Tag Archives: poachers

V I C TO R Y!!!



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.


Death of an Iconic Elephant

A Blow to Conservation – Poachers Kill Iconic Elephant

Picture and story courtesy of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

Mountain Bull in his prime

Mountain Bull in his prime

The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is deeply saddened to announce the death of Mountain Bull (MT Bull), the enigmatic elephant whose dedication to using the traditional elephant migration routes in northern Kenya captured the imagination of many and led to numerous conservation initiatives.

Mountain Bull’s carcass was found in Mount Kenya Forest on Thursday, with visible spear wounds and its tusks missing.

No other animal has had greater impact on wildlife conservation in northern Kenya than Mountain Bull. Many credit him as the force behind the construction of the pioneering Lewa/Ngare Ndare Forest/Mount Kenya elephant corridor that links the forest ecosystem of Mount Kenya with the savannah ecosystems of Lewa and Samburu plains further to the north.

This has led to the opening up of the traditional migration route of over 2,000 African elephants that had previously been blocked by human development in Mount Kenya. The ground-breaking establishment of this corridor also led to Kenya’s most recent World Heritage Site inscription when in June of 2013, Lewa and Ngare Ndare Forest were extended to be part of the Mount Kenya World Heritage Site.

Mountain Bull’s death is a great loss to the conservation fraternity. He taught us much about elephant and animal behaviour, migration routes and patterns, and to a large extent, left many inspired by his bravery and resilience.

Rest in peace Mountain Bull.

Robert Nimkoff races in Rolex 24 for WildlifeDirect






Contacts: John Heminway / Matthew Ambroziak

Email: [email protected] [email protected]/ [email protected]

Phone: 917-842-9799 /336.517.6936

Date: January 22, 2014


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.



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.


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 [email protected]

Kerala forest department to burn ivory worth Rs. 50 crore


Thiruvananthapuram: The forest department is planning to burn its mammoth stockpile of ivory tusks, estimated at over three tonnes and valued at nearly Rs.50 crore in the black market. 50 crore is about USD 8.5 million

The department’s booty, locked in its strong rooms and range offices, has been accumulated over two decades. Trade in ivory was banned in 1991 through an amendment to the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.

As the ban had rendered ivory legally valueless, the forest department might as well have been sitting on a pile of stones. “We have no use with this ivory. We cannot auction it to ivory carvers as
we used to do in the 80s nor can we work on it. So what is the point in protecting it,” principal chief conservator of forests and chief wildlife warden Valliyil Gopinath said.

There is also the threat of some of these tusks getting underground and watering the illegal ivory trade. In 2002, for instance, CBI sleuths inquiring into the theft of wildlife articles from the forest department’s strong room at Olavakkode in Palakkad had seized two ivory idols from the house of a suspect.

Many of the range offices and strong rooms do not have 24-hour security either. Ivory is so coveted the world over that one kilogram could fetch more than Rs1 lakh in the underground market.

Kenya: State to Foster Human-Wildlife Habitation

By Kennedy Kangethe, Capital FM

24 July 2013

Nairobi — The government is working on mechanisms to see communities living near wildlife benefit economically from the animals.

Water, Environment and Natural Resources Cabinet Secretary Judy Wakhungu says this will improve the communities’ economic status and deter them from poaching wildlife.

“My ministry will fully support this initiative as it will raise their economic standards as well as deter them from being persuaded to poach wildlife,” she said.

Wakhungu revealed that the new Wildlife Bill is set to be tabled in Parliament for endorsement and will effectively deal with poachers.

“Under the new legislation, anyone found dealing in trophies of ivory or rhino horn will be liable to a fine of not less than Sh1 million or imprisonment for a term of not less than five years or to both, while poachers will be liable to a fine of not less than Sh3 million or imprisonment for not less than five years,” Wakhungu said.

She was speaking at the ‘Hands Off Our Elephants Campaign’ launch by key stakeholders in government and the private sector to mobilize the nation against poaching of elephants.

Led by Wildlife Direct, the campaign seeks to create awareness about the crisis and demand for a massive surge in anti-poaching and investigations at ports to crackdown on corruption and trafficking of ivory.

Wildlife Direct Chief Executive Officer Paula Kahumbu said: “The situation is getting out of hand, poaching is escalating out of control , the country lost 384 elephants to poachers in 2012 up from fewer than 50 just five years ago.”

Kahumbu said that the country is also witnessing a surge in poaching by local communities who are using traditional methods including poison arrows, spears and traps.

She said the demand for ivory in the Far East, particularly China, has attracted criminal cartels to Kenya who are feeding the insatiable demand for ivory in the Far East especially China and Thailand.

“We are asking the governments of Africa, Thailand, China and USA to ban the domestic markets of ivory as legal markets are a cover for laundering illegal ivory,” she said.

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta is the campaign patron.

Conservationists have warned that poaching will exterminate elephants in the next decade unless measures are undertaken to stem this crisis.

Article at the following link:

Suspected Poachers Kill Two Wildlife Rangers

Kenya: Suspected Poachers Kill Two Wildlife Rangers
Voice of America
19 July 2013

The Kenya Wildlife Service says two wildlife rangers were killed Thursday responding to dozens of suspected poachers in the Kipini Conservatory game reserve on Kenya’s coast.

Officials say the suspected poachers were armed with AK-47 rifles and opened fire on several rangers who were responding to a poaching incident inside the reserve.

Kenyan Wildlife Service spokesman Paul Mbugua says the rangers were actually attacked twice and one of the two men killed was a commander. One poacher was also killed.

“Then after that particular incident the rangers made a tactical withdrawal and then later they moved in to collect the body of the fallen ranger, and as they moved in to collect the body, the poachers were lying in wait,” he said. “They actually set up an ambush, and the rangers together with the police they were fired at, and during that second incident, which occurred at five in the evening, one of our officers who was actually the officer commanding the team actually went down.”

Mbugua said poachers are getting bold and patient. He said that after the first shooting incident, poachers had to lie low for up to five hours, waiting for the rangers to come back, knowing eventually they will come to collect the body of their fallen ranger.

“They are extremely brave and this is what we have been communicating, and you can see they are very sophisticated. One particular poacher had 208 rounds on him, he had three magazines for his firearm and he had other rounds of ammunitions of course in his possession,” he said. “And that tells you that these guys are willing to go to any length to ensure that they get their way.”

According to a recent United Nations Environment Program study, the number of elephants illegally killed in Africa has doubled over the last decade, reaching 25,000 killed in 2012, while the ivory trade has tripled in size.

Experts say the poaching of African elephants is at an all-time high, raising the possibility that the species could become extinct this century.

Trade in ivory was made illegal in 1989. Demand for ivory remains high in Asia, however, where it is used for ornaments and traditional medicine.

Article at the following link:

Vietnam and South Africa sign MOU on poaching – now its China’s turn to show leadership

Rhino’s are worth more than gold

The recent signing of a memorandum of understanding between Vietnam and South Africa stunned the world – it revealed Vietnam’s recognition of her role in the record poaching levels of rhino in South Africa.  It is estimated that Vietnam consumes 75% of the worlds rhino horns. It is true that rhino are once again facing extinction due to poaching for the horn and it’s not just Vietnam and South Africa or even rhino that are affected by the wave of poaching and illegal trade. Many species are threatened by Asian demand including elephants, to lions, rhino, chimpanzees, gorillas, snakes, turtles, sharks, pangolins and many other species. Indeed it is surprising that Vietnam was the first country to step up and take leadership in this crisis, after all, it is well known that China is the main market for illegal wildlife trade from Africa.

Horrific suffering and immense waste

Is it too much pressure from trade, or too little resistance against poaching in rhino range states?

Last weekend 4 rhino’s were shot dead in Lewa Conservancy, and another one was killed at Oserian Wildlife Sanctuary in a devastating weekend for Kenya.  Are rhino’s being massacred due to demand in Asia or is it failed enforcement in Africa? Much time has been wasted in debates about what is driving the poaching and attempts to enforce the provisions of the Convention on International trade in Endangered Species (CITES) have been fruitless. The convention made up of member states, tip toes around and behaves as if all are helpless against the giant, China. Once a powerful convention, CITES seems rather toothless nowadays and sanctions against countries that violate the provisions of the convention are rarely used.  CITES and even some scientists even argue that the science does not prove the links between legal trade in rhino horn in Asia and illegal trade, and they push responsibility to poor African countries which they blame for enabling the illegal trade by failing to curb corruption. We agree that corruption is a problem but lets be honest, if there was no demand for rhino horn, there would be no killing of rhino’s.

Think of it as pressure vs resistance. Imagine a dam wall under the pressure of rising water levels. If there was no pressure, the dam wall would not need to be heavily reinforced. However, under increasing pressure the wall will requires greater investment to resist. It becomes an arms race. But the wall can also be breached if someone chips away even the most highly reinforced dam wall.

if a dam has cracks, water pressure will eventually destroy it

Similarly, the pressure to poach rhino’s comes from demand for rhino horn in Asia. African countries have invested heavily in enforcement, but corruption reduces the effectiveness of the antipoaching and enforcement measures. We argue that it is in fact the demand for horn has led to such an increase in price that rhino horn now rivals gold and it is this demand and price which has created the opportunity for corruption and this in turn has led to the breeding of organized crime. The water in the dam is filling up at a dizzying pace, and though dam wall has been reinforced, in most countries there are busy people drilling holes into it and in some countries, the entire wall has collapsed and rhino’s have been poached to extinction.

We are losing the arms race to keep rhino’s safe

Black rhino’s (Diceros bicornis) were declared critically endangered in the 1980’s after they had suffered catastrophic declines reducing Africa’s rhino from 65,000 in 1972 to fewer than 2,500 by 1992. Kenya was hit particularly hard, her population of 20,000 black rhino crashed to fewer than 400 between 1970 and 1990. To reverse the trends, Kenya adopted an intense rhino program to rebuild the rhino populations. The strategy included the creation of a rhino program with massive investment in security and paramilitary training for a special rhino force, intelligence, enforcement, training, monitoring, and equipment, ring fencing all remaining populations of wild rhino, individually tagging each individual, and keeping a 24/7 vigil on every single rhino. Kenya is particularly key in rhino conservation because she holds 85% of the world’s population of the eastern black rhino, (D. b. michaeli ). Kenya is also home to a larger population of southern white rhino’s which were introduced after the northern whites went extinct. Last year, Kenya imported the last remaining 4 northern White rhino. The investment paid off and over the last 20 years, Kenya’s elephant populations have grown. The situation in South Africa has been critical and to protect her rhino’s, the South African Parks have taken an extreme position of engaging the army in anti-poaching in Kruger National Park which is particularly vulnerable.

Despite the investment and reinforcement of rhino anti-poaching, record numbers of rhino’s are being poached across Africa and Asia. This year the last Javan rhino in Vietnam was been poached and the species is now extinct. The West African black rhino has also been declared extinct, the Sumatran rhino is on the verge of extinction in Indonesia. South Africa has been losing more than 2 rhino per day to poachers for the last 18 months.

Is poaching driven by ancient tradition or recent rumours?

Like ivory, rhino horn has been used traditionally for millennia in the Middle and Far East. In the Yemen, rhino horns have been used for the handles of curved daggers called “jambiya,” which are given to muslim boys at the age of 12 as a relious sign of manhood. The daggers are extremely valuable and are often studded with jewels. Imports of rhino horn were banned into Yemen in 1982. Use of rhino horn in China dates to at least the 7th century AD where it is carved into ceremonial cups, and used for buttons, belt buckles, hair pins, and paperweights.

The most significant and rising use of rhino horn however is in the traditional medicine systems of many Asian countries, including Malaysia and South Korea, Vietnam, India and China. Legend has it that rhino horn has been used as an aphrodisiac, however this is not true. It is ground up and boiled to produce a cure for fever, gout, snakebites, hallucinations, typhoid, headaches, carbuncles, vomiting, food poisoning, and “devil possession” and other disorders.

But the reason for the sudden increase in rhino horn demand in recent years is a belief that it can cure cancer. Apparently a rumor began to circulate about 6 years ago that rhino horn had cured cancer in a Vietnamese politician. The rumor quickly spread by word of mouth, mobile phone and Internet. The value of horn rose so sharply that Vietnamese rhino’s were hunted to extinction, thieves began breaking into museums to steal rhino horn and Vietnamese “hunters” flooded South Africa where they paid for legal hunts in order to get the trophies. Poaching in South Africa rose dramatically with poachers using helicopters, dart guns and chainsaws to obtain horns. Illegal horns were laundered with legal permits to enable tens of horns to leave South Africa. Police now say that the poaching and dealing of rhino horn has become an organized crime involving global criminal syndicates.

All of this because of a rumour that rhino horn cures cancer! Rhino horn is basically hair and scientists have examined the properties to determine whether it really does have medicinal properties.  Comprised mainly of keratin, they also contain some calcium and melanin. In structure and composition they are similar to horses’ hooves, turtle beaks, and cockatoo bills. Scientists have found little evidence of any medicinal properties apart from in one experiment where high concentrations of rhino horn mildly reduced fever in rats.

The fact that science has proven that rhino horn has no medicinal properties against cancer has not helped rhinos. The price of rhino horn now exceeds gold, and collectors in China are now hoarding horns to increase their value as rhino numbers decline and availability of horns decreases. One rhino farmer in South Africa slaughtered his own herd to store the horns. The problem is exacerbated by the growing wealth in Asia which is driving demand and the advent of internet commerce, and presence of Asian investors in Africa makes trading in illegal products much easier than ever before.

Some economists are even suggesting that rhino horn trade should be legalized to manage and regulate the demand and supply. However, others argue that legal trade is virtually impossible to regulate, and others wonder if the primary use of horn is for medicine, and the horn has no medicinal properties what does this legal trade really achieve? Indeed one study has already shown that only trace amounts of rhino  horn are actually used in the medicines, and more than 70% of medications claiming to contain rhino horn have none at all, all instead have traces of buffalo horn and deer antler.

Vietnam has made a commitment, on it’s own it’s not enough. China must step in and take the lead for Asia

It is true that corruption in Africa is a major facilitator of illegal trade of any sort and African countries have an enormous challenge to end impunity if they are to save their spectacular heritage. However Asian countries also have a critical role to play. It is no secret that Asian economies are driving the unsustainable exploitation of African animals from great apes, to pangolins, lions, elephants, rhino’s, sharks, snakes, and many other species.  Top of the list of culprits is China who scientists claim consumes between 70 and 90% of ivory, rhino horn and other wildlife products from Africa.  It will take a new kind of courageous leadership in Asia to reverse the trend. Vietnam has led the way by signing an MOU with South Africa “to promote cooperation between the two countries in the field of biodiversity management, conservation and protection. Particularly aimed at curbing the scourge in rhino poaching, the MOU seeks to promote cooperation in law enforcement, compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and other relevant legislation and Conventions on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.”

Conservationists are celebrating this collaboration but it won’t mean much unless China, Thailand, The Philippines and other Asian countries adopt similar leadership positions as part of their global responsibility.

Richard Leakey and WildlifeDirect seek to end the killing of rhino’s. Support our work by making a donation now to help us raise awareness, lobby our governments, and protect rhino’s . Thank You.