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COVID-19: WWF donates sh20m to Rhino fund Uganda

By Conservation
By Andrew Masinde, New Visions | June 19, 2020

Read the original story here.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on tourism industry due to the travel restrictions as well as a slump in demand among travelers.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization estimated that global international tourist arrivals might decrease by 20-30% in 2020, leading to a potential loss of US$30-50 billion.

At the East African Community (EAC) level, a recent study by the East African Business Council (EABC) says EAC Partner States will potentially lose about 6.2 million tourists and receipts of upwards of $5.4b for the year 2020; due to COVID-19 and the associated inevitable restrictions.

In Uganda, tourism has been the leading foreign exchange earner, accounting for $1.6b. The sector has been contributing approximately 8% of the GDP and supported 667,600 jobs directly and 1.6 million jobs indirectly.

Therefore, the sector’s growth has had a tremendous impact on our economy. However, with COVID-19, it has trickled-down effects that have already started to be felt in the tourism sector.

To help support the tourism industry, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Uganda has donated sh20m to Rhino Fund Uganda with the aim of supporting the Rhino sanctuary during this COVID-19 crisis.

Rhino Fund Uganda was formed as a non-governmental organization (NGO) in 1997 with the aim of repopulating Uganda with wild rhinos in the future. Both rhinoceros breeds, black and white, are globally endangered.

Angie Genade, the Executive Director for RFU said most of the funds that run the sanctuary come from tourists. Hence the closure of the tourism market means no salaries to pay rangers who are supposed to ensure day to day safety of these animals.

“The donation will help to bridge our funding gap caused by circumstances beyond our control, so that rhino conservation can be maintained for the benefit of the local communities and the people of Uganda,” he said.

David Duli, Country Director for WWF stated that COVID-19 is having an impact on wildlife. He explained that great apes, of which seven species are already threatened by extinction, are potentially vulnerable to this new virus.

He explained that the lockdown and the loss of tourism revenue also create challenges for protecting wildlife.

“Conservationists are now calling on the Government and private businesses to invest in Expanding existing protected areas and improving their management as well as establishing new protected areas,” he said.

Particularly, for the Rhinos, Duli emphasized the need to improve security monitoring to protect rhinos from poaching and the need to improve local and international law enforcement to stop the flow of rhino horn and other illegal wildlife trade items from Africa to other regions of the world

“Rhinos have been an integral part of the natural world for tens of millions of years, and humankind is causing dramatic declines in just a few decades. We can change the outcome,” he revealed.

A report indicates that in recent decades, people have increasingly encroached on the natural world, resulting in escalating levels of contact between humans, livestock and wildlife.

As a result, the frequency and number of new zoonotic diseases, originating in animals and transmitted to people, has risen drastically over the last century.

Every year, around three to four new zoonotic diseases are emerging. These new diseases pose a grave threat to human health, causing deadly pandemics including HIV/AIDS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and most recently COVID-19.

Tech Companies Take Down 3 Million Online Listings for Trafficked Wildlife (United States)

By Antipoaching, Science and technology

IFAW | March 2, 2020

Online technology companies in the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online reported removing or blocking over three million listings for endangered and threatened species and associated products from their online platforms to date. These listings included live tigers, reptiles, primates and birds for the exotic pet trade, as well as products derived from species like elephants, pangolins and marine turtles.

Offline and in the Wild a report released today about progress made by companies involved in the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), TRAFFIC and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)-convened coalition, finds that efforts taken by these companies are helping to shut down the cloud-based trade routes cybercriminals rely on for exploiting wildlife.

“eBay has been fighting online wildlife trafficking on our marketplace for over a decade,” said Mike Carson, Director of Global Policy and Regulatory Management at eBay. “We’re collaborating with government agencies, NGOs, industry peers and members of the eBay community to help us enforce our Animal and Wildlife Products policy in alignment with the Coalition’s wildlife policy framework, and it’s working. In 2019, we blocked or removed over 165,000 listings globally that are prohibited under this policy.”

The Coalition’s progress has resulted from strengthened wildlife policies, an increase in staff ability to detect potential illegal wildlife products and live wild animals, regular monitoring and data sharing from wildlife experts, reports sent in by volunteers through the Coalition’s Wildlife Cyber Spotter Program, enhanced algorithms—thanks to key search word monitoring and collation—and shared learning.

“Criminal networks are taking advantage of internet platforms at the expense of the rarest species nature has to offer,” said Crawford Allan, Senior Director for TRAFFIC at WWF. “But the vastness of the internet presents a challenge for law enforcement to regulate. The online companies in our Coalition now have the smarts and tools to fight back against wildlife trafficking online, and can help ease the burden on law enforcement.”

The Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online was born out of the global proliferation of internet access and resulting shift in illegal wildlife trade transactions from physical to online markets. The extensive number of listings removed by the Coalition’s second anniversary demonstrates both the long-term effectiveness of the partnership and the continued commitment of the companies to prevent wildlife trafficking on their platforms.

According to Tania McCrea-Steele, International Project Manager, Wildlife Crime at IFAW, “Uniting online technology companies is critical in the fight against wildlife cybercrime as wildlife traffickers are abusing the anonymity of the internet to exploit endangered wildlife. Tragically, you can find elephant ivory, pangolin scales, live tiger cubs, live birds and reptiles and more, all for sale on your smart phone. The online technology companies are a core part of the solution as they are able to work at an unprecedented global scale and disrupt illegal wildlife trafficking.”

In addition to blocking or removing illegal wildlife trade related information, Coalition companies have launched user engagement initiatives to promote wildlife conservation reaching millions of internet users.

“Wildlife crime is a widely recognized global problem which demands a global solution,” said Siyao, Security Expert at Alibaba. “The Coalition provides a platform for online technology companies to contribute to this solution together. At Alibaba, we share our lessons learned and continuously learn from other Coalition members on how to better curb and prevent wildlife trafficking online by investing in innovative technology and engaging the public to join the fight for wildlife.”

Individuals can join the fight against wildlife cybercrime and support the efforts of the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online by not buying wildlife products and reporting suspicious wildlife listings online to companies. Prohibited wildlife products found online can be flagged for removal athttps://www.endwildlifetraffickingonline.org/.

WWF, IFAW and TRAFFIC train citizen science volunteers on how to identify prohibited wildlife products online through the Coalition’s Wildlife Cyber Spotter Program. So far, Coalition Cyber Spotters in the U.S., Germany and Singapore have flagged over 4,000 prohibited listings for sale online. These listings have been removed in real time by Coalition company enforcement teams. Through the program, Cyber Spotters have helped uncover new seller keywords and identify wildlife trafficking trends that have helped companies’ ongoing monitoring efforts.

Interested individuals can sign up for the Wildlife Cyber Spotter Program at www.endwildlifetraffickingonline.org/get-involved.

Conservation, technology boosted tourism

By Antipoaching, Conservation, Science and technology
Lilian Kinyua, The Daily Nation | March 3, 2020

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Falling wildlife numbers are driven by causes ranging from poaching and illegal trade to disease, habitat destruction and other effects linked to climate change. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates the illegal wildlife trade to be worth about $20 billion a year, underlining the scale of the issue.

Elephant tusks, rhino horn and pangolin scales are among the goods predominantly trafficked from Africa with the continent’s iconic species being illegally commoditised by an increasingly sophisticated poaching industry.

And now, several African countries are not only deploying high-tech solutions but looking to upgrade their tourism appeal through unique, sustainable wildlife exploration offerings.

Original photo as published by Daily Nation: Zebras at Lewa Conservancy. PHOTO | FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

Technology

Technological innovation has proven a vital tool in wildlife conservation efforts. Technology has enabled conservationists to better understand wildlife, as well as the threats it faces.

In Kenya, the Ol Pejeta conservancy, in partnership with Fauna & Flora International (FFI), Liquid Telecom and Arm, last year launched a state-of-the-art wildlife protection technology laboratory.

Ol Pejeta is home to two of the world’s few remaining northern white rhinos and takes the lead in black rhino conservation.

There, rhinos can now be fitted with horn implants for real-time tracking, replacing the bulky traditional collars.

Conservationists can now monitor all animals 24 hours a day, as well as track their health, body temperatures and migratory patterns.

Poaching

The Kifaru Rising project — a multi-year collaboration between the WWF and thermal camera manufacturer FLIR Systems — will deploy thermal imaging technology to eliminate rhino poaching in 10 parks in Kenya by 2021. The cameras have heat sensors capable of detecting tiny differences in temperature, making it easy to detect experienced poachers, who often work at night.

According to the WWF, when the project was piloted at the Maasai Mara national park in 2016, some 160 poachers were arrested in two years.

As governments in Sub-Saharan Africa prioritise infrastructure and industrialisation, wildlife’s contribution to GDP and sustainable growth, primarily through responsible or high-end tourism, cannot be overlooked.

Rwanda’s unique approach to developing its gorilla tourism industry has turned it into one of the most upmarket holiday destinations on the continent. Permits for the experience for non-residents cost $1,500 and, despite the hefty price tag, visitors to the gorilla hotspot have increased by over 80 per cent over the past decade. The industry is estimated to generate $500 million annually.

Tourism

Recognising the revenue-generating potential of sustainable wildlife tourism could drive more robust government commitment to protecting it.

The crux of such an endeavour lies in seamless inter-agency cooperation, backed by technological innovation, and is premised on collaboration with revenue authorities, customs departments and law enforcement more broadly.

Such synergies, coupled with the potential for regional information and best practice exchange, can prove to be game changers in wildlife protection.

Ms Kinyua is a senior communications and sustainability consultant at Africa Practice East Africa Ltd. lkinyua@africapractice.com.

 

Indonesia softens stance on WWF termination as programs fall into limbo

By Conservation
Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay | February 7, 2020

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JAKARTA: Indonesia’s environment ministry says it’s willing to revive a partnership with WWF after abruptly terminating its long-running cooperation with the conservation NGO over a perceived social media slight.

But a top ministry official conditioned such a move on WWF’s local office addressing the ministry’s concerns about its work, improving communications, and not trying to score social media points.

“If [WWF Indonesia wants] new MOU, then go ahead,” Wiratno, the environment ministry’s director-general of conservation, told reporters in Jakarta. “[The opportunity] is still open. But I suggest WWF to do self-evaluation on what they’ve done that have raised the ministry’s concerns.”

Original photo as published by Mongabay.

Wiratno’s statement came after the ministry formally published its decision last month to end its partnership with WWF Indonesia on forest conservation, signed in 1998 and due to expire in 2023. It cited violations by WWF Indonesia of the terms of the agreement, including the NGO’s work on issues beyond those defined in the memorandum of understanding.

Wiratno cited the case of Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in western Sumatra, where WWF Indonesia had since 2015 been responsible for a forest restoration project. The project site was one of several areas burned by forest fires in 2015 and again in 2019. The ministry sealed off the concession after the latest burning last September, in what Wiratno called evidence that WWF Indonesia had failed to carry out its task of conserving the area.

“If [they] have an ecosystem restoration area to manage, then they shouldn’t have let it burn,” he said. “Working on the ground [to prevent fires] is very important.”

Wiratno also addressed the aftermath of the burning, which appeared to be the catalyst for the termination of the partnership. He criticized social media posts by two popular actresses who had served as ambassadors for WWF Indonesia and who had notably omitted mentioning the ministry when crediting WWF Indonesia and others for working hard to fight the fires. The ministry had condemned the posts for painting it in a bad light, and Wiratno said WWF Indonesia should focus more on educating the public rather than using celebrities to score points on social media.

“Some of our personnel died [fighting the fires],” he said. “There’s no need to use artists. We’ve gone all out on the ground [to extinguish the fires]. Us working in the field is cooler than just talking on social media.”

Narrow Scope of Work

Wiratno said WWF Indonesia also needed to improve its communication with the ministry, after failing to report its activities on a routine basis.

“There should be a yearly evaluation [of WWF Indonesia’s operations],” Wiratno said. “[Meetings] should be held together, including with partners. [The communication is] not intensive enough.”

Another reason cited for the termination of the partnership was that WWF Indonesia had been working on initiatives outside the scope of the original MOU, which focused on forest conservation. Wiratno acknowledged that this scope of work was too restricted, given the number and variety of conservation challenges that have arisen since that original agreement was signed more than 20 years ago.

A new MOU, drafted once WWF Indonesia can address the ministry’s concerns, should allow a wider scope that could potentially include climate change and waste management, Wiratno said.

WWF Indonesia’s acting CEO, Lukas Adhyakso, welcomed the opportunity to restore the partnership with the ministry under a broader brief. He also said it was regrettable that the original MOU was terminated instead of simply revised, given the impact on the various projects that WWF Indonesia administers throughout the country.

“We’re still calculating the impact, but what’s serious is the fact that we have expertise that we contribute [to forest conservation],” he said. “Now we have to stop our conservation [work] in areas that fall under the authority of the environment ministry.”

WWF Indonesia has five decades of experience in forest and wildlife conservation in the country, run through 24 field offices across the archipelago. It’s been involved in describing 400 new species of plants and animals in Borneo; one of its most prominent recent roles has been the capture, for the first time ever, of a wild Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) in Borneo for a planned captive-breeding program.

But that program, one of 30 that WWF Indonesia has been forced to withdraw from as a result of the partnership termination, is now in limbo: while WWF Indonesia is prohibited from being involved, the rhino sanctuary continues to depend on its veterinarians and keepers to care for the rhino.

“Some [outside conservationists] have expressed [their concerns] and lamented [the ministry’s decision],” Lukas said. “We have the expertise that they need and we actually also need them. So it goes both ways.”

Programs in Limbo

Another program that’s at risk is a peatland restoration initiative in Sebangau National Park in Central Kalimantan province, home to critically endangered Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus). Prior to being designated a national park in 2004, the area was a logging concession. The companies that operated it dug a network of canals to drain the peat soil, drying out the thick ground layer of semi-decomposed vegetation and rendering it highly prone to burning.

WWF Indonesia was tasked with blocking the canals and rewetting the land. Now, however, without the group’s involvement, that project could be compromised “in the blink of an eye,” Lukas said.

“Maybe the [canal blockers] will get stolen, and if the water table is lowered there’ll be great fire risks,” he said. “We’re not saying we’re the only ones [protecting the peat forest], but what we’re contributing is huge.”

WWF Indonesia’s partners on the ground have also raised concerns about how to pay to continue these projects, given the significant amount of funding that the organization has historically contributed. WWF Indonesia spends about 350 billion rupiah ($25.6 million) each year on its conservation activities.

Some of that money goes toward monitoring and protecting critically endangered Javan rhinos (Rhinoceros sondaicus) at Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, where the NGO began its conservation work in Indonesia in 1962.

Anggodo, the head of the national park agency, said the park might face financial constraints without funding from WWF Indonesia, which last year paid for 10 months’ worth of ranger patrols in the area.

“There’s a likelihood that [our] operational budget will only be enough for the next two months,” he said as quoted by Tempo magazine. “We’ll have to cover the rest with other partners because WWF [Indonesia] is not here anymore.”

At Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in Sumatra, WWF Indonesia has had to lay off 20 rangers tasked with protecting critically endangered Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximus sumatranus) from being killed in conflicts with humans.

“I’m sad that I can’t enter the national park anymore because there’s a ban,” said Rusmani, a member of the team.

The termination of the partnership puts greater onus on the Indonesian government to fund and administer the various conservation programs that WWF Indonesia has had to withdraw from.

“Maybe it’s already time for a transition, [for these programs] to be returned to the government,” said Alexander Rusli, chair of the WWF Indonesia board. “Maybe our role is not much needed anymore like at the beginning.”

 

Indonesia-WWF split puts rhino breeding project in Borneo in limbo

By Conservation
Basten Gokkon, Mongabay | February 3, 2020

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JAKARTA: The acrimonious end to a partnership between WWF and Indonesia’s environment ministry threatens to derail a crucial program to breed Sumatran rhinos in captivity, widely seen as the only viable way to save the species from extinction, in eastern Borneo.

Conservationists had been scheduled to capture a wild Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) from East Kalimantan, a province in Indonesian Borneo, last November and deliver it to a sanctuary staffed by experts from WWF Indonesia. But that plan was scrapped after the environment ministry effectively cut ties with the conservation NGO in October. The split was formally announced in January this year.

WWF Indonesia had been involved in the capture of two wild rhinos in 2016 and 2018 in the province. The first one, a female named Najaq, died from injuries sustained during her capture. The second rhino, Pahu, also a female, was successfully relocated to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in the Kelian protected forest in East Kalimantan. WWF Indonesia staff have been heavily involved in attending to Pahu since her rescue.

Original photo as published by Mongabay.

Suhandri, a director at the wildlife group, told Mongabay that WWF Indonesia decided to delay carrying out the plan after receiving letters from the environment ministry on Oct. 7 announcing the ministry’s unilateral termination of their memorandum of understanding.

“We knew the routes [the rhino] would frequently pass,” Suhandri said in Jakarta on Jan. 28. “We had picked the locations for the pit traps.”

The partnership had been scheduled to end in 2023, but the ministry cited alleged violations of the agreement by WWF Indonesia as justification for the early termination.

The ministry’s decision affects 30 out of 130 projects that WWF Indonesia administers across the country, one of them being the rhino conservation program in East Kalimantan.

Conservation groups and government officials agree that bringing isolated, wild rhinos into captivity is critical for ensuring the survival of this critically endangered species. Most of the remaining wild Sumatran rhinos live in fragmented groups too small to reproduce naturally at sustainable rates, leading to fears the species will decline into extinction without human intervention.

Capturing a rhino in Indonesian Borneo is seen as particularly critical to the conservation cause. The Sumatran and Bornean populations of the species have been separated for thousands of years and have grown genetically distinct during that time. Breeding between the two populations will therefore give a much-needed genetic diversity boost to the captive-breeding program, which has so far relied only on rhinos from the Sumatran population.

While Malaysian Borneo no longer has any rhinos in the wild or in captivity, there is at least one, Pahu, on the Indonesian part of the island, and likely a second that WWF Indonesia had targeted for capture last year. (Indonesia’s other SRS, at Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra, has seven rhinos, two of which were born there under the captive-breeding program.)

Suhandri said he couldn’t confirm the sex of the wild rhino targeted for capture, but a male rhino would mean a potential mate for Pahu.

In 2013, WWF Indonesia confirmed a wild population of the Sumatran rhinos in East Kalimantan that was thought to have vanished. Since then, it has worked with the government and other conservation groups — Aliansi Lestari Rimba Terpadu (ALeRT) and Komunitas Pecinta Alam Damai (KOMPAD) — on conserving the species there.

WWF Indonesia has been involved in field surveys to track wild rhinos, beefing up protection of their habitats, setting up the high-security sanctuary at Kelian for the captive-breeding program, and locating and capturing rhinos from the wild. Suhandri said WWF Indonesia had spent more than $1 million on the collaborative rhino conservation program in East Kalimantan.

Indra Eksploitasia, the director of biodiversity conservation director at the environment ministry, told Mongabay that her office would take over the program.

Sunandar Trigunajasa Nurochmadi, the head of the East Kalimantan government’s conservation agency, declined to comment to Mongabay on WWF Indonesia’s exit from the rhino program. However, he said his office was committed to finding rhinos in the wild there and trapping them for the breeding program. He added that they had spotted three wild rhinos in the province.

Suhandri said his team would meet with the provincial conservation agency and other groups to find ways in which WWF Indonesia’s rhino experts could continue to be involved in the program.

“To this day our keepers and vets are still taking care of Pahu. This is such a specific task, you can’t just swap it out,” he said.

News of the end of the partnership between WWF Indonesia and the environment ministry came as a surprise to other conservation groups, according to Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the head of WWF Indonesia’s steering committee.

“Everyone was asking us ‘What’s going on?’” Kuntoro said. “We’re shattered because we are a reputable organization.”

WWF is a co-founder of the Sumatran Rhino Rescue global initiative established in September 2018 by the Indonesian government, the National Geographic Society, Global Wildlife Conservation, the International Rhino Foundation, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“WWF-Indonesia has played a critical role in supporting on-the-ground work to save the Sumatran rhino,” Jon Paul Rodriguez, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, wrote in an email to Mongabay.

Rodriguez said the Sumatran Rhino Rescue program would continue to support efforts to save the species and allocate resources accordingly in light of the new development. He said some of the initiative’s key objectives this year include conducting search-and-rescue operations to capture isolated rhinos from the wild, building new facilities to bolster capacity to care for and breed rhinos, and coordinating with other partners across Indonesia to collaborate on a single, countrywide breeding program.

“We defer to the Government of Indonesia and WWF-Indonesia to determine the next steps for their relationship,” Rodriguez added.

Following the death of Malaysia’s last Sumatran rhino last November, Indonesia is now the last refuge for the global population of the species. There are fewer than 80 individuals believed to be left in Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo. Habitat loss and poaching had depleted the population that once roamed as far as mainland Southeast Asia, but experts now say the low birthrate is the main threat to the species. Breeding efforts in captivity have been hailed as the priority for ensuring the rhinos’ survival.

Lukas Adhyakso, WWF Indonesia’s acting CEO, said that while the organization respects the ministry’s decision to cut ties, the focus of all parties should be on ensuring the continued protection and care of the rhinos, whether inside or outside the sanctuary in East Kalimantan.

“We must not let this animal perish,” he said. “We have the expertise. Others may have it, too, but we’re the ones that have been involved [in the rhino program] for so long.

“If the government wants us, we’re ready to support them,” Lukas added.

 

Pics: Too early to celebrate decline in rhino poaching numbers – WWF (South Africa)

By Antipoaching
Nica Schreuder, The Citizen | February 4, 2020

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Organised crime syndicates continue to thrive, capitalising on poverty and desperation facing both South Africa and Mozambique, the conservation body says.

Although concerted efforts are being made to curb poaching, both in Mozambique and South Africa, issues are being exacerbated by poachers posing as ordinary tourists, or using villages to gain entry into the Kruger National Park.

This as a dismal yet familiar scene of yet another poached rhino met Kruger National Park (KNP) rangers on 19 January.

Suspects involved in the killing are still on the loose, crime scene investigators said on 3 February, while describing what evidence has so far been gathered.

At present, a case docket has been opened, and two bullet slugs were found at the scene.

Original picture as published by The Citizen: SAPS Forensic Services, Police Crime Scene Investigator and Sanpark investigative team at Western Boundary were a Rhino was shot and killed by poachers at the Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga, 3 February 2020. (Picture: Nigel Sibanda)

South African National Parks (SANParks) communications and marketing general manager, Ike Phaahla, said that while radar and early detection warning systems are being used to prevent poaching incidents, this is not limited to rhino preservation. Many other species are currently under threat, most notably elephants and pangolins.

Phaahla said initiatives have been put in place to engage with Mozambique since 2012. Those efforts finally yielded results in 2017 when rhino poaching was recognised as a criminal offence.

Liaisons between Mozambique and the KNP are crucial, as the boundary frustrates efforts to curb poaching on both sides.

As such, Phaahla explained that because SANParks are not allowed on the Mozambican side of the border, they are alerted by Mozambican authorities if suspected poachers have entered the park.

If a spoor is picked up, KNP makes Mozambique aware of this to follow up and hopefully convict potential poachers. Mozambique also makes KNP aware if spoor is picked up on their side of the border.

Anti-poaching efforts can only succeed if Mozambique and South Africa’s agreement stays strong. Territorial infringement is not an option, but more authorities are being engaged with to ensure that efforts to curb poaching are not affected by political challenges. Phaahla was optimistic that political and operational cooperation was being achieved.

Poachers from Mozambique often use villages on the western boundary of the park to enter the KNP, and although there are South African poachers, Phaahla said most poaching incidents were still traced back to Mozambique.

Frustrations are, however, running high, with poachers being able to easily hide in plain sight, posing as tourists with no ill intentions.

Environmental monitors made up of villagers living in the KNP vicinity could potentially help curb even the well-hidden poachers.

Phaahla explained that the monitors patrol fences and boundaries, letting the KNP know if any tracks were picked up, and are the region’s “eyes and ears”.

The efficiency of anti-poaching efforts have slightly improved rhino poaching statistics, released on 3 February by the department of environment, forestry and fisheries (Deff), with a noted decline in rhino poaching incidents.

Deff Minister Barbara Creecy said efforts to curb poaching are in line with the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros, as well as the draft of the National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking (NISCWT). The draft was recommended in 2016, but has yet to be officially implemented.

However, celebrations over the positive news of a slight decline in rhino poaching numbers may be short-lived.

According to the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) reaction to the statistics for 2019, the fact that the NISCWT has not yet been adopted in parliament is worrying.

This, compounded with the sobering reality that rhino poaching numbers could only be dropping due to there being less living rhinos in the country, means current poaching numbers may not be as positive as initially thought.

This point was not touched on by Creecy, the organisation noted with concern.

In 2018, 769 rhino were killed, against 594 killed in 2019. Creecy said 327 rhino were poached in the KNP last year. Despite cautious optimism, the WWF said, organised crime syndicates continue to thrive, capitalising on poverty and desperation facing both South Africa and Mozambique.

The availability of suitable habitats for threatened species in the long term also remains uncertain.

The South African Police Service’s Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit, Hawks, the Green Scorpions, customs and the National Prosecuting Authority cannot solely be relied on to successfully curb poaching.

Serious and complex social and economic drivers allowing the organised crime syndicates to thrive must be addressed with urgency in order for statistics to accurately reflect the wellbeing of rhino and other animals currently in high demand.

“The role of corruption — inevitably associated with organised crime syndicates — must also be addressed,” noted WWF’s statement reacting to the Deff release.

 

Indonesian environment ministry ends WWF partnership amid public spat

By Conservation
Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay | January 29, 2020

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JAKARTA: The Indonesian office of international conservation NGO WWF has expressed shock at the termination of its forest conservation partnership with the country’s environment ministry, three years before it was due to expire.

“As written in the agreement letter, the end [of the partnership] is in 2023,” Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the head of WWF Indonesia’s steering committee, said at a press conference in Jakarta on Jan. 28. “Why [at the end of] 2019 was it suddenly cancelled? We’re wondering, but until now, there’s no answer.

“The termination of the working agreement letter from the Indonesian government is a serious matter,” Kuntoro added. “We’re shattered because we are a reputable organization.”

Original photo as published by Mongabay.

Djati Witjaksono Hadi, a spokesman for the environment ministry, told Mongabay that the memorandum of understanding with WWF Indonesia, in effect since March 1998, was “no longer appropriate and has to be revised.”

He said the decision to terminate, published on the ministry’s website on Jan. 10, followed an evaluation carried out since December 2018 and that WWF Indonesia had been notified about the impending move in March 2019.

Under Indonesian law, all NGOs with a permanent presence in the country need an MOU to carry out field work with the ministry. In WWF Indonesia’s case, that partnership was due to expire in 2023, but the ministry decided to terminate it at the end of 2019, three years ahead of schedule.

The move effectively ends much of WWF’s forest conservation work in Indonesia, which entails field conservation work such as patrolling national parks to detect threats to protected areas.

Kuntoro, a former energy minister, said he was shocked at the environment ministry’s decision but would respect it. He said WWF Indonesia would speed up the handover of affected projects to the authorities, and would remain committed to supporting the government’s push for sustainable development.

WWF Indonesia has 24 field offices in the country and employs 500 people working on various programs. It has ongoing cooperation agreements with other government institutions, including the fisheries ministry, the rural development ministry, the home affairs ministry, the land ministry, the peatland restoration agency, and various local governments. All of these are unaffected by the termination of the agreement with the environment ministry.

‘Violation of Scope of Work’

The ministry’s official reason for ending the partnership is that WWF Indonesia violated the terms of the agreement, including by working on issues beyond those defined in the MOU.

“In the MOU, the scope of work [for WWF Indonesia] is only about conservation and biodiversity, but WWF Indonesia’s work includes all aspects [of the environment], including landscape, climate change, waste, etc.,” Djati said.

He added the ministry also found WWF Indonesia was working in some locations without permission and without reporting to the ministry.

WWF Indonesia acting CEO Lukas Adhiyakso acknowledged that the NGO’s activities had “developed in accordance with the current situation” to include work on environmental issues outside of forest conservation.

He said the MOU was signed in 1998, with what was then the forestry ministry, long before its 2014 merger with the environment ministry. As such, he said, the MOU’s strict focus on forest conservation should have been revised, rather than scrapped altogether, to reflect the changing environmental priorities since then.

“That’s actually what we’d hoped for,” Lukas said. “[And] because we are a national entity, we also have the rights to participate in environmental issues. So if we want do do that [work on environmental issues], it doesn’t have to be managed by an MOU.”

Losing Face

Djati said WWF Indonesia had also claimed some achievements by other parties as its own, which he called disrespectful.

“Cooperation should be based on Indonesian law and regulation as well as mutual respect,” he said.

That latter reason for the termination appears to allude to public criticism of the environment ministry last year after it was perceived not to be doing as much as WWF Indonesia and other parties in tackling forest fires in an important national park.

The fires, the worst in four years, razed nearly 16,000 square kilometers (6,200 square miles) of land nationwide — an area half the size of Belgium. One of the affected areas was Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in western Sumatra. The park contains one of the last large intact swaths of dry lowland forest in Sumatra, a landscape that has almost disappeared across the island, and is one of the last refuges for three of the four flagship Sumatran megafauna species — orangutans, elephants and tigers — along with at least 250 other recorded mammal and bird species.

Last August, popular Indonesian actresses Luna Maya and Wulan Guritno posted about the fires at the park on their social media accounts. They said the fires had worsened but that some groups, including WWF Indonesia, local residents, disaster response workers and the police and military, were working to put them out. They also called the attention of President Joko Widodo and his environment minister, Siti Nurbaya Bakar.

Wulan was appointed one of WWF Indonesia’s celebrity ambassadors last year, while Luna was an ambassador in 2008.

The ministry condemned the actresses’ statements as painting it in a bad light, saying it had done its best to extinguish fires and that some of its personnel on the ground had died during those efforts. It also pointed out that the burned area inside Bukit Tigapuluh had been managed by WWF Indonesia under a forest conservation permit since 2015.

Therefore, the ministry said, WWF Indonesia was the party that had failed to protect the national park, which was also affected by fires in 2015. Following the latest burning, the ministry sealed off WWF Indonesia’s concession in the park last September.

“WWF Indonesia has a concession and it was burned and they couldn’t manage it,” Djati said. “And yet they conducted a social media campaign continuously and negated the government’s efforts and discredited us.”

An executive for the company partnering with WWF Indonesia to manage the concession said the fires there were likely caused by people illegally encroaching into the area and clearing it by burning. Kuntoro said WWF Indonesia had done its best to extinguish the fires, adding, “If we’re not perfect, then we apologize.”

One-Sided Termination

The NGO has also questioned the manner in which the termination was carried out. It said it was unaware of the ministry’s intention until October 2019, despite the ministry saying it had notified WWF Indonesia in March of that year.

But the formal letter from the ministry announcing a review of the MOU, dated March 28, only reached WWF Indonesia on Oct. 7, according to Elis Nurhayati, the organization’s communications director. That same day, WWF Indonesia received another letter from the ministry, this one dated Oct. 4 and saying that the MOU was being terminated at the end of the year.

Lukas said it wasn’t clear from either of the letters what violations the organization was accused of having committed. He added they also never received the result of any review carried out by the ministry.

Following receipt of the letters, WWF Indonesia officials tried to arrange a meeting with Siti, the environment minister, but were rejected multiple times, Kuntoro said.

“We said we’re sorry but please explain to us what we violated, but there’s no response [from the ministry],” he said.

He said it was the unilateral nature of the decision, without any opportunity for WWF Indonesia to have a say, that surprised him the most.

“Can’t we discuss this first?” he said, adding that the organization was willing to listen and learn. “I think discussion is a good thing because we can improve ourselves.”

 

World’s oldest rhino remains for preservation (Tanzania)

By Conservation
The Daily News | December 30, 2019

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As wildlife conservationists gather to bear with the death of ‘Fausta,’ the world’s oldest female black rhino of a natural cause on Friday, Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) mulls over preserving its remains for remembrance and historical purposes. That was revealed by the authority’s Principal Conservation Officer, Ms Joyce Mgaya in a telephone interview with ‘Daily News’ yesterday, adding that preserving its remains symbolised a fact that conservation campaign was not lost.

“NCAA is mulling over plans to ‘preserve’ the iconic black rhino that was first sighted in the Ngorongoro crater in 1965, while aged three years for remembrance and historical purposes,” said the NCAA officer.

The solitary female rhino died at 57 inside her sanctuary having roamed the crater freely for more than 54 years. Fausta’s health was said to have started deteriorating in 2016 after surviving several hyenas’ attacks, which left it with some wounds, though treated and put in confinement eating mostly lucerne – a perennial flowering plant in the legume fabaceae family.

Her death comes hardly a week after the NCAA marked its 60th anniversary last week with conservation efforts of such endangered animals being its priority.

In the arrangement, NCAA kept in an enclosure inside the crater to keep it safe from marauding hyena attacks. Expounding, NCAA Conservation Commissioner, Dr Fredy Manongi noted that records show that no other rhino had ever lived long as Fausta.

“Records show that Fausta lived longer than any rhino in the world and survived in the Ngorongoro, free-ranging, for more than 54 years. The second oldest rhino in the world was Sana, also a female but white one and died at 55 from South Africa,” he said.

The eastern female black rhino that was also set to have a foundation named after her, is said to have not produced a calf since 1984, but was able to live that longer because it did not face any biological and ecological stress. Such stresses include giving birth to a group of calves and overcoming frequent attacks from other animals like Hyenas and Lions which prey on them.

However, wildlife experts believe that a female black rhino can give birth to a calf that weighs approximately between 65 and 90 pounds, after every 3 years on average and its gestation period is 18 months.

Original photo as published by Dailynews.

Fausta came into the limelight after wildlife enthusiasts in Kenya mourned the death of Solio, the country’s oldest rhino, who died at the age of 42 years, surpassing the average wild black rhino lifespan of 30-35 years while in the wild, and about 50 in confinement. In 2017, the eastern female black rhino’s monthly upkeep caused uproar in Parliament with a section of Parliament raising eyebrows on the money spent to care for it.

In response, the NCAA clarified that the government spent 1.4m/- on monthly basis to keep it not 64m/- as alleged, because of its frail health. Commenting, the then Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Professor Jumanne Maghembe, told the legislators that different researches and data collected on the rhino necessitated the animal to be kept because it was the only of its kinds in the country.

Statistics further show that rhinos are amongst the most poached animals in East Africa, with their population dwindling, forcing authorities to keep them in protected areas. The wild animals have over the years been hunted nearly to extinction as a result of their horns high demand as an ornament and medical values.

According to an international non-governmental organisation, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), rhinos once roamed many places throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa and were known to early Europeans who honoured them by further keeping them in paintings. By 1970, the rhino numbers dropped to 70,000 and today, as few as 29,000 of them remain in the wild, though only few survive outside National Parks and Reserves from poachers.

In Africa, southern white rhinos, once thought to be extinct, now live in protected sanctuaries and are classified as near threatened.

 

Safari so good: Fascinating ultrasound footage shows rare black rhino calf moving around in its mother’s womb just weeks before it is due to be born at Welsh zoo

By Conservation
William Cole, The Daily Mail | December 31, 2019

See link for photos & video.

A pregnant rhino has had an ultrasound scan on her unborn calf – and vets say her pregnancy is going well.

Mother-to-be Dakima is due to give birth in the next few weeks and concerned keepers wanted to check on her progress. But staff at Folly Farm near Tenby, Pembrokeshire, had to find specialist equipment to scan the 140-stone black rhino.

So they called in vet Graham Fowke – an expert in scanning pregnant horses – to use his skills on the giant rhino. Graham said: ‘The anatomy of a rhino is similar enough to a horse so I was confident we’d be able to do it.

Original photo as published by Daily Mail: Mother-to-be Dakima is due to give birth in the next few weeks and concerned keepers at Folly Farm near Tenby, Pembrokeshire wanted to check on her progress. Pictured: Parents-to-be Dakima and Nkosi.

‘It was the first one I’ve ever done and obviously we had to take extra precautions to make sure everything went smoothly.’

Graham even borrowed a keeper’s uniform to smell like staff at the wildlife park.

He added: ‘She’d been well-trained to stand still – they’d even practised putting gel on her stomach to get her used to the feeling and smell.

‘We’re pretty sure the images show the calf’s limbs and Dakima’s womb – as long as we can detect movement and a strong heartbeat, we know they are both doing well.’

Folly Farm curator Tim Morphew said: ‘Dakima’s pregnancy seems to be going particularly well.

‘She’s a healthy weight, and we can see the calf moving around in her stomach, which is pretty cool.

‘Lots of babies are born at Folly Farm every year, but this time the stakes are particularly high, so this is definitely the most stressful pregnancy we’ve had.

‘Our best-case scenario is that she gives birth quietly on her own with no intervention, like she would do in the wild.’

Dakima was born on March 7, 2013 and joined Folly Down from Chester Zoo in May 2017.

The WWF have given black rhinos a ‘Critically Endangered’ status with fewer than 650 eastern black rhinos left in the wild.

Why Is the Black Rhino Population in Decline?

Black rhinos have been killed in increasing numbers in recent years as transnational, organised criminal networks have become more involved in the poaching of rhinos and the illegal trade in rhino horn.

Uncontrolled hunting in the colonial era was historically the major factor in the decline of black rhinos.

Today, poaching for the illegal trade in their horns is the major threat, according to the WWF.

Powdered horn is used in traditional Asian medicine as a supposed cure for a range of illnesses – from hangovers to fevers and even cancer.

The recent surge has been primarily driven by the demand for horn by upper-middle class citizens in Vietnam. As well as its use in medicine, rhino horn is bought and consumed purely as a symbol of wealth.

 

Azamara expands partnership with World Wildlife Fund

By Conservation
Alex Smith, Cruise & Ferry | December 23, 2019

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Azamara is expanding its partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) by offering a new collection of ‘People to Planet’ voyages and excursions.

Starting in early 2021, six conservation-themed voyages operated by the cruise line will sail in South Africa. Onboard programming will feature WWF experts discussing issues relating to sustainability and conservation. Additionally, guests will be able to take part in WWF-themed trivia sessions and enjoy five South African dishes at an interactive ‘Chef’s Table’. There will also be a South African ‘dish of the day’ available throughout the cruise at one of the onboard restaurants.

Original photo as published by Cruise & Ferry: Guests on Azamara’s new shore excursions will be able to experience South Africa’s diverse range of wildlife. (Image: Azamara)

“At Azamara, we partner with organizations that share our commitment to our planet, its people, oceans, land and wildlife, and we are thrilled to further our partnership with WWF to reinforce our commitment,” said Larry Pimentel, president and CEO of Azamara. “We are also honoured to have the opportunity to donate a total of US$100,000 from all ‘People to Planet’ voyages and US$30 from each ‘People to Planet’ excursion purchase to WWF in support of its conservation efforts.”

The selection of shore excursions will launch in autumn 2020. Options will include a dining experience at a local farm in Cape Town, South Africa, where guests will learn about sustainable agriculture and food practices. Passengers will also be able to experience local wildlife in a two-day stay at Phinda Mountain Lodge in Richard’s Bay, South Africa, where they will have an opportunity to track the highly endangered Black Rhino.

“WWF-South Africa is delighted to partner with Azamara to provide passengers a peek into the vital work we are undertaking to protect our natural resources,” said Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF South Africa. “Our partnership assists WWF achieve its aim of creating a future where people live in harmony with nature, by bringing guests closer to nature and promoting a greater understanding and respect for the role nature plays in our daily lives.”