Wildlife

Elephants Die in Botswana

Officials with the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks say more than 100 elephants have died in recent months and anthrax is the likely culprit. According to a Reuters report, preliminary investigations suggest the elephants are dying from anthrax while some died from the effects of drought over the past two months.

Wildlife

Botswana Reintroduces Elephant Hunting

Botswana has reintroduced elephant hunts with a cautious approach to pricing, a move that’s likely to further inflame the controversy that’s threatening a $2bn tourism industry after a five-year ban on hunting was lifted.

The government will auction licenses to hunting operators for the right to shoot 158 elephants but is yet to decide on the minimum price it will set at the sales, said Kitso Mokaila, the country’s environment minister.

There will also be a charge of 20 000 pula (about R27 000) for each of 72 elephant hunting licenses designated for foreigners, according to government documents seen by Bloomberg. That compares to at least $21 000 for the right to shoot an elephant in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

Botswana has the world’s largest elephant population, with about 130 000 of the animals roaming free nationwide.

By lifting the hunting ban, Botswana has brought itself in line with its neighbours. The number of hunting licenses are below the 400 cap it set itself, and compares with 500 licenses in Zimbabwe and 90 in Namibia. In South Africa, foreign hunters generated R1.95bn in 2017. Less than 50 elephants are shot in South Africa annually and Zambia has allocated 37 licenses for this year.

Wildlife

Zimbabwe ready to sell elephants to ‘anyone who wants wildlife’

Zimbabwe plans to sell elephants to Angola and is prepared to ship wild animals to any other interested countries as the southern African nation seeks to reduce its elephant population due to growing conflict between people and wildlife.

“We have no predetermined market for elephant sales, we are open to everyone who wants our wildlife,” tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira said in an interview on the sidelines of a wildlife summit in Victoria Falls. “`the country has ‘excess’ of 30,000 of the animals.”

“The main problem is landmines in Angola, so we are trying to assist them by having a fund to deal with those before we send the animals.”

Wildlife

Elephant Poaching in Botswana Rises

Botswana—widely considered a safe haven for elephants in Africa—appears to be suffering from its own surge in poaching, according to aerial survey work published today in the journal Current Biology. Botswana is estimated to be home to more than 130,000 savanna elephants—about a third of Africa’s remaining population. Until recently, the southern African country had largely escaped the scourge of elephant killings for ivory, still in high demand in China and elsewhere.

In 2014 there were no incidents of suspected elephant poaching in Botswana. But in 2018, across five areas, 156 fresh or recent carcasses whose skulls had been cut open and the tusks removed were counted. Many of the carcasses were hidden under bushes, suggesting, that those animals were victims of the illegal ivory trade.

Zero elephants poached in a year in Northern Mozambique Park

One of Africa’s largest wildlife preserves is marking a year without a single elephant found killed by poachers, which experts call an extraordinary development in an area larger than Switzerland where thousands of the animals have been slaughtered in recent years.

The apparent turnaround in Niassa reserve in a remote region of northern Mozambique comes after the introduction of a rapid intervention police force and more assertive patrolling and response by air, according to the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the reserve with Mozambique’s government and several other partners.

Aggressive poaching over the years had cut the number of Niassa’s elephants from about 12,000 to little over 3,600 in 2016, according to an aerial survey. Anti-poaching strategies from 2015 to 2017 reduced the number killed but the conservation group called the rate still far too high.

Following the new interventions, the last time an elephant in the Niassa reserve was recorded killed by a poacher was May 17, 2018.

Although the low number of remaining elephants is also a factor in the decline in poaching, a year ago, it was estimated that fewer than 2,000 elephants remained in Niassa, now preliminary analysis of data from a survey conducted in October and not yet published indicated that about 4,000 elephants are in the reserve.

A year that appears to be free of elephant poaching in the sprawling reserve drew exclamations from some wildlife experts. “It is a major and very important development that poaching has ceased. This represents a major success.”

Wildlife

Botswana Lifts Ban on Hunting Elephants

Botswana, which has the world’s biggest population of elephants, lifted its suspension on hunting, a move that is likely to spark further debate on a politically charged issue in the southern African nation.

The government would ensure that “reinstatement of hunting is done in an orderly and ethical manner” and in accordance with the law and regulations, the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism said in emailed statement Wednesday.

The number of elephants in Botswana has almost tripled to 160,000 since 1991, increasing conflict between farmers and the animals, which at times destroy crops and kill villagers.

Critics, including former President Ian Khama, say the drive is politically motivated, being geared to win rural votes in an October election and could damage tourism, which accounts for a fifth of the economy.

Wildlife

Botswana Considers Culling Elephants

People living on the outskirts of Botswana’s game parks are anxiously waiting to see if the government is going to do anything to stop roaming wildlife from killing villagers and eating and destroying their crops.

The government is in the process of debating whether to cull elephants, revoke the 2014 ban on hunting or try to keep the wildlife off villagers’ land.

Communities living on the outskirts of fence-less, state-owned parks and forest reserves say their lives are proof that wild animals cannot coexist harmoniously with human beings.

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi appears to be sympathetic to the plight of these communities who are attacked and killed by wild animals and whose crops are eaten and destroyed.

Culling and hunting options have sparked widespread opposition and criticism from animal rights groups and conservationists.

In what appears to be a political crusade to justify culling and hunting as options, the Botswana government has said:

– 25 people have been killed by elephants between 2009 and this year so far;

– Botswana has an elephant population of 130 000 against its carrying capacity of 54 000;

– More than 70% of the elephant population lived outside their designated areas.

Wildlife

Elephant Rescue

Six baby elephants separated from their parents and trapped in a muddy pit for days have been rescued by park rangers in rural Thailand.

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Wildlife

Last Glimpse of Long-Tusked ‘Elephant Queen’

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An elephant matriarch in Kenya that recently died of old age was an impressive sight to the very end, thanks to a pair of tusks that were so unusually long that they resembled those of a woolly mammoth. The elephant, known as F_MU1, lived in Kenya’s Tsavo region for more than 60 years.

F_MU1 died of natural causes, but big tuskers usually aren’t so lucky, as their massive tusks make them targets for ivory poachers. In 2017, poachers killed and mutilated a big tusker named Satao II who was nearly 50 years old; one of the creature’s tusks weighed 114 lbs. (51.5 kilograms) and the other weighed 111 lbs. (50.5 kg), The Guardian reported that year.

To date, only about 25 big tuskers remain in the wild.

Climate Change Linked To Declining Bird Populations In Idaho And Across Great Basin

A new study finds habitat for waterbirds has been declining due to climate change. Warmer temperatures and less precipitation are leading to a reduction in habitat which, in turn, has resulted in fewer waterbirds in the Great Basin.

Focusing on waterbirds – including ducks, geese and herons – the researchers looked at their presence along the Pacific Flyway, a major migratory corridor in the Western U.S. The scientists found significantly warmer temperatures and lower amounts of precipitation in the Basin over the last two decades. As it gets hotter, and these wetlands get drier and saltier, they become smaller and less viable for birds raising chicks.

Duck Flying Bird Nature Outdoors

Wildlife

Elephant Massacre in Botswana

Ninety elephant carcasses have been discovered in Botswana with their tusks hacked off, a charity said Tuesday, in what is believed to be one of Africa’s worst mass poaching sprees. Most of the animals killed were large bulls carrying heavy tusks, Elephants Without Borders said.

The grim discovery was made over several weeks during an aerial survey by Elephants Without Borders and Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks. The animals were shot with heavy-calibre rifles at watering spots near a popular wildlife sanctuary in the Okavango Delta.

The killing continues at a dizzying pace of about 30,000 elephants a year to meet demand for ivory in Asia, where tusks sell for around $1,000 (R15,200) a kilo. Elephants in Zambia and Angola, north of Botswana, “have been poached to the verge of local extinction, and poachers have now turned to Botswana.

The government was not immediately available to comment on rangers being apparently disarmed earlier this year. Botswana previously had a zero-tolerance approach to poaching, with a “shoot-to-kill” policy against poachers. Poachers have also targeted rhino, said Chase, after six white rhino carcasses were found in recent months.

Wildlife

War Extinctions

A new study shows armed conflicts in Africa’s Sahara and Sahel regions are resulting in a sharp decline of species such as the African elephant and dorcas gazelle.

The study, led by researchers at Portugal’s University of Porto, found that the proliferation of firearms, over-exploitation of natural resources and human intrusion into previously isolated areas have resulted in the extinction or near-extinction of 12 out of the 14 large animal species in the region.

The study also found that oil drilling has led to the progressive extinction of the addax, a type of antelope.

Rodent Free Island

The world’s most ambitious project to eradicate invasive species has left the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia free of rats and mice for probably the first time in nearly 250 years.

The rodents were inadvertently introduced by sealers and whalers who stopped there. The pests have since ravaged the British territory’s native species, especially birds that lay their eggs on the ground or in burrows.

But a $15 million project to poison or trap the rodents over the past decade has apparently eradicated every single one from the 100-mile-long island.

Sniffer dogs like this one were unable to detect any more rats on South Georgia Island.

EWCOLOR

Wildlife

Puffing Pachyderm

Wildlife experts say they are baffled at footage captured of an Asian elephant “smoking” in a southern Indian forest — a behavior never seen before.

Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society filmed the female pachyderm at Nagarhole National Park picking up lumps of charcoal with its truck, placing them in its mouth and exhaling with a large plume of ash.

In a self-medicating behavior known as zoopharmacognosy, the elephant could have been using the charcoal as a laxative since it is plentiful in the forest after wildfires or lightning strikes, researchers say.

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Wildlife

Elephant Raiders

A northern Namibian village was raided by a herd of 28 elephants that wrecked 18 homes, uprooted trees and destroyed the village borehole well.

Residents of Otjorute say the animals frequently arrive from a nearby conservation area during harvest time, but this month’s raids are unprecedented.

The villagers say the pachyderms arrived early one morning in mid-January amid much noise and chaos, leaving a trail of uprooted or damaged trees.

The New Era daily reports at least one elephant followed people’s footprints until it got into their houses.

Avian PTSD

The cacophony of manmade sounds in the modern world may be causing symptoms in birds similar to what humans experience when suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Researchers from the Florida Museum of Natural History studied birds exposed to the constant noise of natural-gas compressors and found skewed stress hormone levels, possibly due to increased anxiety, distraction and hypervigilance.

Report co-author Rob Guralnick believes the noise could act as an “acoustic blanket,” muffling the sound clues birds rely on to detect predators, competitors for food and their own species.

“They’re perpetually stressed because they can’t figure out what’s going on,” said Guralnick.

Wildlife

Bees Stop Elephants From Trampling Trees

The humble bee is helping to keep elephants from destroying trees and wiping out crops in their quest for food. A project launched near South Africa’s Kruger National Park in 2015 has found success.

An elephant’s skin is thick but sensitive. The animals will try to avoid a bee sting whenever possible, experts say. They’re terrified of it coming up the trunk and then they could potentially suffocate.

Project founder Michelle Henley says beehives have proven to be “significantly effective” at protecting indigenous trees from being trampled. “It’s amazing how a creature so small can actually scare away an elephant”.

Wildlife

US Lifts Ban on Import of African Elephant Hunting Trophies

Earlier this week, the Trump administration lifted a ban on importing hunting trophies from African elephants into the United States, claiming that this policy change would benefit elephants — but conservation officials are skeptical.

Representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced yesterday (Nov. 16) that the department would begin issuing permits allowing the import of sport-hunted trophies collected from elephants killed in Zimbabwe from Jan. 21, 2016, through Dec. 31, 2018. However, a ban remains on importing elephant trophies from Tanzania, according to the statement.

According to the FWS, hunting trophies are defined as raw or preserved animal parts collected by a recreational hunter “for personal use.” This may include “bones, claws, hair, head, hide, hooves, horns, meat, skull, teeth, tusks or any taxidermied part, including, but not limited to, a rug or taxidermied head, shoulder or full mount.”

The African elephant’s (Loxodonta africana) conservation status is listed as “vulnerable” by (IUCN), which is applied when a species’ numbers have declined by more than 30 percent over the past decade or when their habitat is fragmented, deteriorating or greatly reduced. It warns that the species is facing a high level of vulnerability in the wild.

However, many conservation organizations are skeptical of the benefits of legal and trophy collection for preserving and protecting elephants. In addition, there is the additional concern that lifting the trophy ban will send a troubling message to poachers about the United States’ commitment to ending trade in animal products from threatened and endangered species

This is the wrong move at the wrong time for protecting Africa’s wildlife, according to conservationists.

Wildlife

Elephants Adapt to Poaching

Elephants in eastern Africa have learned to travel at night and hide during the day to avoid poachers who are hunting tuskers into extinction, researchers reported Wednesday.

Normally elephants forage for food and migrate in daylight, resting under cover of darkness. But a sharp increase in illegal hunting driven by the global trade in ivory has forced the massive mammals to upend their usual habits.

In an upcoming study, Ihwagi details his findings, based on data gathered from 60 elephants in northern Kenya tracked with GPS devices for up to three years during the period 2002 to 2012.

The nighttime movements of the elephants increased significantly in sync with poaching levels, especially for females. In high-danger zones, females reduced daytime activity by about 50 percent on average compared to low-danger zones.

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, mainly to satisfy demand in Asia for products coveted as a traditional medicine or as status symbols.