As I mentioned in my previous post, Cathy and I just returned from a 3-week visit to South Africa. This was our second visit to the continent, our first being our trip to Kenya almost 2 years ago. We were discussing our two trips last night and realized that we have just begun to appreciate all the things that Africa has to offer. We have traveled throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and more and no place has had the impact on us that Africa has.
Much of the reason is due to the magnificent animals there. Nowhere can you find the same enormous collection and variety of animals. Elephants, rhinos, hippos, zebras, antelope, wildebeest, cape buffalo, birds… We realized that we will be taking many more trips to Africa in the near future.
However, for the same reasons that we have fallen in love with the continent we also feel great pain. Everyday I read news releases detailing the extent of the poaching problem over there. It is still beyond me that, in this day and age, people are still killing these magnificent animals for their horns and tusks. Here are just a few statistics on what poaching is doing to the wildlife of Africa.
- In 1930, around 5-10 million elephants roamed the plains of Africa. 
- Now, less than 1% of this figure remain (approx. 450,000)  and the number is rapidly diminishing on a daily basis
- 2011 was the highest level of elephant poaching ever recorded, Central and East African countries were of the most concern.
- Elephants bordered on the brink of EXTINCTION after massacres in the 1980s more than halved the continent’s population.
- A BAN ON IVORY TRADE was imposed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1989.
- Populations recovered well until 2008, when poaching resurged, following two one-off sales of stockpiled ivory.
- EXCESSIVE DEMAND for ivory is again putting elephants at risk.
- It is our responsibility to future generations to ACT NOW before elephants are assigned to the history books.
- Sophisticated CRIMINAL SYNDICATES with international links are operating all over Africa.
- Overall, seizures involving Tanzania between 1989 and 2010 represent one third of all ivory seized globally.
- Tanzania ranks first among African countries in terms of the total volume of ivory reported by large-scale seizures. 
- The number of elephants in the Selous game reserve and Mikumi National Park fell by nearly 42% IN JUST 3 YEARS, which is 31,348 SLAUGHTERED ELEPHANTS! 
1 , 2. http://www.africanconservancy.org/about/pressroom/wildlifestats.htm
4,5. Organized poaching, illegal trade (Mike Mande, The East African, 2010)
6. Elephant population in TZ sanctuaries drops [Fumbuka Ngw’anakilala, Thomson Reuters, 2012]
And now the latest news today from Zimbabwe is that native villagers are poisoning elephants in order to harvest their tusks. (Agence France-Presse, October 21, 2013)
It was reported on Tuesday, October 15, that 10 more elephants were found poisoned and their tusks harvested. That brought the number for the past month up to 100! The latest reports have increased that number to over 300 poisoned in just one month. And as if this is not bad enough, the cyanide poison is also killing lions, vultures, painted dogs and hyenas.
This is a new twist on the ongoing problem of poaching in Africa. Normally we hear about heavily armed gangs of poachers killing elephants and rhinos. It this case the killing is being carried out by native villagers. According to the report:
“Twelve people have been arrested in recent weeks in connection with the killings, three of whom were sentenced in September to at least 15 years in prison each.
The magistrate also ordered them to pay $600,000 (440,000 euro) to the Zimbabwe Wildlife and Parks Authority for killing the animals by the end of the year.
Authorities have given villagers living around the park until the end of October to hand over any cyanide they might have or risk arrest.
Traditional leaders in Tsholotsho, a village bordering the park, pleaded with the authorities to pardon the villagers saying they were driven by poverty to kill the elephants and not by greed.”
Even if the villagers are driven by poverty the problem resides elsewhere. The villagers would not be killing the elephants if there were no market for the tusks. According to Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, “The problem is that a big cover-up is going on,” he said.
“Those who have been arrested and convicted are the small fry who are being used as scapegoats while the big and dangerous fish are untouched. These include politicians and big business people,” said Rodrigues.
Let’s hope that this latest activity does not continue. Before long there may not be any of the magnificent wildlife left to view and appreciate.
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