Smuggler sentenced to 2 years and seven months

A Chinese national has been sentenced to two years and seven months in jail after being convicted for attempting to smuggle ivory from Kenya.

Chen Biemei, 30, was arrested on August 14, 2013 while trying to smuggle assorted worked ivory tucked in 15 sachets disguised and declared as macadamia nuts weighing 6.9kg.

She was trying to board a Kenya Airways Flight KQ 862 to Hong Kong at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.

When she appeared before the Makadara Magistrate Court in Nairobi, Biemei denied the charges and was remanded at Lang’ata Women’s Prison.

However, during Thursday’s trial, Biemei pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to serve eight months for being in possession of ivory, 15 months for dealing in ivory and eight months for failing to make a report to wildlife authorities of being in possession of the ivory without an option of fine.

During sentencing, the magistrate noted that Kenya is facing rampant poaching and that the culprit had ‘malicious intentions and a guilty mind’ that necessitates a custodial sentence to reign on the menace.

Biemei first appeared in court on August 15, 2013 but the proceedings were bogged by language hitch.

A State counsel was granted one day to find an interpreter to aid in the prosecution. The magistrate directed that she remains in custody until August 16, 2013 to allow the State counsel look for an interpreter before taking a plea.

A total of 17 suspects of six different nationalities have been arrested smuggling ivory out of the country since the beginning of this year.

HOW WE CAN END THE ELEPHANT POACHING CRISIS – Chelsea Clinton and the Clinton Foundation

While elephant poaching has been a serious challenge at different points in time for more than a century, it has recently risen to alarmingly high levels. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, the African elephant population has dropped from 1.2 million in 1980 to just 420,000 in 2012. While land use pressures and habitat loss pose serious threats to elephants, it is the illegal killing of elephants for their ivory that could cause them to become extinct within our lifetime. Last year alone, 35,000 African elephants were poached for their tusks, for their ivory.

This is not just an ecological disaster; it is an economic and security threat as well. Tourism, a vital source of income for many of the most-affected African countries, is threatened if wildlife preserves are depopulated. The overall black market for illegal wildlife trade has become the fourth most lucrative criminal activity internationally, after drugs, counterfeit goods, and human trafficking.  Wildlife trafficking yields $19 billion per year, according to The International Fund for Animal Welfare’s recent report. These illicit profits fuel rebel and militia groups, even terrorist organizations. Ivory and other wildlife commodities help finance some of their operations in East Africa, West Africa, and possibly further afield, adding to the already increasing concerns around global security.

The illegal ivory trade is buoyed by rising demand.  China and Thailand’s increasing affluence, as well as the growing middle class elsewhere in Asia, has been a key contributor to the increasing demand for ivory. Not surprisingly, as the demand increases, so too does the price of tusks and ivory and the tragic incentives for elephant poachers.  According to a recent Washington Post article, Savannah elephant tusks sell for up to $1,000 per pound, with forest elephant ivory often fetching an even higher price given its prized pinkish hue. Yet, it’s not just animal poaching or the illegal trade of animal parts that has enveloped within this crisis – poachers are putting park rangers in danger too. In the last decade alone, 1,000 rangers in 35 different countries have been killed.

To help end this crisis, we need a complete systems change and we need to recognize that elephant poaching exists within its own market system – we need to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand by educating end consumers. Last November, as then-Secretary of State, my mother announced the beginning of an effort to further recognize and address international wildlife trafficking, and just last month, President Obama issued an executive order on Combating Wildlife Trafficking, with a $10 million pledge demonstrating the United States’ commitment to addressing the crisis and related organized crime issue by working with foreign governments.

Outside of the U.S., other organizations like the African Wildlife Foundation are creating innovative programs to incentivize and reward local populations in the successful protection of elephant populations.  The 40,000-hectare Sekute Conservation Area is part of the Kazungula Landscape which links Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, and is home to the largest concentration of elephants in Africa. I recently had the opportunity to visit this conservation area and meet with the students and faculty of Lupani, the community trust leadership, as well Patrick Bergin, the CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation.  In Zambia, the African Wildlife Foundation built and continues to support the Lupani Primary School as an incentive for the establishment of a community-protected wildlife area and the protection of valuable wildlife dispersal corridors. They also developed and brokered an innovative deal between the Sekute Community Trust and private sector partners to build the Machenje Fishing Lodge.  In return for meeting specified conservation objectives, the local community owns the fishing lodge, while the private sector partners handle the management.  Hopefully, it is a true win-win-win, for the private sector partners, the community, and the wildlife.

In Tanzania, I visited one of the parks where the Wildlife Conservation Society does research on elephants and works with the Tanzanian government to protect this species. I think it would be impossible to not be overwhelmed by the majesty, the humility and the personalities of the individual elephants and families of elephants roaming across Tarangire National Park. As I observed a three-month old baby elephant playing mischievously and a thirtyish year old mother protecting her children, it became starkly clear how innocent these creatures are, and how necessary it is for us to protect them. The mother cannot protect her young on her own.  I listened as Charles Foley, an elephant conservationist, and James Deutsch, the Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Africa, described the successes they’ve had working with governments and communities at protecting elephants on the ground in twelve high priority landscapes from Nigeria to Mozambique – Tarangire included.  But they also stressed that this success needs to be rolled out to new sites where elephants are being killed, as well as complemented by work to intercept ivory traffickers and to staunch consumer demand for ivory. They know that they also cannot protect elephants on their own.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the international community successfully came together to prevent the extinction of elephants, an effort that led to an international trade ban of ivory, along with funding to create wildlife preserves and anti-poaching efforts – all of which helped the African elephant population recover. Last month, my mother held a meeting with several conservation groups to discuss how we need to do more, and how we can do more to bring governments, organizations, and individuals together to create a coherent plan and reach a real solution.  I’m proud that the Clinton Foundation is beginning to work with African leaders, NGOs and the private sector to build a Clinton Global Initiative commitment to formalize a plan and drive coordinated action. By working together across borders and sectors, we can solve this challenge.

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My foster elephant, Ajabu, has passed away.

Heartbreak at the Nairobi Nursery

It is with profound heartbreak and sorrow that we have to announce the death of our precious Nursery baby, Ajabu, rescued the day she was born on the 4th April, 2013 having been found abandoned near the Tsavo East Park airstrip.   Upon arrival she was given an infusion of Elephant Plasma since it appeared unlikely that she had been able to benefit from her mother’s first Colostrum milk that contains the antibodies vital to survival.   Thereafter she thrived, fed milk on demand throughout the day and the night, and diligently protected from the chill by being always covered with a warm blanket.

She was late in teething, but when she began cutting her first molar, the usual difficulties appeared, but Ajabu never lost her appetite and weathered them, managing to cut 2 molars by the time of her death.  However during August, whilst we as a family were down in Tsavo overseeing our field projects, it was noticed that Ajabu’s  back feet were  turning inwards slightly, which in the past, according to our experience, has baffled everyone but  been a pre-cursor to the death of infant teething elephants.   This was extremely alarming – a sign that all was not well with our precious Nursery baby.

Then on the morning of the 21st August, her Keepers reported that fluid was coming from her trunk, and that, unusually, she had refused her usual morning milk feeds and was “dull”.   Our donated Blood Diagnostic machine was out of order, and has been sent to Germany for repair, so a sample of her blood was sent to the Nairobi Hospital for analysis. The results astounded us for everything was normal but for an extremely low platelet count. With no indication of a bacterial or viral infection, the suspected pneumonia could be ruled out.   Could the platelet defect be as a result of a Vitamin D deficiency, through not having been exposed to sufficient sunshine during the very cold and miserable Nairobi winter months of June, July and August?   Ajabu had been protected from chill and the possibility of pneumonia (a major killer of baby elephants) by being covered by a blanket when out and about.   Could this have proved counterproductive with this newborn calf?

She was put on intravenous plasma drip in an attempt to  boost her platlet count, but tragically, little Ajabu while comfortably lying on her mattress in her stable stopped breathing in the evening of the 21st, and surrounded by her grief-stricken human family she passed away very quietly and peacefully at 8 p.m.

The death of such a cosseted infant elephant is a heartbreak indeed for many.   She was  so dearly loved by us and all her Keepers,  as well as by her foster-parents throughout the world who have diligently followed her progress through the Fostering Programme’s monthly  Keepers’ Diaries.   She will also be deeply missed by all her little elephant friends currently in the Nursery, none more so than Sonje her very special surrogate mini mum. But, we have to emulate the wild Elephant mothers who suffer bereavement so stoically and bravely, and who despite grieving and mourning a loss as deeply as us humans (perhaps even more so), yet set us the example by having the fortitude and endurance to turn the page and focus on life and the living.   We must give thanks that we were able to share the life of little Ajabu which for her were almost 5 very happy months that otherwise would have been denied her.   And that during that time she was surrounded by caring and the same boundless love that her human family would have given her, and that she had a pain-free and peaceful end overseen by those who cared and loved her deeply.

For us, the need to focus on the living came within 30  minutes of Ajabu’s death, for yet another tragic infant elephant orphan arrived in the Nursery, rescued and flown in from Tsavo East National Park, landing in the night and arriving at the Nursery shortly afterwards.   This new yearling baby is emaciated and far from well – in the usual fragile condition of those who simply can no longer keep up with the herd where the Elephant Matriarch has had to make the decision to focus on the living.

Celebrating World Elephant Day – August 12

In celebration of World Elephant Day on Monday, August 12th, we honor the elephants of Kenya. Please take a moment to read, sign and share the petitions below on behalf of Kenya’s struggling elephants.

1. Sign the petition to stop elephant poaching in Kenya. This petition is 86,000 strong!

2. Sign the petition to end the slaughter of Kenya’s elephants from Paula Kahumbu!

The Illegal Wildlife Trade is Fueling Terrorist Groups

From the NYTimes

PRESIDENT OBAMA and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently stepped up the fight against poachers, who kill tens of thousands of animals worldwide every year, selling their body parts for enormous profits. As well as bringing much needed political focus to the issue, their efforts include more resources to train and equip anti-poaching forces.

This attention is part of a new understanding that poachers pose a threat not only to endangered species, but to American national security. A portion of the profits from poaching is funneled to terrorist groups, including Al Shabab, based in Somalia, and the Lord’s Resistance Army, which has killed more than 3,000 people and displaced another 400,000 in Central Africa in recent years.

Despite anti-poaching efforts across the developing world, the illegal killing of wild animals continues: the Wildlife Conservation Society says that 35,000 African elephants were killed illegally last year, and that the number of elephants on the continent has fallen to only 420,000, from 1.2 million in 1980.

Although it is impossible to know for sure how much money flows to terrorists from poaching, some reports suggest that the monthly profit for Al Shabab from the illegal ivory trade alone is $200,000 to $600,000. In the case of the Lord’s Resistance Army, witnesses report that Joseph Kony, the group’s leader, ordered the shooting of elephants in order to trade their tusks for arms, cash, food and medical supplies.

The poaching-terrorist link is not new: in 1998 a Somali warlord tied to poachers reportedly provided safe haven to operatives of Al Qaeda responsible for the bombings of the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed hundreds of people. But as both the global reach of terrorist groups and the market for illegal animal parts have grown, the nexus between the two has tightened.

Before stepping down as secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton began an effort, led by the director of national intelligence, to determine the impact of trafficking in animal products on American security.

The results of the report, which was finished this summer, have not been released. But its conclusions are easy to guess, as shortly after its completion President Obama created an interagency task force to develop an anti-poaching strategy and pledged $10 million to help African states combat poaching.

That’s a welcome contribution, but far below what is needed. To be sure, poaching is a complex, transnational threat, and cracking down on poaching is simply too big a job for the United States, or any government, to handle alone.

It is therefore noteworthy that Mrs. Clinton has continued to generate awareness of the issue since leaving office. On July 15 she announced she would use her influence to rally support from national leaders around the world behind anti-poaching endeavors. Her effort should catalyze other states to step up their own efforts against poaching and wildlife trafficking in Africa.

But the best shot at combating poaching must include nontraditional partners working together. This means that governments, multilateral organizations and technology innovators — from the Pentagon and United Nations counterterrorism units to the World Bank and conservation groups — must play a part in addressing the problem by coordinating strategies and sharing information.

A collaborative response is also needed to achieve development goals in Africa. Tourism is a key part of many African economies, and diminished wildlife populations, especially of popular animals like elephants and rhinos, is a direct threat to their prosperity.

Another key to any anti-poaching strategy should be to equip law enforcement and other authorities with the technology necessary to counter high-tech poachers, who use helicopters, night-vision goggles and automatic weapons. The United States, for example, should work with African governments to deploy unarmed surveillance drones to track poachers and identify their illicit networks.

President Obama’s and Mrs. Clinton’s engagement on poaching deserves credit. But to ensure the link between poaching and terrorism is severely disrupted, their words need to be followed by a serious commitment of money and resources, not only from the United States, but from conservation, development and security organizations worldwide.

Johan Bergenas is the deputy director of the Managing Across Boundaries initiative at the Stimson Center. Rachel Stohl is a senior associate with the initiative. Ochieng Adala, the acting executive director of the Africa Peace Forum and a visiting fellow at the Stimson Center, is a former Kenyan ambassador to the United Nations.

More than 1000 tusks seized in Hong Kong – mainly from BABY ELEPHANTS

More than 1,000 ivory tusks, mainly from baby elephants, were seized by Hong Kong customs in their biggest haul in three years, officials said on Friday.

The tusks, which weigh over two tons and are worth more than US $2 million, were discovered at the city’s main port in a cargo container from the African country of Togo.

It was headed for mainland China and the bags of tusks were hidden beneath planks of wood.

“We profiled a container from Togo, Africa, for cargo examination. First, we found irregularities at an X-ray check. Then, we opened the container and discovered the tusks of different sizes,” Wong Wai-hung, a customs’ commander, told reporters.

He added that the tusks were buried underneath planks of wood in the corner of the six-metre (20-foot) container, which had been declared as carrying wood only.

More than 1,148 tusks were seized in the haul at Hong Kong’s Kwai Chung terminal, worth around HK$17.5m (US$2.3m).

It was the biggest ivory seizure in the southern Chinese city since 2010, since when another nine cases have been recorded.

Ng Kwok-leung, customs’ group head of ports control, said that the majority of the tusks seized in the operation were from baby elephants.

It was a big haul, we should be happy. But when I looked at these tusks, we saw very small tusks of baby elephants. We were sad because they were killed for nothing,” he said.

The international trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after populations of the African giants dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to some 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.

Ivory is popular with Chinese collectors who see it as a valuable investment.

It is often intricately carved to depict anything from devotional Buddhist scenes to wildlife and bizarre fantasies, and is also turned into more mundane household objects such as chopsticks.

Conservation groups have accused the Chinese government of failing to enforce laws to control the illicit trade.

Hong Kong, a free port which runs one of the biggest container terminals in the world, often sees the seizure of products from banned trades.

But customs officials said on Friday said there was “no concrete information” to show that the financial hub had become a gateway for ivory smuggling, despite its proximity to China.




original source link.

My foster elephants – Ajabu and Barsilinga

I am fostering two baby elephants through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

AjabuAjabu was born just around the time that my USA Projects was launched in April.  She was found wandering alone with no sign of her mother or herd in Tsavo East National Park.  She also was a newborn: her umbilical cord was still attached. Her name translates to “mystery” in Swahili.  I chose her because she was born just around the time that the wildLIFE Project was launched and I hope to follow her progress as time goes on.  Here is her video, and you can also see her story here.

BarsilingaThe second elephant calf is Barsilinga:  he was found on March 28th last year in Northern Kenya next to his dying mother, who was riddled with bullets by poachers who were after her tusks.   Sadly she could not be saved and had to be euthanized.  His story is here.

I hope to learn more about these animals through the notes made on their progress as they grow up.   Most of these orphans are lucky to be alive – poachers are relentless – in order to get the ivory, they will kill every animal in the herd if need be, despite their ages.  The future of the elephant population is dependent upon the success of this program as well.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has been dedicated to wildlife preservation since 1977 in the Tsavo National Park.

Daphne Sheldrick was the first person in the entire world to successfully hand rear newborn fully milk dependent African Elephant orphans, something that spanned 28 years of trial and error to achieve. By the year 2008 the Trust had successfully saved and hand-reared over 82 infant African Elephant calves, two from the day of birth. Currently, over 40 of the Trust’s hand-reared elephants are fully established and living free amongst their wild peers in Tsavo, some returning with wild born young to show their erstwhile human family. Based at two established Elephant Rehabilitation Centers within Tsavo East National Park others are still in the gradual process of re-integration with yet others in early infancy at the Trust’s Nairobi National Park Elephant and Rhino Nursery. The Trust has trained a team of competent Elephant Keeper who replace the orphans’ lost elephant family until such time as the transition to the wild herds has been accomplished, something that can take up to l0 years, since elephant calves duplicate their human counterparts in terms of development through age progression. Those that were orphaned too young to recall their elephant family remain dependent longer, but all the Trust’s orphans eventually take their rightful place amongst their wild counterparts, including those orphaned on the day they were born.