Thursday, October 31, 2013

Texas Hunting Club Auctions Endangered Black Rhinoceros for Hunting

Black rhinoceros

The rhino has been suffering drastically over the past few years in its African homeland due to poaching and the demand for its horn in Asia's black market. Across Africa, hundreds of these majestic beasts have fallen victim in the bloodthirsty hands of poachers who are infamous for being part of global criminal syndicates that function in a similar way as organized crime. This ongoing and rampant bloodshed even led to the extinction of the western black rhinoceros two years ago in Cameroon. In addition, South Africa has seen some of the highest casualties of rhinos than any where else in Africa. But now, there appears to be another threat looming on the horizon that could further contribute in the continuous decimation of Africa's rhinos. It is a Texas-based hunting group known as the Dallas Safari Club. This international organization, which is comprised of hunters and wildlife enthusiasts, has recently been reported auctioning off a hunting permit to hunt the critically endangered black rhinoceros from the government of Namibia. According to the organization's executive director Ben Carter, the purpose of this movement is about saving the black rhino, of which there are roughly 5,055 animals. The group further added that hundred percent of the profits made from the sale of the permit, which is estimated to be auctioned off for $250,000 to $ 1 million, will go towards the conservation trust fund for the black rhinos of Namibia. However, conservation groups argued that the organization's claim to benefit the rhinos was based false logic. According to Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), it would make more sense to wildlife enthusiasts to bestow money only for the rhino conservation than to kill one of the animals. He further added that the Humane Society is planning to implore the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service in an effort to prevent them from distributing an extra permit that would allow a hunter to bring back a rhino carcass.
A pair of black rhinos in the Mkuze Game Reserve in South Africa

It is absolutely appalling and disheartening beyond belief that as Africa's rhino population continues to suffer from the rampant poaching crisis, new individuals respond to this message in much the same way as poachers do. That is, instead of helping the rhino in jeopardy by either donating money to conservation groups or joining forces with them on the front lines in an effort to save the species, they do the opposite by providing bidders an opportunity to hunt the rhino for sport and donate the money they acquired to the conservation trust fund aimed at saving the species. My view on the Dallas Safari Club is that it is claiming to help the black rhinoceros, but in reality, it is further contributing to the downfall of its population along with poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. While it has been reported that the Humane Society is going to petition the Fish and Wildlife Service to prevent them from issuing permit to hunt the black rhino, I strongly believe that the Namibian government should also disallow the Dallas Safari Club for carrying out this method of "conservation" if they are to protect their local rhino populations. Similarly, other countries that individually house Africa's rhino populations should bar this hunting organization from allowing international hunters to hunt rhinos and other highly endangered species. Furthermore, a rhinoceros labeled as "counterproductive" should not be taken out of a population by hunting. Instead, it should rather be kept separate until it dies of natural causes.

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Zimbabwe Looses 91 Elephants to Poaching

A park ranger walks by an elephant carcass in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park

Africa is drenched in bloodshed stemming from rampant poaching that has diminished and continues to diminish its elephant population at an alarming rate. All over the continent, elephants fall prey to the greedy and murderous hands of poachers for the purpose of profit. This wave of bloodthirsty carnage has not only been helping to fund the black market, but also finance Africa's militant groups in their efforts to carry out civil wars across the continent. Among these ruthless and barbaric organizations include Al-Shabaab, Janjaweed, and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) who for many years have terrorized Africa and its people. Al-Shabaab has gained international notoriety as an ally of Al-Qaeda, and has recently been in the spotlight for allegedly conducting a horrendous attack at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi. These facts indicate that the threat of poaching not only intends on thriving to profit from Africa's wildlife, but also instill fear and terror in the hearts of innocent people everywhere in the continent and negatively impact the tourism industry which is one of the major contributors to Africa's economy.
A lion in Hwange National Parks. Lions and other predators, particularly hyenas,  perished as a result of  cyanide poisoning.

Recently, this ongoing bloodbath has claimed lives of 91 elephants in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. Officials indicated that poachers had spread cyanide used in gold mining over natural, mineral-rich salt licks which draw elephants and other animals for access to essential mineral nutrients. They further added that the poisoning also claimed lives of lions, hyenas, and vultures after feeding on the contaminated carcasses and drinking nearby. Reports indicate that the elephants had died last month, and that nine suspected poachers have arrested this month. Out of the nine suspects, three were sentenced to sixteen years in prison. According to Saviour Kasukuwere, the newly appointed environment minister following President Robert Mugabe's victory in the 2013 Zimbabwean presidential election, the nation will strengthen its efforts to campaign among other nations around the world to repress the illegal ivory trade. In addition, the State Environmental Management Authority has made a plan to burn elephant carcasses and call for detoxification of areas affected by cyanide, starting with delving out the salt licks and removing top layers of soil tainted by cyanide particles. Officials believe that at least two deeply dug wells providing the waterholes may also be polluted and will possibly have to be shut. New wells will likely be dug away from the contaminated ones.
Elephants drink at a waterhole in Hwange National Park

This article indicates that elephant poaching continues to take its toll on Africa's wildlife by spreading into other countries of the continent, which were not considered as focal points of poaching in recent times. Earlier, it was believed that Central Africa and parts of East Africa, most notably Kenya, were considered to be major hubs of elephant poaching. Now, it has been found that Zimbabwe has become affected by this continuous bloodshed. Although the response to tackle poaching came swift, Zimbabwe's environment and wildlife authorities are said to be underfunded, understaffed, and poorly outfitted due to a troubled economy. This means that authorities cannot afford to care for helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft spotter patrols in an effort to battle poaching. Environment minister Kasukuwere stated that the Hwange National Park only has about 150 rangers and few fully functional off-road vehicles for an area that impeccably should have a staff of 700. He further added that officials have started working with local village communities on the peripheries of Hwange National Park to notify any presence of cyanide, and that eight pounds of (four kilograms) of the poison have been recovered so far. However, I feel that Zimbabwe is in a great need of help to protect its wildlife. I believe that, in order to help Zimbabwe protect its wildlife, it is highly essential to help its economy so that the authorities would not be underfunded and understaffed and provide them with access to helicopters and similar resources to bolster up their efforts to prevent poaching from further taking its toll of the nation's wildlife.

View article here