Tag Archives: Poisoning wildlife

It is never about safety

Aphids are notorious plant/leaf-eating pest. I recall during my undergraduate studies hoping onto a bicycle  and heading to the campus farm fields to secure an assortment of substances-neem, sugar solution, etc-up citrus plants of what constituted one of my professor’s project.The aim was to get a substance that would constructively distract a biological set up in favor of citrus fruit production. The microecosytem of a citrus plant constitutes aphids feeding on the plant, attendant ants feeding on the aphids’ sugary secretions and the carnivorous ladybirds creeping in to snatch away and eat the aphids but heavily guarded by the attendant ants. The attractant would therefore get the attention of the attendant ants which would otherwise fight off the ladybirds. In the process, the aphids would be eaten by the voracious ladybirds to the benefit of the citrus plants promoting high yield.

In our last meeting with FMC, they noted that Furadan’s withdrawal would penalize Kenyan farmers that had been using it properly as a pesticide.The chemical product was (is?) a heavily depended on broad spectrum pesticide (deadly poison?) and had served a major role in feeding the world .

The insect pests (some disease vectors others voracious phytophagous-plant feeders ) onslaught seems to be the major threat in the way of desired agricultural productivity to ensure food security. The ideal trend in agriculture has therefore been to employ the strongest pesticide to wipe out the pests. But  this just never really amounts to eliminating the current problem pest per se. The ideal pesticide kills virtually all organisms at least according to Kenya Pesticide Control Products Board boss recently defending the worldwide banned Methyl Bromide because ” it kills all living things in the soil. So it eliminates pests completely,”. But Methyl Bromide due to be phased out completely worldwide by 2015 is said to contribute to global warming, one of major threats to all biodiversity at present.

On the  long road to ban DDT in the US during the early 1970s, initial review of the chemical by the mostly economic entomologists team (inherited from the United States Department of Agriculture) furnished the then EPA’s administrator with seemingly biased findings: that DDT was not an imminent danger to human health and wildlife. Many environmentalists felt the ruling was biased in favor of agribusiness and tended to minimize concerns about human health and wildlife. The decision not to ban thus created public controversy leading to scientific reviews in court hearings, the cancellation of DDTs uses and its eventual ban.

Poison money

its all about….

Nature is fashioned in food pyramids and chains with higher predators consuming lower predators and producers. While this would constitute biological control in agricultural pest control argued arbitrarily to also have its pros and cons, chemical pesticide control threatens the very existence of the natural control of pests employing natural predators. The increase in crop pests due to the loss of their predators to the very pest control chemicals cannot be ruled out. We are developing an irreversible dependance on monster chemicals which turn around and bite us right in our backs with the ultimate expensive outcome of speeded up species extinctions of which man is not exempted.

It may be ill fated that the issue of Furadan in Kenya has to creep through a slow winding path before anything is done. However, with each passing day there is an intoxicated dying organism, certainly a dying bird and most probably a suffering may be dying human being from exposure to carbofuran or any other deadly pesticide when there are better options.

Poisoning threatens vultures in Tanzania, S.A., Namibia, Botswana

We have reported the tragic effects of pesticide poisoning on predators and vultures in Kenya wildlife and through our work we have come to learn that the problem is ocurring across Africa.  Vultures in particular are at risk across the continent.

In Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa and Botswana, pesticides containing carbofuran are being used to wipe out vultures. In a single poisoning incident tens of vultures can be killed.  Given that vultures are late maturing animals, that lay only 2 eggs every 4 years, the impact can be catastrophic to local populations.

Vultures in Selous Park Tanzania

Vultures poisoned near lake Tagalala in Selous Park Tanzania November 2009

Scientists in Tanzania report that this is the 3rd known incident in the Selous, and there were at least another two in Ruaha in the past 2 years and plus another recent one in Maswa.

In Botswana vultures are targeted by poachers who want to get rid of them because they attract the authorities to their kills. Farmers also lace meat to target hyenas and this often results in vulture kills as well.  So it is no surprise that researchers warn that the vulture is an endangered species and may be extinct in the next half century unless governments make efforts to save it.

In South Africa our colleague Tim Snow of the Endangered Wildlife Trust informs us that Temik which contains Aldicarb, another carbamate based pesticide, is used for targeting vultures and leopards for Muti – traditional healers. It is believed that those who consume the brain of a vulture will gain it’s eyesight and be able to see into the future. The problem is also threatening South African vultures. The use of muti is expected to increase with the 2010 World Cup Football matches in South Africa, because gamblers will try to predict who will win. In this case, vulture brains are the muti. The brains are smoked in the belief that the vultures’ acute vision will be passed to the smoker, giving them foresight.

Namibia: We have just received a report from the Animal Rehabilitation Research and Education Center in Namibia. They confirm that Furadan is also misused against predators there. In northern Namibia poison is used for lions and leopards. In southern Namibia the black-backed jackal is the target species for poison. Many non-target species also die including birds of prey, mostly vultures but also eagles and migrant kites. 

Breaking Ground on Furadan Ban Talks

On Tuesday, 13 April 2010, WildlifeDirect and the WWF will be joining a battery of government officials at the Ministry of Agriculture to discuss the effect of carbofuran (Furadan) use on wildlife. This meeting has been called by the Agriculture Secretary following WildlifeDirect’s campaign to raise awareness about – and demanding action for – poisoning of lions, birds of prey and other wildlife by deliberate and unintended misuse of this lethal pesticide.

Bones - what will be left by Furadan

Bones - what will be left by Furadan

Though the Agriculture Secretary is acting in reaction to the Prime Ministers hard questions to the Ministry of Agriculture regarding their inaction on the issue of wildlife poisoning, it is still a welcome gesture that they are now willing to discuss this weighty matter. WildlifeDirect had written to the Prime Minister as a last resort after Ministry officials and the bosses at the Pest Control Products Board failed to respond decisively to reports of wildlife poisoning that we supplied.

Tomorrow’s meeting comes in a time when FMC is going to court in a last ditch to try and rescue Furadan in the parent country, the USA. FMC, through their lawyers, will be defending their appeal to stop a US-wide ban on the product. Should their appeal fail, then it will be a victory for wildlife at the very source of the lion-killer pesticide. Elsewhere, FMC has affirmed that even though they are defending their product in the mother country, they have no intention of re-introducing it back to Kenya (and East Africa), where they have withdrawn it from the market.

Even as this is going on, the wrath of this indiscriminate killer has been felt in Scotland where the number of birds of prey diying of pesticide poisoning is on the rise. A report by Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent for the Guardian UK, has revealed that up to 27 birds of prey were poisoned in 2009. The report says that this is one of the worst years for wildlife crime in the country.

“The majority of poisonings carried out across Scotland use Carbofuran, an illegal pesticide in the UK which is also potentially dangerous to humans. It is thought that old stocks of the chemical, which was banned in Britain in 2001, are still being used.” Says another report published at the end of March in the Edinburgh Evening News.

And in Botswana, 40 white-backed vultures were killed in one poisoning incident in Lesoma (a village in North-West District of Botswana) on the week that started on 8 March. In a report appearing in one of Botswana’s leading online paper, MmegiOnline, the poisoning follows another incident in January where 15 white-backed vultures were found dead at Tito village cattle-post after they were poisoned. And in November last yeat, according to the same article in MmegiOnline, “50 globally threatened vultures were poisoned in the Xudum Concession in the fringes of the Okavango. In the incident white-backed and hooded vultures, together with yellow-billed kites, were found dead at two giraffe carcases that had been laced with poison.”

It is incidents like this that motivate us at WildlifeDirect and the Stop Wildlife Poisoning Committee to keep fighting for the ban of this dangerous pesticide here in Kenya as an example to other African and non-African states so that the whole world can be rid of this pestilence.

We will inform you of the outcome of our meeting with the Kenya government officials.

CBS 60 minutes follow up

Dear friends,

Last night CBS 60 minutes re-ran the story on the link between the collapse of lion populations in Africa, and the misuse of the pestsicide Furadan, a carbofuran produced in the USA. There is a video here and the online piece attracted 119 comments.

Hopefully this piece will  energise the discussions in Kenya about the call for a ban on carbofuran.


Furadan – the greatest threat to Kenyas lions

At a recent meeting, Ms. Alayne Cotteril explained that the misuse of  carbofuran (sold as Furadan in Kenya) in Kenya could push  Kenya’s few remaining lions over the threshold and into extinction. Living with Lions is an organization managed by Dr Laurence Frank that believes the most urgent threat to lions today is the widespread use of poison to kill them in retaliation for depredation on livestock. This is their message.

Masai cow killed by lion

When lions or hyenas kill a cow, they eat part of it and come back the next night to finish the carcass. Livestock owners have learned that a universally available agricultural pesticide carbofuran (marketed as Furadan) is lethal to predators – they need only sprinkle a few cents worth of carbofuran on the carcass and any mammal or bird which feeds on it will die.

This cow (above), found by one of LWL’s Lion Guardians was killed by lions and partially eaten. They returned to the carcass the next night, providing an easy opportunity for a potential lion poisoner.

Lion poisoned with carbofuran

LWL has evidence of over 60 lions poisoned in just our Laikipia and Kilimanjaro study areas, sometimes whole prides at once. These are a small fraction of the predators actually killed by poison, because in the vast expanse of African rangelands, relatively few come to the attention of researchers or the authorities.

We frequently learn of a poisoning when we find one of our collared lions dead. The animals are often found next to a poisoned livestock carcass.

Richard Bonham’s evidence of large scale lion and hyena poisoning in 2001-2 motivated the establishment of his Predator Compensation Fund and LWL’s Kilimanjaro Lion Conservation Project. More recently the Amboseli Predator Project has been started by LWL to investigate the problem in another area of Maasailand.

vulture poisoned with carbofuran

Carbofuran, which is banned in the US and Europe because of its lethal effects on wildlife, is sold throughout agricultural areas of Kenya. It is legitimately used as an insecticide and nematicide, but one need only ask any agricultural supply shop for something to kill stray dogs, hyena or lions, and for about $1.50 they will sell a small plastic jar of carbofuran granules, enough to kill a whole pride of lions or clan of hyenas.

Although poisoned predators are rarely found by conservationists, a more visible effect of predator poisoning is the disappearance of vultures and some species of eagles from the skies of Kenya. These also feed on poison-laced livestock carcasses or the bodies of dead lions and hyenas and are also killed, sometimes dozens at a time.

Some vulture species have become nearly extinct in Kenya and others are severely reduced. Elsewhere, carbofuran is also reported to be used for poisoning fish for human consumption, and crocodiles for their skins.

What can be done?

In the short term, Kenya must ban the importation and sale of carbofuran and replace its legitimate agricultural use with other pesticides which cannot be abused to kill wildlife.

However, in the long term, we must find ways to make predators more valuable to the rural people who share the land with wildlife. So long as wild animals are regarded by people as an expensive nuisance rather than a valuable resource, wildlife in Africa will continue to decline, eaten as cheap bush meat, poisoned and speared as pests.

Lion cub

In a world increasingly dominated by humans, crops and livestock, all Living with Lions programs are focused on this one ultimate challenge to conservation.

Another lion poisoned in the Mara

We have just heard from a reliable source that at least 35 vultures, one lion and a few hyeanas were poisoned bye the Olololaimutiak gate in the Masai Mara last week.

Masai mara map

We are in the process of finding out if this is Furadan. It certainly sounds like Furadan from reports so far. Evidence will be collected and hopefully the government will conduct a full investigation to find out what happened, and to charge the offenders.

This week alone we have submitted four reports of wildlife poisoning that have occurred in the last  6 weeks or so, to the Pest Products Control Board in Nairobi. They are responsible for regulating the use of pesticides in Kenya and. Although we have not yet heard back from them, we are confident that they will conduct investigations and get back to us.

All suspected wildlife poisoning incidents that involve Furadan are also being forwarded to FMC who are working closely with the government regulators in Kenya.

One very positive outcome of this blog has been the general raising of awareness that there is somewhere to report the poisoning of wildlife in Kenya. To be more effective we need to reach other corners of Kenya and this takes time and money. Please share this information with your friends and networks and help us raise adequate funding to extend our work and reach more people and places where wildlife is silently dying.

One of our goals is to produce educational materials to share with the communties that are poisoning wildlife out of ignorance. Any help  that you can provide towards this work would be greatly appreciated.

Post Script

After posting this article I sent word out on twitter to find out if it was true and I got this response from Kimojino who tweets as @maratriangle “@paulakahumbu It’s true, over on other side of Mara. A revenge killing after the cows were killed by lions, while grazing IN the reserve.”

We’re trying to find out if it was Furadan

Elephants poisoned with Furadan in Tanzania

It has just been reported to us from a credible source that Furadan is also used to poach elephants in Tanzania and Kenya. Apparently Furadan laced cabbages are left out for elephants to consume, once affected by the poison, the animals are tracked and killed (or they wait for them to die), their ivory removed and sold to dealers.

The person who reported this claimed that the 712 kg of ivory recently siezed on the Kenya/Tanzania border may have come from elephants killed in this way.

We are trying to verify this report and encourage anyone who may have information to write to us on [email protected]

Toxic dumps in Africa

During our meeting yesterday Angela from WWF told us about the problem of pesticide dumping in Africa constitutes one of the most serious environmental crimes that she is working on. The implications for Wildlife are enormous. Africa it seems, is Europe’s most popular dumping ground for radioactive waste and toxic chemicals. Although the European Union agreed in 1988 to implement a ban that prohibits the export of hazardous wastes from developed countries to the developing world, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand refused to sign up. There’s big money in dumping and this breeds corruption.  It is claimed that each month more than 500 container loads, of 400,000 dead computers, arrive in Nigeria to be processed. The problem of waste dumping hit me in the gut when I realized how it affects individual people. You may have heard about the dumping of petroleum products in the Ivory coast 2 years ago by a Dutch firm.

In August 2006 a local company hastily fly-tipped truckload after truckload of chemical waste at around 15 locations around the city. The United Nations says the dumping of the 500m tonnes of waste led to at least 16 deaths and more than 100,000 other victims needing medical treatment.

The legal case against Trafigura, the Dutch multi national shipper company that dumped the residue, was dropped in an out of court settlement in early 2007 when they agreed to pay the Ivorian government around $200m (£100m) in one of the largest ever payments of its kind. This money was to pay for the clean up and for compensation to the victims who each received approximately 500$

The waste, which contained a mixture of gasoline, water, caustic washings and the poisonous gas hydrogen sulfide, was unloaded in Abidjan from the vessel Probo Koala on August 19 2006 and then dumped in open air sites throughout the densely populated city. According to this news article Abidjan may lose up to 1,000 more people as a result of the toxic dump which is emitting choking fumes. Local authorities claim that over 70 people have so far died from inhaling the fumes; most of them children and the aged. Figures from the World Health Organization indicate that 135,000 people have sought medical treatment for various ailments arising from the toxic dump. The Ivorian Health ministry puts the figure at 131,113. A thousand deaths will mean plucking out one fifth of the population of Akouedo, one of the worst affected communities. It is believed that this is a conservative estimate, the casualties are likely to be much greater.

To me it’s obvious that Trafigura accepts responsibility for the crisis although they claim ‘officially’ that the payment is not an admission of liability but that it was ‘made out of sympathy for Ivorian people, and it also disputes whether the chemical slops were the cause of the large number of medical cases’.

The multinational, which specialises in trading oil and metals, undertook to identify and clean up any sites which could still contain toxic waste linked to its shipment. The deal is good for everyone except the people of Africa. the Ivory coast cannot pursue Trafigura of any further charges, and the two French executives of Trafigura, Claude Dauphin and Jean-Pierre Valentini, were released and never charged. The Ivory Coast government agreed not to pursue Trafigura for any further compensation as part of the deal.

The bad guys include officials who endorsed the dumping and Ivory Coast’s prime minister responded by dissolving his 32-member cabinet as a result.  Understandably the public are still angry and they set fire to the home of the Abidjan port director and attacked the country’s transport minister.

That was the 18th August 2006. Well, it’s two years later and guess what? The money has been paid and the waste is still there and people are still dying.

While Trafigura cannot be charged in Ivory coast the world is not standing back. This week an Amsterdam court will start hearing evidence relating to the Probo Koala waste scandal. This case is about the Probo Koala and does not affect the dump in the Ivory coast but their handling in Amsterdam. It now emerges that Trafigura, chartered a vessel, which at first attempted to have the waste processed in Amsterdam, but the company it contracted for this rejected the cargo because of its odour. Trafigura later ordered the Probo Koala to set sail for Ivory Coast where a local company registered only a few days earlier had promised to do the job.

Meanwhile British lawyers have mounted the largest class action yet lodged in the UK courts for up to 30,000 Africans allegedly poisoned by this toxic waste dump. This action is being brought against Trafigura, a London-based multinational, over the dumping in 2006 of 400 tonnes of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast.

According to Times online Martyn Day, senior partner with Leigh Day & Co stated “That we can bring a case with 30,000 claimants from a far-off land to trial within three years of the events shows that in England we have a system for group claims that is second-to-none in the world in holding multinationals to account for their actions,”

The law firm was brought in by Greenpeace, which in turn was asked to help by the Ivorean Government. Until 2006 Day was chairman of Greenpeace UK and is still on the executive of the Greenpeace Trust. By bringing the claims under the ‘no win, no fee’ scheme Greenpeace we can develop a treasure chest to help to finance large cases like this.

So you’d think like Trafigura has learned a lesson right? Wrong!

According to Afrol News on 24th June this year a vessel from the shipping company Trafigura, “High Land”, landed in the Nigerian port of Lagos where it was observed off loading allegedly dangerous and poor gasoline, aimed at West African consumers. The vessels previously stopped in Tema, Ghana, where it may also have loaded off bad gasoline.
Trafigura is the world’s third largest independent oil trader. According to their own figures, last year’s turnover amounted to US$ 51 billion. The company so far has denied any wrongdoings and claims to operate by strict ethical guidelines.

This article explains that “The Basel Convention was adopted in 1989 largely due to African outrage over dumping incidents and schemes such as the infamous Koko beach dumping in Nigeria in 1987. The original Basel Convention which demanded controls on such exports however was seen by most countries as being far too weak to control the toxic waste trade which can involve great profits and potential therefore for corruption. Thus in 1995 the Convention Parties decided to create the Basel Ban Amendment – a total prohibition on all forms of toxic waste exports from OECD/EU countries to the rest of the world.

This amendment however, while implemented by the European Union, has not yet entered into global force and ironically many of the countries that are currently having their workers and environmental health severely impacted by hazardous waste have failed as yet to ratify it. These countries include, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, and Cote D’Ivoire. Some countries like the United States, Canada, Australia and South Korea have openly opposed the global ban. Worst of all the US, the nation that produces the most hazardous waste per capita, has failed to ratify the original Basel Convention let alone the Basel Ban Amendment”.

Poisoning of lion cubs for stuffed animal trade

This is an not new information but it’s still interesting. I just found out that in 2006 six rare Abyssinian lion cubs were poisoned in a zoo because authorities could not afford to feed them. However, Muhedin Abdulaziz, the administrator at the Lion Zoo in the capital, Addis Ababa, said “The dead cubs were sold to taxidermists for $170 each to be stuffed and sold as ornaments”.

Apparently federal wildlife officials monitored the poisoning, which they said “was painless”.

Ok, what messed up zoo will poison their own animals, and what kind of freak wants to buy a stuffed poisoned lion cub!?

Please help us stop this  kind of abuse. Support the team  that aims to Stop Wildlife  Poisoning.