What exactly are we? Certainly dark times are upon us with the savagery and barbarity being inflicted daily now in the Middle East accompanied by the rise of such groups as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. But what we’ve known all along, or at least what we are perhaps now coming to see, is that human beings have a unique propensity for carrying cruelty to ever greater heights–cruelty directed against ourselves as well as the very planet we inhabit and all that lives upon it.
Poachers Kill Beloved Kenyan Elephant Known for Giant Tusks
June 15, 2014
Poachers killed one of Kenya’s most beloved elephants — a behemoth animal with tusks so large, they touched the ground.
Satao was shot with poisoned arrows in the sprawling Tsavo National Park in the country’s southeast.
Wildlife officials found his carcass with two massive holes where his tusks once stood. His face was so badly mutilated, authorities used other ways to identify him, including his ears and the pattern of mud caked on his body.
“Satao is dead, killed by an ivory poacher’s poisoned arrow to feed the seemingly insatiable demand for ivory in far off countries. A great life lost so that someone far away can have a trinket on their mantlepiece,” Tsavo Trust said in statement late Friday. “Rest in peace, old friend, you will be missed.”
Satao was about 45 years old, and a hit among visitors at the national park, where understaffed conservationists monitored him regularly to protect him from poachers.
“When he was alive, his enormous tusks were easily identifiable, even from the air,” said Tsavo Trust, a non-profit that protects wildlife.
Though he mostly roamed within a limited part of the park, he recently started venturing to an area considered a hotbed of poaching activity.
The area he moved to in search of fresh water is hard to access due to its thick vegetation and scarce roads.
“With today’s mounting poaching pressures and anti-poaching resources stretched to the limit, it proved impossible to prevent the poachers getting through the net,” Tsavo Trust said.
His carcass was found earlier this month, but authorities verified his identity Friday.
“We are left with no choice but to acknowledge that the great Satao is no more,” the trust said in a statement.
Satao is a victim of an illegal ivory trade that has doubled worldwide since 2007, with the United States among the top markets for illegally acquired tusks because of unregulated ways of purchasing ivory, including the Internet and auctions. China is the largest market, and other Asian nations such as Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam also drive demand.
Conservation groups say the recent surge in the illicit ivory trade has resulted in the killing of 30,000 African elephants annually in recent years. The tusks sell for thousands of dollars, making it a lucrative trade and endangering already fragile populations in Africa.
“The surge in the killing of elephants in Africa and the illegal taking of other listed species globally threatens not only wildlife populations but the livelihoods of millions who depend on tourism for a living,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. environment program.
Armed groups are capitalizing on the increasing value of ivory by killing elephants and trading their tusks for arms and ammunition.
Poachers Slaughter 68 Congo Elephants in Two Months
June 13, 2014
Poachers operating in one of Africa’s oldest parks have slaughtered at least 68 elephants in the last two months, using chainsaws and armed helicopter to profit from an illegal trade that results in tens of thousands of deaths every year, conservationists warned.
A report released Friday by the Geneva-based Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) found that at least 20,000 elephants were killed in Africa in 2013 — fewer than the two previous years but still shockingly high.
The Johannesburg-based African Parks group, underscoring the need for greater protection for elephants, said on Thursday that some 4 percent of the population of Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) had been wiped out by poachers in a matter of weeks.
The group said that since mid-May, the 1,900-square-mile park, which was established in 1938, has faced an onslaught from several bands of criminals.
One particularly sophisticated group is shooting the elephants with high-powered rifles from a helicopter and then severing their tusks with chainsaws. They are removing the elephants’ brains and genitals as well.
African Parks, which runs seven parks in six countries in cooperation with local authorities, said the poachers include renegade elements of the Congolese army, gunmen from South Sudan and members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a militant rebel group whose fugitive leader, Joseph Kony, is an alleged war criminal.
“The situation is extremely serious,” Garamba Park manger Jean-Marc Froment said in a statement. “The park is under attack on all fronts.” A 2012 census found just 2,000 elephants in Garamba — down from 20,000 in the 1960s.
In one skirmish with poachers, park guards had to protect themselves against hand grenades thrown by South Sudanese poachers, some wearing military uniforms.
Conservationists say a thriving ivory market in Asia is helping fuel the worst poaching epidemic of African elephants in decades.
Eighty percent of the African seizures were in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, three of the eight nations required to draw up plans to curb ivory smuggling, officials with CITES reported.
The CITES report says poaching is increasing in the Central African Republic but declining in Chad. The report also says the overall poaching numbers in 2013 dropped from the previous two years.
“We are seeing better law enforcement and demand-reduction efforts across multiple countries, as well as greater political and public attention to this unfolding crisis,” said John Scanlon, CITES’ secretary-general.
CITES, which regulates 35,000 species of plants and animals, banned ivory trade in 1989.
About 28 percent of Africa’s elephants are in eastern Africa, and close to 55 percent are in southern Africa. Some local elephant populations continue to face the threat of immediate extinction.
In recent years, the U.N. has warned that armed groups in Africa have been turning to ivory poaching to fund their struggles.
Japan Kills 30 Minke Whales in ‘Research’ Campaign Following Intl Court Ban
Japan has caught and killed 30 minke whales in the country’s annual northwest Pacific “research” whaling campaign, officials said on Friday. The trip is the first since an international court banned such activities earlier this year.
The minke whales were caught off Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture as part of the country’s annual northwestern Pacific hunt – which takes place form April to June – according to Japan’s Fisheries Agency. A second group of whalers is still at work.
In March, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that Japan’s Southern Ocean efforts in the Antarctic whale hunt were illegal under international law. It was ruled that no further permits should be issued under Japan’s scientific whaling program, saying that the campaign produced little actual research. The ruling also urged Japan to re-examine the program.
Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said in April that it would submit a new plan for Antarctic whaling to the International Whaling Commission in 2015 for the purpose of resuming whaling in the region.
Japan has been conducting whaling research in three areas – the Antarctic Ocean, off the coast of the northwestern Pacific Ocean, and along the coast of the northwestern Pacific. The latter two are not as widely known as the Antarctic hunt and were not specifically mentioned in the court ruling.
Japanese whaling is a centuries old tradition which dates back to the 12th century. The Japanese whaling fleet departs twice a year. During the North Pacific campaign, whalers can kill up to 200 minke whales, 50 Brydes, 100 sei whales, and 10 sperm whales, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Japan has hunted whales under a loophole in a 1986 global moratorium that allowed it to conduct lethal research on the mammals. Meat from the whales usually ends up in food markets.
Tokyo said it intends to prove that the whale population is large enough to sustain commercial hunting. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated on Monday that the country aims to restart commercial whaling.
“I want to aim for the resumption of commercial whaling by conducting whaling research in order to obtain scientific data indispensable for the management of whale resources,” he said at a parliamentary commission meeting. “To that end, I will step up efforts further to get understanding from the international community.”
Sixty percent of Japan’s residents said that research whaling should continue – despite an international court order to halt the hunt, and the fact that few Japanese regularly eat whale meat, according to an Asahi Shimbun newspaper survey conducted in April. Another survey by the newspaper in March 2002 showed that four percent said they were occasional consumers of whale meat, while nine percent said they have eaten it on rare occasions.
Environmental organizations have been staging various protests against whaling, which is also popular in Norway and Iceland.