In the 19th century, southern and central European sport hunters often pursued game only for a trophy, usually the head or pelt of an animal, which was then displayed as a sign of prowess. The rest of the animal was typically discarded. Some cultures, however, disapprove of such waste. In Nordic countries, hunting for trophies was—and still is—frowned upon. Hunting in North America in the 19th century was done primarily as a way to supplement food supplies, although it is now undertaken mainly for sport. The safari method of hunting was a development of sport hunting that saw elaborate travel in Africa, India and other places in pursuit of trophies. In modern times, trophy hunting persists and is a significant industry in some areas. We –International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa disagree with this theory of which we have seen many species of animal within Africa almost hunted into extinction.
Trophy hunting is most often criticised when it involves rare or endangered animals. Opponents may also see trophy hunting as an issue of morality or animal cruelty, criticising the killing of living creatures for recreation. Victorian era dramatist W. S. Gilbert remarked, “Deer-stalking would be a very fine sport if only the deer had guns.”
There is also debate about the extent to which trophy hunting benefits the local economy. Hunters argue that fees paid contribute to the local economy and provide value to animals that would otherwise be seen as competition for grazing, livestock, and crops. This analysis is disputed by opponents of trophy hunting. Some argue that the animals are worth more to the community for ecotourism than hunting.
Trophy hunting is cruel and barbaric of which many species of animals that are hunted are hardly ever shot dead outright meaning most times not all, the (PH) has to finish the animal off. The pain inflicted doesn’t seem to bother both professional nor amateur hunter. There is no pretty sight in hunting and what financial gain there is to communities is minimal. International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa approached a well known hunter and rancher within Africa last year of which he was (still is) allowing the indiscriminate hunting of Rhinoceros. Tom Hancock an individual that came under fire within the local press with regards to allowing Rhino hunting within the Timbavati region of South Africa situated next to the Kruger National Park (KNP). Many detailed communications were sent back and forth to Mr Hancock of which we showed and demonstrated alternative methods to hunting that would generate more income and show his company to be more professional by all people including conservationists and animal rights activists. Mr Hancock though disagreed and like all hunters attacked us outright. Just to remind you of how cruel trophy hunting is you only have to look at this huntress that takes pride in not only shooting dead a perfectly healthy lioness but has to pose cave man style in some fashion as to prove her sexuality and feminine strength. This type of hunting “trophy hunting” is just bloody barbaric.
Mr Hancock argued many points within his communications to our main Africans team of which still to this very day show little if any proof that hunting actually generates the income stated to be in the billions of Rands. IFAW – International Fund for Animal Welfare and many leading conservationists have debunked this myth (please see pic below)..
Many animals endure prolonged, painful deaths when they are injured but not killed by hunters. A study of 80 radio-collared white-tailed deer found that of the 22 deer who had been shot with “traditional archery equipment,” 11 were wounded but not recovered by hunters. Twenty percent of foxes who have been wounded by hunters are shot again. Just 10 percent manage to escape, but “starvation is a likely fate” for them, according to one veterinarian. A South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks biologist estimates that more than 3 million wounded ducks go “unretrieved” every year. A British study of deer hunting found that 11 percent of deer who’d been killed by hunters died only after being shot two or more times and that some wounded deer suffered for more than 15 minutes before dying.
Hunting disrupts migration and hibernation patterns and destroys families. For animals such as wolves, who mate for life and live in close-knit family units, hunting can devastate entire communities. The stress that hunted animals suffer—caused by fear and the inescapable loud noises and other commotion that hunters create—also severely compromises their normal eating habits, making it hard for them to store the fat and energy that they need in order to survive the winter. – PETA
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa have been debating some time on writing this article due to the “negativity” that surrounds hunting as a whole. Although green hunting is seen to some as a professional method of animal husbandry of which the animal is darted using a combination of veterinary medications to form a tranquilising effect, evidence shows that many African countries are not wiling to take this practice up. Whilst they refuse or in some cases (have banned) green hunting animals will suffer furthermore. We ourselves are at a very large debate here surrounding green hunting and have noticed since we printed on an American huntress that green hunted a Rhino many animal rights activists now believing that green hunting is the best method of non-kill trophy hunting. Is it though? Imagine yourself a Rhino that every month is darted in the region of a dozen times. Would you call this ethical or just abusive? Furthermore how would you feel if you was happily grazing away with calf next to you then for the seventh time that month you found yourself again waking up groggy, baby calf missing, confused and scared? Green hunting doesn’t kill the animal however it can be quite traumatising for the animal and its immediate family.
NSPCA on green hunting;
With so much attention on canned hunting, it is not surprising that “green” hunting may seem like a viable and responsible alternative. Not surprising either that media and public attention haven’t been on green hunting when the spotlight is well and truly on the dreadful, despicable and unethical practice of canned hunting. Even the TV drama series CSI has aired an episode on canned hunting. As the most-watched television series in the world, you can’t do better than that.
Green hunting is being promoted as “the thrill without the kill” or the big-game hunting experience without killing an animal. It has been promoted internationally, included on web sites: – “Imagine the thrill of tracking, spotting, stalking and hunting the world’s greatest game animals at close range in Africa – lion, buffalo, leopard, elephant and rhinoceros – without killing any of them.”
“Catch-and-release hunting is now possible by converting a high-powered rifle to a tranquiliser dart gun.”
A list of reasons are given (San Francisco Chronicle web site http://www.sfgate.com/) why green hunting “solves many problems.” This includes the fact that an animal is not killed, no trophy-kill fee (i.e. cheaper), inspiration for the travel industry, providing income for habitat protection, world-wide in scope, relatively low cost and a “full experience without a downside.”
At first sight perhaps argues the NSPCA’s Wildlife Unit. Just about anything can be promoted as inspiring the travel industry or that income can be ploughed into good causes. But an activity without a downside. Not so.
The Chairperson of the Game Ranger Association of South Africa stated to the NSPCA in 1999 that “I am not sure if you people are aware of green hunting and what it entails. It basically has to do where animals are to be immobilised it is then done by an outsider paying big money for the privilege. Surely this can create an opportunity for the misuse of animals for the sake of money and should be a concern of yours. It has come to my notice that there has already been a case where one white rhino bull is apparently subjected to monthly immobilisations.”
Concerns have already arisen about green hunting and there are incidents to prove it. An elephant was “green” hunted near Tandatula Lodge in late 1999 and the elephant was killed when it charged the “hunters.” A letter to the NSPCA from the South African National Parks’ Dr Douw Grobler stated: “It was decided that one collared animal (elephant) would be selected for the eco-hunt purpose. Whilst they (the “hunters”) were approaching a termite mound, the elephant became aware of our presence (in my opinion, the movement of the eco-hunter) and moved closer towards us in a typical head-up fashion.” Dr Grobler describes how the hunters backed up, the elephant charges and was shot and killed.
Three shots at close range and a further three once the elephant was down to make sure it was dead. This elephant was one of the elephants collared as part of the satellite tracking programme. This was green hunting or eco-hunting.
A member of the public wrote to the NSPCA: “I find the practice of green hunting absolutely abhorrent. It would seem that some of the conservation tourist bodies go to any lengths to appease the American dollar or any other foreign currency. Our wild animals, like our natural environment, are becoming victims of greed and expediency.”
AFRICAN ENVIRONMENT AND WILDLIFE magazine reported in January 2000 that prices of up to R300 000 can be paid for the opportunity to dart an endangered animal, that numbers of animals being darted in this way are increasing annually and that now more rhino, to give but one example, are darted for sport than lethally hunted. But although this same report heralds the sport as “catch-and-release”, dart safaris, chemical hunting or non-consumptive hunting – it lists multiple dangers. It notes one instance when a man was charged and knocked down by a rhino whilst chasing after his wife’s first dart victim. He required surgery and was considered lucky to be alive.
What about the animals? The late Dr Andrew McKenzie wrote a definitive text on darting wild animals and he warned that some unscrupulous game ranchers are repeatedly darting a single rhino because “It is a great way to make a dung-heap full of money from one animal.” The South African Veterinary Association recommended that no animal should be darted more than twice a year and preferably only once, to minimise stress. Yet, it has been reported that the same rhino has been darted three times in eight months.
The NSPCA concurs that darting for the sake of darting is not only wrong but totally unnecessary and that even when a dart safari is done for the right reasons, there are risks for the animals. It is hazardous.
Professional capture teams almost always dart from a helicopter. Amateurs on safari do not do that. They are on the ground which raises the likelihood that a dart may be off-target when it hits the animal. This would result in a partial dose of the drug being given. One documented example is when the shot from the eco-hunter deflected off a twig and hit the rhino in the rib cage. The semi-conscious animal then fled, ending up trapped between two boulders.
Lloyds of London has insured 35 rhinos for dart safaris. That’s how big it is and how seriously it is being taken – including the risks to the animals.
The NSPCA recently received a communication entitled BUSINESS PLAN GREENHUNT COMPETITION which involved “hunting” big game on foot with a paintball gun. R1 000 000.00 is up for grabs in prize money, R1 000 000.00 to be donated to nature conservation and R3 000 000.00 to be earned by game farms participating. That is a lot of money for grabs. It would be a brave person or organisation to stand and oppose but the NSPCA is brave and proud of its moral stance – and opposes.
Take a look at the rules and see for yourself: “Each game farm will be allocated points for habitat, type and gameness of game. It will be up to teams to develop a strategy that will benefit them as a team. Points will be allocated for accuracy of mortal shot or shot that will disable the game. Points will be deducted for headshots and wounded shots.”
We reiterate a comment written by former NSPCA Wildlife Coordinator, Rozanne Savory which sums it up: “I must admit to having been somewhat naïve in believing that green hunting was only conducted on animals that were the subject of research or needed to be immobilised for veterinary reasons. To repeatedly immobilise an animal for no purpose other than for that animal to be the target of green hunting – in other words for commercial purposes – is opposed by the National Council of SPCAs on welfare grounds and would be deemed to be causing unnecessary suffering to that animal. In addition, there could be some build-up of the immobilising drug in the body of the animal over a period which could be detrimental to its health.” Ms Savory is an avid animal welfare and animal activist of which we support her views.
Little wonder that the ANIMAL TALK article on the issue carried the headline “Darting Safaris – Brilliant Concept or Another Scam?”
It might seem ironic that the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa came out in opposition to green hunting, stating to the NSPCA that, “After careful consideration and consultation with top authorities on the question of the dart hunting of animals, and in consideration of the trauma and stress caused to the animals involved, the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa has come to the conclusion that it cannot presently support the green hunting of any species as a form of sport hunting.”
The Game rangers Association of Africa advised the NSPCA that, “The effect of repeated tranquilising on any animal is unknown in that the levels of trauma and effect on social behaviour cannot be effectively measured. The possibility of the animal killing or injuring itself during the period in which the drugs are taking effect are real as the animal cannot effectively be moved away from danger. The position in which the animal goes down can also cause death by asphyxiation or damage to internal organs. The threat of injury or death is therefore significant. The practice of green hunting can only be considered abhorrent by members of the Game Rangers Association of Africa who spend their lives protecting these animals for posterity. The ethics of clients who participate in this practice must be questioned as much as those of the people who offer the service.”
The NSPCA has written to the Department of Nature Conservation stating that there is no doubt that repeated immobilisation of an animal takes place and that there are exempted game farms when Nature Conservation is not present during green hunts – and therefore where green hunting has been abused and exploited to the detriment of animals. In one week, the NSPCA received two reports alleging that specific trophy white rhino bulls were being immobilised for green hunts as often as once a fortnight. This clearly has welfare implications. Investigations continue and we wonder if, as may have been predicted, the original justification for green hunting has fallen by the wayside in the quest for the dollar. Please note that there is NO or little evidence that states the repeated immobilization of large mega fauna has untold effects to health and the fact the NSPCA has only received a handful of complaints coupled with the many hundreds of satisfied green hunters that actually helped to conserve the Rhino species. We must state though that as professional conservationists repeated immobilization of any Rhino constantly over such a small time frame is detrimental to health and can impeded complications should a Rhino that for instance has been darted then falls prey to an accident, illness or is poached. This is an area of concern to us should we lobby for the green darting to be brought back. Measures to immediately stop exploitation of the system would need to be addressed and those found abusing the system banned from keeping animals for life.
End of report – –
South African Veterinary Council, Cape Nature and Department of Environmental Affairs back in 2011 declared that green Rhino hunting is unethical of which they listed no such hunter is allowed to dart the Rhino then later on formally banning any veterinary officer from darting “any Rhino” for the purpose of (green hunting). International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa personally believes that green hunting was banned for other reasons that we have yet to fully document on. The fact stands at this though. Veterinary officers are required to check Rhino health on a monthly basis, administer medications, vitamins and to check the overall health of the said mammalian. Darting if practiced correctly and under the watchful eye of both veterinary officer, land owner/welfare officers we believe should be practiced so as long as the “sport” is not under any circumstances exploited. Question yourself this can you in a ranch walk directly up to a Rhino considered a dangerous animal and effectively administer medications or survey its health? I am a veterinary officer and have taught veterinary science for over 12 years and yet have been able to walk directly up to any animal within captivity such as a Rhino or Elephant and administered any such medication without the need for sedation. Anyone person that states publically that they can do such things have 1. either brought the animal up from birth or 2. are point blank liars.
South African Veterinary Council list that green hunting is unethical as it has been noted many Rhinos are darted more than twice in any one given month and that (green) hunters have been seriously injured in the process of darting. International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa have located no evidence of which any (green) hunter has been killed, and what evidence that was located on animals killed during the practice of (green hunting) is small and not worth mentioning compared to the range of animals slaughtered during (non-green) hunts.
It seems too that its not just South Africa that has banned green hunting – back in 2011 – According to a press release by the Veterinary Council of Namibia (VCN), poachers were increasingly using drugs during illegal hunts. Particularly, the council pointed out that the worrying increase of Rhino poaching in South Africa, which is often done with drugs obtained illegally from veterinarians. (VCN) formally banned the process and later back in 2012 the South African (DEA) Department of Environmental Affairs banned the use of M99 a very powerful large mammal veterinary tranquiliser of for commercial use by farmers and ranchers of which only veterinarians are allowed to administer the agent 1000 times more powerful that Dihydrocodeine (DHC).
Whilst many veterinary associations within Africa list green hunting as an “unethical practice” then we can only herby list few points out of many that are not only “unethical” but have been highlighted widely within the trophy hunting industry of which is supported by many welfare and wildlife organisations as “sustainable utilization”..
- Professional hunter Peter Thormahlen was hit with a “token fine” in 2006 for illegally hunting a Rhino (on behalf of a Vietnamese client), before he was brought to court again two years later on identical charges. It is worth noting that Thormahlen’s Rhino hunts have frequently taken place on Mauricedale Game Reserve.Professional hunter Christaan van Wyk had already been twice convicted of Rhino horn offenses when he was found guilty of illegally hunting a Rhino (also on behalf of his Vietnamese client) in 2010.Prior to the 2011 arrest of professional hunter and game farmer Hugo Ras for unlawful possession of scheduled veterinary drugs and an unlicensed firearm, he had thrice been fined for assault and “crimen injuria” convictions, as well as for contravening conservation and customs laws.Suspected syndicate mastermind Dawie Groenewald’s criminal history is remarkably extensive — including a long list of international complaints, lawsuits, and criminal allegations and convictions — and far pre-dates his 2010 Rhino-related arrest. Among other things, he was terminated from his job as a police officer for involvement in an organized crime ring that was smuggling stolen cars into Zimbabwe and also has a felony conviction in the US for unlawfully importing a leopard trophy (a violation of the Lacey Act).
Let’s not forget to mention the “Boere Mafia” — an unsavoury gang of safari operators, hunters, game farm and lodge owners (allegedly) masterminded by Saaiman Hunting Safaris owner, Gert Saaiman, and Sandhurst Safaris owner, George Fletcher, along with Frans van Deventer. Despite (allegedly) organizing the killing of at least 19 Rhinos in national parks and on private game reserves, and facing multiple charges (including racketeering, money laundering, various counts of theft, malicious damage to property and contraventions of the various provincial Conservation Acts and the Aviation Act), they walked free in 2010, when their case was “struck from the roll”. (See pic below and click for more information)..
Whilst were on the subject of alleged misconduct and abuses within the “green hunting practice” we need to bring to your attention the number of people injured during trophy hunting operations too.
- Canadian outfitter Bob Fontana being killed by a buffalo. Well, there has been another buffalo mishap. This one is in Zimbabwe, and it involves PH Howard Hunter of HHK Safaris. Seems Hunter and an unnamed client were following up on a wounded buffalo on the Lemco Concession this past Sunday when the animal burst out of thick brush in front of them. Hunter fired and hit the buffalo, we are told, but the animal was so close Hunter had to grab it by the horns with both hands in an attempt to keep it from goring him. As he wrestled with the animal, a bullet fired either by an HHK tracker or the client penetrated the buffalo and struck Hunter in the arm.
- Back in 2007 over in Botswana we have news of a PH being killed in the field. South African PH Christo Andre Kaiser, owner of Unico Hunting Safaris, was killed by an elephant on May 11. He was in the field with Spanish clients in NG42 in northern Botswana, on an elephant safari booked through Johan Calitz Safaris, when the fatal accident occurred. It seems Kaiser and his tracker left the safari vehicle to look over some elephants in a pan when a cow elephant they had not seen charged without warning. Kaiser, who for some reason was unarmed, and the tracker ran back to the vehicle for cover, but the elephant overtook Kaiser, mortally wounding him.
- Some our readers may have seen this video before but to those that haven’t and yet call (green hunting) unethical and dangerous for both animal and human then surely a male Lion charging four hunters wounding one seriously is of course not unethical. The Lion was shot a number of times (pain would have been prolonged) then hunter wounded too (pain and insurance claim would have been quite significant)..
Above we have shown all arguments of which trophy hunting accidents, abuses of permits, corruption, poaching, pain and suffering heavily outweighs that of (green hunting) which brings us to the conclusion that green hunting may be generating more profit than has originally be portrayed. Furthermore we have also made evident the need for veterinarians and ranch owners to undertake animal husbandry which is an essential part of species survival and good health.
Ethical practices – Green Hunting is no different to that of a veterinary officer undertaking mammalian husbandry;
Rhino poaching for the year 2014 has thus far beaten statistics for 2010, 2011 and 2012 with a total number of Rhino poached for 2014 – June standing at a skyrocketing 501 Rhino dead. Asia continues to drive the demand and as yet there seems to be no end in sight to protect the second largest land mammal – Africa’s heritage. Since poaching has increased more security measures have been implemented to protect the Rhino and other large mammalians. Micro-chipping, horn dying and poisoning, DNA extraction, shaving of horns to de-horning and Rhino ear notching too.
Rhino ear notching (pictured below) is a method of security that helps security services, veterinary officers and ranchers identify a single Rhino live or dead. The notching process is required and also helps Anti Poaching Units and SAPS (South African Police Service) identify a poached Rhino by the markings taken from the notching process. No notching is identical and because all Rhinos like humans do not appear identical notching is seen as a valuable method of herd identification and protection that can also be used in green dart hunting too.
Whilst we at International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa agree with some aspects documented on by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) and Veterinary Councils regarding green hunting such as that of green hunting exploitation, Rhinos darted more than once in one week and green hunters injured as too “some” animals that have been shot dead to protect clientele, we disagree with the Veterinary Council and that of the NSPCA with regards to the majority of their concerns. Whilst the Veterinary Council both in South Africa and Namibia stated M99 (Entorphine) and other veterinary tranquilisers were being supplied to hunters and poachers to poach Rhino and other big game allegedly (within the green hunting industry) the arguments that were put forward stating green hunting is “unethical” is totally ridiculous for reasons we have shown above. In a way more or less both the NSPCA and Veterinary Councils seem to be forgetting that there are by far more abuses within trophy hunting operations compared to that of green hunting of which the animal survives. Yes we do consider “continued animal darting” for just sheer fun completely unethical however if the mammal is in need of medical assessments and income can be processed that would be ploughed directly back into anti poaching measures then why should green hunting not be allowed? South Africa holds an abundance of White Rhino of which the last assessment of species has placed them in a non-threatened status with species in the increase rather than decreasing.
For those who are not familiar with the green hunting concept, it entails the challenge of hunting the animal as you usually would, but instead of using a rifle as your weapon, you back yourself with a dart gun. Instead of taking home a trophy, you take home your pictures and memories of the experience of reviving the animal to see it stand up and walk away. All green hunts “did” take place in accordance with the Nature Conservation and “was then” supervised under the watchful eye of a wildlife veterinarian ensuring the safety of the animal at all times with ranch owners and dangerous game specialists ensuring health and safety to clientele is paramount.
Back in 2010 Wendell Harsanyi joined JohnxSafaris Green Hunt for a White Rhino and Elephant to complete his Big 5 and help us in the management and conservation of these species on our reserve. Wendell got lucky on the first day of his safari, taking the opportunity when it presented itself. A good Elephant bull crossed his path. No animal was harmed within this hunt and when the tranquilised animals were finally sedated vitamins were administered, medications too plus measurements and other clinical studies were also observed. Finally the pictures were taken of green hunter and animal, the hunter left knowing he has not killed the animal but HAD aided a conservation project that is normally undertaken monthly by ranchers, veterinarians and conservationists. The animals lived and everyone is happy. Money generated from the green hunt was utilised for ranch and mammal management too. Most importantly a green hunter does not require thousands to take down a Rhino, Elephant or any animal and least forgetting this type of hunt which in theory is no different to that of a veterinary scientist going into the field undertaking his or her daily work is seen as an attractive conservation practice by many members of the public wanting to learn more about the animal they have just darted. Lastly the money generated helps to decrease poaching so why has this practice has been banned we do not know. Maybe it was actually decreasing poaching. Although there is no evidence that can be placed into the public domain that clearly indicates green hunting has helped to decrease poaching what we can state now is that when green hunting was banned coincidentally poaching from 2010 began to skyrocket steadily out of control.
The picture below is of Mr Wendel that green hunted this elephant. Looks dead doesn’t it? Actually its alive and well and under the influence of Entorphine (M99) which was used in the practice of green hunting within South Africa (now banned). The picture depicts what an everyday veterinary specialist would do in the field with other mammals. Rhinos, lions, buffalo are just a handful of large wild and ranch animals that are surveyed by conservationists and veterinary specialists. This large bull will feel no pain, will only be under the effects of Entorphine for no fewer than 15 minutes due to its sheer size and the dangers that come with tranquilising large mega-fauna.
Measurements, skin surveys, growth checks, investigative clinical analysis and tusk growth would all be checked as well as medications administered should a disease be present both internally or externally. How can one do this to any Rhino or Elephant may we dare ask when their still conscious? So why the need to ban green hunting within some African countries when in theory it could quite easily be utilised to protect and monitor herds as too train and educate potentially new conservationists and trainee veterinarians is beyond us. There is little evidence within the filed to suggest that green hunting is just as “unethical” to that of trophy hunting which makes us somewhat very suspicious. The South African government and environmental welfare agencies must take more responsibility in keeping a watchful eye over then such practices. They are only at blame themselves for any such exploitations occurring and abuses of the system. Not those that want to learn more about wildlife without the need for killing it. We personally believe that photographic tourism and green dart hunting (if practiced accordingly and within the law) would bring more revenue into South Africa (example) than that of hunting alone. Unfortunately for now its either hunting or photographic tourism – Department of Environmental Affairs refused to comment back to us when questioned via phone.
Green hunting if practiced safely and is not under any circumstances exploited with careful eyes watching over the entire process ensuring that no veterinary medications go a stray could reduce poaching as more Rhino are chipped and cared for on a wider scale. As you can see in the film below the Rhino is not just tranquilised for a mere picture. Rhino is micro chipped and as explained in other practices ears are notched, DNA samples are taken from the horn too. Using signage and other anti poaching communications that poachers can read in many languages poachers would think twice about entering ranches or fields. By restricting such practices of which was (helping to secure) the Rhino then our suspicions are raised even more as to what extent the South African government and other agencies for example are actually involved with the poaching of the Rhino or money making scams.
The brainchild of green dart hunting Dr Paul Bartels, head of the Wildlife Biological Resource Centre of the National Zoological Gardens stated, green hunting requires more skill and precision than hunting with a rifle. Not only must the animal be shot from close range, but darted animals are also highly unpredictable – sometimes charging or bolting. Code of ethics Importantly, animals are only earmarked for darting for specific scientific or research purposes, never for commercial reasons alone. Purposes can include the translocation of animals to a new environment, ear notching or fitting microchips for identification, blood and tissue collection, radio collaring for tracking animal movement, and operating or treating wounds. White Rhino are most frequently darted, but lion, elephant, buffalo and leopard are also regularly hunted. Black Rhino were not then open for darting probably due to high poaching, intelligence relating to the exploitation of the system and the fact they were on the verge of extinction.
Most green hunters are traditionalists who “then” saw dating as a new challenge and to aid conservation. Green safaris were then available to both individual clients and groups. Careful planning was done before each dart safari, taking note of the species, terrain and time of year. Green darting was done early in the morning, when it’s cooler for animals. “At the end of the day,” says Bartels, “we want the animal to jump up and run into the sunset, with the hunter having experienced the thrill of the hunt while also having played an important role in conservation. “So from an ethics point of view, it’s important that the hunter has the same goals.” Before the actual hunt, clients practise with the dart gun until they are proficient and confident, because the dynamics of the gun are somewhat different to those of a traditional rifle.
Darts are heavier than bullets, so the hunter has to be very close to the animal before firing, while anticipating where and how the dart is going to fly. It’s something of a combination of archery and shooting. Green hunters were also able dart Rhino using a bow – with the dart attached to the end of an arrow (see picture below). For this, client hunters are sent the dart a few weeks before the hunt, and use water instead of the immobilisation drug to practise shooting. The type of bow to be used is also stipulated, so that the dart injects the drug and the arrow falls off the animal.
On the hunt In the cool of early morning, trackers locate the animal to be darted. The decision to dart or not is then finally taken, based on the ambient temperature, terrain and safety of all concerned. If the hunt is on, the vet fires the dart in a group dart safari, or in an individual safari the client and professional hunter stalk the animal on foot to get as close as possible. After the dart is fired by the client, the vet mobilises the rest of the ground team and everyone waits quietly for the animal to go down. This can take from three to 15 minutes, and if the animal bolts a helicopter tracks it until it drops. The immobilised animal’s ears and eyes are covered to reduce the stress of external stimuli. If necessary, the animal is moved into a safe resting position where it can breathe freely.
Then the vet takes tissue, blood and hair samples for genetic and disease studies, while constantly monitoring the animal’s health. Sometimes radio collars are fitted or, in the case of Rhino, horns are microchipped or ears notched for identification purposes. At the same time, the professional hunter takes the required trophy measurements and photographs for the client, as Safari Club International accepts darted animals for entry into their record book and hunting competitions. Immobilisation drugs and antidotes When all procedures and measurements are done, equipment and people are moved to safety and the vet injects the antidote to reverse the effect of the immobilisation drug.
Different immobilisation drugs are used for different species. Elephant, antelope and Rhino make a quick and complete recovery, sometimes within 30 seconds. But for cat species there isn’t a complete antidote (This is considered risky). The drug has to leave their system for complete recovery, so cats are guarded for 24 hours until fully awake and aware. In an individual hunt the client pulls the trigger him- or herself, a professional hunter and a game capture vet must be in attendance, and the hunt has to be booked and organised through a registered hunting outfitter, just as for a trophy hunt.
The outfitter had to acquire the darting rights to the animal before it’s marketed, and must have in place an experienced and professional team to carry out the hunt. Sometimes a commercial game capture helicopter pilot is also required. The client hunter must have had training and practice in the use of the dart gun, and must be briefed on all aspects of the darting safari and the course of events – the safety of both people and animals is paramount.
Team building and training Group dart safaris are for team building and training, and for nature lovers who want to help with conservation research. Here the vet fires the dart into an animal that needs to be ear-notched, medicated or moved and so trophy quality is not a consideration. Those in the group are there purely to witness the event and give assistance where necessary. Each group safari has a ranger in charge, and there’s also usually a photo opportunity to record the event. Bartels says a downside of dart safaris is that you can’t just “pick up a gun and go hunting”. There is more planning, many people and precise coordination needed for a dart safari. Still, it (was then) growing in popularity among conservation-conscious hunters, who (then) green-hunted in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and North West province. According to Bartels, there was initially a negative reaction from the traditional hunting community, but they have since seen that there is a place for dart safaris and that nothing is taken away from professional hunters, as one is always required to be present at individual client dart safaris. Along with hunting associations, the South African Veterinary Society DID ensure strict ethics and controls on dart safaris to ensure the well being of wildlife at all times. However the SAVS has since banned the practice which has left us somewhat puzzled as like explained green dart hunting is no different to a vet traveling into the field sedating the animal, medicating, and ensuring survival – just the vet has a few more people present.
Pictured below is Joella Bates an avid hunter that did not shoot this Rhino dead. Must be the only animal that she never killed. Joella green hunted this Rhino using a dart and arrow. The arrow is used just to propel the dart at the Rhino of which is not like your usual arrow. Once hitting the Rhino or other said animal the arrow falls from the animal without any harm. The only arrow penetrating the skin is that of the dart that is laced with Entorphine.
There will always be critics and opponents that are for and against many conservation projects that are actually helpful – green dart hunting within South Africa was indeed seen as a professional method of animal husbandry as too education for those that wanted to learn more about wildlife yet without slaughtering them.
We as a professional land based conservation and environmental company fully understand and recognise the issues that surrounded the “then exploitation of green dart hunting. However there is as explained by far more illegal activities with regards to trophy hunting than what has ever been seen within the then legal dart green hunting industry. So our next question is why is trophy hunting still legal?
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa are still open on this subject and do not agree nor disagree with the then legal green dart hunting. We have to though use everything at ones disposal to ensure that maximum safety of our species. Should that mean siding with Professional Hunters or hunting organisations then so be it, should we lose supporters or be seen as “supportive of hunting practices” that do not harm nor kill animals but have been by few condemned then so be it. We are losing every nine hours 1-2 Rhino – something has to give. WE personally believe that green hunting was banned because it 1. generated much income and was seen as a more lucrative yet cheaper safer alternative to that of hunting and 2. Hunting outfitters recognised that green hunting was taking off quite rapidly thus placing their own hunting projects in danger of going bankrupt. SHOULD this ever be proven to be true then the few well known and trusted animal welfare organisations that state they are 100% against trophy hunting have a lot of answering to do.
For now we will leave this debate as an open one – we will be investigating though what the real reasons were for banning green dart hunting in South Africa that is custodian to the worlds largest Rhino population.
Thank you for reading – For further information or to place a comment to us on this subject please email our main Europa office here at;
International Animal Rescue Foundation does not support any form of hunting to kill nor do we recognise green hunting as a sport. We do though see Rhino green dart hunting as a lucrative method to raise funds for conservation and to preserve our beloved natural heritage. Every effort has to be seen to stop the indiscriminate and senseless killing of our species or should we fail we will lose the entire Rhino species in under five to ten years.
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa also recognises the “exploitation” of such green hunting that led to its complete ban within South Africa. Immobilising a Rhino or any species just to gain more funds is totally unacceptable however to immobilise for research, to preserve the species, and protect ensuring that the same species of Rhino for example is not taken down more than once in any six months we do agree with or should the Rhino need emergency or life preserving treatment.
Green hunting also needs a new name. Hunting is seen by many as killing – Whilst we do not agree nor disagree with such green hunting based on the facts presented as explained we are losing our Rhino on a truly high level now. EVERY SAFE and non-abused strategy needs exploring and working on. Until this is seen we will lose more Rhino.
Since the exposure of the angora rabbit trade many retailers across the UK, Europa and America have decided to ditch the trade of angora fur. PETA (People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals) exposed the horrifying trade late last year and the start of this year all investigations detailing the most extreme abuse you could imagine. Yet still even after this trade was exposed the trade continues in many countries, least forgetting the trade in “alternative animals”.
There are many breeds of angora rabbits being that French, German, English Giant and Satin the main recognised breed’s, all breeds are considered safe and not in any threat of extinction. Bred exclusively for its long beautiful fur, the angora rabbit is one of the oldest “domestic” rabbit breeds known originating from Ankara (Angora) (Turkey). Out of the four angora rabbits there are also many individual breeds of angora rabbits too. Other breeds include Chinese, Korean, Swiss, Finnish and St Lucian. Only the four main breeds being English, German, French and Satin are formally recognised by the American Rabbit Breeders Association. Warning video below may be upsetting to some viewers.
Angora rabbits are bred mainly for their fur which sells for thousands of euros worldwide. Controversy brewed when undercover investigative animal rights and welfare organisations infiltrated farms within China, Asia exposing how angora fur was harvested. China is host to 90% of all angora fur farms where laws to protect animals are scarce. Combing, plucking and sheering whilst the rabbits shake in fear, scream in agony is common practice within these fur farms of which the purchaser on the high street is completely oblivious too. If only they knew their angora hat, jumper or garment was yanked of a rabbit screaming in agony would they still wear the product?
At only 11 microns in diameter angora wool is finer and softer than cashmere. Angora rabbits have a humorous appearance, as they oddly resemble a fur ball with a face although some species do appear just like the average domestic rabbit. Asian, American and European breeders will normally use the French, German or Giant angora rabbit of which its fur is seen as a more suitable and easy to weave material. The giant angora rabbit is the most sought after though often seen on farms in Asia these docile rabbits are put through a life of hell just to provide the consumer with a garment, hat, gloves jumper and more.
The Giant Angora is the largest of the ARBA accepted Angora breeds, having been created by Louise Walsh, of Taunton, Massachusetts to be an efficient wool-producing rabbit sustained with 16-18% alfalfa based rabbit feed and hay, and living in the standard size all wire cages used for commercial breeds. The ARBA wouldn’t allow German angoras to be shown because their body type was too similar to other breeds, so Louise Walsh made a new breed from German angoras, French lops, and Flemish giants to create a completely different body type. After several years the ARBA accepted it as a breed and it is now showable. Its coat contains three types of wool: soft under wool, awn fluff, and awn hair; the awn type wool exists only on the Giant and German Angora. This breed should have furnishings on the face and ears. Many people confuse German with Giant Angora, but they are not the same. Technically one could show a German angora as a Giant angora since they have German angoras in their pedigrees, however they are unlikely to score well due to the lack of desired body shape.
Every three months angora rabbits bred mostly in Asia (90%) endure a hellish cycle of abuse. Ripped from their tight, cramped enclosures the rabbits are strung up of which the farmers then proceed to rip the fur from the screaming shaking delicate bodies. After the fur has been harvested the angora rabbit is then returned back to its cage, naked, freezing and in shock the rabbit will sit still quivering in fear in a trance like comatose state. Death is common yet still the trade continues.
Sometimes the rabbits are sheared which (can) be as traumatic as having ones fur ripped clean out commonly known as (plucking). However some farmers will suspend the rabbits from a block of wood fixed to a beam in the fur room then proceed to pluck the fur from rabbits delicate body or tie the rabbit to a board thus ripping the fur clean out. Bleeding and shaking in shock the process is not fast. Taking on average around ten to fifteen minutes the pain inflicted is gruesome and barbaric. Just imagine yourself tied to a board having your hair pulled out from your head or pubic region. Painful? You bet it is.
After two hellish years incarcerated within a stinking hell hole fur farm 90% of the angora rabbits used within this trade die after two years from the abuse brought on by the farmer and the demand for trade from the public. Sadly within Asia there are no penalties for the abuse inflicted to these lovable fluff balls.
Only female angora rabbits are used within the fur trade as they grow much larger than the males and produce more fur too. Males bred for breeding are picked then caged for the fur trade of which those not required for (breeding) are killed automatically at birth in a more similar fashion as male chicks are killed within the egg/hatchery business although the process does not involve crushing and grinding. PETA stated that the male rabbits are considered the most (lucky) rabbits as their life and death is quick and virtually painless. However as explained chosen males are needed for breeding purposes only. Those not required are slaughtered in the most grotesque manners.
Angora rabbits are quite large in size weighing 12lbs to 5.5kg or larger their wire mesh cells are almost identical in size to that of their bodies. Two years confined to a cell no bigger than your actual body size is enough to turn any living species completely insane yet in China for example this is considered (non-abusive).
At just eight weeks old angora rabbits are plucked and sheared for their fur, then after two to five years (if the rabbits have survived) their traumatic hellish abuse they are then strung up, their throats are slit and fed back into the human food chain. Rabbits are considered very delicate and sensitive animals of which suffer more or less the same stress and loneliness feelings as we humans do. Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, The Royal Veterinary College, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom proved rabbits suffer from loneliness which has been highlighted below for your information. Picture below depicts rabbits used in the fur trade now a part of the meat trade. What a hellish life they live.
Although various welfare associations suggest rabbits housed on their own are more stressed than rabbits housed in pairs there has been little published data to substantiate this.
In an attempt to obtain objective data to examine this assertion, endogenous stress levels as indicated by faecal corticosterone levels measured by an enzyme immunoassay (EIA) were determined in two groups of rabbits – one group housed singly and the other in pairs. All rabbits were housed in a single establishment and apart from shared or unshared housing all other husbandry conditions were comparable. The study group consisted of 39 rabbits, comprising nine single females and ten single males and ten each of males and females from mixed sex pairs. The EIA was validated for rabbit faecal corticosterone by demonstrating dilutional parallelism to known corticosterone standards.
Statistical analysis was carried out on two variables, housing and sex, by a two-way ANOVA after first log transforming the data to ensure that this was normally distributed (SPSS 16.0 for Windows). Faecal corticosterone concentrations were found to be significantly higher in rabbits housed alone compared to those in pairs (p <0.001) and there was no significant difference (p=0.918) between the sexes. There was no significant relationship between sex and housing (p=0.309).
Since faecal glucocorticoids have been related to chronic stress levels in animals, these results suggest that rabbits housed alone are more stressed than those housed in pairs and that this occurs independently of sex.
The brief outlined study above clearly indicates that any rabbit housed alone suffers immense “emotional loneliness” which is more similar to feelings of home sick or loneliness that we humans suffer. Angora rabbits housed in appalling conditions in single cells one can only imagine their mental state is quite high. Furthermore the pain inflicted is another matter of concern to ourselves.
Stress in Rabbits;
Rabbits suffer from untold immense stress if not cared for correctly or put through a life of grotesque abuse. Stress in the fur trade as explained kills ninety per-cent of all rabbits. Stress is not the only factor though that can lead to a rabbits death. Heat stress is also commonly known to kill many rabbits and whilst much of the breeding is actually undertaken in Asia environmental changes within Asian breeding countries can account for a high number of deaths. Loud noises, irrational human behaviour, confusion or inconsistent mishandling can lead to the deaths of many angora fur farm rabbits, unusual odours too which such as high levels of ammonia common on rabbit fur farms can most certainly being on rapid death too. Inappropriate or excessive feeding, humans ‘anthropomorphizing‘ animal behaviour thus causing behaviour problems or being (crowded) can bring on stress levels to such a high level that rabbits subsequently perish. All the above stresses are commonly seen within (all fur farms) however the most commonly viewed is that of blood loss, mishandling during the fur harvest predominantly on angora farms, and emotional induced stress that eventually sends the rabbit over the top thus leading to cardiac arrest.
The killing of rabbits for their fur is the fastest growing part of the global fur trade, yet little is known about it. 50 million animals are slaughtered worldwide each year for their fur but this figure does not even include rabbits as accurate figures are hard to come by. Around the world most systems of animal factory farming – such as battery hen cages, foie gras production, mink fur farming – have been the subject of detailed scientific studies, campaigns by animal rights groups and even government bans. Meanwhile, the factory farming of rabbits for their fur and flesh has received little attention. Until now.
Rabbits are bred in bare wire cages, creating both physical and behavioural problems. The mesh flooring of the cages causes damage to the feet of the rabbit and this can result in sore hocks (ulcerative pododermatitis), leading to infections and abscesses. Research carried out in 2004 found that up to 15% of does (female rabbits) suffered from sore hocks and up to 40% had paw injuries that were sufficiently serious for them to show signs of discomfort. As explained does are exclusively farmed for their fur and meat whilst the vast majority of male rabbits (bucks or jacks) are bred to continue the breeding of female rabbits thus then slaughtered soon after, or are bred just for their meat.
The stench of ammonia from the urine soaked floors, which tends to overpower any other odour in a commercial rabbit unit, can irritate the eyes of the rabbits and lead to painful infections.
The housing of the rabbits, both separately and as a group, causes problems. Since rabbits are social animals, being separated from another rabbit causes immense stress and this social deprivation leads to stereotyped behaviour such as gnawing on cage bars (a common behaviour exhibited by caged animals) and over-grooming (repetitively plucking one’s own fur is a form of self-mutilation). Even group housing of adolescent sibling rabbits is no better. The overcrowding of the cages leads to increased aggression and fighting. Fur-plucking and ear-biting are behavioural manifestations attributed to overcrowding.
Bare cages means boredom, which again leads to stereotyped behaviour. Most research carried out on whether rabbits benefit from cage enrichment proved that any kind of enrichment, such as gnawing sticks or even just hay, was a positive step in reducing boredom, cage gnawing and fighting. Even though this is widely accepted, none of the farms visited by activists had any enrichment.
There is a consensus within the rabbit farming industry that the increased use of rabbit fur is due to the cheap production which allows them to experiment freely with processes such as dying that would be less likely with more expensive fur. Being able to experiment with rabbit furs has meant that designers feel more confident to do this now with other furs.
High quality rabbit fur comes from those animals bred primarily for their fur. Although cheaper fur products may come from those rabbits bred primarily for their meat, this is by no means a by-product. The additional profits from the sale of the pelt is the only thing keeping some farms in business.
Whether a rabbit killed for her flesh also has her fur used to trim a jacket or make a pair of gloves is irrelevant. Anyone consuming rabbit meat is still funding the barbaric and unnecessary caging, deprivation and slaughter of animals.
The rabbit mother who has her babies taken away from her at four weeks is not concerned about why all this happens to her and her young, only that it does happen. She is not concerned about whether her babies are turned into a pair of gloves or somebody’s dinner; she is just concerned that her babies are taken away from her and that she is imprisoned in a cage that doesn’t allow her to do all that comes naturally to a rabbit – to feel the sun on her back, to run and hop.
Since PETA Asia exposed the gruesome angora fur trade many retailers within the United Kingdom, Europa, America and Canada have expressed their outrage and concern with regards to the manner in which the angora rabbit is abused and then slaughtered thus ditching the abuse garments once and for all. However as explained many retailers, fashion designers and clothing manufactures still to this day continue the demand thus seeing more rabbits bred for this barbaric and senseless bloody trade. Highlighted below are some retailers and manufactures that continue to sell and produce angora fur despite communications sent to them with regards to this trade they have ignored our own advice, concerns raised with regards to the manner in which angora rabbits are reared and slaughtered to the pain inflicted upon the does and bucks.
Retailers and manufacturers still active in the angora fur trade;
Zhongshan still continues to peddle angora fur products mainly sweaters and gloves to trims and garments. My Theresa a very well known German clothing retailer online and off continue the trade in angora fur despite being informed by us the heinous abuse angora rabbits have to endure before death. Shop Style an online retailing advertising site continues to peddle garments despite reams of evidence pointing to the abuse angora rabbits endure. Even with such intense controversy and facts surrounding the angora fur trade Browns of London still continue to sell and produce angora clothing. Despite much anger regarding sales of illegal wildlife products Ebay continues to allow cruelty to be sold online much of which can be traced back to the United States. Kangol one of the worlds leading clothing and foot ware producers continue to sell online and throughout their UK and US stores Furgora (items with angora fur) entwined within them. Kangol have still failed to acknowledge our concerns. Manufacturers within Asia mainly India and China continue trading angora by the ship load despite being informed of the abusive regime angora rabbits are put thorough.
Trade prices plummet after exposure hits the headlines;
Many leading brand names, stockists and suppliers still continue to sell an array of angora products. However since the start of 2014 trade in angora has plummeted quite significantly.
The price of angora has dived as shoppers and stores continue to ditch the wool over the way in which the wool is farmed. Topshop became the latest big name retailer to ban it after the Mirror published footage of rabbits being “live plucked” in China to supply the clothing trade.
Reports from Beijing claim the price of angora has plummeted from £26 per 500g to £15 as shops stocking it faced an angry consumer backlash. Charity People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said suppliers may now stop producing angora altogether.
Mimi Bekhechi said: “The rapid fall in the demand for angora and its plummeting price is a testament to the value that British consumers place on ethical fashion. “Shoppers now associate products made from angora with the images of rabbits having the hair violently ripped from their sensitive skin as they scream in agony.
“Any retailers still buying angora wool should take heed and join the growing list of responsible retailers that have said no to this cruelty.
“Otherwise, they should be prepared to lose customers to their more ethical competitors.”
C&A and Oasis also announced an angora ban. M&S, H&M and Next are among a host of stores that have axed it. Gap, Old Navy and New Look have also joined the list of responsible retailers saying no to angora wool. Others, such as Zara, only suspended orders indefinitely.
Spanish retail group Inditex, owner of the Zara fashion brand have also since 2013 ditched angora fur of which many more retailers are following suite. International Animal Rescue Foundation Asia are somewhat concerned that whilst the trade is slowly dissolving will traders and manufacturers use an alternative species of animal or just go completely fur free?
For now based on market evidence and surveys from third parties we believe the angora fur trade within the European Union, Great Britain and America is slowly diminishing of which its highly unlikely we’ll ever see an increase in such practices. However angora is a luxury fur wanted and craved for by millions of people worldwide. Whilst the angora fur trade is in some form of economical turmoil other barbaric fur trades just as bad are thriving in the wake of the decreased angora trade.
In the wake of the angora fur trade exposure we must remember that some fifty million animals a year (estimate) are used and abused in the fur trade just to supply the consumer with a fur trim, jacket, a novelty hat or some other blood stained garment. Please note this number does NOT include (rabbits) of which the number could be much higher.
Each Year, approximately 50 million animals raised on fur farms around the world, which account for the majority of the world’s fur production, will be killed for their pelts. This number does not include rabbits as accurate figures on the number of rabbits slaughtered annually are hard to come by, but it is estimated that yearly more than a billion rabbits are killed for their pelts. In France alone, 70 million rabbits are killed every year for their fur. In 2009, there were approximately 300 fur farms in the United States. Wisconsin has the most farms (71), followed by Utah (65), Oregon, Minnesota, and Idaho. In 2011 over 3 million mink were killed for their pelts in the U.S, all in the name of fashion. In Wisconsin, farmers killed and skinned 1,050,580 mink, while Utah murdered 698,960, up 9% from 2010. FACT.
Sheering can be just as traumatic to angora rabbits too. Here in the video below depicts how Chinese fur farm workers sheer the rabbits fur off. Notice how calm the rabbits are, much of the time this is shock. Many rabbits endure a range of injuries from sheering that results in massive loss of blood to death too.
Mink and foxes are naturally wild animals and do not adapt to life in captivity. Wild mink instinctively range a territory of approximately 741 acres in size. In contrast, ranch-raised mink are confined to a 12″ by 18″ cage. This type of intensive confinement can result in self-mutilation, cannibalism, and high-level stress that weakens the immune system and makes animals more susceptible to disease.
Approximately 30% of mink herds raised on Utah fur farms carry Aleutian disease (AD). Currently there is no treatment, vaccine or cure for this highly infectious disease, resulting in the mortality of about 20% of the herd annually.
Another risk to life in captivity includes farmers selectively cross-breeding mink with naturally-occurring mutations, which results in fur colours never seen in nature. This has led to genetic defects resulting in deaf white mink and pastel mink with nervous disorders.
Farmed foxes are raised in small outdoor cages, exposed to the harsh elements of winter and summer. Many foxes develop psychotic behaviour, literally bouncing off the walls of their cages as they pace furiously back and forth. Many develop foot problems from standing on wire for months on end. In the end, they are electrocuted through the anus in order to preserve the fur.
Mink, which in the wild are very active animals, are raised in tiny cages, each about the length of the animal’s own body. The typical mink farm is comprised of units, each with dozens of rows of individual cages with open sides that expose the animals to harsh weather. Conditions are deplorable and filthy. Farmed mink are killed by gassing, violent neck breaking or poisoning; all slow gruelling deaths. Approximately 10% of animals die every year due to stress and illness.
The fur, pelt and skin trade is gruesome and barbarically unjust. Trade will continue to increase as retailers advertise more cheaper, finer and colourful furs on the backs of super models of which the majority of consumers internationally and locally look up too. Whilst we are all tackling the main manufacturers and farms we must not forget those that flaunt blood stained abuse on the cat walks, on our television’s, radios, the internet and within magazine articles.
Back in the late 1990’s many super models such as that of Naomi Campbell worked with charities such as PETA clearly denouncing the fur trade as repulsive and not for their backs. Unfortunately many of those models, men, women and teenagers have since returned back to the trade highlighting it as a cool thing to wear. Children today look up to models and whilst these high profile individuals state “abuse is ok” our children will demand it too.
You yourself can wage your anti fur campaign by simply lobbying your countries model industry that actively promote this bloody disgust asking them to go fur free. For more information on how you can help please contact us below.
The angora fur trade is on its way out, retailers are standing firm and these are the main people that we must tackle. Please take action by looking up retailers that sell angora fur and sites that promote it demanding politely they ban remove and cease this despicable trade now.
Thank you for reading and please take ten minutes of your time to sign the petitions below.
East Asia Director Saline Wakid Saudi Arabia.
Nearly a century ago there were some two hundred thousand lions inhabiting the vast majority of Africa from north to south east to west. Today there are a mere thirty thousand if that. Many lions are bred in captivity (I.e. canned hunting farms) which poses a serious disease and virus risk to non-captive animals least forgetting to the genetic risk as we have explained in previous documentations.
Hunters can agree or disagree with us. Whether you like it or not the Panthera leo is on the decline and still the United States Fish and Wildlife Service have yet to take this matter seriously. International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa has been lobbying the USFWS (United States Fish and Wildlife Service) for over two years to ban exports of trophy lions from Africa into the United States, but still today to no avail. We do believe though that progress is being made and exports will be banned eventually.
Identified in 1758 by Dr Carl von Linnaeus the Panthera leo has declined over much of its range which is now raising concerns. Hunting is no more a problem than poaching or “increased farming” to supply Asia with lion bones for pseudo medicine (lion/tiger bone wine).
Evidence has clearly shown (2010-2012 -2012-2013) professional hunters, ranchers and farmers have been advertising lion trophy hunting at decreased package prices, plus pushing lion hunting as the main attraction for their (hunting organisation) at cheap prices for longer stays. Evidence has also indicated to us that the majority of these lion farmers are trading bones from Africa into Asia of which they obtain quite a significant profit return. Farmers and ranchers, hunters too are making quite a profit yet continuing to feed a demand for fake medicine.
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa identified that from 1996-2011 the majority of lion population declines were quite rampant, almost identical to that of the increase of Rhinoceros poaching. 2000 saw populations declining over much of the Lions range exactly when poaching for Rhino horn skyrocketed. Is there a link between the two? we believe so.
The Lion formerly ranged from northern Africa through southwest Asia (where it disappeared from most countries within the last 150 years), west into Europe, where it apparently became extinct almost 2,000 years ago, and east into India. Today, the only remainder of this once widespread population is a single isolated population of the Asiatic Lion P. leo persica in the 1,400 km² Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary. Lions are extinct in North Africa, having perhaps survived in the High Atlas Mountains up to the 1940s.
To date the “only” Africans lion extinction has occurred in Gabon however some evidence still required on this, however regionally extinctions have occurred in Afghanistan, Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Gambia, Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho (small country within South Africa) Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Syrian Arab Republic of Tunisia, Turkey and the Western Sahara. The only lion species you will see within the “extinction zones” are captive bred lions or lions bred for tropical pet trade.
Lion populations still remain although prides are decreasing in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, India, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, United Republic of Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
In 1950 Myers wrote that lion numbers could have been cut in half to as low as 200,000 remaining throughout the African continent. Later, Myers (1986) wrote, “In light of evidence from all the main countries of its range, the Lion has been undergoing decline in both range and numbers, often an accelerating decline, during the past two decades”. In the early 1990s, IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group members made educated “guesstimates” of 30,000 to 100,000 for the African Lion population.
The most quantitative historical estimate of the African Lion population in the recent past was made by Ferreras and Cousins (1996), who developed a GIS-based model to predict African Lion range and numbers, calibrated by surveying experts about the factors affecting Lion populations. First they correlated vegetation (Leaf Area Index) with Lion densities, using known values from 37 studies in 19 African protected areas, and mapped potential Lion range. Then the reduction effect of human activities on Lion range and numbers were estimated.
Lion experts were surveyed in order to develop and rank a set of factors which would lead to lower Lion densities as well as Lion absence. These included agriculture, human population density, cattle grazing, and distance from a protected area, and were derived from GIS databases of varying age. For example, in areas identified as main cattle grazing areas Lion density was reduced by 90%, and in areas identified as having widespread agricultural cultivation or high human population density (> 2.5 people/km²) Lions were considered absent. Lion density was reduced by 50% in areas with low human population density (1-2.5 people/km²). Because of the age of their data sources on extent of agriculture and pastoralism, Ferreras and Cousins (1996) selected 1980 as the base year for their predicted African Lion population of 75,800. They emphasized the need for ground-truthing their estimate by censuring Lions, particularly outside protected areas.
What we know now is that The ALWG African Lion population estimate is 23,000; with a range of 16,500-30,000 more shockingly Philippe Chardonnet sponsored by the International Foundation for the Conservation of Wildlife and Conservation Force has provided a more realistic number of lion populations being some 39,000 Lions in Africa, with a range of 29,000-47,000. Now digest that number (39,000) with the overall population size only a century ago at some (200,000). Lions are in danger just as much as the Rhinoceros and the Elephant all three species are heavily exploited, hunted and poached plus used within Asia for fake medicinal purposes demand and trade for wildlife products.
Least forgetting too habitat fragmentation, unsustainable agriculture, increased aquaculture, grazing, industrialization and increased land destruction to provide homes for the humans of which human population is intensively increasing within Africa. Hunting and poaching is not the only problem that threatens our lion species within the African continent and under no circumstances should this ever be stated as the main number one problem – trophy hunting does rank second though and whilst we can take action against this – human over population and increased human refuges coming travelling into Africa due to conflict is not a problem treated easily.
Approximately 30% of the individual population estimates compiled by the African Lion Working Group were based on scientific surveys. Techniques for these surveys included total count based on individually identified body features, sampling by use of calling stations playing recordings of hyena and/or Lion prey, and mark-recapture methods including radio telemetry, photo databases, and spoor counts (Bauer and Van Der Merwe 2004). Seventy percent of their population figures were derived from expert opinion or guesstimate. In the other survey, 63% of Chardonnet’s (2002) individual population estimates were based on expert opinions or guesstimates. Twelve percent of Chardonnet’s (2002) estimates were based on scientific surveys, and a further 25% were derived from extrapolation of variables from nearby populations and catch-per-unit effort-estimates based on Lion trophy hunting.
Estimating the size of the African Lion population is an ambitious exercise involving many uncertainties. The three main efforts (Ferreras and Cousins 1996; Chardonnet 2002; Bauer and Van Der Merwe 2004) all use different methods. The African Lion Working Group compiled individual population estimates primarily from protected areas (23,000 Lions: Bauer and Van Der Merwe 2004). In 1980, Ferreras and Cousins (1996) predicted 18,600 Lions to occur in protected areas. This was probably an underestimate as not all protected areas inhabited by Lions at that time were included. Still, the comparison suggests that the number of Lions in African protected areas has remained stable or possibly increased over time. But Ferreras and Cousins (1996) predicted that most Lions in 1980 were found outside protected areas. Chardonnet (2002) finds that unprotected areas still comprise a significant portion (half) of the Lion’s current African range.
Comparison of Ferreras and Cousin’s (1996) prediction of 75,800 Lions in 1980 (roughly three Lion generations ago) to Chardonnet’s (2002) estimate of 39,000 Lions yields a suspected decline of 48.5%. This calculation suggests a substantial decline in Lions outside protected areas over the past two decades, other surveys in detail can be located herein. Ferreras and Cousins (1996) may have over-estimated the African Lion population in 1980, as their number was derived from a model rather than actual Lion counts, and so it is possible that the rate of decline of the African Lion population may be lower. A group exercise led by WCS and the IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group estimated that 42% of major Lion populations were declining (Bauer 2008). The rate of decline is most unlikely to have been as high as 90%, as reported in a series of news reports in 2003 (Kirby 2003, Frank and Parker 2003).
Genetic population models indicate that large populations (50-100 Lion prides) are necessary to conserve genetic diversity and avoid inbreeding, which increases significantly when populations fall below 10 prides. Male dispersal is also an important factor in conserving genetic variation. These conditions are met in few wild Lion populations, although there are at least 17 Lion “strongholds” >50,000 km² in extent.
Unfortunately lion populations within Africa are decreasing sporadically and little effort to stop such diminishing species decline is being made or seen within Africa and abroad. Only in March of this year (2014) Activists globally, raised awareness of the plight facing our lion species within Africa with regards to canned hunting however as explained in various articles these activists voices seem to have fallen upon deaf ears which is disheartening to know.
The main threats to Lions are indiscriminate killing (primarily as a result of retaliatory or pre-emptive killing to protect life and livestock) and prey base depletion. Habitat loss and conversion has led to a number of populations becoming small and isolated. Studies have shown that lion hunting is not “just” a problem.
The economic impact of stock raiding can be significant: It was estimated that each Lion cost ranchers in Kenya living alongside Tsavo East National Park US$290 per year in livestock losses. Likewise, annual losses of cattle to Lions in areas adjacent to Waza National Park in Cameroon comprised only about 3.1% of all livestock losses, but were estimated to represent more than 22% of financial losses amounting to about US$370 per owner. Consequently, Lions are persecuted intensely in livestock areas across Africa; their scavenging behaviour makes them particularly vulnerable to poisoned carcasses put out to eliminate predators. Little actual information exists on the number of Lions killed as problem animals by local people, even though this is considered the primary threat to their survival outside protected areas. Implementation of appropriate livestock management measures, coupled with problem animal control measures and mechanisms for compensating livestock losses, are some of the primary responses to resolving human-Lion conflict.
Trophy hunting is carried out in a number of sub-Saharan African countries and is considered an important management tool for providing financial resource for Lion conservation for both governments and local communities. However, there is concern that current management regimes can lead to unsustainable offtakes. Disease has also been a threat to Lion populations of which much evidence has been collated to show that lion farming for the canned hunting industry has been responsible for few zoological diseases being spread onto non-captive lions.
In parts of south-eastern Tanzania there have been alarmingly high incidences of people killed by Lions, with up to 400 human Lion-related fatalities recorded from 1997-2007.
Time and time again we witness many farmers and professional hunters trying to confuse the public into believing that canned hunting of Lions is effectively controlling their populations in the name of conservation. And as stated above hunting has been considered an important management tool (IUCN 2012).
Breeding lions for the gun is not conserving their species within the wild and that is a fact. Lion breeders will often confuse many people by stating to the tourist or “veterinary student” that “their” hand reared lions are being released back into the wild or are moved to other reserves or sanctuaries. Fact is no “human bred lion” bred on farms in Africa or outside of Africa that has been in direct contact with humans can ever be released back into the wild. There are few reports of captive bred lions released back into the wild however this has its dangers and more set backs for the lion than the release owner. Fact is when lions are bred in captivity have their natural behaviors removed the chances of them ever being able to live any form of normal life within the wild is extremely slim mostly occurring in the death of the lion soon after.
One such farm that continues to spout such clap trap is that of African Dankbaar Lion Breeders in South Africa of which they state are “anti hunting”. On investigating their farm and sites they are heavily related to hunters (Thembalethu Safaris) and advertise such hunting practices too – . The manner in which they handle the lions too is not considered “professional” (please see pics below) and no zoologist would support this practice. The farm defends itself though of which the owner quoted in February 2013 –
African Dankbaar Lion Breeders South Africa – Hi Linda, now after you have seen this photo, do you really think I will be able to sell these animals for hunting? We are trying something good here and just for your interest we are (with some other breeders) trying to bring back the old Cape Lion back to life not actually help destroys it! Why is it that humans first want to see the bad in people? Do you know without looking it up, how many lions are left in the world? We are trying to help these animals, I could have called ourselves a Lion Sanctuary or registered an article 21 company and lived off donations of the public, but we did not. So with all respect keep your silly comments to yourself or even better came and visit us please.
Please note before reading on. African Dankbaar Lion Breeders South Africa is not under any circumstances breeding lions to increase the Cape Lion species or to bring back the Cape Lion. There are no Cape Lions within South Africa and all are now extinct. If you are a tourist reading this please ask yourself these questions. Why are these cubs not with mother and father? Why are the cubs in many pictures including that of a Forest Duiker being hand reared by humans. Why are human and cub sleeping. What would you a MOTHER be doing now if your child was taken from you by another human that then took the baby to bed? This is not rocket science please think before ever contributing to such companies and if EVER in doubt please contact us below at.
firstname.lastname@example.org addressing your email to the African External Affairs Department.
The owner of the so called rehabilitation park stated the following last February when challenged.
3rd February this comment was sourced and just to show you what an uneducated man this breeder is he states that some Cape Lions were located in a zoo 20 years ago which is partially correct (not 20 years ago though) we are only in 2014 do the mathematics please (2000-2001 is when John Spence, director of the Tygerberg Zoo, brought back some Cape Lion species). The Cape Lion was never given to the Dankbaar Breeders Farm but to the Tygerberg Zoo (now closed) due to lack of funding.
Read more here http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/07/0726_capelion.html The man that owns this breeding farm confusing the public into actually believing Cape Lions are being freed back into the wild is known as Mynhardt Loubser of which is not the respected Mr John Spence ex director of Tygerberg Zoo. Does Loubser’s family care about animals? Just look at his daughter below how charming. The same daughter that cuddles and sleeps with the (supposedly extant) “Cape Lions”.
One only has to ask oneself where do the remaining surplus stock of lions end up, the fact the owner states “do you really think I will be able to sell these lions for hunting” is quite astonishing as this practice of hand rearing lions via petting farms for example is an ongoing issue in South Africa of which leads directly to “hunting”. Another lie that has been stated here too is that of where the owner states were trying to bring back the old cape lion. Basically he seems to be forgetting that the way in which he allows people to interact with the lion[s] taking all hunting and natural behaviors away leads to no “wild rehabilitation”.
Dankbaar Lion Breeders are also supportive of hunting and if ever you do visit them please ask as many questions as possible and seek evidence of such “cape lion” rehabilitations or any lion rehabilitation into the wild. The cape lion generically identified as Panthera leo melanochaitus is “extinct”. As with the Barbary lion, several people and institutions claim to have Cape lions. In 2000, possible specimens were found in captivity in Russia and brought to South Africa for breeding. There is much confusion between Cape lions and other dark-coloured long-manned captive lions. Lions in captivity today have been bred and cross-bred from lions captured in Africa long ago, with examples from all of these ‘subspecies’. Mixed together, hybridized, most of today’s captive lions have a ‘soup’ of alleles from many different lions. Yes there are many Black Manned Lions within this “breeding farm” there are though no true Cape Lions. The sad reality here and looking at the photographs plus the way in which the “cubs are handled and not seen with mother” quite confidentially informs us that this is nothing but an unhygienic lion breeder supplying lions and other game for the gun.
Whilst breeding of lions continues and whilst human bred lions cannot be rehabilitated back into the wild the demand from Asia for “lion bone wine” will continue, Whilst the demand continues so will poaching as prices change, more similar to that of the Rhino horn trade there is a unique identical connection between the two. Back in 2013 (July) an environmental team from the International Animal Rescue Foundation EaD unit traveled to Thailand and China in search of wildlife products of which located bottles of Tiger bone wine priced from $100 to $1,500 a bottle. The majority of these bottles were new and priced at just under $40USD.
Some were priced even higher – prices depend on how long the carcass was brewed within the vat of rice wine and other chemicals. On questioning the peddlers they remained quite silent and gave no real information as to where the bones originated from. However knowing there is literally some 1,500 tigers within the wild and seeing the majority of bone wine on sale at a mere $30-60 a bottle indicates to us “lion bone trade” is significantly high from Africa to Asia. We know the vast majority of “newly packaged” bottles of wine were not from Tigers. Based on poaching reports and statistics to that of Tiger farms within Asia we can confidentially state that many bottles were not that of true Tiger bone wine which again raises concerns with regards to the depletion of lions within the canned hunting business and poaching.
Conservationists have warned that captive breeding and canned hunting programmes in South Africa are providing a source for the lion bone trade. Canned lion hunting is legal in South Africa, as is the exporting of lion carcasses. Lion populations across Africa have been reduced by 90% over the past 50 years, but lion breeders say their operations have nothing to do with the continent’s wild populations.
The price of trophies
Breeders can benefit financially a number of times from the same lion. Cubs are often rented as tourist attractions and visitors pay to pet and interact with them. The fee paid by visitors is then fed back into captive breeding programmes. As adults, the lions are sold to hunters in canned hunting arrangements.
Farmers and hunting operators charge in the region of about $20 000 (R160 000) as a “trophy price” and hunters can expect to pay around $18 000 (R145 000) for other services, excluding taxidermy. But the hunters are only interested in the head and skin of the lion, and often leave the bones with the breeder, who can then sell the bones, with a government permit, to Asian buyers for use in making lion bone wine.
It’s estimated that a complete lion skeleton can sell for as much as R80 000. Evidence emerged that over 1 400 lion and leopard trophies were exported from the country in 2009 and 2010. According to the environmental affairs minister, in 2010, 153 live lions were exported as well as 46 lion skins, 235 carcasses, 592 trophies, 43 bodies and 41 skulls. It was noted that these figures were incomplete as the provinces had not yet captured all their data. Yet there was a 150% growth in exports of lion products from 2009 and 2010.
Pieter Kat, director of the UK-based conservation organisation LionAid, said a lot could be achieved simply by placing a ban on the export of lion bones. Lions are listed on appendix two of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which means that a government permit is needed to export any lion products. “It will take a position of responsibility by South Africa to say, ‘No more, we will not allow this,'” he said.
“South Africa is within its rights [to] say no more export permits,” said Kat.
Kat said that while one could argue about the ethics of breeding lions just to be shot, it was important to bear in mind that whatever South Africa did in terms of its legal trade in lion bones would affect wild lion populations all over the continent.
Kat pointed out that there are only about 20 000 lions left on the entire continent – down from about 200 000 in the 1970s. In the past few years Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and the Republic of Congo-Brazzaville have lost all their lions, while countries like Nigeria, Malawi and Senegal have only a few dozen lions left.
“We’re dealing with a species that is rapidly going extinct but because we are not really focused on lions – we’re talking about elephants and rhinos – it’s a silent extinction,” he said.
He warned that allowing the trade in lion bones to proliferate would stimulate a demand for the product. “Soon someone will [realise] it’s cheaper for to poach than to pay the owner of a captive animal to get the bones,” he said.
Breeding for exploitation is only human
But Professor Pieter Potgieter, chairperson of the South African Predator Breeders’ Association, defended the industry saying there is little difference between breeding lions and any other mammal. “Chickens are killed by humans. How are lions different from them?” he asked.
“In principle a lion is not more or less than a crocodile, an ostrich or a butterfly. It’s a form of life. Breeding animals for human exploitation is a natural human process,” he said.
Potgieter said that breeding and hunting lions was only deplorable in the eyes of the public because a “sympathetic myth has been created about the lion as the king of the animals”.
He justified the practice, saying the export of lion bones is a legal trade authorised by the department of environmental affairs and denied that South Africa’s approach to captive breeding and canned lion hunting was feeding into the Asian demand for lion bones. “I don’t think that market is being created by the South African situation. That would happen anyhow and the more the Asian tiger gets extinct, the more people will try to get hold of lion bones as a substitute,” he said.
In 2007 former environmental affairs minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk attempted to put the brakes on canned lion hunting. It was widely reported that the activity had been banned in the country but this is not the case.
Some changes to legislation were made but the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the Predator Breeders’ Association and overturned an attempt to enforce a two-year waiting period during which a captive-bred lion would be allowed to roam freely in an extensive wildlife system before being hunted, which conservationists had labelled an attempt to “pretend that the lion is wild”.
Captive breeding of lions is not the answer to saving Africa’s lions, nor is translocation, or indeed any one of the current solutions proposed. A variety of responses is needed. ALERT believes, as a result of vigorous analysis of the chances of success of current conservation solutions, the increasing threats to lions, and that translocation on its own is not sufficient, that captive breeding is a necessary addition to the armoury in our fight to ensure lions remain in viable numbers on this continent.
The most comprehensive assessment of lion (Panthera leo) numbers to date determined that Africa’s once-thriving savannahs are undergoing massive land-use conversion and burgeoning human population growth. The decline has had a significant impact on the lions that make their home in these savannahs; their numbers have dropped to as low as 32,000, down from hundreds of thousands estimated just 50 years ago.
The study, funded in part by the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, was published online in this June 2012 by the Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation.
Some 24,000 of the continent’s remaining lions are primarily in 10 strongholds: 4 in East Africa and 6 in southern Africa, the researchers determined. Over 6,000 of the remaining lions are in populations of doubtful long-term viability. Lion populations in West and central Africa are the most acutely threatened, with many recent local extinctions, even in nominally protected areas.
“These research results confirm the drastic loss of African savannah and the severe decline in the number of remaining lions,” said Big Cats Initiative (BCI) Grants Committee Chair Thomas E. Lovejoy, University Professor for Environmental Science & Public Policy at George Mason University and Biodiversity Chair of The Heinz Center. “Immediate and major action is required to save lion populations in Africa.”
“Immediate and major action is required to save lion populations in Africa.”
African savannahs are defined by the researchers as those areas that receive between 300 and 1500 mm (approximately 11 to 59 inches) of rain annually. “These savannahs conjure up visions of vast open plains,” said Stuart Pimm, co-author of the paper who holds the Chair of conservation at Duke University. “The reality is that from an original area a third larger than the continental United States, only 25 percent remains.” In comparison, 30 percent of the world’s original rain forests remain.
Lions in West Africa are at highest level of risk, Pimm and the other researchers found. “The lions in West Africa are essentially gone,” said Pimm. “Only a radical effort can save them at this stage.”
Stuart Pimm is also a member of the Big Cats Initiative Grants Committee and a regular blogger for National Geographic News Watch. We interview him here about the research released this week.
Your study found that the population of wild lions in Africa plunged by two-thirds in 50 years. What’s the methodology to determine the populations then and now?
Scientists estimated that 50 years ago, approximately 100,000 lions made their home in Africa’s iconic savannahs. This estimate was made using rough calculations of the size of remaining habitat and lion density. Our research suggests that lion populations have experienced a dramatic decline, and numbers have dropped to as low as 32,000 individuals. We compiled all of the most current available estimates of lion numbers and distribution – continent-wide reports, country-specific lion conservation strategies and action plans, and newly published lion population surveys. To fill in any gaps, we drew from the knowledge of the co-authors and colleagues working across Africa to conserve lions.
Counting carnivores is a tricky business. Individual identification is a tremendous challenge and requires high-resolution cameras or good, unobstructed views in person. They are often shy and cover large distances. Lions are difficult to count even though they are social and sleep most of the day. Only a very few lion populations are known at the individual level, such as Liuwa Plains National Park, Zambia. Individual recognition of every lion in an area requires intense study, significant resources, and low numbers of individuals. Therefore, researchers use a variety of other imperfect techniques to estimate lion population size in all other lion areas. Some more common estimation techniques include spoor tracking or call-up surveys.
What are the main causes of lion decline?
There is a variety of factors leading to lion decline across their range. One of the most important things we identified was habitat loss. People usually think of savannah Africa as being comprised of wilderness, vast open grasslands stretching to the horizon in all directions. However, our analysis showed that from an original area a third larger than the United States, only 25% remains. In comparison, 30% of the world’s original tropical rainforest remain. Most of this reduction has come in the last 50 years due to massive land-use conversion and burgeoning human population growth. Besides habitat loss, another major driver of decline is human-caused mortality. This includes poaching, retaliatory killing, and trophy hunting.
How many of the remaining 32,000 wild lions in Africa are in stable populations in viable habitat? Where are the strongholds?
Our analysis identified only 67 largely isolated areas across the entire African continent where lions might survive. Of these 67 areas, only 10 qualified as strongholds where lions have an excellent chance of survival. These strongholds are located across East and Southern Africa, but importantly no areas in West or Central Africa qualify. Unfortunately this means that for the remaining 32,000 wild lions in Africa, only approximately 24,000 are in populations that can be considered at all secure. More than 5,000 lions are located in small, isolated populations, putting their immediate survival in doubt.
What’s the prognosis for wild lions? Extinction?
The drastic reduction in lion numbers and habitat highlighted by our research is certainly alarming from a conservation standpoint. Yet, African lions are not in immediate danger of extinction. Substantial lion populations exist in large, well-protected areas such as the Serengeti or Kruger ecosystem. Many of the remaining lion populations in East or Southern Africa are in well-protected areas such as national parks and game reserves (although some of these allow hunting). Nevertheless, this should not be used as a blanket statement; there are populations and even countries in these regions that have few or no lions remaining. Overall, lions in West and Central Africa are in the gravest danger of extinction. More than half of the populations vital to lion conservation in these regions (as noted by the IUCN) have been extirpated in the past five years, with several countries losing their lions entirely. According to our research, fewer than 500 lions remain in West Africa, scattered across eight isolated sites. This is of serious concern as these populations contain the most genetically unique lions in all of Africa and are most closely related to the Asiatic lion.
Why is it important that we try to sustain the survival of wild lions in Africa?
Large carnivores play valuable ecological roles in “top-down” structuring of the ecosystem. For instance, removal of lions may allow populations of mid-sized carnivores to explode which would have cascading impacts on other flora and fauna. From an ecological perspective, large carnivores are crucial for balanced, resilient systems. However, the lion is so much more than just the largest carnivore in Africa. It is a powerful cultural and political symbol. Attempting to list all the uses of lions in African proverbs, symbols, names etc. would be a nearly impossible task. Finally, lions are vital to the tourism trade, which in turn is economically critical for many African nations.
How does your study help conservation of the big cats?
You cannot protect what you do not know you have. This is a simple but true adage. Our compilation needed to occur in order to prioritize areas for conservation action. With a good map, numbers, and some understanding of connectivity between the lion areas, we now know which populations are threatened with extinction or conversely, which are well connected and well protected.
How is the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative helping the situation for lions?
The Big Cats Initiative has quickly become a major player in lion conservation. We have sent nearly U.S.$800,000 into the field of which nearly all is in Africa and over half is dedicated directly for lion conservation. However, we are not doing this alone. Other international organizations like Panthera also contribute. We have developed collaborations with these types of groups to identify and execute important work, and many BCI grantees have contributing funds from other organizations.
However, because we focus on actual conservation efforts and not research, we fund many projects that do not have a chance elsewhere. We identify innovative projects that halt lion decline, bring them to global attention, and help them to increase in size. This stepwise process of giving start-up money and then escalating funds to increase scale is unique and the only way to meaningfully contribute to halting lion decline across large swaths of Africa.
We have two excellent examples of this process. The Anne Kent Taylor Fund operates in the Masai Mara region of Kenya. This program collaborates with locals to strengthen livestock corrals, or bomas. The boma fortification is so successful that demand is outstripping supply of chain link fencing and many locals are copycatting and experimenting with their own designs. This is the hallmark of a successful program. Another fantastic operation is the African People & Wildlife Fund that works on the border of Tarangire National Park, in northern Tanzania. Their flagship activity is building stronger bomas, but they employ a large variety of tools and methods to interrupt the circle of retaliatory killing of cats. They work at all levels of the community from the schoolchildren to the leaders. Their long-term commitment is helping build a community that sees tangible benefits from preserving big cats, and a culture where retaliatory killing or poaching is unacceptable.
Sources – IUCN, National Geo Graphic, Big Cats Foundation, Born Free.
Hunting Lions for Sport;
Recent studies have shown that areas in which trophy hunting has been permitted by government authorities, lion populations have severely declined even in the absence of other threats.
Commercial utilization of wild lion populations is a highly political issue with many proponents and dissenters, but is largely allowed by governments as a venture to deliver capital. Despite some scientific efforts to ameliorate rates of offtake and (doubtful) guidelines for hunters to identify “post reproductive” males, trophy hunting has never been shown to be a sustainable venture, and is known to have many abuses. These include luring lions out of protected areas, exceeding and influencing quota systems, ignoring consequences on reproduction of lion populations by destroying pride males, and taking young males out of the future reproductive pool.
If we assume a continent-wide lion population of 25,000, this means that there are about 3,000 adult trophy males in Africa. If we estimate that 40% occur in strictly protected areas, this leaves a “huntable” total of around 1,800 male lions. Trophy harvests have averaged 665 exports per year, an unsustainable off take.
Proponents of trophy hunting have used three main arguments to continue the practice:
By giving “value” to lions, of which African rural communities receive a share, they will be more amendable to conserve them;
By generating revenues trophy hunting makes the maintenance of large tracts of land for wildlife viable;
Considerable revenues are generated for African nations and as such, consumptive use of lions is part of an overall conservation strategy for wildlife.
Various analyses have shown that these arguments are largely fictitious in practice. African rural communities receive a pittance from turning over their land to hunting operators. In Zimbabwe, a community household (average 10 people) will intermittently receive $1 to $3 per annum. In Tanzania communities receive $4 per annum per square kilometre whilst the hunting operators receive $110. The average contribution to GDP from hunting is 0.06% for 11 Africa nations that participate in trophy hunting, whilst 15% of their land is set aside for the practice.
Of seven countries that engage in trophy hunting, 696,708 km2 of land is set aside for the practice but employs a total of just 9,703 people, and most of them for six months only. Given such weak returns for communities the incentive to stop poaching is little. The bushmeat trade in Ghana alone is estimated at $250 million per annum.
Dr Kat wrote a rather interesting article listed herein;
In a nutshell, the concept of “canned hunting” of lions means that the “trophy” shot by the hunter has been raised through a captive breeding program similar to the African Dankbaar Lion Breeders South Africa. There are many of these in South Africa, for example, where breeding populations of lions are kept in enclosures, and their offspring offered to sale for “hunters” who arrive at the game ranch/breeding facility.
The hunters get taken to a pre-arranged area where the captive bred lion has been conveniently installed; often times drugged and baited, where they level their high-powered rifles, and take home their wall-hanging, eventually artfully rendered by a taxidermist.
Secondary “canned hunting” schemes have been devised by clever operators who lure wild lions from protected areas into their hunting concessions by providing carcasses and playing calls over loudspeakers to attract them over the boundary.
This secondary activity should be identified for the criminal act it is, and perpetrators prosecuted.
But basically, the “canned hunting” operators working from captive bred animals are providing a desired product for the national (in this case, let’s say South African) and international markets. This needs to be accepted as a fact. Whether the eventual trophy room is located in Spain, Germany, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, or Houston, and whether the contact with the client is by internet or phone or by word of mouth or by international hunting meetings held yearly in Las Vegas, the demand for lion trophies is there.
How much do you have to pay for that trophy on your wall? Well, let’s say you wanted to hunt a wild male lion in Botswana. Probably you would have to debit your bank account for well over $150,000 before you could proudly introduce friends to your latest wall decoration. Of course, if you shopped around, maybe attended auctions by hunting companies, and did not mind travelling to African destinations identified with civil strife, corrupt wildlife departments & politicians, your trophy lion could be hanging there for a bit less.
But your best bet in terms of economy remains the “canned lion”.
Captive bred, staked out, you are taken there by vehicle, you are back at your camp for lunch, and the stories about the trophy on the wall are yours to invent and embellish. In terms of skill, prowess, proficiency and expertise on the part of the hunter, this probably ranks right up there with shooting fish in a barrel or a cow in a field.
Canned lion hunts have been revealed, regaled, and reviled on television and in print. The practice of “canned hunting” of lions came under recent review in South Africa – the former Minister of Environment took a bit of a stance against it, the breeders complained, it went to court. The initial case was upheld by the courts, but was subsequently overturned by a court of appeals. So the practice will continue for now, perhaps with a few, a very few, controls.
There are powerful lobbies at work there, and pragmatists know that ethical principles usually bow to commerce.
Controversial as the activity is in terms of public opinion, there are aspects of canned lion hunting that are defensible. First, these animals are actually the property of the breeder, as much so as the impalas, kudu, wildebeest and blesbok on the game ranch. There are probably over 10,000 game ranches in South Africa alone, established to provide wildlife trophies and game meat for a hungry demand by consumers. Restaurants and upscale supermarkets as far away as London and Copenhagen serve meat from African species. Crocodile and ostrich farms sell meat and skins on the national and international markets.
Game ranching and game farming is a well-established business all over the world (you can buy kangaroo and American buffalo (bison) meat as well), so given that all these animals are raised in captivity for the sole purpose of their eventual demise (like cows, pigs, chinchillas, minks, foxes, chickens, ducks, geese, salmon etc involved in more traditional farming), can we actually say that a captive-raised lion destined for an eventual demise is any different philosophically from a lamb led to slaughter?
Continuing to play Devil’s Advocate, is it not better to equip the trophy rooms of the world with whole mounts, skins, and glass-eyed heads of lions bred in captivity rather than “collecting” them from the ever-diminishing wild populations? From 100,000 lions in the wild in the 1960’s, we are now left with perhaps 20,000 on the entire continent. You could put the entire African wild lion population into a single stadium where people come to watch the Yankees, Manchester United, or the Dallas Cowboys. Oh, and there would still be plenty of empty seats – many Kenyan and Nigerian lions who booked their tickets a few years ago, for example, are no longer able to attend as they are now dead.
I decided to do a bit of further research on the subject. CITES, the international regulatory organization that is “supposed” to regulate international trade in endangered (and vulnerable) species by issuing permits for export and then tracking where those exports go, has provided figures that make up this next graph of exported trophies from wild lions shot as trophies in South Africa versus “canned” lions.
Unfortunately, published numbers are only available until 2005. The CITES record keepers need a wakeup call maybe? Anyway, you will see that “canned” lion hunting trophy exports started in 1994 (year 12 on the graph), and have gained in popularity since. This is probably because “canned” lions
are made available to the trophy hunter at a much reduced cost compared to the expense involved in embarking on a wild lion hunt. A “canned” lion, if you are a canny hunter, can probably be supplied for roughly $20,000 versus a wild lion costing at least three or four times that. Of course a female lion goes for a real bargain price, you are forbidden to shoot a wild one these days.
For more information please read more here http://lionalert.org/page/article-canned-hunting
Dr Kat is a rather experienced conservationist that speaks very truthfully and provides positive factual evidence of which many hunters will never show. The IUCN and Cites rarely touch up on just how bad hunting is taking its toll on the African lions. For example the IUCN merely state that some populations are in decline yet actually bother to go into great detail as do the supposedly protective Cites convention.
Lion Poaching to feed the fake Tiger bone wine trade;
In South Africa, Vietnamese and Thai nationals have been arrested at O.R. Tambo International Airport with illegal lion bones in their luggage, but levels of the illegal trade are considered much higher than such occasional seizures suggest. With authorities concentrating on illegal ivory and rhino horn shipments, bones could well be smuggled out undetected.
The extent to which poaching of lions occurs is difficult to estimate. Since poached lion carcasses are much smaller than those of elephants and a rhino, their detection is more difficult. Even when found, lion remains are likely to be seen as natural mortality and subsequent carcass destruction by scavengers.
In India, all carcasses of tigers are considered poaching incidents until other reasons for mortality can be supported. Perhaps lion carcasses should now be treated with the same degree of suspicion.
From 2009-2011 Cites (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species wild flora and fauna states the following with regards to lion carcass/bone imports from Africa into Asia.
- China – 16 imports of lion bodies from 2011
- Laos – 80 imports of lion bodies from 2009
- Laos – 250 imports of lion bones/bodies (That’s 250 separate imports as listed above too and below)
- China – 48 imports of lion bones from 2009
- Laos – from 2010 a total of 586 imports and in 2011 1573 imports of just (lion bones)
- Vietnam – from 2009 a total of 62 imports 2010 saw a total of 26 imports and 2011 saw a total of 32 imports (all lion bones)
- China – a total of 2 imports in the year of 2011 being that of (lion skeletons)
- Laos – a total of 5 imports from 2009, 29 in 2010 and a total of 496 imports of lion skeletons in 2011
- Vietnam – a total of 72 imports of lion skeletons from 2010 were recorded
Highlighted above are figures that range only from 2009-2011 all listed on the Cites website of which clearly indicates proof that while trophy hunting and canned hunting of lions continues and there is no laws implemented to cease trade in lion bones from Africa then unfortunately we have a “demand beginning” and to date we do not even know the true figure for 2012, 2013, and 2014 as yet. Hunters that continue to spread the lie they are conserving the species of lion are actually no better than those demanding a trade and the evidence is as clear today as it was in 2009.
The South African trade involves lion breeders/canned lion hunters and taxidermists at least, and it is reported that lion bones are selling for about $165 per kilo in South Africa and about $300-$500 at destination. The value of a lion skeleton could therefore be in excess of $10,000. In China, lion bones are soaked for a variable period in rice wine, whereas in Laos and Vietnam the bones are made into a “paste” with added ingredients like herbs (some reports say opium is also mixed in). The paste is then also dissolved in rice wine. Such bone tonics are used to treat a variety of ailments.
While this trade is continuing and global governments doing nothing we are set to lose our lion species as we will the Rhino should more stringent actions not be met sooner rather than later. Removal of the trophy from Africa to America we fully understand is “not necessarily” the issue here. It’s the actual collection of bones after the hunt, the peddling of bones which increases demand and poaching too. Ban hunting and we remove the trade in lion bones. Would it increase poaching of lions though within Africa as we are seeing this moment with regards to the Rhino and Elephant? International Animal Rescue Foundation believes not however this is an area for law enforcement, environmental agencies, permit controls and locals to work together.
Most at risk is the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica), a subspecies of the African lion (Panthera leo) found only in the Gir Forest of India. The Asiatic lion is classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and has a current population of just 350 individuals. Being such a rareity means the price of such bones increases which is more identical to that of the Indian One Horned Rhino.
Although the population is considered stable, a single event, such as disease or forest fire, could result in extinction of this species. And, as we are witnessing with wild tiger and rhino, if poaching increases, this small population is not likely to survive. There are indications of poaching incidents in recent years (there are reports that organised gangs have switched their attention from tigers to these lions).
The Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), warned back in 2007 that a new phase in wildlife poaching to meet Chinese demands could wipe out the world’s only Asiatic lion population.
This serious new development points to the fact that since tigers are so scarce in the wild, poachers are now targeting the last remaining population of Asiatic Lions. Gir’s lions are an easy target, since they are comparatively used to people and live in open scrub forest. Their bones are also virtually indistinguishable from those of tigers. There is no market for big cat parts in India and their poaching and the trade is entirely driven by demand from outside India’s borders for use in traditional Chinese medicine.
Leopards and lions used as substitutes for tiger bones
Also in 2007, environmental photojournalist Debby Ng wrote in Asia! Magazine that both leopards and lions are now used as common substitutes for tiger bones. Ng has worked with TRAFFIC, WWF, WSPA, and EIA.
Ng stated in her article that according to Valmik Thapar, conservationist and one of the world’s leading experts in Indian tigers, 12 to 14 Asiatic lions were poached within six months in Gir National Park. Thapar said that poaching for the Chinese tiger trade was confirmed by the fact that only the bones were removed from the dead lions – just as in the case of tigers killed for Chinese “potions”.
Even earlier, Dr. A.J.T. Johnsingh, a wildlife biologist with the Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore, and WWF-India, reported in 2004 that Gir’s Asiatic lions were being killed by villagers working in conjunction with poachers.
In April 2004, a lion was found in the Dedakadi forest range near the Gir headquarters at Sasan, with its right paw nearly ripped off – a sure sign of the use of a leg-hold jaw trap, which is commonly used to kill tigers. Soon officials detected organised poaching of lions, and there were reports of bones being removed from carcasses. It came to light that tribal poachers from Madhya Pradesh disguised as agricultural labourers were killing the lions. Suspicion pointed persistently to the traditional Chinese medicine business as it is difficult to differentiate bones of lions from those of tigers.
While the main threat to African lions at this point is human encroachment (especially poisoning by farmers), Dereck Joubert, a National Geographic filmmaker and writer focusing on big cats, has said in an article in Washington Post earlier this year that African lions are also at risk of becoming commodities in China.
Big cats are in trouble everywhere. The number of tigers has dipped below 3 000. Tiger bones are used extensively in the East for medicines and mythological cures for ailments or limp libidos, and the demand is increasing. A growing demand and a disappearing supply is a formula for disaster.
The solution playing out is a switch from tiger bones to lion bones, which can be easily sold off as tiger bones.
Heed the warning – before it is too late for lions
Sadly, one only need to look at the decline in wild tiger and rhinoceros populations to see that CITES protections are not enough to deter poachers. Commercial poaching has become big business – thanks to the boom in population and the “new wealth” in China. And despite being a CITES signatory, Chinese consumption of products derived from endangered species – especially tigers – is flourishing.
There is no doubt that If China does succeed in wiping out our planet’s wild tigers, commercial poaching operations – funded by Chinese demand and affluence – will also push lions to extinction.
Conclusion from the Chief Environmental Officer;
It is beyond a doubt that we are losing many species of animals within Africa and Asia to fund the booming Traditional Wildlife Trade that exceeds that of the illegal arms trade by millions. Hunting of lions must be banned without a doubt or trade and demand for a fake medicine that has no health benefits whatsoever will most certainly skyrocket thus leading to the extinction of our lion prides. We simply cannot any longer sit back and do nothing. Cites signatories must now ban all imports of lion trophies into their countries. Furthermore all lion stronghold African and Asian countries must ban trophy hunting full stop. Failing this extinction will be on the cards before anyone really takes notice.
Tour operators locally and internationally must warn their customers travelling to African petting farms of the dangers in which customers are placing lion populations in. Petting a lion may seem rather cute to some, however has a detrimental effect not only to the lion’s behaviour, health of other lions and game but money raised from the petting business travels directly into breeding more lions, killing more lions thus funding the bone wine trade.
Time for this practice to stop starts today. International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa and Europa has as of last month sent emails to many hundreds of tour operators informing them of the dangers. Should we locate ANY tour guide that openly allows such practices we will expose them as a national threat to our lion species.
Africa must tackle not only its poaching crisis on a governmental level but also its human over-population explosion too. Lions are losing their habitat every day to provide roads, infrastructure and housing to Africans of which many from 2011-2013 were illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe. Influxes of immigrants from over the borders in to South Africa has increased to gastronomical levels and yet little is being done to secure the borders.
Habitat destruction, land conversion, hunting, breeding un-sustainable agriculture, persecution, poisoning and poaching needs addressing on a much larger and wider level. We can all write about the problems and cry out too, this “emotion and thought drive” now needs processing into positive actions by each and every person concerned about the welfare of our countries lions and other mega fauna before it’s too late.
Dr Jose C. Depre
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This Fridays endangered species article focuses on avian species that could be under threat in the next decade should deforestation increase, habitat fragmenting and oil explorations increase within the Democratic Republic of Congo and Virunga National Park.
Today we focus on three species listed herein as;
- Ross’s Turaco. (Musophaga rossae)
- Red Throated Bea Eater. (Merops bulocki)
- Red Head Blue Bill. (Spermophaga ruficapilla)
Why single out just these three bird species though?
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa has singled these three species out not because they are threatened but more the opposite, because they are “for now” listed as least concern – for – how long though is another story. Seismic surveys in the Virunga National Park could interfere with the breeding patterns, life cycle and behaviour thus forcing them out of their original habitat encroaching onto others.
So think of it like this, you live next door to a noisy neighbour that has affected your sleep, and behaviour, caused you unimaginable physical and psychological stress that you are literally forced out of your home into new pastures that may or may not be suitable for you and your children. Humans can up and move rather easy although it’s the most stressful event within a life time we manage ok. Birds and other mammals though cannot just up and move that easy. Habitat is shrinking and the human populations are growing, and growing with no end in sight.
Birds need to ensure that the correct trees, fruits (Eg) are within a new territory, that predators are minimal in size; they are not over exposed and can nest freely. If for instance a bird population has nowhere to move to and is forced to live within a (oil drilling zone block [exampled]) then how long do you think them populations will continue to live for? I am sure that you can answer that question yourself.
So let’s take a look at these three stunning birds today.
Lady Ross Turaco;
Musophaga rossae is commonly known as the Ross’s Turaco or Lady Ross Turaco identified in 1852 the current population trend is stable and there is no reason as yet to be overly concerned. Please note “as yet” as this could soon change to “concerned”.
Native to Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, The Democratic Republic Congo Republic of Gabon, Congo Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, United Republic of Uganda and Zambia. Lady Ross is also a vagrant visitor to the Africans country of Botswana too with little evidence of populations within Namibia.
For now population size of this most beautiful bird categorised in the order of cuculiformes is currently stable and present throughout much of its range. Turacos are frugivous, which means they mainly consume fruit, such as grapes, apples, bananas, melons, papaya, squash, pears, etc. At least five different types of fruit are consumed a day by Turacos of which is essential for their diet and living. However should big rig oil and gas companies begin ripping up forests within “parts of their range” of which many fruit trees are present within the Virunga then sadly the Turaco’s habitat is placed in danger thus forcing the Turaco to either up and move or die of malnutrition. Moving to Cameroon the Tauraco bannermani that is related to the Lady Ross Turaco is listed as (endangered) since 2012. Their population size is currently on the decline and the possibility of extinction occurring are very real within the next five years.
I have picked this species related to the Lady Ross as an example to show my concerns to you of which the main threat to the Bannerman’s Turaco (common name) is that of habitat fragmentation. The same threat that is now facing many species of bird and mammal life within the Virunga National Park should oil expansion be given the go ahead by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Government.
Threats that could face the Lady Ross are listed hereto;
The greatest threat to this species is habitat loss: the Kilum-Ijim forest halved in area between 1963 and 1986. Following changes to a major long-term conservation project in 2004, it is reported that the threats of habitat loss and degradation at Kilum-Ijim have increased. Forest fires are responsible for the greatest proportion of habitat loss, for example c.500 ha of forest burnt around Lake Oku in March 2000. It is also under serious threat from forest clearance for agriculture, grazing, firewood and timber, with birds surviving in forest fragments in imminent danger of extinction, particularly due to their reluctance to cross open habitats. The species is hunted for its feathers, which are given as awards in local ceremonies.
Another species related to the Lady Ross is that of the Tauraco fischeri identified in 1878 its native to Tanzania, Kenya and Somalia. Current threats are or less the same as its distant cousin the Bannerman’s Turaco listed below; please note the words (forest clearance, habitat fragmentation, and pet trade). Many Turaco’s are still being traded as pets however the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species Wild Flora and Fauna (Cites) has limited some species importations and exportations to preserve their current wild populations.
Tauraco fischeri threats are;
It is threatened primarily by trapping and the clearance of coastal forests. During the 1980s and early 1990s, hundreds of birds were exported from Tanzania for the cage bird trade, with many more perishing en route, and this had a serious impact on numbers in the Usambaras. Trade in live birds from Tanzania is still a significant threat, although a recently imposed quota system is helping to limit its impact. On Zanzibar, there is a high rate of habitat degradation, with only 16% of the habitat occupied by the species showing signs of low, rather than high, human impact. Its habitat on Zanzibar is threatened mainly by firewood collection, but also by charcoal production, timber extraction and extensive clearing of land for agriculture. Please note the words (charcoal production) which are a serious threat still to Virunga National Park species. Should oil drilling get the go ahead charcoal production is most certainly going to increase within parts of the Lady Ross’s range.
Red Throated Bea Eater;
Identified in 1817 Merops bulocki scientifically known as the Red Throated Bea Eater is currently listed as least concern of which its populations are currently stable. Again as explained above please note the words “currently stable” which could change over a decade or less to “threatened”.
Native to Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, The Democratic Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia; Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan, Togo Uganda and the (DRC) Democratic Republic of Congo. The Red Throated Bea Eater is also known to be a vagrant within Sierra Leone.
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa are concerned that Bea Eaters could be placed in danger via deforestation, land clearance for agriculture, oil and gas drilling, charcoal trade and the tropical pet trade. The Bea Eaters diet is unique of which I have listed below. Again remember that Bea Eaters do mainly eat insects and insects need flora to survive. Should big rig oil companies then move in, rip up forest and land for roads and rigs then unfortunately we will see a reduction in food required for the survival of the Bea Eater thus placing the species in “danger”.
Bea Eater’s Diet;
The Bee-Eaters are almost exclusively aerial hunters of insect prey. Prey is caught either while in continuous flight or more commonly from an exposed perch where the Bee-Eater watches for prey. Smaller, rounder-winged Bee-Eater typically hunts from branches and twigs closer to the ground, whereas the larger species hunt from tree tops or telegraph wires.
One unusual technique often used by carmine Bee-Eater is to ride the back of bustards. Prey can be spotted from a distance; European Bee-Eaters are able to spot a bee 60 m away, and Blue-cheeked Bee-Eaters have been observed flying out 100 m to catch large wasps. Prey is approached directly or from behind. Prey that lands on the ground or on plants is usually not pursued. Small prey may be eaten on the wing, but larger prey is returned to the perch to be beaten against the perch to kill them and break them up. Insects with poisonous stings are first smacked on the branch, then, with the eyes closed, rubbed to discharge the venom. This behaviour is innate, as demonstrated by a juvenile bird in captivity, which performed the task when first presented with wild bees. This bird was stung on the first five tries, but by ten bees, it was as adept at handling bees as adult birds.
Bee-Eaters consume a wide range of insects; beyond a few distasteful butterflies they consume almost any insect from tiny Drosophila flies to large beetles and dragonflies. At some point Bee-Eaters have been recorded eating beetles, mayflies, stoneflies, cicadas, termites, crickets and grasshoppers, mantises, true flies and moths.
For many species the dominant prey item are stinging members of the order Hymenoptera, namely wasps and bees. In a survey of 20 studies the proportion of the diet made up by bees and wasps varied from 20% to 96%, with the average being 70%. Of these honeybees can comprise a large part of the diet – as much as 89% of the overall diet.
Pollinator Decline could place bird species in danger;
The term pollinator decline refers to the reduction in abundance of insect and other animal pollinators in many ecosystems worldwide during the end of the twentieth century. Pollinators participate in sexual reproduction of many plants, by ensuring cross-pollination, essential for some species, or a major factor in ensuring genetic diversity for others. Since plants are the primary food source for animals, the reduction of one of the primary pollination agents, or even their possible disappearance, has raised concern, and the conservation of pollinators has become part of biodiversity conservation efforts.
Over the past decade we have seen a slight decline of Africans Honey Beas and other pollinators of which birds such as the Red Throated Bea Eater require to eat and survive.
Honey Beas do make up quite a significant proportion of the Bea Eaters diet, last year I raised my concerns with regards to the vast decline of bees within America, Europe and Asia. Take Asia for instance in some areas Honey Beas have vanished of which has left fruit farmers to pollinate their crops by hand. Honey Bea decline within Asia, Europe and America is still ongoing and should it continue we would need African Honey Beas to help pollinate our crops. However the African Honey Bea has also seen some rather small and large declines within its range.
As the crucial role of bees as pollinators of the world’s food supply is increasingly becoming common knowledge, reports about the serious decline of Honey Bee populations in Europe and the USA have alarmed governments, the private sector and the general public. A similar decline in Africa and Asia has the potential to further threaten the world’s biodiversity, in addition to compromising the food security and livelihoods of millions of rural resource-poor farmers, as well as having negative impacts on the agricultural income of commercial farmers. The simple fact is here – should we lose the honey bee we’ll most certainly lose a vast majority of Avian and Mammal species too. Think about it, mammals and birds even humans require vegetables and fruits to live, these plants require the honey bee and other pollinating insects to produce cropage. No crop no food = major problems.
DID YOU KNOW – Beas are responsible for one in three bites of food that we and land mammals eat?
Apart from the honey they produce, bees are vitally important pollinators of fruit and vegetable crops. It is estimated that pollinators, especially bees, are responsible for about one in three bites of the food we eat.
For much of the last ten years, beekeepers, primarily in the United States and Europe, have been reporting annual hive losses of 30 percent or higher, which is substantially more than is considered normal or sustainable. Many bee species and other pollinating insects have experienced a sharp decline in numbers, raising major concerns about the impacts on food supplies and environmental health.
Listed as least concern the Merops bulocki (one step away from near threatened) the Red Throated Bea Eater’s populations are as explained currently stable. But what about other Bea Eaters?
For now the vast majority of Bea Eaters are currently listed as (least concern) however that could soon change as it has for the Merops mentalis, scientifically identified as Blue-moustached Bee-eater and located in 1889 the species is currently listed as (near threatened). Native to Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone its populations are currently decreasing rapidly.
Again major threats are mostly deforestation of which should SOCO Plc or other oil and gas companies decide on ripping forests up to build rigs, lay pipes, and construct roads inbound and outbound we will most certainly see the Red Throated Bea Eater reduced within its range in the Virunga National Park. Threats to the Red Throated Bea Eater’s cousin the Merops mentalis are listed herein below;
This species occurs in a region known for rapid and on-going deforestation. Large remnant tracts of forest in Liberia are under intense and increasing pressure from commercial logging and a consequent increase in settlement and small-holder agriculture. Elsewhere in the Upper Guinea region, forest survives in fragments that are under intense pressure for logging and conversion to agriculture. Forest in some reserves is being destroyed for teak plantations and cultivation, as well as through illegal logging. The species’ tolerance of some forest degradation and fragmentation implies that it is not undergoing a severe decline as yet. However take a few hundred kilometres of forest away for roads, add a 50,000 square meter oil and gas rigging company, plus vehicles and we soon see problems occurring “very rapidly”. Read more here on how oil platforms work http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/energy/oil-drilling4.htm
Red Head Blue Bill;
Located in 1888 the Red Head-Blue Bill species a stunningly beautiful avian bird is formally listed as (least concern). All three species listed above are categorised as least concern of which (near threatened) status is their categorisation.
Population size is currently stable of which is populated quite extensively throughout its range. Native too Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo The Democratic Republic of Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and the United Republic of Uganda.
Red Head Blue Bill is one of only a dozen or so that’s cousins is listed as “non-threatened”. Grants Blue Bill and the Western Blue Bill are currently for now listed as (least concern). The global population size has not been quantified, but it is believed to be large as the species is described as ‘frequent’ in at least parts of its range (Fry and Keith 2004). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations).
Read Head – Blue Bills diet consists mainly of incest’s making up 90% of its overall diet with earth worms, mealy bugs and beetles. Although listed as least concern we must not be fooled for one minute that this species is safe as it is not. Taking the Congo as again another prime example of habitat fragmentation the DRC and Congo is currently losing vast swathes of forestry legal and illegal. Many species of animal are on the decline as you can see pictured below in diagram one.
Congo – (CAR) Deforestation;
Central Africa’s deforestation rate since 1990 has been the lowest of any major forest region in the world. However there are still a number of threats to the health of the Congo rainforest and its residents.
The biggest drivers of deforestation in the Congo rainforest over the past 20 years have been small-scale subsistence agriculture, clearing for charcoal and fuel wood, urban expansion, and mining. Industrial logging has been the biggest driver of forest degradation. However it’s important not to understate the impact of logging in the region. Logging roads have opened up vast areas of the Congo to commercial hunting, leading to a poaching epidemic in some areas and a more than 60 percent drop in the region’s forest elephant population in less than a decade. Furthermore, logging roads have provided access to speculators and small-holders that clear land for agriculture.
Looking forward, the biggest threats to the Congo rainforest come from industrial logging and conversion for large-scale agriculture. Some environmentalists fear that the Congo could be on the verge of a massive increase in deforestation for palm oil, rubber, and sugar production.
NOTE; when contacting SOCO International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa made it quite clear that opening up roads in an area that has rampant poaching and tropical animal trade. Our exact words where;
“Opening up forest land to commercial oil and gas drilling will not only lead to opportunistic illegal logging but also vast scale poaching, leading to a poaching epidemic that could spiral out of control”.
We have yet to date since contacting the CEO and her husband Roger to receive a reply on how they would deal with such a problematic issue that could see Gorilla species wiped out and primates and more tropical birds abducted from their natural habitat and sold into the witchcraft, voodoo or the tropical pet trade.
All three species of bird above that are endemic to the Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda face many daunting man made problems listed below. Should these and a suspected oil and gas trade open up within the Virunga National Park (1925) then we will most certainly lose these species and many more too.
Logging in the Congo Basin has increased significantly as peace has returned to the region. In 2004, encouraged by the World Bank, Congo announced its plans to step up the commercial logging of its rainforest. The timber industry is a major employer in Congo countries and thousands of workers rely on logging companies for basic healthcare and other services. Illegal logging is a significant problem as underpaid bureaucrats look to supplement their incomes by opening restricted areas to cutting.
Since the end of the war in Congo DR, concessions have been granted and the pace of logging in Africa’s largest remaining rain forest is picking up
Most of the deforestation in the Congo is caused by local subsistence activities by poor farmers and villagers who rely on forest lands for agriculture and fuel wood collection. Slash-and-burn is commonly used for clearing forest.
Typically, poor farmers and colonists gains access to forest lands by following logging roads, although in the past few years civil strife has driven many Central Africans deep into the rainforest to escape the widespread violence.
Central Africa has been plagued with violence since the mid-90s. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have moved through the forests of the Congo, stripping vegetation and devastating wildlife populations. National parks like Virunga — home to the endangered mountain gorilla — were looted and park staffers slaughtered. Refugee camps bordering parks added to the pressure on parklands. For now the M23 rebels have agreed on a cease fire lasting well over a year now however this could change, and the last thing we want is to see an oil refinery abandoned and in the hands of crazed lunatics that could wipe the park clean of the planet.
The Congo Basin has some of the world richest mineral deposits. Mining operations are poorly monitored and financial returns are prioritized over social impacts and the long-term health effects — much less to the environmental impact.
The Bush meat Trade
Today visitors too many Central African cities can purchase the meat of virtually any forest animal. Demand for bush meat is driven by the desire for protein, not necessarily the animal source of the protein, the demand for which varies from market to market. In Gabon, McRae reports that annual per capita consumption of bush meat may reach eight pounds annually.
The availability of bush meat is made possible by the logging industry whose road construction opens rainforest to hunters and settlers. Hunters make a living by selling bush meat to passing loggers, traders, and local villagers. The majority of bush meat is brought to city markets by loggers. Since 2012 we have informed SOCO that this is a major problem within Africa should an oil refinery be constructed it would see more deforestation occur.
Above is details bird species endemic to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Virunga.
Regional bush meat hunting is expected to “increase as commercial logging” expands in the Congo Basin.
Within this article part II of the Virunga National Park Crisis I have not listed “endangered species” as a concern. Instead I have provided you with sound evidence that should an oil refinery be constructed, roads and transportation built plus more it will see all three species above, Ross’s Turaco (Musophaga rossae), Red Throated Bea Eater (Merops bulocki), and the Red Head Blue Bill, (Spermophaga ruficapilla) (as an example) plus many more species of bird and mammalian placed in dire danger.
Virunga National Park’s species of land mammal, aquatic and avian populations have been declining rapidly over the past decade. Mining, deforestation, illegal logging, and the bush meat trade have been responsible for some rather prolific animal declines, and now a possible oil refinery will most certainly be the nail in the coffin.
Thank you for reading;
For further information please email our Environmental Public Relations unit below;
Chief Environmental Officer
Dr Josa C. Depre
Chief Environmental Registrar
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Virunga National Park, Africa’s first natural wildlife park is once again under threat from SOCO plc a British Oil Company that is threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of species of mammal and fauna and indigenous tribes that depend on the parks surroundings to survive.
The problem doesn’t just stop there, M23 rebels and “oil” don’t mix especially when the cease fire there over a year old now is still bubbling, frustrations are mounting, conservationists are coming under attack. Tensions are high and the only hope for this park and its inhabitants now is us and you pushing SOCO out. Preserving the park for years to come. Failure is simply not an option.
Brief History Thus Far;
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa came under cyber-attack on the 1st and 2nd of June 2014 some days after exposing the details of SOCO’s new exploratory maps, home addresses of the Directors and for speaking out against the corrupt regime within the Democratic Republic of Congo. Our Africans site was hacked into, our articles removed, our communications site shut down for no more than 3-4 hours until it was assessed what was going on.
Who were the attackers? We believe the opportunist that got lucky was of Asian origin that was able to locate sites not advertised by us, and information and the know-how of how to navigate complex admin panels. The individual[s] bypassed every important door that would have terminated all sites, every panel that would have hemorrhaged funds from our banks.
Only after well published and shared Virunga articles the perpetrators we believe are the same individuals that have recently been waging cyber-warfare on critics that have spoken out about the current drilling within Africa’s oldest National Park.
Laws as set out in the Democratic Republic of Congo clearly state that oil drilling is “an illegal activity” within the Virunga of which has seen many speak out against the drilling. Those that are speaking out are now being threatened by local thugs, rebels, and cyber warriors.
According to the laws of Democratic Republic of the Congo, activities harmful to the environment are prohibited in all protected areas, including national parks.
Major oil exploitation could involve disruptive seismic tests, forest clearing, deep underground drilling, or the laying of vulnerable oil pipelines. The additional human presence required for these activities could also be damaging to the park’s ecosystems.
As a signatory to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, Democratic Republic of the Congo has agreed to respect the treaty’s requirements for the protection World Heritage Sites.
Oil and mineral extraction have been found by UNESCO to be incompatible with the spirit of the convention. Alarmed by the allocation of oil concessions within Virunga National Park, UNESCO’s Director General has called for the Congolese government to “abandon all plans for oil extraction.” Similarly, the World Heritage Committee has urged that all oil permits be cancelled. International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa has called on SOCO to pull out of Virunga and for the British Government to now intervene before we see damage and loss occur.
SOCO back in April 2014 released this statement below with regards to its “seismic surveys” that are ongoing in large blocks within the Virunga National Park established in 1925.
SOCO’s April 2014 statement can be read below;
Tuesday 29 April 2014
SOCO International plc (“SOCO” or “the Company”)
SOCO Comments on Unfounded Allegations and Inaccuracies on the Company’s Current Activities in Virunga National Park SOCO is aware of the inaccuracies concerning its activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo currently being circulated in the media by the Company’s detractors.
SOCO would like to make clear, as consistent with previous statements, that the only commitment at this point in time is to conduct seismic survey on Lake Edward, alongside environmental and social studies and social investment programmes. No drilling has been planned or is even warranted at this stage.
This is the preliminary block evaluation phase of the work programme agreed with the DRC Government, and is the only phase to which SOCO has committed.
A seismic survey is a scientific study to gather data about subsurface rock formations. SOCO commissioned a seismic survey on Lake Edward in DRC waters, which has a surface area of approx. 1,630 sq km. This survey, beginning late April, is not the first seismic survey on Lake Edward: a seismic survey was previously carried out on the same lake in Ugandan waters (which covers a surface area of approx. 695 sq km).
The seismic survey will take approx. 6 weeks to complete and will progress across the lake, one area at a time. SOCO is using the same specialist contractors that carried out a similar survey on Lake Albert, another of the East Africa Great Lakes, this time using an even more environmentally sensitive technique. Moreover, although the survey technique is harmless to aquatic flora and fauna, as an extra precautionary measure the delicate fish spawning areas of the lake will be excluded.
The seismic survey involves placing a line of hydrophones, extremely sensitive sound equipment, onto the lake floor to record sound waves produced from releases of compressed air. The survey will take place in daylight and will utilise approximately 1% of the lake, on the DRC side, at any one time (approx. 16 sq km).
LICENCE AND PERMITS
The Government of the DRC awarded the Block V licence to SOCO in June 2006 and ratified this by Presidential Decree in 2010. In 2011, the DRC Environment Ministry approved SOCO’s environmental and social impact assessment (often referred to as the ‘PAR’) and in 2011 and 2013 issued Environmental Acceptability Certificates authorising respective aerial and seismic surveys. The aerial survey was not carried out due to the security status in the region; the seismic survey is described above.
Within Block V, SOCO’s specific area of interest is Lake Edward (approx 1,630 km2) and the adjacent lowland savannah, which are both within the Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The park wardens’ organisation, ICCN, which manages the Virunga National Park, is a DRC Government body. In May 2011, ICCN and SOCO made an agreement, which was signed by ICCN’s Chairman of the Board and its Director General. Under the terms of this agreement, ICCN permits SOCO to enter the Virunga National Park for the purposes of carrying out scientific studies, and SOCO pays ICCN a fee for access to the Park and for monitoring SOCO’s activities whilst inside the Park.
The lines of working relationship and accountability to ICCN were strengthened further in September 2011 when an Environmental Monitoring Committee was established to monitor SOCO’s activities whilst in the Park. ICCN has two representatives on this committee and ICCN’s Director General holds the position of Committee Chairman. SOCO’s agreement with ICCN was renewed in 2013.
The DRC Environment Ministry addressed the legal position concerning oil exploration in the Virunga National Park in its letter to UNESCO, announced on 8 August 2012 and available on its website (also available on SOCO’s website). The DRC Environment Ministry has recently stated its continued commitment to promoting the country’s research, exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons in full compliance with its national and international commitments to nature and the environment. The DRC Environment Ministry noted that despite some concerns, it was determined to combine sound economic management with sustainable management of natural resources whilst ensuring environmental protection.
HELP FOR THE PARK
The Virunga National Park was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger by the World Heritage Committee twenty years ago in 1994 in the wake of war and an influx of refugees which led to widescale deforestation and poaching at the site. The human population in the fishing village near Lake Edward has increased several fold, posing a serious threat to the integrity of the Park.
Responsible commercial investment has the potential to transform a region. We are committed to support conservation by ensuring that our operations are managed responsibly and sustainably. Responsibly conducted commercial activities can provide important measures of stability to a region. Enhancement of local and regional economies can help raise living standards for local communities and thus alleviate the pressure and negative impacts on the protected area. We are committed to continuing the dialogue with all stakeholders who have an interest in our operations in Virunga in order to better understand their concerns, correct inaccuracies and reassure local communities.
During 2013, SOCO committed over US $0.9 million towards social projects for local communities around Lake Edward, including:
The rehabilitation of a dilapidated road between Nyakakoma and Ishasha,
The installation of a communications mast at Nyakakoma
The provision of medical aid programmes (including a mobile hospital and a disease mapping campaign to combat neglected tropical diseases).
SOCO is extremely sensitive to the environmental significance of the Virunga National Park. This is reflected in the strict step-wise process that is uniquely characteristic of the Block V project. Unlike standard oil exploration licence projects, the approval of the DRC authorities is required for each phase of the project and emphasis is placed on environmental monitoring studies and social investment during the early phases.
Engaging with the local community to hear and understand their needs, along with carefully managed social investment is an important part of responsible management. SOCO’s social investment is starting to have a positive impact that we believe will be long-term.
It is emphasised that SOCO operates under a strict Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, which it takes extremely seriously. Any reported breach will always be investigated to the furthest extent possible.
SOCO fully appreciates and supports a public debate on the compatibility of conservation and economic development. However, the benefit of such debate becomes limited when one side of the debate presents false allegations, and when there has been little or no opportunity for balance to be included by allowing SOCO to put across its side of the story with facts concerning its location and activities in Block V.
SOCO’s approach continues to be one of openness and transparency, and SOCO welcomes dialogue with all its stakeholders.
End of statement;
Lake Edward featured within the heavily criticised film “Virunga” is the main area of interest that SOCO are currently focusing on, strangely SOCO also state that they were given “permission” to conduct (seismic surveys) and not (drilling as yet) by Virunga’s rangers, Democratic Republic of Congo Government and local communities. From our own experiences and knowing to well whom are located around the area of Lake Edward and within the Virunga itself we personally believe rangers and local communities have been threatened by “unforeseen forces” most likely M23 rebels that have since a year ago issued a cease fire within the park.
SOCO stresses that all of the Company’s activities within the Virunga National Park, taking place between 2012 and 2014 to date, have been authorised by ICCN – the Virunga Park rangers /warden’s organisation which manages the Virunga National Park. The park authorities are authorised under national Congolese law to perm it certain activities, including a seismic survey. Copies of the permits are provided on www.socointernational.com
Are seismic surveys detrimental to the environment?
The direct impacts of seismic activities are not extensive because they are generally confined to the width of the seismic lines (usually 4–5 m) and should not extend into the surrounding landscape. As the seismic activities are not laterally extensive, they have very minor potential for significant cumulative and hence ecological effects.
However, some issues such as 3D seismic surveys, which may directly impact up to 2% of the survey area, are being studied for significance in terms of ecological impact. In addition, all seismic lines have the potential to facilitate access to areas by third parties and exotic species.
The actual impacts on wildlife within SOCO’s exploratory seismic zones are more visual rather than ecological – however it must be noted that conducting such research within aquatic areas being that Lake Edward can if not monitored cause loss of aquatic life or force species to move on.
What are seismic surveys?
Firstly let us just REMIND you that SOCO is only conducting seismic surveys of which we know will only lead to one thing should the surveys prove positive. SOCO know there is oil within this region and stand to lose quite a lot of money if they pull out now. We must also stress that tensions are currently high within the area. Knowing what is at stake and knowing too that we and other environmental organisations want no drilling of its kind in the park could potentially start another conflict especially within one of Africa’s poorest countries. Money speaks volumes within the Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Drilling for oil is an expensive gamble: With project costs rising every year, an oil company can stand to lose an incredible amount of money exploring or developing a property that fails to yield hydrocarbons in commercial rates. When faced with these risks, company’s do all they can to hedge their bets, to be as sure as possible that their investment has a good chance of making money. Companies want to know as much as possible about the potential profitability of a property before they begin developing it, and seismic surveys are one of the primary ways they learn about a prospect’s production potential.
In essence, seismic surveys are a way to probe beneath the surface to “see” underlying features that make up the underground structure of a prospect. Such features can give companies a more astute indication if a prospect contains hydrocarbons.
“In addition to delineating subsurface structures, seismic data can be computer processed for ‘attributes’ such as Amplitude Versus Offset, or AVO, which can serve as a Direct Hydrocarbon Indicator (DHI). AVO shows the lithology and fluid content variations in rocks, allowing geologists to model other fluid contents. “Such DHIs are as close to directly identifying oil or gas in the subsurface as geophysicists can get.”
As the name suggests, seismic examines surface-induced seismic pulses to image subsurface formations. Basically, a seismic wave is generated underneath the earth’s surface, and then picked up by sensors called “geophones” as the waves bounce off subsurface formations – that is, layers of rock beneath the surface. There are two primary means of generating these waves: with dynamite and with a process called vibroseis.
Dynamite is the simpler and generally preferred source, but for several reason it is limited to open areas, such as fieldsand farmlands. Dynamite is also the only practical energy source in swampy areas, such as much of Southern Louisiana. Quite simply, dynamite is buried and then set off. The resulting explosions generate the requisite underground reverberation, which is then relayed via geophones to a special recording truck.
The other common method, more frequently seen in populous areas or places in which dynamite is impractical, is vibroseis. Vibroseis uses large, purpose-built trucks as the source of the seismic waves. Five or six trucks are commonly used to create enough energy for the procedure. Simultaneously, these trucks then begin to generate energy of increasing frequency over the period of several seconds. Like with the dynamite method, the resulting reverberations are measured by geophones, with the data being sent to a recording truck.
The rough signal is then filtered and processed to edit out background noise and produce a clean, sharp final signal.
Land seismic surveys are not really a “danger” to wildlife however as explained when conducting such surveys in aquatic areas of high ecological interest they can be detrimental to aquatic fauna. SOCO have stated (areas) of Lake Edward that host vast spawning grounds have been “excluded” from oil research. So there is evidence that seismic surveys can be “dangerous” to aquatic life which brings us to our next and most worrying concern. Drilling for oil in Africa’s most pristine and oldest Natural Park.
SOCO for the time being have clearly stated that drilling is not “part of their activities” within the park. Please read below.
Block V encompasses an area of the Virunga National Park, a World Heritage Site, which includes part of Lake Edward. SOCO’s area of interest is the lowland savannah area around Lake Edward and the lake itself.
It is emphasised that Block V is not located within the mountainous Mikeno Sector, home to the famous Mountain Gorillas. This has been subject to much inaccurate media speculation. Furthermore, SOCO has stated it will never seek to have operations in the Mountain Gorilla habitat, the Virunga Volcanoes or the Virunga equatorial rainforest.
The only planned activity continues to be the scientific studies involving a seismic survey of Lake Edward, environmental baseline studies and social investment projects. No drilling has been planned or is warranted at this stage.
Oil drilling in Virunga could be potentially catastrophic for mammal life, fauna and birds right down to local indigenous tribes that depend on the parks surroundings for their survival. Lake Edward, Rutanzige or Edward Nyanza is the smallest of the African Great Lakes. It is located in the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift, on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, with its northern shore a few kilometres south of the Equator. So, what drilling that may occur would most likely if seismic surveys prove positive be within the lake itself of which poses a “significantly high threat” to aquatic, avian and land mammals.
Lake Edward lies at an elevation of 920 metres, is 77 km long by 40 km wide at its maximum points, and covers a total surface area of 2,325 km2 (898 sq mi), making it the 15th-largest on the continent. The lake is fed by the Nyamugasani River, the Ishasha River, the Rutshuru River, the Ntungwe River and the Rwindi River. It empties to the north via the Semliki River into Lake Albert. Lake George to the northeast empties into Lake Edward via the Kazinga Channel.
The western escarpment of the Great Rift Valley towers up to 2000 m above the western shore of the lake. The southern and eastern shores are flat lava plains. The Ruwenzori Mountains lie 20 km north of the lake. Should a pipe burst within this region (if drilling is give the go ahead) would not only be disastrous to the lake but also to the Nyamugasani River, the Ishasha River, the Rutshuru River, the Ntungwe River and the Rwindi River. Least forgetting, Semliki River into Lake Albert, Lake George to the northeast empties into Lake Edward via the Kazinga Channel. Due to the area being very remote too clean-up operations would prove difficult, time consuming and potentially dangerous to human life should the civil war begin again.
Lake Edward lies completely within the Virunga National Park (Congo) and the Queen Elizabeth National Park (Uganda) and does not have extensive human habitation on its shores, except at Ishango (DRC) in the north, home to a park ranger training facility. About two-thirds of its waters are in the DR Congo and one third in Uganda. Apart from Ishango, the main Congolese settlement in the south is Vitshumbi, while the Ugandan settlements are Mweya and Katwe in the north-east, near the crater lake of that name, which is the chief producer of salt for Uganda. The Mweya Safari Lodge is the main tourist facility, serving both Lake Edward and Lake Katwe. The nearest cities are Kasese in Uganda to the north-east and Butembo in DR Congo, to the north-west, which are respectively about 50 km and 150 km distant by road.
Although communities within the area are sparsely dotted all around Lake Edward oil drilling and a potential pipe line rupture would harm the already poor and unhealthy surrounding communities that depend on the lake for its abundance of food, land mammals and flora surrounding Lake Edward too. Can we really take this risk of which should not have been authorised by the government or allegedly rangers and wildlife wardens.
Lake Edward is home to many species of fish, including populations of Bagrus docmac, Sarotherodon niloticus, Sarotherodon leucostictus, and over 50 species of Haplochromis and other haplochromine species, of which only 25 are formally described. Fishing is an important activity among local residents. Fauna living on the banks of the lake – including chimpanzees, elephants, crocodiles, and lions – are protected by the national parks. The area is also home to many perennial and migratory bird species.
Fast Facts on animal species and environment within the Virunga National Park;
1. A single 100-acre block of forest in the Ituri National Park was found to contain 700 species of trees and liana vines.
2. Bonobos (along with the common chimpanzee) are the primate most closely related to humans, yet are the least well known of the African great apes. Discovered in 1935 and found only in DR Congo, some populations remain relatively isolated within the low-lying forests south of the Congo River.
3. Virunga National Park is Africa’s oldest, having been established in 1925, and includes landscapes ranging from glaciers to lowland forests and active volcanoes.
4. Virunga harbors more types of birds (706) and mammals (196) species than any other national park in Africa. It also contains 109 reptile, 78 amphibian, and more than 2,000 plant species.
5. The rare okapi, known as the “rainforest giraffe” because of its long neck, the shape of its ears, and its long tongue, is native to the Ituri Forest of DR Congo.
History of oil pipe line accidents within Africa!
Back in 2004 Lagos saw one colossal pipe line burst of which since 1990 to present the Africans country, Nigeria has been in the spotlight regarding numerous oil pipe line bursts.
Press reports stated;
Lagos – A pipeline carrying crude oil across the unruly Niger delta region to Nigeria’s main export terminal has burst and is on fire, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell and a local leader said on Tuesday The Trans-Niger pipeline carrying crude from wells in southern Nigeria to Shell’s Bonny oil export terminal was reported to be leaking on Monday, company officials said.
Shell said that it had already moved in to control the fire and the leak. But a local ethnic leader insisted that the firm’s engineers had not yet arrived, but simply flown over the area in a helicopter.
“We sent a team of experts to cap the leak but were prevented by youths in the community,” a Shell spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Community leaders intervened but, before we could access the area, some unknown persons had set fire on the leak, causing a spill into a nearby fish pond,” he continued. “Our men are there right now, working. We have contained the fire and the leak will be capped today. We have also launched an inquiry into the incident.” The village where the fire broke out is in the traditional homeland of the Ogoni people, who have a long-standing dispute with Shell. The firm halted oil production in Ogoniland, a minority enclave north of the oil city of Port Harcourt, in 1993 after protests and bad international publicity over the environmental damage its operations were causing.
But important pipelines still run through Ogoni territory and community leaders still accuse the oil giant of polluting and exploiting their land without being prepared to pay for community development. “The villagers say that the fire started early yesterday, after the spill had been seen the night before,” said Ledum Mitee, president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop. “Up until the time I am speaking to you nothing has been done about it. Containment measures have not been taken,” he said, denying there had been any local protest to prevent Shell gaining access to the site.
Mitee said that oil from the burst pipeline was leaking into a tidal creek and threatening a large stretch of farmland. “The leak is barely an hour’s drive from Port Harcourt, I can’t see why they don’t come,” he added. The latest incident came as concerns over the security of world oil supplies mounted and the price of a barrel of crude on the London market passed $54 (about R350) for the first time.
Nigeria is in the second day of a four-day general strike and, despite an admission by unions that they do not plan to disrupt exports, oil traders are anxiously monitoring the country’s daily supply of around 2,5 million barrels.
Back in 2011 some 100 people died when an oil well ruptured.
Scores dead in Kenyan pipeline inferno;
As many as 100 people are feared dead in a fire caused by a leaking fuel pipeline in a densely populated area of Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, according to police. The explosion took place on Monday in the Lunga Lunga industrial area, which is surrounded by a sprawling urban slum.
Flames leapt out from the pipeline in a radius of some 300 meters, setting shacks ablaze and incinerating scores of people, the Associated Press reported. Reporters later saw clusters of charred bodies and blackened bones at the site. Some burned bodies floated in a nearby river filled with sewage, according to the AP. Homes had been built right up to the pipeline, the residents said.
“We are putting the number of dead at over 100, we are waiting for body bags to put the victims into,” said Thomas Atuti, a local police commander. “There had been a leak in the fuel pipeline earlier, and people were going to collect the fuel that was coming out,” said Joseph Mwego, a resident.
“Then there was a loud bang, a big explosion, and smoke and fire burst up high.” Francis Muendo, another resident, told the AFP news agency: “I have never seen this in my life. I have seen women and children burnt like firewood. The very worst was a woman burned with her baby on her back.” Local television channels aired images of smouldering skeletons as the fire raged through the slum covering an area police said was about one acre.
Children in school uniform ran in all directions, crying. Badly burnt slum dwellers staggered in a daze, skin peeling off their faces and arms, according to the Reuters news agency. Raila Odinga, Kenya’s prime minister visited the scene of the inferno and promised help for the victims. “The government will do everything possible to ensure the injured will be treated and the families who have lost their loved ones will be compensated,” said Odinga, who spoke through the sun-roof of his 4×4 vehicle at the scene of the fire.
Mwai Kibaki, the Kenyan president, also visited patients with severe burns at the country’s largest public hospital. “People were trying to scoop fuel from the pipeline,” a Red Cross official told AFP by telephone, adding that the organisation had sent a team to the scene. Firefighters sprayed chemical foam to try to contain the fire, while both police and soldiers roped off the area and pushed people back from the area.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, reporting from Nairobi, said it is common for poor Kenyans to rush to burst pipelines and fuel tankers invloved in road accidents to collect fuel. In 2009, at least 50 people were killed when a fire erupted while they were drawing fuel from an overturned tanker in western Kenya.
Could history repeat itself with regards to the 2010 Democratic Republic of Congo’s fuel blast that killed a staggering 220 people and damaged vast swathes of environment?
2010 DRC fuel explosion;
At least 220 people are reported to have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo after a lorry loaded with oil exploded, setting fire to a village in the east of the country.
Marcellin Cisamvo, the governor of South Kivu province, where the accident took place late on Friday, said children were among those killed. “Some people were killed trying to steal the fuel, but most of the dead were people who were indoors watching the [World Cup] match,” Cisamvo said on Saturday.
Vincent Kabanga, a spokesperson for the South Kivu provincial government, said the tanker, which was coming from Tanzania, overturned in the village of Sange. “There was a crush [of people] and a petrol leak, [then] there was an explosion of fuel oil which spread throughout the village,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from the scene of the tragedy in Sange, said: “It is a large area of devastation. A [cinema] was crammed with people watching a World Cup match. The whole thing is now completely destroyed. “Behind it, another cinema and a couple of houses have been completely burnt to ashes.
“I am now two kilometres up the road from the scene where the UN and local Red Cross brought a lot of the bodies and are now burying them in mass graves. “There are two large holes and then about three or four houses.
“It was a big fuel tank with a very large amount of fuel.
“People were apparently trying to get some of the fuel. Fuel is a valuable commodity here.
“This is one of the poorest parts [of the DRC], so people scrambled to try and get some. And then, 20 minutes or so after the truck tipped over, something triggered the explosion.
“By that point petrol had flown into both cinemas and to the houses behind.”
‘Trap already laid’
Earlier, Katrina Manson, a journalist with the Reuters news agency in the DRC, told Al Jazeera that once the fuel started leaking “it ran absolutely everywhere. Once it caught fire, the trap was already set”. Dozens of homes, mostly constructed with earth and straw, were engulfed in the blaze.
A police officer based in Bukavu, the provincial capital, said the accident had been caused by the lorry’s “excessive speed”. Leonard Zigade, an official of the local Red Cross, said that the organisation had people on the spot and the search for victims was continuing.
The UN, for its part, made three helicopters available to evacuate residents and alerted hospitals at Bukavu and Uvira, a source said. Madnodge Mounoubai, a spokesperson for the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (Monusco), told Al Jazeera that about 35 people had been air-lifted to Bukavu for treatment.
Survivors “in the village need water, food and maybe psychological assistance”, he said. “We have one helicopter on the ground ferrying the most injured people to Kivu. We also have a couple of ambulances transporting the injured to nearby hospitals.
“Bukavu is about 100 kilometres from Sange while Uvira is about 33 kilometres. “But in either place we don’t have any special hospital to treat the injured. “We are trying to get the best possible medical care that we can, but unfortunately there is no special unit for burned people.” Monusco initially said that five peacekeepers were killed in the blaze, but later said there were no deaths.
Noise Pollution and its Damaging Effects to Wildlife Species;
Noise pollution may not seem like a big deal when compared to land clearing or climate change, but birds rely heavily on singing to communicate. Birdsong is used to attract mates, defend territory from rivals, and even warn for predators. This means that a bird’s ability to be heard plays a direct role in its reproductive interactions and survival. Birdsong is particularly noticeable in the early hours of the morning, a phenomenon known as the “dawn chorus.” Scientists aren’t precisely sure why birds select this time of day for their vocal exertions, but it may have something to do with the quiet, calm surroundings – sound travels well when there’s little wind and excess racket.
It’s the excess racket part that humans are contributing to, prompting some species to sing at different times and in different ways. In Mexico, researchers found that house finches raised the pitch of their lowest song notes in response to road noise, and also held them for longer. A study published in Current Biology examined song changes in the great tit across ten European cities – including Paris, London, and Amsterdam – finding that in each location the birds omitted the low-frequency portion of their call. (source) For the great tit, this makes plenty of adaptive sense, since most urban noise is low-frequency. Why expend the energy to belt out your alto if no one else can hear it?
Several studies have shown that urban and non-urban noise can have adverse effects on bird populations, causing them to change their songs and otherwise alter their behavior.
Wildlife have different reactions to noise exposure, and African species are no different. The wildlife has varying degrees of sensitivity to disturbance [Vanthomme et al. 2013]. Some species, such as the white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) and the African elephant (Loxodonta africana), will avoid areas of high human disturbance such as roads and highways [Buk & Knight 2012]. Animals with a greater tolerance to disturbance, such as the lion (Panthera leo) and cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), may become habituated to roads and use them to their advantage in order to move from point A to point B in an effective manner [Coffin 2007] .
Picture Below – Endangered Okapi could be wiped out!
All four species rely heavily on their hearing in order to survive, either for hunting or to avoid danger. As development continues to expand throughout Africa, and especially South Africa, wildlife in small, protected areas are becoming surrounded by roads, and these roads are becoming more frequently used. Animals with less space to utilize within the reserve are having constant, forced exposure to chronic noise from commuting vehicles. Imagine relying on your hearing in order to find your food, but you are constantly listening to honking horns and the hustle and bustle outside of your house. It’s going to make it harder to find that food, don’t you think? Other wildlife populations exposed to noise pollution have had such effects such as hearing loss, hypertension and elevated stress hormone levels.
Conservationists Come Under Attack for Speaking Out against SOCO;
Several rangers and activists have been arbitrarily detained by the authorities and threatened or assaulted by unidentified people after criticizing plans for oil exploration in Virunga, a UNESCO world heritage site that is home to many of the last surviving mountain gorillas. On April 15, 2014, armed men shot and seriously wounded the park’s director, Emmanuel de Mérode, a Belgian national. Congolese military justice officials and police have opened an investigation into the attack.
“The attack on the national park’s director was a painful and shocking reminder that people working to protect Africa’s oldest park – its habitat, wildlife, and local communities – do so at enormous risk,” said Ida Sawyer, senior Congo researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Congolese authorities need to make sure that those responsible for this attack and others are arrested and prosecuted.”
The Belgian federal prosecutor should also consider opening an investigation into the attack on the basis that de Mérode is a Belgian national. The Belgian and Congolese judicial authorities could join efforts to strengthen the investigation.
De Mérode and other park rangers, activists, and local community members have long criticized proposed oil exploration and drilling in the park, which they contend will have a negative impact on the park, its wildlife, and local communities. SOCO International signed a production-sharing contract with the Congolese government in 2006 to explore for oil within and near Virunga Park. In
October 2011, SOCO received a permit to explore for oil in Block V, a vast area in eastern Congo, of which 52 percent lies within Virunga Park, next to the endangered gorilla habitat.
De Mérode and other rangers have asserted that SOCO’s activities in the park violate Congolese and international law, which, as government officials, the rangers say they have a duty to uphold. Other Congolese government officials in Kinshasa and eastern Congo support SOCO’s plans, given the potentially large financial gains oil would bring. SOCO has denied any role in threats, violence, or bribery, but has said it will look into allegations of bribery, and condemned the use of violence and intimidation.
In the week following the attack on de Mérode, at least three human rights and environmental activists received threatening text messages from unidentified numbers, Human Rights Watch said. One message said:
“You are playing with fire [name of activist], you are going to burn your second leg, it’s useless to change your car because we know all the cars and we’re everywhere you go with your team. Don’t believe that just because we failed to get your director that we are going to fail to get you”
Another message said: “You think that by writing you’re going to prevent us from extracting oil. You are going to die for nothing like de Mérode.”
On May 3, 2014, an environmental activist in Goma received three calls from an unknown number. The caller threatened the activist, saying that they “wanted the head” of a staff member of the organization who, the caller said, had bad-mouthed their interests. The caller said: “We failed to get de Mérode, but we won’t fail to get [name of staff].” They told the employee that if he told anyone about the calls, he would be “dealt with.”
“Park rangers and activists should be able to oppose oil exploration in Virunga Park without risking their lives,” Sawyer said. “Congolese authorities need to take steps immediately to make sure that people are safe when they try to uphold the law, protect the park, and peacefully express their views.”
Victims of abuses and witnesses to these incidents allege that Congolese government, military, and intelligence officials who support oil exploration in the park were responsible for previous threats and acts of violence against activists and park staff.
Activists and park rangers alleged that SOCO representatives and security contractors attempted to bribe them to gain their support or to discourage them from speaking out against oil exploration in the park and to facilitate the company’s activities in the park. One environmental activist alleged that SOCO representatives offered him US$20,000 and told him he would be able to hire five people to work for him if he accepted the money.
An investigation by park authorities found that a SOCO representative paid a senior park official several thousand dollars over several months to support SOCO’s activities. The official participated in meetings with park rangers at which they were told that they would be fired if they did not support SOCO. Findings from this investigation, which lasted over three years, were submitted to a Congolese prosecutor in Goma on April 15, hours before the attack on de Mérode.
In a meeting with Human Rights Watch on May 23, North Kivu Governor Julien Paluku acknowledged that certain government and security officials seem to have been “manipulated.” He said that he did not know who was manipulating them, but that it appeared they had been paid and “instrumentalized” to support oil exploration. He said there had been numerous allegations about threats and assaults against activists and park rangers opposed to oil exploration, and that he had asked the police and military justice officials to investigate.
In a May 30 response to a letter from Human Rights Watch regarding allegations that SOCO representatives were involved in bribery, SOCO’s Deputy Chief Executive Roger Cagle wrote:
There have been a substantial number of false and inaccurate allegations levelled against SOCO International plc in recent years and particularly in the last month. Sadly, a number of these allegations have arisen as a result of inaccurate, false, distorted and/or exaggerated accounts of our activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (the ‘DRC’). It also increasingly seems to be the case that anyone engaging in alleged questionable and unethical conduct are immediately branded ‘SOCO representatives’ and ‘SOCO supporters’ even when they simply are not and have nothing to do with our company. …
We operate on a strict Code of Business Conduct and Ethics (our “Code”). …We are fully committed to conducting our business in an honest and ethical manner and we expect and require that our contractors, suppliers and agents will conduct themselves in the same manner. Moreover, the Company operates in accordance with the UK Bribery Act 2010 and as part of our required Bribery Risk Governance, we have a formal process to mitigate risks of corruption.
Regarding the specific allegations of bribery raised by Human Rights Watch, Cagle wrote that company officials “have no information as to whether or not the incidents actually took place, and if so, what happened. However, based on the information available, we have instigated the procedures in our code.”
SOCO should act in accordance with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, international guidelines that place responsibilities on companies to take specific steps to safeguard rights whenever they rely on public or private security forces to guard their operations, Human Rights Watch said. In addition, the company should adhere to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which call on all companies to identify any possible human rights risks in their operations and address any problems that might occur.
Human Rights Watch urged the British government to investigate SOCO’s activities in eastern Congo under the United Kingdom’s Bribery Act. Any inquiry should examine alleged acts of corruption or bribery that may have led to attacks and threats against park rangers and activists at Virunga Park.
“The allegations that SOCO representatives offered bribes in the volatile climate in Virunga Park should be taken seriously,” Sawyer said. “SOCO should investigate their representatives, agents, and contractors and make sure that none are involved in harassment of activists and park personnel.”
Attack on Park Director de Mérode
Emmanuel de Mérode was driving alone in the park about 10 kilometers from the Virunga Park headquarters in Rumangabo in an area that is controlled by the Congolese army, when at least three men in military uniform fired at him. He was in a staff vehicle of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature, ICCN), a Congolese government institution that oversees national parks. A civilian on a motorcycle later found de Mérode on the road and drove him toward Goma. He was then transferred to two Congolese army vehicles and an ICCN vehicle before reaching the hospital in Goma, where he was treated for bullet wounds to his chest and abdomen.
The Congolese army has a position 500 meters off the main road from where de Mérode was attacked and usually has soldiers posted along the road. The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda, FDLR), a largely Rwandan Hutu armed group, some of whose members participated in the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, have also operated in this area in the past. The FDLR are active across eastern Congo and are involved in lucrative, illegal charcoal trading in Virunga Park – a practice that de Mérode and other park rangers have sought to stop.
Arrest and Intimidation of Virunga Park Central Sector Chief
On September 19, 2013, army soldiers and intelligence officials arrested the warden of Virunga Park’s central sector, Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo. He had attempted to stop the construction of a telephone antenna in the park because, he said, the SOCO officials who financed the construction did not have the authorization required by Congolese law to build in the park.
Katembo told Human Rights Watch that on September 3, Dr. Guy Mbayma Atalia, the technical and scientific director for the ICCN and the agency’s focal point with SOCO at the time, had warned him that if he continued to oppose SOCO’s activities in the park, he would be killed. In an interview with Human Rights Watch on April 23, 2014, Mbayma denied this allegation and said he had nothing to do with Katembo’s arrest.
Katembo said that soldiers arrested him in Kanyabayonga, North Kivu, where he had been visiting family, and severely beat him and his younger brother. They told Katembo he was against the government because he did not want SOCO in the park.
“What hurt me the most was how they tortured my young brother in front of me,” Katembo told Human Rights Watch. “I said, ‘What did he do? He’s not even in the ICCN.’ I was crying, and they had tied me up so I couldn’t do anything.”
The soldiers took Katembo to Rwindi, where they further humiliated him, paraded him in front of his home, and burned cigarettes on his head. He was then detained at the provincial headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency (Agence Nationale de Renseignements, ANR) in Goma and released on October 7, 2013, after international pressure.
Katembo told Human Rights Watch that officials involved in his arrest and ill-treatment told him that they had been promised money to kill him, rather than arrest him. Katembo said he also learned that intelligence officials had told prisoners that they would pay them if they beat him to death while he was in detention. Officials privately informed Katembo and his family about other plans to ambush or kill him.
After his release, Katembo was told to report to the intelligence agency daily and pay 5,000 Congolese francs (about US$5.50) every day. Several months later, a sympathetic intelligence agent warned him that there were plans to kill him in Goma, and he was advised to leave the city.
The North Kivu provincial director of the intelligence agency at the time, Jean-Marc Banza, told Human Rights Watch on April 17, 2014, that Katembo was “detained legally” because he had insulted the country’s president, Joseph Kabila. Banza denied allegations of mistreatment by the security forces.
Threats Against Activists
In many of the cases Human Rights Watch documented, Congolese government, military, and intelligence officials were implicated in the threats and attacks on human rights and environmental activists and other community leaders. Some had allegedly received money from SOCO.
On January 31, 2014, a local farmers’ cooperative in Rutshuru organized a march of over 300 people opposing SOCO’s activities. The cooperative had informed local authorities about the demonstration in advance, as Congolese law requires. Soon after the march began, policemen went to the cooperative’s office, confiscated a computer and other materials, and tore down a banner that said: “No exploitation of oil in our fields and our lake.” The police detained and beat some of the demonstrators and later released them.
During a public meeting on February 19 in Nyakakoma, a fishing village on Lake Edward in Rutshuru territory, SOCO representatives told residents that exploration work could cause parts of the lake to be closed to fishing for up to three months. The closure could affect 80,000 people whose livelihoods depend on the lake, according to community leaders. A local fisherman and environmental activist voiced his concern at the meeting, questioning how residents would support themselves during this time.
On February 26, the activist received a letter from the National Intelligence Agency (Agence Nationale de Renseignements, ANR), asking him to come to their office in Rutshuru. He told Human Rights Watch that when he went to their office on March 3, “They told me I was behaving badly, and they said it was a matter of the state. I shouldn’t act like a hero, and I risk having my head cut off.” The activist was released after paying the intelligence official $20.
On April 2, another public meeting was held in Nyakakoma, with SOCO representatives, government officials, and residents. After residents protested SOCO’s plans to close parts of the lake during seismic testing, people who were at the meeting later told Human Rights Watch that the Rutshuru territorial administrator, Justin Mukanya, had said that SOCO’s plans for oil exploration would go forward: “The train has already left,” he said. “Whoever wants to try to stop the train will be crushed.”
Several human rights activists who opposed SOCO’s activities in the park told Human Rights Watch that, for the past three years, they had received threatening text messages and phone calls. Following are some examples of these messages, in addition to the more recent cases mentioned above:
On February 26, 2011, two human rights activists received the following text message: “Leave our oil alone. If you continue, you will suffer the same fate as the park.” On the same night, three unidentified men went to the home of one of the activists in Goma; he was not home at the time. Two days later, the activist received the following message: “If you continue to talk about oil, you will see. Watch out.”
On April 24, 2011, three activists received calls from an unidentified person who asked them to come to the executive provincial government office. When they arrived, they were asked to sign a document saying that they had attended a meeting with SOCO on August 13, 2010. The three activists refused to sign. Three days later, one of them received the following message: “You refused to sign. You are arrogant. We’ve already identified your residence.”
On May 7, 2011, another activist received a phone call as he was leaving an Internet café in Goma. The caller, who did not identify himself, said: “You think you are hidden, but we can see you. You just stopped a bus. You thought that we didn’t know you but we’re following you.”
On February 27, 2012, three intelligence agents went to the same activist’s house in Goma and told his wife he was “inciting the population about things the head of state has already decided. If he continues, he will lose his life.” The activist had already been threatened multiple times by phone and had been summoned to court after he sent a letter to government authorities detailing the behavior of a government security agent in Nyakakoma who claimed he was in charge of “security and mobilization for SOCO.”
In December 2013, a fisherman told Human Rights Watch that he had been harassed by the Naval Force after rowing his boat in front of the SOCO office. He was summoned to the office of a major in the Naval Force. There he was accused of spying and taking pictures of the SOCO office. The fisherman asked the major, “On what legal basis are you accusing me of this?” The major allegedly replied: “You come here with your human rights. Here, we don’t do the law. We do the army.” The major seized the fisherman’s camera but did not find any pictures of the SOCO office, and released him after two hours.
After several human rights activists publicly denounced threats and intimidation by agents working on behalf of SOCO, Mbayma, the ICCN’s focal point with SOCO at the time, wrote a letter, seen by Human Rights Watch, to the ICCN director general in early 2014, in which he accused the activists of inciting the population against the government:
From the moment that these structures pride themselves with the freedom to stand up against the sovereign State that is the DRC and to call the peaceful population to civil disobedience, there is good reason for the Director General of the ICCN to take adequate preventative measures. These should take the path of suspending all collaboration, be it direct or indirect, with these NGOs. Otherwise, the ICCN risks being qualified as an accomplice to these NGOs in their proven attempt to break up the authority of the state for the purposes, perhaps, of creating new armed groups.
In a letter to the president of North Kivu’s Provincial Assembly, dated May 13, 2014, and on file at Human Rights Watch, the ICCN director general said that Mbayma had been removed from his position as technical and scientific director, that he was no longer the ICCN focal point with SOCO, and that he no was no longer authorized to speak on behalf of the ICCN.
Allegations Against SOCO International
In December 2010, a Congolese court in Goma authorized park authorities to investigate allegations of illegal activities by SOCO International, including unauthorized entry into the park by vehicle and plane, unauthorized construction in the park, and attempts to bribe and harass park staff and members of the Congolese security forces.
As part of the investigation, a park warden secretly filmed a security officer linked to SOCO and the Congolese army’s liaison officer with SOCO as they offered the warden money. The warden told Human Rights Watch that he refused an offer of “a large stack of cash” to allow SOCO representatives to move freely within the park. Several months later, the same warden said he was offered $50 up front and then $3,000 at the end of every month if he agreed to give SOCO information about the zone where they wanted to enter the park, and to allow them free movement in the park without informing the warden’s supervisor, de Mérode.
Another park warden told Human Rights Watch that Mbayma had instructed him to come to Nyakakoma village with five park guards to work with him at SOCO’s camp. “We were each paid $20 a day for 35 days,” the warden said. “Their objective was for us to go with them to meetings with the population in order to convince the population to support SOCO’s activities and to try to show they had the full support of the ICCN.” The warden said they were paid by Mbayma in the presence of a SOCO agent. He said that Mbayma warned him that if he informed his direct supervisor about what they were doing, “it will fall on your head, and you will be arrested.”
When the warden eventually refused to work with Mbayma and returned to his base, he received at least four threatening calls from Mbayma between November 2013 and February 2014, trying to convince him to work with them again. Mbayma warned him that if he refused to join, he would lose his career with the ICCN and be arrested.
Virunga National Park established in 1925 is Africa’s first and oldest Natural Park which contains more species of bird, aquatic and mammal life than America and Great Britain put together. Gorilla, Bush Elephant, Chimpanzees, Okapi, Lion and rare black Rhino and countless species of bird, aquatic fauna and flora have been under threat since the past decade. Civil war has ravished the entire area. A cease fire is that has been in place for over a year could potentially restart, we “could” see M23 rebels take over an oil depot thus placing the entire park in dire danger from thugs and militia of Joseph Kony’s Army.
SOCO Plc regardless of whether they are only conducting seismic surveys knows too well that oil is within the area. Today we researched on a further oil company within the Virunga Total a French owned company of which reassured its supporters and the public back in 2013 that they will not be drilling within the park. Today and from reliable park sources we are already aware that Total has been drilling within the Virunga. On the 18th May 2013 WWF announced that Total would not look into further oil explorations. However a Mweya insider has informed otherwise. Virunga National Park is now under threat. We have explained above the damages that can occur to our Mama Africa, past oil and petroleum disatsers that have killed hundreds, down to brief evidence of how noise pollution can displace wildlife species leading them into danger.
Should SOCO plc be given the go ahead to drill new roads would need to be opened up that would destroy many scientifically important species of plant and tree, displace monkeys and birds, alter land migration routes of elephant’s and rhinos too.
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa will NOT stand by and allow another – oil and gas company to ruin our natural heritage. We are prepared to go to prison to defend our natural wildlife rights and will use exhaust every law in the book to protect our flora and fauna.
We have to Act Now and Not Later… Failure is Not an Option. Please contact the British Government Today and demand SOCO are now removed from the Virunga National Park.
WE ARE VIRUNGA
Thank you for reading;
Dr Josa Depre