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Saturday, 28 September 2013

Torn from today’s newspapers – the scum of the earth (1)

There are several groups of individuals who deserve the epithet ‘the scum of the earth’, but today we’ll look at those termed ivory poachers. ‘Poacher’ seems too tame a word for these people. Slaughterers, murderers, maybe?

A few days ago it was reported that these scum have reached a new low, by poisoning with cyanide vital drinking and bathing pools, killing more than eighty elephants. (BBC, Daily Mail et al). This happened in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park in July. Police say the poachers mixed a cocktail of cyanide and salt and water and poured it on to a number of salt licks – exposed deposits of minerals that the elephants use to get essential nutrients. Police found the mutilated bodies of elephants strewn around; some of the smaller elephants still had tusks, their size doubtless not worth taking. Poachers may get about £50 for each large tusk. Since discovering the carcasses, the police and rangers have searched nearby villages and recovered about twenty tusks, cyanide and wire snares. Nine alleged poachers were arrested and a South African businessman has been accused of being behind the poisonings.
Zimbabwe’s environment minister says ‘We are declaring war on the poachers… because our wildlife, including the elephants they are killing, are part of the natural resources and wealth that we want to benefit the people of Zimbabwe.’ (Here is not the place to examine where all the country’s riches have gone, Zimbabwe once being the continent’s bread basket and now just a basket case...)

Needless to say, a wide range of other animal carcasses were found near the contaminated watering holes – buffalo, lions, vultures, antelopes and jackals. Doubtless these despicable people are responsible for killing many more, since birds and animals will have fed on the poisoned carcasses.
In January 2012 a hundred raiders on horseback charged out of Chad into Cameroon’s national park and, carrying AK47s and rocket-propelled grenades, slaughtered hundreds of elephants in one of the worst acts since a global ivory trade ban was adopted in 1989. Twenty-five thousand elephants were killed illegally in 2011.  Ten Asian countries with the most ivory seized: India, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand and China. Seizure of tusks is too late, of course: the animals are dead. Action is needed at the sharp end. And, to be fair, it is robust, but the numbers of poachers are great. In the first half of 2012, for example, six park rangers died protecting Kenya’s elephants, while the rangers killed 23 poachers.

China accounts for 4o% of the world’s trade in elephant tusks.
Some official ivory carvers in China tender the lie that they only use tusks from elephants that died of natural causes, or those acquired before the ban.  Swindlers use tea or Coca-Cola to stain ivory to give it an antique appearance.

CITES – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – has its work cut out, not only with regard to elephants, but also the rhino and tigers, among other at risk species.
For our ivory wedding anniversary, I drew this picture. The ivory looks best decorating the elephant.

At least in fiction, some of the bad guys can get their comeuppance!

Laura Reid likes her new job on Tenerife, teaching the Spanish twins Maria and Ricardo Chávez. She certainly doesn’t want to get involved with Andrew Kirby and his pal, Jalbala Emcheta, who work for CITES, tracking down illegal traders in endangered species. Yet she’s undeniably drawn to Andrew, which is complicated, as she’s also attracted to Felipe, the brother of her widower host, Don Alonso.
            Felipe’s girlfriend Lola is jealous and Laura is forced to take sides – risking her own life – as she and Andrew uncover the criminal network that not only deals in the products from endangered species, but also thrives on people trafficking. The pair are aided by two Spanish lawmen, Lieutenant Vargas of the Guardia Civil and Ruben Salazar, Inspector Jefe del Grupo de Homicidios de las Canarias.
            Very soon betrayal and mortal danger lurk in the shadows, along with the dark deeds of kidnapping and clandestine scuba diving…

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