Saturday, 16 November 2013

Terrorists slaughter African elephants, use ivory to finance operations
Ashish Kumar Sen, The Washington Times
November 13, 2013

A growing number of terrorist groups in Africa are turning to the illegal trade of elephant tusks to finance their operations, cashing in on a massive demand for ivory spurred by a burgeoning, wealthier middle class in Asia.

Al Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab in Somalia, Joseph Kony’s Lord's Resistance Army in central Africa and Boko Haram in Nigeria are among the militants making money from trafficking ivory tusks from slaughtered elephants to pay their fighters and buy arms and ammunition.

“For al-Shabab, ivory, like charcoal, is just a fast and relatively easy way to make some cash, which is needed first of all to pay a salary to its militants, estimated at around 5,000 people,” said Andrea Crosta, executive director of Elephant Action League, who along with Nir Kalron, chief executive officer of the private security firm Maisha Consulting, has recently investigated al-Shabab’s links to ivory trafficking.

Somali armed gangs have been poaching elephants in and around Kenya for many years, but al-Shabab has only recently started to exploit this situation. The investigation by Mr. Crosta and Mr. Kalron estimates al-Shabab’s monthly ivory income to be $200,000 to $600,000.

An investigation by the Enough Project and the Satellite Sentinel Project this year found that Kony has ordered his Lord's Resistance Army fighters to bring him elephant tusks, which are then used to buy food, weapons and ammunition.

Boko Haram, which the State Department on Wednesday designated as a foreign terrorist organization, gets money from ivory trafficking as well.

Many other smaller and illegal armed groups in sub-Saharan Africa are involved in poaching elephants and trafficking ivory.

Ivory is one of many sources of income for terrorist organizations.

“What African governments are realizing and what the U.S. government has realized is that this is not just a conservation issue anymore because the money from this ivory is being used to fund terrorist activities and destabilize regions in Africa,” said Kathleen Garrigan, a spokeswoman for the African Wildlife Foundation. “[These governments] realize this is a peace and security issue.

On Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will, for the first time, destroy nearly 6 tons of African and Asian elephant ivory.

The crushing of the ivory stockpile at a warehouse in Denver is intended to send a message to poachers and traffickers that the United States will take all available steps to disrupt and prosecute those who prey on and profit from the killing of elephants.

The Philippines in June became the first consumer country to destroy its stockpile of ivory. Gabon, Kenya and Zambia also have destroyed seized ivory.

Besides the Philippines, large quantities of ivory have been seized in Hong KOng Kong, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are the main sources of ivory in Africa.

Wildlife groups estimate that 10,000 to 25,000 elephants are slaughtered in Tanzania each year for their tusks.

The State Department on Wednesday announced a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to the disruption of a wildlife trafficking syndicate in Laos, called the Zaysavang Network and led by a smuggler named Vixay Keosavang.

On a visit to Tanzania in July, President Obama issued an executive order to combat wildlife trafficking.

The order calls on the U.S. government to develop a national strategy by the end of the year that may include proposed collaboration with other governments to fight wildlife trafficking.

Full article at the following link:
For further information on elephants please see Save the Elephants' web site

National Geographic video

USAToday video

See link below article for photos.

Historic U.S. Ivory Crush a Call to Global Action

Bryan Christy, National Geographic
November 15, 2013

Yesterday the United States government destroyed six tons of ivory, nearly all of the ivory in its possession.

It was a ceremony covered by media from around the world, including China CCTV television, Al Jazeera, HBO's VICE, CBS, and Reuters. The International Fund for Animal Welfare and the World Wildlife Fund co-hosted the event with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In contrast to the Philippines, which in June used hacksaws, a small roller, and a backhoe to break up its ivory stock before sending it to be incinerated in a crematorium used for stray animals, the U.S. brought in a massive rock crusher capable of pulverizing 150 to 200 tons of material an hour.

A bulldozer picked up almost a quarter century's worth of seized ivory carvings and raw tusks and delivered these remnants of elephants into the crusher's maw. Moments later out poured what looked like bits and pieces of seashells you'd find walking along a sandy beach after a storm. The material will go to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which will design memorials for distribution to its facilities around the country.

Ivory figures that the US Fish and Wildlife Service, at the direction of President Obama, crushed on November 14.
It is hard not to become jaded by the elephant poaching crisis. I spent three years investigating and writing about the illegal ivory trade. Elephants I watched from a Land Rover in East Africa just two years ago are now most certainly dead. Everyone knows why. Africa lacks sufficient security in the bush to protect elephants. Criminal syndicates smuggle ivory by the ton, but their kingpins have remained invisible for decades. Corruption is rife in the field, at the ports, and in governments from Africa to Asia, where most illegal ivory ends up.

More of the Same?

Recently, several of the world's largest conservation NGOs teamed up to launch a campaign as part of the Clinton Global Initiative. The campaign's slogan—"Stop the Killing, Stop the Trafficking, Stop the Demand"—is so patently obvious that I find it insulting.

Supply, shipment, and consumption are the cornerstones of every form of international trade. To present them as a fresh perspective on an old problem is to trigger my worst fears as a criminal investigator: Nothing will change.

Why? Because the same conservation establishment that has presided over the state of affairs we see today can come up with nothing more innovative to address the elephant poaching crisis than saying: We should stop it.

And so I went to the ivory crush without much real hope, and I did my job as a journalist.

"What does your machine normally do?" I asked the man on the rock crusher.

"It takes big rocks and turns them into smaller rocks," he said. And I wrote that down.

Promising Signs

But then I began to hear things I hadn't heard before. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Judy Garber announced a one-million-dollar bounty on the head of Laotian wildlife trafficker Vixay Keosavang and his syndicate under the State Department's Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program. Here was a real crime-fighting technique being applied to wildlife trafficking.

I listened as IFAW's Grace Gabriel told me a story of how China's new president's "Tiger and Fly" anti-corruption campaign has led to a drop in sales of luxury watches, expensive liquors, and other extravagant "gifts" commonly used to bribe officials. During my investigation in China, ivory retailers told me that government and military officials buying luxury gifts for superiors were customers for their best ivory.

I heard several people, including Ginette Hemley of the WWF, call for a ban on the domestic U.S. ivory market. It is illegal to bring ivory into the U.S., but it is legal to buy and sell ivory domestically. Legal domestic markets are a loophole that enables trade in many of the worst ivory trafficking problem countries, especially China.

And then, near the end of a day of speeches, I watched as actress Kristin Bauer van Straten reached into her pocket in the middle of her speech and pulled out an ivory bracelet her father, a World War II veteran, had brought home to her mother.

"This is a thing," she said, holding the bracelet. "This is not life." She added her family heirloom to the pyre of ivory to be destroyed.

Kenyan Paula Kahumbu ended the day by recounting her visit last week to Ivoryton, Connecticut, which, she said, once processed 100,000 African elephants a year into combs, piano keys, and billiard balls. Kahumbu said America's recognition of its role in the ivory trade was a lesson for China. She read a message from Kenyan First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, who congratulated the U.S. and asked the American government to join Kenya in enacting a ban on domestic ivory trade.

As I was leaving, people began discussing the possibility of a nationwide program for people to turn in legal ivory they have in their homes but don't want to keep in light of today's elephant slaughter.

This is something many Catholic priests have asked me since my story "Ivory Worship" was published in National Geographic magazine. "Do I have to get rid of my ivory?"

There are even smaller things people can do to help. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe pointed to a U.S. Postal Service truck offering "Save Vanishing Species" stamps for sale.

And so it was a day of more than crushing the teeth of dead elephants.

Article at the following link:
For further information on elephants please see Save the Elephants' web site

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Do Elephants Weep as an Emotional Response? 
Marc Bekoff, LiveScience
September 27, 2013

Marc Bekoff, emeritus professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is one of the world's pioneering cognitive ethologists, a Guggenheim Fellow, and co-founder with Jane Goodall of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. This essay is adapted from one that appeared in Bekoff's column Animal Emotions in Psychology Today. He contributed this article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

A recent newspaper article called "Elephant tears: Newborn weeps after being parted from mother who tried to kill him" reports about a newborn male elephant who "cried for five hours without stopping after he was rejected by his mother."

This story immediately made me think of the book When Elephants Weep (Delta, 1996), which helped to open the door to people taking the emotional lives of animals more seriously than they previously had.

I've been studying various aspects of animal behavior and animal emotions for more than four decades, and have published numerous books and essays about these areas of inquiry, so the story about the weeping elephant resulted in my receiving a number of emails and also in doing an interview with Discovery News.

My approach to, and take on, this story, is fairly straightforward. I did a Google search for topics including "Do/can elephants weep?", "Do/can elephants cry?", "Do/can animals weep?", and "Do/can animals cry?" and found some very interesting answers that ranged all over the place from "Sure they do" to "Probably they do", to "No, they don't" I also looked for various positions on whether or not crying/weeping were associated with various emotions as they are in human animals.

In a nutshell, available information supports the view that other animals do cry and weep and that they can be closely associated with various emotions, including, perhaps most likely, sadness and grief that are associated with loss. Of course, crying or weeping may be more hard-wired, in the recent case with the infant elephant responding to a loss of much-needed touch or what is also called "contact comfort" offered by his mother.

One worker quoted in the above article noted, "The calf was very upset and he was crying for five hours before he could be consoled." Humans did try to calm him down but their touch is not the same as another elephant's, and of course there could also be visual and olfactory components associated with the potpourri of contact comfort.

So, while scientists are not 100-percent certain, solid scientific research supports the view that elephants and other nonhuman animals weep as part of an emotional response. Rather than dismissing this possibility as merely storytelling, we need to study it in more detail. After all, "the plural of anecdote is data" and stories and citizen science can and should motivate rigorous scientific research. And, let's not forget that many "surprises" have been discovered in the emotional lives of animals, including laughing rats and dogs and empathic chickens, mice and rats — all published in outstanding peer-reviewed professional journals.

At one website called "Do elephants cry?" I found the following quote: "However, we do not know what emotions elephants feel, if any, in the same manner that we do not necessarily know for sure what emotions other people feel. This is simply because we cannot measure emotions, we can only experience them. As a result, science cannot say whether elephants experience emotions, whether other people experience emotions, or what these emotions are like. This is because science requires that we be able to measure something in order to draw any conclusions about it."

I couldn't find the date this answer was posted but it surely does not reflect current or even recent ideas about the study of human and nonhuman emotions. For example, you can read excellent examples of recent work in such books as "Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans" (Atria Books, 2013) and "Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures" (Crown, 2013)

As with many other aspects of the cognitive and emotional lives of animals, it turns out that we are not alone, and that human exceptionalism is more a myth than a fact. So, I offer that we are not the only animals who cry or weep as an emotional response, though I look forward to more research on this topic.
Article at the following link:
For further information on elephants please see Save the Elephants' web site
WCS and Esri Develop Interactive Online Story Map on Elephant Poaching for Media Use
Wildlife Conservation Society
November 13, 2013

Full-page story (with banner):
Embeddable version, 800 pixels or wider:
Embeddable version, narrow:

Newswise — Denver, CO – November 13, 2013 – The Wildlife Conservation Society and geographic information system (GIS) software innovator Esri jointly developed and produced an online Story Map that combines spatial data, excellent cartography, and Web mapping tools to visually tell the story of the elephant poaching crisis.
(see one of the three links above to view)

The release of the Story Map coincides with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s ivory crush event in Denver, CO, at which six tons of illegal elephant ivory will be destroyed.

The story map gives a broad overview of historic and current African elephant ranges, the collapse of forest and savannah elephant populations, and the ivory trade within Africa and extending to Asia and Chinese demand for ivory. It tells the story of an elephant collared by Save the Elephants named Khadijah that was eventually killed for her ivory as well as the story of the elephant massacre at Dzanga Bai in the Central African Republic. Also included in the story map is an interactive map that highlights recent poaching incidents across Africa with links to additional details about each story. The page will be kept current with new points added as news emerges regarding more poaching incidents and conservation successes.

The Story Map is available for news organizations to illustrate the depth of the crisis visually to their readers and viewers. The added dimension of a highly-specific representation of the crisis adds value to any account of the ivory crush or wildlife poaching and trafficking.

Article at the following link:
For further information on elephants please see Save the Elephants' web site

Friday, 8 November 2013

Exposing myths: Chinese connections in African ivory & rhino horn markets
Wildlife Extra News
October 2013

For the first time, journalists from mainland China worked with African journalists on an undercover investigation into the Chinese connection with ivory and rhino horns market in South Africa and Mozambique

Courtesy of Oxpeckers Center for Investigative Environmental Journalists (

October 2013. Wildlife trafficking syndicates brazenly sell rhino horn and ivory at Chinese markets in Southern Africa's capital cities, in the face of global attempts to crack down on the illicit trade in endangered species.

China is responsible for an estimated 70% of the world trade in ivory, and research by the international wildlife trade monitoring organisation Traffic indicates that nearly 80% of the reported seizures of illegal rhino horns in Asia between 2009 and late last year happened in China.

Bruma flea market and New Chinatown
Chinese journalists on an undercover assignment discovered that the Bruma flea market and nearby New Chinatown in eastern Johannesburg are the hub of the illicit trade in rhino horns and ivory in South Africa. Transactions between African sellers and Asian buyers occur relatively openly and daily.

From 9am to 5pm, sellers hang around the entrance to the Bruma flea market and eagerly surround Chinese people as they approach. "What are you looking for? Do you want xiangya? I have," says Mike, a seller who hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"Do you have xiniujiao?" we asked. Xiangya is the Chinese term for ivory, xiniujiao for rhino horns, and it is clear Mike, as well as many other shop owners, is familiar with the terms.

"Xiniujiao... anytime but now. If you come back next month, maybe I could help you get some. Now it is impossible," says Mike. He opens a door which is covered by a hanged blanket, shows us into a secret room near his craft shop where he has a stock of worked ivory products: small sculptures of elephants, chopsticks, necklaces, bracelets. The price is not too expensive, ranging from R200 a piece.

Matt, a Zimbabwean who works in Mike's craft shop, says most of the rhino horns and ivory they are selling comes from his home country. He explains how he imports it: "There is a river that divides the two countries and we find a part where the water is not too deep and there is almost no security patrolling. We take off our clothes and carry the stuff on our shoulders across the river." His biggest concern appears to be that there are crocodiles in some parts of the river.

The research released by WWF in September indicates that Vietnamese presently dominate the rhino horn trade, but non-Asians often find it hard to differentiate between Chinese and Vietnamese people.

Maputo: Hot spot for ivory
Among the Chinese residents of Johannesburg, it is common knowledge that the Chinese buy ivory and rhino horn much more often in Maputo, capital city of neighbouring Mozambique.

We visit the Saturday market at Pra├ža 25 de Junho in Maputo, where we have learnt that buying such products is a "must do" for employees of Chinese companies who are not well educated and have unskilled jobs.

"The products are unique and cheap," says Chen, a frequent Chinese buyer in Maputo who works for a Chinese construction company.

At the Saturday market, Kai, a 29-year-old working for a Chinese telecommunications company, is shooting a video to send to his families in China. "Hello dears, look where I am. This is the most famous ivory market here, I will bring you some good stuff," he says.

Shop owners like Adam are visibly excited when they see a group of Chinese people approaching. "Come, we have heimu and xiangya," he says. He says the Chinese are generally interested in buying two things in Mozambique: heimu, which is a black wood, and xiangya, namely ivory.

He also offers rhino horns at US$15 000 dollars a kilogram, though he says he does not keep it in the marketplace because it is too expensive. He opens a big box filled with various ivory products and displays them openly. However, when some Chinese customers lift the ivory too high he asks them to put them down, in case the police notice and make trouble.

Unlike the Saturday "ivory market", the craft market on nearby Mao Tse Tung Avenue opens every day. Chen, who has worked for a Maputo-based Chinese construction company for the past two years, is going back home in December and needs to stock up on souvenirs for friends and families.

He buys two pairs of ivory chopsticks, and says even though they may be confiscated by customs he can afford the loss. "Sometimes they pass and these things are cheap enough to be taken away if we have bad luck," he says.

A colleague recently bought a large ivory sculpture and when it was found by customs officers in Mozambique he paid $300 to get it through. No one at customs in Beijing found it, Chen says.

Don't care about the slaughter of elephants
Most of the Chinese buyers know where the ivory comes from, but don't care about the slaughter of elephants. Kai, one of the buyers of ivory bracelets, sums up their feeling when he admits that he did not feel guilty about buying ivory products even though he knows how the sellers get it.

However, there are some Chinese who refuse to buy into the market. "These items are art from killing," says Xu, a friend and colleague of Kai. But he indicates that there are few Chinese like him.

This investigation by the Oxpeckers Center for Investigative Environmental Journalists ( was supported by the Forum for African Investigative Reporters ( and the Wits China-Africa Reporting Project
Full Article at the following link:
For further information on elephants please see Save the Elephants' web site
Tanzania: Jumbos Face Extinction As Their Number Drops
By Peter Temba, Tanzania Daily News
5 October 2013

Moshi — AFRICAN forest elephants face extinction if drastic measures are not taken as the elephant numbers have decreased by 62 per cent across Central Africa over the last 10 years according to a study.

The analysis confirmed fears that African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) are heading for extermination, possibly within the next decade, the study reveals, adding that effective, rapid and multi-level action is imperative to save the elephants.

They are concerned the forest elephants are being killed for their ivory, says the study, saying results of the study, undertaken by researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and several other conservation organisations, are published in the scientific journal.

Over 60 co-authors contributed to the study, which was led by Dr Flora Maisels, WCS conservation scientists from the School of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling and Dr Samantha Strindberg.

"Although we were expecting to see these results, we were horrified that the decline over the period of a mere decade was over 60 per cent," says Dr Maisels, adding that findings also indicated that large areas where the elephants ranged just 10 years ago, now have very few elephants remaining.

According to the study, conservationists suggest that almost one-third of the land where African forest elephants were living 10 years ago has become dangerous for animals, since poachers can access those areas using road networks meant for logging.

"Many previously safe areas are now considered to be dangerous for the elephants," the study revealed, suggesting that corruption must be nipped in the bud to change the trend which has been allowing poachers to indulge in the illegal activities of killing the animals for ivory, with impunity.
Article at the following link:
For further information on elephants please see Save the Elephants' web site