WHY ARE WE STILL HUNTING RHINO?
Why are foreign and native Africans still trophy hunting Rhinoceros for, when no amount of funding generated from these hunts has actively decreased poaching? Image credit: (Mrs Janice Hull, Limcroma South Africa).
Over five years ago I and a group of dangerous game hunters (DGH’s) were involved within a heated debate relating to the money allegedly generated from rhino hunting. The question I asked (and continue to ask) was: “Why are we still hunting rhino for when the money generated from these hunts doesn’t appear to be having any affect whatsoever on decreasing rhino poaching or increasing conservation efforts and security for African rhinos”? (Image above: Hunter - American Janice Hull).
The answer[s] I received were mixed opinions, abuse, and lies. I aimed this question at a number of professional hunters - (PH’s) working in South Africa, and Namibia most of which were American. While the vast majority of dangerous game hunters stated money raised from hunts was directed back into rhino conservation, I’m still after five years questioning where this money is actually going because rhino poaching is not decreasing whatsoever?
Image Credit: Trophy hunter Mr Loddie Naymola
Since 2008 poachers have slaughtered a staggering 5,940 Rhinoceros - most of which have been poached within South Africa’s flagship park identified as the Kruger National Park. From the year of 2007 rhino poaching figures began increasing rapidly. A total of 13 rhino were bludgeoned to death in 2007. Meanwhile in 2009 South Africa lost a further 122 rhinos (due to poaching).
However come 2011 we really began to see poaching figures rise, come the end of December 2011 a whopping 448 rhinos had been slaughtered by poachers to fuel the Asian demand for pseudo rhino horn medicine. Come 2013 figures shot through the roof resulting in some 1,003 rhinos poached stated the Department of Environmental Affairs come 2013 December end. Then the largest stats were reported back in 2014 of which South Africa lost some 1,215 Rhinoceros to poachers. Yet ‘hunting revenue is preserving our ionic species’?.
Unfortunately at some point from 2014-2016 the Department of Environmental Affairs Minster Honorable Edna Molewa placed a complete ban on the public reporting of any rhino poaching figures, there was no reason as to why this ban was implemented, of which to date still remains in place. Coincidentally (2015’s poaching statistics) had decreased somewhat - of which come December 2015 some 1,175 rhinos had ‘allegedly been poached’. Isn’t that coincidental, a blanket ban on poaching figures is ordered, then come the next year a decrease is seen!.
The SOUTH AFRICAN DEFENCE WEB stated back in January 2016 that a ‘lack of rhino poaching information was negatively affecting anti poaching’. However despite the governmental blackout on rhino poaching incidents numerous organisations such as ‘Stop Rhino Poaching and ‘Outraged South African Citizens against Poaching’ had reported via media, press and anti poaching reports a small rhino poaching decline.
However both of these organisations didn’t obtain their reports from the government, or did they?. So last years poaching stats could indeed be higher than what has been stated in the public domain. Furthermore both Facebook/Online groups/NGO’s share there statistics openly. So in all honesty there is no evidence whatsoever to prove a poaching decline from 2015 has occurred. Moreover and as explained - I myself find it awfully suspicious that since the 2015 poaching report blackout by the South African government - poaching stats just coincidentally decrease like that?.
Elise Daffue whom ‘allegedly runs some form of rhino intelligence group’ (on Facebook - identified as Stop Rhino Poaching), and not in the actual field, stated: “The drop in kills is testimony to the huge effort being made on the enforcement side. Environment Asset Protection strategies have been formulated and implemented over the past three years, guiding the strategic and operational plans nationally – from the ranger in the bush who detects the spoor to the prosecutor who fights that bail is denied. Keeping the numbers down depends entirely on good field work and reserve security, good investigations and good convictions”
While Elise Daffue has stated there was a drop in rhino poaching due to a “huge effort being made on the enforcement side” there remains no evidence whatsoever proving there has been a decline in rhino poaching from 2014-2015. Moreover if there is evidence where has this data come from?. Furthermore whenever we see hunters and ‘animal lovers mingling together’, regardless of what you state your organisation is and does - alarm bells begin ringing, especially coming close to the next CoP summit.
The Founder of Stop Rhino Poaching is friends with a hunter identified as Gustav Collins who runs the Mattaniah Game Reserve Furthermore Elise Daffue is also associated with the individual known as Simon James Naylor who is the Conservation Manager for Phinda Private Game Reserve of which has connections to various hunting organisations and the (WWF) that supports sustainable hunting of Rhinoceros within South Africa and Namibia. Finally (among many others) we have Mr Mark Lautenbach who works as a Specialist Freelance Guide at Ukuthula Lodge. Elise Daffue founder of Stop Rhino Poaching is also friends with a Department of Environmental Affairs worker, and numerous other governmental bodies, police and hunters.
While the above details may not seem overly important, when we’re trying to locate data on hunting statistics, money generated from these activities and more, suspicions are raised when we locate so called professional organisations that are connected to numerous hunting organisations; and institutions such as ‘petting farms’ I.e Ukutala Lodge that has connections with the canned hunting industry and, has featured in a (Blood Lion documentary).
So as one can see it all becomes rather confusing when all we want is upfront and honest answers, however when we ask questions and later find out there are numerous connections to the hunting and possibly ‘pseudo hunting trade’ will we even obtain a serious, straightforward and honest answer? When we’re lied to by hunters, how can we possibly trust Non-Governmental Organisations that are aligned to the very people whom are lying, and are hunting our rhinos while pretending to be so called conservationists? Moreover we (the organisation) do not believe there has been any decline whatsoever relating to rhino poaching. We do though believe that this so called ‘decline may be playing a role in this months CoP17 Summit’ relating to rhino horn legislation.
Image Credit: European trophy hunter, Mr Dennis Schemmel
Back in July 2016 it was reported that Rhinoceros poaching was finally without a doubt at ‘tipping point’. South Africa has seen the largest poaching rates recorded at some 72% from 2011-2015. Namibia recorded a loss of 10.8% from 2012-2015. Zimbabwe recorded a loss of 3.1% from 2012-2015. Kenya has recorded a loss of 4.4% from 2012-2015. Finally ‘other African range states mainly in Central Africa’ recorded a loss of 2.5% from 2012-2015.
While its been reported that some 25,000 Rhinoceros remain on the African continent - a depressing near six thousand have been poached all over the continent from 2012-2015. Yet hunting revenue from one of Africa’s most expensive game animals is allegedly reducing poaching? How is this possible, when we’ve lost so many rhinos, and reports from the Global Initiative have confirmed ‘rhinos are at tipping point’.? Furthermore how can the hunting community continue to state that revenue from rhino hunting is helping to secure the rhinos future when 1. It clearly isn’t due to poaching statistics increasing, and 2. The majority of hunters today are now supporting an international rhino horn trade ban lift?
The Global Initiative stated: “Dozens more rhino have been shot in so-called “pseudo-hunts”. Across Europe, castles and museums have been raided by criminal gangs in search of rhino horn trophies. And in the United States, businessmen, antique dealers – even a former rodeo star and a university professor – have been implicated in the illicit trade”. Driven by seemingly insatiable demand in Southeast Asia and China, rhino horn has become a black market commodity rivalling gold and platinum in value.
Image: Female rhino hunter, origin of hunter unknown and name. South Africa?
To date there has been very little forthcoming information in relation to revenue generated from African rhino hunts, and where exactly this hunting money is going. Furthermore with rhino poaching still increasing, and tipping points now recorded by ‘various trusted organisations’ the question must now be raised why are we still hunting Rhinoceros?
From the 1940’s tiger hunting was common among many international and local tourists in India. However so too was tiger poaching. It was alleged that revenue from tiger hunting was actually helping to preserve the tiger species and other mammals too. Unfortunately this turned out to be complete codswallop. Then in 1973, the Indian government finally under the orders of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi banned tiger hunting due to so many tigers being poached - and legally hunted at the same time. Had Prime Minister Indira Gandhi not instigated ‘Project Tiger’, the tiger would have gone extinct way back in the 1970’s.
In the last 50 years the tiger population in Asia has plummeted from 100,000 to about 5,000. The number of tigers is dangerously low, and the conservation of the world’s remaining tigers is of global concern. Now, in this volume, 40 world authorities on tigers from Asia, Europe, and North America have summarized and identified the management, conservation, and research needs for this endangered species. Before Project Tiger was implemented tiger populations were being hammered. The same identical hunting and poaching behavior before Project Tiger can now be witnessed in Africa - primarily in South Africa where rhinos are also being hammered both by hunters, poachers and pseudo hunters. Does that ring alarm bells among the many FAKE NGO’S out there?
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa undertook various searches relating to rhino hunting and revenue generated from these hunts within South Africa. What we found was from 2005-2015 a total of 330 ‘White Rhinoceros’ had been legally hunted from 2005-2015. The minimum hunting price was exactly $50,000(USD). While the maximum hunting price was exactly $150,000(USD). It was found that from 2005-2015 and based on the assumption these were (white rhino hunts only) and, taking into consideration the minimum price first. Revenue generated from rhino hunting at the price of $50,000(USD) resulted in an estimated total $181,500,000 million - that’s $181 million(USD) raised from hunting. Meanwhile, and taking into consideration the highest price (being $150,000(USD) a total of $554,500,000 million was generated.
While we cannot place these two equations together and provide a factual sum because we don’t know how many rhinos were legally hunted at each individual price, the sheer fact that millions of dollars has been generated from 2005-2015 should be enough to explain that something isn’t quite right here. Furthermore these figures are based on the assumption these were white rhino hunts,
MINIMUM HUNTING PRICE: 2005-2015 = $181,500,000 million(USD)
MAXIMUM HUNTING PRICE: 2005-2015 = $554,500,000 million(USD)
To date (and as you can see within the sourced links above) there still hasn’t been a single reliable report that confirms just how much money is being made from trophy hunting in South Africa. The only so called reliable report (which is about as reliable as a chocolate teapot) and, being the only report to surface thus far stated that $200 million(USD) was generated from the years of 2010-2011 (in regards to all South African trophy hunts)? Who number crunched these figures, who even dared to come up with such an absurd low revenue income? I would also like to remind hunting organisations, just because you don’t have to tell us what you’re making, we can contact other organisations/institutions, locate prices, we can phone and email. Eventually we’ll find the truth!
Now either our expert eyes and our mathematical friends are missing something here, or journalists media and the pro trade lobby are forgetting that despite hunting revenue being made pubic. Environmental Scientists can research CITES trophy hunting statistics, then locate the common maximum and minimum price, and the number of rhino trophy heads exported/imported. So as one can read above just from the years of (2005-2015 - millions was made just from Rhinoceros hunting). Moreover who ever came up with the 2010-2011 sum of $200 million USD clearly is missing a lot of money off here, and needs to undertake a mathematical course too?
Rhinoceros hunting is by far the biggest money maker within the hunting business (most of this money is made in South Africa which hosts the largest rhino populations on the planet). Furthermore it just seems too coincidental that from 2010-2011 literally every hunting organisation that’s promoting/advertising rhino hunts has mysteriously removed their prices.
Trophy hunting of rhino is strictly regulated. Every year a total of five (black rhino) can legally be hunted within each of Namibia and South Africa, which totals to a maximum of (ten) per year - five per country. Furthermore in South Africa and Namibia one white rhino can be hunted by one hunter per year - that’s one rhino per hunter every year. Unfortunately there remains no further hunting revenue and data from the years of 2014. Its been estimated by the National Geographic based on the United States Fish and Wildlife report that the United States imported a total of 328 white rhino trophies from South Africa from the years of 2005-2014. Meanwhile a total of 7 white rhino were hunted and subsequently imported to the United States from Namibia from the years of 2005-2014.
Image Credit: Rhino hunter Alexander Tseytlin
Black rhino hunts have provoked much controversy over the past five years mainly because black rhinos are actually listed as (critically endangered), hence why only five black rhinos can be hunted per year in South Africa and Namibia. Since 1996-2011 the species has been listed as near extinct on the International Union for the Conservation of Natures Red List. Fortunately due to ‘private farming conservation efforts (not wild efforts) the species has allegedly and gradually increased (primarily due to hunting?)’. Both private and wild populations are believed to be increasing within South Africa and Namibia placing the total species population count from 2010 at 4,880 black rhinos.
The only reports that we ourselves can offer in regards to black rhino trophy is that of media and press reports that have documented on large scale bidding for black rhino hunts. In January 2014, Corey Knowlton bid $350,000 for a permit to hunt and kill a black rhino in Namibia (Source: Corey Knowlton). Back in June 2016 Namibia offered up three of its black rhinos to trophy hunters. While the price has not been documented its most likely be in the region of just over $1 million(USD) for the three Black Rhinoceros (Source: Namibia black rhino hunt).
Meanwhile back in 1996 a game rancher named John Hume paid about $200,000 for three pairs of endangered black rhinos from the wildlife department of the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. Among them was a male who would come to be called “Number 65,” and whose death would play a central role in the debate about conservation.
When the black rhino bull arrived, Hume’s farm manager — a burly Zimbabwean named Geoff York whose typical mode of dress is army boots and a pair of purple shorts — tranquilized him, clipped two notches in his left ear and two in the right, and gave him a number: 65. Mr John Hume later picked Mr Peter Thormahlen to organize the killing of ‘number 65’. The price was set at a $25,000 deposit on a $150,000 fee for a seven-day hunt.
Most of that would go to John Hume - the very man that is today advocating for an international legalized trade in rhino horn and has connections to a wide number of organisations such as, WWF, IUCN, CITES, The Department of Environmental Affairs and numerous other figures. Then on July 23rd 2005 Thormahlen and his client with John Hume tagging along proceeded on foot. Suddenly the rhino noticed them and rose from the dirt. The client pulled the trigger, and the first bullet pierced Number 65’s skull. The rhino, still standing, turned. A second bullet hit, and the rhino dropped dead. (Source: John Hume Rhino Hunt).
As you can read there is a staggering amount of money parting hands to hunt both black and white rhino. Yet poaching is still skyrocketing? South Africa has lost from 2008 almost 6,000 rhinos to poachers. Back in 2014 Namibia lost a total of 24 rhinos to poaching, then come 2015 a whopping 60 rhinos were poached. (Source: Poaching stats Namibia).
So the question still remains just what exactly is all this money going towards, can each professional hunting organisation prove to me, my organisation and the public that the money generated from rhino hunting is indeed being used to fund anti poaching operations, security, conservation, education, awareness and horn poisoning? (Etc).
While I’ve been extremely silent on this issue too since 2011 I’m going to make it pubic now. I dislike the fact that a ‘prominent South African game hunter’ is involved with the Rhino Orphanage. Back in 2011 we (the organisation) were going to submit funding for scales and equipment, however when running a trace on whom ran the main website, down to a trace on that individuals Facebook page, and more we later discovered a ‘silent partner’ that is hunting many of the big five..
..So who do we trust when it comes to facts and figures? How can we trust anyone that is stating hunting is indeed increasing rhino numbers when literally every individual and organisation are in someway aligned to one another in South Africa and over the borders? Can the Rhino Orphanage and its ‘affiliate’s’ also prove that every single rhino that’s been saved has been released back into a reserve, and not hunted for sport that clearly from this entire document has proved - no amount of hunting whatsoever is increasing rhino populations!
Hunting operations are indeed expensive. While the price of a hunt may indeed seem high. One also has to take into consideration what the farmer and/or professional hunter has to pay for too. Upkeep of land, maintenance of vehicles and buildings, fuel, service charges for gas, electricity, water, and rent Etc, food and beverages for the visiting hunters, guest house uses, damages to guest houses, travel, firearms (among many other bills). Then of course comes anti poaching being the last bill. Some of this expense can be viewed below.
While we know that Rhinoceros trophy hunting is indeed expensive, poaching is unfortunately still increasing in various African countries, please do check the sourced links out above, and read that data carefully. The image above with source proves that no big five farmer is taking every single dollar or euro that’s advertises rhino hunting on their site or allows rhino hunting on their property.
So the question remains why are we still hunting rhino for? The question I’ve answered. Rhino hunting is nothing more than a overpaid sport that does nothing whatsoever for conservation and, is not under any circumstances whatsoever contributing to decreasing poaching. All these millions if not billions being made yet here we are still seeing rhinos poached. Finally, and the very best question of them all. If hunting revenue from rhino hunts is not decreasing poaching, how the hell is a so called sustainable rhino horn trade going to decrease poaching? Same money - same prices - going nowhere!
Thank you for reading.
Dr Jose C. Depre PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M.
Master of Environmental, Botanical & Human Science.
Environmental, Botanical and Human Scientist.
MASSACRE IN MOROCCO
From December 2015 to March 2016 Moroccan governmental officials within the city of Ksar el-Kebir have slaughtered many thousands of stray dogs with single or multiple shots to the head and body using live rounds. Some media and press reports have stated that the slaughter only went on for one day during December 2016, others state two days.
Fortunately International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa hosts a total of eighteen environmental activists within the African country, all of which have confirmed the slaughter has been ongoing from December 2015 and, is still ongoing today September 2016. However for now the cull is mostly over.
The nighttime killings have decreased significantly since the media began publishing on the mass culling of stray dogs and cats, and partially due to many street dogs now wiped clean off the streets of Ksar el-Kebir and within other Moroccan cities such as the Medina quarter - until next year of course.
Image: One of many dogs killed by men gunmen.
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa has learnt that the French Government in Europe are partially supporting the annual culling operation identified as ‘Street Animal Welfare’, although there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of welfare practiced here.
Sources have explained to us that most if not all of the local street dogs were shot using live rounds by inexperienced gunmen on the back of jeeps or 4×4’s. Moreover sources within the Moroccan capital of Rabat stated that poisons had been laid down to kill street dogs and cats too. The deaths were reported as horrific and nowhere near humane!
Image: Moroccan teenager showing love and compassion to a stray dog.
From December to date most of the killings have occurred at night which is when the vast majority of street dogs are active. (I.A.R.F.A) learnt that the Moroccan Government ordered the killings due to concerns of ‘rabies’ within the country, and because of an influx of tourists this year too. The Rabat capital ordered dog wardens to pin posters up relating to rabies, as well as hand them out to the locals (as can be seen below).
Image: Rabies info in French and Arabic.
The Ksar El Kebir Government ordered this years killings on the 22nd March 2016, although there is much evidence to show the killings began in December 2015. Nonetheless many dogs were slaughtered this year prompting the global population of animal lovers to kick up a wild frenzy, and why should’t they? Morocco isn’t learning here from its mistakes, instead every year they order inexperienced gunmen at nighttime to shoot hundreds of dogs a night (during the dated culling period).
Image: Dead dogs dumped onto the back of a 4×4 in Morocco.
Local authorities, in an ironic attempt to curb the number of starving canines, are sought to kill dogs, adults and puppies alike. These actions are as inhuman as they are expensive for the taxpayers. What’s more, there are numerous studies and expert assessments available from the best international specialists in public health, which demonstrate that this approach is totally inefficient. However despite the best efforts of everyone trying to halt this massacre - the bloody slaughter continued.
Its been estimated that in the Moroccan town of Casablanca, some 15,000+ street dogs are killed every-year. So one would kind of think that instead of killing stray dogs the authorities would at least try to humanly control the increasing stray dog population and, slow any rabies virus from emerging, seemingly not, every year more and more dogs are massacred in the most brutal and barbaric manners you could think of.
Morocco is a predominantly French Muslim/Muslim/Islamic African country of which the Holy Quran states the following in relation to animals that share the same quarters as us, socialize with us, and roam with us (Etc.):
“There is not an animal (that lives) on the Earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities, like you.” (Sura 13 Aya 15).
Furthermore another interesting quote from the Holy Quran is that about ‘mistreatment of animals’. The Holy Quran states the following:
“It is related from Jabir that the Messenger of Allah, once saw a donkey which had been branded on its face and he said, “May Allah curse the one who branded it.” (Muslim)”
While I’m not going to become embroiled within some religious debate, I do find it grossly contradictory that so called ‘Muslims that follow the holy scriptures of the Quran would then violate that holy book or anyone of the alleged recited peaceful verses’?
Image: Hundreds of dogs shot dead violating the Quran’s scripture.
The majority of the killings took place in Ksar-el-kebir of which some 110,000 people inhabit. Furthermore about 160km’s away from ksar-el-kebir in Rabut public workers took to the streets killing more dogs.
Further, in Marrakech, local city authorities opted for the poisoning as procedure. Same for Salé, Skhirat Kenitra [Rabat-Salé-Kenitra] and Nador [Oriental Region] says Loubna El Mourabite Kettani, a militant of the animal cause, adding that poisoning can affect even the dogs that have owners, as the poisoned bait is scattered randomly in neighborhoods.
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa, The World Health Organisation, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the International Alliance for Rabies Control ‘strictly advises’ local authorities worldwide to sterilize and vaccinate dogs in order to reduce their population and combat rabies. However as you can see every year throughout various Moroccan cites and towns the local authorities opt for killing dogs at point blank range, with live rounds or just poison baits, however things may be on the turn (please keep reading).
Image: Muslim’s do love dogs, sadly ‘a minority don’t’.
Zineb Bouchikhi, ONSSA’s communications officer, said that: “stray dogs that do not have owners, given the danger they pose to public health, are eliminated by local authorities as part of the national strategy against rabies. Dogs which have owners, in turn, are vaccinated annually by ONSSA officers in rural and peri-urban areas. In urban areas, private veterinarians are in charge of this operation.”
In the period from 2010 to 2015, an average of 90 000 owned dogs were vaccinated by the veterinary services of ONSSA in different regions of Morocco. However, there are no statistics on stray dogs slaughtered by local authorities each year. (How coincidental is that?).
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa, local and international charitable organisations believe in capture, vaccinate, sterilize, de-worm and relax in the area of origin, is the best scientific, ethical and sustainable approach to preserve human and animal health. Shooting dogs though is not controlling the problem which is clear to see due to annual shootings every year.
Furthermore the cost of shooting dogs will heavily outweigh the cost of vaccination. Concerning-ly due to the press and media picking up on these mass and brutally horrific culls it will only bring a bad name to Morocco thus reducing tourism, finance, increasing poverty, unemployment and crime.
Trap: (Trap, neuter and release) is practiced in India, Turkey, America and Canada and has enabled eradication of rabies in a few years. In Morocco, including Essaouira and Taghazout, similar experiments were carried out. These are examples to generalize nationally. So if (TNR) works why are the local authorities still shooting dogs dead at some 15,000-25,000 a year annually?
Half of the domestic dogs and strays stay in residential areas, close to the forest or the sea. Meanwhile they rule the streets in the night finding food near the garbage containers or outside houses in the suburbs. In the early morning they leave to find a more calm place to sleep, usually in the forest. Strays mostly shy away from humans who use to throw stones at them as a protection.
Image: A watch dog in Sekkala.
Concluding I can state now: An initiative has been launched as of [Wed 30 Mar 2020] in Rabat jointly by RAPAD and Adan association in collaboration with municipal councilors of Rabat for the creation of a pilot project for the benefit of canine and feline stray populations. The associations of the capital [Rabat] aspire to make it a successful alternative experience to convince both the state government departments and elected officials to abandon slaughter.
For now though I’ll leave you with this video as a shocking reminder to the ongoing crisis in the African country of Morocco. We (the organisation) hope to never see such a sickening image of barbaric brutality again.
Dr Jose Carlos Depre
Chief Executive Officer | Director
SHOULD ALL HUNTERS BE SCREENED BY MENTAL HEALTH?
Over the past five years I’ve noticed a worrying increase in the number of youth trophy hunters that are holidaying with their parents to Southern Africa for trophy hunting excursions. Some people may assume I’m being over-cautious or simply trying to stop the younger generation from undertaking a sport or so called tradition that they and their families enjoy.
Far from it; moreover I don’t believe its just the youth, that, in my eyes “would benefit from mental health screening”, but, instead all would be wannabe hunters, youth and adult, (basically anyone that wishes to acquire a hunting permit and firearms licence) to kill African wildlife and local wildlife endemic to their own country. Installing such strong and mandatory protocol - removes and/or bans mentally unstable individuals and sadists from out continent, temporarily or permanently.
Most if not all young hunters are American - standing at some 14 million and counting; furthermore there are few if any ‘requirements or checks carried out’ on the American youth or adult that applies for a hunting permit and firearms license within all states of America that could be hosting underlying mental health problems.
Today I witnessed yet again another hunter no older than ten years of age, holding a high-powered firearm, which to me on a professional note - I do find quite concerning - especially when a routine check of that individual showed up only one year of training. On researching the boy, his home town, hunting and firearm requirements . This ten year old child had to demonstrate that he was capable of handling a firearm, as well as being knowledgeable on firearm health and safety regulations.
Finally the young man “in America” must hunt with an adult over 21 years of age who’s holding a full clean hunting licence (none of which was being followed in the video). Now in relation to checks regarding “mental health screening”, the only checks that are undertaken are on those American citizens that have been “confirmed as mentally unwell/unstable, or are at risk of hurting themselves or others”.
Unfortunately under American law it does not state that all hunters must undergo a mental health check every six months to a year to rule out mental health problems ranging from depression, anxiety attacks, generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post‑traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder (among many other clinical problems).
After much research, I’ve located that ‘in a number of states of America’ there are no laws or requirements whatsoever aimed at those wanting to hunt or apply for a firearms license. That I find incredibly worrying, if not bordering absolute crazy. A firearm in a sense is no different to a vehicle. Both are dangerous in the wrong untrained and unstable hands, and both can kill if due care and attention is not practiced.
Image: Two American 10 year old’s kill giraffe
Meanwhile most American states host a ‘minimum age requirement’ to apply for a hunting licence, and firearms permit. The lowest minimum age is (ten years of age in some states) - again I find that very concerning, especially when the human brain is still developing from the ages of 1-21 years of age.
Fortunately most states though require some form of ‘education on handling and using a firearm’ with ‘firearms safety being a must’. Unfortunately this is not a requirement within a ‘few states’ from which any child of any age can apply for a hunting and firearms licence. Within them few states there are no laws whatsoever that state you have to undergo any form of firearms training and safety course, or even education on handling and using a firearm, furthermore there are no mandatory mental health checks!
So theoretically speaking we could have a large number of children and young adults hunting in Southern Africa that have no professional training whatsoever on how to use a firearm, not forgetting anyone of them hunters that could be hosting underlying mental health conditions such as: Generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post‑traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, psychotic depression, personality disorders, or even eating disorders, or children that are living within a ‘dysfunctional family setup’.
The minimum age that I myself could locate throughout all the American states listed here was (10 years of age and 12 years of age). Other state age requirements ranged from (16 years of age and 21 year of age). As you can see in the link above there are also some states that have no minimum age requirement, and within other states the only real requirements are that the young hunter is accompanied by a ‘qualified adult hunter’, or hunts within ‘a group of mixed age qualified hunters hunting a certain species’.
When scanning through all state requirements and those that hosted nothing more than word of mouth from an adult there wasn’t under any circumstances any form of mental health screening. The only concerns relating to mental health ‘were aimed at those that had been diagnosed with a serious mental health problem’ however even then the law states these individuals mustn’t be discriminated against. Another major concern was that very few state requirements undertook any form of background checks on the wannabe youth or near adult hunter.
So again, theoretically speaking, we could have in Southern Africa any child from the age of 10 years to 12 years. or near adult, that have committed anti social, and violent crimes or are hosting underlying mental health conditions, with little if any firearms training, hunting animals with high powered rifles. Furthermore if anyone of them youths or young adults were traumatized once killing a large animal it could exacerbate any underlying mental health problem thus seeing a potential crime being committed on the continent or once back home. As a specialist I’m absolutely gobsmacked that the United States Government haven’t as yet implemented more tougher and stringent firearm safety protocol.
While most states do require you to undergo a hunting education course, many of these courses can now be undertake online, from the comfort of your own home for as little as $25.00USD. There is no one monitoring the student to ensure they don’t cheat, there is no one with the student to ensure errors can be corrected, and finally once the course has been concluded - you can even print your own certificate off (should you pass that is). Most of these courses do not require you to attend a real live class (with instructor) to prove you’re capable of handling a firearm, and have grasped all the safety aspects of that firearm. Again I find that deeply worrying!
Image: Female lion hunter shows no respect whatsoever
So as explained above, within the past five years there has been a large spike in the number of young hunters entering Southern Africa. Most dangerous game hunts take place within South Africa where there is an abundance of heavily populated dangerous game. However when in South Africa the young are now hunting larger, and much dangerous animals, down to big yet friendly animals such as giraffes, rather than smaller animals in their own country. While this may not seem concerning; its very concerning if we have young and near adult hunters with little training (or no training) running amok in Southern Africa that (could be hosting underlying mental health problems).
Since 1966, the National Rifle Association has urged the federal government to address the problem of mental illness and violence. As we noted then, “the time is at hand to seek means by which society can identify, treat and temporarily isolate such individuals,” because “elimination of the instrument by which these crimes are committed cannot arrest the ravages of a psychotic murderer.”.
More recently, the NRA has supported legislation to ensure that appropriate records of those who have been judged mentally incompetent or involuntarily committed to mental institutions be made available for use in firearms transfer background checks. The NRA will support any reasonable step to fix America’s broken mental health system without intruding on the constitutional rights of Americans?
What the NRA is forgetting though, is that they’re only supporting legislation from which an ‘individual has been diagnosed with a mental illness’, rather than all individuals that could be harboring symptoms of mental illness, drug or alcohol abuse that haven’t as yet surfaced. As a professional and qualified neurologist, I find that incredibly concerning, that anyone who’s not undergone a routine mental health check - can apply for a hunting and firearms licence. Furthermore if symptoms of any underlying mental illness begin to surface and, rage out of control - can end in abuse, or worst case scenario - suicide or murder.
Meanwhile, while this area of regulation is not being monitored professionally then it is within my professional opinion (and that of other experts) that all countries on the African continent ban any youth and adult that hasn’t undergone a full psychiatric screening appointment. There is no harm in visiting a domestic psychiatrist or mental health community worker. Furthermore if there is an underlying condition found, that condition or symptoms can be professionally treated thus helping the individual, and eliminating any identified symptoms or an illness from becoming worse.
Another concern that I myself located within the federal laws of America is listed below for your information:
“A person cannot be federally disqualified from owning a gun based simply on a psychiatrist’s diagnosis, a doctor’s referral, or the opinion of a law enforcement officer, let alone based on getting a drug prescription or seeking mental health treatment. Doing so would actually discourage troubled people from getting the help they need”
I find that statement absolutely ludicrous. A psychiatrists diagnoses for instance is a professional diagnoses based on his or her expert findings; furthermore a psychiatrist has to undergo over twelve years of professional medical training in most cases. So why an individual that has for instance been diagnosed with a personality disorder cannot be federally disqualified for I don’t know. That itself is off the entire “stupid scale”.
Image: 2014 states on unintentional firearms accidents on increasing
If this is how the NRA truly work then we seriously have major problems. Moreover how many individuals are there in America that have underlying mental problems, or have been diagnosed by a psychiatrist as suffering from depression, schizophrenia, manic depression, post traumatic stress disorder holding a full hunting and firearms licence - or been granted one with no checks based on the NRA and U.S. governments screening regulations? I am not under any circumstances, whatsoever trying to discriminate here, however if an individual is “clinically and mentally unstable” then providing a firearms and hunting license is a recipe for disaster.
Finally its in the interests of the psychiatrist and, the patient once a diagnoses (or degree of concern) has been made to then follow that report up, report to the individuals personal practitioner and help that individual ‘before a hunting or firearms licence is granted’. I’m somewhat perplexed as to why this area of ‘regulation’ would discourage troubled people from getting the help they need.
Furthermore under no circumstances should anyone be firing any form of firearm or operating anything ‘dangerous’, while under the influence of any medication that can induce sedation, drowsiness, lethargy, depression, mood swings, and agitation (among many mother prescription side effects). So again, in my professional opinion no government in anyone of the trophy hunting countries on the continent of Africa should be permitting any foreigner to hunt if they are under the influence of any type of medication, and not just psychotic medicines, as well as being diagnosed with a clinical mental health illness/problem/or/disorder.
Meanwhile, while mental health screening is indeed of a major concern, so to is that of uneducated, poorly trained or non-trained young hunters. To date there is (coincidentally) no database that reports on the number of youth hunting deaths in America. Furthermore trying to locate any statistics in relation to foreign African hunting deaths and accidents is like searching for a needle in a hay stack. That doesn’t though mean there isn’t any deaths or accidents, because there most certainly is!
Childhood gun and shooting accidents are not rare. They are one of the top ten leading causes of accidental death for all age groups outside of newborns and infants. Furthermore these known stats overtake those of adult hunting deaths. In 2007, there were 122 unintentional firearm deaths in children, and an additional 3,060 nonfatal gun and shooting accidents, which resulted in an estimated 1,375 children needing to be hospitalized for their injuries. Unintentional firearm deaths in children have remained at about the same levels since, with 114 deaths in children and teens less than age 18 in 2010.
How many childhood hunting accidents are there? That is hard to say (as explained), as there doesn’t seem to be a national database with hunting accident statistics. The Hunter Incident Clearinghouse of the International Hunter Education Association, which hasn’t been updated recently, reports 27 hunting-related shooting accidents in 2007 in children and teens less than 18 years old. This includes at least one death, a 14-year-old in Georgia who was unintentionally shot in the chest by another 14-year-old (who had completed a hunting education class) while they were hunting squirrels.
In 2006, the Hunter Incident Clearinghouse reported 3 deaths and 38 hunting-related shooting accidents in kids and teens. The youngest was just 5-years-old. To get more recent hunting accident statistics, you will likely have to go to each state’s wildlife conservation agency and try to find it (which is exactly what I’m doing.)
The National Shooting Sports Foundation likes to tout hunting accident statistics that rank hunting injuries as somewhere between playing billiards and bowling and much less than playing golf and tennis. To put this kind of thinking into perspective, though, compared to playing golf and tennis, isn’t a hunting injury that involves a shooting much more likely to be fatal? And it is these types of hunting-related shooting accidents that people are concerned about.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take your kids hunting. You just want to do it as safely as possible to help reduce your child’s risk of getting hurt and to avoid these types of hunting accidents and tragedies which have been reported in the last few years:
- A 14-year-old in Calaveras County, California who died after he was unintentionally shot by a 16-year-old while they were hunting.
- A 17-year-old in Anderson County, South Carolina who died after she was unintentionally shot in the back by her stepfather with his high-powered rifle as they hunted deer.
- A 10-year-old in Cache County, Utah who died after he was unintentionally shot by a hunting companion who was removing his rifle from the front of a four-wheeler, when it fired.
- A 16-year-old from Exeter, California who died while hunting with family and friends after he was unintentionally shot when he wandered in front of the other hunters.
- A 14-year-old from Palisade, Colorado who died after he was shot in the chest while bow hunting with his father.
- A 12-year-old in Stephens County, Oklahoma who was hospitalized after his 10-year-old brother unintentionally shot him in his backside after he tripped and fell with a gun in his hand while hunting.
- A 15-year-old in Minot, North Dakota who died while hunting with his father during the opening weekend of deer season.
- A man near Butte, Montana who was in a critical condition after he was unintentionally shot in the abdomen by a 13-year-old in his hunting party who was unloading his rifle.
Keep in mind that these incidents don’t include the perhaps even more common scenario of when a child or teen unintentionally shoots an adult in his hunting party. This happened recently when a 12-year-old shot a man he was hunting with in Iowa when his shotgun accidentally went off.
Image: Read more here: https://everytownresearch.org/reports/innocents_lost/
All of these reports are freely available (and there are hundreds). Furthermore these deaths and few accidents could have been avoided - had the young children been professionally educated, and monitored. Furthermore increasing the hunting age limit from 10-16 years of age (in most states) to above 18 years of age. Meanwhile in other states where there are no laws, or even the whiff of any gun control regulation, actually introducing such regulations and laws, and as stated above (ensuring that no one applies for a hunting permit or firearms license until 18 years of age or over).
International Hunter Education Association. Hunter Incident Clearinghouse. 2007 Incident Summary. Accessed January 2013.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. WISQARS Nonfatal Injury Reports and Injury Mortality Reports. Accessed December 2012.
Study Guide for California Hunter Education Certificate. Accessed January 2013.
Keeping to the mental health side of things - back in 2010 the United Kingdom witnessed one of its worst firearms crimes seen since the Dunblane school massacre. Mr Derrick Bird whom fulfilled all the rifle and gun ownership laws (the strongest gun laws on the planet), as well as passing mental health assessments, shot dead 12 people, injuring a further 11 individuals, before taking his own life. The question is why did he decide that day to open up his gun cabinet and rampage through Cumbria killing many (and himself)?
WHY DID DERRICK BIRD KILL 12 PEOPLE BACK IN 2010?
First lets take a look at how Mr Bird was able to qualify for a gun and hunting licence. Getting a licence is a long and complicated business. Every stage of the process is designed to reduce the likelihood of a gun falling into the wrong hands. It starts with an application form which asks specific questions about why the individual wants a gun, telling them they need to show “good reason”.
The criteria are tougher for firearms than shotguns because weapons that fire bullets must only be used for specific purposes in specific places. These would include deer stalking or sports shooting on an approved range. In contrast, shotguns tend to be used in more general rural circumstances, such as by farmers who are protecting livestock from foxes - and police recognise that landowners need guns for pest control.
Independent referees provide confidential character statements in which they are expected to answer in detail about the applicant’s ‘mental state, home life and attitude towards guns’. Officers check the Police National Computer for a criminal record and they speak to the applicant’s GP for evidence of alcoholism, drug abuse or signs of personality disorder. Social services can also be asked for reasons to turn down an applicant. Finally, senior officers must be sure that prospective shotgun holders have a secure location for the weapon, typically a dedicated gun cabinet. Each certificate is valid for five years.
Mr Bird passed all the criteria for gun ownership, including a mental health examination, and drug and alcohol abuse surveys. Social services also assessed the applicant and stated that Mr Bird was in full state of mind, with no obvious signs of violence, nor was there any cause for concern relating to mental health problems.
However something changed, and that was Mr Birds mental health, which deteriorated rapidly resulting in 12 people being shot dead at point blank range, including a further two dozen more injuries. To date no one really knows for sure why Mr Bird decided that day in June 2010 to go on a killing spree.
Image: Mr Bird’s victims all shot at point blank range
However when Forensic Psychiatrists eventually delved deeper into Mr Birds past life right up to the day he began killing, then unearthed many ‘stress factors’. We know that stress can if not relieved lead to various forms of mental health problems, breakdowns or overloads to the point that an individual eventually explodes. It was stated that Mr Bird reached a ‘stress tipping point’ thus seeing no way out. From there he then killed, before taking his own life.
There has been speculation that Bird may have had a grudge against people associated with the Sellafield nuclear power plant that he worked for as a joiner, resigning in 1990 due to an allegation of theft of wood from the plant (stress 1). He was subsequently convicted, and given a 12-month suspended sentence. Three of the dead were former employees although there is no evidence that any were involved with his resignation.
Terry Kennedy, a fellow taxi driver who described himself as one of Bird’s best friends, and was wounded by Bird, has claimed that Bird had a relationship with a Thai girl he met on holiday in Pattaya, Thailand. It has been further claimed by another friend of Bird that he had sent £1,000 to the girl, who subsequently ended their relationship via a text message; he added that Bird had been “made a fool out of” (stress 2).
It has also been speculated that Bird had been involved with a family dispute over his father’s will. The speculation was heightened when it was revealed that Bird had targeted both his twin, David, and the family’s solicitor, Kevin Commons, in his attacks, killing both (stress 3).
Police investigating the killings have also found that Bird was the subject of an ongoing tax investigation by HM Revenue and Customs for tax evasion and the threat of possible future prosecution and punishment might have contributed to his action (stress 4). According to Mark Cooper, a fellow taxi driver who had known him for 15 years, Bird had accumulated £60,000 in a secret bank account and was worried he would be sent to prison for hiding the cash from HM Revenue & Customs.
So we know of four ‘speculated stresses’ that may have built up and up in Mr Birds personal life, of which its highly likely he eventually saw red, removed the firearms from his cabinet and killed 12 people before killing himself. However prior to these killings Mr Bird was seen as a stable, easy going, and nice chap, fun loving, was “one of the lads”, and socialized like any other individual. Unfortunately all four speculated stresses are what Police believe eventually led to Mr Bird going on a killing rampage.
Under U.K. law every five years a gun holder must reapply for a firearms license. The same checks, interviews and examinations are undertaken during every re-application for that license. These checks are there to ensure that both the firearms holder is stable, and to ensure the public are kept safe.
In today’s society bullying, mental health problems, anti social behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, pier pressure, violence, murder, rape, family problems, divorce and unemployment Etc are on the increase. These problems are not just confined to the United States neither. While in the United Kingdom Mr Bird had undergone various aptitude checks, mental health and social service checks, these checks are not being carried out on the millions of young and adult American trophy hunters.
Image: Press report of Birds rampage
Furthermore as explained above there have been a wide number of people killed by gun owners - and gun owners that haven’t undergone the correct or even adequate training. So the number of questions remain are: Why are these checks not being carried out, how long is it going to be before we see a stressed out trophy hunting teenager or, young adult going on the rampage in Southern Africa or America, why are no mental health checks and more than professional firearms training not being carried out in America before young hunters visit the African continent?
Every month now I am witnessing younger adults hunting in Southern Africa using a wide range of high powered firearms. On researching these children I find they are still at school. Furthermore on going through their ‘open public Facebook and Twitter accounts’ I am reading various problems from pier pressure, family relation problems, drug and alcohol abuse, bullying, school pressure, down to personal relationship problems too.
Finally when researching through every single gun shooting in the U.K. and the U.S. you eventually find that all of these shooters were emotionally and mentally to some degree unstable. In my personal and expert opinion its now time we either banned American hunters from Southern Africa that haven’t undergone the strict training and mental health checks, we increase the trophy hunting age from 16 to 21, we ban minor hunting, or we ban Americans from entering Africa that wish to hunt?
I have written an incredibly long document to each Environmental Affairs Ministry in Southern Africa and every single United States Senator. We need this area of lax gun and animal welfare laws tightened immediately. Enough is enough. In my humble opinion all hunters must be screened by mental health, doing so will see a decrease in hunting accidents, hunting gun crimes, and an improvement in animal welfare and rights laws - with far less animals slaughtered at the hands of sadists.
Dr Jose C. Depre PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M.
Master of Environmental, Botanical & Human Science.
FACEBOOK | IVORY TRADE IN VIET NAM
Written by Dr Jose C. Depre (Chief Environmental Officer).
By the time it takes me to finish this document an estimated 20-50 elephants will have been slaughtered. Once you turn your head and continue to do nothing, come tomorrow 100 elephants would have been killed for their ivory to supply the South East Asian black market. Back in January 2015 I launched yet another online and ground intelligence gathering operation relating to the illegal wildlife trade; We are focusing on China, Viet Nam, Laos, and Thailand of which the team, a twenty four strong experienced male and female unit originate from all backgrounds. Today I’m focusing more on the online trade which has now increased to worrying new levels.
Since January 2015 when [Operation Stop It] was launched Environmental Crimes Officers have found what we believe is a new trend of ivory trade in operation on the United States platform known as Facebook. External Affairs Officers became aware of the huge trade when investigating a Vietnamese national identified as Mr Trang from June 2015 to December 2015. Unfortunately since providing law enforcement agencies with masses of evidence just on this one trader; very little in the way of arrests and/or confiscations has been witnessed.
The ban on international trade in ivory was introduced in 1989 by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) after years of unprecedented poaching. In the 1980’s, an estimated 100,000 elephants were being killed per year and up to 80% of herds were lost in some regions. However despite the ivory trade ban in place, very little in the way of illegal trade reduction is being witnessed within Viet Nam, China, Laos, and Thailand.
Viet Nam is one country of interest that we’ve noted as hosting “unusually large amounts of (raw ivory tusks), most of which seem to be originating from impounded stocks, with other tusks clearly removed from ivory pyres”. While we are aware a large majority of ivory tusks are originating from Africa, there is also a significantly large amount also originating from Asia. Asian ivory tusks are more favored for carving over that of African elephant tusks.
Image: Two tusks located for sale on Facebook 16.05.16 from | impounded or stolen from pyres?
The two elephant ivory tusks (pictured above) were located on Facebook for sale yesterday which we suspect have originated from a recent or past ivory burn. Normally ivory tusks are white, or a dusty creamy color with some dark tinges to them; embers can clearly be seen on the left hand tusk with visible white dehydration and salt marks too.
Image: Ivory jewelry smuggled from Africa into South East Asia now on sale on Facebook.
While the online trade is no big secret, the fact is Facebook hosts no terms and conditions in place that bans such illegal trade; the Facebook platform has no systems in place to recognize such imagery (I.e raw tusks) using BOTS that can then report back to a third party Policing team. Finally IARFA Environmental Crimes Officers have found Facebook is being exploited by many South East Asian citizens primarily from Viet Nam, and Thailand peddling ivory from Asia and Africa.
Image: Ivory trader weighs up tusks he is trading online via pseudo Facebook account shops.
The image above clearly demonstrates just has serious the ivory trade has become online and on the Facebook social media platform. Traders will commonly show their products to prove their wealth (I.e as a status symbol), or to prove/demonstrate the legitimacy of their products compared to other traders, that may be selling counterfeit ivory. The trader who we can only be name as Mr Phong then demonstrates just how much he will be making come the end of the month. The total amount of ivory Mr Phong is selling on Facebook (pictured above and below) will fetch him around $15,000-$20,000USD depending on how the ivory is sold and/or manufactured.
Image: My Phong weighs up this illegal haul of ivory, fetching him some $15,000-$20,000USD
Despite international and domestic trade bans nothing is actually working, furthermore we do hold concerning evidence that shows without a doubt many tusks are being removed from compounds in Asia and Africa then sold onto the very people that police took the ivory from. Police have been witnessed trading confiscated ivory at high prices back into the hands of smugglers knowing too well they are going to make a good wage due to the high demand for ivory tusk products.
Back in 1992 Viet Nam officially outlawed the ivory trade, unfortunately since the ban was implemented any ivory that was purchased before “Viet Nam’s ivory ban” can still be sold legally so as long as the tusks host the correct certification; Fortunately CITES did rule that “re-worked ivory or any tusks/ivory products that were purchased before or after the 1992 Viet Nam ivory ban that are then re-worked, would then be classed as new ivory (non-exempt) thus making that product that was legal - now illegal.
Meanwhile back in 1975 international trade in “Asian elephant ivory” was also banned. There has been quite a few tusks examined by experts and third party experts located on the United States Facebook platform as originating from Asian elephants. Asian elephant tusks are much smaller than your average African bush elephant tusks. Come the 1980’s it was then stated no fewer than 50,000 Asian elephants existed which are now listed on CITES Appendix One and known to [endangered].
One out of every six Hanoi citizens are dealing ivory on the United States Facebook platform. Most of this ivory is as explained originating from Africa and Asia, with clear and obvious signs of trafficking, and thefts from impounded ivory and ivory pyres.
Image: One of many thousands of online ivory trading Facebook shops in Viet Nam.
The image above was picked up from one of many thousands of Viet Nam ivory traders. Traders establish a sophisticated network of “pseudo Facebook accounts”. These accounts are rarely in the real name of the trader. Traces of some accounts via the IARF Environmental Cyber Crimes Unit have shown ivory traders using Virtual Proxy Networks [VPNs] to conceal their Internet Protocol Address.
Furthermore when dealing over the phone traders normally use cheap (non-smart throw away phones) so that should enforcement agencies locate them, tracing the traders exact whereabouts, and who they are selling ivory onto is almost impossible. Its not uncommon to witness traders with a number of cell phones. One phone (the throw away one) will be used for trade and can easily be disposed of with all evidence destroyed containing names and numbers of ivory dealers and buyers. Meanwhile smugglers, traders and carvers also host a smart phone for normal everyday conversations and general surfing the web or interacting with friends and family on Facebook, Twitter or Weibo.
Back in March of 2016 International Animal Rescue Foundation’s- Environmental Crimes Officers located three Viet Nam ivory trading carving factories all advertised on the United States Facebook platform. Moreover it wasn’t just carvers and ivory advertised for sale; we also located evidence of ivory carving tools, measuring and weighing instruments and “DIY ivory carving instructions for beginners”. The carving instruments below were found in one Hanoi carving workshop (on the Facebook social media platform), meanwhile underneath the bottom image is proof of more raw ivory tusk carving.
Image: Ivory carving tools, Viet Nam, Hanoi used to intricately carve ivory.
Image: In the same carving room more raw ivory tusks were located readied for carving on Facebook.
Environmental Crime Officers have located a staggering 80,000 “ivory and wildlife trade shops” all in operation on the United States Facebook platform, yet little if anything is being done to stop this trade or even restrict traders activities. When submitting this evidence with films, images and Facebook accounts and the current laws on ivory trade to Facebook’s Security Head, Alex Stamos we we’re unfortunately ignored.
Yet Facebook’s moderation team are quite willing to remove accounts that have violated their “bullying, harassment or terrorism polices” (all of which are crimes), sadly the social media platform is unwilling to remove highly active wildlife traders breaking domestic and international wildlife laws that are making a ton daily.
On the 3rd March 2016 the BBC reported “Facebook wildlife trade prompts fears among environmentalists”. Traffic - an Environmental Crimes Investigation Organisation located hundreds of online profiles selling endangered and threatened animal species. Facebook stated “It will not hesitate in removing content that is promoting such trade”. Yet when we contacted Facebook submitting more than enough evidence relating to ivory, rhino horn, tiger and pangolin trade all accounts are still in operation.
Facebook did quote though “They are developing practical solutions to combat trade“, unfortunately these solution’s seem to aimed only at “animals rather than animal parts”. For the time being Facebook has no terms or polices in place that would remove illegal wildlife traders dabbling in rhino horn, tiger parts, pangolins, or [non-exempt] ivory. And with some 1.32+ billion Facebook users, Facebook will we believe now have a large job on their hands in combating such trade as from 2014 trade on the Facebook platform has exploded.
“Investigators are concerned that the use of social media and smartphones means that anyone interested in selling wildlife can rapidly access huge numbers of potential buyers”….
Image: More ivory Facebook shops churning out thousands of euro in ivory, all from raw re-worked tusks.
While Facebook has stated they are developing new measures and applications to combat trade, these new measures and whatever applications will be made to combat trade are all too late. Facebook is probably one of very few platforms where you can actually create “private groups”, where only those that are interested in such trade can enter and interact with other users.
Moreover Facebook provides you secrecy in relation to pages; I.e: Traders can censor which countries they don’t want to view their pages then continue trading whatever they like. In relation to pages there are ways and means around that censorship, which will not be published hereto.
One of the largest items we are seeing traded on Facebook is that of ivory bangles, ivory necklaces, ivory wrist bands, ivory chopsticks, ivory pens, ivory encrusted watches, ivory sex toys and ivory cigarette holders (in the thousands). Overseas tourists that visit Viet Nam are often caught or witnessed buying these small cheap products, and the longer they (the tourist) purchase from ivory carvers and traders, the longer demand will continue to increase and fan out. That is one area of the trade we need all be focusing on (demand) to nip in the bud sooner rather than later.
Ground Sales Survey of Ivory:
Back in 2014, a total of 1614 ground outlets were surveyed in 21 localities throughout Viet Nam. Eighty-five of these outlets (5%) were found to have a total of 2300 ivory items for sale. Buon Me Thuat city was found to have the highest percentage of shops (50%) offering ivory. However since CITES has placed more pressure onto Viet Nam to clamp down on ivory and other wildlife trade, these shops are slowly reducing trade, although we do highly suspect traders are now operating more freely on line from which policing this area of the trade is more difficult.
While it was stated that many shops on the ground had increased somewhat, law enforcement in Viet Nam has allegedly made it more difficult for traders to openly trade ivory that has no exemption. Its is for this reason we now believe Facebook is being used more and more to trade ivory products, and as one can see in the images above - we are talking massive amounts of ivory pieces and products, 90% of which hosts no certification, furthermore the vast majority of traders we’ve located are carving products from “smuggled ivory”.
It is presumed that the currency in which the price is listed or quoted in many ivory surveys may indicate the nationality of the most common buyers in that area. Both observations and questions to particular sellers substantiate the fact that ivory is sold to both “foreign tourists and Vietnamese nationals”. For example in HCMC, the majority of the ivory buyers in the two markets are assumed to be tourists from China as prices were quoted in Chinese Yuan.
Video: Bryan Christy examines the illicit ivory trade. Interesting we have also have located a number of “counterfeit tusks that are being traded online and on the ground”. Please stay tuned for article two that will delve a little deeper into both the counterfeit rhino horn, ivory and tiger part trade.
The HCMC silver and gold shops that also offered ivory (particularly the smaller, religious pendants and figurines) appear to be targeting Vietnamese buyers with prices advertised in VND. In Dak Lak and Ha Tien, the majority of the ivory buyers are assumed to be Vietnamese tourists as prices there were quoted in VND. In Ha Noi, prices were mostly given in USD when enquiries were made, which may indicate that the buyers of ivory pieces are likely to be international tourists.
While the majority of ivory is presumed to be aimed at mostly Asian tourists - there is no real hard hitting evidence that this is in deed true. For example if you was British you’re hardly going to purchase an ivory bangle in GBP, so exchanging that currency into Vietnamese dollars then places that ivory for sale (at just about everyone and anyone) with the correct currency.
It may be somewhat of a shock but the UK is the third biggest source of intercepted illegal ivory entering the United States of America (US), which has been singled out by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) as a ‘problem country’ with a large domestic ivory trade likely to provoke illegal elephant poaching if not regulated and brought under control. London’s Portobello Road – the biggest antiques market in the world – has been identified as the single major source of this illegal ivory.
Furthermore while antique ivory trade is “problematic” so too is non-antique and the longer these trades persist, more and more elephants will be slaughtered for their tusks. We are growing very concerned now at the large number of ivory dealers operating on Facebook. There is clear evidence that much of this ivory is originating from both Africa and Asia, furthermore as explained - the large number of “raw tusks we are locating clearly shows that security is indeed more than questionable at ports, and pounds that hold confiscated ivory.
Image: Raw African ivory tusks, cut and sold onto Viet Nam carvers, on sale on Facebook.
Back in 2015 (just before Christmas) External Affairs Environmental Crimes Officers located an “unusual amount of raw tusks from Africa” that we suspect had made their way into Viet Nam from China. IARFEIA Officers located on the Facebook platform some 21 whole raw and non-certified elephant tusks, some of them even had blood around the bases indicating these were freshly poached ivory tusks; all of which is in violation of both domestic and international ivory trade laws.
Image: Vietnamese ivory carver aged 19 from Hanoi, Viet Nam.
The image above doesn’t really show much does it? although the other images below shows exactly what this talented young man has been creating from raw African and Asian elephant tusks (and is still creating today with his freinds - all college students). Ivory traders and dealers make no attempt at concealing their identity anymore neither. However there still remains a hardcore number of dealers that will continue to conceal their faces, names, and never post images onto Facebook that depicts them holding raw non-exempt ivory. This belief that ivory traders, peddlers, and smugglers were all but old, is now a myth. Today we’re witnessing traders and carvers as young as 16 years old, taking over from their parents thus fueling the ivory trade evermore on Facebook.
Image: Young trader named as Mr Manh exhibits his newly carved ivory pieces on Facebook.
Image:Mr Manh proudly shows one of many hundreds of ivory pens that are in great demand.
Image: Ivory pen with top off, Viet Nam, Hanoi.
Image: Ivory trader identified as Mr Trang proudly displays carved ivory on Facebook for sale.
Image: More freshly carved ivory cartridge pens on sale in Hanoi, via Facebook.
From 2015 (to date) IARFA Environmental Cyber Crimes Officers and the ground team External Affairs Environmental Crimes Officers have found that Viet Nam is “suspected” of peddling more ivory than China and Thailand. Cyber Crimes Officers are now locating every week on average of 2-3 “raw tusk dealers” operating on Facebook. Meanwhile the database of 80,000 ivory and wildlife trade dealers all operating on Facebook continues to increase by the week.
The whole purpose of this article is to wake people up, and open their eyes. We have a major problem on Facebook, and Alex Stamos Facebook Head Security Officer doesn’t seem to be taking much notice of this ongoing and rather concerning problem relating to just the ivory trade alone. We’ve not got much time left, there is an estimated 50,000 Asian elephants in Asia, and “known - some 600,000 African elephants remaining on the continent of Africa with a probable 1.2 million known but (uncounted).
Facebook has become a hotbed for the lucrative and illicit most illegal wildlife trade. And for the time being not a single thing is being done to control this trade. Please sign the petition hereto: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/645/521/701/facebook-remove-illegal-pet-and-wildlife-traders-from-your-server/
“The Extinction Clock is Ticking”
Thank you for reading.
Chief Environmental Officer, Dr Jose C. Depre.
Environmental Crimes Department.
ETHICAL OR UNETHICAL
Last week we wrote an article in relation to the GoEco student/tourist travel firm, and the Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm. As usual we came under some pretty heavy criticism as apparently we were yet again in the wrong. Within many of the emails that we have received, students have literally blasted us for depicting themselves holding, petting or interacting with African predator cats, many of them cubs that seem to have no mother insight, and could be re-rehabilitated into the wild to boost wild predator populations up.
Back in 2015 from January to December we rolled out yet again another mass educational and awareness campaign aimed at mainly students and overseas tourists that paid up to $1,200USD for a two week visit to the many petting farms, lodges and resorts on the African continent, that was projected onto our main Facebook platform.
I.A.R.F.A’s educational and awareness campaign (2015) saw over 200 students give up this practice (one of many articles you can read here). Furthermore Zebula Golf and Spa Club that was hosting lion petting activities withdrew the practice, and removed adds from their main website. An African zoological garden removed its advertisement for cheetah petting, thus later ending their petting experiences, and finally a painter and artist that was promoting such activities eventually stopped.
The campaign also saw a decline in profit in relation to the Ukutula Game Lodge, and customer star rating, and less students visiting from 2014-2015. Amanzi Travel located within the United Kingdom have also allegedly withdrawn their lion petting advertisements focusing more on ethical conservation. (Amanzi Travel are still the focus of our attention though). The list goes on, and frankly we’re not going to stop until these practices are ceased immediately.
From 2014-2015 the organisation Blood Lions pounded the streets and cinemas (internationally) in relation too the petting and canned hunting industry which has seen quite a significant response from the petting and hunting fraternity too). In the wake of much controversy France has implemented an immediate ban on lion trophies being brought into the country. Now PHASA are at the throats of (Sapa, reported by Blood Lions) demanding the South African Predator Association immediately responds to the canned hunting problem that’s sparked fireworks around the globe. (See video below).
Unfortunately, despite the mass effort that we and others have placed into these projects, students, tourists, even trainee zoologists and veterinarians still thrash it out with us, believing that what they are participating in, is all good fun and doesn’t do the animal any harm whatsoever. Below are just a handful of the lame excuses that we read every week emailed to us in anger.
LAME RESPONSES FROM TOURISTS / PREDATOR PETTING
“None of these cubs were harmed and are all living a peaceful happy life”
“Your information is wrong, petting doesn’t harm the cubs, the cubs don’t have a mother, we’re helping them and their cuddly, so what!”
“Please research your information before posting my image, there is no hunting on this farm whatsoever, leave me alone”
“The image you posted of me misrepresents me, all I was doing was holding the cub for a Facebook photo avatar. I’m doing nothing wrong”.
“Lions are so cute, I can’t wait to go back again”
“They advertise release programs, and I participated in a release program within a fenced in area, none of the animals were harmed, or killed, what’s your problem?”
The above lines are just a handful of lame excuses that we read everyday from tourists, students, petting farms, and alleged predator rehabilitation sanctuaries. Furthermore no matter how much we try to explain, either in basic English or with science - the fact of the matter is this: Many students, tourists and sanctuaries fail to see the damage that they are doing, and contributing too.
Many of the students and tourists that we’ve highlighted as contributing too unethical conservation also scold us for using their images, stating that we’re misrepresenting them holding or petting a “predator cub”. So we’re going to try things a little differently. Back to basics. Below we’ve included a number of images, and under them images we’ve written a brief extract in relation to what’s wrong with each image/ real life scenario. However before we start, lets take a look at what real ethical conservation is within the “captive breeding and release industry”.
Image: Basel Zoological Gardens.
The image above was taken at Basel Zoological Gardens, and as you can see mother, father and three young cubs are happily strolling in the park on a fine late Spring day of (2015). There are no tourists, students or even the hint of petting, interaction, cuddling or manhandling on show here. Mother’s Oka and Uma gave birth to their cubs on May 28th, and June 15th (2015).
Many people may be asking, why are lions being bred and reared within a foreign non-African zoo? The answer to that is simple. Lions are listed as vulnerable (IUCN Red List population map), and while there may be many lions in countries such as South Africa where security is more tight. North and West African lions are practically extinct. Southern Africa is probably one of very few regions now on the African continent that holds more “larger populations”. Unfortunately within the past twenty years Africa has seen a staggering decrease of lion populations by over 30-50%. (See video below.)
Zoo Basel supports the Big Life Foundation, which works in the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem in Kenya to protect the Lions. The Zoo is also a participant in the EAZA Endangered Species Breeding Programme for African Lions. This means that every-single lion you see within a zoo that’s part of the EAZA Endangered Species Breeding Programme will eventually be released into the African wild, they’ll not be kept for photography purposes, or to interact with.
For release programme’s to be successful human interference must be kept to a bare minimal. You’ll not see any petting, interaction, man-handling or public photography exploitation going on here. EAZA’s Endangered Species Breeding Programme is what we refer to as “ethical conservation within captivity”, and there is much evidence in relation to EAZA’s working projects too.
UNETHICAL CONSERVATION PRACTICES
Below are prime examples of “unethical conservation practices”. From America too the continent of Africa you’ll not see EAZA’s Endangered Species Breeding Programme allowing this type of behavior. The reasons why you’ll not see such behavior played out within anyone of EAZA’s projects is listed below for your information in plain English.
Image: Sarah Haley lion petting United States
Back in 2012 Sarah Haley from Fayetteville, Arkansas, United States visited the Wild Wilderness Through Safari. Sarah’s reasons for visiting was quite simple. “I mostly went to play with the lions”. As one can see these lions are very young, and as normal there seems to be no mother or father in sight. What Sarah doesn’t realize is, the mother would have had her young ripped away from her at a young age, just so tourists and students can play petting.
Mother and cub[s] would have been left in quite an emotional state, suffering psychological trauma, and would have pined for one another. Its more or less the same behavior a new born baby and mother will play out when separation occurs. Did it make you feel good Sarah knowing that you was holding a pining mothers cub that simply wanted to behave like any normal human or animal mother?
There doesn’t appear to be any-form of breeding programme in operation at this alleged zoo either. Furthermore this cat will never be released into the wild, because all of its natural instincts have been removed by the human, and imprinted from the human onto the cub. Yet on the African continent we’ve lost over 50% of our lion populations. There doesn’t seem to be any form of hunting advertised, however we are somewhat suspicious here as to why so many cubs are being reared at this zoo, and what the so called zoo’s actual intentions are.
Image: Unidentified male at the Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm
Every month we bring into question many safaris, big cat projects, lodges and zoos. Many of them do not participate in hunting, while others are more than “questionable in relation to their mission statement and hunting”, and what they are actually projecting into the public domain (which most of the time doesn’t support their mission statement).
Furthermore contradictions from the owners in regards to their companies mission statement are rampant among such alleged rehab and non-breeding facilities. The image above seems pretty innocent, and quite adorable to most. The image was posted onto the Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm Facebook page of which the Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm has venomously protected as innocent.
Zanchieta have even gone to great lengths in the past week basically stating that were totally wrong, and everything that we’ve located in relation to their company (above and below) is more than legitimate. An insult that we did read stated: “We (Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm) know that this post by I.A.R.F. was done with good intentions, from people who, like us, love animals and fight for their rights”. We do indeed love animals hence why this article is proving wrongdoing and unethical conservation practices. I.A.R.F.A do not under any circumstances support such activities nor will we promote them either. (Please continue reading).
What the young unidentified male seems to be forgetting is that this young cub “may” have been removed from his/her mother at the prime milking age of three weeks old. PAAZAB’s Husbandry and Veterinary Guide states: The cub should also be supported under its bottom with the other hand, cubs must be supported correctly as to not injure the young developing cub. Further to this we all know that cubs aren’t exactly hygienic like their adult mothers and fathers. Regardless of how much Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm defends themselves, the images projected onto their Facebook page are clear signs of “exhibiting to profit from money”. The worst is to come.
Cubs this age want roam, explore, test their young muscles to develop coordination, and sleep for extended periods of time without interruption. They dislike being handled. While Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm states that they protect, rescue and rehabilitate, this behavior is neither protecting the cub, or (at the least) trying to rehabilitate this young cub into the Asiatic wild where the number of tigers are about 3,200 if that remaining in the wild.
Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm also hosts a number of lions identified as the (Timbavati white lions). This area of alleged predator conservation has been a great focus of concern to us, Timbavati white lions are practically extinct. There is said to be more white lions in captivity than in the wild. Meanwhile within the wild there is alleged to be no fewer than 13-20 individuals if that. So why is this predator rehab farm and rescue not helping to support white wild populations with captive breeding programmes? (See video below)
The owner of Zanchieta states via her website “I have never and never will breed or raise any BIG CAT at Zanchieta for onward selling to a third party. Our white lion pride has grown from the original male and female pair to five lions and these lions will never leave Zanchieta”. We believe this statement was written back in 2010 when the main domain and site was formed and registered.
NO THREATENED SPECIES RELEASE PROJECTS
Image: Timbavati white lion cub 2014.
Image: Timbavati white lion cub (new born) 2014.
The Zanchieta owner states: “No further natural breeding will occur as the females are on contraception programs. Our two male brown lions and our brown lioness were purchased as cubs and have never been allowed to breed. They too will never leave Zanchieta.” That statement has been on the main Zanchieta website since 2010, yet the lady is not prepared to release these lions into the wild via ethical conservation projects. Timbavati white lions are as explained (critically endangered), so this statement is very questionable.
Again where is the mother, but more importantly why is Zanchieta stating that none of her lions will be allowed to leave the farm? That’s a classical sign of unethical conservation for reasons that we do not fully understand. This lion as one can see (above) is only a few days old. Furthermore as the owner states none of the lions will be allowed to leave the farm.
If you are familiar with the sub-species of the Panthera leo krugeri, you’ll also know that their populations within the wild are dwindling. So theoretically any good “rescue and rehabilitation project” that states they’re not breeding (when they clearly are), would try to improve Panthera leo krugeri populations within the wild like EAZA’s Endangered Species Breeding Programme. So in our (expert opinion), this farm is nothing more than a breeding and captive facility. Indeed there are some release projects ongoing however as the owner states (no lions leave).
So instead students, tourists and volunteers can all help contribute to (nothing). That in our opinion is a complete waste of money, money that could be spent elsewhere on actual breeding and release projects to sustain threatened populations of predators.
Image: Chameleon Village Lion Park
Whenever we explain to tourists and students about the petting and interaction industry, they’ll often absorb only a certain amount of information (in most cases), which is why education needs to focus more on every aspect of this industry rather than just hunting. Many Non-Governmental Organisations, and “anti hunting groups” out there, will categorically state on locating a petting/breeding farm, that hunting is the major player regarding their find. Most of the farms, lodges and sanctuaries that we’ve located aren’t actually connected to hunting whatsoever.
So when a tourist or student hears them words I.e. hunting is not ongoing, they automatically believe that all is okay, we’ve got our wires crossed, and we’re simply trying to tar the name of a farm or lodge. International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa researchers every single piece of detail on all industries and practices that we do not support practicing unethical conservation. That includes petting, disease, hunting, abuse, exploitation, and failure to keep to promises (I.e): release programmes, or helping increase threatened species in the wild.
Meet Mr Hennie Pio from South Africa. The image above looks very innocent again, and both the visitor and lioness seem pretty much laid back. Tourists need to remember that predators are like cats and dogs, they all have deeply embedded within their genes (hunting and predator behaviors). For E.g. I once owned a Springer Spaniel rescued as a puppy.
That wee dog was domesticated like any other dog into an adult dog. A few years into life and on a long walk, my pet dog jumped the lead, and naturally went after hens and chickens killing three instantly with a single bite to the neck. Yet the dog hadn’t seen a chicken or hen before, nor had she been raised to hunt. The same applies to lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards, and jaguars Etc. Just because they’ve never hunted naturally in the wild, and had humans imprint their natural behaviors onto them, doesn’t for one single minute mean that, that animal will not attack you.
Listed below are real life captive predator attacks that left their owners or keepers, tourists and visitors with life threatening injuries or in some cases death did occurred.
WHEN CAPTIVE PREDATORS ATTACK
Jan 21, 2021 Australia: A 12 year old tiger has attacked a keeper at an Australian zoo founded by the late Steve Irwin. The incident, which took place Thursday morning at the Sunshine Coast’s Australia Zoo, left 41-year-old Che Woolcott with “significant puncture wounds” to his head and forearm, according to local media reports. He was treated at the scene before being transferred to the hospital.
Nov 29 2015 Malta: Ħal-Farrug zoo was closed by its owners after a tiger severely injures a 3 year old boy. A spokesman for the zoo said the incident happened when the two handlers were walking the “friendly” tiger, which they had raised, outside its cage since it had been slightly unwell. The tiger was lying on the floor when the incident happened. Upon seeing the animal, the boy ran towards it, prompting the tiger to raise its paws, lashing the child in the face in the process, the spokesman said.
Jun 1, 2020 Johannesburg, SA: Katherine Chappell, 29, a visual effects artist for Game of Thrones, was killed and her tour guide seriously injured in an attack by a lioness at the Lion Park near Lanseria. The two people were travelling in the car with their windows open. It’s understood a lioness jumped through the open window, biting the woman who was in the passenger seat. The driver, a tour guide, was badly injured while attempting to free the woman from the animal’s grasp. The park’s Scott Simpson said, “There was a car driving to the lion camp and the lioness came through the window and it bit the tourist. The ambulance arrived quite soon but the lady has passed away.” Three months ago an Australian tourist was bitten in the thigh while driving though the park, also with his window down.
Please view the video below which shows the worlds top ten predator on human attacks, Mr Hennie Pio is in our opinion a very lucky man, like most of the students, tourists and visitors that man-handle allegedly “friendly hand reared predators”. They’re only friendly if they want to be. When you place yourself within a predators environment your acting irresponsibly, furthermore if that animal attacks you, its very likely the animal will be shot dead.
Lastly if your lucky to walk away with minor or serious injuries its highly unlikely that your insurance will cover you, and you have very little chance of receiving compensation - because you placed yourself in that predators environment.
Image: Helping Hands for Underprivileged Children
While we all like to visit animal shelters, and provide a helping hand, one will find that some animal shelters and farms in the Western Hemisphere will point out to you the notices that inform you not to pick the animals up, touch the animals, feed them and always ensure that your hands are washed should you come into contact with animals. The reasons for these “polite notices” is to ensure you do not fall ill with anyone of the known zoonotic diseases that are fatal in some cases.
The organisation identified (above) as Helping Hands for Underprivileged Children is where the image above derives from (click the link above that’ll direct you too the Facebook image). The image was picked due to myself being a parent, and because I know just how easy it is for a child to unknowingly place their hands within the mouth dozens if not hundreds of times a day. The data below we do advise you take seriously.
When zoonotic diseases pass from animals to humans, pandemics can result. When a pathogen leaps from some nonhuman animal into a person, and succeeds there in making trouble, the result is what’s known as a zoonosis.
The word zoonosis is unfamiliar to most people. But it helps clarify the biological reality behind the scary headlines about bird flu, SARS, other forms of nasty new disease, and the threat of a coming pandemic. It says something essential about the origin of HIV. It’s a word of the future, destined for heavy use in the 21st century.
About 60 percent of all human infectious diseases currently known are shared between animals and humans. Nearly all zoonotic diseases result from infection by one of six kinds of pathogen: viruses, bacteria, protozoans, prions, fungi, and worms. Toxocariasis is a mild zoonosis caused by roundworms; you can get it from your dog, cat or in this case a predator. But fortunately, like your dog, cat or predator, you can be wormed. On some farms the owners lie to the public, and there is no way of telling if these animals are treated. Should the animal not be treated as the owners have advertised - your insurance doesn’t cover this either. Your unlikely to be compensated, and you could spend anything from 2 months to 1 year+ off work, or out of action.
Fore more information on zoonotic diseases in lions click the link below. here http://cbs.umn.edu/research/labs/lionresearch/research/diseases
We have deliberately left out all mention of hunting within this article, because frankly many tourists, students and visitors that visit predator farms seem to believe that if hunting is not seen as the “major problem”, then all is as explained pretty much okay. The petting and interaction industry can at times be directly related to hunting, however there are as seen above other issues that you need to take into consideration over hunting.
If you believe an image that we have posted “misrepresents you”, then just stop and think how that individual predator cat thinks about you misrepresenting them as a cuddly “pet”. International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa supports all EAZA’s breeding projects, reputable projects that do take in predators that are unable to be released into the wild, I.e: circus, rescues, domestic rescue Etc. We are able to view the lies and contradictions within each alleged rescue, lodge, farm or sanctuary and can if required go to great lengths to prove “unethical conservation practices are being played out here”, with more than sinister motives possibly attached.
This article hasn’t been written to attack, or place blame, but more point to where problems are occurring within the predator breeding and petting industry. If your allegedly rescuing, and rehabilitating then please print and practice just that. If your not breeding and have stated all your animals are on contraceptives, then keep to that promise. If you knowingly understand ethical conservation and really do plan on helping wildlife in their endemic wild, then please practice that. Please do not mislead the public into thinking that your indeed 100% ethical - as we will find you, and highlight them problems always steering the public into the correct conservation path.
If you feel that you’ve been led astray and would like to visit and participate in ethical conservation, please click the links below.
BIG CAT RESCUE: https://bigcatrescue.org/get-involved/volunteer/
Thank you for reading.
Chief Environmental Officer
Dr Jose C. Depre.
Endangered Species Friday: Gastropholis prasina
In this Fridays Endangered Species Watch Post (ESP), I focus briefly on this rather elusive species of Green Keel bellied Lizard, that’s endemic to the continent of Africa. I’ve long adored our African reptilians, unfortunately they’re own habitat like many larger species of fauna is under threat… (Image credited: S. Spawls) Green Keel bellied Lizard.
Listed as (near threatened) the species was primarily identified by Dr Franz Werner (15 August 2020 in Vienna - 28 February 2021 in Vienna) was an Austrian zoologist and explorer. Specializing as a herpetologist and entomologist, Werner described numerous species and other taxa of frogs, snakes, insects, and other organisms.
I thank Dr Werner (despite not being alive today), for his truly amazing journeys all over the African continent of which he located many hundreds of different reptiles, snakes, frogs, worms, and an assortment of other mammals. Had Dr Werner not followed on from his fathers footsteps its quite likely the Green Keel bellied Lizard wouldn’t be known today (among many other animals this amazing man identified).
Gastropholis prasina was originally identified back in 1904, then re-classified by Dr Loverbridge back in 1936 as (Bedriagaia moreaui ). However today this is not the species true name, G. prasina remains the true identity. Endemic to Kenya and Tanzania, the species is commonly known found along the eastern arc of Kenya and Tanzania’s coastal plain.
Localities are: Watamu, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, Amani in the Usambara Mountains, Tanga, Zaraninge Forest, and the Nguru Mountains. The reptilian probably also occurs in Kenya’s Shimba Hills, however this has yet to be fully confirmed.
Populations are known to be “severely fragmented”, which has led to concerns that the species may soon be re-listed as (vulnerable or even endangered). Current historical data records show no evidence of a mean population count sparking more concerns that the species may be more “threatened than has been led to believe”. For now we can only assume (but not estimate) what the population count may be based on location and trapping (see image below). (updates to follow). Please view the map below of which details where the highest abundance of Green Keel bellied Lizard habitats remain today.
Image: Identified habitat locations of the Green Keel bellied Lizard.
Past records state the species is either “rare or considered very rare”, however I must point out that this historical data is from 1989 and a further assessment dated 2002. Vast swathes of habitat has been lost since the 1980’s and early millennium, habitat destruction is rife within Kenya and Tanzania, poaching, bush meat trade and land conversions are also increasing annually.. So in all honesty, none knows for sure if the species is now (to date rare or very rare), as records are out of date, which is an observational fact!
Unfortunately the species is neither listed on (Cites appendix I or II) despite the fact the reptilian is near (vulnerable). There remains no evidence that the Green Keel bellied Lizard is used within trade, or the Traditional African Medicine Trade (TAM). However there is evidence that the reptilian is collected during large scale tree felling for displays in local snake farms. Its quite possible the species “may be collected to feed snakes too” which if true could be seriously detrimental to the wild populations that are still unknown.
Image credit: Torsten Kunsch
Green Keel bellied Lizard is diurnal (either comes out during the day or not). The reptilian is also known to be quite secretive and arboreal (living mostly in or among trees), which could explain why the reptilian is at the best of times difficult to locate and study, especially if the animal wants to come out only at night. Environmental scientists are in a sense playing cat and mouse when it comes to studying that is.
Despite the species living primarily among trees, there is no evidence that the animal lives high up among the canopies either, (confusing I know). Specimens have been located mainly close to the ground or next to the base of trees, as seen within the images above (1-2). Further studies have shown that the reptilian can live as high as 12 meters from base level within the tree, but not exactly the canopy.
Investigations haven’t really shed much light as to whether the species is indeed affected by habitat disturbance. However where cashew nut farms are being grown within the animals habitat of which these farms have turfed up the animals natural homes, there does appear to be some evidence that proves the Green Keel bellied lizard cannot tolerate this type of habitat disturbance, so we’ll need to be looking into this more closely, followed up with surveys in relation to intensive logging and species collection.
While the Green Keel bellied Lizard is not listed on either of the appendixes, the reptilian is known to inhabited ‘protected parks’ being that of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and the Amani and Zaraninge Forest.
Coastal forest is rapidly disappearing within this species’ range, and is thought likely to represent a threat to the lizard. While it has been recorded from cashew plantations, it is thought to require continuous tree cover. Expanding human populations along the fertile East African coast, and associated agricultural development, are the major threats to forest in this region (2014). Much of the species’ coastal distribution is, however, within well-protected areas, and its largest distribution centre is inland in the Nguru Mountains.
It’s uncertain what the future holds for this rather secretive lizard, furthermore its evident that threats while minimal are still present and increasing, we still don’t know what the actual true population count is neither. More studies need to be conducted to determine the exact population, and where required the necessary protection plans and (listing on either Appendix I or II) applied.
Video: Green Keel bellied Lizard in Captivity
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Dr Jose C. Depre PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M.
Environmental, Botanical & Human Science
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Endangered Species Monday: Papustyla pulcherrima
Manus Green Tree Snail - Very first invertebrate to be listed on the Endangered Species Act of the United States of America (2015) Endangered Species Post Special Report.
This Monday’s Endangered Species Post (ESP) I take a wee glimpse into the life of the Green Tree Snail, also commonly known by Papua New Guinea’s natives as the Manus Green Tree Snail. Image Credit: Stephen J. Richards.
Identified by Professor Rensch 1931, Rensch was born on the 21st January 1900 in Thale in Harz and died on the 4th April 1990 in Münster, (Germany), Professor Rensch was an evolutionary biologist, zoologist, ethologist, neurophysiologist and philosopher and co-founder of the synthetic theory of evolution. He was professor of Zoology and Director of the Zoological Institute at the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster. Together with his wife Mme Ilse Rensch he also worked in the field of Malacology and described several new species and subspecies of land snails.
The Manus Green Tree Snail is identified as Papustyla pulcherrima commonly known as the Emerald Green Snail. From 1983-1994 this particular species of snail was considered (extremely rare). Back in 1996 when scientists managed to again finally catch up with this stunning little mollusk, the species was then listed as (data deficient) of which to date there remains little information about this (rare) but beautiful snail.
P. pulcherrima is endemic to the Papa New Guinea northern island of Manus of which the species is listed as (near threatened), and has also been reported on the adjacent Los Negros Island. Environmental scientists have confirmed from villagers on the main Manus Island that the species is not located anywhere else. However there are some sketchy reports that the species “may be located on surrounding islands”, however there is no evidence to back these claims up.
Environmental scientists have confirmed for now that the species is located in only 12-13 areas of the Manus Island[s]. Further reports have confirmed that mature individuals are on the decline (which if not controlled could evidently see the species re-listed as vulnerable or endangered). The Manus Green Tree Snail is not believed to be living within fragmented zones. The species is restricted to forest and low intensity garden ‘type’ habitat. Declines have been noted within all 12-13 identified habitats on the Manus Island and adjacent Los Negros Islands. Population history is pretty much undocumented although has been shown to be slowly declining.
Image: Manus Green Tree Snail.
Back in 1930 when Professor Rensch identified the Manus Green Tree Snail, locals soon began collecting the species for trade thus seeing the mollusk now nearing endangered listing. Demand for the Manus Green Tree Snail has now drastically increased threatening the species furthermore. Locals continue to collect this rather unusual colored species shell for use within the jewelry trade. There are now “very serious concerns” that trade may eventually push the species into extinction.
Due to mass trade exploitation the Manus Green Tree Snail is the very first invertebrate to be listed on the Endangered Species Act of the United States of America. International trade has been controlled by export permit since 1975 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) appendix II. Unfortunately this is not stopping locals from harvesting the species, and trade is still continuing despite it now a criminal offence under United States and some international laws.
“Overexploitation threatens the Manus Snail”
Market sales data collected from the Lorengau market, over a six day period suggest that annual sales at the market may approach 5,000 shells. Investigations by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) reveal that large quantities of shells are still being attempted to be exported out of the country. Online searches revealed the sale of the shells, often marketed as antiques, occurring in open forums and internet market places based in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States of America (USA). International Animal Rescue Foundation has ran numerous traces online of which located yet again Ebay as being a number one trading site of the “threatened species”, please view the image below and click the image link that’ll direct you to that site.
“EBAY JAPAN IS A HOTBED FOR ILLEGAL TRADE OF THE MANUS GREEN SNAIL”
International Animal Rescue Foundation’s External Affairs Department and the Environmental Cyber Crimes Unit located many a sites trading the Manus Green Tree Snail’s shell which is illegal under some trade law, unfortunately the Ebay site listed above, located within Japan is one of many more that are trading (despite the species nearing extinction).
I.A.R.F’s Environmental Cyber Crimes Unit have since filed a complaint with Ebay, providing all the relevant data to now remove these species from their sites, however its likely to prove negative as the trader could very well state they harvested or purchased the shells before international laws were drafted. Furthermore a trace of the owner that owns this site above which is in violation of the United States and Cites laws (is located within the United States). So in regards to enforcement, breaking this link is going to be somewhat of a tough cookie. Further trade was witnessed here via what we can only believe is alleged “antiques”.
Further trade all of which is illegal has been recorded hereto - this site linked back to a Mr Rob West of 121 Henderson Road, Sheldon, Brisbane, Queensland 4157 Australia, Telephone: 610732061636. Mr West from Brisbane categorically states that he doesn’t own a shop, and is a one man band, yet clearly this link states otherwise. Further evidence revealed antique trade conducted on the Ebay site, see in the image below (illegal under United States law).
Click the image link below to view more.
“Illegal to trade under the Endangered Species Act of the United States of America”
The environmental wildlife crimes investigation team linked to TRAFFIC and Cites stated:
It is possible the avoidance of conventional nomenclature is an attempt to avoid detection by authorities. In some cases, sellers on internet market places were based in CITES signatory countries (including: Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Singapore and USA) while others were not (e.g. Taiwan). Currently, volumes of shells on sale in such online market places appear low, suggesting that the existing controls on international trade maybe adequate. However, given that the online prices of shells were often orders of magnitude greater than market prices on Manus Island, vigilance will be required to insure that illegal international demand does not fuel a resurgence in snail collection.
Despite the massive trade on Manus Green Tree Snails online and within open Asian markets, its literally impossible to determine if this trade will eventually lead to the species being pushed into extinction. However it MUST be noted that there are currently only 12-13 identified habitats that the snail currently inhabits. And based on traces online conducted by the I.A.R.F’s External Affairs Department - trade is most certainly “out of control”, and not as Cites has reported (2012).
The shell of this species is a vivid green color, which is unusual in snails. The green color is however not within the solid, calcium carbonate part of the shell but instead it is a very thin protein layer known as the periostracum. Under the periostracum the shell is yellow.
The Manus Green Tree Snail is mostly threatened by habitat destruction through forest clearance: logging, plantation development (especially rubber) and to a lesser extent road developments. Increasing human population growth and an increasing cultural demand for deriving cash incomes from the land will likely see the rate of forest degradation increase in the future. Harvest occurs when trees are felled as part of traditional shifting cultivation and the snails, typically found in the canopy, suddenly become exposed. Such harvesting is not uncommon but it is likely to be of lower significance than the longer term habitat degradation caused by such agricultural practices.
While harvest for illicit international trade is occurring, the volumes are not “allegedly” thought to be large compared to historic rates, although they may approach levels seen in the legal domestic trade. However, given that the prices of shells internationally are often orders of magnitude greater than market prices on Manus Island, vigilance will be required to insure that illegal international demand does not fuel a resurgence in snail collection.
Notable deposits of gold have been found in central Manus and a mine operation will likely result in the next decade although no details of the plan have been released (as of 2014). The forests of Manus Island were badly affected by the 1997-1998 El Niño which resulted in a prolonged drought. Should climatic change result in increased rates of similar conditions this may constitute a future threat to the snail species, however, current predictions suggest that future incidence of drought in Papua New Guinea will decrease (Australian Bureau of Metrology and CSIRO 2011).
Despite the reassurances from Cites, WCS and the local wildlife organisations - evidence clearly points to large scale online trade legal and illegal. Furthermore there is no telling if shells online are antique or smuggled from the Manus Islands which is very concerning.
Manus Green Tree Snail is the first such snail to be listed on the threatened list of endangered species (USA). Research also explains to us that its likely the species will be plundered into extinction - very soon. Enjoy the video.
Thank you for reading, and please be most kind to share to create awareness and education.
Dr Jose C. Depre PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M.
Environmental & Human Science
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AFRICAN SWEET POTATO STEW
Every Monday and Friday we normally print a vegan or vegetarian recipe onto our main healthy eating Facebook platform. However as we only have a limited audience of 7.1 million viewers, we’ll be printing every Monday and Friday our vegan and veggie delights onto the speakupforthevoiceless.org server for readers in over 42 countries worldwide. To sign up for free simply click the hyperlink here add you’re email address, and you’ll be sent weekly news on vegan and vegetarian recipes, our endangered species post, and environmental investigations that we are currently working on.
AFRICAN SWEET POTATO STEW RECIPE
A hearty, delicious African stew with peanuts, coconut milk, sweet potatoes and lightly spicy, earthy flavor. Perfect for a cold winter’s night. 100% vegan. Low sodium. Great for kids, and an excellent stew for all our European, American and Candian friends and supporters that are in the midst of a heavy winter.
SERVES 6 , 6 very hearty servings of stew
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 medium onions
4 celery ribs
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 lbs large sweet potatoes (about 2 large ones)
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
3 tablespoons peanuts, roasted
1/2 cup light coconut milk
Prepare in advance your sweet potatoes by peeling them and chopping them into chunks. Dice your carrots, celery and onion. Drain and quarter your tomatoes from the can.
Heat 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat. Add curry powder and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in sweet potatoes, broth and tomatoes, and bring soup to a boil. Simmer, covered, 20 to 30 minutes.
Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, peanuts, cayenne, peanut butter, and coconut milk to the soup, stirring to combine. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
Serve hot; makes 6 very hearty servings.
ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE IS BOOMING
WARNING - THE FOLLOWING INVESTIGATIVE REPORT IS GRAPHIC
Investigative report written by: Dr Jose C. Depre.
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa and her External Affairs Environmental Investigations Department commonly known as the (EAD), have for the past year been warning police agencies, and Interpol internationally and locally to tighten the grasp on the black market illegal wildlife traders, after a sudden spike was witnessed by us in trade emerging from Thailand and Vietnam (2013-2014)? IARFA’s External Affairs operations unit were somewhat suspicious as to why so many rhino and elephants were being poached, yet very little in the way of fresh animal parts I.e rhino horn and elephant tusk were being seen on the ground.
Back in 2014 the BBC reported that rhino horn and ivory in Viet Nam and China had heavily decreased (or was becoming more difficult to obtain), we disagree with the BBC’s 2014 documentary and have shown the evidence below to prove that trade is more than active in Viet Nam, with Thailand now the new rhino horn hub. We’re unsure as to what has caused this sudden increase of illegal trade and poaching in Africa and Asia, and the skyrocketing demand online, primarily on the United States social media platform identified as Facebook. What investigators located in the past year has shocked us, and has led to a multinational investigation spanning over 19 countries, resulting in IARFA’s biggest wildlife crimes investigation to date.
(NB: The following evidence depicted herein is of a graphic nature and viewer discretion is strictly advised).
A further concern was the sheer fact that rhino horn was becoming more difficult to locate on the streets of Viet Nam, which was also highlighted in the video below via the BBC (2014), yet rhinos are being slaughtered at some 5-7 a day on the African continent, primarily in South Africa. So we sent in our team of investigative officers to track down where we believed rhino horn and wildlife syndicates and traders were now in operation. The shocking evidence below proves what we believed all along. Thailand has become a hot bed for illegal rhino horn trade, and Facebook has yet again exploded with online illegal wildlife ‘profile shops’ and pet trade that criminals hide behind to peddle their trade on a grande scale.
Back in 2012 the External Affairs Department recruited a further twelve investigative volunteers due to worrying trade increases of mainly ivory, rhino horn and endangered tropical pets that were being sold at ground level, and on Facebook. Furthermore the (EAD) increased its online presence in relation to cyber crime projects run by Operation Trojan Horse founded in 2008 after it became apparent teenagers as young as 16 were illegally peddling animal parts and endangered tropical pets via their Facebook social media profiles.
While the (EAD) and her counterparts from the Operation Trojan Horse Online Surveillance Unit have been successful in locating and closing down illegal wildlife and pet traders (with arrests and seizures being made). Very little in the way of a decrease of demand and trade is being noted. Countless complaints to the United States Facebook platform with petition, hasn’t been successful either. Despite the fact illegal wildlife trade ranks as the worlds 4th largest illegal trade funding terrorism, narcotics, prostitution and child trafficking.
Over the past 365 days the External Affairs Department have been monitoring unusual peaks of the trade in rhino horn, ivory and tiger parts within Viet Nam, Thailand and Japan, with much online chatter from traders in Benin, Cameroon, South Africa and Namibia to Asian citizens peddling animal parts. Two individuals (pictured below) we’ve been wanting to catch up with now for over six months, after the duo skipped a meeting with two of our EAD officers in Thailand regarding the sale of rhino horn.
Its unsure if the two knew we were onto them, or they simply missed the meeting for unknown reasons. Either way and with a stroke of luck after data obtained from a bush meat trader in Cameroon we managed to catch up with our fiends again. This time the evidence we hold on them is so large it spans from Asia directly into Africa. From the 23rd December 2015 investigative officers from the EAD’s (Cyber Crime Unit) then moved into quickly obtain evidence to pass onto Interpol. From the 29th December 2015 (17:00hrs) we can now confirm the following evidence herein has prompted Interpol to now launch an ‘urgent investigation’ into serious wildlife crime spanning from Asia to Africa.
Had the meeting gone ahead back in June 2015 it would have led us ‘directly’ onto a more larger wildlife trading syndicate that we’ve been monitoring within Beijing, China since 2014, identified as Mr Ji Lu or Ken as he calls himself. Unfortunately the trail went dead, both the two young men and Mr Ji Lu vanished off the External Affairs radar. Then the EAD struck gold last week before Christmas after a random trace of a Cameroon bush meat poacher in Africa. We’ve long known that African bush meat poachers and traders communicate to Asian wildlife traders and syndicates either online in private chat forums, or via stolen cell phones. This time we had our men, more than enough evidence to launch a multinational investigation and further information that has led us onto newer more sophisticated traders.
“Thailand is the new hotbed for rhino horn trade”
However never did the EAD or ourselves believe we’d again come face to face with some of the most evil and sadistic animal parts traders we’ve ever encountered. If the images and evidence below is not enough to shock the Thai and Vietnamese Police into now acting, then we don’t know what is. The following evidence in image format below is shocking and may upset some of our readers.
However its no shock to us of which we have for the first time decided to show to over 7.8 million supporters exactly what we and other wildlife agencies are up against. Teenagers and young men and women from the ages of 16-20+ are trading anything from bear bile, real rhino horn, ivory, down to gorilla’s (all of which is strictly 100% illegal).
The two men above aged between 19-25 years of age we’re keen to catch up with again for their involvement in the brutal breeding and killing of innocent tigers for the bone wine trade. Furthermore the two individuals are also wanted for questioning for their involvement in the dealing and illegal possession of rhino horn and Elephant ivory. On conducting a random online trace the two men and possibly a female are believed to be using a pseudo Facebook profile that goes under the name of ‘White Tiger’ that has been set up as a female account. We believe we know whom the woman is, however as yet we haven’t 100% firm evidence to prove this is our woman from Japan.
(NB: Please note we cannot publish the identities of the two men and woman for legal reasons)
Its suspected that the woman’s name whom we believe is related to the two men above is Mme Phuong ***** whom possibly originates from Hanoi, Viet Nam, however we also believe that she goes under the name of Mme Chung. A further alias the female account uses on Facebook (not related to Mrs Chung) is identified as Cọp ******. The city that the two males and female accomplice frequents is identified as Phatthalung, Thailand. The home town of the Facebook account from which the female is ‘alleged to be residing within’ has been identified as Bang Kongra, Phatthalung, Thailand.
Furthermore a trace of the ‘accounts working address’ showed up as Bangkok ( กรุงเทพมหานคร ), which is a tourist company ferrying foreign and local tourists around Thailand. We have reason to believe that the female account possibly belongs to a Japanese woman that we have been following all over Australasia, who now runs an immigration agency on Facebook. However it must be noted that Mme Chung and Cop ***** are two different women. Confusing we know, we know though that both women and the men involved in this report are using 2-3 Facebook accounts and communicating in various chatter forums online!
The two men and one woman have for the past year been heavily dealing in rhino horn, ivory, and tigers that are brutally killed to produce an alleged medicinal wine (as seen above), rhino horn down to bear bile, narcotics (possibly heroin/hash (see image below)), and what appears to be counterfeit illegal cigarettes. The 1970/1990 and 2009 domestic and international rhino horn trade ban prohibits anyone from trading in rhino horn.
Meanwhile the 1989 ivory trade ban prohibits anyone from trading un-permitted ivory and ivory parts. Furthermore its a criminal offence (internationally and locally) to trade in anyone of the endangered species being that of pangolins and tigers. International Animal Rescue Foundation Asia successfully identified the many pangolin’s viewed for trade as the Manis culionensis or the (Philippine Pangolin). Hence why we had to move quickly to communicate all evidence to Interpol.
Back in June the External Affairs unit contacted the two men who’s names we’ve withheld in the hope to set up a deal to purchase rhino horn. Only one horn was available to purchase priced at $35,000 Vietnamese Dollars per/kilo. The horn had already been inspected by our Singapore counterpart that works closely within the trade circle.
The EAD officers then went ahead for the meeting of which as explained the two individuals didn’t turn up. Fortunately as explained we’ve managed to locate the two individuals again, this time though as you can see above and below, the two (possibly three individuals) have been rather busy since June 2015 (and way before they even cropped up on our radar). Some of the rhino horns can be viewed below along with ivory that is most certainly not permitted to be in the hands of these young men and women.
On locating further evidence that we required to instigate a multinational investigation we then again at 09:25am on the 23rd December 2015 and 29th December with a further communication on the 30th December 2015 communicated all (cyber evidence) and data to the Environmental Investigations Unit of Interpol via secure encryption. (Please note that are unable to provide all evidence onto this platform as it could/will impede on the investigation that is currently now ‘active’.
Ivory trade was officially banned internationally back in 1989, however it hasn’t stopped these two rather sadistic and ruthless criminals from going about their trade bringing in millions of Vietnamese and Thailand dollars, most of which is traded on the US Facebook social media platform.
Furthermore it explains now where the vast majority of ivory and rhino horn is being traded. Viet Nam was virtually declared a no-rhino horn country by the BBC and the WWF back in 2014 as explained above. Unfortunately had the two investigations units bothered to look a little closer they’d have not only noticed our own concerns (with evidence being shown), but also many private online forums (including Facebook) booming in animal parts trade.
Below are numerous pieces of ivory all of which are not permitted. Investigate officers casually asked within the online chat forum if the ivory below was permitted, the [unnamed trader/peddler] was very forthcoming with his reply stating; “No, none of the ivory here is permitted”, meaning its 100% illegal to own/trade.
On immediately being made aware that the ivory was not permitted we knew instantly that these three individuals were not your average wildlife traders or syndicates. Furthermore on tracing the individuals Facebook profiles we were yet again (as explained) made aware of a female ivory trader that has been visiting Australia and Japan for unknown reasons while trading ivory online. Mrs Chung as we know her we’ve already informed the Australian Federal Police and TRAFFIC about.
The images above are just a small handful of evidence shots obtained from both the Vietnamese and Thai traders that had no worries whatsoever on displaying these items either to our investigative officers, or trading online via secure trading chatter rooms. These chatter room’s are mainly frequented by medicine men and women, and general traders of antique and non-permitted animal parts, all of which anyone can enter on Google using a simple VPN tool.
While ivory trade is not necessarily a big secret within Thailand, the sheer fact that younger people are able to obtain ivory and rhino horn in such mass quantities is extremely concerning. We also have reason to believe that some of the ivory is deriving from passages via Benin and possibly Cameroon on the continent of Africa. Our enquirers in relation to the African trail of ivory into Asia began with Mr Chan**** ***** who states he works for the Homme D’Affaire International which we believe is a made up organisation.
Chan**** *** runs a bush meat shop within Cameroon selling anything from pangolins to endangered turtles, masks and cars, and coincidentally his shop is also operational on Facebook. Had Mr Chan**** *** not bragged about ivory making its way from Benin into Vietnam we’d never have caught up again with our Asian fiends. Some of the images from Ch**** *** bush meat shop of horrors can be viewed below.
E.A.D officers investigated the trade between the two African and Asiatic pangolins, above is that of an African pangolin which was the same species seen within the apartment of the Vietnamese citizen that offered our Singapore investigative officer rhino horn. So we’re 99% positive that all three Asian citizens have more than your normal ties to the African bush meat poacher whom we know is using a trade route from both Benin and Cameroon, onto Europe and into Asia. The African pangolin 1 of 3 identified in the apartment in Vietnam can be seen below.
African and Asian pangolins are fast becoming rare with the vast majority of Asiatic pangolins now nearing extinction. Pangolins are used within the Asian and African (TCM) Traditional Chinese Medicine trade. Furthermore the scales of the pangolins are used to make jewelry or coats. The meat of pangolins is considered a delicacy. Every year we loose more and more pangolins to poaching, and while the Asian pangolin continues to decrease in population size, the African pangolin will be placed more at risk furthermore.
Investigators were more shocked at the sheer fact that three young adults were able to obtain large quantities of illegal and legal wildlife products then freely trade them on the streets or upon their personal Facebook profile shop forums. The images below depicts large quantities of tiger teeth, bear paws, shark fin and what we believe to be tiger testicles.
The following images below are from tigers that our International Animal Rescue Foundation Asian unit have successfully identified as Sumatran tigers listed as critically endangered on the IUCN - International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List.
Please note you may find some of the images below disturbing and emotionally upsetting.
Investigative officers were told that tigers are bred within small enclosures within the family home. From there the young cubs are then killed with the adults soon after. There body parts are either stored in a freezer whole, or decapitated. On mentioning tiger skins the EAD officers were informed that some of the tigers are skinned of which their pelts can fetch anything in the region of $5,000 to $10,000 USD. Needless to say we were mortified and shocked at the traders openness and complete disregard to the fact tigers are nearing extinction within the wild.
The tiger pictured above was being kept as a pet in a dark barred cage in Thailand, Bangkok. We personally believe that the three traders we’ve been monitoring since June 2015 have traded more than nine tigers (if not more). Based on the number of tiger teeth and claws we’ve estimated a probable 20-30 tigers have unfortunately met a rather gruesome and barbaric death, the sheer number of skulls, pelts, teeth, claws and tiger male testicles shows these traders are more than professional. The following images below may be upsetting to some viewers.
Despite the best attempts of law enforcement around the globe, CITES and national NGO’s pushing for stronger laws internationally and locally very little in demand and trade is being seen relating to tigers. A six month investigation of illicit wildlife trade has shown to us that trade is becoming more widespread, younger people are more involved rather than the elder generation. Regardless of education and awareness in schools the E.A.D are now picking up on average a total of 3-4 teenage dealers weekly. Many of them have ties to African bush meat traders too.
As previously explained Asiatic pangolins are nearing extinction, yet despite the amount of seizures being made, little in the way of a decrease in trade is being witnessed. Furthermore as Asian pangolin populations decreases, African pangolins will be poached to continue the trade and demand of pangolin meat, scales and medicine. None of which has any medicinal value whatsoever.
The images below were what prompted E.A.D investigative officers to then look further afield, taking the team from Thailand and Viet Nam to Africa.
From 2010 the External Affairs Department have noticed a staggering increase of tiger teeth and claws on sale via the Social Media platform identified as Facebook. There are two different types of trade. 1. Counterfeit trade which is primarily wooden carved tiger teeth and claws and 2. Real tiger teeth and claws. Like all of the evidence above and below obtained by the EAD’s Operation Trojan Horse officers, every part of the tiger is used for illegal trade.
Tiger teeth and claw necklaces are worn in Asia in the belief that such animal parts will bring the wearer power, good-luck, and ferocity. Many of the traders that we investigate often tell us that they have either found tiger teeth and claws on the ground in forests, purchased antique tiger teeth and claws from dealers. Or in this case have illegally harvested the tiger teeth and claws from home-captive bred tigers seen in the images below. The images below form part of the evidence files on the three individuals spanning from Thailand to Viet Nam.
(Please be warned the following images may be upsetting to some viewers).
Below are step by step guides that the Vietnamese trader bragged to E.A.D officers on how to harvest tiger teeth and claws. The images are upsetting and also include the skinning of tigers.
E.A.D officers are (as explained) unsure on the exact number of tigers that these individuals in question are breeding and trading within the home and other premises. From the evidence obtained the number of teeth and claws points to at least 20-30 tigers bred, killed and processed in Thailand and Viet Nam. An unidentified trader who’s name we cannot make public proudly shows on their Facebook page how easy it is to skin a tiger (images seen below).
Tiger testicles are also used within the Traditional Chinese Medicine trade, however this is the first time we ourselves have actually come across such tiger testicle trade (normally one views tiger penis on sale real and counterfeit). The trader[s] we’ve been investigating boasted within an online forum how tiger testicles are now more popular than tiger penis itself.
The image below shows the trader boasting how large the male tiger testicles are before he then sets about to remove, bag and weigh up the testicles for sale. Its believed the testicles ‘may’ be transported illegally into China or onto wealthy Viet Nam/Chinese restaurants where the soup of tiger testicles is ‘allegedly’ known as a delicacy and (aphrodisiac soup). None of which holds any medicinal evidence whatsoever.
Back in 2013 the Humane Society of the United States stated a total of twenty seven countries had outlawed the sale and trade of shark-fin for the production of shark-fin soup. One would then be led to believe that since this mass outlawing and bans on trade, it would therefore heavily restrict shark poaching and trade of shark-fin soup. In Thailand and Viet Nam it appears not to be the case (both countries have no bans in place).
Unfortunately when E.A.D officers investigated the traders herein this article, we uncovered more than enough shark-fin trade to prove that neither laws or outlawing of the trade is having any real effect on stopping or restricting the trade of shark-fin. On speaking to the unnamed trader within a forum online for TCM trade, the individual boasted how easy it was to obtain shark fin, an transport that into Asian and North American countries. The images below show shark-fins drying at the traders apartment in Thailand and Vietnam.
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa and two investigation units aligned with us; External Affairs Unit and Operation Trojan Horse (Cyber Crimes Division) have been tracking countless illegal wildlife traders all over the world since IARFA established the (Cyber Crimes Unit). While the evidence above may shock many, its little compared to what we locate every month. Investigative officers work under immense pressure, stress and must work fast to ensure that traders once located are reported to the relevant agencies.
On the 23rd December 2015 Interpol’s Environmental Crime Unit and the Cyber Crimes Serious Investigation Team were alerted to our findings, while we can state now that our investigation which we have decided to make public has shown much data on trade. The investigation is considered normal due to the size. The most shocking aspect of this investigation was the fact that our younger generation are more active now within this illicit trade. That in itself poses some rather large problems and concerns, and one that now needs addressing at both government and educational level.
As of today 29th December 2015 this investigation has since been increased to “extremely urgent”, and the need to locate these men and women is critical before any further animals die, in Asia and Africa. All three individuals have shown a complete disregard to the fact rhino’s, elephants and tiger populations are losing ground throughout the Asian and African continent. Sharks and pangolins are also nearing extinction too. Trade and demand as explained has skyrocketed online to worrying levels, yet slowly vanishing on the ground.
Thailand is the new hub for rhino horn trade and Facebook and other social media platforms are being exploited to trade just about anything wildlife, regardless of such products being illegal. Trade and demand on the ground has also changed from elder to younger individuals (as explained) which is very worrying. One of the largest trading countries that we are seeing to date, is that of Thailand, which would explain why the BBC back in 2014 couldn’t locate much in the way of rhino horn (in Viet Nam).
Since General Prayut Chan-o-cha took over running of Thailand back in 2014 wildlife trade has skyrocketed. While we cannot prove increasing trade has anything to do with General Prayut Chan-o-cha, it just seems too coincidental that a sudden spike of rhino horn, ivory and other wildlife products has shot through the roof.
Facebook was where this investigation ended prompting us to then send all evidence to Interpol. Facebook hosts some 1.32 billion users worldwide, 32% of which use cell phones to login into the United States platform, thus making it difficult to locate traders and dealers.
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa have been lobbying Facebook since the start of the year, to implement new terms and conditions to heavily disrupt this trade and demand. A petition that has amassed over five thousand signatures can be signed here and shared. However we’re not holding our breath. Should the Facebook platform and its CEO Mark Zukerburger not implement new polices on trade and demand of illicit wildlife products we will unfortunately soon see many species of animals pushed into extinction. Ivory and rhino horn trade has exploded to worrying new levels. Rhinos, elephants and tigers are being poached moreover, and the internet as well as ground trade is awash with anything from drugs, firearms, child trafficking (most of which links back to illegal wildlife trade).
One of the men that is pictured above is responsible for the trade of wildlife parts above, he has since been reported to Interpol along with his partner and other associates whom we have been investigating since June-December 2015. The individual above is believed to be in Hanoi (Nguyen), or Ho Chi Minh City, possibly with an accomplice. His name and other accomplices we cannot make public as yet. The image is recent.
A more closer image of the individual and the female is located below. We believe based on evidence obtained that the male is using the females account on Facebook too.
May this be a stark warning to all wildlife traders out-there. International Animal Rescue Foundation, External Affairs and Operation Trojan Horse will eventually catch up with you. If we catch you trading in wildlife products we will monitor you on the ground and online. From there we will press for your arrest and detention.
Within the past year Interpol has been escalating their new project identified as OPERATION WORTHY II Operation Worthy is targeting many individuals involved in international and local serious crime.
Updates on this case will follow as and when we’re updated. Thank you for reading.
Chief Environmental Officer (CEO)
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“REPORT WILDLIFE CRIME TODAY”
WHERE ARE OUR CHILDREN?
Despite our best efforts to educate and push awareness into the public domain in relation to big cat hunting and the petting industry in South Africa and neighboring countries. We have uncovered a rather large core of dedicated students and volunteers from America, Canada, eastern and northern Europe and South America that still defy the basic knowledge made public, that what they are practicing is harming both captive and non-captive felids. These students actions are contributing to the spread of disease and is supporting abuse no end. Furthermore International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa’s Environmental Investigations Unit has unearthed countless British travel agencies, South African universities and even veterinary establishments that support the petting industry. (Image credit Nick Brandt)
The Petting Industry Explained:
Since the release of the Blood Lions documentary one would have thought that students whom continue to visit these seedy and corrupt lodges, parks and alleged reserves, would have taken note that their behavior is more a hindrance to conservation and wildlife alike, rather than supporting ethical conservation itself. Unfortunately this ‘hardcore group’ of mostly disrespectful, uneducated students and volunteers have simply brushed that advice and education aside. The petting and hunting industry within South Africa is increasing in size, despite vast reams of data and evidence made public that clearly shows these industries have no value to conservation whatsoever.
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa made it quite clear that we would expose students, volunteers and tourists that defy basic conservation education, while participating in unethical and abusive non-conservation tourism. Trainee veterinary technicians, private vets, school leavers, trainee zoologists, backpackers, doctors, judges down to missionaries, pilots and even celebrities are all contributing to the extinction of our African Lion, Cheetah, Leopard and even non-endemic Tigers. While we are aware that some infant and adult cats have been rescued via the many lodges, parks and farms within South Africa, and that other animals simply cannot be released into a reserve, the fact of the matter here is that breeding is ongoing, interaction and abuse is rife, and little if any reintroduction programs are being seen. When we investigated the industry back in 2011 never did we expect these pseudo conservation practices to skyrocket to gargantuan proportions.
Below we have included a list of students and volunteers down to visiting tourists that continue to place our African wildlife and captive species in danger from a multitude of virus’s, diseases down to actively contributing to the extinction of our threatened wildlife not forgetting abuse being played out. We have given many volunteer agencies, tourist agencies, lodges, parks and reserves ample time to clean their unethical fake conservation behavior up. They have all bar one refused. We now have no choice but to continue with our actions in the hope that this will open visiting tourists eyes, their employees eyes and teaching establishments that these individuals are aligned too, that this practice and pseudo conservation behavior must stop here and now!
Furthermore we are naming and shaming travel agencies, student gap agencies down to veterinary and South African universities too. When watching the first screening of Blood Lions in South Africa some months back, I knew that harsh measures had to be taken. We are not just fighting the main industries here, were battling multi-million if not billion dollar companies that are all aligned to one-other directly or indirectly. The whole purpose of this article (I of IIII) is to begin breaking the link, showing the evidence of pseudo conservation, educating travel agencies and shaming those that continue to defy basic and scientific education. Furthermore we are without a doubt going to bring these agencies and industries to their knees financially while continuing to expose those that abuse our captive and wild animals.
“STUDENTS & VOLUNTEERS PRACTICING UNETHICAL AND NON-GREEN CONSERVATION IN AFRICA”
The following list has been compiled showing both visiting students, volunteers and supporters of the petting industry within South Africa. We are not prepared to stop with this exposure while the industry continues to boom.
Douda Bis, Robyn Robles from Anglia Ruskin University, Hongyi Fan-devalois, Mandy Blasetti a Veterinary Assistant/Technician at Banfield Pet Hospital, Isabel Quiñone from Ejecutiva de Ventas at Diafrom, Connor William from Lancaster (village), New York, Kormákur Ingólfsson that works for Erhvervsakademiet Lillebælt, Iris Joensen that studies at Tåstrup borger og realskole, Heidi Arsenault a Plant Pathology Technologist at Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Truman Shumway, Bernadette Pieterse who’s a Ranger at Glen Afric Country Lodge, Laura Victoria that studies at Rutgers University, Johanna Noseworthy that works at Inclusion Powell River, Eleanor Skovgaard that studies at the Scenic Artisan at University of Delaware, Alexane Francisci studying at the Concordia University, Laurence Vanmeerbeeck from Brussels, Belgium.
Lindsay Richardson that studies at ‘a’ American University, Luke Sparkes that studies at Oaklands College, St Albans, Johanna Eskelinen that works at the Yacht Week, Sharon Franks a Waitress at Grand Central Basildon, Capucine Bénazet, Lycée Guy Chauvet, Abby Ellison Ashley Snyder a Bartender/ Server at Outback Steakhouse, Emma Jayne Palfreman (self employed), Henrik Guldbrandsøy that studies at the Bergen University college, Fabienne Thoma that studies at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences/ZHAW, Caitlin Ferguson that works at Poppy and Pint.
Doug Richardson that studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Nadia Borg that works at Forbrugsmateriale Produktion at Struers ApS, Sue Harrison Kasperek, Eirik Lerum Vigerust from Boulder, Colorado, Torfinn Rønquist Antonsen that studies at Ørland videregående, Naomi Westhof a Highlight Editor at Sheffield United, Emma Enea whom is a Wildlife Coordinator at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, Sandi Stein Blasetti that studies at the University of Maryland University College, Kayleigh Harrop that studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands, Roberto Francisco Newton from Hemet, California, Albert Chang that studies at the University of Toronto, Zoi Kakouris, Marie-Louise Lorenz whom works at Vibholm Guld & Sølv, Wai Duong from Bramfeld, Hamburg, Germany, Alicia Taylor from the village of Wijnandsrade in Holland.
Chao Qiu from Wisconsin, Gretchen Newell whom works at World Tennis Club, Bainet Yusufu from Ihlathi High School, Annika Beyrle whom comes from the German town of Elmshorn, Laura Coughtrey from Lord Williams’s School, Taylor Ann Chism from Spokane Falls Community College, Mari Irby from Saint Mary’s College of California, Cathryn O’Sullivan from London, United Kingdom, Katharina Winther whom works at Konsulent at Københavns Kommune, Tathiane Forão from the Federal University of Pernambuco, Randy Risher from Phoenix, Arizona, Glen Peck from the University of Tech Pretoria, Ruby Bell a Clinical Nurse at Healthcare Australia.
Katrine Tufteland from Oslo, Norway, Amandine Pascal, Isabella van Rijckevorsel from the Leiden University, Sherie Darmon from Toulouse, France, Melissa Quinn that works at Nando’s Parrs Wood, Amy Steele a Team Leader at Capital FM Arena, Georgia Mae Lipsham, Customer Services Adviser at Rich Products, Linda Schneider from the University of Miami, Esme Abbott, Shyoo Hayashi Marcus whom works at The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.
Sophie McCutcheon, Adam Mark Blake from Portchester, Andrew Bond whom works at Nationwide Insurance, Sandra Nuschele, Nikoline Jensen a Vikar at Børnehuset Eremitageparken, Natty Brown from the Catholic School of Archbishop of Ilsley, Nick Bruno, from The University of the Arts, Nico Schütze from the IFM - Institut für Managementlehre, Ty Broddle from Liverpool, Becki Warshow a Substitute Teacher / Volunteer Tutor at United South End Settlements, Shiran Cohen, Maale shaharut, Steve Lin, Aldo Neto, Bruno Garrido a Shop Seller at MSC Crociere, Julian James whom works at Liceo Scientifico Vittorio Veneto, Natacha Ferreira Ginja from Salto, Sao Paulo, David Chadwick from Northcote High School Michelle Dennis, Jade Vardy, Juliette Richard from Paris, France, Amanda Lynn whom works at Volunteer Southern Africa.
Graham Wilkin ‘a’ Security Adviser, Yaqin Song a Graduate Research Assistant at Georgia Tech, Stella Maria Galíndez from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dan Maslach a Mechanical Engineer / Fuel Cell Lab Manager at U.S. Army TARDEC, Amanda Gross from the North State Carolina University, Andy Barrowcliffe from the Whitcliffe Mount College, Emily Rabska whom is a Kennel Supervisor at Eau Claire County Humane Association - ECCHA, Daniel Stratti from Sogndalsfjæra, Sogn Og Fjordane, Norway, Jo Kamenir, Full-Time P.E. Teacher at Epic Christian Academy, Lea Francisci from Montreal, Quebec, and Franziska Romrig.
The list above has been taken from a public database of which we [the organisation] haven’t committed a criminal offence in obtaining this data. As you can see above the vast majority if not all students, volunteers and supporters have no real expertise within conservation or animal welfare. Many of the individuals above are school or university goers or leavers, gap year students, or just general members of the public whom have on their own accord freely researched petting and reserve industries. From our own research we know that the vast majority of these individuals have visited South Africa via the company known as Volunteer Southern Africa that offers you the chance to volunteer at parks, lodges, farms and alleged ‘conservation teaching/science establishments’. On contacting the Volunteer Southern Africa organisation the company stated:
“We offer those the chance to assist in rearing and abandoned cat programs to help threatened and endangered species”
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa see’s otherwise, and so should those that are offering students the chance to interact with baby Lions, Cheetahs, Tigers and Leopards. While we do not dispute the fact that some establishments within Southern Africa do run programs for orphaned and abandoned cats. Professional big cat rescues and orphanages do not under circumstances allow you to interact, walk, pet or pick up captive animals, moreover if they do allow interaction [this practice is very minimal]. Nor will these ‘professional’ rescues and orphanages continue to breed such animals thus again allowing the public to interact while making a tidy profit. And its not just these industries within South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe that are making colossal profits too, British travel agencies as explained above are also cashing in on animal exploitation (and they know it too).
No felid from Lions, Cheetahs, Leopard or Tigers can if hand reared ever be freely released into the wild, and if released into the wild the chances of their survival is incredibly slim. Yes there are such cases from which animals have been reintroduced into the African wild after being hand reared or kept within captive facilities for the vast majority of their lives, however these are rare and very few animals do actually survive.
Ukutula Lion and Research Center, Glen Afric, Lion Park, The South African Lion Park, Volunteer Southern Africa, do not under any circumstances reintroduce anyone of their animals that have been reared or sold to them from unidentified individuals ever release their cats into the wild. What these five unethical organisations actually practice is ‘cub petting’ and ‘adult cat petting’ which goes completely against the ethics and rules of conservationism. Moreover the five identified industries above and countless more are being endorsed and supported by the following professional establishments; Veterinary Faculty at the University of Pretoria at Onderstepoort, the Zodiac Animal Clinic and Old Chapel Veterinary Clinic in Pretoria. What’s even more worrying is that despite the public outcry, Blood Lions documentary and worldwide condemnation at such practices (even when evidence is shown of abuse), The Department of Nature Conservation undertakes checks to ensure that all abuse is being played out according to South African law. (Excuse the sarcasm there)..
Environmental Conservation Scientists and Wildlife Veterinarian Officers are becoming increasingly frustrated at viewing such hypocrisy from local and, overseas tourists that are allegedly promoting animal welfare and rights. Take Mme Mandy Blasetti, from Elkridge Maryland. Mme Blasetti works at the Banfield Pet Hospital in Maryland whom back in June of this year visited the Glen Afric Lodge.
Image 1&2: On questioning Glen Afric, the lodge stated that petting was not on the agenda.
As a Conservation Scientist myself I know very well that such human interaction only inflicts more harm to our African Lions than is being seen within this ‘very innocent looking image’. I’d have expected better too from a so called Veterinary Technician that of my own understanding should have been taught at university or college that this behavior is totally unacceptable. But why is this behavior unacceptable, what is the big issue about petting? Firstly many people that visit game lodges, parks or farms believe that just because hunting is not on the agenda (or because they are not aware of it), these animals will not suffer. That itself is complete and utter nonsense. So lets talk petting.
“Breeders and captive felid keepers quote many the following answers to questioning students”
Breeders, farms, lodges and “big cat projects” who charge or ask the public to pet and take photos with young cubs often tell people the following lies:
- That the exhibitors are “rescuers” and operate “sanctuaries”.
- That the cubs have a good life while being used to make money.
- They enjoy being moved about and repeatedly awakened and handled by dozens of people all day.
- That blowing in the cubs face “calms” them down.
- That dangling them by holding under their front arms and bouncing them up and down “resets” them.
- That close up photos with flash does not harm the cubs.
- That it is safe for the cubs and for humans, and legal, to allow contact with cubs from when they are only a few weeks old to when they are six months or more old. (In South Africa this is still legal).
- That the exhibitor must keep constantly breeding and using the cubs to make money because that is the only way he/she can support the adult animals he/she keeps.
- That the exhibitor is doing this to promote conservation in the wild.
- That the exhibitor is teaching people not to have exotic animals as pets.
And the biggest lie of all:
- That the cubs will have good homes after they get too big to be used to make money from petting.
“Are you a student that has been given anyone of the answers above? If so your promoting pseudo conservation, none of which has any value to conservation whatsoever”
We [the organisation] know too well that any petting or interaction industry that is either supporting hunting or indirectly supporting the canned hunting industry regularly reads our articles. We also know that they go to great lengths to clean their image up while still promoting pseudo unethical conservation. Lastly we also know that many breeders, lodges, parks Etc. will think up many different alternative answers to visitors questions after reading the above, as they know countless supporters read our articles. That’s what makes International Animal Rescue Foundation stand out from other non-governmental organisations. We don’t only fight to prove our point, we provide scientific facts from non-related experts and our own experienced scientific team too.
Virus and Disease
Petting, breeding and “big cat projects” rarely do tell their visiting students, volunteers and tourists the dangers in relation to petting cubs and adult cats. Within South Africa the current protocol (although its not necessarily the law), is that all new born cubs must be vaccinated from the ages of six weeks old. New born Cheetah, Lion, Tiger or Leopard cubs are not vaccinated automatically after birth. This in turn places visiting students and volunteers in danger of catching ‘a zoonotic disease’.
What is a Zoonotic Disease?
A zoonotic disease is a disease that can be passed between animals and humans. Zoonotic diseases can be caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi. These diseases are very common. Scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals to humans. Still believe the industry is safe? Lets take a look.
A May 2011 statement from the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) recommends that the public be prohibited from direct contact with cubs due to the risk of illness to humans stating” …ringworm in 23 persons and multiple animal species was traced to a Microsporum canis infection in a hand-reared zoo Tiger cub.” Zoonotic diseases — those that jump to humans — account for three quarters of all emerging infectious threats, the Center for Disease Control says. Five of the six diseases the agency regards as top threats to national security are zoonotic. The Journal of Internal Medicine  estimated that 50 million people worldwide have been infected with zoonotic diseases since 2000 and as many as 78,000 have died.
Image: Student volunteer feeds a cub that’s been snatched from its mother at birth.
Even with stringent monitoring procedures in place within South Africa rarely do you see, read or hear of zoonotic diseases being passed from animal to human (in South Africa). That doesn’t mean such diseases aren’t documented, far from it. Remember that most people visiting petting parks, lodges and farms or those that interact with captive and/or wild ‘adult’ animals end up travelling back home. So theoretically these virus and diseases will often be noted at the last minute or in this case on returning home. We do encourage tourists, students and volunteers to research zoonotic diseases documented within the countries that you are visiting though.
- Numerous instances of E. coli and cryptosporidiosis infections as a result of petting zoo visits in US, Canada, UK and elsewhere. Some of these infections have resulted in severe illness and even death.
- Screening of animals is usually limited to the common diseases and may not include all infectious diseases. Furthermore, screening cannot guarantee public safety.
- Cryptosporidium is only one of a number of bugs that can be picked up during a visit to a petting farm. Other common infections are caused by E. coli and Salmonella.
- Cases of E. coli linked to farm attractions are at their highest levels between June and October. An infection with E. coli can lead to mild gastrointestinal illness or in serious cases it can cause bloody diarrhoea which can lead to severe illness or even death.
- People don’t need to have direct contact with the animals at a petting farm to get sick. Outbreaks of illness have occurred in people that only had contact with the petting farm environment (e.g. gates, fences).
- From 2011 to 2015 over 849 cases of ringworm have been reported from tourists, volunteers and students that visit South African farms, lodges and parks. Yet Nature Conservation South Africa and the SPCA’s still believe that public safety is pretty much okay.
From last month [October] students and tourists continue to question us demanding that we show proof of hunting. These students and tourists do honestly believe that hunting is obviously the only problem here, and if its not shown or there is no proof then all is simply okay. We don’t need to show proof of hunting, because until our questions below in relation to [hunting] directed at those inare answered then we will continue to believe that hunting is also a pivotal factor here within this pseudo conservation industry. Ukutula Lodge, The Lion Park, South African Lion Park, Glen Afric, and Volunteer Southern Africa have all failed to provide any explanation as to why they they allow, promote and encourage petting of which we know like other NGO’s leads to hunting one way or the other. But why, how does it lead to hunting? Firstly lets make ourselves crystal clear here. Just because hunting is not seen on anyone of the petting parks, lodges or farms doesn’t mean under circumstances that hunting isn’t going on elsewhere. The wool is being pulled over many tourists eyes. (Please view the Blood Lions trailer below).
Volunteer Southern Africa that is endorsed and promoted by both Amanzi Travel UK, Rooms For Africa, Trip Adviser and Volunteer Travel from I-to-I UK, from 2010 to date encourage students, volunteers and tourists to visit their [Living with Lions Project] We are shocked at the many SPONSORS that also support this project too. The project is 100% cruel, increases disease, zoonotic diseases from animals to humans, see’s mother Lion left in distress when cubs are cruelly removed, has the potential to pass on virus and disease from human to animals and leaves nursing cubs that require a stress free environment stressed out. (See view video below)
What the Living With Lions Project Doesn’t Advertise
There are numerous issues with releasing hand-raised Lions into the wild. These Lions will always associate humans with food (as they have always been provided with food from humans while they have been growing up). Hand-raised Lions will still have their natural instincts; however they will not have the same natural fear of humans that wild-born Lions have, which will make them more likely to come into conflict with humans after their release.
These Lion parks make a considerable amount of money from tourists who pay for interactions with cubs. Generally, cubs that are aged between 1 and 3 months are used as these are most ‘suitable’ as they are small, photogenic and at an age where the size of their teeth and claws mean that the damage they could do to tourists is limited.
However something which is overlooked is the fact that young animals (like humans) need a lot of rest and sleep whilst growing. On busy days at these parks when there are a lot of tourists wanting their chance to play with a Lion cub, the cubs are not given this time. Regular interaction with humans can also cause health problems with the cubs. Many cubs in these facilities have been known to die of stress-related diseases and they can suffer injuries by being incorrectly handled by inexperienced staff, volunteers or tourists.
Image: Selfish tourist interacting with confused Lion cub destined for death.
In order for the parks to be able to offer interaction opportunities with cubs, they are taken from their mothers after a few days to a few weeks (depending on the facility). This can lead to viral, respiratory and nutritional problems with are common amongst hand-raised predators due to substandard milk formulas being used to replace the mother’s milk. This can lead to lower immunity and the regular contact with humans can cause the cubs to contract diseases such as ringworm (often passed from visitors’ own domestic cats at home).
The removal of cubs from their mothers at a young age also leads to problems for the mother herself as the Lioness can come back into oestrus sooner than she should do. This allows the park owners to breed from the Lionesses at a much more regular rate than Lionesses in the wild would reproduce. This in turn allows a constant supply of cubs that can be used for interactions.
The Lion breeding industry is growing and with it so are concerns of welfare issues for these Lions. Most volunteers and tourists who go to these parks do so unknowingly and with the best of intentions. When questioning the conservation ethics of them, they are told that they are helping to increase numbers of Lions in the wild, but evidence of this is hugely lacking and this is linked to the issues of releasing hand-reared Lions into the wild, as discussed above.
These facilities need a constant supply of cubs at the right age for interactions, where they are still cute for photographic opportunities, small enough to cuddle and of little danger to visitors, which begs the question, what happens to these cubs when they are too old for interactions?
There is no straightforward answer to this but there are a number of agreed possibilities that are widely accepted within wildlife circles. Many of the Lions are sold for private collections but the most commonly acknowledged destination for these Lions is into the canned hunting industry IARFA knows and holds evidence that four of the five petting industries above are involved within the hunting industry. Canned hunting refers to the highly controversial act of raising an animal within a confined area and then hunting the animal within a confined area in order increase the likelihood of the hunter obtaining a kill. Therefore visitors and volunteers at such facilities are unwittingly supporting the canned hunting industry. Furthermore what they don’t know about hunting I.e they do not see will push them into the false sense of belief that hunting is not occurring simply because its not occurring on the questionable lodge, park, farm of reserve.
There is a lot of money in this industry as people are willing to page large amounts of money to shoot a Lion, and canned hunting makes this possible for people who have limited time and hunting skills as the animal is in a confined area. The money that can be generated from selling Lions into this industry is enough for Lion parks to sell their Lions that have previously been used as interaction cubs to canned hunting facilities where tourists can have the ‘ultimate hunting experience’ by shooting a Lion.
IF you are still reading this document and do firmly believe that what your supporting is ethical conservation then we do have major problems. International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa has gone to extraordinary lengths to show to you what the petting industry really is. We know that some students, volunteers and tourists will have been informed that some if not all of the animals that are on the premises they have visited are most likely rescues. So if that’s true then the following questions below and points raised can be answered?
QUESTIONS NEVER ANSWERED
Can the premises in question back these claims up? Can they show documentation that proves these animals were rescues? Where did these animals come from? Why are there so many cubs? Why in many images do we witness many pretty young women and handsome young men holding cubs? (that question should be enough to prove to you that the industry your supporting is indeed a marketing industry) that uses sly tactics to emotionally eye rape young and inquisitive students, volunteers and tourists. Why does Ukutula Lion and Research Center like the other four questionable lodges, parks, farms and ‘Living with Lions Projects’ use systems such as ECOscan. ECOscan is a system of which Lions are sold on to exotic buyers, farms and hunting lodges. Furthermore the system also protects the buyers information I.e name, company, location and address. See image below.
ECOSCAN is a system that Ukutula Lion and Research Center uses to sell animals on to buyers. Ukutula Lodge has also implemented into their terms and conditions one of the following rather interesting rules:
- Buyers must agree to the animal being chipped that both ECOscan and Ukutula Lodge monitor.
However what Ukutula Lion and Research Center do not tell you is that the buyer once they breed that Lion, them cubs are immune from this system. So after birth has taken place Ukutula Lodge has then distanced themselves from the questionable buyer. Meaning its “more than likely that hunting is occurring”. Lastly on checking with South African lawyers no buyer of any Lion from Ukutula does not under any circumstances have to agree with Ukutula’s terms of policies/agreements Etc. A very crafty move by an alleged Lion Research Center, one of which the public cannot easily trace that buyer too. Please view image below and click on the image to view which British Travel Agency supports it, alternatively please click >here<
Image: Volunteer Travel I-I UK supports Ukutula Lodge that Blood Lions called into question.
Last month the South African Non Governmental Organisation, Blood Lions called into question Ukutula Lodge that refused to allow the Blood Lions team onto their property to investigate claims in relation to canned hunting. To read more on that subject please view the link below:
The last thing we ever wanted to be forced to do was to begin exposing the petting industry at an angle that sees us exposing those that directly contribute to the industry that has skyrocketed over the past ten years. Unfortunately we’re being forced too. We’ve provided more than enough facts, accounts, and evidence. What or more to the point how much more evidence do students, tourists and volunteers really require?
Image: Students at the Living with Big Cats Project.
Image: Student at the Living with Lions Project.
Image: Student at the Living with Lions Project.
Image: Student advertised on the UK Travel Firm Amanzi Travel UK.
Image: Lonely cub advertised for petting at the I to I Volunteering UK agency.
No money the public spends to pet or take photos with cubs ever goes to support conservation in the wild. In fact, the opposite is true. There is a huge and growing market for Tiger and Lion parts, and Tiger and Lion “derivatives”, i.e. products made out of Tiger and Lion parts like Tiger and Lion bone wine. A dead Tiger/Lion is worth up to $50,000 for its parts. Breeding what US Fish and Wildlife Service calls “generic” Tigers like the ones used in the mall exhibits is not tracked, similar to ECOscan system used by various lodges and parks in South Africa. So there is no way to know how many born Tigers/Lions are killed to have their parts illegally sold into this trade. And, the more that trade expands, the more incentive the poachers, hunters and farmers have to kill Tigers and other big cats in the wild and via hunting within South Africa. Yes sadly, farmers and lodges, parks and alleged “living with big cats programs’ will sell after hunting (in some if not all cases) bones on to the Asiatic market to double their money. All supported by you the volunteer, tourist and student.
The cubs used for petting exhibits/farms Etc are torn from their mothers shortly after birth, causing emotional pain to both the cubs and the mothers. Imagine what that mother experiences after enduring the long pregnancy and finally giving birth, filled with the instincts to nurture her cubs, and then having them snatched away. The breeders take them away and have people handle them so the cubs will “imprint” on the people instead of doing what is natural and imprinting on their mothers.
And what is life like during the months they are used to make money for their owners? Cubs this age want to roam, explore, test their young muscles to develop coordination, and sleep for extended periods of time without interruption. Watch what happens during these exhibits. The cubs are repeatedly awakened so a customer can pet them instead of being allowed the sleep their young bodies need. When they try to wander they are repeatedly yanked back. And where are they when not on exhibit? Well I’m sure you can answer that question. A nursery maybe? Possibly, without the mother that is pining for her young? Just because its a cozy looking nursery means nothing.
Thank you for reading.
Dr Jose C. Depre.
Chief Environmental Officer and CEO;
PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M. Environmental & Human Science
Environmental and Animal Rescue Investigations Chief Officer.