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Countries failing to protect endangered species from illegal trade


Vietnam is among the worst offenders, while India and Nepal have been given the green score for the protection of tigers, rhinos and elephants

A new report by the WWF – Wildlife Crime Scorecard: Assessing Compliance with and Enforcement of CITES Commitments for Tigers, Rhinos and Elephants – has revealed that poor performances by key countries are endangering the survival of these endangered species. The report has rated 23 of the top African and Asian nations that face high levels of poaching and trafficking in ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts.

Vietnam received red scores for rhinos and tigers – 448 South African rhinos were killed for their horns in 2011 – and many Vietnamese have been arrested or implicated in South Africa for acquiring rhino horns, including Vietnamese diplomats.

“It is time for Vietnam to face the fact that its illegal consumption of rhino horn is driving the widespread poaching of endangered rhinos in Africa, and that it must crack down on the illegal rhino horn trade,” said Elisabeth McLellan, the Global Species Programme manager for the WWF.

“Vietnam should review its penalties and immediately curtail retail markets, including Internet advertising for horn.”

“The red [for tigers] was based on the announcement that Vietnam is considering allowing trade in tiger products from farmed tigers,” said WWF’s Wildlife Trade Policy Analyst Dr Colman O’Criodain.

Thailand was also given a red score for its failure to close a legal loophole that makes it easy for retailers to sell ivory from poached African elephants.

Dr O’Criodain explained: “Ivory from domestic animals is legally sold but there is no certification system or chain of custody rules to place a burden of proof on the seller. This means that, when challenged, a seller can claim that carvings made from illegally imported African ivory are from domestic elephants.”

Last year saw the highest elephant poaching rates across Africa, leading the report to describe the situation as “critical”. It calls for regional cooperation, especially in Central Africa, to counter the flows of illegal ivory across borders.

“Although most Central African countries receive yellow or red scores for elephants, there are some encouraging signals,” said WWF Global Species Programme manager Wendy Elliott.

India and Nepal received green scores for all three animals. Last year Nepal had no recorded rhino poaching incidents, mainly due to improvements to anti-poaching law enforcement efforts.

“Nepal was identified as a problem country for rhino poaching but this has been resolved,” said Dr O’Criodain. “It is a shining example of how even a poor country can tackle these problems.”

The Scorecard has been released in time for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora’s (CITES) annual Standing Committee meeting, set to launch a global campaign to fight illegal wildlife trade.


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Javan rhinoceros facing dire extinction threat: Study


WASHINGTON: American researchers have confirmed that a species of Javan rhinoceros found in Vietnam are on the verge of extinction, with only 29 of them remaining.

“We still have a chance to save the species but before we do anything, we have to determine the profile of the remaining group,” study leader Peter de Groot said.

Researchers from the Queens and Cornell Universities used genetic tools to determine that only Javan rhino was living in Vietnam in 2009, who was later found dead a year later.

The study confirmed the demise of the Javan rhinoceros population living in Vietnam by analysing animal dung collected with the assistance of special dung detection dogs.

The researchers are now working to save a group of 29 Javan rhinoceroses currently living in a tiny area called Ujon Kolong in Indonesia.

They will use the rhinoceros feces to determine the age, sex and pedigree of this group. This study will provide a direction to try to save the remaining population of one of the most threatened large mammal species in the world.

The research was published in Biological Conservation.

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Endangered rhinos die in Indian floods

Heavy flooding in north-east India has left more than a dozen threatened one-horned rhinos dead in the region’s largest wildlife park.

Many animals have perished in floods in the northeast of India, including a threatened species or rhino. (Credit: ABC)

More than 600 animals have died, including elephant calves and various species of deer.

S.K. Bora, director of the Kaziranga National Park in the state of Assam, said many animals had fled and were yet to return despite the flood waters receding.

“Most of the animals either drowned or were mown down by speeding vehicles when they tried to flee the heavy flooding,” he said.

Assam has been the focus of severe regional flooding in recent weeks, triggered by heavy monsoon rains that caused the Brahmaputra River to burst its banks.

Kaziranga is home to the world’s largest population of one-horned rhinos.

A 2012 census counted 2,290 of the rhinos in the park, out of a global population of 3,300.

Kaziranga has fought a sustained battle against rhino poachers, who kill the animals for their horns which can fetch high prices in some Asian countries.

There have been concerns that poachers would prey on rhinos that had been forced out of the protective ring of the park by the flooding.

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Elephants and rhinos face extinction according to experts


According to a new report which has been put forward by experts, tens of thousands of elephants were killed last year and both elephants and rhinos face the threat of extinction



The African wildlife crisis is clearly on the high as alarm bells have already started ringing in the case of the extinction of elephants and rhinos. According to a new report by the global body tracking endangered species organization, around tens of thousands of elephants were likely slaughtered just last year. The reason for their slaughtering is their tusks. Rhinos are also a target for these killings as their horns are in high demand due to their medicinal benefits.The report was presented on Thursday to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, calling for action so that this mass slaughter of these animals can be stopped.

The reason why poachers are after these two animals is that prices of their horns have sky-rocketed due to demand in Asia. In Asia, the elephants’ tusks are used as ornaments and are considered exquisite while the rhino horns are used in traditional medicines.

The poachers attack these animals and kills them and later just chop of their tusks and leave the corpse behind. The trade of these animal’s tusks and horns is illegal but their demand is pushing the illegal trade and putting these animals to extinction. John Scanlon, the secretary-general of the C0nvention on International Trade in Endangered Species said that there are just 25,000 rhinos left in this world and their extinction could come ‘during the lifetime of our children’. He further noted that in Africa alone, around 448 rhinos were killed last year, whereas this number had just been 13 in 2007.

In a recent smuggling incident, Kenya said that around 359 elephant tusks had been caught at Sri Lanka and it was identified that the shipment had come from Kenya.

“We have slid into an acute crisis with the African elephant that does not appear to be on many people’s radar in the U.S.,” added Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants, according to a report by msnbc.com. “What’s happening to the elephants is outrageous, and the more so since we have been through these ivory crises before and should have found solutions by now.”

All the participants in the conference urged the U.S. to take notice of this problem and take timely action. The U.S. can help by pressing other nations, particularly China and Thailand to crack down on this trade and impose strict punishments and restrictions on it.

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220 endangered rhinos killed in South Africa since start of 2012


JOHANNESBURG (Xinhua) — At least 220 endangered rhinos have been lost to the poachers for their horns in South Africa since the beginning of this year, a government department said on Tuesday.

Among the slaughtered rhinos, 207 were killed in the famous Kruger National Park in the northeastern province of Limpopo , and the reserves in the central northern province of the North West and the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal , said the Department of Environmental Affairs.

In 2011, a total of 448 rhinos were killed in South Africa , compared to 333 in 2010.

Conservationists have warned the rhino in South Africa is facing their worst poaching crisis in decades. 

If the killing trend continues at this rate, it is expected that at least 500 rhinos will be illegally slaughtered by the end of 2012.

“The department, our provinces and public entities view this illegal killing of our national treasure in a very serious light, and will continue to prioritize our fight against this crime with other law enforcement agencies,” said the department spokesperson Albi Modise.

A total of 146 arrests have been made in an effort to curb the illegal poaching of the rhino this year, according to the department.

South Africa is home to the largest endangered rhino population in the world of about 20, 000, occupying nearly 80 percent of the global total population of rhino.

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Seven arrested in US crackdown on rhino horn trade


US officials have announced the arrest of seven people in a crackdown on the illegal global trade in endangered black rhinoceros horns.

Arrests were made across the country over recent days in “Operation Crash,” which involved multiple law enforcement agencies, the US Department of Justice said in a statement on Thursday.

A Chinese citizen, Jin Zhao Feng, was arrested in Los Angeles and is accused of shipping dozens or more rhino horns to China. The horns are used in traditional Asian medicine, regardless of fears that poaching is driving the huge African animal to extinction.

Also arrested were four alleged members of a US-based trafficking ring that supplied Feng with the horns. They were charged with conspiracy and violation of laws protecting endangered species.

Searches of one of the alleged suppliers, Wade Steffen, who was arrested in Texas, turned up 37 rhino horns, as well as $337,000 in cash, US officials said. Additional searches by agents pointed to the lucrative nature of the illegal business.

“Agents found rhinoceros horns, cash, bars of gold, diamonds and Rolex watches. Approximately $1 million in cash was seized and another $1 million seized in gold ingots,” the statement said.

Another two men were arrested in the sweep, one of them in New Jersey after he allegedly purchased horns, and another, an antiques expert, in New York, where he was charged with trafficking horns and creating fake documents.

The antiques expert, David Hausman, allegedly purchased a taxidermied rhinoceros head from an undercover officer “and was later observed sawing off the horns in a motel parking lot,” the Justice Department said.

“The rhino is an animal of prehistoric origin that is facing possible extinction because of an illegal trade for its horns on the black market that is driven by greed,” said Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the environment and natural resources division of the US Justice Department.

“The rhino is protected under both US and international law, and we are taking aggressive action to protect the rhino by investigating and vigorously prosecuting those who are engaged in this brutal trade,” Moreno wrote.

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Texas man accused of smuggling rhino horns


A man from Hico is among people around the U.S. who face charges of trafficking in endangered rhinoceros horns.

Wade Steffen, 32, was being held Monday at a federal holding facility in Waco, where he was waiting to be moved to Los Angeles to face charges resulting from “Operation Crash.”

This multi-agency undercover investigation targets alleged traffickers in the black market trade of endangered rhinoceros horn.

Poaching of African rhinos accelerated in recent years with false rumors out of China and Vietnam that the horns can be used to cure cancer, said Special Agent Mike Merida of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Fort Worth.

Merida confirmed that Steffen had competed in rodeos and that he was first stopped Feb. 9 in California.

Officials said the undercover operation was forced into the open when Steffen, his wife and mother were found with $337,000 in their luggage at a Long Beach airport.

Merida said Steffen was allowed to continue back to Texas where he was arrested Feb. 18 at his home in Hico. The arrest warrant, Merida added, was issued by federal court officials in California.

During their investigation, wildlife officials said they intercepted at least 18 shipments of rhino horns from the Steffen family and the owner of a Missouri auction house that trades in live and stuffed exotic animals, according to court records.

Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) participated in the investigation.

In additional searches conducted by FWS and ICE, agents found rhinoceros horns, cash, bars of gold, diamonds and Rolex watches.  Approximately $1 million in cash was seized and another $1 million seized in gold ingots.

Steffen’s wife and mother weren’t arrested, but Merida said the investigation was continuing.

Other suspects, however, were arrested in New York, Newark and Los Angeles.

“The rhino is an animal of prehistoric origin that is facing possible extinction because of an illegal trade for its horns on the black market that is driven by greed,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.  “The rhino is protected under both U.S. and international law, and we are taking aggressive action to protect the rhino by investigating and vigorously prosecuting those who are engaged in this brutal trade.”

If convicted, maximum penalties under these charges are up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy; five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for Lacey Act violations; and up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine for violations of the Endangered Species Act.

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