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Target the ring leaders to defeat poaching

Richard Leakey, founder of the Kenyan Wildlife Service, has called on President Kenyatta to declare a national emergency and take personal charge of the war on poaching

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Richard Leakey and Paula Kahumbu at press conference organized by WildlifeDirect on March 19, 2014 in Nairobi. Richard Leakey and Paula Kahumbu at the press conference organized by Wildlife Direct on March 19, 2014 in Nairobi. Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

Nairobi 19th March: Four days ago I was in the bush, heartbroken, by the mutilated body of a rhino gunned down by poachers. Now I am in the Serena Hotel in Nairobi at a crowded press conference called by Wildlife Direct, the organization I work for.

In a strongly worded statement, WildlifeDirect’s founder and chairman Richard Leakey calls on Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta to take decisive action in the war against the poachers.

The current situation is dire. Poachers are killing rhinos and elephants with impunity, even in heavily fortified private conservancies that were thought to be impregnable. Despite tough new laws, smugglers and poachers caught red-handed are still walking free from Kenyan courts.

Our press release argues that poaching and smuggling are controlled by international crime rings that pose a major threat to the economy and national security. Reports in Kenyan media reflect the sense of hopelessness that many feel in the face of this powerful enemy.

However, though critical, the situation is not hopeless.

As head of the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) in the 1980s, Richard Leakey is credited with having turned around the war on poaching in a matter of months at the time of the last major crisis. With the right leadership, he is convinced it can be done again.
NTV Kenya news report of Wildlife Direct press conference, Nairobi March 19th, 2014

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The story of piracy off the coast of Somalia shows how crises like these can be overcome. Piracy and poaching are similar in many ways. In both cases, the scene of the crime is sub-Saharan Africa. Both were long-standing problems that suddenly became major crises and threatened to spiral out of control. In both cases, poor people using primitive technology were able to inflict massive damage that threatened global interests.

The major difference is that piracy directly threatens western commercial interests. In response world leaders have acted decisively – and effectively. After 46 hijackings off the coast of Somalia in 2009 and 47 in 2010, there have been none at all since 12 May 2012.

Crucially, money has been no object when it came to taking on the pirates. The current annual cost of anti-piracy security off the coast of Somalia is more than US $ 2.5 billion. This finances two key elements of the anti-piracy strategy: surveillance and protection. Around $1 billion goes on round-the-clock military naval patrols; the rest is spent by ship operators on employing privately contracted armed guards.

Piracy has also been stopped by the simple measure of locking up the criminals. More than 1,100 Somali pirates are currently in jail in 21 countries, many of them in Kenya.

Operations are coordinated by the UN’s Contact Group on Piracy, which includes more than 85 countries as well as international agencies and private sector representatives. If you have never heard of this organization, that’s because they’re not interested in publicity, just in getting the job done.

Four “C words” sum up how piracy was defeated: Cash – lots of it, a Coherent strategy, Coordination, and Commitment. How far are these four “keys to success” in place in the war on wildlife crime?

Unlike the war on piracy, until now this one has too often seemed to be all about publicity. In the run-up to the London summit on wildlife crime in February, National Geographic commented: “Everybody and his uncle in wildlife conservation is clamouring for a seat at the table.”

Hopefully this is about to change. America grabbed the headlines at the London summit in February with the launch of a new National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. The strategy makes some big promises about US commitment to tackle all aspects of the crisis. Secretary of State John Kerry affirmed: “We must act now. The Departments of State, Justice, and Interior are leading the President’s whole-of-government fight against wildlife trafficking”.

There are also signs that western countries and international agencies are now prepared to commit serious money to fight wildlife crime – even though the amounts are still minuscule compared to what is spent on controlling piracy.

For example, the Clinton Global Initiative recently unveiled a three-year $80 million anti-ivory poaching partnership with conservation organizations that will deploy sniffer-dog teams at key ivory transit points in Africa and hire 3,000 rangers to help protect elephants at 50 sites.

These are encouraging signs of more cash, improved coordination, and greater commitment. But what is still missing is a coherent strategy that recognizes and responds to the truth that Richard Leakey spelled out forcefully at our press conference: the traffickers are getting away with it because in many countries authorities are not prepared to take on the small numbers of gang leaders who control the operations.

The best equipped and trained rangers, and the most stringent laws, will remain impotent as long as the gang leaders are at liberty to use threats and bribery to neutralize them.

After the London summit, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague commented: “this is not just about governments, this is about the public understanding that the ivory trade involves the death of elephants on a great scale”. This sounds as if the UK government is trying to evade responsibility.

The truth is, only states have the resources needed to defeat the organized crime networks controlling the $10 billion trade in illegal wildlife products. People across the world already understand the problem and what is at stake. We are waiting for our governments to take decisive action to target the gang leaders, and root out the high-level corruption that allows them to operate with impunity.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/africa-wild/2014/mar/23/target-ring-leaders-defeat-poaching

Sheria (The Law) is DEAD!!! Rhino Poaching incident this weekend

Dear Friends,

It is with great sadness that I share this, my latest blog post about meeting a 15 year old rhino named Sheria in Ol Pejeta Conservancy. It is about the horror and reality of meeting a freshly butchered rhino face to face.

By taking James Mworia one of Kenya’s youngest entrepreneurs (Centum Investments), as well as CEO of Africa Air Rescue Jagi Gakunju, and other board members of Lewa to see, to smell and to feel Sheria in his death, I hope a seed of change has been sown. Sheria was one of two rhinos murdered this weekend.
We are now calling on His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta to declare Elephant and Rhinos National Treasures, and to take personal responsibility for the war against poachers and traffickers.
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/africa-wild/2014/mar/16/bloody-horror-of-rhino-poaching

Kenya: Wildlife Protection Can Bring Peace, Jobs

By Ambassador Robert F. Godec, The Star
3 March 2014

Protecting wildlife is a central challenge of our time. Far too many elephants, rhinos and other animals are dying at the hands of poachers. Just in the last year, poachers in Kenya alone killed hundreds of elephants for their ivory and at least 59 rhinos for their horns. Unless the carnage is stopped here and elsewhere, our children may be left with no more than photos of many magnificent species.

If we work together with creativity and determination, it doesn’t have to be this way. Last week in Nasuulu Community Conservancy, I saw first-hand one example of how hard work and commitment can protect wildlife while building peace and creating jobs. Communities can solve problems; I saw it happening in Nasuulu. After a day in Isiolo speaking with leaders and citizens, I was deeply impressed by what they had achieved. Thousands of people have better lives and new hope while many animals–including elephants, rhinos and the elegant Grevy’s zebra–are thriving. All as the result of local people coming together to make a difference.

The Nasuulu Community Conservancy is the newest of the 27 conservancies that form the Northern Rangelands Trust. The trust uses a community conservation model that brings together villages and groups historically at odds with one another in a democratic, multi-ethnic forum to manage their own resources. Everyone involved has a stake in the outcome of their conservation efforts. The model has been extraordinarily successful in a part of the country where a harsh environment and distance mean communities feel marginalized. Now local residents benefit from greater investment in the area and in turn feel less sidelined. When asked what this has brought to their communities, leaders answer, “peace, jobs and wildlife.”

Clearly community conservation is only one piece of the larger conservation effort in Kenya. The Kenya Wildlife Service and its dedicated employees are on the front line of safeguarding wildlife throughout the country, managing large tracts of protected land and fighting the scourge of poaching, occasionally at the tragic cost of their own lives. Their leadership is crucial to species protection in Kenya.

In addition to KWS, Kenya’s leaders and citizens are making important contributions. President Kenyatta signed the impressive Wildlife Conservation and Management Act in December. The new law stipulates serious punishments for poachers and allocates greater resources to the national parks and reserves. It will help Kenya end the terrible killing of elephants and rhinos. Civil society also plays a critical role in wildlife conservation in Kenya. NGOs, funded and staffed locally and internationally, contribute ideas, help with wildlife management and assist communities with conservation. Organizations such as Save the Elephants, which I also visited last week, are doing vitally important work. First Lady Margaret Kenyatta is making a difference through her support for such powerful initiatives as the “Hands Off Our Elephants” campaign.

The international community has also stepped up to help. President Obama has made the protection of wildlife a priority and conservation is a top goal of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya. The United States has long prohibited the import of ivory and we recently banned domestic commercial ivory sales. Last November, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service crushed six tons of ivory to demonstrate our commitment to end the ivory trade and draw attention to the seriousness of the elephant poaching problem.

Here in Nairobi, I meet frequently with government and KWS officials, with civil society and with other leaders in the wildlife conservation community. At the Embassy we created a task force to focus our assistance and ensure it has the greatest possible impact. Today, we provide support to community conservancies such as the Northern Rangelands Trust and training for both KWS and community conservancy rangers. These rangers risk their lives to protect Kenya’s wildlife and we want to ensure they are well-prepared and well-equipped for the task. Since 2004, the Embassy has spent Sh4.4 billion to help wildlife and communities in Kenya. And, last year, President Obama committed another Sh250 million to the effort. In the fight to protect wildlife, the United States is “all in.”

Of course, there remain tough challenges ahead. For example, we must find ways to reduce demand for ivory and rhino horn. Nevertheless, there is hope. During my visit to Nasuulu, I was impressed by the commitment of the community and how fully it understands the value of wildlife. The people of Nasuulu recognize how protecting animals can bring jobs, roads and schools where there were none before. They were grateful for the peace the conservancy has brought and value wildlife as part of their heritage. They are justly proud of what they are doing for themselves, and for the world.

Although it is not the answer for every problem, the community conservancy model is powerful. In making their community better and protecting our common heritage, the people of Nasuulu and the Northern Rangelands Trust have a lesson for all of us.

As a partner for 50 years, the United States is fully committed to working with Kenya on conservation. Together, by marshalling our resources and working creatively, I’m confident we can succeed and protect Kenya’s wonderful wildlife for future generations.

The author is the US envoy to Kenya.

Article at the following link:

http://allafrica.com/stories/201403031078.html?viewall=1

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Good news for Wildlife Conservation as DPP sets up Wildlife Crimes Unit in Kenya

March 3, 2014…
The Director of Public Prosecutions Mr Keriako Tobiko, has swiftly moved to boost the local wildlife and environmental conservation efforts by setting up a fully-fledged Wildlife Crimes Prosecution Unit.

The unit is, headed by the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Kioko Kamula, and is, mandated to provide prosecutorial services for all offences committed contrary to the recently enacted Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013. The unit comprises of 35 Prosecutors who have already undergone specialist training.

Officers drawn from the unit are also part of a team reviewing the new law on wildlife (Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013) and are, expected to propose suitable amendments to facilitate its efficient application.

Among other milestones, the new unit has already developed a rapid reference guide and model charge sheets on provisions of the law relating to wildlife offences.

“As the world celebrates the World Wildlife Day today, the ODPP wishes to reaffirm its commitment towards protection of our wildlife, which is our national heritage,” Tobiko said.

And added: “The DPP is fully committed to work with all state and non-state actors in the wildlife conservation and criminal justice sectors, to ensure that the law is robustly applied against offenders.We urge increased cooperation and support from all stakeholders and the wider public.”

 As part of the Wildlife Crimes Prosecution Unit’s role, the ODPP has also established a working committee with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to coordinate investigation and prosecution processes as well as conduct joint trainings.

 A standard operating procedure (SoP) manual for the prosecution of wildlife crimes has also been developed and shared with all stakeholders at the second National Dialogue on wildlife crimes.

 

Ends

Royal ivory: Why Prince William is right

Prince William’s announcement that he wants the royal family’s ivory to be destroyed is praiseworthy and shows his personal commitment to do everything he can to help save species threatened by wildlife crime. It is also the right thing to do.

This article examines some of the arguments for and against destroying ivory as part of the wider global strategy to save African elephants.

When Kenya became the first country to destroy ivory stockpiles by burning them in 1989, it was a hugely symbolic act that inspired the global ban in ivory trade the following year. This demonstration of commitment by an African nation played a key role in galvanising largely successful efforts to control elephant poaching over the next decade.

Now that elephants are once again threatened, William’s initiative – if carried out – could help focus the world’s attention on the problem in a similar way. The sight of arguably the world’s most famous family destroying its ivory collection would have a tremendous impact.

Two arguments have been made against the idea. The first objection is that it would be wrong to destroy works of art that are of beauty and cultural value. However, in emergency situations, it is often necessary to destroy things of value in order to achieve a more important objective: the surgeon amputates a diseased limb to save the patient; fire fighters cut down trees to contain a forest fire; nature reserve managers cull a species that is threatening the integrity of the ecosystem. Make no mistake: this is also an emergency. Within a few years, African elephants may well be all but extinct in the wild if no effective action is taken. So this first argument against destroying ivory only holds water if you believe that ivory artworks are more important than elephants. But by destroying works of art you are not destroying the culture that made them, nor the living cultural tradition that they inspire. If the African elephant becomes extinct it will be gone forever: the ecological, cultural, economic – and moral – loss to humanity would be incalculable.

The second argument is that destroying ivory would not help to save the elephants. This argument has to be taken seriously. The fact is that the complexity of the problem makes it hard to know whether any one action taken to resolve it will have the desired effect or not. Development agencies working to save human populations threatened by war and famine describe these situations as “complex emergencies”. They are complex because war, crime, hunger, disease and many other factors interact with each other in often unpredictable ways. This means that agencies have to take difficult decisions in conditions that are highly uncertain. They cannot always be sure, for example, that aid sent in to feed the hungry will not end up being used to buy arms.

The situation of animals threatened by wildlife crime in Africa today is also a complex emergency. The only difference is that the principal victims are not humans but animals. (Although there are also human victims, just as the environment is also a victim in human complex emergencies.) So there is a legitimate concern that destroying ivory will not have the desired effect, but rather serve to increase its value to criminals and thereby make poaching even more lucrative. It is true that our knowledge of what is driving the increased demand for ivory, especially from China, is insufficient. But the recent studies suggest that this fear is unfounded. The demand comes mainly from the “tuhao”, the wealthy middle class who are buying ivory as a long-term investment, just as they are also buying up huge quantities of gold.

Investors in China and elsewhere have to be persuaded that buying ivory is, firstly, morally wrong and, secondly, a bad investment. Prince William’s proposal would contribute to both of these aims. According to best-selling Kenyan author and environmentalist Kuki Gallman:

‘If to make ivory undesirable by putting a stigma on possessing and exhibiting ivory objects – however refined and precious they may be – is the ultimate aim, so as to stop the market that drives the killing, I cannot think of more powerful a gesture than destroying the royal ivory collection.’

In the medium term the aim should be to shut down the ivory market completely, so that it becomes impossible to buy or sell ivory legally anywhere in the world. To deter would-be investors, it is essential to send a clear signal that the ban on ivory trade is forever; which is why it is so important that countries like Tanzania and Botswana that have announced temporary bans on ivory trade extend them and make them permanent. This measure would not deter organise criminals of course, but it would discourage otherwise law-abiding citizens from investing their savings in ivory and result in a huge decrease in global demand.

So bring on the bonfire of royal ivory in front of Buckingham Palace. Better still, why not give other UK institutions and ordinary citizens the chance to demonstrate their support by adding their own ivory to the pyre?

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/africa-wild/2014/feb/19/royal-ivory-prince-william-destruction

Death of Torn Ear, one of Kenya’s Big Bulls

This message is from one our colleagues and partners Richard Bonham of Big Life Foundation.
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Sorry …. We have some very bad and sad news to report.  Torn Ear, one of our classic Chyulu bulls is dead.
I first saw Torn Ear in the early 90′S on the eastern border of Mbirikani, already then a muture bull. When we started putting down water at the lodge in late nineties he became one of the resident bulls and over time was so trusting and habituated to people that one could almost touch him. Torn ear, as with the other resident bulls here, generally spend most of the dry season in the Ol Donyo Wuas / El Mau area,  then when the rains came, disperse to other areas. Initially we had no idea where they moved to in the rains untill Mike Branham, very generously donated 3 GPS collars and which he helped us deploy.  The data they generated was invaluable and showed  that most of the bulls would disperse into the Northern end of the Chyulu National Park, and sometimes even as far as Kiboko, close to the Nairobi Mombasa highway. This area we have always considered one of the danger zones for poaching as it is close to settlement and has easy access for poachers.
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To cut a long story short Torn Ear, together with some other bulls have been in the North Chyulu more or less since the rains started in December.  We kept keep track on him through his collar and various Ranger units would patrol the area, keeping a security presence and generally keeping an eye on them. Three days ago he reappeared at the Ol Donyo water point but nobody noticed two small weeping wounds just behind his rib cage.  Then by luck I spotted him and noticed his gait was wrong and saw the tell tale wounds on his stomach, in exactly the killing zone targeted by poison arrow poachers.
Fearing the worst I contacted Angela Sheldrick who immediately put me in contact with the KWS/Sheldrick Mobile Vet Unit based in Tsavo led by Doctor Poghorn ,who over the years has come to treat  many injured animals in our area of operation. I flew to Tsavo at first light, collected Poghorn, and by 10 o’clock the dart went in to immobilize Torn Ear. He went down fast and immediately  Poghorn made incisions over the wounds to remove the arrow heads.  As he cut deeper I could see from the expression on his face that things were not looking good, then there was no escaping the reality, the arrows had penetrated into the abdominal cavity and peritonitis had set in, which meant there was no hope for survival.  To  alleviate suffering Torn Ear was then euthanized.
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So yesterday we lost an iconic Elephant, one of the few left on the continent whose tusks passthe 100 pound mark, I also think of him as  friend of 2O years and emotions are running deep, as we failed in our mission to protect him. But  the greatest sadness is the reality that Torn ear was probably one of a hundred or so Elephant that died yesterday to feed the ivory trade.
Richard Bonham
Executive Director

Robert Nimkoff races in Rolex 24 for WildlifeDirect

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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Contacts: John Heminway / Matthew Ambroziak

Email: john.heminway@wildlifedirect.org /paula@wildlifedirect.org/ matt@trg-amr.com

Phone: 917-842-9799 /336.517.6936

Date: January 22, 2014

MOTOR SPORTS CHAMPION ROBERT NIMKOFF DEDICATES WORLD FAMOUS ENDURANCE RACE TO SAVING ELEPHANTS IN AFRICA

Daytona 22 January 2014: It may seem like a wild and crazy idea, but motor sports racer Robert Nimkoff will be racing for elephants on the 25th of January at the 52nd Anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona. This will be the first time that Nimkoff has dedicated a race to an animal cause. Through the race, Nimkoff will be drawing attention to the crisis facing African elephants. It is estimated that nearly 100 of these magnificent creatures are gunned down each day for their tusks to supply ivory markets in China, Thailand and even the USA. Unless the killing ends, elephants will be gone from the wild in 10 years.

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Nimkoff is partnering with Kenya-based WildlifeDirect, a conservation organization that has launched the campaign “HANDS OFF OUR ELEPHANTS”, with the First Lady of Kenya Margaret Kenyatta as patron. African motor sports enthusiasts, along with millions of others worldwide, will be eagerly watching this world famous endurance race. Make sure to pay close attention to the black TRG-Aston Martin Racing car number 009 with Nimkoff behind the wheel.

“I am so outraged that elephants are being gunned down for their two front teeth so that people around the world can have ivory trinkets, that I just have to do something. Elephants are like humans: intelligent, compassionate and family oriented. By partnering with WildlifeDirect, I hope that I can raise awareness and support from my fans and fellow drivers to help to save elephants” said Nimkoff.

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WildlifeDirect has achieved national and international fame through its campaign HANDS OFF OUR ELEPHANTS, which has already resulted in the Kenyan leadership enacting new laws that will send poachers and ivory dealers to jail for life. As a partner of the Clinton Global initiative, WildlifeDirect is working closely with Kenyan authorities, the private sector and other conservation organizations to end the illegal trade in ivory, which is a multi-billion dollar business involving criminal cartels and may be linked to terrorism groups including Joseph Kony and Al Shabaab. The poaching of elephants is contributing to local conflicts and international insecurity, as well as posing a threat to the large job-creating tourism business in Kenya and other African countries.

John Heminway, Chairman of WildlifeDirect, says: “Elephants have this incredible knack of bringing unlikely people together. We are truly honored that Robert Nimkoff has chosen to support WildlifeDirect. Through this history-making race he will bring much needed attention to the American public and the world about how they can help end the crisis in Africa.”

About WildlifeDirect: Founded by world famous paleoanthropologist and conservationist Dr. Richard Leakey in 2004. The Chairman is National Geographic award-winning documentary maker John Heminway. His recent film “Battle for the Elephants” revealed the scale of the demand for ivory in China, and won Best Conservation Film award at the 2013 Jackson Hole Film Festival. The Executive Director is Kenyan elephant expert Dr. Paula Kahumbu. WildlifeDirect is a 501(c)3 registered charity and is based in Nairobi, Kenya. The Hands Off Our Elephants Campaign was launched in July 2013.

To find out more go to wildlifedirect.org or Hands Off Our Elephants on FB. # # #

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Dr. Paula Kahumbu at paula@wildlifedirect.org

Lemi & Tito

We are happy to bring you a preview of the first in a series of animated cartoons about Lemi the boy hero, and Tito his elephant friend.

Lemi is a boy who discovers his voice in a series of adventure across Africa to save his father from poachers. He is no ordinary village kid, he’s the first generation lap top kid in Kenya, and he uses the best of traditional knowledge and values, and combines it with technology in a beautiful and inspiring tale by Dr. Paula Kahumbu and illustrated by Chief Nyamweya and his amazing team of animators at Tsunami Studios.

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YouTube DirektThe Adventures of Lemi and Tito

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. 

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Hillary and Chelsea Clinton unveil $80m effort to fight illegal ivory trade

***NEWS RELEASE***

WildlifeDirect & Conservation Partners  Announce Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action:

Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants

CEO Dr. Paula Kahumbu represents Kenya’s “Hands Off Our Elephants” Campaign in Meeting with Hillary & Chelsea Clinton

 Commitment’s Goal: Stop the Killing, Stop the Trafficking,Stop the Demand

 Commitment Makers include: Wildlife Conservation Society,African Wildlife Foundation, Conservation International, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and World Wildlife Fund

 Commitment Partners: African Parks Network, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Frankfurt Zoological Society, Freeland Foundation, Howard Buffett Foundation, International Conservation Caucus Foundation, National Geographic, Save the Elephants, TRAFFIC, WildAid and WildlifeDirect

 Nations joining in commitment include: Botswana, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, South Sudan, Malawi, and Uganda

 

NEW YORK (Sept. 26, 2013) – Conservation groups announced today a three-year $80 million Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action to stop the slaughter of Africa’s elephants, decimated due to poaching for ivory.  Dr. Paula Kahumbu, CEO of WildlifeDirect, met with former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea, of the Clinton Foundation. “We are proud to join forces with these two formidable women who are dedicating real commitment and power to this cause,” Kahumbu said; “It is notable that Hillary herself raised the issue of the connection between the slaughter of elephants and the slaughter of humans by terrorist groups who fund their attacks by this greed. I only regret that President and First Lady of Kenya could not be here because of the tragedy in Nairobi, but am proud Africa was well represented at this table.”

The Commitment Makers and their partners commit to funding and facilitating partnerships to advance a new three-pronged strategy that will catalyze a global movement to coordinate and leverage influence, constituencies, and resources to protect key elephant populations from poaching while reducing trafficking and demand for ivory. Funding for this commitment has been provided by myriad public and private sources, including U.S., European, and African governments; along with multi-lateral institutions, foundations, and concerned individuals. Nations joining in the commitment include: Botswana, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, South Sudan, Malawi, and Uganda.

These funds will be used to support national governments to scale up anti-poaching enforcement at the 50 priority elephant sites including hiring and supporting an additional 3,100 park guards.  In addition, anti-trafficking efforts will be increased by strengthening intelligence networks and penalties for violations and adding training and sniffer dog teams at 10 key transit points.  New demand reduction efforts will be implemented in 10 consumer markets over the next three years.

 Further, leaders from African nations led a call for other countries to adopt trade moratoria on all commercial ivory imports, exports and domestic sales of ivory products until African elephant populations are no longer threatened by poaching.

The commitment was announced at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting underway in New York City. CGI’s 2013 theme, Mobilizing for Impact, explores ways that CGI members and member organizations can be more effective in leveraging individuals, partner organizations, and key resources in their commitment efforts.

Today’s announcement is the culmination of work by Secretary Clinton while serving as Secretary of State, as well as Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton’s engagement, who visited conservation sites on a trip with the Clinton Foundation to Africa this summer. Together, they have convened the NGO’s and nations to ensure rapid progress to a solution to prevent the extinction of Africa’s elephants and the proliferation of the violence caused by the criminal syndicates wiping out the elephants.

In addition to the funds already committed, the partnership urgently seeks additional partners to provide $70 million in financial or in-kind support over the next three years to reverse the decline of Africa’s elephants.

African elephants are being lost at an unprecedented rate, and the demand for ivory shows no decline. Tens of thousands of elephants are being killed illegally each year across Africa with some 35,000 lost in 2012 alone.

In addition to uniting national leaders and concerned groups and citizens, the commitment will focus attention on the national and global security implications of wildlife trafficking. As one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, valued at $7-10 billion annually, illegal wildlife trade ranks fifth globally in terms of value, behind the trafficking in drugs, people, oil and counterfeiting. Notorious extremist groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army, the janjaweed, and al-Shabaab poach ivory to fund terror operations.

Commitment Makers include: Wildlife Conservation Society, African Wildlife Foundation, Conservation International, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and World Wildlife Fund.

Commitment Partners are African Parks Network, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Frankfurt Zoological Society, Freeland Foundation, Howard Buffett Foundation, International Conservation Caucus Foundation, National Geographic, Save the Elephants, TRAFFIC, WildAid and WildlifeDirect.

The commitment runs through 2016 and addresses the problem on three fronts: stop the killing; stop the trafficking; and stop the demand:

Stop the Killing: The Commitment will scale up “on the ground” anti-poaching enforcement in African range states to reduce the amount of illegally killed elephants to below 50 percent.

NGO partners will support government efforts to scale up law enforcement in and around 50 key protected areas in Africa that together harbor approximately 285,000 elephants, or some two-thirds of the entire African population. NGO partners pledge to support the anti-poaching efforts of over 5,000 park guards at these sites.  Partners project that this investment will reduce the average percentage of illegally killed elephants (PIKE) across these sites from 66 percent to 48 percent, with elephant population decline halted in about half of the 50 sites (PIKE less than 50 percent).  Thus this effort will take the commitment halfway to its ultimate goal, reversing the decline in Africa’s elephants.

Stop the Trafficking: Partner NGOs will support governments in identifying and implementing priority actions to combat trafficking in ivory.  A complimentary range of urgent actions will be used to strengthen enforcement capacity at ports and markets; increase intelligence-led crackdowns on illicit networks; secure ivory stockpiles, and reform laws and penalties can be tailored to rapidly reduce trafficking.

This commitment includes an African government led call for other countries to adopt trade moratoria on all commercial ivory imports, exports and domestic sales of ivory products until African elephant populations are no longer threatened by poaching. Government partners will initiate and support an African range state-led call to other range, transit and consumer countries to declare or restate domestic moratoria on all ivory and ivory product sales and purchases.

The partners commit to helping governments to reduce the number of large scale ivory shipments by 50 percent from 2011 baseline levels (the worst year on record for these ivory seizures) and extrapolating for changes in enforcement effort. In addition, the partners will work with governments to improve the potential detection and prosecution of illegal ivory trade by increasing the number of law enforcement officers and judiciary trained in Africa and Asia by 50 percent compared to 2011 levels by 2016.

Stop the Demand: The Commitment will target key consumer markets to increase awareness about poaching and illegal ivory trade, including generating 10 million actions taken via social media platforms to reduce ivory consumption and highlight the impact of ivory sales on the African elephant.

NGOs will use increased awareness to drive behavioral changes that will reduce consumption as well as result in “grassroots” political pressure on the governments of key consumer countries.  Partners will work together to reduce the demand for ivory among potential consumers by both increasing awareness of the issues and providing mechanisms for civil society to take action. Partners pledge to take action, both individually and collectively, to reduce the stated intention to purchase ivory by at least 25 percent in key markets by the end of 2016 as measured by market research conducted at regular intervals throughout the duration of the commitment. This will be achieved by producing awareness content/materials and improving penalties and prosecutions that will spur behavior change and/or online action in key consumer countries. To measure success, standardized, replicable, scalable public opinion polls and surveys will be conducted within priority consumer countries.

Wildlife Conservation Society President and CEO Cristián Samper said: “On behalf of all the NGO partners involved in this initiative, I’m proud to announce that the Wildlife Conservation Society and their partners commit to providing $80 million over the next year to protect elephant populations by stopping the killing of elephants, stopping the trafficking in ivory, and stopping the demand for ivory across the world. We thank the Clinton Global Initiative, Sec. Clinton and Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton for helping to convene all the partners and for their long-time dedication to end this crisis. I know, together, we can move beyond extinction stats to the solutions to save elephants.”

African Wildlife Foundation CEO Patrick Bergin said: “We cannot hope to reverse the dramatic decline in elephant populations in Africa without addressing all three parts of the problem: the poaching of elephants on the ground in Africa, the global trafficking of ivory, and the insatiable demand by consumers for ivory products. This joint Commitment to Action demonstrates how much the resolution of this crisis relies on the coordination of efforts by multiple parties, from conservation organizations to governments around the world. African Wildlife Foundation thanks the Clinton Global Initiative for providing all of us with an opportunity to elevate the visibility of this crisis, and we personally thank Sec. Clinton and Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton for shining a spotlight on Africa’s elephants.”

Conservation International’s Co-founder, Chairman and CEO, Peter Seligmann, said: “We applaud the Clinton Global Initiative for bringing this issue to the world stage, and greatly appreciate the deep and sustained personal involvement of Secretary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, as well as that of our NGO, Foundation and government partners. Wildlife trafficking is directly connected to the global economy and security. It weakens ecosystems, fuels terrorist organizations, and threatens livelihoods. Conservation International is proud to be a part of this Commitment to Action, as it is in all of our enlightened self-interests to put an end to this deadly trade.”

Azzedine Downes, IFAW President and CEO, said:  “The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) committed to this partnership from the outset because it represents the kind of large-scale and strategic collaboration it will take to save African elephants.  Animal welfare and conservation organizations, range states and consumer countries, law enforcement and communities that live around the elephants—we all need to work together on a common plan if there is to be any hope of success.”

Carter Roberts, President & CEO of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said: “We know how to solve this crisis. What’s been missing is a united front from governments, NGOs and the private sector to scale up resources to stop the killing and crush the demand. Look at what has been done with conflict diamonds and fur from endangered species. The more people are aware of the consequences of what they buy, it changes what they do. We need to do the same with elephant ivory and rhino horn and tiger bone.  What person would buy these things if they knew they slaughtered the most magnificent animals in the world?  Because when people buy parts of these animals, they are contributing to the catastrophic killing taking place right now.”

Increasing consumer demand for ivory, particularly in Asia, is causing the price of ivory to skyrocket and is driving elephant poaching. Today’s ivory traffickers are primarily well-organized syndicates that operate as transnational criminal networks and often participate in other illegal activities, including trafficking in narcotics and weapons, and with links to terrorist networks. The poachers not only threaten the lives of elephants, but at least 1,000 park rangers have been killed in the line of duty over the past ten years, as they try to protect elephants and other wildlife.

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About the Clinton Global Initiative
Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an initiative of Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 150 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date CGI members have made more than 2,300 commitments, which are already improving the lives of more than 400 million people in over 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued at $73.5 billion. CGI also convenes CGI America, a meeting focused on collaborative solutions to economic recovery in the United States, and CGI University (CGI U), which brings together undergraduate and graduate students to address pressing challenges in their community or around the world, and, this year, CGI Latin America, which will bring together Latin American leaders to identify, harness, and strengthen ways to improve the livelihoods of people in Latin America and around the world. For more information, visit clintonglobalinitiative.org and follow us on Twitter @ClintonGlobal and Facebook at facebook.com/clintonglobalinitiative.

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