Across Africa and Asia, an illegal trade worth $7 to $10 billion annually is threatening to annihilate elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, and others of the world’s biggest and most beautiful species. Conservation groups and governments are struggling to police the poachers and protect the animals, but the stretches of wild land they must patrol are far too big for their resources; will too little oversight, poachers are able to kill and trade undetected.
Biologists and conservation groups have found reason to hope they can stop the bloodshed: drones, or, more generally, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The World Wildlife Fund has seen in UAVs the potential to scan large areas for poachers, and earlier this year launched a pilot program in Nepal to try them out. And now, with $5 million in funding from Google, the WWWF will be able to expand its conservation-drone program at four (so-far unnamed) sites in Africa and Asia. The money was given as part of the first round of Google’s Global Giving Awards and will also go toward a tagging system and analytical software that will help rangers monitor wildlife and illegal logging across huge landscapes.
Democratic Republic of Congo — In 30 years of fighting poachers, Paul Onyango had never seen anything like this. Twenty-two dead elephants, including several very young ones, clumped together on the open savanna, many killed by a single bullet to the top of the head.
There were no tracks leading away, no sign that the poachers had stalked their prey from the ground. The tusks had been hacked away, but none of the meat — and subsistence poachers almost always carve themselves a little meat for the long walk home.
Several days later, in early April, the Garamba National Park guards spotted a Ugandan military helicopter flying very low over the park, on an unauthorized flight, but they said it abruptly turned around after being detected. Park officials, scientists and the Congolese authorities now believe that the Ugandan military — one of the Pentagon’s closest partners in Africa — killed the 22 elephants from a helicopter and spirited away more than a million dollars’ worth of ivory.
“They were good shots, very good shots,” said Mr. Onyango, Garamba’s chief ranger. “They even shot the babies. Why? It was like they came here to destroy everything.”
Africa is in the midst of an epic elephant slaughter. Conservation groups say poachers are wiping out tens of thousands of elephants a year, more than at any time in the previous two decades, with the underground ivory trade becoming increasingly militarized.
Like blood diamonds from Sierra Leone or plundered minerals from Congo, ivory, it seems, is the latest conflict resource in Africa, dragged out of remote battle zones, easily converted into cash and now fueling conflicts across the continent.
Some of Africa’s most notorious armed groups, including the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Shabab and Darfur’s janjaweed, are hunting down elephants and using the tusks to buy weapons and sustain their mayhem. Organized crime syndicates are linking up with them to move the ivory around the world, exploiting turbulent states, porous borders and corrupt officials from sub-Saharan Africa to China, law enforcement officials say.
But it is not just outlaws cashing in. Members of some of the African armies that the American government trains and supports with millions of taxpayer dollars — like the Ugandan military, the Congolese Army and newly independent South Sudan’s military — have been implicated in poaching elephants and dealing in ivory.
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the hybrid semi-private mortgage entities, are issuing seven figure bonuses to some of their executives. There is not one peep out of the media or the professional protesting mobs. No one is averse to this, no groups are planning to picket the homes of the executives. The White House is silent, both houses of congress are mute. No one is threatening to drag these people before hearings to explain themselves.
The normally wealth averse president is not asking them how much is enough. He is not at some podium, in his shirt sleeves raging at the excesses of Fannie and Freddie.
Even the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party are strangely silent. Fannie and Freddie received 169 billion dollars in government bailouts after the mortgage crash. A crash many say they were involved in. It is projected that taxpayers may be on the hook for between 50 and 142 billion dollars more over the next few years.
Fannie and Freddie received bailouts. Their fat cat executives are getting obscene bonuses. Can anyone smell the stench of hypocrisy? Or do olfactory senses go dead when Fannie and Freddie are involved?
12.79 million dollars in bonuses will be doled out to ten executives. This cash cow was approved by the Federal Housing Finance Agency. FHFA is the government agency that regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
By BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI, Associated Press – Fri Sep 2, 7:34 am ET
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – The first national survey of Sri Lanka’s wild elephants found more than had been estimated — a sign the endangered species has a healthy, growing population on the Indian Ocean island.
The count conducted last month in forests and wildlife parks found 5,879 wild elephants, of which 122 are tuskers and 1,107 calves, Wildlife Minister S.M. Chandrasena said Friday.
Previous counts did not cover the entire island, but the end of a quarter-century civil war in 2009 opened former war zones to wildlife workers.
The information gathered from the survey will be used to devise plans to protect the endangered species, Wildlife Department Director General H.D. Ratnayake said.
The previous population estimate was 5,350 elephants, he said.
“These statistics show that Sri Lanka’s elephants are in good health and that their population is growing,” Ratnayake said.