Tag Archives: KWS

China MUST act, but AFRICA take the lead to stop ivory trade

China must act, but Africa take the lead to stop ivory trade

By Paula Kahumbu with Andrew Hallyday

 

Workers destroy confiscated ivory in Dongguan, southern Guangdong province, China, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. Photograph: Vincent Yu/AP

Workers destroy confiscated ivory in Dongguan, southern Guangdong province, China, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. Photograph: Vincent Yu/AP

 

A major new study provides disturbing proof that the crisis facing African elephants is even worse than people imagined, driven by the exploding trade in illegal ivory in China.

The study, written by ivory market researchers Lucy Vigne and Esmond Martin, and funded by Save the Elephants (STE) and the Aspinall Foundation, found that skyrocketing demand for ivory in China has sparked a booming trade in smuggled ivory. There are ever greater numbers of items on sale, carving factories, and legal and illegal retail outlets.

The expanding legal trade provides a perfect cover for laundering vast quantities of illegal ivory. The Chinese government is taking some measures to control the illegal ivory market, but it’s not doing enough. The situation is currently out of control.

The study concludes: “without China’s leadership in ending demand for ivory Africa’s elephants could disappear from the wild within a generation.”

This conclusion seems self evident. In fact this point has been made time and again. For example, an article published in Time magazine almost exactly a year ago concluded that if the Chinese authorities don’t act fast, we could be heading toward a future without elephants.

In the run-up to London summit on wildlife crime in February, I wrote “all eyes are on China” and in the aftermath suggested that we are losing to battle to save wildlife because “western leaders … don’t have the guts to take on China”.

What’s depressing is that so little has changed, despite the impassioned rhetoric of world leaders, high profile campaigns celebrities and British royals, and the sterling efforts of campaigning organisations like STE. To make change happen I suggest we need to challenge the notion of “China’s leadership” on two counts.

First, although Chinese action is essential to save Africa’s elephants, the leadership should come from Africa. While China may face a “conservation challenge” as stated in the title of the report, it is Africa’s elephants that are facing extinction.

 

Young demonstrators sit with a placard as they prepare to take part in the “Global March for Elephants and Rhinos” in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP

Young demonstrators sit with a placard as they prepare to take part in the “Global March for Elephants and Rhinos” in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP

Unfortunately, despite growing civil society engagement with wildlife issues, so far few African leaders have demonstrated they are serious about taking action. One of them, President Khama of Botswana, recently asked me, despairingly: “Where is the pride of Africa? Why aren’t we setting the agenda here? It is we who have the elephants.”

A recent Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) report made some highly publicised claims about involvement of visiting Chinese officials in ivory smuggling out of Tanzania. These claims were furiously – and unconvincingly – denied by Chinese authorities. What got less publicity was the much longer part of the EIA report analysing ingrained institutional corruption in Tanzania and the complicity of Tanzanian authorities in the illegal ivory trade.

Africans will not have the political or moral authority to make demands on the Chinese until we put our own house in order.

Secondly we have to stop thinking about “China” as a monolith – a single actor in the unfolding drama.

China is a highly complex society. The dynamic of ivory trade is driven by interactions among a wide range of actors. Political leaders, government officials, organised criminals, consumers and civil society organisations all contribute to the illegal ivory trade and attempts to control it in different ways. We need to understand their roles and target our actions and campaigns accordingly.

For example, was the ivory spending spree by the Chinese delegation in Tanzania sanctioned ‘from above’ or was it a case of lower-level officials getting out of control? In the first case, a high level diplomatic protest might be in order. But in the second case it might be more effective to engage with Chinese civil society organizations already combating corrupts officials at home.

Consumers who purchase ivory are also driven by different motives. The report suggests that “investors banking on continued rises in the price of ivory appear to be a significant factor in the recent boom, rather than buyers of traditional ivory carvings”.

This is important information. Buyers of handicrafts might well be swayed by awareness raising campaigns, but law enforcement is likely to be a more effective strategy against unscrupulous investors – and of course also against the organised crime networks that supply them.

Let’s be clear: China is also a highly centralised society. If the Chinese nation is contributing to the ongoing extinction of Africa’s elephants – as it is – the Chinese government deserves the lion’s share of the blame.

But, here again, we need to understand China better in order to know the best way to the influence Chinese authorities. China’s leaders are sensitive to pressure from foreign governments— and the hard evidence of reports by organizations like STE and EIA. It was notable that the first online report I found of the press conference in Nairobi today to launch the report was a long article in the South China Morning Post.

But Chinese authorities are also sensitive to pressure from an increasing confident civil society inside China. A recent visit to China by two young African activists, Christopher Kiarie of WildlifeDirect and Resson Kantai of STE, provided encouraging evidence of the potential for linkages between African and Chinese civil society organizations, to work together to increase pressure on the Chinese government to change.

A joined-up strategy led by Africans at all levels of society offers the best chance of success in these desperate times.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/africa-wild/2014/dec/09/china-must-act-but-africa-take-the-lead-in-stopping-ivory-trade

 

KEEP TIM ALIVE

Keep Tim Alive
An encounter with a wounded tusker reminds me that saving elephants is the only true measure of success of our campaigns

Tim, one of the world's largest Tuskers

Tim, one of the world’s largest Tuskers

Photograph: John Heminway/WildlifeDirect
Amboseli, Kenya, 7 November 2014.

We are sitting in the beautiful Tortillis camp overlooking the wide savannah. Just as we are about to move on to another item on the agenda, Scott Asen, one of our newest board members, consults his phone and announces: “Tim just sent me a text. He’s waiting. I think we should go now.” Words said in jest that had a profound meaning for all of us present.

Tim is one of the world’s biggest tuskers and his home is Amboseli. Like other bull elephants he leads a nomadic life, roaming far and wide across the vast national park and beyond. We felt blessed that he had shown up on this particular day. After two days of hard work and important progress for elephant conservation we felt Tim was here to say “thank you”. But what we saw shocked us to the core. Tim had not come to say thank you, he was pleading with us: “Help me.”

The WildlifeDirect Board of 14 extraordinary men and women from USA, UK and Kenya had met less than 24 hours earlier with Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, the First Lady of Kenya, and with Judi Wakhungu, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources.

We presented the successes of the Hands Off Our Elephants Campaign, launched by WildlifeDirect a year ago, in bringing together Kenyans from all walks of life to stand up for elephants and wildlife, and lobbying governments worldwide to take action against the international crime cartels behind the poaching crisis that is threatening Africa’s elephants.

Then we heard about the ministry’s successes in passing new laws and strengthening the protection agencies, and about the many challenges remaining. And then at the most unexpected moment, the usually shy and withdrawn First Lady stepped up to agree to a raft of requests: for her to spearhead the replication of the campaign across Africa, and for Kenya’s elephants and rhinos to be declared national treasures.

She also supported our call for a Kenyan national Wildlife Festival to enlist all sectors of society in wildlife conservation efforts. Everything was going swimmingly, and then the First Lady turned to ask: “But why aren’t you guys working together?” I felt busted and immediately agreed to work with Judi to assemble an independent team of experts to conduct a national assessment of Kenya’s elephants and rhinos.

As we left the meeting The First Lady hugged me and said: “Don’t ever give up, you must fight on”. I left State House on a cloud, and things got better as the day progressed.

That evening we celebrated the achievements of the first year of the campaign with supporters and partners in government and beyond. Our Facebook page described the “colour and pomp, smiles and hugs” of the Hands Off Our Elephants first birthday party.

The US Ambassador Bob Godec brought some members of the audience to tears with a powerful speech from the heart. He said it was not just his job to help us save elephants, but also a deeply held personal conviction.

Our keynote speaker, the Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga, remembered the first day he ‘met’ me through what he described as the first of a series of “angry emails”. I had been going to court, and was appalled to see how ivory poachers and traffickers were being let off. The emails were to tell him just how diabolical it all was. He gave WildlifeDirect permission to continue our hard-hitting approach: “Don’t stop being angry.”

Fast forward, and the next evening we are all sitting atop of Land Rovers, off-road somewhere in Amboseli National Park. It is dense palm thicket and we can hear branches cracking. Tim is near. Then we see a monumental trunk above the palms, reaching high into the branches. It is only when we drive around to get a full view that we see the magnificence of his full body and his gigantic tusks.

It is 4.50 pm and the sun is gleaming on his ivory. An audible “aaaaaahhh” emanates from all of us. Tim is truly spectacular. Then Tim notices us and turns. It is as if he is hiding that which we find so beautiful, which too many Chinese are addicted to, and which translates to dollar signs for greedy poachers.

We sit quietly contemplating the giant Tim. I am acutely aware that it is very strange for this elephant I know so well to be so shy. He is usually proud and confident, and loves attention and cameras. And then the bombshell, as we see the sore his left flank, where blood and white clumps of puss are oozing out. This is why Tim is acting so strangely. He is in great pain.

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Hands Off Our Elephants Campaign material was already calling to “Keep Tim Alive” before he was found injured in November 2014. Photograph: John Heminway/WildlifeDirect

Majestic Tim is injured. We can only speculate about recent events, that Tim has possibly been speared by someone from the local community. He may have threatened farmers, or perhaps a poacher was after him.

All of us sit in our own silence as we watch Tim for over an hour. Then Tim steps out in front of us and walks amongst us, but his walk is strained. I cannot describe the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I feel so helpless, but also chastened. We have been celebrating the successes of our campaign, but what right do we have to celebrate when poaching and human-wildlife conflict still threaten elephants every day?

Within seconds the purpose of WildlifeDirect is suddenly vivid. Kenya has already lost two iconic tuskers, Satao and Mountain Bull, this year. Hands Off Our Elephants was already campaigning to Keep Tim Alive. Now he needs our help.

In minutes we have a plan to give the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) 25 thousand US dollars to to monitor and protect Tim 24/7. We call Julius Cheptei, the KWS Assistant Director, and he agrees to assign a vet to the case immediately.

As we leave Tim, the six other bulls that make up his escort are walking off towards the edge of the park. We follow them for a short while, and see they are heading towards some local settlements. I am not worried. It’s their normal routine and the communities here are usually very tolerant of elephants.

But Tim does not follow. He stays 200 meters behind and then peels off towards the centre of the swamp. He is not going to put himself at risk again.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/africa-wild/2014/nov/09/keep-tim-alive

New Chairman for WildlifeDirect Kenya

Press Statement
14 November 2014, Nairobi
Philip Murgor is Appointed as the new Chairman of WildlifeDirect Kenya
The Board of Directors of WildlifeDirect is happy to announce the appointment of Philip Murgor as the new Chairman of the board of WildlifeDirect Kenya.
Murgor’s appointment was made at a board meeting held at the Amboseli National Park in early November 2014. The international board was in Kenya to mark the first anniversary of WildlifeDirect’s flagship campaign, Hands Off Our Elephants.
This appointment will greatly strengthen the organisation, given his wealth of experience gained over two decades, working in both local and international litigation, serving as formerly as a State Counsel, as Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecutions and currently as the managing partner of Murgor and Murgor Advocates.
WildlifeDirect is committed and dedicated to changing laws and people’s behaviour and attitudes related to wildlife crime in Kenya and throughout Africa. In the last year, WildlifeDirect, through its Hands Off Our Elephants campaign, was in the forefront in championing the passing into law of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013. Currently, the organisation is conducting a study into the enforceability of the new law in relation to wildlife trafficking crimes in Kenya.
Philip Murgor’s contribution towards this end will not only be felt in Kenya but across the entire African continent where the Hands Off our Elephants campaign will go to.
Other members of the Kenyan board include development expert Irungu Houghton and Ali Daud Mohamed, the Climate Change Advisor in the office of the Deputy President.
The First Lady Margaret Kenyatta is the patron of the Hands Off Our Elephants campaign, launched to advocate for the protection of remaining elephant populations.

For More Information, Please contact CEO of WildlifeDirect Dr Paula Kahumbu on 0722 685 106 or the Communications Manager Bertha Kang’ong’oi on 0720 712 730

HANDS OFF OUR ELEPHANTS CAMPAIGN

OVERVIEW OF THE CHALLENGE
During the past 10 years there has been an unprecedented growth in the illegal ivory markets and in 2011, the poaching of elephants in Africa reached a ten year record[i] with more than 25,000 elephants illegally killed[ii], corresponding with an all-time record of 38.8 tons of ivory seized[1]. Simultaneously, the price of ivory exploded from US$150/kg to over US$1,000/kg between 2008 and 2012. Importantly, the illegal ivory trade is believed to be financing local conflicts and international terrorism[2] through Al Qaeda’s Somali wing, Al Shabaab[3], the Lord’s Resistance Army[4] and Sudan’s Janjaweed. Further, the escalation of elephant poaching has rendered large parts of Eastern and Central Africa insecure for all, including poor and vulnerable rural communities and key income and job sectors, like tourism[5].

This massive growth in the illegal ivory markets grew in response to rising affluence in China’s middle class who demand and use ivory for artifacts as status symbols. This demand is fuelled through poor controls of domestic markets in China and other Asian countries, allowing illegal ivory to be laundered through legal domestic markets and exacerbated by the simultaneous presence of China in Africa as a development and trade partner – with hundreds of thousands of Chinese immigrants now operating in Kenya and millions across the continent.
This ivory trade is driven by criminal cartels threatening not only elephants and other species, but also people, their livelihoods, management of natural resources, the tourism sector (second biggest contributor at 12% of GDP) and local and national security. In recent speeches US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, stated that wildlife trafficking has serious implications for the security and prosperity of people around the world and it needs to be addressed through partnerships as robust as the criminal networks themselves[6]. She noted that governments, civil society, businesses, scientists and activists must work together in educating people about the whole-scale devastation caused by wildlife trafficking.

KENYA’S POSITION
Kenya traditionally has been on the front lines in combating elephant poaching in Africa and has been a leading voice on elephant conservation through various international conventions including CITES, the Convention on Biodiversity, the Convention on Migratory species and others. Despite these commitments, the current response of the Kenyan government to the crisis continues to falter and is wholly inadequate for the size of the problem. The combination of corruption and weak domestic wildlife laws means that Kenya has now become the second largest transiting country for illegal ivory in Africa, second only to Tanzania. Moreover, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda alone now account for nearly 70% of the illegal ivory flowing out of Africa. At the recently concluded CITES conference, the member nations put eight (8) countries (Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and China), on notice to put an action plan in place to deal with the elephant poaching and ivory trading crisis, otherwise they will suffer sanctions stopping all wildlife trade, legal or illegal. Kenya’s leading role and voice in conservation has been undermined by this recent incident.

WILDLIFE DIRECT’S RESPONSE
In response to this double-edged crisis, Wildlife Direct (see annex) has launched a Kenyan (with the option of replicating it to other African countries), multi-strand strategy to combat the key issues and challenges:

WildlifeDirect is a Kenyan NGO and US registered 501(c) (3) organization founded in 2006 by Kenyan conservationist Dr Richard Leakey, who is credited with putting an end to the elephant slaughter in Kenya in the 1980s and delivering an international ban on ivory trade. WildlifeDirect is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. WildlifeDirect was conceived as an online platform that promotes conservation of Africa’s spectacular wildlife by building an online community of supporters for conservationists at the frontline in Africa. Realizing, that our work, while effective, was inadequate to halt the emerging crises facing Africa’s elephants and other wildlife, WildlifeDirect has now re-positioned itself as Africa’s foremost campaigning organization for wildlife conservation. Hands Off Our Elephants, our flagship campaign comprises a winning combination of expertise including, wildlife ecologists, communications, law, politics, media, strategists, and linguists, making us bold, influential, and successful. This African led initiative is supported Kenya’s First Lady, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta as patron. The campaign has already won international recognition for creating public awareness and driving legal reforms in Kenya and East Africa. WLD partners with civil society, government agencies and is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative on elephants.

Our goal is to demonstrate excellence in Kenya, a country formerly renowned for it’s conservation successes and now reputed to be amongst the worlds most complicit in the illegal trafficking of ivory. We deliver political support for a strategy that achieves excellence in law enforcement through deterrent penalties combined with high probability of being arrested, excellent prosecutions, and fair trials.

We have secured success by mobilizing the public and drawing attention to key concerns.

To secure lasting results we seek ultimately to change the culture and therefore behavior of all Kenyans, and thereby also alter the global view of Kenya and thus attract support to enforce the national strategy for combatting international wildlife crime. Kenya’s success will only be secured if similar changes occur in the region – thus ultimately the outcome of this campaign must be replicated.

How We Work:
WildlifeDirect has an Africa focus with Kenya as the launch pad for its activities.

WildlifeDirect’s main strengths are:-

1. WildlifeDirect has relationships with multi-levels of Kenyan and international society across a diverse range of interests and entities, e.g., international NGOs, government authorities, management bodies, civil society groups, grass-root communities and their constituencies.
2. High-level international profile and combined expertise of the founder Dr. Richard Leakey, board members John Heminway, Philip Murgor, Irungu Houghton, Ali Mohamed, and Executive Director Dr. Paula Kahumbu.
3. High level of expertise through a diverse professional board, advisers, and consultants and a talented, committed staff.
5. WildlifeDirect plays a prominent leadership role in the non-governmental arena – including wildlife, environment, development, legal, tourism, conservation, and education.
6. WildlifeDirect has a proven track record of provoking action in conservation at governmental, intergovernmental and international levels.
7. WildlifeDirect’s visibility in traditional media (television, radio and newspapers), and innovative use of new media e.g. the internet to tell stories from the conservation ‘frontline’, raise awareness of crises and causing urgent actions to be instigated.

WildlifeDirect’s ability to mobilize African and international action in support of wildlife conservation.

[1] T. Milliken, R. B. (2012). The elephant Trade Information System and illicit trade in Ivory: Report to CITES Cop 16. TRAFFIC.

[2] Puhl, H. K. (2012, September 13). Brutal Elephant Slaughter Funds African Conflicts. Retrieved from Spiegel: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/blood-ivory-brutal-elephant-slaughter-funds-african-conflicts-a-855237.html

[3] Gathura, G. (2012, December). Poachers funding Al-Shabaab, reveals KWS. Retrieved from Horn portal: http://horn.so/poachers-funding-al-shabaab-reveals-kws

[4] Witcher, T. (2012, December 19). LRA poaching ivory as Kony hunt intensifies. Retrieved from Reuters: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hcUql6ZHKSL2vxBmQ4QKuRo1ITaQ?docId=CNG.c60aa170c84f09544220fe3d340f8b33.31

[5] Goldenberg, S. (2012). http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/08/us-intelligence-wildlife-poachers. London: The Guardian.

[6] Clinton, Hilary. Remarks at the Partnership Meeting on Wildlife Trafficking. 8th November 2012

V I C TO R Y!!!

96E

 

The New York State Legislature stood up for elephants!
They passed a bill banning the sale and purchase of ivory and rhino horn.

We are so grateful to all of you for being a true coalition and supporting the efforts in New York with dedication and perseverance.

We look forward to working with you to make this a reality in all 50 states!

Kate Fitzgerald
Strategic Partnerships
96 Elephants
Wildlife Conservation Society

Kenya’s biggest elephant killed by poachers

By Paula Kahumbu

Satao, the world's biggest elephant, with his family in the Tsavo East National Park in Kenya. Photograph: © Mark Deeble & Victoria Stone 2014

Satao, the world’s biggest elephant, with his family in the Tsavo East National Park in Kenya. Photograph: © Mark Deeble & Victoria Stone 2014

It is 4 am and I have been sitting at my computer for hours. I just can’t sleep after hearing the terrible news that Satao, the world’s biggest elephant, is dead

Satao lived in Tsavo East National park in southeast Kenya and was celebrated as one of the last surviving great tuskers, bearers of genes that produce bull elephants with huge tusks reaching down to the ground. This news follows hard on the heels of the slaughter of another legendary tusker, Mountain Bull, deep inside the forests of Mt. Kenya .

Of all the elephants that have died in Kenya, these deaths are the hardest to bear. The grief in Kenya at the slaughter of our iconic elephants is translating into floods of tears, emotional poems, and outrage on Twitter and Facebook.

I had suspected for days that Satao was dead. The rumours were too many and they came from too many different people for them not to be true. Bad news travels fast in Kenya. Moreover, like everyone who had ever heard of Satao, I was already concerned for his safety.

I first learned about Satao through an emotional and beautifully written blog post by Mark Deeble, who described him as being so intelligent that he knew he needed to protect his enormous tusks by intentionally hiding in bushes so they couldn’t be seen. At the end of the post Mark wrote:

I am appalled at what that means – that the survival skills that the bull has painstakingly learnt over half a century have been rendered useless by the poachers’ use of mass-produced Chinese goods; GPS smart-phones, cheap motorcycles and night vision goggles.

I think the old bull knows that poachers want his tusks, and I hate that he knows.

More than anything, I hate the thought that poachers are now closing in on one of the world’s most iconic elephants.

Then in early March, during the great elephant census, we heard that the poachers had got to him. Mike Chase from Elephants without Borders reported seeing two seeping wounds on Satao’s flank. Veterinarians rushed to the scene and confirmed that these were arrow wounds.

It’s hard to imagine what was going through the minds of the poachers on the day that they approached this mountain of an elephant and shot at him with crude bows and poisoned arrows. It must have been terrifying and yet the sight of his massive gleaming tusks probably left them salivating with greed.

 

For days Satao must have endured excruciating pain from the festering wounds. But he recovered and we all heaved a sigh of relief when it was reported that his wounds were healing on their own. The Facebook post by Save the Elephants about his recovery attracted more 200 “get well soon” comments.

Then in the first week of June Richard Moller, Executive Director of The Tsavo Trust, found a massive elephant carcass in a swamp. “I knew instinctively in my gut that this was Satao, but there was a tiny chance that I was wrong. I had to verify it before we go public,” Richard told me.

The Tsavo Trust runs an inspirational campaign to bring attention to Kenya’s last great tuskers . Their work brings huge joy and celebration every time an elephant with tusks sweeping to the ground is found.

When I heard that Satao may have been killed, I posted a message on Facebook. I said I hoped that the rumours were wrong and that Satao was safe. I had to hastily remove the post after Richard explained: “We don’t want to alarm people if there’s even a 1% chance that Satao is still alive”.

For days Richard and (Kenyan Wildlife Service) KWS rangers visited the carcass. It was certainly a giant tusker, but it was hard to tell if this was Satao, as the face was mutilated face and the tusks gone. They flew over the park and searched for Satao, hoping against all odds that he was still alive.

Then finally, yesterday on 12 June, Richard admitted to me that his first gut feeling had been right:

Today I had to write my official report to KWS and confirm to them that Satao is dead. It was the hardest report that I have ever written, I couldn’t see past a wall of tears.

In voice choked with grief he begged me not to post anything on this blog until KWS had officially broken the news.

 

From a biodiversity perspective, tuskers are rare specimens, the pinnacle of their species. Photograph: © Mark Deeble & Victoria Stone 2014

From a biodiversity perspective, tuskers are rare specimens, the pinnacle of their species. Photograph: © Mark Deeble & Victoria Stone 2014

 

It is not only the rangers in Tsavo or those who knew Satao who are sorrowful, all of Kenya is in a state of deep grief. Satao was not just a Kenyan icon, he was a global treasure. He was of such a phenomenal size that we knew poachers would want him, and no effort was spared to protect him. He had 24/7 protection from KWS and conservation organizations. Even as we mourn Satao’s passing, Kenyan’s are asking: what went wrong?

It may take days for the KWS to provide more details about this terrible news. The country’s authorities are loath to admit the scale of the current crisis.

According to the latest figures published by KWS, 97 elephants have been poached in Kenya so far this year . Nobody in Kenya believes this figure, which suggests that less than one percent of the national elephant population have fallen to poachers’ guns.

The official figures do not tally with the many reports of elephant killings in and around the Masai Mara, Samburu, Loita Hills, Marsabit, Tsavo, Mount Kenya, Aberdares, Shimba Hills and the north eastern coastal forests.

I estimate, from the reports I have seen, that the elephant poaching in Kenya is at least 10 times the official figures, but it is impossible to verify this as the KWS jealously guards the elephant mortality database.

A few brave people within the system describe a systematic cover up of the real figures. To many of us Kenyans, this problem is even more serious than the poaching. Our wildlife services are like the drug addicts who are the most difficult to help, those in denial that there is a problem to be fixed.

Those at the helm who craft the KWS’s communications seem blissfully unaware of the damage caused to Kenya’s reputation by the lack of transparency and accountability around poaching figures.

Kenyans are angry and confused. Elephants do not belong to KWS but to the people of Kenya. Elephants are an important national asset that make a significant contribution to Kenya’s GDP through tourism. It is therefore in the national interest that the correct figures are shared with the public.

It is also confusing for donors. KWS is fighting furiously for funds to strengthen anti-poaching efforts, and massive ivory seizures also continue to snatch headlines, but according to official figures and statements, there is no elephant poaching crisis.

The appalling news of Satao’s death comes at a time when Kenya is preparing to showcase our conservation successes at the UNEP Governing Assembly which starts on 24 June. Instead Kenyan delegates will bear the heavy burden of conveying the news of the passing of this gentle, intelligent and compassionate giant.

I call on Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, to set the tone for the Governing Assembly by starting with a minute’s silence: so that delegates can reflect on their duty of care towards our fellow beings, and in memory of Satao, Mountain Bull, and all the others who have died before them.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/africa-wild/2014/jun/13/kenyas-biggest-elephant-killed-by-poachers

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

Richard Leakey calls on President Kenyatta to invoke Emergency Response on Elephant and Rhino poaching

19 March 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:Dr Richard Leakey, Founder –WildlifeDirect, leakey@turkanabasin.org

“My fellow Kenyans, poaching and the destruction of our environment has no future in this country”

These were the words of President Uhuru Kenyatta at his inauguration almost exactly one year ago. Today in the year of the 50th anniversary of Kenyan independence, I am asking the president to put his words into action and declare a NATIONAL DISASTER. I ask him to invoke emergency measures to crack down on the poachers and to declare elephants and rhinos National Treasures under protection of the state. In 1989, President Daniel Arap Moi took such extraordinary measures and wildlife poaching was curbed within 6 months. I am certain that this can be achieved again.
Elephants and rhinos declining in Kenya
Though KWS are not making information public, already this year we have lost at least 14 rhinos, more than in the whole of last year. Rhinos have been gunned down in our national parks, often in broad daylight and from sites close to ranger posts. Rhinos have also been lost from heavily fortified private conservancies that were believed impregnable. KWS estimates the population of Kenyan rhinos at more than 1,000 of which just over 50% are in the National Parks. However, independent scientists doubt this figure and question the data – 38 rhinos that have not been seen for more than 3 years are still in the parks are still counted in the total. An independent audit of rhinos is conducted in all conservancies but not parks.

KWS report that fewer than 400 elephants are killed annually across the country. The results of a KWS census last month reveal that the elephant population in the Tsavo Ecosystem alone has fallen by 1,500 over 4 years. The census found 800 elephant carcasses.

Newspaper coverage and conservationists in the field also report that elephant are being shot and killed in Tsavo, Masai Mara, and Amboseli and other parks by poachers armed with automatic weapons. Many others are shot with poison arrows, causing unimaginable pain followed by slow death.
Kenya is the world’s hub for ivory smuggling
The latest Interpol report reveals that Kenya is now No. 1 in the world for ivory smuggling. The port of Mombasa serves as a staging post for ivory from Tanzania and many other countries. More than 13 tons of ivory were seized in Kenya last year and we can only speculate at the quantities that passed through undetected.
A study of trials in Kenya reveal that fewer than 4% of all convicted poachers are ever jailed. Interpol reveal that despite many ivory seizures in Kenya, no dealers have ever been arrested and prosecuted in court. A major rhino horn smugglers caught at JKIA was released. A Chinese ivory dealer was sent back to China. If a Kenyan threatened a Chinese Panda bear, he or she would face life imprisonment.

Current measures are not enough
Despite our best efforts, the new law, the creation of an elite force in KWS, the promises of the Judiciary and DPP, and the commitment stated by the President, our elephants and rhinos are being massacred across the nation.

Tough new laws that mean convicted poachers and traffickers can be given life sentences,have not resulted in a single offender jailed without the option of a fine. In a recent case a Chinese man was arrested in Riverside Drive where he was manufacturing ivory carvings and sending them out of Kenya through Chinese mules who are being sent to Kenya as “tourists”. He was sent back to China without ever going to a Kenyan court. Last week the court acquitted Chinese national, Ou Kai Ming, even though he had been caught red-handed by customs officials at JKIA.

On the ground poachers have a free rein in many places. KWS staff who attempt to do their job are under increasing threat of violence and at least 8 KWS rangers have lost their lives to poachers in recent years. Managers who allow poaching to happen on their watch are simply moved to other locations, instead of being held to account for their dereliction of duty.
Emergency provisions under status as National Disaster
The failure of leadership and resources at KWS is compounded by the failure of the state to recognize that this is not just a wildlife crime. The president can no longer ignore the fact that these criminals belong to international crime rings that pose a major threat to the economy and national security. In 1989 President Moi recognized that the country was facing a national crisis and acted presidentially to stop it.
I am calling on the president of the Republic of Kenya to address the problem because our national security agencies are not working together to combat this threat to national security. I am sure that the Ministry, NIS, CID, KWS all know who the top dealers and financiers of this bloody business are. They number fewer than 50 people, some of whom have been exposed in the media, but not one has been arrested to date.
In responding to the threat of piracy Kenya’s performance was exemplary. This is the kind of coordinated, fully committed response we need to the poaching crisis.
The voice and political will of our president are most critically needed if we are to win this war. The Kenyan public, corporations and our international partners will all respond favorably when decisive action is taken. The president cannot afford to leave a legacy for future generations of Kenyans that does not include elephant and rhinos.

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Richard Leakey, 19 March 2014

About us:
WildlifeDirect is a Kenyan NGO and US registered 501(c) (3) organization co-founded in 2004 by Kenyan conservationist Dr. Richard Leakey, who is credited with putting an end to the elephant slaughter in Kenya in the 1980s and delivering an international ban on ivory trade. Kenyan Trustees include Irungu Houghton, Ali Mohamed and Philip Murgor. The CEO is Dr. Paula Kahumbu. WildlifeDirect is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. WildlifeDirect is dedicated to “Changing minds, behavior and laws to ensure Africa’s critical species endure forever.”

Hands Off Our Elephants, our flagship campaign comprises a winning combination of expertise including wildlife ecologists, communications specialists, lawyers, politicians, media representatives, strategists, and linguists, making us bold, influential, and successful. This African led initiative is supported by Kenya’s First Lady, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta as patron. The campaign has already mobilized the public in Kenya and driven legal reforms in Kenya and East Africa. WLD partners with civil society, government agencies and is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative on elephants.
Contact Paula@wildlifedirect.org

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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