CITES welcomes call for probe into LRA involvement in poaching of African elephants

Juan Carlos Vasquez

Juan Carlos Vasquez ©

A call to investigate the alleged involvement of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the poaching of African elephants has been welcomed by the UN agency dealing with stopping trade in endangered wildlife.

The call was made by the Security Council in a presidential statement on 19 December which condemned the destabilizing activities of the LRA rebels in Central Africa.

Juan Carlos Vasquez of the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) says the poaching of African elephants is becoming a serious problem.

“It’s becoming a very serious problem because now we are realizing that many of the crimes against wildlife in Africa are committed by organized crime groups with very sophisticated weapons, very well organized and with connections around the world to the black market that traffic in wildlife.” (Duration: 20″)

The CITES Secretariat says it is ready to support the investigation into the alleged involvement of the LRA in the poaching of African elephants.

Gerry Adams, United Nations.

Duration: 1’10″

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Tigers Roar Back: Great News for Big Cats in Key Areas

December 26, 2012 — The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has announced significant progress for tigers in three key landscapes across the big cat’s range due to better law enforcement, protection of additional habitat, and strong government partnerships.

Camera Trap Image of tigers and cubs from Huai Kha Khaeng (HKK) Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand. © WCS

Camera Trap Image of tigers and cubs from Huai Kha Khaeng (HKK) Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand. © WCS

The successes are much-needed good news as tiger numbers worldwide continue to hover at all-time lows due to the combined threat of poaching, loss of prey, and habitat destruction. WCS estimates that only 3,200 tigers exist in the wild.

The news begins in southwestern India where WCS research and conservation efforts that began 25 years ago now show a major rebound of tigers in the Western Ghats region of Karnataka State. Over 600 individuals have been identified to date from camera trap photos during the last decade in this mountainous landscape. In Nagarahole and Bandipur National Parks, tigers have actually reached saturation levels, with surplus young tigers spilling out into forest-reserves and dispersing using secured forest corridors through a landscape that holds over a million human beings. The combination of strict government-led anti-poaching patrols, voluntary relocation of villages away from tiger habitats, and the vigilant local presence of WCS conservation partners watching over tigers has led to the rebound of big-cat populations and their prey. In newer tiger reserves including Bhadra and Kudremukh, numbers have increased by as much as 50 percent after years of neglect and chronic poaching were tackled.

In Thailand, WCS conservationists report a tiger comeback in Huai Kha Khaeng (HKK) Wildlife Sanctuary — a 2,700 square kilometer (1,042 square mile) protected area in the vast Western Forest Complex. WCS has worked closely with Thai authorities to beef up enforcement and anti-poaching patrols in the region. Last year, a notorious poaching ring was busted, and this year the gang leaders were given prison sentences of up to five years — the most severe punishments for wildlife poaching in Thailand’s history. Since their capture, there have been no known tiger or elephant poaching incidents in the park. Tiger numbers have been rising steadily in the park since 2007, with a record 50-plus tigers counted last year.

Meanwhile in Russia, government officials are drafting a new law that will make transport, sales, and possession of endangered animals a criminal offense rather than just a civil crime. This will close a loophole that currently allows poachers to claim they found endangered species like tigers already dead and thus avoid stiffer criminal penalties for poaching.

Russia is making progress in creating additional protected areas for tigers, too, declaring a new corridor called Central Ussuri Wildlife Refuge on October 18. The new refuge acts as a linkage between the Sikhote-Alin tiger population in Russia, which is the main population of Amur tigers, and some of the best tiger habitat in China’s Heilongjiang Province in the Wandashan Mountains. The creation of the new refuge ensures that tigers have the capacity to move across the international border between Russian and China in this region. WCS first identified this key corridor in 1999 after conducting joint wildlife surveys with Chinese and Russian scientists there. WCS President and CEO Cristián Samper said: “Tigers are clearly fighting for their very existence, but it’s important to know that there is hope. Victories like these give us the resolve to continue to battle for these magnificent big cats. While the news about tigers has been bleak, these recent developments clearly show how smart strategies and strong partnerships are ensuring tigers are saved for centuries to come.”

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First Annual E.O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science in Biodiversity Conservation

First Annual E.O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science in Biodiversity Conservation
Presented to Nevada’s James Deacon

TUCSON, Ariz. The Center for Biological Diversity today presented the first annual E.O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science in Biodiversity Conservation to James Deacon, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Over the course of his 52-year career, Deacon has focused on conservation of desert fish and other freshwater species and on sustainable water-use advocacy in the Southwest. His work contributed to the protection of several threatened and endangered aquatic species, helped secure water rights for Death Valley and Zion national parks, and helped create Ash Meadows and Moapa national wildlife refuges in Nevada.

E.O. Wilson award. Sculpture by Anne Bujold. Photo by Tierra Curry. Photos are available for media use.  ©

E.O. Wilson award. Sculpture by Anne Bujold. Photo by Tierra Curry. Photos are available for media use. ©

“Dr. Deacon’s relentless commitment to preserving life in some of its rarest forms, and to conserving the limited resources that sustain us all, makes it a great honor to recognize his life’s work with this award,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center. “His remarkable career exemplifies the leadership role scientists must take in helping us to better understand and protect the biodiversity of our planet.”

The award will be presented annually to a scientist who has made an outstanding contribution to biodiversity conservation. It is named after renowned scientist Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University, known as “the father of biodiversity.” Wilson is considered to be the world’s leading authority on ants; his career has focused on promoting worldwide understanding of the importance of biodiversity and the preservation of our biological heritage.

“I’m very happy to congratulate Dr. James E. Deacon on his award, and more to thank him, as I know many others do, for his distinguished research on some of Earth’s most threatened ecosystems,” said Wilson.

The award consists of a hand-crafted ant sculpture by artist Anne Bujold and a $1,000 cash prize.

Deacon has published more than 90 scientific articles focused on the ecology and conservation biology of desert fish and other imperiled aquatic species. He has served as an expert witness in state and federal water-rights litigation, and has been involved in development of recommendations for water-quality standards and flow criteria essential to maintenance of ecosystem health and biodiversity. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Kansas in 1960 and immediately joined the University of Nevada Las Vegas faculty, where he helped create the university’s bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. programs in biology and environmental studies. He has served as chair in both departments and continues his research and advocacy work with projects in Death Valley, Devils Hole and the eastern/central Nevada water project.

The award’s sculptor, Anne Bujold, is the owner of Riveted Rabbit Studio in Portland, Ore., where she creates sculpture and custom functional objects. She graduated from the Oregon College of Art and Craft and works primarily in mild steel, blending traditional craft techniques with modern processes to produce unique objects.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.