Sunday, October 18, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Reducing the consumption and demand for vulture parts through an awareness campaign targeting consumers and other role-players in the trade
Changing and creating policy to regulate the trade where necessary
Improving policing and enforcement of relevant laws to regulate the trade
Improving the understanding of the vulture trade through monitoring and research, allowing more focused interventions
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Not all migratory raptors recorded in southern Africa migrate to the Palearctic region, however. Wahlberg's Eagle Aquila wahlbergi for example is an intra-African migrant that arrives in the region from mid-August and starts breeding shortly after their arrival. I recorded quite a few active nests of this species during my 2-day visit to the southern Kruger National Park earlier this week.
This habit of roosting in such large numbers together, provides us in southern Africa with an ideal opportunity to get an estimate of the global population size of these three species. There is currently quite a network of volunteers, mostly based in South Africa, that participate in our Annual Roost Count at almost 90 known roost sites on the Highveld, the Free State, Karoo and elsewhere. If you want to know more about these counts or results from previous year's efforts, visit http://www.kestreling.com/ , a site managed by the coordinator of the EWT-Birds of Prey Working Group's Migratory Kestrel Project (MKP), Anthony van Zyl.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Statistics reveal that more than 120 rhino were poached in South Africa during 2008. Considering the time of year and the tally so far, it is likely that the number of animals killed in the country in 2009 can equal or exceed that of 2008. Similar trends have been experienced in Zimbabwe where Black Rhino in certain areas currently face the threat of almost complete eradication despite brave efforts by rangers to stem the onslaught. A major area of concern that has been clearly illustrated with several successful poaching attempts on game farms and lodges in Gauteng, Northwest and the bushveld of Limpopo, is the vulnerability of the private sector to this threat. It is quite amazing that some private land-owners are prepared to pay in excess of R0.5m for a single White Rhino, but then often neglect to implement even the most basic of security measures to ensure that the animal is not poached.
Another loophole identified and used by rhino horn traders is that of the trophy hunting industry where they have inflated the going price for a trophy animal to the extent that the traditional trophy hunter from the US, Europe or elsewhere can no longer afford it. Traders are quite happy to pay more than R1m per trophy hunt, arrive in the country and shoot a rhino, only to lob off the horns, stuff them in a bag and exit the country with a permit that legally entitles them to do so. One can only imagine what the return on investment is on the sale of such horns. Fortunately, legislation has now been amended to address this and it will hopefully not recur during the next hunting season.
This is of course not the first time that rhino in South Africa have faced this threat. During the late 1980's and early 1990's a similar threat was impacting rhino and elephant populations in southern Africa on a similar, if not larger, scale. Timeous action and the implementation of effective measures to curb this threat at the time resulted in the effective eradication thereof to the extent where it was no longer considered a significant threat by 1997.
A vital part of this intervention was the improvement in the level of training of Field Rangers and equipping them with the appropriate skills and tools to take on armed poachers on an equal footing, but with the full backing of the legal system. This training was standardised and norms set for the entire sub-region through the establishment of the Game Rangers Training Co-ordination Group in 1990. This group enjoyed the full support of all southern African formal (national and provincial), private and NGO conservation bodies and also worked closely with the Endangered Species Protection Unit of the SAPS to effectively address this threat at all levels. I was fortunate to chair this group from 1997-1999 and am proud to say that the training curriculum developed at the time still forms the broad framework according to which Field Ranger training is conducted throughout the SADC-region and at the Southern African Wildlife College in particular.
I believe that we can once again effectively curb this new surge in rhino poaching by working together in partnership, sharing knowledge and expertise and adapting our training and operations to effectively address the new, more sophisticated approach of poachers. The Game Rangers Association of Africa (GRAA) is in the fortunate position to already be assisting in this regard through a fantastic sponsorship received from the Liberty Wildlife Foundation based in the Netherlands.
The Foundation has pledged a sponsorship in excess of R1m a year for the next few years for the training and recruitment of approximately 100 new Field Rangers per year to augment the current corps of rangers operating in national parks and provincial reserves in South Africa. It is also hoped to expand our training focus to address some of the needs in the private sector by training Field Rangers for these smaller establishments in due course. The GRAA, in partnership with the SAWC and AFRTS, are currently busy with training the first 60 of these new rangers who will be employed by SANParks once they complete their training on the 10th of October 2009. An additional 40 rangers will then be trained and deployed in the Ukuhlamba-Drakensberg and Lesotho before the end of 2009. Another vital component of this initiative is to also expand on the existing group of qualified training personnel through identifying and training up more trainers.
The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), GRAA and WESSA also initiated a Rhino Security Workshop which was hosted by SANParks at Skukuza in June 2009 during which a draft strategy to address the current threat of poaching was further discussed. This workshop also involved a range of other role-players from both the formal and private sectors and specific actions were agreed upon to take the process further.
- law enforcement through the recently initiated Poaching Investigators Crime Forum,
- tracking the trade in rhino horn through an existing project coordinated by TRAFFIC and
- working to ensure the in situ security of rhino, especially on private land.
Fortunately, the SA Mint has stepped up to the plate and pledged its support to this vitally important project through donating a significant portion of the proceeds from the sales of its latest series of gold coins, known as the Natura series which depicts the White Rhino in its design and are really very attractive. This series is apparently very popular with collectors worldwide and have won numerous international awards. It is believed that more than R0.5m can potentially be raised with this initiative which would be sufficient to launch the above project within the next few months. Anyone interested in finding out more about these coins can contact the SA Mint as firstname.lastname@example.org Your support for this important cause will be appreciated.
I was fortunate to represent the GRAA and attend the minting of the first of these coins by the Minister of Water Affairs and the Environment, Ms. Byelwa Sonjica at the SA Mint on Wednesday and her very vocal support for this initiative and the improvement of rhino security in South Africa in general, was very encouraging. Substantive support from government and donors will go a long way to assist in mobilising an effective reaction to the current poaching threat facing rhino and other wildlife in the region. I look forward to seeing this challenge being successfully conquered for the second time in twenty years and to be able to contribute in some way.
It is also encouraging to note that both SANParks and KZN Wildlife have had recent successes in apprehending poachers in the Kruger National Park and Zululand reserves, an indication that the tide against rhino poaching is starting to turn.