Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Tusks of African and Asian elephants. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
African Elephant in Okaukuejo, Etosha, Namibia. Rushing for the waterhole at sundown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Difference between Asian (left) and African (right) elephant ears. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Reblogged from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences :
Illegal harvest for commercial trade has recently surged to become a major threat to some of the world’s most endangered and charismatic species. Unfortunately, the cryptic nature of illegal killing makes estimation of rates and impacts difficult. Applying a model based on field census of carcasses, to our knowledge we provide the first detailed assessment of African elephant illegal killing rates at population, regional, and continental scales. Illegal harvest for commercial trade in ivory has recently surged, coinciding with increases in illegal ivory seizures and black market ivory prices. As a result, the species declined over the past 4 y, during which tens of thousands of elephants have been killed annually across the continent. Solutions to this crisis require global action.
Illegal wildlife trade has reached alarming levels globally, extirpating populations of commercially valuable species. As a driver of biodiversity loss, quantifying illegal harvest is essential for conservation and sociopolitical affairs but notoriously difficult. Here we combine field-based carcass monitoring with fine-scale demographic data from an intensively studied wild African elephant population in Samburu, Kenya, to partition mortality into natural and illegal causes. We then expand our analytical framework to model illegal killing rates and population trends of elephants at regional and continental scales using carcass data collected by a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species program. At the intensively monitored site, illegal killing increased markedly after 2008 and was correlated strongly with the local black market ivory price and increased seizures of ivory destined for China. More broadly, results from application to continental data indicated illegal killing levels were unsustainable for the species between 2010 and 2012, peaking to ∼8% in 2011 which extrapolates to ∼40,000 elephants illegally killed and a probable species reduction of ∼3% that year. Preliminary data from 2013 indicate overharvesting continued. In contrast to the rest of Africa, our analysis corroborates that Central African forest elephants experienced decline throughout the last decade. These results provide the most comprehensive assessment of illegal ivory harvest to date and confirm that current ivory consumption is not sustainable. Further, our approach provides a powerful basis to determine cryptic mortality and gain understanding of the demography of at-risk species.
Author contributions: G.W., J.B., I.D.-H., P.O., and K.P.B. designed research; G.W., J.M.N., J.B., and I.D.-H. performed research; G.W., J.B., P.O., and K.P.B. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; G.W., J.M.N., J.B., and K.P.B. analyzed data; and G.W. wrote the paper.
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.
This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1073/pnas.1403984111/-/DCSupplemental.
Freely available online through the PNAS open access option.
College Valley and North Northumberland Hunt members charged with illegal fox hunting – League Against Cruel Sports.
29 July 2014
Three members of the College Valley and North Northumberland Hunt, including the Joint Master and Huntsman, have been charged with illegally hunting a fox.
Joint Master, Timothy Wyndham Basil Smalley, Huntsman, Ian Robert McKie and Kennel Huntsman, Andrew John Proe, are each charged with hunting a wild mammal with dogs, contrary to Section 1 of the Hunting Act 2004.
The case is based on evidence supplied by the League Against Cruel Sports and further investigations carried out by Northumbria Police, in relation to an incident alleged to have taken place during an advertised hunt meet at West Kyloe Farm, near Lowick, Northumberland on 27th February 2014.
All three defendants have pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the charges. The case has been listed for trial at Berwick Magistrates’ Court on Monday 13th and Tuesday 14th October 2014.
Notes to Editor
- The College Valley and North Northumberland Hunt are a mounted pack, kennelled at Langham Toll, Mindrum, Northumberland, TD12 4QR
- Please contact the League’s Press Office on 01483 524 250 (24hrs) with any queries. Alternatively email email@example.com
- The League Against Cruel Sports is a charity registered in England and Wales (1095234) that brings together people who care about animals. Like the majority of the public, we believe that cruelty to animals in the name of sport has no place in modern society.
Legal ivory sale will create grey market – IOL SciTech | IOL.co.za.
Cape Town – South Africa’s probable application to sell its ivory stockpile in a new “one-off sale” in two years will face increased opposition, from within the country and internationally.
This is apparent from recent developments that include:
l A symbolic burning of mock “ivory” at a Cape Town beach to mark International Elephant Day this week.
l The destruction of ivory in several countries like the US, France and China in the past year.
l The banning of all ivory and rhino horn trade from this month by the US states of New York and New Jersey.
l The publication of a peer-reviewed essay in the scientific journal Conservation Biology that calls for a ban on all ivory sales for at least 10 years – including antique ivory.
Also, mounting concern about ivory poaching has been fuelled by confirmation by SA National Parks in May that the first elephant poached for its tusks “in well over 10 years” had been killed in the Kruger National Park, followed by a second last month, also in the northern Pafuri region of the park.
In October 1989, elephants were listed under Appendix 1 of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), which effectively banned all trade in this species, including ivory.
Although the animals were “downlisted” to Cites Appendix 2 during a meeting in the Netherlands in July 2007, meaning trade in elephant products was allowed under permit, a moratorium on ivory sales was maintained, pending development of internationally agreed safeguards to prevent poached ivory from being laundered.
Since then, there have been three controlled “one-off” ivory sales by elephant range countries sanctioned by Cites: 49 tons in 1997; another 60 tons in 2006; and a further 108 tons in 2008, where Japan and China were accredited to bid for ivory from South Africa (51.1 tons), Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. A nine-year ban on any further trade came into effect after this sale. In July last year, the cabinet took a firm decision to seek permission from Cites for a further one-off sale of South Africa’s ivory stockpile from natural mortalities and seized contraband, and will apply at the convention’s 17th Conference of Parties in South Africa in 2016. However, the government also said it would listen to all arguments before formulating its final application to Cites.
At a news conference this week to announce the cabinet’s approval of new initiatives to counter rhino poaching, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa reminded journalists of the government’s policy of sustainable utilisation. In theory, this supports the commercial use of all animal products, including ivory and rhino horn.
The government’s view is that the substantial funds generated by ivory sales can be ploughed back into conservation. Also, a legal supply will sharply reduce demand and price for poached ivory, this argument goes. The same applies to rhino horn. But a strong conservation lobby argues that this doesn’t work in practice.
The “Cape Town Burn” event was organised by the Conservation Action Trust, which says elephants may face extinction in the wild and that at least 20 000 of them were killed for their tusks last year. The influx of legal ivory into the main market in China “simply… created a grey market”, said the trust’s Francis Garrard.
“The insatiable demand for ivory… now threatens the very survival of elephants in many countries, with governments, including our own, continuing to accumulate stockpiles of ivory, perpetuating the concept that there is a commercial value for ivory.”
In her essay in Conservation Biology, Elizabeth Bennett, the vice-president for species conservation at the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, says the illegal ivory trade has more than doubled since 2007 and that African elephants are facing “the most serious conservation crisis since 1989”.
Too little, too late for elephants
In 1979, there were an estimated 1.3 million African elephants, but today there are just 470 000 – and some authorities estimate a much lower number, says the Kenya Elephant Forum.
“The loss of a million elephants has been due primarily to killing for ivory. Natural habitat loss is a second important factor: human population has tripled in elephant range states since 1970.”
Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) identified eight countries last year as the worst offenders in the illegal ivory trade chain: supply states Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda; consumer states China and Thailand; and transit countries Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
There have been at least four symbolic events in which ivory has been destroyed in the past year to highlight poaching and the illegal ivory market:
l At an event in Denver in November last year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service used a gravel crusher to destroy six tons of illegal elephant ivory tusks, trinkets and souvenirs seized over 20 years.
l In January, more than six tons of illegal ivory was chipped and ground into powder in Guangzhou, China.
l In February, France became the first European country to destroy its stocks of illegal ivory, crushing three tons of ivory at a Paris site in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.
l In May, a burning in Hong Kong marked the first stage of the government’s plans to destroy its 28-ton stockpile of ivory confiscated over years.
NIGHT STALKERS who hunt and kill African elephants for their ivory are threatening the existence of that species. And even the most drastic protective measures by conservationists are not enough. We caution you that some of the images in this Cover Story are painful to watch. M. Sanjayan of Conservation International is a CBS News Contributor:
This story was broadcast on March 9, 2014.
As a cloudless day yields to a moonlit night in this savannah in Northern Kenya, a dozen wildlife rangers armed with automatic weapons begin their nightly patrol.
Tonight, the team is on edge, says Commander John Palmieri.
”They give us a big, big worry,” he said, as there is more poaching on the full moon.
And it is a deadly business. Dozens of rangers have been killed in Africa battling poachers in the last few years.
Each night, rangers go up to an observation point at higher ground, then sit all night long and scour these valleys, looking for any sign of movement, or a gunshot.
Night vision goggles help spot elephants — and see potential human threats.
For this night at least, it was all quiet for Nature’s so-called ”great masterpiece.”
The African elephant is the largest mammal to walk the Earth; a majestic creature that shares many noble characteristics with humans — strong family units and maternal bonds, intelligence, longevity and, yes, terrific memories.
Also, like us, they seem to grieve, and appear to mourn their dead, a trait which, tragically, has been on display far too often of late.
Some 25,000 elephants a year are now being lost to poachers in Africa.
”It’s the worst that it’s been in the last 30 years,” said Ian Craig. ”It’s a steady deterioration, and it’s getting worse.”
The Kenyan-born Craig leads conservation efforts for the Northern Rangelands Trust, an innovative partnership of nearly 20 wildlife conservancies.
In years past, said Craig, the typical poacher was a solitary local simply trying to feed his family. Today, though, foreign criminal syndicates with sophisticated equipment kill viciously and in ever greater numbers.
In an infamous 2012 episode, an estimated 300 elephants were gunned down in Cameroon right inside a national park.
So who’s behind it?
”I think clearly China is driving this, or it’s coming from the Far East,” said Craig. ”Ninety percent of the ivory being picked up in Nairobi Airport, or Kenya’s port of entry and exit, is with Chinese nationals.”
Despite laws banning the harvest and sale of ivory, it remains a powerful status symbol in China and the Far East, where it is used commonly to make artworks and religious icons.
The economic boom there has tripled the price of ivory in just the last four years. And it has rejuvenated the poaching economy in Africa.
The price on an elephant’s head, Craig said, is about $2,000, or $2,500 to the gunman
”So it’s several years’ worth of wages from that elephant,” said Sanjayan.
And therefore, said Craig, ”People are prepared to risk their lives to kill them.”
You hear about ivory wars, said Sanjayan, but it doesn’t seem real until one comes across an elephant’s carcass … the animal had no chance against being shot by automatic weapons, no chance at all.
And then, it comes flooding right at you, and you can’t escape the fact that people are willing to kill something this big just for a tooth.
There are some encouraging signs.
This past January, China crushed six tons of illegal ivory, and Hong Kong pledged to destroy 28 tons over the next two years.
Kenya has also enacted tougher anti-poaching laws. One smuggler faces seven years in jail.
But the poaching continues . . . and protecting elephants has become an arms race.
Kenya spends tens of millions of dollars a year on its 3,000-member wildlife ranger force.
Tracking dogs hunt poachers in the field and detect ivory being smuggled.
Digital radio systems now connect rangers with observation posts throughout the country. And GPS collars can track family groups of elephants in real time.
They’ve even built wildlife ”underpasses” beneath highways, allowing elephants to travel safely through historic migration corridors.
Just as important, is getting locals invested in wildlife. In many areas, tribesmen don’t just lead tours, they run the preserves.
Profits from tourism help communities understand that living elephants can be more valuable than dead ones.
”They’re seeing these new lodges developing,” said Ian Craig. ”They’re seeing better security for themselves. They’re seeing money being generated from tourism going into education. And so where these benefits are clean and clear to communities, it’s working.”
But changing attitudes takes time — and time is NOT on the elephant’s side.
From a high of 1.3 million African elephants in the late 1970s, poaching reduced populations to critical levels by 1980.
The numbers are plummeting again: there are only about 500,000 elephants left. If poaching continues unchecked, African elephants could be functionally extinct in our lifetime.
In an extraordinary attempt to save the life of just one animal, a Kenyan veterinarian armed with a tranquilizer dart shot Mountain Bull, a 6-ton local legend who’s been targeted by poachers for his massive tusks.
This magnificent bull elephant has already had lots of interaction with poachers; in one incident alone, he’s been shot 8 times — the slugs are still within his body — but he has survived.
Now conservationists and rangers are doing something dramatic: they’re taking off part of his tusks in the hopes that it will make him less of a target. The operation was over quickly, and eventually the noble giant wobbled to his feet and headed back to the bush to hopefully live out his days in peace.
But sadly is was not meant to be. Recently, the carcass of Mountain Bull was found near the foot of Mt. Kenya attacked with poison spears. The reminiscence of his tusks were unceremonious hacked off by poachers.
Craig worries that unless the lust for ivory is controlled, the elephant may not survive.
”The supply here is finite,” he said. ”This isn’t gold. This isn’t diamonds. This is even more precious, because it’s been grown by an animal, and we’re killing that animal to supply that demand.”
For more info: