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By Andreas Wilson-Späth  - ATC News

The future of Africa’s elephants may be decided in Johannesburg at the end of this month.

When delegates from around the globe arrive at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a divisive debate about the trade in elephant ivory is expected to take centre stage.

If proposals submitted to the meeting by South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia are adopted, they will clear the way for these countries to sell stockpiled ivory on the international market.

A number of counter-proposals by West, Central and East African countries call for a continued and expanded ban on the export of elephant products and the destruction of existing ivory stockpiles.

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Environment, Water and Climate, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, and Namibia’s Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, have published details about their respective governments’ positions which deserve critical analysis.

When it comes to wildlife conservation, both ministers subscribe to a philosophy of so-called ‘sustainable utilisation’. Their approach suggests that wild animals must yield financial profits to earn the right to be protected by people, instead of placing a responsibility on humans to ensure their survival in the face of growing habitat destruction and overexploitation.

They argue that without financial incentives for rural communities, many of which suffer loss of lives, crops and property as a result of elephants, “the species can be regarded as a liability”. “In the absence of financial security or value from the elephant,” says Muchinguri-Kashiri, “it will be seen quite correctly as a vexatious and omnipresent pest”.

The ministers suggest that allowing trade in ivory would represent the “most effective strategy” to counter this problem. Muchinguri-Kashiri also points to the economic contribution the hunting industry makes towards conservation efforts and the “huge losses” it would suffer if the killing of elephants for trophies were curtailed.

Both ministers overlook the fact that non-extractive wildlife tourism already yields much bigger financial returns than either the potential sale of ivory or the trophy hunting industry. They also ignore persistent reports alleging the misappropriation of funds raised by previous ivory sales.

Suggestions that legalising the world-wide trade in ivory would reduce poaching have been strongly refuted by experts and economists.

The fact that Namibia’s elephant population has grown from “just over 7,500 to over 20,000 at present” during a time when the international trade in ivory is outlawed and Muchinguri-Kashiri’s statement that “at the moment, due to the economic value attached to the elephants, there is a huge incentive for conservation” appear to contradict the two ministers’ own assertions that the animals only have value because of their ivory or that their successful conservation necessarily requires the ivory trade.

Bizarrely, Muchinguri-Kashiri seems to lay the blame for a “local overabundance” of elephants in the Hwange ecosystem resulting in the extinction of “certain bird species” on the elephants themselves, even though she acknowledges the “overabundance” to be the outcome of the “artificial supply of water”, i.e. a matter of conservation management.

Shifeta’s contention that previous CITES-sanctioned sales of stockpiled ivory “were successful in all respect” is far from accurate. Research published this year indicates that when Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa were allowed sell more than 100 tons of ivory to Japan and China in 2008, illegal ivory smuggling from Africa increased by a staggering 71%. At the time, Japan and China colluded to keep the price of ivory low on the international market while selling it at hugely inflated prices domestically.

It should come as little surprise that over 25 other African countries are vigorously opposing the Southern African proposals. Based on previous experience, additional ivory sales would threaten to push their already highly imperilled elephant populations to the brink of extinction. Muchinguri-Kashiri’s insistence that “the counter proposals essentially infringe upon Zimbabwe’s sovereign right to make decisions over its wildlife resources […] without interference” rings particularly hollow given this dire threat to elephants in other countries on the continent.

The pro-trade proposals must be seen as especially reckless in the face of new evidence showing that poaching has wiped out 30% of Africa’s remaining savannah elephants between 2007 and 2014, and 65% of its forest elephants between 2002 and 2013.

Claims by the ministers that “ivory can be traded legally, in such a way as to prevent any ivory other than registered legal stocks from entering such legal trade” must be interrogated in the light of proof that government employees have been repeatedly been implicated in stealing ivory from national stockpiles.

In responding to a recent enquiry under the Promotion of Access to Information Act, South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs advised that the country is currently stockpiling just over 65,000 kilograms of ivory. Of this, an estimated 54,000 kilograms could potentially be sold if CITES were to give the go-ahead. At a market price of, say, US$300 per kilogram, that would yield a mere U$16.2 million.

Do profits of that magnitude really justify risking the survival of the species elsewhere in Africa?

Read the orginal article:


Highly Endangered – Effective Predators – Stunningly Beautiful

The African Wild Dog, Lycaon pictus (means ‘wolf-like, painted’), is without a doubt one of the most fascinating animals that roam the African wilderness.



They are highly endangered, with only around 450 truly free-roaming (wild) animals in South Africa today. Sadly, they have disappeared from most of their natural habitat range. One of the four free-ranging populations in SA occurs in Limpopo, and this is the area where Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation  is supporting a new research project to help save them from extinction.

These amazing animals are dying out as a result of habitat loss, human persecution and the outbreak of disease. They are mercilessly killed by subsistence and livestock farmers as a result of human – wildlife conflict.  


Wild Dogs are highly social animals, with strong family bonds and a firmly established hierarchy. There are typically an Alpha Male and Alpha Female who rule the pack, separately ‘ruling’ over members of their gender. All other members of the pack are subservient to them.

 The African wild dog is the bulkiest and most solidly built of African canids, standing 60–75 cm (24–30 in) in shoulder height, and weighs 20–25 kg (44–55 lb) in East Africa and up to 30 kg (66 lb) in Southern Africa.

Hunting typically starts at dawn or dusk, and is preceded by an elaborate greeting ritual involving lots of woops, licking and tail-wagging.

They are highly specialised diurnal hunter of antelopes, which get caught by chasing them to exhaustion. Highly effective, they hunt by approaching prey silently, then chasing it in a pursuit of up to 66 kilometres per hour (41 mph) for 10 to 60 minutes.

The same reason that makes these dogs such amazing predators, is one of the contributing factors to their disappearance – they are just such effective hunters, and need to eat much more per capita than e.g. lions. This makes livestock a prime target for them.

The African wild dog is a fast eater, with a pack being able to consume a Thompson's gazelle in 15 minutes. In the wild, the species' consumption rate is of 1.2–5.9 kg meat per wild dog a day, with one pack of 17–43 specimens in East Africa having been recorded to kill three animals per day on average. The young are allowed to feed first on the carcasses.


The African wild dog is a highly successful hunter. Nearly 80% of all wild dog hunts end in a kill; for comparison, the success rate of lions, often viewed as ultimate predators, is only 10%

Certain packs in the Serengeti specialized in hunting zebras in preference to other prey.  One pack was recorded to occasionally prey on bat-eared foxes rolling on the carcasses before eating them.  Hyenas sometimes act as kleptoparasites by stealing food that the Wild Dogs hunted.

Wild Dogs appoint ‘nannies’ to look after their young when they go hunting. They would then bring the carers and babies food by regurgitating some of the meat so their family can eat.

The gestation period lasts 69–73 days, with the interval between each pregnancy being 12–14 months on average. The African wild dog produces more pups than any other canid, with litters containing around 6–16 pups, with an average of 10, thus indicating that a single female can produce enough young to form a new pack every year.

Because the amount of food necessary to feed more than two litters would be impossible to acquire by the average pack, breeding is strictly limited to the dominant female, which may kill the pups of subordinates.

The San of Botswana see the African wild dog as the ultimate hunter, and traditionally believe that shamans and medicine men can transform themselves into the wild dog. Some San hunters will smear African wild dog bodily fluids on their feet before a hunt, believing that doing so will gift them with the animal's boldness and agility.


There is only one of the factors contributing to their demise that we are in a position to address. With the Wild Heart Wild Dog Project we are attempting to develop a practical deterrent to prevent Wild Dogs from attacking livestock. As it is still in the fledgling stage, we can only say that it would involve ultrasonic sound frequencies.

If successful, this could be the solution to protect other endangered predators from human wildlife conflict as well.

This project is crucially important to the continued existence of these precious predators in the wild. We are working closely with the Legend Wildlife & Education Centre, who also hosts the crucially important ‘The Rhino Orphanage’. (Ongoing support to TRO’s Rhino Orphans is one of our main functions, and you can support us by clicking on this link; (Wild Dog Project/Rhino Orphanage).

To initiate the project, we need the following:

The complete development of a new camp for the newly-formed pack, including earthworks, fencing posts & hardware, electric fencing for the establishment of maintenance camps.

We will need to build them an underground den, with monitoring equipment.

In order to reduce the human imprint and let them not associate humans with food, a pulley system will be designed and built to drag and release food at random intervals, so that they can live as wild and free as possible.

Once the camp and perimeter have been established, the real work will begin.

The project requires start-up capital as well as ongoing funding, and we will post a dedicated wish-list as soon as possible.

No amount is too small, and as always, we will show you exactly how your donations are being utilized as per our commitment to #EthicalConservation.

Help us to make a difference to the future of these amazing animals today.





By: Melissa Reitz

As the countdown begins to the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) for CITES, which commences in Johannesburg on 24 September, conservationists question the relevance of the issues at stake and what can be expected from the host – South Africa.



With a huge range of pressing issues to be addressed this year, many concerns are pertinent to South Africa. From pangolins and parrots, to lions, elephants and rhino, it is hoped that there will be enough time to cover all of them in sufficient detail.

CITES – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora – attempts to protect species against over-exploitation through international trade. Referring to global conservation agencies such as IUCN for recommendations, CITES’ decisions are based on accepted proposals to make amendments to trade regulations on threatened species.

Species are listed by CITES into three Appendices: Appendix I species, in which trade is permitted only in exceptional circumstances such as the one-off sale of ivory in 2008 – which many believe stimulated ivory markets and caused an upsurge in poaching – Appendix II, in which trade must be controlled and Appendix III, which contains species that are protected in at least one country.

“Although elephant, lion and rhino will be in the public eye at this year’s CoP, essentially all species are important and discussions around plants, fish or the iconic elephant are no less or more important than another,” says Claire Patterson-Abrolat of the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

Since the release of the Great Elephant Census which revealed that savannah elephant numbers across Africa have dropped by a third in seven years due to poaching, it is clear that urgent action is needed to prevent their extinction.

“Elephants and the ivory trade will be front and centre at this CoP. Given the results of the Great Elephant Census, Parties to CITES are going to have to put the politics of listing proposals and discussions aside and focus on urgent measures that have to be adopted to ensure the future viability of Africa’s elephant populations,” says Jason Bell, Director of the Elephant Programme at IFAW.

But South Africa is opposing an IUCN motion passed this weekend at the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii, which urgently requests all governments to shut down their domestic markets for ivory.

“Japan, Namibia and South Africa are desperately pushing for a series of amendments (to Motion 007) but the floor is rejecting them all systematically,” says Wildlands CEO, Andrew Venter. With 91% of IUCN members voting in favour of the motion, it will be very difficult for CITES parties to ignore this consensus at COP 17.

Furthermore by submitting a  counter-proposal to the African Elephant Coalition’s CoP 17 submission, which pushes for an Appendix 1 listing for all African elephant populations, South Africa is making it clear that it does not support a ban in domestic ivory trade which many, including the IUCN, believe creates opportunities to launder illegal ivory under the guise of legality.

“We are concerned that CoP17 is likely to be a rerun of the old pattern, with proposals and counter-proposals on legal international ivory trade and related matters, all diverting the attention of Parties from the real issues,” says astatement by WWF.

In contrast, it seems the trade in rhino horn is settled for the moment. The South African Government has confirmed it will not request a lifting of the ban on international trade at this year’s CoP, although Swaziland has done so.

“South Africa is not opposed to trade in rhino horn but was put in a position where it would have been political suicide for it to submit a trade proposal to CoP17.  Other than a few economic interests, nearly everyone agreed that it would have been a bad idea,” says Bell.

However, Ian Michler, safari operator and environmental journalist, believes that Swaziland’s proposal for trade in rhino horn “may well be a proxy for South Africa – a testing of the waters. In this way the pro-trade lobby and South Africa gets to see what needs to be done for their own submission at the next CoP”.

Lions are another species marked for attention.  Although South Africa’s lion population is stable, its captive lion breeding industry remains a contentious issue and a motion approved last week at the World Conservation Congress calls for South Africa to review legislation and terminate the practice of ‘canned’ hunting and captive lion breeding.

“From a South African perspective, one of the most relevant issues to be discussed at CoP 17 is uplifting lion to Appendix I,” says Venter. “But moving lion to Appendix I may not stop the captive predator breeding trade. In practice, it may strengthen the industry as CITES encourages captive breeding of Appendix I species as a conservation tool, arguing that this takes the pressure off wild populations.”

Although South Africa has 7 000 lions in captivity, leading global conservation groups do not attribute any conservation value to these.

With estimates of a million illegally trafficked pangolins in the last ten years, the species is the most poached mammal on earth. As a result there appears to be a unanimous agreement amongst pangolin range states to transfer all eight species to an Appendix I listing.

“There are rigorous measures up for debate that would enhance the international response to the trafficking of pangolins and are essential to ensuring the proper implementation the new listings. We strongly support these additional measures and hope that they will also be overwhelmingly endorsed,” says a WWF statement.

A proposal to end international trade in wild caught African Grey parrots has also been submitted. Selling more than 40 000 birds each year, South Africa is the leading exporter of captive bred African Greys which have been recorded by CITES as the single most traded wild bird in the world.

“The captive breeding industry in some parts of the world, especially South Africa and the Middle East, relies heavily on wild birds as breeding stocks,” says Rowan Martin, Director of the World Parrot Trust.

“South Africa has also been a major importer of wild caught Grey parrots which have provided inexpensive breeding stock for the development of a lucrative captive-breeding industry.”

South Africa has some serious choices to make at the end of this month and has the opportunity to gain the world’s respect by aligning with proposals to secure the survival of some of Africa’s most iconic species instead of fighting a lone battle against world opinion on these issues.

Original article: