Author Archives: baraza

Blogger Training in Rwanda

The Albertine Rift project has been running for close to two years now. Most of the bloggers who received the first training have always expressed a need for a refresher course or advanced blogging. As part of the project activities, and boosting the close working relationship with our partners on the ground, the WildlifeDirect Albertine Rift project team is in the field again.

The team travelled from Nairobi on Sunday the 8th to Kigali, Rwanda. The training started yesterday with the ACNR (Albertine Rift Birds blog) members taking part. There has been a technical gap in the organization as the officers who received the first training have so far moved from the organization. To avoid this in future, the chief executive officer of ACNR was among the trainees this time.

Enoch explaining blogging tips

The trainees demonstrated a lot of enthusiasm and it is our honest feeling that they are a better group who feel that the project is adding value to their conservation endeavors. They woke up very early in the morning to take part in polling for the presidential elections which were taking place and then came for the training. With their technical problems solved we believe they will now be posting on their blog regularly.

We as WildlifeDirect feel very excited to be conducting this skills transfer exercise, for the love of Mother Nature. The team is visiting the rest of the partner organizations in the Albertine Rift countries for next one week, conducting similar capacity improvement courses.

By Enoch & Victor

Bonobo Emergency

Dear friends there is a crisis facing bonobos at Lola ya Bonobo .

In the last six days 6 bonobos have died of flu. Another ten are sick.

Claudine, Vanessa and all the staff have launched an appeal to raise funds to enable them to respond to this emergency. The center which is facing a financial crisis – there is no time to lose. If we can reach 10,000 people each of whom give just $100, we can avert this crisis and save the bonobos.

You can help by doing any or all of the following things

1. Make a donation now
2. Appeal to your friends, networks and family (facebook, myspace,twitter, local news agency, call your )
3. Hold an emergency fund raisier to raise more funds
4. Send Claudine, Vaness and the staff at Lola a message on their blog right now, tell them that you care, and what you are doing to try and help.

Thank you everyone, we really appreciate your support
Paula

On the Shores Of Lake Tanganyika

Part of our MacArthur project mission is reach out to countries that fall within the Albertine Rift region. Our next destination was Burundi. Enoch and myself (Masumi), set out for Bujumbura, the capital city.

My first impression of Burundi was defined by the neglected rust covered Air Burundi passenger plane sandwiched amidst UN choppers. Typical Central African scenario right there, I thought to myself. All the websites and news related to Burundi we had were of travel advisory warnings and security issues within the country. We were taking a risk by traveling here. Despite the little knowledge I have about the country it was summed up by the image the plane portrayed. Destroyed, neglected and left to the elements to consume whatever was left.

I feel very differently about it now.

Overall, Burundi is in it’s infancy as far as conservation work is concerned and most of the organisations around are working to alleviate poverty and as a strategy have incorporated some wildlife and environmental protection activities. There has hardly been any previous work carried out on biodiversity surveys or general ecosystem monitoring and thus most environmental organisations are carrying out this baselines research for initiation of conservation projects and activities.

Perhaps in the near future with adequate funding these organisations and others will increase in numbers and implement conservation activities on a wider scale to protect the national parks and reserves in the country. There are a few organisations we did meet that conduct direct conservation but also have a strong social sector involved. Without addressing the poverty of the regions, especially around the 15 protected areas. conservation initiatives would not work and the people are very aware of this.
We had the pleasure of meeting a number of representatives from various Conservation Organisations here in Bujumbura. In general there are groups of concerned individuals who have formed organisations to conserve the remaining natural resources and wildlife this beautiful country has to offer. A major conflict area is deforestation. The population is high, putting immense pressures on the forests for timber for fuel. Many projects have put in place re-afforestation schemes as well as starting tree nurseries to reduce some of the pressure on indigenous forest. Burundi is home to an endemic palm species, I cannot recall the name right now but will make sure I write it in the next post. The most touching part of the conservation work going on here is that all the organisations work together, share information and ideas. This is something I feel most places have lost and it’s what WildlifeDirect aims to promote.

I am very encouraged by the motivation and enthusiasm from everyone we met here. The people of Burundi want change and an opportunity to rebuild their country and protect their wildlife and environment. The media has shed a very harsh and negative light in this region of the world and muffled the peoples voices. I hope that through WildlifeDirect blogs we will be able to help give them a voice and give the rest of the world a platform to support this noble cause.

I promise to post photos as soon as I locate the right USB cable, if not now then in Uganda when Maina and Victor meet me.

Elephant killings and ivory trade alarm bells

Hello readers, it’s Paula here at 5.30 am and I can’t sleep – alarm bells are ringing in my head about ivory trade and elephant killings.

Here’s the time line

Mid 2007 online ivory sales reported to be booming

June 2007 CITES meeting…Kenya porposes a 20 year moratorium on ivory sales, supported by 21 “like-minded parties” including Mali, Ghana, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Togo, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Burundi, Nigeria, Liberia, Comoros, Congo Brazzaville and Cote d’Ivoire. Ivory sales  get go ahead at CITES with blessing of major conservation organizations

“This African solution to an African problem marks a great step forward for wildlife conservation,” said CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers. “It is good news for the elephant, good news for the people who live alongside them and good news for regional cooperation in Africa.”

“We are looking for real conservation achievement on the ground,” said Tom Milliken, of TRAFFIC, director of TRAFFIC South and East Africa. “Let countries now take this spirit of goodwill and tackle the ivory that is being hemorrhaged illegally from West and Central Africa.”

The International Fund for Animal Welfare, IFAW, says that at least 20,000 elephants are killed annually for their ivory and the lives of about 100 rangers are lost each year protecting them.  They warn that the auctions would stimulate Asian markets demand smuggling and poaching.

Nobody listens.

The Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) analysis reveals that key problem countries for illegal ivory are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Thailand and China.

Nobody takes any notice

October 2008 Namibia opens bidding in controversial ivory auction

Renowned conservationist Richard Leakey expresses concern  and calls it a disservice to conservation

November 2008 Ivory auctions take place in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe 100 tons sold raising $15 million. Price? $150 per kg.  

November 2008 57 people arrested and one ton of illegal ivory seized in a sweep of 50 locations in Kenya, Congo Brazaville, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia.  

January 2009 Ebay bans ivory on online auctions

Three months after auctions, Kenya reports alarming increase in elephant poaching  98 killed in 2008 vs 48 the year before. Two poachers are arrested by KWS. Five elephants killed in February. British MP’s raises alarm over increase in poaching.  

Conservation groups blame demand in China for runaway elephant killings

February 2009  Despite fear of reprisals, Cynthia Moss of the Amboseli Elephant Trust reports a surge in elephant killings and decries the lack of government response.

February 2009 Jane Goodall adds her voice to the role of China in plundering Africa’s resources.

February 2009 Legal auctions were supposed to depress illegal prices right? Wrong! TRAFFIC and WWF report ivory prices in Vietnam are highest in the world at $1500 – $1,863/kg more than ten times the value of legal ivory sold in November 2008! The few remaining Asian elephants are now at grave risk.

March 2008 Vietnam seize over 7 tons of ivory from Tanzania and plans to auction it. Why is nobody questioning this?

China deny’s any link or responsibility for increasing poaching and ivory seizure and publish the Chinese official position piece in local newspapers

Report from Therese Hart in DR Congo reveals that elephants down by 80% in last 50 years.

 

Why can’t I sleep?

My problem with all this is that CITES is supposed to uphold the precautionary principle. Obviously warnings in 2008 were well placed but there seems to be nobody doing anything about the escalating illegal ivory sales, elephant killings and ivory laundering. Where is the voice of TRAFFIC, WWF, AWF, FFI…all the organizations that were born and or grew out of the elephant crisis in the 1980s? They all supported the ivory sales and none of them seem to be willing to admit it was a MASSIVE STUPID MISTAKE and that measures must be taken now to reverse the impact.

 

How many more elephants do we have to lose before we have the courage to admit that it was a mistake to renew ivory trade? It is obvious that the flood of legal trade has created a wonderful opportunity for illegal ivory to be laundered, and demand and prices are so high in Vietnam that officials are obviously being corrupted, and countries are taking the law in to their own hands (Vietnam is planning to auction ivory seized from Tanzania!)

 

CITES will claim that the 9 year moratorium on further auctions will prevent further growth in demand or release of ivory onto markets. The truth that nobody is talking about, is that the moratorium only applies to four countries…I predict that at the next CITES conference we will see ivory sale proposals from a number of African countries including Tanzania, DR Congo, Uganda and maybe even Kenya! These countries are not bound by the moratorium.  

 

Grrr…it makes me so mad. What do you think? How can we get a message out?

 

What you may not know about WildlifeDirect

Dear readers,

 

Many of you may not know know much about WildlifeDirect and what we are trying to achieve through this website.

 

WildlifeDirect, initially known as the African Conservation Fund (ACF), was created in 2004 to help support the significant unmet needs in wildlife conservation, particularly in Africa, but also across the globe. Dr. Richard Leakey, a respected and well-known conservationist, and others interested in conservation conceived of a new way to approach the difficult task of raising funds for on-the-ground conservation efforts, particularly in times of crisis.

 

Our mission is two-fold: first, we intend to create a means by which on-the-ground conservationists could reach out to the global community for support of their ongoing work, and second, to create a “virtual endowment”, a vast online community of individual donors worldwide who are interested in supporting wildlife conservation and who could be mobilized, in a time of crisis, to offer support and resources.

 

Unlike actual endowments where funds are collected and deposited into a bank, a “virtual endowment” is money that remains in the hands of their donors until it is needed, and, at that point in time, those individuals who have been educated through interaction with the blogger conservationists would be mobilized to address the crisis.

 

We believe that creating and empowering a community of a million people who would give five to ten dollars a person, we can create a deep, bottom-up and sustainable ability to respond to an emergency. This will uniquely position us to create an African-based solution to a global problem.

 

WildlifeDirect’s commitment has been to bring the authentic, uncensored and compelling voices of working field conservationists to individuals anywhere in the world and to promise that 100% of the contributions to the bloggers (less bank fees) go to the intended recipient. Through its powerful Internet platform, WildlifeDirect can communicate, educate, network, and organize conservation stakeholders and ultimately act as a force for change in the conservation world.

 

To ensure 100% of the donations go to the conservationist of the ground, Wildlifedirect tries to maintain a low cost operation made of only the basic staff and low capital based operation. However, the organization needs to support core costs in order to continue supporting these very worthwhile community based conservation efforts. 

 

We currently have 84 conservation blogs and these attract over 70,000 unique visitors each month. The global economic crisis is hitting us all hard. We have already heard that some of our partners are unable to pay salaries this month. At Wildilfedirect we are making cutbacks in an effort to survive these tough economic times.  We hope you will consider supporting us through this global crisis.

 

We thank you for your support to date and invite you to make a further commitment to WildlifeDirect.

 

With Warm regards

Paula Kahumbu

Executive Director

Please help us to save wildlife

 The world economic crisis is hitting Africa and is predicted to heavily impact everyone. Our major concern is wildlife which is being slaughtered for food, as a result of conflict and because there is inadequate funds for proper wildlife enforcement such as anti-poaching. To make matters worse, tourism is predicted to decline which will affect all the protected areas of Africa that depend on gate revenues. WildlifeDirect supports over 80 different projects, mainly in Africa with a few in Asia and South America through this website. Our survival also hangs in the balance.

We are appealing to each and every one of you to make a small donation to  WildlifeDirect to help us survive to enable us to continue to support these extraordinary projects through this extraordinarily difficult period.

After all, if we cannot  save wildlife through these tough times, we will not have much to enjoy during the good times.

Leopard Masai Mara, Wildlifedirect

I leave you with a picture taken in the Masai Mara recently.

Please support us, make a donation today.

Thank you

Masai Mara being destroyed by development

 The encroachment by developers into the world-renowned Maasai Mara National Reserve has ignited a bitter row between the Kenya Tourism Federation and the National Environmental Management Authority.

“The industry lobby on Tuesday accused Nema of being behind the encroachment of the reserve by developers which was now threatening the existence of wildlife and the ecosystem.
Nema on its part said that it had issued licences to the developers in accordance with the law.

“All environmental impact assessment (EIA) licenses issued in the Maasai Mara ecosystem are procedural and have followed due process, and are in line with the provisions of the Environmental Management and Coordination Act, ” the state agency’s public relations officer, Ruth Musembi said in a statement.

She said in approving the projects, Nema had worked closely with lead agencies who confirmed that they had no objection to the licensing of the projects in the reserve.

KTF complained that the proliferation of unplanned development of tourism facilities in the Maasai Mara that is at the heart of the wildlife corridor has put the integrity of Kenya as a leading tourism destination at stake.

Despite plan

Lobby chairperson, Lucy Karume, and the organisation’s environment chairman, Allan Earnshaw, led more than 20 tourism private sector investors in voicing their displeasure with Nema.

They said that in the last four years, over 35 new camps and lodges have sprung up in the reserve and several others are about to be approved despite a new management plan for the Mara supported by both the Narok and Trans Mara county councils in Rift Valley province.

“Nema has also just licensed a cheetah rehabilitation sanctuary to create a zoo at the main entrance of the national reserve,” they said in a press conference.

The organisation asked the Kenyan government to intervene and stop the unplanned and unregulated developments.”

Coming at a time when tourism is declining while Kenya is trying to recover from the post election violence of last year, this does not bode well. We hope that NEMA listens to the stakeholders and at the same time injects some professionalism into their procedures. If they don’t have the capacity to do their job well, then they have no right to be giving licenses in the first place.

How can Vietnam auction siezed ivory from Tanzania?

A massive consignment of ivory from the port of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, is about to be auctioned in Vietnam, but nobody in the Tanzanian authority seems to know anything about it. A senior customs agency official in Hai Phong City, Vu Hoang Duong, said that the illegally-imported elephant tusks from Tanzania may be auctioned after the Vietnamese Institute for Ecology and Natural Resources completes certain tests

Ivory siezed in Vietnam

The consignment of tusks initially left the port of Dar es Salaam in late January this year, was transported by sea via Malaysia, and finally landed at the Dinh Vu Port in Hai Phong on February 28. The tusks, packed in 114 cardboard boxes labelled recycled plastic totalled 1,244 pieces (6,232 kg). The consignment was seized by customs authorities from a ship anchored at the Hai Phong Port.

Peculiarly, the government in Dar es Salaam has said it is completely unaware of the loss of their ivory, and of the impending auction.

According to one Tanzanian authority wherever animal trophies are illegally exported or imported from one country to another, the consignment is seized, the smuggler(s) arrested, and the consignment is auctioned. According to Ezekiel Maige, The Deputy Minister for Tourism and Natural Resources, revenue earned from the auction is then divided according to any standing agreements between the country where the consignment originated and the country of destination.

siezed ivory Vietnam

That sounds very fishy to me. If this were true it would be the perfect way of moving illegal goods – especially if you are a corrupt government official.  In all my years working on CITES trade issues, I have ever heard of such an arrangement – especially concerning CITES listed species. What I’ve observed is that any animal trophies smuggled from one country being seized in another, are handled according to international law. The disposal of the specimens, animals or trophies are agreed by the two countries. Usually ivory is returned to country of origin or stored in vaults for safe keeping.  It is indeed very strange that Vietnam would auction ivory seized from any country without even informing the relevant authorities of the country of origin.
The saddest part of the story is that Tanzanians are lamenting the loss of billions of Tanzanian shillings through an auction in Vietnam.

Nobody seems to be concerned that this ivory may represents over 600 individual elephants, where they came from, how they died, nor the fate of the people involved in the illicit trade.

Vietnamese authorities are said to have been unable to contact the director of Phuc Thien Ngan company, Vu Ngoc Tuan, who is the registered consignee of the tusks. However, one local newspaper said it interviewed Tuan in his office on Monday this week.According to the newspaper, Tuan said he knew nothing of the tusks, and that he had no business relationship with the sender of the tusks. He said authorities have not been able to contact him because he has been busy in recent days.

It is likely that an international smuggling network is at work here and Vietnam where recent reports of soaring ivory prices is likely to be driving the illegal killings of elephants and illicit ivory trade. Prices in Vietnam were reported to be as high as $1863/kg for small cut pieces and $1500/kg for whole tusks, with carved pieces even higher. The legal trade of ivory last year in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa attraceted prices on tenth of this!

While the Tanzanian’s may just want the money, it is important that the source of this ivory is identified. Genetic tests can determine if this ivory is coming from Tanzania or elsewhere like DR Congo where elephant populations have crashed from 100,000 to fewer than 20,000 in the last 50 years. In conservation circles Tanzania is known to be notorious for illegal trade in birds, ivory, skins, apes and timber from other countries.

Trader arrested with dead chimpanzee – photos and video

Hi everyone,

It’s Paula here. Today we received interesting reports from LAGA, The Last Great Ape Organization who have successfully conducted several arrests of individuals involved in bushmeat trade, specifically apes.

WARNING: The photos below are disturbing so please click off now if you are sensitive.

Last week LAGA arrested a dealer in Congo who is now behind bars, and the government of DR Congo is pleased and about to sign a convention with the RALF project.

Laga is now finalizing a guidebook on wildlife law enforcement to allow their success to be replicated, including the lessons from this different approach to conservation.

In Cameroon LAGA carried out 6 arrest operations within 3 weeks :

1. A well known Internet wildlife dealer engaged in the trade of primate skulls and other protected wildlife products arrested in Buea – South West Region with the collaboration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He had sent illegal consignments to U.S.A. 22 times and falsified the Minister’s signature and used on a falsified CITES Permit. Youtube link here

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/8EX7NHFex9Y" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

2. A leopard skin dealer arrested in Bafoussam – West Region trying to illegally trade in a leopard skin.

3. A regular dealer supplying large quantities of protected bushmeat of protected wildlife species arrested in Foumbot – West Region.

4. A shop owner arrested trying to illegally trade in elephant teeth and leopard skin in Yaounde – Central Region. This operation was done in collaboration with a French wildlife conservation NGO – SFS.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/tJA3pDHfwak" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

5. A dealer in live primates and other wildlife products was arrested trying to illegally trade in a live mandrill and the foot of an elephant in Yaounde – Central Region. His father is an accomplice and a wildlife trader with 20 years experience. Youtube link here

6. A regular dealer in protected bushmeat arrested trying to sell a full dead chimp that he had kept in a deep freezer in Douala – Littoral. He has suppliers from the Eastern part of Cameroon and sells in major cities including Douala and Bafoussam.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/tiUOIe7B440" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /] Dead chimpanzee LAGA

Bushmeat trade chimpanzee - LAGA

LAGA’s experience in the fight against corruption gave birth to its sister NGO – AC – focusing on assisting victims of corruption to fight corrupt officials, it is also set to fight the problem that led to the creation of LAGA – corruption in NGO projects.

More information will be uploaded on these two sites www.APT-AID.org ,

www.kick-corruption.org

Regards from the LAGA family

This report is from LAGA The Last Great Ape Organization,Wildlife Law Enforcement

They can be reached on Tel: +237-99651803

Website: www.LAGA-enforcement.org

Sandalwood exploitation intertwined with corruption in Kenya

After reading the article about sandalwood exploitation in the Karisia Hills by Helen Dufresne, we have been looking into this issue and it seems as if it’s a monster! Its not only north Kenya but the entire Nort Rift that is at risk of losing these beautiful and valuable trees. Here’s an article published in the Daily Nation this week.

In North Rift, money grows on endangered sandalwood

By CASPER WAITHAKAPosted Tuesday, March 10 2009 at 22:44

The protected sandalwood tree is turning traders into millionaires. The plant is being harvested illegally in Samburu, Pokot, Baringo and other parts of the North Rift.

The cartels involved, including prominent politicians, administration and security officials, have made it almost impossible to bring the illegal trade under control, making extinction of the endangered plant a near certainty.

Hardly a week passes without a truckload of the wood, whose scientific name is Osyris lanceolata, being seized is some part of the country.

There are many other cases that are not reported.  Perhaps with this in mind, Forestry minister Noah Wekesa a few weeks ago advertised a hotline for the public to inform the ministry of illegal exploitation of the tree that is exported for use in the pharmaceutical and perfume industries.

The toll free hotline number 08002212323 will also provide information on the exploitation of other forest products including bush meat, skins, ivory, and contraband trade in wildlife species.

Protected tree

It is a follow up of the ban on sandalwood harvesting imposed by President Kibaki in a gazette notice on April 4, 2007, under the protected tree species law.

Behind the scenes in the battle to save the sandalwood is the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, an organisation charged with law enforcement operations against illegal trade in both animals and plants.
The Task Force says over-exploitation of the sandalwood and other products in the region may lead to a dangerous imbalance in the ecosystem.

Sandalwood is harvested from trees over 30 years old and unfortunately the tree is valuable from the leaves to the roots hence its vulnerability. The crude methods of harvest destroy the plant completely.

In December, key Government departments in Kajiado district clashed over a lorry impounded at Namanga border on November 26 while transporting 40 tonnes of sandalwood worth Sh40 million to Tanzania.

Area Police, Kenya Wildlife Service and Forest service personnel failed to agree on where the trailer should be kept. It ended up at the KWS staff quarters following pressure from KWS and forest officials.

Sources said the KWS officials did not trust the police on grounds that they would be compromised.

The intriguing thing was that both containers had two padlocks one from the police and another from the KWS officials. This shows mistrust in each others capacity to keep the containers safe.

However Humphrey Wanzala, who was then area police boss at the time, had a different story saying that the lorry was at the KWS quarters because the officials were suspecting that there were other wildlife trophies besides sandalwood.

He denied that there was mistrust saying, “We are together in this as we work for the same Government. We shall pursue this matter to the very end.”

The KWS official, Mr Timothy Kitonyi, said the only issue was that the suspects claimed they harvested the sandalwood in Mbale, Uganda, yet they did not have any relevant documents. KWS suspected that they may have hidden other trophies in the containers.

KWS official were investigating the matter from the headquarters in Nairobi. They wanted to find out how the containers full of sandalwood had travelled that far without being detected.

Three people, Jane Nyambura, Frank Jeremiah Frank and Daniel Muya, were eventually charged with being in possession of East African sandalwood worth Sh40 million.