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Earth Champions: South African anti-poaching group wins UNEP award

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The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit
The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By NewsGram Staff Writer

Cape Town: Black Mambas, a South African anti-poaching group was awarded ‘Champions of the Earth’ prize for its efforts to protect the endangered rhinos by United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

The group was awarded on Monday for the “rapid and impressive impact” it had made in combating poaching, Xinhua reported.

The group has been devoted to anti-poaching patrols and education for communities near areas that are home to wildlife, according to South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa.

“Community-led initiatives are crucial to combating the illegal trade in wildlife, and the Black Mambas highlights how effective local knowledge and commitment can be,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

The award will be handed to the group by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in New York on September 27.

Molewa said the South African government is working to create “economically viable models” to make local communities “less vulnerable to being recruited by poaching syndicates.”

“The introduction of environmental monitors into areas facing high numbers of poaching incidents has played a demonstrable role in combating this crime through their work of educating communities in the area on the benefits of conservation and rhino protection,” the official said.

Established in 2013, Black Mambas comprises of 25 women and one man who are all from local communities close to national reserves in north-east South Africa.

Since they were deployed at the Balule Nature Reserve in the north Limpopo province, only four rhino have been poached.

The group has assisted in the arrest of six poachers, removed over 1,000 snares and broke down two bush-meat kitchens.

“The Black Mambas are a shining example of the promise of government, the private sector and communities to eradicating rhino poaching in South Africa,” Molewa said.

As of August 27, South Africa has lost 749 rhinos to poaching this year.

(With inputs from IANS)

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Timber Stealing from Ancient Trees has become Poacher’s New Target: UNEP

These ecosystems have been vanishing across the territory. Forest investigators have reported cases of more than 100 trees stolen at once.

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A cedar tree, Pixabay
  • The 200 feet cedar tall tree disappeared, cut off at its colossal base and stolen
  • Forest investigators have reported cases of more than 100 trees stolen at once
  • One gigantic old cedar can bring close to $20,000

June 06, 2017: Trees are not immortal; they do live a definite life. The 800-year-old cedar in the Carmanah Valley in Canada was near the end of its life. Colin Hepburn, a local hiker noticed during a backwoods stroll in May 2012, the remains of the cedar tree. The 200 feet tall tree disappeared, cut off at its colossal base, an entire ecosystem of birds, small mammals, and insects stolen with it.

Elephant poaching and timber theft were the focal points at the conference held by Interpol and United Nations Environment Program for more than a couple of years now, as mentioned in a report by Newser.com.

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The park is firmly rooted, filled with centuries-old Sitka spruce and cedar that enforce a lofty eternalness. These trees are an essential part of the forest ecosystem: moss and lichen grow on them, mushrooms sprout from the damp bark at their base. Their branches are an abode to endangered birds like the tiny grey and white marbled murrelet. However, these ecosystems have been vanishing across the territory. Forest investigators have reported cases of more than 100 trees stolen at once.

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According to a report published by UNEP and Interpol, Global timber theft has grown into a “rapidly escalating environmental crime wave”, estimating it 15 to 30 per cent of the global timber trade conducted through the black market.

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Two major factors have made timber so tempting in recent years. First, the payoff is huge. One gigantic old cedar can bring close to $20,000. Secondly, stealing trees is low-risk. In a globalized economy, timber is remarkably easy for thieves to get their hands on, says Cameron Kamiya, Canada’s only full-time forest crime investigator.

prepared by Naina Mishra of Newsgram, Twitter: Nainamishr94

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2016 in Retrospect: Poaching at all-time High, but the number of Tigers still Rose

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Tiger
Tiger vs Man in the forests of India, credits-pixabay

New Delhi, December 28, 2016: It’s not been a great year for wildlife. More tigers and leopards were poached in 2016 than in any year of the previous decade, pangolins were killed in the hundreds while thousands of marine animals perished — this, due to the debilitating effect of climate change. Yet, the good news is that the number of tigers still rose.

“Tigers have increased but in the sphere of protection, this year has been worse for animals, including pangolins,” Shekhar Niraj, Head of TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network in alliance with the WWF, told IANS.

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Interestingly, an RTI application revealed that the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau has no information of poachers arrested or shot, the weapons used by them, or the numbers poached.

However, IANS managed to piece together information from different independent sources. The records of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) show that at least 129 tigers and 419 leopards died in 2016 as compared to 91 tigers and 397 leopards in 2015. Of these, at least 50 tigers and 127 leopards were poached, a record in the last 10 years.

 

“These numbers are not accurate, these are only those reported or caught. The actual figures would be higher,” WPSI programme manager Tito Joseph told IANS.

Over 20 elephants, 18 rhinos, multiple bears (sloth, Asiatic brown and black), two snow leopards and several sea-cucumber, which are highly sought-after in Southeast Asia, were either caught being poached or their harvest such as skin and claws was seized till November 2016.

“Fifty leopards, mostly from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, and at least eight elephants died in road or train accidents alone,” Joseph said. He added that a large number of animals had died not just because of poaching but due to negligence in the absence of proper management plans.

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Also, nature’s wrath, inspired by man-induced climate change, played its part, killing at least 1,800 endangered aquatic and marine animals in first three months alone.

The year, in fact, had begun with the washing ashore of the carcasses of 74 short-finned pilot whales in the Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu, a Bryde’s whale in Mumbai, hundreds of Olive Ridley turtles in Odisha and several Gangetic and ocean dolphins. This apart, over 250 animals, including 20 rhinos, perished in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park due to floods in August.

Ironically, all this happened in the year when India hosted “Third Asian Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation”, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to protect the country’s feline population. The good news here is that India is now home to 2,226 tigers — 70 per cent of those in the wild in Asia. Prakash Javadekar, then the Environment and Forest Minister, was quoted at the conference as saying that the number could be as high as 2,500.

Meanwhile, the “17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CoP17 CITES)” held in South Africa in September barred tiger farming (or breeding) and listed pangolins in CITES Appendix I for their protection, considering that the species is now threatened with extinction.

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For the pangolin, a nocturnal animal hunted for its expensive scales used in Chinese medicine, the year was ugly. Over 20 instances of the seizure of several kilos of its scales were reported across the country. In New Delhi alone, the CBI, in October, seized 86 kg of pangolin scales.

An adult pangolin produces 2-3 kgs of scales a year while the young produce about 500 gms.

Thus, it’s little wonder that WWF’s Living Planet Report released in October said the world may lose 68 percent of its wildlife by 2020 — the possible prelude to “the sixth mass extinction”.

The report says that about 41 per cent of mammals, 46 per cent reptiles, 57 per cent amphibians and 70 per cent freshwater fish are “threatened with extinction” in India. Four of the 385 species of mammals are already extinct in India.

The United Nations Environment Programme and Interpol in June reported that the environmental crime industry — worth $258 billion — was the fastest-growing among crime syndicates.

–IANS

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon apologizes to people of Haiti, 6 Years after UN Peacekeepers were blamed for Causing Cholera Epidemic on Island Nation

The secretary-general addressed the Haitian people directly, making his apology in both Creole and French, as well as English

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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attends the Cyprus reunification talks in Switzerland, Nov. 7, 2016. The United Nations leader apologized three times to the people of Haiti, Dec. 1, 2016, in Creole, French and English for the cholera outbreak after the 2010 earthquake. VOA
United Nations, December 2, 2016: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon apologised to the people of Haiti on Thursday, more than six years after U.N. peacekeepers were blamed for causing a deadly cholera epidemic on the island nation.

“On behalf of the United Nations, I want to say very clearly: We apologise to the Haitian people,” Ban told an informal meeting of U.N. member states.

“We simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti. We are profoundly sorry for our role,” he added.

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The secretary-general addressed the Haitian people directly, making his apology in both Creole and French, as well as English.

Ban’s apology, his most direct to date, fell short of admitting that U.N. peacekeepers brought the potentially fatal illness to Haiti.

“This has cast a shadow upon the relationship between the United Nations and the people of Haiti,” he said. “It is a blemish on the reputation of U.N. peacekeeping and the organisation worldwide.”

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Ban, who will leave office at the end of this month, said the U.N. has a moral responsibility to act and deliver for the sake of the Haitian people, but also for the sake of the United Nations itself.

“We now recognize that we had a role in this, but to go to the extent of taking full responsibility for all, is a step that would not be possible for us to take,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told reporters.

More than 9,000 died

It is widely accepted that Nepalese peacekeepers who were sent to assist Haiti in its recovery after the devastating 2010 earthquake, contaminated a branch of the Artibonite River with cholera.

The river is the country’s main water source for tens of thousands of Haitians. Subsequently more than 9,000 people died of the disease, which can cause severe diarrhoea and vomiting, and some 800,000 were sickened.

Haiti’s U.N. Ambassador Denis Regis said the U.N.’s apology represents “a radical change of attitude.”

“The U.N. has shown it can admit making mistakes as well as draw the lessons for the future and address the harm and damage done, even when done involuntarily,” the envoy said.

Litigation

Some of the victims sought compensation, suing the United Nations in U.S. District court, but the court ruled that the international organization is protected by diplomatic immunity.

Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) has represented some of the victims. He welcomed the secretary-general’s apology.

“It appears to be a pretty strong and really historic step forward,” Concannon told VOA. But he is keeping the legal option open.

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“We did not file a lawsuit because we wanted to win a lawsuit,” he said. “We filed a lawsuit because we wanted the U.N. to apologize, and to install the water and sanitation necessary to stop cholera, and to compensate the victims. If the U.N. is going to do that without a lawsuit, it’s better for all concerned.”

A girl receives an oral cholera vaccine at the Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, Nov. 8, 2016. VOA
A girl receives an oral cholera vaccine at the Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, Nov. 8, 2016. VOA

A girl receives an oral cholera vaccine at the Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, Nov. 8, 2016.

Eradicating cholera

The United Nations released a 16-page report Thursday which details a two-track “new approach” to cholera in Haiti. It calls for $400 million in initial funding.

The first track involves intensifying the U.N.’s support to reducing and ultimately ending the transmission of the water-borne illness through improved access to health care and treatment. It also seeks to address the longer-term issues of water, sanitation and health systems in Haiti.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and did not have an adequate sanitation infrastructure at the time of the 2010 earthquake, which contributed to the rapid spread of the disease and difficulty in containing it. The government has said it wants to eradicate cholera by 2022.

The second track appears to still be under development, but would focus financial assistance packages to community-based projects to help those most affected by cholera.

Haiti has struggled with thousands of new suspected cholera cases in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, which wreaked havoc on the nation on October 4. (VOA)