NEWS WRAP: Last male northern white rhino deteriorating + shipments of protected African species to Asia soar

In this week’s news wrap Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, is starting to show signs of ailing; a new study has revealed that shipments of protected African species to Asia are soaring; the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will now consider all permits for importing elephant trophies from Africa on a “case-by-case basis”; and the World Wildlife Fund has announced that Google, Facebook and other major tech firms are joining an effort to halt the illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife parts.

Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, showing signs of ailing (full story: AG News Desk)

Sudan, the last male northern white rhino in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia National Park, Kenya © Ol Pejeta Conservancy/Facebook

Sudan, the last male northern white rhino on the planet, is showing signs of deteriorating health according to a statement released by Ol Pejeta Conservancy conservationists.

On Thursday, Ol Pejeta conservationists posted on their Twitter and Facebook pages that Sudan was “starting to show signs of ailing” and that “his future is not looking bright”.

Towards the end of 2017, Sudan developed an uncomfortable age-related infection on his back right leg. A team of veterinarians from around the world assessed the infection and Sudan responded well to the treatment. He resumed his normal movement and foraging habits from January up to mid-February, his demeanour and general activity improving significantly.

However, a secondary and much deeper infection was discovered beneath the initial one. This was treated, but unfortunately the infection is taking longer to heal and the team are now concerned about his health, saying that they “do not want him to suffer unnecessarily”.

Sudan arrived at the conservancy in 2009 and was made famous last year when the 45-year-old rhino featured as a Tinder profile after Ol Pejeta Conservancy partnered with Tinder to raise awareness of the dying breed. Sudan was dubbed “The Most Eligible Bachelor in the World” and users were directed to his donation page when swiping right on his profile.

Shipments of protected African species to Asia soar: study (full story: The Citizen)
Asian pet trade, snakes

Animals such as ball pythons are popular in the Asian pet trade because of their docile nature and low space requirements, especially in crowded metropolises such as Hong Kong and Singapore © The Citizen

Shipments of protected African species including tortoises, pythons and parrots to Asia have soared since 2006 as demand grows in the Far East for exotic pets, meats and other animal products, a new study warned Tuesday.

Wildlife imports of leopard tortoises, African spurred tortoises and ball pythons into Asia increased nearly tenfold in a decade, the report by monitoring network TRAFFIC said, while trade in animal skins including seals also rose.

Although much of the trade is legal, all of the species in the study are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

“Until now the legal wildlife trade between Africa and Asia has been largely overlooked,” said Willow Outhwaite, co-author of the “Eastward Bound” study, adding that the report aims to “fill in some of the blanks in our understanding of this vast, complex” trade.

Using import and export databases, the report found more than 1.3 million live animals and plants, 1.5 million skins and 2,000 tonnes of meat from CITES-listed species have been exported from Africa to East and Southeast Asia since 2006.

Animals such as ball pythons and tortoises are popular in the Asian pet trade because of their docile nature and low space requirements, especially in crowded metropolises such as Hong Kong and Singapore.

Trade in the three reptile species from Africa to Asia rose from 8,488 creatures in 2006 to 78,295 in 2015, the study found.

But the trade may be having an impact in Africa, with reports of population declines of leopard tortoises due to unsustainable harvesting, the study said.

Commercial exports of wild African spurred tortoises — the world’s third-largest tortoise — have been banned since 2000, according to CITES.

The study also reported nearly 100,000 grey parrots were exported between the continents over that period, before the central African bird — prized for its ability to mimic human speech — was reclassified as endangered in 2016, all but outlawing the trade. (continue to full story here)

Trump administration to allow elephant trophy imports on “case-by-case basis” (full story: AG News Desk)
African elephant in Zimbabwe grassland

The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced last week that it will now consider all permits for importing elephant trophies from African nations on a “case-by-case basis”, breaking from President Trump’s earlier promises to maintain an Obama-era ban on the practice.

In a formal memorandum issued on Thursday, FWS said it will withdraw its 2017 Endangered Species Act (ESA) findings for trophies of African elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia, “effective immediately”. The memo said “the findings are no longer effective for making individual permit determinations for imports of sport-hunted African elephant trophies”.

In its place, FWS will instead “grant or deny permits to import a sport-hunted trophy on a case-by-case basis”.

FWS said it will still consider the information included in the ESA findings, as well as science-based risk assessments of the species’ vulnerability, when evaluating each permit request. The service also announced it is withdrawing a number of previous ESA findings, which date back to 1995, related to trophies of African elephants, bontebok and lions from multiple African countries.

The decision to withdraw the FWS findings followed a D.C. Circuit Court decision in December that found fault with the initial Obama-era rule, which banned importing elephant hunting trophies from Zimbabwe.

“In response to a recent D.C. Circuit Court’s opinion, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is revising its procedure for assessing applications to import certain hunted species. We are withdrawing our countrywide enhancement findings for a range of species across several countries,” a spokesperson for FWS said in a statement. “In their place, the Service intends to make findings for trophy imports on an application-by-application basis.” (continue to full story here)

Google, Facebook come down on the side of elephants, rhinos, tigers (full story: The Mercury News)
Ivory in Zimbabwe

A Zimbabwe National Parks official inspects the stock during a tour of the country’s ivory stockpile at the Zimbabwe National Parks Headquarters in Harare © The Mercury News/AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

A week after the United States quietly lifted a ban on imports of sport-hunted elephants’ ivory and lion parts from certain African countries, the World Wildlife Fund has announced that Google, Facebook and other major tech firms are joining an effort to halt the illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife parts.

“Advances in technology and connectivity across the world, combined with rising buying power and demand for illegal wildlife products, have increased the ease of exchange from poacher to consumer,” the WWF said in a news release.

“As a result, an unregulated online market allows criminals to sell illegally obtained wildlife products across the globe. Purchasing elephant ivory, tiger cubs, and pangolin scales is as easy as click, pay, ship.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had in November lifted a ban on importing ivory and other elephant parts from animals killed by trophy hunters in Zambia and Zimbabwe, but President Donald Trump put the move on hold, suggesting such trophy hunting was a “horror show”.

But in a March 1st memo, the Fish and Wildlife service said it would evaluate import permits for parts from elephants, lions and bontebok antelopes killed in specific countries “on a case-by-case basis”.

However, poaching and the illegal trade of wildlife and animal parts have raised fears that some species, including African elephants, mountain gorillas and white rhinos, could lead to their disappearance within our lifetimes. And much of the trading is now facilitated by the internet, the WWF said.

To stop illegal online trading of wild animals and their parts, the WWF will bring together its partners — including a number of large tech companies — to share “lessons learned and best practices,” the organisation announced.



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