Jul 17

Plans for a new opencast mine near South Africa’s Hluhluwe-Imfolozi reserve may increase pollution and poaching in the area, which would lead to further reductions in the size of the local southern white rhinoceros population. 

Among the most charismatic and recognisable of Africa’s mega-fauna, the white rhinoceros is the largest of the five rhinoceros species and one of the world’s biggest land animals, second only to the African and Asian elephant in size. A subspecies of white rhinoceros, the southern white rhinoceros, is currently the most numerous of all the world’s rhinos, and 93 percent of the total population is thought to occur in South Africa. This subspecies was rescued from near extinction a century ago, and represents a real conservation success story. In 1895, only around 50 individuals remained but careful conservation has increased this number to the 20,000 individuals that exist today. However, threats to the southern white rhinoceros are on the increase, and news of a proposed mining operation in close proximity to one of the most important nature reserve for this, and many other, species may spell disaster for this iconic animal.

The Near Threatened southern white rhinoceros is currently the most populous of the world’s rhinoceros species

The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa is the oldest nature reserve in Africa and was established in 1895, largely to protect the remaining population of the southern white rhinoceros. Situated at the confluence of the Black and White Umfolozi Rivers, this natural reserve is home to Africa’s ‘big five’, as well as innumerable other iconic species and over 340 bird species. There are fears that opencast coal mining in close proximity to the park may pollute the air and rivers, displace local communities, and threaten the southern white rhinoceros. Local communities’ fears are founded in experience, they say that drilling and blasting at the Somkhele coal mine, six miles away, already creates pollution and affects livestock. There are concerns that not only will the toxic dust from the new mine affect the local wildlife, but the influx of people is also likely to increase the accessibility of the park to poachers.

The African leopard is also found in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park

Poaching is an increasing threat to all rhinoceros species. Just 13 rhinoceros were killed in 2007, while recent figures show that over 500 have been killed so far in 2014, indicating the highest level of poaching since records began. The growing demand for rhinoceros horn is thought to be due to economic growth and increased disposable income in Southeast Asia and China, where the horn is used for traditional medicine and as a sign of prestige among the business elite. The price of rhinoceros horn is greater than that of gold, and poachers are becoming increasingly organised, and there have been many reports of helicopters and high-tech gadgetry being used in poaching attempts. It is thought that the mine could help to facilitate poaching, and increase the difficulty of policing the park. The response to the plans from local communities and conservationists worldwide has been one of concern and consternation.

The horn of the white rhinoceros is becoming a more valuable target for poachers due to increasing demand from Asia

Find out more about the white rhinoceros on Arkive.

Discover more South African species on Arkive.

Read more on this story at The Guardian – Mining poses new threat to world’s greatest rhino sanctuary.

Ben Hogan, Wildscreen ARKive PIPS Intern

Apr 25

A study has highlighted how two rare species of Chelonian are being threatened by hunting in India.

Two endemic species of the Western Ghats in India, the Travancore tortoise and the Cochin forest cane turtle are being threatened with extinction due to poaching from indigenous and non-indigenous people. The Chelonians (turtles and tortoises) are the second most imperilled vertebrate group in the world and the two species highlighted in the study are no exception, with the Travancore tortoise classified as Vulnerable (VU) by the IUCN Red List and the Cochin forest cane turtle classified as Endangered (EN). Cochin cane turtles inhabit evergreen forest habitats, and unlike many other turtles, do not require the presence of water. This turtle species is so rare that no scientists saw the species for 70 years between 1912 and 1982. The Travancore tortoise is an omnivore, and can be found in evergreen, moist deciduous, and bamboo forests. This tortoise species is known to produce chorus calls at night, but the purpose of the call is unknown.

The Cochin forest cane turtle

A study published in The Asian Journal of Conservation Biology in 2013 investigated the illegal hunting and consumption of these rare animals, and found that many individuals are caught by non-local forestry workers, including those who work as part of fire management initiatives. However, there was also evidence that Chelonian experts were harvesting these rare species and some individuals even used trained dogs while hunting. The study indicated that 77 percent of the 104 people that were interviewed had consumed the Travancore tortoise and 22 percent had consumed the Cochin forest cane turtle. Chelonian meat was reportedly on sale in local establishments. Although it was found that the primary reason for harvesting wild individuals was for consumption, there was also some evidence that the two species were taken due to superstitions and for medicinal purposes.

The Travancore tortoise

The authors of the report, said, “Wildlife hunting in India is illegal and punishable via the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) 1972, which includes most of the susceptible species … However, hunting continues to be widespread in several regions of India even though it is disregarded or refuted”. The interviews indicated that all 104 respondents knew the illegality of consuming the two species, but problems with pressing charges and corruption are thought to mitigate the risks.

Cochin forest cane turtle on leaf litter

The authors of the study suggest that a limit on the number of dogs allowed at each indigenous settlement may help to reduce the risk of Chelonian hunting, and that the forest department must make a concerted effort to properly supervise forest staff and educate them about the plight of Chelonians. The authors also highlighted the past success of poster campaigns introduced by the Kerala State Forest Department, which aimed to challenge similar local use of animals. Threatened Chelonians, including the Indian star tortoise, were targeted by the previous campaign, and the authors suggest that this kind of promotion could be repeated for the Travancore tortoise and the Cochin forest cane turtle.

Read the original article at Asian Journal of Conservation Biology – Hunting of endemic and threatened forest dwelling chelonians in the Western Ghats, India

Find out more about the Travancore tortoise at Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises – Indotestudo travancorica

View photos of the Travancore tortoise and the Cochin forest cane turtle on ARKive

Find out more about the wildlife of the Western Ghats on ARKive

Read more about this story at Mongabay – Chelonians for dinner: hunting threatens at-risk turtles and tortoises in India

Read more about turtle and freshwater tortoise conservation at the IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group

Mar 5

Heightened conservation measures in Nepal have once again resulted in a year of zero poaching in the country.

After Nepal making a commitment to protect the future of its magnificent and highly endangered species, it has once again succeeded and between February 2013 and February 2014, no rhino, tigers or elephants were poached in the country. Nepal has a history of success in the prevention of poaching, and another poaching-free year occurred in 2011. Worldwide, Nepal has been praised for this outstanding accomplishment, with Yolanda Kakabadse, President of WWF International, saying, “We congratulate Nepal on reducing poaching to zero within its borders. This achievement serves as a model for WWF’s goal for drastically reducing wildlife crime worldwide – with a combination of brave policy making, determined implementation and robust enforcement.”

Indian rhinoceros

Caption: The Vulnerable Indian rhinoceros is found in scattered populations across Nepal and India

The Nepalese government led the conservation efforts, which included strengthening the protection of wildlife and increasing the enforcement of anti-poaching laws. A wide range of organisations have contributed towards Nepal’s zero poaching success, from small conservation charities, park authorities and local communities to the army and police. “The success of achieving zero poaching throughout the year is a huge achievement and a result of prioritising a national need to curb wildlife crimes in the country”, said Megh Bahadur Pandey, Director General of Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation. Anti-poaching measures also encouraged the co-operation of boundary officials on the borders between Nepal, India and China, which helped to prevent the trafficking of animal parts into and out of the country. The collaboration between the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police has resulted in the enforcement of wildlife laws throughout the country, both at a local and national scale.

Caption: The Endangered Bengal tiger is a target species for poachers

The work of nine different organisations that have contributed to this great achievement will be honoured by the WWF’s Leaders for a Living Planet Award, whose past winners have included Dr Thomas Lovejoy for his work on forest fragmentation and highlighting conservation as a global priority and Dr Trudy Ecofrey for her work on restoring wildlife on the Great Plains of the United States. Notable organisations that have had outstanding contributions to the cause include Chitwan National Park, Bardia National Park, the Nepal Army and Police, Buffer zone management committees of Chitwan National Park and Bardia National Park, and the National Trust for Nature Conservation. Anil Manandhar, Country Representative of WWF Nepal, said, “It is a matter of great pride to mark the first World Wildlife Day with the announcement of a year of zero poaching in Nepal. We are committed to work with the government, conservation partners and the local communities to redouble efforts to sustain this success.”

Asian elephant image

Caption: The wild population of the Endangered Indian elephant has severely declined due to poaching

Read more about Nepal’s year of zero poaching.

Find out more about the Asian elephant on ARKive.

Find out more about the Indian rhinoceros on ARKive.

Find out more about the tiger on ARKive.

Discover more species from Nepal on ARKive.

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer.

Feb 14

On the 11th and 12th of February 2014, world leaders and experts gathered at the Zoological Society of London to discuss the drastic increase in global wildlife trade.

The Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference, consisted of a series of talks given by experts from many conservation organisations, including the WWF and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The main subject of the conference was the unprecedented and extreme rise in global trade of illegal wildlife products in the last few years. It was agreed that more legislation to combat wildlife trade is needed, as is support to the rangers working to prevent poaching on the ground. Also addressed was the need for education and marketing campaigns in regions where the most illegal wildlife products are bought, mainly in China and Vietnam.

Although animals are the main victims of poachers, the lives of many rangers have been lost in the line of duty

Officials from the 50 participating countries gathered at Lancaster House in London on 13th of February 2014 to sign the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade Declaration, which aims to ensure that signatories support trade bans, renounce endangered wildlife product use in their countries, amend legislation to reinforce the severity of wildlife crime, strengthen and implement wildlife law enforcement and analyse links between wildlife crime and other organised crime. William Hague, the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary, said, “We are at the 11th hour to prevent the wildlife trade destroying some of the most extraordinary species in the world, but today I believe we have begun to turn the tide, if we follow up everything that has been agreed.”

The black rhinoceros is Critically Endangered and there is thought to have been a population decrease of 96 percent between 1970 and 1992 due to poaching

The recent increase in poaching has already claimed its first victim, with the western black rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) officially declared as Extinct in 2013 after losing its battle with the illegal wildlife trade. The value of rhino horn has increased beyond that of gold, and is now sold for around £36,000 per kilogram. It is displayed as a trophy in some households and is used in traditional Chinese medicine, despite scientific evidence proving it has no medicinal value and is made of keratin, which is the same material as that found in human hair and nails. In South Africa alone, 1,004 rhinos were killed in 2013, and according to the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the incidence of rhino poaching increased by 5,000% across the whole of Africa, with a rhino being killed once every 10 hours.

The market value of rhino horn is £36,000 per kilogram

The demand for ivory has also increased recently, and it now has a market value of around £1,200 per kilogram. Incidences of elephant poaching have more than doubled since 2007, with the countries in central Africa losing 65 percent of their forest elephant population between 2002 and 2011. In 2012 alone, 20,000 elephants were killed in Africa to supply the ivory trade.

Kenya lost 85 percent of its elephant population during a period of high demand for ivory between 1973 and 1989

Many suggestions of how to curb the international ivory trade were suggested, including that of Sally Case, Chief Executive Officer of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, who said, “If world leaders are serious about ending the illegal ivory trade, they need to urgently implement an ivory trade ban. This includes closing down domestic ivory markets around the world, especially in China and Japan, and stopping the ongoing debate about legalising ivory trade.” To raise awareness of the plight of elephants, many countries around the world have burned or crushed their stocks of ivory, including France who crushed over three tonnes of ivory in February 2014 which had a street value of over six million US dollars.

Many countries around the world have burned or crushed their stock of ivory to raise awareness of the illegal ivory trade

In 2015, a conference will be held in Botswana to review the progress that has been made since the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade Declaration was signed.

Read the full London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade Declaration.

Find out more about elephants on ARKive.

Find out more about rhinos on ARKive.

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

Dec 13

Photographs have the power to change the world by altering the perceptions and understanding of the viewer. Conservation photography can bridge language barriers, be easily understood and can create a sense of wonder and/or sadness that instills a sense of responsibility in the viewer. It can motivate a “Call to Action”. 

Sharks hauled ashore for their fins by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

Conservation photography is increasingly being used across the globe to promote and garner support for conservation and the environment.   Conservation photographers provide visual evidence that can be a powerful tool in showcasing the splendor, challenges and threats the natural world faces. A visually powerful photograph can evoke strong emotions that inspires us to action, changes our collective behaviours and in this manner reduces our negative impacts on this fragile earth.  

Lion_by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

1 of 20. At a time when lions are in the spotlight due to rapidly decreasing populations from habitat loss and hunting pressures, the battle scars on this male lion portray the challenges that the species faces. 

Tiger shark at the dubai fish market by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

2 of 20. A tiger shark lies on the chopping block with a silent scream and is waiting to have its fins sliced off to fulfill the greed of someone who wrongly sees the fins as a delicacy.

Cape mountain zebra capture by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

3 of 20. The numbers of endangered species are on the increase due to mans destructive ways and only a few are prepared to go to the lengths of trying to protect them from extinction. Here a cape mountain zebra lies anesthetized and awaiting translocation to begin a new founder population – a positive story for conservation. 

Cattle egret severly burnt during quelia control excersise by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

4 of 20. This cattle egret sits on a veterinary table after being “napalmed” and caught as “bycatch” during a quelia eradication program in a large wetland. Surprisingly this practice is legal. 

Conservation photography itself though is about so much more than just photographs showcasing the natural world. It is about pursuing a conservation issue and exposing the underlying consequences of that issue to the general public. 

Abalone poachers tatoo by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

5 of 20. Our natural resources are being plundered at unsustainable rates and where poaching may have been initially to put food on the table, it is now part of globally organised crime. Natural products are usually the “cash crop” that funds other illicit activities  yet the nature of the crimes are seen as minor and petty.

Poached abalone shells lying on the shores of robben island by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

6 of 20. While there is a huge outcry about the terrible poaching epidemic hitting Africa’s rhino and elephant populations, the world generally turns a blind eye to the large scale pillaging of our oceans. Many marine species are now at greater risk of extinction than terrestrial species.

Abalone poachers shack by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

7 of 20. This run down shack in a poverty stricken area stands in stark contrast to the luxury car and large boat used for abalone poaching that drives much of the organised crime within the Western Cape of South Africa.

Gravesite of a fisher by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

8 of 20. Small scale fishers place their lives at risk when trying to put food on the table and often go to sea in small unsafe fishing vessels that easily get destroyed in rough weather and result in the loss of the life of the fisher.

It is about showing that we as human beings are closely inter-twined with the environment and that our very own survival depends upon the health of the environment. Highlighting these issues effectively places an immense responsibility on the shoulders of the photographer and to be a conservation photographer requires dedication to telling impelling visual stories that can raise awareness and effect change! 

Walking the dwesa beach at dusk by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

9 of 20. Man is intricately linked to the environment and our future well-being is dependent on its protection

Mozambican poling his dugout canoe by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

10 of 20. In poverty stricken and rural areas, communities are far more dependent on the health of the environment than people living in urban areas. Yet, these rural communities are usually the first to bear the brunt of urban land transformation over the environment.

Herding the cattle by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

11 of 20. A young cattle herder leads his cattle to the days grazing grounds in rural Mozambique.

Conservation Photography is not just about the final image. It includes all the hours of preparation, planning, costs, time away from home, early mornings, late nights, frozen fingers, sunburnt faces, arduous hikes, tropical diseases and harsh environments that one often finds oneself having to “endure” in pursuit of a photograph.

Peter Chadwick photographing seascapes

12 of 20. Conservation photographers will often take risks in order to try and get the “perfect” shot.

Peter Chadwick photographing seascapes

13 of 20. Taking these risks does not always pay off and occasionally “mother nature” has a sense of humor!

African black oystercatchers taking off by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

14 of 20. The hours spent in trying to obtain the “telling” image for conservation photography does bring incredible rewards that makes all the effort and patience worthwhile.

For those that are willing to go the extra mile, the rewards are always worth it and their results speak louder than words.

Fish research project at De Hoop Marine Protected Area by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

15 of 20. Conservation photography must not only showcase the wonder of the environment and the negative threats, but also the science and conservation that will provide telling opportunities for the future.

Tagging a galjoen for research by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

16 of 20. It is the long-term research and science that allows us to understand our negative impacts on the environment, but also provide us with solutions for future generations.

Fisher hand reaching for fish in a trek net by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

17 of 20. Where this science is heeded, previously negative practices may be turned around and conservation efforts can result in sustainable opportunities for the future.

Carefully crafted photojournalism takes the value of conservation photographs to the next level by creating a thought-provoking story, that not only highlights the beauty but also explodes the horrors and destruction of our environment in a manner that makes us wish to protect and preserve.

Avocet hanging on farm fence by wildlife and cosnervation photographer Peter Chadwick

18 of 20. A delicate pied avocet hangs dead from a farm fence that lies between two water bodies – our biodiversity is not only facing direct threats from humans but also face many indirect threats.

Mozambican child waving by wildlife and cosnervation photographer Peter Chadwick

19 of 20. The protection of the environment is no longer just about ensuring survival of species but also about ensuring food and water security for our future.

A thought provoking image only has to change the opinion of one viewer to make a difference. That one person will tell another, who will tell another and soon a revolution of change will be ignited. This change needs to happen at both an environmental and social level, for we need to realise that if we do not change our ways, what is happening to the environment will eventually happen to us.

photographer silhoette

20 of 20. As a photographer, you have the incredible opportunity to make a difference to support the conservation of the environment – the question is, are you willing to make your photographs mean so much more than just a pretty picture?

Conservation photography therefore has the ability to inspire us to change the course of humanity and halt the destruction of this planet! Are we prepared to take up that challenge and use our photography far more effectively? African Conservation Photography aims to take up that challenge and through powerful imagery, become an agent of change.

Peter Chadwick

http://www.peterchadwick.co.za/

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