Good news for southern Africa’s rhino population! After almost a decade in which poaching has skyrocketed, South Africa and northwest Namibia saw a decrease in the killing of these animals.
Since 2007, poaching of rhinos has risen drastically in response to an international demand for their horns. Some people mistakenly believe the horns have medicinal value.
Edna Molewa, South Africa’s Environmental Affairs Minister, told the BBC the drop in her country was due to better anti-poaching technology and tighter border controls. In 2015, the country arrested 317 poachers, versus 258 in 2014.
Lions, leopards, and hyenas are among the most popular charismatic mega fauna in the world. Unfortunately, their populations have declined significantly over the past 200 years, due mainly to the growing needs of an expanding human population. The Uganda Carnivore Program works to monitor and conserve important predators, working primarily inQueen Elizabeth National Park to find solutions that meet the needs of both wildlife and humans.
Please take a few minutes today to help protect endangered rhinos around the world. If you are able, consider a donation to Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, which is racing against time to save the northern white rhino. There are only four northern white rhinos left in the world.
Earlier this summer, Chris Costa of National Geographic Traveler wrote a blog post calling on his readers to go on safari.
Tourism to Africa dropped as much as 70 percent in the wake of the Ebola crisis last winter, even though popular safari destinations such as the Serengeti are thousands of miles away from affected areas.
With fewer tourists and less money coming into local communities, poachers have more opportunities to kill endangered animals and sell their body parts on the international black market. Pangolin scales, elephant ivory and rhino horn are all in high demand. As a result of this illegal trade, subspecies like the northern white rhino are on the brink of extinction.
Costa quoted safari guide Mark Thornton as saying, “One of the few things standing in the way of the possible extinction of endangered [animals] is tourists who pay to see these majestic creatures in the wild.” This is because tourism brings jobs and income to local communities, providing alternatives to destructive poaching. Park entry fees fund conservation and anti-poaching programs.
Good news about one of the world’s largest land mammal. Once nearing extinction in Uganda, the African bush elephant is now thriving there. Its population has gone from about 700 in the 1980s to 5,000 now, according to the Great Elephant Census, which seeks to survey all of Africa’s elephant populations.
Born from one family’s passion for Kenya and its wilderness, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world.
At the heart of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s conservation activities is the Orphans’ Project in Nairobi, which offers hope for the future of Kenya’s threatened elephant and rhino populations as they struggle against the threat of poaching for their ivory and horn, and the loss of habitat due to human population pressures and conflict, deforestation and drought.
To date the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has successfully hand-raised over 150 infant elephants and effectively reintegrated orphans back into the wild herds of Tsavo East National Park. Many healthy calves have been born in the wild from former-orphaned elephants raised by the Trust.
Many safari-goers enjoy spending a day or two in Nairobi upon arrival in Kenya to adjust to the time difference. A visit to the orphanage is a wonderful way to learn about elephants and have a chance at close interaction that would be impossible in the wild.
CNN recently ran a fascinating story about Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village, a site where many of Ujuzi’s travelers to Rwanda have learned about local arts and ways of life. Visitors can learn to grind sorghum or millet by hand, start a fire without matches, or shoot a bow and arrow. Tasting banana beer and other local foods, watching traditional dances, seeing artisans at work, and talking to village elders are unique experiences that open our eyes to a different way of life – and the commonalities that tie all humans together.
It all started when Edwin Sabuhoro was a warden in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. He had the opportunity to talk with some individuals who had been jailed for kidnapping a baby gorilla to sell to a private buyer. He heard stories of desperate poverty and hunger, and came to realize that poaching would not stop until these issues were addressed.
He provided farm land and seeds to former poachers so they could raise their own food and sell it at market. “I left them with that and they started farming, and when I came back six months after I found they had harvested enough – they had enough food at home, but they were [also] selling more in the markets,” Sabuhoro told CNN. They no longer needed to turn to poaching for income.
Looking for other ways to generate income for communities near Volcanoes National Park, Sabuhoro worked with locals to create a Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village. The village has brought in enough income so families no longer need to turn to poaching to survive.
Visit the link below to view an interview with Sabuhoro.
Poaching the Creature That’s More Valuable Than Gold is a fascinating look by the BBC into the worlds of people who poach rhinos and people who protect them. Rhino poaching has increased dramatically over the past few years as demand for their horns escalates.
Rhino horn is used as a medicine in parts of Asia, where people credit it with treating everything from male impotence to cancer. None of the claims are true. Rhino horn is simply keratin, the same substance that makes up human fingernails.
Rhinos have gone extinct in parts of their range, and poaching has risen nearly 100-fold over the past decade in South Africa.
The article provides a rare look into the many aspects that contribute to poaching, including poverty and political corruption. It also profiles people risking their lives to save rhinos, and veterinarians providing care to rhinos who have survived poaching attacks.
It notes a new trend in poaching, where some poachers tranquilize rhinos rather than kill them before removing their horns. Unfortunately, these poachers don’t have veterinary experience and often end up severely injuring the rhinos.
Scroll to the bottom of the article for a (non-graphic) video of veterinarians doing facial surgery on one such rhino.
In last week’s post about a recent safari to Tanzania, we mentioned the “Living Walls” project, an effort to reduce conflicts between humans and big cats in the Maasai Steppe. Named after the Maasai ethnic group, the Maasai Steppe is an area in northeastern Tanzania that encompasses both Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks and is home to diverse wildlife as well as a longstanding human population. (Here’s a map of the Maasai Steppe.)
Raising cattle and goats is a major livelihood among the Maasai. At night when the herds are not out grazing, their owners traditionally keep them in circular pens fenced in by dead acacia thorns. The thorns can deter predators, but they aren’t foolproof, because they degrade easily in the harsh sun. Each Maasai community in the Steppe experiences carnivore attacks on livestock in these traditional pens about 50 times a year, resulting in the deaths of 72-84 lions across the Steppe as herders seek to protect their livestock.
Living Walls are a better approach developed together by Maasai communities and the African Wildlife & People Fund. Living Walls are based on the traditional acacia pen, but use fast-growing native trees and chainlink as reinforcement. This makes it very difficult for a predator to jump over or break through the pen.
Living Walls dramatically decrease predator attacks on livestock, and thus also virtually eliminate killing of predators by humans. From 2003 to 2013, Living Walls had a 99.9% success rate at deterring nighttime predator attacks, and herders with Living Walls didn’t kill any predators.
Because the fences rely largely on abundant natural resources, they are a practical, cost-effective solution to what up until now seemed like an intractable problem on the Maasai Steppe.
Would you like to learn more? Check out the links below:
When people think about threats to African wildlife, they often think of poaching. But it’s not the only cause of dwindling animal populations. Disease is also a big concern. For example, rabies can spread from domestic animals to lions and other wildlife, decimating their populations.
Since 2003, scientists have been offering free rabies vaccines for domestic dogs around Tanzania’s Serengeti, resulting in a dramatic drop of rabies cases among the park’s lions and also saving many human lives. Before the program began, 50 to 150 people in the area died of rabies each year.
“It’s very, very effective,” Joseph Ogwa, acting district livestock official for the Bunda District, told the Chicago Tribune. “We don’t have cases now. I remember 10 years ago it wasn’t good because there were so many cases of rabies.”
Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo has been in charge of the vaccination program for the past five years and is looking for additional funding to continue it. It costs about $110,000 a year to run the program. You can donate here on the Lincoln Park Zoo website.
An article in The Verge illustrates the importance of vaccination programs in protecting wildlife. It shows how – before vaccination programs were in place for domestic dogs – canine distemper spread to Serengeti’s lions, then mutated to become endemic among the predators.