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/

Apr 16

A Chinese vessel which crashed into a coral reef in the protected Tubbataha marine park in the Philippines has been found to contain 400 boxes of frozen pangolin meat. 

Photo of ground pangolin walking

The illegal trade in pangolins is driven largely by demand for their meat and scales in China

On the 8th April, a Chinese ‘fishing vessel’ illegally entered Filipino seas and crashed straight into a protected coral reef. Upon re-inspection of the boat, the coastguard discovered its sickening cargo: 400 boxes containing over 10 tonnes of pangolin meat. The scales and meat of this insect-eating mammal are in high demand in China; its meat is regarded a delicacy and its scales are believed to have properties that are beneficial to breast-feeding mothers.

Pangolin demand

Illegal trade in pangolins has all but wiped out populations across China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and hunters are now infesting its very last remaining habitats in Java, Sumatra and the Malaysian peninsula. As pangolin species become rarer, the demand for their meat and scales increases, as does their price, despite the fact that there is absolutely no evidence for the touted medicinal properties of their scales.

It is bad enough that the Chinese have illegally entered our seas, navigated without boat papers and crashed recklessly into a national marine park and World Heritage Site,” said head of WWF-Philippines, Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan. “It is simply deplorable that they appear to be posing as fishermen to trade in illegal wildlife.”

Photo of Sunda pangolin on the forest floor

The Endangered Sunda pangolin is heavily hunted within its range

The crew of the boat have been arrested for poaching and attempted bribery, potentially facing 12 years in prison and $300,000 (£196,000) in fines. Posing as fishermen, the men claimed to have accidentally sailed into Philippine waters on their way from Malaysia. It is possible that they will face further charges for possession of pangolin meat, for which they can be fined and imprisoned for up to six years, and for damaging a coral reef.

The species of pangolin contained within the shipment are not yet known, but of the species listed on the IUCN Red List of threatened species, the majority are classified as Near Threatened or Endangered.

Chris Shepherd of the wildlife trade group TRAFFIC said, “There is no way a slow-breeding species like the pangolin can withstand this huge pressure for long.”

Photo of Chinese pangolin

Hunting is the main threat to the Chinese pangolin, which is now extremely rare in many countries within its range

Crackdown not enough

Law enforcement has so far been unable to significantly reduce the trade in pangolin meat and scales, which is forcefully driven by the extremely high prices they fetch in China, with hunters being paid hundreds of dollars per kilogram.

“We have seen a really obscene amount of seizures but very few people are arrested and even fewer convicted”, Shepherd continued. “There is not enough investigation into who is behind the networks.”

Photo of three-cusped pangolin

Investigation is needed into who is behind the trade networks

The seizure is among the biggest on record, with other large finds including the 23 tonnes of frozen pangolins confiscated within a week in Vietnam in 2008, and the 7.8 tonnes of meat and 1.8 tonnes of scales impounded in China in 2010. In 2007, an abandoned ship was discovered off the coast of China containing 5,000 rare animals. The illegal trade in wildlife from Southeast Asia is leaving in its wake what the IUCN has described as “ghost forests”.

It appears that more investigation is needed into who is behind the trade networks in order to really crack down on the illegal trade in wildlife, particularly in Asia.

 

Read more on this story at The Guardian – Chinese vessel on Philippine coral reef caught with illegal pangolin meat and Mongabay – Double bad: Chinese vessel that collided with protected coral reef holding 22,000 pounds of pangolin meat.

View photos and videos of pangolins on ARKive.


Kaz Armour, ARKive Text Author

Apr 5

Extreme measures have been taken in an attempt to curb rhino poaching in a game reserve in South Africa, involving poison and indelible ink.

Photo of Northern white rhinoceros on sand

Poaching is the single biggest threat to rhino survival in South Africa.

Over 200 rhinos have been poached in South Africa this year alone, a chilling figure that has driven the Sabi Sand Game Reserve to take drastic measures in an attempt to reduce the slaughter.

Poaching is the single biggest threat to rhino survival in South Africa, driven by increasing demand for rhino horn in Asia where it is highly valued in traditional medicine. Thousands of rhinos have already been butchered by organised gangs and crime syndicates.

Over the past 18 months, the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa has been injecting non-lethal poison into the rhinos’ horns, along with an indelible pink dye. Ingestion of any products made with poisoned rhino horn will cause the consumer to become “seriously ill”.

Photo of black rhinoceros pair with calf

Rhinoceros horns are made from nothing more than keratin and have no medicinal properties whatsoever.

Legal chemicals

On the effects of the poison, Andrew Parker, chief executive of the Sabi Sand Wildtuin Association says, “It’ll make [people] very ill – nausea, stomach ache, diarrhoea – it won’t kill them… It will be very visible, so it would take a very stupid consumer to consume this.”

The chemicals used to contaminate the rhinos’ horns are readily available over the counter and the aim is to advertise this poisoning practice as much as possible. Hopefully, these measures will serve to reduce both the demand for the product and therefore the levels of poaching. The indelible pink dye is detectable by airport scanners in whole rhino horns, and when they are ground into a powder.

“If the poacher hacks off the horn, he’ll immediately see it’s contaminated. We’re saying to the poachers: ‘Don’t bother coming to Sabi Sand. You’re wasting your time’,” says Parker.

Photo of black rhinoceros adult with juvenile

The black rhinoceros is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Why poison horns?

 Despite the many measures taken to reduce the number of rhino deaths, the massacre has continued and the death rate has increased. With conservationists at a loss as to what to do next, the idea of poisoning the product was born.

Parker explains, “Despite all the interventions by police, the body count has continued to climb. Everything we’ve tried has not been working and for poachers it has become a low-risk, high-reward ratio. By contaminating the horn, you reduce the reward and the horn becomes a valueless product.”

Photo of confiscated black rhino horns

Confiscated black rhino horns

Varied reactions

Reactions to the programme have not been unanimous. Although South Africa National Parks have shown support for the programme, they remain sceptical regarding its effectiveness within all national parks, saying the lack of resources will make it “virtually impossible”.

 TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, also highlighted the low likelihood of success in the large areas where rhinos are free-ranging, such as Kruger National Park. Their concern is that by reducing poaching within a concentrated area such as Sabi Sand, it might not have an effect on overall poaching levels due to a ‘displacement effect’, whereby poaching intensity is increased elsewhere in response.

These dealers are already perpetuating fraud on so many levels in the interest of windfall profits, so it’s hard to imagine that they will suddenly be bothered about putting potentially toxic horns into circulation. The prospect of human suffering deters few criminals and that’s what we are dealing with here”, says Tom Milliken, author of a TRAFFIC report on rhino horn consumption in Vietnam.

A total of 145 rhinos have been poached in Kruger National Park alone this year, thus fears that poaching could increase in areas such as this as a result of this programme could be well founded.

 

Read more on this story at The Guardian – South African game reserve poisons rhino’s horns to prevent poaching.

See photos and videos of rhinoceros species on ARKive.

 

Kaz Armour, ARKive Text Author

Mar 5

African forest elephants have undergone a 62% decline in 10 years and face extinction if drastic measures are not taken, according to a new study.

Photo of forest elephant bull

Mature male forest elephant

The study was the largest ever conducted on the forest elephant. Led by researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), it involved over 60 scientists who surveyed the forests of Central Africa between 2002 and 2011, recording signs of forest elephants as well as human signs such as snares and bullet casings.

The results of the study, published in the journal PLoS One, confirmed the scientists’ fears. As well as suffering a huge population decline, the forest elephant has been lost from nearly a third of its range since 2002, and large areas where the species roamed just ten years ago now have few elephants remaining. Unless urgent action is taken, the species could face extinction within the next decade.

Although we were expecting to see these results, we were horrified that the decline over the period of a mere decade was over 60%,” said Dr Fiona Maisels, a WCS conservation scientist from the University of Sterling and one of the lead authors of the study.

Photo of forest elephant infants

Forest elephant infants

Poached for ivory

The forest elephant is smaller than its more familiar relative, the savanna or African elephant, and is also distinguished by its smaller, rounded ears and straighter, downward-pointing tusks. The two are considered by many to be separate species.

The study found that the main cause of the forest elephant’s dramatic decline is poaching for its ivory. Even large tracts of intact forest have lost most of their elephants, and the species’ decline was associated with areas of high human density, high hunting intensity, lack of law enforcement, and infrastructure such as roads, which allow poachers easy access to the forest.

Photo of forest elephant bull

Forest elephant bull

Research by the Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme run by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has shown that the increase in poaching of elephants across Africa is strongly correlated to an increase in consumer demand for ivory in the Far East.

Icon of the forest

Conservationists have warned that urgent action is needed to save the forest elephant. Illegal ivory poaching and encroachment into elephant habitat must to be stopped, and the international demand for ivory needs to be reduced.

Photo of large bonfire of confiscated African elephant ivory

Large bonfire of confiscated African elephant ivory

The latest study has been released to coincide with the 2013 CITES Conference of the Parties, taking place in Bangkok from 3rd to 14th March. Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has already pledged at the conference to amend Thai laws to end the country’s ivory trade. However, further action is still needed.

The WCS is advising that CITES review the enforcement gaps and needs – at all points in the trade chain from the field to the marketplace – that have led to the failure of the current ivory trade regulation system,” said Dr Maisels. “Reducing chronic corruption and improving poor law enforcement, which facilitate poaching and trade, are crucial. It is also vital to improve control of import and sales of wildlife goods by the recipient and transit countries of illegal ivory, especially in Asia.”

Photo of forest elephant herd in bai digging for salt

Forest elephant herd digging for salt

The forest elephant is not only an icon of Africa’s forests, but also plays a key role in their health, by dispersing seeds, clearing trails, and helping to maintain the forests’ biodiversity. Saving this iconic elephant will therefore also be vital for the conservation of many other forest species.

Saving the species requires a coordinated global effort in the countries where elephants occur – all along the ivory smuggling routes, and at the final destination in the Far East. We don’t have much time before elephants are gone,” said Dr Maisels.

 

Read more on this story at BBC Nature News – African forest elephants decline by 62% in 10 years and WCS – Extinction looms for forest elephants.

View photos and videos of elephants on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

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