Good News from the African Elephant Summit

It seems that all the conservation news is bad these days. Loss of habitat, climate change, poaching, etc. So occasionally when there is a bit of good news I like to celebrate it. After all, the subtitle for this blog is “Inform and Inspire.” Well we got some good news last week from the African Elephant Summit in Gaborone, Botswana. At the summit meeting governments of states where the illegal ivory trade occurs pledged to take “urgent measures” to try and stop the illegal trade and end poaching.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, “2011 saw the highest levels of poaching and illegal ivory trade in at least 16 years, with around 25,000 elephants killed on the continent, and it says 2012 showed no signs of abating.” Furthermore, “eighteen large scale seizures of more than 40 tons of ivory had been recorded so far this year, which represented the greatest quantity of ivory seized over the last 25 years.”

If not stopped, poaching will reduce elephant herds significantly in the next 10 years.

If not stopped, poaching will reduce elephant herds significantly in the next 10 years.

“Our window of opportunity to tackle the growing illegal ivory trade is closing and if we do not stem the tide, future generations will condemn our unwillingness to act,” Botswana President Ian Khama told the summit.

“Now is the time for Africa and Asia to join forces to protect this universally valued and much needed species,” he said.

The governments in attendance published a list of Urgent Measures to be taken in 2014. This list was agreed upon by key African elephant range states including Gabon, Kenya, Niger and Zambia, ivory transit states such as Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia, and ivory destination states, including China and Thailand, said the IUCN in a statement.

Probably the most urgent of the 14 measures classifies wildlife trafficking as a “serious crime.” According to the IUCN, this will unlock international law enforcement cooperation provided under the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, including mutual legal assistance, asset seizure and forfeiture, extradition and other tools to hold criminals accountable for wildlife crime. In other words, It won’t just be the Kenya Wildlife Service going up against international criminal cartels.

Will this action by the African Elephant Summit and IUCN put an end to poaching? Of course not. Poverty, greed and corruption, as well as increasing demand from Asia for ivory are strong motivators. But this action inspires hope that the number of needless deaths of elephants will decline. And that will be something to celebrate.

One of the victims of poaching are the baby elephants that are orphaned when their mothers are killed for their ivory. Without the protection of the mother the baby will die or be killed by predators.

One of the victims of poaching are the baby elephants that are orphaned when their mothers are killed for their ivory. Without the protection of the mother the baby will die or be killed by predators.

Side Note: When I was in South Africa in October I was reading an investigative article about the use of powdered rhino horn in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In this story the investigator made undercover purchases of powdered ivory at traditional ethnic pharmacies and chemists shops in Asia. He then had all the samples tested by DNA sequencing. The result – not a single sample was authentic. Elephants and rhinos are being killed for their ivory and yet what people in Vietnam and China are buying is fake. It would almost be funny if it wasn’t so painful.

Sources:

  1. Urgent deal reached for African elephants, Key states commit to urgent measures to half illegal ivory trade; By Ray Faure, Associated Press – Wed, Dec 4, 2013 12:28 PM EST
  2. African Elephant Summit; Gaborone, Botswana; 2-4 December 2013; Urgent Measures 3 December 2013; https://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/african_elephant_summit_final_urgent_measures_3_dec_2013.pdf
  3. Zambia Assents to Secure Elephants; http://www.lusakatimes.com/2013/12/04/zambia-assents-secure-elephants/

South Africa Safari – Where in the World is Londolozi?

I thought I’d take a short break today from all the animal photographs and answer a question or two that I’ve received regarding our trip to South Africa. Several people have asked where is Londolozi, Mala Mala, etc. So I’ve prepared a few maps to give you a quick idea where we went.

Londolozi, Mala Mala and Kings camp are in the northeastern part of South Africa, just to the west of Kruger National Park. Londolozi and Mala Mala are part of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve while Kings Camp is in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve.

Capture3We arrived in South Africa via Johannesburg and flew in a small commuter plane up to Londolozi. At the end of our trip we visited Cape Town for a few days.

This next map is a closer look at the 3 camps.

Capture4This third map shows the relationship between Londolozi, Mala Mala and Kruger National Park.

CaptureLondolozi and Mala Mala are private reserves located within the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Londolozi occupies about 37,000 acres. Mala Mala is slightly larger at 39,500 acres. Londolozi and Mala Mala are exclusive privately owned reserves. Kings Camp shares the Timbavati Private Game Reserve with several other camps.

There are no fences separating any of the reserves or Kruger National park. Thus the animals are free to migrate from area to area as they wish. With 544,000 acres, Kruger National Park provides an immense amount of biodiversity that is shared among all the wildlife reserves.

The landscape of Sabi Sands is classic Lowveld bush savanna. The elevation is approximately 1000 ft. The land is flat with dense bush and thickets covering much of the area. (Lots of places for the animals to hide)

The following is a video that I shot by clamping my point and shoot camera to a seat rail on the land rover as we drove around. The video, while not terribly exciting, gives a good idea for what much of the landscape looked like.

I hope you enjoyed this brief informational interlude. If you’d like more information, Londolozi has a FREE book titled “Londolozi, Eco-Guide” available for downloading from iTunes. Now, back to the animals.

Do Fences Really Make for Good Neighbors?

It is interesting that yesterday I was writing about the inventiveness of  a young Kenyan boy, and how his flashing light invention kept lions away from his families fenced in herd of cattle. Today I read a report published in the New York Times by James Gorman of a study by Dr. Craig Packer and 57 colleagues that concluded the best way to save the lions is to fence them in.

Joao Silva/The New York Times

There is no question that the lion population in Africa has taken quite a big hit. According to Dr. Packer lions in Africa have lost 75 percent of their range in the last 100 years, problems between people and lions have increased, and some populations suffer from genetic isolation. Panthera, a conservationist organization devoted to big cats, estimates that there are 30,000 lions in Africa today, down from 200,000 lions 100 years ago.

After 35 years of field research in the Serengeti plains, Craig Packer, director of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota, has lost all patience with the romance of African wilderness. Fences, he says, are the only way to stop the precipitous and continuing decline in the number of African lions.

“Reality has to intrude,” he said. “Do you want to know the two most hated species in Africa, by a mile? Elephants and lions.” They destroy crops and livestock, he said, and sometimes, in the case of lions, actually eat people.

Dr. Packer’s goal is to save lions. Fencing them in, away from people and livestock, is the best way to do that, he believes, both for conservation and economics. He made that argument in a paper this month in Ecology Letters, along with 57 co-authors, including most of the top lion scientists and conservationists.

To be sure, not eveyone agrees with Dr. Packer that fencing is the best solution. it seems sad that things may come to this. Perhaps we need to get Richard Turere, the 13 year old Kenyan boy that I wrote about yesterday, involved and see If he can come up with a better solution.

The complete NY Times article can be found here.