Category Archives: Environment

South Africa – rhino breeder John Hume to sell rhino horn in global online auction

timeslive (South Africa)

500kg of horn for sale as rhino owner hosts controversial global online auction

24 June 2017 – 09:49 By Tony Carnie
South African rhino breeder John Hume has a herd of nearly 1500 rhinos at his private ranch in North West province. Their horns are “harvested” on a regular basis.

South African rhino breeder John Hume has a herd of nearly 1500 rhinos at his private ranch in North West province. Their horns are “harvested” on a regular basis.
Image: Tony Carnie

The world’s biggest rhino breeder has announced plans to sell part of his massive stockpile of horns in a global online auction, sparking concern that this could undermine the 40- year-old international ban on rhino horn trading.

Billed as the world’s first “legal rhino horn auction”, the three-day sale is scheduled for midday on August 21.

South African businessman and game rancher John Hume, who has nearly 1500 rhinos at his game farm in the North West, has a stockpile of nearly six tons of horns that he wants to sell. This after he won a series of court battles earlier this year to overturn the eight-year-old moratorium on the domestic sale of rhino horns.

Hume – along with other private rhino breeders – has been removing horns from his herd for several years. The animals are anaesthetised and the top section of the horn removed so that they can regrow naturally as part of a “bloodless, horn-harvesting” operation.

In an attempt to halt the unrelenting slaughter of rhinos in Africa and Asia by poaching syndicates, a ban on the international sale of rhino horns came into force in 1977 by member states of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This was followed by a 2009 ban on the sale of rhino horns within South Africa that coincided with an unprecedented spike in horn poaching.

Now that Hume has overturned the moratorium on domestic sales within South Africa, he plans to sell 500kg of horns in an online auction that will be open to bidders from China, Vietnam and other nations. A condition of sale is that the horns will have to remain in South Africa until global trade is unbanned – or alternatively, until foreign buyers are granted import and export permits from South Africa and their home nations.

Senior officials of the Department of Environmental Affairs and South Africa’s Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA) held a meeting in Pretoria early on Friday to wrangle over the terms of the proposed auction. It it is understood that the department raised a number of concerns over import and export permit procedures yesterday, but Hume told TMG Digital that the auction was going ahead regardless.

“The (auction) dates are fixed” he said on Friday.

In a social media campaign notice, it was announced that the auction would start on August 21, with anonymous bids continuing until noon on August 24.

This was confirmed by the appointed Pretoria-based auction house. Van’s Auctioneers spokesman Johan van Eyk said Hume would offer just over 500 kg of rhino horns for sale. The horns would be split into 250 separate lots, mainly sets of front and back horns and some larger individual front horns.

A second, conventional auction would be held amid tight security in Gauteng on September 19.

Van Eyk said he was not willing to speculate on expected prices, but noted that current domestic black-market prices were considerably lower than end-of-market prices in the Far East.

Jo Shaw, rhino programme manager for the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) in South Africa, has questioned why buyers would want to bid for rhino horn when the international trade remains illegal.

“There is no significant demand for rhino horns inside South Africa and the access to international markets is illegal – so why would buyers want to bid for horns at this auction?”

A spokesman for environmental affairs Minister Edna Molewa did not respond to written queries last night, while the CITES secretariat in Switzerland claimed it was not aware of the proposed auction.

Instead, CITES spokesman Yuan Liu pointed to a statement issued earlier this year after South Africa published draft proposals that would allow foreign nationals to export two rhino horns from South Africa for “personal purposes”.

This statement notes that – with the exception of legal hunting trophies – no rhino horns can be traded internationally “if the use is for primarily commercial purposes”.

“The Secretariat has received questions from CITES parties and journalists, as well as messages of concern from the general public, regarding measures proposed by the Republic of South Africa relating to the domestic trade and the export for personal purposes of rhinoceros horn…The application of relevant CITES provisions to South Africa’s proposal is rather complex.”

But private rhino owners – who now own 37% of South Africa’s increasingly threatened rhino population – are hoping that buyers from London, Tokyo, Beijing, New York and other major centres will still bid for a slice of the massive stockpile of rhino horns that has been building up for forty years in private and state storage facilities in South Africa.

PROA spokesman Pelham Jones described the latest move as the first move of a “two-step dance”.

“Why buy it illegally, when you can buy it legally? There is no intention nor desire to flood the market. After the first horn auctions are held we will be able to see how much interest there is. There is no legal bar to holding an auction,” he argued, noting that rhino owners had studied the relevant legislation very closely.

“We see a lot of nonsense on social media suggesting that this would enable ‘blood horns’ to be laundered and sold off. It’s nonsense because you have to be in possession of a permit in order to sell horns. Poaching will continue unless there is a regulated supply of horn available to meet demand,” he said.

Nigeria – anger among Ogoni over delays in cleaning up oil spill

Guardian (Lagos)

By AFP   |   22 June 2017   |   3:26 pm

Under a leaden sky in oil-rich southern Nigeria, young men hang around with nothing to do, covering their noses from the noxious fumes of the polluted swamp.

The sight in Bodo, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) southeast of Port Harcourt, is repeated in communities elsewhere in the maze of creeks that criss-cross Ogoni land.

One year after the launch of a much-heralded clean-up programme, the oil slicks which blackened the waters, killed the fish and ruined the mangroves remain untouched.

Locals, deprived of their livelihoods from fishing and farming, and with the billions of dollars extracted from under them channelled elsewhere, are angry and frustrated.

“The progress made on the Ogoni clean-up is known only to the government,” said Fegalo Nsuke, from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People pressure group.

“The people of Ogoni still cannot have access to safe drinking water, not to talk of electricity, basic schools and roads,” he told AFP.

– Environmental disaster –
In January 2015, there were hopes Ogoni land’s luck was changing after Shell agreed to pay £55 million ($70 million, 63 million euros) in compensation to more than 15,500 Bodo people.

The Anglo-Dutch energy giant also agreed to start a clean up of two devastating oil spills in 2008, following a three-year British legal battle that was settled out of court.

In June 2016, Nigeria’s Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo formally launched the project, which the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said could take 30 years.

So far, however, only $10 million of the initial $1 billion programme has been released.

Since then, a governing council and trust fund have been set up, and a project coordinator appointed, but no equipment has been moved to the sites, residents say.

Drinking water is still not fit for human consumption.

“The fact is that Ogoni still drinks poisoned water and remains polluted and these cannot be changed by internal processes and media promotions,” said Nsuke.

“Our people are frustrated,” added Livinus Kiebel, chairman of the Bodo council of chiefs.

“The environment is completely devastated.”

Fish and carcinogens
Ignatius Feegha, 41, used to catch fish as a child in the waterways of the Niger Delta.

“I used to wake up around 5:00 am with my father to fish and would come back with baskets of fish before going to school,” said the civil servant.

Today, fishermen are lucky to catch even periwinkles.

Standing near a jetty, Buddy Pango holds up a plastic bottle filled with discoloured water as the heavens open and a boat heading to the Bonny Island natural gas plant speeds by.

“We can’t see no fish in this water because the water is stained with crude oil,” he said. “Before we can get some fish, we (must) go to the ocean and it is very far.”

In places like Ogale, wells and boreholes are contaminated with the carcinogen benzene at levels more than 900 times above the recommended World Health Organization limit.

Signs beside boreholes warn residents not to drink the water.

“Every week, at least five people die because of cancer and respiratory diseases,” said community leader Dandyson Nwawala.

Clean-up suspended
Roman Catholic priest Father Abel Agbulu, who has been mediating between Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary and Bodo locals, said the clean-up could have started earlier but for opposition from some youths.

He said the youths who were unemployed insisted on being paid the money instead of allowing Shell to give the job to contractors.

“The youths said they wanted money instead. So Shell, which had already engaged two companies to do the job, had to back out,” he added.

Agbulu said Shell was not ready to give cash to the youths and since they would not allow the contractors to handle the job, decided to suspend the clean-up.

The head of the government-appointed Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), Marvin Dekil, said training local workers in the required skills is taking time.

“We don’t want… to rush it and get it done in a wrong way,” he explained.

In the meantime, some locals have taken matters into their own hands and begun planting trees to try to restore the damaged mangroves.

The United Nations Development Programme’s representative in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, visited Ogoniland last week and called for patience.

“This is a very technical investment, it is not a rural type of investment where you are going to see houses built within a short period of time,” he said.

How long they will have to wait is anyone’s guess.

Zimbabwe – Mugabe comments lead to farm invasions


2017-06-16 07:22

Harare – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe‘s recent call for his supporters to “kick out” all remaining white commercial farmers from their properties has triggered a new wave of land invasions in the southern African country.

Mugabe, 93, told a rally in Marondera two weeks ago that all white commercial farmers who remained on the farms should be kicked out to allow his party’s young supporters, who did not gain land during the country’s chaotic land reforms in 2000, to get some.

Following the nonagenarian’s statement, a top cleric, Trevor Manhanga, with links to the ruling Zanu-PF party, has been accused by villagers of grabbing land in Manicaland, ahead of Mugabe’s visit to the province on Friday.

Manhanga, an Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe bishop, was on Tuesday dragged to the High Court by villagers from the Makoni district of Manicaland, about 30km west of Rusape town.

The villagers accused the clergyman of grabbing Lesbury Farm, owned by Robert Smart, in order to erect a church on shrines that the villagers said were sacred, court papers showed.

The court papers also showed that Land Minister Douglas Mombeshora had given Manhanga permission to occupy the land, despite a report – compiled by the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe – showing that the Machinya Hills, located on the property, had archaeological sites that could attract tourists.


The villagers, led by Peter Tandi, argued that the archeological sites were protected in terms of the country’s laws, including the national constitution, that protect cultural rights. The villagers said that they performed their cultural rituals at the Machinya Hills on a yearly basis, with financial support from Smart.

Tandi and others were now seeking an interdict against the land minister – as well as Manhanga, David Nyakonda and William Samhungu (the incumbent chief) – who were given official letters to occupy the disputed property.

Tandi said he had approached Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, with a view to stopping Manhanga from grabbing the farm, but to no avail.

“Manhanga also has the support of [Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister] Mandi Chimene to grab the property,” said Tandi.

Meanwhile, some workers at the farm accused Manhanga of roping in Rusape police officers to “terrorise” Smart, resulting in the police firing gunshots to disperse angry villagers who had gathered at the property in support of the white commercial farmer.

“The police forced open a safe that contained Smart’s money and went away with $75 000 meant for the payment of workers’ salaries,” claimed a source at the farm.

Reports this week indicated that some Zanu-PF party heavyweights and the military had “invaded” parts of a farm where one of the leading agricultural training institutes in southern Africa, Blackfordby College of Agriculture, was situated

Nigeria – House of Representatives calls for military and police unit to stop attacks by armed pastoralists



Reps demand military squad to stop killer herdsmen

House of Representatives

John Ameh, Abuja

The House of Representatives has asked the Federal Government to set up a joint military-police task force to confront “rampaging” herdsmen, who are killing and maiming victims in various parts of the country.

In Etsako Federal Constituency of Edo State and particularly in Auchi-Warake; Fugar-Ekperi and Okpella-Uluoke committees, the House said the herdsmen terrorising inhabitants were “suspected Boko Haram” insurgents, who must be tamed urgently.

The House specifically named Benue State, among other states in the federation it said needed government intervention to rehabilitate destroyed villages and prevent more people from being massacred by the herdsmen.

The House passed two separate resolutions on the menace of herdsmen on Wednesday alone, to underscore the seriousness of the threats their activities posed to national security.

The resolutions came just 24 hours after the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, chaired a four-hour closed-door meeting of members with service chiefs on rising cases of kidnapping in the country.

On Wednesday, a member of the All Progressives Congress from Benue State, Mr. Teseer Mark-Gbillah, moved a motion on the “Need for Intervention in the Incessant Killing, Destruction of Property and Displacement of Communities by Rampaging Herdsmen.”

The motion, which highlighted the plight of victims in “Benue and other states,” called for support for affected communities.

Mark-Gbillah recalled that herdsmen had killed at least 5,000 Nigerians between 2015 and 2017, making them the fourth most dangerous killer group after “Boko Haram, ISIS and Al-Qaeda.”

In passing the resolution, the lawmakers appealed for urgent support for victims of herdsmen from the government and international donor agencies.

The resolution was passed in a unanimous voice vote.

The second motion on “Need to Arrest and Prosecute Suspected Boko Haram Members Parading as Herdsmen in Etsako Federal Constituency,” was moved by Mr. Johnson Egwakhide-Oghuma.

He lamented that many communities in the constituency were under siege by the herdsmen, who killed villagers and invaded farms and homes at will.

In passing a resolution on the motion, the House directed the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, to set up a joint task force to combat the herdsmen.

It also asked the Department of State Services to step up intelligence operations in a bid to “prevent the scoundrels from further inflicting harm on the people.”

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Uganda-Kenya – African and Asian investigators break up ivory smuggling syndicate


NAIROBI Seven smugglers involved in the illegal ivory trade from Uganda to Singapore have been arrested as a result of an 18-month investigation by African and Asian law enforcement officials, a counter-trafficking organisation said.

The operation netted a top Kenyan customs officer and shipping agents who facilitated the covert ivory pipeline, highlighting progress in Africa on cross-border collaboration by law enforcement agencies, Freeland, the anti-trafficking organisation that supported the operation, said.

Tens of thousands of African elephants are killed for their tusks every year, leading to drop of 20-30 percent in their numbers on the continent over the last decade.

However, environmentalists say law enforcement agencies are increasingly disrupting smuggling networks.

“These arrests reveal how the smuggling has been orchestrated,” Freeland chairman Kraisak Choonhavan, a prominent Thai politician, said in a statement released over the weekend.

Freeland has been training a network of African investigators and facilitating cooperation with Asian counterparts.

Those arrested were linked to a seizure in March 2014 of a tonne of ivory in Singapore. That shipment was believed to have originated in Uganda and been shipped out of Kenya.

“We hope the investigation will now continue in Asia to find the big buyers who are sponsoring the killing of elephants. Africa is now ahead of Asia in going beyond seizures and making meaningful arrests of wildlife criminals,” Choonhavan said.

Although the operation was focussed on ivory smuggling, Freeland said a wildlife trafficking kingpin on Interpol’s wanted ‘Red Notice’ list who was involved in smuggling pangolin scales had been caught and extradited to Tanzania.

Pangolin scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine, making the creatures one of the most widely trafficked wild animals in the world.

(Reporting by David Lewis; Editing by Ed Cropley

South Africa – Cape fires cause 10,000 to flee Knysna



Strong winds from the worst winter storm in 30 years fuelled the fires.

At least 150 properties have been destroyed in Knysna, according to the fire service.

The town has a population of 77,000. It lies 500km (310 miles) east of Cape Town on South Africa’s famed Garden Route.

FiresImage copyright Reuters
Image caption Knysna is on a popular tourist trail

“Humanitarian support is being co-ordinated for an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 residents of the Greater Knysna area, after devastating fires,” said James-Brent Styan, spokesman for the Western Cape local government ministry.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) would assist in a water-bombing operation to extinguish the fires, its spokesman Simphiwe Dlamini said.

About 150 troops would also be deployed to make sure that criminals do not loot properties that have been vacated, he added.

In May, the Western Cape province declared a drought disaster after two reservoirs had completely dried up. It was said to have been the region’s worst drought in more than a century.

Several other southern African nations were also affected by the two-year drought, which was caused by the El Nino climate phenomenon.

However, many parts of the region are now experiencing bumper maize harvests.

Africa-China – is Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative just a bedtime story/

Institute for Security Studies (South Africa)


Despite scepticism, this could be a ‘new Marshall Plan’, reviving countries along its route – including in Africa.
08 Jun 2017 <!––>  /  by Peter Fabricius

‘Once upon a time several routes led from China to central Asia and to Europe. It was called the Silk Road. People put things on camels and crossed the desert to trade with other people. Then later, ships travelled through Southeast Asia to Africa and they would bring things back to China, like giraffes.

‘A few years ago China’s President Xi Jinping proposed making new routes like the old routes. But even bigger. It’s called the Belt and Road Initiative.’

This is ‘Baba’ explaining Xi’s ambitious new project, in simple terms, to his young daughter in episode one of Belt and Road Bedtime Stories. This is a series of films produced – with a perfectly straight face – by the state-owned English-language newspaper China Daily to publicise the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), previously known as One Belt One Road.

Though Xi announced BRI in 2013, the bedtime stories were transmitted on the eve of the BRI Forum which Xi hosted in Beijing last month to officially launch the project. About 110 governments and international organisations attended.

The ‘belt’ roughly follows the old overland Silk Road which Marco Polo pioneered in the 13th Century, linking China to Europe. The ‘road’ follows the ancient maritime Silk Road from China, through Southeast Asia and then across the Indian Ocean to East Africa and northwards through the Red Sea.

So is the BRI a romantic bedtime story to lull the world into a sense of false security as China creates a Eurasian trading bloc and zone of influence across the eastern half of the planet – to rival the US-dominated transatlantic zone?

Is it just a way for China to get rid of its immense surplus productive capacity and labour and to create new markets for its exports? Is it a way to externalise floods of renminbi to try to establish the Chinese currency as a rival to the US dollar?

All these sceptical interpretations have been offered.

Or is it rather ‘the most ambitious development plan in world history’ as others have called it? Something like America’s post-World War 2 Marshall Plan to reconstruct Europe, which could boost development across Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe – and Africa?

Or perhaps it’s all of the above, suggests Glenn Ho, China specialist at KPMG South Africa. However China sees it, he says it will create lots of economic activity in the countries along the route and should be taken seriously and exploited.

He notes that many sceptics were silenced when the first train traversed the belt between China and the UK, reaching London from Yiwu in central China in January this year, carrying T-shirts, textiles and other goods. It cut four weeks off the sea journey (though the cost was about twice as much).

At about the same time, the first oil was being pumped from Kyaukphyu port in Myanmar to Kunming, capital of China’s Yunnan province. The new pipeline bypasses the sea route through the Straits of Malacca and South China Sea, both strategic bottlenecks, through which 80% of China’s oil passes.

These two early projects epitomise vital aspects of the BRI, the trade dimension and for China, the security dimension.

A recent Credit Suisse report has suggested that China could funnel total investments of US$502 billion into infrastructure projects in countries participating in the BRI, though some put that figure as high as US$1 trillion. These projects include power plants, solar farms, motorways, bridges, ports and high-speed rail links.

This will come from a US$100 billion dedicated Silk Road Fund as well as money from Chinese banks, state-owned enterprises, the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Shanghai-based New Development Bank run by BRICS, the association of emerging markets comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Many commentators believe the BRI was inspired by seismic shifts in the Chinese economy, away from the old focus on industrial production for export towards internal consumption-led growth. That has created the surplus production and labour capacity that Beijing is seeking to export to countries along the belt and road, also creating new markets for Chinese goods.

And Xi may also be taking advantage of a fortuitous opportunity to extend China’s economic and political influence as a world leader, capitalising on a moment of American global capitulation under an isolationist and unilateralist President Donald Trump.

What does this all mean for Africa?

Most maps show the maritime ‘road’ of the BRI crossing the Indian Ocean to touch down in Kenya/Tanzania and then snaking northwards, taking in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan and Egypt to the Mediterranean. Kenya, and particularly its main port of Mombasa, look like the focal point.

Last week Kenya and China launched the single-track, 485km Mombasa-Nairobi line, the first leg of the proposed US$14 billion Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which will eventually reach Uganda. The first leg was largely built by China, which also provided a loan to cover about 85% of the total US$3.8 billion official cost.

The SGR – replacing the precarious 19th Century, British-built, 1m-gauge ‘Lunatic Express’ as it was called – is a typical BRI project, opening up the East Africa interior more efficiently to Chinese-manufactured imports and African resource exports. China has already largely built and financed landlocked Ethiopia’s electrified railway to the Red Sea at Djibouti and several other regional infrastructure projects.

As with other big projects along the belt and road, many criticisms have been levelled at the SGR.

The Economist Intelligence Unit has noted that the completed first leg cost more than twice the international norm per kilometre – the likely result of a lack of tendering for the project and probable corruption. China has also been accused of breaking its promise to source at least 40% of goods and services for the project locally. But it is a fait accompli.

There are also grave dangers for African countries like Kenya in taking on unaffordable debt for such large infrastructure projects.

And what of African countries not on the actual route? China and the African Union (AU) have not signed any formal agreement on the BRI, although China has made it clear that participation is open to all countries, not just those on the belt and road routes.

And South Africa, for example, signed a formal agreement to cooperate on the BRI in December 2015, which also looked towards broader China-Africa cooperation.

‘We believe that South Africa has much to contribute to the BRI as a major power on the African continent, and we are willing to join efforts with South Africa to better align the BRI and Africa’s development and achieve mutually beneficial and win-win growth,’ the Chinese embassy in Pretoria told ISS Today.

But Pretoria sent only its transport minister, Joe Maswanganyi, to the BRI Forum last month, suggesting relatively low interest in the BRI.

KPMG’s Ho suggests South Africa should pay more attention to the BRI. He sees the BRI acting as a catalyst for construction of continental West-East railways to link with the east African SGR. This would make Kenya and East Africa the hub for African trade with the Middle East, Central Asia and Europe along the BRI. Such a corridor could also link the BRI to westward trade with the Americas, shortening the sea routes around the Cape.

If Africa becomes a new manufacturing hub and breadbasket for the world, as some predict, these would be its routes to global markets. This development could be the catalyst for the long-deferred construction of the mega Grand Inga hydroelectric plant on the Congo River.

All that development in East Africa could bypass South Africa’s ports and knock the country off its pedestal as Africa’s industrial heartland.

‘We need to get our act together,’ says Ho. South Africa should be positioning itself to get on the BRI, for instance by using cheaper labour elsewhere in Africa for broader manufacturing while focusing its own dearer labour on niche manufacturing at home.

The BRI express is clearly leaving the station and all countries need to decide where it’s going, and if they have a seat on the train.

Peter Fabricius, ISS Consultant