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Poachers poison elephants, lions, buffaloes & vultures

Dear readers,

In a first incident of its kind in Zimbabwe, poachers have poisoned waterholes subsequently killing 9 elephants, 5 lion, 2 buffaloes and an unspecified number of vultures. This adds to the spate of grisly killings of wildlife incidences by poachers of which most go unnoticed, unreported and undocumented. To read this and related stories, visit BBC’s website.

Poachers in Zimbabwe have poisoned waterholes in five game reserves to kill animals, say wildlife officials.

Nine elephants were found dead with their tusks removed from the carcasses.

Five lions also died but officials said their skins were not taken, suggesting they were accidental victims of the poisoning.

The incidents are the first of their type on record and tests are being carried out to determine the nature of the chemicals used.

A spokeswoman for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Caroline Washaya Moyo, said two buffalo were also killed, as were vultures that had eaten the dead animals.

Ms Washaya Moyo said the parks authority had deployed teams in the affected game reserves to investigate the poisoning.

Zimbabwe has been battling to curb poaching, which has mainly targeted rhinoceros and elephants for their horns and tusks.

Ten rhinos have been killed in Zimbabwe by poachers so far this year.

The crime is driven by booming demand for rhino horn in Asia, where it is believed to have medicinal properties, despite ample scientific evidence to the contrary.

Conservationists have warned that rhino populations are facing their worst poaching crisis for decades, especially in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

In May, authorities in Kenya seized more than one tonne of ivory at Nairobi’s international airport.

About 115 elephant tusks were found inside metal containers by sniffer dogs.

Officials believe Kenya has become a transit point for international ivory smuggling, largely to Asia.”

Basins,Sacks and Pick-ups of poisoned birds

Biodiversity is faltering the world over as BBC reveals that current trends imply that world governments will fail to meet their agreed targets of curbing biodiversity loss by 2010.

Habitat loss, hunting,pollution and the grande global warming phenomenon have all come down heavily to crush biodiversity to the edge of the limit of survival. These forces are more or less operating in a worldwide scale and should only in a most fair and responsible way be handled by all the states of the world.

But poisoning seems to have a special place especially as far as wiping out birds species is concerned. As I read  National Geographic Channel’s article, Birds in “Big Trouble”Due to Drugs, Fishing,more, I could not stop feeling that poisons must be a nightmare threat capable of wiping out whole species in short time with very minimal room for the reversal of the situation. The article reiterated the catastrophic decimation of the white-rumped asian vultures due to Diclofenac poisoning by up to 99.9% of their original since 1990’s. The whole story can be read in the article Many Asian Vultures Close to Extinction.

Poisoning, which may result from pollution is operating in many regions in the world in remote locations in a most quiet way. I am however concerned by the poisoning of birds particularly in Kenya. While many tend to overlook the killing of birds because they are many, then I must say we are wrong because the kiling is mostly indiscriminate cutting across the flock species as well as the small numbered non-congregating species.

In a walk across the neighbourhood of Bunyala Rice Scheme a while ago,a young man was so determineed to show me a beautiful species that always perched on the cows like Ox-peckers but to his disappointment he could not sight it. I spotted a handful Wattled Starlings on a nearby tree in non-breeding plumage but he vehemently refused that those were not the birds. We went on to ask an elderly man grazing his cattle if he knew and had seen the birds and to his shocking surprise he confided that in a split of time it appeared the birds had vanished. We came to a poisoning site and stumbled on the carcass of a mature male wattled starling in breeding plumage concealed in a grass tuft. This was a poisoning site. From a distance I could see children and young men walking into homes with small hand-washing basins.I could not see any pool wher they may have been washing or drawing water, but why not use buckets to carry the water back to their homes? The young man I was with told me that actually the basins contained the purchased spoils of furadan poisoning which were none other than birds. He said the basins used would actually be much bigger during the peak hunting season during rice planting because the numbers poisoned would also be bigger. It then struck my mind that one conservationist and scout in Mwea Rice Scheme reported that in the 1990’s, poisoned birds quantifiable in pick ups were being ferried away from the rice scheme to unknown markets. What is common to these two sites (Bunyala and Mwea) is that in both cases, it has been reported that Tree Ducks, otherwise Whistling Ducks are almost not to be observed and most probably is because they have suffered heavy mortalities from poisoning.

This was not all. I witnessed one cyclist carrying abour 10 storks in a sack tied on his bicycle rear with  their large bills protruding beyond the sack, which gave them away. We are not just talking of poisoning of a few birds but what I would refer to as birds concentrated in habitats with food abundance thereby drawing as many of their kind as possible, yet the poisoners also give it the best of their poisoning techniques and poisons to catch the most of them-basins, sacks and pick ups of poisoned birds.

As we walked back from the poisoning site, I could not help feeling that the grsslands were more deserted by grassland birds than they should be, given the thickness of the grass density I observed. Deserted or poisoned? Likely, the latter is the justification.

The secrecy in wildlife poisoning

Yesterday BBC reported on reject on calls for ban on bush meat in central Africa. Frances Seymour, director general of CIFOR – the Centre for International Forestry Research-speaking to the BBC amongst other things warned that “Criminalising the whole issue of bushmeat simply drives it underground.”. He may just have been right especially when I look at the secrecy that surrounds poisoning of wildlife in Kenya.

Killing wildlife in defence against attack on your property/livestock is apparently lawful in Kenya though it is always preferred that you call the local wildlife authority, the Kenya Wildlife Service to come capture the rogue carnivore as it turns out in most cases to come gun down or cage trap the intruder.

This is by no means a justification for wild poisoning of the carnivores and consequently vultures, hyenas and other canids. I was looking at the notes I made on the questionnaires to the bird poachers in Busia and could not stop trying to get a link to the secrecy that characterises Kenyan hunting (partly through poisoning) and Central Africa’s. in trying to understand the poisoning I have modelled the case of poisoning of carnivore and scavengers which is almost wholly not meant for meat trade or other animal parts for trade based on a by the way question that I asked some bird poachers in Busia on what they would do if against their odds they were forced to quit poaching (birds) especially using poison. A few realistic ones said they would have to fall back on what everybody else was doing to sustain their livelihoods. In my reasoning, I cannot stop thinking that the poachers especially in and around the National Parks and Reserves that survived the harsh enforcement against poachers in the late 80’s, early 90’s and reformed for better to be just like their non-poaching native colleagues, turned to livestock keeping and crop farming. While poaching was ‘banned’, fear caught up with everyone which indeed did our country a lot of good by boosting tourism through securing wildlife. But the wildlife conflicts did not end as well as human population growth applying more and more pressure especially on animal reserves thereby prompting the predators to roam to the proximities of man’s holdings to satiate their hunger .And so the situation of wildlife poisoning started appearing ‘boldly’ in the 90’s with easier detections in non-park and reserve regions like western Kenya where spread out birds for purchase for domestic meat consumption obviously betrayed poisoning as a poaching technique. This averted the focus from the reserves and parks where a poisoned animal is highly likely to be cleared out by the alert scavengers. Soon however, scores of vultures would die and this being irregular, it was later to be revealed by autopsy results that they were poisoned. In brief I suppose secrecy embodied in poisoning evolved from the well-meant enforcement against wildlife poaching.

I cannot help pondering if this could be a solution to wildlife poisoning other than for carbofuran which honestly is almost a threat to everything living. I mean, If I must kill wildlife that is a threat to me and what is mine, I should do it but not use a poison which means a policy review to include harsh preconditions such as this kind of killing will only be legal if my physical security is at its best and meets another precondition that outlines how you should reinforce your physical security to accord it secure.

Just thinking aloud so as to involve you. What do you think?

Soil Cleaner at risk?

I have not been in touch with worms for a while. Today’s story on BBC on earthworms caught my attention because a worm is the sublect of interest. Nematodes which are worms are the intended target by carbofuran nematicide.

Nematodes are mostly are free-living; found in soil where they are important decomposers. Some are parasitic, including many parasites of commercially important plants like strawberries and oranges. Nonetheless, they are worms!

But earthworms are worms as well; they have distinctly segmented bodies that is, their body is made up of repeating units. Yet earthworms and nematodes are both in this case in the soil, soil worms and therefore a possible target for carbofuran either way! What is worse is that carbofuran is turning out a dreaded biocide rather than a nematicide.

Earthworms are important soil burrowers therefore important in soil aeration, an important condition in crop farming. In addition, they are soil detoxication facilitators. They would aid in metal toxins removal from the soil as reported on BBC in Earthworms to aid in soil clean up.

Amphibians also in danger from pollution

Amphibian herpetologists (reptile and amphibian experts) know better that amphibians and frogs in particular are almost perfectly reliable indicators of the pollution status of a water body.

The nuisance croaking at the river in the evening or at the start of the rainy season is therefore an indicator that the river is not badly polluted or at least ‘clean’ because frogs are surviving there afterall.Taking a look at BBC news’ Science and Nature page today, the top story is: Experts Poised for rare frog hunt.

We all acknowledge the tough phase that frogs are going through espacially those occuring where the deadly chytrid fungus is sparing almost none of this division’s/phylum’s members. The fungus known to thrive on the frog’s skin impedes skin breathing, therby literally clogging the gaseous exchanging membrane. I believe it is this same reason that makes the leaping guys sensitive to polluted waters beyond a certain threshold limit. They must literally feel they are being chocked in polluted waters!

But I wonder what might be significant endangers of these amhibious beings. The last update of the gobal status of amphibians, otherwise, Gobal Amphibian Assessment was in 2006 and habitat loss tops the list of endangers of the frogs while pollution is second. That means pollution is also a top endanger. Looking at the habitat preference/choice by frogs, flowing water masses are their second most preferred, whereas this is the second most threatened habitat. Indeed in these man has been notorious to wrongly perceive flowing rivers/streams as the best place to empty his effluent as it wil be washed away. That means the frogs’ habitat preference makes them vulnerable to the second most threatening agents in effect in the flowing water habitat which almost absolutely are pollution and global warming, itself a result of pollution.

The loss of the members of this group of organisms would be devastating, starting from simple loss of an indicator of water purity in traditional Africa and may be elsewhere as well, to only expert-known complex imbalances in the ecosystem of which the frog is a part.

cane-toad.jpg

Toads are also frogs, but never vice versa. Looking at the cane toad above, frogs are vital, yet they too are at war with toxins in the surroundings.

Lion poisoning story on BBC today!

We have just been informed that the carbofuran poisoning story by BBC’s Adam Mynot has just aired on BBC World

It is also all over the BBC website

In his investigative report covering the lion poisonings in Masai Mara on BBC website (BBC Tv and BBC radio)Adam notes that he went to buy Furadan and in one place

“one shop-keeper even described carbofuran as a “lion-killer”.

Isn’t it Amazing that FMC and Juanco still insist that this pesticide is harmless!

Thanks you BBC for giving the story this kind of coverage

If anyone sees the footage please let us know how it is!

We are so pleased to have Martin Odino working with us now to help develop the Action plan Stop Poisoning Wildlife Action