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SHOULD VIET NAM BE SLAPPED WITH TRADE SANCTIONS? | ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE.

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SHOULD VIET NAM BE SLAPPED WITH FULL TRADE SANCTIONS?

Since 2012 International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa’s (Cyber and Environmental Crimes Team) have been investigating Viet Nam’s illicit and illegal wildlife trade more closely than we’ve ever done. Back in January 2015 I Dr Jose C. Depre the (CEO) ordered a meeting with both units from the Environmental Cyber Crimes Team and External Affairs Unit); both focusing on the ground and online trade of illegal wildlife contraband. My aim was to increase both online and ground team investigations to begin breaking the back of these ruthless criminals throughout Asia and Africa.

International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa since founded have conducted 1,033 investigative surveys relating to all areas Viet Nam’s illegal wildlife trade (online and ground trade). However it wasn’t until January 2015 after uncovering a colossal rhino horn trafficking ring within Thailand and Viet Nam that we eventually decided Viet Nam had to be investigated more in-depth – all of which has resulted in a number of arrests and confiscation orders this year alone. The ongoing investigation was ordered due to a suspicion that the illicit ivory trade was increasing in Viet Nam too. Furthermore various organisations, media and press had stated that Viet Nam’s wildlife trade was actually decreasing, neither of which was true!.

I.A.R.F.A’s investigations aren’t just focused on Viet Nam. Specialist teams locate traffickers, suppliers and even poachers. These highly trained investigative officers move from one country to the next discretely monitoring and following various traffickers and kingpins (not forgetting befriending others too – which in many cases can be quite dangerous). While most of our investigations have focused primarily on Viet Nam, China, Thailand, Laos, Japan and Malaysia. Investigative officers have also been working within Uganda, Angola, South Africa, Namibia, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Niger, Nigeria and Burkina Faso (among many other countries).

In four days time South Africa will be hosting the next Conference of Parties (CoP17). The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), that now hosts some 184 CITES signatories which will be debating numerous issues relating to both flora (plants) and (fauna) animals. The meeting will take place from the 24th September to the 5th October (2016). Back in 2011 Interpol estimated the extent of the illegal wildlife trade between $10 billion and $20 billion per year. This figure has gradually increased since 2014.

The illegal wildlife trade isn’t confined to just one country. Many countries around the world host wildlife trafficking and dealing routes extending to every continent. Conservationists say the problem is most acute in Southeast Asia. There, trade linkages to key markets in China, the United States, and the European Union; lax law enforcement; weak border controls; and the perception of high profit and low risk contribute to large-scale commercial wildlife trafficking. The ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network, supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development and external funders, is one response to the region’s illegal wildlife trade networks.

Figures from 2014-2015 have shown a startling increase relating to the funds generated from the illegal wildlife trade. Today illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth US$50-150 billion per year. The global illegal fisheries catch is valued at US$10-23.5 billion a year and illegal logging, including processing, at US$30-100 billion. (Source: Illegal Wildlife Trade 2014-2015). So as one can see no matter how many meetings we’ve been holding the illegal wildlife trade is skyrocketing to levels that we’ve never seen before. The question is though, how do we as environmentalists stop this, how can we force violating countries to take notice?

International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa have been calling on CITES for more than five years now to impose trade sanctions against offending countries. Unfortunately CITES and their signatories haven’t in our opinion taken a blind bit of notice, especially when it comes to Viet Nam that has been blacklisted as ‘possibly the largest threat to global wildlife on the planet?’. A trade sanction (which is what we want placed against Viet Nam and other offending countries) is a trade penalty imposed by one nation onto one or more other nations. Sanctions can be unilateral, imposed by only one country on one other country, or multilateral, imposed by one or more countries on a number of different countries. Often allies will impose multilateral sanctions on their foes.

From 2015 we (the organisation) have located a staggering $13.5 million (USD) of illegal wildlife contraband – most of which is being traded online via various forums such as Facebook within secret groups. (You can view a some of the contraband we investigative via our Facebook page here). On speaking to numerous traders to try and understand why this trade was being conducted on line; the traders have always stated: (Its more safer to trade, they can trade to a wider market without the need to carry their products over many miles. Finally, its quicker to trade into large private buy and sell forums anything that would be deemed ‘hot to handle’ such as Rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory, and pangolin parts (Etc).

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Image: Mr Tuan advertises the authenticity of recently smuggled rhino horn 11th August. 

I.A.R.F.A have located over 21 African Rhinoceros horns traded illegally online and via ground markets since 2015 when we began our new anti wildlife trade operations and, 9 Indian One Horned Rhinoceros horns (all authentic). Mr Tuan, a Vietnamese national had no qualms whatsoever proving the legitimacy of his recently smuggled horn from South Africa. Anti Wildlife Trade Officers were invited to Mr Tuan’s Hanoi antiques shop of which in the back room were four recently poached Rhinoceros horns. I.A.R.F.A Anti Wildlife Trade Officers posing as interested buyers were offered the above in liquid form as a ‘so called aphrodisiac’.

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Image: Mr Tuan prepares to sell this horn to I.A.R.F.A investigators. 

The above horn was measured up, weighed and offered to I.A.R.F.A investigative officers for a total of $4,000(USD). While the officers declined a small sample was purchased so that we could test the authenticity of this horn. Vietnamese investigative officers working with (I.A.R.F.A) the very next day took the sample to Viet Nam National University of which tests later revealed the horn originated from an African Rhinoceros based on the horns DNA.

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Image: One of Viet Nam’s many Rhino horn kingpins. Mr Tuan. 

While we don’t make a habit of exposing ‘wealthy wildlife trade kingpins’. As we’re nearing the (CoP17 summit) we believe its time to begin naming and shaming some of the dons behind this ruthless trade in order to communicate our message far and wide to all CITES members that enough is enough, sanctions must be placed against all violating countries. Mr Tuan doesn’t just deal in large quantities of authentic Rhinoceros horn neither. Ivory, pangolin parts and the critically endangered Indochinese Box Turtle also fill Mr Tuan’s home and antiques shop. So Mr Tuan if you’re reading please do say cheese.

Meanwhile Mr Tuan is just a small piece of the ever-increasing illegal wildlife trade iceberg. In one group that we’ve been monitoring for over two years that’s yielded 9 arrests thus far this year (which we cannot name for legal reasons). Some 33,000 individuals all over the globe are trading ivory, tiger parts, bear claws, pangolin scales and critically endangered moon bear skins (among many other items). The vast majority of these online traders that lead investigative officers to some ground locations are either Vietnamese, Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian, Indian, Belgium, Australian, American and Canadian traders. One trader was even located in London W12, and two others dealing from Paris, France.

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Image: Thailand smuggled endangered pangolins. 

Rhinoceros horn is the least likely wildlife trade product that we come-by, simply because of its price, rarity, and the fact so many people around the globe are now putting their foot down relating to this animal part. Unfortunately its not just Rhinoceros horn that we witness being sold illegally online and on the ground. Mr Tu Su whom lives in Ha Tan, Viet Nam was clocked on the 19th August 2016 trading these smuggled pangolin parts online illegally.

Every year there are numerous arrests throughout Asia and convictions relation to pangolin poaching and trafficking, however no sooner is one dealt with – another smuggler and trader rears their ugly head, and can you blame them? All four Asiatic pangolins are now considered extremely rare to the point they’re nearing extinction. Furthermore as the species becomes more rarer – prices increase. These 6 pangolins were trading between $600(USD) and $1000(USD) each. Mr Tu Su has has quite a reputation relating to pangolin smuggling – so for the record below is Mr Tu Su’s face.

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Image: Mr Tu Su – Pangolin smuggler and trader. 

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Image: Mr Tu Su – Pangolin soup.

All 8 species of Asian and African pangolins are ‘listed under Appendix II of CITES’, which means trade is regulated and monitored under CITES, (permits are required from exporting countries for any trade activity). To issue a permit, the exporting country must determine that this activity will have no detriment to the wild population.

As an additional protective measure, the CITES authority passed a (zero export quota for the four Asian species, which bans all commercial trade in these species). However, other purposes (scientific, research, etc.) can still be authorized by permit. For the four African species, there is no zero export quota, which means commercial trade is not prohibited, but permits are still required. Pangolins are also protected in their range states by domestic wildlife laws.

So Mr Tu Su if you’re reading then please note you’ve violated both domestic and international law, we’re holding your details too!

International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa have increased investigations relating to the illicit wildlife trade. Our two main areas of focus is that of the Rhinoceros horn trade and the ivory trade. Since 2015 our investigations surrounding the illegal ivory trade (have located a staggering $6 million(USD) of ivory smuggled from Africa into Thailand, China, Malaysia, Singapore and, Viet Nam.

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Image: Ivory trafficked from Tanzania onto Viet Nam. 

Ivory trader and trafficker Mr Ban Me from Buôn Ma Thuột, Đắc Lắk, Vietnam was observed on the 16th August 2016 trading the ivory above online in one of three secret Vietnamese and Chinese ivory trading online forums. The ivory above is estimated to be around $6,500-$8,000(USD) for the lot.

Mr Ban Me makes no effort to conceal his lucrative online trade neither. When investigating this trader and trafficker we went back through many months of posts within the secret forum, then managed to locate Mr Ban Me who is aged around 35-30 years old. On locating the trafficker/trader it appears from the online evidence that ivory is coming in quick, measured up and weighed, of which either himself or friends then soon after set about to carve the ivory into jewelry.

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Image: Ivory measured up and weighed for sale and carving.  

Since January 2015 (International Animal Rescue Foundations) Environmental Crimes Officers have underneathed new trading trends relating to the ‘online wildlife trade’. As explained in previous articles most traders nowadays will take delivery of illegal wildlife contraband. From there the wildlife parts are then photographed (as seen in the image below). Traders will either then set up a ‘pseudo Facebook profile’ or already have one in place. The Facebook profile will act as a mobile online shop.

Most traders and traffickers we’re investigating today use this method of online illegal trading. They know by using a throw away or cheap (non-traceable cell phone) that any chance of them being located is slim. Traders are rarely seen selling in bulk on the streets of Viet Nam or over the borders in other Asian countries. Buyers and traders feel safer trading, swapping or trafficking items uploaded to the internet.

Mr Ban Me takes delivery of a large quantity of ivory every month from Africa, most of which has been illegally trafficked into China. Once carved the items are then photographed again to sell online within secret trading rooms to hundreds if not thousands of people. The ivory seen above and below was ‘advertised’ to an audience of over 33,000 individuals.

So as you can see its incredibly difficult for us or any investigate organisation to track in quick time where these products are originating from and ending up. Traders use these rooms online because they know selling to a wider-ranged audience products can shift quickly. Unfortunately for Mr Ban Me we have his contact details, his address, his cell phone numbers, and even know who is selling too and buying from.

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Image: Carved ivory on sale from the tusks observed and intercepted online. 

Another shocking ‘concern’ is that Mr Ban Me ‘could be purchasing ivory from Thailand elephant traders’. I.A.R.F.A have known for many years now that ivory tusks are being shaved down from Asiatic elephants. A trace of Mr Ban Me’s cell phone images revealed further evidence that showed himself photographing Asian elephants onto his ‘Facebook ivory profile’. Should this be true – it will prove to be further damning evidence that elephants are being exploited within Asia for the ivory trade on a much larger scale than previously documented.

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Image: Ban Me photographs Asian elephants onto ivory Facebook profile.

The only image we have of Mr Ban Me is that of his wood workshop in Viet Nam (pictured below). The entire Facebook profile (like many thousands more we have and continue to observe) depicts that of ivory and few rose wood products. The question is though – who’s supplying this young Asian man with ivory? I.A.R.F.A have demanded that Facebook and the F.B.I take action against this illicit trade, and even supplied the Social Media platform with an 11,000+ petition signature however as yet nothing is being done to combat this trade?

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Image: Mr Ban Me carving wood in Viet Nam. where ivory is also traded. 

Back in December 2015 International Animal Rescue Foundations (Environmental Crime Officers) passed hundreds of pages of evidence onto international law enforcement agencies and Interpol relating to illegal wildlife traders. There have been numerous arrests due to our investigation and, from that investigation other individuals have been looked into resulting in new investigations and arrests too on a global scale. However no sooner is one trader stopped – another one pops their ugly head up from the sand and begins trading.

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Image: Mr Ban Me’s ivory Facebook shop profile – ivory tusks, and carved ivory jewelry. 

A further trader that ‘openly admitted to I.A.R.F.A Environmental Crimes Officers tried to sell these tusks (pictured below) to an I.A.R.F.A investigator. Going under the name of Mr Thường, from Hanoi Viet Nam, he like Mr Ban Me made no effort whatsoever to conceal his hoard of illicit ivory – most of which was from African elephants. Furthermore he too like Ban Me had created a ‘pseudo Facebook profile to trade illegally elephant ivory’.

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Image: One of many thousands of online Facebook ivory trading profiles. 

Viet Nam banned the ‘domestic ivory trade back in 1990’. Furthermore there has been an ‘international ivory trade ban in place since 1989. Unfortunately while these bans have been in place – there are loopholes within some ‘countries domestic trades’ which permits them to trade ‘legally elephant ivory despite international and domestic bans’.

Furthermore ivory can to some extent be sold legally within Viet Nam should the products be antique or purchased before the ivory trade bans. However neither of our investigative officers have located any evidence to prove any of the ivory we’ve located was purchased/obtained legally before any bans were implemented. Damning evidence sent to law enforcement agencies around the globe also proves that ivory is being smuggled from Africa onto Japan and China then back into Viet Nam – Three countries known for their continued ivory trade violations.

While the ivory trade continues to rage out of control there are unfortunately many other illicit and illegal wildlife trades that are increasing within Viet Nam. I.A.R.F.A have noticed a very ‘alarming spike’ of bear parts, mostly moon bears for sale online and on the ground. Environmental Wildlife Crime investigative officers located this species [pictured below] – Ursus thibetanus on the 8th September 2016. The species is identified as the Ursus thibetanus and is listed as [vulnerable] on the (IUCN RED LIST) of threatened and near endangered species.

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Image: Ursus thibetanus (Moon Bear parts) Viet Nam (2026). 

Moon bear pelts, teeth, claws and bear bile are not exactly an uncommon species of animal to be located wihtin Viet Nam’s numerous medicinal markets, although its not common to view the species as it is above on sale within open markets. Bear bile has not decreased in sale on the TCM markets whatsoever in my humble opinion, in fact we (the organisation) hold very recent and damning evidence to prove that bear bile farming practices are sill very much operational. So damning that it does in fact bring many Non Profit Organisations into question with regards to their allegations of practically stopping this trade, when clearly its not being stopped!

Due to many counterfeit animal products on the markets, before any investigation is undertaken – Environmental Scientists will conduct routine examinations of purchased bear bile products to check their authenticity. These examinations are undertaken to store and maintain evidence files, to secure closures of illegal markets or, for further secondary investigations. I.A.R.F.A Wildlife Trade  investigative officers located the following bear bile products on the market in Viet Nam.

A kilogram of farmed bear bile might cost $240, while the same amount from a wild bear could cost $15,730. Investigative officers were told the bile seen hereto in the image below was from wild bears, however we highly doubt it due to the lack of Asiatic black bears in the wild. Each bottle below was offered to investigative officers for just over $200(USD). I.A.R.F.A Wildlife Trade investigate officers did purchase three at a price of $600(USD) which is considered cheap. The ‘liquid was tested at the Nong Lam University of which proved to be 100% bear bile.

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Image: Asiatic Moon bear bile in mass production with gall bladders.  

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Image: Plastic wrapped gall bladders and bile. 

Bear bile does not whatsoever hold any medicinal properties whatsoever, if anything consuming bear bile can actually increase health complaints. The barbaric practice is ‘illegal in China and Viet Nam’, Viet Nam banned bile production back in 1992, sadly the trade still goes on to some extent. Fortunately Viet Nam have stated they’ll be eliminating this horror come 2020, however we’re not holding our breaths just yet.

Mr Nheo who is aged around 21 years of age from the Huong District, living in Hanoi Viet Nam (pictured below) if you’re reading my friend you may want to stop trading pangolins, tiger parts, bear bile, tiger teeth, bear teeth and claws and ivory today. Bear bile hosts no medicinal properties whatsoever so why you’re trading this vile product – which leads to the destruction of bears for we don’t know..

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Image: Mr Nheo – Illegal wildlife trader from Hunong District, Viet Nam. 

At the last Conference of Parties Summit (CoP15 – Thailand), Viet Nam made a promise to crack down on the countries illegal wildlife trade back in 2013. Although there was no actual deal made, Cites signatories did categorically state that should Viet Nam want any say in the ‘legalized international trade of rhino horn’ the country must clamp down on illegal wildlife trades and markets. I was at the last CoP summit of which Viet Nam agreed it was time to reduce their illegal trade markets – or face the consequences.

The whole purpose of this article and many others is to ‘highlight Viet Nam’s lies; the country hasn’t in my opinion made any progress to reduce their illegal wildlife markets, especially that of (critically endangered species). Yet Viet Nam has been identified as one of the leading countries to be approaching Cites for the ban to be lifted relating to the (international rhino horn trade). I ask myself daily – how is it possible for a country to control any legal trade if they cannot control the illegal trade of wildlife contraband?.

I.A.R.F.A. Environmental Crimes officers working online and on the ground furthermore have noticed a colossal spike in the number of tiger parts and dead tiger carcasses sold within Viet Nam’s illegal wildlife trade markets. The image below depicts a trader that is privately trading tiger teeth. While the quantity of tiger teeth wihtin the image (below) may seem small. I.A.R.F.A Environmental Cyber Crimes officers have been carefully monitoring this trader for well over a year. The vast amount of tiger parts he’s trading is out of this world.

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Image: Tiger teeth for sale- Online Secret Wildlife Trading Forum.

I.A.R.F.A have reported various tiger traders in Viet Nam to INTERPOL and local enforcement agencies. However as explained these bloody sickening traders, traffickers and animal killers continue to pop up time again.  Most if not all the tigers that we are locating for trade (illegally) were ether captive tigers, smuggled tigers/parts from China and/or Thailand. While other specimens have actually originated from (pathology/veterinary universities inside of Viet Nam).

Three months ago I.A.R.F.A working with overseas enforcement experts concluded – the rare Asiatic leopard we located within a wildlife traders apartment had originated from a veterinary university in Viet Nam. Meanwhile the tiger skins/parts below have originated from Thailand. The question is though from where, who is supplying this amount of tigers and parts to traders within Viet Nam?

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Image: One of many tiger skins offered to I.A.R.F.A investigators September 8th.

International Animal Rescue Foundation Environmental Cyber Crimes Officers was offered this tiger pelt for $1,060(USD). The trader that operates under the name of ‘Mr Coivodich’ also deals in ivory, threatened Rhinoceros hornbills, and bear bile. Furthermore we have been monitoring a very ‘concerning trend relating to tiger skin wallets. Captive bred tigers are slaughtered of which their skins are turned into wallets – a craze that is now becoming incredibly popular throughout Viet Nam. Tigers in Viet Nam are supposed to be bred for conservation purposes only. Clearly though from the images below this is not the case.

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Image: Real tiger skin wallets packaged and ready for sale in Hanoi. 

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Image: Unpacked real tiger skin wallet, priced at $70.00(USD) each. 

As explained tigers are supposed to be used for conservation purposes only. However we have located worrying evidence that makes Tiger Temple look more like a walk in the park. A famous Thailand Actor below is seen cuddling a drugged tiger at the Sriracha Tiger Zoo which we believed was a zoo inside of Viet Nam. (See image below). Unfortunately the tiger and this image eventually led back to Thailand, of which this zoo has been named as a horror ground. Would it be wise to assume that tigers are originating from this zoo and ending up within Viet Nam’s wildlife trade? We don’t know. What we do know for sure though is this zoo is now under close scrutiny.

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Image: Chen Yunan coaxes drugged tiger in Thailand. 

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Image: Ranya Rao coaxing drugged tiger in Thailand. 

International Animal Rescue Foundation’s Environmental Crimes teams have been working on our new anti wildlife trade project since 2015 being now the ninth major project that we have conducted in the past three years. Most of the evidence we are locating in relation to wildlife trade violations isn’t always within China – a lot of these violations are in fact within Viet Nam.

We are now under four days away from the next Conference of Parties (CoP17) to be held within South Africa, Johannesburg. CoP 17 has been set to be the largest summit held, and as such we may see countries such as Viet Nam asking Cites signatories to agree to a lift of the international trade ban in Rhinoceros horn. Every article that we’ve published in relation to Viet Nam shows the country cannot be trusted with relation to the international rhino horn trade. Every article we’ve published also shows numerous violations of local and international wildlife trade laws.

So the question remains. Is it now time to implement at CoP17 full part of full sanctions against Viet Nam to protect our local and international wildlife? I believe its now time. The evidence in front of you clearly shows Viet Nam’s refusal to act on their illegal wildlife trade markets. So how much more do we have to put up with before everything is eventually gone? Should Cites signatories lift the rhino horn trade ban we’ll keep to our promise. Being all those we know dealing in illegal wildlife products at high end market level will be named, shamed addresses published and that evidence released to the public. Video recordings, audio, images – everything.

The balls now in Cites court – Don’t underestimate us, we may be quiet – but we’ll stay quiet for only a short time before we begin naming and shaming. 

Dr Jose C. Depre. PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M.

Environmental, Botanical & Human Scientist.

 


FACEBOOK: TIGER PARTS TRADE | HORROR IN VIET NAM | PART II

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TIGER TRADE | VIET NAM

The images your about to view in this article have all originated from an ongoing investigation into the illicit animal parts trade online and on the ground in South East Asia. My name is Dr Jose C. Depre, for some five years now my environmental and animal crimes investigation company has continued to delve deeper and deeper into the murky world of the illegal animals parts trade. (Image: IARFA Evidence image Tiger pelt, Thái Hõa, Nghệ An, Viet Nam)

Back in January of 2015 we began the forth phase of #OperationTrojanHorse focusing our attention mainly on Viet Nam, the operation that was launched is #OperationStopIt. Operation Stop It is fronted by numerous men and women from all over the globe that operate under myself the Chief Environmental Officer. We run two units that focus on ground level wildlife crime, and online wildlife crime. We’ve been investigating wildlife crime now since 2000 focusing on the bush meat trade, deforestation, chemical, and animal parts trade (among others).

Since June of 2015 when we began noticing a large number of traders dealing in tiger bone glue (alleged to be mostly fake), tiger claws and teeth, with various pelts and skulls. I then asked three wildlife trade investigators to work alongside me to dig deep into the murky world of the tiger parts trade. This area of the investigation focuses specifically on the ground and online trade of tiger parts. However we’re now looking into the online Facebook trade, an investigation that is uncovering “worrying evidence and corruption at governmental, police and zoo level”.

Its estimated (Cites and Traffic 2014) that there are some 6,100 “captive bred tigers” in Viet Nam, Laos, China and Thailand, furthermore since 1991-1993 the tiger trade has been officially banned within Viet Nam, unfortunately as one can see within the images herein, the trade still continues, although we “suspect these tigers are mostly captive”. Back in 1975 tigers were listed on Cites Appendix 1 (meaning that all trade in tigers domestically and internationally is now banned).  

The problem we are currently finding within Viet Nam, as well as the loopholes within the current Cites laws, is that pretty much anyone in Viet Nam can apply for a permit to house tigers, so as long as them tigers are used for “conservation efforts only”. Cites laws do state that under no circumstances must any captive bred/reared tiger be killed or any part of any tiger used for trade.

However we must also remember that Cites is not a law agency, but more an organisation of parties from around the world that sets out laws; from there its down to that individual countries “policing agencies and that specific Cites department (in this case Cites Viet Nam)” to ensure laws are enforced. External Affairs Environmental Crimes Officers have though located numerous “corrupt Cites Viet Nam officers” of which I will be writing about soon.

As explained in (Article 1 – Facebook and the ivory trade); Facebook has become quite an easy platform for just about anyone to trade whatever they like (legally and illegally). Sadly in this case since June 2015 on-wards IARFA Environmental Crimes Officers have located staggering amounts of tigers and wildcat trade on the United States Facebook platform – all of which is 100% illegal, little of which from what we are locating is even under investigation from local and/or international trafficking and trade agencies.

The images below form part of a Vietnamese nation wide investigation that has uncovered corruption at Cites level, evidence that proves zoos are providing smugglers and traders with tiger and wild cat cubs and parts, and what we suspect is a legal trade of tigers from Africa into Viet Nam from which them tigers (bred in South Africa) “we suspect” are being used to fuel the massive tiger parts trade in Viet Nam. I will be documenting more on the “African connection later in the year”.

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Image: Vietnamese trader calls posts freshly killed tigers with price. Buyer must collect.

The image at the top of this article depicting the tiger pelt rug is from the same individual in Thai Hoa, Nghe An, Viet Nam. He states in the Facebook posting “now ready to collect”. On viewing the messages underneath its quite clear that a price was already arranged privately within private Facebook messages, again no images of the traders face is available, nor any other identification as to what the name of this individual is. This is though normal, most traders operating illegally online or at ground go under various aliases, and rarely show their face, or use their real name. The trade is so secret locating tiger traders is actually considered rare, although once you uncover a large number of networks, follow them traces you do eventually locate numerous individuals trading in secret.

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Image: Same trader, same tiger, all traded illegally on Facebook.

While Facebook has suggested they may be implementing new terms and applications to immediately ban such traders from their platform, we highly doubt whatever changes they do make will make any difference. For example users have the opportunity to create “secret Facebook buy and sell groups” or just “non-buy and sell Facebook groups”.

Once the group is set to private, only those within that group are able to report to Facebook or notify the police. So its a case of us then using our brains, technology and other applications to find these individuals. Once located all data is collected and then passed on. We don’t continue to monitor the groups or afterwards, as that is no longer our job. We’re not paid to police the web, or asked to. We do it though to help enforcement agencies, and to break the back of wildlife criminals.

We (the organisation) do highly suggest that you notify ourselves or the local police before Facebook so that evidence can be obtained before the account is “suspended” and not terminated. Once the account is suspended we, or any enforcement agency can then apply for a court order to seize any remaining evidence. Facebook hosts over 1.32 (billion) users and growing, so we find it highly unlikely any application implemented by Facebook is going to have much effect to those illegally trading animal parts. We’re talking about a platform that hosts 1% of the globes population! Hardly easy to police.

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Image: Tiger trader shows one of any carcasses to buyers, Viet Nam.

Viet Nam banned hunting of tigers back in the 1970’s; had they not banned hunting (aka poaching), all of Viet Nam’s tigers would now be extinct. Today there is a total of 30 Vietnamese critically endangered tigers remaining in the wild of Viet Nam that are literally on a life thread. So with hunting banned, and trade of tigers and their derivatives banned has it stopped the tiger trade? Unfortunately no, and its very unlikely we’ll see the trade stopped until everyone pulls together and works together to stop wildlife crime dead in its tracks, easier said than done though!

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Image: Vietnamese trader opens freezer up to reveal more horrors.

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Image: Asiatic leopard we “suspect has been removed from a zoo and killed”.

The image above does raise some concerns as to where exactly this individual obtained this Asiatic leopard from. Asian leopards are not common within Viet Nam, although they do allegedly exist (in the country which I highly doubt). This is the first time we’ve come across an Asian leopard of which are considered “extremely rare” within Asia. We do suspect that the leopard may have originated from a nearby zoo, or the animal has been killed further east outside of Viet Nam, then smuggled into Viet Nam. The trader again states that the carcasses are ready to pick up, a price has obviously been made within a private communication which we can see in the comments section. This leopard may have originated from South Africa as a cub, if proven to be true it yet again blows a large hole in the so called “petting and breeding trade in South Africa”.

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Image: Poached clouded leopards for sale on Facebook in Viet Nam.

IARFA Environmental Wildlife Crime Officers have been locating a large number of clouded leopard cubs for sale on Facebook. Most of which are dead, or normally its the skins that are traded. Both species in the genera of clouded leopards are considered “threatened” and nearing extinction within a number of Asian countries. Its unsure what these small cats will be used for, however back in December 2015 we located smaller tiger and leopard cubs that were being mixed with whole Asian and African pangolins. They were placed into what we now know was a type of Asian marinade, prepared and cooked some days later.

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Image: Young tiger cub, seems to have been rolled up into bag then transported.

The evidence above was located by Environmental Cyber Crimes Officers from the IARFA. This particular trader has shot up on our radar because he has direct connections to (an unidentified South African game breeder and hunter). The Viet Nam citizen that we cannot name for enforcement reasons only recently visited South Africa to hunt a lion. Furthermore not only did the individual bring back with him a lion skin (pictured below), he also flew back from South Africa with a large number of lion bones. Again why was he allowed to leave South Africa with them bones for, and how on earth did he smuggle them out of South Africa, which its believed not to be a criminal activity.

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Image: The Vietnamese trader recently visited South Africa to hunt a lion.

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Image: Same trader found trading pangolin scales in the same secret Facebook group in Viet Nam.

IARFA Environmental Crimes Officers have been following this traders movements for some weeks now, although this week was when we eventually located yet more evidence of his seedy criminal network involving big cats. The Facebook group that specializes specifically in trading “tiger parts” also trades a very large number of tiger claws, tiger teeth, tiger skulls, tiger testicles, and tiger pelts. The image below depicts what were up against.

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Image: Secret Facebook buy and sell groups protect Asian traders (so they believe).

The image above is just one of five images out of a staggering 14,562 images all depicting tiger traders, bear part traders, rhino horn and ivory traders and finally pangolin traders. In total there is just in this group alone a staggering 8,000+ individuals ranging mostly from Viet Nam, South Korea, China, Thailand and Laos. The Facebook group was established some 2-3 years ago from what we have seen.

Furthermore while we’d really love to report this group and have it shut down, its not that simple. Within this group alone contains evidence of wildlife trade that spans the globe from Asia to Africa, and Europe to America. One user only has to log into this group of which they are then in touch with a highly active, and sophisticated network of traders operating locally and internationally. Now do you see what we’re up against? I the CEO have long suspected since early 2006 that trade patterns were either changing, or poaching was indeed decreasing to some levels. On my travels to South East Asia I had noticed that there were fewer and fewer traders operating on ground level.

Yet poaching rates of tigers, elephants, pangolins Etc was still increasing with some reports of poaching decreasing. Many NGO’s pointed out they were winning the war on poaching, yet couldn’t explain why populations of many “trade animals” were not increasing within their endemic wild. Well here is just a small snippet of that change in trade patterns, poaching is most certainly still ongoing, and increasing, trade is still increasing furthermore – and under no circumstances are we winning the war on poaching locally and internationally. Why? We’re not winning it because technology has mostly played a pivotal role in now concealing trades and traders I.e online.

To date we have located exactly 203 active illegal wildlife groups online (in Viet Nam alone), some of them groups have direct connections to what was once “large wildlife trade markets at ground level”, in a sense what were seeing here is alike to the change in industrial markets in the west. They (the traders) now find it more easier and cheaper to trade goods online, and this is what we are seeing in Asia, with very little in the way of enforcement or monitoring. Facebook has become the new hotbed wildlife trade market place, its big and growing by the week. Furthermore most of these traders are using fake names, and code words to conceal their tracks and trade.

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Image: Tiger bone glue, please click on the link in the image for information.

Tiger bone glue was said to be the most expensive wildlife product on the black market. Mixed with a wide number of synthetic drugs to cure so called illnesses and to act as a narcotic, environmentalists did state the glue is now mostly fake and hard to obtain due to the decreasing tiger numbers in the wild. Unfortunately with so many tigers still being bred in captivity within Asia – tiger bone glue is still available, priced higher than rhino horn and ivory.

The tiger trade is unique when compared to the illegal trade of other wildlife in Viet Nam, due to the relative rarity and high value of the commodity. This often results in traders taking extra measures to assure secrecy in their dealings (although that is something to be seen on Facebook). Viet Nam’s illicit tiger trade is carried out by elaborate criminal networks that avoid detection through the use of disposable cell phones, connections across international borders, and using friends in high places to facilitate a smooth and steady flow of their product to the consumer.

Most tigers confiscated in Viet Nam originate from foreign sources, smuggled into Viet Nam from Laos and Thailand where major farming operations exist that both produce and launder animals from the wild. A number of key figures behind the tiger trade in Viet Nam have been identified but manage to avoid prosecution by distancing themselves from criminal activities or operating under protection of local officials. Prosecutions tend to target low-level figures involved in transport or brokering sales. Only a minute few of these prosecutions result in prison time for anyone involved.  (Source ENV Viet Nam).

While we would like to believe that most tigers are originating from over the borders there is also as explained zoos that are not being monitored, are breeding tigers, then selling them tigers onto traders. Finally we also have what we suspect is a number of African petting and breeding farmers involved in this trade that continues to flout legal loopholes in the law.

The wildlife trade on Facebook must come to an end. Please sign the petition hereto:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/645/521/701/facebook-remove-illegal-pet-and-wildlife-traders-from-your-server/

Thank you for reading. 

Dr Jose C. Depre 

Chief Environmental Officer. 

 


FACEBOOK: IVORY TRADE OFF THE SCALE | VIET NAM | PART I

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FACEBOOK | IVORY TRADE IN VIET NAM

Written by Dr Jose C. Depre (Chief Environmental Officer).

By the time it takes me to finish this document an estimated 20-50 elephants will have been slaughtered. Once you turn your head and continue to do nothing, come tomorrow 100 elephants would have been killed for their ivory to supply the South East Asian black market. Back in January 2015 I launched yet another online and ground intelligence gathering operation relating to the illegal wildlife trade; We are focusing on China, Viet Nam, Laos, and Thailand of which the team, a twenty four strong experienced male and female unit originate from all backgrounds. Today I’m focusing more on the online trade which has now increased to worrying new levels.

Since January 2015 when [Operation Stop It] was launched Environmental Crimes Officers have found what we believe is a new trend of ivory trade in operation on the United States platform known as Facebook. External Affairs Officers became aware of the huge trade when investigating a Vietnamese national identified as Mr Trang from June 2015 to December 2015. Unfortunately since providing law enforcement agencies with masses of evidence just on this one trader; very little in the way of arrests and/or confiscations has been witnessed.

The ban on international trade in ivory was introduced in 1989 by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) after years of unprecedented poaching. In the 1980’s, an estimated 100,000 elephants were being killed per year and up to 80% of herds were lost in some regions. However despite the ivory trade ban in place, very little in the way of illegal trade reduction is being witnessed within Viet Nam, China, Laos, and Thailand.

Viet Nam is one country of interest that we’ve noted as hosting “unusually large amounts of (raw ivory tusks), most of which seem to be originating from impounded stocks, with other tusks clearly removed from ivory pyres”. While we are aware a large majority of ivory tusks are originating from Africa, there is also a significantly large amount also originating from Asia. Asian ivory tusks are more favored for carving over that of African elephant tusks.

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Image: Two tusks located for sale on Facebook 16.05.16 from | impounded or stolen from pyres?

The two elephant ivory tusks (pictured above) were located on Facebook for sale yesterday which we suspect have originated from a recent or past ivory burn. Normally ivory tusks are white, or a dusty creamy color with some dark tinges to them; embers can clearly be seen on the left hand tusk with visible white dehydration and salt marks too.

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Image: Ivory jewelry smuggled from Africa into South East Asia now on sale on Facebook.

While the online trade is no big secret, the fact is Facebook hosts no terms and conditions in place that bans such illegal trade; the Facebook platform has no systems in place to recognize such imagery (I.e raw tusks) using BOTS that can then report back to a third party Policing team. Finally IARFA Environmental Crimes Officers have found Facebook is being exploited by many South East Asian citizens primarily from Viet Nam, and Thailand peddling ivory from Asia and Africa.

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Image: Ivory trader weighs up tusks he is trading online via pseudo Facebook account shops.

The image above clearly demonstrates just has serious the ivory trade has become online and on the Facebook social media platform. Traders will commonly show their products to prove their wealth (I.e as a status symbol), or to prove/demonstrate the legitimacy of their products compared to other traders, that may be selling counterfeit ivory. The trader who we can only be name as Mr Phong then demonstrates just how much he will be making come the end of the month. The total amount of ivory Mr Phong is selling on Facebook (pictured above and below) will fetch him around $15,000-$20,000USD depending on how the ivory is sold and/or manufactured.

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Image: My Phong weighs up this illegal haul of ivory, fetching him some $15,000-$20,000USD

Despite international and domestic trade bans nothing is actually working, furthermore we do hold concerning evidence that shows without a doubt many tusks are being removed from compounds in Asia and Africa then sold onto the very people that police took the ivory from. Police have been witnessed trading confiscated ivory at high prices back into the hands of smugglers knowing too well they are going to make a good wage due to the high demand for ivory tusk products.

Back in 1992 Viet Nam officially outlawed the ivory trade, unfortunately since the ban was implemented any ivory that was purchased before “Viet Nam’s ivory ban” can still be sold legally so as long as the tusks host the correct certification; Fortunately CITES did rule that “re-worked ivory or any tusks/ivory products that were purchased before or after the 1992 Viet Nam ivory ban that are then re-worked, would then be classed as new ivory (non-exempt) thus making that product that was legal – now illegal.

Meanwhile back in 1975 international trade in “Asian elephant ivory” was also banned. There has been quite a few tusks examined by experts and third party experts located on the United States Facebook platform as originating from Asian elephants. Asian elephant tusks are much smaller than your average African bush elephant tusks. Come the 1980’s it was then stated no fewer than 50,000 Asian elephants existed which are now listed on CITES Appendix One and known to [endangered].

One out of every six Hanoi citizens are dealing ivory on the United States Facebook platform. Most of this ivory is as explained originating from Africa and Asia, with clear and obvious signs of trafficking, and thefts from impounded ivory and ivory pyres.

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Image: One of many thousands of online ivory trading Facebook shops in Viet Nam.

The image above was picked up from one of many thousands of Viet Nam ivory traders. Traders establish a sophisticated network of “pseudo Facebook accounts”. These accounts are rarely in the real name of the trader. Traces of some accounts via the IARF Environmental Cyber Crimes Unit have shown ivory traders using Virtual Proxy Networks [VPNs] to conceal their Internet Protocol Address.

Furthermore when dealing over the phone traders normally use cheap (non-smart throw away phones) so that should enforcement agencies locate them, tracing the traders exact whereabouts, and who they are selling ivory onto is almost impossible.  Its not uncommon to witness traders with a number of cell phones. One phone (the throw away one) will be used for trade and can easily be disposed of with all evidence destroyed containing names and numbers of ivory dealers and buyers. Meanwhile smugglers, traders and carvers also host a smart phone for normal everyday conversations and general surfing the web or interacting with friends and family on Facebook, Twitter or Weibo.

Back in March of 2016 International Animal Rescue Foundation’s- Environmental Crimes Officers located three Viet Nam ivory trading carving factories all advertised on the United States Facebook platform. Moreover it wasn’t just carvers and ivory advertised for sale; we also located evidence of ivory carving tools, measuring and weighing instruments and “DIY ivory carving instructions for beginners”. The carving instruments below were found in one Hanoi carving workshop (on the Facebook social media platform), meanwhile underneath the bottom image is proof of more raw ivory tusk carving.

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Image: Ivory carving tools, Viet Nam, Hanoi used to intricately carve ivory.

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Image: In the same carving room more raw ivory tusks were located readied for carving on Facebook.

Environmental Crime Officers have located a staggering 80,000 “ivory and wildlife trade shops” all in operation on the United States Facebook platform, yet little if anything is being done to stop this trade or even restrict traders activities. When submitting this evidence with films, images and Facebook accounts and the current laws on ivory trade to Facebook’s Security Head, Alex Stamos we we’re unfortunately ignored.

Yet Facebook’s moderation team are quite willing to remove accounts that have violated their “bullying, harassment or terrorism polices” (all of which are crimes), sadly the social media platform is unwilling to remove highly active wildlife traders breaking domestic and international wildlife laws that are making a ton daily.

On the 3rd March 2016 the BBC reported “Facebook wildlife trade prompts fears among environmentalists”. Traffic – an Environmental Crimes Investigation Organisation located hundreds of online profiles selling endangered and threatened animal species. Facebook stated “It will not hesitate in removing content that is promoting such trade”. Yet when we contacted Facebook submitting more than enough evidence relating to ivory, rhino horn, tiger and pangolin trade all accounts are still in operation.

Facebook did quote though “They are developing practical solutions to combat trade“, unfortunately these solution’s seem to aimed only at “animals rather than animal parts”. For the time being Facebook has no terms or polices in place that would remove illegal wildlife traders dabbling in rhino horn, tiger parts, pangolins, or [non-exempt] ivory. And with some 1.32+ billion Facebook users, Facebook will we believe now have a large job on their hands in combating such trade as from 2014 trade on the Facebook platform has exploded.

“Investigators are concerned that the use of social media and smartphones means that anyone interested in selling wildlife can rapidly access huge numbers of potential buyers”….

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Image: More ivory Facebook shops churning out thousands of euro in ivory, all from raw re-worked tusks.

While Facebook has stated they are developing new measures and applications to combat trade, these new measures and whatever applications will be made to combat trade are all too late. Facebook is probably one of very few platforms where you can actually create “private groups”, where only those that are interested in such trade can enter and interact with other users.

Moreover Facebook provides you secrecy in relation to pages; I.e: Traders can censor which countries they don’t want to view their pages then continue trading whatever they like. In relation to pages there are ways and means around that censorship, which will not be published hereto.

One of the largest items we are seeing traded on Facebook is that of ivory bangles, ivory necklaces, ivory wrist bands, ivory chopsticks, ivory pens, ivory encrusted watches, ivory sex toys and ivory cigarette holders (in the thousands). Overseas tourists that visit Viet Nam are often caught or witnessed buying these small cheap products, and the longer they (the tourist) purchase from ivory carvers and traders, the longer demand will continue to increase and fan out. That is one area of the trade we need all be focusing on (demand) to nip in the bud sooner rather than later.

Ground Sales Survey of Ivory:

Back in 2014, a total of 1614 ground outlets were surveyed in 21 localities throughout Viet Nam. Eighty-five of these outlets (5%) were found to have a total of 2300 ivory items for sale.  Buon Me Thuat city was found to have the highest percentage of shops (50%) offering ivory. However since CITES has placed more pressure onto Viet Nam to clamp down on ivory and other wildlife trade, these shops are slowly reducing trade, although we do highly suspect traders are now operating more freely on line from which policing this area of the trade is more difficult.

While it was stated that many shops on the ground had increased somewhat, law enforcement in Viet Nam has allegedly made it more difficult for traders to openly trade ivory that has no exemption. Its is for this reason we now believe Facebook is being used more and more to trade ivory products, and as one can see in the images above – we are talking massive amounts of ivory pieces and products, 90% of which hosts no certification, furthermore the vast majority of traders we’ve located are carving products from “smuggled ivory”.

It is presumed that the currency in which the price is listed or quoted in many ivory surveys may indicate the nationality of the most common buyers in that area. Both observations and questions to particular sellers substantiate the fact that ivory is sold to both “foreign tourists and Vietnamese nationals”. For example in HCMC, the majority of the ivory buyers in the two markets are assumed to be tourists from China as prices were quoted in Chinese Yuan.

Video: Bryan Christy examines the illicit ivory trade. Interesting we have also have located a number of “counterfeit tusks that are being traded online and on the ground”. Please stay tuned for article two that will delve a little deeper into both the counterfeit rhino horn, ivory and tiger part trade.

The HCMC silver and gold shops that also offered ivory (particularly the smaller, religious pendants and figurines) appear to be targeting Vietnamese buyers with prices advertised in VND. In Dak Lak and Ha Tien, the majority of the ivory buyers are assumed to be Vietnamese tourists as prices there were quoted in VND. In Ha Noi, prices were mostly given in USD when enquiries were made, which may indicate that the buyers of ivory pieces are likely to be international tourists.

While the majority of ivory is presumed to be aimed at mostly Asian tourists – there is no real hard hitting evidence that this is in deed true. For example if you was British you’re hardly going to purchase an ivory bangle in GBP, so exchanging that currency into Vietnamese dollars then places that ivory for sale (at just about everyone and anyone) with the correct currency.

It may be somewhat of a shock but the UK is the third biggest source of intercepted illegal ivory entering the United States of America (US), which has been singled out by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) as a ‘problem country’ with a large domestic ivory trade likely to provoke illegal elephant poaching if not regulated and brought under control. London’s Portobello Road – the biggest antiques market in the world – has been identified as the single major source of this illegal ivory.

Furthermore while antique ivory trade is “problematic” so too is non-antique and the longer these trades persist, more and more elephants will be slaughtered for their tusks. We are growing very concerned now at the large number of ivory dealers operating on Facebook. There is clear evidence that much of this ivory is originating from both Africa and Asia, furthermore as explained – the large number of “raw tusks we are locating clearly shows that security is indeed more than questionable at ports, and pounds that hold confiscated ivory.

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Image: Raw African ivory tusks, cut and sold onto Viet Nam carvers, on sale on Facebook.

Back in 2015 (just before Christmas) External Affairs Environmental Crimes Officers located an “unusual amount of raw tusks from Africa” that we suspect had made their way into Viet Nam from China. IARFEIA Officers located on the Facebook platform some 21 whole raw and non-certified elephant tusks, some of them even had blood around the bases indicating these were freshly poached ivory tusks; all of which is in violation of both domestic and international ivory trade laws.

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Image: Vietnamese ivory carver aged 19 from Hanoi, Viet Nam.

The image above doesn’t really show much does it? although the other images below shows exactly what this talented young man has been creating from raw African and Asian elephant tusks (and is still creating today with his freinds – all college students). Ivory traders and dealers make no attempt at concealing their identity anymore neither. However there still remains a hardcore number of dealers that will continue to conceal their faces, names, and never post images onto Facebook that depicts them holding raw non-exempt ivory.  This belief that ivory traders, peddlers, and smugglers were all but old, is now a myth. Today we’re witnessing traders and carvers as young as 16 years old, taking over from their parents thus fueling the ivory trade evermore on Facebook.

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Image: Young trader named as Mr Manh exhibits his newly carved ivory pieces on Facebook.

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Image:Mr Manh proudly shows one of many hundreds of ivory pens that are in great demand.

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Image: Ivory pen with top off, Viet Nam, Hanoi.

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Image: Ivory trader identified as Mr Trang proudly displays carved ivory on Facebook for sale.

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Image: More freshly carved ivory cartridge pens on sale in Hanoi, via Facebook.

From 2015 (to date) IARFA Environmental Cyber Crimes Officers and the ground team External Affairs Environmental Crimes Officers have found that Viet Nam is “suspected” of peddling more ivory than China and Thailand. Cyber Crimes Officers are now locating every week on average of 2-3 “raw tusk dealers” operating on Facebook. Meanwhile the database of 80,000 ivory and wildlife trade dealers all operating on Facebook continues to increase by the week.

The whole purpose of this article is to wake people up, and open their eyes. We have a major problem on Facebook, and Alex Stamos Facebook Head Security Officer doesn’t seem to be taking much notice of this ongoing and rather concerning problem relating to just the ivory trade alone. We’ve not got much time left, there is an estimated 50,000 Asian elephants in Asia, and “known – some 600,000 African elephants remaining on the continent of Africa with a probable 1.2 million known but (uncounted).

Facebook has become a hotbed for the lucrative and illicit most illegal wildlife trade. And for the time being not a single thing is being done to control this trade. Please sign the petition hereto: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/645/521/701/facebook-remove-illegal-pet-and-wildlife-traders-from-your-server/

“The Extinction Clock is Ticking”

Thank you for reading. 

Chief Environmental Officer, Dr Jose C. Depre. 

Environmental Crimes Department. 


VINPEARL SAFARI CONTROVERSY | UNFOLDING EVENTS.

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VINPEARL SAFARI | CONTROVERSY

FOR THE PEOPLE OF VIET NAM | FOR THE ANIMALS OF VINPEARL

Controversy has been brewing wildly around Viet Nam’s first ever safari, where a total of either “108 or 115 animals died over the course of 1-2 months on the premises”, with a further “135 monkeys escaping from the premises”. Biologists, Environmentalists, and Journalists have all tried in vain to obtain answers from Vinpearl, and Cites Viet Nam, unfortunately neither expert has actually received, or been sent paperwork that can place speculation, and allegations at rest. Down to investigating further as to why so many animals died on the premises.

International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa was first informed about Vinpearl back in early February of this year (2016). From the start of February 2016, we were emailed, phoned and sent various social media requests from many Vietnamese and foreign citizens asking us to investigate the Safari, and to look into other concerning allegations. International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa then contacted our Asian counterparts, and began painstakingly laying out all data for us to scrutinize. The following data that can be proven to some degree as (factual), is listed below for your immediate attention, and information.

  1. Vinpearl imported ‘we believe some 330 animals’ from South Africa, these animals ranged from giraffe, tigers, lions, monkeys, kudu, crocodiles, impala, and wildebeest Etc. The farm located in Capetown that supplied Vinpearl belongs to Mr Huong Que, who admitted back in 2014 to illegally de-horning and trafficking two rhino horns from South Africa into Viet Nam. Mr Huong Que, strangely, hasn’t been arrested for this offence. Furthermore a Viet Nam Cites officer identified as Mr Le Hoai Nam has been friends with Mr Huong Que on Facebook since (2014) when Mr Huong Que admitted to breaking South African and international law (2014). Based on Mr Le Hoai Nam and Mr Huong Que’s online communications, they seem to know each other very well.
  2. From the 12th February ‘it was alleged’ many ex-pats began leaving the island of Bai Dai, Ganh Dau Phu Quoc, Kiến Giang, Vietnam in disgust due to many animals dying, and escaping at the safari. Vinpearl Safari and the media stayed completely silent. Citizens of Viet Nam and abroad quoted as many as “4000” animals dying. However since media and press have documented on the case, Vinpearl have been forced to break their silence. Vinpearl then admitted (without showing evidence in the way of paperwork), that some “105 to 108 animals did die”, with a further “135 monkeys escaping”.
  3. Speculation then emerged that Mr Chu Dang Khoa, his ex-wife or (ex-girlfriend), and father Mr Huong Que were involved in the shipping of animals from South Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia into Vinpearl Safari. So far, to date we can prove that Mr Huong Que, and Mr Chu Dang Khoa’s ex-partner, were most certainly involved in the shipping of many animals from South Africa. We also know that Mr Chu Dang Khoa did once live on his fathers farm in South Africa, Capetown. However as explained Mr Chu Dang Khoa still doesn’t as such fit into the main picture. We do though find it somewhat coincidental that Mr Chu Dang Khoa’s ex-partner, and his father are involved in shipping animals into Vinpearl, many of which ‘we suspect’ have unfortunately died (that originated from the African continent).
  4. On the 24th February 2016, Vinpearl then stated the following within a press and media article, again showing no paperwork, or evidence to back this claim up: Total animals imported with permits is 2,236 individuals. As of Feb. 19, 2016 there are 2.2004 individuals living at the zoo, 12 individuals were born at the zoo upon their arrival. Then a total of 108 individuals died. 

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Image: Two aircraft are identified as shipping animals from South Africa. 

Points 1-4 are areas within our own environmental investigation that contain missing pieces of the jigsaw so to say. Furthermore where there is evidence of admitting criminal activity directly under the noses of a Vietnamese Cites officer I.e Mr Le Hoai Nam, then we have cause of concern.

Below are questions that we require answering, of which we have already politely asked, however been refused answers, down to our own internet protocol address banned from emailing Vinpearl. The following questions are aimed at  both Cites Viet Nam, and Vinpearl.

  1. CITES VIET NAM: We request that all permits relating to all 2,236 animals that were ‘allegedly imported’ to be made public, communicated to us via email, or letter (which will pay the charge), or made view-able to trusted press journalists and NGO’s?
  2. CITES VIET NAM: We request the full veterinary reports relating to each of the alleged “108 animals that died”, the cause of death, health reports, and data that can be examined in relation to all of the alleged 108 animals health ‘prior and before entering Vinpearl Safari”?
  3. CITES VIET NAM: What relation does the Vietnam Cites Officer identified as Mr Le Hoai Nam have in connection with Mr Huong Que? Is this relation professional, or are the two merely friends? Furthermore when Mr Huong Que admitted to illegally de-horning and trafficking two rhino horns (front and rear), back in 2014, why didn’t the Vietnamese Cites Officer who has been friends with Mr Huong Que since 2014 pick this up, and act upon it?
  4. CITES VIET NAM: Where did the alleged “14 rhino come from” that has been stated in press and media as being “exchanged” from another safari of which we have since located is nothing but a construction site, with major land clearance problems? Out of the 108 animals that died, were there any rhino deaths, and if so where are these rhino carcasses now, and the horns?
  5. VINPEARL: We request paperwork from My Quynh Safari/Vinpearl Safari that can categorically back the claims up from Vinpearl and Cites Viet Nam relating to the 14 rhino on Vinpearls Safari. If Vinpearl did take 14 rhino from My Quynh Safari, then that paperwork will be held by Vinpearl, My Quynh Safari and Cites Viet Nam. If no paperwork is shown then we can only but continue questioning?
  6. VINPEARL: We request paperwork that shows all animals imported from overseas went through the correct quarantine protocols, were inspected for disease, stress, and underlying medical conditions. Furthermore we also request the name[s] of who signed the animals off that have been reported as dead as “fit to be released into a newly built safari”?

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Image: Someone begins demanding posts are removed about Vinpearls alleged corruption.

A recent press article released today stated that the Cites Vietnamese Management Authority inspected Vinpearl Safari grounds, and found that no illegal activities had occurred. The following points we’ve located regarding Vinpearl Safari and the only African supplier are listed below for ones immediate attention.

  • While we can take on board that some animals may suffer ill health, a newly established safari, that is professionally run, hosts expert zoologists and is owned to a multi billionaire just doesn’t see 108 animals die.
  • A professionally run safari and the breeders themselves simply don’t allow some 12 pregnant animals to be transported over 10,300 kms, for some 11.5 hours. Some of the animals that have since given birth originated from South Africa, and that flight would have caused unnecessary suffering. Furthermore the medications administered could have harmed the unborn young. So its safe to say that professional and adequate veterinary checks, and surveillance were not carried out accordingly.
  • How was it even possible for some 135 macaques to escape from an allegedly ‘well secured safari’? The safari states the 135 macaques were placed into larger cages for bigger primates. This now raises the concern about the so called locally transported rhino, that are penned in with what appears to be strong chicken wire.
  • We don’t buy the answer that claims 108 animals simply died due to the transportation and not being able to adjust to the environment in full. These animals wouldn’t have died had the relevant veterinary checks been conducted as explained prior to shipping, and on landing.
  • When Vinpearl hit the headlines throughout Viet Nam unidentified individuals were asked to remove press, media and Facebook posts. We have examined all of them posts of which not a single post actually proves animal cruelty, trafficking or wildlife trade. What the posts actually touched up on was; Inhumane transportation, animal deaths, speculation about the safari, who the suppliers were, and why some zoologists had indeed left the safari due to many animals dying, suffering disease and virus.
  • Why was both Cites Viet Nam, Vinpearl, Cites South Africa and the DEA doing business with Mr Huong Que, and Mr Chu Dang Khoa? Mr Huong Que admitted to de-horning and trafficking rhino horns, and Mr Chu Dang Khoa is known to the Department of Environmental Affairs (South Africa), for dealing in rhino horns and diamonds. The DEA ‘nicknamed him as Mr Rhino Horn Billionaire’.

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Image: Mr Huong Que who supplied Vinpearl admits to violating wildlife law.

While we understand that a Vietnamese Cites Management Officer has indeed paid a visit to Vinpearl claiming that everything is all above board, we ourselves want to see proof as explained above. We believe that while the main breeder that is Mr Huong, has relations to Cites Viet Nam (see image below), then corruption could be at play here relating back to the so called visit this week stating all was okay at the safari.

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Image: Cites Vietnamese Officer asks Mr Que when he’ll be back home?

This article will be updated as and when. We please ask that visitors to the site stay tuned for regular updates that will be dated and timed. The whole purpose of this article is to get to the bottom of why so many animals have died, why government agencies are doing business with known criminals, corruption, dishonesty, trafficking, wildlife trade, and more. We are not going to print data that cannot be proved. Finally this article cannot be censored by the Vietnamese Government.

The people of Vietnam have a duty to know just exactly what is going on here. Its clear although not proven that people in high places are also involved here to some degree. Who are the other dealers too? Where in Europe and America did other animals come from, did Mr Rhino Horn Billionaire and ex-partner, father and others supply the entire safari, and if so what relation do they have with Viet Nams most richest man?

International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa has communicated our concerns to SAPs relating to wildlife trafficking regarding Mr Que’s de-horning of a rhino and illegally trafficking them horns back to Viet Nam. If anything this man needs to be questioned about his comment, the rhino carcass must be located (if there is one), and the farm that Mr Que owns must be investigated to satisfy our own concerns and wildlife agencies that further crimes haven’t been committed on this farm. The longer it goes ignored, the quicker evidence (if any), will be concealed. One doesn’t just admit to committing a serious wildlife crime as a joke.

Environmental Crimes Department.

 


Endangered Species Monday: Papilio homerus |Extinction Imminent.

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Endangered Species Monday: Papilio homerus

This Mondays (Endangered Species Post) E.S.P, I document again on this stunning species of swallowtail butterfly. I last documented on this amazing species of butterfly two years back, unfortunately conservation actions that were ongoing back then still don’t seem to really be improving the current status of the largest swallow tail butterfly in the Western Hemisphere. Image credited to Dr Matthew S. Lehnert.

Despite the species nearing (complete extinction) within the wild, with a possible extinction likely to occur soon, biologists and conservationists are doing all they can to improve the current status of this beautiful insect, we can only hope for the best, or that the Jamaican Government increases further protection for the species, thus earmarking funding for conservation teams on the ground to preserve our largest Western Hemisphere species of swallowtail.

Endemic to Jamaica, the species was first discovered by Professor Johan Christian Fabricius (7 January 1745 – 3 March 1808) who was a Danish zoologist, specializing in “Insecta”, which at that time included all arthropods: insects, arachnids, crustaceans and others. He was a student of Professor Carl von Linnaeus, and is considered one of the most important entomologists of the 18th century, having named nearly 10,000 species of animals, and established the basis for the modern insect classification.

Professor Johan Christian Fabricius first identified and documented on P. homerus back in 1793. The common name for this swallowtail butterfly is known as the Homerus Swallowtail, which is listed as [endangered]. Back in 1983 the species was first listed as [vulnerable]. Then from 1985-1994 the species was re-listed as [endangered]. Evidence shows from 2007 we almost lost the species, of which conservation press and media pleaded with the public for help, which did in a way increase awareness. Sadly we need more awareness on and about this butterfly.

The specie hosts a wingspan of some fifteen centimeters, the Jamaican swallowtail is said to be the second largest swallowtail of its kind on the planet, with the African swallowtail alleged to be the largest. The species can only be located within the forests of Jamaica, of which habitat loss remains the largest yet significant threat associated with this species of swallowtail butterfly, butterfly collecting is alleged to be the second largest threat. Parasitic wasps also pose a large threat to the P. homerus too.

Back in the 1930’s P. homerus was considered to be somewhat common throughout Jamaica, however, regrettably the species can now only be located within the Blue and John Crow Mountains in eastern Jamaica. Population count is [estimated to be no fewer than fifty individuals], which theoretically makes this super stunning butterfly one of the planets most threatened species of insects.

P. homerus is included on the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species wild flora and fauna (Cites), of which (all domestic and international trade of this species is strictly illegal). Collection for display and trade is illegal, and finally destruction of the swallowtail butterflies habitat is furthermore strictly ‘forbidden’.

It has been suggested that the species could/may ‘benefit from captive breeding’, more data on this subject can be located hereto http://www.troplep.org/TLR/1-2/pdf005.pdf The caterpillars feed exclusively on Hernandia jamaicensis and H. catalpifolia; both of which also are endemic to Jamaica.

The Giant is a peaceful lover of a quiet habitat and is normally found in areas that remain undisturbed and unsettled for the most part, although due to destruction of its habitat can rarely be found at some cultivated edges of the forests on the island. P. homerus primary and favorite residence is usually the wet limestone and lower montane rain forests, however, it is now isolated to only 2 known locations on the island of Jamaica. The reproduction habits are not well known but like most of its fluttering cousins, it feeds on leaves and flowers where it also breeds and lays eggs that develop on the host plants.

P. homerus future remains critical, and its quite likely that we’re going to see yet another extinction occur sometime very soon. As much as I hate to say this, I do honesty believe that a complete wild extinction may occur in no fewer than 1-2 years (if that). However I believe based on the current populations, data, and habitat destruction, that extinction will occur sooner than that. I am not aware (as explained) of any captive breeding programmes, which if such projects are not undertaken now, we’ll see the species gone for good in under a year.

Image: P. homerus caterpillar.

Papilionidae in a green tree of wild fennel

Thank you for reading, and please share this article to create more awareness relating to the Jamaican swallowtail, and lets hold our breath and pray to almighty God that somewhere out there, wherever God may be, a miracle may occur.

Dr Jose C. Depre

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Endangered Species Friday: Dendrolagus dorianus | Cuddly Teddy Bear Facing Extinction.

 

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Endangered Species Friday: Dendrolagus dorianus

This Friday’s (Endangered Species Post) [E.S.P] I touch up on this rather unusual species of tree kangaroo that’s rarely mentioned within the world of conservationism. Furthermore I also wish to set the record straight about these wonderful and utterly adorable species of mammals which many people seem to believe are endemic ‘just to Australia’. This particular species is actually native to Papua New Guinea, generically identified as Dendrolagus dorianus. (Image credits: Daniel Heuclin).

Listed as (vulnerable), the species was primarily identified by Dr Edward Pierson Ramsay (3 December 1842 – 16 December 1916). Dr Ramsay was an Australian zoologist who specialized in ornithology. Among organisms Dr Ramsay named are the pig-nosed turtle, giant bandicoot, grey-headed robin and Papuan king parrot.

D. dorianus lives within a country of immense cultural and biological diversity. A country known for its beaches, coral reefs and scuba diving. Not forgetting the countries inland active volcanoes. Locals commonly identify the animal as the; Doria’s tree kangaroo or the unicolored tree kangaroo. Doria’s tree kangaroo is within the order of Diprotodontia, and the family identified as Macropodidae.

Since 1982 to 1994 the species has remained at [vulnerable level] of which back in 1996 a further assessment of the species noted a possible population decline. The decline prompted environmentalists to notch the species further up the list of [vulnerable species]. However a survey in 2008 concluded the species hadn’t as yet qualified for any further threatened status (E.g) endangered (which would unfortunately be the next listing should threats not decline in the wild).

Scientific research and population evaluations have shown a staggering 30% decline of overall wild populations which is quite a large population decrease, although “allegedly not concerning enough as yet to reclassify this particular specimen as endangered”. Yes its unfortunate that the current news relating to (decreasing populations), is indeed factual, and its likely (as explained), that should threats in the wild not decrease anytime soon, we could see a new extinction occurring in as little as ten years “if not sooner”. Populations are not known to be ‘fragmented’.

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Image: Rare glimpse of the Doria Tree Kangaroo. 

Identified in 1883 there are very few conservation actions actually known that could help increase declining population sizes which I myself find somewhat frustrating, not to mention perplexing, especially when one takes into consideration the current level of threats associated with this specie in Papua New Guinea.

Research proves the species inhabits some several protected national parks [NP’s], unfortunately extreme hunting activities I.e illegal poaching is still ongoing. While Anti Poaching Operations [APU’s] do exist, the fact of the matter is that Cites (The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species Wild Flora and Fauna), still hasn’t listed the species as (protected or endangered) on either Appendix I or Appendix II.

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Image: Extinction may occur in a decade of not sooner. 

To date the current population level is unknown, furthermore reproduction is also believed to be incredibly low and poor.

MAJOR THREATS

Known threats relate to the bush meat trade, which if not controlled will unfortunately push the species into extinction. Hunting with dogs, unregulated/illegal hunting is quite high and problematic within the region. Finally the species absolutely hates canines of which when threatened emits depressed vocalizations. Future threats have been identified as habitat loss and degradation.

The Doria’s tree kangaroo lives at elevations of some 600-3,650 meters of which is mostly nocturnal and a solitary animal. Dr Ramsay named the species after Professor Marquis Giacomo Doria (1 November 1840 – 19 September 1913) whom was an Italian naturalist, botanist, herpetologist, and politician of Italy.

Doria’s tree kangaroo is probably one of the largest species of tree kangaroos on the planet, although this is somewhat debatable. Weighing in at 6.5-14.5 kilograms, length is around 60-80 centimeters, with a tail length of some 40-70 centimeters. With a large tail, dense black and brown fur, large powerful claws and stocky build, the appearance of this specific animal almost appears to look like a medium sized bear.

Diet consists of leaves, flowers, fruits and buds, there is no evidence that suggests or points to any form of meat eating either. Gestation period of females is around thirty days, of which the ‘single young baby’ will remain in mothers pouch for around ten months.

There really is limited information about this specific species which could be due to the fact the species is actually very rare, nocturnal, and lives at moderate to high elevations within dense montane forests. I am asking the public to please share this article far and wide to help us push more awareness of this species into the public domain, which we hope will encourage (Cites) to protect the species sooner rather than later.

This article is dedicated to Ms Toni Devine, a wonderful young lady that absolutely adores these wonderful species of animals, who wouldn’t adore them, they are truly remarkable, intelligent, and in way more like cuddly teddy bears.

Chief Environmental & Botanical Officer 

Dr Jose C. Depre

Environmental Crimes Investigator 

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Endangered Species Friday: Aquila nipalensis | Wind Farms Pushing Steppe Eagle into Extinction?

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Endangered Species Friday: Aquila nipalensis

This Fridays (ESP) – Endangered Species Post is dedicated to the A. nipalensis, commonly known as the Steppe Eagle, identified back in 1833. Image credit: Kartik Patel

The Steppe Eagle was formally identified by Dr Brian Houghton Hodgson (1 February 1800 or more likely 1801 – 23 May 1894) was a pioneer naturalist and ethnologist working in India and Nepal where he was a British Resident. He described numerous species of birds and mammals from the Himalayas, and several birds were named after him by others such as Edward Blyth.

Dr Brian H. Hodgson was a scholar of Tibetan Buddhism and wrote extensively on a range of topics relating to linguistics and religion. He was an opponent of the British proposal to introduce English as the official medium of instruction in Indian schools. Had Dr H. Hodgson not introduced English into the many Indian schools, its very likely very few Indian citizens would today know how to speak the English language.

A. nipalensis is listed as (endangered), although its likely the predatory eagle will soon be relisted as (critically endangered), should conservation efforts not improve the current status of this remarkable bird of prey, however this particular bird is somewhat of a mystery.

The major reason why this species is listed as (endangered) which was only recently, is primarily due to wind farming of which birds are reported to fly directly into large structural turbines, which unfortunately, results in their death, or serious injury. Birds that are rescued suffering serious trauma are rarely released back into the wild, or make a full recovery.

From 1988 to 2000 the species was listed as (lower risk). Then from 2003 to 2014 the species remained at (least concern). A risk assessment conducted last year (2015), concluded that the species qualified for (endangered status). Which is somewhat concerning. To date we know the species has already been pushed into regional extinction in the countries identified as; Moldova and Romania. Today the species still remains endemic within the following countries;

Afghanistan; Albania; Armenia; Azerbaijan; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Bhutan; Botswana; Bulgaria; China; Congo; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Georgia; Greece; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Kuwait; Kyrgyzstan; Lebanon; Malawi; Malaysia; Mongolia; Myanmar; Namibia; Nepal; Oman; Pakistan; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Qatar; Russian Federation; Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Singapore; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Swaziland; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Uganda; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan; Viet Nam; Yemen; Zambia and finally Zimbabwe.

Aquila nipalensis is also a vagrant visitor to most of Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, South East Asia, Southern and Eastern Africa, ranging from Spain; Norway; France; Germany; Finland, Korea; Somalia; Slovakia Etc. Continued rate of decline is (unknown), which is concerning bird lovers and conservationists. Data recorded from the last assessment back in (2015), stated that populations are declining very rapidly.

Population Uncertainty

There seems to have been some perplexing information from the last assessment (before 2015’s) relating to population trend conducted we believe in (2010 or 2012). However the (2015) assessment has confirmed that the current population trend may stand at some: 100,000-499,999 (which is an estimate band or population band). Populations are not known to be (seriously fragmented). Surveys conducted back in (2001) placed the number of pairs at ‘80,000 pairs or 160,000 mature individuals’. Unfortunately the (European population) is estimated to be standing at 800-1,200 pairs in total.

Bird-Life International (2015) estimated that Europe holds the lowest population density standing at some 9%. So a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 17,800-26,700 mature individuals. A further assessment back in (2001) relating to the European trend stated “160,000 mature individuals was much lower than previously believed”. So as one can see ‘population uncertainty’ is the second likely reason why the species has been re-listed as (endangered). Not forgetting being rather confusing at times too.

Latest Population Assessment Estimate

The latest, and most current population assessment estimate states numbers range (in total) at 31,372 (26,014-36,731) which equates to 62,744 (52,028-73,462) mature individuals or 94,116 (78,042-110,193) individuals. The population is placed in the band 100,000 to 499,999 mature individuals. It must be noted that 100,000 to 499,999 is not the true population count, but more the ‘band that the species currently stands at/qualifies for’.

Habitat destruction, agriculture, conversion of Steppe Eagle land for farming, persecutions, but most worrying is wind-farming that is “seriously threatening the species as we know it today”. Collisions with wind-turbines is quite a serious concern as the Steppe Eagle is not exactly a small bird, and when hunting, especially within converted land that hosts wind farms, Steppe Eagles are either killed or seriously injured to the point that they can never be rehabilitated back to the wild. Night collisions are reported more than day collisions.

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Image: White tailed Eagle killed after colliding with a wind farm in the background. 

The image above depicts a White Tailed Eagle that was located dead after a suspected collision with a wind turbine. As one can clearly see these Eagles are not small, nor are wind turbines. Unfortunately birds come off the worst as we humans crave more and more greener energy. The only real reasonable solution here would be to now lobby governments and industries to build wind farms away from ‘all bird habitat’, or at sea. Unfortunately, again this is easier said than done. While at sea wind turbines are being blamed for whale beaching’s due to turbine vibrations, meanwhile birds are mostly, sadly dying when hitting these gigantic steel/carbon structure’s.

Steppe Eagles migrate, and are said to be closely related to the subspecies Aquila rapax. Steppe Eagles are around 25-31 inches in length, with a mean wingspan of 5.1-7.1 feet. Females weigh 5-10 lbs, while males weigh in at around 4.4 to 7.7 lbs. Steppe Eagles are said to breed mainly from Romania of which the species is currently (regionally extinct) within the country. Further evaluation of breeding behavior states the species breeds in Central Asia, Mongolia to Africa, with further breeding occurring within Eastern Europe. Females lay on average 1-3 eggs within a clutch.

steppe1

Image: Credited: Peter Romanow (Germany). 

Major Threats

Listed on the (Convention of International trade in Endangered Species wild flora and fauna – Cites), Cites Appendix II. Threats are listed below for your information. 

The species has declined in the west of its breeding range, including extirpation from Romania, Moldova and Ukraine, as a result of the conversion of steppes to agricultural land combined with direct persecution. It is also adversely affected by power lines and is very highly vulnerable to the impacts of potential wind energy developments. It was recently found to be the raptor most frequently electrocuted by power lines in a study in western Kazakhstan. When one views the sheer size of these massive birds of prey, one can clearly envisage just how easy they can fall prey to hitting these massive carbon wind structures, and power lines,

Young eagles are taken out of the nest in order to sell them to western European countries. A decline in the number of birds and a reduction in the proportion of juveniles migrating over Eilat, Israel began immediately after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, leading Yosef and Fornadari (2004) to suggest that the species may have been affected by radioactive contamination. This species is vulnerable to the veterinary drug Diclofenac too. Read more here on Chernobyl.

CONCERNING DATA ON CHERNOBYL AND LOW BIRD SPERM RATE: https://www.audubon.org/news/chernobyls-radiation-seems-be-robbing-birds-their-sperm

Wind Farming | Eagles

Wind energy is the fastest growing source of power worldwide according to the World Bank. China plans a 60% increase in the next three years and the US a six-fold jump by 2030. The EU aims to produce 20% of its energy through renewables by 2020 – much of this is from wind. Will this huge expansion of wind farms have a serious impact on bird life? It looks likely, especially where birds habitat is being encroached onto by such developments.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) estimates that 440,000 birds are killed in collisions with wind turbines each year; without stronger regulation, says the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the annual toll will exceed one million by 2030. To address this issue, the U.S. Department of the Interior has released voluntary guidelines to help developers minimize the impact of wind energy projects on bird habitat and migration. Developed over five years with an advisory committee that included government agencies, the wind energy industry, and some conservation organizations, the guidelines are intended to ensure compliance with federal laws such as the Endangered Species Act—although the rules allowing them to do so are controversial.

Read more here: http://hqinfo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/bird-collision-deaths-wind-farms.html

windfarm1

Image: Red Kite killed found dead after colliding with a wind-turbine. 

There are reasons why birds are likely to be affected by wind farms. Wind developments tend to be placed in upland areas with strong wind currents that have a lot of potential to generate energy. Birds – particularly raptors like eagles or vultures – use these currents as highways – and so are likely to come into contact with the turbines. It’s not just the turbine blades that pose a risk to birds; research indicates that wind developments can disrupt migration routes. What’s more, foraging and nesting habitat can also be lost when turbines are put up.

Despite these concerns, the current body of research suggests wind farms have not significantly reduced bird populations. Several studies suggest birds have the ability to detect wind turbines in time and change their flight path early enough to avoid them. And one small study found no evidence for sustained decline in two upland bird species on a wind farm site after it had been operating for three years. Another found that wild geese are able to avoid offshore wind turbines. (Geese though fly at daytime, and are not predatory day and nighttime carnivorousness hunters).

A large peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Ecology monitored data for ten different bird species across 18 wind farm sites in the UK. It found that two of them- curlew and snipe – saw a drop in population during the construction phase, which did not recover afterwards. But the population of the other eight species were restored once the wind farms were built.

Read more here: http://www.carbonbrief.org/bird-death-and-wind-turbines-a-look-at-the-evidence

The current fate relating to the Steppe Eagle is somewhat worrying. Agriculture, persecution, young theft for trade, and wind – turbine farming is all but concerning plundering the species into further threatened status. After reading many studies dating back to 2012 regarding wind turbines, and whether they were indeed responsible for bird deaths, 2012 evidence didn’t really show much to prove that birds were affected. However after reading the ‘damning evidence relating to the Steppe Eagle’, its without a doubt that wind farms are most certainly ‘impacting on this species and others’ locally and internationally. The question is how do we deal with this problem?

We need wind to generate more greener energy thus decreasing our carbon emissions. Furthermore we also need birds of prey to control rodent, insect, and general pest control. Large birds of prey are also very useful within Anti Poaching operations, and act as the eyes and ears for both farmers and anti poachers. While there is no evidence to prove my own suspicions here, I do believe that certain bodies within government are being forced to ignore ongoing issues with wind farms and bird collisions. The excuse that birds can quickly change course is indeed factual to some degree, well, only if the bird is flying during daytime hours. Unfortunately most birds of prey also fly and hunt at night. So how is one supposed to change their course (at nighttime when unable to see the turbine in time)?

Please view the videos below for more information. 

BIRD OF PREY | TURBINE COLLISIONS 

STEPPE EAGLE

Thank you for reading, please share and help create more noise about this subject before time runs out. 

Dr Jose. C. Depre PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M.

Environmental, Botanical and Human Science


Endangered Species Monday: Turanana taygetica | Dedicated to Mme Taylor Nicole.

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Endangered Species Monday: Turanana taygetica

This Mondays (ESP) Endangered Species watch Post I touch up on the T. taygetica identified by Dr Rebel back in 1902. Image credited: Zeynel Cebeci I am also dedicating this article to the early Mme Taylor Nicole who sadly passed away last week to Mother Christina Ann. Mme Ann is an unselfish animal rights activist dedicating her time, love and care to African, American and international wildlife. Mme Ann regularly undertakes animal rights projects for the Start for Animals Project, Missouri, United States.

The ‘odd spot blue butterfly’ as the species is commonly known was primarily identified by Dr Hans Rebel whom was an Austrian entomologist who specialized in Lepidoptera. Rebel, who had an early interest in natural history and butterflies, first became a lawyer. He devoted his spare time to studying Lepidoptera and established the entomological section of the Botanical and Zoological Society of Vienna.

He succeeded Alois Friedrich Rogenhofer (1831–1897) as keeper of the Lepidoptera collection of the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna, a post he held from 1897 to 1932. Dr Rebel enriched the collections and as a grand voyageur, made many collecting trips in Austro-Hungary and five trips in the Balkans. He directed the Department of Zoology in 1923 and was the museum’s director general in 1925.

T. taygetica is listed as [near threatened], although new data from Cites has suggested that the species may soon be re-listed as [vulnerable]. To date there is very little knowledge known about this specific species of butterfly, and the split related species identified as T. endymion.

Endemic to Greece and Turkey (Europe), populations of this stunningly beautiful insect are known to be decreasing quite rapidly. The odd-spot blue butterfly occurs in dry, calcareous places covered with low-growing shrubs, and are commonly witnessed drinking the nectar from the herb plant identified as Thyme, scientifically known as Thymus vulgaris. Males are known to leave their normal habitat for more ‘damper patches of ground’, while females commonly lay their eggs within the species of flora identified as Acantholimon karamanicum. 

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Image: Odd spot blue Butterfly shares its habitat with the L. thetis. 

The odd spot blue butterfly shares its habitat with this utterly stunning copper-tinged Lycaena thetis (pictured above), both of which contrast one-another beautifully. Both butterflies caterpillars also share the same species of food-plant which is quite a rare behavior within the world of butterflies.

The Turanana taygetica (scientific identification) is not known to be listed on anyone of the Cites Appendices either, despite the fact the species is near threatened/vulnerable, with populations declining quite rapidly within Greece and Turkey.  Furthermore populations have plummeted to a staggering 30-50% over the past two decades. To date there is no-known true or mean population count. International Animal Rescue Foundation England are though looking into this, and hope to release a more accurate report addressed too the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species wild flora and fauna (Cites).

Major Threats

This species has a restricted distribution. It is threatened by changes in the agricultural practices (mainly abandonment), quarrying and tourist activities. In Greece it is a popular butterfly for collectors. One population in Greece was recently destroyed by the building of a road. Regarding its limited distribution it might get threatened on the longer run by climate change. As the species is not treated in the Climatic Risk Atlas, there is no information on the possible change of the climate envelope.

watchingout

Image: Odd spot blue butterflies watching each others backs

The length of the forewings is 10–12 mm. The ground colour of the upperside of the wings is blue with blackish marginal borders. The underside ground colour is whitish grey. Adult males are often found watering inside the forest zone and near the presumed host-plant.

This Mondays (ESP) Endangered Species Watch post is dedicated to the early Mme Taylor Nicole whom sadly passed away last week. Herein are a few links to share, tag, and to learn to cope with sudden bereavement within the family environment.

I myself never met Mme Nicole or her mother Christina, however have spoken to Christina occasionally in relation to the work that I have undertaken in the past regarding the pet meat trade. I believe I owe a little gratitude to such a wonderful person.

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Image: Mme Christina Ann and Daughter Mme Taylor Nicole 

Due to Mme Christina Ann’s daughter passing away suddenly, while Christina was on excursion on the continent of Africa, helping those within impoverished zones, and those with no voice, Mme Ann’s travel insurance would not cover the expenses of having to suddenly flying back home. Please be most kind to donate a small amount to help mother cover this charge by clicking the link hereto: https://www.gofundme.com/9nnawu5w

The link hereto https://www.compassionatefriends.org/Brochures/surviving_your_childs_suicide.aspx provides more details for parents on how to deal with sudden death. Compassionate Friends is a United States Not for Profit Organisation helping parents, relatives and friends dealing with the loss of a close loved one from suicide.

daughtermiracle

“The love between a mother and daughter is FOREVER”

Today’s Endangered Species Post (ESP) is dedicated to the Odd spot blue butterfly, Mother Christina Ann and Daughter Mme Taylor Nicole.

Thank you for reading.

Dr Jose Carlos Depre PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M.

Environmental, Botanical & Human Science

Chief Environmental Officer (CEO)


Endangered Species Friday: Gastropholis prasina.

greete

Endangered Species Friday: Gastropholis prasina

In this Fridays Endangered Species Watch Post (ESP), I focus briefly on this rather elusive species of Green Keel bellied Lizard, that’s endemic to the continent of Africa. I’ve long adored our African reptilians, unfortunately they’re own habitat like many larger species of fauna is under threat… (Image credited: S. Spawls) Green Keel bellied Lizard.

Listed as (near threatened) the species was primarily identified by Dr Franz Werner (15 August 1867 in Vienna – 28 February 1939 in Vienna) was an Austrian zoologist and explorer. Specializing as a herpetologist and entomologist, Werner described numerous species and other taxa of frogs, snakes, insects, and other organisms.

I thank Dr Werner (despite not being alive today), for his truly amazing journeys all over the African continent of which he located many hundreds of different reptiles, snakes, frogs, worms, and an assortment of other mammals. Had Dr Werner not followed on from his fathers footsteps its quite likely the Green Keel bellied Lizard wouldn’t be known today (among many other animals this amazing man identified).

Gastropholis prasina was originally identified back in 1904, then re-classified by Dr Loverbridge back in 1936 as (Bedriagaia moreaui ). However today this is not the species true name, G. prasina remains the true identity. Endemic to Kenya and Tanzania, the species is commonly known found along the eastern arc of Kenya and Tanzania’s coastal plain.

Localities are: Watamu, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, Amani in the Usambara Mountains, Tanga, Zaraninge Forest, and the Nguru Mountains. The reptilian probably also occurs in Kenya’s Shimba Hills,  however this has yet to be fully confirmed.

Populations are known to be “severely fragmented”, which has led to concerns that the species may soon be re-listed as (vulnerable or even endangered). Current historical data records show no evidence of a mean population count sparking more concerns that the species may be more “threatened than has been led to believe”.  For now we can only assume (but not estimate) what the population count may be based on location and trapping (see image below). (updates to follow). Please view the map below of which details where the highest abundance of Green Keel bellied Lizard habitats remain today.

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Image: Identified habitat locations of the Green Keel bellied Lizard. 

Past records state the species is either “rare or considered very rare”, however I must point out that this historical data is from 1989 and a further assessment dated 2002. Vast swathes of habitat has been lost since the 1980’s and early millennium, habitat destruction is rife within Kenya and Tanzania, poaching, bush meat trade and land conversions are also increasing annually.. So in all honesty, none knows for sure if the species is now (to date rare or very rare), as records are out of date, which is an observational fact!

Unfortunately the species is neither listed on (Cites appendix I or II) despite the fact the reptilian is near (vulnerable). There remains no evidence that the Green Keel bellied Lizard is used within trade, or the Traditional African Medicine Trade (TAM). However there is evidence that the reptilian is collected during large scale tree felling for displays in local snake farms. Its quite possible the species “may be collected to feed snakes too” which if true could be seriously detrimental to the wild populations that are still unknown.

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Image credit: Torsten Kunsch 

Green Keel bellied Lizard is diurnal (either comes out during the day or not). The reptilian is also known to be quite secretive and arboreal (living mostly in or among trees), which could explain why the reptilian is at the best of times difficult to locate and study, especially if the animal wants to come out only at night. Environmental scientists are in a sense playing cat and mouse when it comes to studying that is.

Despite the species living primarily among trees, there is no evidence that the animal lives high up among the canopies either, (confusing I know). Specimens have been located mainly close to the ground or next to the base of trees, as seen within the images above (1-2). Further studies have shown that the reptilian can live as high as 12 meters from base level within the tree, but not exactly the canopy.

Investigations haven’t really shed much light as to whether the species is indeed affected by habitat disturbance. However where cashew nut farms are being grown within the animals habitat of which these farms have turfed up the animals natural homes, there does appear to be some evidence that proves the Green Keel bellied lizard cannot tolerate this type of habitat disturbance, so we’ll need to be looking into this more closely, followed up with surveys in relation to intensive logging and species collection.

While the Green Keel bellied Lizard is not listed on either of the appendixes, the reptilian is known to inhabited ‘protected parks’ being that of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and the Amani and Zaraninge Forest.

Major Threats

Coastal forest is rapidly disappearing within this species’ range, and is thought likely to represent a threat to the lizard. While it has been recorded from cashew plantations, it is thought to require continuous tree cover. Expanding human populations along the fertile East African coast, and associated agricultural development, are the major threats to forest in this region (2014). Much of the species’ coastal distribution is, however, within well-protected areas, and its largest distribution centre is inland in the Nguru Mountains.

It’s uncertain what the future holds for this rather secretive lizard, furthermore its evident that threats while minimal are still present and increasing, we still don’t know what the actual true population count is neither. More studies need to be conducted to determine the exact population, and where required the necessary protection plans and (listing on either Appendix I or II) applied.

Video: Green Keel bellied Lizard in Captivity

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Dr Jose C. Depre PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M.

Environmental, Botanical & Human Science

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Endangered Species Monday: Papustyla pulcherrima | Special Report.

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Endangered Species Monday: Papustyla pulcherrima

Manus Green Tree Snail – Very first invertebrate to be listed on the Endangered Species Act of the United States of America (2015) Endangered Species Post Special Report. 

This Monday’s Endangered Species Post (ESP) I take a wee glimpse into the life of the Green Tree Snail, also commonly known by Papua New Guinea’s natives as the Manus Green Tree Snail. Image Credit: Stephen J. Richards.

Identified by Professor Rensch 1931, Rensch was born on the 21st January 1900 in Thale in Harz and died on the 4th April 1990 in Münster, (Germany), Professor Rensch was an evolutionary biologist, zoologist, ethologist, neurophysiologist and philosopher and co-founder of the synthetic theory of evolution. He was professor of Zoology and Director of the Zoological Institute at the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster. Together with his wife Mme Ilse Rensch he also worked in the field of Malacology and described several new species and subspecies of land snails.

The Manus Green Tree Snail is identified as Papustyla pulcherrima commonly known as the Emerald Green Snail. From 1983-1994 this particular species of snail was considered (extremely rare). Back in 1996 when scientists managed to again finally catch up with this stunning little mollusk, the species was then listed as (data deficient) of which to date there remains little information about this (rare) but beautiful snail.

P. pulcherrima is endemic to the Papa New Guinea northern island of Manus of which the species is listed as (near threatened), and has also been reported on the adjacent Los Negros Island. Environmental scientists have confirmed from villagers on the main Manus Island that the species is not located anywhere else. However there are some sketchy reports that the species “may be located on surrounding islands”, however there is no evidence to back these claims up.

Environmental scientists have confirmed for now that the species is located in only 12-13 areas of the Manus Island[s]. Further reports have confirmed that mature individuals are on the decline (which if not controlled could evidently see the species re-listed as vulnerable or endangered). The Manus Green Tree Snail is not believed to be living within fragmented zones. The species is restricted to forest and low intensity garden ‘type’ habitat. Declines have been noted within all 12-13 identified habitats on the Manus Island and adjacent Los Negros Islands. Population history is pretty much undocumented although has been shown to be slowly declining.

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Image: Manus Green Tree Snail.

Back in 1930 when Professor Rensch identified the Manus Green Tree Snail, locals soon began collecting the species for trade thus seeing the mollusk now nearing endangered listing. Demand for the Manus Green Tree Snail has now drastically increased threatening the species furthermore. Locals continue to collect this rather unusual colored species shell for use within the jewelry trade. There are now “very serious concerns” that trade may eventually push the species into extinction.

Due to mass trade exploitation the Manus Green Tree Snail is the very first invertebrate to be listed on the Endangered Species Act of the United States of America. International trade has been controlled by export permit since 1975 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) appendix II. Unfortunately this is not stopping locals from harvesting the species, and trade is still continuing despite it now a criminal offence under United States and some international laws.

“Overexploitation threatens the Manus Snail”

Market sales data collected from the Lorengau market, over a six day period suggest that annual sales at the market may approach 5,000 shells. Investigations by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) reveal that large quantities of shells are still being attempted to be exported out of the country. Online searches revealed the sale of the shells, often marketed as antiques, occurring in open forums and internet market places based in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States of America (USA). International Animal Rescue Foundation has ran numerous traces online of which located yet again Ebay as being a number one trading site of the “threatened species”, please view the image below and click the image link that’ll direct you to that site.

“EBAY JAPAN IS A HOTBED FOR ILLEGAL TRADE OF THE MANUS GREEN SNAIL”

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International Animal Rescue Foundation’s External Affairs Department and the Environmental Cyber Crimes Unit located many a sites trading the Manus Green Tree Snail’s shell which is illegal under some trade law, unfortunately the Ebay site listed above, located within Japan is one of many more that are trading (despite the species nearing extinction).

I.A.R.F’s Environmental Cyber Crimes Unit have since filed a complaint with Ebay, providing all the relevant data to now remove these species from their sites, however its likely to prove negative as the trader could very well state they harvested or purchased the shells before international laws were drafted. Furthermore a trace of the owner that owns this site above which is in violation of the United States and Cites laws (is located within the United States). So in regards to enforcement, breaking this link is going to be somewhat of a tough cookie. Further trade was witnessed here via what we can only believe is alleged “antiques”.

Further trade all of which is illegal has been recorded hereto – this site linked back to a Mr Rob West of 121 Henderson Road, Sheldon, Brisbane, Queensland 4157 Australia, Telephone: 610732061636. Mr West from Brisbane categorically states that he doesn’t own a shop, and is a one man band, yet clearly this link states otherwise. Further evidence revealed antique trade conducted on the Ebay site, see in the image below (illegal under United States law).

Click the image link below to view more. 

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“Illegal to trade under the Endangered Species Act of the United States of America”

The environmental wildlife crimes investigation team linked to TRAFFIC and Cites stated:

It is possible the avoidance of conventional nomenclature is an attempt to avoid detection by authorities. In some cases, sellers on internet market places were based in CITES signatory countries (including: Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Singapore and USA) while others were not (e.g. Taiwan). Currently, volumes of shells on sale in such online market places appear low, suggesting that the existing controls on international trade maybe adequate. However, given that the online prices of shells were often orders of magnitude greater than market prices on Manus Island, vigilance will be required to insure that illegal international demand does not fuel a resurgence in snail collection.

Despite the massive trade on Manus Green Tree Snails online and within open Asian markets, its literally impossible to determine if this trade will eventually lead to the species being pushed into extinction. However it MUST be noted that there are currently only 12-13 identified habitats that the snail currently inhabits. And based on traces online conducted by the I.A.R.F’s External Affairs Department – trade is most certainly “out of control”, and not as Cites has reported (2012).

The shell of this species is a vivid green color, which is unusual in snails. The green color is however not within the solid, calcium carbonate part of the shell but instead it is a very thin protein layer known as the periostracum. Under the periostracum the shell is yellow.

MAJOR THREATS

The Manus Green Tree Snail is mostly threatened by habitat destruction through forest clearance: logging, plantation development (especially rubber) and to a lesser extent road developments. Increasing human population growth and an increasing cultural demand for deriving cash incomes from the land will likely see the rate of forest degradation increase in the future. Harvest occurs when trees are felled as part of traditional shifting cultivation and the snails, typically found in the canopy, suddenly become exposed. Such harvesting is not uncommon but it is likely to be of lower significance than the longer term habitat degradation caused by such agricultural practices.

While harvest for illicit international trade is occurring, the volumes are not “allegedly” thought to be large compared to historic rates, although they may approach levels seen in the legal domestic trade. However, given that the prices of shells internationally are often orders of magnitude greater than market prices on Manus Island, vigilance will be required to insure that illegal international demand does not fuel a resurgence in snail collection.

Notable deposits of gold have been found in central Manus and a mine operation will likely result in the next decade although no details of the plan have been released (as of 2014). The forests of Manus Island were badly affected by the 1997-1998 El Niño which resulted in a prolonged drought. Should climatic change result in increased rates of similar conditions this may constitute a future threat to the snail species, however, current predictions suggest that future incidence of drought in Papua New Guinea will decrease (Australian Bureau of Metrology and CSIRO 2011).

Despite the reassurances from Cites, WCS and the local wildlife organisations – evidence clearly points to large scale online trade legal and illegal.  Furthermore there is no telling if shells online are antique or smuggled from the Manus Islands which is very concerning.

Manus Green Tree Snail is the first such snail to be listed on the threatened list of endangered species (USA). Research also explains to us that its likely the species will be plundered into extinction – very soon. Enjoy the video.

Thank you for reading, and please be most kind to share to create awareness and education. 

Dr Jose C. Depre  PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M.

Environmental & Human Science

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Sources:

IUCN, WWF, CITES, WCS, Ebay, Wikipedia, Australian Bureau of Metrology and CSIRO