Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Update: Ivory Poaching by Use of Cyanide

I posted a bit on this situation a couple of weeks ago and I have to say this update of  the numbers is astounding and terrible.  They have recently had two seizures of ivory in both Uganda and Kenya that value about $10,000,000 - that's TEN MILLION dollars worth on the East Asian market for use in magic potions and art.  The Rhino are also a major target right now and they are quickly reducing in number even in highly "protected" areas.  

Cyanide has been used to kill 300 elephants in Zimbabwe's biggest nature reserve - three times the original estimate

By , and Aislinn Laing, Johannesburg
Poachers in Zimbabwe have killed more than 300 elephants and countless other safari animals by cyanide poisoning, The Telegraph has learned.
The full extent of the devastation wreaked in Hwange, the country's largest national park, has been revealed by legitimate hunters who discovered what conservationists say is the worst single massacre in southern Africa for 25 years.
Pictures taken by the hunters, which have been obtained exclusively byThe Telegraph, reveal horrific scenes. Parts of the national park, whose more accessible areas are visited by thousands of tourists each year, can be seen from the air to be littered with the deflated corpses of elephants, often with their young calves dead beside them, as well as those of other animals.
There is now deep concern that the use of cyanide – first revealed in July, but on a scale that has only now emerged – represents a new and particularly damaging technique in the already soaring poaching trade.
Zimbabwean authorities said that 90 animals were killed this way. But the hunters who captured these photographs say they have conducted a wider aerial survey and counted the corpses of more than 300.
Poachers killed the elephants over the past three months by lacing waterholes and salt licks with cyanide. Animals are drawn to them during the dry season in the already arid and remote south-eastern section of the 5,660-square mile park.
After the elephants died, often collapsing just a few yards from the source, lions, hyenas and vultures which fed on their carcasses were also struck down, as were other animals such as kudu and buffalo that shared the same waterholes.
Zimbabwe's authorities say the cyanide has been planted by villagers who sell the elephants' tusks for around £300 each to cross-border traders. They can be resold in South Africa for up to £10,000 a pair, according to court papers relating one recent incident, sometimes re-emerging as carved artefacts such as bangles in Cape Town's craft markets.
Zimbabwe has one of Africa's biggest surviving elephant populations, since herds in neighbouring regions of Eastern and Central Africa have been severely damaged by poaching, and half of the country's estimated 80,000 elephants are thought to live in Hwange.
Conservationists say the African elephant is so much under threat from habitat loss, conflict with humans and illegal poaching and hunting that on present trends it could die out within 50 years.
In 2011, at least 17,000 African elephants were killed for their tusks according to Cites, the international body that focuses on endangered species. Ivory is highly prized as a "white gold" in Asian countries where a growing middle class is seeking safe investments, and United Nations wildlife experts say the trade in illegal ivory has more than doubled since 2007.
The poisoning was first uncovered by a European hunter and his Zimbabwean guides who spotted a dead cow and her calf as they flew over the park in a helicopter.
As they flew lower they saw scores more. The corpses of endangered white-backed vultures which had fed on the toxic carcasses were dotted near each dead elephant.
"We couldn't believe our eyes," one hunter, who did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals from poachers, told The Telegraph. "We thought at first that they must have been shot. There were too many to have died of thirst or hunger."
They flew back to camp and drove into the park after alerting government rangers as they went. "We found that elephants we saw from the air were not shot, but the tusks were gone," the hunter said.
His group spotted a man walking into the park carrying a four-gallon bucket and a packet. They watched him dig a hole for the bucket in the sand, lower it in and then mix powder from the packet into the water.
Zimbabwe's National Parks and Wildlife Authority sent investigators and police to the area, where there are normally few patrols. The water was discovered to contain cyanide – available cheaply for use in informal gold mining that is conducted locally.
After further investigation police arrested eight men from a village in the Tsholotsho district which borders the park, along with a number of fellow officers who were allegedly bribed to ignore the poachers, and a Harare-based cyanide distributor to whom more than 100lbs of the poison were traced. So far, 14 people have been arrested since the first poisoning was discovered.
As news of the killings spread, the Zimbabwean authorities took usually swift and harsh action – putting captured poachers before the courts where they were given sentences of up to 16 years in prison along with stiff fines.
When Saviour Kasukawere, Zimbabwe's environment minister, visited a village just outside the park two weeks ago she was told that the poachers had acted out of desperation as their crops had failed and tourism fees from hunters and safari operators had dried up.
Caroline Washaya-Moyo, a spokesman for Zimbabwe's National Parks, said 10 more poisoned elephants were found last week, none of which had been dead for more than three weeks, suggesting that the poisoning had not stopped.
She said she was "surprised" by the report that 300 elephants had died, but conceded that ZimParks only begun its own aerial survey last week. "We did find that (looking for carcasses) is more efficient from the air," she said.
Police have discovered tusks near a railway line which passes through Hwange and last week found more, hidden in a concealed compartment of a luxury bus on the way to South Africa.
Some of the carcasses have now been burned, Mrs Washaya-Moyo said, but others had been kept for further investigation.
Mrs Washaya-Moyo said they were struggling to persuade those in custody to identify the organisers. "It is a pity that they all seem so reluctant to identify the big people involved, as ivory, like the rhino horn, is not used in Zimbabwe. It is used by foreigners," she said.
Tom Milliken, programme leader for the Elephant and Rhino Traffic network, a conservation organisation, said he was "astounded" by the scale of the killings. "This is the largest massacre of elephant in this part of the world for the last 25 years," he said.
"This (use of buckets of water) is seductive for elephants at this dry time of year when they're looking hard for water. Cyanide is a new weapon against wildlife."
Tim Snow, a South African expert on wildlife poisoning, said the emergence of cyanide in poaching was "really scary".
"Quite apart from these elephants' deaths, what about all the other animals using that water source and scavenging from those corpses? The knock-on effect must be horrendous," he said.
Cyanide has not been used in poaching before because in most countries it is strictly controlled and its use in agriculture had been phased out, he said.
"In Zimbabwe, because of the challenges they are facing, I would imagine it's a free for all," he said. "If this is a gold mining area then that's where the investigators should be looking. If controls are not put in place, its use could become rife."
Conservationists say ZimParks needs 10 times the number of rangers it currently has to be able to prevent cyanide from being used again.
Thys de Vries, one of Zimbabwe's best known professional hunters and conservationists, said: "There are some very good people out there but they are short of resources and need help."

Monday, October 21, 2013

Online Grocery Shopping - - - In Kenya

Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that the first time I ordered groceries online would be in Kenya.  Now I'm not talking about the occasional Amazon order of a specialty item that you can't find in the supermarket - I'm ordering bread, milk, eggs, etc.

1) Free delivery on orders over $20!  Considering I don't have to use expensive petrol to drive to the store and pay to park that is a bargain.
2) Safety! In light of the recent Westgate Mall terrorist attacks, anytime that I don't have to face a "high value target" supermarket or shopping mall is a good thing (our embassy is still advising precaution).
3) I want to be supportive of progressive Indian/Kenyan business who are trying harder to reach new customers.

The supermarket that is offering online ordering is not the Wal-mart wannabe Nakumatt, and it is not a store that I regularly visit if I'm shopping in person. (because it is further).

As hokey as the whole thing sounds - they deliver with accuracy and service.

Chandarana Supermarket online grocery shopping

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Middle Men - 1st Event

A couple of really engaged dads, the kind that put you to shame though they are trying to encourage you, started a mentoring group for our 6th grade sons.  They have elected to call it Middle Men and the idea is that we fathers will work together mentoring these young men as they pass from children into teenagers then eventually, God willing, move on to their own lives and university.  

We figured the first event of the year needed to be captivating to get their attention and continued interest so a paint ball war was selected then a dude's burger dinner to cap it off.  Saturday afternoon we struck out for a 2 hour traffic ride to Paintball Fury.  

We arrived just in time for our reservation so we outfitted the 14 boys in the provided kit.  Surprisingly they had pretty decent protective gear:

But as you can imagine it is not quite up to U.S. tort standards.

The idea was that each dad and son would work as a fire team within broader teams and play a version of capture the flag.  We had a great mix of Kenyans, Canadians, Brits, Zimbabweans, Nigerians and Americans.  

After three rounds of battle we rehydrated and discussed lessons learned during the event then had a super discussing on what we want this group to develop into long term and how we can work together to get there.  We discussed our walk with the Lord and took the opportunity to sit one on one with our sons to discuss where we each feel like we most struggle in that walk and how the other can support and pray for his partner.  

Duncan and I had a terrific time and this event has encouraged me greatly as I look to disciple this gift of a life God has entrusted to me.  

Oh yea, we each have some wicked cool battle wounds to sport around for the next week or so.  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Visit From Friends At Bethany Church

I am a big fan of Pastor Richard Dahlstrom and his work at Bethany Community Church in Seattle so, needless to say, I was honored to receive word from Living Water that Bethany was sending a team to Rwanda and Uganda  to minister to our staff and to view work they have sponsored through LWI and World Relief over the last 4 years.

I traveled to the the area where Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo meet to pick up the team of 9.

This area is famous for the highly endangered mountain gorillas as well as the long standing conflict over mineral wealth within the DRC Kivu region.

From Musanze we traveled into Uganda and eastward to the city of Ntungemo where our field office is located.  Ntungemo is a truck route township of about 15,000 with two main roads passing through it. There are a couple of guest houses for accommodation where water and electricity service are intermittent at best.  Since these are important people to us we decided to put them up at the best possible location:  Ntungemo Resort Hotel.
I think the team would agree that the 4 days bathing in a bucket were valuable in building solidarity with the communities they are helping to provide WaSH services and ministry to.  The team was operating in an excellent mode of daily devotional and worship time which our staff was able to share in. 
Nathan and Jenny Flint leading daily praise 
The LWI team in Ntungemo work diligently to share the Gospel and build disciples as they empower communities through the organization and mentoring of Community Based Organizations that manage clean water access as we share knowledge in hygiene and sanitation processes.  The Bethany team spent each day traveling out to see all of the phases of the work, to minister to the communities and to encourage our staff.  
Learning about the hand pump

The below tanks each hold 30,000 liters and are part of a piped water system that LWI constructed over 16 kilometers distance with tap stands distributed along the way to communities, school, health clinics, etc.  It is feed by a naturally occurring spring. The men of the community participated in the project by digging the entire trench for the pipeline, excavating the hillside for the tanks and carrying the cement and sand to the top of this hill.

Nathan found a friend with a bit too much banana beer in his system
This is typical of the water collection team in a community

Rachel and Jen checking out a school room
The time with this group of amazing people was a blessing indeed.  It was great to give them an in person update on how things are progressing within the work area they help make possible. 

After delivering the Bethany team back to Rwanda I had the very great pleasure of checking into a new hotel called Inside Afrika where I selfishly depleted the region's supply of hot water. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Details starting to leak out - How it happened

Slowly details are surfacing from sources in the know.  I obviously won't be speaking about anything government friends confide but what the media prints is fair game.  This update from BBC has some interesting stuff and videos.

The stink around town right now is how much looting took place of the shops by the security forces either during or after the 4 day event.  Very similar situation to the airport burning down earlier this fall.  Crazy!