Category Archives: DRC

Calling the World to help save African Elephants

 

African Elephants

 

WildlifeDirect supports the African Elephant Coalition (AEC) in the call to the world to help save African elephants.

As an organization that has been in the forefront calling for a total ban on all ivory trade, WildlifeDirect urges other African countries not represented at the meeting held in Montreux, Switzerland from 24 to 26 June 2016 to join AEC in this call to save the our iconic species that are in danger of extinction if nothing is done.

In a press release by AEC, 29 member states call on all governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations for their support, and calls on citizens around the world to ask their respective governments and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) representatives to support the five proposals and to help the Coalition in its mission to list all elephants in Appendix I.

The Coalition of 29 African member states submitted to CITES five proposals designed to reverse the poaching crisis facing elephants and to put an end to the ivory trade to afford elephants the highest protection under international law.

The five proposals are:

  1. Listing all elephants in CITES Appendix I
  1. Closure of domestic ivory markets
  1. Ivory stockpile destruction and management
  1. The Decision-Making Mechanism for a process of trade in ivory (DMM)
  1. Restricting trade in live elephants

AEC agreed to launch a social media campaign in a bid to gain support for the five proposals to the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of CITES in September-October in Johannesburg, South Africa. We invite you to use the hashtags #WorthMoreAlive, #EndIvoryTrade and #Vote4Elephants to support the campaign.

Speaking at the meeting in Montreux, Bourama Niagaté from Mali, a member of the Council of the Elders for the Coalition noted that there was need for all relevant stakeholders to pull together for the sake of Africa’s elephants.

Kenya, a member state of AEC has taken a zero tolerance approach to poaching and ivory trafficking.

In April this year, Kenya took a bold step in burning 105 tons of ivory and 1.5 tons of rhino horn. This is reportedly the world’s largest stockpile of elephant ivory and rhino horns ever to be burnt. The historic burn demonstrated Kenya’s commitment to seeking a total global ban of ivory and rhino horns.

Speaking at the burn, President Uhuru Kenyatta said, “by destroying ivory we declare once and for all that our national heritage is not for sale”. The only value that ivory has is tusks on a live elephant.

It is this commitment from the highest level of government and collaboration with conservationists and law enforcement that has seen Kenya achieve 80 percent reduction in deaths of elephants in the last three years.

 

You can download the Press Release Here

Focus on Illegal Ivory Trade in the U.S.A

The plight of African elephants is receiving global attention this week as four key events came together in USA; the Clinton Global Initiative on 26 September, the March for Elephants on 4 October (http://www.iworry.org/join-the-march-2/#.Ukl899KsjLQ), the sentencing of Victor Gordon a notorious American ivory trafficker on 7 October, and the crush of 6 tons of American ivory in Denver on 8 October

At the Clinton Global initiative on 26 September, 7 African Nations joined Hillary and Chelsea Clinton in a commitment to end the slaughter of elephants by banning domestic trade in ivory, stopping the killing of elephants, stopping the trafficking of ivory, and stopping the demand for ivory. The countries included Botswana, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, South Sudan, Malawi, and Uganda.

Richard Leakey, founder of WildlifeDirect and the man who is credited with saving elephants from extinction in 1989 by engineering the first ever and most iconic bonfire of ivory in 1989 said “I congratulate Senator Clinton for her actions and commitment and am all for each nation taking responsibility for saving one of the world’s most magnificent animals. I hope that the USA will follow these African nations and ban domestic trade in ivory in the USA and provide support for strategic African initiatives to save elephants and stop the poaching”.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/26/hillary-chelsea-clinton-african-elephants-ivory-poaching

Included in the commitment were several international conservation organizations including the  Kenyan organization WildlifeDirect represented by the CEO Paula Kahumbu. WildlifeDirect  has launched its own high profile campaign Hands Off Our Elephants spearheaded by Kenya’s First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta. She has called for a global ban on domestic trade. WildlifeDirect has been instrumental in changing and enforcing laws in Kenya and East Africa, by demanding more severe penalties. A study by WildlifeDirect reveals that fewer than 5 percent of convictions for wildlife crimes lead to jail sentences. Not surprisingly, suspected elephant killers and ivory traffickers plead guilty in order to hasten the case and gain a light sentence. Most cases last only 24 hours and most convictions result in a fine of 100-300 dollars. The laxity of the courts had been driving impunity and encouraging poaching, but now the magistrates are delivering jail sentences of 3 to 5 years.   Any time in jail is bad in Kenya, but WildlifeDirect says this is still not enough and is pushing for seizure of assets, prosecution under the Organized crime Act and Economic Crimes Act, and minimum jail sentences of 15 years in a proposed new legislation that is expected to pass in coming weeks.

On the heels of the much publicized Clinton Global Initiative commitments for elephants comes the Elephant March a campaign by the Kenyan based David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Millions of people are expected to participate on 4 October in cities around the world. This is one of the things that citizens around the world can do to demonstrate their concern about the elephant slaughter. 

On 8 October the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will make an international statement by crushing six tons of elephant ivory seized by its special agents and wildlife inspectors for violations of U.S. wildlife laws (http://ens-newswire.com/2013/09/09/u-s-to-crush-six-tons-of-contraband-elephant-ivory/).

All this attention to elephants is well deserved. Ivory is leaving Africa at an unprecedented rate, part of a surge in poaching that could lead to the extinction of the elephant within 10 years if it is not halted. But it is not just about elephants, the illegal trade in ivory is fueling conflicts and terrorism including the deadly attacks on a shopping mall in Kenya, and the United States is not exempt from the problem.

Ivory seized in 2011

Ivory seized in 2011

Ironically ivory trade is permitted in the USA and while it involves mostly old pre-ban ivory, like the situation in China, the legal trade is being used as a cover for a significant amount of illegal trade. Indeed, although China is ranked as the top consumer of illegal ivory, the USA is considered the second largest market in the world.  

Indeed the ivory crush will include ivory items seized last year when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service working with New York state authorities seized more than $2 million worth of ivory from two New York City shops.  Dan Stiles writes in Swara Magazine report that New York and San Francisco “appear to be gateway cities for illegal ivory import in the USA….China is not the only culprit promoting elephant poaching through its illegal ivory markets. The USA is right there with them.”  

Attention then must be drawn to the case of a Philadelphia-based ivory smuggler, Victor Gordon, who was arrested in connection with one of the largest U.S. seizures of illegally imported ivory in July of 2011 (http://www.fws.gov/le/pdf/press-release-doj-gordon-pleads-guilty-smuggling-african-elephant.pdf). More than one ton of elephant ivory was seized.  He pleaded guilty on 27 September 2012 and faces up to 20 years in prison. His lawyer, Daniel-Paul Alva, told the Wall St. Journal his client has been cooperating with the investigation, and was “an innocent dupe.”  He has already managed to postpone his sentencing for over a year.  This would be unthinkable in Africa. The new date is Monday, 7 October at 11am. The US prosecuting attorney is Darren A. LaVerne, and the venue, the US Eastern District Court in Brooklyn, New York, 271 Cadman Plaza East. 

Ivory

Ivory

UK listed companies want to drill oil in Virunga!

hand_rigIt is with great shock that we have learned that two companies listed in the London Stock Exchange, SOCO and Dominion, plan to drill for oil in Africa’s oldest park, the Virunga National Park. Home to about 200 mountain gorillas, nearly a quarter of the world’s surviving population of these majestic great apes, Virunga has survived and thrived due to heavy investment by the DRC government and conservation organisations. To have such a park survive in a war-torn and mostly lawless province like Kivu sure takes great effort and for two ‘respected’ companies to want to erase many years of conservation effort merely for profit is, for lack of a stronger word, atrocious!

Xinhua News Agency reports that “Company maps seen by international media indicate that SOCO intends to drill through much of the park in areas with some of the highest savannah biomass in the world.” These actions will be costly for the area’s precious and fragile biodiversity, including not only the charismatic gorillas, but also chimpanzees, hippos, elephants and other rare species, as well as the local population who benefit from tourism and sustainable fishing inside the national park. Some 30,000 local fishermen fish sustainably on the park’s Lake Edward, a Ramsar protected site.

Virunga is a recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site home to many species of mammals, birds and reptiles, and an impressive diversity of landscape and habitats. How dominion and SOCO would wish to jeopardize this highly important biodiversity refuge is beyond comprehension.

gorilla photoConservationists, including those at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are calling on the government of DRC to honor and enforce the oil exploration ban that prohibits drilling inside the park. They have also petitioned the UK companies “to respect the law and international convention and to abandon their harmful plans for exploration.”

For some time since it’s inception in 2006 WildlifeDirect supported Virunga National Park through funds raised from ordinary individuals in America and Europe. These funds payed wages for the armed rangers who are now restoring law and order in the park. Former WildlifeDirect director, Emmanuel DeMerode is now the director of Virunga National Park. Our investment in the Virunga is significant, we cannot stand aside and let our efforts and those of others go to waste. WildlifeDirect therefore categorically condemns this attack on the Virunga, and calls for all action – from the DRC government, to Dominion and SOCO and the international community – to end this madness.

Virunga shall not die.