The attack marks a shocking new development in a crisis that sees more than three rhinos killed every day in their southern African homelands. Trade in rhino horn is completely illegal but demand from Vietnam and China fuels poaching and smuggling, putting the rhinos at risk of extinction.
Rhino horn is made of keratin – the same material as human fingernails – but an urban myth about a senior Vietnamese figure being cured of cancer pushed up demand in recent years and as its price rose, it has become a status symbol and hangover tonic. Longer-standing uses such as a supposed fever treatment in traditional Chinese medicine and as ornamental carvings have also driven up prices.
With the prices high and, until recently, the penalties very low, international organised crime networks mobilised to supply the illegal trade – wildlife trafficking is a multi-billion dollar enterprise only surpassed by the smuggling of drugs, arms and people.
The zoo raid, and thefts from museums across Europe in recent years, reveal how the criminals have been keeping ahead of authorities. “The criminal networks involved have shown themselves to be far more innovative and utterly ruthless,” said Julian Rademeyer, an expert on rhino horn at Traffic, the leading wildlife trade monitoring organisation. “They are often outthinking law enforcement and government regulations, finding new loopholes to exploit.”
The criminals have even shown a brazen marketing flair: the idea that powdered rhino horn is an aphrodisiac began as a western myth, said Rademeyer, but the syndicates latched on to it and now sell wine laced with rhino horn as aphrodisiacs in Vietnam.
Rademeyer and all the key wildlife trade groups decline to detail the current price of rhino horn, for fear of encouraging more crime. But it is public knowledge that the horn peaked in price at about $65,000 a kilogram in 2012. It is thought to have fallen significantly since then, though it remains many times more valuable than elephant ivory.
There has been a crackdown on poaching in South Africa, home to about 70% of all rhinos, but killings have spiked in Namibia and Zimbabwe as poachers seek easier targets.
“There have been warnings for the last four to five years that zoos need to tighten up security,” Rademeyer said. Police are visiting every zoo and wildlife park in the UK that houses rhinos – 111 in total – to provide security advice.
Rademeyer said there have been hundreds of rhino horn thefts across Europe in recent years. In 2016, seven men received lengthy jail sentences in the UK over a series of museum raids which targeted horns and jade artefacts estimated to be worth over £50m.
However, the epicentre of the rhino crisis remains in southern Africa, where poor young men are willing to risk their lives by poaching. They receive just a tiny fraction of the horns’ ultimate value, but even a few hundred dollars is a huge sum in their communities.
Hundreds of poachers have been killed in the last seven years and a much smaller but significant number of rangers, soldiers and policemen have also died. “People have limited sympathy for poachers but I think [their poverty] is a reality that has to be grappled with,” said Rademeyer.
“Shooting and jailing the poachers is not a long term solution,” he said. “They are very easy [for the crime syndicates] to find and very easy to exploit. Whether they get killed or arrested means very little to the syndicates, and the same applies to the couriers. The kingpins who are making the big money are getting away with it.”
Rademeyer said police cooperation is crucial to tackling the global rhino horn trade: “You are dealing with very sophisticated transnational organised crime syndicates in many cases and yet your law enforcement is hampered by international borders. Police tend to police their own backyard.” He says campaigns in Asia to stigmatise rhino horn use are important too, and have helped cut the shark fin trade.
The Paris poaching also raises the controversial question of whether a legalised trade in rhino horn, harvested sustainably from wild or farmed animals, could destroy the black market. Many nations and organisations strongly oppose the idea, saying it would simply allow illegal horns to be laundered with fake permits, but South Africa backs the idea.
Duan Biggs, a researcher at Griffith University in Australia, said: “The issue is complex, but a well managed and enforced legal trade that is structured to fund rhino protection and deliver community benefits is likely to work better than the status quo.” He accepts some people might find it unethical, but said: “I think that poaching a rhino in a zoo or in the wild is even more morally repugnant than a well regulated legal trade.”
However, a legalised rhino horn trade is unlikely any time soon. Swaziland made such a proposal at an international wildlife trade summit in Johannesburg in September and it was soundly defeated.
Rademeyer remains cautiously optimistic that the perilous decline of the world’s rhino can be reversed, pointing to their comeback from the brink of extinction in the 1950s. “We have beaten this before,” he said.
TANZANIA (eTN) – Ahead of Tanzania’s general election in late October, opposition presidential hopeful, Edward Lowassa, has vowed to end poaching of elephants and trade in blood ivory.
Mr. Lowassa, who is vying for the Tanzania presidential post under the ticket of the leading opposition Chadema party, had vowed to see elephant poaching and illegal trade in blood ivory get thrown into the archives when elected to the top post, to lead this African wildlife-rich nation.
He blamed the current government under the ruling CCM party for hibernating corrupt elements known to carry out poaching of elephants and trade in blood ivory, and also the illegal trade of live animals.
The ardent politician and former Tanzanian Prime Minister told his supporters and hundreds of thousands of excited voters that poaching of elephants and destruction of forests were areas his new government will be committed to ending.
He said during his election campaign in Tanzania’s capital city of Dar es Salaam that his new government will ensure a sustainable conservation practice to protect Tanzania’s forests and wildlife parks, which constitutes about 300,000 square kilometers of nature-protected land.
Mr. Lowassa told the biggest crowd of enthusiasts every observed that he was committed to attract tourists and travel trade investments to establish hotels and tourist accommodation facilities in Tanzania as a plan to attract 2 million tourists during the next 5 years against the 1.2 million tourists recorded this year.
In line with the establishment of premium tourist hotels and lodges, the Tanzania’s presidential hopeful said his new government will strive to train more local graduates in the hospitality industry as a means to raise productivity in tourism.
He accused the CCM government for embracing corruption which had made Tanzania lose its elephants at a rocket speed. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), also known as the World Wildlife Fund in the US and Canada, along with the Africa Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and Save the Elephant, reported that around 99,000 to 100,000 elephants were gunned down between 2005 to 2015 inside Tanzania’s protected and unprotected areas.
The opposition Chadema party had voiced its concern in the Tanzanian parliament, accusing the government of Tanzania over laxity, corruption, and inefficiency among officials in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism which led to escalating poaching of elephants and poor performance in the tourism industry.
The Shadow Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Peter Msigwa, from the liberal opposition Chadema party, has been vocal on a poaching spree, looking to see the CCM government end elephant slaughtering and illegal exportation of live animals.
He once provided data showing the gravity of the poaching of elephants, trade in blood ivory, and export of live animals from this country to the Middle East, China, Vietnam, Singapore, and other South Asian states.
Mr. Msigwa claimed that all indications point to the fact that poaching is now beyond the control of the Tanzania government under CCM’s corrupt policies.
Mr. Lowassa also promised to establish a viable airline to take over from the ailing Air Tanzania (ATC), Tanzania’s national air carrier, which is operating at a loss and dependent on subsidies from taxpayer money.
Established in 1977, this airline remains just a name now, and has had its most domestic, regional, and international routes captured by private and foreign-registered airlines.
Mr. Lowassa also vowed to restructure and revive the historical Central Railway line built by Germans 104 years ago. This rail cuts across the center of Tanzania and is best for tourist excursions, but has been neglected by the CCM government in favor of truck owners.
Likewise, the coalition of the opposition party leaders had accused the ruling CCM party for embracing foreignization policies in favor of foreign investments which had given corrupt investors an open path to transfer huge sums of money to offshore accounts, leaving Tanzanians poorer and a wider gap between the rich and the poor growing.
Together with the liberal Chadema leaders, the opposition coalition blamed the current CCM led-government for massive divestiture of once leading state-owned companies in favor of incompetent investors, saying the ruling party’s neo-communist ideologies had plunged Tanzania into an abyss of abject poverty, corruption, and theft of public funds.
Local media outlets and the opposition side are accusing the ruling party’s economic policies favoring unscrupulous foreign investors who had robbed this country from its natural resources, changing Tanzania into a “Squandered Eden.”
They as well blamed the government for its failure to solve the long-existing conflicts between pastoralists, farmers, and wildlife conservators in areas or localities bordering tourist and wildlife parks, looking for Mr. Lowassa to solve these conflicts.
Tanzania will hold its general, presidential election in late October to elect a new head of state and members of parliament after the ten-year term of the outgoing president Mr. Jakaya Kikwete.
The war on rhino poaching cannot be won without the participation of communities, Chief Executive of the South African National Parks (SANParks) Fundisile Mketeni said on Tuesday.
“While carrying out our work at national, regional and international level to address the scourge of rhino poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, work is also being done at community level by institutions such as SANParks to raise awareness of the plight of the rhino,” Mketeni said at a ceremony marking the World Wildlife Day in the Kruger National Parks (KNP), one of Africa’s biggest game reserves in northeastern South Africa.
The theme for this year’s World Wildlife Day is “Wildlife Crime is serious: let’s get serious about wildlife crime”.
The aim is to highlight the positive role that local communities can play in helping to curb illegal wildlife trade.
As the eyes and ears of the government, the communities must join forces in combating poaching by blowing the whistle on this heinous crime, Mketeni said.
South Africa has adopted a four pillar strategy towards addressing the rhino poaching scourge. A key pillar highlighted in the national strategy focusses on one of the critical game- changing interventions-namely creating opportunities for communities to make alternative economic choices.
South Africa bears the brunt of rhino poaching, losing 1,215 rhinos last year.
South Africa is the custodian of the world’s rhinos. In the country, the loss of rhinos could be equated to a loss of revenue for many communities resulting in a decline in living conditions, a loss of jobs through a decline in tourism and hunting through the country’s sustainable utilisation policy, and a sad loss to a part of the country’s natural and cultural heritage, Mketeni said.
South Africa is home to approximately 21,000 white and black rhinos, of which most are found in the KNP. This represents 93 percent of the world’s total rhino population, according to Mketeni. “The South African population is one of the last viable rhino populations in the world, which makes it vulnerable. South Africa is, therefore, the last remaining hope for the world, in terms of rhino conservation,” he said.
Rhino poaching, worth billions of dollars, deprives local communities of income that could be used to create jobs and improve livelihood in the long term instead of benefiting a small group of criminals in the short-term, Mketeni said.
Even internationally, through the sustainable development goals, there are calls to combat poaching and illegal wildlife trade by increasing capacity of the local communities so as to create sustainable livelihood opportunities for future generations, he said.
In going forward, South Africa is embarking on a number of new initiatives around the KNP with a focus on projects that support the game-changing pillar of South Africa’s integrated rhino strategy, according to Mketeni.
This includes, for example, addressing basic human needs such as water provision to poor neighboring communities to be funded through rhino-related programmes, to economic opportunities associated with various benefits derived from live rhinos through community-managed rhino conservation initiatives.
In the short term, the SANParks seeks to focus on communities bordering the southern KNP Intensive Rhino Protection Zone (IPZ) with the broader vision expanding around the extent of the park’s border.
The focus has been on the community and the youth-not only the role they can play, or are playing, in combating rhino poaching, but in assisting to protect the country’s natural heritage and their economic future, Mketeni said.
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Tuesday that its tigers had increased by 30% over four years, a major conservation success story. The country is home to an estimated 70% of the world’s tigers and while the global total has been declining, India’s population rose from 1,706 in 2011 to 2,226 presently. The country’s tigers face many pressures stemming from rapid economic development, especially habitat loss and poaching. The upside, however, is that ecotourism is boosting India’s economy and saving this endangered animal, at least, in the process.
Wildlife tourism is still a small portion of overall tourism in India, but it is one of the fastest-growing at about 15% per year. The Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests cited several causes for the upswing in tiger numbers, such as the establishment of a Special Tiger Protection Force, and “efforts to control poaching and initiatives to minimize human-animal conflict and encroachment.” Conservation may have a priceless inherent value, but the tangible economic effects that ecotourism bring give it real staying power. Tens of thousands of local jobs are supported, not just as tour guides or in hospitality, but in many associated industries where the largely foreign clientele has shown a demand for local, eco-friendly food, transportation, and services.
In the absence of tiger tourism, these jobs and communities with little alternatives would collapse—as almost happened in July 2012, when the Supreme Court banned all forms of tourism in the tiger-breeding, or “core,” areas of their sanctuaries. While the decision was made to compel the state governments to set up buffer zones around the core areas pursuant to previous legislation, it raised loud opposition from tour operators and conservationists. Besides the drop in tourist bookings and local job losses, the measure would also allow poachers greater maneuverability, free from the scrutiny of tourists and guides. The ban was lifted in less than three months, to great relief, but visitors are restricted to the outer 20% of the formerly forbidden core areas in order to strike a balance between responsible ecotourism and harmful intrusion.
Now different Indian states are vying to boast the largest number of tigers within their boundaries as a way of attracting tourists. Madhya Pradesh’s tourism and culture minister said in late December that losing the formal tag “tiger state” to rival Karnataka after a 2010 wildlife census had affected the state’s tourism sector negatively. But the state is trying hard to win it back, placing tiger conservation in the same league as simultaneous initiatives like improving air connectivity, setting up 16 tourism zones, and other public-private partnerships.
The other key for long-term sustainable tiger conservation encouraged by the government is local public participation in the management of reserves. The Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala is renowned for just that, with 75 “eco development communities” established outside its perimeter. Such committees help with forest protection and generate revenue through other projects during the tourism off season. Expect India’s tigers to keep increasing.
Source: Blouin News
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For a tourist climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, some of the breathtaking tourism attractions feature is the permanent glaciers on the Mountain peaks.