Parrots, elephants, and crocodiles

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2000:

JOHANNESBURG, HARARE, NAIROBI, DAR ES SALAAM––Already embarrassed by disclosure of a surge in ivory poaching associated with alleged wildlife department mismangement, the Zimbabwean government was rattled again in mid-January when the Zimbabwe Standard n e w s p a p e r disclosed that in November 1999 the Zimbabwe SPCA had asked the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to help the SPCA stop alleged smuggling of wild-caught African gray parrots by senior military officers.

The SPCA said the parrots were being hauled by the hundred via cargo aircraft chartered to fly troops and supplies to duty stations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. About 13,000 Zimbabwean soldiers are stationed in the Congo. “It is almost impossible for the SPCA to get into the air base because of military security,” the SPCA complained.

Zimbabwean military spokesperson Colonel Chancellor Diye claimed that no traffic in parrots was taking place.

African elephant range states are scrambling to demonstrate control over poaching and wildlife trafficking before the 2000 CITES triennial meeting, to be held in midApril in Nairobi, Kenya. Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia hope to win renewed permission to sell stockpiled elephant ivory to Japan. Getting permission is supposed to be contingent upon having poaching under control.

South Africa, already selling live elephants, reportedly seeks to sell ivory too, as does Tanzania.

Kenya leads the range state faction which hopes to restore the complete ban on ivory sales that was in effect from 1989 until 1997.

Tanzanian scandal

The TOMRIC news agency alleged in January that the Tanzanian government “loses billions of shillings each year in a hunting scam involving massive tax evasion set up by foreign professional hunters in conspiracy with local operators of hunting safaris. At the center of the scam,” TOMRIC charged further, “are two Zimbabwean brothers of Dutch origin, wanted in their country for fraud and racketeering. They have had their professional licenses withdrawn by the Zimbabwean Professional Hunters and Guides Association for ‘unethical and unprofessional conduct,’” TOMRIC added. “Their clients, mainly business executives and company chief officers, come from Europe and America.”

Like Zimbabwe and South Africa, Tanzania claims to have too many elephants, despite the loss of about 200,000 to poaching between 1970 and 1989. Tanzania now has about 30,000 elephants.

Also like Zimbabwe, Tanzania has received large infusions of help from USAid. But unlike Zimbabwe, which has received $28 million since 1989 in support of CAMPFIRE, a “community development” program which promotes trophy hunting of elephants, Tanzania has apparently not received funding in direct support of hunting––although Tanzania has received tactical and technical advisors from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, whose official outlook strongly favors hunting.

Hunting in Kruger?

South Africa is still contending with global outrage over the alleged abuse last year of the so called Tuli elephants, a group of 30 calves who were taken from their mothers in Botswana and brutally “trained” by mahouts hired by animal trader Ricardo Ghiazza. Seven of the calves were eventually sold abroad. Fourteen were returned to the wild. Ghiazza and fellow dealer Craig Saunders still have the rest.

With the Tuli case still a raw memory, the Makuleke Communal Property Association stirred new outrage by selling to a firm called Wayne Wagner Safaris the elephant and cape buffalo hunting rights on recently reclaimed tribal land within Kruger National Park. Kruger until now has been off limits to sport hunting. The success of the concession would appear to depend partially on the ability of hunters to export their trophies.

Ousted from present-day Kruger by the former apartheid government in 1969, the Makuleke regained the land they formerly occupied through a 1998 Land Claims Court ruling. The sale of hunting rights reportedly jeopardized a promise from the South Africa Wildlife Action Group that it would help the Makuleke raise funds to build the infrastructure needed to promote non-lethal eco-tourism.

Embattled Kenya Wildlife Service rangers meanwhile killed six suspected elephant poachers in a January series of running firefights. Ten poachers and two suspected ivory dealers were arrested.

Also menacing Kenyan elephants were outraged Narok villagers after four elephants killed one man near Keekonyokie Location, chased another, and also killed a cow. The elephants may have left the Masai Mara National Reserve because they found a break in the fence made by herders in order to pasture cattle on reserve land–– which tends to be much less heavily grazed. Nonetheless, former councillor Mikuta ole Mitishe led the villagers in warning that if the elephants were not returned to the reserve immediatley, they would be shot with poisoned arrows.

Pro-hunting factions are believed to be helping to amplify such incidents in hopes of eroding the national ban on sport hunting which has been in effect since 1966.


KWS faced a less familiar wildlife use problem at Mbita Point on Lake Victoria circa January 18. “Efforts by a group of young women identified as the town’s prostitutes to extract gentials from a dead crocodile were thwarted by game rangers,” the Panafrican News Agency reported. “The angry women said that they intended to use the parts as love charms to attract more clients.”

The incident came as Malawi Crocodile Hunters Association president Khalid Hassen asked CITES to raise the Malawian croc culling quota from the present 200 to at least 500. Hassen says he has killed at least 17,000 crocs since 1963, mostly to sell their hides.

Fatal crocodile attacks are increasing in Malawi. “Wildlife minister George Ntafu told Parliament that his ministry suspects witchcraft is involved,” wrote Raphael Tenthani of PANA.

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