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Ndovu Zetu Music Concert

Ndovu Zetu Music Concert : In Praise of Elephants

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On the last day of February this year, some of the top most bands in Kenya will put up a grand show…wait for it…for elephants!

Sauti Sol, Sarabi band, Juliani, Muthoni Drummer Queen, Emmanuel Jal are among the top artists slated to perform at the Ndovu Zetu concert on 28th February, at the United Nations Recreational Grounds. This will be the first time that a concert is held in Kenya just for elephants.

It will also be the first time that ‘Tusimame’- an elephant anthem song will be performed live for the very first time. Tusimame was written and performed by various artists including former South Sudan child soldier Emmanuel Jal, Juliani, Syssi Mananga from Congo-Brazzaville and Vanessa Mdee from Tanzania.

“We are excited to be hosting a show just for elephants,” says Dr Paula Kahumbu, the CEO of WildlifeDirect. WildlifeDirect, whose patron is the First Lady Her Excellency  Margaret Kenyatta, is the main sponsor of the concert, working in conjunction with the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.

This concert will be the kick-off event of the Kenya Wildlife Festival. The Kenya Wildlife festival is an initiative of the Kenya Wildlife Service and the ministry of Environment Water and Natural Resources and several conservation organisations to create awareness among the public and celebrate Kenya’s wealth and natural heritage in wildlife.

“People do great things for people and causes they love and believe in. Were doing this for elephants because we love them. Like humans, elephants feel, worry, play, hurt, mourn, remember. Elephants are human too”

And the reasons to celebrate our elephants are many!

Kenya hosts the world’s most famous elephant research project ; the Save The Elephants and the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. The Amboseli Trust for elephants has been running for 40years. All the elephants at the Amboseli eco system are known by names and their families. Save the Elephants operates on Northern Kenyan where they have been on the frontline to take poaching down and create awareness about elephants conservation.

Kenya is also home to the David Sheldrick Elephant Wildlife Trust which hosts the world’s most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation centre.

But the truth remains that African elephants face imminent extinction if nothing is done to save them. Approximately 33,000 elephants are killed every year across Africa to supply the ivory market especially in Asia. Dr Kahumbu explains that in Kenya, we have made huge strides in the last couple of years in efforts to protect our elephants. But a lot still needs to be done.

“The public is better informed and engaged now, a suspected ivory kingpin, Feisal Mohamed Ali, is behind bars and the poaching level is down. But we still need to win the hearts and minds of Kenyans of all walks of life; we hope that every Kenyan will know of the benefits of elephants not only to our ecosystems but to our economy as well. At WildlifeDirect, our goal is to get all Kenyans and Africans to love our elephants so much that extinction is no longer a threat”

The Ndovu Zetu concert and the Kenya Wildlife Festival is an attempt to win the hearts and minds of everyone, big and small, young and old. To have every Kenyan loathing poaching and trafficking and become our brothers keepers to watch that no one is poaching our elephants or trafficking ivory to satisfy their greed.

The festival is organised by Blankets and Wine in conjunction with WildlifeDirect. The show will start at 1.00pm and end at 8.00pm. Tickets are available at www.ticketsasa.com for Kshs 1,500.

 

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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.

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.

___________________________¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬____
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

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.

 

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WildlifeDirect launches wildlife crimes report for Kenya

Dear Friends,

We would like to share a report on the outcomes of wildlife crimes in Kenyan courts. We completed this report this week.

Download the WILDLIFEDIRECT court study 26.1.14

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Here are some highlights

Executive Summary

This report is based on a survey conducted in May and June 2013, which looked at court records in eighteen courts adjudicating on wildlife related crime. The offences involved killing wild animals and/or trading in their products. The aim of the study was to examine the files and analyse outcomes of those cases with a view to determining how legislation in Kenya was being implemented in combating wildlife crime. The study focused on the judicial outcomes of elephant and rhino related offences, but crimes involving other species were also considered.

Between January 2008 and June 2013, a total of 743 pending and closed wildlife related cases were registered in criminal registries of law courts in Embu, Isiolo, Kajiado, Karatina, Kerugoya, Makadara (Nairobi), Makindu, Maralal, Meru, Mombasa, Nakuru, Nanyuki, Narok, Nyahururu, Nyeri, Rumuruti5, Voi, and Wajir towns. These towns were chosen because of their proximity to key conservation areas including Amboseli, Isiolo, Laikipia, Maasai Mara, Samburu and Tsavo as well as major ports through which wildlife trophies are known to be trafficked. The magistrates’ courts in these towns have jurisdiction falling within the target ecosystems. All cases are brought to court by the Kenya Police Service and/or the Kenya Wildlife Service and most are prosecuted by the Police.

A major finding of the study was that in total, only 4% of offenders convicted of wildlife crimes went to jail. In cases of offences against elephants and rhinos which can potentially attract jail sentences of up to 10 years, only 7% of offenders in this category were jailed. Though there were frequent news reports of KWS officers being arrested for involvement in these crimes, the study did not find a single verdict that highlghted this problem.

overall wildlife crimes

The study clearly showed that wildlife related crime in Kenya is treated as a misdemeanor or petty crime and is ‘mismanaged’ within the Kenyan court systems. Of the 743 cases registered that were part of the study, 70% of the case files were reported missing or misplaced in the courts. Only 202 files were available to the study team for perusal, and these were of cases against 314 offenders that had been concluded. 224 offenders (78%) were found guilty of crimes ranging from illegal hunting, illegal possessions of weapons with intent to kill animals, trespassing in protected areas, illegal possession of wildlife trophies, dealing/ trafficking in wildlife etc. No case file could be found for ivory or rhino horn trafficking in Mombasa despite frequent news reports of ivory seizures in the Port of Mombasa and allegations that Mombasa is one of the world’s most notorious ports for ivory trafficking. In Nairobi’s Makadara Court which deals with airport arrests, suspects were exclusively foreign – mainly nationals of Asian origin. All pleaded guilty but only one defendant received a jail sentence of six months in June 2013. During the period of the study, criminals were consistently given lenient sentences and fines well below the maximum of KES 40,000/= (approx USD$ 460).

composition of species

It is also apparent that poor file and case management is hindering the prosecution of wildlife related crime and that the full might of the existing law is not being bought to bear on offenders. There is a huge financial incentive for non-compliance which has led to a culture of impunity amongst the criminal fraternity and even within the government departments responsible for protecting these national assets. If this impunity is not stopped, Kenya may be viewed as a safe haven for local, as well as organized international wildlife traffickers, poachers and dealers.

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

1.     Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) to develop and/or adopt Standard Operating Procedures to allow sufficient time for investigation and application of appropriate laws associated with endangered species like elephants and rhino. Currently, cases of wildlife related offences are charged and disposed of by police prosecutors and are not always reported to KWS or the ODPP. As a result, poor charging decisions are rife, ancillary orders such as forfeiture are rarely applied for and sentencing powers are not fully utilized possibly through lack of awareness by police prosecutors of what is available.

 

2.     Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) to be responsible for charging decisions on all rhino, elephant, rhino horn and ivory cases. KWS prosecutors are gazetted to prosecute under the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (Cap 376 of 1989) while the ODPP can prosecute under other Acts such as the Firearms Act, the Proceeds of Organized Crime Act (POCA) and (POCAMLA) or Money Laundering Act.

 

3.     Chief Justice (CJ) to assign a dedicated judge and court in each of the conservation areas and together with the Attorney General, CJ and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), seek agreement to take judicial notice that poaching offences are ‘organised criminal activities’, and support ODPP with adequate capacity to prosecute these under the full range of laws.

 

4.     The National Council of the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) to adopt and implement rules for streamlining wildlife trials to achieve interagency cooperation. With the enactment of the new Wildlife Act, it is foreseeable that there will be an increase in the number of trials relating to wildlife offences. The NCAJ should agree upon and implement rules for streamlining the progress between first appearance and the conclusion of the case and avoid unnecessary delays.

5.     Chief Justice to issue Sentencing Guidelines. Sentencing patterns are haphazard across the country and there is currently no consistency between courts. With the new wildlife law and possible increase in prosecutions, magistrates will need guidance on the task of sentencing e.g. aggravating features, value and quantity of the trophy, whether the defendant was in a position of authority etc.

6.     Chief Justice to issue a practice direction to the judiciary identifying compelling reasons for withholding bail in offences associated with endangered species like elephants and rhino. Bail is currently issued on a haphazard basis across the country and is hampering wildlife prosecutions.

7.     An NGO structure to support wildlife investigations and prosecutions needs to be established. In order to address the gap between law and implementation, a specialized NGO structure that collaborates closely with Government on investigations, arrest operations and prosecutions of wildlife traffickers should be established. This structure would fight corruption within the enforcement and justice system, ensuring good governance and transparency.

8.     Government to authorise an independent annual stock take and audit of all ivory and horn stockpiles, exhibits and movement of exhibits currently in Government custody. Wildlife trophies that have been confiscated are handed over to the Kenya Wildlife Service. Allowing an independent body to undertake a stock take and audit of the same would reduce loss of exhibits.

9.     Kenya Wildlife Service to transform its relationship with communities and private sector in line with provisions in the Constitution of Kenya, and empower citizens to participate in the fight against wildlife crime by encouraging them to act as independent court monitors and through the creation of a wildlife reporting hotline. The role of ordinary Kenyans is crucial and under-utilized in the fight against poaching and trafficking.

10 Chief Justice should fast track reforms in court registries on the establishment of an efficient and effective standardized case file management with rapid file call-up system (preferably digitized

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ivory seized in 2011

Ivory seized in 2011

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

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

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

Ivory

Ivory

KTN PRIME News – Save Our Elephants

Last night Kenya Television Network – KTN featured the Hands Off Our Elephants Campaign in a story dubbed Save The Elephants during their PRIME Time News at 9m.  We are pleased that the News Anchors wore the Hands Off Our Elephants armbands in solidarity with the drive to Save Our Majestic Elephants @HandsOffOurEles

Watch the full story here…

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Dr. Paula Kahumbu speaks to KTN on Elephant Crisis

Dr. Paula Kahumbu was interviewed by local television station on the new Hands Off Our Elephants, the Illegal Ivory trade and the implications of all this to Kenya’s Elephants

Watch her here:

http://http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/ktn/video/watch/2000068309/wildlife-conservation-saving-kenya-s-elephants

4 rhinos gunned down in 4 parks in Kenya

Four rhinos were killed in Kenya’s deadliest week this year according to  KWS. On 23rd May poachers shot to death one rhino in Lake Nakuru National Park. Then on Saturday 26th of May they struck two sites, Solio Ranch near Nyeri, and Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in Tsavo West National Park killing one rhino in each protected area. Then, on Sunday 27th May they struck again at Meru National Park shooting yet another rhino dead. Although the authorities heard the gunshots, all the horns from the rhinos were taken.

Gunned down in the light of a full moon

This coordinated attack comes after 2 weeks of relative quiet – the last attempt at killing a rhino was recorded in Solio over 2 weeks ago, and the last successful attack was 3 weeks ago in Nakuru National Park. The Kenya Wildlife Service puts the toll at 21 rhino killed to date in 2013 – a major increase from last year when the country lost 30 rhino. The Kenya Wildlife Service puts Kenya’s official  rhino population at just over one thousand individuals, however Richard Leakey, the former Director of KWS is doubtful.

“I am not surprised at this attack and when it comes time to do an accounting of our rhinos, I would be surprised if there were more than 500 individuals”

Leakey said on phone from USA.

In response to the latest killings, the Kenya Wildlife Service has mounted a major operation in pursuit of poachers. In a press release issued late on Monday, they state that “security teams are following crucial leads and expect to catch up with the perpetrators of the heinous crime.”

Speaking from Laikipia, Batian Craig, Director of 51 Degrees Ltd, a security company with management oversight in Ol Pejeta and Lewa Conservancies notes that the coordinated attacks are not surprising. “Poaching always goes up during a full moon, the rhino are easiest to spot and to shoot.” he laments.

On the future outlook Craig adds

 “What we have is a small number of people threatening the economic value of rhinos to 43 million Kenyans. These people are a security threat to Kenya. While we are not yet losing this war, but we are at a tipping point. We could arrest this crisis now by taking advantage of the global world attention, positive changes in government and the recent motion in parliament to elevate penalties for wildlife crime.”

Reforming Kenyan laws

He is referring to a recent news that Kenyan members of parliament voted almost unanimously to raise penalties for wildlife poaching and trafficking of wildlife products on Wednesday 22nd of May. This decision clears the way for the creation of emergency legislation to raise penalties to up to 15 years in jail and fines amounting to millions of shillings. Currently poachers and traffickers have been facing penalties amounting to a less than USD 500 in Kenya.

To Kenyans feels as if Kenya is losing the battle against poachers. Kenya has already lost 21 rhinos since January 1st, and 117 elephants. Out of these elephants, 37 were killed in protected areas while 80 were outside protected areas. Last year, Kenya lost 384 elephants and 30 rhinos to criminals. According to the authorities who wish to remain anonymous, the poaching is being conducted by organized crime syndicates and with internal involvement and international links.

Demand in Vietnam – not traditional

Rhino trade expert Esmond Bradley Martin says the main problem facing rhino’s is in Vietnam.

“Rhino horn has always been rare and was important in European, African and Asian cultures where it was carved. It was always rare, expensive and valuable. Previously only the rich could afford it, but now the nouveau riche can afford it. But even more worrying is the new trends in how it is being used. They are using it for aphrodisiacs, grinding it into food, and claim they are curing cancer with it. They had no tradition of using it for these purposes, it’s all new and contrary to traditional medicine in Vietnam”.

If the situation is bad in Kenya, in South Africa it is catastrophic. The country has already lost 350 rhinos this year. According to Martin the rocketing value of rhino horn is a major reason for the ongoing slaughter of rhinos in Africa. Only 6 years ago it was valued at USD 4-5000/kg. Today it goes for ten times that amount and more in Vietnam. This week poachers will have made tens of thousands of dollars each. The combined weight of eight rhino horns is approximately 24 – 32 kg.   At these prices the challenge of halting the crisis seems remote.

Kenya should emulate unique success in rhino protection in Nepal

But surprisingly this is not so. Nepal is one of the poorest counties in the world, and it suffers from extremely poor governance. Yet they have managed to control the situation. Last year Nepal lost only 1 rhino,  and only one the year before. Martin is finalizing an analysis of the situation and says he believes that there are four key reasons for this success.

First, the Prime Minister has taken personal interest in the crisis and has created three new organizations to tackle wildlife crime. Secondly, the law enforcement focus is on combating traders. Thirdly, the communities benefit from parks by receiving 50% of the proceeds. This means they support the parks and conduct their own voluntary patrols long the boundaries of the parks. Finally, the role of the army in anti-poaching has been expanded from 7 posts to 51 posts in Chitwan National Park  alone – this park is home to 503 of the countries 534 rhinos.

The success in Chitwan may have direct application in Kenya and South Africa if the Presidents of the two countries make it their personal mission to save rhinos.