Ringleader of Rhino Wildlife Crimes Punished

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Zhifei Li, only thirty years old, the owner of an antique business in China, was sentenced today to 70 months in prison for heading an illegal wildlife smuggling conspiracy in which 30 rhinoceros horns and numerous objects made from rhino horn and elephant ivory worth more than $4.5 million were smuggled from the United States to China.

The sentence – one of the longest ever imposed in the United States for a wildlife smuggling offense – was announced by Paul J. Fishman, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey; Sam Hirsch, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice; Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

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Li, 30, of Shandong, China, the owner of Overseas Treasure Finding in Shandong, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas to a total of 11 counts: one count of conspiracy to smuggle and violate the Lacey Act; seven counts of smuggling; one count of illegal wildlife trafficking in violation of the Lacey Act; and two counts of making false wildlife documents. Judge Salas also imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

Li was arrested in Florida in January 2013 on federal charges brought under seal in New Jersey and shortly after arriving in the country. Before he was arrested, he purchased two endangered black rhinoceros horns from an undercover USFWS agent in a Miami Beach hotel room for $59,000 while attending an antique show. Li was arrested as part of “Operation Crash” – a nationwide effort led by the USFWS and the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute those involved in the black market trade of rhinoceros horns and other protected species.

In papers filed in Newark federal court, Li admitted that he was the “boss” of three antique dealers in the United States whom he paid to help obtain wildlife items and smuggle them to him via Hong Kong. One of those individuals was Qiang Wang, aka “Jeffrey Wang,” who was sentenced to 37 months in prison on Dec. 5, 2013, in the Southern District of New York. Li played a leadership and organizational role in the smuggling conspiracy by arranging for financing to pay for the wildlife, purchasing and negotiating prices, directing how to smuggle the items out of the United States, and getting the assistance of additional collaborators in Hong Kong to receive the goods and smuggle them to him in mainland China.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Salas ordered Li to serve two years of supervised release and to forfeit $3.5 million in proceeds of his criminal activity as well as several Asian artifacts. Various ivory objects seized by the USFWS as part of the investigation have also been surrendered.

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The result of Mr. Zhifei Li’s greed…

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“Sambo” Forced Out of Retirement

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Two years after she was walked out of the city in the middle of the night to a quiet life of retirement on the outskirts of the capital, Sambo, Phnom Penh’s iconic and much-beloved elephant, might soon be back at work entertaining tourists. Funding for her recently concluded rehabilitation program now gone, her owner is insisting he has little choice but to begin showcasing her once more at Wat Phnom, a decision contested by the elephant rescue organisation that bankrolled her two-year sabbatical.

Sin Sorn, who owns Sambo, says that as the pair are no longer supported by the Elephant Asia Rescue and Survival foundation (EARS), he cannot afford to pay for her food and medical care without the steady income he earned for the more than 20 years that she was a tourist attraction at the temple.

The decades that 54-year-old Sambo spent walking on hard concrete and gravel while giving rides resulted in a painful abscess on a foot, overgrown toenails and a host of other issues, causing her to limp. A veterinarian retained by EARS warned in 2012 that a further deterioration in her “painfully lame” condition could lead Sambo to collapse on the city’s streets, Sorn agreed to move her to a plot of land for rest and medical treatment. That contract expired in March, leaving EARS and Sorn at loggerheads about what happens next.

“I do not have money to support her anymore. I will bring her back to Wat Phnom, but I will not allow people to ride her while she walks like in the past,” Sorn said yesterday at the sandy Phnom Penh Thmey compound where Sambo has lived since February 2012, as the elephant shovelled sugar cane into its mouth behind him. “I spend $15 a day just on Sambo’s food … [In the city], she will just stand in one place and tourists or people can touch her, take photos with her or buy fruits that I will sell to feed her.”

EARS has spent $45,000 over the two-year period paying for Sambo’s medical care and a monthly compensation package for Sorn to help fund an assistant caregiver, food, electricity and water and to cover his loss of earnings.

Sambo’s feet are in a far better condition than before, but EARS founder and CEO Louise Rogerson says sending her back to the city would be the worst possible decision for the elephant’s welfare. “She’s never going to fully recover 100 per cent, but what we’ve done is given her an intensive medical program over the last two years,” she said. “It has been a very slow rehabilitation process, there is absolutely no way she can go back to the city. It would be impossible for her to walk on hot tarmac roads.… It would basically be animal cruelty.”

EARS has offered to fund Sambo’s retirement at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Takeo province or at the Elephant Valley Project in Mondulkiri province instead, but Sorn has rejected these options. He says he would prefer to move her to a piece of land in Kampong Speu province that his son has said he will purchase if donors help with her upkeep and medical costs. EARS has rejected that land as unsuitable for the elephant’s long-term retirement.

“I want to appeal to everyone in Cambodia and overseas and other organisations to help my Sambo. But not EARS. I want those who love elephants to help my elephant directly through me, because I am the owner of the elephant and I am taking care of her every day,” Sorn said.

He declined to explain why he no longer wanted any support from EARS, citing “personal issues” with the organisation. Sorn also brushed off concerns about Sambo’s health and any doubts of his commitment to care for her in the city. “Sambo has lived with me since she was 8 years old and I consider her my daughter. So I want to stay with Sambo until I die.”

Rogerson is clear, however, that Sambo “deserves a better life after 30 years of standing in the city”. “He’s pleading poverty and that he can’t afford to feed her, but that’s not the case. We can continue on an agreement if he wants to consider his elephant first and return her to her natural habitat with other elephants,” she said.

Wildlife protection officials from the forestry administration will visit Sambo this week to evaluate her health and determine whether the elephant can return to the city, Phnom Tamao sanctuary director Rattanak Pich said. The Ministry of Information has also offered its compound on Monivong Boulevard as a possible sleeping place for Sambo if she returns to the city, Minister Khieu Kanharith said.

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Article published in the Phnom Pehn Post
by Kevin Ponniah and Mom Kunthear

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Bees and African Elephants

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Bee booby-traps defend Africa farms from Elephants

Wire fences booby-trapped with beehives are being built in five African countries to prevent elephants from raiding farms, while also providing local people with honey. This also saves elephants from being killed by farmers that would destroy their crops.

‘Beehive fences’ are now being put up in Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda by UK charity Save the Elephant, says Lucy King, leader of the Elephants and Bees Project in Kenya — and they are already in use at three communities in Kenya.

The project, which is a collaboration between Save the Elephants, the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, studies how to use the African bush elephants’ instinctive avoidance of African honey bees to avoid crop losses.

Conflicts between farmers and elephants are a growing problem, with the animals’ encroachment onto farms causing massive crop losses.

Simple beehive fences using local materials. Bee Hives are hung every 30 feet and linked together and if an elephant touches one of the hives or the interconnecting wires, the beehives all along the fence swing and release the stinging insects.

A study, which was published in 2011 in the African Journal of Ecology, elephants made 14 attempts to enter farmland and 13 of these were unsuccessful. In each case the elephants were forced to turn away from the area after confronting a beehive fence or walk the length of the fence to choose an easier entry point through a thorn bush. Only once did elephants break through a beehive fence to eat crops, according to the paper.

Electric fences have proved successful in barring elephants from some human designated areas, says the study. In Kenya, electrification projects often fail because of poor maintenance, spiralling costs and the lack of buying capacity among the communities where the elephants are common.

According to Paul Udoto, corporate communications manager at the Kenya Wildlife Service, the use of beehive fences to prevent elephants from raiding farms is not a silver bullet, but it could be used alongside these other interventions. He adds that human-animal conflict is largely due to people moving onto land used by animals. Where elephants and agricultural land overlap, incidents of humananimal conflict are on the increase, Udoto tells SciDev.Net.

Suresh Raina, a bee expert at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Kenya, is impressed with the idea. It is an intelligent solution to a challenge which farmers were facing in the past to save crops from the incursion of elephants in their fields,

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A king bee hive fence in Kenya

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Fracking in Everglades

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“Fracking” in Everglades on temporary hold

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) ordered the Dan A. Hughes Company, LP to stop all exploratory “fracking-like” drilling activities at five wells in Collier County, on the edge of the Everglades, until further notice, saying that the DEP will review results of monitoring efforts by the company.

The “fracking-like” drilling refers to a request from the company to the DEP which “proposed an enhanced extraction procedure that had not previously been used in Florida.” According to the DEP, the Dan A. Hughes Company proposed injecting a dissolving solution at sufficient pressure to create some openings in the oil-bearing rock formation, which would then be propped open with sand in pursuit of enhanced oil production. The department subsequently requested that the company not move forward until additional information could be collected.

Ignoring the DEP’s request, the Dan A. Hughes Company commenced the “fracking-like” extraction method and in December 2013, officials caught the company conducting “unauthorized activities” at a well south of Lake Trafford in Collier County, northeast of Naples, FL.

The possibility of groundwater contamination worries opponents of oil and gas drilling in the area, as well as the fact that the ecologically fragile region is already endangered by agricultural runoff, invasive species, rising sea levels due to climate changeand other threats. Because of environmental damage due to construction and the chance of potential oil spills, drilling poses far too great a risk to wildlife.

Locally, resistance has been building to potential oil and gas operations and recently, Sen. Nelson (D-FL) wrote a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asking that they investigate the company’s illegal drilling practices. “We cannot tolerate expanded industrial drilling activities that pose a threat to the drinking and surface water so close to the Florida Everglades. The recent discovery of a fracking-like incident there raises serious concerns about whether outside wildcatters would soil one of the world’s great environmental treasures,” Sen. Nelson’s letter read.

Hopefully, Sen. Nelson’s letter, along with the work of non-profit organizations like South Florida Wildlands Association and concerned citizens, will help draw nation-wide attention to the contentious issue.

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“Fracking” is not worth the destruction of the Biodiversity of this unique ecosystem

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Potential victim of Everglades “fracking”

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 The everglades is not one ecosystem but many, no where else on earth is there a place like this

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Slaughter of Dolphins in Peru

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Dolphins are being slaughtered by Peruvian fisherman to be used for shark bait

An international effort to end the brutal slaughter of dolphins in Peru was announced today by a coalition of marine conservation organizations. The campaign is aimed at fishing practices that rely on killing dolphins to use as shark bait.

Video of the slaughter of dolphins and the catch of undersized sharks off the coast of Peru was obtained by the Peruvian NGO Mundo Azul in cooperation with Florida-based BlueVoice. Based on calculations of the number of fishing boats and undercover testimony documenting the numbers of dolphins taken it is estimated that between five and fifteen thousand dolphins are killed yearly.

The coalition announced it had conducted undercover surveys of the sale of dolphin meat and found several locations where illegal sales were taking place. But the number was few relative to years past, perhaps indicating the sale of dolphin meat is being driven underground. Jones and Austermuhle announced there will be continuous surveys of fish markets over coming months and that a network of concerned citizens has been formed to report violations of dolphin protection laws to Mundo Azul’s office in Lima.

In addition the coalition offered a bounty of $500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone harming dolphins. “We want the fishermen to know they cannot carry on their dolphin killing and meat sales without exposure”, said Hardy Jones, executive director of BlueVoice.

The coalition called on the Peruvian government to both enforce existing laws and enact legislation banning harpoons on fishing boats. “Harpoons are used solely to kill dolphins and banning them would save the lives of thousands of dolphins,” said Austermuhle.

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China Combats Poaching in Africa

The Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, has pledged $100 million to combat poaching in Africa during a visit to the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. The fund is a part of a much larger loan package for the continent from China, totaling $10 billion in credit and $2 billion in aid.

The wildlife-rich continent is in the midst of a poaching crisis. Experts estimate that 22,000-35,000 elephants are killed every year by poachers, while last year over 1,000 rhinos were slaughtered in South Africa alone for their horns. Much of the ivory and rhino horn is destined for China or other countries in East Asia. While receiving less media attention, booming bushmeat markets are also taking their toll on Africa’s great apes, monkeys, small mammals, and birds.

Over the last couple decades, China has rapidly increased its presence in Africa through various industrial and development projects, including large-scale fossil fuel projects. Yet, this has also opened up China to criticism that it was consuming Africa’s natural resources for its own ends and negatively impacting the continent’s environment.

In addition to pledging funds, Keqiang, also said China would share high-speed rails technology with the continent.

“We have a dream that all African capitals are connected with high-speed rail, so as to boost pan-African communication and development,” he noted. “China is ready to work with Africa ‘to make this dream come true.'”
Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0508-hance-china-africa-pledge.html#Bs6sFPmx6xZsBWzM.99

The Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, has pledged $100 million to combat poaching in Africa during a visit to the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. The fund is a part of a much larger loan package for the continent from China, totaling $10 billion in credit and $2 billion in aid.

The wildlife-rich continent is in the midst of a poaching crisis. Experts estimate that 22,000-35,000 elephants are killed every year by poachers, while last year over 1,000 rhinos were slaughtered in South Africa alone for their horns. Much of the ivory and rhino horn is destined for China or other countries in East Asia. While receiving less media attention, booming bushmeat markets are also taking their toll on Africa’s great apes, monkeys, small mammals, and birds.

Over the last couple decades, China has rapidly increased its presence in Africa through various industrial and development projects, including large-scale fossil fuel projects. Yet, this has also opened up China to criticism that it was consuming Africa’s natural resources for its own ends and negatively impacting the continent’s environment.

In addition to pledging funds, Keqiang, also said China would share high-speed rails technology with the continent.

“We have a dream that all African capitals are connected with high-speed rail, so as to boost pan-African communication and development,” he noted. “China is ready to work with Africa ‘to make this dream come true.'”
Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0508-hance-china-africa-pledge.html#Bs6sFPmx6xZsBWzM.99

The Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, has pledged $100 million to combat poaching in Africa during a visit to the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. The fund is a part of a much larger loan package for the continent from China, totaling $10 billion in credit and $2 billion in aid.
Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0508-hance-china-africa-pledge.html#Bs6sFPmx6xZsBWzM.99

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Chinese Premier Keqiang pledges to combat wildlife poaching in Africa

The Chine Premier, Li Keqiang, has pledged $100 million dollars to combat wildlife poaching in Africa. The pledge was made during his visit to the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. The money s part of a $10 billion dollar loan and $2 billion in foreign aid for the African continent from China.

China has increased its presence in Africa through development and industrious projects that include large-scale fossil fuel extraction and plants. The projects have led to criticism of China for consuming Africa’s natural resources for its own ends and impacting the African continent’s environment in a detrimental manner.

Over the last couple decades, China has rapidly increased its presence in Africa through various industrial and development projects, including large-scale fossil fuel projects. Yet, this has also opened up China to criticism that it was consuming Africa’s natural resources for its own ends and negatively impacting the continent’s environment.

Premier Keqiang stated that in addition to money, China would share high speed rail technology with African nations. ” We have a dream that all African capitals are connected with high-speed rail, so as to boost Pan African communication and development. China is ready to work with Africa to make this dream come true.”

This article was first reported by Jeremy Vance of Mongabay.com

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If China is sincere and genuine on combating wildlife crime and poaching, then Premier Keqiang must first end the import and sale of elephant ivory and rhino horn in his own country, This will show the world that China means what is says. China has the opportunity to become a hero and take the stage as the world leader in the preservation of global biodiversity.

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also said China would share high-speed rails technology with the continent.

Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0508-hance-china-africa-pledge.html#jCEOYfreGIapCQfS.99

 

In addition to pledging funds, Keqiang, also said China would share high-speed rails technology with the continent.

“We have a dream that all African capitals are connected with high-speed rail, so as to boost pan-African communication and development,” he noted. “China is ready to work with Africa ‘to make this dream come true
Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0508-hance-china-africa-pledge.html#jCEOYfreGIapCQfS.99

In addition to pledging funds, Keqiang, also said China would share high-speed rails technology with the continent.

“We have a dream that all African capitals are connected with high-speed rail, so as to boost pan-African communication and development,” he noted. “China is ready to work with Africa ‘to make this dream come true
Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0508-hance-china-africa-pledge.html#jCEOYfreGIapCQfS.99

Over the last couple decades, China has rapidly increased its presence in Africa through various industrial and development projects, including large-scale fossil fuel projects. Yet, this has also opened up China to criticism that it was consuming Africa’s natural resources for its own ends and negatively impacting the continent’s environment.

Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0508-hance-china-africa-pledge.html#Bs6sFPmx6xZsBWzM.99

Over the last couple decades, China has rapidly increased its presence in Africa through various industrial and development projects, including large-scale fossil fuel projects. Yet, this has also opened up China to criticism that it was consuming Africa’s natural resources for its own ends and negatively impacting the continent’s environment.

Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0508-hance-china-africa-pledge.html#Bs6sFPmx6xZsBWzM.99

Keqiang, has pledged $100 million to combat poaching in Africa during a visit to the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. The fund is a part of a much larger loan package for the continent from China, totaling $10 billion in credit and $2 billion in aid.
Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0508-hance-china-africa-pledge.html#Bs6sFPmx6xZsBWzM.99

Historic Moment in Marine Conservation

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“The Natural Park of the Coral Sea” is established.
The largest protected area in the world

An exemplary decision by the Government of New Caledonia to protect its natural wealth and create the world’s largest protected area on land or sea is a historic moment in marine conservation and sustainable development.

In Noumea last week and by legislative decree, New Caledonia President Harold Martin and the French territory’s political leadership legally established the Natural Park of the Coral Sea (Le Parc Naturel de la Mer de Corail). The new law brings under careful management a multi-use, marine protected area which totals a massive 1.3 million km2, making it the largest protected area in the world. Essential to people, biodiversity and climate resilience, the park’s ecosystems generate around 2,500-3,000 tons of fish each year, providing food to New Caledonia’s quarter of a million people and an economic driver for the territory’s sustainable economy.

“New Caledonians have always understood how much we depend upon nature—especially our oceans,” said Jean-Christophe Lefeuvre, Conservation International’s program director for New Caledonia. “The careful and thoughtful management of natural resources is essential to long-term human well-being. This legislation sends a powerful message that investing in the value nature can provide the basis for a healthy and sustainable society.”

Located 2,000 miles east of Australia in the Pacific Ocean, the Natural Park of the Coral Sea covers all of New Caledonia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), or, the marine waters extending 12 to 200 nautical miles from its coasts. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the park is home to more than 4,500 km2 of fishery-supporting coral reefs, the deepest site in France, 25 species of marine mammals, 48 shark species, 19 species of nesting birds and five species of marine turtles. It also increases French contributions toward the United Nations’ protection targets for 2020—from four percent of France’s national jurisdiction marine waters being protected, to 16 percent today—a remarkable and inspiring accomplishment.

New Caledonia itself is the world’s only stand-alone Biodiversity Hotspot, and a French overseas territory, which is highly dependent on its natural capital. Its coastal waters boast the world’s largest lagoon, which has earned UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

“This is a monumental decision for New Caledonia and the entire Pacific,” said David Emmett, senior vice-president for Conservation International’s program in the Asia-Pacific. “Such a measure exemplifies what other countries in the Pacific can do to fully invest in the long term health and productivity of their ocean resources.”

Plans to create the park were first announced in at the Pacific Island Forum in 2012​, when the New Caledonia government offered its first official commitment to the Pacific Oceanscape. An unprecedented effort among 16 Pacific Island nations and six territories for collaborative management of nearly 40 million square kilometers of vital ocean, The Pacific Oceanscape represents 10 percent of the world’s total ocean surface.

Conservation International has had a presence in New Caledonia for more than 12 years, working at all levels to develop and implement integrated, sustainable solutions on land and at sea. In 2013, Conservation International facilitated the knowledge-sharing “sister site” agreement between New Caledonia and the Cook Islands Marine Park, which was declared in 2012 as a commitment to the Pacific Oceanscape.

Over the next three years, Conservation International experts in New Caledonia and the region will help the government shape the park’s spatial planning and management plan, fund key scientific research to inform that plan, and integrate New Caledonia’s contributions within the Pacific Oceanscape and Big Ocean Network. The management plan will use best practices for integrated management and the protection of ecosystems, habitats and species. It will also strengthen monitoring strategies, preserving cultural values and work to increase international visibility.

In the next phase of the park’s development, the levels of protection will be defined. Ultimately, the Natural Park of the Coral Sea will be a multiple use area with various zones for economic activity and conservation

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The above article was written by Conservation International.
Photo’s courtesy of the Living Oceans Foundation

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