Elephants Dying in Epic Frenzy as Ivory Fuels Wars and Profits

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“Please watch the video, at the link below that accompanies this news – Note -there are some graphic images of poached elephants.”

Published: September 3, 2012

GARAMBA NATIONAL PARKDemocratic Republic of Congo — In 30 years of fighting poachers, Paul Onyango had never seen anything like this. Twenty-two dead elephants, including several very young ones, clumped together on the open savanna, many killed by a single bullet to the top of the head.

There were no tracks leading away, no sign that the poachers had stalked their prey from the ground. The tusks had been hacked away, but none of the meat — and subsistence poachers almost always carve themselves a little meat for the long walk home.

Several days later, in early April, the Garamba National Park guards spotted a Ugandan military helicopter flying very low over the park, on an unauthorized flight, but they said it abruptly turned around after being detected. Park officials, scientists and the Congolese authorities now believe that the Ugandan militaryone of the Pentagon’s closest partners in Africakilled the 22 elephants from a helicopter and spirited away more than a million dollars’ worth of ivory.

“They were good shots, very good shots,” said Mr. Onyango, Garamba’s chief ranger. “They even shot the babies. Why? It was like they came here to destroy everything.”

Africa is in the midst of an epic elephant slaughter. Conservation groups say poachers are wiping out tens of thousands of elephants a year, more than at any time in the previous two decades, with the underground ivory trade becoming increasingly militarized.

Like blood diamonds from Sierra Leone or plundered minerals from Congo, ivory, it seems, is the latest conflict resource in Africa, dragged out of remote battle zones, easily converted into cash and now fueling conflicts across the continent.

Some of Africa’s most notorious armed groups, including the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Shabab and Darfur’s janjaweed, are hunting down elephants and using the tusks to buy weapons and sustain their mayhem. Organized crime syndicates are linking up with them to move the ivory around the world, exploiting turbulent states, porous borders and corrupt officials from sub-Saharan Africa to China, law enforcement officials say.

But it is not just outlaws cashing in. Members of some of the African armies that the American government trains and supports with millions of taxpayer dollars — like the Ugandan military, the Congolese Army and newly independent South Sudan’s military — have been implicated in poaching elephants and dealing in ivory.

Congolese soldiers are often arrested for it. South Sudanese forces frequently battle wildlife rangers. Interpol, the international police network, is now helping to investigate the mass elephant killings in the Garamba park, trying to match DNA samples from the animals’ skulls to a large shipment of tusks, marked “household goods,” recently seized at a Ugandan airport.

The vast majority of the illegal ivory — experts say as much as 70 percent — is flowing to China, and though the Chinese have coveted ivory for centuries, never before have so many of them been able to afford it. China’s economic boom has created a vast middle class, pushing the price of ivory to a stratospheric $1,000 per pound on the streets of Beijing.

High-ranking officers in the People’s Liberation Army have a fondness for ivory trinkets as gifts. Chinese online forums offer a thriving, and essentially unregulated, market for ivory chopsticks, bookmarks, rings, cups and combs, along with helpful tips on how to smuggle them (wrap the ivory in tinfoil, says one Web site, to throw off X-ray machines).

Last year, more than 150 Chinese citizens were arrested across Africa, from Kenya to Nigeria, for smuggling ivory. And there is growing evidence that poaching increases in elephant-rich areas where Chinese construction workers are building roads.

“China is the epicenter of demand,” said Robert Hormats, a senior State Department official. “Without the demand from China, this would all but dry up.”

He said that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who condemned conflict minerals from Congo a few years ago, was pushing the ivory issue with the Chinese “at the highest levels” and that she was “going to spend a considerable amount of time and effort to address this, in a very bold way.”

Foreigners have been decimating African elephants for generations. “White gold” was one of the primary reasons King Leopold II of Belgium turned Congo into his own personal fief in the late 19th century, leading to the brutal excesses of the upriver ivory stations thinly fictionalized in Joseph Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness” and planting the seeds for Congo’s free fall today.

Ivory Coast got its name from the teeming elephant herds that used to frolic in its forests. Today, after decades of carnage, there is almost no ivory left.

The demand for ivory has surged to the point that the tusks of a single adult elephant can be worth more than 10 times the average annual income in many African countries. In Tanzania, impoverished villagers are poisoning pumpkins and rolling them into the road for elephants to eat. In Gabon, subsistence hunters deep in the rain forest are being enlisted to kill elephants and hand over the tusks, sometimes for as little as a sack of salt.

Last year, poaching levels in Africa were at their highest since international monitors began keeping detailed records in 2002. And 2011 broke the record for the amount of illegal ivory seized worldwide, at 38.8 tons (equaling the tusks from more than 4,000 dead elephants). Law enforcement officials say the sharp increase in large seizures is a clear sign that organized crime has slipped into the ivory underworld, because only a well-oiled criminal machine — with the help of corrupt officialscould move hundreds of pounds of tusks thousands of miles across the globe, often using specially made shipping containers with secret compartments.

The smugglers are “Africa-based, Asian-run crime syndicates,” said Tom Milliken, director of the Elephant Trade Information System, an international ivory monitoring project, and “highly adaptive to law enforcement interventions, constantly changing trade routes and modus operandi.”

Conservationists say the mass kill-offs taking place across Africa may be as bad as, or worse than, those in the 1980s, when poachers killed more than half of Africa’s elephants before an international ban on the commercial ivory trade was put in place.

We’re experiencing what is likely to be the greatest percentage loss of elephants in history,” said Richard G. Ruggiero, an official with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Some experts say the survival of the species is at stake, especially when many members of the African security services entrusted with protecting the animals are currently killing them.

“The huge populations in West Africa have disappeared, and those in the center and east are going rapidly,” said Andrew Dobson, an ecologist at Princeton. “The question is: Do you want your children to grow up in a world without elephants?”

Read the rest of this informative & alarming post of the elephant Ivory Trade :-http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/04/world/africa/africas-elephants-are-being-slaughtered-in-poaching-frenzy.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all

Petition to stop Ivory trade:-http://www.bloodyivory.org/petition

Would Anyone Buy Ivory If They Had Witnessed This Cruel Slaughter?

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Posted 23 August 2012 

I’ve had so many wonderful days in Africa, there was bound to be tough one.

Former Chinese NBA player and WildAid ambassador Yao Ming observes the carcass of a poached elephant in Namunyak, Kenya. Photograph: Kristian Schmidt/WildAid/EPA

Earlier this week, I witnessed how illegal ivory was obtained, along with Peter Knights, executive director of WildAid , with whom I’ve worked for several years now. With the help of Kenya Wildlife Service, we travelled via helicopter to access the carcasses. Iain Douglas-Hamilton of Save the Elephants  had spotted the bodies from the air in his small plane, and marked the spot for our pilot to bring down the chopper in a dry riverbed. It was so tight we did a little hedge trimming on the way down.

Not 20 yards away, I saw the body of an elephant poached for its ivory three weeks ago. Its face had been cut off by poachers and its body scavenged by hyenas, scattering bones around the area. A sad mass of skin and bone. The smell was overwhelming and seemed to cling to us, even after we left.

I really was speechless. After seeing these animals up close and watching them interact in loving and protective family groups, it was heart wrenching and deeply depressing to see this one cruelly taken before its time.

People, like Iain, have spent their lives studying and living intimately with these animals and now, just like in 1989 before the international ivory trade was banned, they must spend their lives looking for bodies, using metal detectors to find bullets and conducting autopsies.

Before the international ivory trade ban, in addition to legal ivory from natural deaths, huge amounts of illegal ivory were laundered into the trade despite years of attempted regulation. This “regulated” trade led to the halving of elephant numbers from 1.2 million to around 600,000 in two decades. West, central and east Africa were hardest hit, while southern African populations remained stable and even increased.

Post-ban, the price of ivory fell to a quarter of its previous levels as markets in the US, Europe and much of the world, collapsed. For a number of years, elephant numbers stabilised and poaching declined. Some South African countries pushed for re-opening ivory trade for their stockpiles, but each time this was done, poaching increased again on speculation of a renewed market.

Theoretically, I’m told we could have a market in ivory supplied from elephants that die naturally. But unfortunately, with the high amount of money at stake, few will wait for the elephant to die to make a profit. There are too many people with access to weapons to do the killing here and too many people ready to buy the ivory without questioning how it was obtained.

Read the rest of this News Link:http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2012/aug/23/ivory-slaughter-yao-ming

Using Chinese star power to fight ivory poaching in Africa – August 28, 2012

The biggest demand for ivory is in China, so conservationists are trying to teach Chinese consumers about poaching – with the help of Chinese celebrities like Yao Ming.

Former NBA star Yao Ming visits an elephant orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya.

The former athlete is urging his fellow Chinese to stop purchasing ivory products.

William Davies/Special to The Christian Science Monitor.

He is one of a dozen of China’s most famous actors, athletes, talk-show hosts, and musicians lending their names to recent conservation campaigns inside their homeland.

Many are directed by WildAid , a charity based in San Francisco, which uses slick television advertisements featuring these superstars and the simple slogan, “When the buying stops, the killing will too.”

Such ads are now common on Chinese television. Anti-poaching posters with similar slogans fill billboards in Chinese cities, including one hoisted above a subway station serving Guangzhou city’s famous Ivory Street.

“To win this battle against poaching, we need multiple approaches,” Yao told the Monitor during his visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust , which runs the elephant orphanage.

“What I am trying to do is to raise people’s awareness, to show them the reality of the ivory business. When the killing of elephants happens 10,000 miles away from you, it’s easy to hide yourself from that truth. If we show people, they will stop buying ivory. Then elephants will stop dying.”

Traditionally, the fight against poachers has been carried out by rangers patrolling Africa’s savannas and forests, and by sniffer dogs and customs officials scouring its air- and seaports.

Read the rest of this news:http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2012/0828/Using-Chinese-star-power-to-fight-ivory-poaching-in-Africa

Unimaginable horror as helicopter-borne poachers massacre 22 elephants before hacking off their tusks and genitals  PUBLISHED: 23:35, 24 April 2012 | UPDATED: 23:53, 24 April 2012

In a scene of inconceivable horror, these slaughtered elephant carcasses show the barbaric lengths poachers will go to in their hunt for nature’s grim booty.

The bodies were among a herd of 22 animals massacred in a helicopter-borne attack by professionals who swooped over their quarry.

The scene beneath the rotor blades would have been chilling – panicked mothers shielding their young, hair-raising screeches and a mad scramble through the blood-stained bush as bullets rained down from the sky.

Barbaric: In a scene too graphic to show in full, the carcasses of some of the 22 massacred elephants lay strewn across Garamba National Park in the Congo after being gunned down by helicopter-borne poachers

When the shooting was over, all of the herd lay dead, one of the worst such killings in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo in living memory.

Conservation group TRAFFIC, which monitors the global trade in animals and plants, said 2011 was the worst year for large ivory seizures in the more than two decades it has been running a database tracking the trends.

Conservationists say there was a spike in the mid 1990s driven by emerging Chinese demand that bubbled for a few years, then dropped off as red flags were raised.

Endangered: A White Rhino and her calf walk in the dusk light in Pilanesberg National Park. More than 180 have been killed in South Africa so far this year Zimbabwe-based Tom Milliken, who manages TRAFFIC’s Elephant Trade Information System, said since 2004 ‘the trend has been escalating upwards again, dramatically so over the last three years.

‘Ben Janse van Rensburg, head of enforcement for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the international treaty that governs trade in plants and animals, said: ‘The biggest challenge is that in the last few years there has been a big shift from your ordinary poachers to your organized crime groups.

‘This was on display in Congo last month, where investigators determined the poachers shot from the air because of the trajectory of the bullet wounds.

Helicopters do not come cheaply and their use points to a high level of organization. Ken Maggs, the head of the environmental crimes investigation unit for South African National Parks, said one person recently arrested for trade in rhino horn had 5.1 million rand ($652,400) in cash in the boot of his car.

South Africa is the epicentre of rhino poaching beecause it hosts virtually the entire population of white rhino – 18,800 head or 93 per cent – and about 40 per cent of Africa’s much rarer black rhino.

As of the middle of April, 181 rhinos had been killed in South Africa in 2012, according to official government data.At this rate, more than 600 will be lost to poachers this year compared with 448 in 2011.A decade ago, only a handful were being taken.

Read The Rest News Linkhttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2134696/Scene-unimaginable-horror-helicopter-borne-poachers-massacre-22-elephants.html#ixzz24VEQyMBX

Published on 10 Aug 2012 by 

Warning: Contains Graphic Images

Over 300 elephants were killed between January and March 2012 when heavily-armed foreign poachers invaded Cameroon’s Bouba N’Djida National Park. Entire elephant populations could be wiped out from Central Africa if ivory poaching and wildlife trade continue unabated. Tens of thousands of elephants are killed each year for their tusks which are in high demand in Asian black markets.

Help WWF Stop Wildlife Crime! Visit http://www.worldwildlife.org/sites/stop-wildlife-crime/index.html

We need your help to save wildlife and people from becoming victims of wildlife crime. Join our campaign and help us:

  • Push governments to protect threatened animal populations by increasing law enforcement, imposing strict deterrents, reducing demand for endangered species products and honoring international commitments made under CITES.
  • Speak up on behalf of those on the frontlines being threatened by armed poachers so they are properly equipped, trained and compensated.
  • Reduce demand for illegal wildlife parts and products by encouraging others to ask questions and get the facts before buying any wildlife or plant product.

Together we can stop wildlife crime.

Link:-http://worldwildlife.org/pages/stop-wildlife-crime

Petitions:-

http://www.bloodyivory.org/petition

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/no_more_bloody_ivory/

http://www.avaaz.org/en/protect_the_elephants/

http://www.change.org/petitions/cambodian-government-stop-the-illegal-ivory-trade

https://www.change.org/petitions/stop-killing-african-elephants-for-illegal-ivory-trade

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