African wildlife seeks new ways of survival
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2002:
HARARE, KAMPALA, CAPE TOWN, NAIROBI–Competing for prey
and dens with larger and stronger African lions and hyenas, stealthy
leopards, speedy cheetahs, and faster-breeding jackals. African
wild dogs may never have been very numerous.
Now they are critically endangered over much of their range,
and their range is shrinking, between human development and natural
disasters like the January 17, 2002 eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in
the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The eruption forced an estimated 350,000 human residents of
Goma, DRC, to flee to Gisenyi, Rwanda–and then, as hot soot and
mud inundated the region, many refugees fled on toward Ruhengeri and
Kilgali, Rwanda, or Bwindi, Uganda.
Wild animals also fled the eruption. They fled from the
hungry people, too, many of whom had literally nothing but the
clothes they wore. Hooved species ran farthest, fastest, and
first. Predators followed, moving mostly at night.
Species moved in and out of new habitat before they were even
Six weeks later and 200 miles south, a small pack of African
wild dogs bumped into the outskirts of Gitega, a sprawling city
situated almost exactly in the middle of Burundi. They didn’t want
to be there. Gitega offered few hooved animals and burrowing species
to hunt. But, like enterprising refugees everywhere, they set
about seeking survival as best they could. Around February 28, they
caught a 14-year-old boy who was gathering firewood. Ten hungry days
later they found a six-year-old boy in his home alone.
The Gitega provincial governor asked outraged and terrified
residents to track the wild dogs down and kill them all. He may have
had little choice if he wished to keep the peace, in a region
where–though the worst violence was in neighboring Rwanda–Hutu and
Tutsi mobs massacred each other by the thousands just eight years ago.
The tragic conflict between some of the world’s most
spectacular yet endangered wildlife and most desperately impoverished
people erupts every day somewhere in Africa. Animals are the big
losers in the long run, but human casualties are everywhere too,
albeit not always recognized as such. Medical science has just begun
to realize the extent to which deforestation and the bushmeat
traffic, for instance, contribute not only to the socio-economic
dislocation that feeds the ongoing African AIDS epidemic, among
other plagues, but are also themselves vectors for the transmission
of deadly disease.
Even AIDS itself may represent an instance of wild Africa
fighting back against human encroachment.
Prevailing theory is that the common but relatively harmless
simian immunodeficiency virus, SIV, started in a green vervet;
mutated into the lethal human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, probably
in a chimpanzee; and then passed to humans through the consumption
of poorly cooked bushmeat. Sexual transmission might have evolved
and spread HIV after that.
That theory might work–but three German researchers in
mid-March offered another plausible theory, through papers published
by the British magazine New Scientist and the German scientific
journal Naturwis-senschaften. Gerhard Brandner of Freiburg
University, Werner Kloft the the University of Bonn, and Manfred
Eigen of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in
Gottingen argue that the transmission agent may have been the
ubiquitous stable fly.
“Apes are traditionally hunted in Africa and offered for sale
in open-air markets,” they told Agence France Presse. “The bloody
carcasses are regularly covered with blood-feeding flies,” including
the stable fly, whose habits are practically designed to ensure
efficient disease transmission.
Explained Agence France Press, “They scrape skin to make a
wound, suck up the blood, and then regurgitate some of the blood on
the next skin they scrape. If the blood is deposited on an open
wound, HIV could be handed on. The stable fly is unusual,” the
report continued, “because there are many species of bloodsucking
insects, but very few pose a risk of passing on a virus.”
Mosquitoes, for instance, suck and regurgitate blood
through different tubes. Other insects purify the blood they suck
with their digestive enzymes. Brandner and Kloft, however,
discovered in 1992 that the stable fly has no digestive enzymes in
the body parts used for blood storage.
The discussion became more than just an effort to uncover
medical history in February 2002 when virologists from the French
Institute of Development Research identified five new strains of SIV
in 19 Camerounian greater spot-nose monkeys. A strain called SIVgsn
appears to be similar to the chimpanzee virus SIVcpz–and to HIV-1,
the first-discovered variant of the human killer.
Both wild chimpanzees and human Camerounians hunt and eat
greater spot-nose monkeys. Transmission could occur either through
consumption of infected meat or contact with stable flies in a
Opportunities for exposure to one or another of the SIV
viruses in any given heap of nonhuman primate carcasses appear to be
high. Sampling blood from 788 monkeys, the French researchers found
that 16% were infected with the form of SIV most resembling HIV.
Their data documented, they said, that “a substantial proportion of
wild monkeys in Cameroun are SIV-infected, and that humans who hunt
and handle bushmeat are exposed to a plethora of genetically highly
divergent viruses,” some of which could potentially kill humans as
aggressively as human meat hunters are killing nonhuman primates.
Bushmeat is also known to carry the Ebola virus, which
within a matter of days kills about 90% of the people who become
infected with it. There is no vaccine for it, no known cure, and
because Ebola victims copiously shed infected body fluids, medical
personnel who treat the dying and family members who prepare the dead
for burial are at great risk of becoming infected themselves.
Identified in 1976, Ebola typically kills a few dozen people
in a particular vicinity, then disappears for several years before
re-emerging. It is now believed that the re-emergences coincide with
outbreaks of the same infection among chimpanzees and gorillas, and
with humans hunting or scavenging the victims. Chimps and gorillas
were said to have died in great numbers in the wild just before a
1994 Ebola outbreak, and 13 human cases of Ebola in 1996 were traced
to the consumption of a single dead chimpanzee.
Stopping the bushmeat traffic stops Ebola. For that reason,
Gabon responded to the December 2001 discovery of Ebola near the
northern city of Mekambo by stepping up wildlife-related law
Although 20 people had already died from Ebola, the move was
“We are deprived of bushmeat when normally we could not do
without it,” complained Isidore Nkoto of Ntolo.
Bushmeat poaching continued whenever wildlife officials were
And as of March 23, 2002 the Gabon outbreak had afflicted at
least 124 people, causing 93 known deaths.
Bushmeat smuggling into Europe and China has the potential to
spread Ebola far and wide. Ironically, however, in a time of
intensified airport security, separate investigations by BBC News,
Agence France press, and London Independent reporter Michael
McCarthy confirmed and reconfirmed in February and March that most
smuggled bushmeat is not intercepted.
“In 2000,” wrote McCarthy, “14 spot checks on U.K.-bound
flights from Africa discovered a total of five tons of smuggled meat.
Although there is no way of telling for certain without expensive DNA
analysis, much of the smuggled meat is believed to be bushmeat,
virtually all of it illegal.”
Also of concern as a possible disease vector, as well as
source of animal suffering, is an apparent growing traffic in
exports of live monkeys from various African nations for laboratory
use. The Tanzanian capital city, Dar es Salaam, is the reputed hub
of the trade, but air transportation has at times been arranged
through Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya. In February 2002 a laboratory
supply company calling itself Paloda Farm claimed to have obtained a
permit to export primates to labs from Kenya, but a Kenya Wildlife
Service spokesperson on February 28 asserted that the ban on primate
exports adopted as part of the 1977 prohibition of sport hunting is
still in effect. called the Paloda Farm claims “unfounded and
baseless, and concluded that “KWS is in the process of establishing
who the authors of the [Paloda Farm] claims are, with a view of
taking legal action.”
Tusks & horns
The African poaching traffic of most ongoing concern to the
developed world, however, involves elephant ivory and rhino horn.
During the 1970s and 1980s, ivory and rhino poaching all but
extirpated elephants from many regions, and rhinos were extirpated
from almost everywhere except parks where they could be guarded night
Since 1988, when the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species banned international sales of elephant ivory and
rhino horn, the wild elephant and rhino populations have slowly
recovered, though still to much less than the numbers of a
generation ago. Reintroductions of elephants to vacated former range
have been undertaken here and there since circa 1996–at first only
within the bigger and more secure nations, such as South Africa,
but now even among smaller nations, as in an agreement announced in
mid-March 2002 by which Burkina Faso is to transfer 15 elephants to
Niokolo Koba National Park in Senegal.
The actual translocation will probably be done in July, said
the Dakar Republic.
In Kenya, Meru National Park senior warden Mark Jenkins has
been “bringing in everything from elephants to impala,” he recently
told Matthew Green of News-24 TV in Johannesburg. “We’re not talking
about 10 of 20 animals; we’re talking about hundreds, even
thousands,” Jenkins continued.
The stars of the reintroduction effort, however, are a
30-year-old white rhino bull who was brought to Meru to keep him out
of trouble, after he killed seven other rhinos in horn-jousting over
territory; three younger white rhinos hauled in from private ranches
in March; and five more who are due in July.
The rhino arrivals are paid for by the Kenya office of the
International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Jenkins and staff will practice keeping those rhinos safe
from poaching for several years before trying to reintroduce black
As recently as 1970 Kenya had an estimated 20,000 black
rhinos, but just 460 remain. Meru National Park was the hardest hit
of the major Kenyan wildlife viewing venues during the poaching wars.
Meru at peak was visited by 47,000 tourists per year, but after
conservationist George Adamson was killed there in 1989, following
several murders and disappearances of visitors, the visitor traffic
fell to only 1,500 by 1997. The park attracted 7,000 tourists in
2001, the second year of Jenkins’ restoration effort.
From the very beginnings of African tourism, Kenyan fortunes
have risen and fallen with visitor volume. Along the way, Kenya in
1977 made a propitious decision to ban sport hunting. The ban made
Kenya the destination of choice for photo safaris–and because wild
animals in Kenya are rarely shot at, they readily appear and hold
But the relative peace and prosperity of Kenya is still at
constant risk. Much of the poaching during the 1970s and 1980s
resulted from incursions by Somali militias. After am eight-year
slowdown, the Somali poaching pressure intensified coincidental with
the U.S. “War on Terror” in Afghanistan. Most notably, four black
rhinos were killed for their horns in Tsavo National Park during
November. Militias with links to Osama bin Laden are believed to be
stepping up traffic in wildlife parts to help raise funds to rebuild
the Al Qaida.terrorist network.
As the poaching threat increases, Kenya Wildlife Service
chief Joseph Kioko is operating with a short budget because tourism
revenue fell off to nothing for several months following September 11.
Other threats to the nonconsumptive Kenyan wildlife
management model come from ranchers and politicians who anticipate
quick cash returns in a resumption of legal trophy hunting. Hunting
advocates are reportedly organized as the Laikipia Wildlife Forum.
Key members include former Kenya Wildlife Service chief David
Western, whose tenure is remembered as the most corrupt and
inefffective in the history of the KWS; one Ian Parker, who
according to Ken Opala of the Nairobi newspaper The Nation denies any
link between ivory poaching and the decline of African elephants;
and Kuki Gallman, who is said to have the ear of Kenyan president
Daniel arap Moi, after the recent success of a Hollywood film based
on her autobiographical book I Dreamed of Africa.
Agitation for resumed trophy hunting also comes from some
National Park neighbors who according to park wardens cut fences to
graze livestock inside the parks and then complain about crop damage
when wildlife escapes.
IFAW Kenya representative Michael Wamithi scolded the lot of
them in a March 21 guest column for The Nation.
“It is disturbing,” Wamithi wrote, “that sport hunting
proponents are hell-bent on having their way through a sustained
campaign that will only benefit a few individuals. These individuals
and landowners appear to be sending the message that they have
waiting for too long and would like to cash in on wildlife. It is
now widely believed that the seemingly endless instability at the
Kenya Wildlife Service,” whose well-regarded previous director
Nehemiah Rotich was ousted in November 2001, “is as a result of the
ugly tentacles of the pro-hunting campaign.”
Exascerbating the internal pressures are the incessant
efforts of Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and now
Uganda to weaken the CITES restraints on wildlife parts trafficking.
Those restraints were already breached once, in 1997, to allow
Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia to sell stockpiles of culled
elephant ivory–and the mere hint that international ivory-selling
might again become legal incited a new wave of elephant poaching
throughout Africa and Asia.
The next triennial CITES Conven-tion of Parties is to be held
in November 2002, in Chile. Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, South
Africa, and Uganda have already been lobbying to lift restrictions
on ivory and rhino horn selling for months. And illegal ivory
trafficking is again resurgent, only some of it appearing more
attributable to Al Qaida than to growing expectations by speculators
than now may be the time to gather ivory and rhino horn for sale when
the lid comes off the traffic.
There may be hidden links to Al Qaida in the early January
recovery of 1,255 poached elephant tusks from two houses in Dar es
Salaam, Tanzania, as police have been very guarded about revealing
the identities of two suspects who were caught 10 days later.
On March 5 in Los Angeles, however, Gambian citizen Bahoreh
Kabb, 38, was sentenced to serve 366 days in prison for allegedly
conspiring to smuggle 66 pieces of ivory from Nigeria into the U.S.
in early 2001.
On March 12 in Nelspruit, South Africa, Norah Sambo, 56,
was jailed for three years for bootlegging a rhino horn from
Mozambique and trying to sell it.
Those appear to have been strictly economically motivated crimes.
Sambo, identified by the African Eye News Service as “a
widow and sole breadwinner for a family of nine,” including seven
children and two grandchildren, seems to have hoped that she could
cash in as an individual on the same traffic that her government does.
South Africa and Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia, were under
global boycott for practicing racial apartheid during the years that
Kenya established itself as the leading African wildlife viewing
destination. Instead of building visitor industries based on
attracting large numbers of couples and families who would also
patronize hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops, South Africa
and Rhodesia built visitor industries around high-spending trophy
hunters, mostly older men. Botswana and Namibia, as South Africa
client states, followed the same model–and Zimbabwe stayed with it
after the Robert Mugabwe regime overthrew apartheid in 1980.
Eager to keep Mugabwe from pursuing a Marxist orientation,
the U.S. poured money into Zimbabwean development, including through
CAMPFIRE, short for Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous
Purporting to encourage villagers to protect wildlife by
enabling them to share in the profits from trophy hunting, CAMPFIRE
generates $2.5 million a year in program revenue. It received
subsidies of $20.5 million during fiscal years 1997-2000 from the
U.S. Agency for International Development, after receiving $8
million from USAid 1989-1996. What it really does, apart from
subsidizing well-connected trophy hunters, is provide Mugabwe regime
insiders with a slush fund. That in turn helped to keep national
stability for about 20 years, until corruption and economic
mismanagement threatened to dislodge Mugabwe from the Zimbabwean
Clinging to power
During the past two years Mugabwe, 78, lost a series of
by-election tests of the popularity of his government. Mugabwe
responded by by reviving the unfulfilled promises of land
redistribution that brought him into office in the first place. Mobs
of armed Mugabwe supporters occupied hundreds of farms owned by
Zimbabweans of European descent, in the process destroying
agricultural productivity and inhibiting tourism including trophy
hunting so severely that Wild Producers Association chair Wally
Herbst reported that tourist arrivals fell 60% in 2001.
Herbst and other WPA members petitioned the Zimbabwean
government for permission to sell sable antelope and other rare
species abroad, in order to raise the money needed to stay in
The government-controlled newspaper Harare Herald meanwhile
asserted frequently throughout the winter that anything wrong with
Zimbabwean wildlife management was the fault of hostile “westerners”
who just do not want to see Zimbabwe prosper. The alleged conspiracy
eventually expanded to include longtime CITES allies South Africa,
Namibia, and Botswana, after their wildlife departments warned
Zimbabwe that poaching in connection with the farm occupations was so
far out of control that no Zimbabwean claim about being able to
protect elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, or any other trophy
species would have much credibility.
Mugabwe ultimately kept his office in a three-day March 2002
election featuring extensive violence against opponents, closing the
leading opposition newspaper, closing polling stations in districts
he might have lost, refusing to allow outside election observers,
and finally, when opposition presidential candidate Morgan
Tsvangirai questioned the legitimacy of the outcome, jailing him for
Mugabwe allegedly funded his bid to retain power, meanwhile,
by brokering a major rainforest logging deal in the war-ravaged
Democratic Republic of the Congo, reported Jason Burke and Antony
Barnet of the London Observer in a January 27 expose.
A similar zeal for quick cash at any cost to animals was
evident in Uganda when in mid-February 2002 tourism, trade, and
industry minister Edward Rugumayo released a tariff fee schedule for
250,000 wild animals authorized for export during 2002 by six Ugandan
Kampala New Vision investigative reporter Alfred Wasike
quickly pointed out that the “Uganda Wildlife Authority has admitted
that it does not have the capacity to monitor the export of live
animals; the tariff payable to the UWA per animal exported rarely
exceeds a few dollars and raises the possibility of massive windfall
profits for the animal traders; Ugandan traders who claim to be
breeders are in fact capturing animals in the wild and exporting them
immediately; and the presence of animals on the UWA quota that are
not found in Uganda has raised suspicion of organized animal
The Parisian promoter of trophy hunting expeditions
Exterieur-Monde meanwhile posted on a web site a price list for
shooting rare hooved animals in Uganda. Exterieur-Monde claimed to
have quotas for the year of 34 buffalo, 34 kob, and 34 sitatungas,
who could be killed anywhere from Lake Albert to Murchison Falls
Uganda Wildlife Authority spokes-person Lilly Ajarova told
New Vision reporter Gerald Tenywa that the UWA has issued only one
hunting license since 1985, to a company called Game Trails Uganda,
which operates a hunting ranch near Lake Mburo National Park.
Tenywa then cited sources who agreed that a German hunting
safari company called Jagdkontor recently brought visitors to Uganda
with the help of another company called Magic Safaris, who shot two
buffalo, two kobs, a waterbuck, and a hartebeest.
Earlier, New Vision exposed chimpanzee and elephant poaching
underway in the recently reopened Rwenzori National Park in western
Uganda, and disclosed that the Uganda Wildlife Authority is no
longer allowing international organizations such as the Jane Goodall
Institute and World Conservation Union to operate conservation
projects within the Ugandan national parks.
Soon after the New Vision exposes of hunting in Uganda
appeared, Associated Press writer Chris Tomlinson revealed similar
activity in Tanzania.
“Hundreds of members of Arab royalty and high-flying
businessmen spend weeks in the Loliondo Game Control Area each year
hunting antelope, lion, leopard, and other wild animals,”
Tomlinson wrote. “The area is leased under the name Otterlo Business
Corporation by a member of an emirate royal family who is a senior
officer in the United Arab Emirates defense industry.
“While neighboring Kenya outlawed big game hunting,”
Tomlinson continued, “the Tanzanian government says hunting is the
best use of the land and wildlife. But villagers and herders say big
money has led government officials to break all the hunting rules,
resulting the the destruction of most of the area’s non-migratory
animals and putting East Africa’s most famous national parks under
threat.” Masai village leaders told Tomlinson that the Otterlo
hunters long since killed all the wildlife within their leased
territory, and now poach within Serengeti National Park, ignored by
the Tanzanian authorities.
Zulu dog hunting
Vanessa Massyn of the Centre for Rehabilitation of Wildlife
in Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa came directly to ANIMAL
PEOPLE with her horror stories about hunter exploitation of rare
wildlife. Her concern, however, is the perceived growing
popularity of “traditional” Zulu dog-hunting.
“Zulus are now invading private land, 30 to 50 of them at a
time, each with a dog, and they use the sweep method, walking from
one end of the farm to the other, with the dogs killing everything
in sight, even though the Zulus claim the dogs are trained only to
kill reedbuck. Surely in a beautiful country such as South Africa,”
Massyn wrote, with its diverse fauna and flora, we should be proud
of what we have and should all try to protect our natural heritage.
The Zulus demand that their traditions be respected, but how do you
respect someone who is supposed to hunt with only a dog and bare
feet, when they turn up in vehicles by the dozen, with guns and
The “traditional” Zulu hunting actually sounds remarkably
like English-style “lurching,” recently outlawed in Scotland.
Similar hunting methods are still practiced against rabbits,
raccoons, and other so-called “small game” in the U.S. rural South.
Things looking up
ANIMAL PEOPLE has also received many hints that more positive
views of animals and wildlife are emerging in that very same region:
* Khula chief Caiphus Mkwanese and other village elders in
early March refused to allow a Kwa-Zulu Natal wildlife ranger to
shoot a hippopotamus who injured Nkosinathi Ntombela, 22, in a
late-night accidental encounter. “We have lived in peace with the
hippo for many years,” Mkwanese explained to Lake St. Lucia World
Heritage Site section ranger Donovan Sykes. “He is our animal. We
do not want to have him killed.” The elders eventually did agree
that the hippo could be relocated, to avoid future accidents.
* Chris Mercer and Beverly Pervan, whose Kalahari Raptor
Center is “the only registered wildlife rehabilitation centre in the
Northern Cape province of South Africa,” recently won a long battle
to save the lives of three orphaned caracals whom they had been
ordered to kill under a 1957 law mandating death for all caracals and
jackals. Progress in the case has several times been described in
ANIMAL PEOPLE. Two of the caracals have been successfully returned
to the wild, while Mercer and Pervan on March 7 at last won a permit
to keep the third caracal, who is missing a leg, in permanent
* In a parallel case, two male cheetahs trapped by farmers
in Limpopo were not killed and skinned, as would have been the case
not long ago, but were instead rehabilitated by the DeWildt Cheetah
and Wildlife Centre and released into the Rietvlei Nature Reserve
* Honey producers in the Cape Town area, who formerly
killed hive-raiding honey badgers, have begun a badger-proofing
program to protect their hives, and are now selling
Call it a sweet conclusion. –M.C.
BALE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, Ethiopia–Homeless Animal
Protection Society cofounders Hana Kifle, Efrem Legese, and Zegeye
Kibret met their first big challenge as a newly formed organization
in February 2002 when canine rabies broke out in Addis Ababa. A
health official in Addis Ababa said on the radio that homeless dogs
should be killed, but Legese rushed to Addis Ababe to share with him
info about humane rabies control obtained from ANIMAL PEOPLE
(available at <www.animalpeoplenews.org), and was able to prevent a
massacre. [Contact the Homeless Animals Protection Society c/o P.O.
Box 14069, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; 76-15-04;