Posts Tagged ‘poaching’

End of the game for Namibia – Africa Geographic

December 10, 2015

Hugh Paxton’s Blog doesn’t know many people who have had a fight with two large Nile crocodiles and had their arm torn off while punching the other contender in the face.

I met Chris. He likes my books ( I hope!), I like his!

He drives through tough terrain using his remaining arm. His pedigree is pure moral, thoughtful, action man. He’s fought in wars, his involvement with Executive Outcomes in Sierra Leone saved countless lives from doped up, cannibal rebels. The media fancied headlines like dogs of war, mercenary. Exciting, catchy titles. Far from the truth. EO was a moral war force, blacks, whites, coloureds. Paid, yes. But every army is paid. The RUF were monsters.

EO was simply providing a robust security service with a bit of elbow space for hunt and kill before the rebels slaughtered everybody in terrible orgies of violence, rape, voodoo and village burning.

He’s a nature lover, with a shrewd idea of what’s what.

He also rescued me when my vehicle was stuck in deep sand. There was no bullshine about this rescue. He arrived, suggested I reverse, “This track is now too deep.” “Take the other one.”

Very useful!

His verdict on the current state of wildlife conservation in his beloved Namibia fills me with a mixture of fear, disgust and anger.

http://africageographic.com/blog/end-of-the-game-for-namibia/

Hey! We’re going to save trees! TRAFFIC reaction to timber proposals (plus a brief digression on the inconvenience of names)

March 12, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog just got this from TRAFFIC. Quite timely. I’ve just been interviewing national park rangers here in Thailand who routinely get shot at by tree poachers. Tree poaching is big business! The bad guys bring in miniature sawmills to make the wood convenient to carry, weapons to shoot anything edible or wearing a law enforcement uniform…the death toll is very high. The wood makes guitars look pretty, houses look rich. When the wood is worked, everything looks good. The people killed in this smuggling racket rot and look ugly. Death does that to you. Tree smuggling means just that to some people. They die. To make a house look a bit better than the house next door, to make a guitar look lovely.

Every ranger I have spoken to in Thailand has identified tree poaching as a major problem. It’s teak in the north. That’s a local thing. Houses of the rich and ostentatious require teak.

Rosewood elsewhere. Yes, the teak goes for local consumption but rosewood is venerated in Thailand: a religious sort of thing according to Thattaya Bidayabha. She’s a Thai biologist working for the Freeland Foundation. “We don’t use rosewood because it is revered for its strength.” I didn’t get all of her explanation but I think what she was saying was that rosewood is considered a holy tree. Sacrosanct. The rosewood is cut and taken by cynics up north. China.

She talked, too, about the cutting of aloe wood. I really liked her face during the interview. When she was talking about her nation’s trees it would crumple and look terribly sad, or try to look on the best side of things and look happy. I wanted to hug her. I really did. But you can’t do that if you are a journalist. I just listened, wrote my stuff and left her behind when I went on to the next story. I will remember her. Even if I can’t pronounce her name.

She couldn’t pronounce mine, either.

Hugh.

I really have no idea why Hugh as a ‘G’ in the middle of it!

I’ve been called huh, huge (that’s a joke), hgghhh, hug, – people don’t seem to get the hang of it. Paxton’s an issue, too. Immigration officials hear Paxton and then think Pakistan. Problems. They then scrutinise my passport. Born in Aden. I explain that it used to be a country called Aden. My Daddy was British army officer serving there.  It’s now Yemen. a hot bed of al quaeda plots and related violence. Being somebody called Hugh Paxton born in a non-existent country has its up and downs. But I’m happy with it.

Anyway, and who gives a damn. This TRAFFIC message is good news. It makes me feel good, too.And I hope that it makes Thattaya Bidayaybha  happy  – she looks at her best when she is smiling!

BLOG ED NOTE: You spelled her name correctly. There’s always a first!

Hugh: Piss off!
Timber-release-headed-final.doc

Wildlife crime update

April 21, 2011

News Round-Up: Wildlife Law Enforcement Actions ASEAN region March 2011

Indonesia Investigation by BKSDA leads to arrest and seizure of wildlife The Natural Resource Conservation Agency in Riau and West Sumatra Province (BKSDA), with support from WWF Indonesia’s Tiger Protection Unit, arrested a suspected tiger smuggler in West Sumatra, Indonesia, following a 3-day investigation. The arrest also resulted in the seizure of the skin of an adult male tiger, a live python, and body parts of a Serow and muntjac (barking deer). WWF, 11 March 2011 (http://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?199594/Suspected-tiger-smuggler-arrested-following–WWF-BKSDA-investigation)

2 Kuwaitis arrested and 40 pythons seized in Jakarta airport Indonesian airport officials in Jakarta foiled an attempt by 2 Kuwaitis to smuggle 40 pythons in their luggage to Dubai. The 2 were arrested and could face up to 7 years in jail and a fine of USD32,000.00 upon conviction of smuggling wildlife. AFP, 25 March 2011 (http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gws0qlR5plzQOJkbTZ79pWrCq-EQ?docId=CNG.8b848330a828f444a4c88f66180c8ffa.111%202.) Fly.co.uk, 28 March 2011 (http://www.fly.co.uk/news/2-men-arrested-at-soekarno%E2%80%93hatta-international-airport-for-smuggling-40-snakes-1983632.html)

Malaysia Perhilitan Pahang seize various wildlife meat and parts; Restaurant owner to face charges under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 On March 15, 2011, officers from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) in Pahang seized around 17 kilos of common barking deer meat, 2 skinned mouse deer, 54 Argus pheasant feathers, a White-breasted waterhen and several pieces of dried tiger parts. The restaurant owner, a second-time offender, could face RM600,000.00 in fines and time in jail for illegal possession of said wildlife meat and parts under the Malaysia Wildlife Conservation Act 2010. National Geographic Daily News, 16 March 2011 (http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/03/16/tiger_parts_seized_in_restaurant_raid/) Daily Independent, 23 March 2011 (http://www.independentngonline.com/DailyIndependent/Article.aspx?id=30884) Wild boar meat confiscated by Perhilitan Pahang The Perhilitan Pahang seized in March wild boar meat from 2 houses in the town of Triang. 2 local men and a woman are expected to be charged for possession of the meat without a license. National Geographic Daily News, 16 March 2011 (http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/03/16/tiger_parts_seized_in_restaurant_raid/) Daily Independent, 23 March 2011 (http://www.independentngonline.com/DailyIndependent/Article.aspx?id=30884)

1 Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and 2 Blue-crowned Hanging-parrots seized in Janda Baik It was reported on March 15, 2011 that the Perhilitan Pahang seized in February a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and 2 Blue-crowned Hanging-parrots from a man in the town of Janda Baik. National Geographic Daily News, 16 March 2011 (http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/03/16/tiger_parts_seized_in_restaurant_raid/) Daily Independent, 23 March 2011 (http://www.independentngonline.com/DailyIndependent/Article.aspx?id=30884)

5 Arrested for possession of 2 kilos of pangolin meat and scales On March 23, 2011, the Terengganu Wildlife and National Parks rangers arrested 4 Vietnamese and 1 Cambodian for possessing 2 kilos of pangolin meat and scales. Under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, the offenders can be fined not more than RM100,000, or jailed not more than 3 years, or both. Bernama.com, 24 March 2011 (http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsindex.php?id=573484)

Philippines Truckload of corals seized in Lapu-Lapu City by Central Visayas operatives On March 10, 2011, the Central Visayas operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) seized a truckload of corals abandoned in barangay Punta Engano in Lapu-Lapu City. It was reported that a charge of dereliction of duty would be filed against Punta Engano barangay officials for failing to detect illegally harvested corals in the area. Inquirer, 10 March 2011 (http://globalnation.inquirer.net/cebudailynews/news/view/20110310-324523/Seized-corals-point-to-Punta-Engao-officials)

6 Chinese poachers arrested in Balabac, Palawan; 7 live turtles and 2 dead turtles recovered Philippine authorities arrested 6 Chinese poachers who were caught poaching in a reef area near the coastline of Balabac, Palawan. 7 live sea turtles and 2 dead marine turtles were recovered. Inquirer, 25 March 2011 (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/regions/view/20110325-327567/Six-Chinese-poachers-nabbed-in-Palawan)

Thailand Royal Thai Police arrests 2 suspected major ivory dealers On March 29, 2011, the Royal Thai Police raided and searched 2 underground carving factories and depots, which resulted in the seizure of an undisclosed amount of ivory, including large pieces of African elephant tusks, hippo incisors and other bones. The operation also led to the arrest of 2 Thai citizens associated with the factories. The 2 suspects face charges under various laws including Thailand’s Wild Animal Reservation and Preservation Act B.E. 2535. FREELAND Foundation, 30 March 2011 (http://freeland.org/eng/news/press-release/231-suspected-major-ivory-dealer-nabbed-in-thailand-police-bust-traffickers-and-illegal-carving-factories)

Viet Nam 2 northern white-cheeked gibbons seized in Binh Duong Through the cooperation of the provincial Environmental Police and FPD, 2 northern white-cheeked gibbons (Hylobates concolor leucogennys) were rescued from a private business establishment in Binh Duong. The owner could not present any certificate of origin for the animals, which are listed as a rare species in group IB of Decree 32/ND-CP – a group of wild animals forbidden to be exploited or used for commercial purposes. Education for Nature – Vietnam, 2 March, 2011, (http://www.envietnam.org/E_News/E_406/Binh%20Duong-Seizure-of-two-northern-white-cheeked-gibbons.html)

Nghe An Environmental Police seize a total of 193kg. of wildlife On March 7, 2011, Nghe An Environmental Police seized a shipment containing 17kg. of porcupines, 9kg. of monitor lizards and 167kg. of turtles, being transported in a van that was registered in Laos, and planned to be sold in Dien Chau district of Nghe An province.

Education for Nature – Vietnam Newsletter (April 2011) 1 Asiatic black bear cub seized by Viet Nam authorities On March 7, 2011, cooperation between the Police and the Sy Kon district FPD resulted in the seizure of an Asiatic black bear cub (Selenarctos thibetanus), weighing approximately 2kg., while being transported in a bus from Laos. The suspect was temporarily detained by authorities. Education for Nature – Vietnam News Brief, 17 March 2011 (http://www.envietnam.org/E_News/E_408/E_408.html)

1 Northern white-cheeked gibbon confiscated in Ho Chi Minh City On March 10, 2011, local police in Ho Chi Minh City confiscated a northern white-cheeked gibbon (Hylobates concolor leucogennys) from a local resident. The gibbon was transferred to the Cu Chi Rescue Center. Education for Nature – Vietnam Newsletter (April 2011) 2 Asiatic black bear cubs confiscated by Kon Tum FPD On March 14, 2011, Kon Tum FPD confiscated 2 Asiatic black bear cubs (Selenarctos thibetanus) from local residents. The bears were transferred to the Tam Dao Bear Sanctuary. Education for Nature – Vietnam Newsletter (April 2011) Suspect in Van Ninh fined for illegal possession of various wildlife seized by the local Van Ninh FPD The local Van Ninh FPD seized 4 monitor lizards (Varanus sp.), 2 brush-tailed porcupines (Atherurus macrourus), 2 turtles, 35 snakes, and 3 civets illegally stored at a residence in Van Ninh district, Khanh Hoa province. The suspect received an administrative fine.

Education for Nature – Vietnam News Brief, 25 March 2011 (http://www.envietnam.org/E_News/E_409/E_409.html) 3 King Cobras seized by Hanoi authorities Hanoi authorities seized a sack containing 3 King Cobras (Ophiophagus Hannah), weighing a total of 27kg., inside a car. The snakes were purchased by the owner in Lao Cai province to sell in Hanoi. King cobras, being under group IB of Decree 32/ND-CP, are forbidden to be in captivity, hunted, traded or killed.

Education for Nature – Vietnam News Brief, 31 March 2011 (http://www.envietnam.org/E_News/E_410/E_410.html) Binh Duong courts sentence 15 suspects involved in illegal selling of tigers Binh Duong courts sentenced Mr. Huynh Van Hai, owner of the Than Canh Tourism Park in Binh Duong province, to 3 years in prison for illegally selling tigers. 14 others, including his son, linked to the illegal activities received sentences ranging from 18 months probation to 30 months in prison. In addition to imprisonment, Hai and 2 others were fined more than VND 1.4 billion (approximately USD70,000.00). Education for Nature – Vietnam, 25 March 2011 (http://www.envietnam.org/E_News/E_409/Statement-tiger-bust-Thanh-Canh-March-25-2011.pdf) Education for Nature – Vietnam, 26 March 2011 (http://www.envietnam.org/library/Articles%20for%20news%20media%20section/Vietnam-zoo-owner-jailed-for-tiger-sales.html)

Relevant Wildlife Enforcement News March 2011

Brunei Darussalam Brunei Forestry Department to Recruit More Rangers “The Forestry Department, which is currently running short of forest rangers to fully enforce the Sultanate’s Forestry Laws, received a slight boost after a budget has been approved to increase the department’s present number of 13 forest rangers to 20…” Brunei Times, 9 March 2011 (http://www.asean-wen.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=286:brunei-forestry-department-to-recruit-more-rangers&catid=46:network-news&Itemid=85)

Brunei Wildlife Department Idea Welcomed “The budget to establish a Wildlife Department that will be responsible for the preservation of the country’s flora and fauna may be proposed next year, said the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources yesterday…” Brunei Times, 9 March 2011 (http://www.asean-wen.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=287:brunei-wildlife-department-idea-welcomed&catid=46:network-news&Itemid=85)

Brunei: “Heart of Borneo won’t hamper development “Although Brunei is committed to the ‘Heart of Borneo’ initiative, it does not mean that certain areas in Brunei are not allowed to be developed, said the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources yesterday…” Brunei Times, 9 March 2011 (http://www.asean-wen.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=288:brunei-heart-of-borneo-wont-hamper-development&catid=46:network-news&Itemid=85)

Indonesia Indonesia’s risky gecko trade “For some small farmers in Indonesia, gecko hunting has become big business…” Aljazeera, 6 March 2011 (http://english.aljazeera.net/video/asia-pacific/2011/03/2011361010222310.html)

Spotted! The elusive Sunda clouded leopard of Sumatra is caught on film for the first time “A rare and elusive big cat discovered just four years ago has been filmed in Sumatra for the first time…” Dailymail.co.uk, 7 March 2011 (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1363099/Newest-big-cat-species-Sunda-clouded-leopard-Sumatra-filmed-time.html)

Critically endangered Javan Rhinos and Calves captured on video “Dramatic new video footage of two critically endangered Javan rhinos and their calves was released today by Wordl Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Indonesia’s National Park Authority. The footage, from a motion-activated video camera in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park, is a huge boost to efforts to save this almost extinct species that is threatened by poaching, disease, and the possibility of a tsunami or volcanic eruption…” Vadvert.co.uk, 4 March 2011 (http://www.vadvert.co.uk/science/10353-critically-endangered-javan-rhinos-and-calves-captured-on-video.html)

Komodos hot items on black market: activist “Baby komodo dragons can fetch more than Rp 30 million (USD3,500) on the black market, an animal conservationist says…” Jakarta Globe, 22 March 2011 (http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/home/komodos-hot-items-on-black-market-activist/430850) The danger of orangutan extinction “The orangutan – or ‘man of the forest’ in Malay – is Asia’s only great ape. It ranks among the world’s most endangered species, confined mostly to the forests of Sumatra and Borneo. For more than four decades, Orangutan have attracted scientists from all over the world, generating a wealth of information on the primate’s behavior, genetics and culture…” Jakarta Post, 23 March 2011 (http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/03/23/the-danger-orangutan-extinction.html)

Myanmar Myanmar to enforce ban on illegal ivory business “Tourists who buy ivory souvenirs in Myanmar risk having them confiscated as part of a crackdown on the often brazen illegal trade, media reported Friday…” Businessweek, 4 March 2011 (http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9LOCAL02.htm)

Philippines DENR battles invasion of alien creatures “These suckermouth catfish from South America are just one of a growing number of foreign species that are spreading in local waterways and forests, threatening to edge out the country’s indigenous plants and animals…” Inquirer, 10 March 2011 (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20110310-324480/DENR-battles-invasion-of-alien-creatures)

Local forest turtle getting extinct “No wonder Pong Pagong is rarely seen these days. The Philippine Forest Turtle (Siebenrockiella leytensis), commonly found in Palawan, is now among the 25 endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles in the world, with an extremely high risk of getting extinct, international experts said…” Manila Bulletin, 28 March 2011 (http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/311756/local-forest-turtle-getting-extinct)

Singapore Wildlife Reserves Singapore hosts regional workshop on turtle conservation “Turtles are the oldest reptiles left on Earth, with the earliest species found almost 300 million years ago, but many species alive today may not live to see the next century. That is why conservation groups across the world are meeting here this week to discuss pressing plans to ensure their survival in the wild…” PRUrgent, 31 March 2011 (http://www.prurgent.com/2011-03-31/pressrelease160766.htm)

Thailand Reptile and amphibian reporting needs tightening: new study “Wide discrepancies in the numbers of live reptiles and amphibians reported in the pet trade to Thailand indicate misreporting or deliberate violation of international trade rules, according to a paper just published in PLoS One…” Scoop, 31 March 2011 (http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1103/S01079/reptile-and-amphibian-reporting-needs-tightening-new-study.htm)

Viet Nam Turtle in Hanoi escapes would-be rescuers “Rescuers in Vietnam began an urgent effort on Tuesday to capture and treat an old and ailing turtle that lives in a landmark lake in Hanoi and is revered as the city’s spiritual symbol…” The New York Times, 8 March 2011 (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/09/world/asia/09hanoi.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss)

Animals: source of  three-fourth of infectious diseases “The international experts has warned that animals are the source of nearly three fourth of the infectious disease in humans. The warning was issued at seminar on situation of diseases and wild animals, organized by the Wildlife Conservation Society in Vietnam, the US Agency of International Development and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development collaboratively…” Topnews.net.nz, 16 March 2011 (http://topnews.net.nz/content/212809-animals-source-three-fourth-infectious-diseases)

Crackdown on bear-bile tours in Vietnam welcomed “The illegality of bear-bile farming in Vietnam has failed to stamp out the practice in the past six years, but a renewed government push to crack down on bear-bile tourism has hope rising at an animal protection organization…” Monsters&Critics, 24 March 2011 (http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/asiapacific/news/article_1628348.php/Crackdown-on-bear-bile-tours-in-Vietnam-welcomed)

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Guatemala: Turtle Diary

March 28, 2011

 

FIRST NIGHT ON THE SEA TURTLE FRONTLINE.

Hugh Paxton’s Blog is lying in a restless, one might say vicious, hammock on the Pacific coast of Guatemala waiting for nesting sea turtles to leave the crashing surf. There’s a volcano erupting inland. Raindrops as big as pennies are rattling off the palm-frond roof of our shelter. Lightning is tearing the night sky apart.

“Is it usually like this?” I yell across to Colum Muccio.

Muccio should know. He has been working with ARCAS, a Guatemalan conservation organisation for years. Many years!

“Usually like what?” he yells back.

“Like apocalypse! And why is this b****dy hammock trying to throw me on my b****dy head?”

Muccio’s answer is drowned out by a thunderclap.

My eagerness to conduct a nocturnal beach patrol dwindles. This is real tropical rain. Drenches you in seconds. Floods roads. Washes away defoliated mountain slopes. Drowns sea turtle beach patrols.

Then, abruptly, someone turns off the tap. The silence is deafening – for about 30 seconds. Then, as if a conductor has twitched a baton, there is a concerted explosion of insect orchestrals from the mangroves behind us.

HAWAII

The actual location of Hawaii (that’s Hawaii, Guatemala, as opposed to that other place in the Pacific) is as striking as as its storms and shrieking insects. The turtle beaches are black volcanic sand cut off from the mainland by a mangrove-lined canal that is main road, bath and larder to local fishermen. Similar mangrove canals follow the coast as far down as El Salvador hosting a rich and idiosyncratic wildlife population: basilisks or “Jesus lizards” walk – or more accurately scuttle- on water using their flat webbed feet, and four eyed fish among others.

BLOG ED NOTE: The evolutionary four eyes plan is cunning. It enables the fish to keep two wary eyes on avian predators above while keeping two alert eyes focused on potential prey and predators below the water’s surface.

But I digress. Back to the plot!

TURTLE PATROLS.

ARCAS runs two volunteer programmes; there is a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre on the shore of Lake Petenista near the ancient ‘lost’ Mayan city state of Tikal, in the jungles of Peten near the Mexican border. And there is this turtle hatchery (complemented by caiman and green iguana breeding facilities) in Hawaii.

Volunteers are not just welcome but needed. They pay a nominal sum for bed and board.

The beaches of Hawaii suffer a problem common throughout Central America. Poaching.

Turtle eggs are regarded – yes, you are probably ahead of me on this one – as an aphrodisiac.

“Guatemala’s human population is growing at nearly three percent a year, so aphrodisiacs are the last thing this country needs,” Muccio says wryly, “and this beach is technically a protected area so we shouldn’t have to be doing this at all.”

He hauls himself out of his hammock. “Oh for a perfect world! Let’s go and meet the crowds.”

Crowds may be overstating the case somewhat, but, despite the recent torrents, the beach has more people on it than I ever saw during the day – hueveros (egg collectors) one and all.

Two old men wobble past on bicycles proving an exception to the general rule: Egg poachers mainly seemed to operate alone, heads turning sheepishly away from us as we passed.

Muccio isn’t a policeman (from Washington DC he isn’t even Guatemalan) so stopping hueveros is not an option. Also they’ve got machetes and not a few smell of Venado, a vicious sort of local gin that aids bad temper.

Instead of becoming involved in blood drenched beach brawls, ARCAS has hit on a pragmatic, if less than perfect, agreement with local hueveros: They are asked to hand in 12 eggs, roughly ten percent of a nest load, to the protected hatchery. According to Muccio, about 50 percent comply with the egg agreement.

EGG HUNTING ETIQUETTE …  

…is ‘finders keepers’.

 First one to a nest takes all. Hence our patrol. If we get there first – well, it will be 120 olive ridley turtle eggs in the bag, into the nursery and then, once hatched, into the sea.

There the little fellahs will have to run the usual sea turtle gauntlet of shrimp trawlers, pollution, bull sharks, ghost nets lost by fishermen, etc. before eventually returning to their birth beach to lay the next generation. How any of them make it is frankly beyond me.

Still, at least we are giving them a start in life. Before the ARCAS operation began, not one single nest escaped the hueveros. Every egg was taken. Truck loads of eggs headed inland. This ultimately self-defeating practice was only made possible for as long as it was by the sea turtle’s extraordinarily long life span.

 “The key to success is to watch the sand just above the surf line for tracks,” Muccio explains. “Follow the tracks and you’ve got your nest. Easy.”

 As we plod along the beach, the din of the surf is our constant companion.

Turtles aren’t.

 One hour later – zip. Nada. My initial alertness fades. My thoughts wander towards the profound. Why the bloody hell am I doing this when I could be in bed? Why do I care about sea turtles? Why does Muccio care about sea turtles? The man could have a comfy well-paid job in the States instead of an incredibly unpaid job in Guatemala. Why have I signed up for two weeks of this slog?

And then the utterly profound! What will we be having for breakfast!

Hours pass. Still no turtles. Just one emptied nest. A hole in the beach, a wound in the world. Turtle tracks and human footprints.    

BREAKFAST AND THAT BLOODY HAMMOCK!

Breakfast turns out to be cold beer, bananas and chilli shrimps. No eggs. It happens at 4:30 a.m. And after it is done I hit the hammock like a hammer, which of course bounces me straight out again.  After hitting the floor like a hammer I fall asleep.

IN RETROSPECT: Precious Moments.

 The fortnight I spent on the beach passed swiftly. Days were spent dozing in the hammock, surf too rough and currents too weird for swimming, heat beating the black sand, too hot for naked feet at high noon.

There were moments of great beauty: sitting on the wonky wooden Hawaii dock watching the four eyed fish watching for herons above and fishy business below,. Pelicans on patrol. Sunset firing the mangrove canal’s water, fishing bats flitting low above the glowing surface. Flotillas of water hyacinth drifting slowly, slowly past. The jewelled eyes of a young caiman.

There were moments of of great excitement: finally finding a nesting ridley before a huevero, waiting patiently for her to finish her lay. What seemed to be tears were running down her cheeks. Muccio explained something technical about salt glands, but watching the turtle at her strenuous, ancient, fragile work I decided to stick with the tears interpretation.

There were moments of great optimism: the huevero who turned up with 50 eggs for the hatchery. The visit to a local school-run hatchery just down the coast, the children’s eyes gleaming with pride as they released hatchlings.

There were moments of great ugliness: two men in Chicago Bulls t-shirts, reeking of Venado (that vile rot gut I mentioned earlier), hauling a female off her nest before she could scrape sand back to cover it.

The turtle made no effort to regain the sea. Just lay there on the sand making feeble flicking motions with her flippers, water from her eyes driving narrow channels through the sand that caked her cheeks.

Local rules on this one. We watched them take every egg. We helped the turtle make it back to her sea. After dawn we waited for the two men to bring us the agreed ten percent of their raid. We waited in vain.

The last night in Hawaii was again split by storm. The volcano’s glow had faded. Quite a fortnight! And I finally got the hang of my hammock!       

Cheers!

Hugh

BLOG ED NOTE: Colum Muccio is our Hugh Paxton blog Guatemala columnist. Noteworthy for not actually having time to really submit any columns. ARCAS remains doing what it does. He remains doing what he does. And he remains not earning much. But he keeps his Guatemalan wife in re-fried beans and his kids are doing good. The turtles are still coming back to the beach. The struggle goes on. If you are feeling rich and generous (Bill Gates! Can you hear me????) a donation would help! If you are interested in sea turtles read anything written by Archie Carr. A great start!

Thai Ivory Trade: More Tusks Confiscated

April 23, 2010

Customs have confiscated another major shipment of East African ivory confirming Thailand’s unhappy reputation as a key smuggling conduit for organised elephant poaching operations.

The latest haul, described as printing equipment by the shipping company weighed 1.4 tonnes and contained 296 tusks valued at 70 million Thai Baht. Thirty Baht is roughly equivalent to one US dollar.

This is the second major seizure in less than two months. The last bust netted two tonnes of ivory (seizure date, Feb 24) comprising 239 tusks.

Airport authorities are targeting Qatar Airways and Emirates. Both airlines have connecting routes to Africa.

Thailand, “The Elephant Kingdom” has a long history of using elephants to wage war, haul logs, serve in parades, carry monarchs, drag ploughs and nowadays carry tourists on treks. It also has a long history of ivory carving. The ivory carvers render tusks into artefacts of great complexity and beauty and the finished products are then exported to China (no surprises there, Japan, again no surprises, and the US…).

The customs guys at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi international airport are my kind of people. They like elephants. Their delighted smiles as they exhibited their latest catch warmed my heart.

The company that officially imported the tusks had neither knowledge of, nor involvement in, the shipment. The smugglers just stole their details.

If you are interested in getting more information about ivory smuggling (or better still would like to help stamp out this brutal, criminal and pernicious trade) check the Environment(al) Investigation Agency. EIA. They do good work!

More on Rhino Poaching: The Mozambique Connection

January 27, 2010

Linda Baker of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism sent me the following.

Rhino carnage continues

YOLANDI GROENEWALD – Jan 15 2009 05:00

The illegal slaughter of at least 12 rhinos over the festive season brings the number of the animals poached in South Africa in the past year close to 100. The rising death toll comes amid allegations that Mozambican authorities are not doing enough to crack down on known suspects and, in some cases, might be abetting the poachers.

Another two rhino deaths in Mpumalanga have been reported but not confirmed – some game reserves are reluctant to comment on such killings. If the figure is correct it would put the unofficial death toll of rhinos poached in South Africa since January last year at 96. The dead animals include critically endangered black rhinos.

An Mpumalanga ranger who has tracked poaching across South Africa’s border into Mozambique said the country’s law enforcement failures were contributing to the problem.

“Not a single poacher arrested in Mozambique for killing a rhino has gone through the full process prescribed by the conservation law,” the investigator said. “Unfortunately, the Mozambican legislation cannot deal with modern poaching methods and this is being exploited by the poaching lords.”

He said many suspects are repeat offenders who simply return to poaching. And even if they point out their handlers the handlers can simply pay a fine if they are ever arrested.

No poachers arrested in Mozambique for offences in the Kruger park and Mozambique’s Sabie Game Park have been jailed for longer than two weeks. “This includes offenders who have been apprehended twice for similar offences,” the investigator said.

A report he has drawn up reveals that poachers killed at least 43 rhinos between January 2004 and July 2008 in the Kruger park and around its border. Though the Kruger park would not provide official figures, the Mail & Guardian understands that more than 40 rhinos were shot there between January and the end of November last year.

In many cases Mozambicans, allegedly employed by Vietnamese syndicates operating out of South Africa, are the prime suspects. The syndicates are said to provide their local recruits with high-calibre weapons. Crossbows are also used because they are silent.

The investigator said that a community leader from Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park had shot rhinos in the Kruger National Park on three different occasions. Kruger law enforcers pursued him into Mozambique, where he was arrested each time, but on all three occasions the cases were either not finalised or no sentence was given.

When the poacher tried his luck a fourth time he was apprehended on South African soil. The investigator said that South Africa’s laws should ensure that he is taken “out of the poaching system”.

In another case in 2007 five rhinos were shot on the border of the Kruger park, in Mozambique. A task team comprising the Mozambican border police and staff from Kruger and Sabie Game Park arrested two suspects along with high-calibre weapons, the tracking equipment and binoculars. The investigator said the suspects and the evidence were handed over to the police commander in Moamba, Mozambique.

But the investigator also sent letters about the case to the national government in Maputo because he felt Moamba police had bungled previous cases. In addition, he met with police leaders in Maputo and raised the lack of detective competency in Moamba. Despite his efforts, he said, the two suspects were simply fined R1 250 and released.

“The fine should have been at least R1,5-million if it was properly investigated and proper channels followed,” he said. “The horns were worth at least R1,5-million.”

The investigator said he suspected that some of the police in Moamba were corrupt and actually assisted the poachers. In one case the name of the poachers’ handler was obtained and the man was arrested. But the suspect has a freedom-fighting history and close ties with politicians and the police, the investigator said. Within one week he was released and South African investigators believe he did not even pay a fine.

The Mozambican police had not responded to emailed questions by the time of going to print. Carlos Come, a director in the Mozambican police, merely commented that joint commissions between South Africa and Mozambique had been put in place to help Mozambique with its challenges.

More on Rhinos

January 26, 2010

Rhino carnage continues

YOLANDI GROENEWALD – Jan 15 2009 05:00

The illegal slaughter of at least 12 rhinos over the festive season brings the number of the animals poached in South Africa in the past year close to 100. The rising death toll comes amid allegations that Mozambican authorities are not doing enough to crack down on known suspects and, in some cases, might be abetting the poachers.

Another two rhino deaths in Mpumalanga have been reported but not confirmed – some game reserves are reluctant to comment on such killings. If the figure is correct it would put the unofficial death toll of rhinos poached in South Africa since January last year at 96. The dead animals include critically endangered black rhinos.

An Mpumalanga ranger who has tracked poaching across South Africa’s border into Mozambique said the country’s law enforcement failures were contributing to the problem.

“Not a single poacher arrested in Mozambique for killing a rhino has gone through the full process prescribed by the conservation law,” the investigator said. “Unfortunately, the Mozambican legislation cannot deal with modern poaching methods and this is being exploited by the poaching lords.”

He said many suspects are repeat offenders who simply return to poaching. And even if they point out their handlers the handlers can simply pay a fine if they are ever arrested.

No poachers arrested in Mozambique for offences in the Kruger park and Mozambique’s Sabie Game Park have been jailed for longer than two weeks. “This includes offenders who have been apprehended twice for similar offences,” the investigator said.

A report he has drawn up reveals that poachers killed at least 43 rhinos between January 2004 and July 2008 in the Kruger park and around its border. Though the Kruger park would not provide official figures, the Mail & Guardian understands that more than 40 rhinos were shot there between January and the end of November last year.

In many cases Mozambicans, allegedly employed by Vietnamese syndicates operating out of South Africa, are the prime suspects. The syndicates are said to provide their local recruits with high-calibre weapons. Crossbows are also used because they are silent.

The investigator said that a community leader from Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park had shot rhinos in the Kruger National Park on three different occasions. Kruger law enforcers pursued him into Mozambique, where he was arrested each time, but on all three occasions the cases were either not finalised or no sentence was given.

When the poacher tried his luck a fourth time he was apprehended on South African soil. The investigator said that South Africa’s laws should ensure that he is taken “out of the poaching system”.

In another case in 2007 five rhinos were shot on the border of the Kruger park, in Mozambique. A task team comprising the Mozambican border police and staff from Kruger and Sabie Game Park arrested two suspects along with high-calibre weapons, the tracking equipment and binoculars. The investigator said the suspects and the evidence were handed over to the police commander in Moamba, Mozambique.

But the investigator also sent letters about the case to the national government in Maputo because he felt Moamba police had bungled previous cases. In addition, he met with police leaders in Maputo and raised the lack of detective competency in Moamba. Despite his efforts, he said, the two suspects were simply fined R1 250 and released.

“The fine should have been at least R1,5-million if it was properly investigated and proper channels followed,” he said. “The horns were worth at least R1,5-million.”

The investigator said he suspected that some of the police in Moamba were corrupt and actually assisted the poachers. In one case the name of the poachers’ handler was obtained and the man was arrested. But the suspect a freedom-fighting history and has close ties with politicians and the police, the investigator said. Within one week he was released and South African investigators believe he did not even pay a fine.

The Mozambican police had notresponded to emailed questions by the time of going to print. Carlos Come, a director in the Mozambican police, merely commented that joint commissions between South Africa and Mozambique had been put in place to help Mozambique with its challenges.

South Africa Beefs up Security as Rhino Poaching Rises

January 25, 2010

Poachers have killed 14 rhinos so far this year.

Military patrols have been mobilised and are now active in Kruger National Park.

Anybody who has any sympathy with poachers – “They’re poor, they’re starving, people are more important than animals etc.” – should bear the following facts in mind, in the event that the poachers have their heads blown off.

These poachers are members of violent, heavily armed syndicates that don’t just massacre endangered species that have the bad luck to have horns worth $US 60,000 in China and Taiwan.

They are also involved in human trafficking, drug smuggling, prostitution and murder.

Not the kind of guys you want as neighbours.

This Blog urges the soldiers and Kruger NP SANParks rangers to spray them with lead, and, for every one shot down, this Blog will donate $50 to rhino conservation. And we’ll send the man who shoots the scumbag the same. Assuming he’s got a bank account.

This Blog likes rhinos. And despises poachers.

Kruger National Park Factoids:

Kruger is roughly half the size of the Netherlands and shares about 450 km of international borders with Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Kruger has all the African ‘Big Five’.

BLOG QUESTION ONE: What are the ‘Big Five’?

BLOG QUESTION TWO: What are the ‘Little Five’ ?

BLOG QUESTION THREE: How many rhinos were poached in Kruger last year?

a) none.
b) 50
c) none

The award winner will receive a copy of my novel, Homunculus. If I remember to send it (and if it isn’t lost in the post).

Cheers!

Hugh Paxton


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