Archive for the ‘poaching’ Tag

Reward Offered in Wolf Poaching Cases   2 comments

From:  WILX.COM

Posted: Thu 2:14 PM, Dec 04, 2014

A reward is being offered for information that leads to the arrest of whoever is responsible for killing two wolves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The first case happened on November 26, near the Mackinac-Luce county line, close to M-117 southwest of Newberry. The wolf was found near County Road 468, dead from a gunshot wound. Investigators determined it had been killed at another location and then dumped there.

The second poaching happened in Schoolcraft County near Gulliver, also on November 26. In this case, the wolf— which was part of a wildlife study– was killed and the tracking collar was removed and thrown away.

Wolves are a protected species in Michigan and cannot legally be killed except in the defense of life.

If you have any information that can help investigators, call the Report All Poaching Hotline at 800-292-7800, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or to contact their local DNR office or conservation officer. Information may be left anonymously. Callers may remain anonymous and still be eligible to receive a reward.

The maximum penalty for poaching a wolf is 90 days in jail or a fine of up to $1,000, or both, plus reimbursement of $1,500 to the state for the animal. Poaching convictions also usually include a suspension of hunting privileges for a period of four years.

 

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ISS: Poachers without borders   2 comments

From:  Airbus Defence & Space

Written by ISS Africa, Wednesday, 19 November 2014

A poached rhino.

Worldwide, the value of organised environmental crime is estimated to be between US$70 and US$213 billion annually. Global development assistance, by comparison, is estimated at US$135 billion per annum.

Developing states are losing much-needed revenue and opportunities to environmental crime, and this crisis should be at the heart of the both the development and security debates in Africa. Central to this is the often transnational nature of environmental crime.

The recent indictment in the United States (US) of the infamous Groenewald brothers has again shown how criminal networks and syndicates often use multiple countries to further their trade in wildlife, particularly in Africa.

The brothers, whose syndicate was made up of a number of professional hunters and veterinarians, tried to use loopholes and fraud to circumvent South African and US laws. One of their methods was to have American hunters kill rhinos (which the hunters were told was legal), after which the brothers would sell the horn to lucrative markets in Asia. Multiple countries and nationalities were therefore involved in the supply of the horn to Asia.

While the brothers’ syndicate already faces numerous charges in Pretoria, US lawmakers have initiated additional charges against them, including wildlife crime, mail fraud and money laundering, using the Lacey Act of 1900. The Lacey Act is a powerful piece of legislation that prohibits violations of US and foreign wildlife laws, and can enact harsh penalties as well as financial restitution.

Environmental crimes are notoriously difficult to prosecute across borders given the manner in which crimes are legislated. Environmental crime law is made up of international treaties and conventions, national laws, provincial laws and even city and district by-laws. Unlike, for instance, the trafficking of drugs, it is far harder to separate the legal from illegal in environmental crimes. For example, abalone caught in South Africa has, in several cases, easily been passed off as legal abalone from a neighbouring country.

Diplomatically, South African government officials have experienced a mixture of successes and failures in investigating and prosecuting such crimes. While some governments, such as the US, have been accommodating, the reception from many East Asian countries and other African countries has been less than welcome, as environmental crime is not seen as a priority issue.

Furthermore, the level of interaction between different governmental institutions has been notably low. The signing of memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between the governments of South Africa and Mozambique on biodiversity protection, as well as previous MOUs with countries such as Vietnam, are a step in the right direction. However, South African officials continue to lament the lack of international cooperation in wildlife crime.

The failure of governments to act may, in part, be due to corruption. Equally, a lack of state capacity and political will could also contribute. Yet, environmental crime ought to be placed at the centre of both the development and security debates in Africa. Failing to respond effectively to these crimes may have a host of disastrous consequences.

One example is illegal fishing and the dumping of hazardous waste being linked to the growth of piracy on the east coast of Africa. It has been argued that fishermen, unable to survive due to rampant illegal overfishing and water pollution, had to turn to piracy as a means to survival. Another significant example is the reliance of many African militias and armed groups on environmental crime such as illegal logging, resource theft and poaching. Armed conflicts like those in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are heavily funded by the proceeds of environmental crime.

Making environmental crime a priority area in diplomacy, and developing legislation similar to the Lacey Act, must be treated with urgency across the continent. Taking the profit out of crime and providing embattled countries with restitution for the exploitation of natural resources is an essential step.

Importantly, legislation should be expanded and harmonised to support prosecutions. A recent Africa Prosecutors Association workshop on environmental crime also recommended that specific environmental crime legislation, in line with the African Union Model law on Universal Jurisdiction and international guidelines, should be promulgated.

While these steps will not cover all stages and locations in the supply chain, it is an important phase in prioritising environmental crime and framing this crisis as part of a broader debate on development.

Written by Khalil Goga, Researcher, Transnational Threats and International Crime Division, ISS Pretoria

Republished with permission from ISS Africa. The original article can be found here.

 

Poaching and Civil War Aren’t the Only Threats to Africa’s Dwindling Population of Mountain Gorillas   1 comment

From:  Vice News

By Elaisha Stokes

November 5, 2014 | 8:35 pm

Wildlife poachers and the African continent‘s seemingly perpetual civil wars were long thought to be the greatest threats facing the last remaining population of mountain gorillas in the world. Now, say conservationists, disease transmission from humans to primates might pose an even greater danger to their existence.

“Gorillas are not immunized against a lot of the viruses we get as humans,” explains Eddy Kambale, a veterinarian with Gorilla Doctors, a group founded in 1986 and dedicated to treating sick or injured gorillas in the wild. “One virus can kill an entire population.”

Mountain gorillas are critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Fewer than 900 of them remain in the lush forests that straddle the borders between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda. Kambale and the Gorilla Doctors aim to ensure that the population remains healthy and stable.

VICE News caught up with Kambale in the Virunga National Park in the DRC. He was checking up on a family of gorillas, but was particularly anxious to locate an injured adult male named Mawazo, who he treated two weeks previously.

Eddy Kambale, a veterinarian with Gorilla Doctors, records data on a family of mountain gorillas. (Photo by Elaisha Stokes)

Gorillas share about 95 percent of their genetic make up with humans. This makes disease transmission between the two species particularly easy. The recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, which may have originated from infected bushmeat, is just the latest instance of how the health of humans and wildlife are sometimes intimately connected.

But the problem cuts both ways.

“The most common illness we see in gorillas is respiratory disease, like influenza,” Kambale told VICE News. Gorillas, he adds, are most likely to pick up the virus from visiting tourists. Because of this, wildlife enthusiasts, who want to catch a rare glimpse of a gorilla in its natural habitat, must wear a face-mask covering the mouth and nose. The stakes are high — infectious disease accounts for about 20 percent of gorilla deaths in the wild.

Kambale has worked with gorillas since 2004 and is accustomed all sorts of setbacks. He’s been charged by angry primates and detained by rebel armies that patrol the contested eastern region of the DRC. But, standing in the lush Virunga National Park, a different sort of problem has frustrated his search for the injured gorilla — bush elephants, which cut a huge path through the jungle, obscuring the mountain gorillas’ tracks.

South African Environment Minister: We appreciate western help against poaching but we need Asia’s. Read more here.

“It’s difficult to find the real trail, the one that belongs to the gorilla,” he told VICE News, as the roar of several elephants echoed through the trees. “Not to mention, elephants are very aggressive. They can kill you.”

Park rangers tasked with tracking the gorillas join Kambale on each of his expeditions, providing assistance and security. They’re armed in case of stumbling upon angry elephants, or worse, a poacher.

Kambale says that with so few gorillas remaining in the wild, national park officials check up on the animals every day. But the daily interaction between trackers and primates, like the presence of tourists, comes with the risk that the trackers might infect gorillas with some sort of sickness.

After hours of trekking through towering groves of bamboo and avoiding vicious army ants and thorny bramble, Kambale and his team locate Mawazo and the family over which he presides. The group has eight gorillas, most of which are males. Mawazo and another silverback named Kidogo, says Kambale, are at war over the few females in the group. While Mawazo had consistently emerged the winner, the fights are taking a toll. On Kambale’s last visit, a chunk of skin hung from above Mawazo’s left eye, making him more susceptible to infection.

Mawazo suffered a wound when fighting with another silverback, making him more susceptible to illness. (Photo by Elaisha Stokes)

When an gorilla gets sick, Kambale and his team might administer an injection of antibiotics using a dart gun. In critical cases, the team sometimes separates an injured gorilla from the rest of the group in order to suture wounds. It’s risky work — family members often become enraged when one of their kin is isolated, sometimes becoming aggressive and charging at the veterinarians.

“It’s hard to make the decision to intervene,” Kambale told VICE News. “In life, there is never zero risk, anywhere.”

Kambale takes notes on the health of each individual. He monitors the pace of their breaths and scans their eyes and nose for any liquids that might indicate the onset of illness. Everyone seems healthy, says Kambale, snapping a few photos of the group, particularly Mawazo, whose wound seems to be healing well.

A young scientist makes a remarkable discovery in New York City. Read more here.

An hour has passed since finding Mawazo and his group and the sun is beginning to slip behind the mountain. It’s time for Kambale and his team to make the trek back home. The gorillas too must start to build their nests where they will sleep for the evening.

Kambale will return in a couple weeks to check upn on Mwazao. By then, he may have lost his fight to Kidogo. Either way, Kambale says he will be there to help keep the family healthy.

In the last 25 years, Gorilla Doctors has performed over 400 medical interventions. This year alone they have treated two outbreaks for respiratory disease among mountain gorillas. Neither resulted in casualties. With the right approach to veterinary care and a well-managed tourism program, Kimbale remains hopeful that these animals will continue to inhabit Virunga National Park for generations to come.

“Our job is to save the gorillas, one at a time,” he said.

Elaisha Stokes is a 2014 International Women’s Media Foundation reporting fellow in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Follow Elaisha Stokes on Twitter: @ElaishaStokes

Image via Flickr

 

Rhino horn declining in demand   1 comment

 

 

A story published by The Guardian states that rhino horn is in less demand. This news comes at a time when rhinos have reached the ‘tipping point’ – when rhino numbers are declining from poaching faster than rhino are reproducing.

“A poll conducted by Nielsen for the Humane Society International (HSI) and the Vietnam Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) found that Rhino horn demand in Vietnam dropped by more than a third in one year.”

 

Efforts to curb trade in rhino horn appear to be gaining traction

A year long public information campaign to try to deter people from buying and consuming rhino horn was conducted in Vietnam, a key market for the trade of rhino horn.

The public information campaign, done through business, university, school and women’s groups in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, focused on dispelling the myth that rhino horn has medicinal value.

Following the campaign, only 2.6% of people in Vietnam now continue to buy and use rhino horn, a decrease of 38%, the report stated.

And there has been a 25% decrease in the number of people who think rhino horn, which is made of the same material as fingernails and hair, has medicinal value. However, 38% of Vietnamese still think it can treat diseases such as cancer and rheumatism.

 

One Person Can Make a Difference

One woman, an Australian named Lynn Johnson, raised money to launch a series of advertisements in Vietnam that warn people rhino horn is harmful to them and is a bad choice as a status symbol.

Advertisements have appeared on buses and billboards, and an HSI book called I’m a Little Rhino has been distributed in schools.

Ms. Johnson is a business woman with no prior experience in conservation efforts. To that I say, well done. 

“The messaging has gone up significantly in Vietnam over the past year which is fantastic,” Ms. Johnson said. “Our campaign targets the users directly but overall the amount of information aimed at Vietnamese has increased markedly.”

Although there are a lot of questions still to be answered in how this data was obtained – for instance, how many people did they poll to come up with these statistics?; has the supply side of the poaching chain slowed down yet? – it’s a hopeful sign that in a  short period of time, through education, a focused campaign in the right areas, and the help of individuals like you and me, public perception can be changed.

Behavior then usually follows.

Yes, it appears things are finally heading in the right direction, but this doesn’t mean we can not afford to stop anti-poaching efforts. If anything, these findings only confirm that our efforts are working and that maybe there is a chance to halt demand for rhino horn and save the African Rhino after all.

Read more: http://africainside.org/2014/07/21/beverly-derek-joubert-african-rhinos/

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Calculated hot pursuit suggested as option to halt rhino poaching   3 comments

Calculated hot pursuit suggested as option to halt rhino poaching

Written by Kim Helfrich, Monday, 01 September 2014

With Parliament setting aside three hours tomorrow for a debate on rhino poaching and its impact on national heritage, the timing of a letter seeking Ministerial approval for “calculated hot pursuit” could not have been better.

The letter, penned by Randburg lawyer Christopher Bean, asks Environment Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, to “extend the principle of hot pursuit to include capture and arrest of known poachers and middlemen residing in Mozambique”.

The use of hot pursuit as a deterrent to particularly rhino poachers operating in the Kruger National Park first came up a year ago when retired Army General Johan Jooste suggested it to SANParks management. Indications are it was discussed when a South African Department of Environmental Affairs delegation met their Mozambican counterparts for discussions on a conservation memorandum of understanding. This included counter-poaching.

At the time of the MOU signing it was said hot pursuit was not yet part of the agreement but there would be further discussions.

Last month National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega told a media briefing hot pursuit was happening.

 

Calculated hot pursuit agguested as counter poaching option

 

“Yes, we have a hot pursuit agreement meaning that when somebody crosses the border we do have an agreement with Mozambique to follow through,” she was quoted as saying.

This was subsequently expanded on by police spokesman, Lieutenant General Solomon Makgale, in response to a defenceWeb enquiry. He said hot pursuit was not confined to suspected rhino poachers but also to suspects of crimes such as stock and vehicle theft as well as drug and human trafficking.

The hot pursuit option was in accordance with a Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation (SARPCCO) operational agreement.

He declined to provide details of specific rhino poaching hot pursuit incidents as did Jooste, who referred defenceWeb to the SA Police Service.

This public has to date had no response from the Department of Environment Affairs on its question as to whether it was aware of any SADC agreement regarding hot pursuit ahead of discussions with Mozambique on the conservation MOU.

One who is unhappy about the hot pursuit issue is Democratic Alliance shadow deputy environment minister Terri Stander. She questions its legality and extradition issues and will raise these points in Tuesday’s debate.

As far as legality is concerned Bean maintains “calculated hot pursuit” is in use worldwide and can be used to back rangers and soldiers crossing into Mozambique “armed with information/evidence as to the existence of known poachers and middlemen financing them”.

He terms it “a means of remedying a wrong committed on South African soil without having to go to war to rectify that wrong. In short, hot pursuit is a form of safety valve against war,” he states in his letter to Minister Molewa.

Environment Affairs has not yet issued a monthly update on rhino poaching statistics with the last information released on July 31. That indicated 618 rhinos killed national with Kruger accounting for by far the majority – 400.

“This is a war”: A conflict photographer takes on the rapidly escalating poaching crisis – Salon.com   1 comment

“This is a war”: A conflict photographer takes on the rapidly escalating poaching crisis – Salon.com.

"This is a war": A conflict photographer takes on the rapidly escalating poaching crisis

(Credit: Screenshot, Kate Brooks/Kickstarter)

Poaching is really happening all over the continent, so one doesn’t really have to go very far, unfortunately, to find it. And I don’t know if you saw any of the reports that have come out in the last couple of days…

About the elephants? I wanted to ask you about that.

Yeah, the National Academy of Sciences just published a substantiated report stating that 100,000 elephants have been killed over the past three years. While many people believed those were roughly the numbers, they weren’t substantiated until this report came out. So the situation is dire for wildlife across Africa.

A lot of the coverage of poaching, and the effort to stop it, refers to it as a war. Based on what you’ve seen and your past experience, is that be an apt description?

What you’re seeing, I think, are landscapes that are increasingly militarized in an effort to deter poachers. I think it is generally fair to say this is a war and there are people being killed in the process, whether those are rangers or poachers. And even if they’re poachers, it has pretty significant effects on the social fabric of society. Because very often the people carrying out the actual poaching are people from impoverished communities and basically the product is being sort of passed on to criminal syndicates.

So you have rangers being killed in the process of protecting wildlife. You have the ways in which local communities are being affected by the demand for ivory. And then you have 100,000 elephants being killed in the last three years or over a thousand rhinos being killed per year. So with these numbers, we are really at an incredibly critical phase in human-animal relationships.

I think those numbers are really going to drive home for a lot of people that this is a tipping point, and just how extreme the problem is. Was there a moment like that for you, when you decided to start covering this topic? What made you realize how big of an issue it was?

Two years ago I was a Knight Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan. You had to summarize your study proposal in 15 words or fewer, and mine was, “Can there be ecological preservation in an overpopulated world with diminishing resources?” As a fellow there, having an advisor who’s an environmental anthropologist, I sort of began looking at the poaching crisis,  and I was seeing an uptick in poaching and in articles. I also started paying attention to the information that was being put out by various NGOs and I just thought that the problem was incredibly underreported in mainstream media. And that was really what compelled me to begin this project. I’m a photographer by profession; I’ve worked on documentaries before, but I’ve also been doing editorial assignments related to poaching and conservation. But I really felt that this project was necessary to address the complexities of poaching in a multimedia dimension.

I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about some of those complexities. I know when you do see poaching covered in the media it’s usually a very simple narrative: “Poaching is bad. We need to try to stop it.” What did you witness that complicates that story?

Well, you have impoverished communities. Unfortunately, there has typically been a great deal of corruption in a number of African countries helping to facilitate the trafficking of ivory and rhino horn. You’ve had very lax penalties for poachers and people who are in possession of ivory and rhino horn. And then you’ve also had the issue of supply and demand. All of those things combined. Also, a few years ago, China surpassed having a million millionaires. Typically, China is identified as the largest market and consumer of ivory. And obviously, with those kinds of numbers, if you’re looking at a million millionaires in China wanting a piece of ivory, then that means there aren’t going to be any elephants left.

I’m curious about your perspective as a photographer. Do you have a code of ethics for how much you’re willing to show when it comes to graphic or disturbing images? Are you looking for the shock-value pictures of animals? What’s your approach to that?

I think what I have been incorporating in my coverage — whether it’s my film or also in the capacity of a photographer — I had a cover story in Smithsonian last month on the race to stop Africa’s elephant poachers — and for me it’s really, I think, very much about capturing the contrast. There’s the horror of poaching. And of course, capturing the beauty that still exists in recognition that some of these elephant populations that I photograph are likely not to exist 10 years from now.

I’m trying to contextualize it. I think that for people far away from these ecosystems it’s really hard to fathom that 100,000 elephants have been killed in the last few years. And I’m trying to also conceptualize how this is impacting ecosystems and how this is affecting the way elephant herds and families are behaving and the stress they’re having to endure. I was on the border of Chad and the Central African Republic in March recording the tracking of an elephant herd, and there were 12 elephants in this herd and you had these bulls — male elephants — with very young elephants, which typically you would never see. It looked like the elephants that were being collared had been previously shot. On top of the fact that this small pocket and population seemed to be something I’d describe as a refugee population: they’re becoming sort of genetically isolated and there’s really not much hope for a herd like that to survive in the long term. So I think particularly in Central Africa, that’s a pattern that’s emerging.

What’s your take on the effort to protect the elephants and to stop the poachers? Does there seem to be any hope? What else is needed to make a difference and tip the point back in favor of the elephants?

It’s such a multi-pronged approach. It really requires governments across the world examining their policies on the ivory trade and having stiffer penalties. The U.S. has really been leading that in the last few months. There used to be an illegal trade and a legal trade in ivory, and now it’s just illegal. The import of tusks from trophy hunting in Zimbabwe and Tanzania has been banned. And I think governments across Europe and, of course, China, need to really assess what their stance is and to what extent they’re going to enforce a ban on the trade of ivory. So that’s one thing. Simultaneously you have anti-poaching efforts and then also drones are being introduced as a deterrent, and also in order to better track and keep track of wildlife populations. And then stiffer penalties in Africa and stronger law enforcement, along with people’s awareness being raised about the issue. There isn’t a lot of hope unless all these things are happening simultaneously.

Would you say raising awareness is your main goal for the documentary?

Yeah, absolutely. That’s why I began working on this project. So at different times throughout my career I’ve worked on documentary projects on issues that I feel very strongly about. The first one was relating to Russian orphan children with special needs back in 1998, and I spent most of the last 10-plus years covering conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan and across the Middle East. Generally my motivation for that work was documenting history, and I’ve always been compelled by issues of human rights. With the poaching crisis, my feeling about it is that, you know, I’m not worried about human extinction. I am, however, very concerned about the extinction of elephants and rhinos in my lifetime.

Maybe extinction is a really strong word, but I think wildlife certainly isn’t going to exist in the way that we typically conceptualize it. And these populations we’re talking about will end up being very diminished populations.

What has the response been like so far to the reporting you’ve been doing?

The article I did in Smithsonian got a huge response. Chelsea Clinton tweeted about it. Lots and lots of readers wrote in wanting to know what they could do to help and thanking the magazine for having commissioned the reporting. So I think it’s an issue people really care about. They’re just not that aware of it and I see it all the time. I just come across random people and they say “I had no idea” or children who become aware of it and are completely alarmed.

What do you tell people who want to know what they can do to help?

I suggest different organizations that I think are working hard to conserve wildlife in Africa. I frequently on my own Twitter and Facebook recommend petitions. There was a petition last year that went out related to a show on NBC — “Under Wild Skies” — in which a hunter shot an elephant. It asked NBC to take this program off the air because it glorifies the killing of an animal that’s endangered, it got 50,000 signatures and NBC took the show off the air. Something similar happened with “Antiques Road Show” in which there was a petition for them to stop doing value assessments of ivory on air. That was also effective. So I frequently put out petitions to people that I think are worthy, and I think it’s important to keep these issues in the forefront of policy makers.

It’s nice to know that petitions and signatures do work. I think there are lots of ways in which people can be proactive. It’s not necessarily an issue of money. It’s about expressing a voice.

Africa's Poaching Epedmic.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare published a study into the illegal wildlife trade in June 2013 that calculated that an elephant dies to poaching every 15 minutes. Some elephants are shot, while others are poisoned with arrows or pieces of metal. This one was poisoned in the Masai Mara. (Kate Brooks/The Last Animals/Redux Pictures)

Africa's Poaching Epedmic.

Kenya Wildlife Service rangers patrol through Ramuruti forest in Laikipia, Kenya, a corridor for elephants. In April 2013 a number of elephants were killed there, including this one, now a skeleton. (Kate Brooks/The Last Animals/Redux Pictures)

Africa's Poaching Epedmic.

The carcass of an elephant named Bonsai who was shot several times in June 2013, lies in the park with two rangers in the background. Bonsai’s mother was also killed by poachers. (Kate Brooks/The Last Animals/Redux Pictures)

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

Lindsay Abrams

 

Stepping up the fight against elephant poachers   1 comment

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:

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/stepping-up-the-fight-against-elephant-poachers/

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.”

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