Category Archives: Wildlife and Eco-Tourism

The natural world and conservation issues.

Has the tide turned for South Africa’s rhino poaching crisis?

Talking Humanities

Prof Keith Somerville

Image: White rhino in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

South Africa’s long-awaited statistical report on rhino poaching reveal a 10.3 per cent dip in the numbers illegally killed in 2016 compared to the previous year. However, the picture is far from straightforward, explains Professor Keith Somerville.  

On 27 February the South African Ministry for Environmental Affairs released the long-awaited rhino poaching statistics, which showed that nationally 121 less animals were poached in 2016 (1,054) compared with 2015 (1,175). But the figures also indicated what many feared, that there had been an increase in illegal killing for horn in areas outside Kruger National Park. 

Although the 2016 decline is to be welcomed, it still represents more than 5 per cent of South Africa’s total rhino population of around 20,000. The rise in poaching outside Kruger is a cause for great concern, as it suggests that poaching networks are spreading their operations across the country, and growing in sophistication and flexibility, as demand from Vietnam, China and other countries in East Asia shows no sign of falling.

Rhino poaching in South Africa

One problem is the diffuse nature of the poaching gangs. They include Mozambicans brought into the country and paid to poach – they are often armed with high-powered rifles imported for the Mozambican security forces and wildlife department that have been corruptly diverted to poaching gangs. But much of the poaching in South Africa involves gangs of Afrikaners, which include former vets, wildlife rangers, helicopter pilots, professional hunters and game farm owners.

A very worrying element in this complex web, is the suspected involvement of senior ANC members and even government ministers with known poachers. Recently state security minister David Mahlobo, was found to have close links with a self-confessed rhino horn smuggler, massage parlour owner and businessman, Guan Jiang Guang.  Mahlobo has denied being a friend of the Chinese businessmen even though Guan Jiang Guang claims such a friendship exists and an Al Jazeera documentary on rhino poaching shows the two together.

Save the Rhino and other conservation NGOs have welcomed the overall fall in South Africa, but are opposed to the South African government’s draft legislation which would allow a domestic trade in rhino horn to resume. The trade was suspended by a government-imposed moratorium in 2009, which was successfully challenged in the courts by private rhino owners.

Under the new law, the government’s hacked together response to the court decision, a foreign citizen visiting South Africa could get a permit to export a maximum of two rhinos per year (or their horns), meaning the already overstretched South African wildlife authorities would be required to police both a legal and illegal trade.

This has huge potential for laundering poached horns and for a new form of what was once called pseudo-hunting, when non-hunters from Vietnam and Thailand paid to shoot rhinos and export the ‘legal’ trophy. However, the proposed legislation seems to have few safeguards and many private rhino owners have welcomed the move. But it doesn’t address the many complex problems relating to whether creating a regulated, legal trade in horn from dehorned rhinos, legal stocks and horn from natural mortality would help to stop poaching by opening up a legal, alternative supply.

Rhino owners and some conservationists, like David Cook (formerly director of the Natal Parks Board, and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi senior ranger) and John Hanks (former director of WWF’s Africa programme), favour an internationally regulated, legal trade that would supply demand through the provision of non-lethal horn. Such a system needs strong safeguards and monitoring procedures that are neither in place nor addressed in the rushed draft legislation.

South Africa’s government has a reputation for corruption at the highest levels of the ruling party, ministries and state institutions (including the police), so the hasty creation of a poorly-monitored legal trade does not amount to a regulated, well thought-out means of destroying the monopoly of the smugglers, or of using a regulated trade in non-lethal horn to undercut the illegal trade, reduce poaching significantly and produce income for sustainable conservation. Falling between the two stools of a total ban and a properly-policed legal trade, the new legislation looks like a new rhino disaster waiting to happen.

Professor Keith Somerville is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. He is also research associate at the Marjan Centre for the Study of War and the Non-Human Sphere at King’s College, London and a member of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent. His latest publications are Ivory: Power and Poaching in Africa and Africa’s Long Road Since Independence: The Many Histories of a Continent.

Kenya – Kenyatta to deploy military in Baringo and Laikipia to quell violence

Daily Nation

Friday March 17 2017

Kenya Defence Forces in Somalia. The president

Kenya Defence Forces in Somalia. The president is counting on them to restore law and order in the North Rift. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP. 

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President Kenyatta has ordered the deployment of the military to troubled North Rift to help police restore law and order.

The Kenya Defence Forces will be sent to parts of Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Pokot and Laikipia counties.

“The deployment will further assist in disarmament and surrender of illegally held arms,” President Kenyatta said during the pass-out for 3,985 fresh officers at the Administration Police Training college in Embakasi, Nairobi.

Mr Kenyatta said he had made the decision following a sitting of the National Security Council, which he chairs, on Friday.


“Those people with illegal arms have continued to threaten the lives of Kenyans and should know from today they are enemies of State and therefore shall be treated as such,” he said.

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He went on: “We have agreed today that the military will join hands with the police to supplement, in terms of manpower and equipment that police lack.”

The deployment follows blood-letting by bandits who have been slaughtering villagers at will.


On Tuesday evening, 11 people were killed when suspected Pokot bandits raided Mukutani Village in Tiaty Sub- County.

The attacks have left over dozens people dead since January.

Scores, mainly women and children, are fighting for their lives in hospitals after literally wriggling out of the jaws of death.

The President, during the State of the Nation address on Wednesday, placed the blame on politicians in those areas, for the deaths of dozens of residents, livestock thefts, wanton destruction of property and displacement of residents.

He has followed on his promise to use “all means possible” to end the violence.


In his speech on Friday in Embakasi, the president said the government had invested heavily in providing police with better equipment, better working facilities, more vehicles and helicopters to support efficient operations.

He said forms of the police forces have been initiated to create a true meritocracy where advancement is based on excellence and misdeeds are duly disciplined.

“We have enhanced the quality of training received by police forces and you have been beneficiaries of those improvements,” President Kenyatta told the graduating police officers.

Mr Kenyatta said the government had also invested in training more police officers and brought down the police – citizen ratio to one police for every 380 citizens down from 1:800 in a span of just three years.


He cited the installation of surveillance systems in Nairobi and Mombasa and the improvement of the welfare of officers by expanding police housing units and inaugurating a health insurance scheme for police officers as part of the government’s effort to motivate the officers and ensure efficient service.

President Kenyatta said the increased investment in the security sector and in the police forces is expected to help reduce crime and incidents of corruption within the police force to become relics of the past.

“We expect rapid response to reports of unrest and insecurity. We expect you to dedicate yourselves to your professional development. We expect you to explore and work towards international best practices in the execution of your operations,” the President told the graduating officers.

BANDITRY He added: “We expect to see stronger police-community relations that allow citizens to volunteer support and information to the police forces and act as partners in the maintenance of law and order.”

The Head of State asked police officers to shun bias and reject prejudice in favour of fairness, saying they should cultivate an atmosphere where the citizens they serve will become more trusting and less wary of men in uniform.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery thanked the President for his support to the National Police Service, especially in the provision of modern equipment and improving their terms of service.

Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinett and his Deputy in charge of Administration Police Samuel Arachi said the new officers would be posted to rural outposts to deal with among other things cattle rustling, counter-terrorism and other banditry.

Additional reporting by PSCU.


2017-03-17 17:34

President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta

Nairobi – Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has ordered the military to be deployed to the volatile counties of Baringo and Laikipia to calm deadly violence fueled by drought.

Kenyatta announced on Friday that as chairperson of the National Security Council he has authorized the immediate deployment of the Kenya Defense Forces to support police in operations there.

At least 21 people have died in fighting between herders in Baringo county since early February. Thirteen people were killed this week. And in Laikipia county, a British farmer was killed by herders invading ranches in search of pasture and water.

Kenya has declared a national disaster because of the drought that affects about half of the counties in this East African nation.

Kenya’s president deploys military to quell drought violence

2017-03-17 17:34

President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta

Nairobi – Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has ordered the military to be deployed to the volatile counties of Baringo and Laikipia to calm deadly violence fueled by drought.

Kenyatta announced on Friday that as chairperson of the National Security Council he has authorized the immediate deployment of the Kenya Defense Forces to support police in operations there.

At least 21 people have died in fighting between herders in Baringo county since early February. Thirteen people were killed this week. And in Laikipia county, a British farmer was killed by herders invading ranches in search of pasture and water.

Kenya has declared a national disaster because of the drought that affects about half of the counties in this East African nation.

Kenya – pastoralists invade Tsavo during drought and start poaching

Star (Kenya)

Elephants graze at Tsavo West National Park. Photo Andrew Kasuk

Poaching in the Tsavo National Park has escalated after illegal grazers with thousands of livestock invaded the area.
The poachers disguise themselves as herders to kill elephants. Last Friday, Kenya Wildlife Service personnel killed four armed poachers at Koito in Galana within the Tsavo East National Park.
During the sting operation, a senior KWS officer was shot dead and another sustained injuries in a fierce shootout.
The officers were pursuing two poachers who had escaped during a shootout at 11am. They caught up with them in the evening and gunned them down.
Taita Taveta police commander Fredrick Ochieng told the Star two AK-47 rifles and 35 bullets were recovered from the slain poachers.
Two elephant tusks weighing 14.5kg were also recovered. Ochieng said the identity of the poachers is yet to be established, but they are suspected to be from the Wardei community in Ganze, Tana River county.
The injured KWS officer was taken to St Joseph Hospital in Voi and admitted in serious but stable condition.
“Police have joined KWS personnel in patrolling the Tsavo East National park to ensure poachers have no room to operate,” Ochieng said.
He urged the public to report any suspicious people trying to sneak into the park.
Two weeks ago, KWS rangers killed another poacher in Tsavo East National Park. It is believed the suspects killed on Friday belong to a gang that has been killing animals.
KWS spokesperson Paul Gathitu told the Star on the phone the killing of the four is a breakthrough in the fight against poaching in Tsavo.
He said they are investigating escalation of poaching. “China has planned to close its importation of wildlife trophies by the end of this year. Europe is also planning to stop importation of wildlife trophies. We don’t know whether the poachers are taking advantage of the window before the market is closed,” he said.
On high alert
Gathitu said KWS and other security forces are on high alert to fight wildlife crimes. Information from KWS indicates that from late December, several poaching incidents have been reported across the country.
On December 22, three suspected poachers were intercepted by KWS patrol teams in the Taita ranches. Several ambushes were mounted and one suspect was gunned down and two elephant tusks recovered. The suspects had killed an elephant two weeks earlier and had gone to collect the tusks, which they had hidden.
On December 31, a fire was reported by patrol teams within Ngulia Sanctuary in Tsavo West National Park. KWS security teams assisted by Air Recce spotted two rhino carcasses 33m apart.
The poachers had made away with the horns. On January 5, two poachers out to kill rhinos at River Njoro inside Lake Nakuru National Park engaged KWS patrol teams in a shoot-out.
One poacher was gunned down, while the other escaped with serious gunshot wounds.
The same day, a notorious poacher was arrested in Tsavo East National Park. He had just killed an elephant at Chakama near Kulalu Ranch. Two poisoned arrows, one elephant tusk and a bow were recovered.
On January 6, Maasai elders around Tsavo West National Park surrendered two elephant tusks. This was a result of sustained pressure and outreach by KWS teams following the killing of an elephant two weeks earlier.

Kenya – MP Mathew Lempurkel to face Tristan Voorspuy murder charge

Daily Nation

Wednesday March 8 2017

Laikipia North MP Mathew Lempurkel in a police

Laikipia North MP Mathew Lempurkel in a police cell at Nanyuki Law Courts on March 8, 2017. He faces charges of murdering rancher Tristan Voorspuy. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP. 


Police plan to charge Laikipia North MP Mathew Lempurkel to with the murder of Briton Tristan Voorspuy.

Mr Lempurkel was eventually presented before a Nanyuki law court on Wednesday afternoon after delays in the morning.


He briefly appeared in court in the morning only to be returned to the cells after it emerged that the magistrate was not available.

His lawyer, James Orengo, protested the introduction of the murder charge, accusing police of lying to them that he would face incitement charges.

Nanyuki Principal Magistrate Waititu Gichimu released Mr Lempurkel on Sh200,000 cash bail to give police time to investigate the murder case.


The lawmaker is required to report to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations three times a week.

He will be charged in two weeks

Mr Tristan Voorspuy, a dual Kenyan/British national, was found dead at the Sosian ranch which he co-owns, after he reportedly ventured out on a horseback to visit a site on the ranch where two cottages had been set ablaze.

Mr Lempurkel was arrested on Tuesday in Nairobi, barely a day after the British called on the Kenyan government to beef up security in Laikipia County where its citizen was killed by herders on Saturday night.

He was apprehended as he prepared to address the media over the insecurity in Laikipia where some leaders have been blamed for inciting locals to invade farms, ranches and wildlife conservancies, to graze their livestock.

He protested his arrest, saying politicians have taken advantage of the lawlessness in Laikipia to target their opponents ahead of the August General Election.

“Political rivals are using the situation for political gain. The fact is that the herders are being driven by drought,” the MP said.

Kenya four die as drought hits Marsabit County hard

Daily Nation

Wednesday March 8 2017
A man stands beside a carcass of a cow at Darade watering point about 110 kilometers from North Horr town in Marsabit County. Hundreds of livestock have died following a drought. PHOTO | DAVID MUCHAI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A man stands beside a cow’s carcass at Darade watering point about 110 kilometers from North Horr town in Marsabit County. Hundreds of livestock have died following a drought. Four people have been confirmed dead in Marsabit as drought continues to wreak havoc in the county. PHOTO | DAVID MUCHAI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Four people have been confirmed dead in Marsabit with dozens of children malnourished as drought continues to wreak havoc in the county.

More than 70 children were found malnourished in El Hadi, North Horr sub-county as a result of hunger.

Speaking to the Nation, Balesaro assistant chief Gufu Orge said four people had been reported dead.

“They died due to the drought,” said Mr Orge.

Mr Kevin Wafula, a nurse at El Hadi dispensary, said cases of diarrhoea and malnutrition were on the rise.

“The people we are treating cut across all ages. Many expect children and elderly people to be the most vulnerable, but even middle-aged men and women get malnourished,” said Mr Wafula.


On Tuesday, a woman, 50, was admitted for the third time with malnutrition and low blood sugar, conditions caused by hunger and lack of a balanced diet.

The nurse said the woman gave her children all the food, leaving herself malnourished. The matter has been compounded by lack of supplements for children, lactating mothers and the elderly.

“Last week, we screened children and found 70 cases of malnutrition but we can do nothing unless they find help or we send them to other hospitals where they will get the supplements,” added Mr Wafula.

The health worker has had to refer locals, with the nearest available ambulance being 47km away at Dukana or Balesa.

The drought continues to take a heavy toll on livestock. At Balareso, 60-year-old Adano Dalacha lost two thirds of his herd to the drought.

He had been grazing away from his home at Elbeso and, by the time he got to Baleraso – more than 50km away – 20 cattle out of 30 were dead.


“I trekked this long in search of pasture, but I ended up losing more of my cattle. I am thankful that I have at least 10 and hoping that they all survive although it is hard,” said the father of five.

The assistant chief, however, said that at Baleraso, most people not only lost their cattle to the drought but also to raids by their Ethiopian neighbours.

Mr Orge said: “At the beginning of this year, our neighbours raided our village and stole our livestock.

“The small numbers of livestock left were swept away by the drought. Those who left in search of pasture have returned without livestock too.”

He added that women were leaving children unattended as they went to search for water and food.

“Our women trek up to 7km daily in search of water points,” said Mr Orge, adding: “Most donkeys have died, leaving them

South Africa – former SAPS colonel arrested with rhino horn now caught robbing bank

IOL News

Khaya Koko


A colonel who was expelled from the SAPS for possessing rhino horn illegally has again been caught on the wrong side of the law for allegedly trying to rob a bank.

Former colonel Innocent Khumalo was arrested along with police reservist Lehlohonolo Leeba of Diepkloof, casting a spotlight on rogue elements within the police force. The two men, along with civilian Lloyd Sebokoana, allegedly shot and seriously injured a security guard who tried to apprehend them while trying to rob a Standard Bank branch in Roodepoort.

Gauteng police spokesperson Mavela Masondo said there were a few customers in the bank at the time of the robbery and that no one else had been injured. However, the men did not get away with any money and police quickly responded to a distress call from the bank, where they found the three and arrested them, Masondo said.

“All three were remanded at the Krugersdorp Correctional Facility for a formal bail application, which is to be heard tomorrow. Six people were involved in the bank robbery – three were arrested at the scene, while three other suspects fled. We are following some leads on the three suspects who fled.”

Masondo also confirmed that Khumalo’s criminal case on the rhino issue was still before the courts. While this raises questions regarding the SAPS harbouring criminals, Masondo maintained their recruitment and vetting processes were tight, saying the SAPS had an extensive recruitment process which “thoroughly scrutinises” prospective officers.

“The other thing which we do during the recruitment process is to consult with community leaders where prospective officers come to get the background of the person, over and above the criminal records we check.”

Head of the governance, crime and justice division at the Institute for Security Studies, Gareth Newham, told The Star that it was “crucially important” for the police not to rely solely on their recruitment and vetting systems.

“Some people only become involved in crime or corruption long after they’ve joined the police. So they might join the police without having intentions of becoming involved in crime, but over time criminals approach them and they suddenly realise how much power they have.”

Popcru spokesperson Richard Mamabolo admitted that there were police officers who “tarnish the good name of our many committed police officials”.

Kenya – one of the last great tuskers poached in Tsavo

Star (Kenya)

Mar. 07, 2017, 9:00 amSatao II, named after another famed giant shot in 2014, was found dead in Tsavo National Park./DAILY MAIL
Satao II, named after another famed giant shot in 2014, was found dead in Tsavo National Park./DAILY MAIL

Poachers have killed a 50-year-old ‘giant tusker’ elephant with a poisoned arrow, leaving just 25 of the iconic animals left in the world.

Satao II, named after another famed giant shot in 2014, was found dead in Tsavo National Park.

The huge animals are so called because of their impressive tusks, which are so long they nearly scrape the ground.

Rangers found Satao II, who was ‘very approachable’ and loved by visitors, on a routine aerial reconnaissance of the park.

Two poachers thought to be responsible for the killing were arrested before they could run away with the animal’s prized ivory.

According to Richard Moller, of the Tsavo Trust, there are only about 25 of the giant tuskers remaining in the world. About 15 of these are in Kenya.

There are conflicting reports about when Satao II died. Although his death was only widely reported today, a monthly report from the Tsavo Trust said his carcass was found on January 4.

Moller said: ‘They are icons, they are ambassadors for elephants.

‘This particular elephant was one that was very approachable, one of those easy old boys to find.

‘He has been through lots of droughts and probably other attempts at poaching. Many are the others are more difficult to see and stay in remote areas.

Luckily, through the work we do with the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS), we were able to find the carcass before the poachers could recover the ivory.’

The incident was revealed just two days after a KWS officer was killed during an anti-poaching incident in the park.

The ranger was the second to die in less than a month at the hands of poachers.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, (IUCN) the number of African elephants has fallen by around 111,000 to 415,000 over the past decade.

The killing shows no sign of abating with around 30,000 elephants slaughtered for their ivory every year.

Ivory is stolen mainly to satisfy demand in the Asian market for products coveted as a traditional medicine or as status symbols.

One of Satao II’s tusks weighed 112 pounds, and the other 110 pounds. Each tusk estimated to be worth over $130,000 (£85,000).

The Tsavo ecosystem covers 16,000 square miles, a major challenge for rangers from the KWS to patrol.

The Tsavo Trust helps monitor the elephants through aerial and ground reconnaissance, and works closely with KWS.