Ministry of Justice, the Prosecutor Generals-Office, and the Ministry of Finance are other important government partners in the fight against wildlife crime. The vehicles will be used to improve the projects team mobility in Northwest Namibia as well as that of the project management unit.

Johnson said the fight against wildlife trafficking requires a partnership among organisations like the NNF, governments, and communities.

“Working together, we will be able to save Namibia’s most endangered species,” she noted.
Executive Director of the NNF Angus Middleton explained the INL funding became available at a critical point in time, especially when rhino poaching picked-up in Namibia.

“Through providing targeted support to a number of Namibian government agencies and field partners, poaching incidents have been reduced and arrests have increased. This is important nationally not just because of wildlife and tourism but because criminal syndicates target wildlife, just as much as they are involved in other illicit activities such as drugs and human trafficking,” Middleton said.

Middleton further stated that this funding also underlines the need for international collaboration to combat wildlife crime and to conserve common global heritage.

He added they remain grateful to the United States government for not only supporting Namibia but joining it in solidarity for conservation and development.

In celebration of World Rhino Day last month, Johnson joined the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the World Wildlife Fund to call for protection of Namibia’s rhinoceroses’ population.

“Together, we must save Namibia’s rhinos from illegal poaching,” she said in Khorixas at a ceremony to mark Rhino Day, which occurs on September 22. The U.S. Agency for International Development (Usaid) provides funding to the WWF through the Combating Wildlife Crime Project, which protects the black rhino population in northwest Namibia. The project is a five-year initiative, begun in 2017, and partners with both the Namibian government and local communities.

Johnson mentioned in her remarks several rhino conservation projects in the Kunene Region sponsored by the U.S. government, including through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement.

“We’ve shown that Namibia’s rhinos can be saved through a collective effort by our governments, communities, and partners in conservation,” Johnson said.

On World Rhino Day, she reaffirmed to all Namibians the United States’ commitment to the precious wildlife.

Emmy-winning film could change what you believe about the hunting industry

By Antipoaching, Illegal trade, News No Comments

Moshe Gilad, Haaretz  | October 8, 2019

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The American rancher Philip Glass, who raises sheep in Texas and hunts big game for recreational purposes, is seen on the screen shooting and killing a lion. The viewer’s heart sinks at the sight of the large animal collapsing on a pile of branches in the middle of a thicket.

Glass’ fellow hunters pat him on the back and complement him on the excellent shot. He sits down near his prey, pets the lion’s gold fur and begins sobbing. It’s hard to know whether he’s crying because of a surge of excitement, a sudden fit of remorse, an adrenaline boost or sheer happiness.

No Sugarcoating the Gory Process

Schwarz and Clusiau’s film was released in 2017 and was shown at the Sundance and Jerusalem film festivals. In conversation with Haaretz, Schwarz acknowledges that he and Clusiau had undergone a transformation in making “Trophy.”

“We went into it as nature lovers. Hunting seemed horrific to us. We attended a hunters’ convention in Las Vegas and came back shocked, but then we went to Africa and understood that the subject was a thousand times more complicated than what we thought. In the United States, it’s very easy to say: ‘Save the lions and the elephants. They are so cute.’ In Africa, things look different.

You understand there that an elephant is a very dangerous animal that causes a huge amount of damage and that there may be logic in hunting permits. You also understand that you need to motivate residents to protect the animals. Five years after this journey began, I can’t tell you flat out what I think about hunting, other than that it’s more complicated than what people think. We’ve chosen to be frank in the film, presenting what we were feeling and letting the viewer decide what’s right.”

“We don’t have a definitive answer,” Schwarz says. “The clearest thing is that we have changed while working on the film. That’s a development that we’re proud of. That’s important for journalists. We need to be very leery of becoming people who don’t listen. In this film, we have chosen to listen, even if it doesn’t make us popular.”

Schwarz, who has lived in the United States for the past 20 years, previously worked as a photographer for Israeli daily Maariv and for Reuters. He has also done photography work for major American publications such as National Geographic and the New York Times. Six years ago, he decided to make the switch to documentary filmmaking “to tell the story more completely, but I still wear a journalist’s hat. I haven’t taken it off for a moment.” His prior film dealt with drug trafficking in Mexico.

The photography in “Trophy” is outstanding, shocking and moving. It doesn’t try to sugarcoat the process. Rather, it documents it in its entirety — from seeking the animal out to the hit, followed by the stuffing of the victim by a taxidermist. It’s not always easy to watch, but the presentation is impressive.

Original photo as published by Haaretz: A frame from the film ‘Trophy’ Credit: Courtesy of Yes Docu

The major shift in the perspective of the creators of “Trophy” began after meeting up in South Africa with John Hume, the owner of a ranch with 1,400 rhinoceroses. Hume touts an unconventional approach. In endless succession, he anesthetizes the animals and cuts off their valuable horns. Somewhat similar to finger nails, the horns grow back after a few years.

Hume says that he is storing the horns until he can sell them legally. He has several thousand of them and they’re worth millions. A real treasure.

As Hume would have it, his is the only way to protect the rhinos from illegal hunting. And he says that if he were able to, he would free the rhinos that are shorn of their horns into the wild. Without horns, they are not a desirable target of illegal hunting.

‘In Africa, Things Look Different’

A hundred years ago, the earth was home to half a million rhinos, but now there are only 30,000. Philip Glass, the Texas rancher, paid $35,000 to hunt a rhinoceros. Seventy percent of hunters come to Africa from the United States and Canada.

Shockingly, they hunt down everything. In 1900, there were 10 million elephants in the world. Now there are just 300,000. Most of the hunting has been carried out illegally and without a permit.

What changed during your meeting with Hume?

“We came with the approach of ‘what’s screwed up here?’ But we became convinced there that this man wasn’t lying. He wasn’t bluffing. He was offering a solution that he believes in. We understood that if we continued down the current path, there was no chance that we could see rhinos in another 20 years. He was offering a practical direction that would permit returning them into the wild. In other words, he’s saying that if we saw off and legitimately sell rhino horns, the illegal hunters wouldn’t hunt them. That’s how we will save the rhinos’ lives, but we need to be allowed to do it legally — trading in rhino horns. It’s not easy to see rhinos at a ranch dealt with like a herd of cattle, but we became convinced that he loves animals.”

The sense of the viewer of the film is that you fell in love with the characters.

“The director of a documentary uses his characters to tell something bigger. The participants in the film are very human. They have allowed us to film them even during their most difficult, moving and intimate movements. The barriers came down and we clearly became closer. Chris Moore, for example, is in my view the most interesting example because he is a wonderful man who works with the locals to protect nature and acknowledges that in this context, they some-times need to kill animals. He describes the conflict very well. He hates killing animals and is forced to do so, despite the fact that he can’t sleep afterwards. He proves that it’s not black and white.

“The reality is more complicated than what we wanted to see, and Chris’ is the best solution because he is always looking for value for the locals. It’s a fine balance: How to make the locals feel that hunting and the entire system is theirs. From the moment that we give them value, we have won. We need to acknowledge that it’s impossible to do that only through tourism. Safari tourism is maybe two percent of the tourist revenue in Africa. What happens with the great mass? We need to provide more than that. That’s the point that environmental groups don’t want to hear. During my time in Africa, I understood that we need to cause everyone to talk to one another. The environmentalists and hunters need to talk so that there are also wild animals in Africa in the future. It’s currently very difficult to encourage a dialogue because there is a chasm of hatred between the hunters and environmentalists. We tried to create joint panels and the two sides blasted us.

At the moment, the feeling is that everybody hates everybody. The environmentalists expected the film to be very harsh with the hunters. Classic nature films are propaganda films, but they’re too pretty and light. In Africa things look different.”

Were you surprised that your film won?

“I thought we had the strongest film in the category but I knew that we were in no way politically correct, particularly in the American context. That’s why I didn’t think we would win, and I was surprised. Winning an Emmy is my second surprise with this film. The first came when Yes Docu decided to participate in funding it. This isn’t a film about Israel or about the conflict in the country but nevertheless, they had the courage, and maybe also the faith in me as a director, to support us. That can’t at all be taken for granted.”