African wildlife conservation

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2001:
African wildlife conservation

Hunting for power

Forty thousand hunters from all parts of Mali and the nearby West African nations of Burkina Fasa, Guinea, Niger, and Senecal attended a mid-February festival hosted by Mali president Alpha Oumar Konare in Bamako, Mali. Konare’s motives in bringing the hunters, mostly animists, to largely Islamic Mali, were questioned. “It’s not good, this hunter thing,” one source told Joan Baxter of BBC News. “We fear the president wants to use all the hunters’ powers to extend his mandate.”

Ivory poaching

Lieutenant Colonel Masud Mohamed, of Pakistan, head of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Rwanda, was arrested on February 10 at Nairobi Inter-national Airport in Kenya for allegedly trying to smuggle four elephant tusks, 12 pieces of worked ivory, and a leopard pelt on a flight to Dubai. Mohamed was fined about $2,200. “Mohamed’s case could have been lifted straight from last year’s report by the U.K. charity Save The Elephants,” said London Observer reporter James Astill.

“We spent six months following the ivory trade all over Africa, and it became clear that U.N. workers and diplomats–mainly from North Korea–have become one of the biggest markets for ivory,”  explained Save The Elephants’ representative Esmond Martin. Other major ivory customers include French peacekeeping troops, plus Spanish, Italian, and French tourists, Martin indicated.

Only two days after the Mohamed arrest, a Romanian was arrested at Nairobi International Airport for allegedly trying to bootleg six ivory carvings from Bujumbura, Burundi, to Amsterdam. Ivory poaching appears to have surged in response to the Zimbabwean demand for an end to the 13-year-old Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ban on international ivory sales–and the poaching has spread beyond Africa. As many as eight elephants were killed during the first 45 days of 2001 at Jim Corbett National Park in India. Another elephant was poached in Sri Lanka during the last week of 2000.

Trophy poaching

“South African hunters are allegedly smuggling ivory into the country from Zimbabwe to win hunting trophy competitions,” Fiona Macleod of the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian reported on February 13. “The scam, which allegedly involves the illegal hunting of state-owned elephants and laundering export permits for the tusks,” Macleod continued, “has been exposed by questions raised about a pair of tusks entered in a trophy competition by Frikkie Bouwer, an executive committee member of the South African Hunters & Game Conservation Association. Bouwer has not produced valid permits for the tusks, and the export stamps on the ivory are registered to a British hunter for a different pair of tusks.” (See Editorial, page 3.)

Hunting halted

Trying to keep the wildlife massacre underway in Zimbabwe (see Editorial, page 3) from spreading into Zambia, Zambian president Frederick Chiluba on January 10 banned issuance of hunting concessions throughout the nation. Of the 64 licensed hunting concessionaires in Zambia, Chiluba said, only one had filed an audited financial statement and few, if any, had paid the required royalties on their killing.

“This ban will last for one year and is intended to enable the animals to regenerate after wanton destruction,” Chiluba announced. During the year-long hunting ban, Chiluba indicated, his government will reappraise patterns of land use and ownership and seek to change policies that favor a privileged elite.

Niger environment minister Issoufou Assoumane instituted a similar ban to “allow the reconstitution of the fauna,” according to Agencie France Press. “In the past decade,” AFP continued, “the desert zones in northern Niger have become hunting playgrounds for Persian Gulf princes, who arrive for expeditions with armies of helpers. The expeditions have become increasingly controversial, with local ecologists terming them ‘murderous’ and saying they are destroying a national treasure.”

Gorillas

The British charity Flora and Fauna International announced in January 2001 that continued patrols by 300 Congolese, Rwandan, and Ugandan forest guards have enabled the Virunga mountain gorilla population to increase from 320 individuals in 1989 to 355 now. The only other mountain gorillas in the wild are the estimated 300 in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of Uganda. Virunga is within a war zone, and five guards have been killed by armed militias, FFI said, but claimed that gorilla conservation is endorsed by the major rebel force, called Rally for Congolese Democracy, as well as by the governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda.
The lowland gorillas and 444 bird species known to inhabit Odzala National Park in the Republic of Congo meanwhile gained some extra protection in December 2000, when Republic of Congo forestry minister Henri Djombo quadrupled the size of the park and announced that his government intends to emphasize tourism rather than logging as the future economic base of the region. Odzala National Park, created in 1935 and declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1977, has been managed since 1992 by ECOFAC, a project of the European Commission.

Monkey-business

Protesting that they would rather go naked than yield to monkey-business, more than 300 women from Baomo village, Mnazini area, in the Tana River district of Kenya reportedly stripped off their clothes on February 4 and charged at a dozen field biologists who were counting endangered red colobus monkeys.
The monkey census is part of a Kenya Wildlife Service plan to expand the Tana River Primate National Reserve, funded by the World Bank. The women were from about 2,000 families who are to be relocated but do not wish to leave. The biologists fled, abandoning their equipment to the women’s wrath. Police said they drove the women back by firing shots over their heads. “Public stripping by women is considered a curse in many Kenyan communities,” commented Agencie France Press.

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