Frontline Dispatches – Vol 1-4
Minister Shifeta defended Namibia’s position on hunting in a debate with Kenya’s former Cabinet Secretary of Environment, Professor Judi Wakhungu. Namibia’s current and Kenya’s former ministers for environment engaged in a lively discussion about the polarizing issue of trophy hunting at a debate held in at The Arts Club in London on 25th March. The debate—called ‘Killing for Conservation’—was chaired by Dr Max Graham, Founder and CEO of the international conservation charity ‘Space for Giants’ (Source).
Kenya is losing 100 lions per year while the current population is estimated to be less than 2,000. “Loss of habitat and biodiversity due to corruption, climate change, poverty and increased human population pose the greatest threat to conservation of wildlife, protected areas and the country’s ecosystem,” said Dr John Waithaka, who holds positions as Chair of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Board of Trustees, Director of Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC), Director of Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC), and Co-Chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (Source).
A new study from the University of Groningen shows that the wildlife in Africa’s Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is being “squeezed” to the core by increasing human activity. After analyzing 40 years’ worth of data, researchers realized that in some areas within the Serengeti-Mara region, there has been a 400% increase in human population and a 75% decrease in wildlife populations in a single decade (Read more HERE).
Kenya’s cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Najib Balala announced last year to making poaching a crime punishable by death. Kenyan lawmakers are now apparently in the process of fast-tracking the proposed death penalty law. Until this law is enacted, poachers will continue to face a fine of $200,000 or life behind bars. Also, Kenya National Prosecution Service reportedly plans to increase the number of wildlife crime prosecutors from presently 2 to 14. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation pointed out that only 4 percent of Kenyan wildlife poaching cases were prosecuted before the country switched to a large fine and life in prison (Source and Source).
Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA) submitted its position on the Natural Resources (Benefit Sharing) Bill, 2018 to members of the Kenyan Senate Standing Committee on Land, Environment and Natural Resources. KWCA acted on behalf of 160 community and private wildlife conservancies covering an area of 6.5 million hectares (11% of Kenya’s land area). The conservancies represent over a million households. The proposed bill seeks to drastically reduce community benefits from natural resources, including wildlife. If this bill is passed, Kenya’s conservancy model could suffer a huge blow. Even more worrying is that the proposed bill will supersede the Wildlife Act 2013 that enshrined the basis for Kenya’s current community rights (more details at the KWCA website).
Peter Flack responded to Judy Malone’s opinion piece “Opposition to trophy hunting is a major social movement for good’ in his Daily Maverick article Anti-hunting brigade wants to take away part of my culture. Malone’s unsubstantiated diatribes, also concerning an article of Leith Meyer in The Daily Maverick, deserve no other answer than the one given by Peter Flack: “It is difficult to know where to begin to reply to, yet another non-African prescribing to Africans how they should conserve their wildlife and wildlife habitats while having absolutely no idea of how to go about doing this. The sheer volume of her emotive, disingenuous and dishonest claptrap defies belief.” Judy Malone—the leading activist of an obscure Facebook group called “tourists against trophy hunting”—obviously displays a severe case of cognitive bias.
Peter Flack explores “Why trophy hunting helps conservation and local communities” in an op-ed published in The Daily Maverick. Flack brings the reader facts and figures as opposed to emotion and innuendo, and concludes that “Legal, ethical, sustainable, fair chase hunting is the basis on which the conservation of wildlife and wildlife habitat has been built in Africa for decades. To try to do away with it because of a minuscule number of legal and ethical breaches/mistakes is not only short-sighted and stupid, but would bring about the end of conservation as we know it and, ultimately, the demise of the wildlife and wildlife habitat we all hold so dear.”
Human-wildlife conflict is evidenced as one of the greatest long-term threats to Africa’s wildlife. Consequences of the conflict are felt especially by carnivores (for example, killed as a result of retaliation for livestock losses) and people, who suffer losses of human life. Over the years, lions have been targeted most during conflict-related killings; they have lost over 85% of their historical habitat range and only an estimated 23,000 to 39,000 individuals exist in the wild, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The European Union funded African Wildlife Initiative is contributing towards reducing the threat of human-wildlife conflicts related to carnivores across Africa by incentivizing wildlife conservation. The aim is to decrease the cost of living with wildlife usually incurred by local communities and improve their livelihoods through various socio-economic development initiatives (more details at IUCN – Save our Species).
Not surprisingly, a US poll conducted by the Remington Research Group for Humane Society International (HSI) concluded that three in four respondents considered it important to protect elephants from trophy hunting, 78% did not support the proposed culling [in Botswana] and 73% believed that if trophy hunting and elephants culls were started, Botswana’s image as a leader in wildlife conservation would be harmed, reported anti-hunting activist Don Pinnock in an article published by the South African, following-up a similar article opposing sustainable use in the same publication. HSI is notorious for its anti-hunting and anti-sustainable use stance, and the poll apparently had ‘framed’ questions influencing the outcomes. The opinions of activists like Pinnock (with the apparent backing of the South African based Conservation Action Trust) are in in stark contrast to the majority opinion of Batswana Community-Based Organizations. The Ngamiland Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (NCONGO) asserted the sovereign rights of the citizens and government of Botswana in a “Statement on Safari Hunting in Botswana” and said specifically “The re-introduction of hunting will go a long way in alleviating rural poverty by re-introducing tourism benefits lost in 2014 when the hunting moratorium was initiated. Hunting will also mitigate against human wildlife conflicts especially crop damage, livestock predation and the destruction of property especially by elephants.”
Botswana’s decision of Integrating wildlife into rural economy as key to its survival is justified say Maxwell Gomera, Director of the biodiversity and ecosystem services branch at UN Environment, and Liz Rihoy, political scientist and director of Resource Africa UK, in an op-ed published by the Mail & Guardian on March 6th. “It was the integration of wildlife into rural economies that ensured Southern Africa developed the healthiest wildlife populations and habitat on the continent during the latter half of the 20th century”, they state. The authors conclude saying “The first step in addressing the animal-human conflict must be to build a truce between competing stakeholders … [and] align rural residents, governments and the global conservation movement, … and that the benefits and the risks of protecting wildlife are collectively shared … [The Botswana] government’s public consultation lays firm ground for further dialogue. Such dialogue must take into account the legitimate needs and concerns of rural residents and simultaneously address concerns about upsurges in poaching.
The Kilombero Catchment stabilizes ecosystems at the Kilombero Valley Ramsar Site and the Selous Game Reserve. The valley connects to the largest block of Eastern Arc Mountains, the Udzungwas, with the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, Kilombero Nature Reserve and Udzungwa Scarp Forest Nature Reserve. These biodiversity hotspots host threatened flora and fauna—for example, 75% of Africa’s Puku antelope live in the valley. The area also supports a strong and prosperous agricultural sector. The Kilombero Catchment is facing serious challenges, such as declines in water quantity, water pollution, loss of wildlife corridors, overgrazing, and degradation of wetlands and forests. The implementation of collective action through the Kilombero Catchment Management Plan (KCMP) will benefit both biodiversity and all of those who depend on a healthy landscape (Source).
Ethiopian wolves (Canis simensis), Africa’s rarest carnivores, face mounting threats from disease-carrying domestic dogs, but scientists hope a new vaccination campaign will give them a fighting chance at survival. There are currently only about 500 wolves left, distributed among six isolated populations, all on the Afro-alpine highlands of Ethiopia. Read Biographic’s fascinating story by Jaymi Heimbuch with photographs by Will Burrard-Lucas at https://www.biographic.com/posts/sto/the-last-wolves .
Brown hyaena are often assumed to be solitary animals since they are usually seen foraging alone. Scientifically, they been described as ‘obviously solitary, but secretly social’ due to their highly developed social lives which are played out at hidden dens. The Namibian Okonjima/AfriCat brown hyaena research project uses camera traps to research the secret social lives of brown hyaenas. Read the Africat article here and look at some fascinating photos.
The Namibia Professional Hunting Association NAPHA alerts members and clients that the selling and marketing of so called ‘problem animal hunts’ is illegal. For example, no ‘problem’ leopard may be trophy hunted, sold or exported. Solely the Minister of Environment and Tourism may confirm the status of a problem animal. Such animal needs to be specifically identified and destroyed by the owner of the property or his appointed representative. Any lion or elephant officially declared as ‘problem animal’ may only be offered as a trophy hunt at short notice and only after receipt of official declaration from the Ministry via a permit (NAPHA).
Custodians of Professional Hunting and Conservation – South Africa issued a press release in February. The PR dealt with false allegations and assumptions about CPHC-SA. It stated inter alia that CPHC-SA is not against hunting behind high fences, since almost all hunting in South Africa is fenced; that CPHC-SA had warned that certain practices within the game farming industry (i.e. color variant and intensive breeding) have little hunting value, and are detrimental to the image and marketing of hunting; and that CPHC-SA is opposed to the captive bred lion industry (Source).
Operators and Professional Hunting Associations of Africa (OPHAA) promote legal and ethical fair-chase sustainable hunting in Africa through communication, unity, community support, and cooperation between nationally recognized African hunting associations. A binding code of conduct is strictly adhered to by each member association and its members in their country. Emphasis is also placed on cooperation to stop cross border malpractices. OPHAA members agreed that hunting outfitters will either be part of the recognized PH associations in the countries they operate in, or they will only work through outfitters who are members of the respective country association (Source).
The Namibia Professional Hunting Association NAPHA expressed concern over the decision of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) to destroy the hyena population in the area of the country where wild [feral] horses are located. Whilst the wild horses are part of Namibia’s history, they not part of its nature, says NAPHA (Source NAPHA).
Mike Knight of the African Rhino Specialist Group writes that it was unimaginable in 2006 that by the end of 2018, Africa would have lost at least 9,132 rhinos. The true figure is likely to be higher. Since continental losses peaked in 2015, poaching has promisingly declined, but it still remains high. Knight lists several important measures to secure the future of African rhinos: well-managed security operations; addressing the illegal wildlife trade; intelligent management and monitoring of populations to maximize growth; retaining, transferring and developing capacity and skills within conservation agencies; counteracting to threats to sustainable-use options for rhinos; and addressing demand reduction with Asian countries as partners (Source).
North & South America
For the past 42 years, the Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) has conducted an annual convention and expo known as the Sheep Show®, which serves as the foundation’s premiere fundraising event. The Sheep Show raises millions of dollars in support of WSF’s purpose, To Put and Keep Wild Sheep on the Mountain. WSF President and CEO Gray Thornton said that Sheep Show results seem to directly correlate with wild sheep restoration efforts. Thornton also noted that roughly $8 million was raised in just three days at four evening banquets, multiple fundraising auctions, and a variety of raffles and other activities. Auction items include several special hunting permits for wild sheep and other species throughout the US, Canada, Central Asia and Mexico. The majority of the proceeds go directly to wild sheep conservation, including habitat restoration, water projects, trap and transplants of wild sheep to suitable ranges, and collaring and disease testing of rams, ewes and lambs (WSF).
Mountain Pursuit criticizes The Best of the West website, and YouTube channel for its focus on extreme-range hunting, which according to Rob Shaul of Mountain Pursuit violates the ethics of Fair Chase. In its 2017 White Paper ‘Exploring New Technologies’ the Wyoming Game and Fish Department wrote “the ability for a game animal to elude a hunter increases significantly at distances greater than 300 yards and defined long range hunting as anything in excess of 400 yards.” The Boone and Crockett Club’s Hunt Fair Chase Initiative highlighted concerns with extreme range hunting already some years ago. The A Shot Too Far essay states, “Long-range shooting, extreme long-range shooting, sniper hunting—call it what you will, but there is no denying this trend is pushing the limits of ethical hunting and fair chase, leaving us with more questions than answers” and continues, “if your intent is to hunt the animal, get as close as possible for a sure shot within your maximum-effective range, with a concern for a high-probability, safe shot, you’re hunting. If your intent is to see how far you can hit a live target and/or best your last performance, you’re shooting …” (Source Rob Shaul’s Blog).
The Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus partnered with the Virginia Sportsmen’s Foundation to host the 28th Annual Wild Game Chili Cook-Off in Richmond. Approximately 150 people, including more than 30 legislators, attended the non-partisan event held in the Old City Hall and sampled a variety of wild game chili recipes. The event provides an opportunity for nonhunters to try wild game, and helps promote Virginia’s outdoor traditions. Virginia’s 1.07 million hunters and anglers spend over $2 billion dollars annually on their pursuits which supports over 39,000 jobs in the state and generates more than $242 million in state and local taxes (Source).
Netflix’s hunting series MeatEater with Steven Rinella is all about big-game hunting, preparing wild game and practicing good sportsmanship. MeatEater is a show grounded in the reality of everyday hunting and a nice reminder that enjoying the outdoors for what it is and taking care of our resources is why we do it. With that attitude, every hunt is a trophy in itself. Netflix features several seasons for streaming and the podcasts are readily available. Hunter, author, cook and conservationist Steven Rinella is as authentic of a backcountry hunter as you can find in the mainstream media today. He treks into the world’s most remote, beautiful regions, bringing game meat from field to table. Rinella’s show is a must see for hunters and non-hunters alike. Visit the MeatEater website for comprehensive information on what hunting and eating wild game is all about.
Cabelas/Bass Pro Radio interviewed professional hunting leaders from three African countries during the Dallas Safari Club Convention 2019. Stewart Dorrington, (Custodians of Professional Hunting and Conservation – South Africa), Danene van der Westhuyzen (Namibia Professional Hunting Association) and Michel Mantheakis (Tanzania Professional Hunters’ Association) talked about hunting and the role it plays in conservation in Africa during an hour-long program which has a listenership of around 100,000 per hour during broadcast (Source).
Bolivia’s trees are being chopped down at an alarming rate since 2001. The loss has greatly reduced the jaguar habitat. Nearly two-thirds of that loss occurred in just a single state—Santa Cruz—as agribusiness activity, namely cattle ranching and soy farming, ramped up. The high profitability of large-scale soy drives up land costs as high as $3,000 a hectare ($1,200 an acre) and is a major cause for deforestation. On top of habitat loss, jaguars in Santa Cruz are persecuted by landowners who see them as a danger to livestock, and targeted in a lucrative new trade in their parts, including teeth and bones. Read Rhett Butler’s article at Mongabay.com—and view an amazing array of photos with rare South American wildlife.
Wild horses and burros are non-native species in North America and can damage wildlife habitats when their populations exceed ecologically sustainable levels. The BLM and the U.S. Forest Service are tasked with managing wild horses and burros in designated areas to sustain a “thriving natural ecological balance,” but there are currently more than 3-times the target populations on public lands. Wild horse and burro management needs to be improved to protect native wildlife, public lands, and ecosystem health. Watch Horse Rich & Dirt Poor to learn more about this issue (The Wildlife Society).
ESPN loudmouth Keith Olbermann has made himself look like a turkey. The ex-MSNBC political commentator demanded that his Twitter followers make a turkey hunter’s life a “living hell” for posing with a rare albino turkey the killed. Olbermann was called out for the ambush—and given a dressing down from his bosses at the network which has twice before fired him. “We have spoken to him about not making personal attacks,” ESPN said in a statement (New York Post)
Eight jailed researchers trying to protect threatened cheetahs in Iran await verdict says Kayleigh E. Long in an article for National Geographic published on March 19th. As the cases of the conservation scientists and researchers in Iran enter a critical phase, prominent wildlife scientists and NGOs around the world continue to rally in support of the accused. The conservationists, from the Tehran-based Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF), have been accused of using camera traps to spy—a claim being rebuffed on technical grounds by camera trap experts. In mid-January 2018, PWHF founder Morad Tahbaz was arrested. On January 24 and 25, eight others associated with the organization were also arrested: Kavous Seyed-Emami, Niloufar Bayani, Houman Jowkar, Taher Ghadirian, Sepideh Kashani, Amir Hossein Khaleghi, Abdolreza Kouhpayeh, and Sam Radjabi. Kavous Seyed Emami, managing director of PWHF, died while in custody. The arrested researchers were studying the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah. Elusive and rare, the only reliable way to document them is by camera trap. National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting used a high-resolution camera trap to get some of the photos published in the NGS article. The camera traps the arrested researchers relied on were primarily limited-range, low-resolution ones. Read also the commentary by Luke Hunter, Christine Breitenmoser, Urs Breitenmoser, Sarah Durant, Laurie Marker, Stephane Ostrowski and Christian Walzer published on 8 March 2019 at Mongabay.com. Inform your social and private networks to join the online petition to free the prisoners at https://www.thepetitionsite.com/626/639/055/conservationists-face-death-penalty-in-iran/
UN Environment statement on the detention and reported trials of eight environmental workers in Iran. UN Environment continues to be concerned by the on-going detentions, and reported trials, of eight environmental workers in Iran, and has shared its concerns with the authorities in Tehran. Information we have recently received that some detainees may not have adequate access to legal counsel and representation is deeply troubling. The agency said “we urge the Iranian authorities to ensure that those detained are guaranteed a fair, transparent and independent trial. We know how much Iranians treasure their natural heritage, and we call on the government to protect the rights of all dedicated servants of the country’s unique environment, which are guaranteed by Iran’s laws and constitution.”
Researchers at the Wildlife Institute of India in Dehradun long assumed that hog deer at the Keibul Lamjao National Park in Manipur belong to the western hog deer subspecies Axis porcinus porcinus, although they are larger, have no speckling, and a brighter ochre coat together with bulkier antlers. Genetic sampling now revealed that the Keibul Lamjao hog deer belongs to the eastern subspecies Axis porcinus annamiticus—formerly believed to be confined to Southeast Asia. The hog deer population in India is threatened by habitat alteration, fragmentation, and poaching (Source Mongabay).
The Indian Supreme Court decision to remove millions of forest-dwelling people in five months will not only have devastating human rights implications but also hurt the global struggle to save forests and mitigate climate change, according to numerous experts. The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), a global coalition of more than 200 organizations dedicated to advancing the forestland and resource rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, and rural women, has said in statement issued from Washington DC that evicting millions of indigenous and local peoples from their forest homes might prove to be “highly detrimental to conservation in India”. Conservation organizations and rights groups agree: the decision threatens conservation, climate, and tigers (Source).
The status of the Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena) in Tajikistan is the topic of a short documentary with English subtitles by Khalil Karimov, chair of the IUCN Sustainable Use & Livelihoods Specialist Group—Central Asia. The video has some great footage of the secretive striped hyena, and highlights the conservation challenges: the striped hyena is not as charismatic as the snow leopard (Uncia uncia), its habitat is extremely fragmented, farmers kill hyenas because they believe they prey on new-born lambs, and because hyena’s like to eat sweet melons in their fields.
The NZ Department of Conservation’s (DOC) Himalayan tahr control work, vital to protecting the unique alpine landscapes of tall tussock and other native alpine plants on the South Island, resumed in March 2019. DOC will continue working with the hunting community to reduce tahr on conservation land. Latest population estimates put the tahr population on approximately 1.7 million hectares at nearly 35,000 animals, well above the limit of 10,000 tahr set out in control plans years ago. DOC’s Tahr Control Operational Plan sets to remove 10,000 tahr by the end of August 2019. Initial control efforts will focus on tahr exclusion zones and associated buffer areas. DOC is committed to working with the recreational and commercial hunting sector to achieve this (Source). Much more detail on what is called Tahr-Mageddon can be found here.
Predator control is an essential tool for bird conservation across Europe. This requires close cooperation between hunters, farmers, landowners, bird organizations and authorities, and was one of the main conclusions from the conference “Managing predators for meadow birds” organized by European Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FACE) and hosted by Members of the European Parliament, Bendt Bendtsen and Karl-Heinz Florenz. All speakers and participants agreed that it is very important to effectively communicate to the public why predator control is required, as some people might not understand the role of predator control in conservation” (Source).
Torbjörn Larsson, President of FACE (the European Federation for Hunting and Conservation), said in a recent interview that “a key focus of my [previous] engagement [in the Swedish Hunting Association] has been to help introducing and following through [the] long-term perspective of ‘The Hunt for the Future’. In Sweden [negative trends turned into into] positive trends—such as [growing] membership and the financial net result [for investment in the future]. Satisfaction among members, elected representatives and staff members has gone up substantially [and] internal and external communication [was] improved. [The] political and organizational objectives were sharpened, making them both clearer and more tangible, and better [to] follow up. We strengthened our international collaboration. We are beginning to see strong results of this work, and that we are delivering greater benefits for our members and hunting. The political support for our issues is strong. We are especially pleased to see that the acceptance for hunting in Sweden is now at an all-time high since polls started—89 percent of Swedes are positive to hunting. Based on the lessons learnt we are now implementing The Hunt for the Future 2024.” Larsson said on his new task as president of FACE, that “one of the key objectives is to carry out a similar process in FACE. One of the first decisions of the new FACE Board was to launch a process to ensure long-term stability and efficiency in the Secretariat in Brussels as a matter of priority. The finances have been solidified. Most recently, we are pleased to have welcomed back to FACE the national hunting federation from Europe’s largest hunting country, France”. Larsson is planning to continue this process with the FACE members to ensure that FACE delivers for Europe’s 7 million hunters” (Source FACE).
The biennial Living Planet Report, published by the Worldwide Fund for Nature last year, once again uses manipulated statistics to scare the bejesus out of people, said Ivo Vegter in an opinion piece in the Daily Maverick (South Africa) published on 12 November 2018. The alarmist headlines were carried by many print and on-line media around the world. “We’ve lost 60% of the world’s animals, if media reports are to be believed; but it isn’t so, and WWF’s own charts expose its chicanery,” says Vegter. He goes into explicit detailed analyzing the figures and graphs of the WWF Living Planet Report and concludes “in assessing the potential harm some of our activities might do to the environment, we need reasoned conclusions from credible data. All the WWF is offering is dodgy statistics and rhetorical hysteria. That is of no use to anyone, other than activists who want to blame capitalism for all the world’s ills. Giving them lies for ammunition is a disservice to humanity, and to the ecosystems on which it depends.”
UN Environment and partners kick-started a five-year global research collaboration aiming to make trade a positive force for both nature conversation and marginalized people. The UNEP-WCMC-led alliance will look at how trade affects biodiversity from a biophysical, social, political and economic point of view and trace the trade of wildlife, wild meat and agricultural goods from their origin in eight countries, and then throughout the entire world: Brazil, China, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Indonesia, Republic of Congo, and Tanzania (Source).