Articles Posted in the Conservation category

Ivory sale won’t help Africa’s elephants, say conservationists

October 17, 2008
Posted in Conservation

About 51 tonnes of South African stockpiled ivory is to be sold as part of a CITES-approved once-off sale to China and Japan. This is just under half of 108 tonnes of government-owned Southern African ivory that will be auctioned in the next two weeks. Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe are the other sellers. But elephant conservationists are against the sale saying it will encourage poachers to launder their illegal stocks.

“We have no doubt that flooding the market with over 100 tons of ivory will put this endangered species in even further jeopardy,” said Michael Wamithi, programme director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW’s) global elephants programme and former director of the Kenya Wildlife Service.

“Throughout west and central Africa, isolated populations have actually been wiped out completely due to illegal hunting. If we do not take this trade seriously, we will surely continue see the demise of these majestic creatures – and sooner rather than later.”

The CITES Secretariat has certified that the South African ivory is of legal origin, the South African department of environmental affairs and tourism said in a media statement. The ivory comes from the South African National Parks (SANParks) and the parks boards of Mpumalanga, North West, and KwaZulu-Natal provinces. Collectively the provincial agencies account for about 6 metric tons of the full stockpiled ivory, the department says.

About 45 percent of the ivory was obtained from culling between 1988 and 1994, when the country’s largest game reserve, the Kruger National Park, still practised this method of population control. The rest of the ivory, obtained from 1995 to the end of 2006, was from mortalities and breakages, the department says.

Ivory that was registered from 2007 onwards is not eligible for sale according to the agreement reached at the 14th Conference of Parties to CITES held in the Netherlands in July 2007.

“The tusks from elephants that have been part of the so called “big tuskers” in Kruger National Park will not be sold as it is seen as part of the heritage of South Africa that will be conserved for the future. Most of these tusks will be displayed in the Elephant Museum in Letaba Camp in Kruger National Park where visitors can see the tusks and get information on the carriers of these tusks,” said Dr David Mabunda, chief executive of SANParks.

CITES ruled only in July that China was fit to become a trading partner for the ivory. Japan was approved in 2006. Both countries stated that they would closely monitor their domestic markets, said CITES in a press release.

“The secretariat will closely supervise this sale and evaluate its impact on elephant population levels throughout Africa. We will continue monitoring the Chinese and Japanese domestic trade controls to ensure that unscrupulous traders do not take this opportunity to launder ivory from illegal origin”, said the secretary-general of the convention, Willem Wijnstekers.

But, says IFAW, both nations are known to be among the world’s largest illegal ivory markets. “Several multiple ton seizures have been made at Chinese ports in recent years. The lack of enforcement for the registration systems in both countries also provides a convenient loophole for illegal traders,” it says in a press release.

According to IFAW, the total amounts being auctioned are: Botswana 44 tonnes; Namibia 9 tonnes; South Africa 51 tonnes; and Zimbabwe 4 tonnes. These are the remnants of at least 10,000 elephants, the group says.

Jason Bell-Leask, Regional Director for IFAW’s southern Africa office also expressed his disdain. “The international trade in ivory simply cannot be justified by a perceived short-term gain such as profits from these sales. Not only are elephants a keystone species, but African tourism relies on their existence. To toy with that is to toy with the livelihoods of the citizens within these poor African nations.”

CITES banned the international commercial ivory trade in 1989. In 1997 it permitted Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to make a one-time sale of ivory to Japan totalling 50 tons because, says CITES, it recognised that “some Southern African elephant populations were healthy and well managed”. That sale took place in 1999 and raised about $5 million for elephant conservation. The forthcoming auction will be the second sale sanctioned since the ban.

Elephant pic by: nickandmel2006 licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.0

UN Ghana talks: Africa needs funding for climate change

August 29, 2008
Posted in Green News

This week 1,500 delegates from 160 countries have been in Ghana talking about climate change. The overall plan is to create a successor deal for the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, that can be agreed on at a UN climate conference scheduled for 2009 in Copenhagen. So what happened in Ghana? Treevolution trawled the news reports to create the summary below.

What of Africa?
The fact that the conference was in Ghana highlighted some of the problems Africa faces if what climate models predict actually happens. Ghana’s president John Agyekum Kufuor, who opened the conference, said that his country’s rainfall had decreased by 20 percent over the past 30 years, and that up to 1,000 square kilometres of land may be lost in the Volta Delta because of sea-level rise. Villages on the southern coast of Ghana are already having to move continually inland as sea levels rise, AP reports. Read more

Update: Birdlife snaps up one suspended flamingo conservationist, but what of the other two?

August 15, 2008
Posted in Conservation

Mark Anderson, one of the three conservationists suspended by the Northern Cape department of tourism, environment and nature conservation, has found a new job at Birdlife South Africa. He has been appointed executive director with effect from 1 October 2008.

Anderson, will receive an award for his work with Kimberley’s flamingos in Madagascar in September, says Birdlife South Africa.

The two other employees suspended for what is thought to be their involvement in establishing South Africa’s only flamingo breeding site, Julius Koen and Eric Hermann, are less fortunate. A report in Kimberley’s Diamond Fields Advertiser says that staff in the department said that the three men’s “equipment, laptops and cell phones” were confiscated and the locks on their office doors were changed.

The DFA reports that their is speculation as to whether the suspensions are politically motivated and whether promises had been made by politicians to developers wanting to build near the Kamfers Dam flamingo breeding site.

The Northern Cape legislature can expect a class action against them, Dr Gerhard Verdoorn of the South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association, was reported as saying.

Rift Valley hot rocks give Kenya green power

August 11, 2008
Posted in Renewable energy

Kenya is tapping into the vast geothermal energy reserves of the Rift Valley as part of a plan to dramatically increase electricity production by 2018 and fuel economic development, Reuters reports. Read more

African droughts linked to warming Indian Ocean

August 8, 2008
Posted in Green News

Sea surface temperatures and land vegetation over the Indian Ocean in a visualization created with satellite data. Credit: NASA

Scientists have found a link between rising temperatures in the Indian Ocean and the decreases in rainfall over eastern and southern Africa. Records show that rainfall during eastern Africa’s rainy season (March to May) has decreased by 15 percent since the 1980s.

“The last 10 to 15 years have seen particularly dangerous declines in rainfall in sensitive ecosystems in East Africa, such as Somalia and eastern Ethiopia,” said Molly Brown of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, a co-author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “We wanted to know if the trend would continue or if it would start getting wetter.” Read more

Africa’s environment then and now

June 13, 2008
Posted in Conservation

The satellite pictures on the left show the loss of fynbos in the Western Cape to agricultural and urban expansion between 1978 and 2006. The satellite images are among more than 300 taken all across Africa published in the Atlas of Our Changing Environment, compiled by the UN Environment Programme. The atlas was launched at the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) which met this week in Joburg. The photographs span some 35 years and serve as “before” and “after” shots, showing how Africa’s environment has changed over the years.

The 400-page atlas can be downloaded in pdf fomat There’s also an interactive version where you can explore world maps. Apparently about 120 sites from the atlas can be seen on Google Earth. Read more

Mozambican musician wins top environment prize

April 14, 2008
Posted in Green News

Mozambican musician Feliciano dos Santos has won the 2008 Goldman Environmental Prize for Africa for his work promoting ecological sanitation in remote areas of Mozambique. The Goldman Environmental Prize honours grassroots environmental heroes from the six inhabitated continents. Dos Santos and his band Massukos use music to promote the importance of water and sanitation, HIV/Aids and food security.

As part of his work as director of NGO Estamos, he promotes low cost, “ecological sanitation”, which uses composting toilets called EcoSans to transform human waste into agricultural fertiliser. After each use a family adds soil and ash to the toilet for a number of months. The pit is then buried and left for eight months and another pit is used. “During the eight months all the harmful pathogens die off, leaving a rich fertiliser that can be dug up and used in the fields,” according to the Goldman prize website. Since 2000 Santos and Estamos have helped thousands of villagers gain access to clean water and ecological sanitation, it adds.
Read more on BBC News