Elephant update, parks and reserves are killing fields

IMG_0774 (1280x960)I haven’t posted about elephants since March 6.  Today’s news story about an elephant trampling a poacher to death in Zimbabwe caught my attention.  Within the article are some worthwhile facts; The Elephant Advocacy League estimates that about 40,000 elephants are killed annually.  On May 6, 26 elephants were killed in Dzanga-Ndoki National Park in the Central African Republic.  This is a world heritage site.  In Cameroon 40 endangered forest elephants were killed in 2 national parks as reported Mar. 27.   In Kenya, 24 have been killed in the Tsavo conservation area consisting of 2 national parks.  In Tanzania, there are allegations of 70 carcasses in Selous, the world’s largest game reserve and allegations of government worker involvement or complicity.  It appears that the national park / game reserve protection model is failing miserably.

No, that last statement is incorrect.  The park/reserve system is doing the job of separating day to day wildlife-human interaction.  Wildlife wandering in villages or trampling through farms or agricultural crops is a poor mix.  And in my first paragraph I ignored parks that are too successful at protecting elephants.  Think of Kruger National Park and of Chobe where there are now so many elephants that park integrity is threatened by the damage elephants do to vegetation.  I have read that in parts of Zimbabwe, elephants die as their food supply is now too distant from watering holes.  So the problem is not the parks and reserves, the problem is with adequate enforcement of protective measures, and yes the problem is that sometimes wildlife management of expanding populations may also be required.  For additional thoughts, views and information about poaching, I refer you to 2 blog posts by Rory Young, “What would effectively stop elephant poaching in Africa?“, and “How do you deal with animal poachers?” [WARNING – graphic images not for children].

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Zimbabwe visas, warning to Canadians

IMG_0516 (1280x960)Watch out if you’re a Canadian visiting Victoria Falls!  A cash register is waiting for you.

Current requirements are for Canadians to pay $75 US upon each entry into Zimbabwe.  US citizens pay $30 for a single entry and $45 for a double entry visa.  There is no double entry visa available to Canadians.  So, let’s use our example of a day trip from Victoria Falls to Chobe wildlife park in neighbouring Botswana.  Returning at the end of the day, we had to pay another $75 each to get back to Victoria Falls.  So for our trip from South Africa into Zimbabwe with a day trip into Botswana, our total visa cost was $75 x 2 entries x 2 people = $300.  Our US friends on the tour managed to do this for $45 x 2 = $90 per couple.  The visa cost was one of the reasons we did not attempt to cross the bridge over to Zambia to see the Devil’s Pool on the other side of the Zambezi River.  Also, be prepared to pay in cash, US$ or South African Rand as credit cards, debit cards and traveler’s cheques are not accepted at the border.  It’s better to have the correct amount in case the border post won’t make change.  Finally, if you are a family you need to know that all children and infants are also subject to the visa fees, as of June 2012.

Elephants – globally, illegal ivory trade has more than doubled since 2007

2012-11-11 newcam2 045 (1280x960)A report released this month states that the global illegal ivory trade is now 3 times larger than it was in 1998.  It indicates the involvement of criminal networks operating with impunity to collect and transfer the ivory from east African nations, and that the main destination is China.  This report contrasts with our experience in Hluhluwe, Kruger and Chobe Parks where protected elephants are now so numerous that they are destroying vegetation faster than it can rejuvenate, threatening the parks’ function and biodiversity.  In Zimbabwe, elephant consumption and destruction of trees and shrubs in some locations has progressed  to the point where elephants are starving  – where water holes are now too distant from the food supplies.  To be sure, once ivory supplies in east and central Africa decline, organized poaching networks will not just call it a day and go home – they will move south.  For more information, here is the United Nations Environment Program news release.  More on this – African forest elephants decline by 62% in 10 years reported by the Wildlife Conservation Society at the CITES conference in Bangkok.  This is not attributed to habitat reduction.  Instead, forestry has provided road networks which improve access for poachers.

This blog has changed…

Something was bothering me about this blog. The topic is our 2012 tour of SA, Swaziland, Kruger Park, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Chobe Park in Botswana.  It wandered off topic when I started adding links to news articles.  I consider posts about places we visited such as Cape Town and Johannesburg to be fair game, as are links to articles about wildlife in the southern African countries.  But links to news about Zim diamonds? helicopter gifts? juju and witchcraft? Zim reform impacts on livestock farming?  Although extremely interesting, I no longer think that they belong in this blog.  The posts I have removed included: “Dear White People“, a controversial essay by Gillian Schutte; the South African death rate found in the CIA World Factbook; South African miners’ debt levels contributing to social unrest.  Before we left on our tour to South Africa, I watched the news stories about the truckers’ strike necklacing and miners’ strikes. I have watched the farm workers’ strikes develop and the demonstrations against municipal boundary changes since then.  There’s a pattern of violence such as white farmers under attack and attacks on journalists accused of spying for the state reminiscent of the last days of apartheid.  Confrontation signals the underlying tensions of a fractured society.  Jobs disappearing and shanty towns next to cosmopolitan cities.  The horrific rates of violence against women.  What is the new South African reality?

I read an excellent article, “Christmas in Zimbabwe” as that country gets ready for a constitutional referendum leading into a potentially dangerous election later this year.  I found a disconnect between Zimbabwe requests foreign aid for food while mineral export values exceed $1.8 billion.  There’s so much money in platinum, palladium, gold and diamonds and yet poverty is rampant, food and water is scarce for many and this week the government claims it has $217 left in its bank account!

So by all means I encourage you to do as I do, set up a couple of Google Alerts to receive the news from these countries, and be prepared to be astonished.

Hello Africa!

Jim and Debbie, Richard and Kathy and Gene and Rachel toured South Africa, Swaziland, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Chobe Park in Botswana with SmarTours in Oct/Nov 2012.  Seeing African animals in the wild has always been one of Debbie’s dreams.  Jim prefers cities, history, culture and food.  So the trip was magnificent for both.  South Africa, Swaziland, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Chobe Park in Botswana are great places to tour, travel, visit. My wife and I, our friends and our tour group traveled safely, enjoyably throughout our trip. Our guide in South Africa was Ron McGregor.  There was no bad news to recount and lots of most enjoyable adventures.  I find southern African nations to be…. intriguing.  View News SA and News Zim pages to see what’s been going on in these countries since Feb. 2013.